Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Race Report: Portland Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

This past weekend I snuck off to the West Coast (for the first time ever!) to spend some quality time with my beloved Work Wife, who moved to Portland, Oregon last July.

It just so happened that Portland was hosting the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on that very same weekend. Well... I will confess that this happy coincidence was planned. Of course the primary reason for going to Portland was to visit Work Wife, but I did make an effort to identify a weekend with a race on it. Typical crazy runner behavior.

Being just 5 weeks out from my marathon, on the West Coast, and featuring a rather frightening elevation chart (see below), I didn't have any big plans to have a great race in Portland. I just wanted to do it to say I'd run a race on the West Coast.

The race was such a non-event in my head that I often forgot that I was running it at all. For instance, I packed pretty much everything on Monday night and then on Wednesday as I ticked through the things that I needed, I ticked off running shoes. When I got home, I luckily realized that my shoes were not packed at all. In other words... I almost left for Portland without my running shoes.

Which segues nicely to the next part of my tale. My flight to Portland was last Thursday at 6:00 am. That meant that I had to wake up at 4:00 am and leave my house by 4:30 am to get to the airport in time. 4:00 am is very, very early and my brain was not working very well when I threw my suitcase and bag into my trunk and took off at 4:40, running late. About 20 minutes later, as I was driving down a back road to the airport, it dawned on me that I had forgotten something very important.

My Garmin.

But there was no going back - I was cutting it close as it was and I definitely did not have time to go fetch my Garmin, which was chilling on its charger in the office (and which I had had a feeling I would forget). So, for the first time in years (quite literally), I was going to run without my Garmin. And worse yet - I was going to run a race without it.

Once in Portland, I spent two days enjoying the very un-Portland-like dry weather by covering the city on foot with Work Wife, walking miles and miles through The Pearl, the Rose Garden, and Downtown. Copious amounts of coffee were consumed, along with flights of cider and all manner of delicious foodstuffs.

Small sampling of my pre-race strategy (or lack thereof)
Clockwise, starting top left:
Cocktails at Petite Provence
Cider Flight at Bushwacker Cider
Burger at Besaw's
International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park

The whole point of this bit of the story is that in the days leading up to the race, I surely wasn't doing myself any favors by spending a ton of time on my feet and stuffing myself to the brim with caffeine, alcohol, and food.

We did make a pit stop at a Target, where I obtained a $6 Timex to wear during the race so I would have some sense of whether or not I was running myself into the ground - which was my main worry associated with not having a Garmin strapped to my wrist. I also grabbed a pace chart bracelet for a 1:45 at the expo. Mind you, I had no intentions of running a 1:45 - it was just the closest pace chart that they had for my real expected time of somewhere between 1:50 and 1:55. I figured that I'd use it as a warning sign - if I was actually on pace with that chart, I'd know I was running too fast.

After two lovely days with little to no rain, Portland decided to be Portland and it poured on race morning. Work Wife kept apologizing, but I was like, "Eh - it's Portland! It wouldn't seem right if it wasn't raining." I debated and debated as to whether or not to wear my water resistant running jacket and against my better judgment, decided to keep it on because the rain was coming down hard and it was just slightly chilly as we walked down toward the start area.

As we stood in the rain waiting, the guy next to me turns to me and goes, "So, when are the wheels going to start to fall off?" I was somewhat taken aback. "I'm sorry... what?"

"When are the wheels gonna come off? For me, I think Mile 10, " he said.

I just stared at him like he had a third eye. "Dude, you can't be standing in the start corral thinking about when your wheels are coming off! They aren't coming off!"


I was kind of put off by that little exchange and therefore didn't try to engage anyone else in chit chat, worried that the result would be more Negative Nancies adding to my anxiety level, which was already pretty high considering my lack of Garmin, that I was in an outfit I didn't feel comfortable in, that it was pouring rain, and that I knew there was a very daunting hill somewhere out there ahead of me.

The start was slightly delayed, and after what seemed like ages of listening to the race announcer cycle through sponsor shout outs and annoying "Let's get psyched, Portland!!!"-esque rambling, my corral finally crossed the start at 8:15 am.

The first half of the race was nice and flat, but not exactly what I could call scenic. We ran along the waterfront park which gave way to an industrial section of town before looping back on itself at mile 1.5. That's about where I couldn't stand having the jacket on anymore. The rain had slowed to a barely-noticeable drizzle and I was hot. Of course I hadn't packed a bib holder and the bib was safety pinned to my jacket, so I wasted probably a minute standing on the side of the Naito Parkway, unpinning then repining my bib to my tank and getting my jacket tied securely around my waist.

Back on course I tried to settle in to a pace that felt good. We crossed the Hawthorne Bridge into South East Portland during miles 5-6 and that's when things started to get dicey. And by dicey, I mean a giant hill in the form of Hawthorne Boulevard, which we ran up for a very long mile and a half. It wasn't the steepest hill I'd ever run during a race, but it was definitely the longest.

After we finally took a left hand turn off of Hawthorne, I felt like the worst was behind me. I recalled from the elevation chart that everything was (relatively-speaking) downhill after Hawthorne. I didn't feel great but I didn't feel terrible, and I thought I was keeping a pretty decent (but not killer) pace.

Somewhere after Hawthorne, I started thinking to myself that I wanted to PR this damn race. I guess it was because I had that all-downhill-from-here elevation chart in my mind's eye and I figured that if I was ever going to PR, it would be on a downhill course. The funny thing about all of this is that I didn't really even know what my PR would be. In my mind, it was a something in the 1:47 - 1:48 range.

And of course, I didn't have a Garmin to help me with my pacing. I had been doing my best to try to do math and see how I was stacking up against the 1:45 pace chart, but my ability to do mental math had left me somewhere back on the other side of Portland. And let's be honest; my ability to do mental math is pretty pathetic to begin with.

We finally crossed the river again on the Steel Bridge with one mile to go and I looked at my little Timex, which read 1:43. I figured there was no chance of a PR but still put on the juice as we ran along the waterfront toward the Finish because to be honest, I really just wanted to be finished!

After hitting the stop button on the Timex, I promptly accidentally erased my time, so I really had no clue what it was. Unlike in Raleigh, I really did want to know what my official time was. Thankfully, I have some good stalkers friends who immediately texted me my results (I had posted that I forgot my Garmin on my Facebook and asked someone to text me) - 1:50:25.

Good, but not a PR.

Or so I thought.

Since I couldn't actually recall what the half marathon PR was in the first place, I pulled up this good old blog on my phone and what do you know - it turns out that my previous best half was a 1:51:52 at the Shamrock Half in Virginia Beach in 2012.

A very flat, fast course, need I remind you.

So, the race that I kept forgetting about, that I neglected to pack my Garmin for, that started in the pouring rain, that was fueled by a terrible mix of caffeine and alcohol, that contained a ridiculously long upward climb, and that I had no intentions of running well turned out to be my new Half Marathon PR.

Funny how things work sometimes, isn't it?

Big Fat Shout Out to my Work Wife, for not only being "my person" at the race and holding all of my junk, but also making all of the associated logistics a piece of cake. I didn't have to worry about a darn thing. She even cooked me my traditional pre-race meal of a steak on Saturday night and as soon as I crossed the finish, she hugged me even though I was sweaty and then said, "I made us brunch reservations while you were running."

Seriously, Work Wife, you are the best.

1 comment:

  1. Great job Kathryn!!! You're amazing as a runner as well as a writer!!!