First or last, when you are challenging yourself to do something different, just by finishing, you are a winner!
This years final half marathon brought me to the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever! From the time I stepped off the plane, I knew this was going to be an epic vacation, exploring Portland and catching up with an old friend (it was an epic adventure, so stay tuned for upcoming posts about the rest of the adventure!) and a fun half marathon. Today, we are going to focus just on that final point… the half marathon!
As 2016 is winding to a close, it was time to embark on final half marathon of the year. It was time for the Run Like Hell Half Marathon, in Portland Oregon – the spookiest run in town! This race is actually one of the smallest ones that I have run in a long time, with only 671 finishers this year. But this race was not about me, was not about my time or anything like that. It was about helping a good friend cross the finish line of his first ever half marathon! This was Keith’s first half marathon – how exciting!! I knew that a few months ago, he started doing some running, and would ask me questions about training etc. I did what I could from nearly 2,000 miles away to help him move forward on this new adventure. When he decided that he wanted to jump in and go for it, I promised him that I would get him to the finish line!
Bright and early Sunday morning we were on the train heading into Portland. We opted to take the train in so that we didn’t have to worry about where we were going to park… Plus, the train stopped right at the park where the race festivities were happening! Now that is rockstar service! Because we got lucky and didn’t have to deal with any traffic getting to the train station, we ended up getting downtown a bit earlier that originally planned! But this gave us plenty of time to hit the bathroom, get acclimated to where everything was and relax a bit before it was go time. Along the way, we were entertained by many of the costumes that started showing up! We even found Waldo… in fact, over the course of the morning, we would end up finding 5 different Waldo’s. But which one was the real one? Aside from Disney races, I really have never done the whole costume thing when running, but it is always fun to see what others come up with! You can always tell which runners didn’t really think about how their costume was going to affect their running. Somehow, I’m not sure that running, wearing an inflatable bull costume is going to be comfortable for 13.1 miles! But more power to you, if you can do it!
Before long, it was go time and we made out way to the start line. We knew that the first 3-ish miles were going to be tough, as they were all uphill, but after that, it was going to be downhill or flat. All we had to do what get through those 1st 3 miles! When Keith decided that he was running this, I told him that it was his pace. I was just there to get him to the finish line. Since most of his runs previously had been walk/run intervals, that is where we started. 4 minute run and 2 minute walk. We had a plan, and we were ready. Keith’s goal was to finish in under 3 hours. We were going to make that happen!
We were right, those first 3 miles were tough! But we stuck with the plan, walked when we needed to and ran as hard as we could. We slowly saw the 12 minute pacers come and go, then it was the 12:30 pacers, but we didn’t care. This race was about getting out there and making it happen. It was a beautiful, cool fall morning. Perfect to be enjoying good friends, great scenery and new challenges. Once we made it out of the city, working our way up the bluff, the views of the city down below were amazing! This was exactly why I travel to run! There is no way I can find views like this in Green Bay – we don’t have big enough hills!! (yes Sandy, I now understand what you meant about not having hills in Green Bay when you were here last year!)
Partway up that long hill, Keith decided that he was adding a new goal for the day. He wanted to finish with or in front of the 13 minute pace team. The race did have a 15 minute pace limit, in order to finish within the allotted time. This was his original goal. Just to finish before they closed the course. Now we had a new mission… a 13 minute pace! Since we were doing a walk/run interval, we kept playing leap frog with the pace team all the way up the hill. These guys were awesome! Each time we passed one another, they were beyond encouraging, having fun and making sure that we were too.
Finally, we were at the top of the hill, and we were ahead of our pace team! As we slowly turn that last corner and started working our way back down the hill, our legs immediately thanked us! It was time to fly! The next thing I knew, I heard a voice behind me say we were running through this walk interval. Ok, lets go! We actually ended up running through the next several walk breaks. We were going downhill and had gravity on our side! The next thing we knew, we were passing the waterfront and heading back into the city, at mile 7! We were already over halfway done!
We spent the next 5 miles zigzagging through the city streets and through an industrial area filled with bands, and music! a mile of music when you really need that distraction of how far you have run and what your legs might be trying to tell you. It’s that point that you have to start digging deep! Up until mile 10, we kept with that 4/2 run/walk interval. It was about mile 10 that Keith made that discovery that most runners make at some point during a long run. Sometimes, the walk breaks don’t happen. Not because you want to keep running, but because when you slow to that walk pace, it gets hard to get the legs moving again to run! This is where we slowed our run pace and just kept moving. We were less that a 5k away from him finishing his first half marathon and it was time to dig deeper.
Finally, as we rounded that last corner, the finish line appeared! It was time for that final push. Time to empty what was left in the tank. We crossed that finish line side by side! He did it! Keith just finished his first half marathon.
A huge accomplishment and I was happy to have been able to be there! Next stop? Time to celebrate and get some food! For a small race, they do a fabulous job of refueling runners after the race! Juices, bars, chips, PB & B (banana) sandwiches, beer, hard cider, live music, massages, and more! As we walked around, taking in the festivities and enjoying a hard cider, we had to take a moment to grab a selfie with the best pacers of the day! OUR pace team! Although we didn’t finish ahead of them, they were only a few minutes ahead of us. They made a point to come find us after and congratulate Keith on his first ever half marathon finish! Thanks guys for making today fun!
After refueling, it was time to head to the train, make out way back, find showers and food.
Overall summary of race:
Packet Pickup: In and out, piece of cake! The only drawback to packet pickup was the fact that, just a few blocks away from the running store where packet pick up was, there had been a major explosion just 2 days before! A several block radius around the site of the explosion was blocked off, making parking even more of a premium! But other than that, I have no complaints! I was able to pick up a few last minute things from the store. Heck, they even had beer available while you shopped!
Race Course: The start/finish line near Pioneer Square was awesome! As far as the course itself, the first 7 miles was fabulous! The quiet street and beautiful scenery made this some extremely enjoyable miles. Yes, even though a good portion of that was uphill, it was an amazing section of the course – the reason why I flew to Portland to run! Miles 7.5 to 12 however were all through an industrial area. Yes, there were several bands along the way to help motivate you, but running through an industrial area is just boring. Those are the miles when you need the crowd support and scenery to keep your mind off anything that is starting to hurt, to keep you from getting into your own head. I understand that closing streets in an industrial area on a Sunday morning is much easier to do that closing busy city streets, but I am thinking that there would have been better options for the course than the quiet industrial area!
Race Swag and Bling: Yes this is one of the things that I know a lot of people look at when selecting races. This one was limited as far as swag – at packet pickup, I got my bib and t-shirt. When I was looking online, the race medal this year did not seem as cool as previous years, but once I actually saw it, I did like it. It was much better in person than pictured on the website. Now keep in mind, the race medal is only included in the race registration for the half marathon. If you were running the 5k or 10k and wanted a medal, you had to pay extra for it. They do have an option to order a commemorative pint glass too. I honestly didn’t recall ordering one, but I guess I did, so that came home with me too!
Post Race: Fun party in Pioneer Square! Awards for top finishers as well as best costumes! As I mentioned before, no shortage of food and beverages to get you refueled! Suja juice, Clif bar (same bars as well as some new products that I had never tried before), Kettle chips (OMG the Maple Bacon chips were to die for – I actually went back for a second bag!) hard cider (or beer for those of you who desire one!) and more.
Over thoughts: Fun race, glad I ran it, made it even better to run with a friend. If you are looking for a small local race that takes care of their runners, then go for it! Would I run it again? Probably not. If I were to come back to this area to run another half marathon, I am thinking that it would be one of the ones out in the Columbia Gorge area or somewhere else where I have more of the amazing PNW scenery to enjoy while I run! I travel to races to see places, so doing a destination race to the same race rarely happens!
Congrats Keith on your first half marathon! Yes, you may have been walking like an old man the following day, but in the end, you rocked that race! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to run it with you! I know you are already looking towards your next goals and have your mission in front of you! Can’t wait to see where those goals take you!