Sunday morning I ran the inaugural Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.
My mom, daughter, sister in-law and I made the six hour drive from Boise on Friday and then hit the race expo immediately after arriving in the city. The expo was extremely well organized and offered the latest in running fashion, gadgets and nutrition. We tried on some cute shirts from Brooks and ultimately ended up buying a couple. I pretty much never regret buying cute attire from race expos from the larger races. I remember going crazy at the New York City marathon and I still wear everything I bought there.
When we arrived we met up with some other friends running the race, my good friends Becca and Lindsay and Becca’s husband, Ryan. They had all traveled over with their families as well and the only reason my husband and oldest daughter were not there as well was because my daughter had woken up with a fever on Friday morning so we decided it was best if she stay home, especially since Hand, Food and Mouth was going around her daycare and we didn’t want to expose the other kids (including our youngest) if that was, in fact, what was causing her fever.
Portland was a perfect venue for a destination race because there is so much to do, all within walking distance. We stayed in the Embassy Suites near the waterfront and walking distance from the race start, the Saturday market, Powell’s amazing bookstore, dozens of incredible restaurants and food carts, Pioneer Square mall, amazing coffee, dessert and pretty much anything you can wish for. My mom, daughter and I spent the Saturday shopping, sightseeing, napping, eating and enjoying every minute of it. We met up with our friends for dinner at an amazing little tratorria called Mama Mia for carbo loading and conversation.
All Saturday I expended very little grey matter on mentally preparing for the race. I thought about it occasionally but I was having a hard time coming up with a race strategy because I had no idea how bad my leg was going to hurt, how I was going to feel and subsequently, how fast I would be able to run. I had trained at about an 8-9:30 minute pace depending on the day, who I was running with and other variables like temperature and time of day. At dinner, Becca asked me if I wanted to run with her and her friend from college. My response was, “Yes, if I can keep up.” In theory I was trained, tapered, carbo-loaded and hydrated so anything was possible…it just felt like a crap shoot because of some injuries I have been dealing with.
Race day came a little early with my daughter crying from the crib ready to be nursed. After she was milk drunk, I put her back into the crib for a few additional z’s. I tried to go back to sleep myself but the pre-race jitters had already kicked in so I eventually got up and started my pre-race rituals of stretching, drinking water, bathroom trips and getting dressed.
A little before 7, I headed to the hotel’s continental breakfast and ate oatmeal with raisins and some lowfat yogurt. In my hand I was also carrying some Shotbloks to be used for additional calories during the race. At 7:15 ,we left the hotel and walked the short distance to the race start. We quickly realized we could have left a lot later as we had almost 40 minutes to kill before the race started. Like everyone around us, we attempted to loosen up through nervous dynamic stretching coupled with conversation. Fifteen minutes before the start, we found the starting corrals we were each assigned to. Lindsay was in Corral 1 as she was shooting for a 1:30. Ryan was in Corral 3 and Becca and I 6. Becca’s and my goal, especially both being a year or less postpartum was sub-2 hours but more than anything to finish and have fun.
After what seemed like much longer than 40 minutes, we could hear the elite runners were allowed to start. One by one, corral by corral, the race was started over and over again. About 8:15, we were finally off in a large group running along the waterfront. Dodging other runners, we weaved our ways back and forth through the heart of downtown before crossing a bridge and entering a different quadrant of the city. It felt good to be running and the race atmosphere was light and jovial due to the sheer number of runners with a sense of humor surrounding us. I had chosen not to run with a watch so I had no idea what our pace was, but things were good.
A little after the first mile marker, the first of 11 bands was playing on a street corner. It was very energizing to hear live rock and roll out on the course. We picked up our pace. By mile 3, we had got into a routine of looking for mile markers, bands and water stations, all of which happened about every mile. As we passed the 3-mile marker, Becca started her watch so within a mile we figured out we were running somewhere around and 8:15 pace. With this information I was both proud of us but also worried a bit that I would regret it later in the race. Oh well, I decided. Let’s just go with it and see what happens.
The Portland Rock ’n’ Roll ½ Marathon was a well-supported, sold out race and it certainly was living up to the well-deserved hype of the Rock ’n’ Roll series. The miles clipped off much quicker than any other half-marathon I can remember. There were constantly people around us, both runners and supporters.
We ran through quaint neighborhoods with neighborhood restaurants and vintage theatres and beautiful homes. The only surprise was the number of hills on the course. Luckily we had incorporated some hills into our weekly runs so they were no problem for anything except our pace. On the non-hilly miles, we were still running in the 8:15 -8:30 range.
Becca’s friend who we were also running with had not run longer than six or so miles in her training and it began to show after about mile 8. Simultaneously I realized my body was both getting tired but I still felt strong. I sped up. If I slowed down, it was going to hurt and it might get really ugly quickly. Becca and her friend stayed with me for awhile and I could tell Becca was urging her friend on. A bit later, I pulled away from them again knowing that if I didn’t speed up, I was going to slow way down and either way I would be running alone. There were less than four miles left in the race so I picked it up.
Since I was now running solo sans conversation, I relied even more heavlily on the momentum from the local bands every mile or so. When it started to feel harder or hurt, I picked up the pace. I had no idea how fast I was running but after the race, someone who was following me online said I negative split the race and was running 7:45 miles the last few miles. The only thing I was thinking was KEEP RUNNING.
We crossed a bridge and reentered our home quadrant of the city. The rain picked up and I was briefly sheltered by an elevated roadway and then a mere mile from the finish the legs of a giant inflatable rock star straddling the road. I kept going and wondered how long the final mile could possibly take. The row of spectators along the side of the road thickened and eventually stood behind a barricade.
The finish line was 100 meters away so I picked up the pace as my competitive spirit pushed me past past a couple fellow rock ‘n’ roll runners. I finished in 1:50, much quicker than I was anticipating! I attribute my time to a really good day coupled with a fun, well-run race.
By the time I reached the finish it was raining pretty hard. I gathered and consumed the water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, Snickers Marathon bar, bagel and fruit cup. I picked up my medal and most importantly the space blanket and met up with my friends to eventually walk back to the hotel where my mom and daughter were waiting for me. After standing around in wet running clothes with only a space blanket for warmth, I couldn’t wait to get into a hot shower.
All and all it was a great race in a beautiful city! I am a Rock & Roll race convert! I would gladly do another one of their races in the future.
Wanna join me?
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