Monday, October 20, 2008

Run Like Hell Half Marathon

This weekend Jen and I ran the Run Like Hell Half Marathon in Portland. Last week after looking at the map we drove the course to check out the hills and get an idea of when they would raise their ugly heads in the race. We had been on a portion of the course during one of our training runs and we knew that section would most likely be the toughest part. The first few miles were flat then at about mile 6 the course starts slowly climbing until about mile 9.5. At this point we were to turn onto Terwilliger Blvd for a steep climb of about a mile then the course would turn into rolling downhill to the finish.

A little over a week ago there was a small landslide in Portland and a house slid off of the hillside and onto a residential road. It turns out this road was Terwilliger and the house was essentially blocking the course. When we picked up our packets on Saturday there was a note posted stating that the course had been changed due to the slide and we would now be turning around at the point where we would normally turn onto Terwilliger and heading back to the finish from there. Needless to say this was huge.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 6am which was very very early. I haven't been up at 6 for two, two and a half months so I didn't realize that it would be so freaking dark and cold. Luckily we had stopped by the Salvation Station earlier that day and picked up a couple of throw-away sweatshirts (which we ended up giving to my parents at the start so they will be making the pilgrimage to CIM in December (the sweatshirts, not the parents)) so we were able to stay fairly warm while waiting for the race to start. We ran about a half mile to warm up then got into the starting chute with everyone else and got ready to run. It was still pretty dark when we started but I decided to wear my sunglasses because I knew if I didn't I would have dry contacts in a matter of minutes.

My strategy was to break the race into two five mile segments followed by a 5k to finish. I wasn't sure if a PR was in the cards due to the hills but I also knew that on my last HM I really didn't train for a running race at all since it was right in the middle of tri season. I wanted to run 7:40's for the first five miles, assess how I felt at the first five mile mark, run the next five miles at the same pace or a bit faster if possible, then push it hard for the last 5k if I had it in me. I knew that it would be in my best interest to run miles 6 to 9.5 at a steady pace but not push too hard due to the incline.

The race started out with a block of uphill followed by a quarter mile of downhill - I kept my pace nice and steady for the downhill and thought I would settle into a stride once we turned the first corner and hit the flat roads. The first mile is always a strange one for me, I don't know if I'm going to fast or too slow so I just tried to get into a comfortable stride and see what my pace was. Mile 1 = 7:35

Ok, not too bad on the first mile. My legs were feeling good and my shin muscle was not bothering me at all. I was starting to settle into a groove and figured the second mile would come in about the same as the first. Mile 2 = 7:16

I told myself to slow it down a bit. 11 miles to go, no need to push it too hard in the beginning of the race and suffer on the incline which was now only four miles away. I came up on a group of four and slowed down a bit to hang with them and relax. It felt like they were going a bit slow but I figured they weren't going that slow and it would do me good to take it down a notch at this point anyway. Mile 3 = 7:47

At this point one of the members of our group started pulling away so I followed suit and fell into step behind him. My shin was starting to feel tight in the most minuscule way, fortunately, my foot was also a bit sore so I just focused on that pain which took my mind off my shin and allowed me to relax. I could tell we had picked up the pace a bit but I was feeling good so I just kept with it. Mile 4 = 7:24

I was in a good groove and was feeling good so I decided to go with it and not try to slow down. At this point I passed the guy that had pulled away from the group but I didn't feel like I had increased my speed at all so I figured he was slowing down. Turns out I was right. Mile 5 = 7:25

Mile five - check. I was feeling good but knew the incline was coming. I figured I might as well keep this pace going for now and see what happens at mile six. I knew I was going to slow a bit but since I was feeling ok I wasn't too worried about it taking too much out of me. The following picture is at around mile 5.5 - at this point I could see the start of the incline but I wasn't going to let it get in my head. Mile 6 = 7:25

Ugh - climbing - slowing. I didn't think of much during this mile other than "get it done and see what your pace is". Mile 7 = 7:49.

Ok, so I had slowed a bit but that was to be expected. I didn't think I was going to speed up on the hills and I was still feeling pretty good. A little way into this mile we passed through a tunnel that was maybe a little over 100 yards long. It was very quite in there, I thought it would be cool to yell out to hear the echo but I wasn't sure if that was appropriate. My next thought was along the lines of "that's stupid, you know everyone is thinking it, just do it", so I did. "Whoo"! I yelled loud and it echoed through the tunnel startling those in front of me. After their initial shock they laughed and we all kept on running back into the daylight. Although the road was still climbing at this point it didn't seem as steep and I felt like I was maybe picking the pace back up a bit. Mile 8 = 7:43.

I knew we would be getting near the turn soon so I decided to have my gel. Mmmmmmmmmmm - Vanilla Bean - tastes just like frosting. A little way into mile nine I saw the sign for mile ten and knew it was out of order. After cursing the sign placers I realized that the sign was most likely in the right place, it was just facing the wrong way which meant the turn around was going to be approaching soon. A few minutes later I saw the sign for mile nine and knew that in a few minutes I would be heading back down the incline towards the finish. Mile 9 = 7:41.

Sure enough, the turn was just around the next corner. I made the turn and sped up a bit; I was feeling relaxed and very glad to be heading downhill. I settled into a groove and waited for the next mile marker before making the final assessment for the last 5k. Mile 10 = 7:20.

Feeling good, time to pick up the pace. I knew I had to keep it under control and not push too hard because even though I was going down I could still push too hard and burn myself out for the last mile. I saw Jen coming up the hill and we ran towards each other for a high-five. I started running a bit faster because I realized that a PR was in the cards but I still knew that I had to run up that quarter mile decline from the start of the race so I wanted to keep something in the tank. Mile 11 = 6:59

Two miles to go, time to pick up the pace again. Back through the tunnel - "Whoo"! I came out of the tunnel and could see the city and I knew I was getting close. I could tell I was running faster than I had been all day but I was feeling good so I stuck with it. Mile 12 = 6:41

That mile was faster than expected but I was still feeling good and only had a little over a mile to go. I knew that barring any catastrophic event I could make a PR. We turned onto the climb to the finish and I pushed hard to the end. My hamstring started hurting and for a moment I thought I might have to stop and stretch it out - fortunately I was able to grit it out and push on. Mile 13 = 6:38

I pushed up the last part of the hill and made the turn to run down the last block to the finish. I crossed the line and stopped my Garmin. Total watch time = 1:36:14; Total Chip Time = 1:36:11; 7:20 AP. I walked over to the chip takers and got my finishers medal; I had beat my old PR by 4:31. I was 10/54 in my AG and 78/1009 OA.

I walked back up the block and found my parents and we all cheered for Jen as she passed. We met up with some friends who came to cheer us on then we grabbed a cup of coffee and walked back over to our neighborhood for breakfast. When we got home we kicked back and relaxed for a while.

Although this guy didn't run he is demonstrating how I spent part of the afternoon.

Overall it was a great race - the weather was nice and cool and it was nice to have my parents and some friends there to cheer us on. It will be interesting to possibly run it next year when the course is back to the original layout with the big hills.


*aron* said...

awesome job and congrats on the huge PR!!!

jen said...

I am still in shock with your finish time. It blows my mind! Awesome run. :)

Ewen said...

Jen is biased. Don't believe her.

Now... a 4:31 PB - that's ridiculous. Did they drag you off for drug testing afterwards? ;) Well done!

Marathon Maritza said...

Whoo hoooo!!! Awesome job on the PR!! I can't wait to watch you kick ass in Sacto!

Also, I do love me a parethetical within a parenthetical...that's how my brain works too.

You rock!!

Paul said...

Sweet job on the PR!!! woot!!! Where'd you pull that last mile time from? hahah

Sarah said...

I was supposed to run that race. Dang it! I heart Terrapin events.