Sunday, March 21, 2010


In the spirit of the day, here's my Shamrock Run race report.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again—I've never run a 15K I didn't like!* Sunday's Shamrock Run was no exception. I said on Sunday that I was happy, though not ecstatic, with my 1:19:51 result. I was probably downplaying it a little because I felt obligated to acknowledge that it wasn't a PR time.** It was however, more than two minutes faster than my 2008 Shamrock Run time (1:22:32), and as such was a huge satisfaction!

I was even more pleased later when I saw my amazingly negative splits. Amazingly because they went negative even in the early uphill part of the race, before it turned downhill in the last few miles.

But I'll start at the beginning, rather than the end of the race. After the "marathon" drive down to Portland and checking in to the Benson Hotel, I spent an hour or so on the elliptical trainer in the hotel workout room, then went through 13 Yoga Poses for Runners that I've bookmarked on my BlackBerry. I add some pushups and a few other poses and stretches, including downward facing dog, plank with chaturanga into cobra, and pigeon. I find that this quick sequence of stretches is really helpful for the hips and glutes.

After I returned to our room, we went down to the lobby and had dinner in the Palm Court, which is the lobby bar and restaurant. (We don't venture far....) Afterwards we watched Did You Hear About the Morgans on the hotel pay-per-view. I did fall asleep a little in the middle but that's just me. It was a cute enough fluff movie.

Saturday morning I had to go pick up my race number and chip at the Adidas campus.

I had pre-researched the location and had a bus schedule so I was able to travel there via TriMet. It's about 4.5 miles from downtown so I obviously couldn't walk like I did in the past when packet pick-up was at a local school! I'll admit that although I am accustomed to public transit when I'm in England, at home I go everywhere by either car or foot, so I am a little unused to riding buses a lot. I expect that the Portland transit system gets used a lot more during the week, but on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. I found myself thinking (politically incorrectly) that only bums and crazy people ride the bus. (On the way back downtown, however, there were several other runners leaving the Adidas campus by bus.)

As the link to the newspaper article says, the Adidas campus is pretty cool. I wanted to have my picture taken by the giant running shoes, but my camera phone wasn't working at the time. Instead I went in the direction of the people carrying envelopes and tee-shirts and quickly found the gym where numbers and shirts were being distributed. I also was handed a flyer for 50% off everything in the company store. I did pop in there to look around quickly, but there was nothing special I wanted or needed, so I hustled back across the street to catch the next bus instead of waiting another half hour for the next one after that.

Back at the hotel, my mother and I lounged in the hotel lobby while housekeeping made up our room, passing the time until we met my friend Marie for lunch. She led us across the street to Typhoon, a contemporary Thai restaurant in the Hotel Lucia, where we shared several dishes and a pot of exotic green tea (the tea menu is as long as the food menu!). I believe I ate three servings of everything while Marie worked on her first plate! Especially the brown rice, which was especially plump and tasty.

In the afternoon we rested...okay, rested up for dinner. It's not every day you get the chance to lay around in a hotel room, after all! I had brought plenty of reading material, including the newest Runner's World and Running Times, and More magazine. I also started a new book, My Latest Grievance by Eleanor Lipman. LOVE Eleanor Lipman! (Since then I've finished the book and it was wonderful, I highly recommend it!)

For dinner we went over to Pazzo at the Vintage Plaza Hotel. I stayed at the Vintage Plaza when I came down for my first Shamrock Run in 2007. After that I got a better rate at the Benson, and fell in love with the Benson's classic English ambience. I noticed when going into the Vintage Plaza that they have redecorated in the last year or so, and now it is a much more contemporary style hotel. Lovely, but I am happy with the Benson!

They do have good food there though! I had a cup of turkey noodle soup, a salad with field greens and pears (cleverly shaved into long strips), and tortelli stuffed with kabocha and butternut squash and served with browned butter (a delicious caramely way to use butter). I tried not too slurp up too much of the butter but it did complement the pasta pillows nicely! My mother had a cup of tomato soup and penne with lamb ragu, which was very hearty. In fact, she carried most of it away in a carton and we ate it for lunch on Sunday. That was to leave room for a little dessert—chocolate gelato and pineapple ginger sorbet. Both yummy!

As everyone knows, Sunday morning was the change to Daylight Savings Time, which is always nice right before a race. We carefully changed all the clocks and set both the clock alarm and a wake-up call. In the morning I also discovered, to my great surprise, that my Garmin changed to Daylight Savings Time by itself. I am quite sure that didn't happen last year!

My wake-up time was 6:00 (5:00 under the old time), which wasn't too bad considering how early some people have to get up for races. It was probably earlier than it needed to be, actually, but I wanted plenty of time to go down to the lobby for a cup of coffee, make and eat my oatmeal, get dressed and ready, plus go out and run around for a bit of warm-up.

The weather was a little bit cooler than I'd expected, in the 30's I think (because it was relatively clear and would get sunny later on), so I double-layered my shirts, with the orange long-sleeved Lucy shirt under a bright green short-sleeved Brooks shirt I'd found (the only green shirt in the running wear universe, I believe—although I later saw lots of green shirts and jackets in the race; I wonder where they bought them?). I put on a jacket for my warm-up and left it behind in the hotel room later.

I started warming up by jogging down in the direction of the race starting area at Waterfront Park. I arrived just in time to watch the start of the 5K race (a little after 8:05 a.m.). Then I headed back toward the hotel so I could get across Broadway before it was flooded with 5K runners. I ran up Broadway for a few blocks to get to a mile, then back to the hotel just in time to see the front-runners arrive (obviously the route was not direct from Waterfront Park to Broadway).

I popped upstairs to shed my jacket, go to the bathroom one more time (nice not to have to rely on the porta-potties), and take out my contacts. They had been giving me problems (not yet resolved, as I haven't tried them again since), in which my left eye refused to focus clearly. I even wondered if I had somehow switched the eyes, except that my right eye seemed okay. I was afraid that it might disorient me while running so I switched to glasses.

The 5K runners were still going by when I returned to street level (there were a lot of runners), although the ones coming by now were definitely the slower ones. I was kind of watching for an opening to get across the street when a young Japanese woman asked me what race this was. I told her it was the 5K and she said oops, she was supposed to have met her friend at the start to run this! I don't know if she overslept or just didn't know the starting time. I saw a gap in the runners so I wished her well, then blended into the group for a moment before I ducked over to the other side. I added another half mile or so of warm-up then joined the crowd at the park waiting for the 15K to start.

Before our race started at 8:40, there was a 3.5 mile walk called the Shamrock Stride heading out at 8:20. As the walkers finally began to dissipate, the pace signs began to appear (just for seeding, not for running) and the 15K runners started to fill in the starting area.

Perhaps foolishly, I placed myself in the group behind the 7-8 minute mile sign. Obviously, that was more aspirational than realistic. After a bit I saw that there was an 8-9 minute mile sign as well (more accurate, let's face it), and I moved back a little so I was about halfway between the two signs. I figured that I wasn't the only one overestimating my abilities, and I didn't think I would be completely humiliated (as I would be if I went in the 6-7 minute group and was left behind entirely).

They were doing an informal wave start, so first they let the 5-6 and 6-7 minute groups go ahead and the rest of us had to wait. Then they let my groups start (7-8 and 8-9), and the others behind had to wait. The delay really wasn't very much, considering that my chip time was only about two minutes slower than my clock time.
The start. That's me in the center of the photo.

The first mile was pretty flat, I think, and took us along Naito Parkway, up Burnside and onto S.W. Broadway past the Benson Hotel. I saw my mother waiting with the camera and waved wildly to make sure she saw me (last time she missed me until I was past her). She did get a great picture and if I had it this would be a good place for it! Unfortunately I haven't borrowed her camera to download it yet. My time for the first mile was 8:32, which is pretty telling as that turned out to be about my average pace for the whole race!

Mile 2 is when the uphill began. I thought it was a fairly gentle climb, but maybe it was more challenging than I thought since my time for that mile was my slowest of the run. Either that or I hadn't figured out how hard to push myself yet. Mile 2 covered the rest of S.W. Broadway. I was a little startled that my time for that mile was 9:19.

My description of the Shamrock Run course, based on my recollection of past races, has always been: Uphill for the first 4.5 miles, then rolling hills for another two miles, then downhill all the way to to the end.

That's pretty accurate, but I noticed in running this year that even the uphill portions had bits that were more level or even downhill. I definitely tried to push myself on those easier segments to make up for slowness on the climbs. I wish I could figure out how to post my Garmin elevation map. It shows the course as a bell curve, climbing steadily (with little, jagged dips) throughout the first half, then descending in the second half.

Despite the ascent as we wove around Terwilliger Boulevard, my splits were gratifyingly negative from mile 2 onward. Mile 3 - 9:04. Mile 4 - 9:01. Mile 5 - 8:34. As I'm hugging the curve in the road, I realized that I was doing a terrible job of running the tangents. The road was closed to traffic (I believe), so why wasn't I running down the center? I tried to improve on that, but it showed in my results—my total race distance was 9.43 miles!

We turned off Terwilliger onto Barbour Boulevard about halfway through mile 6 and that's when we started downhill. Some of the downhill was dramatic, some more gentle. I had vowed to give it my all when we hit the downhill, so I was mildly disappointed that my splits were closer to 8:00 than 7:30. Mile 6 - 8:17. Mile 7 - 8:03. Mile 8 - 7:53. Mile 9 - 7:46. The final .43 mile to finish - 7:45 pace. Just before the eight-mile mark we rejoined S.W. Naito Parkway and we were in the final stretch!

At the point where the road turned into S.W. Naito Parkway our course merged with the 8K course and now we were running with the 8K runners. This created an unfortunate cluster because when we met up with the 8K runners the group of runners we encountered were the ones probably running about a 10-minute pace or slower. Our group, however, was (at that time) running an 8-minute or faster pace. What's more, there was a water stop right about then so people were weaving and slowing to get to it. I had to come to a complete stop because of a guy that cut right in front of me (slowly). It was irritating.

About a half mile or so from the finish there were markers dividing the 8K and 15K runners again, so that the 8K runners kept to the left and the 15K runners kept right. I really poured it on to try to finish as fast and hard as possible. I actually don't know why my pace for that final segment wasn't faster than the preceding mile, except that maybe it was because the finish area was flat and the mile before it had been downhill. There was one woman running near or next to me and I kept expecting her to speed up and try to pass me, but I pulled ahead and finished ahead of her without a fight. Maybe she was just burned out.

Because of the delayed start and chip timing, I didn't pay any attention to the finish time on the clock, but instead hit my Garmin as I crossed the blue mats. I was quite excited to see 1:19:51—under 80 minutes! I didn't know that was my goal but it became obvious to me that I would have been crushed if I had been over. My average pace for the entire distance was 8:28 but I think for the official distance it was about 8:34.

I turned in my chip and tried to look around in case my mother had found me, but didn't see her anywhere. So I tried to call her but of course she couldn't hear her phone ringing with all the noise around (music as well as tons of people). Finally on the third or fourth call she answered. She was down in the finish area, but once again, had watched the finishers on the 8K side of the street, and of course had not spotted me.

We arranged to meet at the Pine Street intersection where, in lieu of a finish line picture, she took an "after-race" picture. While I was waiting for my mother I ran into the Japanese girl I had met during the 5K! She told me that the salmon chowder was very good. I opted to pass on the chowder and beer, however, and we headed back to the hotel.

Housekeeping had come while we were at the race, so the room was nicely made up. After a long shower, I made us lunch—leftover pasta and buttered English muffins with string cheese cut up on them, plus an apple and the rest of the pop chips. Possibly a couple of sweet potato oatmeal raisin cookies as well.

Then I rested. After a while, I got up and did my 13 Yoga poses, then headed out to check out freebies. While out and about, I also wandered into Hanna Andersson and bought the only adult outfit they had, and then to Lucy where I got some great stuff, including a rocking green jacket that I only wish I'd had before the race! (No sales tax in Oregon, by the way!) I returned to the hotel with our 2-for-1 Ben & Jerry's treats.

Later, instead of going out to dinner, we ordered room service and watched It's Complicated. What a lovely movie!

I thought I'd also write a bit about Monday's recovery run in Portland but my leg is getting crampy (thanks to my 17.17 mile long run yesterday, perhaps), and I think it's time to go soak in a bath. I'll just say that I squeezed in 7.25 miles (at slower than 10-minute pace), and it seemed like a lot of work to add up those miles. I ran through Waterfront Park and across the river and back over, and ran up and down various stretches to increase the mileage, and finally hit 7.25 at the Starbucks near the hotel. That was good enough. It was almost 11 a.m. by then (I had lounged abed too long), and we had to check out at noon.

Our trip back home was eventful only in an hour or so stop at Target before we crossed the river back into Washington. We also stopped for lunch in Centralia. In all the trip took six hours, which is a long time but understandable given the stops!

All in all, a really great weekend. (Did I mention, I love a 15K?)

*Of course, there are really only two 15K's around, the Shamrock Run in mid-March and the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K (Bellingham) in mid-September. Love 'em both!
**My 15K PR is 1:17:19, from last September's Fairhaven 15K.


lindsay said...

congrats! negative splits, wow! i enjoyed your recap of pre-race festivities and the actual race. it sounds like a fun one! too funny about your mom often missing you mid-race and at the finish :)

i have contact trouble sometimes too... not sure if one is 'dried out' more or has 'gone bad' sooner or what. do you know if you have an astigmatism? i think if you have that and the wrong contact lens it can make your vision blurry if the contact is moved even the slightest bit. (they make 'special' contacts to prevent it, supposedly). just a thought!

Marie said...

So much fun to see you on Saturday. I actually DID have seconds, you know! (But remember, I also wasn't running eons of miles that weekend like you were!) Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Portland. Glad the run went well.