Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Portland Marathon Inaugural Half 10/10/10

Well, it rained. I don't think that's news to anyone anymore, but it still stings a little (as do the chafe spots where my wet clothes rubbed against my torso). It's hard to believe, considering the perfect, lovely, sunny Monday and Tuesday since then!

I've been reading the various Portland Marathon race reports, and it's a bit of a consolation to know that I'm not the only person who ran a bit slower than their hopes and expectations. Of course, everyone else (that I've read about), ran the full marathon rather than the half, so their suffering* was at least double mine! And probably exponentially increased for every mile over thirteen.

To go back to the beginning, which is the week before Portland....I finally slipped into a bit of a taper after my third 26-mile weekend (over two days). On Monday I ran 8.4 miles, on Wednesday 7.5, and on Thursday just over five miles, which was a last-minute cutback from the six or 6.2 that I had in mind. (That turned out to be a good decision, because the five miles got me to the door of Safeway just in time for a much-needed bathroom stop.) On Monday and Wednesday I was averaging around a ten-minute pace, but on Thursday I was significantly slower. Friday and Saturday were rest days in hopes of freshening up my legs for Sunday!

This wasn't just a run for me, though, it was a fabulous getaway weekend to Portland with my mom! Plus two days off work (Friday and Monday). We headed southward at around 1:00 on Friday. I had to pack and just couldn't get it together earlier. Around 6:00 or so we checked into the Benson Hotel (my go-to hotel for Portland events). We didn't feel motivated to find a restaurant for dinner so we ordered from the room service menu. The "dinner" menu was so expensive but the "all-day dining" menu had great stuff and very reasonable prices!

I had started checking the 10-day weather forecast beginning on October 1, and in the beginning the forecast was for cloudy and mild, which sounded great. But the closer we drew to October 10, the higher the likelihood of rain became, up to a 70% chance by Friday.

On Saturday morning we headed out around 10 or so with a list of "tasks" to accomplish. I tackled them in the order that I reached their location.

First, schedule a post race massage and pedicure. This got on my list when I got an email offering 20% off any services at Spa Sasse. That was actually the first place we passed walking south** on Broadway. I popped in and quickly booked a massage for 11:30 a.m. on race day and a pedicure at 10 a.m. on Monday. (Sadly, the pedicure ended up getting cancelled because the nail tech couldn't come in that early on Monday, and I couldn't stick around till afternoon. So I still have eight nails with traces of old polish and two that are naked regrowth after my polished nails fell off (much-delayed fallout from the Newport Marathon).

It was raining lightly, by the way, which continued throughout the day.

Next we got to the race expo at the Hilton Hotel, about a third of a mile south*** of the Benson. Traffic was pretty well directed through the hallways and down escalators to packet pickup on the lower level. I left my mom to wait while I headed down to get my number and chip. I didn't realize that part of the expo was downstairs as well, and that there was no cell signal so that I couldn't call her to explain the delay....

I had signed up for Portland so long ago (back in December) that I couldn't recall giving an estimated finish time in my application. But I must have, because we were assigned to corrals and I got B (the second group to start). The "goody bag" pick-up was up a level, but before heading up there I tarried in the Sports Authority display, and ended up buying a couple of shirts there. I also walked through the rest of the aisles, including the Portland Marathon merchandise, but manage to resist further tempation. On that floor.

Back upstairs I met my mom again, who was frustrated at the long wait without communication. This could have all fallen apart right there, except that in the next exhibition hall she found a row of chairs, so she was able to sit and wait while I picked up my goody bag and shopped a little more.

The goody bags (and later, finishers' shirts) were different colors for each race. The half marathon color was bright blue. The marathon was green, and the 10K was red. The bag that we got pre-race included a short-sleeved tech shirt (same design for everyone), a commemorative coin, and a rose charm necklace on a cord.

I should say right now that I have lots of running clothes (and clothes in general), and certainly had no need for anything more. But the vendors here had a great variety of pieces that said "Run" or similar, and I am just a sucker for a "Run" shirt!

So what did I buy? I can hardly remember, which is not a good thing. But let's see. A short-sleeved shirt that said "13.1" in an Oregon map, plus a hoody that said "Run" in an Oregon map. Both of these were from a local running store. A Brooks "Run" shirt in grey, which is the same style as the orange shirt I ended up wearing for the race, plus a half-priced men's Run shirt, also from Brooks. Plus a casual-wear long-sleeved shirt that I believe says "Run your own life." I liked that. And some body glide. Now, that doesn't sound too bad, does it?

Leaving the Hilton and the expo (back into the rain), we turned north**** again, and walked several blocks to Nordstrom. My mother needed a new watch, and we thought tax free Oregon might be a good place to get one! We were excited to find one she really liked that was marked down half-priced since it was a style from summer. Yes, it has a white band but it is very snazzy!
From Nordstrom we veered off course briefly to pick up some lunch, sandwiches and salads from a nearby deli. Walking the remaining blocks back to the hotel, I sent my mother on her way while I made a few more stops--a computer store to get a charger for my phone, Rite Aid to get some Tylenol for my mom, and Pazzo Ristorante at the Vintage Plaza Hotel for dinner reservations. That last stop should have been my first, as they were almost entirely booked for dinner with marathon runners, but they squeezed us in at 8:30, which wasn't too bad. This hotel is just across the street from the Benson, so it was very convenient for us.

The rest of the afternoon I just rested and read my book and magazine, until about 6 p.m. when I decided to go out and get a coffee from Starbucks to have in the morning. The first thing I noticed when I left the hotel were the shiny, wet, rained-on streets. The second was the temperature. It was warm. Surely in the 60s. The combination of rain and warm air made for a moist, almost steamy atmosphere. (Not to exaggerate or anything, it's not like it was tropical, but it was a lot milder than one would expect for the conditions!)

I took my Americano back to the hotel and stashed it away for morning. After a bit we headed out again for dinner...and at 8 p.m. it was still balmy.

The Pazzo menu was a little more exotic than I remembered from last year, but I "made do" with a starter bowl of salmon cioppino, a salad with "Northwest berries, aged goat cheese, and local greens in white balsamic vinaigrette," and a small serving of linguine and crab. Then berry gelato for dessert...three big scoops! (I'd forgotten how big the servings of gelato are, clearly we could have shared. Oh well.)

Back in the hotel room I laid out my gear and clothes, decided to wear my orange Brooks "Run" shirt (short sleeves), and tried to get a decent night's sleep before the early wake up call.

Sunday morning I woke up a little before 5:00, grabbed my English muffin with almond butter and banana (and my coffee), and went back to bed to eat and digest. The actual "getting ready" would not take too long, and transportation to the start would be easy (half mile walk or jog). I figured I should leave around 6 or a little after and plan to get to the corral between 6:30 and 6:45 (7 a.m. race start).

I hadn't really anticipated rain (or at least, this much rain), and one thing I didn't think about at all (until we were in Portland) was wearing my contacts during the race. I hadn't actually worn them since ski season ended in March! I can't see close-up very well at all with the contacts, so I don't like to wear them for work and really mostly save them for skiing and running in the rain. Luckily, I had them with me and I tried them out for dinner on Saturday night. Since I was able to get through a few hours without difficulty, I decided to use them for the race also. (That was a great decision. The only thing that could have made this race messier was coping with wet and steamy glasses!)

I looked out the window into the darkness, and I could not see any rain falling. However, it turns out I was wrong about that. When I walked out the door of the hotel it was raining, and as far as I can tell it didn't stop until after 11 a.m. Since it was (still) so warm, I didn't worry about wearing any kind of rain gear, and just accepted that I would be getting wet. (And I did.)

I decided to do my warm-up by running/jogging up to the starting area, and then maybe a little more after that, depending on the time and crowding. I had tried to start up Garmin up in the hotel room, but had trouble getting a signal inside the building. Once outside it was still slow...and then when I started out I am sure there was something off. I jogged up several blocks with it only registering a tenth of a mile. That is odd because most blocks are almost a tenth of a mile each! I know that Portland has short blocks, but this seemed ridiculous. By the time I got to the starting area it registered .36 miles, but I know it was further. I hoped that this problem would not continue during the race!

The entrance to corral B seemed pretty clear, and I still had plenty of time to the start, so I decided to forego further warm-up and walk back to the Hilton Hotel (a few blocks away) and use the bathroom one more time. The line was short, possibly since most people do not go into hotels where they are not registered and use the bathrooms. (I am not most people.)

Then, it was back to corral B and into the mob. Actually, it wasn't really mobbed at all, and I joined numerous other people huddling under building overhangs to stay out of the rain while we waited for the start to approach. At about five minutes before 7:00 I abandoned my dry spot and found myself a place in the crowd. I assume that corral A took off around 7:00, and soon our group moved forward toward the starting line! I believe I crossed the starting line a little more than two minutes after the gun start. (I will never know the exact time for sure, due to a problem with my timing tag, which I will explain later on.)

I assume that the corrals were assigned based on projected finishing time (though I don't remember putting one in my registration, that was back in December, so who knows?), and therefore everyone around me expected to race at around a two-hour half pace. That made it pretty easy to start out at a reasonable pace. I might have felt it was a little slow if I'd been able to go as fast as I would like in an ideal marathon, but I felt okay about 9:15 for the first mile.

It was still dark out (the rain didn't help), so I couldn't monitor my pace very closely on the Garmin. That's okay, because with the wild fluctuations into too slow, I might have gone crazy with watching it continuously. Also, my impaired up-close vision made it difficult to read the small numbers, so I forced myself to limit my Garmin-watching to mile split times and occasionally checking distance.

When I did see the Garmin pace or splits, it was impossible not to notice that I was rarely, if ever, under 9 minutes or even 9:15. Unfortunately this prompted some negative thinking, which certainly didn't help me go faster. I did try to nip these thoughts in the bud, and turn my mind in a more positive direction. While I didn't speed up a lot, I think I did (eventually) fend off the downer thoughts.

The half marathon course was pretty much flat, with gentle ups and down, but there was one actual hill that went up in mile three and down in mile 4. This pretty much explains the progression of my mile paces... mile 2 - 9:22; mile 3 - 9:31; mile 4 - 8:43; mile 5 - 8:59.

By this time I had stepped in at least three puddles full-on, and my shoes and feet were soaked. My clothes were pretty much soaked through too. I wasn't cold at all; it was still mild out (though it cooled down just a little as the day went on), and of course my body heat was jacked up from running.

Over the next few miles I grew progressively slower, though not dramatically. Mile 6 - 9:16; mile 7 - 9:24; mile 8 - 9:29. During this section of the course we were on an out-and-back, and I saw the faster racers coming toward me. I guess I saw the front runners first (of course), but what I most noticed were the various marathon pace groups, starting with 3:00 (3 hour), then 3:15, 3:30. I also felt like I was only seeing marathon runners, and that freaked me out a little. Where were all the half marathoners? Had the course split already and I somehow missed it? I know it was irrational (although later, when the course did split, I think it would have been possible to miss it if you were not paying close enough attention).

So somewhere in mile 9, I stopped suddenly and stepped to the side of the course. I found a volunteer and asked (somewhat wildly) if we were still on the half marathon course. She assured me that I was, and it would split later on. So I resumed running, but paid the price of my stop--that mile was 9:47.

In mile 10, though, I finally started to feel a little faster and began to pick up the pace again. I saw the 4-hour marathon pacers behind me (I figure they must have started a little later than me), and I ran with them for a while, although they did pull ahead of me before the course divided. Mile 10 - 9:22; mile 11 - 9:16; mile 12 - 8:54.

It looks like I'm about to pass this guy, doesn't it? Well, I think he actually pulled ahead of me instead.

Both pictures show exactly how wet it was out!

I'm not sure exactly where in there the course split off, but once we lost the marathoners I felt like I was running much more by myself. I pulled ahead of one woman, then ran about even with a guy until near the end (when he left me behind) and there was another female and a friend (so, two females) who passed me at a good clip. There may have been other runners around me but I wasn't aware of them.

This guy was ahead of me at the time of the photo, but I passed him.
However, these young ladies passed me and were never seen again.

There were spectators cheering on the sidelines as I tried to push myself through the last mile. Since our bibs had names on them, some cheered me by name! Mile 13 - 9:04.

I am sure that I put on a sprint to the finish, but I must not have stopped my watch immediately, because the final pace for .16 mile was 10:54 (which is absolutely impossible for a finish-line sprint; it must have included a few seconds of standing still after the finish line). My clock time was 2:04:26 and my watch said 2:02:16.

I made my way through the finish area and collected my medal and finisher's shirt. I grabbed a couple mini-candy bars (which I took back to the hotel), but didn't take any of the other race food. I really just wanted to get out of there and make my way back to the hotel. It was still raining, and now I was feeling a little cool, but luckily someone had handed me a space blanket, which helped a bit.

What didn't help were all the blocked off streets that I had to go around before I could get back to S.W. Broadway. Even though I don't feel like I was running very hard (given my slow time), my legs were sore and shaky. I finally made my way into Starbucks, where I called my mother to report my finish and then bought us mochas, which I carried back to the hotel.

When I changed out of my running clothes, I was shocked at how heavy my wet shoes and clothes were. I am sure they added several pounds to my weight, which undoubtedly affected my pace some! That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

I ate a muffin and sipped on my mocha, then took a nice warm shower. Around 11:00 I made my way outside again to go to my massage appointment at Spa Sasse. I saw a few marathoners hobbling down the street (who would have been 4-hour and faster, given the time). I also noticed that the rain was finally letting up!

On the way back to the hotel after the lovely massage, I picked up lunch at a Japanese restaurant (combos of yakitori (chicken skewers) and tonkatsu (pork cutlets), with rice and soup, plus a few pieces of sushi that I ordered just because I wanted to). That filled us up thoroughly for the rest of the day. Eventually, in the evening, we ordered dinner from room service.

Monday morning the sun was out! Of course. I slept in till almost 8:00, then headed out for a recovery run. My legs were SO heavy the first couple miles. After that they shook out some, but I was still oh-so-slow. I managed to cover 5.75 difficult miles before I pulled the plug at Starbucks and returned to the hotel to dress and check out.

That was the end of the trip. When I got home I tried to look up my chip time, but was disappointed to see the same time for chip and gun times (which I know is not true). I emailed to inquire, and they ended up giving me a chip time that was two minutes less than my gun time. I think they just randomly took off two minutes, because I believe that my "real" time was faster than 2:02:16 (Garmin), but my chip time is now 2:02:26. Oh well.

The race photos that I have posted were actually purchased by me, and I think they reflect the wetness of the day quite well!

*I didn't really suffer. I just didn't have as good a run as I would have liked.

**I am pretty sure that direction was south. Though not positive.

***See above.

****See above. But north.


lindsay said...

LOL about all the shopping. I am usually pretty good about controlling myself at expos. I think white watches are still cool so your mom is hip in my book. Those are some rainy pics! You are too sweet for carrying coffees back after doing all the hard work! Congrats on your very wet race!

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