Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Goat Mt. Gallop Half Marathon (4/11/15)

When we saw the Molalla Running Club advertising a race series that offered three events for $89 - one goat-themed and one Sasquatch-themed - we had to sign up. Series participants also got trucker caps with this awesome logo:
The Web site provided little information about the Goat Mt. Gallop except that it was a hilly course and there were free pancakes at the end. OK!
Brad eventually found a course map online. We aren't familiar with the Molalla area, so the map didn't help much. I glanced at the elevation profile but didn't study it too hard - I prefer to be surprised. Perhaps I should have studied it more!
We prepared for this race by doing the opposite of tapering, including a 5K race at lunch Friday and a kickboxing class 12 hours before the race. Dumb? Probably. But too fun to pass up!
Race day started with a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. Ugh.

After our pre-game preparation, we were out the door at 6:15 a.m., ready for what I thought was an hour drive to Molalla High School. It only took 30 minutes, so we arrived with tons of time to spare.

Inside the gym area, we grabbed our bibs, shirts, trucker caps and paper grocery bags for the "bag check". Then we sat in the car and sized up our competition as other runners trickled in.
The field was very small (88 in all), and we noticed that there seemed to be few runners our age group. There were a handful of young people, and then the rest appeared older. Wouldn't it be funny if we placed in our age groups?! (spoiler alert: we did!)

At 8:15 a.m., we boarded one of two buses to Colton High School and got a short pep-talk from the race director, explaining how our money was directly helping the Molalla High School track and cross-country teams. He also asked how many had done this race before. About half the runners raised their hands. Then, in a very hesitant and foreboding tone, he described the course as hilly and "interesting." Oh, goody!

At tiny Colton High, we left our paper shopping bags (mine had a receipt inside!) on the bus to be returned to Molalla High. Then we used the indoor restrooms and hung out inside until it was time to walk the 600 yards uphill to the starting line. The road kept going up, up, up! In fact, the entire first mile was uphill.

I was expecting the rural race to be through fields, much like January's Cascade Half in Turner. But it was actually mostly forested and gorgeous - one of the prettiest courses I've run!
We were also expecting tons of rain and wind, per the forecast. But it was totally dry, and even sunny at times... until it wasn't. At about mile 8, it started to sprinkle. No problem! Then I noticed those "raindrops" bouncing off the pavement. OH NO! Then suddenly I was running in torrential rain and pea-size hail pounding from above.

OUCHY! That stuff hurts! I pulled on my gloves to protect my hands and just kept going, thinking how hardcore I was ;)

I also contemplated the point at which I should take shelter. When does "hardcore" become stupid or even dangerous? Thankfully, the cell passed after about a mile.
The hills were brutal, and I decided to walk briefly at the mile-5 and mile-11 (who puts a hill at mile 11?!?) hills. There was not a flat spot on the entire course. Still, I was strong on the downs and "flats", feeling confident as I passed several runners.

After a slug of water and brief walk through the final aid station (mile 12) - and a bit of a contact high from the plume of smoke on the other side of the road - I gave myself a little pep talk and decided to get 'er done.

The final 1+ mile was through a neighborhood with road construction (gravel roads!), a couple turns and a short hill right before the final push into the Molalla High parking lot. OH - and there were two speed bumps in the finishers' chute - SO glad I saw those before taking a header into the asphalt.

I kicked to the end - so fast that the official camera could only snap a blurry photo ;)
I was wearing my new TomTom GPS with heart-rate monitor. Because my display showed only my heart rate, current pace and total distance, I had no idea how fast I was going. I never planned to race it, and because of the hills, I figured I might be in around 2:30.

Nope. 2:08!

I am absolutely thrilled with that time! I ran completely by feel and nailed it.

My splits:
  • Mile 1: 9:51
  • Mile 2: 9:24
  • Mile 3: 9:51
  • Mile 4: 9:54
  • Mile 5: 9:06
  • Mile 6: 11:57
  • Mile 7: 9:39
  • Mile 8: 9:33
  • Mile 9: 9:20
  • Mile 10: 9:17
  • Mile 11: 10:20
  • Mile 12: 9:56
  • Mile 13: 9:24

Dude - those splits are awesome! (I'm still smiling about this)

Of course, Brad was waiting at the finish line. He'd already grabbed our warm clothes from the "bag check" - an unmanned pile of paper bags in the hallway inside the high school.
His finish photo:
Both of us ended up placing in our divisions! That's how you know it's a small field :) I was 3rd out of 11 female runners ages 35-39 - yippee!! 

The school offered hot showers, but we chose to just trade our wet clothes for our dry warmups and head inside for pancakes:

This race was excellent! The small-town feel was intimate and comfortable. Everyone was friendly and encouraging, including the sheriff's deputies posted along the route. The course was gorgeous. Each mile was marked, and the aid stations were staffed with friendly high schoolers. The price was right - and the money went to a good cause.

My only "complaint" is the lack of information on the Web site and the fact that there were no finishers' medals. I've never done a half marathon that didn't have a medal - and I hoped this one would have a goat on it. But since it's a charity race, I'll forgive them :)

I've done huge races and I've done tiny races. Both have lots of pros and cons. But there's something so fun about an intimate little race where you're out there all alone, just you and the country roads. Especially as a woman, there's something so freeing about running out where you'd likely never go alone.

This Goat Mt. Gallop ranks among the toughest - and prettiest - courses I've ever run. I came away smiling and so proud of my effort. Definitely a new favorite in my book :)

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