Thursday, January 28, 2016

Holiday Half (12/13/15)

More than a month late... because life.

For months, I trained hard with the goal of breaking the 2-hour mark at the Dec. 13 Portland Holiday Half Marathon.

I followed a modified Jack Daniels program and absolutely nailed my training - long runs, easy runs, tempo/speed runs. It was hard and sweaty and glorious. I was ready!!

The race offers several packet pickup times and locations. Saturday's Sellwood event worked best for us:
Brad hadn't run a ton since his October marathon. After months and months and months of training, two marathons, lots of work stress and home-improvement projects and a nasty, lingering cold, he was feeling unprepared for the Holiday Half. Instead of racing it himself, we decided he would pace me, helping me reach my goal.

Race morning - feeling pretty good and ready with my pacing plan.
My mom is the best! She thought she'd signed up to run the 5K but didn't. Instead of staying in her warm, dry home (it was supposed to dump rain!), she put on her best outfit and came to cheer us on!
Staying warm before the start:
The race started well, then at mile 1.5 I realized I had been distracted by our warm-up jog and forgot to take my pre-race gel. I hadn't eaten anything for hours. Crap.

I also was using a new fueling system that had worked really well during training: cut up Swedish Fish candies. But I hadn't practiced running that fast with them, and they didn't work as well on race day. I felt under fueled the whole time.

Around mile 3, running friends Jill and Cara came up from behind and said hi. Fun to see people I know out there! They quickly pulled away - they are FAST ladies! I was feeling good, and Brad had to tell me to slow down because I was getting a little ahead.

Around mile 4.5, we started noticing a huge black smoke plume rising from our left. As the plume grew, we wondered aloud what was on fire and if we should be breathing the air. And we could hear explosions - lots of things blowing up in the direction of the gas farm across the river.
A few years ago, I wouldn't have thought much of it, but in today's world, the Boston Marathon bombing did cross my mind. Soon we came to a clearing and could see big flames across the river. BIG flames. I definitely felt a rush of adrenaline and distraction with all the excitement.

(We later found out the details of the fire)

Thankfully, the predicted rain never showed up and the weather was pretty great. BUT... the massive, toxic smoke plume did make some stinky, nasty-tasting air. Again, should we be breathing this??

My parents were out on the course, cheering like the crazies they are :) We saw them several times and got a good boost.

Galen Rupp, a very famous guy in the running world, was running this race. The Olympian is accused of doping, so I'm not a huge fan. He obviously won - in 1:01:20 - a 4:41 average. Practically super-human... or doped?!?

Anyway... Rupp was already on his way back and passed me when I was just at about 4.5 miles (mile 10.5 for him!) I may have said, "Cheater!" as he passed.

A short time later, I spotted Chris McIsaac, my very speedy co-worker. Despite the fact that he WINS races like this, he's super nice and supportive of average runners like me. It's fun to know someone of his caliber and swap running tales - and feel like he actually cares :)

From The Oregonian - Chris is in blue:
We cheered as Chris ran past in second place. He ended up taking second to Rupp - so really, first in the non-Olympian division. CONGRATS!!!!

I was cruising along just fine, right on pace for my 2-hour half. Then all of the sudden about mile 7.5, just after the turnaround, I hit the wall. Like, I needed to stop running. Right then. I walked a little bit near Pier Park, started running a little slower and saw my parents again. I gave them the thumbs down :(

I tried to run a bit more but felt super sluggish. I looked at my watch, asked Brad if we were really running 10:30s, and then had a little meltdown when I realized it wasn't going to happen. I also almost hucked my gel out of frustration but decided against littering. Brad said I scared the guy next to me ;)

I saw Eryn shortly after, and she didn't realize I was struggling. I'm glad I didn't scare her, too!

The rest of the race was hard. I knew my goal was out the window, and I was just plain pooped. But I've never DNF'd, so I kept going as best I could. I had to walk some and then force myself to run again.

After what seemed like forever, we rounded the corner, and the downhill finish was in sight. I kicked with all I had left, which wasn't much. I look stronger than I felt:
I ended up finishing in 2:09:12 - a painful 9:51 average. Ugh.

Chris, on the other hand, finished in 1:14:15 - a 5:40 average. WOW!

Even on my bad days, my parents cheer as if I'd won! Seriously - they are the best!
Keeping it in perspective - still gotta smile at completing race No. 96 and half marathon No. 21! Thanks for trying to help me, Babe!
My friend, Nana (in the black) shirt, from kickboxing ran her first half marathon that day and had a wonderful time! She went faster than expected and was all smiles every time I saw her. Great job, Nana!!!!!!
It turned out that black smoke was toxic and we shouldn't have been breathing it! Fire and race officials decided it was in everyone's best interest to close the course early. So shortly after I saw Eryn, she got turned around. A few runners opted to hop on shuttles and bus back to the start. Eryn ran back and ended up with about 11 miles for the day.

Here she comes:
The racing crew:
The biggest problem with the forced early turnaround was that everyone ended up running different distances. There wasn't a specific new turn-around spot - they just told people at random locations. Eryn and others who didn't run the whole course were calling it the "Holiday Almost Half!"

Fortunately for Eryn, this wasn't a goal race for her. I feel bad for those who might have been doing their first race or were working for a PR. BUT, everyone seemed understanding.

Warm, dry, festive resting after the race:
I love the cute holiday bibs and medals for this race - one of the best parts!
Of course, we refueled with PizzaSmith:
I'm disappointed that all my training didn't get me where I wanted. I feel like that 2-hour goal is SO close yet SO far away, and that's very frustrating. I put in hundreds of miles - quality miles - training for this one, working diligently with my program. But several key things were off that day, and it wasn't meant to be. I ran a kick-butt 7.5 miles and then bonked. But there's always lots more races! :)

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