Right before kickoff! James is nicely calm and collected. I am in sheer panic mode. See that huge bridge behind us?
I’m doing something a little different this time… Jamesy is taking care of the race summary part for the half-marathon from his perspective. My summary for the 10K follows after his… after all, he did cross the finish line before me. 🙂 Please give him lots of love… he’ll soon be starting his own blog about the 50-in-50 we are about to undertake. By the way, the “PK” he’s referring to is me, my nickname.
A thousand of our closest friends! The line to the portables was this long too!
JAMES, ON THE HALF-MARATHON: Halfway through the Chicago training plan and time for the tune up half-marathon in Cascade Locks, OR…a hilly race that starts on the Washington bank of the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods. It fit the calendar and gave us a chance to get away for a quick weekend break. At the last minute, despite being terrified at even the thought of crossing a bridge, PK signed up for the 10K which was awesome!
Packet pickup on arrival the day before the race was conveniently located next to the fabulous Thunder Island Brewery at the park where the finish was line was being setup, a leisurely 10 minute stroll from our hotel. The “expo” consisted of a tent where we were issued our bag, a bib, and a ticket to get on the shuttle in the morning! No worries though…it was what we expected and the IPA at the brewery was awesome.
After an easy relaxing night at the hotel , race day morning arrived and it was time to go through the normal ritual of the pre-race shower (yeah weird but it’s what I do and it works for me), coffee and Gatorade while heading out in search of the magical race ring of easily digestible fuel, aka bagels.
A nice stretch followed with a walk to the shuttle to be bussed over the Bridge to the Washington side for the start. Felt so bad for PK as she was clearly stressing on just the bus ride so did my best convince her that it would all be fine…just don’t look down, head up, and keep running…preferably fast (and turns out she did).
There were just over 800 runners in the half race and, with everyone doing the normal jostling for position, we were sent off to the melodic tunes of AC/DC, For Those About To Rock…perfect. I was ready to go and ready to rock. The Bridge required some patience because everyone was jammed in but moved up a few places before the hitting the trail in stride.
This course is advertised as hilly and very shady…and it didn’t disappoint, with “hilly” being an understatement. We had checked the elevation profile prior to the run but it did not really reflect the difficulty level of this race. Without a doubt, by far the hilliest course I have ever run…the climbs and descents were endless…climb, plateau for maybe a tenth, quarter mile at most, then down and climb, rinse and repeat, as the hills got progressively more difficult.
I’m not a good hill runner on the best of days, but today I just felt strong. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I ran every single hill, never backed off and attacked each climb. I won’t deny it hurt and the fatigue in my legs mounted with each undulation, but mentally, I felt great and wasn’t going to be beat. I was aiming for 1:52…I needed 1:52:01 to qualify for a Wave 1 corral at Chicago, and at the half split, I was tracking perfectly right at 56 minutes, but more importantly was not feeling tired. The hill up to the turnaround was insane for a half…in some sections, according my Strava elevation profile; we were running on 30-40% grades! Not good for a weak hill runner.
The scenery was absolutely incredible…running on the trails way above the Columbia Gorge was awesome and the shade of the forest canopy provided a constant cooling effect. I had no issues with heat or dehydration…in fact, by the final aid station around mile 12, I was pretty full, bordering on too much water, so dumped most of the cup on my head before attacking the final section through the town to the finish.
With hydration in check, I took a gel around mile 8 or 9 which seemed to kick-in on cue. I knew I needed around 8:30-8:32 splits to hit my finish time, but with the hills, they were all over the place, although consistently under 9:00 and generally ranging from 8:15 to 8:50. Managed to catch PK on one particularly brutal hill towards the finish…that thing was almost a 1 mile climb…we exchanged pleasantries as best as 2 breathless people can and I pushed on. One more climb after that finally had me uttering some unmentionable phrases, and then it was around the final aid station and into town.
The final mile and a half through the small town was awesome. I knew I was close but I had no late run fatigue at all as I emptied the tank. Felt bad as I almost pushed past a couple of the 10k finishers on a narrow bridge walk-across the river in the park…well not really pushed past as much I encouraged them to keep moving quickly and faster if possible because I knew I was close – real close…around the turn, took 2 more people on the final stretch and ran the grassy track to the finish…for a final time of 1:52:22 and an average pace of 8:34!!! 22 seconds over my target…but overall, I’m not disappointed at all. It was a great race…a super tough challenge that I handled really well…Chicago will have nowhere near this kind of elevation gain…it’s just twice as long ☺
Post-race was great cheering PK home and then grabbing some awesome post-run recovery food that the event had put on for the runners.
This was a great way to finish the first half of the training plan and while I didn’t achieve my Wave 1 corral, overall I don’t think it will make much difference in Chicago…I’m assigned the first corral in Wave 2 and it will be a completely different experience.
Final thoughts…I’m excited – this was a tough course and I never once cracked or wavered from my plan. I almost pulled it off but it was probably just one hill too many. Still, a 1:52:22 was good enough to place 78 out of 831 overall and 15 out of 76 in the Male 40-49 category. We also had a super fun weekend and great time away together, doing what we love to do…Cheers!
Our view pre-race. I could just die.
PAULA, ON THE 10K: The bridge sucked… but gave me my fastest split of the whole race. I wanted to take a picture through the metal grates down to the water, but I could not look down whatsoever. The hills… I had no idea how painful all the freaking hills were going to be. An elevation gain of 1824 and elevation loss of 1850. Who the hell talked me into signing up for this race?!
Overall, it was a fabulous getaway and it was a super hard and fun race with lots of challenges to overcome. It was put together well. The important thing is that I did it. Below are my results. And I didn’t finish DFL… I’m moving up in the world… at the very least, closer to the middle. ‘Nuff said. 🙂
Stay tuned… I have more to say about this fun weekend…
It is all about the bling!