Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oregon Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 22nd Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 329.3 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Oregon Half Marathon
Place: Banks, OR
Miles from home: 30 miles
Weather: 50s; cool; heavy rain

As much as I did not want to run the Quad Cities Marathon last week because of being so exhausted, I could not have been more unperturbed about running the Oregon Half Marathon. There was no pressure to perform and any finish at all would be icing on the cake.  I knew I wanted to use the race as a hard training run to try and flush my legs of the previous week's long run from Dane to Davenport and then the marathon itself but refused to put any particular time or place goals on myself.

The locally run and organized race put on by Uberthon people had their hands full, however. The remnants of a tropical storm of some nature had made its way to Oregon and was dumping massive amounts of rain on the area. The rainfall was so heavy that it broke Oregon's September records for the amounts of rain even though it barely rained at all for two weeks out of the month.  That's a lot of precipitation, folks.

That precipitation also made it impossible for me to do a book signing at either the expo or post-race as had originally been discussed with the guys putting on the race.  They told me to just show up and enjoy the day.  I planned to do that as best as possible.

Race Morning:

The rain did not abate as I picked up my bestie Shannon who was using the marathon as yet another long run for her preparation for her first 100 miler in a month. My frontwheel drive Crossfire does not like rainy roads, especially in absolute pitch blackness. So getting to the buses took a smidgen longer than expected and after parking we found we were some of the last runners to get there. Shannon went to her bus and I to mine where, in the back, I had a seat to myself. I tried to catch some shut eye but the people across the aisle must have been having hot flashes because they kept their window open the whole ride up with the spray coming in.

What the Ubermarathon people did that was tres magnifique was keeping the buses at the start line all the way until the race was about to start. In addition, there were plenty of bathrooms up there as well. I didn't leave my seat until about 4 minutes before the race began I walked out, saw a few people I knew, wished them luck and lined up.

First 3 miles: 6:18, 6:18, 6:45

Because the race would enter a rather narrow path about 2 miles into the race, the organizers decided to start runners in little 30-second waves. I do not think that it was necessary as the first portion, run on regular-width roads, would allow for the weeding out of people going out too fast.  But it wasn't bad thing.  the only thing that affected me was that even though I did not start until the second wave of runners, I was recorded as going out with the first wave. No biggie in the grand scheme of things but if it happened to others I can see some potential for complaints.  I guess I just got to close to the starter arch or something. As you will see later, those seconds wouldn't matter much.

The race started by going immediately up a steep but short hill.  The rain was coming down and thee wind was blowing. I was glad I was only doing 13 miles in this slop and felt bad for Shannon having to slog through double that distance.

I missed the first mile marker and had no idea what pace I was running.  It felt fastish, especially since after the first uphill, the next 1.5 miles or so was the steepest downhill of the course. I passed the first aid station and laughed saying "I am just going to absorb liquid through the skin."  It is a falsehood to think you don't need hydration just because you are covered in water (which is why I tell people on hot race days to put the water in them, not on them.)  However, with only 90 minutes or so of work today I knew I would not need much.

Passing the second mile marker I took the average of my first two miles and was pleased.  One runner who had been on my heels passed me right before the third mile.  His pass, however, was far from decisive. Bad move.

To the 10k: 6:41, 6:47, 6:51

Within a few feet I had already closed the small gap he had placed on me.  This runner was also not running the tangents of this twisting and turning bike path which was a huge waste of energy.  I like to see how much time can be made up by maintaining the exact same pace and it always astounds me. Before too long I was passing him. He put a small amount of effort into keeping up but then fell off the backside. I surged for a few hundred yards too make it seem like this was the speed I could run for the rest of my life in the hopes of breaking him a bit.  Then I started to feel like I could run that pace.  After I continued to run mile after mile well under a 1:30 pace, the "Hey, maybe I will finish in 1:35 and be happy" idea left me and the "I might eke out a 1:28" idea took over.

However, I knew I would be doing it rather alone.  The canopy of trees helped hold back the wind and the rain for the most part and the cooler temperatures were to my liking as well.  But the whole "more or less running by myself" thing was getting old.  I had just got done doing that for hundreds of mile last week and I wanted to see some people.  I didn't want another lonely training run. Of course, that is my own doing. I could have simply slowed up a bit or sucked it up like a man and ran fast enough to catch the runners in front of me.  The latter wasn't happening even if I could see the occasional fast starer starting to come back into view whenever the trail straightened for a few hundred yards or so.

The day will come soon when running even as fast as I one did will be a supreme effort.  I have tasted that when I try to run a shorter faster race after not enough rest from a previous race or when I am in the middle of years of long-distance running training and it does not bode well with me.  I hope to stave it off for a few more years at least.  I know I have some PRs that need to fall.

For the next two miles, I tried to pick up the pace and had one runner pass me.  He got swallowed up in the haze when he got about 100 yards in front of me and my lone companion was gone.  However, even as the initial downhill started to even out, I was still keeping a good pace. Just not as fast as I was hoping.

On to 10 miles: 7:02, 7:31, 7:09, 7:02

For whatever reason, I thought the course continued on its downhill trajectory until mile 10.  However, shortly after mile 6 it more or less flattened out and the free downhill boost was over.  Soon thereafter a long stretch of the trail was in the middle of a wide open field. When the rain and wind started again (if they had ever stopped) they were unimpeded and hitting us in full force. The brutal dual conditions were intermittent but enough to make you really wish you were done. I knew my pace had dropped but was surprised to see by how much it had. I suddenly went from hoping for a 1:28 to thinking I was going to run a 1:35 again.  I got a little angry.  A runner passed me. I did my best to hang with him until he pulled away.  But after getting about 50 yards in front of me, that is where he stayed.  I picked up the pace and began running harder.

I passed under a bridge and for no reason whatsoever it gave me wings. It was as if I entered it one runner and left it a completely different one. Which, in actuality, I was. I dug a little deep and thought about how running a sub 90 minute half less than a week after what I had done in the Midwest would make me feel really good about myself. I didn't care what anyone else would think.  I just know it would make me feel like I had achieved something. That is what running is about:. Feeling good.

Of course, just being out here and ambulating should make me feel good but now I had a time goal.  I was passing a runner here and there, including some I was unsure how they got in front of me.  There had not been that big of a group of runners in the fist wave or maybe there had been. Either way it didn't matter.  I had about a 5k to go and I was ready to cruise in, The railroad industry had other plans.

Heading home: 6:52, 7:17 7:11 :42

I first heard the horns of the train a while back but they did not mean much to me. I hear horns all the time.  What are the odds I would be crossing tracks in this race? Even more to the point, what are the odds a train would be crossing at the same time.  If you are a betting reader take the odds at 1-1.

The runner who I had been trailing had opened up a little more of a gap, which I am guessing was adrenaline from seeing an oncoming train.  As I too tried to turn on the jets I could see that another runner in front of me who I was catching was not going to be as lucky.  A turn in the road did not allow me to see where the first runner went but I could see the other starting to slow just a hair, as if in confusion. As I approached the section with the crossing lights flashing and the train sitting on the tracks, it looked like a practical joke.  The train was four cars long and was stopped right at the crossing. What in the hell was it doing?

The runner in front of me started to go toward the back of the train from the direction which it had just came, just as I got to where it blocked the road.The suddenly, the train started to back up. I felt like Ross in a Friends episode.  Why, why would you do that?!

Now the runner had to come back to me just as the train was getting out of my way and the crossing guard was going up.  I felt bad that he had to run this extra distance.  However, we had well over a mile to go, I had been gaining steadily on him since I had seen him and I knew that if he had it within hi m to beat me, he would do so.  Throw in the fact that he was definitely in the wave in front of me and I was obviously "ahead" of him.  I still felt bad.

The final mile or so was both anti-climatic after this train incident and also a little frustrating.  There were more than a few twists and 180 degree turns that weren't ideal.  All the intersections, however were clearly marked and a volunteer stood bravely in the pouring rain helping runners at every turn.

On a normal sunny day, the final loop around the park where the race ended would have been a bit of a celebratory victory lap. Today, it was just more agonizing running in wind and rain.  When I finally crossed the line I saw that I had missed going under 1:30 by just a few seconds, netting me a nice top 10 finish. Whether it was the seconds waiting for the train, the seconds added to my time from the chip or anything else it really didn't matter.  I ran way faster than I thought I could at this juncture and a few more seconds here or there wasn't going to change that.

I ran back to my car, changed shirts and warmed up for a bit.  Then I headed back onto the course the cheer on runners and run the last few miles with Shannon. I wanted to make sure she hadn't been washed away and I need a few more miles for my legs. I spotted her around 22.5 miles and she gave me a friendly wave. She was looking as fresh as one possibly can after four hours in the drenching rain and wind.  More importantly, she had properly used this race as a training run.  You often hear people doing that and then they go and run the race nearly as fast as they can.  A true and solid training run is treated as such and she was doing that perfectly.  Given some lingering foot issues and the miserable weather, I was super pleased with her effort.

At the end of the day, all things considered, this was a very well-run race.  The medals were simply off the chart and the shirts were extremely nice as well. Little things like that don't matter to me too much if they are not above average but when they are, I take note. Even the bib numbers were nice.  Many people were running their first ever marathon and many others had massive personal bests.  I heard more than a few say they were choosing this race over next week's much large Portland Marathon as they felt they would have a better time here.

I think they made a good choice based on nothing more than how the race was handled. I look forward to running more of their races and hopefully working with the company on a grander level.

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