Run Like Hell Portland Half Marathon

Or – Bikey’s Too Damn Perky in the Morning

23 October 2011

11 half marathons, 3 sprint triathlons and 1 30-mile bike ride over 8 states and 2 countries through the course of 12 months covering 556.72 miles during training and events – those are my stats as of today. Before I embarked on my insanity, I had done approximately 2 5k races (and they were local races so they probably weren’t even close to being 3.1 miles). Fast forward to today and I consider myself fully engrained in the whole racing sub-culture. And yes – it is a sub-culture. Those of us who are embroiled in it have race schedules memorized, know where to find new races, drool at the sight of new tennis shoes, belong to groups such as Half Fanatics, 50 States Club and Marathon Maniacs and think financially in the form of “how many race entries can I get with that?” It’s a sickness. But a sickness I fully embrace and feed.

Up to yesterday’s race I thought I was getting better. My time really wasn’t improving – it always fluctuated by a couple of minutes in either direction – but I chalked that up to not really training with emphasis (And I don’t. Train, that is.). I believed I was getting better because after each race I was less and less sore. I got to the point where I was sore after the event but the next day I had no residual effect causing me to wince when brushing my hair, walking or breathing. What I discovered today is that over the course of the last 10 half marathons, I have been cheating myself. I got comfortable. I believed my brain when it told me that a faster time just wasn’t in the books for me so I should just get used to it. And then the Portland Run Like Hell half marathon happened and opened my eyes.

I signed up for this race quite a while ago and was able to convince 3 of my friends to do it with me. Deb, Courtney (aka – Cab), Brittney (aka – Bikey) and I were going to take on the course with style. Cab and Bikey actually dressed up to the theme – Zombies – and they looked great. Deb and I talked about it and left it at that. The race had a 3 ½ time limit and I expressed my concern about not being able to finish within the timeframe and that I absolutely did not want to be picked up by the SAG wagon. Brit said she’d stick with me and push me along and so our game plan was born. Deb and Cab would wait for us at the beer tent and Bikey and I would walk together.

The course was absolutely beautiful. It meandered through downtown Portland, headed north a bit then winded south through Terwillger Park and then back through downtown Portland to the finish line. We couldn’t have asked for better weather – a cool, sunny day which highlighted all the hues of the fall scenery – and it didn’t rain. And I couldn’t have asked for a better task-master than Bikey. She started us off at a good clip and for 6 miles I tried to keep up with her. Mile 1 was completed in 14:15, mile 2 in 14:36, mile 3 in 15:02, mile 4 in 15:35, mile 5 in 14:36 and mile 6 in 15:53. The woman pushed me and each time I tried to slow down, she would turn around, smile at me, and turn back around. She was way too chipper for so friggin’ early in the morning and I couldn’t have that perkiness leave me behind. However, between mile 7 and mile 8, I slowed down while Bikey maintained her pace and gradually she was further and further ahead of me. And then the cop cars, the ones who were tailing the last runners, passed me – after, of course, stopping to tell me that traffic was open behind me and to be careful.

At that point I lost a little of my steam. Not all of it, though, because I had passed quite a few people as well and they hadn’t leap-frogged over me yet. So I kept plugging along. I didn’t stop to take pictures and I ignored the blister slowly growing on the ball of my left foot. I felt I was making good time and despite being passed by the SAG wagon, I believed I was on course to finish within the cut-off time. I came up to mile 9 and I asked the worker if there was anyone behind me (because I refused to turn around and look) and the little teeney bopper guffawed and said, “Nope. You’re it.” I wondered how that could be when no one passed me and didn’t believe I was going so fast that I would leave them so far behind. More steam has been let out of my engine. My foot starts to really howl and then my right foot decides that it would be a perfect time to turn into a claw. Yes, I said “claw”. My right foot turned in and it felt like it was trying to curl up in to the shape and functionality of a claw. I don’t know how birds walk with their claws but it wasn’t very conducive to my attempts.

While I worked out the whole human claw foot thing, I came to a decision about the race. I decided that if I were going to be outside the cutoff, I might as well enjoy myself. So I started looking around. I marveled at the colors, took in the sights, got my camera out and took pictures; I enjoyed the weather, the fact that I was out in it and I contemplated the difference between a sprint triathlon and a half marathon. Before I knew it, I was at mile 11 and my foot had turned human again and the blister wasn’t hurting.

I never saw mile 12 because the race organizers had already removed all signage and volunteers. In fact, I had no idea where I was. I kept walking in the direction I thought I needed to go but the panic was beginning to rise. I pulled out my cardio-tracker to see where I was mileage-wise and discovered that I was already at 13.12 miles. I texted Deb and talked to anyone who I thought might know where the bloomin’ finish was. Deb told me to keep going the direction I was and I finally saw some Zombies with their medals and they told me where the finish line was and I wasn’t far. I finally see something that looks like the finish but I wasn’t sure if it was the start line so I asked the two cops who were sitting in front of it if it were the finish line. Being the helpful public servants that they are, they looked at me like I had sprouted two heads and ignored me. I took a chance and crossed the line (which was the finish line) – and looked up at the clock that was quickly being dismantled – I crossed at 3 hours and 38 minutes and that was GUN time, not my chip time. I was frustrated, pissed and relieved all at once. They couldn’t wait EIGHT FRICKIN’ minutes to dismantle the finish line? They didn’t KNOW I was still out on the course? And why couldn’t they leave the bloomin’ course markers up for just a little bit longer??? And where the hell was my frickin’ medal??

All of this emotion came pouring out of me when Cab came up to me from behind and startled me. I collapsed in to her hug and couldn’t keep the tears and the relief from pouring out. I finished the Run Like Hell Portland half marathon. Not only did I finish it, I walked a total of 13.44 miles AND I did it in 3 hours and 36 minutes – a personal best. All four of us finished the race and soon all the emotion I felt during those panicky few minutes was replaced with laughter and conversation of four friends basking in the knowledge that we finished something together. It was a wonderful day.

Bikey pushed me during that race. She showed me that I’ve been cheating myself and that I can work harder. Today I can’t walk or breathe. My arms are sore, my ribs are sore and the blister on my left foot is nothing compared to the rest of the aches and pains I have. I feel like I did after my first marathon last October. I feel this way because I got comfortable and I failed to continue to challenge myself to do better, go farther, go faster. Thanks, Bikey, for the reminder that the only one I cheat when I get comfortable is me. You’re still too damn perky in the morning, though.

Mileage break-down:
Mile 7 – 16:04
Mile 8 – 16:07
Mile 9 – 17:37
Mile 10 – 18:56 (attack of the claw foot)
Mile 11 – 16:37
Mile 12 – 16:00
Mile 13 – 17:51 (panic mile)
Total distance – 13.44 miles, 3 hours and 36 minutes, average pace of 16:04 minutes/per mile

According to the race results, I was last. I have no idea how those people who I passed who never passed me finished before I did but what they do with their race is not my concern. (At least, that’s what I’m trying to tell myself)

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