Hoo boy, was it raining cats and dogs this morning. Actually it seemed like it wouldn’t be too bad, driving downtown, at twenty after six, when it was mostly just drizzling. But shortly after I got to the race start area, it started to pour. Everybody huddled under the tents. Maybe running in that downpour wouldn’t be so bad, but standing around waiting to start with it coming down like that would be awful.
With 15 minutes left, it started to slack off. I took off to warm up a bit and stash my jacket in my car, parked just a couple blocks away. During my warm-up, it started pouring again. Sigh. I made it back to the starting area. Now it was getting light and the rain was turning into drizzle once more. One of my running-group friends, J, was doing the half marathon too, along with his sister-in law, in from out of town. It was her second half marathon. She asked me how many I had done. She could see me counting on fingers and toes, I guess, and changed the question to how many I’d done this year. Four? Too bad they don’t get easier.
With 30 seconds to go until the scheduled start time, a rumor started to go around that they were going to be nine minutes late. You want my opinion, that’s a pretty specific amount of time to be late by. Why not a nice round ten? Observations like this are why nobody wants my opinion, by the way. Anyway, the nine minutes gave the drizzle plenty of time to pick up into a light rain by the time we started. It would alternate between drizzle and rain for the rest of the run, with one torrential downpour thrown in for good measure.
The route was an out-and back up over the Broadway Bridge then north on Interstate, Greely and Willamette to the University of Portland. The hills of note were the climb onto and over the bridge and then the long steep hill up Greely.
I took off pretty fast the first mile. If I was going to have a shot at my PR, I needed to average under seven minute miles, and I knew I’d be quite a bit slower uphill. Mile one was a 6:55; J had come off the line a bit slower than me and I wouldn’t spot him again until the turnaround at mile 6.5.
I held it together well up and over the Broadway Bridge. This was a pretty small race and we were well spread out already. The next mile was mostly flat and I returned to a seven-minute pace.
Then came the hill. In some ways, it wasn’t as bad as I feared. It felt nothing like that monster in the Helvetia Half, for instance. That one had me almost ready to throw up by the time I crested it. This one, I did my best to take it easy. I think I should have taken it a little easier than I did. I made it through that mile in 7:28, but I was still paying for it during the next mile, where, working really hard, I managed only 7:07.
Now we were up on the exposed bluff overlooking Swan Island and the North Portland industrial area. The wind became a factor in here. It was a strong wind. A couple times I nearly lost my hat. Running into, or even across, this wind was definitely more work than it would have been on a calm day.
What can one do? Plug ahead. Try to run the best lines. (People are amazingly bad at this. Curb huggers, cure thyselves!) Count steps and breath. At the turnaround, I saw that J was just a little bit behind me. A hundred feet? I said something about him being right there and he said something I can’t remember but with an inflection that made it sound like he wasn’t sure he was going to catch me. Or maybe he wasn’t sure he was going to survive another six and a half miles. I know I wasn’t.
The return trip on the bluff is a not-visible-to-the-naked eye gentle incline that gets the better of you as you wonder why you’re slowing down for no apparent reason. The last mile of it is the worst; I gasped through a 7:09 there. Then comes the tricky part. The run down Greely. Take it too slow, and you’re not grabbing back any of the time you lost on the way up. Too fast and you’re thrashing your legs and missing out on a valuable chance for some recovery. I pounded down at a 6:45 pace or so, which doesn’t sound too bad. The torrential, soaking, stinging, driving rainstorm hit as I was nearing the bottom of the hill. Just carrying that extra water weight around in my shirt had to hurt. And the wind! Oy. So reaching the flat, and then the uphill as Greely hits Interstate, was not so much fun, no. The mile after the hill sucked. At one point early into it I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was averaging about an 8:00 pace thus far into it. “Yikes,” I thought, “that’s slower than my marathon goal pace and here I am in a wee little half marathon, jogging that kind of speed?” I picked it up after that but still covered the 11th mile in all of 7:22. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to PR at that point.
Have I ever mentioned that in the two and a half years I’ve been running, every race I’ve entered has been a PR? It’s a stupid stat, but it’s mine. It was mine.
J passed by me right near mile marker 11, as we were heading up onto the Broadway Bridge. It would have been nice to rally and overtake him, but I didn’t have another gear in me. I kept him in sight through the last two miles, but he was steadily pulling away. J got a PR, finishing about 35 seconds ahead of me. My time, unofficially, was 1:32:38, a 7:05/mile pace. That’s less than a minute off my half marathon PR from two months ago on a much easier course in nicer weather. I think I did good today.
Elevations: The elevation chart doesn’t have the bridge elevations at miles 1.5 and 11.5 right — the elevation data that the chart is generated from thinks we were running at river level instead of on the bridge.
Mile splits: 6:55, 7:08, 7:00, 7:28, 7:07, 7:00, 7:01, 7:01, 7:09, 6:51, 7:22, 7:08, 7:00
Official Results: 1:32:37. 23rd/240 finishers, 19th/120 men, 2/22 in my age group.