Race Recap: 2014 Foot Traffic Holiday Half—Portland OR

I finished the Foot Traffic Holiday Half yesterday!

Signing up for a race in December, in Portland, you never know what you are going to get, but the weather was perfect.

It was such festive fun!

It was such festive fun!

I signed up for the Holiday Half on kind of a whim, thinking of it as a fun training run leading up to the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend.

Pre-Race

Sadly, in the 7 days leading up to the race, I was sick for about 6 of them. I had no appetite, a touch of nausea and splitting headaches. I wasn’t able to do any training runs or even eat complete meals. Luckily, by Saturday I felt fine and was even able to do my 5K training walk (prep for the Rebel Challenge) on Saturday.

Sewing a sparkly red skirt the night before, using the same method as my blue sparkly skirt.

Sewing a sparkly red skirt the night before, using the same method as my blue sparkly skirt.

I also decided last minute (the night before the race) to sew myself a sparkling red holiday skirt so I could embrace the holiday spirit for the run. Glad I did!

Jason (1) ran the 5K, while our friends Melissa and Jason(2) joined me for the half. Jason2 has been having problems with his knee since he had to walk most of Rock n’ Roll Vancouver, so he planned to see if he could run with me.

Pre-Race support was amazing.

The Adidas Campus provided plenty of room for race staging. There was a snow machine and fire pits outside but even better, there was even a warm room that we were able to duck into, complete with a tree and DJ playing holiday tunes.

Bag check went very smooth, but we got stuck in a dreaded porta potty line and lined up in our corral minutes before start. Luckily, they were right next to each other).

Holiday Half Marathon

I was warned ahead of time about the uphill start, but honestly, it wasn’t that bad. There was a hill (unadvertised) during the middle of the race that was more difficult.

The only problem with the start was once we turned onto a residential street, cars parked on both sides created a funnel affect that led to crowding and slowing down. At this point, we told Melissa to go ahead and try to dodge her way ahead, leaving Jason2 and I to run the rest of the race together.

Crowded start, but I'm waving anyway!

Crowded start, but I’m waving anyway!

I’ve realized over time that the first 2 miles of a long run (race or training) are some of the longest miles for me. It seemed like it took forever for us to get to the first water stop and the 5K turn around point.

Once I reached the 4 mile point, I was able to settle in for the run, coming to terms with the idea that I would be running for a while that morning.

With holiday cheer, it was hard not to grin.

With holiday cheer, it was hard not to grin.

Four miles in was also the first aid station where I grabbed the electrolyte drink offered. Expecting something similar to gatorade, I let out a gargly-yelp of surprise, amusing several other nearby runners. I don’t know what it was, but it was pink and tasted like it was sparkling. Carbonated? Electrified grapefruit in liquid form?

Sun was behind us, so perhaps you can't tell, but it was gorgeous!

Sun was behind us, so perhaps you can’t tell, but it was gorgeous!

Running through the neighborhoods at the start was great but once we left them, we also got a great view of downtown Portland still shrouded in fog. We snapped a quick picture before continuing. I loved the scenery

We ran past the University of Portland Campus and got a great view of the St. Johns Bridge. Residents of the neighborhood sometimes came out to cheer and one homeowner set out speakers on the front porch that blasted holiday tunes.

It was sunny for the entire race, chilly, but not too cold. As we headed to toward the turnaround, there was a slight downhill next to a park that led straight into a fog bank. It was an eerie moment but unforgettably cool.

They had plenty of porta potties along the route (although I never needed to stop for one, yay!), and gels at every water stop, and Foot Traffic advertised that there would be aid stations “every two miles.” I checked the course map and I’m not sure if there was an aid station missing for some reason, but there was a long stretch right around halfway with no aid stations.

On an out and back course, the worse part was realizing upon reaching the aid station and not seeing a water station that it would be two miles back the way I came before reaching water. I took a gel without being about to follow up with water and I paid the price around mile 9.

At least there were carolers. On the way out, they seemed fairly enthusiastic, including the group at the turnaround (the volunteer staffing the turnaround should be commended— he was energetic and funny).

Sadly, I’m a really slow runner, and on the way back, the renditions of “Jingle Bells” seemed to have lost some pep. I”m always glad to still see spectators, volunteers and course entertainment by the time I’m at mile 9, so my thanks for their continued presence was genuine.

Mile 10 is where I started to struggle. Jason2 was still with me, having had no knee problems, and having a running partner helped. I started to focus on just getting to the next bus stop, the next street corner, the next tree. I alternated short walks and short runs. By mile 12, every time I started to run again, a sadly audible moan would escape.

By the time we got to the downhill finish, I was not wearing my cheerful face. More like

By the time we reached the downhill finish, I was not wearing my cheerful face. More like “in pain….”

I was so out of energy. I think my sickness meant that I simply didn’t have any reserves for such a long race.

Somewhere near the end of the race, Jason2 spotted a photographer. “Quick, look happy!”

“I’m so happy… happy, happy, happy!” I lied, smiling to the camera. As soon as we were past, my smiled dropped as the expression of pain returned. Which was hilarious in its own way to us.

I knew the finish would be downhill. A downhill finish was wonderful and helped me find hidden reserves of energy to speed up right before the finish. Jason and Melissa and her mom were near the finish cheering for us and I smiled upon crossing the finish line.

Post-Race

Wow. Did not realize the holiday half medal was so huge,” I thought as I stumbled toward the small child who apprehensively held the medal out to me.

Once I’d recovered my balance, drank some water and decided I probably wasn’t going to die, I wanted some egg nog, darnnit. Let me share my irritation for a bit:

“Finish the race and treat yourself to a craft beer seasonal brew, hearty holiday soup, hot chocolate, hot oatmeal, egg nog, and more!” —Foot Traffic Holiday Half webpage

No eggnog. No hot chocolate. No hot oatmeal. And I’m not a beer person (especially after running). But the delicious soup chili thing was awesome and the bread was satisfying, so I recovered from disappointment.

It's (fake) snowing!

It’s (fake) snowing!

Despite everything, I was exhilarated at finishing the race.

Overall, the race support was awesome with plenty of nice amenities provided (good job Foot Traffic!)

Holiday cheer was everywhere and the many costumes were great at providing entertainment throughout the course. With the course just an out and back, it was fun to see runners in both directions decked out in holiday gear.

We stayed for a while, taking pictures and once again hanging out inside near the Christmas Tree.

Turns out Jason had a great 5K despite his knee injury from his long run last weekend— another sub-20 minute 5K for him for first place in his age group and a top 10 finish. He liked the 5K course that wound through the neighborhoods.

Great last race for 2014! Now, on to 2015 and the Rebel Challenge at the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend!

Runners unite! The Christmas Tree was decorated with Holiday Half medals from previous years.

Runners unite! The Christmas tree was decorated with Holiday Half medals from previous years.

Time: 2:43:01
Ran With: Jason2
Photo Stops: 1 (and many more before and after the race)
Best Costume: An wickedly good Abominable Snowmonster I got to see 4 times on the course.
What I learned: Running with a scarf should not be a regular thing.

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