Heartbreaker Half Marathon Race Recap: Portland, OR

Yesterday, I finished my hardest race yet, the 2015 Heartbreaker Half Marathon.

2015 Heartbreaker Half Marathon Medal

I suffered for this medal, gosh darn it.

I signed up for the Heartbreaker Half about 2 1/2 weeks ago after finishing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge.

I ran the Star Wars Half with my Mom and she had a great time, but indicated that she would like to run a half to see what her actual time would be.

She decided on the Heart Breaker Half.

Me: You do know there’s a massive hill in it called “Heartbreak Hill”, right?
Her: Oh. No I didn’t. That’s okay, I want to do it anyway.
Me: Okaaay…

For those who don’t know me, my running style is avoid all hills.

Elevation profile (in red) for the 2015 Heartbreaker Half Marathon.

Elevation profile (in red) for the 2015 Heartbreaker Half Marathon.

Seriously? Look at that doozy around mile 3-4? And the rest of the course isn’t much better.

Heartbreak Hill elevation heartbreaker half marathon

Close-up of Heartbreak Hill elevation gain on the Heartbreaker Half.

Honestly, I tried to avoid looking at the course map and profile before racing because if I had, I probably would have psyched myself out. Unlike past half marathons, I wasn’t as focused on this race in the days leading up to it.

You might almost say I was trying to avoid thinking about it.

But regardless, at some point the night before the race, I decided I wanted to look festive, so I cut out some large cloth hearts to pin onto our clothes and dragged out the red sparkle skirt I made for the Holiday Half.

Mom made a silver sparkle skirt out of leftovers from the Pigs in Space costumes and grabbed a pink shirt. The hearts were very crudely pinned on but they looked pretty good and we got a couple of shout-outs for our outfits.


The race started out in Hillsboro at Liberty High School.

We started hitting some low rolling hills after only a mile into the race. Although we were following a pretty strict run-walk-run method of 1:05 run, 0:50 walk, we also tended to try to walk up hills and run down them so we didn’t tire ourselves out to much.

Oddly enough, Heartbreak Hill itself didn’t stand out to me as being the worst hill ever to run. I know exactly when it started because it was timed separately and we kind of giggled at the folly of timing us as we ran over the timing mat and almost immediately started walking.

No one hill really “killed” me in this race, it was the constant return of yet another hill that wore me down. At one point a fellow runner said “at least this isn’t heartbreak hill” with forced cheerfulness, to which I replied, “every hill breaks my heart.”

What I do remember about Heartbreak Hill was the incredible view at the top.

Railroad Trestle Dick Rd Hillsboro

This amazing wooden railroad trestle is still in use and we ran right under it! (credit: swainboat via flickr).

Mile 4-6 were probably my best miles of the entire race.

Not only were they mostly downhill, but there were plenty of trees, gorgeous views, sunshine, and an amazing railroad trestle on NW Dick Road, I kept thinking how lucky I was to be living and running in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

When I sign up for races like the Holiday Half and the Heartbreaker, I fully know it could be pouring rain, freezing cold, windy and generally extremely unpleasant. The weather we got for the Heartbreaker was filled with the promise of spring.

By the time we reached the half way point between mile 6 and 7, I was still feeling okay. These miles had finally turned onto some flat road, although I found out it wouldn’t last for very long.

Before long, we heard a volunteer with a bullhorn announcing “10K and Finish to the right, Half Marathon 2nd loop to the left.”

How I desperately wanted to turn right!

Around mile 8, running up yet another hill, Mom said “So, what’s your next run?”
“Nothing,” I replied, “I’m never running again.”

The shirts were cool, and we were able to exchange sizes at packet pick-up. They also had an expo with discounts on upcomign races... I signed up for three, including the upcoming Luckython.

The shirts were cool, and we were able to exchange sizes at packet pick-up. They also had an expo with discounts on upcoming races… I signed up for three, including the upcoming Luckython.

This was, of course, a lie. I’ve already signed up for the Luckython 5K on March 14th.

But the Heartbreaker was a true test for me, and by mile 10, I was suffering pretty bad. I’d taken a gel at some point but the water station was running low on water and the small bit in my cup wasn’t enough to wash down the gel.

I started feeling really sick and about 1 1/2 miles to the finish, I told mom to leave me and get a strong PR time. I kept her sight just ahead of me until she turned a corner at the top of a hill to head toward the finish.

I told myself to speed up in the last half mile, to run fast at the finish, to sprint to the end, but by the time I got there, my body was past listening to my brain.

When I finally turned onto the track at the high school, I heard my Dad chanting “Run, Kallen, Run!” and it was probably the only thing that kept me going. I tried to sprint, but there was little left and I was happy I managed to run across the finish line.

I found out how hard we were running when I found out that Mom beat my PR time from Vancouver RnR (2:38:02) to finish at 2:36:13. I finished 6 people back from her and didn’t manage to PR this time.

I did manage not to throw up. Victories come in all sizes.

I started feeling a bit better after taking a bit of a fig bar and drinking gatorade.

Heartbreaker half— dancing to Ben Rice Band

Dancing to the music of the Ben Rice Band!

We headed to the post-race area where I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing set-up. The place was looking pretty empty by then (Mom and I being on the slow end of half marathon runners), but there was still food left and the Ben Rice Band was still playing.

By this time, I was feeling good enough to chow down on delicious salty snack mix and glorious strawberry shortcake.

I also finally found out how Jason and Dad did on their Heart to Start 5K adventure.

Heartbreaker 5K age group medal

Unlike my finisher’s medal, Jason earned this by being first in his age group at the 5K!

Turns out they also had a hill or two, so Jason didn’t manage to break his 5K PR but he did place 1st in his age group.

Dad continues to speed up as he power walks and being a member of the zipper club was especially noteworthy during this sponsored Heart to Start race. He’s signed up for the Disneyland 5K (lucky dog), so I foresee many more 5Ks in the future.

I’m a little sad that I had to drop back from Mom’s pace and therefore not post a PR, but then I considered the nature of the course.

With very few exceptions, I don’t train on hills and the Heartbreaker Half was full of them. It was very challenging and although I didn’t PR, it is my second best half-marathon time ever.

Overall, I’m proud of how we both did. I felt spent at the end of the race, which means I held nothing back.

We finally left the post-race party at Liberty High School to head to a party of our own— lunch at Old Chicago.

Post-race with the whole family!

Post-race with the whole family! A perfect day to be outside.

Overall, the Heart Breaker Half was a very well-organized race. If I have post-race memory lapse (the same thing that keeps me signing up for races), I’d do it again. I can always look forward to another post-race party, featuring good music and strawberry shortcake!

Time: 2:39:58
Ran With: Mom
Memorable Moment: At our highest elevation, looking over the sunny valley and later, running under a old railroad trestle bridge.
Best Song on Running Playlist: Heartbreaker by Pat Benatar. Oh yeah!


4 thoughts on “Heartbreaker Half Marathon Race Recap: Portland, OR

  1. Congrats on another strong half marathon! I can relate to (in no particular order): Training to avoid hills, wanting to spontaneously take the 10K turn off, and telling myself I’m not racing again as incentive to just finish the one in progress. And that hill looks like a mountain on the profile!
    We have a half in Alabama this Sunday – mostly because I’ve never been in that state. I think if we get around to Oregon…I should stick to R n R Portland.

    • Glad to know I’m not the only one. Enjoy the half in Alabama! It’s fun to use races as an excuse to travel. I’d never been to Vancouver/Canada until RnR

      And yes, you should try to make it to Oregon at some point. Portland is beautiful and there are so many cool races!

      And not all the races end up so hilly (People keep suggesting the Columbia Gorge half or full, but although I love the breathtaking beauty of the gorge, I also know it would be too hilly for me.)

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