Race Recap: 2017 Hop Hop Half Marathon—Portland, OR

Saturday morning, the sun finally came out and the clouds finally lifted for a lovely spring day—perfect for running a half marathon!

I was excited for this half marathon, but I made a couple of mistakes that I’m sure led to my slowest non-RunDisney half marathon time this weekend at the Hop Hop Half Marathon. Don’t get me wrong— I had a ton of fun— however, after running a dozen half marathons and earning a PR in late February, I think it was time for a reminder to never take the distance for granted.

With that in mind, instead a regular race recap, I want to reflect on what I did wrong going into the race and during the race that contributed to how I felt during the race.

Physical Preparation

As I said in my pre-race post, I’ve been so busy I haven’t focused on running, but I haven’t neglected my training either. I did all my long runs and even managed a speed workout between my last race and this one.

Hydration is where my physical preparation broke down. I didn’t think about pre-race hydrating and woke up with a headache. I didn’t drink enough water that morning and started the race dehydrated. During the race, although there were water stations, I was always thirsty. I haven’t run in sunny weather in ages and I was sweating. I felt sluggish and dehydration is the likely reason.

Mental Preparation

I admit it, I went into this race thinking “no problem.” Yeah, I know I’m trained up, but I still have to run 13.1 miles. Since I was only running for fun, and not going for a fast time and had recently clocked a great PR time, I was feeling pretty cocky about running this race. Six miles in, I started thinking, “dang… this thing isn’t even half over….” Confidence is knowing the race is long but I will finish. Cockiness is thinking the race is no big deal and I’ll be done in no time.

Race Day

I can learn from these mistakes and even though I felt sub-par, I still had a blast at the Hop Hop Half. This was a great race and they made sure the whole experience felt festive.

We made quite the group of happy bunnies!

It finally felt like a spring day and I was so glad to be taking advantage of glorious weather by running outside in it. We’ve gotten so few sunny days this year, every one is a treasure. It was perfect for a race.

Jason was aiming for a 1:30 time (and possibly a PR), Kelly’s Dad was aiming for a sub-2 hour finish. Those of us running for fun— Kelly, Mom and I— started the race together. Right away, I was getting shoutouts for my bunny ears, which looked ridiculously tall in comparison to many others. Someone even noticed the tiny detail of my carrot earrings!

The race started out with a short loop up and down roads and back toward the finish area. We were able to cheer for Jason and Kelly’s Dad as they passed us. Jason was one of the first runners through! We then passed the finish area and headed out for the rest of the race. Around mile 3, Kelly decided to drop back to run 30/30 intervals. With her reduced level of training, the 50 second run/30 second walk interval at our running pace was too much to maintain for the whole race.

Soon we had turned onto a bike path following the Columbia River. The sun sparkled on the water and there was a breeze. Every runner was in good spirits, with some singing to their music as we all ran along.

Take a look at the beautiful view of the river!

Once we neared the turnaround we saw a man in a giant blow-up hatching chick costume. It was hilarious and we knew we’d have to stop at the station afterward. They had marshmallow peeps! I don’t usually like them, but around mile 8, they sure tasted good.

We also spotted Kelly, who wasn’t too far behind us. Mom and I continued our way back along the bike path, but this time, the sun allowed us to see our own shadows and I was really amused by the bunny ears I was running with.

Although it was beautiful, Mom and I couldn’t help noticing all the landmarks that we had seen on our way out and thinking about how much longer we had to run.

Just after we crossed the road to the final short stretch of the bike path, Kelly caught up with us. We had less than 2 miles to go! She had been racing to catch up with us for a while, working hard.

Once I saw the finish line, I started running. “Slow down,” Mom called, since my pace was rather fast for poor Kelly, who had just caught up. “You can’t stop me know,” I yelled back. The finish line was too close!

We finished one, two, three and I made a beeline for the mimosas and my commemorative champagne flute. We found out that Jason just barely missed his PR time (again), but Kelly’s Dad smashed his 2-hour goal coming in at 1:53:22.

Cheers to a great race day!

All in all, I think I could have prepared better, but it was a super fun race that I would definitely recommend. It was nice and flat, with beautiful views. Of course, it helps that it was beautiful weather too!

Time: 2:51:29
Ran With:Mom
Best Costume: One of the faster runners (Jason’s speed or faster) wore a giant cardboard carrot on his back. All the bunnies in the race were chasing him!

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Race Recap: 2017 Mesa Phoenix Half Marathon (New Personal Record!)—Phoenix, AZ

I waited for this moment for a long time!

I flew home from Phoenix two weeks ago but I’m still relishing my victory at the Mesa-PHX Half Marathon on Feb 25.

After 3 years and 10 half marathons,  I finally beat my PR time of 2:38:03 (set in 2014 at Rock n’ Roll Vancouver Half Marathon).  As such, this will be one of my longest race recaps yet. I kept writing and changing it, unsure of how to put this race into words.

My shin splints/shin pain became a problem for me as I ramped up the intensity of my training after the Star Wars Half in preparation for the Phoenix Half. During the taper period, I shortened, skipped, or switched my runs to an elliptical workout.
The night before the race my fears manifested in nightmare dream land, where a stress fracture became a gruesome snapping of my leg in the middle of the race. Of course, that didn’t happen.

The more I trained for my PR, the more of a sense of dread I had about the possibility that I wouldn’t get it. Again. The last time I tried was at the Twilight Half which had the devastating course mistake.

At the expo, I focused on the excitement of races. Running in a new place, going to the expo, getting loot from our race bags.

Despite my worries, I had a lot of things on my side. I did spend quality training time doing speedwork. I was running a flat course. I had spent a long time building a new running playlist with fresh songs to inspire me.  The weather was perfect—mid 60s may feel cold to Arizonians, but not to me!

Dressed in lightweight running gear, it was a little cold even for me in the predawn before the start. Luckily, the race organizers prepared for their audience… they provided dozens of outdoor heaters. Runners clumped around them in small herds.

And finally, I would be running the half with Perrin. Although she is a faster runner (finishing with Jason at the Portland Marathon in October), she was looking to enjoy the Phoenix Half Marathon at an easier pace—mine.

I warned her that I wouldn’t be a sociable running partner this time because I was focused on my PR so she devoted herself and her GPS watch to my cause as a coach and cheerleader.

To earn a PR, I needed to maintain a pace faster than 12:03 per mile. Based on my pace times for previous races, both 10K and Half marathons, I aimed for an 11:50 pace, which I felt was within my grasp.

Pre-Race (Slowest pace ever…)

Although Perrin’s place was only about 20 minutes away from the start line, the alarms went off at the detestable time of 3:30am. It’s a good thing we left as early as we did—race traffic was terrible, causing a huge snarl of cars trying to get into the parking area. Lucky for us, Perrin’s fiancé was driving and we were able to ditch the car and walk to the finish area, where buses waited to take us to the start line (different busses for each race distance).

Once we got through that snarl, things went more smoothly. I loved the idea of running a race that started in one place and ended in another. Once I was on the bus with all the other runners, I knew I was already beginning my journey. Even the length of the bus ride reminded me what an accomplishment 13.1 miles is. And as soon as the bus parked at the start line, my pre-race nerves started to subside.

The start line area was well-provisioned, with plenty of porta-potties, heaters, water and more. Bag check was easy. I thought about my pre-race plan and before I knew it, it was time to line up at the start!

Although there were no corrals, the pacers gave us a good idea of where to line up. I aimed for middle of the pack.

Mile 1-2: Warm-Up (Pace avg: 11:30)

The first few miles are always terrible for me because it takes me so long to warm up and get comfortable. To combat this, I decided to start my interval timer on 30 sec run, 30 sec walk. I’ve used a 30/30 interval several times and I’m very comfortable with it. It’s also very easy to run with when just starting out because the running intervals are so short.

It also prevents race nerves and adrenaline from taking me over by forcing quick walk breaks.

Of course, this only helps a little bit. Once the fireworks went off, the music was pounding and I heard the announcers yell “go!” I was off like a shot! After all my training, all my work, the race was actually starting!

The lack of corrals meant that I had to dodge a few people slower than me, but the street was so wide I didn’t have any issues with congestion.

I listened to my music and my interval timer and as the sky lightened, I told myself that today was the day I would earn my PR.

Mile 3-4: Switching to Race Interval (Pace avg: 11:15)

Early on, I saw a blue banner that said Mile 14. “Easiest 14 miles ever,” I joked with Perrin. From there on, the blue banners that marked the miles for the full marathon would indicated that my mile marker, a red banner, was just beyond and Perrin would be giving me a pace check.

Just as planned, after about 2 miles, my race interval timer switched to a different interval, 60/30. These intervals are much more difficult for me and I prefer the more comfortable interval of 50/30 for longer distances.

But I didn’t want a comfortable pace. I wanted a PR.

Early in the race, we ran past beautiful citrus groves and I mused that in any other race, I might stop for a picture. There were so many you could smell the fruit. The sun was shining and I felt like I hadn’t seen it in months after the cold winter we’ve had in Oregon. It was a perfect day to be running.

I was also in danger of going out too fast, but luckily Perrin warned be that I was way ahead of my pace goal with the switch to 60/30 intervals.

Mile 5-6: Settling in (Pace avg: 11:32)

I delayed reining in my pace until after a really awesome song, but then I concentrated on finding a good tempo that I felt I could maintain.  I reminded myself that I hadn’t even reached the halfway point.

I felt good. My shins weren’t hurting. I also knew my best miles in a half marathon are usually between mile 5 and mile 9. At some point during these miles, I feel great. I’m on this journey and it’s great to be alive. I’ve already come far and I’m going farther and I can be so strong. Not everyone can run a half marathon. Even if it only lasts a few miles, its worth the willpower, time and training to feel this way.

As we reached mile 6, we approached a fuel stop and Perrin peeled off to use the restrooms. Unfortunately, she had to wait 5 minutes, and it wasn’t until just before the mile 8 marker that she caught up with me again.

Mile 7-8: Solo Running

During training, I had planned to run the entire race by myself. I know I am good at maintaining an even pace. For a few miles, I was running the race I had expected to run. Alone, concentrating on maintaining a proven rhythm no matter how hard it would get.

And after the halfway point, i started to get my first nigglings of doubt. I was feeling the miles more than I usually did. This was hard. I still felt like I could sustain my pace until the end of the race, but I now realized that it wouldn’t be easy… or fun.

Mile 9-11: This is a long race (12:01)

Luckily, my cheerleader caught back up to me, complaining that my pace was so good it made it harder for her to catch me. Perrin might have been irritated, but it really cheered me up. I was filled with a wicked joy that was compounded by her letting me know I was still beyond my PR pace.

But the pace was starting to take its toll. knowing that I still had a significant portion of the race, I slowed just slightly, afraid that if I kept going, I wouldn’t have anything left to finish. I had toyed with the idea of going under 2:30, but I refocused my attention on just making sure I could get the PR.

I also found out from Perrin that Jason hadn’t gotten the PR he’d hoped for, although he had been close. That made my resolve stronger and drove me through these miles.

After mile 11, I started to really struggle. My pace slowed even further when I chose to walk through a minute run interval for the first time. The heat was getting to me and at a water stop, I splashed some water over my head. Right after I walked through my run interval, my interval timer switched back to 30/30 intervals. Although I had planned for this switch, Perrin, looking at her watch and my pace, told me that if I switched back to 30/30s, getting my PR was going to be extremely difficult.

I was so happy to hear that 30/30 bell. So grateful to it. It took a great amount of willpower to take out my timer and switch it back to 60/30s. But I did it. I wanted my PR and the thought of not getting it after so much hard work was excruciating. It was more painful than the actual race.

I needed to pick up the pace for the last 2 miles.

Mile 12-13.1: She’s a madwoman! (11:07)

After having total confidence earlier in the race that I would get my PR, I suddenly felt like I could lose it at any moment. The thought was devastating. It wasn’t just my current suffering in this race that would be in vain, it would be all of those stupid training runs, the speed work, the treadmill, everything. And above all, facing the crushing disappointment, like I had so many times before, of missing my PR time again.

Near the end of the race, the fastest marathoners finally passed me, as I had expected. “I’ve been waiting for you to catch up to me,” I yelled at them, but that was the last time I had any thought outside of my PR.

Tearing up at the idea that I could lose my PR, a goal I had set that I could never seem to attain, I started to run faster again. I gave up caring about anything but moving forward.

How many times had I felt after a race that I had more left in tank than I expected? How many times had I finished only to realize I probably could have run harder? The only thing that was stopping me was my brain and it was trying to slow me down.

Perrin tells me I kept running faster. In the last mile, my brain divorced itself from my legs. The only thing that registered was locomotion: my legs moving forward. Anything that was sore, tired or painful was gone, only movement was left. It was a very strange experience.

My eyes were watering and the only thing I was thinking was “go faster.”

A short downhill brought us to mile 13. I skipped my walk interval to take advantage of running down the hill. I ran faster on my next interval. I could see the finishing chute ahead but it had never seemed so far away.

Even with the finish so close, I felt like the race might never end.

Just out of reach of the finish line, I came to a near stop. I have no explanation for it. I was still yelling at my legs to move, but they just didn’t respond. Then suddenly, I was able to shake it off and started sprinting as I had never sprinted before.

I was yelling as I tried to run even harder. I don’t know what I must have sounded like (a crazy raging person)? But each bit of speed took a phenomenal effort that felt like I was pulling out from deep within myself.
phxhalffinish

I could see the clock, but my eyes were swimming and brain couldn’t register what the numbers were telling me. I burst across the finish line and right behind me was Perrin. At that point, she was the only one I trusted to tell me my time, my pace, as she had done throughout the race. As a person tried to hand me a medal, I kept asking her “PR? PR?”

Total Average: 11:39/mi

Not only had I finally gotten my PR, but I PR’d by nearly 4 minutes with a time of 2:34:13. I could scarcely believe it and tears kept welling up. Unlike any of my previous best times, I had put everything I had out there for this one. It was such a hard, long race and I had invested so much into this idea I could scarcely believe I had gotten the time.
I am not usually emotional after a race, but this time I was overwhelmed. It felt so hard. I had put so much of myself out there. This wasn’t like any of my other PRs. I wanted it and worked for it, putting away all other goals or thoughts.

And I was overjoyed to see a PR bell at this race and being able to ring it for the first time.


The finish area was blurred by my haze of happiness and exhaustion, although I kept being handed food, a bag to put all my stuff in, water and more. I nibbled at my french toast and made a beeline for some ice cream, but mostly I wanted to meet up with my husband Jason who had finished over an hour earlier than me and had already met up with Perrin’s fiancé.

If only two more of us had run, we could have completed the star with our amazing Phoenix medals.

Bag check was a mess and as we waited for our bags, I was still shaking from the effort and the resulting emotions.

I’m still surprised that this race happened the way it did. I ran the last 5K of this race faster than I did the 5K two weeks previously. I’m still shaken by how I overcame the difficulty. And I have recommitted to my vow to never try for a PR at a runDisney race (Seriously, the way I ran this race would have ruined a Disney experience for me, not just during the race, but if I had any intention of visiting the park the following day.. I was so sore for the rest of the trip).

But it was all worth it. I reached my goal and earned my medal. I’m a slow runner. I will never win a race. I will never run the Boston Marathon (well, unless I’m a faster runner at 80 than I am now). But like runners of any speed, I can still dedicate the time, effort and sheer willpower to beat myself. And honestly, sometimes you are the hardest person to beat, making it a true victory.

It was a great way to start our short Arizona vacation. After showers and a delicious breakfast, Jason and I met up with his parents and enjoyed the rest of our day by attending the Chicago Cubs’ spring training opener!

We had to wear our medals of course, since the race happened right next to Sloan Park!

Time: 2:34:13
Ran With: Perrin
Perfect Song for the Race: The Phoenix by Fall Out Boy

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.