Where to start? I guess way back in January (or perhaps February) when MildSauce mentioned that her roomie bailed for colder climes. I found myself drawn to Portland to kick off the year with a 15k race, perhaps drawn to the potential Loop Meet Up (defined as meeting strangers that you share blogs with at RunnersWorld), or perhaps the free 15k PR, but certainly for the hills of Portland (Yes! There are hills in Portland). You should go pop some popcorn, grab a blanket and strap in 'cause this one is a bit long.
Let us begin this journey on Friday. We clamored into a pair of vehicles around 9 Friday morning to make the 200 mile journey to Portland. Why two cars you ask, because I like to roll with a group, also because my wife's family made the trip, and its hard to put 5 adults and two car seats into a vehicle comfortably. So off we rolled with dreams of great food to eat and fun things to do.
Our first real stop on this journey was at the Bonneville fish hatchery, where you guessed it, they raise fish. Everything from Chinook and Coho salmon as well as several varieties of Steelhead salmon. There are a bunch of fish rearing stalls (really the best way to put this) with hundreds of thousands of fish in each. But the main attraction at the hatchery is Herman, especially if you are a 3 year old who has been cooped up in the car for a couple hours. Herman is a 10+ foot, 500+ pound white sturgeon, who lives in a very special pond on the hatchery grounds with several of his very large sturgeon friends.
The next stop on this beautiful spring afternoon was at Multnomah Falls (it is pronounced exactly as it reads). There are two falls here that total at total of 611 feet of drop between the two. We did the short hike (less than a quarter mile) up to the bridge to take a couple of quick photos and then hit the road again. I have to say that this really inspired me, as I want to come back on do one of the longer hikes up to the top of the falls (or perhaps to the top of the mountain).
Now, on to the highlight of the day (unless you are into beer and German food), the meet up. We arrived at our hotel at 3:30, got checked in and settled, then headed off to the convention center, conveniently across the street. I am willing to admit that I was nervous (or at least I was in the hour or so leading up to the meet up). Honestly, I don't usually get nervous, I have moved around enough in life that I know how to make friends and how to get along with people, and you would think that meeting people you already have something in common with would be an easy thing to do. But still.
The expo was smaller than I was expecting, especially with 32000 people registered for the race. The entrance was packet pick up with a smattering of booths in the middle, a stage (where we heard a harpist and a bagpiper) then T-shirts and chip confirmation at the other end. Immediately after picking up my packet, I set off looking for MildSauce and LadyRunsAlot, my wife asking if I knew where they might be. And as we turned the corner I saw them. Walked right over and introduced myself, and off we went, talking as if we were long lost friends. We talked about what to do in Portland and running, upcoming races, and what to expect during the race on Sunday. Sadly, after about an hour, I realized that we needed to get on the road and get the kids fed. So we said our goodbyes with promises to meet up again at the conclusion of the race.
Saturday we spent the day doing all that is cool to do in Portland. We started off by grabbing breakfast at Pine State Biscuits (as featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives), where, perhaps, more food than should be consumed by one person is indeed eaten by one person. We followed that with a trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). There we went for a tour on a Submarine (the USS Blueback), toured the exhibits, which included a lego art exhibit, and played around in the kids area. Let me recommend this if you have kids and want something to do for a day in Portland.
After OMSI, we headed into the heart of Portland grabbing a quick bite for lunch, and then going over to Powell's Book Store. This place is amazing, and if you love books, then this is the place for you, I could have spent the whole day here looking at (and of course buying) books. My brother in-law and I parted ways with the rest of the family in order to meet up with one of his high school friends and his girlfriend. They took us to a Nickel Arcade, where we spent two hours (sorry I didn't take any pictures here) playing nickel games and generally having a good time. We then had dinner at a place called Montage, which had good food, and I made the most questionable call of the whole trip by ordering spicy mac and cheese.
Sunday, I was up at 6:30 for the 7:45 race. I put the bib on my shirt, and laced the timing chip to the shoes. Managed to get through all my pre-run routine and was out the door by 7. I had originally intended on using the mile distance to the race start as a warm-up jog, but I noticed all the green shirts getting on the transit train, and decided to just ride over with them (alleviating a concern I had about running over the river in a city I don't know at all). The train dropped my off a block from the start of the race, I took it all in for a minute or two, then went to find the port-o-potties for that all important last pit-stop. Then I quickly went over the starting area and found the 8-9 minute start group. Then we waited.
Getting ready for the start of the race.
We kept waiting for a train to get to the station, so that we wouldn't have to stop at the train tracks, and I was ok with this plan. Finally, at 8 AM we were off. I knew roughly the way the course was going to wind through the city, and I knew that somewhere there was a monster hill to be tackled.
Miles 1-2: I narrowly escaped being stopped by the transit train as I got to the first rail crossing probably about a half mile or so into the race. I kept trucking along and wondering when exactly that hill was supposed to start. The splits I have on my phone for these miles show that I was running about a 7:50 split during the first 2 miles, but my GPS and the course miles were not matching up as I was about .2 miles off from the markers on the course (2.2 instead of 2).
Miles 3-6: I hit the hills starting at mile three and felt really good, though I was starting to wonder if I was going to regret the mac and cheese from the night before. Apparently I slowed down a ton on mile 4. Either the hill or the concern that I might have to hit the bathroom must have slowed me down, as I recorded a 10+minute mile (the only one above 7 on my splits). When I checked the phone at mile 4, it read 37minutes for 4.37 miles. Two thoughts hit me as I looked at that. 1) I needed to speed up, and 2) the phone was good for time only, as the splits weren't going to match up well today. So I kicked it up a gear in a desperate effort to make up time, by this time the stomach had returned to its normal self. At mile 5 you have the joy of coming down hill a little, and I remember thinking to myself that I didn't hear or see any bagpipes so we haven't reached the acme of this hill, still it was nice to have a little reprieve. I push on knowing that we have to be close to getting there. A couple more ups and downs, mentally I have convinced myself to take a quick walk break when I hear that sound. The sound of bagpipers calling us to the top. I make on last push to get to the top of the hill, knowing that this is it.
Miles 7-9.3: I literally feel like I am flying down the last 3.3 miles of this race. It is all down hill. RunKeeper shows splits of 7:41 for the last of the hill miles (mile 6) and then 7:23, 7:21, and 7:16 for the final three plus miles of this race (or 3.78 as the case may be). I cruised in and stopped the time on my phone at 1:18:00, just three minutes off the predicted goal. My official time was 1:17:23. That time is right at my fastest half marathon pace from last year and that was a flat course.
I stumbled around the park for a couple of minutes looking for my family (before I realized they hadn't gotten out of the hotel yet), grabbed some water, then went in search of MildSauce and LadyRunsAlot near the Chowder huts (apparently there were 4, I only remember 2). I had just about given up on finding them when I turned back around and saw them. We stood in the rain, well a few minutes of it, (did I mention it misted/rained for most of the race?) and chatted about the experience and got some pictures. Looks like I need to work on my after race enthusiasm. LadyRunsAlot's husband was nice enough to snap some pictures after the race. MildSauce and I then spent some more time trying to convince LadyRunsAlot to join us again in Spokane for Bloomsday. Finally, it was off to warm up, pack up the kids, and head back home.
Why do I have such a strange look on my face? You would have thought I was staring at the sun!
I got up and ran Monday morning, and I never get up and run the day after a race or a long run for that matter. I did 3.3 very (go ahead and drag that out a little) slow (this too) miles, in about 32 minutes, all while trying to avoid all the hills in my neighborhood. Then I went to work, where I take the stairs regarless of how my legs feel, and it was all I could do to walk around the office yesterday, thinking, how did I run this morning. My quads were burning, but I knew it was from a good strong workout and a great race. I already have a new goal for next year, get as fast as MildSauce and LadyRunsAlot. I have more pictures to post and will put those up this weekend when I get some time to transfer them off the camera.
I had a lot of fun in Portland and I am already looking forward to going again next year! Until next time folks, have fun out there!