This morning it was a bit chilly but nice and clear, with very little wind. It was craziness down on the waterfront - several thousand in the 5K walk, 7,500 participants in the 5K run, 5,039 in the 8K and about 4,000 in the 15K. The excitement was tangible - lots of music playing and booths set up all over the place - this is a seriously big event in this town.
Nicholas ran in the "Leprechaun Lap" - this is the only picture we got of him (he's in the grey sweatshirt in the middle of the shot, and Justin is in the dark grey beside him.) They went out like a rocket and by the time I caught up to them, Nicholas was doubled over, gasping for breath...but before I could say anything, he was off again.
Everyone was sent out in waves to avoid mass congestion, but it was still pretty nutzoid trying to navigate through the throngs of folks, all wearing different colored bib numbers - black/white were the walkers, orange was the 5K, green 8K and blue 15K.
Donna and I before the start of the race. Just look at those smiles! Hehehe...not for long!
Finally it was our turn to go and off we went. The crowd around me thinned out within the first 5 minutes and before I knew it, we were literally bringing up the very rear, with the only ones behind us being Portland's Finest. It was pretty funny to think that we were running from the cops! Only moments later, the uphill portion began, a fairly gentle but prolonged incline up Broadway, then a slightly steeper but fairly short portion just past the one mile marker. By then, I was feeling it, and given my usual difficulties in really settling in, I was already having a hard time.
Donna gradually pulled away (I told her to, it was clear she could go faster) and before I knew it, I was pretty much by myself, the sweepers crawling along behind me, with only a few in front of me by a couple hundred feet. I finally caught up to someone - she was keeping a pretty slow pace so we instantly decided we were going to hang together for a while. We chattered away, introducing ourselves (hi Sheridan!) and generally encouraging one another as we approached the first and most serious incline going up Terwilliger Blvd. That's when it really got fun.
So, up we went, reduced to a walk - the first hill was definitely the steepest and the longest. Then it commenced with the rolling hills, more up than down, but at least there were a few declines on which we could start running again before we had to muscle our way up the next hill. All this time we were watching the time and calculating our pace since we had to get to a certain point (about halfway) within 75 minutes or risk being steered off onto a shortcut back to the finish that would shave about 2 miles off the distance. Sheridan and I were absolutely determined that we were going to make the cutoff, so when we actually did make the cutoff with 10 minutes to spare, she poured on the juice and went on ahead of me. I just kept plugging away, joking with the officer who occasionally pulled up beside me, looking a bit bored, and alternately passing and being passed by the scattered few who were still within sight.
Then, there was the top, and with a huge sigh of relief I began to finally catch my breath and really settle in, humming along down the hill - knowing that I'd just gotten over the most difficult part of the race gave me a huge second wind (literally) and I was cruising. At that point, I put on my headphones for that extra push from my running mix and actually caught up to Sheridan at about the 6 mile mark. She was dragging, and I kept alongside her for a while, and then reassured she was ok I went on ahead.
By this point, the course was headed back downtown and it literally was downhill almost all the way. From the top of Terwilliger, I managed to run about two and half miles without having to walk. But right along mile 8, though, it started to catch up to me - the hip flexors were getting very sore. Almost without fail, this is where I really feel it every time. I grit my teeth, turned up the music a bit louder, and kept going - walking for a few seconds and running for a few minutes, alternating.
When I was about four blocks from the finish line, I just sort of charged ahead and managed to run across the finish line, just ahead of Donna, who had wrenched her knee out on the course and had fallen far enough back for me to catch her and then pass her.
Definitely not the most flattering photo finish in the world, but man those blue mats had never looked so awesome! Donna is in the pink about a hundred feet behind me.
Me, still standing - the lovely blue mats, the finish banner. This was a very good day.
Unfortunately, Donna had to go visit the medical tent and get some ice packed on her knee. She was in quite a lot of pain, but able to walk on it which is a good sign. I waited at the finish to cheer for Sheridan as she came across, about 15 minutes after I did. This was her first race ever, and she was so happy to finish I thought I might start crying right along with her. We hugged and high-fived and chatted for a bit, then exchanged contact info and went our own ways.
We retired to the booth area, where there was free seafood chowder and beer waiting for us (although I passed on the beer. I don't like beer.) The seafood chowder, however, kicked some serious you-know-what - it really hit the spot. It turns out that all the 15K finishers were supposed to get medals, but they ran out. Apparently, I will be getting one in the mail.
Happy shiny runners! Here I have a medal, but I was borrowing it from Donna's friend Win (second from the left) for the picture. He managed to finish fast enough to get one of the available medals. Lucky dog!
The first place finisher for the 15K was done in 47 minutes. I just can't even comprehend that. Seriously, I can't. It must be cool to be able to run that fast, but at the same time, I don't think I would enjoy the ride nearly as much - to be that hyper-driven and pushing that hard...I can't see that as being something I'd enjoy, even as hard as it was for me to get through the course myself. Despite the rough time I had getting up those stupid hills, I will do it again next year and my opinion of running as a pastime, a hobby, a release - still stands quite firm - and I think ya'll know what that is!