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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Girlfriends Half Marathon - 19/10/2008

I had an awesome time at the Girlfriends half marathon. Thank you Jeanne for providing the spark and everyone else who helped turn it from a crazy idea into an awesome, awesome event. It was wonderful to meet so many great friends in 3D as well as make some new ones.

When I arrived to Portland airport, my body had no idea what day or time it was. East to west jetlag is brutal for me and I had just adjusted to East Coast time. Jetlag was only one of many challenges I faced in my journey. I had registered for the event ages ago but only two weeks out did I know for sure that I would make it. A well-placed trip to Canada made it possible. In Canada, one of my boss’ kids, aka the petri dishes with legs, shared some germs with me. Bring on the bronchitis. I never got full-on congestion but spent much of the week coughing and hoarse. As if those were not enough challenges, a week before the race, I fell down the stairs at the apartment where I was staying. The stairs were steep, uneven and very slippery. I made the mistake of walking down them in socks and slid about a third of the way on my back and my butt. There was no denying the bronchitis but I told no one of the fall – my focus all week was willing the pain away.

I arrived in time to join up with Lynette, Debby and Jeanne for a scenic drive around Mt Hood. It was the perfect activity for the day: great company, beautiful scenery and mostly indoor rest. By nightfall, my body clock said it was ready for bed. I missed the Friday evening arrivals.

Saturday morning, we ate breakfast as a group, surprising Joe Brown’s Diner with a party of 11. I ate breakfast with Coothie, Lynette, Tara and Dale, while sharing the occasional laugh with the table behind us. After breakfast, we picked up nearly everybody’s race packets. We snuck into the gym and watched Lynette rock out another pull-up, as promised. She had done the same the day before and impressed one of the staff trainers. Saturday’s crew was more concerned with the invasion into the PT space and shooed us away pretty quickly.

Saturday activities varied, with many choices on offer. I opted out of the trip to the coast and other options. My hope was by laying low, I would chase the remaining cooties away as well any soreness. I wandered the farmers market with Robyn and Lynette and picked up some fruit. Southern Washington state’s weather seemed much like Scottish weather, so I was very pleased to enjoy one last hurrah of local raspberries. Poor Coothie showed her Florida spirit, shivering beside Leslie (in sandals!). In between farmers market visits (we went back for lunch) I found my way to the hot tub. Pratima arrived just after lunch. A fellow academic, we immediately had lots to talk about.

Saturday’s dinner was amazing. I don’t remember the final tally for the meal, 22 is the number I heard somewhere. I sat near the middle of the table surrounded by so much inspiration. I expect at least 1000lbs were lost by the women in the group ahead of us sitting together at that table. I don’t remember much of the conversations that night. I just remember feeling really blessed.

The meal was lovely. Early in the afternoon, I phoned the restaurant to make sure they could accommodate me and ended up speaking to the chef directly. First he proposed a salad. I said, "No, I am running a half marathon tomorrow. I need food." My meal was saffron chickpeas, vegetables and mashed potatoes with a salad as an appetiser. I have to learn to make saffron chickpeas. Yum.

Bedtime followed not long after the meal finished.

Race morning, I woke up ahead of my alarm again thanks to East Coast time and started my morning ritual. Thank you, East Coast time. I had a hot shower to chase away the morning sore back and got breakfast downstairs. My roast veg omelette was not as nice as the JB’s omelette from the day before but the fresh berries as a side were a nice treat.

There were a few separate groups heading to the starting line in the morning. The weather report was not promising for warmth until much later in the afternoon, so I chose to run in a jacket and hat. I opted for the as late as possible 8:20am group, soaking up the warmth of the hotel lobby while it lasted. Several other groups were meeting there as well. I got to be photographer twice. I called one group of women hardcore as they walked past in sleeveless tanks and skorts. Cute outfits, but I think in Scotland I could run one month of the year in something like that!

I started walking to the start with the late as possible crowd and jogged about half the distance as a first warm up. Our group met up across the street from the podium. I stretched a little and laughed a lot. The race organiser read through the list of states and territories of the participants. We knew what was coming. I won the award for farthest distance travelled. Being short, my wave to the organiser was unseen. The group moved closer, Kim pointed me out and I got my moment of minor embarrassment over with.

After much shivering, the race organiser led us through a warm up with her ham of a husband serving as DJ behind her. It felt good to move and shake away the cold. She instructed us to support each other in the race, cheering women who passed us and encouraging women who we passed. We snapped a few photos as a group and were sent away to the starting line.

Our group scattered quickly based on the pace placards. I started somewhere between the 10 and 11 minute mile lines, with my usual strategy of a slow start to avoid burning out too fast. In an instant, I was alone in a sea of women as we lurched forward through the starting corral, around the bend and through the farmers market. I knew Robyn and Janet were not far behind me in the starting group and Carmen and Alyssa (Jan’s daughter) were somewhere ahead of me. I hope that Alyssa got enough rest to not be affected by her cold.

The early part of the course is a bit of a blur to me as my focus was controlling my pace in the midst of the chaos around me. I do remember waving to Vicki’s husband at a bend. It was nice to see a familiar face. Mile 1 had me right at 10 minutes according to the watch of the loud woman behind me. The run along the waterfront is a blurry memory as well, for the same reason as the starting mile. I looked for blue tanks ahead of me but saw no familiar shapes.

After the first run along the water, we turned through a neighbourhood and wound our way into a park eventually. The park forced a switch from tarmac to concrete, which I found a little rattling. I am spoiled with the tarmac pavements (sidewalks) in Scotland. Soon after entering the park, the front runners were passing us on the return journey. The park took us out to the riverfront again, including some interesting turnaround points. Normally I don’t like these types of courses and do my best to avoid out and back training runs. Very quickly, I discovered a huge benefit to out and back. I could cheer on my friends and they cheered me on. First I saw Carmen disappear around the roundabout but I cheered Alyssa who was not far behind her. As we doubled back, I smiled, cheered, encouraged and/or high fived Janet, Robyn, Tara, Leslie, Coothie, Kim, Pratima and Debby. Paths separated slightly at the water station, so I waved and cheered others behind them, including Vicki, Lynette, Jeanne, Jan and Rashmi. I went through my mental list and wondered who I missed in between.

The marker at mile 7 surprised me because I missed markers for miles 5 and 6. I felt my energy levels running low and started a gel. I nibbled for a mile until the water station provided a nice chaser. Apparently at all of the water stations, I had been saying "Cheers", which is a typical thank you in Scotland. The guy who handed me the cup replied "Cheers to you too" with the tone of voice that suggested I should be downing a shot.

Aside from the loud woman behind me in the first mile, I had no other markers of pace throughout the run. I ran as fast as I felt comfortable, which meant pushing against some building soreness after mile 8. I did my best to appreciate the scenery around me, including some of the outfits, anything for a distraction. Somewhere ahead of the crossing under the railway(?) bridge, I waved hello to Vicki’s husband again, even more grateful for a familiar face.

The jacket came off at mile 9. I finally felt warm enough without it as we hit the industrial park. Alyssa was just barely ahead of me and looked to be struggling. I caught up with her just before the airstrip and encouraged her to keep going. A slight uphill followed the loop around the supermarket. After mile 11, I entered virgin territory and my energy level began to falter again. I got into gel number 2, hoping it was soon enough to see me to the finish.

Along the next return to the park, I waved and cheered to more familiar faces, including Kim and Coothie, Pratima and Debby. The race route intended for us to run on the concrete sidewalks but I ran in the street as much as I could. After the next turn, I saw Carmen ahead of me in the distance. I think I saw her walk twice and I remember think/shouting at her to keep going and be strong. The slight uphill on the park sidewalk made my legs feel like they were filled with rocks. The race magic really began for me then. A few runners, ladies I had never met before, passed me here and said a few encouraging words on their way. I said something encouraging, too. Another woman caught up and we runner chatted for about a minute. When the path levelled again, I pulled ahead but not before encouraging her. I passed a few more runners with more encouragement and they encouraged me, too. Don’t ask me what anyone’s words were. I remember the spirit, not the details.

Another turn and I crossed the familiar bridge near the start. The end was not in side but I could taste it. I forced my rock legs to move just a little bit faster. I waved a thank you to the traffic cop as I zipped in front of hopefully patient drivers and turned into another gentle uphill. My legs howled in protest as I picked up the pace again. One more turn and the finish was just in front of me. I saw 2:01 something on the clock and grinned as I invented a sprint for the finish. Smile turned to wobbly relief as I slowed to a stagger. No denying my quads were tight. The de-chipper was quick. I manufactured a smile and a thank you for the hot firefighter who gave me my bracelet. It probably looked more like a grimace to him. I found Carmen and Scott just ahead and congratulated her. He apologised for not taking my picture at the end. We cheered and collected more runners as they crossed the finish line. Our numbers grew as Alyssa, Janet and Robyn finished, followed by Kim and Coothie. I jumped out of my place in the stretching queue to go back and hug more finishers. The group at the finish grew quickly. Pratima, Debby and Vicki all finished soon after.

Scott and Dale put themselves at the last turn, cheering the runners and walkers. Dale gave Tara flowers to congratulate her. Rightly so. She was one of four who decided at the last minute to run/walk anyway despite the lack of training going into the event. It is a testament to their fitness that all four finished the race strong and without incident. Jeanne crossed the line and celebrated a new personal worst. Originally planning to run, a seemingly minor injury earlier in the week derailed her in walking the event instead with a promise to bail if anything hurt. She ran the last couple miles.

I checked the board for my official times. My race was 2:02:28 according to the gun and 2:01:49 according to the chip, not far off from my aggressive, perfect conditions goal of 2 hours flat that I set blindly weeks ahead of the event. It is neither a personal best nor a personal worst. I am very pleased with the result. Considering my journey to the half marathon and all of the recent as well as long-term obstacles that it entailed, I think I am right where I should be.

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At 29 October, 2008 11:12, Blogger Super Babe said...

Wow dear... that's a good time... especially considering your bronchitis and the fall!!! Heck - I'll take that time under healthy conditions!!! :) Congratulations... what an awesome weekend! :)


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