Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Run Vegan Run Columbia Gorge

I did it! I ran the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon and finished. Not only did I finish, but I finished with a better time than anticipated. Even my split time suggested I would finish around the 2:08/2:10 mark because my split time was 1:04. That was the last time I looked at my watch because I was completely focused on the task before me. I'm getting ahead of myself though.

I woke at 7:00 to a dark and rainy morning. When I peeked through the curtains of our hotel room, I saw pelting rain and the big Oregon trees swaying in the wind. It was confirmed that it would be a wet day to run. I tried to stay positive, hoping for a break in the weather.

I had my gluten free brownie from Sweetpea bakery, and made some tea. The brownie was really filling. I was probably still full from our feast the night before at Portabello in Portland. I changed into my running clothes and pinned my number to my long sleeve shirt. Then, I went to reception to see about a late check out. We thought we'd probably need an extra hour to make it back to the hotel from Hood River (20 minute drive), and for me to shower after my run. The woman who checked us in Friday night said we would have to ask the day of the race and that it shouldn't be a problem. She changed her story that morning, and told me that she had already given away their limit of 5 late check-outs! I was so pissed, but too tired and too concerned about my run to bother with her. db then went down to reason with her, but she wasn't budging. I can't believe she told me (with a smile) on Friday night that it shouldn't be a problem, and then Sunday told me (without a smile) that I was S.O.L. (well not those words exactly). I mean how many people are checking in on a Sunday afternoon in Cascade Locks, Oregon? Seriously!

Anywho...I pushed that out of my mind and focused on the run. We checked out around 8:15 or so and drove to Hood River. The rain was letting up. The closer we got to Hood River, the better it looked. The sky was still cloudy, but the rain had stopped, and there was even a double rainbow over the Columbia River; it was quite beautiful out.
missed the shot of the double rainbow, but this was lovely.

I did my usual "should I get in the continually growing line up for the porta-potties, or wait until the first aid station?" I walked around trying to figure out what to do. There wouldn't be time for a warm-up so I got into the long line joining the rest of the anxious runners. Everyone is always so friendly and chatty. I love races for that reason.

The start line was on a grassy lawn that faced the marina. We would run across the grass to a wide trail that went to the water and then loop back before heading into town. I kissed db for luck, and got into line.
 The frontrunners -- I'm obviously not in that group.

The gun went off and we all shuffled through the gate adjusting our clothes, earphones, and gaits. Not two minutes into the run, just as we reached the water where we began to turn towards the town, the sky opened up and pelted us with rain. I thought it was hale for a second because it was so strong, but no it was just hard pelting rain. Two minutes into my run and I was dripping wet, my feet squishy, but I laughed because that's all you can do and besides I was with a group of people who were all going through the same thing together.

The first hurdle was the suspension bridge that swayed violently back and forth when it filled with runners. I had to stop and walk, swaying from side to side trying to hold on and move quickly at the same time (it doesn't work). I stumbled over the bridge and headed into town.

The first series of hills we had driven so I knew what to expect. They did level out a bit, and I felt fine running up the hills. I told myself that it was just like running up Heritage Mountain at home, and it really wasn't much different except that it twisted and turned. Before I knew it, I was at the first water station at the entrance to the trail that we would follow for the rest of the run. I left my long sleeve shirt at the water station because it was water-logged, and told a volunteer that I'd pick it up on my way back since the route is an out and back route. I had to remove my bib number and pin it to my sleeveless, but I managed. I carried my Vega Sport mix in hand and away I went.

The rest of the route was beautiful. There were several lookouts that viewed the Columbia River from different angles. The path was paved and tree lined with firs and big leaf maples that were golden yellow. The trail went up and down and twisted and turned. Some of the aid stations had bananas and orange slices, which was brilliant because I could just grab an orange slice for some quick energy and keep going. Near the turn around point we ran through a tunnel, which was very cool.

I turned and checked my watch: 1:04. I'd reach the finish around 2:08 or 2:10 as expected. Probably my slowest run ever, but considering the year I've had I would have been pretty happy to just finish.

After the turn around there was more descent that I expected. I still had several hills to climb, but there were longer descents so it was easier on my fatiguing body.  My achilles wasn't hurting and there was no calf pain; overall, I felt pretty good.

Unfortunately, I did see two runners turn around before reaching the official turn around point. They were cheating and that pissed me off. They were probably 1.5 km or so from the half way. I made a point of looking at their bib numbers as I ran passed them, because I did eventually catch them. They were obviously more fatigued than I was.

I reached that initial aid station and picked up my long sleeves before beginning the final long descent into town. I flew down that hill and into town. I typically start my kick too early, and this race proved to be no different. When I reached the suspension bridge again, I was toast, but I kept going and stayed focused. I crossed the grassy finish line to the sound of my name being called out and being thanked for coming down for the event...I checked my watch and realized that my stop watch had stopped a while ago, probably on my fast descent. db and I quickly found each other and he told me I had come in around 2 hours! The official time: 2:02!

 I look like the only runner out there, but there were many others. It's just a smaller race.

I couldn't belive it!  I did so much better than I ever thought possible for this race.

I hit the food tent and made us some bean tortillas with guacamole (best event food ever!), and then we headed to the car to get ready for our drive home.

I wanted to find the race officials and tell them about the cheaters, but db said that they were just cheating themselves and to not worry about it, so I let it go. No point it causing trouble when I was feeling so good.

The finisher medals they handed out were unique. Made by a local artist, I think it's the nicest finisher medal I have.

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