October 9, 2012

Portland Half Marathon Race Recap

My 14th half marathon is in the books!

This past weekend I flew up to Portland, Oregon, to run the Portland Half Marathon.  I was not sure how I would do, being that only 7 days before I had completed my first half-Ironman triathlon.  I had actually signed up for Portland way before I had signed up for SuperFrog; when I registered for SuperFrog I had to carefully consider the fact that I would be doing this a week before yet another half marathon. However, I figured I would be ok, as I would rest, compress, ice, and do whatever else I would need to do to get my tired legs and body recovered from 70.3 miles and ready to do another 13.1.  I signed up for Portland because I was supposed to run it with my dear friend, Krista; it was supposed to be her first-ever half marathon. However, she injured herself in training and had to back out.

As it turned out, I wasn't sore at all from SuperFrog. Thank goodness for good training, I suppose! I woke up the following day a bit stiff, but not sore whatsoever. I went to the pool for a short (10 lap) shake-out swim which got rid of the stiffness; swimming the day after a big race always makes me feel better. Aside from that short swim and a few mile-long walks with the dog, I did nothing else all week. Although I wasn't sore, or even tired, I wanted to rest my body and my mind.  I went into the Portland Half with the thought of just completing it. I was eager to run in a new city, cross another state off my list (I've now run a half marathon in 3 states; only 47 more to go, ha!), and soak in the fun atmosphere. I had heard that Portland is an amazing marathon, both for the full and the half, and I was excited to experience that.  I wasn't planning on racing it, only participating.

Spoiler:  I ran my 4th best half marathon time. Ever.  I guess all the training for SuperFrog really paid off. And not having to swim 1.2 miles and bike 56 miles first also helped.

Onto the recap!

Friday morning I flew up to Portland, where I was met by Krista.  We spent the day wandering around cute areas of town, going to the pumpkin patch with her son, and catching up.  Saturday I slept in (until 7:15, unbelievable!) and we went to Krista's son's soccer game. This is where I started to get concerned about weather.  The weather had looked nice all week on all the weather websites I'd checked (mid 70's) but that morning, sitting watching the game, the wind really kicked up. The wind was COLD!  I was shivering, even though I was in a long-sleeved shirt, a hoodie, and gloves.  I had packed two potential race outfits, but neither was for cold weather. I knew that once I got moving I would warm up, but was worried about the hour or so wait I'd have pre-race. I certainly didn't want to be freezing.  I decided to look into buying something warm at the expo. (Note to self: when packing for an out-of-town race, always pack at least one hot and one cold weather option.  It's better to have long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a hat and not need it than to wish you had it).

 After the game, we headed downtown. First, I got to meet Lisa, a blogger who I've been following on Twitter for years and whose blog I've been reading for just as long. It was so nice to finally meet her face-to-face (please check out her inspirational blog when you get a chance).  We met for coffee at my favorite bookstore, Powell's. Afterwards, Krista and I wandered around, bought some books, and had lunch at one of the cute food carts Portland boasts (we ate at the Grilled Cheese Grill).  Then it was onto the expo.

me and Lisa
The expo was actually pretty nice. It was in a big hotel downtown, and while it wasn't nearly as big as the Rock 'n' Roll ones I've been to, it wasn't nearly as small as other ones. There was a nice selection of booths and, of course, official merchandise. With my worry about the weather, I forked over $15 for an official Portland Marathon beanie. I picked up my bib and shirt. The only "complaint" I had about the expo was that these were in different areas; the bib pickup was downstairs, and the shirt pickup was upstairs.  I thought it was odd, because expos usually have these by each other, but I guess it was to ensure that each runner actually walked through all the booths. Well played, Portland Marathon, well played.

After the expo, we walked around downtown more (I wanted to go to VooDoo Doughnuts, but balked at the hour-plus line out in front) and spent time people watching at Saturday Market. After meeting Krista's family for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, it was home to prepare for the race and get to bed early.

I slept fitfully, waking up almost every hour as is my norm before a race. I finally got out of bed at 5, got ready, and Krista and I were on the road by 5:30. I ate a Luna Bar on the way.  I was anticipating horrible traffic getting into downtown; most big races I've done have awful traffic jams as it gets closer to the race. However, there was no traffic...none at all. We easily got into downtown, found parking, and sat at a table we found. The weather wasn't too cold, as there was no wind. I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, then handed my new beanie and gloves to Krista to hold onto as I headed to my corral, Corral D (I kept on my throw-away jacket, though).  There were several corrals, but they were set up differently than I'd ever seen before.  The races I'd done before had the corrals on one street, lined up one after the other in a big row.  Portland had each corral on a different intersection. Each corral had it's own set of port-a-potties and gear check.  I got in with my corral, and when it was finally time to walk to the start line, I shed my throw-away jacket. I was warm enough. 


too dark to really see, but this is the start line

 Soon it was my time to go.  The guys from 3 Non Joggers, a podcast I often listen to, were announcing, but I couldn't see them.  There was so much energy in the air, and so many spectators!  We ran through Chinatown before running in some cool residential areas.  Although it was crowded (the marathoners were mixed in with the half marathoners, and didn't split off until about mile 10 or so) it was never wall-to-wall, and I always had room to run.  Unfortunately, I don't know Portland too well so I can't write about exactly where I ran, but for the most part it was through some really neat areas, especially through the neighborhoods, by the waterfront, and some parks.  Miles 6-9 were pretty brutal---it was an out-and-back through some ugly industrial areas--but they had some course entertainment there that helped a bit.

entering Chinatown

There were also TONS of bands and entertainment along the way.  In fact, I didn't even turn on my iPod until about the 5k mark, as I wanted to hear all the music.  Along the way I tried to unplug when running by bands, so I could hear them.  Lots of races have rock and folk bands, but Portland had some other groups such as a group of mimes, a harpist, some DJs and a group of pirates.  Yes, pirates. We ran by the pirates twice, on the out-and-back, and I loved it each time.

a band outside of Chinatown

the harpist was unique to see

pirates! you can't make this stuff up!
Course aid was plentiful, with lots of hydration stops for water and sports drink.  They even had gummy bears (yum!) about mile 9 or so.  I was very comfortable weather-wise, and was so glad I hadn't brought my new beanie, or bought arm warmers or a long-sleeved shirt.  I even ended up dumping water on my head at mile 11, just to cool down a bit.  More than one runner told me that it was the most perfect weather they had ever done the race in.  I guess usually it rains for this race, ranging from a drizzle to a downpour, so to have this dry, mild weather was unheard of. I totally lucked out!

one of the more beautiful views

one of my signature self-portraits while racing
Amazingly, I was doing really well on time.  I realized that about mile 11 that I had the chance to PR, but I was starting to tire at that point and slowed down.  I had kept my usual regime of a Gu at miles 4, 8 and 12, but was feeling a bit nauseous.  Soon enough, I was at the finish line. In the finish chute area there were tons of spectators, and I was one of the only runners there at that time.  My name was on my bib, and I got lots of shouts of encouragement.  Right before I crossed the finish line, I passed a runner, who had done the full marathon, collapsed only a few yards from the finish. He kept trying to get up, and the crowed was encouraging him, but he kept falling down.  As I ran by, a medic ran toward him. I can only hope he was ok, and that he was able to at least crawl the few yards to the finish.

After I crossed the finish line (in my 4th-fastest half marathon ever!) the real swag started piling on.  First I was handed my medal.  After a space blanket was draped over my shoulders, I was handed a yellow rose (they had roses of all colors).  Then I passed through the food tables.  Most races have the usual bagels, bananas and oranges, which they had, but they also had grapes, orange juice, coconut water, and a table full of Halloween candy, already placed in individual cups. They also had empty cups where you could fill your own! I grabbed a filled one, and asked them to put an extra Kit-Kat in.  Mmmm.  There were even MORE food tables but I can't remember them all!  Then I got my finishers shirt. Yes, a second shirt! It's a long-sleeved tech shirt, and says Portland Finisher on it.  Then they gave me a velvet pouch containing a commemorative coin, another velvet pouch with a commemorative charm (to put on a chain), and a seedling of a tree (I think a fir tree, but I'm not positive), planted in dirt in a cup.  I have never, EVER seen so much swag for a race.  The best part was the two different tech shirts!

all my swag, minus the short-sleeve shirt I'd gotten at the expo

My hands were SO full by this time, even with a bag a volunteer gave me to help me carry things!  I found Krista, and, after changing by the car in the parking garage (luckily no one drove by!) we went out to breakfast at Genies Cafe, where I gorged on vegetarian biscuits and gravy and a huge, delicious bloody mary.  Then it was off to the airport for the flight home. The fun part about that was seeing other runners in their long-sleeved finishers shirts. I was wearing mine too, and whenever I'd see on in the airport or on the airplane we'd wave and chat.

delicious and well-earned
All in all, I LOVED running Portland. I wish I lived closer so I could do it again next year!


  1. AWESOME! So glad you made it to Genie's and got those Bloody Mary's (especially since Voodoo was a bust). It was so great to meet you and I loved reading your recap. It sounds like it was a fantastic race. You should be really proud of yourself, especially after the Superfrog! :)

  2. Sounds like an awesome race! I'll need to try it some year (can I really do the trifecta and a 4th one week later *hmm*). Sounds like the race was put on by people passionate about running.

    You are an inspiring BAMF for almost PRing again the week after your 70.3! Love the pic of you with the medal.

    1. Thanks! You should definitely do it one day, you'd love it!

  3. Hooray for another successful half!

  4. Looks like you had a wonderful time; congratulations on such an accomplishment, SM!

  5. Awesome recap!!! It really was a beautiful day in Portland!

    The pirates were my favorite, certainly unique! So glad you ate at Grilled Cheese Grill. I live 3 hours south, but I love to sneak over there any chance I'm up in Portland.

    Congrats on such a great race!!!!


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