Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Shamrock Run

I know most of my recent blog posts have been exclusively about skiing.  However, I've also continued to run through the winter.  Last October, still on a high from my first marathon, I had a moment of insanity and signed up to run another one.  On May 1st, I'm running the Eugene marathon.  So along with skiing as much as possible, I've been trying to fit in training for a marathon.

The starting line

Part of my training plan included getting in shape to run the Shamrock Run 15K.  This race is a huge tradition in Portland.  It's always held in mid-March on the worst weather day of the year (or so it seems).  Runners have their choice between a 5K, 8K or 15K course.  The Shamrock is one of the largest races in Portland, and this year it was capped at 32,000 participants.  For the past two years, I've run the 8K, but this year I got brave and decided to tackle the 15K.  This race goes up and over Terwilliger Blvd, a big, long, steep hill - which is a challenge in itself. 

But the best part about this race is the people.  Everyone comes to have fun.  A large number of the participants don green for St. Patty's Day.  I always love a race that you can dress up for, and the Shamrock Run is the best!  Many people go all-out.  You see green hair, lots of green tu-tus, many wacky hats, a few leprechauns, and a couple of runners dressed up as pints of Guinness.

Roger and I before our races

I convinced Roger to sign up for the 5k.  He started running last fall, and this was to be his first race since his early 20s.  Roger's big concern - he was afraid of coming in last.  I told him "That won't be a problem - you walk faster than a lot of people run!"

Roger is ready to run!
Sunday began, cold and rainy.  The weatherman was forecasting large amounts of rain.  Perfect weather for the Shamrock Run!  I wore all the green running clothes I could find, and found a St. Patty's day tiara - complete with battery-powered flashing shamrock!  I was set.  Roger and I made our way to Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, the start of the race.

There was already a huge crowd overtaking the park.  We did all of the pre-race activities, looking over the booths, leaving our coats at the clothing check, and visiting the port-a-potties at least three times each!  I lost track of time, and had had to hustle to get to the start of my race.

Racing up Broadway in downtown Portland

I squeezed myself into the crowd of runners at the starting corral.  Some upbeat music was blaring and the runners were in high spirits.  One male runner exclaimed "Oh my (gosh) I'm gonna run a 15K!"  I told him "There's beer at the end!  Think of the beer!"  Finally the crowd in front of me started moving.  I hit the starting line running and didn't look back.  Bring on that hill!

The beginning of the course was a little bit different than in years past.  Instead of winding our way through Chinatown, we ran up the Burnside Bridge a short distance, turned around, and headed west on Burnside St.  The crowd then turned onto Broadway for a long trudge up a slight incline.  In the 8K, this is where a lot of runners stop and walk.  But not the 15K runners!  They were a much more serious bunch.  There wasn't any walking up Broadway.

Starting up Terwilliger hill
After Broadway, the runners wound across I-405 and suddenly, there it was!  The terrible Terwilliger hill!  Time to test my training.  I put my head down, swung my arms, and powered myself up the first climb.  Once at the top, I thought "that wasn't so bad.  I did OK."  But I wasn't done yet.  Stretched up ahead was another hill.  Although not as steep as the first incline, it went on forever.

But I ran on.  And the hill continued on....  I was starting to get a little fatigued, so I slowed my pace down slightly.  Looking at my Garmin, I realized I was running a much faster pace than I'd anticipated.  This was great for me, especially since I was climbing a hill.  However, I was beginning to wonder if that stupid hill would ever end.  The scenery at the top of Terwilliger is really nice.  But it was a gray cloudy day, so there wasn't much for views.  And I was too tired to enjoy the sights.

Then I passed by the Charthouse restaurant.  There was a bagpipe band playing away.  A bunch of volunteers were yelling "You made it!  It's downhill from here!"  That was sweet music to my ears. 

Downhill never felt so good!  I raced down the hill past a bunch of really nice homes.  There were a few people standing on the sidelines cheering the runners.  Their cheers were much appreciated - just the motivation I needed.  Made me feel like a rock star!

Roger and I after our races

I turned onto Barbur Blvd. running hard.  My Garmin was showing almost 8 minute miles.  Gravity was definitely my friend right now!  I decided to give it all I had for as long as I could.  It was tough, but I was able to hold a good pace all the way down Barbur.  The sea of runners turned onto Naito Parkway.  Now I knew the finish line wasn't far.  I was looking forward to finding Roger and getting some beer!

I crossed under the Hawthorne Bridge, and saw the finish line up ahead.  It was a great feeling to cross those timing mats.  Yahoo!  I'd conquered the Shamrock 15K and the Terwilliger hill!

My race swag

After winding my way out the finish chute, I met up with Roger.  He survived his first race and wasn't last (far from it).  He described the 5K as "really crowded and too short."  Roger said the race was over before he knew it.  I think he's ready for a longer distance. 

We claimed our coats just as the skies opened and the downpour began.  Roger and I stood a long line for beer.  But we had earned that beer, and we were going to get it!  Standing in the rain, I got really wet, got chilled, and holding onto a cold beer didn't help.  Time to head home for a hot shower!

Racing the Shamrock was a good indicator for my training.  I totally rocked the hills on the 15K course, and finished with a faster time than I'd anticipated.  It gave me confidence that I'm on track for my marathon (even though the past couple months have been more focused on skiing than running).  And Roger?  He's already planning to run his first 10K.  And that's no blarney!


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