|Nice race tee!|
The Helvetia Half has a reputation for being a difficult, hilly course. But to me, that only added to its intrigue. I missed the race last year, because I was in South Dakota, running the Mickelson Half. But this year I was bound and determined to be there!
|The starting line crowd|
Last Saturday morning found me and 4,500 of my closest friends toeing the starting line near the Hillsboro Stadium. A helicopter with the race photographer on board circled the waiting participants, and the announcer told us all to give him a wave. Then we were all asked to "high five" the people around us - which was great fun to do and made me feel like we were all one big racing family. After the photographer did his fly-by and got an aerial group shot, we runners were released into the streets.
|My dorky starting line photo|
The weather couldn't have been more ideal for running - cloudy skies and cool temps. It was a little bit chilly to start out, but perfect once you got moving. I took off on a fast pace, darting around the slower runners. I wasn't feeling my best this morning, and hadn't trained very hard for this race, so I wasn't sure how things would unfold. But before every race, I always make some sort of goal, and this time I decided to run another sub-2 hour half. Considering the hilliness of this course, and how I was feeling, finishing this course in under two hours would be tough. But I decided to give it a try anyway.
After the first mile, we crossed over the highway and into farm country. No hills yet, just acres of lovely green fields. We headed up the road to the Helvetia Tavern. I've traveled this road in a car many times, but on foot it sure seemed like a long way!
And then, right around mile four, we hit the hills. Ugh! I wasn't ready. But I slogged up the first hill, got a brief break, and there was another. I was almost to the top of the second hill, when what did I see ahead, but yet another hill! Finally about mile 5.5 or 6, we got some relief. What goes up must come down, and I was happy to have a little downhill stretch. I zoomed down the hill. It was great - I felt like I was flying! For a couple of brief minutes I felt strong and invincible.
|One of the many hills|
But, oh there were more hills. Not as bad as the first, but enough to slow me down. I kept myself as close to a nine minute mile pace as I could muster and soldiered on.
Of course, I still did all my usual mile marker celebrations. Once and awhile, I got some of the people around me to "woo-hoo" along, but mostly I got funny stares and silence. The mile six marker happened to be placed right next to a field of cows. I let out a "woo-hoo" as I passed this marker and one of the cows emitted a loud "moo!" I'd like to think the cow was cheering along with me. It was really funny, and got a lot of the other runners around me to laugh.
|Finish line victory photo!|
From about mile 9 on, things got tough. It wasn't the hills, because after mile 8 things flattened out. I'd been pushing myself really hard, and I think that I was just wearing out. I struggled along, trying to keep my 9-minute mile pace. The last two miles, my side started to ache. But looking at my watch, I saw that I still had a chance to come in under two hours. I told myself "don't slow down now - finish strong." I kept telling myself "finish strong" as I crossed back over the freeway. A bunch of ODOT guys were standing by the closed-off on ramp and one high-fived me as I ran by.
Mile 12 came and went. I gave it all I had, speeding down the road towards the finish line. My side was screaming, and I didn't feel like I had much energy left. Finally, the stadium loomed into view. I turned onto the field, and a nice volunteer told me "you're almost to the burgers and beer!" The race finished on the field of the Hillsboro Stadium. The nice cushy AstroTurf gave my feet a little boost. I kicked it into high gear and sprinted to the finish line.
|Finish line crowd on the field|
This time I remembered to shut off my watch as I hit the timing mats. After catching my breath, I saw my time. It was 1:58:52. I did it! After all the hills, not feeling my best, and battling my tired body, I'd still reached my goal!
After reviving with a burger and many Jamba juices, I was feeling pretty good. It was a tough race, but I'd still come away meeting my goal. I basked in the post-race entertainment and savored my victory. And decided then and there, I'd be back next year. Those hills and I are gonna have a rematch!