Last August when I registered for this year's Holiday Half, it seemed like such a great idea. I ran the Holiday Half last year on an unseasonably balmy December day and had a blast. When registration opened for the 2011 race, memories of last year's nice weather clouded my judgement. Fast forward to present day, a bone-chilling, foggy December morn, and I wondered what the heck I was thinking? Run a half marathon in the icy pre-dawn? All I wanted to do was hunker down in my warm bed.
|My thoughts exactly!|
So that explained part of my present bad attitude. The other problem was that I didn't train near enough to tackle a race of this distance. And I knew it. I was afraid about mile 8, things were going to get ugly.
|Runner invasion at the Adidas Campus|
But I'd paid good money to run this race, and that was enough motivation to get me out of bed race day morning. After forcing down a quick breakfast, and gathering up my gear, I pointed my car towards the Adidas headquarters in North Portland, starting line for the Holiday Half.
|Maryalicia's cool costume|
I lucked out and found a parking spot three blocks from the Adidas campus. I walked to the starting area, and found the gear check and race expo crammed into a cold, dark parking garage. The gear check line was so long, I gave up and ran back to my car to stow my coat. With the unseasonable cold temps (hovering around the freezing mark, which is cold for Portland) I'd been fretting the previous day about what to wear for the race. I knew I'd warm up running, but didn't want to shiver through the first couple of miles. In the end, I layered two long sleeve tech t's and wore a santa hat over my cap. But when my coat came off, boy was it chilly!
|Maryallicia and I model our holiday attire|
I ran into Maryalicia, a woman I'd met at the Haulin' Aspen half last August. We'd run part of that race together, shared some photos, and become friends on facebook. Maryalicia is quite a prolific runner. She's finshed a large number of halfs this year (I think she told me 17), one pushing her daughter in a running stroller the entire distance! She is quite the wonder woman.
|Pre-race photo op|
Maryalicia was dressed up in a wonderful Mrs. Claus costume. She was bubbly, enthusiastic, and totally up for the race. I loved her positive engergy and, hoping some of it would rub off on me, asked if I could run with her.
|Shuffling towards the starting line|
So I lined up at the starting line by Maryalicia's side, and patiently waited for the race to start. While waiting for the horn to sound, we amused ourselves by checking out the participant's costumes. Red and green clothing dominated the crowd. There were elves, santas, reindeer antlers, crazy socks, and the free world supply of santa hats!
|A few costumed runners at mile 3|
Then came the countdown, and the mob of people shuffled towards the starting arch. As we spread out into the street, Maryalicia and I picked up the pace. The course first wound through residential neighborhoods surrounding the Adidas HQ. There were quite a few small hills to climb, and by mile one, I was already warm and starting to sweat. All my worry about being cold was for naught!
|Some fast reindeer|
Mile two popped us out onto Willamette Blvd, a road build on top of a steep bluff, that, on nicer days provides a great view of the Swan Island Industrial area and Willamette River. Lovely older well-kept homes line this street. Occasionally small groups of people stood beside the road, ringing cowbells and cheering the runners.
|Here come the elves!|
From the beginning, I struggled, and by mile 5 I was feeling tired already. This was not good news, as there was still eight miles to go! I grabbed a Gu from the next aid station (Peppermint flavor! Very yummy!) and sucked it down, hoping for an energy boost.
|I enjoyed the carolers|
Maryalicia was so sweet. She stayed by my side, even though she was capable of running a much faster pace than mine. I appreciated the company. That really helped pass the miles much quicker. We amused ourselves by checking out all the runner's costumes. By mile 5, we began to see the leaders returning (the course was an out-and-back). Maryalicia and I whooped and hollered for these super-fast athletes. We ducked under the St. Johns Bridge and past a wonderful group of carolers. The Christmas music really helped boost my sagging spirit.
|Nearing the turnaround point|
Despite buddying with an upbeat person, and being surrounded by hundreds of people in crazy costumes, my funk continued. My head was just not into running this race. After rounding the turnaround point, Maryalicia, sensing my lack of energy, suggested a quick walk break. I'm usually not one to stop and walk in races, but this time I acquiesced.
|Maryalicia ran the entire race - fast - in this costume|
After a short walk (which felt good) I took off running again. But my legs and feet felt like concrete. Maryalicia began to get farther ahead. I was amazed by her stamina. It couldn't have been easy to run in a hot, bulky Mrs. Claus costume, but she was moving, and fast!
Finally around mile 9, I told Maryalicia to go ahead without me. I felt guilty holding her back, and knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with her pace. I watched her red, fuzzy suit vanish into the crowd ahead.
|A Christmas star and tree|
The last four miles were an exercise in mind games. Legs and feet were starting to protest quite loudly. My head tried to convince me to give in and walk. Time seemed to move at a snail's pace. But I told myself, the faster I ran, the quicker I would be done. And there was a beer waiting for me at the finish line!
Finally, I passed the mile 13 marker. I swear the last 0.1 of a mile was a lot longer (my Garmin actually said I ran 13.2 miles, so there might be something to that). But I rounded the final corner, and there beyond the spectator-lined street was the finish! Yahoo! I crossed the line in 2:04:42. Not one of my speedier times, but considering my lack of training, and poor attitude, I was satisfied.
|I loved this sign!|
I met Maryalicia at the finish line. She'd stopped to adjust her costume and ended up finishing only two mintues ahead of me. We walked over to the food tent, so I could get some hot soup and that beer I'd been dreaming about since mile 10.
So that's my tale of the 2011 Holiday Half. Looking back, although it wasn't one of my better races this year, now that's it's in the past, I'm glad I didn't sleep in and totally miss out. It was great to run with Maryalicia (couldn't of done it without her!) and being around lots of runners decked out in their Holiday best really put me in the mood for Christmas.
And running 13.1 miles in the cold gave me a great excuse to pig out on Christmas cookies all afternoon - guilt free!