Not only local, the new venue was at nearby Hagg Lake. The half marathon course would circle the entire lake, on a mixture of road and trail. A great women's race on a beautiful course - I couldn't pass it up.
|And we got these cool socks!|
One of the great things about a Happy Girl race is the wonderful swag given to all participants. Not only did I get the usual tech tee, but included in my bag were these cool pair of socks. If you know me, you know I love socks! These babies even had the race logo and name on them. Awesome!
|Gloomy skies over Hagg Lake|
September in Oregon is usually warm, dry and lovely. But as race day approached, the weather gods decided to throw a monkey wrench. The weekend forecast went from sunny and dry to high winds with heavy rain. Ugh.....
|Canopies were needed today|
I went to bed the night before race day with a little bit of trepidation about the weather. Listening to the evening news, the weatherman was predicting a stormy day. I didn't sleep well, tossing, turning, and worrying. Not only about the forecast, but also about the course. I'd heard the trails were muddy and slippery. I'd heard there were hills. And of course, I hadn't been training nearly enough. My last long run was a very difficult ten miles. So I also fretted about running a decent race.
|Cyndee our announcer!|
Morning came, foggy and wet. I packed my car with towels and dry clothes and headed west to Hagg Lake. I arrived super-early and got a primo parking spot close to the starting line.
|These women stayed under cover as long as possible|
Rain was falling, so I donned my jacket and visited the porta potties. And then wandered amongst the vendors, all huddled under canopies. And then another potty stop. Then walked around the lakeshore to get my legs loose. And back to the porta potties.......
|I'm ready to run!|
About five minutes to start time, ladies began lining up. I ditched my jacket in the car, and joined the crowd. Except - there wasn't much of one. It was the smallest race crowd I'd encountered in a long time. Only a couple hundred women were gathered under wet, windy skies.
|Loved these ladies outfits!|
The crowd, although small was mighty festive. Two ladies were dressed up as superheros. There was the usual assortment of vividly colored running wear. Everyone was in a jubilant mood, their smiles radiating through the morning gray.
|One of our "handsome pacers:"|
To aid anyone shooting for a specific time goal, the race organizers provided male "handsome pacers" decked out in sparkly skirts. Oooh la-la!
|Minutes before start time|
Standing in the cold rain, the race start seemed to take forever. I just wanted to get moving. Finally, to a loud countdown, I got my wish.
|And they're off!|
Just beyond the starting line, we hit our first hill, a steep climb onto the road circling Hagg Lake. That hill was only a small taste of things to come....
|Single file on the single track|
Holy hills, batman! The road around the lake was a series of inclines, first a long up, following by a gradual down. Then another climb. The first two miles I hung on, red-faced and gasping, as I tried to settle into a pace.
|More great Hagg Lake views|
For the first four miles, our course followed the road. After mile two, my body warmed up, my breathing stabilized, and I began to feel better. I caught up to the 9.5 mile pacer and chatted with him for a bit. But I lost him at the four mile aid station, when I stopped for some water and gu. A nice man at the aid station was offering runners strings of festive "four mile beads." What the heck - I grabbed me a strand.
|Through the meadow we will go...|
Hearing reports of slippery muddy trails, I was dreading the transition from road to path. But after mile four, an arrow pointed towards a woodsy track. Oh boy - here we go!
But, happily, the trails were in great shape. A bit rutted, a few rocks and roots, but otherwise they made great running surfaces. And the nice part about being in the woods - the trees blocked the wind and rain. I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. This wasn't so bad after all!
|Up a steep incline|
But the hills didn't end in the forest. Oh no - and there was some doozies! Roller-coastering up and then down again, my legs were put to the test. A lot of ladies began walking up the steeper hills, but I tried to run them all. (Although my running pace wasn't much faster) The combination of the hills and trails slowed me down a bunch.
But one hill got us all. Cutting through a parking lot for a boat launch, our course led us up a huge, super-steep hill. Everyone around me was walking, and after climbing a quarter of the way, I realized I could probably walk faster. Although it felt good to take a walk break, starting up running again wasn't easy!
|And through the woods|
From the road, we we were again plunged back into lovely, green woods. Although there were more ups and downs, I really enjoyed this part of the course. We crossed a few cute wooden footbridges, and wet, leaf-strewn paths. Giant ferns lined our trail. Spectacular! The lush forest was so nice, I actually pulled to the side of the trail and shot a few photos.
|A few happy girls|
Around mile 8, runners were spit onto the road for a long stretch. Stopping, to take in another gu, the 10 minute mile pacer passed by. He called out "catch up with me!" Starting to flag, it was just the challenge I needed.
|Running across the dam near mile 8 1/2|
Crossing over the Hagg Lake dam, I kept the pacer's bright yellow t-shirt in my sights. Pushing my legs, I slowly inched closer. It took over a mile, but on the other side of the dam, I finally caught up to him.
The pacer was glad for some company. No one was running with him and I think he was lonely. After nearly 9 miles, I was ready for company too. My body was beginning to complain, the rain seemed to be coming down harder, and I ready to be done. Following and talking to another person was a welcome distraction.
|Coming into the finish (photo by Becker Event Photography)|
My pacer friend and I climbed a long, steady incline. I struggled mightily but kept up with the guy. Then around mile 11.5, we again turned off into the woods. By this time the rain was coming down, and my glasses were so speckled with raindrops, it was hard to see the trail. This portion of the lakeshore was really muddy, and we slipped and slid a couple of times. Definitely the toughest part of the race, I really struggled mentally to keep going. But I kept my eyes on the back of Mr. Pacer's legs, and vowed not to lose him.
|Yes, I'm happy to be done! (photo by Becker Event Photography)|
Finally, with just under a mile to go, the course directed us back onto the road. Happy to have firm footing, my pace felt much quicker. Knowing the end was near was enough incentive to fire up the engines. I powered up the last final hill, leaving Mr. Pacer in the dust. Turning the corner into the parking lot, I made a beeline for the finish line arch. Crossing those timing mats never felt so good!
|Soaked but victorious|
Checking my watch, I was pleasantly surprised to see a time of 2:15:15. Although not a super-fast half marathon time for me, considering the hilly course and the weather, I was more than satisfied.
I threw on a couple of clothing layers and wandered over to the refreshment tent. While stuffing myself with potato chips and beer, the race organizers began announcing age group winners. Focused on filling my belly, I didn't pay close attention. Then I thought I heard my name called. No way...... but just to be sure I walked up to the announcer and asked. Lo and behold, I earned a third place finish in my age group!
|I earned this necklace!|
Every half marathon finisher got a cute little necklace. And age group winners got a little white bead added to their necklace. I've never been so proud of a little bead!
Even though this was a tough course, with less than ideal weather, I'm glad I came, persevered, and pushed myself. Several times throughout the race, I was tempted to slow down or walk, but kept going. I'm grateful to Mr. 10-minute pacer (never did get his name) for helping me through the tough final miles.
Today's moral of the story - even when things get tough, never give up. Keep on trying, giving it your best. You might be pleasantly surprised at the finish line.