Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Girls Half

Wanting to devote this summer to hiking, I wasn't planning to sign up for any races.  But one was able to tempt me.  The Happy Girls Half, a fixture in Bend for the past few years, has built up a reputation as a great women's race.  But it's always held over Memorial Day Weekend, a time when I'm usually out camping somewhere.  Imagine my glee when I heard the organizers had created a new race in the "Happy Girls" series - to be held mid-September, right here in the Portland area.

Cute logo

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.


  1. Awesome win. Love the necklace too You are inspiring

  2. That looks like a fun course. And, that IS a handsome pacer!

  3. You go, girl! What a grand accomplishment. Your last statement was particularly meaningful to me right now! Thanks.

  4. You are awesome!! So glad I can be a runner through I really had a hard time up those hills..:))) Loved the photos!! Can't wait for our next adventure!!

  5. Way to go!! The fern forest looked like that would be my favorite section too.

    So, what do you keep in your fanny pack when you're running a race?

  6. Great swag, don't sign up for races myself as I prefer to run alone but sometimes I envy the goody bags.

  7. I was there too...I am a walker and was at the end of the pack. Looks like you all got to enjoy all of the trails...due to many bee stings at the first trail portion and then then second trail portion, we were told to stay off the trails..however I did go in at mile was a great place for a challenging run. Glad you had fun and you got to run with John, your 10 minute pace mentor. He is such a great guy.

    Now I need to go find those pictures.

    Congrats on your 3rd place. Woot Woot.

    I am now looking forward to the Happy Dirty Girls. Are you doing that one?

  8. So cool! You are one determined lady to run in that kind of weather! Congrats:)
    This post made me curious to go explore Hagg Lake again. I haven't been there for years (and I'm talking YEARS)!
    DO you think we'll ever see the sun again so hiking will be fun? LOL

  9. Such awesome swag with this race! I love the name of the race, too. It looks like a tough one with going through the woods, but at least the scenery was nice. Great job! Love the photos of you excitedly nearing the end of the race :)

  10. Congratulations! And your photos show the best smiles I have seen for a long time!

  11. Congratulations on third place and for persevering to the finish in less than ideal conditions.

    Can't believe you took so many photos. They're wonderful and give the feel of the race.

  12. so impressive- congratulations!!

  13. I'm impressed - a half-marathon would just about kill me. It looks like a gorgeous place to run despite the rain. Congratulations!

  14. Congratulations! What a terrific surprise to have won third place in your age category. I guess you were a tad better in shape than you had thought!

  15. I felt like I was right there with you Linda -- Congratulations on finishing!

  16. Hi, I like running too. Thank you for bringing us with you through this race. You are so good, be proud of yourself to do this. I took part in my first race last month, I will do it again.

  17. Hi, I'm Mr. 10 minute pacer. I'm glad I helped inspire you and congrats on getting the bead. Thanks for keeping me company, it was a lonely wet trek.


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