Rock & Roll Portland Half Marathon

Half Marathon Nr.8 is in the books! I would love to say that I keep on getting faster and destroying my PR each time I run, but that is unfortunately not the case. What I can say is that it does get easier (or I am getting stronger, either way works for me). And knowing that makes me feel good about myself, because I have definitely grown in this running business. What used to seem like a close to impossible task (I was dead nervous before my first half marathon), is now a distance I can actually cover with a smile on my face (but don’t check my race pictures for proof).

One thing I ‘love’ about racing is just how easy you can get over the pain. Last few miles before the finish line feel so strenuous, each step feels like a hundred - and the few moments after you cross the finish line, you are beating yourself up for not going faster and crushing a PR. That is why running is a mental sport first, and a physical one second.

Rock and Roll Portland was in one word - great. I love taking runcations! Although I can’t afford them regularly, these days I can’t plan going out of town without combining it with a thrill of a race. My husband definitely doesn’t like it, specially when he just wants to rest. However, Acyuta and I both wanted to see Portland, and were looking forward to this trip for months. We are big fans of Portlandia (laugh all you want), and from everything we have seen and heard from others, we knew Portland was a hippie, yoga-loving, vegan foodie heaven - hence, the perfect place for us.

Luckily, Portland did not disappoint!

What a cool place! Food trucks, food trucks everywhere…[/caption]

As soon as we landed, we headed out to a cool comfort food joint (not fully vegan, but with tons of options) with a couple of friends we accidentally ran into at the airport. I was fully ready to carb load for the race, and Vita Cafe delivered what promised!

Acyuta and I shared huge plates and had enough to box for later. I started with a Thai coconut soup, which was thick, creamy and spicy - a meal in itself! I had a rich salad with a corn muffin on the side, and he had a sizable portion of baked potatoes, tempeh, veggies and a delicious salty scone of some kind with amazing almond gravy! God, I love gravy…

Rock & Roll Portland Half Marathon

But let me get back to running. The race started at 8:15 - that gave me a luxurious amount of morning sleep! We used to get up ridiculously early and start the race grumpy and half asleep in Flordia, it’s so hot there that most runs start at 6 or 7am. I got up before the alarm in Portland, and it took us about 18 minutes to get to the starting line, another 3 to park and walk to the start. A runners dream, all in all!

Rock and roll races are tons of fun! At the start line there was music everywhere, about 5k runners chirping like happy little birds, and a mile long port-a-potty line that I had to hit - twice!

The weather was great, not too cool and not hot, in the comfortable 60s. The course wasn’t too hilly, the only bigger but gradual incline happened in the first few miles of the race, including covering a bridge.

Portlandians covered most of the course, happily cheering on the runners. From high school cheerleaders, to cute kids and puppies, to hilarious signs, I don’t think I have smiled as much during a race as I did in RnR PDX.

All the details made for a perfect formula for a good, fun race! I would definitely do it again, and recommend it to anyone looking for a good half, or a fun city to run in.

Pre-race training

This was my 8th half so I wasn’t too nervous, but with my schedule lately, I wasn’t too concerned about training for it seriously, and I believe that’s the main reason my time didn’t improve from my last half in San Francisco. I run most days of the week, mainly my regular 4mile trail route, which adds up to 20-25 miles per week, 30 when I add a longer run or two. My longest run in preparation for this race was 7 miles. I would definitely recommend anyone (including myself) at least one 10 miler before a half, however, even if you’ve done tons of them!

I took the week before the race easy, with light easy runs, all between 3-3.5 miles, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I took Thursday off, ran again on Friday and took Saturday off, although I walked a lot around the city and at the expo. I keep well hydrated with coconut water and some fizz electrolytes a few days before, and did light yoga to keep hamstrings and hips flexible.

Race Recap

I did not take off like crazy - for once! I went in knowing I wasn’t going to be as fast as I would like, and I worked on pacing myself from the get go.

According to my Garmin, I ran a 2:06:30 race with a 9:30 pace, but according to the chip timing my results were 2:07:05 with 9:40 average. This probably occurred because I got a nasty cramp and had to stop for a few seconds, during which time my Garmin probably auto-paused. I was of course frustrated when I looked at the results, because my last race was a 2:07 and change, and I hoped I had improved my time, even if it’s for just a minute (even going a minute faster is hard when you are at your max!).

My half PR is 1:56 and change, which makes this race time 10+ minutes slower than my PR, about 40 sec per mile! My PR was about 2 years ago, and I had since then ran a full marathon, half-ironman, and got injured, which all contributed for my slower, more paced running style these days. But I have hopes of getting back to sub-2, for starters.

The whole race was truly pleasant, which makes for a whole another racing experience. Yes, I sweated and was out of breath a few times, which is ok because it’s a race! I did not have to stop once, except for a few short seconds to refill my hand held bottle on the water stations.

At mile 10 I began to pick it up lightly to finish strong, and that’s when it hit me - one of the nastiest cramps ever. You know that sharp pain you get under the ribcage? I ran on it for another few minutes, trying to breathe, and had unfortunately slowed down my pace. The pain did not want to go away, and although I tried my very best not to, I ended up stopping. I took a few deep breaths, and stretched my side, and took off again. The pain was still there, but it had diminished luckily. That was probably those 30 seconds I had lost according to the difference between my Garmin and chip timing.

Race gear

Legs in the air after the race![/caption]

Shoes

I am the worst person for buying running shoes! I used to work in a running store, and at that time had owned about 7 pairs of sneakers, from most minimalistic to trail to whatever hit me at the time. I had access to all the newest gear and goods, and real knowledge of how to compare and choose the proper pair for me. Now that that’s all over, I am always a wreck when buying sneakers, and one major downfall is not wanting to pay a full price for them, after having access to heavily discounted and free goods for a year and a half!

I got a pair of Saucony Breakthru before the race, and almost immediately regretted them, with an intention of returning them. I haven’t had a chance to do it, however, so I brought the fresh pair and my old, beat up Hokas with me to PDX. Hokas gave me a blister only a few days prior, so I went with the Sauconys for the race. One of the cardinal rules of running is do not try anything new on race day, and I basically broke it as I had run in my new shoes maybe three times before the race. I survived however, there was only minor discomfort at times, but overall the shoes treated me well.

Outfit

Due to the semi-chilly weather, I wore Lululemon capris - a great improvement on shorts as I chafe a lot lately! I wore a sleeveless shirt, and a light long sleeve that I took off only a few miles before the finish line. I made sure I was wearing comfortable, high-tech socks, and a good sports bra.

The medal completed the race look![/caption]

Accessories

I love my Flipbelt (formerly Level). I got it at RnR Denver expo, and I prefer it to all other belts as it holds my phone, gels and anything else necessary without sliding or bouncing. I always carry my own hydration on a longer race, and I used my small Amphipod hand-held bottle.

I wore a hat, not so much for the sun as out of fear of raining - apparently, it rained the whole time during the last year’s race. I put on a pair of lightly tinted sunglasses on my head, and never had to use them during the race as it was overcast.

I always race with my Garmin X910, which is a triathlon watch and definitely worth the hype! Although I stop looking at it about half way, or whenever I feel like I can’t push any more and don’t want to stress myself out about my pace, a GPS watch is an accessory worth having.

Race Nutrition

I can’t eat early in the morning, so I ‘forced’ myself to have a few bites of a banana, a sip of green juice (that didn’t feel good), and a few cliff blocks about 30 min before the start. I used 1 fizz tablet in my hand held, and got some gatorade in my bottle during the race. I never drink gatorade, I think there are more natural solutions out there, but I will take some during the race, or I get some accidentally instead of water. I ate a GU gel at mile 6.

Post Race Recovery

As soon as I crossed the finish line, and took some pictures with Acyuta, I grabbed a bagel, water, and popcorn and found a good spot to sit. No matter how tired we are, we always walk it off for a few minutes (do not stop and sit immediately!), and then do some yoga to stretch and recover.

Lunges are great for stretching hips, specially the psoas, a hip flexor that is usually tight on runners, and to check in with all the body parts that are compromised during a longer race - knees, ankles, lower back. I move slowly and with caution, but take my time and stretch enough to start feeling my lower back, which is often sensitive and in pain after a race, hips and hamstrings loosen up. I also did a few forward folds, down dogs and vinyasas, targeting my hamstrings, calves, and all the connective tissue in between, like the achilles tendon. One of my favorite poses these days is double pigeon or fire log, it’s a killer for the hips! Don’t be fooled by my smile or how simple it looks, getting your shins stacked is no easy business.

Double pigeon pose[/caption]

I’ve only done one Rock and Roll race, it was my first full marathon in Denver 2013. It was so cold (I also lived in Florida at the time, and the adjustment wasn’t pleasant), and we were so wrecked that we didn’t stay and enjoy the post-race party at all! This time around, we recovered pretty well and hang out for a few songs at the stage area. The space was huge, and it seemed like there were way more than 5k+ runners there.

Acyuta sporting his new RnRPDX shirt[/caption]

We hanged around a bit, then headed back to the hotel to feast on various Whole Foods goodies, including a vegan pizza AND vegan cupcake. Yep, we went all out!

Happy Half Marathon finishers:

 

Thanks Rock and Roll Marathon Series! Next stops: San Jose, CA in September, and Vegas in November (my second full marathon!).

Happy Running…

 

 

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