Monday, June 15, 2015

Race Report: Sage Rat Run and Rock 'n' Roll Portland Half Marathon

My fourth consecutive double weekend began with a nonstop flight from Newark to Portland.  I flew in after work on Friday night, having to travel from my new job in Jamaica all the way to Newark, which took a bit of planning, coordinating the travel on the LIRR from Jamaica to Penn Station, and then the NJTransit train from Penn Station to the Newark Airport AirTrain.  I made it with more than enough time to grab a sandwich before the roughly 5 hour flight.

With the Sage Rat
Landing in Portland, I made a beeline to the Hertz Car Rental to pick up my car, since I had a three hour car ride ahead of me and it was already past 10pm.  Of course, I made a stop to take a photo with the iconic PDX carpet before heading down there.  I was on the road shortly thereafter and made my way along the Columbia River to Sunnyside, Washington.

Feeling like crap, but still putting
on a smile! (Photo by Sage Rat Run)
I arrived in Sunnyside at about 1:30am, opting to sleep in my car overnight in the Walmart parking lot (thankfully, it was warmer here than in Connecticut a mere three weeks earlier), since the race would start at 8am the next morning on the path alongside the Walmart.  It was a rough sleep, as I had started to feel a scratchiness in my throat the day prior that turned into full-out soreness upon arriving in Portland on Friday.  Saturday morning, I was having trouble swallowing water, which would definitely be a predicament for my hydration needs on the course.

Entering Grandview at mile 4
After picking up my bib and downing a couple Advil to see if those would help with my enlarged tonsil-ness, I got myself ready and pumped up for the ensuing run ahead. Promptly at 8am, we were off on the paved pathway (known as the Lower Yakima Valley Pathway) alongside the Yakima Valley Highway.  This point-to-point course would take us on long stretches of this pathway, which at one point would also skirt alongside I-82.  At about mile 4, we entered the city of Grandview, and then began to skirt Wine Country Road, taking sidewalks through the city.  At mile 5.5, without being too graphic, I started to experience the worst intestinal distress, and immediately needed to find a bathroom, which luckily I was able to get to.  This bathroom stop took out nearly ten minutes from my run, but it was absolutely necessary in order for me to actually finish.  Soon I was back on the route, at one point passing by the folks assembled along the left side of the road to begin the 12k at 9:30.

Fun signs!
The sometimes blah parts of the course
The course continued on, along the not very scenic route.  We passed the 7 and 8 mile marks, which were surrounded by crushed asphalt, somewhat of a barren wasteland.  Thankfully there were some fun signs scattered along the course that broke up the monotony. The relatively flat course continued on, and by the 11 mile mark, we began to enter the city of Prosser, and the final couple miles of the race.  We passed by a few car dealerships and then made our way across the bridge over the Yakima River to the finish line in downtown Prosser.  I crossed the finish line in 2:33:37, exhausted, and prepared to get myself back to Portland by the afternoon.  After taking my customary victory headstand photo, I made my way to the bus shuttle taking us back to the Walmart, and then I was back on the road for the three hour drive back to Portland.

The reason for doing this race. EPIC MEDAL!

Victory Headstand with the Sage Rat... Washington, check!

Thankful that I was done... (Photo by Sage Rat Run)

My outfit for RnR Portland

With a stop at Multnomah Falls, I made my way back to Portland, heading straight to the expo to pick up my bib for the Rock 'n' Roll Portland Half.  I quickly realized my tiredness and felt very weak, which others saw in me.  Soon I headed back to my friend Hollie's house, as she and Kimberlee were arriving from Boise having run earlier that day there.  I opted to stay in and rest, rather than go out for a pasta dinner, which, in hindsight, was a very good idea...

Reaching the Sun!
...because upon waking in the morning, I felt like a completely different person.  The rest I got that night was absolutely necessary.  We arrived with lots of time to spare at the Rock 'n' Roll Portland race, with time to take photos with other Half Fanatics.  I wore my Front Runners New York souvenir  singlet, which many members of my club wore on Saturday at the Brooklyn Half.  Additionally, I had a makeshift back-bib put together, as this race would mark 28 states completed in my journey... however, after also having finished DC and Quebec, I accomplished the feat of completing 30 different states/provinces/countries/territories within 365 days, reaching the top tier of Half Fanatics, known as the Sun - something only (now) 73 of over 12,000 members have achieved!  After driving in with Hollie and finding a prime parking spot a mere ten minutes from the start and finish area, we met up with members of the Half Fanatics for a race photo. I was able to meet up with my friend Tiffany (who I first met at the Rock 'n' Roll DC Half in March) and she was with her family at the expo when we decided that we would run together again on my 5:00/1:00 run/walk interval for this race.  Soon, the first corral was off, and with a little delay due to Amtrak trains crossing the course, Tiffany and I crossed the start line about 15 minutes later.

RnR Portland startline! 
The struggle to get across
NW Broadway Bridge...
Almost immediately, my legs were feeling pretty rough.  We ran off the first mile conservatively, finally stopping after the first 11 minutes, making a turn from Naito Parkway at roughly the one mile mark.  Within this first mile, we came upon the Northwest Broadway Bridge high above us, that was being crossed by runners way out in front of us over the Willamette River, which was incredibly daunting.  It wasn't until mile 2 that we actually got to the start of that bridge, and within a tenth a mile, we were bounding up a 70 foot elevation rise, and crossing into North Portland.

Finding De Moe at the 5K.
Fireball time!
At about the 5K point, Tiffany and I ran into De Moe, who was with another friend, Leah!  Of course, as tradition stands, we posed for a quick photo and took a shot of Fireball - but this time, De Moe was actually carrying the entire bottle with him!  After the quick photo, we continued on our way, eventually coming upon the highway ribbon of the I-5 and I-405 loop, where we came up on a real bitch of a hill, which we later found out is "infamous" on the Portland course, known as "Mississippi Hill" as it served as part of N Mississippi Avenue.  The elevation change for this roughly 3/4 mile stretch was 130 feet!  After conquering that hill, we hit the four mile mark, making a right turn onto Beech Street, heading into Northeast.

Really, this hill.  (Photo by Tiffany Ramsdal)
Best spectator ever!
About 4.6 miles later, we encountered the first "bus box" of the course.  This is a unique aspect of the Portland course, done to alleviate traffic congestion and allow for city buses and other automobiles to pass in certain zones to get down main streets.  Acting like a water valve, it's an alternating race route that changes the path for the runners, however it is still running the same distance.  Somewhat controversial to some people, but it's a way for city services to not be completely disrupted by a race as massive as this one is.  Just before we were to continue on for the turn onto NE Grand Street, we were directed to turn two blocks early onto NE Garfield Street, and then continue on down NE Fremont Street, to join in with the rest of the course.

Meeting Anna at around
the 6.5 mile mark!
At mile 5.5, we turned onto NE 17th Avenue and then started to head southward.  We hit the 10K point as we had already turned once again.  It was right around here I took my phone out to contact my friend Anna, who told me she would be alongside the course to cheer me on at a specific point, the 7/11 at NE Weidler and NE 21st Avenue right around the 6.5 mile mark.  Except... we got "bus boxed" once again!  Instead of heading southward down onto NE 21st Avenue, we got rerouted, but luckily, I spotted Anna on her bike in front of a church along the rerouted course, and we stopped for a quick picture!  The moment was fleeting, but it definitely helped me and Tiffany get back on track to go on for the second half of the course.

Laurelhurst Park
On we went, further southward, this time along NE 20th Avenue, crossing over the Banfield Expressway, and then another "bus box" just before the 8 mile mark, as we crossed into Southeast Portland.  We finally made a left turn, and ran down SE Pine Street, and then alongside the gorgeous homes and humongous trees of Laurelhurst Park just before mile 9.  At mile 10, we turned onto SE Hawthorne Blvd, which was the beginning of a nice 1 mile stretch of downhill!  Apparently in previous years, the course had runners running UP this hill, so this was a nice change for everyone :)  We looped ourselves around East Portland, and then finally made our way across Hawthorne Bridge back toward the finish line (with an extra one block loop thrown in, that had us scratching our heads...)

We finally crossed the finish line, hand in hand, in a time of 2:31:31.  I was happy to have improved upon the time from the day before!  I proceeded to the heavy medals tent to get my "Stairway to Seven" medal, and then posed appropriately for my victory headstand (with the PDX carpet, of course!) and then met up with friends for post-race revelry, including some delicious burgers, gorgonzola cheese fries, craft beers, and ice cream!  All in all, a great time in Portland, and I definitely want to come back... likely not for a race, but just to truly get more of an experience out of this great city!

Posing with my medals at the Prefontaine statue in the Foot Traffic store!
Victory Headstand on PDX carpet! 
Saying goodbye to Portland...
My medal haul for the weekend... some MASSIVE medals!

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