Monday, October 21, 2013

Run Like Hell (unless there's a train) Half-Marathon 2013

Chilly foggy morning here in Portland. Weather forecast is for a sunny day, which the race organizers were eager to share, but I don't think things will clear up until later, so I'm glad I opted for some layers for this half marathon, as have most of the other few hundred folks here. Though I am, of course, barefoot!

This is my second Run Like Hell half. I've been in Portland over a year now! How strange! This race is a costumed one, being close to Halloween, and this year's them is 'fantasy,' though I don't see much D&D costumes: Some unicorns (or...narwals?), and a whole mess of fairies, but also a lot of superheros. I guess dressing up in armor just isn't conducive to running? But my favorites are two women who have dressed up as zombies—their t-shirts sporting blood and white feathers, with these words on the back: POWERED BY tasty UNICORN. Well, I guess that counts as a paleo diet.

And no, I have no costume. I know, I know, I should have some fun, but I'm too introverted. Maybe if I were running with friends, but the only folks I know are running later in the 10K. My bare feet seem to be doing the job of a costume though: I'm getting some gawking.

The countdown to the start begins with the playing of Pink Floyd' (shiny happy) song “Run Like Hell.” And then we're off! heading north, up into the 'Pearl' district, the streets mostly empty at eight in the morning, though a nice rock band playing on Naito Parkway as we head south. I'm sure the neighbors love that! And past all the homeless people back in the downtown section.

Although this is 'only' a half-marathon, I'm thinking I'm not going to PR today. After my burnout from training for that ultra last Spring, I've cut back on the running, not doing any long runs (meaning nothing past 2-2.5 hours) all summer, except for one marathon, and I haven't indulged in a ton of races this Fall like I did last year, due mostly to lack of money more than anything. Which meant I had to pas on the Portland marathon two weeks ago, which I wasn't happy about. Run Like Hell didn't sell out, and I wonder if the marathon folks have stayed home for this one, still recovering.

But, because of not so many races run, the thing I'm worried about most is whether my soles will be up for this or not. Portland just has some really rough pavement, so I'm running on paint lines wherever possible, for their smoothness. Strangely, I guess, I'm getting lots of folks behind me with the comments like, “Hey, that guy's barefoot!” or “Oh my god, that guy doesn't have any shoes!” Which I thought we were all past at this point? That is, I don't hear any, “There's a barefoot runner!” comments. These people all seem to be surprised at a barefoot runner. Also, I don't see many minimalist runners, just one guy in VFFs. Theory: these are all the less-hardcore runners, those that didn't to the Portland Marathon and Half two weeks ago. But, I don't know.

Anyways, a couple people do actually speak to me, though in the passive-agressive kind of way:

“Hey, doesn't that hurt?”


“Didn't you have to get used to it though?”


(End of 'discussion').

And a woman as I pass her: “Aren't your feet cold?”

Me: No. (Though the rest of me is!)

I don't know, maybe I'm too self-conscious? But they're asking me yes/no questions? Am I expected to spout off? But then I'd be some barefoot zealot? Seems like I can't win. I just wish someone would ask in a more friendly manner, but in any case, it's kind of hard to have convo at half-marathon pace, especially when I'm trying to concentrate on finding nice paint lines to run on.

And to avoid people: Some buy adjusting one of the timer pad thingies is right in the middle of the lane, backing up, looking scared at the massed of people flying at him and even though I swear he looks right at me, he backs up into my path, causing me to swerve (“Dude! Dude!”) to the left near the shoulder where, ahh!, broken glass is scattered about. I hop/skip over it, concentrating very very carefully. With success. But, thus the reason I may not want to talk a lot!

A long gradual uphill has begun—the pack stretches and thins out. I'm feeling ok. Not pushing myself as hard as I maybe could, but the feets are feeling a wee bit tender. I seem to have lost my summer hobbit feet. But, I'm at least mid-pack. And yikes! One guy running right at the edge of the lane almost gets his elbow clipped from a city bus coming up behind him! That was close!

Still foggy, we head up into the foothills below OHSU, now on the sidewalk/bikepath, which is nice and smooth, though coming down (downhill from here!) at the halfway point, we're back on rough pavement, so I actually am running out on a bikepath white line, right next to oncoming traffic, though there isn't much at this hour. But yes, check my watch: About 55 minutes at about 6.5 miles. Hm, that's kinda slow for me, actually. Well, can I run a faster second half with the downhill? But suddenly I'm worried about just getting respectfully under two hours!

Barefoot still seems conducive to downhill running though, as I'm now passing a lot of shodders. I'm just trying to let gravity do most of the work, picking up the feets as fast as I can. Doesn't add to the aerobic workout any, though I must say at this point I'm nice and sweaty.

Back down to Naito Parkway, heading north. We pass the downtown section and I look west up the side streets, looking for runners heading back south on their way to the finish, but don't see any? But we're getting near the end? Surely we should be turning around at some point? It's Mile 11-ish!

But, oh: As I come around a bend near where the train tracks cross Naito, there's an actual train stopped right across the road, with about a hundred runners waiting. Uh oh....

The race officials had assured us that there wasn't supposed to be any trains scheduled during the race, but in listening into conversations, and from barely-audible announcements from the poor police officer who lucked out on this place to be stationed, there's been some kind of emergency, that some alarm went off ass the train was heading in, an alarm about something on the track. So, by law, the train has to stop, and by law, human beings have to come and physically 'walk the line' to check. When I get there, I hear one man say he was one of the first runners to be stopped, and that he'd been waiting twenty minutes already. Ten minutes after I arrive, the train dudes actually arrive. Surely, I think, Surely this won't take long.

But it does: We wait at least a half hour there. Some brave souls climb over the train, until the cop and train dudes stop them. Eventually, another large group of runners breaks off and just runs west to where the route comes back south. Many of us wait, because we know there's a chip timer pad thingie on the other side that we need to run over in order to keep out time official. Though, it's cold. I'm covered in sweat. My clothes are soaked with sweat. My muscles are tightening up. Just saying 'F-it' becomes more tempting. I mean, I already knew I wasn't going to PR, so do I really care?

Thing is, the last three races I've run that have come by this point, four maybe actually, have ALL been stopped by a train. I'm not saying the race organizers are to blame for a train emergency, but surely, by now, they could maybe find a better route? One that doesn't cross train tracks?

Finally, something happens, and the train starts to move. We all cheer (there's still a couple hundred runners backed up here, even with the ones that left). And....then we wait. The train is going very slooowwwly. And it's looooonnnngg. This is ridiculous. Well, we all started together, looks like we'll all finish together.

Finally, finally, the train passes, and we surge forward, and aaarrgh! My muscles are tightened up! I can barely run! I mean, I kinda sorta get things moving again, by the turn around, but there's only a mile to go! Craziness. And the course is now congested again, so I'm trying to whip and dip around packs of fairies, to do some kind of semblance of a strong finish.

And there is the finish. And I finish. And....meh. I'm not even that thirsty. Main priority: get my gear bag and change into dry clothes! Then some veggie chili. And, since the only people I know all ran in the 10K, which finished like, over an hour ago by now, I just head out. I'm not feeling exhausted, just still tightened up. The main surprise is how tender and raw my soles feel, making me wonder just how they would have done in the Portland Marathon! I might have been hurting!

Finish time (maybe): 1:52

[note: sorry, no pics! I did take some, but can't seem to get them to open]