I thought it in my best interest to run the Portland Shamrock Run, not only because it’s one of Portland’s biggest races, but because everyone who finishes gets a free t-shirt and beer. And really, who can say no to a t-shirt and beer, and a race… all before 11AM on a Sunday? I sure can’t.
So this morning, I braved the elements, trudged out of my apartment to downtown Portland, and participated in the Shamrock Run 15k. Here’s how it all went down:
6:00AM – 7:00AM: I have a fairly elaborate pre-race routine. You might call it OCD, but I’d rather call it … uniquely eccentric. I would hate to be the girl who arrives at the start line and suddenly remember she’s forgotten to wear her lucky earrings. I mean – that is just asking for bad racing mojo, right? If I’ve learned anything in the past year of racing it’s that I’ve got to give myself plenty of time to get through the pre-race rituals before leaving the house. But before I left, I checked the weather report. It looked like this:
Cold. Rainy. Windy.
Clearly not ideal race conditions.
My unofficial goal: Run 15k in less than 1:05 (or 6:58/mile pace)
I walked most of the way to the waterfront of downtown Portland and the staging area of the races. The Shamrock Run has three events: A 5k race, an 8k race and a 15k race. Being a distance girl at heart, I’d signed up for the 15k, but wanted to be there early so I could watch the speedsters compete in the 5k.
7:30 AM: Despite the gentle downpour, thousands of people turned out for the race (Go, Portlanders!) and people seemed not unhappy about the rain – maybe because it added an element of hardcoreness, or maybe because many of them were either drunk or hungover and could not care less. Neither drunk or hungover, I found cover under the local running store’s tent and chatted while I waited for the 5k race to start.
Minutes before the 5k gun, I jet over to the start line to cheer. I am secretly relieved not to be racing. There’s a serious pack of runners lined up. The gun goes off , and the several thousand runners (Super Speedy Ruben included) are off and down the waterfront.
15k Racetime: I have just enough time to do a quick “warmup” which does not result in me getting much warmer, and make some hasty decisions about how many layers to wear before Ridiculously Rapid Ruben finishes the 5k looking relaxed and, as always, very speedy. I scan the crowd to see who else I might know, but everyone looks the same under baseball caps and formless windbreakers.
I toss my soaked warm-ups into my bag and head over to the start line for the 15k – race time is less than 10 minutes away. Why do I feel so much more nervous for a 15k than for a marathon???
I do some strides at the start line where I promptly run into a pedestrian crossing the street. I turn to some other runners next to me and say “You gotta watch out for those, they come out of nowhere!” and the runner replies, “I don’t think he minded.” Ha.
I line up at the start and hit my legs. It’s really cold and my quads feel big and stiff. Yesterday I went on a small run where I felt super off. My legs were like lead columns. I worry that the dead feeling is still there. I give my quads a little pep talk: Alright, ladies, it’s time to go attack some hills. You’re going to do a great job!! Goooo legs, go!
Finally, it’s time to start the race. The gun goes off and the pack springs forward. I’ve placed myself more forward in the pack than usual and I’m happy with my choice – it’s not as crowded and there is minimal jostling for position. The rain, which seemed like it had stopped for a minute, is now coming down in earnest. Yucky!
Mile 1: We turn into downtown Portland, zig zag and hit Burnside St. where a stiff wind hits me like a truck. I feel like I’m going to blow over. I shorten my stride, pull my hat down and push into the wind. This might suck, I think. I pass the mile marker: 6:42
Mile 2-3: The course goes through downtown, over the freeway and hits the first in a series of hills. The 15k is a hilly, challenging course and miles 2 and 3 are not fun and very slow. I feel like my stomach is turning inside out and my breath feels jagged. I am not running easy. I am not running fast. I feel like this could be the beginning of a failed race.
Then I have to stop to tie my shoe (few things are worse than having to do THAT!)
Mile 3: I feel miserable. It is pouring. It is cold. It is steep. I try to focus on the runners right in front of me and find some motivation, but I’m not having fun.
Mile 4: I crest the top of what I think is the last big hill, but it turns out there are a few more gentle rollers. I focus on the guy in the red shirt in front of me and try to push ahead.
Mile 5: I know from last year that it’s mostly downhill to the finish. Thank goodness, but even so, it’s still 4 miles off. I try to kick it up a notch and relax my shoulders. I figure I need to make some time up for the slow uphill miles and the shoelace stop.
Mile 6: I whip around a corner and onto the old city highway. It’s raining big hard pellets and the wind is forceful and mean. It’s truly miserable. Then I step in a puddle. And now I’m even more miserable.
Mile 7: OK. OK. How much longer does this have to last? I try to do the math in my brain. If I’m running a 7-minute mile and I have 2.3 miles left… but I just ran a 6:15 on my last mile, so how do I calculate that pace? And it’s downhill. And let’s say that the last .3 miles doesn’t really count, because it’s the end. These kind of calculations can get extravagant. I finally give up. I can race, or I can do math equations, but doing both at the same time isn’t going to work. I decide to just keep trucking back to the finish line. It’ll get here when it gets here.
Mile 7.5: The 8k race merges with the 15k race and suddenly it’s chaos. I dodge joggers and fall in line behind the red shirted man who does a fabulous job at negotiating the crowd. A few times the space he runs into is swallowed by other runners and I have to yell out a haggard, “coming through” or “on your left!” I feel extremely rude, but I’m not sure what else to do.
Mile 8: I kind of want to vomit. And I kind of want to stop. And I really want that finish line to appear right now!
Mile 9: That finish line is still a helluva long ways away. I push forward through the rain.
Finish: I cross the finish line. I still feel miserable. I stop my watch and realize that I’ve attained my goal: I ran 15k in 1:04:28, a full 5 minutes faster than last year’s time on the same course, and this year was definitely harder given the weather.
I pull off my ankle timer, hand it to the volunteer, congratulate the other runners around me and immediately bee-line to the truck for some layers. Next, I drink beer – because that is the proper way to hydrate at 10:30 AM. Soon, it’s time for another beer, and more layers, and then suddenly, I’m having a blast: Miserable race, what? Rainy weather, what?? It doesn’t even matter. I ran a great race and now I’m cold and shivering and drinking beer with good company. On a Sunday! Before 11! I feel so… so … happy! Like I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
15K in 1:04:28 – still waiting on unofficial race results
Best Parts: The rain, the beer, the good people, Portlanders who aren’t afraid to get wet (or extremely wet)
Worst Parts: The rain, the shoe lace stop, the queasy feeling in my stomach,