Monday, October 21, 2013

Run Like Hell (and then stop for the train!) half marathon recap (and update 10/21)

Dressing the family up as characters from Jim Henson's "Labyrinth"
October 20th has been a day that I've been looking forward to for a long time... When I started running seriously at the beginning of the year, I set my sights on running the Half at "Run Like Hell".  This race was my very first race experience ever as the 5k in 2011.  

It's a race for letting go of inhibitions and being silly in costume, grab a couple of free beers at the finish and kick back to listen to some local bands... but serious enough that runner's fight for their PRs and take their times seriously.  

Early morning fog giving the camera trouble
The weather had been very warm and favorable the last few days, but it's always a good idea to dress warmly when getting up before the sun.  Besides, we all know that there is ALWAYS a "chance" of rain...

We did escape the rain, but if runner's weren't wet from sweat, they surely were from the moisture in the fog.

Half marathoners getting ready to run in the fog
The course began in downtown Portland and wound it's way through some of the industrial parts and areas that made a small town girl like me feel like I was on the wrong side of the tracks.  When we literally crossed the tracks, we could forget the worries of city life and enjoy not having to worry too much about traffic on such an early Sunday morning.

A very polite Candy Corn Witch zoomed past me and chatted up the runners near her pace before she'd speed off again.  I later found out that she is a contributor on one of the blogs I've been following.  I met a celebrity and didn't know it until after the meeting!

We wound up some inclines, but i didn't think much of it... until I overheard runners asking each other "Is this the hill i keep hearing about?"  "Is this the hill everyone complains about?"  The Candy Corn Witch smiles and says "Nope!  That would be the hill around mile 5."

Mile 5.  No problem.

I was worried though.  I killed my hamstrings last week trying to survive a hoard of zombies...  and though the inclines leading up to this point didn't seem like too much work on my quads and hammys, I was loosing confidence.  

Something else giving me some unease was I felt naked and lost without my garmin.  This is stupid, I know... and a great opportunity for me to just feel my pace and trust the course... but what if I stopped for an injured runner or something... I'd like to... well, pause it to better know my running time.  Stupid and silly, I know.  But with the buildings and fog, it just wasn't gonna sync up.  

Mile 5 came upon us and I traveled up an incline that seemed unending.  And I didn't die.  I didn't have one foul thought or negative banter about it at all.  I just kept on going, concentrating on the sound my feet made when hitting the pavement and watching my surroundings.     

We traveled up Terwilliger under the canopy of trees on the side of the road and a forest below us.  It was beautiful, but the trees were wet from the fog and rained down their moisture on the runners below... reminding me of my costume choice for such an early morning, fall run.  Besides this set back, it really wasn't uncomfortable or cold.  Those arm warmers really did their job! 

Aid stations were about every 2-3 miles and accompanied by live bands playing music for us.  That was fun.  But by mile 7, my heel started to kill me.  I injured it back at a 5k in May and thought it was muscle strain... but with the ongoing pain going on so long and completely unbearable on this race, I've gone ahead and scheduled a dreaded doctor's appointment.  

I started to pay more attention to tired shuffling and making sure my foot was striking at the front and not heel striking.  i suppose it must have helped, because by mile 8 i was cheering the people I was passing and telling them we were on the home stretch.  

My garmin was useless accept to tell me what time it was, and I was certain it was failing me at that, because How could I be nearing mile 10 and still be under 2 hours?   

And then I saw a large group of people ahead... a cheering section?  No one is cheering... what the...

A train was slowly rambling it's way along the track... blocking our route to finish the race.  I had under a 5k left to get this thing done!  Don't get discouraged... take a deep breath...

"How long have you been here?'  I asked the first runner I saw at the back of the crowd.  
"Me?  30 minutes now."
My heart sank.  At this point, my character in her movie would shrilly holler "It's not fair!"

I wandered up to the volunteer standing on the concrete wall next to the road.  Just me looking up at him had him tell me "This is gonna take about an hour and 10 minutes."  An hour and ten minutes, from this very moment?  Subtracting the 30 minutes from the girl at the back?  Wha-?  I need more info than that... But I wasn't going to get it... so I fought back my tears of frustration as some cramps set in between my shoulder blades and started to use the concrete wall to stretch my quads, hamstrings and calves.

I remember someone asking me the time and I told them "ten o'clock" and then I remember her asking again and it was 10:15am.  Was I still going to be able to finish this before the roads were unblocked and opened to traffic?  

Soon after taking a mental note that it was 10:15 a.m., the train passed and we all took off even before the rail gate was fully extended.  We were told that the timing belt laid down before the train track would stop our timing chip and reactivate again on the other side of the track when we ran over it again.  

The timing mat was unplugged and laid off to the side, mostly out of the course.  I cursed out loud and tried again not to cry.  No garmin working.  Was my chip working?  Would the time be accurate? 

I was flying before this.  It was a PR, but by how much?

I tried to think of how "nice" it was to finish with everyone as one big group effort and see the speedy athletes finish that i would have missed out on since I'm not that speedy gazelle at the front of the pack.   I won't lie.  It was difficult to fight my way through the crowds again and  my muscles were cold and sore.  I can't even imagine what it must have been like for those who had been there longer than me.  

I crossed the finisher's line and was happy to see most of my friends who had ran the 10k still there waiting for me.  Most of the 5k runners were still out... their start time having been delayed by a whole hour.

There are some seriously negative comments on Terrapin Event's facebook page that has me questioning future races with them.  They may have no control over the trains and their schedule... I hear even the Portland Marathon can be stalled by trains... but it seems that they could post something to try and explain that to us or apologize or something.  Anything. 

I got my medal, and I am thrilled.  I know, bling chaser.  Did I mention it glows in the dark?  

Finisher's Medal
How cool is a finisher's medal that glows in the dark?


 While the 10k was finishing up, the 5k was free to go.  My husband, "The Goblin King", was asked by "The Dread Pirate Roberts" to take the kids away until "Princess Buttercup" returned from her race.

"The Dread Pirate Roberts" leaves his companions in the care of "The Goblin King"

 When I finished, everyone was already done, except The Dread Pirate Roberts who had such a late start.

We grabbed our grub and tried to warm up with a hot bowl of chill and I redeemed my two cups of free beer.  My "Princess Bride" friends won the group costume contest and a friend who ran the 10K won the "Best Unicorn" contest.

The party wound down pretty quickly, as I'm sure their rent on the square was beginning to end.  The food court started giving away as many bowls of chili as we wanted and having secured a table next to the beer garden, some very friendly unicorns started filling "our" table up with free beers.

All in all, it was fun... but I'm not too terribly sure if I'd do this race again.  It is sentimental because it was my very first race ever.  Since then, I've started taking running seriously, lost 60 lbs and looking at making my body stronger.

The train might not be their fault, and maybe many races deal with the train as an issue.... but now I'm seeing repeated complaints on social media about how Terrapin Events treats their volunteers.
"Happy 10th anniversary" Run Like Hell.  For 10 years, it seems like at least the public relations would be on top of addressing concerns with race hiccups or complaints about being mistreated.

(As of this writing, the results page says I've shaved 47 minutes off my fiasco of a first half last month.  That's amazing!  The chip timing company says I finished in 2 hours, 38 minutes and 5 sec.  My gun time, they claim, is 2 hours, 38 minutes and 43 seconds.  This is an edited lie, since I finished at 2:51:??.  I wish they didn't change the gun time to try and pretend like the train had never really happened.)

What would you do?  Run it again and the risk of trains be damned?  Or forget any seemingly unorganized race that presumably treats their volunteers badly?

(Update:  Terrapin Events issued a statement on their Facebook page and in an e-mail to participants that stated "Thank you all for participating in this year's 10th anniversry of the Run Like Hell half marathon. While a little chilly, overall the weather was great for running! It was so fun to see everyones costumes, especially those dressed up in groups! We will be posting some photos to Facebook over the next few days, so be sure to check to see if we have one of you! Also, feel free to post any photos you might have taken. 
We would like to take a minute to thank our volunteers! We really value their time and efforts in coming out to help. We truly couldn't have done this race without them. We would also like to thank Molly's Fund Fighting Lupus. As the beneficiary of this event they provide us with great support and we are able to donate to their great cause! Last, but not least we would like to thank our sponsors. Lagunitas provided plenty of excellent beer and Madison's Grillprovided that nice, hot soup to enjoy after the race!
We would like to appologize for the train delay. We understand that many of you were stopped for a very long time and how hard that is after already running 11 miles. We truly wish this wouldn't have happened, but there was nothing we could have done to prevent this or shorten the delay. While the City limits which roads we can use (why so many Portland races use Naito) we are going to try to avoid or reduce any rail crossings next year. ..."  
I think it's worth noting, since some races could chose not to address the issue(s) at all or ignoring anyone's complaints.  After sleeping on it and thinking it over, this isn't a race I'd want to miss.  Maybe any future delays by a train would just be part of the adventure of the whole experience.  One thing for sure though, I'm going to have to learn some tricks on getting a garmin to connect on foggy streets containing tall buildings... (If such a trick exists.) 

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