Archives for posts with tag: half marathon

The winters in Portland are long.  And dark.  And wet.  To survive you need a plan.  Mine involves running, regardless of the weather.  Soon after moving here I realized that if I didn’t run in the rain, I wouldn’t run very often.  Yoshimi says there’s an expression in Japan, “It’s only water.”  It has now become my mantra.  That all being said, even the Rainy Day Runner sometimes need a break.  That’s why part two of my survival plan involves an occasional southern escape.  Lucky for me both of my parents now spend winters in Florida.

If you’ve never been to Florida, it’s very different from what you’d expect.  Sure there are lots of golf carts, strip malls and early bird specials, but there are also tons of older folk living super active lives.  These retirees are not just sitting around watching TV.  They’re walking, biking, fishing, boating, swimming, and golfing.  Everyday feels like Saturday and every hour like Happy Hour.  It’s something really cool to see.  Damn, makes me wish I was retired myself.

This has been the third January in a row I’ve gone to Florida and this year I thought it would be fun to do a race while I was down there.  I don’t know much about the Florida running scene, but I happened across an article in Runner’s World that chose Alafia River State Park as its trail of the month.  The park looked totally unique, so different from anything here in the Pacific Northwest.  When I heard the trail runs alongside alligator-infested waters, I immediately signed up for its Florida Challenge Half Marathon.

My brother Colin took up running this past year after reading Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run.  Cole and I both have addictive personalities and running has had a positive affect on each of us.  We talk about running over the phone, but never get a chance  to train together because we live on opposite sides of the country.  The Florida Challenge looked like the perfect opportunity for us to finally do a race together.

We spent some time with Dad in Naples and then with Mom in Venice (who needs Italy) before driving up to Tampa for the race.  Because of the publicity in Runner’s World more than 400 runners signed up for the race this year.  The local Floridians were shivering in the pre-dawn 50 degree weather, but for me it felt like a typical Oregon summer day.

The first half mile of the race was on road so everyone could spread out a bit before hopping onto the trails.  There wasn’t an elevation profile on the race website, so I assumed that it would be Florida flat.  And it was, but there were also lots of twists & turns and roots & rocks.  Spanish moss hung heavy from cypress trees while the narrow single track trail ran along algae green swamp water.  I didn’t see any gators, but I didn’t want to get all that close either.  There weren’t any hills, but there were plenty of dips, steep drops in the trail that sometimes required you to use your hands to get back up the other side.  They were like convex speed bumps and had a similar affect on pace.

After a strong start I started to fade at around the half way point.  My lack of training in the last few months became obvious.  I was able to fake my way through a decent 10K a few weeks back, but a half marathon is not so easily fooled.  I got passed by a women at around mile ten who seemed genuinely concerned when she asked, “Are you OK?”  I must have looked even worse than I felt.  The last few miles were miserable.  The dips made me feel like I was on a roller coaster that refused to stop.  I finished in 38th place, just before the day started to heat up.

The Florida Challenge was Cole’s second half marathon.  His goal for this race was to set a new PR(personal record).  He trained hard these last few months, focusing specifically on this race.  He started out at a conservative pace and got stuck behind a logjam of slower runners.  Eventually he was able to pass one after another(more than 50 in all) before getting back to his planned pace.  He finished the race looking strong and the first thing he said afterwards was, “I gave it all I got.”  The hard work he put in paid off.  He ran a smart race and PR-ed by more than 5 minutes.  I’m so happy for him.

On the drive back to Dad’s(where there were a couple of blackened grouper sandwiches with our names on it) we talked about new goals and future races.  One thing that’s a given is another race in Florida next winter.  It’s a new tradition worth keeping.  Our sister, Erin, is also a runner, but not a racer.  Maybe we can convince her to join us next year.

BEFORE

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If you’ve never been to Silver Falls State Park, you really should go.  Oregon’s largest state park has miles and miles of single track trail that passes by (and even behind) ten waterfalls–several more than a 100 feet high.  Even though it’s close to both Portland and Salem, Silver Falls is not really on the way to anywhere.  Nevertheless, you should make a point to check out this magnificent park, you won’t regret it.  Last week I was one of 500 runners to take part in the Silver Falls Trail Half Marathon organized by the fine folks at Run Wild Adventures.  Run Wild has just been around for a few years, but already they’ve put together a cool series of shorter trail races that all take place in those dark winter months when there’s not much else going on.  At their races, you can expect rain, you can expect mud, but you can also expect to have a real good time.

What I didn’t expect was that there’s be so many competitive runners taking part in this second annual event.  The sloppy conditions didn’t hold anyone back and right from the gun these guys were cranking it out at a sub six minute pace.  The first mile was on road, which the gave the us a chance to spread out a bit.  By mile two, most everyone was where they needed to be and for the rest of the race there was very little passing.  We looped around to the start area and at about mile four we got on the Rim Trail which took us out to and behind 136 foot North Falls.  Even though you’re in the middle of running a race, it’s impossible NOT to stop and marvel at this massive cascade of water.

From there we hopped onto the Canyon Trail, which follows the North Fork of Silver Creek for about five miles.  This trail was just pure fun, mostly flat, but with lots of twists and turns and a few rolling hills.  A trail like this makes running on asphalt seem ridiculous.  At Lower South Falls the trail again skirted behind the falls and then climbed up a long, looooong set of stairs.  Now I was really starting to feel it and at this point my legs decided to officially lodge a protest.  I tried to ignore them as we then passed behind 177 foot South Falls, but they just wouldn’t quit their complaining.  “Come on guys,” I pleaded. “It’s only three more miles.”  No answer.  ” Wow, check out Silver Falls Lodge, built in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Isn’t that cool?”  My legs were not impressed.  They told me to quit sightseeing and get this thing over with.  I shut up, put my head down and churned through the last couple of miles.  Somehow I was able to convince my legs to put forth a bit of a sprint at the finish.  They reluctantly agreed, but were not happy about it.  Considering the competitive field and the fact my training has been in maintenance mode for the last month, I was happy to finish 25th overall.  Afterwards I ran into some guys I met over the summer at different races around Oregon.  Summer now seemed a long ways away as we warmed ourselves in front of the fireplace and enjoyed a few bowls of chili.  Thank you Run Wild Adventures for organizing such a fun race.  I look forward to your Shellburg Falls Trail Run next month.

One year ago, on a whim I signed up for the Fueled by Fine Wine half marathon.  Though I’ve been a casual runner for most of my adult life, this would be the first race I’ve run in almost a decade.  The reason I chose this race had more to do with what would be going on after the race than with what would happen during the race.  The post-race celebration included twenty wineries from Oregon’s Dundee Hills offering generous samples of their famous Pinot Noir.  But a funny thing happened on the 13.1 miles I had to run to get that sampling of fine wine.  While running up, over and through those beautiful vineyards something clicked inside of me and suddenly I felt like running was what I wanted do and a runner was what I wanted to be.  I was happy with my time of 1 hour 54 minutes on that difficult course and certainly enjoyed the wine and cheese festivities afterwards.  However, the next day, despite the sore muscles and the wine-induced hangover, the question I couldn’t get out of my head was, “What’s next?

Well, since then I’ve run three marathons (including Tokyo, Buenos Aires and a 3rd place finish at the Pacific Crest a few weeks ago), three half marathons, and several shorter races.  I’ve logged over two thousand training miles, lost 25 pounds, and read several dozen running books.  I’d be the first to admit that my personality borders on the obsessive, but it’s still amazing to me that in just one year I have accomplished what I set out to do—to become a runner.

To celebrate this one year anniversary, I thought it would be fun to do the Fueled by Fine Wine half marathon again.  Lining up for this year’s race I remembered standing in the same spot a year ago wearing ratty old gym shorts, a cotton T-shirt, and a worn out pair of running shoes.  I also remembered feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement, hoping that it wouldn’t hurt too much.  This year I was wearing a white running singlet, knee high compression socks, and a pair of lightweight racing flats.  Again I felt that mix of nervousness and excitement, but for different reasons—this year I was planning on going fast.  The course had been altered slightly, but was no less difficult and once again we had beautiful weather.

I wound up finishing in 1 hour 29 minutes, placing 5th overall, winning the masters class (over 40 years old), and receiving a magnum of Pinot Noir and a Tiffany wine glass.  I honestly didn’t expect to ever win a race and I gave this blog entry the title I did because I know I may never win one again.  Of course I hope there will be more, but it’s the running itself and not the thought of winning that keeps me going.  It really is incredible how much things can change in just one year.  I’m smiling now just thinking what the next year may have in store.