What an amazing weekend! I'm exhausted, but I had an absolute blast from start to finish this weekend. Pull up a chair and relax a bit, this is gonna take awhile!
It started with our trip to Portland on Friday. We knew that our friend, Shannon, who runs most half marathons with us, and her husband and children were heading to Portland around the same time and would be staying at a hotel across the street from us, but we did not expect to connect with them until probably Saturday. We stopped at a rest stop along the way about an hour south of home, and as I waited for my husband to come out, I heard "Denise! Denise!" I looked in that direction, and there were Shannon, Pat, and the kids walking over--they were making the same pit stop. What are the chances?!
We chatted briefly and then Dale and I went on, anxious to get down to Portland and find our hotel so we could get a reasonable night's sleep. Since we had originally planned to only stay Saturday night and made the decision to go down Friday late, we ended up changing to another hotel close to the expo. It turned out to be the perfect location for us; we got checked in and decided to step out to get a bite to eat. As we walked to the car, we heard honking; we looked over, and there were Shannon and Pat just pulling in the driveway of THEIR hotel across the street. Go figure!
Saturday we decided to head to the expo early, hoping to beat some of the crowds. We walked the few blocks to the convention center and got there about 10 minutes before the doors opened--perfect! We walked in, picked up our packets, and made our corral change to a faster one without a problem, then began to explore the expo. Rock'n'Roll expos are big, with lots of freebies and things to buy; we wanted to have plenty of time to enjoy it. We hadn't been there more than 15 or 20 minutes when I got a text from my high school friend saying SHE was at the expo; we found one another within a few minutes and hugged, introducing our respective spouses. We literally have not seen one another in 32 years; she got married in February in the town we grew up in, I got married in March in the town where I met my husband, so we had never met one another's spouses. It was in many ways as if we'd never been apart, and our guys clicked immediately, too. We wandered the expo together, talking, then we wanted to hear John "The Penguin" Bingham speak, so they went on to look more.
Just before John was done, I got another text asking where we were; I texted back, and by the time the talk was over, Mary and Mark were sitting there, too. We decided to go out to lunch then, and they drove us over to the Pearl District where we found a cute little Italian restaurant that they knew about. It was not quite time for it to open, so we walked around and made it back just as they were ready to open, which turned out well; by the time we were done, the place was packed. After half a frittata and half a panini sandwich, I can see why; absolutely delicious!
They took us back to the convention center so we could finish visiting the expo and we said goodbye; Mary was going to walk the RnR the next day, so we hoped to connect afterward for at least a few minutes.
We finished enjoying the expo and walked back to our hotel to relax a bit before it was time to meet Shannon, Pat and their kids to go to dinner with the Sparkers who were getting together at Old Spaghetti Factory. We found it without problem (thanks to GPS on my phone!), parked and walked up to the entrance. Then I heard "Denise! Denise!" and there was Candy (CBAILEYC), her husband Bill, and Gaye (GAYEMC) out front! We hugged and chatted while we waited for others and for the buzzer to tell us the table was ready.
ROXIT22222 and the Donut Man and CHAZERAY rounded out the crew that met for dinner, and it was a wonderful time. It amazes me how easy it was to talk and share together in spite of never meeting in person before (I know some knew one another from other events, but I didn't know anyone!). Thank you, Candy, for putting this together! I hope we'll get opportunities to do it again!!
Then it was back to our hotel to prep for the race and try to get some sleep. This was our first destination race, so I was mildly paranoid about forgetting something. Happily we did not, despite my dream Friday night that we forgot to go pick up our race bibs an were frantically trying to figure out how to do the race on Sunday!
The alarm went off bright and early this morning: RACE DAY! I really did not have any expectations for the race, other than to finish somewhere close to my recent times. Shannon wanted me to aim for a 12:40 pace with her; I said I'd try, but my best half marathon pace before had been just over 13 minute miles. Shannon met us at our hotel and we walked over to catch the MAX over to the start line; we got there just a bit late to get in on the Half Fanatics photo, sadly, but we picked up some water, got our gear checked, and made our way back to corral 18. I saw the 2:45 pacer in the corral just behind us and thought maybe, just maybe, we'd be able to keep that red lizard sign in sight once we got started.
The first corral started, then the next, and next, and next . . . eventually our corral began moving forward, and then finally we were at the start line and were off. After a bit, Dale started doing the run/walk intervals, but I opted to keep running with Shannon. I didn't really have a plan to run the whole thing, I just figured I was feeling good and would walk when I needed to. I tried to not go too fast at the beginning, but I'm not very good at negative splits.
The miles ticked by fairly quickly; we reached the 5K mark at 38:14, so we were running at just over a 12 minute mile pace, a little fast but we hadn't hit the long hill yet, either. Generally we walked through the water stations, then when we got to some of the steepest hills, we walked again; other than that we just kept running.
Everything was going well until we got to a section where the police were stopping the runners to allow traffic through. Gah! Not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES we had to come to a complete stop and stand there, waiting for the police to stop traffic again. The first time was well over a minute--not good for the body or the mind when you've already been running an hour and a half and are well into the last half of a race! The second and third times, the officers were much kinder, stopping runners to allow just a few cars at a time through. The stops for traffic were really my only complaints about the race, otherwise it was great, with lots of music and crowd support as well as plenty of water stops and porta potties (which I thankfully did NOT have to visit).
By the time we got to mile 10, I realized we were on pace to hit a new PR for me, even if we slowed down quite a bit. We were through the hills by then, though. The last quarter of a mile I was flagging, but I just kept running . . . and running . . . and running. Finally we passed the mile 13 marker; only .1 mile to go! I gave it everything I had, and we crossed the finish line at 2:45:49--a good 7 minutes faster than my best half to date, and with an average pace of 12:39 officially! And that's with the three traffic stops to boot--WOO HOO!
Shannon is training for a full marathon and invited me to join her in running another 5 miles, but I declined the offer--I'm not there yet. We got our medals and said goodbye as she took off to do the rest of her training run while I went to enjoy some post-race refreshments and start looking for my husband.
I took the food that was offered and made my way to the family reunion area to find the S where I hoped to meet up with other Sparkers possibly and my husband. No luck on meeting up with other Sparkers, sadly, though I kept an eye out for anyone who might be hanging around. I waited under a tent to stay dry--did I mention that it started raining soon after the race began? Yup, it's the Northwest; all week long they had predicted dry, warm weather for today, and instead we got clouds, cooler weather, and eventually rain. Oh well!
After waiting for what seemed like forever, I texted my husband and then finally called him; he had forgotten about the family reunion area and the arrangement to meet by the S, so it's a good thing I called! We finally connected and made our way to the train station to go back to the hotel; we had arranged for a late checkout (1 p.m.), but we needed to get moving to make that time. As we waited for the train, I heard (again) "Denise!" and turned around; there was Kate, the owner of Heritage and Family Video! She said she had been along the course and yelled at me as I went by, but since I was not expecting to see anyone there, I was oblivious. We chatted there, then got on the train together and chatted on the way back. Yet another very pleasant and surprising meetup to finish the weekend!
We said goodbye when we got off the train and walked (slowly) back to our hotel, where we quickly cleaned up a little, changed, and packed up just in time to check out at 1 p.m. Then we went in search of Voodoo Donuts that we have heard so much about; one look at the line was enough to convince us to keep going, though. That will have to be for another trip when we have time to wait; we needed REAL food and made our way to Burgerville, where we enjoyed a burger, fries (shared) and a small shake--the first one we've had in probably over two years. Considering how many calories we'd burned, though, we knew we could afford it!
Finally, it was time to get in the car and head back north to home. We stopped several times along the way to get out and stretch. Sitting for two and a half hours after running 13.1 miles is not great, but the stops along the way helped a great deal. I'm actually feeling remarkably good, other than being tired. All in all, a wonderful weekend that surpassed my expectations in so many ways!
Finally, a couple of pictures, first of the start:
and then of the reward:
Notice the signature at the bottom of the bib: John Bingham. We have a new tradition for Rock'n'Roll races, too, of getting him to sign our bibs if we get to hear him speak--he is so fun to listen to, and he has made running accessible for us ordinary folks.