Saturday, September 30, 2017

Boring Half Marathon Race Report

"Gee Tai, why is THIS race report Boring, since you didn't add that to any of your other race reports?"

Just thought I'd get that out of the way.  Har-dee-har-har, ya frackin comedians.


NOBODY MAKES YOU READ THIS BLOG GO WORK OR LOOK AT PORN

It turns out, there is an Oregon town named, "Boring."  So yes, they LITERALLY have a Boring High School, a Boring Fire Department, and if there is any justice in the world, a Boring Sex Shop (where the studded leather corsets are all beige).

In early September, I was just basking in finishing another month of 100+ miles, thanks in most part to my 5.x mile (one way) runcommute route, one of the few things I'm adjusting to well out here in PDX.  It was then that Victoria, an accomplished triathlete (I've called her that here on this blog before), said, essentially, "Good monthly mileage.  When is your next race?"

Me:
Wait, race? Is that something I still even DO?

Well, fuck.  Damned if the nuclear scientist didn't have have a point.  I had been knocking out 100+ mile months since April, and even though virtually NONE of them were the classic "long runs" (I was topping out at like 8), I certainly had a base.  Why WOULDN'T I try a race?

Because . . . Vanity.

Look, I've got a runcommute of a bit over 5 miles each way.  I do roundtrips maybe a few times a month, but basically it's a one way deal.  And I'm not fast.

Technically, I could be either one of these guys.

I was going to have to remember that even though this would be a "race," I'd have to focus on just going out and having a good time.  Go out, do your best, don't get hurt.  So how far?
 
A half marathon seemed like a good distance to get back into.  A 10K was just a hair beyond my normal runcommute anyway, so why pay for THAT.  I just didn't have the raw speed for a 5K, and there were no 10-milers around.  The only other issue was . . . ash.


NO


 NO (although props for the jack-off joke)

Try . . . THIS . . .


HAHA I HAVEN'T BEEN HERE A YEAR AND THIS STATE IS BURNING DOWN

This was some serious shit.  The EXISTING forest fires in Oregon had been leaving ash all over, well, EVERYTHING (including my lungs, I guess).  Now, some idiot teens had started a forest fire not too far from Portland, so there was even more ash to contend with.  I wasn't altering my commute, but damn if I didn't try to hack up a lung here and there during August, and fretted all through September as the fires continued.

Still, the most obvious race choice was the Boring Full/Half Marathon.  They were dealing with a lot of refugees from the Vancouver Marathon, with that race having been cancelled due to the fires.  A full marathon was still far too ambitious.  But, there was still room to sign up for the half.  It was a simple out/back course on paved trail/path.  


Boring Half Marathon elevation chart

So, headed to the turnaround was basically downhill, with a steady climb back to the start. Uncomplicated, not technical -- I'm in!

I signed up, and was surprised how happy this made me as I went to work over the next two weeks.  I figured my time goals this way:

Level A Goal:  2:10. Sub-10 min/mile. A pipe dream pace for 13 miles, but it's my A Goal.
Level B Goal:  Finish at least under 2:20. Should be easy, but hardly a guarantee.
Level C Goal:  Have fun, don't get hurt.  Welcome back to racing, and disappointments!

The race director was a hoot.  The race updates on Facebook (I had a reason to log back into that cesspool!) were pretty loquacious, but creative and funny.


I know.  I'm an introvert who babbles.  It's a duality thing.

The race updates were 
focused, as obviously the runners were, on weather and safety because of all the fires and ensuing ash.  On Saturday, the day before the race, I sat on the sidelines and watched my son play soccer.  The air quality was . . . sub-par.


Ok, other than the floral hat, and assume the compact is my phone.

Still, if I could run to work through this crapola, I could run a race.  Of more than twice my daily commute.  After 13 months of not raciOHFUCKFUCKFUCK

Grimly, I packed my gear and laid out my clothes for the next morning.  I confess I haven't missed those insanely early alarms that go off on race morning.  


Why can't races start at noon?

After a morning Coke Zero (and a little you-know-what-in-the-bathroom time), I headed out.  Unbelievably, the weather/wind had turned overnight.  We had pretty clear/clean skies, despite the fires.  This was a good thing.  I drove probably a little faster to get to the race than I should have, but I'm glad I did -- parking that morning was a little dicey, and decidedly NOT boring.  I was one of the last people to get a space in the main parking lot.  No pressure while I navigated my giant car into a decent space!


You live in the city long enough, parallel parking becomes . . . Boring.

I wasn't in the line that long before I had my Boring bib and Boring bag of Boring race swag. I swear, this race report should be in a Courier font.

Race swag:  Long sleeve tech t-shirt, but which lists ALL the races (full, half, 8K) on the shirt (so if you're into people thinking you ran a full, this is the shirt for you).  Pint glass (yay!).  Discount to visit the nearby Boring Brewery (you just knew there would be one with that name).

They start the Boring Full about 30 boring minutes ahead of the Boring Half, so I had just enough time to have a quick pee in one of the Boring port-a-johns and work my Racedots into position.  There was a guy ahead of me, a refugee from the Vancouver race, who looked older than me, but was lithe, springy, and chatty.  Turns out, he was almost 70(!) and was as excited about this race as anyone.  Apparently hoppy beers have some sort of fountain of youth quality for these PacNW folks.

I made my way to the Boring start.  I was waaaaay in the back of the pack, and a little surprised at how nervous I was -- this was my first race in 13 months, dating back to my farewell to DC run at (of all things) the Leesburg(!) 20K.  I must have made my Garmin acquire, reacquire, and repeat 4 times just in the lead up.  I did a bit of warmups, and just tried to bleed off ridiculously nervous energy.

But, not much time to think about it -- BANG!  Off went the Boring starting horn, and off we went.

Mile 1:  9:53

Interestingly, this first mile, is UPhill as you run, which is ideal for a race start.  Forces you to chill a bit on pace.  That's good.  Some people will run themselves out even in the first mile (an example is part of the Marine Corps Marathon, where the first couple of miles can have some early hills).  Anyway, I just chugged.

Mile 2:  9:41
Mile 3:  10:01 (water stop)

These were fine.  To my annoyance I had -- again -- forgotten to convert my Garmin to manual splits, so I knew I was going to have to futz with it over the course of the race to get my actual mile split times.  But, I knew that 10 minutes per mile for 13 miles was 130 minutes.  So, a 2:10 finish (if I was shooting for the A-Goal).  But I ALSO knew I would inevitably fade.  I could still extrapolate from whenever I did in order to hit my B-Goal.  Fortunately, the first three miles all came in under 10 minutes, which was understandable considering how hyped up and nervous I was.  I knew I'd slow down soon enough.

Mile 4:  9:56

This mile is worth pointing out, because along here we ran near a school, or perhaps a park.  There were supporters here, kind of strung out along the path, cheering their various racers.  As I approached, I saw a solitary woman standing, gently clapping, and clearly trying to be encouraging to people by talking about whatever logo or thing was on their shirts.  Thus, I heard "Go Ducks!" (that's a Oregon team mascot), and "Woo (some school name)" I kept making churning my way towards here when I saw her look at my Nationals Curly W and let out a softer "Go . . . ."  She faded off, unsure of what to make of my Nats Dub.

So, I took over:  "Go Nats!"

Her, upon hearing this:


I mean it. I'm running up on her, and she's April Ryan.


She went straight up from where she was looking at my chest, met my eyes, and blanched.  She sputtered . . .  "Gonads?"

This face, without the downward glance.

Me, to myself:  "Fuck. Did she seriously just say Gonads? Wait, fuck me, did --I--?"

YES LADY I SAID GONADS NOPE BASEBALL DOESN'T EXIST OUT HERE I GUESS

For.  Fuck's.  Sake.  Does NOBODY on the west coast know about baseball???

NO IT'S NOT A FUCKING WALGREENS LOGO

I got closer, we were almost shoulder to shoulder, wheezing, I let out a "Nats!  Nats!" as I tapped my chest where the "W" was, but based on her kind of looking half confused and half grossed out, she thought I was basically pounding my chest telling her to cheer for my family jewels.

"Well," I thought to myself, "THIS part of the out-and-back is going to be awkward later."

In retrospect, imagine how that exchange would look to other spectators watching:


Exterior shot:  Running Path.

Along path INNOCENT WOMAN is cheering, as GIANT FATASS IN BASEBALL SHIRT comes lumbering along:

Woman:  "Yay runners! Go Ducks! Yay runner! Go . . ."
Guy: GONADS! *looks at chest and probably his balls too*
Woman:  " . . . "
Guy:  NADS! NADS! *guy runs off*
Woman:  ". . . (arms self with cowbell and mace for later)"

Fin.


I mean, what if that was her FIRST race she'd ever come out to cheer for?  That's going to make an impression (and not a Boring one, if I may be so immodest to say).

I kept running.  Lawsuits could wait.

Mile 5:  9:53
Mile 6:  9:53

Now I was more than a little curious.  I was still running, but not at a redline type pace.  I was trying to keep reserves in the tank, but was still running with a harder effort than, say, the Leesburg 20K, which was treated as more a supported training run.  Still, each mile kept ticking in juuuuuuuuuust under 10 minutes per mile, and here I was approaching the halfway point of the race.

I was very aware I was running a gradual DOWNhill, and knew I'd have to turn around soon.  That's where the fade would be waiting for me.  



After completing 6 miles, I had 43 seconds of wiggle room ahead of my 10 min/mile pace.  I had no IDEA of this at the time, but it turns out I did.

Mile 7:  9:42 

As I made my way back, I was still having fun, so as I came upon some cheering volunteers (armed with a cowbell), I gave them my (what I think is a killer) impression of Christopher Walken.  The cowbell is key.  It goes like this.

1.  Person in crowd has cowbell.
2.  Our Hero(tm) Tai comes running by.
3.  Tai, who, if you haven't remembered, is Our Hero(tm) screams:



4.  Crowd cheers like idiots.
5.  More cowbelling ensues.
6.  Our Hero(tm) continues on to mediocre (or poor) race result.

Instead, this time, I gave them the "I GOT A FEVER" line, and the woman with the cowbell, along with her friend, gave me this:

This goddamn west fucking coast.

Specifically, she then SCREAMED out, "YOU HAVE A FEVER?!?!?!"  Seriously.  Like she was going to call 911 from the aid station.  So I finished my killer line:



And instead of following the above-referenced 1-6 steps, I got this:



I kept running. Telling boring jokes in Boring. So Meta. Or boring. Whatever.

Mile 8:  9:46

By this point I marked myself as now closer to a Boring finish than to the Boring start (and thus also closer to the lady who thought I screamed to her about my balls).  I also found myself still maintaining a well-enough pace.  What was happening here?


How dafuq am I not dead yet?  And where's that ballsack woman?

No matter!  I figured I had surely banked a good minute plus of time by this point (I hadn't) and I would easily hit the finish line in under 2:10, figuring 13 miles at a 10 minute pace.  This is where the more observant readers will notice one critical flaw in my plan.

A GODDAMN HALF MARATHON IS 13 POINT ONE FUCKING MILES, NOT THIRTEEN. 




For fuck's sake.  Now I'm going to NEED the banked time I thought I had as a cushion to make sure I could get under my A-Goal.  Because when I thought it was a pipe dream, that was no big deal.  But to miss it by a teensy bit would SUCK.  Better really bear down and crank out some miles . . . .

Mile 9:  9:55
Mile 10: 9:57
Mile 11:  9:57 

. . . well, shit.  Those weren't good.  They were under 10, but I needed to find more time than 10 seconds.  I was passing more and more people now (steady paces ftw?) but the uphill was definitely hitting me more.  I was getting that familiar "I'm lightheaded because I'm about to fail" feeling I remembered from JFK miles 30-34.

Mile 12:  10:02

Not. Good.  My face when I saw the split was just a big ol' mess of maths.


QUICK HOW DO I DIVIDE BY 10 I'M NOT A COMPUTER DAMMIT

I knew I was ahead of the finish goal (assuming 13 miles) and PROBABLY ahead of the 13.1 goal, but that was way, way closer.  

But, as evidenced by the people I was passing, I had indeed saved up some kick by not going out too fast, and keeping to steady-ish miles.  I started to really just open up, and it turns out my fastest mile (plus point one) was my last mile, about 9:35.

(Disclosure:  I also realized, post-race, that the last mile was DOWNhill.  Oops.)



I turned a corner of bend in the path, and saw the finish line.  Holy fuck.  Not just a finish, but an A-Goal finish, with a negative split of less than one minute to boot.  And nobody maced me for yelling at a woman about my . . . boys.

Kinda not Boring.

After I finished, I took a few minutes to thank the race guys calling out people's names as they finished, and ended up chatting with the RD's wife.  This is a REALLY good race, folks.  It's put together super well, but because it's put on BY runners FOR runners in order to benefit OTHER runners, it's just got a great, relaxed feel.  Except when yelling at people about your nuts.  The RD's wife introduced me to the RD, who told me about his excitement and commitment to the sport, and reminded me that this race is to benefit the local Boring High School's Boring cross country team.  They were super nice folks, and I was crazy happy to get to meet them.  

Giddily, I fast-walked to my car, because did you really run a race if you don't post a medal selfie?



I'm DEFINITELY signing back up to run this boring race in 2018 (probably using IE).

One last point:  I don't often include minutes per mile in race reports.  Why here?

Because EVERY mile I ran at this race (13.1 miles) was faster than all my average runcommute (5.x miles) times.  Every. Single. Mile.

Guess Coke Zero in the morning works?
Running is a weird sport.

Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Exact median (exactly half of all racers finished ahead of me, the other half behind me) (curiously enough, that's the SECOND time that has happened -- I'm nothing if not mediocre).

Men:  Bottom 28% (sigh, going to have to get used to these poopy numbers)

Division:  Bottom 33% (Not many of us, and to be fair, a third of the finishers in my division came in less than 9 minutes ahead of me -- oh, and the almost 70-year-old port-a-potty guy I talked to -- he finished a few minutes ahead of me -- and only came in THIRD in his division -- WTF old guys?!)


And yet I keep signing up for races anyway.