Destination

Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland: Half Marathon – Recap

featured-past-rnr-portand

Recap

Even though Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena was my first half marathon, RnR Portland was actually the first half marathon I signed up for. This is because on June 8th of this year, Meghann will make an honest man out of me and I decided Portland should be my bachelor party/run destination.

I’ve loved Portland ever since my first sip of McMenamins’ Nitro Terminator Stout back in 2010. Walking friendly downtown, great eccentric shops, breweries in every district and no sales tax! It is the one place I can see luring me away from Southern California. I got in Friday and left on Monday so I had plenty of time to see the sights, I’ve added a few pictures from that part of the trip in the Photo Gallery section below but for now… to the race recap!

The day before the race it was mid 60s and rainy. To my surprise on race morning the sun was shining (well… the Pacific North West version of sunshine) and the temperature would reach the mid 70s, perfect day for a run! It was a crisp morning but I’ve had colder runs at the Rose Bowl, including RnR Pasadena. I stayed at the McMenamins Crystal Hotel in downtown Portland which was a quick walk to the start at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Robert met me up at the hotel and we made our way to the start.

We found the gear check easily, stretched and made our way to the start for a quick warm up run. I have to say that every Rock ‘n’ Roll race I’ve been to has had a great starting area. All of the sections are well-marked and the guide they give you at the expo makes it easy to plan your morning. As we started the warm up jog I noticed the corrals were well into the 20s and stretched way back into the city…. this was going to be a packed course.

We were a ways back from the elite runners
We were a ways back from the elite runners

As with every race, my brain started to panic and worry about everything that could go wrong. I injured my foot the week before (lame injury and best told over a beer) and it flared up with all the walking we did the day before. I worried that it would prevent me from even finishing the race. At the expo I watched the course preview video and hills on the second half of the race looked brutal. Thankfully just as my brain was going off the deep end…

Woman: Hey are you from Pasadena?
Me: Yeah! I run with the pacers. Do you?
Woman: No but I’m from the area and know who they are. How was the last run you guys did?
Me: The Unity Run?
Woman: Yeah! That looked great.
Me: It was awesome. We had great turn out from other clubs as well. Like the Gritty City Track Club & Pasadena Tri.

This lead to more interaction among my fellow runners and quickly got me to ease up. She was talking about the Unity Run we did after the Boston tragedy. It was a great run that reminded me I should be thankful to just be able to get out and run.

I took a deep breath, said a prayer (with special request for my foot), and got back to focusing on the run. As each corral was released, I started to think about what lay ahead. Running across two more bridges. Seeing new parts of Portland. Hearing words of encouragement from strangers. Yeap, just going for a run in my favorite city in the Pacific Northwest!

View from Corral 9 at the start
View from Corral 9 at the start

From the get go we got into a good pace and weaved our way through the traffic. The initial 5k was an out-and-back on Nieto Parkway along the waterfront. I’ve only enjoyed one out-and-back and that was over the Golden Gate bridge at RnR San Francisco. This one wasn’t very scenic once you went under the Fremont Bridge. The road was also just as rough as we saw a few runners trip in potholes. The crowd, as with every RnR, was quite diverse and provided some entertaining people watching. We noticed a caveman, Chiquita & banana, some poor bastard running in a powder bottle suit, plenty of Elvi, and a barefoot runner. Just Portland keeping it weird.

The rest of the first four miles of the course weren’t very memorable. There was a nice section around a few parks that included my favorite type of course band, Japanese Taiko Drum group! A similar group had provided a nice boost during RnR Pasadena so it was nice to hear those drums before the steady climb up to Hawthorne Bridge. I glanced at the clock at mile marker 4 and we clocked in at just over 36 mins!

Five miles in and he was happy! I’m the knee brace behind him

Running across Hawthorne Bridge crossed off Portland from my “Run Across a Bridge in Favorite Cities” list (click here for full list) but it wasn’t as great as I hoped. For starters they laid down a carpet to even out the bumpy road… well in certain places it wasn’t laid properly and there were bumps, some big enough that we had to hop over them. There was a nice breeze on the bridge that felt amazing 5 miles into the race. We didn’t admire much of the view since we were on a mission to finish below 2:15.

After crossing the bridge the course made its way through an industrial part of town that totally reminded me of downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District. There were some nicely remodeled loft apartments, recording studios and heavy manufacturing. Just a few residents were out there but as with every RnR race there was plenty of local bands and cheer squads along the way. One of the bands was a two piece group that reminded me of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, I loved the diversity of the bands at this race.

Finally, just past the six-mile marker we had our first walk break. While I did hit a new PR for best one hour (10.64 km) it came a heavy cost as we were feeling winded and the mile climb still lay laid. We took a few sips of water and I chewed on some GU Chomps to refuel for the second part.

As we turned the corner back to Hawthorne Blvd, that one mile climb looked very daunting. I could see groups clumping up near the middle and just walking the entire way up. It is a steady climb so the incline isn’t harsh. Just the thought of running for ~1.5 miles uphill caused my muscles to ache but on we charged. Every step was a victory and I didn’t dare look back. The only band I remember on this climb was the School of Rock kids, they performed Gorillaz’ “Feel Good”, the music was great but the death metal vocals made me run just a bit faster to get out of sound range.

For those of you unfamiliar with Portland, Hawthorne Blvd is filled with shops, bars and restaurants. There were plenty of people lined up along the street cheering us on… including some with beers. It took about 3 walking breaks and 10 mins to beat that hill but we made it. We were at mile marker 8 with 1 hr 14 mins on the clock. Not too bad and definitely on pace for a PR, set at RnR SF 2 hrs 17 mins.

The course then looped back into neighborhoods and for the most part flattened out. We picked up the pace and felt we could definitely hit sub two hours. Along this stretch of the course we saw plenty of families lining up the road and kids holding out hands for some sweaty high-fives… including one who give a sticky high-five to a runner, afterward she frantically tried to wipe off the unknown substance on her tech shirt. Note to self: avoid high-fives from kids along the course.

At mile 9 we hit Laurelhurst Park and another walk break. It was a great spot to take a breather as the park had plenty of people cheering us on and a few just enjoying the park. I saw a runner (not in the race) running through the park with his dog by his side… I really want to get a dog so I can do the same. This was the first time I had been so far east in Portland. The neighborhoods in this part, with plenty of tree cover and single-family detached homes, seemed like just home. Again, I can totally picture myself moving up here. But enough about my love of Portland.

Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, one of the awesome bands along the course. Courtesy of Facebook
Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, one of the awesome bands along the course. Courtesy of Facebook

My familiarity with Portland would be a hindrance at Mile 10 as I thought the last 5k would be downhill and mostly after the bridge. In actuality, miles 10-12 were still on the east side and were rolling hills. I checked the clock at mile 11 and were at 1 hr 46 mins… which meant two sub 7 minute miles if we were to finish under 2. We kicked it into high gear. The Lloyd district was pretty plain so we did not miss anything by running at full speed.

We came across the Rose Quarter at mile 12.5 and gave it a one finger salute for Hugo/Lakers. Steel Bridge and its sweet breeze was just one turn, and slight incline, away!

Now running across the Steel Bridge was much nicer than Hawthorne. We had great views of downtown Portland ahead of us, the scenic waterfront park to the south, and the Broadway bridge to the north. There also wasn’t a carpet to trip us up. I had hoped the MarathonFoto people had taken a nice picture of me on either bridge but looks like I missed both cameramen. Maybe for the best since I never look great during a race. Every photographer at RnR Pasadena caught me during a walk break.

Mile 12-13 was a nice downhill coming from Steel Bridge. Because of my weak left knee I tried to limit my speed. Even with my brace I can feel every shock my left knee takes. While my knee felt great it was my injured right foot that was starting to become an issue. I could feel the top of it scraping against the shoe. It wasn’t enough to slow me down but ice and Meloxicam would be needed once I crossed the finish.

The line of spectators started just after the last band stage, some Journey cover band that was on a break when I passed, and stretched well past the finish line. I began to look around to try to spot Hugo and Mario, who had kindly joined me on my Bachelor weekend. Just before the finish I noticed them looking behind me so I ran to their side and let out a “SURPRISE MOTHERFUCKERS!” à la Doakes from Dexter.

Too fast for the camera
Too fast for the camera

That picture sums up the last stretch. Seeing strangers cheer me on and hearing the band at the final stage always motivates me to give it my all. With a new PR in sight and a scenic final mile I said prayer and thanked the old gods and the new that my foot had held up so well during the race. I managed to shave off another ten minutes and clocked in at 2 hours and 4 minutes!

Couldn't have done it without my support group!
Couldn’t have done it without my support group!

We didn’t stay very long at the post race concert, headliner was Andy Grammer. My swollen right foot made the walk to the gear check seem like another mile. I definitely needed to pop a few pills, have some beers and rest in the soaking pool. I checked out the merchandise tent but found nothing new from the expo. The finisher shirt just a rehash of the earlier ones and I plan on buying a RnR Pasadena finisher shirt to commemorate my first half. Though as you can see in the photo gallery below I had a nice haul of souvenirs.


Post Race Comments

I had an amazing time at Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland but didn’t sign up for next year. Though this is only due to the timing of the race, it would be during my second semester of grad school. I highly recommend this race to anyone and especially to those who haven’t been to Portland. There are plenty of things to do before/after the race and the course is challenging. As always Competitor group put on a top class event and remains my favorite series.

3 down and 3 to go! Onward to San Diego!
3 down and 3 to go! Onward to San Diego!

Previous Posts about Race

calendar-going

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego: Half-Marathon

featured-upcoming-rrsd


Why?

As I’ve stated before, I love the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. They might have issues time to time (namely shirts/medals with their Mini marathons) but I enjoyed RnR Pasadena and RnR San Francisco. As an alum of San Diego State (GO AZTECS!) I know my way around San Diego and love the town. So when I noticed that RnR SD is their premier event I grab my Tour Pass and signed up quickly!


Expectations

The downside is that this race is near my wedding date so I might have to cancel at the last-minute if we need to get things done. I’d rather make sure things go smoothly at the wedding than run SD. If I do run it then I will have a fellow Pasadena Pacer running with me and I’m pretty sure we can hit 2:10. With every half I run I’m trying to get 5 minutes faster, seeing as how I ran 2:17 in SF and I’m shooting for 2:15 in Portland I believe 2:10 is possible for this race.


Training Schedule

With only two weeks between Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland and SD, I will not train much. I plan just take an easy 5k the weekend before and reset the week of the race.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco: Half Marathon – Recap

featured-past-rnr-sf

Recap

A few days leading up to the race I began to question if I was running for the right reason. As you can tell by my site I love logos & medals. I’m also a sucker for any type of collectible and began to believe that I enjoyed the build up to the race more than the course itself. This actually stems from the terrible Run or Dye race where I was actually happy that the race was shorter than advertised. Would this race be any different?

The start was near Ghiraredlli square, with a 7 am start it was packed by the time I walked over at 6:15 am. I did my usual stretches while I waited for Angelo to join me. The night before my mind barely let me sleep more than 3 hours and yet now I could barely stand still.

Angelo showed up around 6:30 and we started talking about what to expect along the course. A woman at the expo mentioned to him that this was one of the most challenging race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Internally I had a mini panic attack about my knee.

On the walk to the corrals, I could only think of punishment my knee was in for at the hands of the hills that lay ahead. While I wasn’t shooting for much of an improvement on my Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena time, I did want to finish ahead of the 2 hour 30 minute pacer that was in our corral.

Pre-Race:  Corral 17!
We were in Corral 17 of 25. Thankfully it wasn’t this packed throughout the course

From the get-go we were at a steady 6 mph pace. I had set the Endomondo app to give us a 10 min interval at the start, this allowed us to put some good distance between us and the rest of the corral.

The first two miles were a nice flat and wide street portion. We ran by some beautiful houses along the waterfront… which all had signs protesting a proposed restaurant on the open green. Ah SF, where even the rich are activists.

Rock On!
Rock On!

The guy above greeted us as we entered Crissy Field. This is one of my favorite spots in SF. Just beautiful open land with plenty of history. Old hangers converted into businesses. Miles of beaches just a stones throw away. Historical buildings are all over the place with plaques detailing how the air field was an important step in west coast aviation history. It also has a great path that leads to the miles of trails in the Presidio, including one that leads to the Golden Gate. Speaking of…

Mile 3 - First Hill
Within sight but first we just need to climb for two miles

At the 5k mark we finally got a nice view of the bridge. Just seeing the Golden Gate made me run a little faster…. but those hills made me walk. My knee wasn’t complaining yet but I still wanted to take it easy on hills. I hope next year I can charge up them like most of my fellow runners.

We ran (well… power walked) past several more historical sites, including the somber Presidio Pet Cemetery. A half-naked man, who I think was the flag runner at RnR Pasadena, ran past me and gave me a Pacer shout out. He did not motivate me to run any faster but the girls around us quickened their pace.

And then something happened that I had never experienced during a run… I had to go… and bad. Every step I took felt like it was shaking my bladder. I knew I couldn’t hold it until the end. Hell we weren’t even at the half way mark! Thankfully there was a porta potty near the top. We lost a few minutes standing in line but I felt so much better and made it a point to ignore the next two walk intervals.

Finally at the Bridge
Our reward for hills? A sweet 1.5 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge!

I have more shots of the bridge in the photo gallery at end of this post. Naturally we zoomed past a good chunk of people at this part. The road was wide since we were running on the bike path side. The views on the bridge were amazing so I had no hard feelings towards the walkers and photo takers.

Best Part! Running Across the Bridge
Best Part of the Race!

By this point I had found my zone. Sure I felt tired but at no point did I think about quitting or coming to a complete halt. Well… we did stop for more photos but did I mention the amazing view? No, well see below.

Best Out and Back Ever!
What an awesome view and it’s only halfway done

At the turn around we ran into the first band on the course. I don’t remember who it was as the course took precedent over the music. While I had enjoyed the bands spread throughout RnR Pasadena, I was glad they didn’t try to squeeze too many into this one. The stages would have killed the greats views. And despite the limited spaces on the course, their were plenty of aid stations along the route.

I finished off another bottle of water and ripped open a bag of chomps to fuel up for the last 6 miles. A downhill kept me from running through this part since my knee hates those with a passion so I took in the view once again.

And Back We go!
And back we go! One last picture of the bridge.

Yet another hill greeted us as we went under the bridge for the loop back. I ran up it but that was a very dumb idea since it drained quite a bit of energy. Again we ran across the entire length of the bridge. Passing people on this side was difficult since it was a narrow pedestrian only lane. Now we had the Pacific Ocean to look at and my was it a sight.

Once we got back across the bridge we started the slow descend back down to Crissy Field. This time we took a shortcut through the Battery trail. Getting off the tough concrete was a welcomed change.

Fort Point, another awesome historical site along the route, was the 10 mile marker and the last out-and-back. All that was left was a 3 mile run along the waterfront. Easy right?

The course switched back to trails along the beach and again the views were amazing. Angelo and I figured we could catch up the 2 hr 30 min pacer if we ran the rest of the course. We could see her up in the distance (she passed us during my pee break) and kicked it into high gear.

At this point, we rushed passed plenty of walkers and joggers running in the opposite direction. I guess you can’t shut trails for too long. Thankfully the trail was wide enough to handle everyone.

We eventually came to the last hill and, of course, I had to walk it. My knee wasn’t in pain but it definitely fatigued. This is where we also saw the 2 hr 30 min pacer so I power walked up that hill to pass her.

Though it also brought us to an unfortunate scene. A woman ahead of us was receiving medical treatment as she laid on the side of the path. According to the that Angelo found later in the week:

The woman was in cardiac arrest but was revived by paramedics and taken to a hospital in serious condition, the dispatcher said.

Later in the week the Rock and Roll Marathon series reached out to her and posted on theirRnR SF Facebook page:

Thank you guys for your concern. We are glad to report that the runner is recovering and still in the hospital. The family asked for privacy during this stage of recovery.

I hope she recovered from that. She was just one hill away from the finish.

I sprinted down the hill and around the bend to the start… only to realize the finish was actually about a quarter-mile from there. It took everything I had to finish that last leg.

I couldn’t spot Meghann in the crowd but the grandstands were full of people cheering and that was enough for me. I love races for their spirit. Sure they might come off as a “You’re all winners!” type of event but finishing IS a huge personal accomplishment. I was hungry, thirsty, dead tired… and I couldn’t help but smile. I chugged a bag of chocolate milk and ate a few bananas while I sat near the finish. I had just finished my second half marathon and was already looking forward to my third.

Hardest Course I've Ran and Looking Forward to SF '14!
Hardest Course I’ve Ran and Looking Forward to SF14!

I love the medal, shirt, pint glass and all the other souvenirs I picked up that weekend but the parts that will always stay with me are ones that I can’t share. Like the cool breeze along the bridge while running at full speed. After running this beautiful and challenging course I can safely say that I love the sport.

Onward to Portland!
Signed up for 2014 but for now… Onward to Portland!

Post Race Comments

The course was so amazing that I signed up for the 2014 edition. With a racer cap of a few thousand and a $20 discount, early registration was a no-brainer. I loved every part of the course, yes even the hills, and really hope they don’t change it too much for next year. It had just the right amount of bands, aid stations, and cheer squads. They were there when you needed them and faded away in time to take in the sights.

Speaking of sights, this weekend totally changed my view of the city! I had only been to San Francisco once before and it was less than ideal. Meghann and I went during a holiday weekend and the areas we visited were all tourist traps that were well over capacity. Thankfully this time around we decided to check out the other parts of the city. The day before we hiked around the Presidio of San Francisco and got a nice course preview. As you can tell from the course map above, this race took place on the northern coast of the city which lead to a nice long run along the waterfront. It was a welcomed escape from the touristy part of SF.


Previous Posts about Race

Where I’m Going

PDX To Coast

featured-bucket-pdx


Why?

I love Portland and the Oregon coast so why not run from one to another? The upside is that I would be part of a team and the mileage can be an easy 7mi split into two parts. The downside is I would need to find a team. I doubt I can convince many of my friends or grab a big enough group from the Pacers to form one. Despite these challenges I will keep tabs on this race and I vow to run it!


When?

Could be two years from now or 10. It doesn’t matter. I. Will. Run. It!


How Awesome?

bar-awesomeness-level-5
Running from my favorite town in the pacific northwest to the gorgeous Oregon coast would be amazing no matter what leg of the relay I pick.

How Difficult?

bar-difficulty-level-5
Running from my favorite town in the pacific northwest to the gorgeous Oregon coast would be really fucking difficult no matter what leg of the relay I pick.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland: Half-Marathon

Featured-Upcoming-Race-RRP


Why?

I love Portland and I’ve made it a goal to run a race in each of my favorite cities. I started the list in my earlier post on the Conquer the Bridge post. I also plan on making this my Bachelor run since it takes place a few months before my wedding. I figure I can get a few friends to join me, drink a few beers Friday night and have a nice hearty dinner on Saturday before they cheer me on. It also gives me an excuse to stay at the McMenamin’s in downtown Portland, and yes I am a fanboy of that chain.


Expectations

This will be my second half marathon so I will have a time to beat. I would like to think that a few more weeks of training would let me shave a few minutes off from my first half. But to be honest, I’m going to just take in the view since I’ll be running across a few bridges and through a town that might be my future home.


Training Schedule

Note: I’m using the Pasadena Pacers 13 week beginners program

Week of – Target Miles – Accomplished?
2/23 thru 4/6 – Training for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco!
4/13 – 10 – No, best I could manage was 4.73 of Hills
4/20 – 11 – Yes but in three events. One with Pacers, Autism Walk and Unity 5k Run.
4/27 – 10 – No, best was 6.70 of hills
5/04 – 12 – No, only ran 10.
5/11 – 6
5/19 – RACE DAY!


Training Totals

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco: Half-Marathon


Why?

As I previously posted in the Conquer the Bridge post, I love bridges and want to race across them when I get the chance. I don’t really love San Francisco but this would give me a chance to explore a bit more of the city. A friend of mine lives in Japantown so hopefully he can show me that part of town. Here is an update on the Bridge list:


Expectations

This will be my second half-marathon so I will see how I set the bar in Pasadena. Since this would be the first of 3 in the same amount of months, I don’t want to push myself too much. I just want to take in the sights and enjoy the weekend.


Training Schedule

Note: I’m using the Pasadena Pacers 13 week beginners program

Week of – Target Miles – Accomplished?
12/29 thru 2/17 – Training for Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena: Half-Marathon!
2/23 – 9 – No… knee recovering from RnR Pasadena
3/02 – 10 – YES! But in two days, 5.6 and 5.4.
3/09 – 11 – No… but logged 8 miles over two days
3/16 – 10 – No… knee didn’t like the previous run
3/23 – 12 – Y.. No… but logged 14 miles for the week
3/30 – 6 –
4/07 – RACE DAY!

Training Totals

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas: Half-Marathon

Featured-Bucket-Race-RRLV


Course Description:

A rockin’ mix of running and live entertainment will ROCK the Vegas Strip once again at the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon.


Why?

Any race that shuts down a part of a major city is definitely a draw for me. Being able to run through the strip would be amazing. It could also be my first night race. Also gives me another excuse to visit Vegas!


When?

This one I am hoping will be my holiday 2013 race. The race price is pretty high, lowest is $115, but I can offset it by staying at a hotel like Harrah’s Casino or South Point.
*UPDATE* Booked for 2013! Race is November 17th!


How Awesome?

bar-awesomeness-level-5
It’s fucking Vegas! Need I say more?

How Difficult?

bar-difficulty-level-3
Flat course but would be during the beginning of winter out in the desert and it would be a night.

Catalina Island: Half-Marathon

Featured-Bucket-Race-CIHM


Why?

I’ve never been to Catalina and what a better way to see the island than to run to the top and have a look around? It appears to be a grueling course but I would also get to see bison! Maybe I should also start up another list of places to run… I did, after all, start up a Bridge List. Perhaps other islands? Or geographical features list?


When?

Maybe 2015. The cost of the race itself isn’t too bad but the hotel and ferry to Catalina would add up to a ~$400-600. A very steep price to pay for a race. It is also around the same time as other destination races I want to do. This one might stay in my Bucket Race list for a few years.


How Awesome?

bar-awesomeness-level-4
Running on an island would be checked off list and possibility of seeing bison!

How Difficult?

bar-difficulty-level-5
They openly state that this will be the most challenging half in your life… there is no elevation chart for this race but other Catalina ones are listed around 3-5k gains. This. Is. Serious trail running.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin: Half-Marathon

Featured-Bucket-Race-RRD


Why?

Meghann loves Ireland and I’ve never been so we could definitely make a nice getaway out of this race. Running in my first international race would also be a great time.


When?

I’m thinking 2014, I could try to tie in our one year wedding anniversary.  Still, the cost might keep us from going.


How Awesome?

bar-awesomeness-level-5
Would be first international race AND running through a historic city… also would be entitled to an awesome medal.

How Difficult?

bar-difficulty-level-3
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon changes the course quite often during the first few iterations so I am not sure what to expect by the time I can get out there.