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Race Report: Cascade Half Marathon

January 18, 2011

SBS and Sheila (in red) sporting the latest in "drowned rat" chic (note the "Are my kids still chasing me?" RLAM tee!)

January in Oregon: The scenario doesn’t scream ideal racing conditions. Yet for the past three years that I’d run the Cascade Half, the weather gods were fairly kind. Well, we must have worn out our weather-karma, as Sunday was crummy, bordering on horrific. It was raining when I picked up my sometimes-running partner Sheila. I joked we had to stop racing together as last time we had—Portland Marathon—it had poured buckets. On the bright side (relatively speaking!), the temp was in the mid-50’s, ideal for racing.

The rain tapered off on the 70-minute drive south to the race, so we were feeling pretty good about things when we arrived…until I stepped out of the car. The car door was nearly ripped out of my hand by the ceaseless wind whipping across the open farmland. The day before, I had decided my race-goal was sub-1:50, but there in the parking lot, I stuck my head back in the car to tell Sheila, “Revised goal: I’m happy if I break two hours.”

It was an out-and-back course through exposed acreage, offering no protection from the elements. The rain picked up moments before an official called the start. As I dodged puddles, my left heel (my, ahem, Achilles heel) announced that it was back to hurting after a few days of silence. Sheila and I started next to each other, but she quickly moved ahead (we had no plans to run together). From personal fly-and-die experience, I knew I’d be doomed if I started too fast so I stuck to my plan of easing in with an 8:30-8:45 pace. With the wind at my back—gently, it felt—it felt easy and enjoyable. I mean, I’d done plenty of training runs in the rain, so I was no stranger to soggy. Ever the optimist, I even told myself we might enjoy a moderate cross-wind the entire time.

Blue-capped Sheila stayed within my sights until my planned gel/drink break at mile 4. After I resumed running, a shorter, grey-haired man appeared alongside of me. I soon sensed he was tucking himself next to me, not intending to pass. Under the pewter sky, with sideways rain lashing us, it felt comforting to have this older gentleman at my side. Nearing the halfway point, I pulled out an earbud and semi-shouted, “I don’t know if you’re doing it on purpose, but I like having you running next to me.” I let him know I planned on walking for a gel after the halfway point, and he told me he was, too. Ours was a mismatch made in heaven!

As we pushed toward the eight- and nine-mile markers, it was hard to tell who was pulling whom, me or my new friend, Johan. We even silently formed a triumvirate with a wiry-haired woman. Johan and I didn’t speak, but we seemed to pick up the pace together to overtake a red-jacketed guy, then a man in blue shorts. Johan looked at his watch and finally spoke, asking what our goal was. I told him I might try for under 1:50, but that sub-2 [hours] was the more realistic goal. “Unless the wheels fall off the bus, we’ve totally got that,” I said. He replied, “Yeah, but the wheels are starting to squeak a bit.”

Oh, yeah, they were. The mile markers felt like they were getting further and further apart—which I know was a cruel illusion—and the wind seemed to be getting stronger, which, alas, was reality. Adding insult to injury, the rain picked up, too. Johan continued on while I walked to suck back my third gel. Right before mile 10 I remembered I had a secret weapon in my AmphipodJolt Caffeinated Gum. I’d chewed two pieces at the start, and now tossed two more in my mouth. My stomach lurched a bit, but I felt my energy level pick up…until I hit the wall of wind near mile 11. It was cruelly unrelenting for the final miles of the race. I lost sight of Johan, and about a dozen runners past me. Over the usually sure-fire sounds of Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas, I shouted, “Good finish” and “Way to work through the wind” to each of them.

Sheila’s soaked-but-smiling face greeted me at the finish line, and Johan was there to shake my hand. Sheila had an awesome race, finishing in 1:48, and Johan ended up winning third in his age group (men’s 65-70, thus my “mismatched” comment earlier!). I came in well under my revised goal—my Garmin read 1:53:55 (the race is not chip timed). Given the conditions, I felt pretty good about my time, especially when I heard that some half-marathoners called friends to pick them up on the course instead of finishing the race.

Only time I didn’t feel good post-race? About a half an hour later, while I was chatting with some friends (including RLAMer Lara, who smoked the course in 1:37:39!!), I suddenly felt super-queasy. Excusing myself, I stepped outside and proceeded to hurl. Repeatedly. The rain beat down on my back, and I had to laugh. When a stranger asked if I needed anything, I said between upchucks, “No, I just feel like I’m in a Monty Python skit.”

45 Comments leave one →
  1. Deby permalink
    January 18, 2011 5:37 am

    As I lay here in bed trying to force myself to get up for a run, your determination inspires me. Congrats on pushing through when the going got really tough!!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 18, 2011 8:17 am

      I feel honored, Deby, that I helped get you up and out today. Thank you. (Now I just hope you don’t curse me while you’re out there!)

  2. January 18, 2011 5:38 am

    Way to stick with it and not quit! And come in well under 2 hours as well. I’m inspired!

  3. January 18, 2011 5:46 am

    “How do you know she’s a witch?”

    Well done, Champy!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 18, 2011 8:18 am

      It wasn’t quite twister weather…wind was more straight on than swirly! “;>)

  4. January 18, 2011 5:52 am

    As I lay here in bed trying to force myself to get up for a run, your determination inspires me. Congrats on pushing through when the going got really tough!!

  5. Ann permalink
    January 18, 2011 6:02 am

    Hey Sarah,

    Just wanted to send a quick note to let you know that this morning I was your 1,000 twitter follower! Great job on the half and great job reaching 1,000. I wish I had that many people interested in me 🙂

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 18, 2011 8:19 am

      Thanks for the follow. Love that you noticed…and thank you!! What’s your @ handle?

  6. Jenny permalink
    January 18, 2011 6:37 am

    Way to brave the weather and finish hard!

    Just read you have 1,000 followers, too! Woo hoo!

  7. January 18, 2011 7:02 am

    Great job in crappy conditions!! Definitely inspiring me to get out and get my run done this morning!

  8. January 18, 2011 7:13 am

    Awesome report Sarah! I’m looking forward to getting back to racing post Baby Dos. You definitely inspire me.

  9. JillC permalink
    January 18, 2011 7:16 am

    Good job on getting it done. The wind and rain would have totally freaked me out. I get nervous enough in good weather!

  10. January 18, 2011 7:16 am

    Way to push thru the elements and to end on a high note with a strong hurl!

  11. Megan permalink
    January 18, 2011 8:03 am

    Nice report Sarah and congrats on finishing a tough element race. So glad you had some friendly distractions along the way, I love how complete strangers can be push/pull partners and they were lucky to pick you! Very impressed with you never-ending determination to do it better and if I tweeted, I’d tweet to the moutain tops ‘Way to RUN LIKE A BADA## MOTHER!!’

  12. Jenny C. permalink
    January 18, 2011 8:10 am

    Congrats! Way to persevere through tough conditions. What do you think made you hurl? The gum or just a combination of everything?

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:18 pm

      It was most definitely the caffeine in the gum. I don’t drink or eat caffeine–just save it for special occasions like tempo runs and races. I felt my stomach turn almost immediately after I started chewing it, but I usually have a strong stomach so hoped it would pass. Uh, nope.

  13. Kristen F permalink
    January 18, 2011 8:10 am

    That last line made me spit out my coffee. way to go! Great job BAMR!

    • Jules permalink
      January 18, 2011 9:42 am

      Me too!!!

      • bowenshea permalink*
        January 20, 2011 3:19 pm

        I trust you clicked on link to watch the Monty Python skit?! A classic, to be sure.

  14. January 18, 2011 8:31 am

    Johan nailed it on the head when he said that “the wheels were starting to squeak a bit”. I’ve heard that squeak and felt it many times! ; )

    Great race! I’m hoping to break two hours with my next half marathon in April.

  15. Tryna permalink
    January 18, 2011 8:43 am

    Thanks for the inspiration on a fairly typical Oregon morning. Makes me want to sign up….maybe.

  16. loppypop permalink
    January 18, 2011 9:44 am

    I laughed out loud at the last sentence – and then I questioned if I really want to set myself up for something like that — I’m toying with the idea of going couch to 1/2 Marathon by Sept 4th. (And because I’m a bit crazy right now the answer is still Yes!) I hike 3-4 miles 6 times a week with the dog (come hell or high snow) so I’m not completely couch bound, but running hasn’t happened to this body for many, many. It’s going to get interesting!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:20 pm

      Go for it, Loppypop!! You have plenty of time to take your training slow and steady. I puked b/c of the caffeinated gum, not the exertion. Half marathon is the perfect challenge, in my opinion. Frequent our Facebook page for constant inspiration from other moms, too.

  17. sarah permalink
    January 18, 2011 10:33 am

    You give the best post-race reports! You totally captured the day. It was great to see you, so sorry about the puking. My BRF Heidi was on the edge all day, entertaining but sucky. So glad I had a race and buddy to run with or else I wouldn’t have gone out for all 13.1 miles on a yucky day.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:22 pm

      Thanks, Other Sarah. It’s always so delightful to see you. You say such dear things–During the race, I chuckled about your, “if it’s Sarah-endorsed, I get it!” comment about Yur Buds.

  18. Brent Fredeickson permalink
    January 18, 2011 12:14 pm

    Hi Sarah:

    It was nice to meet you on Saturday, when you returned you did not look like you were hurting much – you were keeping it together well,
    things must have changed after I packed up and left…

    Several people came over to our table and said this was the toughest race in quite a while for them ( if not the toughest ever, due to the weather conditions )and with the last mile or so into the wind was about the final straw.

    See you there next year if not at another event during the year…I attend several events with the I.C.E. Bands, if you see me at an event sometime please stop and say hello…

    I sent a message to Heidi & Buddy that we shared a table at the run,
    perfect example of when people say ” small world ”

    Take care, Brent

  19. January 18, 2011 2:29 pm

    Good job, Sarah, running so well in such crappy weather. I’m going to run on over to Twitter and follow you!

  20. January 18, 2011 4:27 pm

    I was 2 Garmin minutes behind you! Your report perfectly described the course and conditions. Way to get that sub 2….I wonder what we could have achieved without the wind at the end!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:24 pm

      Kim–
      At long last I plugged my Garmin into the computer (I know, how pathetic is that?!). It was *staggering* how my times slowed down in those final miles. Sure, some of it was due to lack of juice in legs…but the wind played a big part. Like I was clicking off 8:24s and such…then there was like an 11-minute mile from mile 11 to 12. Oy!

  21. Rosemary permalink
    January 18, 2011 5:13 pm

    Good for you for sticking it out, and meeting your time goal! When I heard the rain Sunday morning I was even more glad I’d gotten my long run in on Saturday. I’m thinking about doing a half in Vancouver in late Feb — hope the weather is more cooperative!!!

  22. Danielle permalink
    January 18, 2011 7:09 pm

    Enjoyed reading your race recap. Your last sentence cracked me up. Hope Mother Nature brings her good stuff for your next race.

  23. Elaine permalink
    January 18, 2011 7:21 pm

    OH I’m so sorry about the weather but it secretly made me happy. I was signed up to do that race but at the last minute couldn’t do it (funds and a little cold) I was really bummed to miss it but maybe I didn’t miss too much!! Would have loved to see you though. Thanks for the recap!

  24. Lara permalink
    January 18, 2011 7:45 pm

    Hey Sarah! Thanks for the shout out! I so appreciate your recap of the race. I felt like I ran it with you. Oh wait, I did, and it was exactly as you described it. It was a soul-crusher, for sure. Turns out my official time was 1:37:40. I was 40 seconds way from qualifying for the NYC marathon. Dammit. Next time.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:25 pm

      You are my IDOL, Lara! I’ve been bragging about you to everyone–“her youngest kid is only 2 years old, yet she ran 1:37 in those crummy conditions!!”

      It all seems like a distant memory now!

  25. Lara permalink
    January 18, 2011 7:45 pm

    BTW, LOVED Sheila.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:26 pm

      Yeah, she’s awesome. I was sorta envious of all you fun gals carpooling home.

  26. January 18, 2011 7:48 pm

    Wow! Despite those conditions, you still managed a 1:53! Fantastic! The hurling made it complete! Way to go!

  27. January 18, 2011 9:14 pm

    You are always sure to inspire me!! Way to go despite the crappy conditions!

  28. January 18, 2011 9:40 pm

    Ahh, the great Columbia Gorge winds? 😉 You rock Mrs. SBS!

  29. Julie Weidner permalink
    January 18, 2011 9:45 pm

    Congratulations! I loved reading your post race report too! Very inspiring as well!!!!

  30. January 18, 2011 10:57 pm

    SBS, that is one badass time with those conditions. Your ‘mismatch’ made me laugh! Congrats to him on his AG award! Just awesome. Sorry about the ‘hurl’ but it makes the story that much better. Congrats!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:31 pm

      Even as it was happening–since I knew it was just a passing puke-session–I thought, “oh, this will make a great ending to blog post!”

  31. January 19, 2011 6:12 pm

    Bloggers don’t make enough Monty Python references, I tell you! Thanks for throwing that in there – totally made me laugh. And way to push through and rock your time 🙂

    • bowenshea permalink*
      January 20, 2011 3:30 pm

      I am one of those idiotic (or annoying, depending on your perspective) people who cracks themselves up. Honestly, as I was hurling I was laughing and thinking of Monty Python. So of course I had to link to the skit in the post. I mean, come on: It’s so incongruous on our blog. I’m so pleased it was appreciated. “:>)

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