Saturday, March 25, 2006

March Mudness Half Marathon - Portland, OR

This race is held in the heart of the Hoyt Arboretum in downtown Portland. Its a great setting, as these are some of the best inner city trails I've ever seen. Its about three and a half miles from the center of the city. Next year I'll try to just run to the start from my hotel and not rent a car.

Packet pickup is at the finish line at the top of the hill in the arboretum, across from the gift shop. They were giving out beautiful green fleece jackets embroidered with the race logo on the back to all participants. Its pretty stunning - I've never quite heard of such schwag at an inexpensive race.

The start is down the hill near their Vietnam Memorial. We ran out on the road for about a half mile before turning left onto the trail. Great singletrack almost from the start. A moderate climb for most of the way. But plenty of mud on the downhills. My worn racing flats (which were sufficient at the first two races of the year) were not really suited to the surface. I probably should have known better ("March Mudness" right?), and even had my beloved Sportiva Exum Ridges in the car just in case. Things had just looked dry to me.

Anyway, I felt great, and pumped up the slopes just fine, up until the turnaround of the out and back course (where there was only water - good thing I had some gel packets). I was in sixth with the next three runners up just ahead in reeling distance. At this point it became mostly downhill and I just could not hang with my ballet slippers on. I got passed by Joe Rowley about half a mile after the turnaround. He stayed in sight but I knew I wouldn't be catching him on the downhill. My only hope was the snatches of uphill that would come up near the end.

After a few more miles I stopped at the aid station that was near the end to chug a quick Red Bull. I was passed by Jenny Knight as I stood there. On the uphill I passed her again, and as we went back downhill she passed me again, and we continued trading places on the ascents and descents. Finally with about a mile to go we came to an intersection (just after seeing the race director at one of the turns) with two ways to go. We had no idea which way to go. There were some vaguely placed tiny orange flags at ground level, but that was little help. So we shouted out "which way" until the race director walked out and clarified it. There were a few other vague intersections, but we eventually figured out that the tiny orange flags were direction markers and finished on the uphill, the only thing that let me come in a few seconds before her.

I was the second masters male in 1:50. The second place finish should earn me 39.3 Trophy Series points. There was a decent postrace feed and nice people. I'll be back next year.


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