The day was finally here. Not even race day, but travel day off to Portland, Oregon for our race. Of course, even though we were just going to another state, where we could presumably buy anything we really needed, I still had a bit of stress about forgetting something. Needless to say, I overpacked clothes, socks and GUs/snacks. We had been training for what seemed like forever; I didn’t want something like a forgotten sock or shirt to be the reason it didn’t go as well as it could have!
We hung around Portland for a couple of days and organized our logistics. We were both running it and hadn’t thought to invite anyone along to help us during the race. There would be check points, but as it was really being run as a relay amongst teams of 6-10 people, there was only hydration at certain checkpoints and no one was really expected to overdo themselves…except for us. It is two women who organize and run the race, though they have volunteers and others who work with/for them. We had no idea how big or small it would be until we got there.
Huge win! Apparently, we were going to be able to give the hydration squad a bag with some stuff in it, that they would bring to some of the check points for us?! So great! We just had to plan what to have in the bag—what would we not be worried about losing if something happened to the bag, how could we keep some of it cool, what to keep with us in case something happened to the bag, etc.
Jon picked an amazing AirBnB with a sauna. We ACTUALLY used it in the days leading up to the race. We were warming our muscles, rolling & recovering them, making sure not to overuse them. Unfortunately, that meant all the beautiful hiking available to us was really unavailable. We did drive out to see Mt. Hood and talk about the hiking we’d like to do someday. We mostly bobbed around different neighborhoods in Portland; visited the Japanese and Rose gardens, the market and ate some great food.
The day of the race finally arrived and we were up and at ‘em! We had to drive our rental car to the finish line where we’d leave it all day. We had ordered an Uber to pick us up at the park serving as the finish area, at 5:25am. It was pitch black. What if it didn’t show? There were a million reasons for it not to show! It was 5:25am in the suburbs! Who asks to get picked up at that time? At a park? We had no back up plan. So, we just hustled getting ready, eating breakfast and getting on our way.
Luckily, an amazing Uber driver did arrive…and early! She waited for us as we arrived. Turned out that it was perfect for her as our drop off location was right near her house at the end of her shift. She was delightful and helped distract from the challenge we were about to face. She talked about the fires that had happened in the areas in the recent few years and the landscape we’d likely get to see over the course of the race.
An hour later we were at the starting area. And there were other people there! Don’t ask me why, but I had also been highly concerned something would get seriously messed up and no one would be there. We got our swag and met the women who would help us out along the race. It was confirmed that we could indeed give one of them a bag that they would bring to the hydration check points for us. Score!! It was a cool day. Typically I wouldn’t be thrilled, but it felt like heaven after all that training we had done in the hot & humid New Jersey summer. There were real bathrooms to use prior to the race and we had plenty of time to stretch and warm up.
I felt like I started to relax a little. Everyone was so helpful and there was such a sense of camaraderie, that I felt back at home in my running community. Jon seemed to get a bit more nervous, as if he had actually been hoping something would be messed up and we wouldn’t actually have to try to run all these miles.
It was time for the first heat to line up for take off! Jon was smart and put us near the back of the pack. I had forgotten that not everyone was running all the miles we were! They did announce to the group that there were three of us running the course as an ultra. It seemed really nice at the time.
Off we went. Jon is our pacer. I can get too caught up in the excitement and I’m so not used to running in the front that I often mistake his regular footsteps for ones that want me to go faster. Right from the get-go the scenery was amazing. Absolutely gorgeous. I think it helped relax Jon a little; it certainly helped me. I didn’t hesitate to slow down or even pause quickly to take pics. We had MILES and HOURS ahead of us; I wasn’t going to rush through it. That had been my biggest regret of the two marathons I’d run. Philly was literally a blur. I had done it in prep for NY the next year and, as such, just focused on surviving. I didn’t take in the crowd, the atmosphere, the music or Philly itself. I did a tiny bit better at the start of NY, but even in that race I didn’t take as many pics as I wanted, didn’t slow down to take in the views we were lucky to be getting from our feet. In the end, I didn’t even get the time I wanted, which was what made me acutely aware of how important enjoying this race and experience was, as it was happening.
I felt good that there was one runner behind us and we could see a couple in front of us. God willing, if we could keep that going on for the entire race, we would be in GREAT shape! At the second check point I needed to use the bathroom. There was a line. One of the volunteers came over and asked those in front of me if I could go ahead, as I was running it as an ultra. They were all amazing and super supportive, let me go ahead. They wished us lots of luck and said they’d love to check on us later in the race. Do I ever love the running community! It had been over 2 years since I had been in it like this. I had sort of forgotten why I had loved the Ragnar’s soooo damn much!
We headed off into the first trail portion of the race. Others went cruising past us, but we were ok with that. It was quite steep and we did fast walk/hike a good portion of it. We knew the course had just a few BIG hills, which we had planned to walk, at least upfront in the race, to conserve our energy. There were enough flat, lower incline miles for us to stretch ourselves on.
Not only was it quite steep in places, it was also quite technical. We were in our road shoes and both of us are much more used to running that type of terrain in different shoes. I, of course, was particularly nervous about twisting an ankle or falling and was extra careful (and slow). There were some ledges that I would have considered “yikes” even if we had just been hiking the trail, never mind trying to run it. It was about 6 miles like this and we couldn’t wait to get out, back on the road. We probably should have done more trail running in our training, but we had thought it would be easier, less technical, given that it was in the middle of a road race.
We came out of the trail to the first hydration station. We grabbed our first bagel, some fresh and cold flavored water. I had wanted to roll out my legs with the roller and leave my long sleeve shirt, since it had warmed up, but Jon was charged up and didn’t take to people cheering us on & making conversation, like I did. We rushed through the check point and it wasn’t long before I was all in my head, freaking out. I was totally thrown that we had rushed through that checkpoint, which was making my anxious brain hit overdrive about how awful the rest of the race could go. My heart and mind were racing. I tried to calm myself down while we were running, but at the top of a long climb, I had to pause to catch myself. I had to take a bunch of deep breaths and get out of my head. We walked for a bit as I came back into the present and my body.
Off we went again! It seemed like we were at mile 16 in no time! I sent my dad a text and some pics. Cruising! Again, the scenery really helped. The lake and mountains were beautiful. We felt good on the road. We weren’t alone. Some people were passing us, probably from the second heat, but we were also passing others. Cars were going by and honking their support. I was in heaven! We hit another hydration checkpoint. We slowed this one down, perhaps a little too much. It seemed like we were now some of the last people going through the checkpoint; not the last, but near the end. The woman with our bag warned she wouldn’t see us for about 9 miles or so. I actually thought it would be quite a bit more than that, but was trying not to over think it. Even here, even though our legs were getting tired & sore, we were still in pretty good spirits.
A couple of miles later, in the early 20s at this point, we headed into the last trail section. If we thought the first trail section was hard, we hadn’t seen anything! Normally, I love getting lost in nature and its isolation. On this day though, it was hard. I missed the scenery from the road, the cars going by with support, the people. Both of us took a few turns on our feet and Jon’s started to really annoy him. We did a lot of walking, a lot more than we’d anticipated. Again, there were parts that I would have considered “yikes!” even if we’d just been hiking it. There were ledges that made me nervous, it was rocky and it was often out in the sun. We really could not wait to get back on the road. Which never seemed to come.
I progressively became more and more nervous about Jon. He seemed to be in quite a bit of pain which didn’t help his spirits at all. There were so few people, at some points we weren’t even sure we were on the right trail! Of course, that had me worried sick! We just kept going. That’s one thing about not knowing where you are that did serve us; we really had no choice but to just keep going forward on the path in front of us and hope we were going the right way.
Nearer to the end, Jon jumped and paused. I tried my best not to look but thought I could have seen a snake sneak off on the side. I decided to ignore it. I didn’t ask any questions and pretended he was just being safe & silly. There was definitely no snake on this path! I had no choice. Freaking out was not an option and there was nowhere to jump to or hide. I had to continue. Later, Jon would admit that it was a snake and he did his best to hide it from me to keep me from freaking out. That is definitely love.
Eventually, we got to the touristy area, where we knew the road was waiting for us. We were met by a fabulous volunteer. We sat on the sidewalk and had some snacks. We had some water. We were deciding what to do next. Did we have any more in us? The woman was super encouraging, telling us we could totally finish. It felt really nice and supportive at the time.
I said I wanted to see if I could keep going. The next leg was just over a 5K without any real inclines. The leg after that was the steep one. I wanted to use this next leg to see what I really had left in me. I figured if I couldn’t handle 3 “easy” miles, I would have to call it. Jon agreed to go with me. Because it was only 3 miles and we didn’t know what we’d do next, I didn’t bother too much with refilling my hydration. I figured I had enough to get me through the next leg; if I didn’t, then that would mean I definitely needed to call it quits.
As we headed off, I felt better being on the road. I was also rejuvenated at the thought of maybe finishing the race! That volunteer had really gotten in my head! We were at mile 32, so there were still 18ish left! Then, Jon’s phone started ringing and said I was calling him. I had left my phone back at the check point!! There was terrible service, so Jon wasn’t really able to talk to the people, just maybe answer it. I raced off back to the checkpoint to get it. I left Jon where we were, since his legs were bothering him. It seemed like miles and I was hauling ass. Some wonderful person had found my phone! I didn’t want them to leave with it or leave it somewhere! Delay us further! Finally, I got back where I could at least see where we were. A glorious older couple had my phone. They had seen Jon & I on the sidewalk with our packs, seen us running before the checkpoint. Amazing!!! So lucky!! I thanked them so much and then ran back to Jon. Again, kind of hauling ass to get back to him so he didn’t start to freak. I had sent a text, but I knew because of the lack of service, he may not have gotten it. I didn’t want him doing more mileage than he had to.
Once again, we were off together. Considering I’d run an extra half mile or so, I was still in good spirits. Unfortunately, Jon’s feet/legs were bothering him quite a bit. He felt that I had a bit more gas in the tank and so encouraged me to go ahead, to see what I could do. He said he was super proud of me. I made sure he was physically ok to finish this leg at least, where the volunteer would be to give him a ride if he needed it. He said yes.
Off I went. I found my music and my rhythm. I felt great.
And then I felt like I was lost. The markers weren’t clear and I couldn’t tell from the map which way I was supposed to go. I was running around when I could start to see Jon. I yelled/screamed to him and asked what he thought; he confirmed that he thought this was the correct way. I kept plugging along. All of a sudden the volunteer was honking at me and rolling down her window. She asked how I was doing. She said that all the volunteers had gone to the finish line and thus the hydration stations were shut down. I was out of water and we didn’t have any to refill our packs with. If I continued, I’d have to do 12ish miles on no water. I was really thirsty. She wanted to put me in her car and grab Jon. I said, “I really wanted to do at least 40 miles. I’m at 38. Can I do 2 more before I get in the car? I’ll just keep running straight until it’s done?” She agreed. I was so thankful.
I have no idea where I found it, but I found some extra gas in the tank and took off. I knew I was holding people up and I knew I only had 2 miles left. At one point the watch said I was running at a sub 9 minute mile. I’m sure I didn’t keep the pace for long, but still! We had been running a 9:30/10 minute pace for the entire race, when we were running, not when we were walking of course. It felt good. It also made me sad that I wouldn’t get to finish. I mean, I was full out of water. No drops left. I had snacks but I needed water. I was thirsty and had nothing left. Jon also thought there was more than just 12 miles left.
I finished the two and got into the volunteer’s car where Jon was also waiting for me. Unfortunately, he’d gotten some upsetting news when he’d finally gotten good service. So, while he made sure to tell me how proud he was of me, we were not basking in all our glory. We continued chatting with the volunteer until we got to our car. We basically fell out of her sedan and slowly climbed into our rented Jeep. I drove us to the AirBnB where we had the most glorious shower ever. We ordered pizza, which was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had; which probably says a lot about my hunger, since the best pizza is really on the East Coast(or in Italy).
In the end, I did 40.07 miles in 9 hours, 2 minutes and 12 seconds. The average pace was 13:32, not bad considering the stops and walking. Am I disappointed I didn’t get the full 50? Not really. We may try again in a few years! The entire process, especially the training had been the gold. We had pushed ourselves so hard during the training; getting up at god knows what time, missing plans, only eating certain things, holding back on fun that required energy we needed for running. We made a great go of it. We both ran more miles than we’d ever run before. The race, in my opinion, was a beautiful end to that with its gorgeous scenery, fabulous atmosphere and showing us how much more we are capable of.