The 15th Annual Cascade Half Marathon was not just another half marathon. It was a rebirth of sorts – a recommitment to running in the new year. I made some loft goals for my running life in 2014 which will provide a physical and mental challenge as well as figuring a way to balance family and work (both most important) with my running playtime. This was the first real hurdle.Last year, I had similarly lofty goals that went widely unrealized due to a significant set back in January. Sure, I ended up completing my first marathon and triathlon in 2013, but for 2.5 months in late January and early February, I was laid up with a bad bout of Achilles tendonitis. Shoot, I think I posted about it in every post for the first 6 months of 2013 (sorry about that!)
While this year’s event was my second running, it was the first one I actually enjoyed. Let me clarify. As you can see from the 2013 recap, it wasn’t anything about the course or race itself that was unenjoyable. Far from it actually. This is one of the best run “big” events I have run. They seem to have the timing of the race down solidly (10k awards are finishing up just as the first half marathoners are finishing so that the shorter distance runners don’t have to wait forever) and offer a wide array of perks (warm pre and post-race areas, indoor restrooms, yummy yet simple food, etc).
My lack of enjoyment was due to my own stupidity of struggling through the 2013 event on an injured Achilles. It was the first of 2 races I ran in consecutive weeks that eventually left me laid up and set back. While I ran a surprisingly decent time las year, I never got to experience the quietness and rural secluded nature of the race. Honestly, I was too preoccupied with swallowing my pain to really even do much except yearn and pray for the finish line.
Needless to say, this year’s event lived up to the re-hype I had assigned to it. It was my chance to enjoy and reconquer the race on my own terms. While the temperature was still cold (low-mid 30’s), I believe the 2013 was even colder.But the most important part was that it was dry. I will take cold and dry any day instead of trudging through a driving rain. The race began, as it does every year, at Cascade High School. My energy and excitement was revved up knowing that I was amongst some of the quickest runners in the Valley and state. There were also quite a few Run Oregon bloggers on site (Annette & Teresa), as well as both Kelly’s and Tina’s husbands.
We quickly took off onto the extremely quiet paved country roads cutting through the rural farmland. The only unfortunate part was that, due to the thick fog, it limited the view of the surrounding countryside. While it did burn off (a little) during the last half of the course, it was still a hazy, gray atmosphere overall. That’s the thing about the Cascade Half- you just never know what weather you are gonna get!
With the remembrance of last year’s injury fresh in my mind, it was my goal to keep things relatively easy and not get crazy in the cold weather. My only real goal was to beat last year’s injury-aided time. I have a full slate of half marathons and other events in plan and didn’t want to screw it up. BUt I found myself quickly settling into a comfortable pace for me (about 7:35/mi) and determined that this would accomplish both of my goals for the day.
As this was my first half since the 2013 Silver Falls Half in early November, I was a tad concerned how my stamina and long-term pacing would hold up. What REALLY helped was finding that there was a woman who was seriously running at the exact same pace as me. After a few miles of consistent pacing, I decided that I could use her as a gauge to keep me honest. And, without her even knowing it, I became her shadow for 12 of the 13 miles on the day. We literally never strayed more than 10 feet from each other for the entire time, until she put in a very solid kick to the finish and I decided to stay on my target pace.
The course itself was simple and straightforward. Active and cheerful volunteers (despite the temperature) were manning the “significant” turns and intersections with gusto and words of encouragement. Water station helpers were great, though some may argue that an extra water station may be warranted. The final straightaway in the parking lot of the high school left me feeling whole and complete and ready to tackle the rest of 2014 head on.
If you have never ran this race before, do NOT hesitate to sign up for 2015. It gets your January started off right – God knows you can’t crash and burn over the holidays and have a successful half in January. It is also cheap in the realm of half marathons ($45 for race, food, medal, and long-sleeved tech shirt). Couple those with a well-organized and established event, and you have a fantastic racing experience. It is easy to see why this was voted the 2013 Run Oregon Best Road Half Marathon. I’m just glad my body let me enjoy it this time around!
Check out the full results here.