After a quick curve around the parking lot, we hit the streets and jetted eastward on some quiet side streets. At about a mile and a half, my “mantra” seemed like it was going to be proved wrong as I was running at about a 7:15 min/mi clip and feeling solid. Teresa passed me around mile 1.75 – so we were both ahead of our games. Mile two spit us onto the sidewalk on Highway 47, looping us back around westerly. The pace was quick, probably quicker than it should have been, but the terrain was flat and the energy was high!
The lone “complaint” I had of the race (actually – it’s more of a suggestion and a simple fix) is the 10k and half marathon split. 10k runners were supposed to continue straight while half marathoners took the turn to the left to add some distance. There were a few people at the split, though they appeared to be spectators and not volunteers. I know there were a lot of questions as to which distance was supposed to go which way. Having glanced at the course map, I remembered needing to take a detour and figured this was it. It sounded like at least one person went the wrong way for a bit and still others faced the same dilemma. But beyond that, the course was great, well-marked, and the volunteers were fantastic along the way.
And boy were they needed considering the half marathon course.
At mile 4, we were greeted with a large looming hill. It wasn’t super-steep, but continued for about a full mile. The pinnacle was more than welcome before we started the decline. But after 5200 feet of running uphill, I was finally able to take in some of the beauty of the surrounding area we were running in. Now, I have been to Forest Grove numerous times and know that it sits essentially on the edge of civilization before it gives way to forestry on the way to the coast via Highway 8. But even with this knowledge, I still was taken in by the serenity of the rural surroundings in the hills around the city. There were farms, confused looking cows, yapping puppies motivating runners, and at least one burn-off happening – which brought even more of a rural feel to the day.
After the decline, we met back up with the 10k following mile 7. The reconvening meant one significant thing – another hill. I specifically verbally muttering an “ugh” as I noticed it up ahead. My heavy feet and tired lungs trudged up the vertical climb and I looked with sadness as the 10k runners got to head back towards town while we finished up a 4 mile out and back along Springtown Road. The rolling hills flanked some more beautiful farmland, but by this point, I was just struggling to put one foot in front of the other. Being that this was my first half marathon since the EWEB Run to Stay Warm in Eugene in late November, combined with the fact that I essentially took December off from running, I still haven’t gotten back into peak form.
Just before mile 10, I ran into Teresa who was heading the opposite direction. While I had left her around mile 4, I was confident she was going to catch me. I grabbed a couple of cups of water and told her to come catch me as I was “beat”. Somehow I found enough energy to tackle the rolling hills again and head in the final homestretch. I knew the final hill was a solid incline, but that it was short. It took everything I had left to avoid walking it up there. I may have been just shuffling along, but I managed to chug up the hill and was as happy to finish as I have been in a while.
Post-race, the warmth of the school was very welcome and the pancakes were even more necessary for me. I chowed down a few (including some bananas and oranges) and basked in what I had just done. It may have been a humbling race, but it was an accomplishment and re-confirmed that I need to keep on trucking along in 2015. This 30th annual event pushed me to the max and is definitely one to get to if you are looking for a January half marathon in the country with great support. I know it is what I was looking for – and it delivered.