I’ll be the first to admit that my May running has been less than stellar. They are all excuses, but with my work ramping up, family visiting, and house projects taking up the majority of my time, running has taken a little bit of a backseat. I realize that running would have helped me de-stress a little bit, but unfortunately that just didn’t happen.This sort of thing is why I like having races on the calendar – it makes it certain that I will get some miles in, whether or not I am carving out time during the week to hit the pavement. I will admit that I was nervous about being committed to a half marathon (which seemed more daunting now than when I registered a month prior), but everything seemed to fall in place leading up to Run With Paula’s Memorial Day Half,10k, & 5k at Willamette Mission Park in Salem.
I lucked out that this event was put on by Run With Paula, as I knew it would be well-managed, down to earth (yet professional), and supported like a boss. Add that to the fact that the location is only a 7 minute drive from my doorstep, and it was just what I needed to restart my motivation leading into June.
The Memorial Day Half events have actually been around 3 years now (formerly the Volcano Valley Half), and has always started at Willamette Mission – though with varied course maps. The first year was a point-to-point that finished at Volcano Stadium in Keizer, and last year was an out-and-back on country farm roads. This year the course consisted of a loop course (1 for the 10k, 2 for the half and an out-and-back for the 5k) primarily ran inside the paved park trails and on the roads providing the park boundary.
After a rainy winter and spring, Willamette Mission has been under water for a while now (see my review of Run Wild Adventure’s late-April race that had to reroute last-minute as a flood swept through). However, a warm and dry week leading up to race day cleared away major concerns and the area was ripe for racing! Add in RWP’s always welcoming environment, and it was just an amazing atmosphere.
The views of this race were wonderfully rural and scenic. From hop fields, to filbert orchards, and even some views of the Willamette River – there was a peaceful backdrop for everyone. While the day wasn’t scorching in temperatures, it had been so long since I had run with the sun shining, that the heat felt like it a had a little extra “oomph” to it. I think that the location (being so close to the river and a little bit sunken from the surrounding farmland) made things a little more humid as well. Couple this with my lack of training, and it was definitely a bit of a struggle.
The starting line was very well shaded, but upon turning onto the main entrance road in the park, it was clear to see that the sun would play a factor. There was limited shade between miles 0-3 (and again from about 6-9.5). It was awesome to see Mt. Hood in the distance, but it definetly weighed heavy on me. The great part was that aid stations seemed plenty abundant. I wished I had brought a handheld water bottle, but to be honest, the aid stations were so well spaced that I never felt dehydrated or thirsty to the max.
Just after mile 3 (and 9.5), runners entered the first shaded section since leaving the starting area – a welcome relief. We ran along paved roads within the park (I had no idea there were actually so many available to run on) and there were a few views of the Willamette along the way. Just before mile 5, the paths split for the 10k and half runners, with the longer runners doing a little extended loop before both distances rejoined together.
As we energed from the shaded paths, the parking area appeared in the distance and, following a sneaky little loop, 10k runners were on the road to the finish while half marathoners had a quick turnaroud before doing it all again. I must admit that knowing exactly what I had in store for me a second time definitely kept me mentally ready. My legs were already tired at the halfway point, but I knew to take it easy during the unshaded section and where the hydration stages would be. I truly feel that things would have been worse (mostly mentally) if I didn’t know what was coming up.
Ultimately, I didn’t do quite as well as I would have liked, but that’s on me solely as the course was pretty dang flat. As I sat and relaxed with a complimentary burger and Rogue ale, I felt accomplished and happy that Run With Paula provided me with a racing refresher and got those competitive juices flowing. This event may seem out of the way for many runners in Portland-proper, but it is one that should be a destination on Memorial Day Weekend for years to come.