The weekend of Oct. 24-25 was one of those really cool weekends that don't come around often, but when they do, I cherish them greatly.
On Saturday, I ran the 2nd annual Pilot Butte Giants Gallop 5k in Bend. I love running PBRs (Pilot Butte Repeats), and I love this little race. The first .7 miles are flatish, then 1 mile up gaining 500', .8 miles down losing 500', and .6 miles flatish to the finish on the track. There was a small group of us, but we had a great time. I wore my heartrate monitor, hoping I would set a new max-h.r. p.r. I wasn't disappointed.
I took the lead from the start, ran strong up the road, tried to just cruise down the trail with thoughts of Sunday's marathon, then while making a sharp left at the bottom, my feet slid from under me and I went down. A bit embarrassed and with bloody knees, I quickly got up and tried to shake myself out and kick to the finish. I could feel and hear Paul quickly gaining on me. On the track with 200 to go I went all out. Paul was right behind me, my h.r. monitor was beeping like crazy, and the finish couldn't come quick enough. Finally I crossed the line, barely squeaking out the W by a foot. I didn't break my c.r. from last year of 19:18, but I was happy with the win, my time of 19:33, and new heartrate p.r. of 201 (I was most excited about the 201)! Unfortunately for the marathon the next day, my quads were pretty sore, so I slowly ran a mile cool down around the track.
That evening I made the drive to The Dalles to stay with my college buddy / cross country teammate, Chad Sperry, who is the race director for the Columbia Gorge Marathon. Chad and his wife were in Hood River doing race stuff and their kids were all at grandparent's houses, so it was just Dixie the dog and me hanging out. After 15 minutes of fiddling with the remote, I figured out how to operate the t.v. and I was happy to watch Perfect Storm while stretching my sore quads. Lori got home and we chatted for a while, then Chad came in and I caught up with him for a few minutes before bed.
A good night of sleep found me excited to get up and run this cool course. As per usual Sean-style, I arrived an hour early, jogged a 3 mile warm-up, and got to the start with 10 minutes to go. There I saw my good buddy Ryan, recovering from a painful crash on the Wildwood a few weeks ago that left his ribs on the sore side. I also got to catch up with fellow Shadle Park Highlander Stan (cheerleading today), his wife Esther (running the marathon), Win, Joel, Kurt, Kelly, and a few others. Then soon enough, Chad said "go," so we went!
Joel took it out a bit harder than I wanted to go, so I enjoyed the two mile climb up to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail with Ryan and Win. Joel continued to pull away from us on the very scenic trail, which took us through the twin tunnels a couple miles west of Mosier. Ryan recalled how cool, and scary, it was to be time trialing on his bike through those tunnels in the Mount Hood Cycling Classic, another race that Chad directs.
Getting off of the paved bike path / old highway, we passed Stan, who generously gave me a small baggie of S-caps (I had forgotten mine and although it wasn't hot, I wanted a few just in case). After a nice downhill to Mosier, we quickly caught Joel and ran through an aid station where I was able to grab a Gu. Then with Joel right there, my competitive instincts took over and I instinctually took the lead. I knew we had a nice, long, grinder climb for the next 6 1/2 miles, so I took that opportunity to put a gap on Joel, Ryan, and Win.
At 12.5 miles, the course turns onto a gravel road and we run on that for 1.5 miles This was a nice break for the legs from the pavement before the steep, 4-mile descent back into Mosier. There was an a.s. right at the turn onto the gravel, where I called out I wanted a Gu. The volunteer not only got me the Gu, but he even opened it for me - first class service! That was just the little boost I needed to get me over the gravel to the fast downhill. On the way down to Mosier, a helicopter did more than a couple fly-overs; I'm still not sure if they were covering the race or what, but I waived.
Back in Mosier, around mile 18, I decided it was finally time to re-fill my bottle. Hm, only 20 oz. so far in 18 miles, but the weather was perfectly cool, I hydrated up on nuun before the race, and I felt great, so all was good. A steep 1.5 mile climb got me back up to the old highway and out of traffic again (although traffic really wasn't an issue at all anywhere on the course), and I knew I had a mostly downhill final 6.5 miles.
Passing the 1/2 marathoners in this stretch was great for the confidence. Obviously they were moving slower than me, but passing people, especially towards the end of a marathon, helps keep the fire burning. At mile 21, I grabbed my third, and last, Gu of the day. Then before long I was out of the park, passing mile 23, and getting rah-rah'd by Stan again. Smiling and feeling really good, I leaned into the downhill and let my legs run a couple 5:45s - life was good. After winding through Hood River, while crossing a pedestrian bridge with about a mile to go, I went down...aagghh! A guy was walking across going the other way and he didn't really know what to do. I got up quickly, shook myself out while jogging for about 30 seconds, then got back into my rhythm. I happily looped around the marina and very soon finished the inaugual Columbia Gorge Marathon in 2:45:29. Although about 1/2 mile short (about 3 min.), I was stoked to go sub-2:50 on this hilly course (2,000' of vertical), and I was excited to get the win. In 4 marathons this year, I have 3 victories (Redding and Tahoe) and one 3rd place (Hilo). A good marathoning year for me.
After getting a big congrats from Chad and Lori, I anxiously watched the foot bridge to see who would be finishing next - Ryan or Joel? Well, it turns out there was a good little battle for second, and Joel got it in 2:53, with Ryan less than a minute back. Joel lives in Bend, and if Ryan still did, it would have been a central Oregon podium sweep. But, he doesn't. So, it wasn't.
After feasting on some super-tasty veggie soup, bread, and chips, I was axious to see how Laura was going to finish. At 4:21 she crossed the finish line, I gave her a big hug, and in between a few happy tears, she said "Sean, you told me this wasn't a p.r. course." She had just p.r.ed by 26 minutes!!
This was such a great race! I loved the course, the hills, the scenery (leaves, waterfalls, river, farms), the volunteers, the aid stations, the other runners, the weather (high-40s, no wind - crazy for in the Gorge, overcast), the post-race food, the cool finisher's medal, the low-key atmosphere, the organization. Seriously, a great race.
On my drive home past all the fruit orchards south of Hood River, I stopped at an orchard that just so happen to be having a hard cider tasting that weekend from Blue Mountain Cider Company out of Milton-Freewater from eastern Oregon.. I LOVE hard cider. After tasting 6 or 7, maybe 8, I picked out my 3 favorites to buy - a sweet cider, a dry cider, and raspberry cider. Mmmm...tasty way to finish a great weekend of running!