Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew and Colin
Time: 34:03 (more than 15 minutes faster than last year!)
Photos not tagged with Shipyard logos courtesy of Drew; others courtesy of Shipyard Old Port and TomTom
Recap: Ahh, the Old Port. We meet again. Last year’s experience was so fun – despite a super challenging course and some general disorganization – that Colin and I signed up to give it another go. Mostly I think we just like hanging out in Portland, and this year we got to spend an extra day (read about our adventures here!).
There were some major changes to the 5K this year, namely a course adjustment to eliminate two sets of narrow stone steps through the woods that led to a crazy bottleneck last year and added several minutes onto our time. Last year’s course map can be seen here; be sure to note the insane elevation at the bottom of the map! Last year’s race started at 8am; included the steep, slow climb up the Stairs of Doom; another climb up a really steep, grassy hill; a treacherous-seeming descent down another winding set of stone steps; and was so ridiculously hot and felt endless. The medical tent at the finish line was hopping too, and I remember one of the half-marathoners passing out literally steps from the finish line. Plus, volunteers at the finish line handed us empty (!!) souvenir water bottles and provided only one water tank to fill the bottles at, so people had to stand in long lines to get water. (There may have been two tanks, but I only remember one.)
Clearly the organizers listened to all the complaints from last year (they emailed a survey to all runners to get feedback, which I thought was cool… this is the only race I’ve run that’s done that). Like I mentioned earlier, the 5K course was altered to eliminate the stairs; an extra water stop was added along the course, along with two misting tents and a mid-race medical tent; “party zones” at the water stops with local radio station reps playing peppy music; and full bottles of Poland Spring were handed out right as runners crossed the finish line, though the water tanks were still there for refills. The race also started a half-hour earlier in hopes of escaping the brutal heat, and the 5K course didn’t intersect quite as often with the half marathon course as it did last year. As a 5K participant both times, I was very happy with the changes and thought the race was much improved!
My own personal race experience was much better this time around, too. Though I didn’t have Colin with me – after rolling his ankle the previous Thursday he decided not to run as he wasn’t feeling 100% – I was able to stay motivated and came really close to hitting my goal time. (My only goal going in – other than finishing – was to beat last year’s time… which at 49:18 shouldn’t have been too difficult! My “goal time” of 34:00 was set by Steve but I wasn’t consciously trying for it.) I liked not having to carry my phone since I was giving Simon his inaugural race, and I really liked not having to start the race with so many uphill climbs. This year I also had the benefit of knowing part of the course, as well as the benefit of having run a few races in the heat already, whereas last year all I had post-injury before the Old Port was the Feeney Five, which I didn’t really run. All my training with run club must have helped this time around, too!
The beginning of the race was a little challenging in that SO many people who had lined up ahead of me either started the race walking or started walking within the first few hundred yards, so I had to weave my way around and in between everyone. There were also a few sharp, hairpin turns that were tricky to navigate when everyone decided at the last minute that they wanted to take the inside route and we all bunched together into a knot. Besides all that, it was a pleasant enough start and I cruised along at an easy pace, not wanting to overdo it in the surprise heat… it was supposed to be 65 at gun time but it was unbelievably hot in the sun already at 7:30 and I had stupidly not consumed any water with my pre-race Fig Newtons.
I was averaging around an 11-minute-mile when I hit the first water stop at Mile 0.9. I grabbed my little cup and slowed to a walk to take a sip and was caught off-guard to taste Gatorade instead of water. It tasted amazing! I drank maybe half the cup then tossed the rest, since I had never had Gatorade during a race and didn’t know how it would affect me. I started running again and cruised along happily, feeling amazing, and checked my watch after a half-mile or so to see that I was running at a 9-minute pace. Clearly the Gatorade put a little spring in my step! Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to mix entirely well with the Fig Newtons and the running… I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was having GI distress, but I did feel uncomfortable for at least a mile in the middle. I slowed back down to an 11-minute pace and the feeling eventually went away.
In addition to having fewer hills, this year’s course provided a few glimpses of downtown Portland as well as of the ocean, too, which was cool. The only part of the course I didn’t like was when we ran past the sewerage treatment plant. Ew. I must have blocked that part out from last year because I had no memory of the plant being along the course, even though that part of the course was the same as last year’s. Maybe I was walking last year and so was able to hold my breath, but this year I ran the whole thing (apart from quick walk breaks at each water stop) and had to turn my head away and try to breathe through my mouth. Last year the poor half-marathoners had to run by the plant twice! Definitely not pleasant, especially in the heat.
Though this year’s race didn’t feel nearly as endless as last year’s did, the final mile still felt very long and very hot. I picked out a nearby runner who looked to be going about the same speed I was and tried to keep pace with her, and that helped keep me going. Everyone else around us was stopping to walk, but we managed to keep running. As soon as we hit the “Mile 3” sign, I felt like I had been given a whole new set of legs and lungs… probably because I knew the end was so close. I picked up my speed and started passing everyone I had been leapfrogging with for the last mile or so, made a few stupid poses at Drew and Colin when I spotted them, and then really opened up my stride and took off for the finish line. I wasn’t all-out sprinting, but I was definitely going faster than I had the whole race and it felt awesome. I even got to hear the guy on the PA announce my name! I’ve never managed to hear it before, but this time it was loud and clear and I acknowledged him with a fist pump and a big smile as I crossed the finish line.
I definitely felt a little wobbly after I grabbed my water and walked away from the finish, trying to find shade. I hung out by the terminal building for a few minutes, gulping down water and trying to keep moving a little so my legs wouldn’t give out. The treats were a little harder to track down this year… last year there was a frozen Greek yogurt vendor right near the finish line and it was so lovely and refreshing and cold. This year, I could only see a pizza vendor and a burger vendor, but I could see people with little cups of ice cream and bottles of coconut water and I couldn’t find where they got them! Eventually I found the coconut water, but the ice cream eluded me completely. I gave up, snapped a quick photo near the giant race banner, and set off back to our Airbnb to take a shower. Last year we stuck around for free beer and to explore the vendors, but I really didn’t want beer at 8am and none of the vendors appealed to me either.
Though I didn’t have the same feeling of accomplishment I had last year after conquering the Stairs of Doom, I had a different – and better! – feeling of accomplishment for running the whole race (minus the water stops), keeping a relatively consistent pace, and finishing with a decent time. Other than my right shin hurting a little during the first mile and the temporary Gatorade discomfort, I felt great, and continued to feel great in the days after the race. Maybe the Shipyard Old Port needs to continue to be a tradition!