I am still riding the high of Run for Water and am working away on a recap, so in the meantime, I’ll regale you with my recap of another race I ran a couple weeks ago…

For the past few years I have wanted to go run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in Portland, Oregon but because it always falls on the May long weekend, it has just never worked out. We have some big family birthdays that weekend so I am usually otherwise committed.

This year, however, one of those family members was away travelling so I seized my chance and floated it past my husband that I’d like to be away for the long weekend for a run. And so, with just 5 days to go until race day, I hurriedly threw together a trip and found myself on my way to Portland. Finally!

I’ve always wanted to do RnRPDX because it’s part of the coveted Cascadia special edition medal series but more importantly, this year, it couldn’t have come at a better time. My birthday was just a few days before the race and a quick weekend away was the perfect last minute way to celebrate. 

I was able to convince my friend Candice to come down with me so we left early on Saturday morning and started our drive down to Portland. A couple coffee stops, lunch on the way, a quick bit of shopping and before we knew it we were crossing the bridge into Portland, OR. We made it!

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The nice thing about going down so early was that we weren’t totally rushed getting down to the expo before it closed. There wasn’t a ton we needed to see so we dumped off our stuff at the hotel (which my friend Ernest was kind enough to help us get) and headed out for dinner with other friends who were also down for the race.

These friends are huge Portland fans and had all kinds of favourite restaurants and pubs to recommend and we ended up at a really great brew pub. Now I have never really had a taste for beer but I’ve been trying to expand my horizons when it comes to beverages so the sampler wheel at this place was just perfect for a beer newbie like me.

Turns out I like the lighter beers and wheat beers the best...

Turns out I like the lighter beers and wheat beers the best…

I was pretty pooped from having my birthday week prior to this race so Candice and I headed back to the hotel after dinner and just relaxed.  We laid out our stuff, hung out, hydrated and watched some tv. Pretty exciting times.

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to wear so I laid out to options so I could pick in the morning

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to wear so I laid out to options so I could pick in the morning

We were just a short walk from the start line so we didn’t have to get up too early thankfully. Candice and I are old pros at destination races so we have our race-morning-in-a-hotel routines dialled and got ready quickly and hit the road.

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The start area was pretty chill at this race, which doesn’t surprise me at all having now seen how chill and easy going the city of Portland is. Candice and I had plenty of time to walk around and meet up with a few friends before needing to get into our starting corrals.

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Being that this whole trip was so last minute, I didn’t exactly have any goals for the race other than to finish and have fun. Sure, I’d try and run the fastest race I could but I wasn’t interested in pushing myself too hard since I had some big events coming up in just a few weeks. I knew that Candice would be way way ahead of me but some of my other friends were aiming for around the 2hr mark so I figured I would start with them and see what happened.

A few km down the road I had pretty much decided that a 2hr half wasn’t going to magically happen (which I pretty much knew anyway but stranger things have been known to happen). But I was feeling good on the whole and was really enjoying my run.

The Portland course is really cool because it takes you through downtown and then winds through a ton of little neighbourhoods. And what was really cool is that there were tons of spectators nearly the whole way – family and babies and kids and school groups and entertainers and just all kinds of people everywhere. It was really cool and somehow different than so many other races I’ve run. Maybe it was the large contingent of beards and bicycles and tattoos but regardless, it was a really neat crowd.

I had always heard that RnRPDX was hilly and there were definitely more than a couple hills out there. However, the ‘big hill’ of years past was changed up this year and we got to run down it, instead of up it which made me extremely happy because it was a long old hill! And as usual, the hills were definitely my nemesis on this course. For some reason my breathing just wasn’t feeling very natural during this race and every time we hit a little hill, it just kind of exaggerated that struggle I was having.

So no, it definitely wasn’t a perfect race for me. I had a good run and enjoyed the course for sure but I just felt like I was pushing a little harder than I would have liked to for the pace I was keeping up. As we sailed into the last few km, I glanced down at my Polar and saw that I actually wasn’t too far behind a 2hr pace but I didn’t think I could pick it up and bring it in under 2hrs, even if I tried. I did pick it up a little bit and felt like it was a strong enough finish (2:03 and change) but a little closer to 2:00 is always nice.

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Ernest and I at the finish line

I totally laughed out loud as I crossed the finish line because the chute was actually lined with some of the infamous PDX Carpet! I don’t know the whole history of that beautiful green carpet but I do know that Portland loves it’s carpet, just check out @PDXCarpet on Instagram if you don’t believe me. If you look carefully you will see that the ribbons of our medals are even the iconic PDX carpet print! Crazy.

The next interesting fact about the RnRPDX medals is that they actually have built-in bottle openers too so like the engineer that I am, I had to test this little contraption when we got back to the hotel to get cleaned up. Let me say, that RnRPDX medal opened my drink perfectly – thanks Rock ’n’ Roll! Of note, I did feel a little bit bad that I opened up something other than a beer while in Portland, known for it’s amazing beer.

It works!

This is me looking way too happy that the bottle opener works…

We decided to stay an extra night in Portland so we spent the afternoon roaming around Portland, enjoying all the neat stores, brew pubs, coffee shops and people watching downtown. I really wanted to make it over to Voodoo Donuts but it didn’t really fit in so when we walked past the bakery making these delicious mini cupcakes, we decided it would be a suitable stand-in. Guess I’ll just have to go back to Portland to sample those donuts another time!

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I had also heard how great the food was in Portland and the few places we ate definitely didn’t disappoint. On Sunday night we tried a new place based on the reviews and it turned out to be the most delicious meal I’d had in such a long time. The place itself was a total hole in the wall but we were all seriously wowed when our food arrived, it was just. so. good. 

Anyhow, for something that was thrown together seriously last minute, this turned out to be such a great weekend. I got to travel with some friends I don’t normally travel with, spend time exploring a new city, run a race I’ve always wanted to do and most importantly, ride a luggage cart back to our hotel room at the end of the night. Don’t ask. Ha ha.

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Next up on my Rock ’n’ Roll tour pass for 2015 is RnR Seattle coming up this weekend. RnRSEA has turned into a bit of an annual girls trip and I am really looking forward to the night away with some great ladies. 

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