The 5:30 am wake-up call was rough, but despite the ordeal I went through Friday night, I was filled with excitement on the fact I was getting the opportunity to run this half! This was my “just for fun” half-marathon. Not only was I not worried about my time or overall pace, I would have a running companion for 13.1 miles. This was a race my friends and I had planned running together months in advance.
I jumped into the shower to help my sleepy eyes wake faster. I put on my funky yellow and black patterned knickers accompanied by a solid black shirt and slipped on a pair of socks and Mizuno running shoes. My sleeping daughters received a peck from their mamma on their warm cheeks and I waved my sisters goodbye.
I made it out of the hotel room at 5:50 am and proceeded to a Starbucks store right across from the hotel to purchase a scone in order to have some food in my belly (hotel didn’t start serving breakfast until 7 am). Conveniently enough, a gas station was also in the vicinity – as in right across – of Starbucks and I filled up my tank to get on my merry way. If you are not familiar with the state of Oregon, you don’t have to get out of your car to fill up your tank. There is also ZERO sales tax.
It was a clear but cool morning (low 50’s) and there was very little traffic, which made the 30 minute commute very pleasurable. I arrived to the race at 6:32 am and went looking for the portable bathrooms and for my friends. I found the bathrooms first, and my friends yelled out my name as I made my way out.
Around 7:15 am, the Bridge of the Gods was closed off and we all made our way to the top where the race would start. It was really windy, and because the sun had not made its way over the mountains facing the bridge, we were all shivering. Even though I knew I’d warm-up after the first mile and would regret my decision into the second mile, I decided to wear my jacket at the beginning of the race.
The Bridge of the Goddess was an inaugural race, so this was the first time I had been on the Bridge of the Gods, the first time I’d been to the city of Cascade Locks, and the first time I would be on the Pacific Crest Trail (which was part of the race course). I did not know what to expect, which made it all more exciting for me. We would run the first 5k of the course with the 10kers, and just right before a flight of stairs, the 10kers would turn around and us half-marathoners would continue for another three miles until it was our turnaround point (our finish line was not at the Bridge, but at the Marina instead).
The first two miles were really crowded. As a courtesy, I’ve learned to allow the fast paced runners to congregate at the front of the starting line and corral myself somewhere in the middle of the pack. I figured some runners either expected to be faster, were not aware of where they were in the pack, or were scared to make their way into the bridge, because my friend and I were passing walkers and runners whose pace were much slower than ours. We both accelerated past many more runners as we climbed up a long hill. Unbeknownst to me, there was actually an elevation gain of 2671 very hilly feet!
My friend had to use the restroom around the third mile, and I figured I might as well too. I also decided this was the time to take off my jacket and wrap it around my waist line. I knew I would find it irritating, but this strategy would come in handy later on down the road.
Even though I was not worried about time, I was putting forth my best effort when climbing the hills because 1) I didn’t want to slow down my friend (who is faster than me) and 2) I also enjoy what hills do to my skinny legs (it makes them stronger). I glanced at my Garmin on a few occasions and loved the fact that some of the hardest miles were run in under ten minutes and closer to 9 minute miles. The presence of my friend made time go by faster as we chatted and it also helped me to push myself as a runner.
There was plenty of water, Nuun Hydration and heed along the course. I stopped at every single station because as usual, I hadn’t properly hydrated prior to the race. It’s always tough to hydrate the day before a race that requires traveling because I’m always terrified of having to use the restroom while on the road.
I felt really strong throughout the race, but around the tenth mile, fatigue from lack of sleep started setting into my body. I could feel my legs feeling the exhaustion of the hills and my stomach was severely cramping. I think the pasta and bread from the night before was in full digestion mode. However, I was more than a third of the way done and I didn’t want to stop. My friend continued with her stronger than mine pace and I tried to keep up with her as much as I could.
The last 3 miles of my race were filled with so much gratitude, and the gratitude helped me focus on finishing strong despite the fact my body was slowing down. I was grateful my sisters made it to Oregon the night before, allowing me the opportunity to run. I was grateful I was running with friends. I was grateful for experiencing a new and beautiful part of Oregon. I was grateful for my daughters. I was grateful for running with thousands of other women, a sight that would be forbidden in other parts of the world.
With 2 hours and 11 minutes, I crossed the finish line. I was so relieved, and so happy with my effort. This was perhaps the strongest I’d ever run a half-marathon in a challenging course. It was my sixth half-marathon of the year, and the fifth half-marathon to fulfill my 12 halves in 12 months goal.
Overall, I really enjoyed the race. It was well-organized, the aid stations were well-spaced and equipped with enough hydration. The course was absolutely stunning and challenging. And at the end of the race, there was a serving of warm pancakes, bananas, chocolate milk, water, and pretzels. There were prizes for top overall finishers and age groups as well as random prizes. The tech shirts were of very high quality, so it’s a shirt I would definitely wear regularly. The medals were also very nice. Oh, and remember those stomach cramps I was having? Well, let’s just put it this way. I was extremely happy this was an all women event, and ever so grateful that jacket was tied around my waist to hide the arrival of an unexpected visit.
Do you participate in gender specific races? Have you ever walked/hiked the Pacific Crest Trail? Does running with friends help you run faster and stronger?