Heart Breaker Half

Gotta say, the First Annual Heart Breaker Half was INCREDIBLE!  The course had a bunch of hills, mostly getting steeper throughout miles 5-10, and I saw only two mile markers, including a misplaced mile 7 marker (according to myself and a few fellow runner estimations) and a marker for mile 12, re-entering downtown, at which point… it pretty much goes unsaid.

Didn’t bother me.  After visualizing the course last night, thanks to a helpful description (but not a map?) on the event website, I was mentally prepared for the hills and had a solid idea of where they would appear in the race.  I set my alarm for 5:30am, did some serious carb-loading and went to bed early.

Morning came, with a startling amount of brightness through my window.  I’d slept in by over an hour!

I’d never make it.

But  that was unacceptable.  Fried a couple of eggs and threw them on a piece of toast, made coffee, suited up, brushed my teeth and got out the door.

Parked a few blocks from the start, sitting in the car for a while, listening to NPR.  The subject was – of all things – the current debate over Portland re-entering the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

After bit of an awkward start next to the World Trade Center (with the crowd bent around some fencing on one side), we turned left, going north on Naito Parkway.  Cruising riverside, we passed the Morrison, the Burnside, and the Steel Bridge.  The scenery was beautiful… and the weather couldn’t be beat.

We briefly headed south at 9th ave, making a small loop in the upper Pearl, then it was back onto Naito, southbound for the long haul…

It was there, probably somewhere in mile 5, that I made my first friend in the race.  His name was Corey.  (I love finding people to chit-chat with while I run, despite the fact some people hate it.)  Corey was a great sport.  We started near the lowest point in the course, climbing steadily for a good 10 minutes or so before he lost me going into the Barbur tunnel.

After that, it was Pink Shirt.  That’s what I called her (in my head) before she had a name.  Once I caught up to Pink Shirt, I introduced myself.  Her name was Jennifer.  Our time together was short, because just ahead were the steepest hills – which, it turns out, may actually be my specialty.

Using every single muscle group, my core, delts and arms with my well-taxed legs, I powered up those hills.  I could feel the work we’ve been doing with Miss Triche… especially the reverse rows in my back!  If you’re a runner – I PROMISE – you are going to find significant results, subbing in some strength training for an hour or two a week of your regular running routine.

From previous experience with the course, plus studying up the night before, I knew where the hills would end outside the Charthouse, eagerly looking forward to the 2-3 mile downhill coast that followed, to the finish.

“WOO HOO – ALMOST DONE!!!”

Maybe I was a little too eager.  Maybe I confused one or two bewildered runners, but in the last 100 feet before the Charthouse, in my mind, it was the end!  I zoomed up to the peak of the last hill, with little time to make friends.  I assured one lady it was almost over as I passed, the same thing to an old man after that, finally catching up to a cute guy who had passed me earlier – his name was Kurt.

We bopped along for a bit, me probably talking too much, both digging the fantastic view.  When he fell behind, I wondered if my talking had something to do with it.  After all, we were going downhill…

I shouted back at him, “Don’t put on the brakes!”

Then, comfortably coasting, two guys snuck up on me.  I forget what they said but it sure got me moving – I appreciated that.  I met them (and thanked them) at the end.

There was no one else to talk to after that.  Bo0king, I stretched my legs out and got low, quietly speeding down OHSU hill.  Before I knew it, I was back on Naito.  No runners where anywhere near me – in front or behind.

For the last 100 meters, it was west, into downtown again, slightly uphill.  Looking at the clock, I thought I was hallucinating.  Did it say 1:40?!  I couldn’t believe it!  It was my fastest half marathon yet…  I’ve finally reached my hundred-minute goal!  EXCELLENT!!!

After the race, a dj played tunes in the outdoor courtyard of the World Trade Center.  Hot, delicious chicken noodle soup and tasty-looking strawberry shortcake was handed out, while runners huddled under space-heaters waiting for results…

There’s hardly a better way to start the day.

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