Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Race Recap: Lexus Lace Up Series Irvine 10K

Lexus Lace Up Series - Irvine 10K
October 17, 2015

Last year, I ran the Lexus Lace Up Riverside race – had a great time, minus some crappy weather and last-minute course changes due to said crappy weather. Circle back a full year and I’m serving as a Lace Up Ambassador and couldn’t be more excited the season is finally underway!

Lace Up Irvine was this past Saturday and the kick off to the entire Lace Up season – Irvine, Ventura, Palos Verdes and Riverside make up the full season. Irvine is the only location that doesn’t offer a half marathon, but frankly after the two last weekend, I’m not sure I’d have dug it anyway. Offering a 5 and 10K along the San Diego Creek Trail, this was a perfect distance (I opted for the 10K) to get my legs up and moving again. 

Probably one of my favorite things about Lace Up is that they offer race-day pick up. No fuss in HAVING to get down to Orange County on a Friday night (re: not happening), as you can stroll in race morning, get your ish, and settle in for the race. Win-win. I left home about 6:15 and was in Irvine by 7, to park, get my bib, shirt, and swag bag, and to meet up with Sandy, my favorite speedy friend. I love this year’s shirts and can’t to wait to wear mine in Denver on a run this week.

Some of the LaceUp ambassador crew!
The 5K started at 8 and the 10K at 8:10, so I had a little more time after meeting up with all the ambassadors for a group photo, and normal pre-race ritual stuff. I found Charlotte, who was running this as her first 10K ever (because doesn’t everyone go from 5K to half marathon?) and was excited as can be. She’s such a doll and I’m glad I got to hang out with her more (aside from friend-stalking on Insta).

8:10 came super quick and I was ready to go. After some super awkward pre-race stretching with the announcer (only awkward because there was no room after he told us all to scoot up!), we were off. I said out loud that my goal was just to keep it under an hour, just to prove that that is my new consistent. Considering I remember the first time I broke 1-hour, I’m stoked that an ‘easy’ run is still a solid 50-something.

The 5K and 10K don’t even go in the same direction, but both follow the San Diego Creek Trail on the bike/pedestrian path. Some rolling hills, for sure as you go over parts of the wash or up and over a road or under the bridges, but I think the elevation evens itself out. My legs were tired, for sure, but felt okay, so I walked when I felt like it and just wanted a decent run. Somewhere I decided that I wasn’t that far back of women who appeared to be 30-ish, so then I set myself up in my head to try and get an AG place (spoiler: accomplished).

My only disappointment with the race was the amount of cyclists out on the trail. Nothing that can be helped of course, given that it's a public trail, and most (if not all) of the cyclists were cheering us on too. The only one that really left a bad taste in my mouth was the cyclist going down the middle of the trail (trying to weave around runners) and as one of the lead male runners was coming back, looking down and clearly focused, you could hear her very loudly say "Look up, mother f-er!" but you know... the full verbiage. Sorry lady, we're on this trail just as much as you are today. Left me a little bitter, but nothing that can be done - just learn to share the road! And be nice. Just be nice. ;)

Near the end, I met two friends who were running their first 10K ever – I told them if they hung on, they’d finish their first 10K in under an hour and that was AWESOME. One guy fell back a bit, but may have squeaked in, and my other friend was not far off my heels (he just wanted to beat his brother-in-law!).

I hung out at the finish line to wait for Charlotte and then we made our way to the results boards – I love that you can look yourself up on the spot and check out your placement! … but wait, I was in the wrong age group! They still had me in the 25-29 age group, so I headed over to the timing folks to find out what was up. They fixed me and I placed third in my new age group (30-34)! Squee! Second year in a row placing at a Lace Up event (and hopefully more to come at the next few). Happy times! (I went back to the 25-29 group later to look to see if I’d have placed there too, and I still would have come in third!) :)

Post-race, I hung out with Charlotte some more and got to meet the super fab RER Monica, who is just as funny in person as she is on her blog (go read it, or you’re missing out). Other Lace Up perks? Advertised as post race “brunch,” you actually get a full food ticket for one of a few food trucks that set up shop! UM, HELLO. There’s also a Sierra Nevada beer garden, also included in your race registration. Can you say happy runners? I got myself a super delish hot dog from Dogzilla and then had to book home for a haircut (aaaah).
Photo stolen courtesy of Monica
ALSO - and probably one of my other fave perks to Lace Up? FREE PHOTOS! Heck yes. That's where all my super fab action shots in this post came from. Alright, so not all the best, but hey, better than paying $80 for one digital download, amIright?

I’m bummed I’m missing Ventura this weekend, but YOU can get there with code laceupmegan for 40% off! Other Lace Up races included Palos Verdes and Riverside, and laceupmegan will save you 15% off those two races!

Orrrrrr… you can try and win an entry over on my Instagram through Thursday morning. Doooo ittttt!

Lace Up really provides a high-quality race series that you expect from a big-time race, but on a small scale, providing a much more intimate and personal experience. Food trucks, free photos (oh! did I mention on-the-spot Instagram printed photos?), beer garden, and swag galore, there's a lot to be commended for Lace Up and the work they do. I can't wait until Palos Verdes to get back to them!

What’s your favorite food post-race?

I am a Lace Up Ambassador, which means I was provided an entry to each of the four race locations. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of other ambassadors or race production crew! I am a firm believer, however, in this series and recommend it highly. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Race Recap: Long Beach Half Marathon

Long Beach Half Marathon
Long Beach, CA | October 11, 2015

So after booking back from Brooklyn, I got to LAX about 7, to my car and down to the hotel in Long Beach where Doug was just about 8. After last year's parking debacle, I knew it wasn't going to be worth going home and driving down to LB in the morning, so we paid up for a hotel to save some stress on race morning. Worth every penny.  We went and grabbed dinner and got our stuff ready for the morning - Doug worked on some grading and watched some last bits of the games on that night, but I was passed out well before 10:30.

The full marathon starts at 6:00 am and the half at 7:30. With the heat warnings and advisories, though, they were giving halfers the option to start with the full and try to beat the heat. I, frankly, wanted the extra hour of sleep and figured that after running LA this year, I could handle the heat for half the time. Doug figured he'd be okay too, given that he's out in the sun all summer and every single day during the week for football.

We opted to sleep in and got to the IERC tent to meet up with some folks at 6:45. It was warm, but not unbearably so, so we got settled and ready to get in for the 13.1 long haul. We heard that nearly 7,000 half marathoners had started at 6 am with the full marathoners, so I figured the 7:30 am wave would be fairly small.

There were still several thousand in for the late start, so I didn't feel so terrible or that this was a bad idea. I was really more worried about how my body would feel rather than how how it was getting. I was going to be pacing Jill from my pace group at club. Jill is coming back from an injury, so she just wanted to run a solid 9:30 pace throughout the race (which is what our pace is at the club) and finish with a strong 2:05-2:10 finish.

I walked the incline of the bridge - the worst 'hill' there is at Long Beach just to get my calves stretched out - they were definitely tired. We ran to the 5K mark where I walked again and knew I'd have trouble today - Jill asked if this was going to happen again and when I said "Probably," she said "Well then I'm going to get going!" And I agreed and told her that if she felt good, I wanted her to go - GO! That way I wouldn't feel bad, but already feel like I had let her down as her pacer. But at least I knew my limits?

I ended up adopting 4-1 intervals from miles 3-10. I haven't run intervals in a race in nearly 3 years, so at first that got to me pretty bad mentally. I felt like I had totally reverted to my old running self, not a confidence, faster one that I've become. I lost.

The beach path is the worst part because it's out in the sand, hot, with not an ounce of shade and little to no course support because it's off the road. I was definitely struggling here and tried to bargain with myself - if I walked an extra minute, I had to run an extra minute to even itself out and keep time fairly on track (I was aiming for at least a 2:15 up until mile 8 or so). At some point, I realized that wasn't happening anyway, so I just continued to truck along, cheering on others and telling others that "we've got this!" even if I didn't think I did.

I could down to the donut holes at mile 10. Counted down to the 11-mile mark and where the street fills up with people again for the last 2 mile stretch to the finish. Almost there, almost there. I had made friends with two girls as we leap-frogged each other from mile 9 on, so when they were off on the curb with their spectator friends drinking a beer, I stopped for a few sips too. I tell you, I never ever go to post-race beer gardens, but this Coors was cold. And delightful. And then I knew I just needed to get done.

Done and done. That's how I really felt at the finish, after slushing in to a 2:27 finish. Sometimes it's aboutu the finish line and not the finish time. With a temp of nearly 100 by the time we finished, it got nasty. I honestly don't feel like the heat got to me until mile 10 (just off the beach path), but it was the tired and how trashed my  legs felt.

I'll take the finish - I waited around for Doug, greeted Jacky and learned that after a full swim on Friday, century bike ride on Saturday, this girl had just run her first sub-4 on Sunday. Ironman doesn't know what's coming for her!

Doug finished at a 2:40something, disappointed but satisfied and he's now 2/3 of the way done with his Beach Cities Challenge! Next up: Surf City, baby! (Wanna run with us? Use code SCMJOHNSTON10 for 10% off your Surf City registration!)

We hung out at the IERC tent for a little bit, tried getting a late check out and waddled our way back to the hotel to rinse off and pack before we headed home. Number 31, done and done. Back-to-back, bi-coastal? Done and done. That was a dumb idea. ;)

Have you ever done a double half marathon weekend? 

Race Recap: Inaugural Rock 'n Roll Brooklyn

October 10, 2015

Leading up to the race, you can check out my NYC adventure + expo/VIP experiences!

Having VIP on race morning seemed to really make all the difference on my pre- (and majority of) race experience. I wasn't stuck in a security line and was chillin' in the corral by 6:50 for a 7:00 am start. For as much emphasis as there was on security and for every runner to go through the security gates, there whould have been some additional personnel and/or gates available. I did hear that there was a security gate back by the later corrals that was practically empty, so perhaps there should have been better communication about that.

Because of the traffic jams at security, the race was delayed until 7:30. They made all of one announcement (just after 7) about the delay and I don't remember being able to hear anything else about that after until we all realized it was 7:30 and we still really hadn't gotten moving. 

It was at this point that I was really glad I had my jacket on still - I knew that Andi would be at mile 4 and considering I was shivering (I mean, mind you, it was 55 at the start and this girl ran in 100+ all summer), I knew that I'd be okay come mile 4 and could ditch the jacket with her then. Finally - finally - we were headed out! 

The first mile and a half or so were super congested - I also ended up starting in corral 3 or so, even though I was assigned 7. I had gotten in so early no one noticed! Oh well. So the course was a little packed as we left Grand Army Plaza and out across the first 'arm' of the course. Lots of great cheering in here, as when you first leave the park there was just a tunnel of people with posters and cowbells and noise. I wish that had been the case the entire course!

My legs were frozen through nearly mile 4. I knew it was coming and knew my sister was almost exactly at the 4 marker, and I was almost hesitant to take off my jacket. I mean, here I was in shorts and a tank while even the locals were in long sleeves and capris. I must look like a fool. 

Down the east side of the park was beautiful, as you still get all the trees, past the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and still tons of support - folks on stilts, supporters still with posters and all kinds of noisemakers. 

1 - 4: Congested, but expected. Lots of course support in this stretch, which makes the next bit quite lonely! 

5 - 9: This stretch was beautiful, past the park still and some classic brownstones. Super cute area for the most part, but quiet in terms of support. It seemed to mostly be neighborhood folks who just happened to be out and about and weren't actually intending on cheering - glad they did anyway! Volunteers out here at water stops were aaaaamazing - super energetic, fun, helpful and clearly enjoying their morning too!
We basically run half way to Coney Island. Hot dog, please?
10 - Finish - About 9.5, you head up the ramp to the top of the road again that leads you back into the park. I walked this, because I was a) not intending on going all out that b) I had another 13.1 the next morning and as I was trucking along pretty good anyway! 

The last stretch into the park gets super crowded with support again, which is awesome given that heading into the park is a pretty gradual hill too. I walked most of this too because again, not going hard. My sister was at mile 11 again and I was excited to get through the last stretch! 

Prospect Park is seriously gorgeous and I only wish there were a way to get more miles in around the property. Great paths, trees, open spaces - it turned out to be a beautiful morning and I couldn't have asked for any better for a run through New York. 

After the race, I headed to VIP to change and hang out while my sister and Jaime waited for Jansen to come through. My sister also spotted my uncle who was visiting his mom in New Jersey for a few weeks and decided to come up (dude doesn't run with his phone so we never actually got to meet up with him!). I got a great breakfast, listened to Nate Ruess for a bit, and got a fabulous post-race massage before I boarded the plane. Wins all around. 

Team Rock 'n Blog throwing up the big 3-0 for half marathon number 30 for birthday number 30!
All in all, a really great race for an inaugural event -- and what is later announced as the largest inaugural half marathon ever with over 13,000 finishers. 

Race Pros:
- Overall, awesome course
- Volunteers are fantastic
- One of my fave race shirts ever - love the ode to New York!
-  Post-race concert

Race Cons:
- Expo - I know space is tight, but there's gotta be something, somewhere 
- More on-course entertainment - there was entertainment but the bands were lacking (the ones that were there were great, so no diss to them!)
- No fault to RnR but the post-race festival was a total cell-phone-service-suck so messages couldn't go in or out and folks were having trouble finding their runners

For an inaugural event, I really have no major complaints but things that will work itself. While local support was lacking, I think being that the Staten Island half was the next morning, most local run clubs, groups, and even local supporters were more focused on that. After a year with no Rock 'n Roll race (this was the old Brooklyn 10K, reincarnated), it'll take some time to build back the support and tradition around this race. I hope it does come back and hopefully doesn't interfere with Staten Island in the future, as it really has the potential to be fantastic!

Hauled butt  back to my sister's, changed, re-packed and bolted for the airport. On to the next adventure!

Did you run this inaugural race? What'd you think?

You can also check out Briana's recap here

Thursday, October 15, 2015

RnR Brooklyn Expo + VIP Experience

A few weeks back when I had volunteered at Disney with Sparkly Soul, my SS ladies told me that they had been cancelled as a vendor for the Brooklyn expo because they were told the expo had been significantly cut to basically focus on race sponsors and charities. I was bummed, of course, but also confused – this is the ROCK ‘N ROLL SERIES we’re talking about – they’re known for giant, bustling, awesome expos, right?

Friday afternoon after my jaunt through Central Park, I headed down to the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn for the expo at the Brooklyn Expo Center. My first thought was that the expo was nowhere near the race, which is usually the convenient way to go. The expo center as it was, was a decent walk from the G train. But I digress.

Much like Sparkly Soul had warned, the expo was… tiny. Underwhelming is the word I gave Ashley, our Rock ‘n Blog coordinator extraordinaire. Gu, Toyota, and other headline sponsors, as well as a few charity groups (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) and that was about it. You could also sign up for next year’s RnR Brooklyn at a discounted rate (good through Sunday, do it! Just $50).

While it was nice to get through the expo in what seemed like less than ten minutes, it was still a disappoinment at the same time. I was hoping for some cute Brooks race swag, but found that there were all of two racks of women's tanks to choose from and that was it. Boo.

I grabbed my shirt, talked to Ashley for a bit, snapped some mandatory photos, and called it a day. Some of the Sparkly Soul ladies and other folks were meeting up at 4 for a meet up at the Brooklyn Winery – turned Kent Ale House – so I decided to head that way early. Dani wasn’t far behind and soon Briana and Cynthia were there too! It was great getting to meet some fantastic women, and eventually one man, all sharing the same running (and sparkly!) love.

Selfie-taker extraordinaire, Dani! And me, and Briana. 
After our meet up, I made my way back into Manhattan for dinner with yet another circle – Jessica, Adrian and I were all doing #BKtoLB and tons of other Rock ‘n Roll aficionados were all gathered for dinner at Il Corallo Trattoria for some carb-loading and social fun. I got there way late but had the most amazing pasta and happily called it a night! I headed back to my sister’s and got home just before she did from her happy hour.

Rock ‘n Roll VIP
Pre- and post-race, I was offered the opportunity to participate in RnR’s VIP experience. This was only my fifth RnR experience ever and clearly my first VIP, which I was really excited about! Dani explained to me that every race VIP has had a different kind of amenities offered -- some mimosas, some bagels, some croissants, and that you never know what you're going to get! I was excited and pretty eager to find out.

On Saturday morning, my sister and I made the hour-long trip into Manhattan and back out to get to Prospect Park. She knew I had to go to VIP, so I made my way in there while she waited for her two friends (Jansen, running his first half, and his support team girlfriend) to get to the park. VIP had a completely separate security gate and bag check than the other runners, which I later learned pretty much saved a super hassle in my book.

VIP was inside the Brooklyn Public Library in the heart of Grand Army Plaza at Prospect Park. It was warm, though a small space, but it was warm, and that was all I cared about at that point. Inside were bagels, croissants, coffee, orange juice and our own bag check that would be carted over to the finish line for us.

I'm not sure how many VIP folks there were, but I'd guess probably close to 100. While we had our own restrooms, there was still a line once it came time to start heading out to the start line. About 6:35, I dropped off my bag, left my jacket on, and went outside to find my sister. Through the fence, I met Jansen and told him to head through security so he and I could at least walk towards our corrals together. I waited nearly 15 minutes before I realized that he was stuck in the mob of people trying to get through that security line. God bless the VIP line! I told my sister and Jamie to wait for Jansen and that I'd just see him at the finish line. I bolted to the start, anxious to get into my place and was freezing. Thank god I left my jacket on. But more on that soon.

Post-race VIP was amaaaaaazing. Breakfast? Check. Mini-shower station? Check. Beer, if that's your cup of tea? Check. MASSAGES? All the checks. Hosted by Westin, this seriously made the thought of paying for VIP worth it, even if just for the massages with a (fairly minimal) line. There were tables all out in the sun if you were freezing or underneath some tents in case the sun was just too much. Personally, running in 60 degrees is beyond glorious but I cool down way too fast to enjoy it afterward!

Ashley & I, finally! 
Post-massage, I went back out to find my sister and her friend who was still finishing the race. We listened to a bit of Nate Ruess' set, though not enough because let's be real, I adore him, and had to bolt to the subway so I could make it to the airport on time.

I even got to meet a few extra friends while out at VIP - re-united with Dani and heard about her race and got to meet the super-fab Ashley of Healthy Happier Bear.

If you're able to hang around post-race and soak in every amenity of the VIP experience, I highly recommend all that it has to offer. If you're traveling with tons of folks, this may be hard to do, but if it's one or two of you on a race-cation, this is totally worth the additional cost (Brooklyn was $79, but prices can vary depending on the race location and packages offered). Spectators can get in on this too, so if you have someone waiting for you at the finish line, this might be a great way to say thank you. :) Get that massage while you can and all the free deliciousness of a bagel, fruit, cookie breakfast (I think I had more cookies than fruit, but that's not surprising). 

All in all, a great experience in VIP. Despite some disappointments with the expo, the race itself was fabulous. Can't wait to share more about it tomorrow!

Have you ever done a Rock 'n Roll VIP experience? What'd you think?

I am a member of Team Rock ‘n Blog  through the Rock 'n Roll Race Series and was provided both the race entry and VIP experience complimentarily. No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Weekend Adventures in NYC + Birthday Giveaway Winners!

Most epic birthday weekend/week ever. So after coming back from Portland on Monday, I was absolutely good for nothing on Monday afternoon. I took that as my sign to kick back and rest. Tuesday, then, was the day I felt like a chicken with my head cut off - post-PDX laundry, unpacking, errands, and then re-packing for New York!

My flight out was 7:30 on Wednesday morning, and despite leaving 2.5 hours before I needed to even BE there, I was still on the road at 7:15. For a bit, I thought I'd just cut it close, pay a billion dollars for airport parking at LAX and try and run in... and then I gave up and knew I'd have no way of making it. So parked the car off-site, shuttled in and just pleaded my case to the Delta counter. High fives for Delta who hooked me up - they only charged me $50 for the flight change and got me out at 12 noon. There are perks to landing in New York after dark though...

Some pretty magnificent views, that's for sure. After that trip though, we didn't get back to my sister's place until nearly 11:30 so she was ready to crash and I didn't complain. Thursday and Friday my sister had to work most of the day, so I was off to play in the city and entertain myself. First stop: the Highline. The coolest above-ground railroad track turned city park. I walked the entire stretch, including the new extension, so about 20 city blocks in total.

After that, it was off to Times Square just to kill time while I waited for my sister. I'd been through the chaos before, but on this gorgeous Thursday morning it wasn't all that crazy. I stopped in some stores because why not shop? And then I stumbled upon this!

Total random but super awesome! My luck. The rest of the time I spent in Times Square was really just people-watching, checkout the hoards of tourists coming off buses and taking it all in again. One of my life goals (seriously) is to spend New Years Eve in Times Square but the more I say that out loud, the dumber I think I am.

After my sister got out about 4:15, we headed up to the top of Rockefeller (Top of the Rock) for some of the most amazing views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and basically buildings as far as you can see out. It was the perfect day for going 900 feet up and I still can't believe the views you get that high up! Central Park, Ellis Island, and every signature bit in New York are crystal-clear from that high up! Amazing.

Afterwards, we headed back down to dinner and my birthday present from my sister - tickets to Chicago! This was actually Rumer Willis' Broadway debut show and no lie, she is pretty fantastic. I figured with a Dancing with the Stars win that surely she can dance, but she actually belts out a Roxie Hart song pretty well too. A great show, tons of fun and I felt like I was really getting New York in that way! :)

Friday was a quick shakeout through Central Park, just 3 easy miles but lots of touristing, stopping for photos and making sure I took it all in. When my mom, grandma and I came and visited my sister 4 years ago, I did a nice run through the Park in winter too, but this day was so pretty, it felt like a whole different place. Magical even.

Friday afternoon was race expo + meet up fun (more on that soon). But as I wrapped up my run in Central Park (with the photo above), I've never felt so lucky, or so grateful, to get to go on such a trip. My sister was an awesome host and I'm just mad at myself that it took another four years to get back and visit her! Sorry, sister. But thank you for an amazing weekend. Love you!

What other must-do NYC things did I miss that I need to do next time?

And now what you've really been waiting for... my #30thbirthdayblogblowout giveaway winners! Thank you to all 390 entrants for making this my best giveaway ever! Congratulations to Kasey and Stephanie for winning! You'll have an email soon describing your package + info I need from you!

Have a great Tueday, friends! Brooklyn and Long Beach recaps coming later this week as part of my #30halfsfor30years and #BKtoLB shenanigans!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to Run a Marathon

It might not be marathon weekend this weekend at Brooklyn, but surely at Long Beach, Chicago and I'm sure in seventy five other places. I loved this snippet from Rock 'n Roll a few weeks back, so I thought I'd share as you get geared up for race weekend!

How to Run a Marathon: Raceday Rules

Happy marathon weekend, wherever you're running, friends!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Race Recap: Portland Marathon Half

So you've gotten the city recap already, with the short amount of time we had to go play around, and now the best part of all... race recap time!

October 4, 2015 | Portland Marathon Half 

So in the cluster that was the adventure into downtown on Saturday afternoon, we pretty much just bolted into the expo, got my bib, found the posters and race bags, and made a quick lap around the expo. The expo was much smaller than I thought it would be, and basically in the basement of the Hilton, race headquarters.

We were pretty much in and out in under 20 minutes. I do love that every runner gets a race poster, so it'll be perfect to add to my collection at work and covers another state on the wall! The race shirts came at the finish line, much to Doug's surprise, as they are truly finishers' shirts and say so.

Race morning, I got up - letting Doug sleep in some - and was out the door to catch the 5:56 train to downtown to meet Frank and Karin from the IERC at the hotel. I was actually downstairs and out early and managed to catch an even earlier train so I was already in the hotel lobby by 6:02, with a planned meet up time of 6:30! It was nice being their early, chilling and taking it all in. I met a friend, Darryl, who was in from Raleigh and running the full. We talked about races and distances and my birthday shenanigans and how we each managed to get into this race.

Frank, me and Karin! IERC representin'. 
Frank and Karin were down right at 6:30 and we headed outside to head to the start line. Lemme tell you, after training in 100+ degrees all summer, a 50 degree morning was quite cold... and refreshing, all at the same time. I was definitely shivering some and Frank's wife gave me an extra jacket while they hung out with us before we moved up in the corral.

I had no plan for this race, other than just to run well but take the time to take in sights, see Portland and enjoy state #8 for all it had to offer. Running through downtown right at the start was fun, even though it was still quite dark outside.

Miles 1 - 4: Frank, Karin and I all hung together and ran and chatted and had a great time. These gmiles Gradually roll all uphill. Honestly, I wasn't expecting hills at all in this course, so they took me by surprise but nothing we couldn't manage.

Miles 5 - 8: Thankfully, all the rolling hills we went up... we went right back down. This was a double-back basically past downtown again and all the folks lining the main street along the river. A good cheer tunnel, if you will, so that was fun! The only hard part was that, though seemingly an issue throughout Portland, is that much of this street seemed to be the equivalent to LA's Skid Row. Lots of homeless folks camped out under the bridge, some awake and watching us crazies, but it was hard to run by.
Miles 9 - 13: Early in mile 9, my stomach flared a little so I stopped at the porto. After wasting probably at least 5 minutes  inline, I gave up and kept going. Shortly thereafter, all these bubbles started heading towards us - best turnaround ever! These cheerleaders had a wall of bubbles going and was just a freaking blast. Mile 10 brought another porto with shorter lines, so success. And then like that, it was over! Generally though, miles 8 - 11 are another out-and-back that follows the river, but really runs by warehouses. Lots of folks out cheering though, trying to spice it up some, which I appreciated!

A sold 2:11 finish, even with 5+ minutes in lines and for beign stopped at a train. So really, I give this like a 2:05 finish, which makes me even happier. 

The finish line is where the fun continues: you get a rose immediately upon crossing, then continue on through the foods (grapes, oranges, bananas, pretzels, cookies, and clearly Costco-sized bags of Halloween candy!) and drinks (choclate milk, water, Ultima, orange juice)... like a full on buffet of drinks and post-race snacks. Then you get to the shirts. So I thought that all finishers chose their race shirt color - turns out half marathoners all get one color, while the marathoners had options: green (Universit of Oregon), orange (Oregon State), purple (University of Portland), blue (Portland Marathon's classic colors). I have no complaints about our maroon ones and will actually rock a race shirt at some point. Marathoners also get a commemorative coin that matches the medals. 

The best part, however, is that EVERY finisher (marathon or half) gets an Oregon sapling to take home and plant. YOUR OWN RACE TREE! I was more excited about this than the medal and just got my tree planted tonight. I can't wait to take this baby around and watch him grow! 

Overall, a great race with weather I couldn't have even dreamed of. 

Race pros:
- Great course support
- Save the hills in miles 1-4, easy course
- Race swag! 
- Scenery
- Weather = top notch for this Southern California girl!

Race cons:
- No bag check (I know, what?)
- Some sketch areas to run by 

Seriously though, no complaints. I had an awesome weekend in Portland, loved that this was my Oregon race and would seriously contemplate coming back again to run PDX! 

Have you run Portland? Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The City of Roses

I hadn't been to Oregon since I was maybe in high school, and before than even elementary school, but I don't think I'd ever been to Portland. Despite only having about 48 hours in the city (and even less than that, really), I wanted to squeeze in as much as we could (naturally) duirng our quick weekend getaway! 

On our way! 
Our flight out of Long Beach was Saturday morning and we were in Portland and landed about 12:45 pm. We figured that we'd be on a train around 1:30 to get to our hotel, drop our things off, down to the expo to pick up race day essentials and then be on our way to explore PDX and all it had to offer. (Side note: this Portland Bucket List is awesome and I wish we had had more time to do it all!) The city had other plans -- a light rail train derailed somewhere around the exit we had to get off at to get to the hotel. So on the first train, the conductor suggested getting off at one of the main transit centers and catching a bus into downtown (where the expo was). So we're waiting around for the bus - meanwhile, people see me in my Portland Marathon Ambassador shirt and are asking me where to go! - and then a TriMet guy comes out and says "Hey, there's another train, take that one and by the time you'll get near the derailment, it should be clear!" So duh, we do that. 
Mandatory PDX carpet selfie.
Wrong, wrong and so wrong. We got stopped like three stops later and spent half an hour sitting on that train before we gave up and went to go catch another bus. We befriended an older couple who were at least getting us as best around as they knew how. So we caught that bus, transferred to another one and eventually got to downtown before our hotel. We figured we were that far already that we may as well hit the expo (all our luggage in tow) and then fight our way to the hotel. By the time we got to our hotel, checked in and upstairs, it was nearly 5:30 pm. Shenanigans. 

I had mentioned maybe going to the Portland Timbers game that evening, solely because they have one of the most live and tradition-based soccer teams in the country and even though they weren't playing the Galaxy, it'd totally be worth going to, but again... 4 hours later, that was the last thing I wanted. So we hightailed up to the hotel bar for the last 5 minutes of happy hour and spent well over three hours there watching the night's college football games. No complaints - a great bartender, great view of the city from across the river, and drinks. Color me happy. 

Sunday after the race (recap coming later today!) was pretty much all we had for exploring the city. Post-race we headed straight over to Voodoo Doughnuts because, duh, Portland. The line was only about 20 minutes, so we must have caught the last little wave before people really got going after the race - win! The gloriousness and OMG, the gluttony. We ended up with six: the classic sprinkles + vanilla, plain glazed, Oreo + vanilla, Portland Creme, a maple bacon bar and the signature voodoo doll that has a pretzel stake in his chest and oozes raspberry filling when you tear him apart. So. Good. 

After Voodoo, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower and nap and then got our day going. I really wanted to go check out the International Rose Test Garden up in Washington Park.A nice train and bus ride later (seriously, Portland's lightrail system is awesome), we were at the top of the park. 

An amazing view of downtown... and roses on roses on roses! The garden is home to some 550+ varities of roses, some which don't even have names because again, they're test roses! 4.5 acres of some of the most beautiful roses in colors I didn't even know existed. There are no words, but highly recommend you taking a visit here if you get the chance. The garden is supposedly open April - October and is free! 

Could NOT get enough. 
After the garden, we met up with two of my running club friends and their spouses (we were the kids of the group, for sure) and headed over to Blue Star Donuts who was unfortunately sold out of most everything by the time we got there. I've heard that they're "better" and "more gourmet," whatever that means in donut terms). So then we made our way to Deschutes, which is based in Bend but also has a brewery in downtown Portland, for drinks and some snacks (Doug and I were starving). After a tasting flight there and a citrus beer for me, we walked over to the Portland City Grill. Highly recommended by that couple on the bus, and despite being a little dressed down, we got in anyway.

This place is on the 30th floor of the US Bank building and overlooks the entire downtown area and the Williamette River. There are stunning views on clear days of Mount Hood and it's just breathtaking. We got up just in time for the last of the sunset and then got to see all the lights at night, too. I definitely want to go back here if we get the chance, to enjoy either a) a window table or b) a full meal, but note that it's not super cheap ($30-50 per plate). But oh my, the views make it worth it !

And that was that. Monday morning, we were up before the sun to get on the train (with no issues!) to head up to the airport and back home. Short trip, amazing trip, but it's definitely leaving me wanting more! 

What else is on your Portland to-do list?