Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

My 2009 Helvetia Half Marathon Race report

Posted by bunchgrasser on June 15, 2009

My second running of the Helvetia Half Marathon happened on Saturday. I wasn’t holding high hopes for a decent time because my training has been lagging over the past month or so. I normally do my long runs on the weekends, but I’ve been tied up at my kids’ soccer tournaments the past 5 weekends in a row. I don’t think I’ve completed a run longer than 6 miles for some time now.

I got up at 6:00am on Saturday morning. Had a small mug of coffee, a banana and toast with peanut butter. Not my usual pre-race food – but it was close enough. I grabbed my gear and headed for Hillsboro Stadium. I parked off-site this year, remembering the fiasco from last year’s Helvetia Half where I sat in the parking lot for almost an hour waiting to get out. I sensed that some improvements had been made this year – but I wasn’t taking any chances. The 5 minute walk from my car to the start line was a good warmup anyway.

After standing in line for a last-minute bathroom visit, then stuffing my long sleeve shirt under a bush for safekeeping, I stepped into the middle of the crowd and waited for the start horn. It rained a little on us prior to the start, but eventually tapered off and was a perfect cool, cloudy but dry morning – optimal for racing.

The horn sounded and the crowd began moving. As usual, I tried really hard to run the first couple of miles at my own pace rather than let myself follow “the flow”. Last year I went out a little too fast and ended up struggling badly the last couple of miles in the race. Around mile 2 or 3 on Helvetia Road I was settling into my rhythym pretty well. My Garmin Forerunner 205  showed my pace to be around 7:45 – 8:00 minutes per mile. I was able to hold that pace through most of the first half, although the rolling hills slowed me down quite a bit.

One of my strategies to improve my time this year was to limit my stops at the aid stations. I didn’t stop for water until around/after mile 4, and I skipped several other tables along the course as well. I don’t know that it saved me much time – but every little bit helped. I have a good idea about how much water I need for a race of this distance on a cool day.

After finishing the killer rolling hills on Helvetia Road, I made the turn onto Jackson Quarry Road for the winding out-and-back. I’ve decided that this is my favorite part of the race but I’m not sure why. Maybe because it is the only place on the course where you can see oncoming runners. It is interesting observing the “game-faces” coming at you in the oncoming lane. I also seem to have a burst of energy once I make the turn and start heading back, even though it is slightly uphill most of the way.

The last part of Jackson Quarry road has some merciful downhill stretches. Once I could see the aid station at the corner of West Union Road, I tore open a GU energy gel and attempted to get it down my throat. I now realize that lemon-lime flavor is not a good choice for a late-race snack. I stopped completely at that aid station because I needed 2 full cups of water to choke down the gel. A little time lost but no big deal.

After a short section on West Union Road, the course turns onto a gravel road and then onto a frontage road along Highway 26. This is where I started struggling last year, and sadly again this year. However, my new strategy was to block out the mental stimuli coming from my brain (yes, the loud, incessant warnings to stop running before I hurt myself). Aside from a few minor blisters, I knew that my feet and legs were in decent shape. My heartrate had been pretty stable througout the race, so in essence I believed there was no imminent danger. So, I kept running, albeit at a slightly slower pace and in spite of every urge to stop and walk for awhile. It worked and I believe to be a key factor that will help me improve my race times in the future.

I crossed the overpass and kept pushing forward. I knew that there were only about 2 miles left and I started seeing a few people walking. I refused to be a walker even though I was hurting everywhere. My lungs were screaming and my legs felt like rubber pegs. My pace had slowed considerably but I was still running (not jogging or shuffling). A quick look at my Garmin told me I was going to PR if I just kept the pace.

I passed the 12 mile marker, and with less than a mile left I knew it was going to happen for me. I got very excited and that last burst of energy came to me. I’m not sure if I actually ran any faster – but mentally it felt easier. I made the turn into the stadium parking lot, dodged a couple of orange cones and passed the gate onto that glorious green turf. Note to people: if you are going to walk the last 50 yards to the finish – please don’t walk 3 abreast and block the approach for runners. Duh!

Running down finisher’s lane, with the people cheering is exactly what I needed. Nevermind that no one actually knew who I was. I made the final turn and crossed over the finish line…exhausted and hurting. I accepted my medal and grabbed a frozen Jamba Juice (I wish all races had Jamba Juice at the finish line).

According to the 2009 Helvetia Half Marathon results, my official time was 1:51:21. A new half marathon PR for me (by more than 2 minutes – yay!) and an improvement of more than 5 minutes as compared to last year’s Helvetia Half. My time put me at 56/162 in my age group (age 40-44), 466/3135 overall, and 335/1064 for the mens group. Not bad for an old hack with little training.

As I stated last year, I think the Helvetia Half Marathon could be the best half marathon race in Oregon. The organizers did a great job again this year and I’m already looking forward to next year. I offer my gratitude and thanks to everyone involved.

Cheers.

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One Response to “My 2009 Helvetia Half Marathon Race report”

  1. Scott said

    Not bad at all! Those hills take a lot out of you. Or at least out of me. Keeping on plowing forward after your head is telling you to stop is what it is all about sometimes.

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