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Portland Rock 'n Roll Half-Marathon 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
It was late last year, I believe, that I signed up to run in the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon here in Portland, OR. Immediately, I started training, running at least 5k several times a week throughout the winter (with the exception of those horrible post-Christmas weeks where everyone is still visiting, going out, and generally not getting exercise.) I was committed. Having run Hood to Coast in 2010, this was going to me Next Big Run.

Then came the pain. It was a familiar pain, a sharp pain in my right knee that really came on when I briefly tried a different type of running shoe while training for Hood to Coast. It usually came when I somehow twisted my right leg slightly, and it was definitely No Good.

Before, I just took a month or so off running and then I was fine. This time, I had my doubts. I finally consulted my doctor early this year, who referred me to a specialist, who ordered an MRI and then said, "Yep. You've damaged the cartilage in your right knee. Don't run. Ever." While the actual conversation may have been slightly longer, that was the gist of it and I was quite upset; I threw myself a nice pity party that evening.

A follow up visit came a couple weeks ago, and the one concession I got out of my doctor was that, if my knee's not actively hurting, I'm not really damaging it. Meaning I could run, but only as long as it didn't cause pain.

Well, today I participated this event, the inaugural event for the half-marathon series here. My plan, given my knee issues, was to strap on an industrial-strength knee brace and to walk (and possibly jog) for parts of it. I joined a couple coworkers and their families in the last corral of the starting area. (They released corrals every minute or so, so that the fastest people up front wouldn’t have to fight their way through crowds.) I was supposed to be in the 20th (out of 23) corral with an expected completion time of 3 hours before I injured my knee; I figured starting at the 23rd corral would put me around a lot of walkers, taking the pressure off. I ended up hanging out with my coworker’s wife (he was running ahead with his daughter) and we both had a mind to run at parts of the race. Well, we started slowly, after the first mile, and ran small bits, with a walk in between, and then the bits started getting longer.

By the half-way point, we’d passed the person carrying the 3 hour pace sign and were determined to keep the speed on. Pausing every half-mile to walk for a couple blocks, we shifted from mostly walking to mostly running. It felt good! Then, of course, around mile 9, the pain started to kick in. I could tell something in my foot was hurting, and, though I’d put an industrial-sized brace on my problem right knee, something in my left knee wasn’t too happy. Still, we kept running - in fact, for the last three miles, we probably didn’t walk more than 3-4 blocks, and we ran the last mile or so in its entirety!

My running number and medal!

The run south on Naito Parkway was deceptively long; I thought the finish would be at the start but they'd moved it another half-mile down the road. Running through the pain was hard, but crossing that finish line was rewarding.

After the race, what was amazing to watch, more than anything else, were the faces of the rest of the people making it across. For those for which this was a huge challenge, the pride and joy at accomplishing a goal was beautiful. Watching a grandma supported across the line by her granddaughter, or a elderly lady with a walker pick it up and carry it across the line; those were the moments that I’ll remember.

In the end, given my absolute lack of training for this, my overall time was 2:49:57. I'm pleased! I actually beat my original goal and, with the exception of some blisters, felt great afterward!

My running number and medal!

... until I had to walk to my car, which I'd parked in southeast. That last 3/4 of a mile was almost like an insult added to the end of this adventure.

Rainier Dragon Boat Race 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012
This past weekend I attended the Rainier Dragon Boat Race up in Tacoma, WA, with the Bridge City Paddling Club. (The astute reader might note that I was paddling with Shibumi last year; we're more of an outrigger team now after a disappointing race season, and I'm doing the dragon boat thing with Bridge City.)

The Bridge City Paddle Club Gold boat - and I didn't take this picture.  Credit to them at http://washingtondragonboat.org/events/2012-rainier-dragon-boat-festival.html

We went up north with enough people to fill two boats. Having been divided into "fast" and "else", I was on the "else" boat. My feelings on that can be discussed at a different point in time. We went in with a strong, fast attitude, and left humbled by our lackluster on-the-water performance.

How were our results?
First race: 2:24 - for some on my boat, the first race they'd ever paddled in. We came in fourth.
Second race: 2:21 - we locked in our timing and were making considerable improvements. We came in third against fast teams.
Third race: 2:34 - the tide shifted; all teams were slower, but our boat felt particularly slow. This was the race we needed to win, and we came in third.

I'm tired of losing. As the salt-water spray hit me in the face, and I struggled to watch and match the timing of the paddle in front of me, I couldn't completely ignore the boat next door pulling away from us and feeling our boat rock in their wake. That feeling, that I was putting my all into this thing and not making the headway our rivals were, was terrible.

I'll say this about the venue, however. They made a schedule and stuck to it. Races happened quickly, and the dock was arranged in such a way that they could marshall, load, and unload the boats with great efficiency. I was impressed. I was less impressed, however, by the lack of divisions they had. That is, with 25+ teams of varying casual-ness, only the top three would win a medal. There was no competition among the slower boats, except as fodder for the faster teams. I didn't like that part so much.

In the end, I only know that I have to work harder if I want to win... and I want, badly, to win.



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