Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cottage Grove Half Marathon: I'll be back

For not having raced a half marathon since 2011, I really wasn't sure what to expect from myself at Saturday's Cottage Grove Half

Ever since hearing from a friend that there was going to be one on the Row river trail, I have had my eye on this race. If ever there was a course made for fast half marathon, this is the one! With an ever-so-slight net downhill, it's made to be easy, but not a knee-breaker. 


I arrived at the finish line area with plenty of time to pick up my packet at 7:30 in the morning. I was surprised at how many people were already there, but I hadn't found Wenona yet. Just before the shuttle buses left the parking lot, we connected and she picked up a packet for another friend (via Instagram), Kelsey. 


A few minutes later, rather than taking one of the four full shuttle buses, Wenona's husband drove us to the Start line. On the way up I noticed that out in the reservoir, which was low for the winter, was a herd of elk! What a view!



Just before the race, all smiles at the Dorena school! PC: Doan Turner

We had a dry gymnasium to hang out in for a little while before the race, which was perfect just in case. 


I took off for a little warm-up jog, and spent about 10 to 15 minutes doing some light and easy stuff and then a few accelerations


My plan was to go out at a seven minute mile and see how it felt. I really had no idea if it was something I could hold for the entire race. I also didn't know how good my GPS reception would be up there and if the readings on watch would be accurate. So, I was aiming for a pace, with the plan to let effort be my ultimate guide. 


I noticed a familiar face giving out lots of hugs (and advice) to runners. Taking a stab, I said something to him and it turned out it was a Facebook friend I had never met in person before, Lonn. It's always fun how races bring people together ☺️


We were advised to have anybody running under an hour and 30 minutes at the front and everybody else behind them. I figured I would find the fast group and get behind it. I definitely wasn't going to go out like a firecracker, but I also didn't want to be stuck behind anyone. 

Fortunately, there was plenty of space in the wide road at the start before hitting the trail. By the time all of us runners were on the trail, most everyone had a good position established.


My watch was reading in the 6:30 to 6:40 range for the first little bit, and I decided to pull myself back. I would have no legs left if I tried to keep that up! 


Somewhere around the 1st mile marker, I saw Lonn again, cheering, and asked him if I could leave something with him. He's very courteously said "yes," and I handed him my fuel belt that had my phone in it. 


For some reason my stomach was aching, and I knew I couldn't handle having that belt on for another 12 miles. I had thought of just tossing it in the bushes somewhere. And, it probably still would've been there when I came back, but it had my key in it, and it would've been a pain in the butt to go back for! THANK YOU Lonn! 


As I came to the next mile marker, I saw the sign before my watch read 2 miles, and I decided to go ahead and hit the lap button. I didn't know what my pace actually was, or if I was getting bad GPS signal. Of course, every one of the mile markers started to come about at about .96 of a mile. And I hoped that it was just a GPS issue. 


The course is tree/covered in sections, with amazing views of Dorena reservoir and the mountains beyond. It's easy to find yourself staring off and forgetting about your pace when you're distracted by that kind of panorama!




Enjoying the view during the "middle miles" of the course. PC: Audra Terry Photography, used with permission
Someone clearly FAST! Photo : audraterryphotography.com

I had slowed down a few seconds of a mile and was running what I thought was about a 7:07 - 7:10 pace. There wasn't a lot of passing or getting passed during this race except with one lady whom I didn't recognize. She had gone out fast, then I caught her, but she passed me on the downhill section and said something about me catching her again on the flat. I wish I had!


Oddly, my slowest miles for the race were during the downhill section. I wasn't consciously trying to hold back, but I figured if I went any faster it was going to take more effort than I could keep up. I am certain of it now!


By the time I hit the flat, "town" section, I knew I was closing in on the finish. There was one very long mile between nine and 10 markers. This was a bit of a "catch up" for all of the short miles earlier. I was mentally prepared for it thankfully! With only 4 miles left, I was ready to turn things up a notch. Unfortunately, there wasn't much left in my legs! 


I struggled trying to catch the girl in the pink shirt, (who turned out to be in my same age group). I never quite caught her; but, I think if I had another 50 yards… Maybe ;-)


After trying repeatedly to find another, faster, gear, I finally made it to the finish line in 1:34:28. I got a lovely medal placed around my neck, and stretched a bit --until I saw Kelsey coming in, followed by Wenona, who had earned a shiny, new PR!


***

A few thoughts about the race

All in all, it was a fantastic day. I'm blessed just to be able to run, but even more blessed when I get to run with friends.


Any complaints I have are against myself, ( I will save that for a different post.) The race was well staffed, with flaggers at every intersection, paramedics, and pretty much no way to get lost!


The aid stations were stocked with water which was handed out. I never needed the water because I had my orange mud handheld, but I picked up a hammer gel along the course, only because I had tossed my bag with 3 Honeystinger gels in it! 


I didn't stick around for the award ceremony this time, because I was pretty sure I didn't get one. I might have to look back through though! For a first-year event, there were a lot of people, but everything seem to have been thought of, from the porta-potties  and the shuttle buses, to the food stands at the finish line. A lot of thought was put into making this race worth the entry fee.


Overall, I would rate this race as a 9 out of 10 stars, only (-1) because of the mile markers.. I would definitely do it over again!


See it on STRAVA

26 comments:

  1. Congrats on a fantastic race Raina! Sounds and looks like a really lovely course. How fun to run with friends!

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    1. Thank you Marcia! It was nice to push myself at that level again.

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  2. Congrats on a great result. Looks like a beautiful course!!

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    1. Surely it was a gorgeous course! Thank you Robin.

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  3. you ran a great race Raina! Congrats and make sure to do it again!

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    1. Feeling like I need to do another one in two weeks! Ha ha! Thank you, Bruce :)

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  4. Great job Raina. You ran really fast to me (your "didn't have it" pace would be a PR for me, so it's all about perspective). The course looks beautiful. Way to run strong.

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  5. I thank you for saying that, Jodi. You're correct! But it's all about expectations isn't it? 6 years ago I was thrilled the first time I ran three minutes slower than this! I am full of gratitude just to be able to run. That is the biggest gift.

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  6. I love how you met Lonn! Every time there's a major race in Toronto, it always become a little social media meet up where online friends becomes offline friends!

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    1. Races make good places to meet up with running friends! It was funny though because I wasn't sure if he would recognize me :-) Thank you for leaving a comment today, Carmy!

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  7. Fantastic Post!! Thanx 4 The Photos!! Stay Strong!!

    Cheers

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  8. Awesome! Congratulations. Sounds like a beautiful race. And so not bad for not 'training' for it!!!
    Thank heavens for Lonn! I love runners!

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    1. Thanks Carolyn! Yes.. so glad he was there :)

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  9. Congrats on a speedy race with your fastest mile being your last one! What a pretty course with the trees and lake!

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    1. It was so pretty... That last mile hurt though!

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    2. I know what you mean since I just went through that myself on Saturday. Totally worth it, though!

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  10. Sounds awesome. I've done a couple of triathlons at Cottage Grove Lake and it's such a beautiful area. Nice work. That's a solid pace.

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    1. Thanks Taylor! Cottage Grove lake and Dorena are two spots I love to take my family during the summer. It's just an awesome outdoor playground.

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  11. What a beautiful course! I think I'd love that type of course, especially with the scenery for some distraction. I think you had an excellent run, especially following the ups and downs of last year. If you get a chance to run another half before the height of summer, perhaps have a crack - I'm sure you've got a PB in you. Well done again.

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    1. I'm definitely thinking about it, Ewen. It's hard to be good at road running unless you spend time on it though! So I am torn. We'll see. :)

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  12. Congrats on the half Raina! Small world, I know someone who ran that race too! A fellow writer from Salty Running ran in it, and she is good friends with Lonn as she mas mentioned him before!

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    1. That's so funny! It's a small world, and no doubt some people in the area are SUPER involved with the local races. I see someone I know at every one :) Now I am super curious about which friend it was!

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  13. Thank you for sharing! Enjoyed it very much.

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  14. Fun recap, Raina! Congrats to all of you on a great race.

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  15. Congratulations on a fantastic time Raina :) You should check those stats! I bet you faired really well. It looks like a great course and that is nice it turned out to be a good day for your friends as well.

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