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Pacific Northwest Marathon Review (Half): 30, Paceaversary, and a reminder of why I run

Three years ago, I jumped into the world of being a race pacer with no clue of what I was doing or for that matter how much it would change me as a runner. But I will go into that more shortly. The race was the Pacific Northwest Marathon for their half marathon event. It is kind of ironic that my 30th half marathon and my pacing birthday.

I returned this year as a third year pacer. Being with them since day 1 has let me see how much this race has grown since the beginning.

If you read any of my previous reviews, you will understand this is not the typical race you will see in Oregon. This is more like a super supportive group running event that gives you a medal. It leads to this being an affordable more all abilities friendly race. Packet pick up was a small affair at Dicks Sporting Goods, allowing you to pick up your shirt where you got a choice of color and style and your packet. One thing that I will always love with this race is it is small enough the race directing team gets to know you and know what motivated you to be at this race.

My Saturday started super early. I was the pace team leader so I needed to be at the race in time for the early starters which gave people who had been slower then 12:00 miles a chance to be on the course. This is a rarity for any Oregon based race. Its a 7:00 hour course limit, which makes it one of the most inclusive races you will see.

I was pacing the 3:00 half but I was going out with the main start group. After Hot Chocolate in March I learned that the 1:1 interval was always going to be my best answer when pacing because it was the easiest intervals to adjust on the fly.

This is one of my favorite courses every year. You take to the streets and back country of Springfield. The only big challenge with this course is the race is small enough the streets are not closed and you need to be careful to watch out for traffic. That being said its a small downside.

I passed a small group I think it was at mile four and at this point I was on my own. One lady decided to tell her friends “I want to see if I can keep up.” I explained to her what I was doing for intervals and she was honest with me, she did not think she could make that pace but was going to stay with me as long as she could.

This is a well supported all volunteer effort for this race. All the water stations had been fully stocked with anything that you could of needed. And this is one of the few races I have ever seen where the elites take the time to cheer for the back of the pack as they pass (its an out and back.)

My favorite part of the course is through Armitage Park getting to run so close to the water is breathtaking. After the park you get back into the urban part of Springfield before making the half way turn.

My new friend, Kari was doing excellent. She was in pain but she wanted to keep pushing so I kept talking her through it. She explained to me she just wanted to prove to herself that she could do it.

The course started getting really wet after we made the turn but for me this was turning into the best effort I had pacing since I started this. I was running just a few seconds early all away through.

Now the one thing is going back some of the water stations had been left unmanned. Most of this was probably due to the weather. But there was enough stuff laid out at each that you had nothing to worry about.

When we got to the last mile I realized I did have a couple mins I could burn off and still be close to I told Kari to walk a little more and save her energy for the last push at the end. She was a little worried about the 5K’ers coming in so fast around us, but I told her just focus on what we are working on and she will be fine. She was almost in tears at this point. She was hurting but wanted her daughter to see her finish strong. I think we made the right call in the long run because just at the last quarter mile she felt like she was ready so I told her to go and I was screaming for dear life. She finished in 2:59.

The finish line was amazing. You get your medal and treated to a spread of community offered up food. And unlike a lot of races people will stay to support you. I stayed to collect signs and cheering for my fellow pacers.

Then the race director asked me to add a few miles on to my race.

We had some marathoners out on the course at mile 18. And this was close to 6 hours in from the early start. They drove me out and I walked with them for about three miles. It was inspiring see some of the dedication out there.

This race teaches me so much every year. This year it reminded me why I love running. It is about the people, the stories and the community that can encourage each other.

Hot Chocolate 15K Seattle Recap: AKA This Is The Hill That Never Ends

For the second year in a row I had the pleasure of serving as a pacer for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Seattle. The one thing I learned last year is that this course is tough.

And that has not changed.

The experience starts at the expo which takes place at the Seattle Center Exhibition Center. The one thing I have always enjoyed with this race series is how easy it is to get from bib pick up to goodie bag (your hoodie) and on your way. There is a small vendor area which includes a place to shop for all of your Hot Chocolate gear.

Last year it HAILED on the back of the pack. This year the weather threw it’s own challenges again. There was a

From the back of the pack race start.
cold wind and it was wet at points and the forecast actually had called for snow.

The start line is organized into corrals, being I was in the back of the pack, the corrals are not well maintained. And it does take some patience to make it to the start. But being able to see the space needle first thing in the morning is a breathtaking sight. You want to make sure you stay warm on this course.

I went into this with a 1-1 run walk plan, I knew from what I learned last year that this course is really scenically beautiful but it is tough. You get some gentle rolling up and down hills in the first two miles, going out under Pike Place Market and through the Alaskan Way Viaduct before you are hit with the hill that never ends.

The Aurora Avenue out and back gives you quite possibly some of the most scenic views of Seattle you will see but for the two miles it is almost a straight up hill climb, and if you do not know that it is coming it will hit you like a ton of bricks before you turn around right after the mile 6 point. The nice thing is it takes you downhill after.

The course is well supported and you get a chance to eat chocolate at a few of the water stops. You finish thorough the main concourse of Seattle Center which is fun. Especially as you are finishing almost next to the space needle.

After the race you get to cycle through to get your medal, water and the famous post race chocolate, where you get a cup full of snacks and chocolate to dip it in. They organize the lines so you are not waiting long for everything and this years medals continue to be one of my favorites. They look like small chocolate pieces.

I will be back, I keep learning every time I am working on this race how to think on the fly and be a pacer. This is a tough but well organized race well worth it in the end.

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K proves to be a wet, cold, challenge

One thing I have had to learn as a pacer.

Sometimes you are going to get wet.

This one I got super wet.

I have always wanted to do the Hot Chocolate Races. Cost and travel made it less then cost effective. When Beast Pacing gave me the opportunity to be able be a pacer for the 15K I jumped all over it.

I got to the expo on Friday and it was small, but really well organized. If you did not have your information you could have a volunteer help look it up for you. Then you picked up your goodie bag which had your race jacket, which is a change from the normal hoodies that they had been doing. There had been a few vendor booths and a chance to purchase race gear.

Sunday morning started with finding my pacing crew and picking up my pacing kit. I have to thank Beast and Ram Racing for the nice shirt and the 2XU compression sleeves.

Bag check was very easy and simple to get through. The volunteers had been eager.

The start line corrals had been between Key Arena and the Armory which made it very narrow but still a well organized system. The only down side is I was pushed almost all away back to the corral behind me.

Now the course. This course is TOUGH. I thought Seattle Marathon was tough, that is actually a walk in the park

My amazing fellow 12:00 pacer
My amazing fellow 12:00 pacer
compared to this. You start with a quick run through downtown before you hit the roads behind Pikes Market. This is one sharp down hill and one sharp up hill back to back before you hit the tunnels that take you to Aurora Avenue.

And Aurora itself?

If you live in Seattle you know what this entails. This was a series of up and down hills including a long climb right up after the bridge. I heard some people mention how the elevation map made it look like stairs, it had not been. It was a straight set of hills. I was not ready for how tough that side would be.

The course is well supported even in the pouring down rain. The volunteers went out of their way to encourage the runners and the pacers alike even though it was pouring down rain and windy. (We actually had thunderstorms)

I finished a few seconds back of pace, but still had runners coming up to me thanking me for running and holding my sign which meant a lot. I ran with Marie, who is one of my fellow Skirt Sports Ambassadors and she was truly a difference maker. It was nice to have a pacer with me and we kept each other in line all away through.

I finished and headed for the post race, which consisted of the famous food and chocolate finishers mug. We did not have much of a festival area so I was in and out quickly.

This is a fun race, its well organized and a bit of a challenge. I am actually excited for next year.

Half Marathon Recap: Pacific NW Marathon. The First Pace?

Sorry for the play on words, it just rolled out there.

When the opportunity came from Beast Pacing to jump into the water for the first time as a pacer, I was nervous but I decided it would be a good new half marathon challenge for me. The Pacific NW Marathon is a brand new event for the Eugene area. It would be a smaller event that advertised itself as an all abilities friendly event. So I had figured that it would be a good one to see if pacing was something I could actually do. (I freely admit, I have had a track record of having miserable pacing instincts) I was put at the 2:55 pace, which I knew was totally doable so I did a lot of work to try and make sure doing.

Packet pick up for this event was at Valley River Center at the Sport Authority. It was well organized and I was in and out very quickly. The team at packet pickup was very friendly and very excited that I had made the trip from Portland.

Now, let me emphasize something. The Pacific NW Marathon is a no frills event,which is not a bad thing, I think it leads to the fact its more of affordable race. The packet consisted of your number, your really pretty event shirt, and a few coupons from local sponsors. The race was to raise funds for Girls on the Run of Lane County.

Race morning was Saturday morning which was a first for me in Eugene. The race started at 7, and I managed to get to the race early for the first time in a long.

They had a vacant shop opened up for day of race packet pick up. Which allowed everyone to stay warm and cozy insideWP_20150502_001 until the race started. They also allowed you to leave your warm up clothes inside.

The start of the race was well organized. Beast Pacing only had three pacers for the half, myself, someone at 2:25 and someone at 3:25 who took an early start. So we made sure to spread ourselves out with me being parked at the back.

I met three ladies as we had prepped for the start who all had goals of running sub 3’s on their half. One of the ladies had been running with her son who was a first timer out to support his mom and two girls who are best of friends one running her first.

We took off at an agreed upon 4 min running, 2 min walking cadence which banked us enough time for walking the water stations.

The course was a different course then I have done in Eugene, it was closer to running Springfield. Each turn was marked with chalk, even when they did not have the volunteers to man the station (I think with this being such a small event and being the weekend before the Eugene Marathon made it harder to get volunteers) it was easy for us to figure out where we had been going though we literally had been running as a group by ourselves. The course itself was quite beautiful with some scenic views of the rivers, some of the farm land that I had never seen.

The water stations had been small and manned by one or two people. The first one was near mile 3, which is probably my only real complaint about this race. Also, I think the GPS was way off, but I had this measured at 13.3 miles. It happens a lot so its not a big thing for me, but I know for some it is.

Half Marathons are easier when you sing.  These ladies had it down!
Half Marathons are easier when you sing. These ladies had it down!
Our group was AMAZING. We spent a lot of time talking about our individual running journeys and we also may of may of not been the Proclaimers a few time on the course, which caused the marshals to start dancing with us.

Our group got separated around mile 7 as the mom had been having blister issues and the girls ran ahead a bit. I caught up to the girls, one of which was running her first half. And we ran together, I tried to do everything I could to motivate and encourage the girls because at this point we had all been feeling it.

As we came back around, I encouraged the girls to get ahead of me, because I had a few seconds to burn on my pace.

We got our finishers medals, and fluids and enjoyed a really well organized stretching area from Oakway Fitness. Again the post race was no frills, but I am okay with that if it makes for a more affordable event. The mom and son finished just a few mins behind us.

All four people told me that they might not of been able to do it without me, which was very humbling. And for the

My mom and son combo.
My mom and son combo.
fact that I was freaking out about the pace, my official time was 2:54:47, which was almost perfect.

The race director found me, and asked me what I thought about the race. The one thing that kept getting to me with this race was how inclusive it was. I have never seen a race where the elite runners actually took a couple seconds of energy to tell the BOP (back of packers) that we had been doing a nice job. And the volunteers had been so energetic and on top of their game. This race defiantly had its growing pains, but for the first year it defiantly found a way to differentiate itself from the rest.

I want to defaintly thank Vanessa at Beast Pacing for giving this first timer a shot. And the race director for taking the time to come talk to me just to see what I thought. I will be back.