Helvetia Half Marathon race recap

Saturday: 13.1!

Sunday: easy 20-minute recovery run

Monday: 30 minutes on the elliptical

Tuesday & Wednesday: nuthin’

Thursday: 45 minute easy run

Leading up to the Helvetia Half, I was pretty excited. I felt good about my last long run before the race, and I tapered smartly (wasn’t hard to do — I kind of love rest days). I ate well (polenta & shrimp at Screen Door, for the happy tummy win) and got plenty of sleep.

The only thing that gave me pause was the truly craptastic weather we had the day before. Gray skies, moonsoon-y downpours and lots of wind.

rain in Portland

Guess it’s called June-uary for a reason. Damn, Portland.

Maybe Portland got the angst out of its system, because we woke on Saturday to blue skies and 62° temps. Hell yeah. My spirits were high.

at the start

Here are my friend, Dillon, and I near the start. See the cheesetastic grins? We’re ready to run.

In hindsight, I totally over-dressed. I got warm right away, tied my top layer around my waist and wished I could lose the running tights.

Miles 1-3: I intended to go out slow. I wanted those first three miles to function as a warmup, to feel easy and fun. I imagined I’d run them at a 9:00-9:15 pace, but kept looking at my Garmin and seeing 8:20-8:30, so then I’d pull my pace back. I’m glad I did because it definitely conserved energy, but now I wonder if I should have just let my legs do the deciding. This part of the course was flat and easy, meandering past open, grassy fields.

  • mile 1: 8:40
  • mile 2: 8:37
  • mile 3: 8:38

Hot & sweaty, and this is probably only around the 4th mile.

Miles 4-6: Heading into the fourth mile, I wanted to pick up the pace and catch the 8:30 pacer. (She had a yellow balloon tied to her tank top so she was easy to spot.) I wouldn’t catch her in this stretch, as I soon realized this was the hilliest part of the course. Luckily, the hills were rolling and let up with moments of downhill and flats in between. I saw my friend, Andrew, right before heading into the biggest hills (spectating on the sidelines with a cowbell and signs!) — it was a huge morale boost. The hill in the 5th mile did worry me a bit, as I saw a 10:40 on my watch. (Note to self: Do more hill training.) I wondered if it’d throw off the rest of the race.

  • mile 4: 8:32
  • mile 5: 9:18
  • mile 6: 8:21

Miles 7-9: I ate a gel around mile six, and I felt a surge of energy in the seventh mile. I was actually really surprised at how good I was feeling. I wasn’t breathing very hard; my legs felt nice and springy. From here to the finish, I stopped looking at my Garmin and just let my legs take me. In this stretch particularly, I focused on passing people. There were a few people who just weren’t having it, and we alternately passed each other back and forth for a few miles. It was fun to feel my competitive streak in the middle of the race, and it made these miles go by pretty quickly. The course’s last hill was somewhere in the seventh mile, I believe, and it was pretty much flat from there to the finish.

  • mile 7: 8:19
  • mile 8: 8:13
  • mile 9: 8:01

This is somewhere near mile 10. I must’ve been feeling good if I was hamming it up for the photographer.

Miles 10-13.1: I saw Andrew and another friend, Jenny, around mile 10. I knew they’d be there, and it was another huge boost. It signaled I was on the homestretch. I started picking up the pace (though, if you look at the numbers, my pace didn’t change all that much until the last mile, so I know my legs were getting fatigued at this point). The course turned right onto a gravel path in mile eleven. I ate a second gel while I rode out the gravel. It’s not the easiest surface to run on near the end of the race, but not terrible either. I finally passed the 8:30 pacer during this leg of the race, and just kept telling myself that I wanted to finish strong. When I headed into the Hillsboro Stadium, I was giddy. I knew I’d beat my goal time (under 2 hours) and I was ready to stop running. :)

  • mile 10: 8:14
  • mile 11: 8:18
  • mile 12: 8:08
  • mile 13: 7:51
  • mile .1: 6:46 pace (that’s nearly a sprint for me!)

With Jenny & Andrew and their awesome signs. Thanks, friends!

Official time: 1:50:26, Garmin pace: 8:22 (since I ran 13.2 miles with taking long corners, I think), official pace: 8:25

The verdict? The race was well-organized, not too big (just 2,500 participants) and the course was really nice. Not a super fast or flat course, but not as hilly as folks make it sound. Oh, and, having spectators rocks. I’m pretty sure I need Andrew and Jenny and Dillon to come to every running event I do from now on. Not too much to ask, right guys?

If you’re wondering if you should do the Helvetia Half next year, DO IT. And tell me other half marathons I should sign up for this year. I’ve caught the 13.1 bug.


Helvetia Half, take that

I ran the Helvetia Half Marathon today and surprised myself. My pace was better than I expected (my goal was to finish under 2 hours) … I even wonder if I should have pushed it a little harder in the first 5 miles. Overall, I’m pretty pumped about the outcome as it’s my first 13.1 miles in five years (and I didn’t train at all for that one five years ago — bad idea). My training is actually paying off, and I’m super motivated to sign up for more half marathons (and maybe a full?). (Thank you, legs! Thank you, lungs! Thank you, mind!)

I’ll do a full race recap tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s a quick summary:

Rough look at the course map …

Helvetia Map

The race finished in the Hillsboro Stadium.

My mile splits …

Helvetia Splits

I don’t like the 9:18, but it was during the biggest hill of the race. I’m pretty stoked about the rest.

The elevation profile …

Helvetia Elevation

Elevation by the numbers …

Helvetia Elevation numbers

The rest of the day looked like: eating, stretching, eating, foam rolling, getting a pedicure, eating … and eating. Can’t complain. Back later with more details!

chasing beast mode

Friday’s workout: nothing

Saturday’s workout: 8 mile run, 8:42 avg pace (splits below)

I felt nearly euphoric on today’s run. The route was good — I hit Lloyd area, Broadway/Sullivan’s Gulch, Fremont and Killingsworth — and it was my favorite running weather: 65 and sunny. I also had way too much fun with my outfit:

running outfit

Go ahead: be jealous that I'm wearing 11 different colors.

Here’s a summary view of the run (I don’t trust that I burned over 900 calories, but whatever):

Lloyd route

And my mile splits:

  • mile 1: 8:44
  • mile 2: 8:29
  • mile 3: 9:05
  • mile 4: 8:49
  • mile 5: 8:56
  • mile 6: 9:08
  • mile 7: 8:15
  • mile 8: 8:01

The hilliest parts of the run (still not very hilly) were in miles 3 and 6, with some gradual hills in miles 4 and 5. By mile 7, I knew I was on the flat homestretch, and I had energy to burn.

I’m thinking my race pace goal of 8:30 is attainable. Sweet.

And using the Garmin seems to change my running philosophy a bit. I’m much more focused on finishing one mile at a time, not so obsessed with the whole shebang.

I wore compression socks and didn’t feel any knee or hip pain — hooray! — but that doesn’t mean the foam roller didn’t kick my ass when I got home.

foam roller

My IT band's best friend. And its worst enemy.

What’s putting you in beast mode this weekend? :)

well, there goes 4 hours

Wednesday’s workout: Power sculpt class at the gym (at 5:30 am, thankyouverymuch)

Thursday’s workout: 5 miles, progressive run

Before I get to explaining my progressive run, let me tell you where the last 4 hours of my life went. Actually, it’s more than 4 hours because it started yesterday evening …

I’ve been eyeing Garmin GPS running watches for a while. But I had a hard time justifying the expense because, well, I wasn’t running that much. And I was using the Run Training app on my phone, and I guess it seemed adequate.

But … have you met me? I’m very detail-oriented and very competitive (with myself), and I just kept lusting (yes, lusting) after all of the data that the Garmin collects: cadence, calories, distance, elevation, heart rate, direction, pace and more and more and more!!

So I did my research and decided to compromise: I’d get a Garmin, but I’d buy an older model at a lower price. (I was looking most closely at the Forerunner 410 and Forerunner 210, and also the Nike+ GPS Sportwatch, which doesn’t have as much data goodness.) So I found the Garmin 405 (the early version of the 410) on Amazon for half off, and that was it.

When it arrived yesterday, I got so excited that I fell down a rabbit hole of setting it up, learning its features, customizing the screens and creating workouts on Garmin Connect.


I researched running workouts and speed drills. I KNOW THINGS NOW.

There went two (three?) hours.

And, then, the Big Excitement: I’d get to use it for the first time today!

Portland weather, in typical spring fashion, decided not to cooperate so I chose to run on the treadmill. That limited the amount of data I could collect (no GPS), but it was fun to use the heart rate monitor. (That’s right: fun. I kid you not.)

in the gym

Sweaty! Happy! Before I knew what the next 4 hours held.

I completed the run — I know I still need to explain the what of the run; thanks for bearing with me — and was stoked to upload the data to my computer.

I’d already installed the necessary software and a connector plugin and gone through the steps to get the computer to detect the watch. Everything seemed a-okay. The watch beeped, started to upload and gave me the sweet message:

transfer complete

But, when I logged onto Garmin Connect, it didn’t show my workout. I tried again. And again. Nope, nothing.

I restarted. Nada.

I uninstalled the software, re-installed. I read the damn manual. I Googled. I found forums. I looked for software updates.

My watch kept telling me it was connecting. I kept seeing the success message on my computer screen. BUT THERE WAS NO DATA UNDER THE WORKOUTS TAB. Freakin’ bullshit.

To make a long story … less long … I had to delete the original workout and create some dummy workouts and manually find the files on my computer (a couple of them made it over, just not into the online system) and, well, I guess that’s it.

It just took forever, and I lost the data from the actual workout. And now I don’t trust the damn thing. But it was an expensive damn thing, so I just hope it’s resolved and will be pain-free the next time I take it out.


Moving on.

So what is a progressive run?

Quite simply, it’s running each mile a bit faster than the last. It trains your heart to get comfortable with that progression (no slouching or resting) — and to push through the wall(s) in a race. I did five miles today, and it looked something like this (I checked the watch a lot, so I guess losing the data wasn’t a huge loss, just a time suck):

  • mile 1 > 10:00 mile pace, heart rate around 134
  • mile 2 > 9:30 mile pace, heart rate jumped to 143-146
  • mile 3 > 9:00 mile pace, heart rate around 152
  • mile 4 > 8:30 mile pace, heart rate around 159
  • mile 5 > 8:00 mile pace, heart rate maxed at 163

I’m not actually certain I did it right, for my goal race pace (8:30). The first 3 miles seemed too easy; by the fourth, I  felt like I was getting a workout, but knew I’d be done fairly soon. By the fifth, I didn’t really think I could sustain an 8:00 pace for very long, but it was easy to sustain it for just one mile.

I hit my target heart rate (according to my age), but I’d venture to guess that my heart rate gets a lot higher during my city runs. (I will soon find out. Yay!)

Next time I’ll either extend the distance or start the first mile faster, and then maybe I’ll fall off the treadmill. ;)

Before I go, do you want to see what my tank top reads? ‘Course you do.

tank top

Nothing like a little inspiration.