Saturday, November 7, 2009

Racing the Storm

On our marks.

The Red Lizard cross-country series ended last weekend, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a race to be found today. The USATF put on the first of two Saturdays of racing out at Sandy High School. I didn't exactly set myself up well for today's 5K (next week it'll be 8K). Yesterday's planned 10-miler morphed into an 18.5-mile, pavement-and-asphalt slugfest that took me downtown, a half-dozen times around the Hawthorne-Steele bridges loop, then back home. This was the pre-CIM long run I was planning on doing tomorrow, but when it occurred to me, as I embarked on the run, that CIM is only four weeks away, I got a notion to do two long runs, Friday and Sunday. So tomorrow will be another big day, assuming a wheel hasn't fallen off.

The men's race came last, at noon, after the juniors and women, so I had time for a morning walk to the farmers' market. Rain was in the forecast, but fortunately it was holding off. Unfortunately, I arrived at the market at 8:30, and although many of the vendors were there and set up, the pasture-grazed meat guy told me if he sold me anything before 9 he'd be bounced from the venue by the organizers. Could I hang on for 30 minutes? Right. I walked home empty-handed, wondering what kind of bogus farmers' market doesn't get going until 9. Nine, that's lunchtime on the farms my parents grew up on.

Once home, I jumped online to check the radar. The Doppler showed an impressive yellow and red wave onto the coast, headed right for the Portland area. When would it hit Sandy, 20 miles east of the city: before, during or after the race? Hard to tell. Not that I cared that much. Running in howling wind at 50 degrees with torrential rain wouldn't be my first choice, but 5K of it I could survive.

Still no rain by the time I arrived in Sandy, around 11:30, though skies were heavy and that wind was ripping. The women were finishing up their race. There were, like, three guys there then, but nine were at the line when the starter called us to our marks. We went first across a big grass field, then into the woods, where we wound around every which way until I had no idea what direction I was going. I just tried to stay upright while making the dozens of turns on the squishy track under the canopy, and to keep an eye on the guy 10 or 15 yards in front of me. I knew there were two guys behind me and after a while I couldn't hear them anymore. I was surprised that my legs felt reasonably spry. If I'd rested instead of running long yesterday I might have had enough juice to nab the guy in front of me, maybe even the guy in front of him, but just running decently on the dirt and grass was good enough for me. It was good stuff.

We finished on the Sandy High track just as the skies began to spit. The hardy USATF-Oregon people were already beginning to pack up after several hours out there. A look to the west showed a wall of rain moving toward us. This wasn't your typical Portland dripper; it had Midwestern ferocity written all over it. I hurried to the car, not even bothering to change. By the time I got on U.S. 26 for the drive through Sandy and Gresham, the skies had opened and the rain was whipped sideways by the wind. A huge bolt of lightning cracked just to the north. It was a little harrowing. Water began to pool at some intersections and in low spots along the right side of the road. It was good to make it home safely, have a nice hot shower, and then get some beans and rice going on the stove.

My Garmin data.

Photo courtesy Red Lizard BrianH.

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