Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Top of Old Tabor

See that big white peak? That's not Mount Tabor.
Tabor is the bump in front.

Finally, about 10 minutes after the race was scheduled to start last night, the race director showed up at what the gathered crowd suspected but was not sure was the start line. A bearded slightly chunky guy he was looking frazzled, overheated. No surprise. He had several hundred runners doing three different distances virtually simultaneously at various spots on Portland’s favorite volcano, Mount Tabor. Then there were the dogs. It was the Mount Tabor Doggie Challenge, so there were dogs everywhere. And kids for the kids race. And bicyclists who typically own Tabor on Wednesday, when it’s closed to cars: they were weaving through and around us with more than a few gripes.

He tugged at his white, soggy-with-sweat T-shirt to give himself some air. He apologized for the delay, muttered vague regret about having switched the race to a Wednesday, gave us a few course notes and pointed out there would be beer, Burgerville and a band at the finish. “I think we can still have a lot of fun,” he said.

Huh, I thought. Can we? I actually hadn’t been too bent out of shape that the race organization was wobbly, mostly because it was apparent from the very start this race was more about good wacky fun than keen competition. Plus, I did not have high expectations for myself. I had arrived home three hours earlier after a five-hour drive from Ashland, then had one of those face-wrinkling afternoon naps that can happen, where you crash hard and awake groggy and with a pillow pattern indented on your cheek and part of your nose. It was 5:40 p.m. when I came to. The race was set for 6:30 p.m.

Still, despite not being in PR-seeking mode, and having arrived and locked up the Bontrager around 6:15, the disarray did put my inner uptight asshole on notice. I was poised to get ornery if things didn’t turn around quickly. Then came that suggestion that "we can still have fun.” Tabor, one of my favorite places to find myself in running shoes. A fine, sunny and warm summer evening. Beer. Burgers. A vast collection of shockingly well-behaved dogs of every size and shape. What the hell. He could be right.

He counted us down from 10 and then whistled into his megaphone to get the show on the road. I had warned the tiny speck of a girl, maybe 10 or 11 years old, next to me at the front of the pack that giant fast people might come plowing through so maybe she wanted to move back off the line? “No.” she said. “I don’t want people in my way. I'm very serious. I’ve run 22:35.” Well OK little plucky one! Nevertheless, as we took off a gangly high-school-age guy tried to leap between me and the wee tyke. There was not sufficient space. The gangly guy left me alone but shoved the little kid to the side. I was briefly horrified, but she took it in stride. Onward.

We had started about 50 meters shy of the Tabor peak, and headed up to the top. There’s a short circle there and after completing it we wound our way down to the northeast base of the park. A couple of guys were pulling well away and then came a small cluster that included me. Behind us the crowd of nearly 200 must have stretched way, way back; a check of the results afterward showed that two-thirds of the finishers did the race at slower than 10:00/mile.

It was a sweet downhill, but then we had to head back up and around the hill, not all the way to the top, but pretty close. That was horrible, pushing and pushing to the brink of hurling, but barely moving anyway. What was the point?

Oh, yeah: fun.

We got one more downhill after that, just long enough to give us stupid confidence that the final 100 yards up to the finish line wouldn’t kill us. I hit the line in 18:56 and lived to tell about it.

Some Widmer ale and a little Mediterranean-inspired burger from Burgerville’s Nomad hit the spot. Under the tall trees an outstanding mercifully fiddleless bluegrass group played. I watched people and their dogs, dogs and their people. An hour after it all began I was on my way, feeling two-beers-good headed back down the hill home on the bike. But just before I left I saw the RD guy. He was getting in a truck, about to move some race gear it appeared. He had changed out of his white T-shirt into a red one. He looked a little less crazed but still not out of the woods. I said, “Great evening. Tons of fun. It was beautiful.” He smiled and said, “Thanks.”


1 comment:

  1. Wait a minute -- you did an 18:56 5k on *that* course? Outstanding. Glad you had fun, too!