And, with that, I am an official pacer for hire! Well, I’m free…but I do accept smiles, kind words and the occasional food-based bribe in exchange for getting you across the finish line in one piece.
Syreeta and I had such a blast on the trails last week that she came back for even more hill-ish torture this week — as a seasoned pro now, I might add. And at last week’s practice we even managed to talk one of our fellow Team LUNA Chix Portland Run members, Ashly, into joining us for her first-ever trail race.
Ashly’s done her fair share of road racing, but this was her first off-road foray, so she was understandably nervous — not only is the terrain challenging, but the temperature also spiked back up to near 100 here in Portland. Our friend Tiffany joined in on the fun, too, to round out our LUNA Chix crew!
On the menu? An evening route of 4.78 miles. It’s the shortest of the courses so far in the series, but we didn’t let the distance fool us — there were bound to be some good hills in there.
We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Keil, down Keil to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Alder, down Alder to Leif, up Leif to Dogwood, up Dogwood to Wildwood, down Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.
We lined up near the back of the pack to let the faster runners go ahead. I wanted to make sure Ashly started conservatively, which meant staying out of the fray and listening to her body so she could go at a comfortable, sustainable pace.
For the third week in a row, we started off by scrambling up Wild Cherry (aka my nemesis). We made it most of the way up at a slow jog but slowed to a walk near the top so we could catch our breaths and allow our heart rates to come down.
Tiffany and Syreeta went on ahead while Ashly and I deployed a walk-jog strategy: We’d walk up the steeper hills and jog the flats and downhills to help conserve energy and keep the focus on moving forward.
We were about a mile in when all of the sudden Syreeta came doubling back along the path to join us. Ashly led the way, and we followed her lead.
Of course, we also fell easily into a great conversation, so when we weren’t gasping for breath up the hills we were laughing over stories, and the miles quickly flew by.
Before we knew it, we ran into Yassine from Animal Athletics, who said that not only did we only have a mile and a half to go, but also that is was mostly downhill. We picked up the pace and about a half mile later, we ran into Ashly’s husband, Sean, who had already finished and was coming back to provide some moral support for Ashly in the final mile.
As we cruised back down Leif Erikson, we rounded the final corner and Ashly kicked it into high gear for the last 100 yards or so to the finish line. Our final time was 1:10:51.
I’m so proud of her for pushing through and dominating a hilly course like that in the heat. And you know what? She’s already contemplating coming back next week and making the step up to a longer distance trail race this fall. Mission accomplished; we’ve got a new trail runner in our midst!
And, as always, we’re excited to do it all over again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race number four.
And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.