Boston Training: Weeks 16-18 Taper and Wheatfield Race Recap

By Carissa...

Ah taper...It has to be my favorite part of marathon training.  Every run (or lack thereof) feels like a celebration.  My muscles are fresher. I’m excited to spend the weekend in Boston with two of the sweetest running buddies a girl could ask for.  I have a pacing strategy that I’m excited to try.  Yes, my nose started to run and my throat is bothering me a bit but I am PRAYING it heals up quickly with rest.

Two weekends prior to marathon day I ran my last tune-up race, an 8k.  It just so happened that Jodi needed a half marathon the same weekend and found a race that offered both.  The Wheatfield Half Marathon, 8k and 3k was located in The Dalles, Oregon.  I knew it was going to be a small race when she emailed me the registration form that I had to fill out and mail in.
the sun waking up the Columbia River Gorge on our way to the race

The morning of the race Jodi and I made the 90 minute drive through the scenic Columbia River Gorge to The Dalles.  It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day.  At the race start there was a handful of people.  By 9 AM around 150 runners lined up for the start.  
Carissa and Jodi at the start of the race
When the gun went off I took an early lead for the females.  A half mile in, another female runner passed me.  I set my sights on her and tried to keep up.  She looked strong.  A mile later she was still ahead of me and the gap between us wasn’t shrinking.  I prayed, “Lord, she’s a faster runner than I am.  Will you help me pass her?  It would be so cool to win this race.”  The turn around point was also the first water station.  She went left for water and I saw my chance.  I went right, rounded the cone and to my shock she kept going straight.  She was running the half marathon and I was suddenly in first place without another female runner in sight.  The last two and a half miles of the race were a blend of glee and talking myself into pushing the pace despite the secured first place finish.  I finished in 32:21 (6:30 pace).  Once my race was done I hopped on my bike to meet up with Jodi and ride her to the finish.
Carissa modeling her warm up pace and the beautiful country.  That sign says, "Sharp Curves Next Seven Miles"
and Jodi...

I went into the Wheatfield Half Marathon really unprepared. Here's a list of all the factors that contributed to my "Anything Can Happen" attitude.
  • I had no idea what the course was like - flat, hilly, elevation, scenic?
  • I'm still trying to make up speed that I lost when I took several months off from intense training.  I'm capable of covering the mileage on my schedule, but not at a blistering speed.  I didn't have confidence that I could cover 13.1 miles really fast going into the race.  
  • I went out too fast in the last half marathon I ran and tanked at mile nine.  I really wanted to experiment with negative splits in this race, starting off slow the first half and picking up speed the last half. 
  • I've been toying with how I fuel my body on long runs.  My stomach hasn't been responding well to electrolyte drinks or Gu packs, and I've been taking baggies of raisins/Craisins with me on my training runs.  My body likes eating real food, but I have to stop to eat them, something I didn't want to do when I was racing.  
The only thing I did know, once we arrived, was that I would enjoy the stunning scenery and incredible weather.  If that meant running slower and soaking it in, then so be it.

The start of this race was four miles into the beautiful countryside of Eastern Oregon at a tiny (and I mean TINY) public school.  This was my kind of race.  Small, scenic, down-to-earth, and cheap.  It was only $10 to register for the race - $25 if we wanted a race T-shirt too. We picked up our race "packet" at a table inside the lobby of the school.  It consisted of a colored piece of electrical tape, labeled with our name and age, safety-pinned to a Dairy Queen coupon for a free ice cream cone.
This little church was right in front of the school.  This photo is unedited.  The sky was really that blue!
When Carissa told me she wanted to do a two-mile warm-up, I nearly choked.  Excuse me?  Who runs two miles to warm up for a race?  But she was adamant so I ran 1.5 miles with her before the race.  It did feel good to approach the start on legs that were already warm, although I worried the extra mileage would come back to haunt me at the end of the race.

All three races were held simultaneously and an out-and-back course.  I hooped and hollered and high-fived Carissa when she passed me on her way back to the finish.  I knew she was on her way to winning her first race and I was so excited for her.

I kept telling myself, "Run slow," but that wasn't hard to do because we were running uphill.  Every time I glanced at my watch I was in the 8 minute mile range - not a good indicator I would have a finish time I liked.  I asked a guy (Dan) who settled in next to me when the hill would end.  He laughed and informed me that the entire 6.5 miles to the turnaround was a slow, uphill climb.  It's a good thing I run a lot of hills on my training runs.
This is a good representation of the way up.  Sharp curves, gradual but steady climb, and really pretty.
When we got closer to the turn-around, I saw the leader for the women.  She was at least a mile in front of me and flying!  I counted three other women behind her and realized I was in fifth place overall.  The adrenaline rush fueled my legs for a really fast first mile of downhill, but then fatigue set in.

Carissa found me on the course somewhere between mile eight and nine.  I was dogging it even though I was running downhill.  Dan was slowly pulling ahead and I didn't have the desire to try to stay with him.  Carissa was shocked I hadn't fueled yet and suggested that I do so ASAP.  I stopped to eat some raisins and in the process lost a minimum of thirty seconds (probably closer to a minute) fumbling through my snack break.  Clearly I can't be doing that on marathon day.
"racing" down the course
Carissa rode next to me the remainder of the race.  We were alone on a beautiful country road, literally running and riding straight down the middle of it.  I tried to find my race mojo, but the atmosphere didn't feel very race-like and I was tired.
picking up the pace for the finish
We approached the last water station and I opted to stop and get a drink.  As I took a sip, a woman came out of nowhere and ran right past me.  Carissa and I never even saw her closing on me. Dang it all!  Carissa tried to goad me into chasing her, but I just didn't have it in me.  I settled into a pace that felt dreadfully slow and determined to finish the race strong.

I sprinted into the finish, forgot to hit stop on Garmin (like I always do), and looked around to see my time.  There was no official clock, but I was told I finished sixth overall and third place in my division.  My unofficial time, per my Garmin, was 1:39:22 (7:38 pace).  Definitely not a Personal Record (PR) but about what I expected to run.  The race director was keeping track of how the runners finished in the back of his pickup truck on a clipboard.  He gave us ribbons as prizes for finishing in the top three.  Pretty snazzy!
The tracking system for who finished when.
We got ribbons!  This is the school where the race started and finished.

My new favorite picture of the two of us.  We've made such great memories together.
We changed into dry clothes and headed toward home.  Carissa dropped me off in Mosier, Oregon, a nearby town with a population of 433, where my family was waiting for me.  We said goodbye to Carissa and drove to nearby McCall Nature Preserve. We spent the rest of the day hiking (five miles total).  The views and time together were worth the effort on tired legs.
What most of our family pictures look like
the hills are alive with the sounds of music...

good little hikers
It is always fun to race with Carissa.  I get to say, "She's my running buddy" every time she wins another award.  It's becoming my claim to fame.  I look forward to doing it again soon and really wish I could be in Boston to cheer her on.  Maybe some year we'll run it together.  Go Carissa go!


  1. Congrats to both of you for great races! It looked the perfect day to run.

    I haven't seen a race use that kind of tracking system in a long time! Maybe 10 years or so?

    Carissa- I hope that you feel better soon!!!!!

    1. Thanks Tasha. The tracking system was a hoot. It's fun to mix up chip timing with the unofficial method used in this race.

    2. Thanks Tasha. It was really fun.

  2. That's a fantastic 8k race time, Carissa!! I hope you are excited to race at Boston because your legs are ready to roll!!

    Jodi- good race for you as well, with a smart experiment in pacing. It's a fine science- that race fueling. I hope you find what works best on the go. A lot of people think that you don't need to fuel in the race if it's shorter than 1:30, but you are right at that threshold. And no-one wants to bonk!

    Fun reading about the small town race directing- I miss the older systems sometimes!

    1. Thanks for the tips Raina. I'll take any input you can give. It may be a moot point though - I injured my foot this week and it doesn't appear to be a minor "overuse" injury. Kind of discouraging ten weeks into a marathon training program...