When It All Comes Together - ORCC Champoeg 30K Race Review

by Jodi

On Saturday I ran my first ever 30k (18.6 miles).  We all know what that means...  automatic PR!  Hooray for first time events.

On every level this race felt different than the half marathon I ran a few weeks ago.  I went into the half marathon with very specific time-related goals and a ton of race-day nerves.  The way I raced, my finish time, and the way I felt after the race all reflected too much pressure, not enough fun.  I wanted to change that dynamic for this race.

A week after my half marathon my friend Ruth invited me to run the Champoeg Park Runs and Walks 10k and 30k with her.  The race was only three weeks away and included a distance I have never trained for or raced before.  It also was three loops of a 10k course instead of a bigger point-to-point or out-and-back course.  I was intrigued.

Everything about this race was new or different from races I've run in the past: the distance, the lack of significant training, looping the same course three times, and running to share the experience with a friend versus running for an individual goal.  Plus Champoeg State Park is practically in my backyard.  It seemed like a No Brainer.  I said yes and started training.

My only goal for race day was to start slow, build speed as the race progressed, and have my last few miles be my fastest.  I did have one big hope too - to run sub-eight minute miles - but had no idea if this was realistic or not.  If that happened it would be the icing on the cake.

This race starts E A R L Y!  Ruth was waiting in my driveway at 6 a.m. We both had varying degrees of upset stomach which isn't uncommon on race day, but Ruth was feeling particularly bad.  She'd been up sick for hours before the race and had no idea how or if she'd be able to run the race.  We prayed her stomach would calm down before the 7 a.m. start of the race.  When we arrived at the park it was pitch dark and raining.  I parked in a giant puddle, instantly submerging my shoe in water when I stepped out of the car.   GRR!
it was just light enough at the start of the race to take a selfie that actually showed our faces
The 30k was a small, but fast, crowd of runners.  As the darkness slowly changed to gray I recognized runners from Portland.  Team Athena, a running club that Carissa is a part of, brought some of their team down.  These girls are training for Boston and they are fast.  It was so inspiring to see them in action - consistently running mile after mile at a sub 7 minute pace, looking effortless and smooth in their efforts.

Before the race Ruth and I huddled up and prayed.  Miraculously her stomach had calmed down!  We celebrated that she felt good enough to race and quickly settled into a pace that felt challenging, but not too fast.

We ran based on effort not time, only checking our watches when they beeped another mile.  Mile after mile after mile ticked off and we maintained a steady pace.  Almost down to the second, each mile of every lap was the same pace.  I've never run such a consistent pace in a race before.

The 10k course had an out-and-back portion on it.  As the leaders passed us we started counting the women in front of us.  We were in the number 10 and 11 positions.   In the course of 18.6 miles our positions never changed.  Every woman ahead of us and immediately behind us had found her groove and stayed within it.  Not to say that the ladies in the first 9 spots didn't change leads, but they definitely didn't slow down to give us a chance to pass them.  I found this to be really interesting.

Our first 10k we talked the entire time.  Our time was 49:37 - a 7:59 pace.

Our second 10k  was slightly faster - 49:20 - a 7:56 pace.  Our chatting ebbed away about halfway through this lap.

The third lap was our fastest - 48:50 - a 7:51 pace.  Our talking ceased except to cheer on the leaders as they passed us for the last time.  When one of us got tired the other offered up a word of encouragement.  Even our breathing was in synch.  Steady inhale.  Steady exhale.  Neither Ruth or I have ever encountered such unity with another runner.  It was really special.

The last 1.8 miles our bodies started to feel the pounding.  All the places that protest when I ask my body to push too far started tightening up.  Ruth felt the same way.  We were ready to be done.  But instead of slowing down, we picked up the pace.  Little by little we gained speed over the last two miles.

With about half a mile to go, I heard Ruth mumble, "Thank you Jesus.  Praise you Jesus."  I got a little teary-eyed and we both took turns thanking Jesus for healing Ruth's stomach.  For giving us strength to run.  For healthy lungs that can tolerate continual use.  We thanked Jesus for such a beautiful setting to run, for our friendship, and for the chance to share this experience together.

When we got done with our impromptu worship session Ruth told me to kick to the finish without her.  She's nursing a big injury and can't sprint without excruciating pain.  I wanted to cross together but she insisted that I give it everything I have and sprint through the finish.  She's a runner.  She gets it.

The finish was at the top of a small hill - so cruel after 18.5 miles of racing.  Somehow I mustered the strength to sprint up the hill and into the finish.  Ruth was ten seconds behind, finishing strong all the way to the end.  My finish time was 2:27:47 with a 7:55 average pace.  We did it!  Negative splits and a sub-eight minute mile pace!  

By the splits our race looked like this:

Lap 1

Lap 2

Lap 3

*This mile we stopped at an aid station, contemplated going to the bathroom, then decided to keep running.

I ran into Ruth yesterday at the gym.  We're both still on a runner's high.  Our bodies were trashed after the race, but in a good way.   The "I gave it everything I have and then some" kind of trashed.  The execution of the race and our finish times were really exciting, but I think we both were more thrilled about racing together from start to finish.  The depth that sharing this experience added to our friendship is worth far more than the chintzy plastic medals we earned after we finished the race.

Finally a race that was executed well from start to finish.  It was textbook perfect and the finish was oh-so-satisfying!    Ironically - or maybe not so ironically - it all came together in a race that I approached by holding my goals and expectations loosely.  It's something I'm still pondering as I think about potentially running a marathon next month.

 I'm still a little sore and have thirteen miles facing me tomorrow.   You better believe I'll be remembering what I learned last Saturday on race day: to hold my goals loosely and listen to my body.  There is clear value in both.

Sole Sisters have you run negative splits in a race?  What was your strategy?


  1. This is so so so exciting to read. I need to experience something like this!!!!!! Love that it was such a blessing on so many levels :)

    1. Thanks Devon. Hopefully Vernonia is your race to shine! We all know you have the speed and determination.