It's Just Not That Important: Bridge of the Goddess 2014 Race Review

by Jodi Wheezy

On Saturday Carissa and I raced together again for the first time since February.  It was such a treat to spend a full morning together.  Our current life seasons are difficult to grab time together, making those moments when we actually see each other in person really sweet.

Actually I saw Carissa more last week than I have in the past six months combined.  I called it Carissa Fest 2014.  We celebrated her birthday on Wednesday with a yummy lunch.
The start of Carissa Fest 2014.  Me.  Kim.  Carissa.  There's Tanya our other Sole Sister.  And Devon - who writes her own running blog.
beautiful birthday girl
Volunteered at packet pickup on Thursday.  It was fun to meet new friends, chat with other excited runners, and get matching Goddess t-shirts to wear on race day.
#twinsies at packet pickup
We skipped our traditional Night Before the Race Sleepover on Friday due to scheduling logistics, but hooked up bright and early (6 a.m.) in Portland on Saturday morning to head out to the race. (You do not want to see first thing in the morning photos of me).

The Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon and 10k is a Run With Paula event that debuted this year.  It was SUPER fun to be a part of the inaugural running of a race that will definitely become a much anticipated annual event in the Portland running community.

I know we've said this before but it bears repeating.  EVERY.SINGLE.EVENT that Paula Harkin puts on is top notch.  She's a runner so she creates, tweaks, and organizes her races to be the kind of event she would want to run.  The pre-race communication was thorough and addressed all the typical questions runners have, but it was also warm and inviting.  I felt like I got a hug by the time I finished reading each email.

The Bridge of the Goddess was designed for women (although a handful of brave men ran too).  Participants got awesome reusable Bridge of the Goddess cinch sack goodie bags filled with really cool stuff: a pretty race shirt and a necklace, a coupon for a free fashion photo shoot, Peets coffee coupon, a Luna bar, etc. Every woman who crosses the finish line is celebrated regardless of how fast or slow she got there.  The finishers medals were beautiful and feminine.  It's these little touches that make women flock to Run with Paula events.

You don't run the Bridge of the Goddess race for a PR.  You run it because it's the most scenic half marathon course ever.  The race starts on the Bridge of the Gods (AH-MAZING!) and transitions to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.  It's an out-and-back course that finishes at Marine Park in the Port of Cascade Locks.  The trail winds through thick lush forest, a tunnel, a giant flight of stairs (yes stairs in a race), and offers an unobstructed view of the Columbia River Gorge.

Every part of this challenging course was rolling hills with five significant climbs.  Thankfully the grade of the hills was manageable, with the exception of a few spots that were short and steep.  I trained on hills to prepare for this race and I was still surprised by how challenging it was to maintain a race pace on one climb after another.

Total elevation gain: 1,171 feet.  Total elevation loss: 1,262 feet.

An over-arching theme that God is teaching me this year is to hold everything loosely. Some stuff is just not that important.   The "Just Not That Important" for me lately has been my running pace.  I am learning to listen to my body, make adjustments, and not let a certain pace define my success as a runner.

I only trained specifically for this event for six weeks using the Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) app on my iPhone.  My Keizer Marathon finish time projected a half marathon pace per mile of 7:35.  It seemed pretty lofty for such a hilly course.

When I added speed and tempo work back into my training, the sporadic breathing issues I've had all summer became more consistent. Sprinting and hill climbing were the biggest culprits. Heavily labored breathing and wheezing became a part of every track workout and most tempo runs, making it tough to hit my target paces. I frequently had to make adjustments mid-run to accommodate what my legs and lungs were offering on that specific workout.  Post-run recovery was tougher than normal too.

I went into race morning knowing my legs were prepped to cover the distance.  My lungs are out of my control, so I decided not to stress about it.  Based on my training I figured I should be able to finish in 1:45 even if my lungs didn't cooperate. I really wanted to stay under 1:40 but had no idea if that was possible. My goal was to give 100% of what my body offered me on race day and run based on effort and not pace.  
I took this picture during Hood to Coast 2011 and just rediscovered it.

before the race - isn't it lovely?
The weather in Oregon has been unseasonably dry and hot.  It was 63 degrees at the start of the race, but since the course was mostly shaded it didn't really heat up for a few hours.  It was fun to start on the Bridge of the Gods, especially because it's a metal grate so you can look down through the grate to the water WAY below.
looking down through the grate on the bridge - we weren't far enough back to see water.
Pirated this picture from Paula's Instagram page.
I gambled and wore new shoes on race day.  It was a gamble that paid off.  I appreciated the lightweight racing shoes when I was climbing all those hills.  What a relief!  
twinsies on race day 
The Historic Columbia River Highway Trail was epic.  The Gorge is one of my favorite places in Oregon and it was surreal to run a race through it. I'm thankful that I took the time to look around me and really enjoy the view as I ran.  (I did NOT stop to take pictures though).

The hills were tougher than I expected - and never ending.  When we turned around at the halfway mark we were met with a stiff headwind.  It greeted us in every exposed part of the race, especially in the last mile to the finish, making it tough to maintain race pace.

I have spent years chasing Carissa, if I'm lucky enough to be close enough to have her in my sights.  But she's been feeling consistently cruddy and Saturday was just another day of running with fatigue and dizziness for her.  (Don't worry - she's on it with some medical professionals).  Her grit and determination in the face of tough circumstances inspire me on a daily basis.

We started the race together and were soon in the lead pack of about fifteen women.  I passed Carissa on the first downhill which was not surprising since I love the downhill and she's a better climber.  Carissa stayed behind me - within about twenty seconds- for the next seven miles.

On the second descent I passed a runner from the Portland Running Company race team.  She passed me on the third climb.  After the turnaround, we chatted enough to exchange names.  Her name is Lynsay and she has the gift of encouragement.  The first thing she said to me was, "Nice pace.  This is a tough course."  

We ran the rest of the race together.  I led on the downhills.  Lynsay led on the climbs.  At mile seven Carissa caught up to us.  The three of us formed a little group and ran the rest of the race within sight of each other.  It was such a treat to have other ladies on the course racing hard.  Had I been alone on the trail I definitely would have slowed down.  Knowing they were there kept me accountable to keep running strong.

The fourth climb was the longest and the steepest.  My lungs were burning and I started wheezing pretty badly. (Don't worry.  I'm on it with a plan to better breathing).  Carissa caught up to me and passed me.  She said over her shoulder, "You need to get that checked out," then stopped to walk briefly because she was feeling dizzy.  What a pair we are.  Just call us Wheezy and Dizzy.  Carissa assured me she was fine (I think she was lying) so I kept wheezing my way to the top of the hill.

Lynsay pulled ahead of me and I couldn't recover my breathing fast enough to charge the downhill like I had been.  It looked like she was pulling away for good but I got a burst of energy and was able to catch her at the summit of the last big hill.

With a stiff headwind blowing us backward, we tackled the last mile.   I was in front with Lynsay one stride behind me.  At this point we were running on the sidewalk through town to get to Marine Park.  We took turns hollering, "On your left" so we could cut through the crowd of 10k walkers that were also approaching the finish.
So it's a screen shot from EP Events website, but you can see how close Lynsay and I were running the whole second half of the race.
I kicked too hard too soon. Running downhill shouldn't be hard, but it was.  My legs were burning.  My lungs hurt. I told Lynsay that I was dying and she should go ahead.  Instead of passing me she said, "Nope.  We've got this.  It's all downhill to the park.  Just run."

So we did, forging our way single file through the crowd toward the finish line.   The last tenth of a mile was on grass through the park and was wide open.  It was Lynsay's chance to fly past me and I fully expected her to.  But instead she yelled, "Go get it Jodi."  

Seriously?  Who does that?  My new friend.  That's who!

I sprinted as hard as I could to the finish line.  Lynsay was one second behind me.  We hugged and cheered as Carissa came charging in 21 seconds later.

When the final results were in, we found out that we finished the race in 8th, 9th, and 10th place overall!  And we were all in the same age division (at least for another month) so we took 3rd, 4th, and 5th in our age division.  I NEVER would have guessed that would be the outcome of our race when it started.

Lynsay's selfless act of kindness gave me a podium position.  It was a first for me and super fun to climb up on the box and pose so Carissa could take my picture.  Such a little thing, but it was fun.
3rd place age division
The Bridge of the Goddess race confirmed to me what is important.  I am so thankful for the ability to run, even with wheezy lungs.  I am thankful for a beautiful place to live and play.  Most of all, I am thankful for friendship - new and old.

Thank you Carissa and Lynsay for making this a race that I will remember and celebrate for a long time to come.  And thank you Paula for another awesome event.  I'm already looking forward to next year.

Carissa ran naked - no Garmin for her.  It was a first for her in a race, but she wanted to hold herself accountable to run by effort and not pace so she left her Garmin at home.  Finish time: 1:39:10 - 7:34 average pace - and that's feeling dizzy!  Another impressive run in the books.  Nice work Sole Sister.

Here's my race by the numbers.  Finish time: 1:38:49 - 7:32 average pace.  Right on the money for my 7:35 pace that I trained for.  The more I use RLRF, the more I like it.
Mile 1  7:15
Mile 2 7:56
Mile 3 7:10
Mile 4 7:17
Mile 5 7:21
Mile 6 7:22
Mile 7 7:12
Mile 8 7:18
Mile 9 7:31
Mile 10 7:52
Mile 11 7:54
Mile 12 7:17
Mile 13 7:10
Mile 14 (.35 miles - my watched measured the course long) 7:15


  1. This is a beautiful race report on so many levels. I would be lying if I told you my eyes didn't well up while reading. So proud of you Sole Sisters, it's exactly why I do what I do. Thank you! - Paula Harkin, Race Director

    1. Thanks Paula. And you do it well. We love your events.

  2. Wow awesome report. Great runner and writer as well.

  3. Glad you had a such a great race day! Congrats on the podium finish!

    1. Thanks Tia. It was an unexpected and fun surprise. How are you doing? Any races on your training schedule?

    2. You continue to inspire me weeks later!! Wow...Sole Sisters unite!!:)
      xo Lynsay

    3. Lynsay - let's hook up for a run some time soonish. I'm glad you saw the blog post. I meant to forward it to you and forgot!