Portland Track Festival

Portland was the last stop on this tour of races. The Portland Track Festival brings in some of the top runners from across the US and Western Canada. It included many of the ladies that I had been racing with the past week at the NTL series.

Before leaving for Portland I had one more day in Victoria. The Stellingwerff clan was kind enough to let me into their home. Hilary, not only a great 1500m runner, is a new mom. When I arrived little Theo wouldn’t go to sleep until he had sussed me out and made sure I was ‘ok!’

The morning we were heading out to Portland Hilary directed me to the lovely trails in her neighbourhood that went around Beaver and Elk Lakes. I was so excited to get off the track and the pavement and on to the trails. About 7 minutes into my run as I’m enjoying the views I see this ‘cat’ scamper across the trails and part way up a tree. I say ‘cat’ because it was the size of a mid-sized dog! I stop. It stops. We look each other in the eye. I back away slowly, round a corner and drop a very fast 300 to get out of the forest. Out of breath and a little freaked out I realized I had seen a cougar (not the kind you find in a bar) but the mountain lion kind. That was enough excitement for me and I went to find some people populated areas and stuck to the roads!

The drive to Portland was a little long. Unfortunately we ran into some really awful traffic in Seattle and it took us almost 12 hours door to door from the time we left the Stellingwerffs. But oh well, there was nothing we could do about it. My roommate and I Marilyn made the best of it. We did a quick shakeout when we arrived and funnily enough ran through the Gay Pride glow stick run! Gay Pride weekend in Portland, you can only imagine how awesome the entertainment as been. (I apologize for not capturing any pictures of the hilarious costumes I saw over the few days I was here).

IMG_6648Portland is home to delicious coffee and micro-breweries. IMG_6644The Sasha of old would have definitely been taste-testing the various beers. Instead this time I stuck with the coffee. Ok, and I snuck in a Voodoo Donut (or two). As a foodie at heart I must say travelling to all these places to try a variety of local favourites has been really fun.

The Portland Track Festival was the last chance to qualify for the Pan Am Games. Nicole Sifuentes posted a speedy time of 4:07.38 at the Athletics Ontario Championships so it was up to the rest of us to chase her down. I felt a lot of pressure in second spot and knew that I had to perform well in Portland. I also had to tell myself, it’s just another race; go out and do what you do best and just run.

It’s been a lot of races in a few days with a lot of travel in between. During my shakeout today I wasn’t quite sure how my legs felt. They definitely did not feel quite as fresh, but I said trust my training. And remember not all the workouts feel ideal either at the start.

We headed off to the track and I started my warm up. My legs felt so heavy. The Lewis and Clark track is a very hilly area so most athletes run on this strip of road that is about the only flat area around. Hilary was about 100m ahead of me and I saw her walking. My heart dropped. I knew her foot was bothering her too much; she was the one in pain and she was the one reminding me to stay focused. I can’t put into words what an awesome women she is.

I headed down for my drills and strides. I got on that start line. I was focused and I knew what was at stake. But I also just wanted to go out and race; since I absolutely love the thrill of racing. I tucked in right away and found myself a safe spot on the rail.

We came around 400 in a perfect 65-66. The rabbit started to take off and a gap formed. I started working my way to the front of the second pack as we rounded 700m down the home stretch. I got myself tucked into a good spot so I could see what was happening up ahead.

As we rounded 1000m and the rabbit dropped out I knew it was go time. I had to close the gap to the front-runners if I had any chance. I could see the green of Sheila Reid, another Canadian up ahead. Down that back stretch I worked my way to the front and started to close the gap. I heard the bell go and thought it’s time to work your magic legs.

As we rounded 300m to go the gap was closing quickly. While I have no idea what we split for 1100m I didn’t really care, I just wanted to get to the finish line before any of the other Canadian girls; I wanted that spot for Pan Ams. With Sheila Reid so close I really tried to close that gap as quickly as possible. She was sprinting for the finish and I was sprinting for her.

As we rounded the final bend it was myself and another girl coming around Sheila’s shoulder. Sheila put in a very strong sprint as I was on her shoulder but I dug deep. As I went by I don’t remember much else but another green girl coming on my shoulder. I wanted so badly to be the first to the line … there was $1000 to the winner! Unfortunately I was 2nd.

Fortunately I had another massive PB, 4:07.47! And I was ranked 2nd behind Nicole’s 4:07.38. Athletics Canada says they are taking the top 2 in each event to the Pan Am games. Fingers crossed one of those spots is mine and I get to compete in my backyard!

This time on the road has been awesome. It’s felt really hectic moving between all the locations but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know each city in its own little way. These trips remind me how fortunate I am to be able to do something like this; to travel chasing a dream. These trips remind me that no matter where I go I have my support crew in my back pocket. And these trips remind me how good it feels to go home again.

(sorry all the photos on this last post are not great. I guess I just did not take a ton while I was in Portland!)