Upon arriving at Gabriel Park in the morning of the final Portland Parks & Rec 5k of the year, I immediately realized something: this was going to be a hilly course.
And it was! A total elevation gain of 384ft according to Garmin. This was the most difficult of the four P&R courses I’ve run, but it also happened to be the most beautiful. The start sloped downhill for about 3/4ths of a mile before cutting right into the forest. Seriously, it felt like I went from civilization into a wooded area. Turns out the entire center section of Gabriel Park is split by what I believe one could call a copse of trees. We ran through it fairly quickly but on the loop back (aka the uphill part) again we ran into the forest. It was lovely. I really appreciated the juxtaposition of the park with its sports centers and playgrounds and the peaceful serene trail in the woods.
Ultimately, I was shooting for a 33 minute 5k today but the hills got me good. I’ll settle for my time though, considering I’m still running on tired legs as I train for the Portland (Half) Marathon.
As far as a park goes, boy this one has everything. It’s got baseball diamonds, it’s got basketball courts, it’s got tennis courts, it’s got a friggen skatepark and volleyball it’s got two very interesting and fun looking playgrounds. It’s got a dog park. It’s got a community garden and an apple orchard. And cutting through it all is the aforementioned copse. Of the four parks I’ve ran this series, I think this one is the best. Which makes sense because it’s in the rich part of town. I can see why they saved this one for last.
Aesthetics: Gorgeous. Just gorgeous all around. Lots of levels and trees. 10/10
Function: Probably the most functional park I’ve ever seen. Sports AND little wooded trails AND a community garden? It’s got everything! 10/10
Sketchiness: The only sketchy thing I saw was an older lady fainted or something just before the run started and the EMTs came to check up on her. This place is pristine. 10/10
I fuckin’ did it. Plus a PR on 1k (5:37) and 1 mi (9:07).
Okay let’s talk about the day. I did the 5k race and then parkrun almost immediately after, because it’s Rock Creek parkrun’s 4th anniversary and there was cupcakes. Was this a good idea? Read on.
Not too much on this one. I drove out to the Beav’ on Friday afternoon to grab my bib and t-shirt. It was at Portland Running Company, which sponsors or is Run with Paula Events, I’m not sure. The two seem in cahoots. (RWP is the … host? of this event? The producer?) The store was nice and chill and outside there were clearance racks with “old model” clothes and shoes, plus you got a 15% discount on top of that for running the race. So, long story short, I have three new pairs of legitimate running shorts.
Unfortunately I did not wear any of my new shorts to the race itself because Nothing New On Race Day.
The only free stuff was a Clif bar and a coupon for a free garlic bread from the Old Spaghetti Factory. Yippee.
Next morning I’m up at 6am as usual, taking my morning PRP1Pre race poop., getting myself ready by prepping an extra shirt and socks for parkrun, and then I’m out the door.
First of all, the parking for this event was probably the best I’ve ever witnessed. Plenty of parking spots across the street and lots of volunteers directing us exactly where we need to go. Seamless, it was.
The atmosphere for this event was pretty chill. All of the different races (5k, 10k and half) started at 8am, which meant that we were all together getting ready. I liked this; it felt like better camaraderie than staggered times.
There were some sponsor kiosks and I visited none of them. In fact, one of them was Geico, which seemed to have a lot of swag, but I switched from Geico to Progressive because Geico was gouging me on my car insurance, so … I’m sure it would’ve been awkward for them to see me.
Another welcome aspect of this race was the streets were well-cordoned off, meaning warmup runs could be done for longer stretches rather than going back and forth. It really was nice, felt big and open compared to the Garlic Fest pre-race, which was more constrained.
I came into this race thinking I would break 30 minutes. I had gotten close enough with parkrun to know that if I ran on a flatter course, I wouldn’t tire out as much and I’d be able to press on more overall. And that pretty much came true!
My mile paces were 9:08, 9:23, and 9:59. That third mile drop was because I ended up walking about :24 seconds. Really didn’t want to but my heart rate had hit 179bpm slightly before and I just felt like I needed to rest for a bit. Up until that point, my 2 mi time was around 18:31 (another PR), meaning that I would’ve been around 28 minutes if I hadn’t slowed down. But I didn’t come to this race to run 28 minutes, I came to break 30 minutes, and I did that plus 32 extra seconds.
I actually had my Garmin watch set for a 9:00 pace, just to go a bit above and beyond, mainly because I tend to go out fast and I figured if I was going to do that, I might as well go out really fast (for me) and bank some time for the back end.
But really, even during that walking bit my pace only dropped down to around 14 minutes, which is good, as it means even when walking I was walking briskly. My HR never got to 180, which I cannot believe. Also my cadence was good! Average of 173, or about 20 spm more than usual. I guess that makes sense considering I was running faster than usual. Even my stride length is getting longer–hovered around .97m but was at 1 or above several times.
And then, of course, that last tenth of a mile. Perfect little bit for a sprint. People who run in kms don’t get to hear their watch been for mile 3 and then get into sprint mode. It’s too bad, really.
I’m really proud of the effort I put into this race. There’s always room for improvement but the fact that I had a goal in mind and crushed it is awesome. My body and mind were synced up this go around, and it made for an excellent outing.
My post-race time consisted of me catching my breath, getting my medal and some snacks, and then trying to find my car. Then, once I found my car, I had to figure out how to leave without disrupting the entire event. Once I did that, then I drove as fast as legally allowed to Rock Creek Trail for parkrun!
I arrived 6 minutes late and they let me run anyway–a couple of them were mostly shocked that I came from a run and was going on a run again. I started my watch from my car because I knew I would be hustling to the start line, and was already late so my official time wouldn’t really matter. I figured as long as I beat the tail walker, I’d be fine.
Ended up doing a little better than I thought I would. Honestly, I thought I’d be walking this entire thing. Instead, I ran with my pace all over the place until my heart rate got up to the high 160s, then stopped and walked and cooled down. No need to have 170s for this run. It honestly was over before I realized it. Sort of went on autopilot there.
Maybe there was a bigger hullabaloo prior to the start about how it’s RCT’s 4th anniversary. All I know is that at the end there were snacks and I grabbed one and then left. Not really sure why I didn’t stick around. After runs I think my brain is a tired and affects my decision making. But it was nice to see everyone!
And that’s that. Big run day for me. Some PRs and proof that this is all paying off. I don’t think there will be another 5k PR anytime soon, as I have to get my mind into half marathon focus. But who knows?
After this is parkrun 25! followed by the last Parks & Rec 5k at Gabriel Park. Until then.
Official time was 30:09. This is a great PR but also 10 seconds away from a sub-30 5k is wild. The last two parkruns (#21 and #22) I didn’t write about because they weren’t very interesting. I ran slow on 21 and even slower on 22, mostly to prevent my watch from restructuring my future suggested runs–22 specifically was slow because I had a long run that Sunday that I wanted to be at least somewhat healthy for.
This week I was like, let’s go for it. At this point I know a sub-30 5k is in me. Even when my time was around 31 minutes, I knew, because the first half of Rock Creek Trail is uphill, in kind of a gnarly way, especially right before the turnaround to come back. As long as you can keep pace up those hills, the second half of the run is downhill except for one small uphill which I will talk about in a second. So you can expect a downhill second half, which is very helpful!
My downfall this week was that slight incline before the gradual downhill section called Deepak’s Torture Hill on Strava. It’s funny how that’s just a segment on an app, but like 100 years ago it probably would’ve officially been named that, after some guy named Deepak who keeps running up that hill. But I decided to take a short walk break there. According to Garmin it was only :18 seconds, but it could’ve been the difference between 30:09 and, say, 30:01, or even 29:59.
It ultimately doesn’t bother me that much, as 30:09 is more than a minute faster than my previous parkrun PR of 31:17. I’ll take it. But I know there’s a sub-30 time in me. Maybe we’ll find out … next Saturday, when I run the Beaverton 5k! It starts at 8am so my goal is to run it and then get in my car and try to get to parkrun after, because it’s Rock Creek Trail parkrun’s 4th anniversary! There’ll be cupcakes!