Ah, Oregon winter weather. You can be so fickle. On Friday afternoon, it was sunny and almost 60 degrees. Less than two days later, at the start of the Fort Vancouver 6K/10K/15K run, it was windy, rainy, and just barely above freezing.
Well, that’s what cold weather gear is for. I dressed in a longsleeve tech shirt, Brooks running jacket to block the rain, hat, thin gloves, running tights, shorts, and wool/merino socks. Would it be enough to resist the elements?
This was my first experience with a racing event put together by Energy Events, the same folks behind the Vancouver USA Marathon and other races. I received a comp entry, registered online two weeks before the race, and picked the 10K distance out of the available options (6K, 10K, 15K). 10K is my preferred distance, even though I’m better at shorter distances. When I showed up at the Fred Meyer near Fort Vancouver on a blustery Sunday morning, though, I found myself wondering, “What was I thinking???” I should’ve gone for the 6K….
There had been a pre-race packet pick-up the day before, complete with a good-for-that-day discount at Fit Right, one of the race sponsors. But I wasn’t up for crossing the state line twice in the same weekend, so I opted for day-of-race bib pick-up. I had set my alarm early enough to eat yogurt (my typical pre-race breakfast), get dressed, and drive the 20+ miles to the race site, arriving about 30 minutes before the start of the race. The pre-race e-mail from Energy Events had provided a helpful diagram of the staging location with marked areas open for race parking, and I was able to score a reasonably close parking spot.
Bib pick-up was super-fast, with separate lines for 6K, 10K, and 15K. I had looked up my bib number on the website the night before, so I was able to expedite the pick-up by giving my name and bib number. Along with the racing bib with timing chip, I received a dark longsleeved cotton race shirt, which I was quite tempted to put on over my tech shirt.
The staging area had a porta-potty bank, shelters with water and other drinks, shelters with bananas and other food, a “kids’ zone” complete with a bouncy castle, and maps of the different race routes. It seemed like a good number of runners were staying warm inside the Fred Meyer, but I decided to stay outside and try to get used to the cold and rain.
With about five minutes left before the start of the 8:20 race, the race director called for 6K and 10K runners to start lining up. (The 15Kers had started at 7:45, which explains the mass of runners crossing the road when I was first driving up.) There were signs marking informal corrals based on anticipated race paces, though of course no one was checking or anything.
I’m usually full of nervous energy right before the start of a race, trying to tell myself not to go out too fast (but I always do). For this race, standing there in the cold with steady rain in my face made me especially want to get started, just so we could finish that much sooner!
We got a ten second countdown, and then a bicyclist rode off to lead us on the race course.
We started off due south and then made a right turn and soon found ourselves on Columbia House Boulevard. Just before the road merged on to the Lewis & Clark Highway, we turned left and went under the overpass. At the intersection of Columbia Way (sheesh, are the roads around here required to have “Columbia” in the name?), the 6K route split from the 10K route, with the former going straight and the latter making a left turn to head east. We followed Columbia Way for about a mile and a half before hitting the turnaround and coming back to where we had split from the 6K runners.
As for the cold and the wind and the rain? Yeah, they were still around, making themselves well at home. Running shifts blood toward your working muscles, which probably explains why my hands felt like they were freezing for about the first two miles of the run even as my legs were getting warm.
After a short bit of running through a parking area, we found ourselves on the shore of the Columbia River (there’s that name again!). I think on just about any other day, this would been a breathtaking part of the course, but today, well, the picture on the right is particularly fuzzy because my smartphone was safely inside a ziplock bag. But it does give a sense of what it was like out there!
At this point, there were 6K, 10K, and 15K runners on the course. Occasional mileage markers would pop up, usually indicating which race distance they corresponded to. This is when I began to have a sense that the race might actually end up being slightly longer than 10K, because when I saw the “1 mile” marker for the 6K route, I knew — from running the RunKeeper app — that I’d already gone about 3.75 miles. Because 6K = about 3.7 miles, that meant the 6Kers had 2.7 miles left, so presumably we did too. (In another bit of weirdness, what should have been the “4 mile” marker for the 10K route read “3 miles.”)
With the steel bridge of the 5 looming ahead, we made a U-turn and then went across a round bridge over the Lewis & Clark Highway. The only hilly stretch of the race was here, and it wasn’t that bad, as in about 25 feet of elevation rise. From there, it was a nice stretch through the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. (The 15Kers split off somewhere there for another scenic detour.)
The last stretch was the return to the Fred Meyer parking lot, which was thankfully a slight downhill incline. Runners returned to cheers, music, race medals for the 15Kers, and free Jamba Juice samples for everyone.
Considering the extra distance of the race, I didn’t come close to setting a PR, but even at 6.22 miles, I was about 90 seconds off my 10K PR. Some running friends of mine who were at this event also had slow times, so it seemed like maybe it was a slow day all around. I’d chalk it up to individual issues, or the weather, rather than the course, which seemed to me like it should have been reasonably fast.
As I noted above, this was my first experience with an Energy Events race, and I was impressed. The race course was easy to follow, with plenty of orange cones where appropriate, and lots of brave volunteers on the course (massive props to the race volunteers for staying out there!). I counted three aid stations on the 10K course, at least one of which had a porta-potty. The course distance was off a bit (a friend had it at 6.5 miles, compared to the 6.43 I registered), but in looking at the layout, I would have a hard time figuring out where to shave the 0.21 miles assuming a combined start/finish line.
For 15K results, click here.
For 10K results, click here.
For 6K results, click here.