Guest Post sent in by Gregg Leblanc:
The 2014 edition of the Oregon Half Marathon put on by Uberthons changed locations moving to Mt. Angel to tie to the 49th annual Oktoberfest. The race organizers were also hoping for a change in weather for 2014 rather than the deluge of rain that dubbed the 2013 race the “Typhoonathon”. With the temperature forecast for the upper 80’s rain didn’t seem to be an issue this year.
Not only did I run the inaugural 2013 Fall Oregon Half, I had set a PR by almost 3 minutes on the fast paved downhill Vernonia – Banks Trail course. I knew that the chance of PRing again on what was promoted as a relatively flat course was slim for me. It was the tie to the Oktoberfest and knowing that if the medal was as big as it was in 2013 it would be one of the largest in my collection of race bling that prompted me to run this year.
The day before the race, packet pick-up was held at the Grand Hotel near Bridgeport Village. It didn’t take long before seeing a handful of running friends while in line for my bib and shirt. I had learned that a perk Uberthons was giving to “legacy runners” that had run the inaugural Typhoonathon was an Oregon Marathon jacket. Score!
While the pick-up was fairly smooth, there were a few opportunities to improve for 2015 that were others shared with me. The room would have been more inviting without the furniture stacked along the walls. This would also have allowed the line to be inside the room rather that spilling into the hotel hallway. Signs above the Full and Half bib pick-up tables might have helped the Full runners get their goods sooner.
The morning of the race, parking was a breeze in the VIP area that was set aside for Half Fanatics. This area was just a short walk to the Oktoberfest Biergarten where runners were to congregate inside pre-race. Having arrived well before the 7:30 AM start, there was plenty of time to mingle, stretch and get our bags dropped. Fanatics were also treated with a VIP bag drop. Plenty of rest rooms were inside and out.
The Full and Half Marathon were both scheduled to start at the same time. Around 7:15, announcements came for the Half runners to begin lining up in the start corral. Not knowing why it was only the Half runners, we still complied without asking any questions.
Settling in behind the pacers holding signs, we were instructed to begin walking about ¼ mile to a new starting corral area where we were told to spread to the side of the road behind caution tape rolls. Still confused, we complied and then were told that we would be a cheering tunnel that the Full Marathoners would be crossing through.
At roughly 7:35 the 200+ Marathoners began running and walking between the cheering of the 500+ Half participants. This seemed to give a charge for everyone. Within 5 minutes all the Full participants had passed and the Half runners and walkers were moved to the center of the road to begin our starting waves.
While I was fortunate to be in one of the early Half waves, the downside was that there was some congestion between the faster Half runners and the slower Full runners and walkers for the first mile plus. Not enough to be crazy, although enough to create some bobbing and weaving.
The course was as advertised – mostly flat with a few minor rolling hills. There was great energy from runners with chatting and laughing shared along these first few miles until the pack thinned and the race got a little more serious (for some of us).
After 3 miles, my Hood to Coast teammate Dan sent me on sensing I might be a bit faster on this day. Two miles later another runner settled in next to me. We began having some cross talk introducing ourselves then discussing the races we have run, the mileage we have logged and various training methods we have applied. Matt was 8 years my senior and running strong. It was in this part of the run that we crossed the Gallon House covered bridge.
By mile 9 it was evident he was a faster runner than me and I let him know he shouldn’t wait for me. He complied and while we began to have some separation, I did my best to keep him in my sights using him as a rabbit until about mile 11 ½ when he fell out of my line of sight.
Prior to the past 2 years, I used to use up too much energy at the start without having anything left for any push in the last mile or two. Fortunately, changes in pre-race and race fueling have allowed me to finish with something in the tank.
This reserve of energy helped with the last few miles and then approaching what I thought would be the finish line only to find that we would have to cover two thirds of the length of the track at Mt. Angel High School before getting to cross the matt to receive the huge 4 inch Oktoberfest themed 2014 medal.
While I didn’t PR, I heard of many that had. Uberthons even gave out a bonus “I PRed” necklace to anyone that did PR.
The finish area allowed for plenty of post-race stretching inside the track while cheering on fellow runners and congratulating other finishers. There was plenty of food in both the VIP tent and along the general post race tables. We were even able to head back to the road in front of the high school to cheer on the Full marathoners that still had 13+ miles left.
At about 10:00, my H2C teammate Dan and I decided to head the ¾ of a mile downtown back toward the race start where we parked our car and then to the Oktoberfest Celebration. Rather than taking the shuttle we decided to walk as a good way to stretch out. While there weren’t any signs pointing us back downtown, we did find our way with minimal trouble.
Dropping our bags at the car, we changed our shirts and then decided that we would find some more substantial food and a post-race beer. We ventured into the Biergarten eager to sample the Two Kilts Brewing Mt. Angel Maibock brewed by our neighborhood brewery and our H2C sponsor only to find that beers wouldn’t be flowing until 11:30.
With an hour before the Biergarten taps began flowing, we made our way deeper downtown and found that Mt. Angel Sausage Company was open and serving. We settled to the bar with a sausage and a Spaten Oktoberfest.
While we were finishing our beer another group of runners came in and asked the bartender if they accepted the beer tokens or food coupons they received. “Tokens & Coupons?” we asked. They explained that there was a booth 50 yards away for runners to check in with their bib to receive the tokens and coupons.
Not knowing how we missed the information about our running reward, we proceeded to the booth to get our pack of goodies which also included a pass to the adidas employee store. As we made our way back to the now open Biergarten, we decided that we would share the information about the tokens and coupons to all runners we passed. Of the 50+ runners we talked with some didn’t know about the tokens and coupons at all, while others knew about them but not where the booth was.
We finally settled in at the Biergarten for the reward of the Two Kilts Maibock, we began to explore how we might have missed the information about the post-race reward and how Uberthons might have communicated this better. Opening up the confirmation email we found that there was mention of an Oktoberfest package although it was among 12 race day items.
Reflecting back on the finish, there could have been announcements about this prize package or better still, we could have all been given these tokens and coupons at packet pick-up which would have added even more perceived value to the 700+ participants.
While the temps got toasty for some of the Half and many of the Full participants, mid-September is the time of year is usually comfortable. Overall, the race was fairly well organized, the course flat and the post-race festivities fun with only a few minor tweaks that will only make it even better.
I won’t hesitate to register again for the 2015 Oregon Half Marathon that will return to Mt. Angel for what will be their 50th Oktoberfest Celebration.