Race Recap: Bend Beer Chase Relay (10/11/14)

Beautiful Bend, bountiful beer and relay running combined to make the inaugural Bend Beer Chase Relay a memorable event put on by the Cascade Lakes Race Group. Run Oregon put together a five-person team and had our readers vote on our team name. Under Beer Pressure to Run Oregon was the winning name that we ran under.

Three of our team members left earlier on Friday at noon from Portland to get to Bend. On our way, we stopped at Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters. Gregg LeBlanc, spent the time teaching Robin York and I the differences between various types of beer. After Beer 101, we continue on our way to Bend where we stopped for dinner at Bend Brewery where Robin and Gregg each tested a flight of beers. I stuck with Kona Kola Nuun tablets since I was now the designated driver.

After dinner we went to the packet pickup where we had the chance to choose from a selection of shirts and hats for our participation in the event. We also had the chance to play beer pong for a chance to win a Bend Beer Chase sticker. First up was Robin who after a flight of tasty beers missed all three shots, but fortunately Gregg was next up and made two out of three shots so both Robin and him got a sticker. I went next, missed my first two shots and scored on the third shot, just glad it was not three strikes since I was the only sober one of the group.

Michael (Team Captain) – Legs 1, 6 and 11:

As the designated driver for this race, I opted to turn my three legs into a challenge to see how fast I could run my them. Our team was focused more on the fun and documenting the experience for this blog post, so we requested the earliest start time of 6:30 a.m. to buy us some extra time to enjoy the experience.

We arrived at the start, which was bustling with activity and excitement. My team signed and submitted our forms, got our orange beer bracelets, took a team photo and were ready in time for the start. The weather was a pleasant cool with a slight breeze, but still dark out.

At the start of the race I was trying to gauge the speed of my fellow runners who were starting with me, I soon realized that I would be leading the pack with my pace and hence they would be following me. My immediate concern was all the turns that I would have to take, but the race officials quickly proved to me that they were well prepared. Each and every turn was marked with a CLR orange cone with a yellow direction signs that were clear. The first leg had blinking red LED lights, so I didn’t have to spend time second guessing which way to go while it was still dark out.

The first leg was a 8.27 miles down hill run with about 400 feet elevation drop, which more than helped offset the higher elevation. A cool breeze kept me comfortable the first four miles, I did notice the temperature drop a few degrees, but by then I was warmed up by the run. I really appreciated all the vans cheering us runners on throughout the first leg. The last part of leg one had some easy rolling hills and an overpass at the end. I came into the check point and handed the baton off to Gregg who zipped away at a speedy pace.

My second set of leg was number six, which was only 6.27 miles so I figured this would just be a quick 10k. It ended up being a run into the wind for the entire time with a large hill, which made for a fun challenge. I definitely had to work hard to maintain my pace on this leg, but my team cheered me on at the half way point which gave me a much needed boost.

My final leg was number number 11, which was 6.93 miles. At this point, I was starting to feel the wear and tear from my first two set of legs, so I decided to run this one at max aerobic rate and not push my body too hard. I knew that at mile four of this run there would be a significant hill for a half mile and an uphill climb the remainder of the leg. I was about to earn back the 400 feet that I had breezed down in my first leg. The sun was out, but the breeze and the shade actually made for a couple chilled moments along this route. Fall is here and I should have brought a long sleeve shirt to run in. The first four miles felt the hardest because my body was trying to warm back up, with only four legs between each of my legs, there was not much time for my body to recover or rest. After mile four I started to feel stronger even with the rest of the run being all uphill.

I finished my last leg feeling very glad to be done and looking forward to the celebration at the end. As Gregg started the last leg of the relay, our van loaded up and headed to finish. We were very fortunate to quickly find a parking spot with plenty of time to hobble out of the car and run into the finish with Gregg.  While I did not get to drink any beer as the designated driver, I still had a great time at this event. It was challenging, fun and there are some fantastic vistas along the course, which we took photos of and are linked below. My experience on this course was nothing but positive with how Cascade Lakes Race Group planned and supported the event. The one opportunity for this event is probably looking at a way to tweak the 6Keg portion, so it is either shorter or more like a beer garden event at the end so all the runners will have time to experience all the breweries. I am sure there are some other tweaks here and there, but overall it was a great experience for me.

Gregg LeBlanc – Legs 2, 7 and 12:

Gregg ran three legs for team. He was the comedic relief for the team and beer expert guiding us through the various aspects of Beervana with his twenty years of experience in Oregon’s micro-brew industry. I learned more about beer from him this weekend than I learned in my entire life.

Gregg’s first left a gradual downhill run through the country which he quickly dispatched with ease. He finished strong and was rewarded with a beer from the Juniper Brewing tent which was at exchange 2 handing out samples.

His second set of legs was continuation of a long straight run into a constant headwind, which he crushed. Who knew a beer expert and comedian could run so strong. He passed his baton off to Scott. His final leg was number 12 which was a 3.5 miles into downtown Bend where the relay official timing ended.

Written by Anne Milligan – Legs 3 and 10:

After trying to take the relay baton from Gregg halfway through his leg because I was confused about whether I was cheering for him or taking over (relay newbie jitters!), I was feeling a little foolish and ready to get going on my own leg…. After sampling some beer at the exchange first, of course.

“Is that BEER?” my husband Scott asked amused at my nerve. I was, after all, chugging a taster while Gregg crested the horizon, his speedy feet bringing him to us faster than I could imagine in my slow and steady little heart.

Gregg appeared, slapped the bracelet into my waiting hands, and I took off alone down the two-lane highway. I’d been shivering violently right before go time, but I warmed up quickly in the cool but sunny fall air. My favorite part of this leg—in which I ran from the countryside outside of Bend across the border into Redmond—was the beautiful, fluffy white llama that peeled up to the corner of the fence as I ran by. If llamas could smile (or if us humans knew what it looked like), I’d swear that llama was grinning from ear to ear. That little buddy greeted me at the edge of his territory then ran alongside me until we reached the end of his turf. How sweet is that? (PS, the llama was totally faster than me, but he slowed down his clip for a no-drop fun run).

My least favorite portion of this leg would have to be the crosswalks—I believe I counted five crosswalks that I had to stop and wait for a light to change at. After taking the baton following two speedy runners, I was feeling self-conscious about how this—in addition to my 11:00-ish pace—was going to send us from a good place to the 75th percentile that I normally inhabit. Probably worst of all was the crosswalk just a couple hundred feet from the exchange point. I could hear my teammates yelling at me to keep coming, but the little red man on the traffic signal wasn’t having it.

When I did finally come into the exchange at Wild Ride Brewery, it was truly extraordinary to be cheered on by the waiting teams—thanks to my speedier teammates, I was the first female runner through the checkpoint and was immediately rewarded with… Yes, another beer (Big Booty Ale, in case you were wondering). What a blast!

Written by Robin York – Legs 4 and 9:

Running is a lot more fun as a social event and drinking is a lot more fun in a social environment, so when the two are combined… it is sure to be amusing and enjoyable. I have been told that Bend has the most craft breweries per capita and if you do a Google search for “Beer City USA”, guess which city you will find? If you like running lively, fun events and enjoy a good brew, Bend Beer Chase is your race. When I started this race, I admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about the beverage in which our race was focused around, but that soon changed. My team mate Gregg had been a brewer and I soon learned about the color of beer, how the malt can change the flavor (caramel malts, roasted malts dark malts…) and the IBU of beer (international bitterness units scale). It was soon determined that “blondes don’t turn me on” and I enjoyed the beers with a higher IBU. After doing some “homework” and learning about some of the award winning beers Bend had to offer, my teammates and I parted ways to get some rest before the race in the morning. I guess you could say we had an early start…

I had not done a one day relay before and wasn’t sure what to expect! Participants could choose between a cotton race shirt, a trucker-type hat or a warmer beanie type hat as their race swag. So if you have enough shirts spilling out of your closet and drawers, a hat would be a great option for you! The race itself started at 6:30am with waves thereafter for approximately 64 teams (give or take). Each team could have as many as 6 members or as few as 2 for the 70 mile event. We ran with 5 members and Michael and Gregg took on the extra two legs of the 12 total to be ran. (Thanks Gregg and Michael!!) The race offered some scenic views, and as someone who had never actually been to Bend, this was a real treat to see a new part of Oregon. If beer is not enough for a trip to Bend, the beautiful outdoors surely will be. We ran in the high desert of Central Oregon, past sweeping views of the Cascades and as we had a whole gamut of weather conditions and saw a few tumbleweeds cross our path due to wind and the Ponderosa Pine helped shade us from the warm sun.

As we made our way through the race, we were able to enjoy samples of many of the Breweries who not only sponsored the event but have award winning beer. My disappointment is that as I ran past Smith Rock Brewing in Redmond, they had not yet set up their samples… so I missed out (as well as my team mates who did not know that the sample would be on the actual course, instead of at the exchange point). This was my first leg, leg 4. We started at Wild Ride Brewery and I wove my way through the city streets of Remond. This is stop and go with traffic signals and crosswalks, but was tolerable. After passing the not yet set up Smith Rock Brewery, the course ends up on SW Highland Ave, which felt more like a freeway than an avenue. If running on a road with fast moving traffic is nerve wracking, I suggest avoiding this leg. Once I was done with the busy street, I turned into Cline Falls State Park for a nice downhill to my exchange. I felt bad for Scott who had to trek back up my nice decline. Because the rule book allows for legs to be chosen “out of order” and based on what each team mate would like to do based on energy endurance and experience… we went out of sequence and I then took leg 9 as my second leg. My last leg departed from the Sisters Rodeo Fairgrounds and through some country roads roads both paved and unpaved. Mostly unpaved. If you have this leg you should highly consider a handkerchief or some sort of face cover in your gear supply. The wind was pretty strong and stirring up the dust and was made much worse by vans that were driving quickly to the next exchange point. The unpleasantness of the dust was a small drop in my (beer) cup compared to the beautiful desert views and the camaraderie of the runners with me on this course. When my team had assisted me with more water and cheers, I asked Michael to go back a few yards to take pictures of the landscape, which he had done for me. It was so beautiful, i wanted to make sure to remember it. I also had the opportunity to cheer and encourage everyone who passed me, which helps me feel better when the going gets rough and another team (“The Cracked Six Pack”) came to the rescue to my diminished moral by giving me a “power arch” and crepe paper finish line. After that, i felt like a million bucks and lumbered on to my team mates at the windy/dusty exchange “Three Sisters View Point”.

After the race breweries that were not featured at the exchange points (or on the course) were at the finish for a 6Keg run/walk. This part was not timed, though there was a time commitment to finish the 6K(eg) by 6:30 p.m. My team went to the first brewery on the course and we quickly decided that The Bend Brewing Company was too crowded and we moved on to Silver Moon Brewing. After a Pumpkin Ale taste, we ventured on to 10 Barrel Brewing. We had an hour to complete the tour of six breweries after our official relay finish but it became pretty obvious we weren’t going to finish the 6Keg in time as the brewery broke down their sample tent and table and we were encouraged to go straight to the last brewery for our finisher’s medal. I don’t have any experience at all with planning an event of this caliber, but I hope that next year the organization of breweries is done in such a way that all the breweries have an equal chance at showcasing their excellent brews to all the participants. Overall, the event was very well organized, friendly, well marked course and a whole lot of fun!

Scott Branscum – Leg 5 and 8:

Scott was a great addition to our team. Though his first relay, he conquered his legs like a champ. Robin passed the baton off to him and he started leg five which was an uphill run against the wind for the last part. He finished up and immediately helped taking photos for the team members as they ran their legs.

His second leg was number eight, which Gregg handed off to him at the Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters. This leg was entirely on gravel roads for the entire run, but he kept a strong performance all the way to the next exchange. After he had finished, we all noted that he was the first runner that was done with all his legs, which he said he was very happy about.He just had to wait for the rest of us to run to get to the beer. For someone who had jumped into this relay event with minimal training, he did a great job and helped our team complete the 70 mile trek through Central Oregon.

Overall assessment:

The Bend Beer Chase organizers were bold and ambitious with their first one-day relay race. It takes a lot of planning, work and risk to start a complicated relay race when you factor in coordinating for safety, permits from the various cities runners pass through and working with ten different sponsor breweries. I know they have experience with relay races, but I was still  impressed with how well the relay race went consider it was the first year for this event. Yes, there are opportunities for refining elements of this experience to make it even better than it already is, but this is a race experience that I would recommend running when they have it again in May of 2015. If you love running and you love beer, this race is a great event to enjoy what Central Oregon has to offer.

Below are links to photos our team took along the course, results and winners of the two Bend Beer Chase contests.


The Bend Beer Chase had a lot of scenic vistas to marvel at as we trekked our way along the course. These photos were taken by the Run Oregon team members as we raced, tweeted and beered our way to the finish.


The first team into the finish was the Sole Brothers who finished in 7:03:57.8, guess they really wanted to get to the beer.

Check out the full results from the Bend Beer Chase Relay.

Contest Winners:

The Cascade Lakes Race Group held two contests during the one-day relay race to help promote the spirit of fun and adventure at the event.

Best Team Theme winner was team Team Lunar Vander 2.0

Bend Beer Chase Bend Social Media Picture using #BBC2014 winner was Team Brewed to Be Wild!


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