Race Recap: Oregon Turkeython

Uberthons unveiled its Thanksgiving turkey trot back in 2011 and has staged it every year since. The first time, it was held at Cook Park in Tigard on a cold morning (recap here). In 2012, the weather was the same but the location was different: Beaverton Town Square (recap here). Last year, it was even colder, and the entire race took place around Washington Square (recap here). The steady growth of the Turkeython caught the attention of, which named it one of the top 24 November/December races in the country.

It wasn’t a surprise that this year’s Turkeython was based at yet a new location, Bridgeport Village. I signed up for the 10K* a couple of weeks in advance, at which point the race was already 75% full. Pre-race packet pick-up took place at the lulelemon store on Tuesday and Wednesday late afternoon to early evening, with the usual Uberthons efficiency and thoroughness – the ability to test the RFID chip on your bib and see that it’s being read properly is one of the underrated features of Uberthons races.

There was a 5K option available as well, plus a free “North Pole dash” (a 1K kids’ run).

As with last year’s Turkeython, this year’s involved not just the race bib with timing chip, but also a second bib on which runners were invited to write what they’re thankful for; the second bib went on your back. This worked really well last year, because the race consisted of 1.55 mile laps around the Washington Square Mall, which meant I had to run four laps, and as a result, I saw lots and lots of thankful bibs from runners I passed and those who passed me. Last year, I wrote sincerely but far from uniquely, “family.” I wanted to be more whimsical this year and spent some time trying to think of something funny. In the end, I went with sincere but hopefully unique: “Mashed potatoes!!!”

Race time was 8:30 a.m. The forecast called for low- to mid-50s, with a chance of showers. That sounded a lot better than the frigid mornings we endured the past two mornings. I didn’t bother with running tights, gloves, hat, earmuffs, or any of that cold weather gear, although I did wear a longsleeve tech shirt.

Upon arriving at Bridgeport Village around 8:10 a.m., I was directed to the main parking structure. Now, I’ve been to Bridgeport numerous times and have never had to go higher than the second parking level to find a space, but this morning, I had to go to the top! My wife had predicted that there might be parking difficulties, but I had confidently – and erroneously, as it turned out – waved aside such concerns. That’s what happens when there are over 1100 runners, not to mention other spectators.

It wasn’t long before it was time to start. Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle rang the bell to start the race. We were allowed to take off in waves, with a delay between waves to allow the route to thin out. Several waves went ahead of mine.

Here’s the race course – one time through was 5K, so the 10K called for two loops:

Turkeython 2014 course map (courtesy of Uberthons)

The start/finish line was across from PF Chang’s and headed down to the corner with Barnes & Noble, turning to follow the main buildings, and then turning left again to run parallel to the movie theater. From there, we wrapped around the theater and squeezed along a relatively narrow alley along the northern edge of the shopping center. That took us out on to the main road (SW 72nd). It was Thanksgiving morning, so very few stores anywhere were open, and car traffic was light. More importantly, there were plenty of orange cones marking a safe path for runners on the left side of the road, and there were numerous race volunteers with flags who were keeping us safe.

It was a gradual descent down SW 72nd and the beginning part of the stretch on SW Upper Boone’s Ferry. After crossing SW Durham, the route began a sharper ascent, increasing 50 feet in about half a mile. The water station was located just about at the halfway point, with volunteers on both sides of the running lane. I accepted one, took a quick gulp, emptied the rest along the road, and tossed the cup toward the crates past the water station.

And missed. D’oh! I felt bad about that, but at least I got it close.

Past the 2 mile marker, Upper Boone’s Ferry intersected Lower Boone’s Ferry, and we turned on the latter. I was concentrating on trying to catch the runners in front of me, so the scenery here kind of faded into the background, although I know the Club Sport gym and the Portland Trailblazers’ practice facility are located there. When we reached the Grand Hotel (site of packet pickup for the fall Oregon Marathon and a Half!), we headed into the parking lot for that little shopping center across from Bridgeport. Whole Foods Market was on our left, bringing us back to Bridgeport.

At the start/finish line, 5K runners were directed to the right lane, and 10K runners to the left lane, so I obediently stayed to the left. Doing a 5K loop a second time for a 10K race is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it can feel tedious to have to cover ground that you’ve already covered before, and it’s hard to avoid wondering, why am I still out here?. On the other hand, the course is fresh in your mind, so you might be able to pace yourself better.

Strangely enough, it seemed more crowded my second time through than the first time through, even though there should have been fewer 5K runners on the course. But then I realized that most of the runners, 5K or 10K, had started behind me, so while the runners in the waves in front of me were no longer on the course (unless I had passed them, but then they would be behind me at this point too), the ones who started behind me and who were going at a leisurely pace, especially the walkers, were still out there. Even with over 1100 runners, the course wasn’t so crowded that it felt clogged, only a few spots where I had to run outside the cones to get around someone else.

A bit past five miles, I got passed by a male runner, but maybe he kicked too early, because he wasn’t able to pull away. In fact, I caught back up to him around the Grand Hotel and stayed in front; I think I also caught a woman who had passed me back at the beginning of the second loop. With about 1/3 of a mile left, I started my kick, and picked it up more around Whole Foods. (This is where having run the loop already helped, as I knew exactly what distance was left, and where the finish line was.)

After crossing the finish line, I got in line to pick up my  finisher’s medal and a bottle of water. As with all Uberthons’ finisher’s medals this year, this one comes with a removable pin for separate display and a race-specific lanyard. (Psst: word is that next year’s finisher’s medals will have a whole new design!)

Getting out of Bridgeport, now that was an adventure. Because there were still 10K runners on the course, there was only one way out of the parking lot, which meant there was a constant series of merges from every parking row, and then at every level, all backed up every time the race volunteers stopped cars for runners crossing from the Whole Foods/REI side of the road back to Bridgeport Village. Given the arrangement of the shopping center, this was probably an unavoidable problem (whereas last year’s venue didn’t present this problem, because the parking area was outside the race course).

Departure aside, this was another well-done event by Uberthons. The weather cooperated, the race logistics were handled smoothly, and the course was reasonably interesting. Given the pattern of moving the Turkeython every year, we can only wonder where next year’s edition will be staged.

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