* In 2016, Uberthons plans to stage four half marathons, one for each season. The winter location hasn't been set yet, but it seems like the other three will repeat their 2015 locations: Spring at St. Josef's Winery, Summer at Heirloom Roses, and Fall at Forest Grove High School.
Uberthons urged racers to pick up their racing bibs at packet pickup, which was located at the frequently used Road Runner Sports in Tualatin, on Thursday from 4 pm to 8 pm. I had a family appointment back in Portland at 4:30, so I made sure to get to Road Runner right at 4 o’clock. Actually, I think I might have been early by a few minutes, but Uberthons was already set up and ready to go.
I got my bib (#122), and as I had registered early enough, it was personalized. This is the second race in a row with Uberthons where I’ve gotten a personalized bib, and upcoming races advertise the same benefit for early registrants.
Bib in hand, I took it easy on Friday and went to bed a little earlier than usual, as the instructions from Uberthons were to arrive before 7:40 a.m., and Google Maps calculated that it would take 35 minutes to get to Heirloom Roses.
Arrival (Race Day)
It was bright and warm already when I woke up at 6:30 a.m. On Friday, the weather forecast for Saturday, race day, had been 68 degrees at 8 a.m., rising to 73 degrees by 9 a.m. I had a feeling the forecast was going to be off, and not on the cool side. I grabbed a banana to eat on the drive and headed out.
Getting to Heirloom Roses was mostly uneventful, except for the detour caused by work on Ehlen Road (the artery off the 5). I was worried about getting there late, but my smartphone assured me that I’d arrive by 7:29.
You know how people who’ve already finished college sometimes have nightmares where they’re late for a final exam? For some reason, I often fear that I’m headed to the wrong location for my races. But as I neared Heirloom Roses, I saw a road marker reading “Event,” and not long after that, an Uberthons mile marker and an unmanned table full of water cups.
I arrived at Heirloom Roses and was directed by volunteers to park in a nearby field. From there, it was a short warm up run to the race location.
I was not late after all. First I wandered over to chat with Dr. Mohr and Dr. Martindale from Acceleration Sports Medicine, who are fixtures at Uberthons races. (I’ve been lucky enough to have sought treatment from their team only once a couple of years ago after the Halloweenathon, but I’ve gotten good advice about injury prevention and the like from them.) They asked for a post-race report about the course, which I promised to give.
Next, I saw some of the Uberthons team, including Mo, who was wearing a race shirt identifying him as being with a timing company that was not Uberthons. I pointed this out and asked jokingly, “What’s up with this?” He grinned sheepishly and said that he grabbed it by accident in the dark early in the morning. That’s a good reminder about how hard race organizers and their staff and volunteers have to work to get races ready. I mean, all I have to do is get there by 7:40. They had to be there much, much earlier.
Then I saw fellow Run Oregon blogger Brian Bernier, who was dressed in the race pacer tank and holding the “1:45” pace sign. “You have to hold that the entire race?” I asked. He shrugged and said it wasn’t a big deal, especially as he wasn’t going to be pressing.*
* In retrospect, maybe I should have signed up for the half marathon. It would be my chance to finish ahead of Brian in a race….
Here’s the entire race pace team for the Summer Half Marathon:
Around 7:40, the announcing team called 5K and 10K runners to form the human tunnel on both sides of the road past the start line. Not everyone was able to comply immediately, though, because there was a long line leading to the four porta-potties near the staging area. Some of those, I gather, were half marathoners who were anxious to get through the line in time for the start of their race.
Shortly before 8 a.m., Darwin Rasmussen organized the half marathon runners – “fast runners in front, good looking ones in back.” The announcing team and we 5K and 10K runners gave the half marathoners a countdown from 10, and then clapped as each wave of racers started on their 13.1 mile journey. I really like this tradition, even though I have yet to be on the receiving side of it. It’s partly the feeling of camaraderie with fellow runners, and partly the building anticipation for my own event.
After the last of the half marathoners had set off, Darwin had us 5K and 10K runners line up at the start line. Somewhat by default I ended up in the front group. I was tempted to ask Darwin if I belonged in front (“fast”) or in back (“good looking”) but as I’m generally not the type to go around poking lions with sticks just to see what happens, I decided I was probably better off not getting an answer.
At 8:03 (that’s what my Garmin’s GPX plot recorded), we were off. The eventual 10K winner (Daniel Love) took the early lead and never gave it up. A couple of other young guys soon passed me (though I couldn’t tell if they were running the 5K or the 10K). Meanwhile, the half marathoners were up ahead, already spreading out along the course.
All three distances shared the route up to a point. We all headed northwest on Riverside Drive, following a gentle arc to Champoeg Road, by which point we were going southwest. Both roads were two-lane, but we had been instructed to stay on the left, because there would be returning runners on the other side. This early part of the route was heading away from Heirloom Roses, so basically there were just mostly empty fields on both sides.
I usually try to look at the race maps before a race (although obviously looking in advance doesn’t guarantee actually knowing the race, as I discovered when I, along with many others, went off course in the Rum Run earlier this year), but I couldn’t remember a single detail about the Oregon Summer 10K course. When I saw the turnaround just shy of the 1.5 mile mark, I found myself wondering if this was going to be one of those races where the 10K is two loops of the 5K. But if that were the case, I continued wondering, how was the half marathon going to be laid out? Uberthons would not call a 20K race a “half marathon” ….
During the first stretch, I caught up to several of the pace groups: 2:30, 2:15, 2:00. Each one of those presented a bit of a problem; they were quite popular paces, so each time I chased one down, there was a good sized clump of runners sticking with the pacers. To pass them, I had to bend (if not break) the “stay on the left” admonition.
I hit the first turnaround, skipping the water station,* and headed back toward the staging area. The road was getting less crowded, but there were still a good number of half marathoners ahead of me. I saw the 1:52 pacers in the distance, and started to do some math in my head to figure out when I’d catch up based on my current pace. (One problem, however, was that my pace was slowing due to the combination of starting too fast and the rising temperature, so my off-the-top-of-my-head calculation was flawed.)
* Yes, this was the water station I saw during the drive in. It was fully staffed with volunteers.
The two Herrera (J.J. and Wilson) boys were on the course, each with his own pacer. I believe that Wilson set a record for the fastest 15K by an 8-year-old on a certified course, which he did at a special route at the Spring Half Marathon. Wilson was ahead at this early stage in the race, but when I checked the final results, I saw that J.J. ended up beating big brother by a couple of minutes and, I believe, set a record for the half marathon by a 6-year-old.
By the time I got back to the starting point, the elapsed distance was 2.8 miles. I could tell from the announcers that there were a few 5K racers finishing already (including, I would learn later, two of the guys who passed me early on).
I got to the 5K turnaround and decided to stop for some water. On a typical fall or spring day, I’ll finish a 10K without stopping once for water, but it was getting warm. I still have yet to master the art of drinking while running, so this was basically a full stop for me. I drank about half of the cup and then resumed the race.
Remember my conversation with Brian Bernier about carrying the pace flag? When I passed the 1:52 pacers, I heard one of them remark about how their pace flag was nothing compared to what the Team RWB (Red White & Blue) racers were carrying:
(When I go on training runs, I carry my Galaxy S5, which at first felt like a giant rock, but is nothing compared to that sturdy looking flagpole.)
Between the 5K and 10K turnarounds, it was getting pretty lonely. By definition, there were no 5K runners on this part of the course. There was one 10K runner ahead of me – that being the eventual winner – but judging by his finishing time and mine, he was probably something like 2/3-3/4 of a mile ahead of me, so well out of sight given the curves on the course. There were a few half marathoners in sight, but the top 15 or so were also well out of sight. It was getting warmer too – not so much in absolute temperature terms (I think it was maybe around 80-85 degrees), but perceived temperature with the dazzling sun beating down on me. In retrospect, I wish I’d worn a Columbia Sportswear Omni-Freeze tech shirt instead of the black-colored Run Oregon tech shirt.
I was gaining ground slowly on the 1:45 pacers, the last pacing group. Unlike the other pacing groups, this one was not crowded with runners. I wanted to catch them and joke to Brian Bernier, “Dude, you left everyone behind!” If I had managed a pace like that over the first two miles, I would have been able to do it. Alas, the 1:45 pacers went past the 10K turnaround before I could catch up …. D’oh! I mean, I could have kicked into high gear and had a chance to do it, but that would have made for a miserable remaining 1.5+ miles. It’s true that I have my share of foolish ideas. However, I also have a reasonably well-developed sense of self-preservation.
The 10K turnaround was around 4.5 miles into the race. There was a race volunteer, holding a sign and directing half marathoners to keep going and 10Kers to turn around. Yep, I was sooooooo glad that I clicked the “10K” box during the registration process! And I’m so glad that Uberthons offered a 10K option!
After the 10K turnaround, I stopped at the water/aid station and accepted the cup that a volunteer handed me. I was about to drink it when I realized it was purple. I don’t have anything against Gatorade, but I’m pretty minimalist during races, so with some mild feelings of guilt,* I dumped it out and asked for water.
* As you will see when you read on, my feelings of guilt would be magnified if I had known what was to come later for the half marathoners.
The last stretch of 1.7 miles was less lonely because as I was heading back, there were half marathoners heading out. Several cheered me on, which made me feel uncharitable for not reciprocating (although I did occasionally manage to let people know that a water station was coming up). In my defense, I was getting that point in the race when you know the end isn’t exactly close but it’s coming up and therefore it’s time to start speeding up a bit. In this case, “speeding up” was more like “maintaining pace in the face of increasing temps” ….
Finally, I could see the staging area and finish line! I knew I was the second 10K finisher because on the way back, I passed a cart with one of the Uberthons personnel who called out, “You’re number 2!” (I think this cart may have been delivering bags of ice to the farther aid stations.) I did indeed finish second in the 10K, but I was more than 7 minutes behind the winner, so it was a close race only if you are using units of time measurement more appropriate for geology than for running.
Immediately after finishing, I was able to pick up my finisher’s medal (with my name laser-engraved on the back) and an ice-cold bottle of water. After checking my chip time at the computer kiosk, I wandered over to the Heirloom Roses’ building, where the fruit bar had been set up. At the bottom of my race bib was a tear off coupon good for entry to the fruit bar. It was stocked with nuts, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, bananas, and bagels. Good stuff. But wait, there’s more! Later, Alan Rasmussen announced that ice cream was available.
I went over to the Acceleration Sports Medicine tent, which at that moment was empty of patients, and told Drs. Mohr and Martindale that the course wasn’t bad but that it was getting hot out there. I pointed out the obvious, that they were probably going to get their share of heat exhaustion cases.
Sure enough, I then saw Darwin Rasmussen arriving in a vehicle with a stricken runner, who was quickly brought to the medical tent for treatment.
The post-race awards ceremonies took place efficiently, with announcements of the 5K overall male and female winners, and age/gender group winners (1st to 3d), and then as the majority of 10K runners finished, the same for the 10K. And then, the 5K results were repeated for those just finishing whatever distance. As has been the case for Uberthons races in 2015, age/gender group winners received a gold, silver, or bronze pin (perfect for attaching to the lanyard of the finisher’s medal). I stuck around long enough to join the cheer for the winner of the half marathon (KGW traffic reporter Chris McGinness), and then decided it was time to enjoy a nice air-conditioned ride back to Portland.
Oh yes, the issue of Gatorade guilt …. Later on Saturday, I heard that a half marathoner runner had collapsed on the course somewhere around mile 6 (that is, about 1.5 miles past the 10K turnaround) with a severe case of heat exhaustion and ultimately had to be taken by ambulance for medical care. The runner who reported this incident was fortunately a medical doctor who, among others, sacrificed her own race time to stay with the fallen runner until the ambulance arrived. She also reported that the aid stations were low or out of Gatorade by the time the back of the pack half marathoners reached them. Yes, the single cup of Gatorade that I took by accident at the 10K turnaround water station was a drop in the bucket, but it was still one fewer cup of Gatorade for someone else who needed it. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder to be careful with resources – especially faster runners who never personally experience shortages or outages of supplies at aid stations.
Uberthons invited several of the half marathoners who’d helped the fallen runner to join its medical advisory board, and within a day, had accepted the following recommendations:
– increase the frequency of aid stations on half marathon courses to at least every mile (up from every 1.25 miles at the Summer Half Marathon), stocked with two tents for shade and bins of ice in addition to the usual water and electrolytes;
– set up two misting tents on the course; and
– provide iced towels at several aid stations.
Results, Photos, and Overall Impressions
In all, 192 people finished the half marathon, with Chris McGuiness winning overall in 1:19:40, and Liz Coleman leading the women in 1:40:51. 53 of us finished the 10K, with Daniel Love winning overall at 37:45 and Julie Flindt leading the women at 50:31; and 37 finished the 5K, with Marvin Speece winning overall at 19:21, and Annie Coleman leading the women at 27:46.
This was the first time Uberthons has used Heirloom Roses as a venue for a race, and I thought it made a nice location for a bit of destination run. It wasn’t too far from Portland (at least, not the southwest part), but it far enough away that it wasn’t a road race on suburban streets or on paved paths in a city park. The 10K course was pretty flat (my GPS plot said the total elevation gain was just 156 feet) and easy to follow. Judging from the pictures on the Uberthons Facebook page, it seems like the more scenic parts of the race course occurred during the back half of the half marathon, whereas the 10K was less distinctive. With ample parking, a great fruit bar, ice cream, and big finisher’s medals, this was another great event by Uberthons.