* On a side note, we can never show enough appreciation for race organizers and volunteers, who have to get out to the race course WAY earlier than the runners do.During the 45 minute drive from Portland to Forest Grove, I listened to college football experts on ESPN radio while munching on a bagel. I also thought about how I'd forgotten to bring sunglasses and to put on sunblock. I was able to deal with the first problem because I keep a spare pair of shades in my vehicle. I simply fretted about the second problem. I don't burn easily, so if this had been a 5K or 10K, I wouldn't have given much thought to lacking sunblock. But for the half marathon, I would be outside for an hour and forty minutes, give or take.... Oh well, I figured it would be some incentive to run faster.
Forty hours earlier, at packet pickup: A couple of days earlier, I had driven out to the northwestern part of Beaverton for packet pickup, which was located at the new Foot Traffic on NW Cornell Blvd. Uberthons’ co-race director Randy Wilder was outside underneath an Uberthons tent with piles and piles of plastic-sealed race shirts. He sent me inside, where his co-race director Darwin Rasmussen was checking runners in and distributing bibs. The bibs were arranged in order in several plastic bins; I was given my bib number (1082) and handed the bin containing that range of numbers. Of course, the bibs were personalized, so finding mine was extra-easy. I noticed that we were back to the bulky chip fixture, not the thin strips of the past year. Darwin explained that the manufacturer sent the wrong kind of chip.
Back outside, Randy offered me a choice of a sleeveless or sleeved tech shirt, in sizes ranging from small to extra-large. Then it was time to hightail it back to Portland for the end of the school day.
Carbo-loading(?): Are you supposed to carbo-load for a half marathon? Honestly, I’m sort of the anti-half fanatic, so I really have no idea. I don’t do anything special for my weekly long runs, but those are only about 10-11 miles. This column from Runner’s World suggests carbo-loading for any run lasting more than 90 minutes. My pre-race dinner took place at the back to school picnic for my younger child, so I scarfed down three hot dogs. Carbs per hot dog: ~2.2 grams. Hmm, that’s not quite carbo-loading, is it? Well, someone had brought a pasta salad with artichoke hearts and olives, which didn’t seem too popular with others, but I had two helpings of it.
Arrival at Forest Grove High School: Back to race day. I arrived at Forest Grove High School to find the parking lot full, but was able to park on the side of the street. I hurried over to the track, where the half marathon runners were already gathering. Fellow Run Oregon blogger Marilyn Tycer was at this race too, but I didn’t spot her.
Darwin Rasmussen started making announcements, including the 2015 promise that “if you don’t like your race time, you can run the race again.” More importantly, he explained that the race course was going to cross Highway 47. During the permit seeking process, state officials had wanted runners to wait for vehicles to pass. Uberthons had pushed back against that runner-unfriendly idea, but the state officials would agree to a compromise where cars could be held up for the first 10 male and 5 female runners.
The first 2+ miles: I guess the track was deemed wide enough that Uberthons didn’t start us in waves. Being somewhat near the back 1/3 of the crowd, I crossed the start line in something like a shuffling zombie, but by the time I was halfway around the lap, there was plenty of running room. After that one lap, we left Forest Grove High School and headed east on Nichols Lane. Hey, there was my parked car! I’ll be back, I thought to myself.
Nichols turned into Bonnie Lane, a quiet residential neighborhood. I caught up to the 1:45 pacers along here. “One forty five is an eight mile an hour pace, right?” I asked them. The lead pacer – the one carrying the pace flag – nodded. I thought about sticking with them for a couple of miles or so. I always go out too fast in races, so keeping to a slower than average pace for the beginning might pay dividends later on. However, it was pleasantly cool, and I was feeling smooth and in control, and a 7:30ish pace didn’t feel taxing at all, so I moved ahead of the pacers.
Just past a mile, we turned left for a short stretch on NW Sunset Drive before turning right on Nehalem Highway (aka the 47). There were still neighborhoods to the south, but to the north it was all farmland. I was catching up to a male/female pair just shy of the 5K turnaround marker. Sometimes seeing the turnaround for a shorter race is demoralizing. In this case, though, it would’ve seemed way too early to turn back.
At the 2 1/4 mile mark, I reached NW Porter Road. This was the crossing that Darwin had mentioned at the start of the race. I had started so far back in the race that I didn’t have a good sense at all of how many runners were in front of me.* It looked like the traffic controllers were still holding cars, though, so I was able to cross the 47 at once. There was an aid station with water located on that corner, but I bypassed it, still feeling pretty good.
* Judging from how many runners I counted heading back from the halfway turnaround point, though, I think I was something like #18 at this point.
Mile 2+ to 4+: The stretch on Porter Road was surrounded by farmland on both sides. The sun was still an orange ball fairly low in the skyline, so there was a good amount of shade from tall trees (for which my sunblockless skin was grateful). Although I grew up in West Coast suburbia, I find something captivating about farms and farmland. I did live in Iowa for seven years before moving to Oregon, and Iowa is nothing but farms. And snow in the winter.
In looking at the altitude plot from my GPS watch data, I can see that there was a gentle rise of about 30 feet over this stretch, reaching the highest point of the entire course. At the time, though, I don’t think I noticed the incline at all.
The course wrapped around the northern and western edges of the Visitation Catholic School just short of the 4 mile mark and then put us on NW Visitation Road.
Visitation Catholic School to the halfway mark: Over the next 1 3/4 miles, we lost about 40 feet of altitude, reaching the nadir. Visitation Road was surrounded by more farms. My nose let me know that they were active farms, if you know what I mean.
At 4.7 miles, we turned left on to NW Osterman Road. There was an aid station here with water plus a volunteer with a water hose. My first thought was, are there so many runners today that they need to refill water cups that quickly with a water hose? Then I watched the volunteer set the hose to a misting spray for the runners ahead of me and I vaguely recalled that the course map had indicated there would be misting available at one of the aid stations. It wasn’t hot yet, so I skipped the misting spray but I did stop briefly for some water.
After the aid station, we turned right on to NW Evers Road. I was a little bit past the 5 mile mark when I saw the red pace car on the other side of the road, heading toward me. Not far behind the pace car was Paul Rottich, who would eventually win the Oregon Fall Half Marathon. With not too much to do (especially since I mostly don’t listen to music when racing), I did some quick and dirty math in my head to calculate his approximate race pace. I had gone about 5.3 miles in 41 minutes, which meant he had finished 7.8 miles in about the same time (a little less, since he was no doubt at the front of the race pack), so just over 5 minutes/mile. But his 5 minutes/mile pace looked so smooth and easy….*
* It reminded me of how, during the 2012 Olympic 10K finals, my son asked, “Daddy, why are those guys just jogging?” I chuckled and explained, “You see, what looks like jogging to you is faster than I can run a single mile. It’s just that they are so fast, they make it look easy.”
At 6.2 miles, we turned on to NW Chalmers Road. There was a couple of runners about 5 minutes behind Rottich, and then another gap, and then some more runners. I gave up counting how many runners were ahead of me (i.e., heading back toward me from the turnaround) when I reached 15.
Remember that 5K turnaround? That may have been too short to be satisfying, but 10K just seemed like the perfect distance. Of course, 10K isn’t quite half of a half marathon….
I could see the turnaround tent, though. As I approached it, I said as cheerfully as I could, “Is this the finish line?”
The volunteers laughed, as did Dr. Adam Mohr, who rained also rained on my parade by pointing out, “You don’t want this to be the end of the race, Tung, because it means you’d be riding back to the finish line with me.”
Misery: Having stopped for another cup of water at the turnaround point, I actually felt refreshed and picked up my pace a bit. It was still slower than what I’d planned, but at least my overall average pace wasn’t slowing as rapidly. Since I was now on the way back to the finish line, I was heading toward the runners behind me. The 1:45:00 pacers were a couple of minutes behind me, and then the 1:52:00 pacers, and so on.
That decent feeling? It lasted only until I reached the 7 1/2 mile mark. One woman offered encouragement, calling out to me, “You’re killing it!”
“No, it’s killing me!” I responded. My friend Eileen Kuffner saw me around here and later commented on Facebook that I “looked good,” but I certainly didn’t feel that way.
Meanwhile, some of the runners I’d passed early on had caught up to me, including the male/female couple I’d passed back at the 5K turnaround, which seemed like it was ages ago. The guy was super-positive, cheering on everyone around him, whether heading back to the finish or still on the way out to the turnaround. I trailed them to the aid station at the 3 mile/10 mile mark, where there was another misting station. I think he would’ve liked to have been misted, but he was worried about his smartphone. I caught up briefly and mentioned that he should look into getting a Galaxy S5, which claims to be waterproof. I did admit that I lacked the courage to test the claim. (Maybe that’s a good thing, too, judging from this story.) After thanking me for the tip, he pulled away from me.
The rest of the way back was a little lonely. There was no one heading out on the course to cross paths with, and no one was all that close to me, in front of me or in back of me. My pace, already slowing steadily from mile 3 on, dropped to the 8:20 range for the last two miles. I don’t think it was bonking, not exactly. I just couldn’t summon the willpower to speed up.
Finally, I made it back to Forest Grove High School. All that was left was to run through the Uberthons gateway and complete 3/4 of a lap on the track. I was into the last curve when I heard the announcer call out the imminent return of the 1:45:00 pacers, just about half a lap behind me…. I finished a shade under 1:44, and they finished a shade under 1:45.
After the run, it was time to check out the breakfast buffet that was included with the race registration. After all, it’s debatable which is better, running or being done with the running. Being done with running includes eating!
The breakfast items included pancakes, potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon, and salsa. I love breakfast potatoes, but the sad thing is that, despite having just run 13.1 miles on just 2/3 of a bagel, I didn’t feel that hungry. Darn that post-exercise appetite suppression! Still, I helped myself to a few spoonfuls of potatoes and a couple of slices of bacon. These weren’t your typical thin slices of bacon; they were wide and the perfect combination of crispy and greasy and salty. In fact, writing about it right now makes me wish I’d had more than two pieces.
I had to leave right after eating, so I missed the Oregon Half Marathon Series medal presentations. 50 people earned the Half Marathon Series medal by running all three events this year (Spring, Summer, and Fall):
Next year’s Half Marathon Series is going to take 33 percent more half marathons, because Uberthons is adding a Winter Half Marathon that will take place entirely on the Reserve Vineyard and Golf Course.
Review:* This was a nice, quiet race course. It didn’t have quite the scenery of the Vernonia-Banks half marathon (likely the site of next year’s Oregon Summer Half Marathon), but it was flat and straight. Course support seemed quite good, with cheerful volunteers at the aid stations and at all course turns. The mile markers synched up nearly perfectly with my GPS watch; the straightness of the route probably helped reduce the deviation between the measured route distance and the actual distance I ran. Strangely, this race actually ended up being a PW (personal worst) for me, but that didn’t have anything to do with the race; if anything, I would think this route would be conducive to fast times.
* As a customary disclosure, I received a comp entry to this race as an Uberthons Ambassador.
Results and Pictures: