Race Recap: HTC Race Series – 2015 Pints to Pasta 10k (Portland)

Finisher's Medal

Event planning is a tricky business. The more people you expect, the more "moving parts" there are, and the higher people's expectations are, the more can go wrong. For many years, the "Pints to Pasta" 10k has been a Portland tradition as a fun, fast, downhill September race with a post-race party serving local beer and pasta. This year, however, the event disappointed many participants due to a changed course to accommodate an out-and-back half marathon, and some major issues with parking at the finish area and the shuttle transportation to the start of the point-to-point 10k course. Before I get into the details of the problems, I want to say that I had a good time at the race, since I seem to have arrived just in time to avoid most of the struggles. I saw problems develop, but I was among the 800-some runners who made it to the start line before the gun went off, so it went without major problems for me.

As usual, I arrived about an hour before the start, or in this case an hour before the previously announced “last shuttle at 7am”. I parked my car in a lot about half a mile from the Old Spaghetti Factory, whose property served as the finish area. In one of the many pre-race emails, there could have been better directions to the suggested parking lots instead of pointing runners to the Old Spaghetti Factory and to have them look for volunteers to point them to parking spots. I ended up doubling back through tight streets instead of going straight to a parking lot.

I picked up my race packet without any wait (early pickup was only available on Thursday and Friday, not Saturday), dropped my bag off at gear check, got a free coffee at the Carr Auto Group tent, and went to stand in the shuttle line at 6:40am for the 7:45am start in North Portland. It was hard to tell how long the wait was going to be, since there were no buses in sight and the line didn’t move at all for a long period of time. There was a long row of Honey Buckets, so many people made use of the wait time for another pit stop. Shuttle buses arrived, and each time a bus came and went, the line shortened by about 50 people in the front, but it grew and grew in the back.

View from the start line.

I boarded a bus at 7:25am, just minutes before the half marathon was to start. Our shuttle bus took us to the start line in North Portland. Approaching from the North on Greeley Ave, the bus drove further and further down the hill until I saw the start line on a flat stretch of road. I knew the course had changed some, but was still hoping for the fast downhill start. Wasn’t going to happen… The starting horn went off just minutes after I had gotten off the bus, and I felt bad for those still in line at the finish.

The Pints to Pasta course used to be one of the most scenic courses in downtown Portland, starting with a downhill mile, crossing a bridge, and running for miles along the river on Waterfront Path before finishing at the Old Spaghetti Factory. This year’s course was fine, but no longer spectacular.  We started rolling along the railroad tracks north of the Willamette river, past a very enthusiastic and musical water station at Widmer Brewery, and crossed the river on the Broadway bridge. Broadway and Davis St were potholey and smelly, and I was glad to reach Naito Pkwy.

Southbound Naito Pkwy is a two mile long gentle uphill turning into a steeper uphill. I saw many people walking, and took some breaks myself. When we merged onto Barbur Blvd I knew we were close to the top. A solo saxophone player provided some lovely music. After a left turn onto Hamilton, we now had a steep downgrade in front of us, turning south onto Corbett and then west onto Richardson Ct. The turn from Richardson onto Macadam could have been quite dicey, since runners had good downhill speed, but I only saw one single policeman holding traffic on Macadam, which had just one of the four lanes closed for runners. After a short stretch along Macadam, we turned right downhill again, and a quick left and right later I saw the finish line ahead of me.

Right after crossing the finish line, I was handed my finisher’s medal along with a bottle of water, which is always nice to have right away. I caught my breath for a few minutes, then picked up a Widmer Beer and a Barefoot Wine. I shopped the vendor tents before getting delicious Italian salad and a plate of penne marinara from Old Spaghetti Factory. The mood at the finish was light and happy, and the location was great.

The changed course was a disappointment. The course was posted online – albeit without an elevation chart for the 10k, but in all the many emails I received prior to the race, I never saw the announcement for a new course. The advertisements, including the video on the Pints to Pasta event page, point out the awards the race has won in the past (implying that this will be a repeat of prior years) and shows runners along the waterfront. I’m hoping that the half marathon can be rerouted somehow or dropped from the event entirely to get back to the scenic course.

The problem with the shuttle buses was a serious issue. Looking at the 10k results and crunching the data, only 860 of the 1,652 finishers crossed the starting time within 5 minutes of the starting gun. Buses kept arriving at the start over the next few hours, creating a rolling wave start. The last starter crossed the start line 85 minutes after the gun. On social media posts I read that there were many people still in line for the shuttles when the first 10k runner finished with an official time of 31:11. I also read that many people decided not to start at all, because they got tired of waiting. The only reasons I heard to explain the shuttle delays (through the gapevine; no official statements) was the fact that I-5 was closed for scheduled maintenance for some time in the early morning, and that construction forced the buses to take routes that took longer than expected.

On Monday the 14th, 24 hours after the event, race organizer Hood To Coast Race Series posted the following statement on their Facebook page:

Dear Pints to Pasta Participants,

Thank you very much for your enthusiastic support of Pints to Pasta and Hood To Coast Race Series. Your passion and drive inspires our entire team. Yesterday, we had logistical issues with parking and shuttle transportation. For those of you that experienced those issues, we would like to thank you for your patience and extend our sincerest apologies. You deserve top-notch, well-executed races, and we’ll strive to make that happen at every single event. Our HTC Race Series team is sitting down and planning how to make Pints to Pasta the best it can be for 2016.

Just like our runners and walkers, we seek to improve every time out. Again, thank you for your incredible patience!

If you have additional questions, comments, and concerns, we are always happy to hear them. Please contact us at office@htcrelay.com

Thank you,
HTC Race Series Team

While it is good to know that the organizers will rethink the strategy, I’m afraid a lot of people are turned off from running this again. There are so many good things about Pints to Pasta (the food, the shirt, the medal, the course support, the finisher party) and it can be great again with some adjustments.



1 Comment on Race Recap: HTC Race Series – 2015 Pints to Pasta 10k (Portland)

  1. Gina, You are very kind in your race overview. I was one of the people majorly impacted by the lack of race organization. I did talk to a company race official, Ross, the following week. He told me they only ordered 8 buses to transport all the 1,600+ 10K racers. This was going to be a disaster from the planning (or lack of planning) start. I felt their ‘apology’ weak even though Ross sent me a refund for the race.
    HTC needs to learn how to organize a race. They also need to start communicating better to their customers, the racers, who’s entry fees pay their salary.
    Event planning is HARD – I do it for a living. But is can be done well with planning, communication, and understanding the needs of the customer. I am glad you were able to start on time. Although I was at the start line and could have begun the race, I was waiting on a friend stuck in that LONG line waiting for a bus.

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