The 2nd annual Gorgeous Portland Pub Relay hit the Portland streets on Saturday, May 21, and Run Oregon (along with 39 other teams) was on scene to participate. We had a participant in the inaugural event last year and were intrigued to send a whole group of Run Oregon bloggers this time around.
We knew that this event was untimed, so we had no real expectations for our pace. For us (as well as the vast majority of other teams we talked to), this was the opportunity to participate in a unique event, try some Portland beers, and just enjoy each other’s company.
We tracked our own times, but understood that life is life when running in Portland and you just never know what’s going to happen. Even races that spend big bucks to partner with the Portland PD and various transportation services within the city still have struggles with making sure everything goes off without a hitch. It wasn’t until the day of the race that notifications from the city went out that Hawthorne and Sellwood bridges were being closed to traffic. The former was a part of the race course, so the RD’s and volunteers did their best to work through that. Couple that with the fact that MLK Boulevard was seeing some significant paving in sections, and we knew it was definitely gonna be a challenge.
Here are our legs:
Start: Ecliptic Brewing (Geli)
Team Run Oregon met up at Ecliptic Brewing in North Portland, the start and finish of this year’s relay. We checked in to get our first maps, and my 4.4 mile course seemed pretty straightforward, with the only unknown being the closure of the Hawthorne bridge. We got word that one of the sidewalks would be open for runners and that volunteers would point us the right way, so I didn’t worry too much.
My run started with a nice downhill on Mississippi Ave towards the Moda Center, and I made pretty good time. Since the course was not closed, I had to stop for some traffic lights between Moda Center and the Steel Bridge, and my legs thanked me for the rest after almost two miles of downhill coasting. I crossed the Willamette on the bottom level of the Steel Bridge and then enjoyed running south on Waterfront Park Trail to the Hawthorne Bridge. A volunteer pointed me to the ramp or the stairs up the bridge, and I crossed back to the east side.
Coming off the Hawthorne Bridge, it wasn’t entirely clear which way I was expected to run. The map in my hand told me I needed to get to Water Ave, but no details on how. I considered staying on the sidewalk and taking the car-route to Water Ave, but then saw a volunteer at the bottom of the bike ramp, so took that route instead. She told me to turn right “up there” to get to Water, but after I avoided one turn where there seemed to be an altercation between two transients, it turns out that the Eastbank Esplanade doesn’t have a connection to cross over/under I-405 until the Burnside Bridge. The volunteer at the top of the stairs told me I was going the wrong way, but since I still had my map, I was able to find my way to MLK, to Stark and finally to Base Camp Brewing on 9th St, and it only added 0.3 miles to my run. Joe was ready for high-five-handoff when I got there, and I was happy to have leg 1 in the books.
Exchange 1: Base Camp Brewing (Joe)
Having run the Gorgeous Series’ touchstone event, The Gorgeous Relay itself, twice, I was very familiar with Base Camp Brewing, since it serves at the finish line of that event. Matt, Rachel, Teresa, and I had a little time to relax in the bar before Geli was due, and my teammates sampled some of the beers on offer, including a S’more version that came to Teresa complete with a small toasted marshmallow.
It was a little chilly when we headed back outside to prepare for Geli’s arrival, and my Portland map shorts got a few amused comments from other runners. My course seemed pretty straightforward after I studied the official map a few times (and I figured I could always consult my shorts if I somehow got lost!) Geli soon came speeding around the corner, we exchanged encouraging words and a high five, and I was off!
After a warm up of a few blocks, the course took us down Burnside and onto the bridge, where a volunteer pointed us down the stairs to the Eastbank Esplanade. Though it was a little cold for just standing around, the conditions were ideal for running once I got going. We ran north on the Eastbank path to the Steel Bridge, which we crossed to the west side. We continued north along Naito and Front Ave. for about a mile-and-a-half to Nikolai St., and turned west for about a half mile. A couple more blocks and we reached the exchange at Portland Brewing, where Teresa was waiting to speed off on Leg 3.
Because of the nature of the course, there were runners on Legs 1 and 3 coming back along the course in the opposite direction. It contributed to a great atmosphere of support and camaraderie among the various teams. Although I like to race and compete, the fact that the Gorgeous Portland Pub Relay was an untimed fun relay allowed us to relax and enjoy the day. I ran my leg in a gear somewhere between tempo training pace and race pace, and everyone seemed to be having fun and leaving the stress of a typical race behind.
Exchange 2: Portland Brewing (Teresa)
I’m not a beer drinker and have a horrible sense of direction, so I felt pretty lucky to make the cut for the Run Oregon team. I was available on May 21st, which was really the only requirement. Still, I was super excited to spend the day with these guys. That excitement turned to slight panic as I examined my leg. I looked at my map taking me from Portland Brewing to Green Dragon Brewery and it looked pretty straightforward – with only a few turns along the way. I’m one that relies on landmarks, not directions telling me to travel north or south, east or west, but I tried to relax knowing I’d have a map in hand and keep runners in sight. Joe got there fast, as expected, and I headed back to Nikolai Street.
I needed to consult my map and not follow the guy in front of me. I ended up taking the wrong bridge across the river and did a little bit of my own thing for bit. I knew I had to get back to the Steel Bridge and take the Eastside Esplanade towards the Morrison Bridge. Getting off course just meant some unplanned fartleks for me as I tried to find my way back. With runners back in view, I was excited again, instead of panicked. Volunteers were marked in bright yellow shirts and it’s always such a welcome sight for anyone who has ever gotten slightly off course. I tried to run fast (for me) to make up for the time I was off course, which did absolutely no good when we were stopped for a train. Frustrated with a slow moving train with no end in sight, I was full on frazzled when it came to a complete stop. It’s hard enough to be stopped by a train, even worse when you know it’s only .42 miles from the exchange point.
The volunteers were kind enough to let teams know that runners were stopped and we did our best to remain law-abiding citizens. A few of us decided we’d chance it and hopped over (I’m hoping my mom won’t read this). We teased about our teammates having to come bail us out of prison as we climbed the ladder up and over, but it was so nice to be running again. Running AND laughing with those guys made the last .42 miles the best part of the leg. Added bonus that we didn’t get arrested and Matt was smiling, not swearing, when I FINALLY showed up at Green Dragon Brewery.
Exchange 3: Green Dragon Brewery (Matt)
I immediately knew that some sort of disruption had occurred as we waited for the speedy Teresa to arrive. Had I known what the real hold up was, I may have partaken in more than just a sample tasting and gotten a full pint! She finally showed up out of nowhere and I was on my way to the Lucky Lab Brew Hall in NW. I have been to other Lucky Lab locations, but never at the beer hall, so was excited that this was on the list.
Just prior to leaving, RD Kerry was talking to runners to say that some paving work was being done near the Hawthorne Bridge, and there may be some delays. However, when we reached the intersection we were immediately catered to by the flagger who stopped traffic to let us cross. Sweet! After a short jaunt on the traffic-free Hawthorne Bridge, we hit the Eastbank Esplanade and headed north behind OMSI. We were the only leg to get to run over the new-ish Tilikum Crossing bridge, and the views were (like always) great. Once over on the Westside, we ran along the paths on Waterfront Park, with more than a few random onlookers cheering us on. We hit Naito Parkway for a bit and then did a mini zig-zag through some NW streets that aren’t exactly foreign to participants to Portland running experts: 9th Avenue, Overton St. and even Quimby have been parts of other race courses.
While this leg was the longest (at 5.1 miles), it was probably the most scenic. I grabbed a sample of their Kolsch before we hit the van to get to the next location. We knew that with speedy Rachel on foot, we had no time to lose.
Exchange 4: Lucky Lab Brew Hall (Rachel)
I’m not from Portland and, to be honest, very rarely venture into Portland so prior to my leg I was extremely nervous that I would be the one to get really lost and somehow end up in another state. In glancing at the map I had received, I also grew a tad weary because I am terrible with directions that actually say things like “head west” or “turn north,” because I’m the type of person who relies on landmarks and very specific turn by turn directions. At any rate, Matt came zipping up to Lucky Lab where I then took off; so nervous that I didn’t even high five or acknowledge his existence.
Lucky for me, from the very get-go, I kept running into people who were running the same leg as me, so I would tail them for awhile, eventually passing them just in time to catch sight of other leg 5 runners. Every now and then if I even questioned where I was going, there magically appeared a race volunteer, directing me where to go, or where to cross the street. My leg, which was just a tad over 4 miles, seemed relatively flat overall aside from a small set of stairs I had to climb. I had to cross maybe 3 or 4 actual busy intersections, but at each of these intersections were friendly race volunteers.The last 2 miles of my leg involved running on Williams Ave, which was super straight, and super flat. I spent a majority of this time tailing another leg 5 runner, who literally, was wearing a tail pinned to his shorts.
For having this be my first actual relay race, I have to say I had a blast. It was great to be able to visit some brew pubs I had never visited before and also great to be able to spend time with my awesome teammates. The race wasn’t timed, which normally isn’t my cup of tea, but in this case, it really made the day feel more laid back. I especially loved the super cool finishers medals we received at the end of it all.
Exchange 5: Old Town Brewing (Pete): Run Oregon founder Kelly had to back out of our team at the last minute. While we had everyone volunteering for an additional leg, on the day of the race, Geli’s husband – a frequent supporter of her running habit – came over and we decided to plug him into the final leg. He signed a release and was on the road for the last 3+ miles to the finish.
Finish: Ecliptic Brewing
We were greeted by our favorite volunteer (the one and only Marilyn) and received our awesome finisher’s medal (which doubles as a coaster) and logo pint glass. Within minutes of our finish and ushering into the Ecliptic Brewing warehouse, the skies finally opened up and the rain came down. I don’t know how many teams were still on the course, but I know there was significant precipitation that came down for a bit. We were just lucky enough to avoid it. Runners were treated to cornhole and 2 free Ecliptic pints in the warehouse. There was also the ability to go to their dining area for food if desired.
All-in-all, despite unavoidable challenges, Run Oregon had a great time. And from what I could tell, so did almost every other team as well. It was just a laid back atmosphere and there were smiles everywhere. Given that their breweries are expected to change from year to year (as they did from year 1 to 2), and the course maps being kept a secret until at the exchange points, this is an event that will seemingly stay fresh and unique as long as they keep putting it on. If you go into this event with a relaxed and open mind, you will definitely enjoy your day.
Run Oregon recommended. See photos from the event here.