I got home, checked the start time of the Uberthons Spring race, and saw that it was 7:30 a.m. Woo hoo! If I were running at my peak times, I’d be able to finish a half marathon a few minutes ahead of that 9:15 deadline. I am, sadly, not running at my peak times, as I’m still building up my stamina after not running much at all from December through February due to Achilles tendinitis. That meant the 10K would be a safer option. Plus, it’s my favorite distance.
The race location was Heirloom Roses in St. Paul — and was the site of last year’s Uberthons Summer Half Marathon. (My recap of last year’s event can be found here, minus some pictures due to link rot.) Heirloom Roses is a very nice location for spring/summer races. There’s plenty of parking available (mostly on unused fields), with a beautiful shaded area for the results kiosk and other goodies (like last year’s ice cream bars), and a small structure for the post-race food. I had managed to pick up my race bib ahead of time at the pre-race packet pick up at the Fairfield Inn off Kruse Way, so I wasn’t too worried about getting to the race site around 7:20 a.m. I had thought that I might have been the very last racer to arrive, but after I parked and made my way on foot to the starting area, I saw a couple of more cars cruising slowly toward the parking entrance.
In typical Uberthons fashion, race director Darwin Rasmussen told the fast runners to line up in front and the good-looking ones to line up in back. “No, you can’t be both,” he said to a smart-aleck. (Not me, in case you were wondering.)
The half marathoners got to go first, although Darwin did invite really fast 5K and 10K runners to start as well. Runners were sent off in waves of about twenty or so at a time, with a gap of about 10 seconds between waves.
With the half marathoners – including the pacers (1:45, 2:00, 2:15, and 2:30) – off and running, so to speak, Darwin started releasing the rest of us.
I remembered the course from last year as a straightfoward out for about 1.5 miles, turnaround, long stretch, and another turnaround, all on a paved road. With over 200 half marathoners (not all, but most in front of me), the beginning involved a lot of running along the edge of the route.
Mile 1: It was about 50 degrees and sunny, but mild. I felt pretty comfortable because I was wearing a longsleeve tech shirt underneath the Uberthons Ambassador T-shirt. However, within a mile or so, I started to think that I had probably overdressed. The first thing to go was the pair of thin gloves, stuffed into my pocket. Soon after, I rolled my long sleeves up to my elbows.
The start of a race is usually a great feeling. I tend to go out too fast and suffer for it later, but that first mile never feels hard. On this day, it was pretty glorious. Plus, in a race with a mix of 5K, 10k, and half marathoners like this, the first mile is awfully crowded but full of really upbeat optimism from everyone.
Mile 2: Not too long before I hit the first turnaround, I caught up to the lead group of Team Red White and Blue runners.
“Hey, how much does that weigh?” I asked the racer who was holding a United States flag.
“About ten pounds,” he answered. Seeing me do a double take, he said, “No, it’s not that bad. Want to try it?”
“Sure,” I said, feeling honored.
The grip had a nice neoprene-like cushion, with a wide enough diameter so that it wouldn’t feel like a tight squeeze for 13.1 miles. It was surprisingly light and well-balanced. The trick would be getting used to holding for the distance.
“Thanks,” I said, and handed it back.
I skipped the first water station, which was just shy of the turnaround, or about the halfway point for the 5K.
Mile 3: The route was considerably less crowded heading back toward the original starting area. All of the pacer teams except the 1:45 group were behind me at this point, and the half marathoners still ahead of me had spread themselves even further out. Two runners passed me along this stretch: one was Mark Van Wormer, who won the male 10K, and the other was (I think) Sara Myre, who won the female half marathon.
As I approached the starting point, I could hear Uberthons Ambassador Eileen Kuffner announcing names of 5K finishers. (The 5K route extended just about 1/10 of a mile past that start line.) When I run 10Ks where the course overlaps with a 5K, I sometimes hit the 5K turnaround wondering why I hadn’t signed up for the shorter race. On this day, even though my pace was slowing a bit, I didn’t have that thought at all.
Mile 4: I decided to stop at the water station that was placed just past the 5K turnaround. It’s embarrassing to admit that despite having had almost five full years of racing under my belt, I still have not figured out how to drink and run at the same time. I actually stopped, drank about half of the small cup, and poured the rest over my head. Brrrrrrr!
Feeling refreshed, I got going again. The 1:45 pacers were about 1/8 of a mile ahead of me, but I didn’t seem to making up any ground on them. That’s because a 1:45 half marathon is roughly an 8:00 min/mile pace, and according to my GPS watch, my mile 4 split was 7:57 (including the water break).
One thing I really like about the Heirloom Roses course that Uberthons uses is that the way the 10K is laid out in comparison to the other two distances, it’s easy for me to tell where I stand with about 1/3 to 1/4 of the race left. All I have to do is count the runners coming back while I’m in the miles 3 to 4.6 stretch (4.6 being the location of the 10K turnaround). Anyone coming has to be a 10K runner, because the half marathoners have another 7 miles round-trip, and even Mo Farah isn’t that fast; and the 5K runners obviously aren’t coming this far.
Mile 5: When I reached the 10K turnaround, I had counted three runners ahead of me. Two of t.hem (Van Wormer and eventual second place finisher DuWayne Olson) were way too far in front. The third one (Robert Smith) was maybe 100 meters away.
Okay, so here is where I confess that the various age group winner pins and overall top finisher medals that Uberthons offers in addition to finisher’s medals provided some extra burst of motivation for the home stretch. If you’ve run an Uberthons race recently, or read the recaps that we provide here at Run Oregon, you know that Athleta has been providing the overall top finisher medals (gold, silver, bronze for males and females; gold, silver, and bronze for males and females 45+; and gold for male and females 65+).
I was thinking to myself that if I held on to fourth place, I would get the gold for males 45+, because Uberthons has a “no double-dipping” policy, meaning that someone who is 45+ who finishes 1, 2, or 3 overall does not get the overall top finisher’s medal plus the 45+ medal, only the former. My train of thought continued: if I could catch up to the runner ahead of me, I would get the overall bronze medal. Gold might be better than bronze, but I decided that I would like one of the top overall finisher’s medals.
Mile 6: I’m still building up my weekly mileage to where it was last year, but I could tell that I was in better condition than at the Chocolatathon. Although I ran the dreaded positive splits from miles 1 through 3, I managed to reverse that trend from miles 4 through 6. With about half a mile left to go, I caught up to the runner ahead of me. “Good job,” he said.
“Thanks,” I responded.
It’s demoralizing to pass someone, only to be passed back, so I dropped the hammer. Well, more like a rubber mallet at that point. What’s half a mile? If I were listening to music, just about one regular length song…. And then there was this glorious sight:
Yep, that was the tunnel at the end of the Uberthons Spring races. It really is a light at the end of the tunnel!
There was plenty to do after catching my breath. Race volunteers handed out the finisher’s belt buckle medals and water. Suja Juice was available too, if you like flavored water, and lemonade as well. I headed over to the results kiosk, being manned by Uberthons Ambassador Brent Huber. Mark Van Wormer approached me and asked if I blog about running. (We get readers!) It was nice to hear that my recap of last year’s race helped him get a sense of the race course.
Anyway, both Mark’s and my race times seemed off. He ran sans GPS watch so he wasn’t sure, but my chip time looked about two minutes slower than what my watch recorded, and the difference betwaeen my watch time and his chip time didn’t at all reflect the big gap between us. Right then, Uberthons timer Mo Renfro ran over to us and said that Alan wanted to check with me because he didn’t think the sensors picked up my start time. Wow, how is that for customer service? So we headed over to the timing tent and I showed race director/timer Alan Rasmussen my GPS watch time. As for Mark Van Wormer, they were able to figure out his start time based on who he remembered starting with, and his time got corrected as well.
The Qdoba food spread looked really good, but between my usual post-race lack of appetite and the need to get home to clean up for graduation, I sadly left without eating anything. It was such a nice day, though, and the family calendar was relatively clear, so if it hadn’t been for graduation, I would’ve been happy to hang out longer, cheer on half marathoner finishers, chat with more running friends, and eat later. Oh well, maybe next time.
The half marathon: I might not have run the half marathon, but over 200 people did, including Uberthons Ambassador Julie Mullins, who wrote her own recap of the race on her blog. I also asked Uberthons Ambassador Ross Crowley for a description of the race course past the 10K turnaround:
The course continues into St. Paul without really entering city streets and buildings. After the 10k turn around, there is additional shade from trees during short stretches, but the course is along farming roads and shade is minimal for this reason. With the lower air temperatures, I found the sun just made the run more enjoyable, but had it been later in the day, the run would have been tough with that much direct sunlight. Anyone who scoffed at the 7:30 AM start thought better of it forty-five minutes into the run.
What does set you back is the 70 feet of elevation gain at mile six. Having run a level course to this point, the hill is imposing. Perhaps 300 yards in duration, the hill slows you down and experience tells you to assume that the rest of the course is going to be rolling hills. Those rolling hills never materialize. Suddenly the hill is gone and you are once again on a flat, level stretch. Because the course is a “lollipop,” you stay on this plateau until you descend the same hill you just climbed.
As you start the turn around to return to the finish, you must run over grass. The lawn was relatively smooth, level, and mowed, but grass is grass and I always find it tough to run on a surface I can’t visually verify is not going to twist an ankle. The field is only about 150 years, but, like the hill, you notice it more because the rest of the course is so consistent.
Review: It may be hard to believe, but this is Uberthons’ sixth(!) year of putting on races in the Portland area (and beyond). At this point, Uberthons races offer an extremely consistent and great experience. Mile markers are in the right spots, and ever since I switched from tracking runs by smartphone GPS to a dedicated GPS watch, I’ve noticed that Uberthons 5Ks come out to 3.11 and 10Ks come out to 6.22 pretty much all the time. (Yes, I know that in cases of deviation, particularly if the GPS watch reads slightly longer, the race course is more likely to be accurate because the runner can’t run as tightly as the wheel measurement of the race organizer. That makes it all the more impressive that the Uberthons routes are so tight.)
I’ve run races at all of the Uberthons Half Marathon series locations: the Reserve Vineyard and Golf Course (Halloweenathons and Luckythons; this year’s winter half), St. Josef’s Winery (last year’s fall half; this year’s too), the Vernonia-Banks trail (the 2013 fall half/full marathon; this year’s summer half/full). They are all great locations, and I can’t really say that any one of them is my favorite, not when I sit down and think about them all. But I will say that when I left Heirloom Roses that morning to head back to Portland, I was thinking that it would be hard to top Heirloom Roses as a location.
Results and Photos: For full results for the 5K, 10K, and half marathons in a searchable database, click here. For 1001 photos taken by Brian Hartwig, click here or here. Chances are good that you’re in at least one of them! (Well, if you were there at Heirloom Roses, that is.)
More Uberthons: The next Uberthons race is the Daddython on June 18th; the race preview is here.
Disclosure: I’m a 2016 Uberthons Ambassador and I received a comp entry to this race.