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Race Recap: 2016 Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon (Sauvie Island)

Foot Traffic Flat finisher's medal

The Foot Traffic Flat races have become a regional 4th of July tradition. This year, the weather couldn't have been any better for a July race: At the 6:30am start of the marathon, the temperature was nearing 60*F and the skies were cloudy. Approximately 2,000 participants chose one of the four distances (official results for 5k, 8k, half, full marathon), with the largest number taking on the half marathon. For a July race, I appreciate the necessity of an early start to avoid potential heat, but it also meant that I had to leave my house at 5am, which was still before sunrise.

I had my gear packed the night before (didn’t even forget my Garmin this time), and the drive to Sauvie Island was uneventful. There was an option to buy a shuttle ticket from the Silver Cloud Inn hotel in NW Portland, and I saw several of the buses on Hwy 30, both full ones heading north and empty ones heading back south to pick up more runners. I arrived on the island at 6am, and even though that was just 30 minutes before the start of the first race (full marathon), parking in the field across from The Pumpkin Patch was easy, convenient, and very well organized by efficient volunteers. The start/finish area at “The Pumpkin Patch” farmstead was roomy and offered vendor booths and lots of porta-potties. Despite the large number of bathrooms, the line was very long and wound around the yard.

The marathon started right on time at 6:30. When I was ready to line up for the half to start at 6:50, the line at the gear check was very long, so since my car was close, I dropped my jacket off at the car. Due to the cooler weather and the fact that there would be seven aid stations on the course, I decided to not carry my own water, lightening my load a little. Before the start, runners were instructed to line up by pace with runners in the front and walkers in the back, but with 1,200 participants, a mass start without waves or “hold and release” system meant that the first mile of the race was quite busy without much room to move, especially since we only used one lane of traffic, keeping the second lane open for cars.

The course was flat and beautiful, just as I expected. Aid stations were spaced less than two miles apart and had plenty of supplies (water, Nuun electrolyte drink, and Clif Shots fuel) and friendly, helpful volunteers. Each aid station had bathrooms as well. The only hilly part of the course was during a short out-and-back right after the mile 4 marker, but it was a very manageable hill. I was feeling good and stayed roughly around the same group of people for most of the race. I had run a downhill 10k just two days before, so my legs were wondering why I was doing this to them, but carried me through anyway. I was on track for my goal time through most of the distance, but after the top marathon runner passed me around mile 11, my legs felt heavier with every step. I took my fuel when an aid station came into sight and accepted a cup of water at every aid station, and I finished with just very little extra energy left.

Shortcake!

Crossing the finish line, I received my finisher’s medal and a can of coconut water. There was water and Nuun also available. I walked around until I had caught my breath, then picked up my strawberry shortcake (Yum!!) and hot dog (delicious!). Don Francisco vendor tent gave complimentary 12oz coffee, which I happily accepted as well. The Pumpkin Patch Market also offered foods and drinks for spectators and anybody who wanted more food beyond what was offered for free. The three kiddie pools that were ankle-deep filled with ice water looked very inviting and were used by many. Shortly after finishing my food and drink, I headed back to my car to drive home. Shuttles were already running to take participants back to their cars in NW Portland.

This was my first time running this race, and I really liked it! The weather was great, but if it’s a hot July (like in 2015) I can imagine that it gets pretty warm on the course since only short stretches are shaded by trees. The organization of the shuttles and parking was great. Bathroom lines before the start are almost always an issue, but this line was moving quickly thanks to the large number of units. A wave start by pace would have helped congestion on the first mile, but as it was it kept me from going out too fast. Overall a very nice experience, and I’ll definitely consider the Foot Traffic Flat again in the future.

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