I arrived at Cook Park about 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled start for the 5K and 10K races. Even with over 500 racers across all events, not to mention the volunteers, vendors, and race officials, parking was still available. Rather than head into the parking lots and hunt for a space, though, I followed the lead of the car in front of me and angled into the side of the road by the big field.
The race was set up in the usual spot where Uberthons stages Cook Park races, but the gathering runners were on the opposite side of the start/finish line, meaning they were facing west instead of east. Race volunteers were holding up signs with anticipated race paces (7 min/mile; 9 min/mile; etc.). I settled more or less in between those two markers and kept an eye out for my fellow Run Oregon blogger Jessica Mumme.
Liz Dooley, the president and founder of the Ladybug CDH Foundation, spoke briefly about the role of faith in dealing with CDH and introduced Aaron Turnage, father of a CDH survivor, who led everyone in a quick prayer. This was very low key and everyone was invited to participate in whatever way they felt appropriate. Aaron then started us off in waves.
We started off curving along the lower side of the baseball field at Cook Park along the paved trail that follows the Tualatin River. For those familiar with the standard Uberthons 5K course at Cook Park, this would be the last out-and-back — the part that I describe as the tail of the snake that’s swallowed a pig. Instead of hitting a turnaround, however, we kept going all the way to the end of the trail. And if you’ve run the Ho Ho 5K Race, which also uses this trail, you know what’s there: a short, steep ascent. (Except it’s a descent for the Ho Ho race.)
The race organizers had written a note in chalk on this short hill to the effect that if climbing the hill felt hard, imagine what it would be like to struggle with CDH.
Upon climbing the hill, we reached the 1 mile mark of the race, more or less exactly where the trail turned into SW 100th Avenue. Ha ha, if I thought we were done with uphill racing because the hill was behind me, well, 100th continued to rise gently. It’s only in looking at the elevation plot on Garmin that I notice this now, though; at the time, it didn’t seem noticeable. Or maybe I felt it but attributed it to the aftereffects of charging up the hill the way that I did.
It was still cloudy and mild, and I was glad that I had dressed simply in a Run Oregon tech shirt and shorts. 100th Avenue was a quiet residential neighborhood. When 100th hit SW Durham, we turned right, heading back toward Tigard High School. The lead 5K and 10K runners were strung out ahead of me (about 15 or so), some having already turned the corner at the high school. I wasn’t alone as I was running in a loose group with a couple of other guys, but it certainly didn’t feel like I was in a race with several hundred people.
The 2 mile mark came on Durham shortly before we reached SW 92nd Avenue, which was the turn at the high school. Over the next half mile or so, we dropped 80 feet in altitude … and boy was that welcome! Orange cones courtesy of the Oregon Road Runners Club marked this part of the route. The descent provided a nice burst of speed that carried me well into the Cook Park east parking lot, where we had a little detour to complete the first 5K by returning to the start/finish line. 5Kers were told to stay right, while 10Kers were told to stay left.
The second half of the 10K took me toward the Tualatin River again, but south this time, instead of north as before. Right at the split was a water station, and it was being manned by Run Oregon blogger/admin Kelly Barten. I stopped for a quick drink, which gave Kelly enough time to point out that I was wearing the Run Oregon running shirt. (The Ladybug Run race shirt is actually quite nice, but I don’t like to wear race shirts at the race itself.)
Right after that, a race volunteer – none other than Uberthons Ambassador Margo Glass! – was there to direct us from the road to a dirt trail. We ran along the little parking lot where the river equipment rental shop is set up, and then continued on the Tualatin River Trail toward the Fanno Creek Greenway. For those who’ve run Uberthons races at Cook Park, this makes up part of the early part of the standard route, except at thee T-junction, we turned right (south) instead of left. As was the case at all of the critical turns, there were plenty of race volunteers to direct us. This particular intersection had three guys, one of whom did the most enthusiastic race guidance I’ve seen: he windmilled both arms enthusiastically in the indicated direction, finishing with a big flourish and bang-bang-bang-like motion.
Most of mile 5 took me into a triangular shaped loop through the Tualatin Community Park. The lead 10K runners were already heading back north toward Durham Park. As for me, the route wrapped around the little playground at the south end of the park, and that was the location of another water station. I stopped for a quick drink and dunked the rest of the water on my head. Brrrr! The way back from the playground slipped through trees on a dirt trail. When we emerged from the trees, we rejoined the paved trail, back toward the junction with the three race volunteers.
Now there were many runners being directed toward that triangular loop, while the volunteers told me to keep going straight. I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t get the same enthusiastic windmilling flourish, but the volunteers were plenty busy at this point.
This part of the route was aimed at Durham Park, and it too was familiar to me, being the rough midpoint of the standard Uberthons Cook Park course. From past experience, I knew that at the very upper end of the loop is a short, steep hill. However, I had not looked at the Ladybug Run map carefully, as this route skipped the hill, and incorporated a turnaround on the flatter part of the trail.
Because of the turnaround, I could gauge who was behind me and by how much (although with chip timing you can never be sure). I’ve tried to follow Run Oregon blogger Brian Bernier’s advice about never looking back in races, but this wasn’t looking back, right? Anyway, that look was enough to spur me to squeeze a little more speed for the last 3/4 mile or so.
As I headed back to that junction with the three volunteers, the super-enthusiastic volunteer saw me, pointed at me, shouted “This is for you!,” and ran several steps with me as he directed me to turn left, back toward Cook Park. Woo hoo, I even got personal service in this race!
The last stretch was a reprise of the end of the first 5K, which I finished with a sprint to the finish line. Race volunteers were there to hand a finisher’s medal and a bottle of cold water. I took them gratefully and plopped down on the curb (out of the way of other finishers) to recover. With Uberthons providing timing services, results were instantly available online. I didn’t PR, but I did record my best 10K time of the year, so yea!
The after-race activity included live music by Rock Logic, breakfast (waffles, bacon, fruit, bagels, cream cheese, and more), vendor booths, and general good times. I took the opportunity to chat with Kelly at the water station and then Margo on the 10K course, and then ate some food, and finished up by reading the markers along the footpath that commemorated local survivors and victims of CDH.
When a race is well-organized, it sometimes goes unnoticed. Pretty much everything about the Ladybug Run went off without a hitch. I had looked at the race map ahead of time, so I had a sense of what to expect, but it would have been easy to follow because of the clear markings and ample course volunteers. I really liked having a new back half of the 10K course that was different from the 5K. Double loop courses have their advantages too, but there’s something nice about getting to see new scenery. I can totally see why this is such a popular summer race!
Jessica’s Thoughts: As Tung mentioned, I, also, have always had the Ladybug Run for CDH Awareness on my radar. When I found out I would be able to participate this year, I was so excited! Following the Facebook feed actively, I enjoyed the last several months seeing Liz’s energy, enthusiasm, and incredible skill at getting so many vendors, volunteers, etc., on board to support the Ladybug Run. Liz is exceptionally effective at this, and it sure showed at the event. How? Let me fill you in …
Volunteers: Have you noticed a bunch of events have call, after call, after call for volunteers? The Ladybug Run was, what appeared to be, fully staffed with happy, lively, enthusiastic volunteers making sure everyone had their race packet, was lined up in the appropriate “corral” based on their pace-per-mile time, and generally keeping everything running effortlessly from a participate perspective. I was incredibly impressed.
Pre-race Logistics: I knew this race was going to draw a large crowd, and it certainly did. And pre/post-race logistics are what I really focus in on when writing a recap of my experience of a race. I arrived about 7:30 a.m., which was 60 minutes prior to the race starting. Prior to that, at 8 a.m., there was a costume contest, and at 8:15 a.m. the ladybug release occurred. Parking was a breeze, packet pick-up lines were moving swiftly, and bathroom lines were short and moving fast. Yet again – very impressive.
The race and course: Thank you for the on-time start!!!! As noted above, volunteers were lined up helping seed participants into the correct starting area to keep things smooth and moving. Promptly at 8:30 a.m., the first group of about 30 participants took to the course. About 10 seconds later, another group of about 30 took off. This continued until the last group was out of the starting chute and on the course. I appreciate this so very much! These small, chunked starts are so vital to keep course “chaos” to a minimum. As the race immediately put participants onto the multi-use paths of Cook Park, which is fairly narrow (2 or 3 people abreast), this made course congestion very manageable. After zipping through Cook Park, the course took participants on sidewalks along neighborhood streets and onto Durham Road, which brought us back into Cook Park to the finish line. 10K participants did this loop twice, and 5K participants (me) did this loop once. Volunteers were spaced perfectly making sure participants took the appropriate turns, kept us safe at any intersections (thank you CERT volunteers!), and got us into the finish chute appropriately (right for 5K, left for 10K0.
Post-race Logistics: Upon crossing the finish line, the team at Uberthons, who were timing the race, announced finishers and their finish time. More friendly volunteers were at the finish line handing participants a cold bottle of water and giving us our finisher medal, which was totally adorable. I headed over to the post-race food area, which was moving along nicely. Our food ticket allowed us to receive a waffle + syrup, bacon, fruits, bagels + cream cheese, and iced-cold chocolate milk from Alpenrose Dairy. After eating the yummy waffle and drinking some chocolate milk (my favorite post-race recovery fuel), I headed for the car. As participants were running through the parking lot area on their journey to the finish line, I was anxious to see if there would be delays getting out. There were not – wow!
I was so incredibly impressed with the Ladybug Run for CDH Awareness. Needless to say, I’ll be registering for this event as soon as the 2017 event registration opens! I want to do this again!
Results: For full results of the 5K and 10K, click here.
Disclosure: Tung Yin and Jessica Mumme received comp entries to run the 10K and 5K races, respectively.