After 20 years of running, I sometimes feel as if I have tried every race at least once. Of course, with the number and variety of events in this region, that is nigh impossible. This year I got an opportunity to run in an event new to me, the Bridge to Brews Race, in a distance that is rarely offered, the 8K. I literally signed up for the race about 4 days prior, and was already entered in a local 5K the day before. I had heard this race wasn’t the flattest, with the signature Fremont Bridge crossing being a bit of a challenge. I was excited to try it out and possibly break one of my long standing personal bests.
The relatively late start (9 am) made the nearly an hour commute to Portland easier to bear. I was relaxed and only slightly nervous, viewing this as more of a tempo run than a race. I did experience some anxiousness on the trip up but was pretty calm as we walked through the festival area at water front park. I was glad this was not going to be a full race effort as we got there a little later than planned and the packet pickup line was quite long. Luckily after a few minutes of waiting, they opened up another line and made the process much faster but I was still left with less than 20 minutes to warm up, which in the cooler temperatures is less than optimal. I ran into a few people I knew, which is common for most races.
My girlfriend had joined me this morning, so I did not have to use the available bag check, and we both enjoyed a quick browsing of the multitude of booths on both sides of the park at the end of the day. As with most downtown races, I enjoyed the unique waterfront pathway for my warm up, gauging the temperature and my fitness level for the upcoming trial. It was cool, but not too cold and I elected to stick with the original plan of wearing a singlet. Whether accidental or not, I took advantage of the fact that it was possible to warm up pretty close to the race start time and walk to the front of the line between the chip mat and the safety gating. Maneuvering through a crowded start chute can be a real hassle. I also enjoyed the upbeat music playing up until the race start.
One of my favorite parts of racing in Portland is being escorted by motorcycle cops, but I didn’t get to enjoy that today. An athlete from South Carolina had a strong showing and quickly pulled away within the first mile of the race. I had to content myself with enjoying some areas of down town I had never seen before as I ran alone. It definitely paid to be aware of the street, as the street car tracks and ever present potholes were just waiting for an unwary ankle. The climb to the freeway was almost a blessing, as the footing improved greatly while on the onramp. The climb to the peak was a lot longer than I expected, but gradual enough that it wasn’t a huge trial. The view was definitely worth the price of admission, as the length of the span gave me plenty of time to enjoy it. It was unexpectedly calm too, as we were on the lower deck so the wind was fairly minimal.
During that climb I really felt the effects of yesterdays 16:18 5K and I’m sure it slowed me down. This was made evident when a man in an orange singlet drew abreast from me as we descended. We ran together for almost a mile, I trailed him by a stride or two. After the bridge we meandered downhill, making a few turns. This course was surprisingly quiet, which was almost surreal, but made it a easier to see and hear the musicians posted along the course. At this point the 8K and 10K split, which was easy to understand due to loud volunteers with large signs and I took my leave of the orange singlet as he was doing the 10K.
As the course headed towards the Rose Quarter and the final bridge, I encountered two intersections that left me unsure of where to go. Luckily, I guessed right on both of them and made it to the final bridge crossing, tired but still holding a decent pace. From here, you could look to the left across the river and see the ramp that leads back to Front Street, and the two blocks before the large inflatable arch that straddled the finish. Not knowing how much of a lead I had, I mustered my strength to use the down grade to increase speed and maintain it through the finish. Narrowly missing a man who decided he needed to cross the finish area mere seconds before I was to be there, I completed my fastest 8K ever.
Sure it was only 4 seconds off my previous record, which I set in college, but this course is not one to sniff at. It has a couple notable climbs, and the bridge is deceptively tough. The views are great and it was cool to do a run in Portland that wasn’t overly crowded. They had a variety of booths to check out and the live band on stage was quite talented. I’m not a beer drinker, so I passed on that aspect of the celebration. All in all, I thought it was quite fun, and may make it a focus race next year to really set a good pr at that distance. 8K’s are few and far in between, and this race is unique enough to make a real memory of it.
You can find the full results (and finish videos) here!