Saturday morning of St. Patrick’s Day weekend is time for the Luckython, the annual green-themed run staged by Uberthons. This year’s edition included two options, a regular chip-timed 5K race at 8:30, and an untimed fun run with optional fun stations at 10 a.m.
I signed up for the 8:30 race with a comp entry for being an Uberthons Ambassador, but as the regular recapper for Uberthons events, I got the okay to run the fun run as well.
My totally unscientific impression is that March is the month in Oregon that has the highest variance in weather on a year-to-year basis. Last year, it poured during the Luckython (though not for me, since I had to run it virtually, and it was sunny and mild the day before). The year before, it was dry but frigid.
This year, it was overcast, cool, and moist, but the rain held off all morning. It was around 41 degrees and calm, so there was no wind chill. I arrived around 8:10 and parking was still amply available at that time. I had missed the pre-race packet pickup (at Big Al’s – with free bowling, no less!), so I headed over to the big covered area with the post-race food, results kiosk, registration, and day-of-race bib pickup.
With race bib in hand – or rather, pinned to my shirt (which was an original Luckython race shirt from 2012 that I found by chance in the morning) – I lined up with the front group, which consisted of some familiar faces (Paul Braghero, Ross Crowley, Jerry Mullins, David Hume) and some others looked like they would be contenders to finish first. I drew that conclusion based on what they were wearing (a Bowerman Track Club race shirt on one guy) and what they were talking about (hoping to break 17 minutes).
During the pre-race pep talk, race director Darwin Rasmussen talked about the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise. “Well, one out of two,” I said to Ross Crowley, as I’d gone to Fuddruckers the night before. Ross, too, was one out of two….
Race director Alan Rasmussen climbed into a golf cart just in front of us and prepared to lead the way. Someone asked if the cart would go fast enough. “It will when I drive it,” Alan said confidently.
The group in front started off fast. At the 1/4 mile mark, I was at a 6:16 pace (too fast for me), and I was already well behind all of those guys.
For those who haven’t run an Uberthons race at The Reserve before, the dedicated 5K course (which is to say, the course used when there’s only a 5K or multiple of 5K race – i.e., 2 loop 10K, 3 loop 15K) takes place entirely on the paved paths of the south golf course, and it looks like a beaver. The first half mile heads east toward 229th before curving back into the main course, and traces the beaver’s head. The one mile mark is roughly where the beaver’s butt would be, and about a mile and a half of the route is devoted to the tail. The path is wide enough that two people can run side by side comfortably with enough space for someone else to pass through, but more than that and it gets crowded. It’s mostly flat with one dip and rise with total elevation change of about 40 feet.
It is, however, very curvy. And there’s a heartbreaking part around 2 1/2 miles where you are tantalizingly close to the finish line, where you can hear the race announcements, but where you are forced to turn away…. In my case, as I was approaching this “false finish,” I saw David Hume’s tall lean form running in the opposite direction from where I was headed, which let me know in no uncertain terms that I too was going to be turning around shortly. I’ll admit here that while I always hope that the race organization has laid out the course so that it is the proper distance, there are brief moments during a race itself where I think I might not be disappointed if it comes up short.*
* Of course, those are just moments of weakness. And when races have in fact come up short, I usually get kind of upset about it. (Uberthons, though, is pretty reliable and tight on its measurements.)
I finished in 22:13, which was almost a PW on this course for me, but some others reported slower than usual times too. (Although Jerry Mullins bucked the trend and set his PR for the course, so yea for him!)
With a large portion of the 8:30 runners having finished by 9:30, the costume contest judging got underway, with winners in various categories, including the one who came dressed most like announcer/Ambassador Margo Glass. And while the 8:30 runners were getting food from the baked potato bar or eating what they’d already gotten, the activities started to transition toward the 10 am fun run.
First there was the “guess how many M&Ms” contest. The jar containing M&Ms was available for visual inspection, initially at the podium in the covered area, and then as it got closer to fun run time, in the starting area. There was a white board on which runners could write their names and their guesses.
I didn’t take part, as I hadn’t officially registered for the fun run, but I would’ve estimated somewhere around 400. However, past experience has shown that I way underestimate the number of objects in these sorts of contests, so I typically come up with what I think is the right estimate, and then I double it for my guess. Would I have been close?
The correct answer turned out to be 1625. That was the result of handcounting by Darwin and crew.
Someone had guessed 1630, so she won (and had to put the jar somewhere for safekeeping or take it with on the course, as the contest was resolved before the fun run started). I guess this was not using “The Price is Right” rules, where you have to be the closest without going over.
So I would not have been close. Maybe I need to change my heuristic to “x4” instead of “x2″….
With the M&M counting contest done, it was time to get ready for the fun run. Again, I found myself in the front group, and the golf cart was going to show the way, this time driven by race director Randy Wilder. Darwin told the fun runners, “Tung will lead the way!”
Ha ha, after having raced the 5K and having just eaten a baked potato (not the brightest bit of timing), I wasn’t sure about that, but I gave it a try. Just after the start of the race, there was a sign that said to look out for the four-leaf clover on the race course.
Four-leaf clover? Drawn in chalk? Paper cutout taped to the path?
I soon settled into something like half marathon pace (if I ever run another one), and some runners passed me.
The first fun station was located about 1 mile into the run. The runners ahead of me all skipped it…. Hey! Well, it was optional, I suppose. But because I was there to recap the stations, I stopped. And it was a chance to rest.
This is what the station looked like. I was given three green-colored plastic ping pong-type balls to try to toss into the buckets. Sounds easy, right? Well, I am a runner, not a … well, let’s just say that even in my heyday of winning stuffed animals at carnival games, I didn’t do amass prizes from any of the ring or ball toss games. After I missed with all three, the volunteers at the station let me move to a closer set of cones. I failed again. At the set just in front of the buckets, I finally managed to get one in and was free to continue. I raced out and passed some of the runners who had been behind me but who skipped the fun station.
Next up was the 5K/2.5K split. Not only did this event offer a chip-timed 5K or an untimed fun run, but the fun run itself offered 5K or 2.5K, and you could choose in the middle of the fun run. Seen below is race director Alan Rasmussen (usually in the timing booth, but today having given the captain’s chair to trusty lieutenant Mo Dee). I turned left.
The second fun station consisted of reaching into a green bag and pulling out ping pong balls until you pulled out the golden one. It would have been really easy reaching in with the view of the photo I took, but that would be cheating. With the edge of the bag lifted high, the balls were out of sight. I reached in and grabbed a handful – no golden ball. I dropped them back in the bag, pushed that top layer to the side, and grabbed another handful. Again, no golden ball. Third time was the charm!
Once again, I tried to chase down runners who had passed me while I had been trying to find the golden ball. Of course, these were different runners than the ones who had passed me during earlier fun stations, and all in all, had it been a gun-timed race, I would have been falling farther and farther behind.
Another tossing station! This one turned out to be just as difficult as the ping pong balls. The gold coins were feather-light and hard to aim, and just as with the ball toss, I kept missing until I moved up to the cones nearest to the bucket.
When I reached station four, I feared that it was going to be the killer obstacle, all things considered. Blowing a balloon isn’t hard by itself, but in the middle of a race, having already run a hard 5K earlier? But it turned out to be not so hard. Of course, blowing it up was only half of the task. The other half was to pop it by any means available. As I’m not MacGyver (and hence don’t carry a pocket knife around), I resorted to brute force: I put the balloon on the ground and stomped on it. It popped immediately, and I think the station volunteers were a bit startled. I noticed that my shoe had left a muddy footprint on the remains of the balloon.
The last station was set at that heartbreaking part of the course where the route looks like it’s heading to the finish area, only to U-turn away. The object of the station was to take a potato in a spoon and run with it to the U-turn and back, handing utensil and potato to a volunteer on the other side of the table.
I asked, “Do I have to hold the spoon by the handle?”
No, I could hold it however I wanted, the volunteer said.
That made it easy: I put the potato on the spoon and grabbed both by the bowl of the spoon rather than the handle. In this way, I was able to run at more or less normal speed. Well, normal in the context of that particular fun run….
As I neared the end of the run, I puzzled over how I hadn’t seen the four-leaf clover yet.
Oh. I guess that would do it.
Although I did not run a particularly good time, I had a great time at this year’s Luckython. The weather was near perfect for racing (I wouldn’t have minded if it were about 5 degrees warmer, but it was fine), the potatoes were baked to perfect softness, and there was a fun and festive atmosphere throughout. I think spreading the timed race and the fun run so that the start times were 90 minutes apart worked well in that it eased the parking situation. Although a lot of the 8:30 runners were still on site at 10 am, enough had left by then that I think the fun run participants were able to find parking as well. (I’m basing that assessment on the fact that I headed to my vehicle before the fun run to drop off my finisher’s medal – no way was I going to run 3.1 miles with that thing clanking around my neck – and saw open spaces.) With 325 runners for the 8:30 event, and dozens others for the fun run, that kind of organization was definitely important.
Oh yeah, and if you ran this race and didn’t hear Darwin Rasmussen’s announcement, check the back of your race bib!
For overall results for the 8:30 race, click here.
The next Uberthons race is the Spring Event at Heirloom Roses, with 5K, quarter marathon, and half marathon options, on May 26, 2018.