Team Run Oregon took to the Central Oregon earlier this month for the Bend Beer Chase – a race that seemed too obvious for someone like me to have waited so long to run in. As someone who has been an administrator at Run Oregon since 2013 and who writes about beer and has visited almost 400 different breweries – it really shouldn’t have take 5 years to get here. BBC was definitely one race on my running bucket list and one I won’t soon forget – for a variety of reasons.
I left early in the morning from Salem to get there in time to get checked in and meet up with my vanmates. Our team actually consisted of two bloggers (myself and Drew Roberts) along Drew’s sister and 3 other of Drew’s running buddies – including the famous Chuck Coates. Luckily, we had a late start time – the latest of the day actually – allowing me to leave at a relatively reasonable hour to traverse the Cascades.
Even though it was the final wave of the day, Worthy Brewing still had some solid energy and the Cascade Relays and Eclectic Edge timing crews were fantastic. Music was playing and vendors were still handing out samples for the van ride ahead. I had a half can of Prefunk Pale (just cause it seemed fitting for the day as our first runner toed the line, and just like that – the 2018 Bend Beer Chase was underway. As our expected finish time was expected to be relatively quick, we were alongside some great runners and teams. A woman’s Portland Running Company team was in our wave and provided great comrardery throughout the day. After providing our first runner a quick water stop, we pulled into our second brewery of the day – the new eastside 10 Barrel. We were given a 6-pack of Out of Office to enjoy as we waited for the first handoff.
My first leg was #3 and was the longest one of the event. Clocking in at over 7.5 miles, it was a long and straight stretch on the shoulder of the Old Bend-Redmond Highway. Even by this leg, things had started to thin out amongst teams in our wave. In fact, over my miles, I barely saw anyone in front of me, and the handful of times I looked behind me, I saw no one either. I was just a man, alone, on a straightforward mission of powering through some highway miles. I ended up with a relatively decent leg time, all things considered, mostly due to a really (too) fast first few miles and then a relatively stable pace aside from a small hill that felt much larger in the noon-hour sunshine.
After passing our team wristband on to our next runner, I spent the next few stops sampling beers from Monkless, Cascade Lakes, Wild Ride, Good Life, Ochoco, and Sunriver. In fact, I had a pre-leg 9 sample mere seconds before heading out on my second run of the day.
The beauty of relays is that there are so many options to return and have a completely different running experience. I was happy to put in some of the more challenging legs and the most distance, but as I waited for my teammates at the exchanges, I was super excited to think about how it would feel in future years to cruise into Wild Ride along the main street in Redmond, taking on some Eagle Crest Resort trails, or tackling the Maston Trails. I want those experiences too!
Leg 9 was a little shorter and “curvier” than leg 3, but it presented me with even a greater challenge. Even though I tried to pace myself a little better, the continual uphill climb, and heat of the day was bearing down on me. After mile 3, with already 10+ miles ran and 150+ miles in the car for the day, my legs really just didn’t want to function at optimal level. My pace crashed and a handful of walk breaks were necessities to keep me on forward motion. I’m not proud, but I can honestly say that was one of the most challenging 4 mile stretches of my life. After reaching the Bendistillery, I quickly crashed to the grass (thank God there was grass at this exchange) and caught my breath knowing that I was done for the day!
We navigated the final three legs with our fastest three runners, sampled some more beer and cold brewed coffee, and our day finally came to an end as we all joined in to finish with Chuck – our anchor – at Crows Feet Commons. The party was already in full swing, with food and beer choices everywhere, and so many smiles to go around. We picked up our awesome shirts (really digging the creamy yellow/gold), grabbed our medals, Silipint pint and shot glasses, and tasting tokens and reminisced on our day together. I ended up not sticking around too long afterwards (it was already past 6 and I still had to drive back home for the Beaverton Half the following day), but it was quite an awesome scene.
The late start time did showcase a few challenges. The first of which being that we were running in some pretty high temperatures. My legs were both long and lonely, and started around noon and 4pm, respectively. It wasn’t a scorcher, but high altitude and mid-80’s temps beating off the pavement really made things tough. My team was super supportive with stopping and refilling me with water and encouragement with much more frequency, and I think all the teams in this time slot were helping each other out throughout the day.
The second part about being in the final group is the fact that we were only around a handful of teams at each exchange. We became friends with others over the day (though I am apologizing to the teams for the constant Chuck Coates-honking and cowbell ringing ;)), but it had a different feel than relays where there are dozens of teams at each exchange point. It wasn’t bad – it was just different. I would like to come back to experience the full energy that I know BBC has when exchanges are full of beer sampling giddyness.
However, I don’t want to paint this race in a negative light AT ALL. We were in a very unique spot in that we had a team full of really fast and solid runners – myself NOT included – and that necessitated one of the later start times. We ended up finishing in 19th place overall, and I wouldn’t change anything about the day and the memories I created.
All of the breweries were great along the way. I believe only one had run out of product when we arrived, and they were super happy and energized, even with being out on the course for hours on end. Cascade Relays has modified this race over the first few years of existence, and I think they really put on a great event. I hope to get to this one in the near future and I am now even more intrigued for their upcoming beer relays: