I normally run the Freedomthon on July 4, but with that race on hiatus this year, I looked around for another Independence Day race. The ORRC 5 on the 4th checked off all of the boxes: on the southwest side of town, not too early, flat course with mostly straightaway sections, and ample parking. I’ve run ORRC events before but not this race, and I’m glad I got to try it out.
If you are an ORRC member, this race is actually free. Current membership is $45 (plus processing fee), while the race cost me $26 (plus processing fee), which is making me think of signing up for ORRC next year. I’m sure there is more than $19 worth of benefits.
Anyway, the race took place around the Mentor Graphics corporate campus in Wilsonville. Getting there before 9 a.m. was a breeze, and I had my choice of parking spots even with race time less than 10 minutes away.
The race course was basically an upright rectangle with a small triangular chunk cut out on the bottom left corner. We started inside the parking lot (so inside the rectangle), following a curve to get to an internal road that paralleled SW Boeckman Road before making an angled turn on SW Parkway Avenue. After a short angled stretch, Parkway then straightened to run alongside I-5. It was perfectly safe, as the freeway was several yards away and set off by a fenced barrier, but it was still kind of a weird feeling to be so close to cars zooming by at 60+ mph.
It was a chip-timed race with one mass start, so the beginning was jammed, but by the time I reached Parkway, it was pretty open. From about mile 1 on, there were three runners in my near vicinity. Two of them were familiar faces, David Hume and Mariah Jeffery. For most of the race, we took turns catching up to one another and taking the lead, then giving it back. It was kind of like how pro cyclists trade off the lead in that peloton-thingie they race in, though I don’t think that was what was going on. (Although, apparently, drafting actually is potentially useful in running, but mostly at elite pacing.)
Around the 1 1/3 mile mark, SW Parkway Avenue crossed SW Parkway Center Drive, and we made a right turn on to the latter street. The big Costco warehouse loomed to the left, and the water/aid station was on the right, staffed by multiple volunteers offering water on either side of the running route. SW Parkway Center turned into SW Burns Way for a short bit, and then we reached the upper right corner of the rectangular course, which called for another right turn, this time down SW Canyon Creek Road.
This was a happy sight because I had driven down Canyon Creek earlier that morning on my way to the start of the race, so I had a pretty good idea of how much I had left to run. Well, the mile 2 marker provided a big hint as well. That second mile had been a grind. Overall, the course was pretty flat, but my Garmin data showed that there had been a 54-foot elevation gain over that mile. A 1 percent grade isn’t much to complain about, but that meant the last mile was a slight downhill grade. It showed in my mile splits, with mile 2 being 30 seconds slower than mile 1 and 19 seconds slower than mile 3.
I mostly concentrated on the runner in front of me, counting how many seconds he was ahead. Six seconds, then five, then steady at five, then four, and so on. I imagined an invisible cord between that guy and me, and whenever I felt like lagging a bit, the cord would pull me along. (Hey, it’s why racing in a crowd is different from racing by yourself, right?)
The entire route along SW Canyon Creek was limited to the sidewalk and the bike lane, but it had been marked off with yellow tape throughout so it was obvious where we were going, and we were protected from cars driving by (although there weren’t many).
Finally, Canyon Creek crossed SW Boeckman, and we were almost done! The 3-mile marker was placed right where we made a cut back inside the rectangle toward the original starting area. I pushed for a good kick at the end of the race and finished in a decent time. Post-race refreshments included water, Gatorade, cut bananas, and other pastries. After catching my breath, I wandered over to the raffle table to see if I’d won anything. I had not, but my dad did! (Later, he chose the chocolate cake as his prize.)
I’m glad I found this race to run in place of the Freedomthon. It offered everything that you could ask for in a race: easy parking, clearly-marked course, good race support, and a great racing atmosphere. I’m especially impressed at how much was put into this race considering that it was free for ORRC members.
Results: Complete results can be found here.
Photos: ORRC members took hundreds of photos, mostly from the start and the middle of the race. They are available here for free, non-commercial download.