Sunday, May 29, 2016

Race Review: The Oregon Spring Half Marathon

Yesterday morning, I completed my third half marathon race in a 49 day time-frame, a feat which qualified me to be an official "Half Fanatic".

My phone says, "I just qualified for Half Fanatics".

The Oregon Spring Half is part of the Überthons race series which consists of a race for every season. As I had been checking out potential races to run, the Spring event attracted my attention because the course is very flat, with the exception of one 75-ft hill leading into the town of St. Paul. It looked to me like a PR (personal record) kind of course, and once I realized it would qualify me for HF, I knew I had to do it.

One of my running friends (Kim) and I carpooled together, and arrived at Heirloom Roses, the start/finish point of the race, right around 6:30; in plenty of time to prepare for the early 7:30 start time. The 48-degree morning air felt a tad cool at first, but that cool temp, combined with a mix of broken overcast, made for nearly ideal racing weather. Kim knew a lot of the Uberthon & Half Fanatic regulars, so we met up near the start line for a quick greeting and photo op.

The Half Fanatics contingent.
This was my first race where the organizers had "pacing groups" set at various intervals, and I have to say that it was really quite helpful for ensuring a smooth start. Runners could line up at the start according to their expected finish time, and not have to worry too much about being surround by a bunch of faster runners passing right away, or getting stuck behind a wall of 4-wide runners going a lot slower than you. It also helped during the race, as I was able to keep the 2:00:00 pace group in sight at the beginning and know that I was in the right spot (I also had my watch, of course).

The course started with a short out-and-back to the right, before looping back and heading south towards the town of St. Paul, where it looped around and headed back to Heirloom Roses. The setting was gorgeous, and exactly my kind of course -- back roads meandering through farmland. As promised, the course was very flat, except for the hill. Thanks to my continued training on hills, combined with this hill's placement at 6-miles in, it was really no challenge at all; and after we looped around St. Paul and came back the other way, it was the perfect boost at mile 10 to get you pumped up for the last 5K of the race.

I had taken my energy chews at 8.5 miles into the race, which I had done during the Goat Mountain Gallop, and the result was great, once again. I had good running mojo all the way to the finish, and most importantly, I never had a nauseous feeling at any time during the waning moments of the race. In fact, the last mile was my fastest of the race -- that is the first time this has ever happened! 

The finish line was at the end of a beautiful rose tunnel, but to be honest, I didn't have time to stop and smell the roses at that point, or even look at them; I just wanted to be done! The end result was that I crushed my old PR by more than 3 minutes. New PR for 13.1 miles: 2:03:21

Rose tunnel and finish line.
After crossing the finish line, I collected my participation medal and a bottle of water, and cooled off, stretched, etc. The medal was nice and hefty, with a nice image of Crater Lake on it, and produced in the form of a belt buckle, as those who complete all four seasonal Oregon Half's will get a belt to put them on. As I was walking around to cool off, I ran into some people from the HF group whom I'd met before the race, and it was nice to be able to congratulate each other at the end.

Oregon Spring Half Swag
Once Kim and I had checked our race results and taken a few post-race photos, we headed for the food. I love it when races have generous portions of food available for racers, because running 13.1 miles makes you a little hungry! For this event, the food was catered by Qdoba Mexican Grill, and it was excellent -- lots of grilled chicken, beans, rice, tortillas, veggies, and sauces; and all with great flavor. Definitely the most satisfying post-race food I've had.

This was my first Überthons race, but I can guarantee that it won't be my last. This was the best supported race event that I've been to -- even better than the RunWithPaula events I've done. The course was well marked, and the volunteers along the course were always cheerful and supportive. I really want to do the Oregon Fall Half, as it runs right through the back-country neighborhood where I grew up, but I may have to try and work the Summer Half in there, too -- this event was just that good.

That concludes one of the better days I've had in a long time. I crushed a PR, qualified for Half Fanatics, and ran my very first Überthons race -- and I met some good people in the process. #alldaylong #specialkindofcrazy #22kmbefore10am

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