Tagged in: Half Marathon

Henry Hagg Lake Loop

Henry Hagg Lake Loop Mud Run

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I woke up to an unexpected sunny day. Taking full advantage of the weather, we went looking for a new trail to run. After so much time spent on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park this winter, I felt eager to branch out. I love the Wildwood, but after running it almost every weekend for two months, I needed a change of scenery. Spring-like weather led us to Henry Hagg Lake southwest of Portland. Neither of us was familiar with this area, save for the 50k and 25k Mud Runs that take place here every winter. Our run happened to fall on the weekend before the races.

Henry Hagg Lake Loop Trail

An unusual stretch of several dry weather days left the trail in pretty good condition. There were pockets of slippery, mucky mud. For the most part, we ran easy over soft dirt and rolling hills. This trail is also well-known as a mountain bike trail. We felt fortunate to take advantage of the trail before the bikers and runners tore into it later in the season.

Henry Hagg Loop Trail Phil Krooswyk

We paid the park entry fee ($4 or $5) and parked at the dam. Starting off, we entered the forest right away and enjoyed the intense green of the flora. Though we trudged along at times, we put together some quick segments as well. From time to time, the trail blasts out of the forest and into wide open expanses with no shade of any kind. We welcomed these areas and soaked in the sun whenever possible.

Henry Hagg Lake Loop Mud Run

Our final mileage total was 13.7 miles. In the end, we realized this was my wife’s longest distance and mileage run ever. I’m not a huge fan of lake runs. But the hills around Henry Hagg Lake were more gradual than most and the scenery was terrific. All told, we only saw a one or two other runners and fewer than ten hikers. It turns out that a warm winter day when the weather is dry is the perfect time to enjoy this trail.

Henry Hagg Lake Trail Lizard

Phil and Julie Henry Hagg Lake Trail Run

River Running Eugene

Pacific Northwest Half Marathon 2015 Race Report

While my physical therapy is going really well and I’m getting stronger all the time, I still lost too much training time to make an attempt at the full marathon in May, as I had previously planned. This was meant to be my “A” race this year, but the race organizer was very cool to allow me to switch to the half marathon when I realized a full marathon was out of the question. I was excited to check out this race for a number of reasons.

First, this would be my first trip to Eugene. All I ever associated with Eugene was the University of Oregon and a burgeoning craft brewery scene. Both of which turned out to be amazing. If you get the chance to visit the sports complex, take advantage of it. That football stadium, in particular, is something else.

Second, this was the inaugural running of this race. I don’t make a habit of seeking out the newest races, but reading how this would be “flat and fast” by design was enticing. I say this pretty often, but running a race in order to tour a new city is always appealing to me. This was a nice opportunity to tour a new place at a comfortable pace and still score a PR.

Finally, my wife had signed up for the half marathon. This was to be her first half marathon and I was psyched to see her accomplish her goal. At first, I was disappointed to give up my full marathon hopes. When I realized that I would get to pace my wife, I perked right back up. Watching her achieve her goal would be just as rewarding and I always enjoy running with her.

We rented an AirBnB about two miles from the starting line. There was ample parking near the race. We joined everyone else in the empty first floor of a newly-constructed building to stay warm. The call eventually came to form up on the starting line, final instructions were read, and we were turned loose.

Throughout the race, the instructions were all very clear. Cones, sidewalk chalk, volunteers and warning tape were placed well and liberally to ensure nobody got lost. There were several quality aid stations to take care of everyone. One station in particular was stocked with more energy gels than I’ve ever seen before. We topped off our energy with bananas, water, and sports drinks throughout the race.

There had been some route changes in the weeks before the race. We thought we’d get to run along the rivers more often, but it turns out we only had about 1/2 mile of riverside running in the entire race. That was too bad, but it was still a beautiful, sunny day and the flat nature of the race made for an enjoyable cruise through several neighborhoods.

My wife and I had decided that 2 hours and 30 minutes would be a good goal for our race. My wife is the most consistent runner I’ve ever seen. It’s like she has an internal clock that she runs to. I’ve never been a super consistent runner when it comes to pace, but she was incredible even at total exhaustion. In the end, we wound up finishing in 2:20:52 at a 10’31” per mile pace. We were both thrilled with the result.

Finish Line Pacific Northwest Marathon

I was very impressed with my wife’s resolve throughout the race, but particularly at the end. The last three miles, she couldn’t eat any food and was struggling to keep it together. She never walked and we finished at a strong run, hand-in-hand, and smiling. The crowd at the finish line was tremendous. I have never heard more cheering at the finish of a race. I don’t know if it was the home stretch between rows of tall buildings that allowed the noise to echo or if this crowd was particularly vociferous, but it was a very uplifting feeling. After finishing the race, we filled up on finish line food and enjoyed some post-race treatment from the readily available massage therapists.

After the race, we spent a fair amount of time brewery-crawling and exploring. We brought home a whole mess of beer and cider from the Bier Stein and devoured their nachos, pretzels, beer cheese soup and more. This was a great place to celebrate a successful effort.

Bier Stein Pretzels

In the end, I highly recommend this race. The race shirts and medals were well-designed and while it was obviously a small organization in charge of the race, they gave it a personal feel and worked very hard to make it a success. If you’re looking for an Oregon race that also happens to be a Boston qualifier, you’d be hard-pressed to choose a better race than the Pacific Northwest Marathon.

Lincoln City Pacific Ocean Fun

Lincoln City Half Marathon 2015 Race Report

This is easily the most beautiful race of the year. My wife and I are big fans of the coast and were excited to race in Lincoln City. She would be running the 10k and I was scheduled to tackle the half. I was preparing for the Pacific City Marathon and was very excited to test my new goal marathon pace on the half marathon.

We arrived a day in advance and stayed in the Siletz Bay area. We always enjoy time spent on the Pacific and this weekend was spectacularly sunny and comfortably warm. We spent some time wandering the beach, drinking a couple margaritas, eating fish tacos and relaxing with books on the hotel balcony. We got a good night’s sleep and got up early to make sure we got a good parking spot at the race. I was glad we arrived early. The parking lot wasn’t crowded, but it was nice to be close to the race start so we could stay warm in the car as long as possible leading up to the race.

The 10k and half runners all toed the line together and the well-organized race crew got us started. Throughout the weekend, I was continually impressed with the event organizers and volunteers. They worked hard and put on a fantastic race. I went out fast, as I tend to do in the first quarter mile of any race, particularly when I can get out front and out of traffic. The number of race entrants was small enough that I was able to get out front of nearly all of the runners, other than those faster than me. Without any traffic, I felt unstoppable.

The first few miles of the race were interesting. We started off in one direction, and then turned around after a quarter mile. It was a funny way to make sure we hit our distance, but it was fun to give my wife a wave and blow her a kiss as I looped back toward the starting line. After another half mile, a herd of elk ran alongside the road for a while. It was an amazing experience to run along a herd of wild elk and a great distraction while my body was warming up in the chilly air. A short while later, I passed a small horse pen with two horses prancing and running around. I don’t know if they were responding to the runners on the road or if they’re always active, but it was fun to see up close.

The route was hilly, but not brutal. The first portion was gradual downhill followed by gradual uphill. Then there was a decent drop in elevation that I knew would give me trouble at the end. Half of the race or more was tree-covered, so the rising sun was warming, but the trees prevented us from becoming overheated. Just beyond mile 3, 10k runners split left, while half marathoners turned right. I felt strong, but there was relative uphill at this point, leading up to the final stretch before the turnaround. The last mile before the turnaround was mostly gravel and rock. It was actually a welcome change from the roads and I felt strong, especially on the downhill portions, where I tend to excel by allowing my body weight to pull me downhill without using much energy.

After the turnaround, I was feeling strong. I knew that I had a mostly downhill run for the next 5 miles before that last big hill. I was able to stay very consistent in the second half of the run. Even when I hit the hill, I was dodging walkers and slower 10k participants, so I had a nice distraction. In the last mile and a half, I set my sights on two runners in front of me who looked to be about my age. I pushed hard to catch them. I got in front of both of them, but one of them didn’t appreciate my last-distance push and blasted right back in front of me just before the finish. Either way, it was a fun way to finish the race. I came around the last turn and realized I was under 1:49, so I sprinted to the line.

My wife was already there waiting for me and she had received her medal and a ribbon already. She had crushed her 10k race and finished 3rd in her age group. I got my medal and waited around for a bit to get my official finisher’s information. Although I didn’t scoop up a podium finish, I was still thrilled with my time of 1:49:19 at a pace of 8:20 per mile. This was my fastest half marathon ever and I had beaten my goal time by 17 seconds per mile.

IMG_1971

This race was definitely worth the trip from Portland. It was a beautiful undulating run through the coastal forest. The organization and direction was top notch, the course was fun, and all the competitors were friendly. There was a nice post-race food spread and the medal and t-shirt were nice as well. If you’re considering this race, just sign up already. Go to Lincoln City, eat fish tacos, and run your own race.

holiday half medal

Foot Traffic Holiday Half 2014 Race Report

From the start, I knew this race wasn’t going to go my way. My wife and I had signed up a couple months prior. She was going to do the 10k and I was running the half. We traveled to Chicago a week prior and on return, we were both miserably ill. I was finally getting over my illness that morning, but she wasn’t recovered enough to participate. I felt bad leaving her in bed, but I was still excited to run in the brisk morning air.

I got to the parking lot much later than anticipated. I had purchased a shuttle bus ticket to get to the starting line. Apparently, so did everyone else. There was actually a fender-bender where a carload of runners had rear-ended another carload of runners while waiting to get into the parking lot. Things were not off to an awesome start.

Eventually, I made it to the parking lot, made my way onto a bus and arrived at the starting line. Three minutes later, the gun was going off. By some miracle, I had managed to work my way up to approximately the front 40% of the runners. I assumed I was in a good position as per my expected pace. I was totally wrong.

First off, people were crossing the starting line all over the road. Many of them were missing the timers on the ground. I’m not sure how the officials didn’t manage to clarify this for all the runners, but it was a chaotic start as people were turning around and trying to go back to the start to get an official time. Shortly, I realized the misery of a mass exodus race start. Within the first 1/8 of a mile, people were walking. Five and ten-wide, sometimes. Those of us looking to actually run this thing fanned out to cover all available space. Some of us were on sidewalks. We had to dodge cars that were parked on the streets. Every corner was risky.

Running around the third corner, a man next to me caught his foot on the edge of the curb and wiped out. I tried to help him up and hand him the iPod he had dropped, but I was bumped along by the mass of runners trying to escape the bedlam. I was at mile 4 by the time I broke free of the herd and was able to settle into my own pace. Unfortunately, I wasted a lot of energy just dodging people and I never fully recovered.

Other than the volunteers and the unique medal, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this race. In the future, I’ll try to avoid races that don’t have wave starts. It turned out to be a sunny and warm day for mid-December. I know a lot of people were just there to have a fun run. I don’t blame them for that and I’m glad some people seemed to have fun.

By the time I finished the race, I just wanted to go home. I didn’t stick around for any of the post-race festivities. I was also disappointed in my final time of 1:57:12 at 8:56/mile pace. The medal, though. I admit, that is a great medal.

Vancouver Half Medal

Vancouver Rock & Roll Half Marathon 2014

I dragged my wife and two friends up to Vancouver, BC to run the inaugural RnR Half Marathon a while back. The race was run on October 26. After a week of miserable spitting rain and bitterly cold weather, the sun came out for the race and seriously bolstered our moods. My wife ran the 10k and the rest of us lined up for the half.

I was unsure of what to expect from this race. Reports of previous RnR events were mixed at best. Some people loved the party atmosphere while others despised it. I wasn’t really looking to blaze the track, but I was eager to tour Vancouver. I had never been there and I hold that there is no better way to see a new city than to run it. In the days leading up to the race, I had run several routes around Stanley Park and in the city. The only feature I was concerned about was the hills. Vancouver is far from a flat town, but I think that’s part of the fun.

Before the race started, I huddled with a large group of runners warming up at the Starbucks by the starting line. I bought a large coffee just to have something warm to wrap my hands around. I didn’t drink a single sip of it and dumped it in a coffee bucket just before the start of the race. According to the volunteer nearby, that’s what the bucket was there for. Apparently purchasing warm beverages and then discarding them is a frequent occurrence at these frigid early morning events.

I went out fast in this race. I started next to a pacer, but didn’t look at the sign he was holding until well into the race. At mile 7, the pacer finally started to pull away from me and I realized I had been moving at a 1:50 pace, which is well faster than my expected time of a flat 2 hours. Throughout the race, I felt an ebb and flow. When the sun was shining through the clouds and the landscape was especially beautiful or interesting, I sped up. When I was running through parking lots or under highways, I slowed. I didn’t notice this fact until after the race when I reviewed my GPS results.

The crowd was great the entire time. Many cheering folks with cowbells in hand made even the most remote areas of the race feel welcoming and encouraging. Perhaps my favorite moment came around mile 11.5 when I was starting to fade. A wild man dressed like a deranged yellow superhero with a cape came rushing past me. He was holding a little stuffed monkey up and talking to everyone he passed. When he reached me, he held up the animal and said in a high-pitched cartoonish voice, “Hey, I hear there’s gonna be bananas at the finish line!” Maniacal. I was happily distracted for a short while watching him say random things to the others he passed.

The last mile of the race outlines Stanley Park and the water. It’s a beautiful place to run. The home stretch was teeming with cheering people. Vancouverites were out in force and their support was greatly appreciated. I pushed my pace for the last mile and wound up finishing at 1:55:26, with a pace of 8:49/mile. It wasn’t my best half marathon effort, but I was quite happy with it. After the race, I found my wife and enjoyed the post-race activities. Our friends had started in another wave and shortly they joined us for a photo.

Vancouver Rock and Roll Half

Cabs were scarce, so we wound up walking back to the hotel. There were dozens of people looking for taxis. If you do this race, plan ahead to have a gear bag with warm clothes or some arrangement for transportation. I was freezing after the race and the walk did nothing to keep me warm. I made the mistake of showing up in shorts and a t-shirt and didn’t bring anything to keep me warm after the race.

All in all, this was a great event. It was a fun way to see the city and I enjoyed the music along the way. The other runners were all very friendly and I’m excited to see more of Vancouver and Canada at large. I wouldn’t rule out running a marathon here in the future. Also, I highly recommend checking out Lynn Canyon Park and the beautiful suspension bridge and creek there.

Lynn Canyon