Race Review: Eugene Marathon 2011 - Finisher!

A few weeks ago we ran the 2011 Eugene Marathon. Finally. I've been wanting to run this race for several years but the dates never seemed to work out.

The race started bright and early at 7am. The weather was dry with temps were in the high 30s/low 40s which made for a cold start. There were three corrals with about 8000 runners total.

Miles 0-8 were an out and back loop that held the biggest hills of the day - not huge and after Mile 9, the course was very flat. The miles clicked by quickly and before I knew it we had crossed the Willamette River and were running through Springfield. After crossing over Interstate 5, we were already at Mile 16 passing the U of O (the Ducks) football stadium. Wow, that thing is B-I-G.

Miles 17-25 followed the river northward, crossing over at Mile 21 and heading back south.

The last mile was a blur with a super fast finish on the track at Hayward Field - incredible way to finish a race. As the race slogan says, you feel like you are "running in the footsteps of legends"

I had my best finish time in 3 years, which I definitely attribute to training and the course - flat makes for fast times.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Very well organized and staffed. Grade: A

Course - River section is scenic, neighborhoods are fun. Not a ton of crowd support. Grade: B

Aid-stations - Seemingly everywhere. Grade: A

Swag – Nice technical long-sleeve and medal.  Grade: A-


Portland Marathon 2010 - Finisher!

A little late on the post, but last month we ran the 2010 Portland Marathon. This was my third time running Portland and my tenth marathon overall.

The Sunday weather forecast of rain and temps in the 50s turned out to be correct. We got to the start and huddled under overhangs with everyone else, trying to stay dry. This was the first year that a half marathon was offered, so the race has transformed into corrals with wave starts. Despite the rain and wind, things got off to a smooth start.

Portland Marathon 2010 Start

The course was the same as the last time we ran Portland (2008), just with a lot more people. The half and full share the same course until Mile 11, so the rail yard section of the course (especially the “back” part of the out-and-back) was a bit too crowded for my liking. Once we split off from the half, there was more room to run and less paranoia about crashing.

The rain never let up, but it was warm and as with previous runs in Portland, the crowd support after the St. John’s Bridge was fantastic. The neighborhoods there cheer for all the runners!

My finish time was a bit slower than the previous race, but the hill training I’ve been doing really paid off – I am no longer afraid of the hill at the St. John’s Bridge!

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Like previous times, very well organized and staffed. Grade: A

Course - Fairly scenic, but crowded now that the half has been added. Grade: B

Aid-stations - Well staffed and stocked, approximately every 2 miles. Like last time, the honey-based gel was nasty. Grade: A

Swag – Serious upgrade on the swag: two shirts, medal, commemorative coin and other items. Wow! Grade: A+

Bonus: Watching the Giants win against the Phillies (NLCS) and dinner at the Bridgeport Brewery. Grade: A+

Race Report: San Francisco U.S. Half Marathon

Yesterday (11/7/2010) we ran the U.S. Half Marathon in San Francisco. After running the inaugural event in 2002 (my first half btw) we decided to sign up for this despite having run the Portland Marathon just a few weeks ago.

Like the Portland Marathon, it rained from start to finish. Fortunately, the temperature was in the low 50s and winds were about 8mph. There were 3,000 registered runners, and despite the weather, a good number of them showed.

The course started in San Francisco at Aquatic Park and went west through the Presidio. After some hills, the course headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge, across to Marin and then back to San Francisco. It was a bit different than 2002, with more hills and a very different turn-around on the bridge (an actual dirt trail, which due to the rain, was a muddy mess)

U.S. Half Marathon - Golden Gate Bridge Turnaround

Despite being beaten at the finish line by a guy dressed head-to-toe as a carrot, I would highly recommend this half. The organizers hold the same race in the Spring (people that run both receive a special medal)

U.S. Half Marathon - Fort Point

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized and staffed. Grade: A

Course – Even with the rain, courses don’t get much more scenic than this. Really, really hard to beat. Grade: A+

Aid-stations – Every few miles, as marked on the map. Water from rubber hoses, poured into garbage cans. Yep, I brought my own. Grade: C

Swag – Nice shirt and medal. Grade: A

Bonus: Registered via killer Groupon deal (50% off). Nice!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon – Finisher (Again)!

Last Sunday (6/6/2010), we ran the North Olympic Discovery Marathon. (I ran this marathon 5 years ago; race report is here) Runner’s World calls this marathon a “boutique” event due to the smallish nature, which was part of the attraction after running San Antonio in November with 30,000 other folks.

Training for the NODM was a bit more haphazard than my last marathon. Between injuries and cold/flu/allergies I felt like I missed half my training (although my running log tells me I made all my long runs)

Like last time, we flew into SEA on Saturday and drove out to Port Angeles, this time making a detour through Port Townsend. Very scenic drive with gorgeous weather (which wouldn’t hold). We hit the tiny expo, picked up our numbers and then were off to the excellent pasta feed (note: when the pasta feed is sponsored by the Sons of Italy, it is going to be a good meal).

The race started at 9am (!) and we had to catch a bus to the start. Heading to the finish line, we caught the bus at 6:45 and around 7:15 arrived at the starting line. The weather was threatening rain, but the temperature was a very nice 55 degrees and the race sponsors had a nice dry largish building open for the 400 marathoners while we waited for the starting gun.

Initially, we ran a 5 mile loop, which took us south-east of Sequim and then back to the start. From there we headed in a westerly direction, across some incredibly beautiful terrain. The course was very similar to the last time I ran this race, however, the Olympic Discovery Trail has expanded somewhat so we spent less time on the streets of Sequim. We crossed several rivers/creeks with wooden bridges and great views.

Like last time, the 3 ravines were larger than life, especially the last one at Mile 20. The weather starting spitting around Mile 16 and finally turned into solid rain around Mile 25 (which was ok with me). The finish was great, even with the rain. We cooled down for 30 minutes or so, headed off to Starbucks (I am *not* the mayor of Starbucks in Port Angeles unfortunately) and then hit the Y for a shower. One long drive and big steak dinner later, I slept like the dead until it was time to catch a flight home the next morning.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well-organized with the course clearly marked. Mile markers were accurate. Grade: A+

Course – Incredible scenery Miles 0 – 5 and 8 – 26.2. Grade: A

Aid-stations – Water and Heed at every station, which were staffed by local organizations which made it a lot of fun. Grade: A+

Swag – Long sleeve, dri-fit shirt. Grade: A

San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon – Finisher!

Last Sunday (11/15/2009), we ran the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

In an attempt to run a faster, stronger marathon, we adopted a new Bart Yasso training plan which focused heavily on hills and speed workouts. My overall training mileage was 30-40% higher than previous marathons.

The race started at 7:30am with approximately 30,000 (!) participants. The temperature was in the mid 60s with 96% humidity. Being a Bay Area resident, I had never run in weather of this nature. Since this was a large race, runners were staged in corrals (the total length was over a half mile). Our corral crossed the start line 25 minutes after the race officially began.


Starting off, we headed south and ran through downtown San Antonio for miles 2 – 4 (course map). We passed famous landmarks including the Alamo. The crowd was pretty deep during this part of the race as the streets were narrow and twisting. At one point it reminded me of the Mountain stages of the Tour de France! The downtown area was fairly warm as there was no breeze and the humidity definitely slowed the race down a bit.

After running through the downtown, we headed north through some older neighborhoods. There wasn’t much to look at but the course was as advertised – flat.

At Mile 10.5, the half-marathoners went their own way, which thinned out the field. We went south into a more rural area of town, running along a large cemetery for miles 16 – 18, which was a bit … creepy.

The humidity stayed around the 96% mark with the temperature edging towards the 80 degree mark. We headed back into town at mile 22 and somehow I never hit the wall, no doubt in part to the training regimen (thanks Bart!)

The finish was at the Alamodome. Mile 26 had a full, cheering crowd which was very motivational. Right after Mile 26, the course took a hard right and after a poorly placed hill and another hard right, the finish line emerged, looking like an oasis in the heat.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well-organized/staffed with 3,500 volunteers.  Course was clearly marked, mile markers were accurate. Grade: A+

Course – Low on the scenery factor. Grade: C

Aid-stations – Truly excellent. Given the humidity and temperature, maintaining fluids is a key part to a successful race. Even though there were 30,000 runners, every aid station I saw was fully stocked. Grade: A+

Swag – Short sleeve, dri-fit shirt. Grade: A

Des Moines Marathon Finish

The Des Moines Marathon is a Top 30 race (we ran the Half a few years ago) according to Runner’s World.

This year’s race had a bit of a different finish than previous years:

Sawe was leading fellow countryman David Tuwei by 10 seconds when, after a left turn onto the final stretch on Southwest Fourth, he stared right at a train passing on the road.

“Nobody is prepared for that scenario,” said Sawe, the inaugural champion in 2002. “I couldn’t believe it. It was a long train.”

Tuwei caught the 40-year-old Sawe and the two waited ... and waited ... and waited for the train to pass. Third-place Geoffrey Birgen had nearly caught the two leaders when the train finally crossed the street about 40 to 50 seconds later.
A 26.2-mile race came down to a 400-meter sprint, and Sawe used his speed as a former 1,500-meter runner to pull away and win the $3,000 top prize in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 50 seconds. Tuwei finished 5 seconds back.

Maybe they’ll change the course next year…

Rave Run – Strawberry, CA

I spent last week in Strawberry, CA. In preparation for the start of training for the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, we made sure to get in as many runs as possible during our stay.

Having run around Pinecrest Lake on previous trips, I became determined to figure out how to run from Strawberry, up to the dam, around the lake and back. We asked around, looked at topo maps, etc. The Forest Service wasn’t much help – the trail head was about a mile from their office, but they didn’t know anything about the place. Talking to some locals helped; we were able to at least find the trail head.

Our first attempt was pretty much a disaster. We missed the initial turn and ran to the end of a logging road. While trying to figure out where to go next, an employee of the local water company drove up. He hadn’t ever been on the trail either (??!!) but called his office and told us we were in the wrong place. We went back down to the highway and up another trail that he assured us “went right to the base of the dam”. While it is possible that the trail did indeed get there 100 years ago, we spent a lot of time trying to find the trail as it went missing every couple of hundred yards. (Not naming names, but one of the people in the group was carrying a sharp stick and was sure we were going to be attacked by a mountain lion or possibly a bear at every turn) After quite a bit of cross-country hiking/running, we crossed the river and found the trail. We made it to the top of the dam and promptly turned around as we had blown through our allotted running time.

The second attempt was a success! We found the trail and had a great run. Our course was as follows:

  1. Drive to start: Hwy 108, turn at the Strawberry Inn. Follow the road (Herring Creek) until it dead-ends.
  2. Run approximately .25 miles, turning right at the first fork. Make sure to pay close attention as this is very easy to miss.
  3. Cross the creek (Herring Creek) next to the washed-out cement bridge.
  4. Look closely for the trail, and follow it to the base of the dam. Note the signs 20 feet off the ground that say something like “Listen for horns. If heard, immediately seek higher ground as there is a water release from the dam”. Not sure how high you need to climb if the horn blows (~1 mile)
  5. Head up the switchbacks to the dam. At the top, go left (yes, up more) and run counter-clockwise around the lake (~4 miles). Note that some stretches are tough to navigate; watch for sprained ankles.
  6. If desired, head over to the store and refuel when you get to the docks.
  7. Follow the trail over the dam and back down through the valley to the start. (~1 mile)
  8. As an add-on, you can continue on Old Strawberry Road (as shown below)

Run Summary:
Start: Herring Creek Road, behind Strawberry Inn
Distance: 6.2 miles
Altitude: 5124 feet (min), 5933 feet (max)
Course: Very scenic, varying conditions
Support: No water, store at ~4.5 miles
Special Note: Listen for the horn!

The map from my Garmin is below:

10k Run on Catalina Island

Last weekend we ran a 10k on Catalina Island. Having never been there before, I headed over to the USATF website and found a straight-forward 10k.

Starting out in Avalon at the water’s edge, we ran north encountering a decent set of hills in a canyon (this was two weeks after the Newport Marathon, so my quads were quite vocal). At mile 2, we returned to town and headed west, past the (tiny) golf course and up the hill to the Botanical Gardens. Turning around at 4.5m, we again headed back to town and attempted to run out to Pebbly Beach. Unfortunately, due to a rock slide, the road was closed. We turned around, headed back to town and straight to Von’s for Gatorade.

After a quick cool down, we hit Jim’s for breakfast. Great day, I highly recommend it.

Newport Marathon 2009 – Finisher!

Last Saturday (5/30/2009), we ran the Newport (Oregon) Marathon.

The race started at 7am at the Yaquina Bay State Park with approximately 800 participants. The temperature was in the high 40s with a good bit of fog.

Starting off, we headed north and ran a 4 mile loop up to historic Nye Beach and back. There were numerous small hills on this part of the course, but nothing serious. We ran back through the State Park and headed South East on Bay Street, following along the Yaquina Bay. The fog started burning off around Mile 6 or so, which was a bit worrisome as the temperature the previous day had been in the mid 80s.

After running the length of the bay, we headed up the Yaquina River. Like the Bay, this part of the run was very scenic/beautiful. We saw an otter, bald eagle and plenty of trees. Much better than running through a business park in Anytown, USA.


At Mile 11, we ran through Oysterville. There were oyster shooters available for anyone interested (apparently someone hit a new course record by having 38 shooters!). I decided to pass up on the opportunity, promising to have one on the return trip at Mile 18.

We hit the turnaround at Mile 15.5 in Toledo. I was feeling great even though the heat was picking up. On the way back to Oysterville, the wind picked up (this was good as it reduced the heat). Unfortunately, it grew to about a 25 mile/hour headwind, which slowed everyone down a bit. At Mile 18, I decided to once again pass on the oysters, instead focusing on getting past the wall at 20.

Miles 20 – 26 were true to form; tough and best run with an iPod. Fortunately, I had loaded mine up with plenty of motivating music to help me along.

There is one last hill at Mile 26, which is not huge, but by this point in a marathon any hill is tough.  Luckily, “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades” by Green Day started playing on my iPod. As soon as Billie Joe snarled the opening line “I’m not f*cking around!” my adrenaline (or what was left of it) started pumping hard. Fired up, the top of the hill with the “Mile 26” sign appeared in my sights. I made it to the top, flew down the other side (steep!) and crossed the finish. Tired, but fired up.

The race FAQ says “almost half our finishers record P.R.’s”. Don’t believe everything you read. I wasn’t even close to a P.R. :-(

Course Map

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well-organized/staffed.  Course was clearly marked, mile markers were accurate. Grade: A

Course – Incredibly beautiful, start to finish. Grade: A+

Aid-stations - One complaint: the website says aid stations are “approximately every two miles along the course”. This is actually not the case, especially as there are no aid stations between Miles 20 and 25 (!) and a number of the aid stations were not where the race handouts stated. For example, an aid station was supposed to be at say Mile 8.6, but it would appear instead of Mile 8.1. Grade: B

Swag – Short sleeve, dri-fit shirt. Grade: A

USATF Amends Rule 144.3/Headphones Now Allowed


I’m a little behind, but apparently the USATF has decided to give marathon race directors the leeway to allow headphones during races. No more sneaking in your iPods, risking a DNF after all your hard training. Or only running marathons that choose to go against the USATF.

Excellent news, as I’m definitely bringing my iPod Shuffle when we run the Newport Oregon marathon in 12 days (<gulp>). Gotta load it up with the new Green Day…