Thursday, September 23, 2010


The town of Mt. Angel, Oregon is known for its Oktoberfest.  It is Oregon's largest folk festival, and oldest and best-loved Oktoberfest.  During the event weekend, this tiny town of 3,700 people draws a crowd of over 500,000 for the festivities.

The Mt. Angel Glockenspiel, on a sunnier day

We've lived in Oregon over 20 years, and have never experienced the famous Oktoberfest.  But now that Cody is a resident of Mt. Angel, Roger and I decided it was time for us to go check it out.

Thumbs up before another race!

Along with the usual activities, the Oktoberfest also sponsors 5 and 10k races.  I thought this would be perfect - I could run a race, and then celebrate with a beer afterwards!  So I signed up for the 10k race.

The day before the race, I ran a 16 mile long run. It was one of the worst runs of my life! It was a humid day, that turned into rain halfway through the run, my knee hurt, and I had no energy. With a 10k race the very next day, I was worried about finishing. But I iced up the hurting body parts, took some ibuprofen, and hoped for the best.

The start of the race

It was a humid, foggy Saturday morning as Roger and I journeyed to Mt. Angel.  We arrived at Humpert Park (the start of the race) and I picked up my race number and t-shirt. Then I tried to get my body moving by walking and running around the local streets of Mt. Angel.  My legs protested running again so soon, but after a mile of slow running they seemed to warm up.  The race route was marked by spray painted arrows on some of the streets, so I got a course preview by following the markings.

The race had a record number of entrants this year - over 800 participants between the 5 and 10k races. There seemed to be a large crowd lining up at the starting line. A young man and a group of his friends were playing frisbee while waiting for the start. When the race started, I saw this man running with his frisbee in hand!

I'm all smiles at the start of the race

Soon enough, we were off! The 10K route followed country roads around the Mt. Angel Abbey. After mile 1, the 5K runners turned around and headed back towards Humpert Park. I continued on the scenic farm roads, keeping the Abbey hill in sight.  After mile three, I got a great view of Mt. Hood. About this time, the frisbee man passed me, still holding his disc. I called out to him "go frisbee man!" and he smiled, waved, and wished me a good race.
Even though Susan was not running with me, I upheld our tradition and did "the wave" at each mile marker.  I'm sure some people thought I was nuts, but a couple of runners laughed, and one guy waved along with me.  My sis would have been proud!

Cody showed up to cheer me on!

I had no set goal for this race.  I just wanted to go as fast as I could and finish strong.  Four miles into the race, I'd been logging fairly consistent 8:30 minute miles, which is a good pace for me. I hit some rolling hills at mile four, and my pace slowed somewhat. About that time an older man and woman passed me. I said hello and they complimented me on my mile marker celebrations. The woman explained that the couple had a bet on the race, the loser bought dinner. Although she tried, the woman explained that her partner always seemed to win the bet.

At the top of the hill was the entrance to the Abbey and mile 5. Only one more mile to go! It looked like I was on track to get a 10K PR. I decided to give it all I had, and put the hammer down. The runners wound through the neighborhood streets of Mt. Angel. I passed the older lady, now walking, and shouted words of encouragement.

I rounded the last street heading towards Humpert Park. A few of the faster finishers, already done, were standing at the corner, cheering on the runners. Frisbee man was with them. He high-fived me as I ran by.  As I headed towards the finish line, up ahead was the older man. I sped up and passed him. As I passed by I teasingly told him "you owe me dinner!"

Third place in my age group!  Woo-hoo!

I entered the finish chute, and checked my time. My watch said 52:29, which was a PR for me! (at least a post-age-40 PR!)  Roger didn't think I'd be done so quickly, and missed my finish. 

Later, when the awards were announced, I discovered I'd won third place in my age group! Wow! I've never won anything in a race before, so this was icing on the cake.  I think the fact that there was a fairly small field of competitors helped.  It will probably be the only running award I ever get so, hey I'll take it!  Not bad for having a lousy 16-mile run the day before.

Cody models a German hat

Soon after my finish, Cody showed up.  He walked down from the Abbey to the park.  It was great to see him.  After I'd collected my award, and changed my clothes, we walked towards the center of town to check out the Oktoberfest.  I was ready for some food and a beer!

Elaborate decoration in the town square

About that time, the skies opened up and the rain poured down!  Luckily, Roger brought an umbrella, and I had a spare in my car.  I'm glad the rain held off until after the race, but it was still a bummer to deal with while walking around the festival.

The rainy streets of Mt. Angel

There were food booths everywhere, selling every kind of food imaginable.  There were deep-fried twinkies, and more different types of dessert than you could ever want.  One block was ringed by all kinds of craft booths.  It was interesting to see the different wares.  The Abbey also had a booth, and along with soap and religious items, the Benedictine Sisters were selling their special "Monastery Mustard".  Cody said the Sisters are known for their mustard, which is really good and quite popular.  The different types of mustard had great names, such as "Hallelujah Jalapeno" (which was Roger's favorite).

Strawberry shortcake with "the works"

Cody decided he wanted to try the strawberry shortcake one booth was selling.  I told the lady manning the booth we wanted a strawberry shortcake.  She asked if I wanted it with "the works."  I said "sure, why not?"  The lady then proceeded to ring a cowbell and shout "one strawberry shortcake with the works!"  I got handed a huge bowl covered in whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate, nuts and a cherry on top.  Somewhere underneath all that were strawberries and cake!  It was way too large for one human to consume, so I asked for three spoons.

A crowd watches the maypole dance

I was hoping to try some German beer.  But it was barely noon, apparently too early to start the beer garden entertainment.  They were charging $9 a head to get into the beer garden, and then you had to buy your beer.  That seemed a bit much, without anything to watch.  So instead of beer, I tried a bratwurst, and then an apple cake with butter sauce.  Oh boy, was that good!  I think I put back all the calories I burned this morning and then some.

Roger and Cody enjoying the show

We watched a little bit of a maypole dance.  But there was a large crowd, so it was hard to see much.  At that point, the rain started up again and I was beginning to feel the effects of my race.  Roger and I decided to head home, so we said our goodbyes to Cody.

Mt. Angel's Bavarian-themed public restrooms

Mt. Angel is a really cute little town.  It has a beautiful church with a large steeple.  Many of the buildings are decorated in a Bavarian theme, and there is a large glockenspiel in the town center, that puts on a show for times daily, year-round.  Even the public restrooms have a German touch!

It was fun to participate in a small-town festival and reconnect with my German roots.  I'll definitely put Mt. Angel's Oktoberfest on next year's calendar - and this time I'll stay for the beer!

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