Friday, April 20, 2012

Corvallis Half Marathon

Last year, when I ran the Eugene Marathon, my daughter gave me a hard time for running a race in the city of her rival college.  To equalize things, I vowed to find a race that was held in Corvallis, home of Oregon State University.  Imagine my delight to discover the Corvallis Half Marathon.  Not only was it my favorite distance, but the race was scheduled for mid-April, near the end of ski season.  Perfect timing.  Sign me up!

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

Nice finisher shirt - too bad it's too small!

As one of my goals for 2012, I vowed not to let any running event interfere with skiing (gotta have your priorities!).  It wasn't like I stopped running over the winter months.  I just backed off from any serious training.  What it did mean, though, was no races during the months of January through March, and no spring marathons.  But I figured I could still ski and handle a half by the time April rolled around. 

Ready to rock 'n roll

Of course, like many races, registration happens months in advance of the actual date. What seems like a good idea when you sign up becomes a "what was I thinking?" moment four weeks before the big event. That's about the time I employ the "oh crap, I've got a race in one month" training plan.  (Big thanks to my neighbor Penny who got my sorry butt up early for two morning runs a week - couldn't of done it without you).

Looking serious at the start

Then the weather forecast called for amazing weather on Hood the day before my big race.  The mountain was calling and I couldn't resist!  Not willing to miss skiing on a bluebird day, I headed up to Mt. Hood Meadows.  And it was a fantastic day.  (Photos and story can be found here.)  I got in a bunch of runs on incredible snow before forcing myself to quit early.  Yeah, I knew I'd probably pay dearly for this ski trip....

Following the pack

I woke up the morning of the race feeling surprisingly good.  My legs were a tiny bit tired, but not sore.  The feeling continued, even after the hour and a half drive to Corvallis.  After picking up my race number and timing chip, I headed over to Denise's apartment for a potty break in a real bathroom.

Running through the OSU campus

I finished prepping for the race at my daughter's apartment.  The weather was predicted to be warm and sunny, so I chose shorts instead of my staple winter running capris.  And since the race was taking place on the OSU campus, I donned the only orange tech tee I possessed, and my OSU cap.  I was going to represent (go Beavs!) 

Denise drove me back to the starting line, in the middle of the Oregon State campus.   By then, a large crowd of runners had gathered.  It was a festive scene, with the OSU band playing peppy tunes.  I love marching bands, and really enjoyed the music.  Got me all fired up to run.  The morning chill and clouds were burning off, making way for a beautiful, dry sunny day.

Denise caught me at mile one

And soon enough - we were off!  The pack headed around the perimeter of campus, before turning back and running straight through the very heart of it.  Crowds of people lined the main road, cheering, ringing cowbells and waving signs.  Little kids held out their hands for "high fives" (which I love to give!)  I'd loaned Denise one of my cameras to get some photos, and I spotted her on a street corner near mile one, firing away.

Still feelin' good

Then a very friendly man struck up a conversation with me.  He inquired about my arm warmers, and I asked him about his Vibram Five Fingers shoes.  Turned out he was a high school science teacher in a nearby town.  Since Denise is studying to do the same thing, it provided a common topic.  We chatted until the first water station, where I lost  him in the crowd.

We ran right underneath this building

After a nice tour of the OSU campus, the course then took its participants into the rural countryside on the outskirts of Corvallis.  We ran by fields just starting to wake up from a long, wet winter.  It was very scenic and sure beat running along a busy urban roadway.  My body was starting to wake up, and I enjoyed a very pleasant couple of miles.

Loved the mile marker signs!

One of the things I loved about this race was its wonderful mile markers.  Each sign was bright and cheerful, and had an inspirational slogan.  Really helped keep a positive attitude (which was even more important in the later stages of the race).

Approaching the covered bridge

Then the course took us down a country lane and through a beautiful covered bridge.  How great is that?  I love covered bridges, and couldn't help myself - I wanted some photos.  So I pulled over to the side and stopped to snap a couple of images.  The volunteers stationed at the bridge laughed at me.  I just smiled and replied "Well, as you can see, I'm not in this race to win it!"

The runners were routed right through the bridge

After running through the bridge, my runner friends and I continued through farmlands, crossed a road and parking lot.  In the parking lot was another water station, and more cheering people.  They were really cheering loudly and at first I thought it was for me.  That's I looked behind me and saw......

Hooray for the Superheros! 

THE SUPERHEROS!  Two guys dressed up in superhero costumes running the race.  What fun!  I turned around and asked if I could take their picture.  They were great sports, and even slowed down and posed so I could capture their greatness.  I ran with them for a short distance, joking that I should've donned a Wonder Woman costume.

Running through the country

Then the course turned back onto a nice, wide bike path that wound through more lovely countryside.  About mile 6, things changed and we got routed onto the side of a road.  Not quite as nice, but the race organizers had the traffic control down pat.  Not only was there a sign at the 6 mile mark, there was another one to commemorate the halfway point.  And it had the greatest slogan - "Now is the time to lose your quit."  This saying kept me going for the next couple of tough miles.

By mile 7 we were back following the road

Miles 7 to 8 were a slight incline along a semi-busy road.  The elevation gain was minimal, but by this time it felt like I was climbing a huge hill.  My pace slowed down considerably.  I felt myself sagging and thought "OK now is when you're gonna pay for that ski trip!"

Denise caught me at mile 8

Happily, I ran into the nice science teacher from the beginning of the race.  We picked up our conversation where we'd left off, and it provided enough of a distraction to get me to mile 8.

Wave for the camera!

Mile 8 fell in a local park that wasn't too far from Denise's apartment.  Running through the park, I was happy to see Denise and her two roommates standing in the crowd, cheering for me.  That put a spring back in my step.  Beyond the park, the road dipped into a sweet downhill.  Rejuvenated, I put the pedal to the metal and picked up the pace.

More inspirational mile marker signs

The course continued through a maze of residential streets.  Some of the home's occupants gathered at the curb and on street corners to applaud the runners.  All the support was greatly appreciated, and I thanked as many spectators as I could.

Passing people at mile 11

After taking in a Gu around Mile 9, I began to get a second wind.  I was amazed to be still feeling good, and not as tired as anticipated.  Checking the time on my watch showed that a 2-hour finish was doable.  I didn't expect to be running such a fast pace this late into the race!  That brought out my competitive side.  Time to kick it into high gear and see how quick I could finish this thing. 

The finish line is in sight!

Slowly, the residential neighborhoods gave way to apartments and businesses.  I could tell we were getting closer to campus again.  At one point, I heard loud heavy metal music up ahead.  When I got closer to the source, I saw a lone guy with a boom box entertaining the runners by doing air guitars and crazy dancing.  He was great!  His antics made me laugh and provided a much-needed mental boost.

Everyone's finish was shown on the stadium jumbo-tron

The runner pack crossed a busy street, and entered Greek row.  It was fun to run by all the fraternity and sorority houses.  At one house, a bunch of frat boys were sitting in the front yard, drinking beer and loudly cheering the racers.  I whooped back, which garnered a huge enthusiastic response from the guys.  By then, I was in such a competitive zone, I didn't even think about getting some photos of the Greeks.  But those guys were so funny, now I wish I had taken a couple pics to share here.

My great support crew

Then before I knew it, we entered back onto the Oregon State campus.  The campus is such a beautiful place in the spring, with it's blooming trees and flowers.  I was happy to be here, because this meant the finish line was close.  I zoomed down the campus road, passing a couple of ladies I'd been trailing the entire race.  Taking a corner, I heard a bunch of loud cheering and was surprised to see Denise and her roommates.  Their unexpected presence gave me another positive energy surge and I shifted into high gear.  Only one mile left - time to finish this thing in a big way!

Reeser Stadium was full of runners

I zigged and zagged through more campus roads, until finally the walls of Reeser Stadium loomed ahead.  Almost done!  I turned a corner into one of Reeser's parking lots, and noticed a bunch of spectators holding a sign that read: "Run like you're being chased by a rabid opossum!"  I laughed so hard!  That sign provided the positive motivation I needed to step on the gas for the final push.  I streaked through the parking lot and there before me was the ramp leading down to Reeser's field.   I could hear the whoops and applause before even entering the stadium.  Hitting the turf, I was engulfed by the noise.  The finish was set up on the field's 50-yard line, and no sight was sweeter.  As I hit the timing mats, my Garmin read  2:03:49.  Although not a PR, it was still a great time.  I'd survived another half marathon, with spotty winter training and skiing the day before! 

My wonderful daughter and I

Denise and her roommates Kristin and Shannah, greeted me at the finish.  It was great to have someone waiting for me, and I thanked them for their support.  A large crowd was gathered on the field itself and a festival atmosphere prevailed.  I felt amazing considering my busy weekend, with only a sore right ankle.  After some great soup and bread, and a shower back at her apartment, I took Denise and her roommates out for lunch.

I was really impressed with this race.  The course was absolutely beautiful - a great tour of Corvallis. Took me to parts of town I didn't know existed!  (and Denise has been at OSU four years)  There was lots of water stations and the volunteers on traffic control were great.  I love, love, loved the mile marker signs.  And it was fabulous to finish in Reeser Stadium!  Made me feel like a true champion. 

With a good night's sleep, I recovered quickly and didn't feel too bad the next day.  Maybe I need to go skiing the day before a race more often....  :)


  1. Great job! SO nice to have people there to cheer you on:)

  2. Good job on the half!!! With your picture story I feel like I was there. When is your next race?

  3. Congrats and that was marvelous! I am so impressed. I am not a runner, so I am in awe of you!

  4. Excellent job on both the race and the recap :) Your photos do such a great job of sharing the experience with us :)

  5. Thanks everyone for your kind words! Laura - my next race is the Helvetia Half Marathon on June 9th. Guess I'd better get busy training! :)

  6. Yes, I think you MUST ski each day before a half-marathon! The OSU campus looks beautiful. Congratulations!


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