Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

2009 Vernonia Half Marathon – Race Report

Posted by bunchgrasser on April 8, 2009

vernonia-half-bc_img_02431I made a last minute decision to run the Vernonia Half Marathon this past Saturday, April 4 and I’m very glad I did. I was simply looking for an organized race to gauge my fitness level in preparation for the Eugene Marathon next month. The Vernonia Half was roughly a 30 minute drive from my home, not terribly expensive and had a fairly small number of runners participating (around 160).

I had never run this race before, and as I understand it was cancelled last year due to serious flooding in the city of Vernonia. I arrived about an hour early on race day and in spite of the 30 degree temperature outside, the sun was promising to break through the fog eventually. Vernonia is a smallish city tucked into a charming little river valley. Driving through the city takes you back to a time when Main Street was still the center of commerce. Absent entirely were strip malls and other evidence of modern suburbia.

I easily found parking less than 100 feet from Anderson Park, where race day registration and packet pick-up was located. In less than 5 minutes I had my race bib pinned to my shirt and was ready for the 9:30am start. I’m normally used to long lines and crowds, so this was a refreshing change. I warmed up with a slow jog around the block a couple of times and then crossed over the river on the footbridge to the Vernonia High School track which served as the start line for this race. After milling around for a few minutes, we were given a verbal start and the small group of runners were off!

The first segment of this point-to-point race was a two mile out-and-back to the lake on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Then we crossed back over the footbridge, past Anderson Park and continued away from town. The Bank-Vernonia State Trail is an old, converted railroad bed that meanders through scenic woods for most of the race. The trail was paved for roughly the first half of the race but turned to gravel somewhere close to the midpoint. There were several rough areas that were newly graveled and also a couple of large mud holes that were downright hard to navigate. I really enjoyed the Zen-like, peaceful run on the paved trail through the woods. The cool air, shade and mossy green colors were a stark contrast to your typical urban half marathon course. The latter half of the course was definitely a trail run which offered its share of challenges. Not really mentioned in the race description were the two short, but steep, quad-burning hills that slowed me down to a walk. The first hill was located near the middle of the course where you cross the main highway. The second hill is in the last quarter mile where you switch from the trail to the highway for the last uphill push to the finish in LL “Stub” Stewart State Park. There were several water stations along the way (3-4 if I recall correctly) and at least one that was also serving Gatorade.

I didn’t start this race with any intention of getting a PR. But my splits early in the race were good and at mile 7 my Garmin GPS watch showed a pretty decent overall time. Encouraged by this I decided to attempt beating my old half marathon record. By the final half mile and in spite of slowing to a fast walk on the last steep hill, I was just under my record so I pushed hard and crossed the finish with a 1:53:32 time, effectively beating my previous half marathon record by 3 minutes. Certainly not an impressive time as compared to many of the talented runners that day, but I always try to remember that I’m 42 years old, only competing against myself and that any PR is a good PR!

The race organizers had water, bananas and oranges waiting at the finish, as well as the clothing bags that we had sent forward to the finish line. I put on my fleece and running pants and then boarded the big yellow school bus that shuttled us back to Anderson Park for the awards ceremony, food and raffle. After eating hot chicken noodle soup, muffins, cookies and hot coffee I laid down to relax in the sunshine for a few minutes. My body was sore and tired, but for those few minutes the world seemed perfect.

A short while later the awards were given out to both men’s and women’s age group winners. Congratulations to overall winner and local Vernonia runner, Tim Pillow who crossed the finish line with a very quick 1:19:29 time. After the awards ceremony there was a raffle which included prizes of both long sleeve technical running shirts and pies. Yes, you heard me correctly…I did say pies. Not realizing how much I desperately wanted one of those pies, I wandered up to the front of the crowd and listened for my number to be called. One-by-one the shirts and pies disappeared with each number called, until the last one was gone. I guess it wasn’t my year for a pie – but I did get a PR and I thoroughly enjoyed running the 2009 Vernonia Half Marathon. My hat is off to the city of Vernonia, ORCC, Mark Barrett (Race Director), all of the race volunteers and the folks at Vernonia Cares who provided the hot soup and pies!

I’m planning to be back next year and I would unconditionally encourage others to consider running this race next year as well! Race results have been posted on the ORCC website. Race photos are available here, courtesy of Brian F Conaghan Photography.

Cheers

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One Response to “2009 Vernonia Half Marathon – Race Report”

  1. Scott said

    Congrats on the PR — sounds like a slow course too. That’s too bad you didn’t get a pie, though.

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