||Eugene Half Marathon
Eugene is known as Track Town USA for a reason – not only does it have the nicest track and field stadium in the country but it is also home to some of the world’s best runners, including the Oregon Track Club (Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Chris Solinksy and Andrew Wheating). Eugene showed its support for running as the course was well supported by fans, locals and volunteers. We wanted to enjoy the race so we didn’t tie ourselves down to run a specific pace, but instead just decided to run based on feel. At mile 4 a little girl and her family were frying up bacon road-side and passing it off to runners with words of encouragement. I can’t say no to kids and I definitely can’t say no to road bacon! While it was a bit difficult to chew and run I knew I would get zero sympathy from Kristin so I gutted it out and enjoyed my salty bacon. At mile 6 a bike rickshaw pulled along side of us blasting music and shouting words of encouragement – it was pretty awesome to have a mobile dance party biking next to us for the next few miles. After the toughest hill on the course we settled back into what felt like a decent pace and pressed forward. Kristin is a total sucker for a cowbell and when I noticed a volunteer handing out Eugene Marathon cowbells to the crowd I shouted toss one here and managed to catch the bell without breaking stride. While I was forced to carry the bell for the next 5 miles, it was worth it to see the smile on Kristin’s face (I think she knew the cowbell was for her). The last 400 meters of the race on the famous Hayward Field track was simply awesome and everything I hoped it would be - truly inspiring.
Highlights: Running based on feel and setting new PRs by several minutes – we finished together in 1:45 – and then finding out CC (fellow running buddy) shattered her 2:00 goal with a blistering fast PR of 1:54!
Day 1 (Friday):
Arleta Library Bakery/Café is a small diner-esque restaurant with a uniquely familiar and comfortable vibe. The eclectic array of mish-mash plates and silverware gives you a good idea about the laid back atmosphere of this home-style restaurant. The "Triple C" soup of the day (coconut, curry and cauliflower) was fantastic, a perfect blend of some unique ingredients without being overpowering or overdone. The fresh green beets (in place of tomatoes) on the half turkey sandwich were a great touch. Nothing beats soaking up the last bit of yummy soup with locally made whole grain sourdough.
In addition to some hysterical slogans including “The magic is in the hole” and “Good things come in pink boxes”, Voodoo Donuts is an absolute must in Portland. Even though we had just eaten lunch we still found room to sample a box of 6 incredibly unique and unbelievably tasty doughy creations. Two of our favorites were the Bacon Maple Bar (yeast long-john doughnut with maple frosting and yes two strips of real bacon on top) and the Butterfingering (chocolate cake doughnut with vanilla frosting and Butterfinger crumbles). Make a stop here and try something totally outside your comfort zone, you'll be glad you did. Mmmmm....so good.
Tip: No matter what time you arrive (open 24/7) there will almost certainly be a line – don’t be deterred, it’s worth the wait. Also, Voodoo is a cash only business (ATM on site).
Enjoyed a scenic drive along the Columbus river highway (through the Columbia River Gorge) with a few great stops. Our first stop was the Multnomah Falls, the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States. A short walk up the well marked, but somewhat damp and slick trail leads to the main bridge at the base of the waterfall which provides some good views of an awesome waterfall.
Tip: Standing on the bridge you will get a bit damp so wear a jacket or rain coat if you want to stay dry.
Next up was the Bonneville Dam (free guided tour at 3pm on the Oregon state side; take exit 40 from I-84). Very entertaining and informative tour; our tour guide used some household props to explain the physics behind the dam and general power generation/transfer. We learned a lot about hydropower as well as the precautions taken to ensure that the impact of the dam on local wildlife is minimized. After checking out the turbines inside the dam make sure to head down to the fish observatory (bottom floor of the visitor's building) and watch some massive fish swimming inches from your nose.
After a drive through a rainbow – the first time we have ever seen the end of a rainbow (ended in the Columbia River, but sadly no leprechaun or pot of gold) we drove to the city of Hood River and sampled some craft beers at Full Sail Brewing. The ambience of sitting on the outside patio as the sun was setting was more enjoyable than the actual beers (beers were ok, but no stand-out winners).
Back in Portland we met up with our good friend CC at the Bridge Port Brewpub for some more local beers and tasty eats. Mike ordered the chicken pot pie soup and Kristin and CC sampled the vegan salad (although Kristin somewhat defeated the “vegan” aspect by adding chicken). Both were quite good, and not the typically greasy bar food you might expect from a brewpub. The Ebenezer and Kingpin ales were both good and are worth a try.
Day 2 (Saturday):
While the wait for a table at Gravy on a Saturday morning will vary depending on the size of your party (about 10 minutes per person) the restaurant offers complimentary coffee and benches to relax on before you are seated. The breakfast at Gravy was some of the very best we had in Oregon. The portions are huge and everything we tried was tasty. The half order of French toast looked more like a double order, the omelets were massive (but quite tasty) and the single biscuit with gravy consumed an entire dinner plate. You can’t go wrong with this breakfast stop. Highly recommended.
As an Intel employee CC had access to a 50% off sale at the Adidas employee store – good deals on Adidas gear if you are lucky enough to get an invite. After shopping, make sure to check out the impressive facilities at the Adidas campus too (a full soccer field and ridiculous indoor basketball court on-site).
Having heard great things about Oregon’s coast we took the long way to Eugene so that we could drive along with the water (on US-101) for about 30 minutes. The views were spectacular and well worth the drive. The beaches were even littered with a few brave souls; but way too cold for us.
After enjoying the coast we stopped at the Local Ocean Bay Front Restaurant (#5 best restaurant in the state of Oregon) for some fresh seafood. Local Ocean is located directly on the water with some great views of the port, and offered the freshest seafood we had in Oregon. The crab Po’Boy sandwich and the grilled rockfish wrap were equally excellent and paried nicely with the homemade strawberry lemonade (I could eat at this place every day it was so good). A bit of a drive from the major cities in Oregon, but well worth it if you’re in the area.
Granary Pizza Company served as our official pre-race dinner. Classic spaghetti with an interesting take on meatballs (stuffed with blue cheese). The pasta dish was good but covered in garlic. CC sampled the macaroni and cheese which was baked to perfection. In our effort to carbo-load we tried the Eugene brewed Ninkasi IPA which was light yet flavorful and complemented our pasta quite well.
Day 3 (Sunday - Race Day):
The post-race weather was absolutely perfect and the ladies were able to secure an outdoor table at Steelhead Brewery where we enjoyed recounting the race over a twisted meniscus (scary name for a runner, but very good beer), fish and chips (up there with the very best I have ever eaten) and grilled fish tacos (tasty and light). Fantastic post-race spot, especially if you get a table on the patio.
Steve Prefontaine, a running legend in the Eugene area, died prematurely in a devastating car accident in 1975. The crash site, now known as Pre’s Rock, is a memorial to his legacy. The memorial was littered with racing memorabilia, including everything from a race tee-shirt to a bib tucked in the rock to a “lucky” hair-tie. The drive up to Pre’s Rock is quite beautiful, but the actual site can be a little challenging to find (take 15th Ave. straight east from Hayward Field. After the street curves to the right, go uphill steeply to the left on Birch Lane, then go right on Skyline Blvd. Pre’s Rock is about 50 feet ahead on the right, but be careful this is a very dangerous curve and parking is limited).
Willamette Valley Vineyards (located on I-5, directly in between Eugene and Portland) is an incredibly scenic winery. From the tasting room the rolling vineyard seems to go on forever. The wines were decent but unfortunately the better wines were excessively more expensive than the traditional wine offerings (2x-3x). The winery offers a free tasting or a paid tasting ($10 for the reserve wines). The reserve wines are a bit better, but not worth the $10 price tag for the tiny pours. Our advice would be to skip the tasting, pick a glass of a wine you think you might like and head out to the outdoor patio to enjoy your drink.
After a long-day of running and driving we were all excited to grab some home-made dinner from New Season’s Market (braised pork sandwich and custom-made noodle bowl), a 6-pack of Drop Top Amber Ale and head back to the comfort of CC’s couch to wind-down. Good food, good beer, good friends…good night!
Day 4 (Monday):
In addition to it’s famous man-cakes (one pancake is enough for two people) Stepping Stone Café also offers a variety of well prepared and tasty breakfast choices. Fortunately during our visit the diner had a special entitled “The Country Benedict” which included two full biscuits, each topped with a sausage patty and poached egg and covered in a thick and delicious sausage gravy. Heavy would be the lightest possible term for this breakfast, but heavenly would be a more accurate description. Kristin sampled the traditional Eggs Benedict (hold the hollandaise) which was tasty but in my opinion was way too healthy and lacked the potential to put you in a sausage induced coma.
Our friend Anne was able to secure a last minute pass for us to enjoy the spoils of the Nike employee store in Beaverton, Oregon. What an incredible store, with unbelievably low prices and NO sales tax! We made sure to set a budget before shopping, but still found a way to pick up several awesome running shirts, new shorts and even a purse (for Kristin not me). Thanks to this stop we are going to be styling all year long. Thanks again Anne!
Normally airport food is nothing to write home about, but the Laurelwood Brewpub inside Portland International Airport is actually quite good. While the service was a bit slow, the Workorse IPA was one of the very best beers we tried in Oregon. Although the beer has a fair amount of hops it is extremely well balanced and a great sipping beer. The chicken salad and the BBQ chicken salad were also very good and it was a nice change of pace to eat something green (to Mike’s chagrin green frosting on a Voodoo Donut does not constitute a vegetable).
Oregon Half Marathon Medals
May 1, 2011: Eugene Half Marathon