Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Columbia River Power Half Marathon

Or how I came to dread down hills.


After talking with my cousins, who are marathon maniacs, I found out that my uncle is a sponsor for a marathon. The marathon is the Columbia River Power Marathon in Umatilla Oregon. This marathon let’s you run across the McNary dam (a working hydro electric dam) and then back across an interstate bridge. You get to cross the mighty Columbia river twice. Plus, you get to run in two states, Oregon and Washington. This sounded pretty cool.

There was no expo, only a packet pickup. Also, there were no timing chips. I have to say, I was very surprised as to the contents of the packet. In the little bag was a $500 gift card from Red Start World Wear. I was shocked to find this but I went to the web site and it was indeed a real gift card (one that you don’t have to spend money to use). Sweet!!!!!

The morning of the race was of concern as the weather forecast was for rain. In fact, on the drive to the race, it did rain. We (my wife did the half marathon too) arrived at the race start about an hour before the start. It was a little confusing as the “Start” was not very well marked. Usually they have big banners and music but there was none of that.

101_1882(To get an idea of how small this marathon is, there were only two port-a-potties at the start and there were no lines.)

101_1883 Here we are ready to run. As we gathered behind the start line, a small band (ok, two trumpets and a clarinet) played the Star Spangled Banner. I am sure someone announced that they song was going to start but no one had a bull horn or loud speaker. There were a couple of officials talking but I could not hear a word they said.

101_1884 As it turns out, this race starts and stops at the highest point of the race. This comes into play later.

101_1886 This is the from the top of the hill.

101_1889 This is the view of the dam from the top of the hill. The first mile had a very nice down hill. However, all I could think was “and I have to go back up this hill to the finish?”


As we entered the dam, this guy greeted us. He is the mascot of the Oregon Potato Growers association. I think he is supposed to be a red potato. I high-fived him as I ran by.

101_1894 The approach to the dam. It was pretty cool getting run across the dam.


Mile two was on the dam. The view from the dam was pretty cool.

101_1897 There is the bridge that we get to come back across on.


The first water station of right after the bridge on the Washington side. They had Gatorade, water and bananas.


Miles three and four was a gradual hill climb. The weather was cool (in the 50s) but not rainy.


At mile 4, there was a sign that the photographer was just up ahead. Since I didn’t want to spend $20 for a digital copy and since I had a camera with me, I snapped my own picture.

101_1902 Mile 5 was a long flat stretch along a road. The only exciting thing here was when the cattle truck drove by and it stunk (see pic).


Mile 5 1/2 was a nice down hill into Plymouth, Washington.


Mile 6 was a long flat stretch back to the bridge.


The was a water station just before the tunnel under the freeway.


In this case, you wanted to run towards the light. There was a tight left turn after the tunnel that I kind of missed as it was only marked on the ground. This took you up a path to the bridge.


The bridge had a foot path so we didn’t have to run on the road with the cars, but it was still very loud. Mile seven was on the bridge.


There is the dam that we crossed (as seen from the bridge).

101_1911 This is a few from the bridge of where we run next. After the bridge, we take a hard left turn and run back to the dam.

101_1913 This section was a nice flat section of the course. We ran back to the dam and crossed our path where we crossed the dam.


Next we ran through the port. There was a very short section of gravel here and of course I managed to get a rock in my shoe.


Almost through the port. This turned out to the be the bottom of the hill as next we had the long mile climb to the top of the hill.

101_1917This is the view as I started up the hill, looking back. Ti was a nice little park. Mile 11 denoted the top of the hill and the last climb. After this, the views got a little less desireable.

101_1918 We got to run along side the prison…


and the lumber yard. Miles 11 – 12 where flat along a road.

101_1920 The last mile was on a nice walk/bike path around a golf course.


The finish line was little subdued. In fact, had there not been runners a head of me I probably would have missed it.

101_1925 After the race, there was a potato bar. A baked potato with chili, cheese, sour cream and butter for everyone. They also had bananas, yogurt, Clif bars. I was surprised at how well the potato hit the spot after the run. An of course, they were the best potatoes on the planet (they were from my uncle so I am slightly biased.).

Now for the swag….


You got a nice t-shirt (given when you got your packet) and a metal for finishing. Note that both say 26.2 even though I only ran 13.1. That is because that is what they all said. I finished my half marathon in 2:23:13 (thanks to my Nike+ GPS for time). Overall I had a good time on race. It was a lot hillier of a course than I had done before but I still managed to run the whole way (I didn’t walk any of it).

So now for the big question, what did I learn:

  1. I am pretty good at running up hills. I kept passing people that would pass me on the down hill or flats.
  2. I really enjoy running half marathons. I am not sure I want to run a full marathon again. I find the halves more enjoyable, easier to train for, easier on my body and most courses have all the cool stuff to see on the first half of the full marathon anyway.
  3. You know how pilots  say that “What goes up must come down”? Well I think runners should say “What goes down, must come back up.”

I am glad I did this marathon but am not sure I will do it again. If you are a person that does not like running under power lines, this might not be the race for you. Otherwise, I think everyone should do this run at least once.


So my next half marathon is in two weeks and I guess it is a pretty hill course too, only you start at the lowest point. Happy running.



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