Sunday, October 11, 2009

Great Columbia Crossing

Okay, I'll be the first to say it. I messed up the timing for the run this morning. See, I had read that you could get a shuttle starting at 7am and running every 20 minutes until 8 that would take you from the Port of Astoria to the start of the race across the bridge. I didn't want us to miss the shuttle and not get to run this race. So, um, I made us leave before 7 to head to the port.

That said, *I* wasn't the one who, at 6, said, "Shall we go downstairs and get some breakfast?" I was going to be civilized and let us sleep in until 6:30.

But we joined the strange group of old people with their numbers pinned to their backs in the breakfast room, and found ourselves ready to head out at 6:45.

We walked the short distance to the shuttle pickup area, where there seemed to be more volunteers than runners. We quickly got on a shuttle (after flashing our numbers, of course) and then soon we were headed across the bridge.

It was cold out. Really, really, bitterly cold, with a strong wind. We both had jackets on, figuring that we could always just tie them around our waists. But upon getting off the bus and realizing that there was no shelter at the starting line we realized we had miscalculated. Others were wearing hats and gloves and big coats. What on earth were we thinking? Even worse, we had arrived around 7:15... and the race didn't start until 9.

So for 90+ minutes we stood and shivered. Twice Wil decided we needed to go for a brisk walk because it was simply too cold to stand around. We weren't the only people with this idea -- lots of people were either doing warm-up runs or even just keep-warm walks.

The race director made a few announcements that were difficult to hear... but I did hear that they had 3000 participants this year -- their largest ever. 3000 people huddling together in a small highway rest area which Lewis and Clark had named "Dismal Nitch" -- because of the terrible weather they encountered there. So nothing has changed.

They had chalked two starting lines, but most people couldn't see them and didn't hear that runners should start in front. So, of course, when the race started, there were lots of clumps of walkers. But luckily we had two lanes of highway to move around in, so it was pretty easy to negotiate and clear them.

We ran for a mile or so on the Washington side of the river, and then climbed the first (small) incline onto the bridge. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is 4.1 miles long -- it seemed like we were running in place along the flat bridge deck. We settled into our usual pace and were running comfortably... and then we hit the hill. A 200-foot incline doesn't seem very steep, but somehow it was. But we just kept chugging along until we hit the apex, and then started running down the other side onto Oregon land. The course took a little loop around the port and through a hotel parking lot (where a volunteer was scolding a woman for driving in the running lane) to the finish. Nice.

We picked up some water, stretched, and then collected our "post-race munchies" which, due to concerns over the flu, were all individually wrapped. Hey, who needs a bagel when you can get Fritos, string cheese, and cheese crackers?

Anyway, a nice run in a nice town -- once we left the aptly named Dismal Nitch, anyway. Once I figure out what I've done with my camera cable I'll post some photos of pretty pretty Astoria...

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