Y’all know I usually complain about hilly courses (see races in Pomona, Hotlanta, etc.). Given how few races out there are especially flat, you’d think I’d be over it by now. Maybe once I actually live somewhere again I’ll start training on hills and become less of a wuss. It would certainly make me sound less curmudgeonly in most of these reviews. BUT! You guys. Today, I ran the hilliest race of my life, and I loved it. Loved it! (I’m actually writing this on race day for once, and it’s possible I’m still a little high on adrenaline, caffeine, and sugar… but still. It was awesome.)
The Heart Breaker Half Marathon in Hillsboro, Oregon (a few miles outside of Portland proper), is freakin’ hilly. I didn’t know this going in, and as I plodded slowly up some of the more ridiculous hills, I wondered if I should have known better. In hindsight, “heart breaker” probably isn’t just a cutesy play on how it’s around Valentine’s Day. But the course map rather conspicuously neglects to include an elevation map…
And I’m afraid that my elevation profile from Strava doesn’t really do visual justice to the rolling hill extravaganza that I ran today. Y’all, it was all hills, all the time.
But, again, I had such an awesome time. Maybe that was because I actually felt the downhill portions of the course, and I got to really haul downhill (which I love doing). A lot of hilly races just feel like never-ending uphill. Since this one really was rolling, I got to relish the downhill bits. Also, the scenery was gorgeous.
Of course, you’re going to have to take my word for it on how lovely the landscape was because I didn’t manage to take more than one picture on the course. The race winds through gorgeous farmland of western Oregon, and I totally fell in love. The landscape was varied, moving between pastures, vineyards, orchards, and bits of pine forest. The day was overcast (my fav!) and temperatures were in the 30s (perfect weather as far as I’m concerned). And it was so quiet and peaceful and absolutely lovely.
I’m not usually this gushy about races, and certainly not about hilly ones, but I loved this race. It’s quite small but exceptionally well organized. The race starts from a high school, which meant we could hang out indoors (and use indoor facilities) prior to the start — so no waiting in the cold for an hour. Parking was easy. Post-race food was yummy (once I found it) — gloriously good smelling cinnamon buns and an egg & ham thing that was warm and wonderful (which I could have sworn I snapped a pic of but apparently devoured without getting evidence).
Also, I just gotta say, I’m pretty impressed with myself on this one. I finished in 2:45 – a 12:41 average pace, which is around my usual these days. But given the hills (about 300 feet more elevation gain than any race I’ve ever run before – I checked!) and the fact that I was somewhat under-trained (longest training run was 10), I feel dang good about my first race of 2019!
I was really surprised when I looked at my results today and realized there were only around 300 runners in the half. It seemed like a larger race both in terms of ambiance and the efficiency with which it was organized.
Given how few of us were spread out at the back of the pack, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was such a small field. There were definitely times where I felt like I almost had the course to myself, and there were also places where it would have been easy to take a wrong turn if not paying attention to the signs/runners in front of me.
The race includes a 10k and a 5k, which accounts for the bigger crowd at the start (and why I thought it was a bigger race). They stagger the starts, which is great. But the only annoying thing for those of us back-of-the-pack runners is that the 10k course overlaps for the first two miles. So, I spent all of mile 2 getting passed by super-fast cool kids. Fortunately the course splits around mile 3, so it wasn’t going on for too long. Not a big deal.
Overall Assessment: Loved It! Will Run Again
Time of Year: Mid February (2/17/2019)
Start Time: 8:00 am
Temperature: 36° at the start, 40° by the finish
Size of Field: 325
Elevation Gain: 926 ft (according to Strava)
- SO PRETTY! So pretty. This is one of the prettiest courses I’ve ever run.
- Plenty of food. There were ample cinnamon buns left for those of us stragglers.
- Good medal. It’s substantive and thematic.
- Great weather. 30s, cloudy, no real wind. Couldn’t ask for better conditions by my book.
- Easy parking/start. Didn’t have to rush or worry about getting to the start.
- Well organized overall. Didn’t really get a pre-race email, but the info is all available on the website, and I didn’t have any problems.
- 3:00 hour pacer. This always makes me happy as a) sometimes I run with them and b) it indicates it’s a slow-runner-friendly race.
- Hilly. So, so hilly. I absolutely would have been scared off if I’d known, and I’m so glad I didn’t.
- Not very many aid stations. Was really glad I opted to bring my water bottle. I would not recommend running this without your own hydration.
- Shirt is sized weird. This is the case 80% of the time with long-sleeve race shirts, so I’m not mad about it. But this one runs small in the body and loose in the sleeves (very weirdly huge sleeves).
- Roads aren’t closed for most of course. The race takes place on a lot of back country roads and they aren’t always closed. Cars were careful, but this could be a concern for some.
- No real crowd support. For me, the scenery made up for it, but since this is on back roads in the middle of farmland, there weren’t really places for cheering sections.