Latest reviews by Tim Murphy

(2016)
"A runner's race"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

TL;DR - This is a runner's race - fast course with some small hills which actually help the legs (imho), gorgeous, classy medal, nice long sleeve T, finisher's challenge coin (so unique). Basically, the race offers a ton for both serious and casual runners alike. And my friend PR'd!!

I ran this race shortly after running the Berlin Marathon (http://ow.ly/8WdM3052zh6), so wasn't really looking to PR - just wanted to check out my local marathon! A few days beforehand, I learned that a friend was trying to PR so I decided to run with her.

This is really a runner's race, and what I mean by that is the Portland Marathon offers a course that consists of mainly flat roads with a few small hills, which I actually think make it easier to run fast. Just running flat for 26.2 involves the same muscles over and over, and by shaking it up with some modest hills, you can give certain muscles a break and feel more fresh by the end. Plus, there are some luxurious downhills in the last 3-4 miles, so you can really turn it on for a fast finish. Flat with some small hills and a downhill finish = runner's delight! However - the course itself isn't beautiful by any means. but that's why I say it was a runner's race - if you were there for a sightseeing tour, you might be disappointed. :)

Another aspect that makes the Portland Marathon a "runner's race" is the medal. Not gawdy or gimmicky like a lot of the more casual 5K races' medals, the Portland Marathon medal is one of my all time favorites. Paying homage to the Rose City with a beautiful rose, surrounded by some subtle adornments that add even more to the flower theme. It's understated, more for the runner who's been around the block and knows a thing or two about medals, rather than being super flashy. See pic - they killed it with the medal.

Aid stations were great, well manned and very frequent. Crowd support - considering the almost constant rain - were pretty damn impressive. Huge kudos to so many running groups and just fans standing out in the rain and cheering. There were also some amazing percussion groups at the beginning of the race, and they created a totally intense wall of hype as the race got started. Awesome way to kick things off!

Post race was smooth - you got that sexy medal, CHOCOLATE MILK!!!, some food, and then your long-sleeve finisher T (you selected size and one of four colors beforehand). The finisher coin, which is just like the medal, was apparently on the opposite side of the t-shirt handout, so I actually missed my coin which is a bummer. Oh, and they also offered zippable throwaway coats (with sleeves!) in the finisher chute, which were amazing!

Starting to see some people claiming they went or were led off course. I did not go off course, and I didn't have any on-course issues. I know the race is looking into the situation though, so I'll wait to hear what they say. Only other issue I had was that there was no gear check (unless you paid $10 to a local running store who was hosting gear check because the race didn't offer it). The race claims it's for security reasons, but many other races offer it, so that part was confusing to me. In the end though, the disposable finisher's jacket was all I needed, and was able to carry my phone while I ran, so it was really not a big deal.

My friend was pretty close on pace, and we decided to push it a bit toward the end - having those downhills to finish the race was amazing! In the end, she PR'd by about 1 min, 50 secs. So exciting and fun to be a part of!

I had a phenomenal time at this race, despite a ton of rain, which I think says a lot. If you are looking for a fast course with a big city feel and small town access - this is a great race!

Loading Comments...

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"So flat, so fast!, great race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

TL;DR - Great race, very flat and overall a positive experience. Not the strongest major marathon I've run, but I'd definitely recommend it despite a few nit-picky things.

I gained entry to the Berlin Marathon via Marathon Tours - it was my second time using the service for an international race (London Marathon 2015) and once again, they didn't disappoint. Great hotel, super close to the start, solid value.

Expo and packet pick up were pretty smooth, I have to say. Bib pickup was super easy and fast, and the expo was pretty solid despite the Adidas booth being a total madhouse of people looking to get their hands on official race swag.

Race day morning was easy as pie - start line was super mellow, easy entry into our corrals, and because our hotel was so close to the start we were able to jog to the corrals. To be able to do this at a major marathon is a real treat.

Race course is SUPER flat and no 180 turns like London, and weather cooperated so it was set up to be a great day. Aid stations were full of helpful volunteers, but they had sport drink positioned after the water, meaning if you drank some of the Powerade, you couldn't rinse out the taste until the next aid station. This is a pretty big pet peeve of mine, and I'm really surprised the race ordered the drinks that way. Also - plastic cups! Gah - so much harder to drink from than paper!

Crowds at the race were surprisingly thin - fewer spectators than, say, a Chicago or London. Even at mile 25 - which is admittedly not a scenic part of the city - there were hardly any spectators. If you really rely on or are expecting huge crowds to carry you through the race, you might be underwhelmed here. Doesn't matter a ton to me, but I was surprised so wanted to note it.

SWAG bags were pretty damn solid. Full bottle of sport drink, dried apricots, body wash, and other odds and ends. Overall race management was top notch and the whole event went off without a hitch. I didn't order a t-shirt because race shirts rarely fit me, but the medal was pretty darn cool with a sweet engraving of the Brandenburg Gate and a German flag-colored ribbon.

As for my race - it was another missed goal but still walked away with a PR so definitely can't complain there. Just seemed to run out of steam by 18 and it was a battle from there. The finish line past the Brandenburg Gate is extremely cool, and is definitely an amazing way to finish a marathon!

Loading Comments...

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"3 PTS Summer races!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This year I was able to make 3 of of the 5 Portland Trail Series (PTS) races, and they were as good as ever. Lots of up and down, good diversity of trails and elevation gain/loss, sweet giveaways after each race (though somehow I was shut out each time!). Seriously, these races are just very cool. Amazing atmosphere, tons of people (and competition in the summer!), great attitudes all around, and you just can't beat Forest Park for the setting.
My races went pretty well this year. I came in 2nd place the first race I ran, 4th place in the 2nd race I ran, and 1st place in the last race I ran. Every week was a crew of super fast guys, and the lead pack was bigger and off to a speedier start each time. Some really fast guys would drive in all the way from Astoria, and when they were on, they were ON. Made for some very cool rivalries while also maintaining the super fun, lighthearted feel of the PTS. Can't wait to jump into a few more of these - hopefully in the Fall, but def next spring.
Highly Recommend!

Pic is from my last race - it was a double loop and you had to pick up a GU and show it at the end to prove you did both laps. Here's Todd, the RD, handing me my GU as I try to catch the guy in front of me!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"Brutiful indeed!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

They said this course would be "brutiful," and man, they weren't kidding. My watch showed 5,600 feet of elevation gained, but the course was basically a 32 mile ramp, meaning there was precious little downhill. I've run ultras with way more gain, but this course felt harder.

Here's my Strava reading for those interested - you'll see what I mean by the "ramp." https://www.strava.com/activities/607253631/overview

The race itself was stunning - starting at the halfway point of the 100K. I'd never been to Umpqua State Park, and it's absurdly beautiful. The course follows the Umpqua river for long stretches, providing runners with views of crystal clear water, tons of waterfalls, and striking forest. The waterfall you see at mile 29 is as big and captivating as any I've seen, and then you're treated to another badass waterfall about 2 miles later - great lift at the end of a tough race. There were only 4 aid stations, but I didn't feel like I needed more.

The course was very well marked, and this was the first ultra in years where I didn't go off course. Go Beyond Racing always has fantastic swag, and I loved my finisher's pint glass (the ones with the inward turned brim - kinda shaped like a can - are so cool, and that's what everyone got). They also had a ton of sweet prizes for the winners and lots of raffle prizes for everyone. Post race scene was relaxed, as trail races are supposed to be, with finishers and fans just hanging out in the warm (but not hot) sun, overlooking Lemlo Lake and the snow-capped mountains beyond, drinking beer and eating. Seriously, everywhere you turn throughout this race you are treated to just stunning scenery, and the post race vibe fit perfectly.

My race didn't go all that well, but thankfully the course did not discriminate when dishing out punishment, so I was able to hang on to fourth place in the end. I was with the leaders for a brief couple of miles and eventually let them go when the pace got too hot. Speaking of hot, temps were pretty high (high 60s by the end), but most of the course is run through forested valleys, so there was a ton of cover and temperature was never a factor. It was quite comfortable on course. Anyway, I was determined to run my race, to run within myself, and to hopefully reel in one or two of the leaders before the end.

Haha - there was absolutely no reeling to be done. They left me at mile 4 and I never saw them again. I was moving well, saw my awesome crew (Julia and Dylan) at 13 and they told me I was 5 minutes back. Great - felt good, was moving well, but that didn't last. By 18 I was walking FREQUENTLY, running when I could, and trying to keep my head on straight. I was waiting for runners behind to overtake me, but that never happened. Clearly, I wasn't the only one reduced to frequent walking/hiking.

I was pretty well trained for this race, with lots of trails and hills in my prep, but I was nowhere near ready for this course. Very challenging, but equally beautiful and definitely worthwhile. Another Go Beyond Racing race that I'd recommend!

(pic below is me and my friend Matt, who came in from Chi to run. Check out that pint glass! =D)

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"Scenery, support, and amazing post-race. So much fun!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was an absolutely gorgeous race and the organizers did a great job putting on the event. They also have a 100K distance that takes place the weekend before, which I think is a really good idea. The trail is just not very wide, so separating the two races makes a lot of sense.

First - the good, because there's a lot more of it than bad. This race is a lottery entry, and the whole sign-up process was very straightforward. I know one of my friends who was selected but got hurt was able to cancel or defer his race for a small fee, so it's really nice they provide that option.

Communication leading up to race day was very clear, which was really important because all runners had to check in at the finish line and then get bussed to the start. Like I said, really clear, comprehensive info for runners and spectators, so everything went off without a hitch.

Once the race got underway, it was nothing but stunning scenery, challenging hills and very technical (rocky) terrain. Make no mistake, this course is extremely rocky, and just running dirt trails to prepare is not enough. You need to make sure your ankles are used to running for a long period of time on very unstable footing. I was lucky enough to live close to the Gorge so was able to train on the actual course a few times, and I'm really glad I did. No way my ankles/calves would have held up otherwise.

Aid stations were great. Raucous crowds at the first two (which were the only places spectators were allowed other than the start and finish), and the third was quieter because no spectators but lots of food/fuel and really helpful volunteers. I was actually the first runner to come into aid station 1 and 2, and there were some elite pro runners in the field behind me so I think everyone was, um, confused to see me first :). But they showed their confusion by cheering like crazy which was amazing!

Finish party was pretty much a 10. Large camp ground at the base of the Gorge bluffs, surrounded by incredible scenery, TONS of food - fresh made brick oven pizzas, made on site (throwing the dough and everything =D), sandwiches, veggie snacks, PIE (omg so much pie) and anything you could want to drink, including two kegs from a local brewery. They also had an awesome local bluegrass band, which really added to the atmosphere. This was a minimal waste race, so there were no cups at the aid stations or post party, which I appreciated. It's really not hard for people to bring their own cups.

Temps were amazing - about 50/55 at the start, 65/70 at the end, and a good amount of cover on course so I never got all that hot. I sweat and drank a lot more water than planned, but was never at risk of over-heating.

Race director high-fiving everyone who came across the line which is always a cool touch. I think there were about 350 people who registered for the race.

There wasn't a t-shirt or medal, because they put those costs into the post race party which I actually really like. I'd go with a bigger post-race set up than just getting another shirt, so I counted post-race and aid-stations - which were so good - as the SWAG.

I did have a few areas of criticism. First - I thought the marking on the course was too thin/infrequent. They did a great job of marking intersections, but as with a lot of other trail races, I don't think they did a great job of adding "reassuring" markers. Meaning, let me know I'm on the right path, not just went to turn right or left. At the beginning the RD said "if you haven't seen a marker in a mile or two, you should turn around." A mile or two is too big of a gap. It's just really tough to run hard when you are constantly second guessing whether or not you're on the right trail. I went off course for a little while, not because an intersection was poorly marked (see below), but it doesn't help that there's no way to know you're on the wrong course if the right course doesn't have frequent reassuring markers. It's a horrible feeling to think you're off course and I got it a lot during this race. I talked to at least two other runners who said the same thing.

The reason I went off course has to do with my biggest peeve about the race - the crowds. The Gorge/waterfalls tourists and hikers made this a very crowded race. And the hikers have no idea they are in your way or that a race is even happening. So there's a lot of crowding and confusion, which can lead to altercations very easily (i.e. runners mad that idiot hikers don't have their dogs on a leash, for example). The RD mentioned an "interaction" between a runner and hiker during the 100K race, and I'm not surprised. The reason I think went off-course is because there were so many hikers coming up the hill, going down the hill, and stopped to let others pass, that I think they blocked my marker and I went left instead of right. To say this was frustrating would be quite an understatement.

Ultimately - this race is definitely worth doing. Scenery is simply phenomenal, it's very challenging, and a very well-organized race. 95% of what the race can control, they do a great job with (they can't help it that hikers/tourists crowd the course). Just would like to see more marking ribbon on course.

My Race
I went into this race knowing there'd be a stacked field with some really fast runners. I went out with the lead group and kind of followed them for the first 8 miles. Then I moved to the front and basically tried to make a big move - the other two leaders are both professional runners, one of them absolutely world class (two time Leadville winner, etc) - and I thought maybe I could get and stay away. So I led from mile 8 to 18, but after the 2nd aid station those guys showed what they were made of, took the lead on the road, and I never saw them again. Maybe I could have finished close to the 2nd place guy if I hadn't gone off course, but what can you do.

I ended up with 3rd place, and my main goal throughout training was to podium, so that felt really good. It was really fun to run with insanely talented guys like that on an absolutely beautiful course. And the top three finishers got free growlers! Overall, a fantastic day.

Loading Comments...

Login or sign up to leave a comment.