Want to add a Gorge-ous event in the Pacific Northwest to next season’s race calendar? Look no further than the Bridge of the Goddess half marathon and 10k in Cascade Locks, Oregon.
Not only is it an easy, hour-long scenic drive from Portland, but it also features a safe, supported course that’s great training run for fall marathons or a destination unto itself. The course starts on the deck of Bridge of the Gods (which you may remember from the movie Wild) over the Columbia River Gorge and spirits runners away from it all along the historic Columbia River Highway Trail.
And, as it turns out, Race Director Paula Harkin wasn’t kidding when she said that. “If the inclines don’t take your breath away, the views from on high surely will.”
Because LUNA is one of the sponsors of the event, Team LUNA Chix Portland Run was invited to participate. Two of us team leaders (Nicole and me) decided to run, along with three of our community members, Anne, Katie and Debbie.
The event is only in it’s second year, but it’s gotten rave reviews for course, scenery and spirit, so we were pretty excited to check it out. Plus — nerd alert — I’ve been wanting to visit this landmark after seeing Wild, so it was a great way to do one of my favorite things: mix some sightseeing with running.
I was a tad nervous, however, since I’d be running this one with an unpredictable little stowaway in my uterus. Even though my OB cleared me to run (and even encouraged it — yay!), I haven’t done much of it over the past few months since A) I’ve been sidelined with fatigue, which is putting it mildly, and B) frankly, my favorite form of cardio hasn’t felt that great.
My longest run in the past four months has been a seven-miler during which my right hip flexor got excessively angry and after which I spent the rest of the day on the couch feeling like I was mid-marathon training and had just finished a 14-miler. And although I seemed to have turned a corner last week and finally (fingers crossed) gotten some energy back, I knew this would be a bit of an experiment.
So as we walked toward the start on the Bridge of the Gods on race morning, I had my OB’s parting words of wisdom in my head:
- Keep it conversational. After I inquired about that old keep-your-heartbeat-below-140-bpm rule, she said it’s more important to take it slow and be able to talk while working out. It makes sense — if you’re getting enough oxygen, so is the baby.
- Stay hydrated. If you’ve ever been or ever get pregnant, you’ll quickly realize that water — and getting enough of it — will quickly become the bane of your existence. Too little, and I get a headache, or enough/too much, and I am constantly in search of a restroom.
- Don’t get overheated. You want that bun in the oven fully-baked but not cooked through. Luckily, it was a nice, cool morning, and I wasn’t over-dressed, so keeping my body temperature steady wasn’t too much of a concern.
- Take in sugar throughout. Going in, I was very up front with my OB about fitness being an important part of my life. Aside from telling me to listen to my body, she’s ok with me staying active as long as I take in a steady stream of calories while doing so.
- Have fun. This is not the time to be attempting a new PR or getting crazy when the gun goes off. So I’m enjoying running with friends — not only to keep it social, but also to keep it more about completing the event than competing in it.
Nicole, Anne and I planned on running as a group at around a 10-min/mile pace, while Katie and Debbie lined up farther back in the crowd to run together. We decided to regroup at the finish to grab some food, take some pictures and see how everyone’s race went.
It was a clear morning, so the starting area (on the bridge!) made for some beautiful pictures with the Gorge as a backdrop. Although I didn’t know the entire bottom of the bridge was a see-through grate until we stepped onto it; not only did my stomach drop just looking down, but I clutched my car keys hoping that I wouldn’t lose them while we were up there.
The gun went off for the half marathon at 8 a.m., so we got to watch them take off before our 10k gun went off at 8:15 a.m. There’s a costume contest component, too, so many ladies were clad in togas as they made their way off the bridge down to the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail for an out and back.
We’d heard the course was “challenging and amazingly beautiful, well-supported and safe from traffic,” and I figured three out of four ain’t bad. Although I was interested to see what “challenging” meant, since I’ve come to find over the years that it’s a pretty subjective descriptor for races.
A few minutes later, we were off! The course began with a nice downhill that curved gently back underneath the bridge and dropped us right into the trail.
It’s a pretty well-known area; several U.S. Forest Service trails intersect this segment of the trail including the Pacific Crest Trail. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, though, although I speculated that we might be running along side the highway for the majority of the race.
Wrong! Instead, we were treated to ferns, moss-covered rocks, waterfalls and delicate, shaded wildflowers that flanked the nicely-paved trail.
And as soon as the scenery changed, so did the course from an elevation perspective. Nothing too crazy, of course, but lots of long stretches of low-grade inclines followed by low-grade descents.
And since it was an out-and-back course, we knew this meant one thing: What goes up must come down. For each uphill, we’d be treated with a downhill on the way back…and vice versa.
Over the next three miles we navigated the hills, stopping to walk through aid stations for water and Glukos, making sure we didn’t get too winded on the ascents and taking advantage of the descents. Side note: This was my first experience with Glukos, and I was impressed; it’s got a nice, mild flavor like nuun but without the fizz.
Just as we hit the turnaround point, we saw the stairs that the half marathoners would climb to get to the second portion of their course. Although I’m sure the views from the top made the trek well worth it, we were all too happy to be able to circle back and tackle the second half of the 10k (especially because I felt like I needed to pee pretty badly!).
Up and down the rolling hills we ran toward the finish in Marine Park. As we turned the final corner into the park, we could hear the music and smell the food at the festivities, and everyone gave one last push to get across the finish. Final time ~ 1:03 (my Strava said 5.6, Anne’s said 6.4 and Nicole’s said 6.2, so we went with hers).
After grabbing water and our finisher’s necklaces, we went straight into the pavilion to warm up and refuel. Well, if I’m really being honest, my first priority was to hit the restroom (thanks to BabyH bouncing around on my bladder for an hour), but then we dug into the feast of burritos, chips, salsa, fruit, cookies and beer.
On our way out, we stopped by the LUNA booth to say hello to the event team. They were passing out samples of the new Chocolate Salted Caramel protein bar, which we got a sneak peek and sample of back in March at Summit.
It’s yummy — especially if you’re in the mood for something sweet yet savory. And if you’ve got any dietary considerations to take into account, it’s gluten free and low glycemic, plus it’s got 12g protein, 3g fiber and if a good source of iron and Vitamin D.
I carry a few minis in my purse; they come in handy when I need a quick pick-me-up between meals, and they’ve come to the rescue on more than one occasion with friends who need the same!
I’m especially thankful that BabyH made it through his/her first 10k with flying colors. And I’m also looking forward to easing back into some casual racing for as long as this rekindled love affair with running-while-pregnant lasts!
For more information on the Bridge of the Goddess half marathon and 10k, visit RunwithPaula.com.