Editors Note: This is Casey’s first entry on TWW and we had a few problems with the pictures. After getting everything figured out we have finally thrown up the post, a couple of weeks late but whatever. Thanks to Casey for a great article and providing a constant source of humor for the entire weekend.
I apologize for the tardiness of my little contribution here. The coffin races were a couple of weekends ago, but I prefer to think of it as timely considering that it should help everyone get in a festive mood for the fall.
The weekend of October 24th was the 15th annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade. It’s awesome that the weirdest part of that sentence is that this town has done this 14 times before. Hopefully the research and archives staff at TWW can provide an informative explanation of how the event came about because even now I have no idea why this happens. First of all, I realized quickly that it was no coincidence that I would experience this thing for the first time by getting woken up by a one eyed black cat licking my face. An hour later I vomited at the top of Manitou’s famous Incline in front of a lovely couple and some high schoolers. I was wondering why I had gotten out of bed at all and this was before we had even set foot in the town. Here is what we walked into once we finally made it. Continue reading
The Golden Leaf Half Marathon embodies everything we look for in a race: it’s challenging, it is well organized, it has a great goody bag, it showcases the best attributes of a town and the scenery is unbelievable. Aspen is a town that is often overwhelmed by its money and mystique, hiding the vibrant locals scene beneath the fur, expensive ski equipment and ridiculous cars that the seasonal residents rock. The Golden Leaf is great because its during the off season, when the locals come out to play and Aspen seems more like a real town instead of the land that rich people built. The best part of the race is the completely local vibe that permeates the whole event. Aspenites hand out the timing chips, man the water stations and dot the course to cheer everyone on. The finish line is a party where Aspen residents come to hang out with the runners, eat lunch and celebrate the race and the fall season. Once the sun sets the bars start packing with race participants and locals, making the whole day one large celebration of running that the whole town gets in to. Very, very fun. Continue reading
I think its odd that Dunkin’ Donuts is such a huge purveyor of coffee on the East Coast. I was in Boston for a wedding last winter, and was intent on finding a good source to feed my bean addiction. I usually default to Starbucks in such situations, but a lot of people in town kept pointing me towards Dunkin’ Donuts and I felt obliged to check it out. I generally associate Dunkin’ Donuts with giant pieces of sugared carbs (donuts) and giant customers eager to eat anything that looks shiny (America). However, the joint actually has some decent coffee. Nothing near the level of the Portland coffee scene but it definitely hit the spot. Note – for some reason the Dunkin’ staff inists on putting in the cream and sugar for you, so if you are picky about how you dress up the bean make sure to ask for it black so you can do it yourself. I was thinking about coffee when I first rode Larch Mountain because in the fog and rain that was my companion for most of the ride, coffee sounded like a great way to stay motivated. As with many days in Portland, sun and blue skies in the city does not translate to good weather in the Gorge.
I found Larch Mountain through a brochure in a local bike shop advertising the Larch Mountain Hill Climb and decided to check out the course. I have been looking for great climbs since moving to Portland, and Larch Mountain has quickly become one of my favorites. The road ascends through thick Pine forests, slowly gaining altitude over its 16+ miles until the last few miles where the road begins a series of switchbacks. I usually start at Corbett High School and ride along SE Crown Point Highway, from there I bear right onto Larch Mountain and churn for the next 14 miles. The road will eventually dead end in a parking lot. If you dismount and walk on the concrete path that veers into the forest it will bring you to an amazing view of the Cascades. The descent is a blast; it’s fast and easily navigable. The best views are on the way down; wide open vistas of the Columbia River and the Gorge. Larch Mountain is one of those “only in the Northwest” type of rides – a great reminder of why Portland is such a great place to be.
Distance: 16.40 miles from Corbett High School to the Summit
Directions: from Portland take I-84 East to exit 22. Take a right onto NE Corbett Hill Road
From Portland: I-84 to exit 22 and take a right onto NE Corbett Hill Rd. Follow this road to the road up the hill and you will come to an intersection with E. Historic Columbia River Highway. Take another right on this road and Corbett High School will be on your left. Park here, gear up and then head West on E. Historic Columbia River Highway for about 2.25 miles before bearing right onto E. Larch Mountain Road. Stay on E. Larch Mountain until you reach the summit, 14.15 miles later.
Note: The beginning of NE Corbett Hill Road is incredibly steep, and I’ve heard of a lot of cyclists using it as a training ride. My only aversion is that there are a lot of blind corners, and a lot of cars, so be careful with this one.
This entry is not really in line with the rest of the site, but I thought it was a fun event that definitely qualified as a “race” on some level. Manitou Springs is a weird town, and it’s only fitting that it hosts one of the weirdest races that I have ever done: The Emma Crawford Coffin Races.
Emma was a resident of the town who moved to Manitou for her tuberculosis. Unfortunately she passed away, and was buried in a grave on top of Red Mountain. During a heavy rainstorm her coffin was washed back into town. And now we celebrate that journey, and her life, with the coffin races.
This is the basic setup of the event: a bunch of people get in crazy costumes, bring their custom coffins to town, strap some numbers on, place their “Emma” in the coffin and then race 2 at a time down Manitou Avenue for 250 yards. Oh, and there is a hearse parade and prizes for the best “Emma.” Our coffin did not do as well as we wanted (30 something out of 40+), but we had a great time, and managed not to take anybody out in the crowd, which was a moral victory.
Thanks to Kristian for the picture.
Building a road to the top of a 14,000 plus foot mountain is, to me, a quintessential American endeavor. Where else would someone expend hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of labor to build a road up a mountain, so that we can drive, instead of hike, to the top of a mountain?
The Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hillclimb takes advantage of the road that winds to the top of Mt. Evans. Beginning in Idaho Springs, CO, the road, classified as a scenic byway, winds 27.5 miles to the top, gaining 6580 ft. in elevation from the beginning of the race to the finish line. The race is divided into categories, and features a group start that sticks together for about 6 miles until the elevation gain starts to separate everyone. I’ve found that the key to the race is to stick with the pack for as long as possible, and then hook into a pace line for the remainder. The beginning of the race, all the way up to Echo Lake is fairly gradual. Once you get above treeline the wind kicks in, making a pace line essential. The steepest part of the course is about the last three miles, where a series of switchbacks kick in.
Mt. Evans is one of my favorite races, although I am conflicted about it. On one hand we are racing up a road that has cut a huge scar through some of the best scenery in Colorado. The race fees don’t go toward any sort of forest management or conservation programs. On the other, the road is there, so why not take advantage of it?
With my subscription to Outside Magazine comes a weird predilection for trying to attempt every training program that is included. Among those recently was a half-marathon training schedule used by Olympian runner Ryan Hall’s coach. The schedule has a great mix of short distance speed work mixed in with longer tempo runs. I was able to stick with most of it until the end, when Spring Break and a desire to snowboard got the better of me. I definitely got faster and more confident in my running, which was a great result.
The Race for the Roses was my ultimate training goal. I was shooting for 7:00 minute miles, and ended up somewhere in the 7:24 range. Not bad for me, and a good lesson for the next time I attempt the schedule. The Race itself is a great course with a great cause attached. Race fees go toward the Albertina Kerr Center, which provides aid to children placed in foster care, and group homes for the developmentally disabled. 93% of every dollar in fees goes toward the center.
The race runs through downtown Portland, and starts and ends at the Rose Garden. Overall the course is pretty flat, and fast. The worst part for me were the long out and backs, but you definitely get to see a lot of Portland during the race.
Course map here (in PDF format)
Event website here
Portland is a great city if you love to run, and lots of people in Portland love to run. Hence, the city hosts lots of great running events throughout the year. If you are in the area around mid-March, the Shamrock Run is a race that you should definitely check out. It is one of my favorite running races, combining running, festivities and lots and lots and lots of beer.
The races comes in three flavors: a 5K, 8K or 15K. All three run through a good part of downtown and the waterfront area, so matter which one you choose you get a great urban racing experience. The crowds are typically more fun in the downtown area as well, helping to keep you motivated (or drunk). The only one I’ve managed to do so far is the 15K, which begins on Naito Parkway before winding through the Burnside area and then into downtown. From downtown the run heads through Portland State’s urban campus and then begins a long climb up Terwilliger Blvd (one of my favorite areas to run in Portland). Terwilliger is a really amazing part of Portland; lots of forest area, great biking and running areas, the Med School Stairs and wonderful views of the Cascades and downtown.
After the Terwilliger portion, the run takes a U-turn and heads back toward the city via Barbur Blvd. This part of the run is the most monotonous – long, flat and straight sections that never seem to end. However, after working your way through this, you will wind back into downtown and to the finish, which is always packed with spectators.
The event is a great celebration of Portland’s unique mix of hardcore athletes, and gonzo-urban populace. There were as many people running in costumes as there were in athletic gear. There are usually a lot of bands and street parties, and don’t forget the most important part of a St. Patrick’s Day themed race – the beer tents.
Distance: 5K, 8K or 15K options
Race Map here
Event website here