2014 Shamrock Run 8K – Portland, OR – March 16, 2014

The Shamrock Run is a Portland institution.  The race has been run for at least 35 years based on some of the shirts I saw, I’m not sure exactly what anniversary this year was, but it’s been around for a while.  An announced attendance of 35,000 runners puts it on par with a Disney or Rock and Roll series race.  Thankfully unlike the half marathons we weren’t all hitting the road at the same time.  The Shamrock is comprised of 3 races, a 15K (9 miles) an 8K (5 miles) and a 5K.  According to the announcer there were 11,000 for the 15K, 8,000 for the 8K and 12,000 for the 5K run, plus several thousand for the 5K walk and 500 or so for the kids dash.  It was quite a crowd.

I was originally signed up for the 15K but thanks to nasty weather and another round of knee ailments I wasn’t able to get my training up to where I felt comfortable trying for 9 miles when the most Lisa and I had done recently was just under 5.  Since all of the races cost the same I was able to drop down to the 8K rather easily, no transfer fee although no refund for a shorter distance either.  Part of the reason I wanted to run the 15K was both for the challenge, and also $42 is an awful lot to spend on a 5K.  It needed to be worth it to me.  Lisa was unable to join me for this one due to church obligations and so I was running this one solo.

Based on the success of taking the Max train into downtown for our New Years run, I decided to do the same thing for this race and let me tell you, that took so much stress away.  Downtown is bad enough to try to navigate and park much less when there are roads closed and 40,000+ people milling about.  The Max was a great decision!

My Garmin decided to die before the race even started, so I don’t have my own route map from the GPS, but here is the official race route map from the race website.  The majority of the race was along the waterfront and then up into the Northwest Industrial district.  Not very scenic on the way out, but on the way back we were greeted with a vista of downtown and the Fremont Bridge. On the way back we cut through the Pearl and then down Broadway back to the waterfront running through the heart of downtown and past the Pioneer Square.  It was a great way to end a race.



Since my Garmin wasn’t working I had no idea what my time or pace was.  I missed Mile 1 and was really beginning to question how far we had been when I saw the marker for Mile 2.  We reached the turn around and the water stop and suddenly we were halfway done! When I reached the finish the clock said 1:20 but they started us with a “release and hold” system, not exactly like corrals, but close.  They let a certain amount of people go and then stopped us to let those people spread out and head out before letting the next batch go.  But, we had to wait for an extended period of time while we waited for an Amtrak train that was crossing our path up ahead.  The gentleman behind me mentioned something about how long the wait was and that it had been 15 minutes since the original start.  I figured I had run something around 1:05, which I would have been perfectly happy with.  As it turned out, when I looked up my official time it was just barely over an hour, in fact it was one hour, one minute and one second.  1:01:01 was my official time. I’m very pleased with this time considering what my training regimen has been lately (non-existent).

After the race I got my free beer and my free cup of smoked salmon chowder (which was incredible!!) hopped on the Max to come home and no muss, no fuss I was home and taking a shower less than an hour after I finished.  I could get used to this.

2014 Shamrock Run – Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!



Foot Traffic Holiday Half – Portland, OR – Dec 15, 2013

After having met while training for half marathons and having run 7 other races between the two of us, Lisa and I finally got to run a half marathon together.  After I moved out to Portland Oregon in June we looked for a race that would give me time to get settled and plenty of time to train together and the Holiday Half fit the bill nicely!

The Holiday Half would be my third half marathon this year (6 total) and also Lisa’s third total half, all three from this year.  I was excited to run my first half marathon in the state of Oregon and also the city of Portland.  The course started at the Adidas campus in Northeast Portland and headed north along the bluff and up through St Johns and under the St Johns bridge and back in a pretty straight out and back.  The route was about as flat as you could get and still be within the city itself and the weather, while not great, was about the best we could ask for.  It was quite cold, starting out in the 30s and warming up to the 40s but the weekend before had seen lows in the teens and highs in the 20s so this felt downright hot by comparison!

The race started a little after 8AM complete with a Santa and fake snow.  Despite being a small race (approx 2500) it was very crowded at the start.  We were weaving through some neighborhoods while we made our way to the big main road that would take us along the bluff and back.  Our first two miles were a little slow at 12:43 and 12:30, although this was faster than most of my training runs.  At mile 3 we really hit our stride with mile times of 12:03, 12:15 (20:15 with an 8 minute bathroom wait), 11:57 and 12:02.  Everything felt good at the time, but in hindsight this may have been a little quick.

At about mile 6 we ran under the St John’s bridge and there was a group of singers there singing carols (one of whom Lisa knew!) and the acoustics under the bridge were amazing.  It sounded great and what a uplifting moment to push us on.   The route included a cutoff section on the return trip, so the turn around point was a little beyond halfway at a little over 7 miles.   We had slowed down a little but still were cruising along with miles 7-9 at 12:20, 12:45 and 12:59.  Right at mile 9 we stopped to take our gels, taking the ones that were offered on the course.  This stop cost us a few seconds and mile 10 was 13:55.  We got some of that back, but not all, in mile 11 at 13:12 and then that’s where things starting going bad.

Towards the end of mile 11 I could feel my legs starting to twitch and convulse a little but they weren’t cramping.  I got very tired and had to stop and walk for just a few minutes to rest and catch my breath.  At the mile 12 marker we started running again but sadly that didn’t last long.  At about 12.5 miles both of my calves cramped up so bad it stopped me in my tracks and I shuffled to a walk.  After a while the pain in my calves eased but it moved up to above my knees.  At this point even walking was extremely painful.  We stopped very close to mile 13 for me to stretch a little bit and then continued on.  We turned the corner and could see the finish line and the pain in my legs had eased enough to try to run to the finish but halfway there I cramped up again and limped to the finish line.

We finished at exactly 3 hours.  Not the best time for either of us but a long shot, but not our worst either.

It wasn’t a great experience, but we finished it and gutted it out.  There were some issues that probably led to my problems so I’ll try to work on that in the future.










Took home a nice medal for finishing!

Cause + Event 10K, Portland Oregon – Nov 16th, 2013

A little over a week ago Lisa and I ran a 10K together, which was not only my first race in the state of Oregon, but also benefited a cause near and dear to her heart, Camp Lutherwood, which is a camp for pre-teens up to high school age down near Eugene.  But, the unique thing about this race was the fact that it didn’t just benefit Camp Lutherwood, it actually benefited about 20 different charities who went through an application process and were chosen to benefit.  Now, here’s the cool part.  WE as runners chose which charity our money went to and so 100% of OUR registration (proceeds minus cost) went to Camp Lutherwood.  Sure, if the money had been split equally it may have been a better windfall for some of the smaller charities, but the “causes” that drew a bigger crowd of course raised more money.  We had about 10 people or so (that I know of) who were running for Camp Lutherwood, so they probably only picked up about $200 but hey, that’s $200 they didn’t have.

The course was laid out in a large plus sign shape in the Bethany neighborhood of Portland which is on the west side of the river almost out to the Beaverton/Hillsboro area.  The course started and finished at a shopping center, and then traveled a short distance up and down one of the main roads in that area.  The main part of the course was along a greenway which crossed that road.  We started on a short jaunt to the right side out and back, and then circled around to the other side (so, still a right turn but to the left from where we originally started) another leg of the greenway that was about twice as long as the first stretch, so this was the majority of the race going from about mile 2.5 till a little past mile 5.  The 5K that was running along with us (started 10 minutes after us) came down the main road and then only took the left onto the long stretch of the greenway.  This became problematic for those of us in the back of the 10K crowd since not only did we have some of the slower 5Ker’s in front of us that we had to navigate around, but we also had some of the faster (but still walking) 5Ker’s coming back at us from the other direction.  This wasn’t a problem at first, but then as the front runners of the 10K started coming through and they had to navigate around the 5Kers in front of them along with 5K and 10Kers in the opposite direction things got dicey in a hurry.  Thankfully there was only a short stretch of this.  We reached the 5K turn around point and we kept going and once again had the course to ourselves.  By the time we reached the 10K finish and turned around most of the 5Kers were done and we didn’t have too much trouble on the rest of the way.

In true Portland fashion it rained on us the whole time we were running and then the sun and blue sky came out as soon as we were done. It wasn’t awful, and didn’t rain too hard, but just sprinkled most of the way.  We both complained a few times of when a rain drop just managed to catch us square in the eye.

We finished the race in 1:17:25 which ended up to be dead on a 12:30 pace.  This was a decent pace for Lisa (although she’s had some speedy runs lately) and it was for me a much faster pace than any of my recent training runs.  This was a great finish and very encouraging as we continue our half marathon training.

We also got a cool medal! (We had to pay extra for it, but only $5 or so, and totally worth it, it’s huge and solid and really nice!)


Coffee Culture

I’ve sort of forgotten about my blog here recently as I’m still trying to find work and a place to live and get settled here in Portland.  I’m sure all four of my readers are very upset at this.  I apologize.

It’s very much cliched that the Pacific Northwest is a heavy coffee culture.  Like most cliches, there is a strong ring of truth to it.  People here love their coffee.  People are loyal to certain brands, certain coffee shops and certain baristas.  I think I mentioned in an earlier blog post that it surprises me that the “chain” stores like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best can stay in business since everyone seems to prefer their local corner shop, but apparently they do well enough.

Lisa and I got coffee yesterday evening while we were grocery shopping, jet lag for her and just a lack of caffeine for me, interestingly at a Starbucks, since that was what was available in the store, and Lisa was beside herself giddy that I ordered my coffee with no room for cream.  She said she takes enormous pride in the fact that she has (quickly) converted me to a black coffee drinker.  A combination of “pressure” from her (not really), my desire to try things, and I think the largest part is, access to fresh, good quality coffee, have contributed to this transition.  My first cup of black coffee was at Lisa’s favorite shop Rain or Shine at the corner of 60th and Division.  The store allows you to pre-order refills and knowing we were going to be there a while I ordered two cups.  They had two styles of coffee to offer and I just picked one at random and made my normal cup with milk and simple syrup.  When it came time for the second cup I wanted to try the other style and I figured if I wanted to taste the difference I should try it with nothing in it.  I figured if I didn’t like it I could take a few sips and then add the stuff to it.  Well, I ended up not needing it.  The coffee was mild and smooth, not bitter at all, and even had a little bit of natural sweetness.  Now when I go back to Rain or Shine, this is the coffee I get and it doesn’t need anything added to it.

The coffee in question that blew me away was the El Salvador coffee from Portland Roasting.  Portland Roasting, along with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, is one of several local coffee roasters that hail from the Portland area.  The fact that the coffee was roasted fresh only a few days ago and shipped locally, rather than sitting in a can on a grocery store shelf since God knows when makes all the difference in the world!  This is not Folgers.  Some coffee shops, such as the Water Avenue Coffee Company and McMenamin’s roast their own coffees in house.  The smaller local places also create a relationship with the farmers and know exactly where their coffee comes from.  Some of them will even pay a premium for a farmer to grow and supply coffee beans ONLY to them.  Higher quality coffee and higher pay for the farmers is a win-win all around.  Dealing directly with the farmers also ensures the farmers are actually getting paid and not getting ripped off by a middle man or distribution company.

On the other side of that coin of course is the fancy, expensive espresso based drinks like mochas and lattes.  Lisa doesn’t drink these very often, but I occasionally indulge.  I like a good mocha from time to time.  One of the first mochas I ever had was from a coffee stand in EPCOT and it had such a strong flavor of chocolate that I couldn’t even taste the coffee, which at the time I liked it that way.  Lisa says around here that’s just known as hot chocolate.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a couple other mochas and they’ve run the gamut of being very chocolatey and dressed up with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, down to the traditional drink with foam only and just a slight chocolate flavor on top of the espresso.  The mocha I had at Water Avenue (which I wish now I had taken a picture of, but that just seemed very out of sorts) kept the design in the foam all the way down to the last sip, which is a sign of a perfectly pulled espresso and well made foam.  It was delicious, and it was the one previously mentioned that only had a slight chocolate flavor, you could still very much taste the coffee.

I still don’t see any point to drink the godawful iced whatever stuff from Starbucks that’s laced with sugar syrups and milk and 2000 calories, but a good traditional mocha or latte or cappuccino can be a nice treat without breaking the waistline.  100 calories or so for the added milk is really all you’re looking at.

And yes… if you walk into a non-Starbucks and try to order a “Frappaccino” which is a nonsense drink that doesn’t exist, yes they will laugh you out the door.  For example, a macchiato is a cup of espresso with a very small amount of milk.  This will be served to you hot and in a small cup.  What they call a macchiato at Starbucks is some monstrous iced thing with milk and whipped cream and who knows what else.  Lisa’s barista friend Jeremy says depending on how nice you are, he may give you exactly what you order (which is not what they are trying to order) or he may give you what you really want, which is actually an iced caramel latte.

So when you come to the Pacific Northwest make sure to try some good fresh local coffee! You’ll be glad you did.

Portland Food Scene

Portland is a food lover’s haven.  Whether you are looking for something healthy like grilled fish and veggies, or something decadent like poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy), Portland has you covered.  Any sort of special dietary needs, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, kosher, halal, nut allergies etc and Portland has you covered.  Any kind of ethnicity you can think of, to the standard Greek, Chinese, Mexican, to some that I have never seen before like Peruvian and Lebanese and ironically enough even “Southern” and Cajun/Creole.  I’ve yet to try the “Soul Food”/”Southern” to see how it stacks up to the real thing.   Here is just a slight taste of some of the good eats I’ve tried in the two weeks I’ve been here.

Food Carts:

There are food carts/food trucks EVERYWHERE in Portland serving everything from Crepes to Cajun.  I’ve been to three so far.  The first two were in the same place off of 12th Avenue.  We couldn’t decide what we wanted so we got some different stuff to try.  First from a cart called Potato Champion we got an order of Poutine which I’ve always wanted to try. It was really good, but the gravy was a little thin, I would have been perfectly happy with just the fries and cheese curds.  The fries were some of the best I’ve ever had.  Then, from a cart called Pyro Pizza we got a wood fired four cheese pizza with a paper thin crust.  It was amazing, and totally worth the 20 minutes we had to wait for it (we were eating our fries anyway).  The third cart we ate at was in Downtown at the Saturday Market and it was called A Taste of Poland, and that’s exactly what I got.  They offered several different sampler platters and the one I got came with pirogis, potato pancakes, a kielbasa link, and chicken meatballs.  My only complaint was they forgot to put the applesauce on my potato pancakes but they were good with the sour cream that came with it.  It was amazing!


Burgerville is a fast food burger chain here in the Northwest, most of their locations are centered around Portland.  What makes them different from your typical chain is that they source everything locally.  They use local grown beef for their burgers, Tillamook cheese and local veggies.  They offer seasonal specials based on what’s in season, which right now is strawberries.  They also offer some special items such as a turkey burger, a veggie burger, and a gluten free bun is available.  They also compost and recycle most if not all of their waste.  (Commercial curbside composting is available in many places in Portland alongside trash and recycling which is something I had never seen before).


McMenamins is another chain, if you can call them that, of casual restaurant/bar locations here in Portland.  The reason I hesitate to call them a chain is, while they have many locations, they are all different and have their own flair.  They’ve taken over several old theaters, one that plays movies where you can eat dinner while you watch the movie, and one that hosts live music concerts.  They’ve turned several old buildings (including a former school) into hotels that they run along with their pubs.  In true Portland fashion, they also have several breweries and they brew their own beers.  The different locations will stock different beers as well as rotating seasonals so it certainly behooves you to visit as many of the locations as you can.  So far Lisa and I have been to two different ones.  One in Clackamas off Sunnyside road, which is a standard strip mall restaurant location, and then the one in Oregon City which we’ve been to multiple times.  I don’t know what the Oregon City location used to be, but the porcelain in the men’s room is dated 1919 (which is a copyright date and may not be when it was actually made, but it’s still old!).


If you love coffee, Portland is the place to be.  Sure they have chains like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, but who needs those?  There are HUNDREDS of independent coffee shops around town.  There is quite literally one on every corner.  Portlanders, like those in her sister city of Seattle, love their coffee and are damn serious about it.  I’m honestly surprised the mega chains like Starbucks stay in business but I guess enough people go there to keep them afloat.  Lisa loves coffee and so we’ve already stopped at 3 or 4 different spots while we were out and about.  I’m not a huge coffee drinker, usually just a cup in the morning, but I’ve always dressed my coffee up with cream and sugar since (like beer and other things) the bitterness of coffee takes some getting used to.  Since I’ve been here there’s been several occasions where I’ve drunk my coffee black since getting actual fresh coffee that was roasted 3 days ago and ground that morning is such a HUGE difference to coffee that has sat in a grocery store shelf for 6 months.  The coffee is mild and even slightly sweet, with almost no bitterness at all.  Also, if you are in a hurry (as most people are) dotting the roads everywhere (even out in tiny Canby) are drive through espresso stands.  There’s one in the parking lot of pretty much every grocery store and strip mall and some just on a pull off on the side of the road.  I used to make fun of the people who would pay 4 to 5 bucks for a coffee drink, but I have to admit, every once in a while I have to get a mocha because they are just SO good.  Now I get what the fuss is about.  And the mocha’s here, even with the chocolate you can still taste the coffee, unlike the “warm chocolate milk” mocha I got at EPCOT, or as Lisa would say “Around here we call that hot chocolate.”  A lot of the local shops carry either Stumptown Roasters coffee or Portland Roasters coffee, both of which are very good, and sometimes you stumble into a shop (like we did at the Water Avenue Coffee Co.) that roasts their own in house!

Grocery Store Produce:

I haven’t done a whole lot of grocery shopping yet but I’ve noticed a few things in the produce aisle that has caught my attention.  Lisa and I were discussing some of the things and it makes sense, but it’s still shocking to see the major differences.  Bananas here are about twice as expensive as in NC (still only 64 cents a pound, but I’m used to 35-40 cents a pound), but offsetting that, the apples are WAY cheaper.  The “plain” varieties like red delicious, granny smith, etc are 99 cents a pound, and fancy varieties like Fuji and Gala are $1.49-$1.99 a pound.  Lisa got some organic Fuji apples for something like $2.49 a pound which is cheaper than I’ve paid for non-organic apples back in NC.  I’ve never seen apples for under 2 dollars a pound much less under a dollar a pound! Considering most of the apples come from Washington state, this makes perfect sense.  I’ll probably never have to worry about running into apples from Chile around here! Strawberries here are also way cheaper.  The 8oz packs are about two dollars, which would have run 4-5 dollars at home unless they were on special.  The strawberries come mostly from California, so this also makes sense as being close.  The Williamette valley is home to berry central, so they have a huge variety of berries grown locally including raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and local cultivars of Boysenberries and Marion berries which only grow around here.


Of course, it wouldn’t be Beervana without beer right? There are so many micro/small brewers around here it will make your head spin.  There’s quite a few brewpubs where you can only get the beer on tap at the place it’s made, there’s also a few that are big enough to ship nationwide (Rogue Ales and Full Sail to name two) but are still independently owned.  So far I’ve tried beer from Full Sail (which I got back in NC), Portland Brewing Company (Brown ale and McTarnahan’s amber), McMenamins who make their own I’ve tried several off, had a taster tray at Rogue Ales which included a hefewiezen, brown ale, amber ale and nitro stout.  Lisa, Lexie and I went to a place called Roscoe’s which had a very cool set up.  They had 16 beers on tap, but they only had one keg of each so once it was gone it was gone, and they tapped a new one, so the beer selection is constantly rotating. The happy hour food is great and dirt cheap.  The beer I got there was a belgian Dubbel and I recognized the brewers name, but now I can’t remember it.  Next up on the list of places I want to try are the Hopworks Urban Brewery which makes organic beer (and from what I hear amazing food), Sasquatch Brewing company just because it’s cool and several others.

So there you have it.. come visit Portland and Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.