Here was how my Friday needed to shake out. The race began in Sisters at 6pm sharp. I needed to drive from Bend to Lakeview, a distance that would take about 3.5 hours. I had an engagement I needed to be at through the late morning and into the early afternoon. Then I had to drive back through Bend to Sisters, another 4 hour trip. I literally had no excess time in my day.
I got up early and hit the road to Lakeview, a beautiful drive through the “Oregon Outback”, but one painted with miles upon miles of the same landscape passing me by. I accomplished my work in Lakeview quicker (and better!) than anticipated, putting me back on the same road to Sisters with just enough time to spare. As I was pulling into Sisters, I realized that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and that if I wanted to avoid keeling over a half mile into the race, I was going to have to eat something. The end result, was a gas station pit-stop before getting my bib with a few minutes to spare.
Fueled by a Gatorade and a gas station ham sandwich (at least I think it was ham), I got ready in the lawn behind Sisters Athletic Club. The race sported a truly awesome holiday-centric start. For reasons unknown, I have always LOVED bagpipes. We all lined up behind a talented bagpiper, and walked 100 feet to the start line. Just as he finished his song, we were guided forward out onto Peterson Ridge Trail.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Central Oregon area around Sisters, there are a ton of pine trees in the back country. Like a lot. After a short run on the parking lot, we set off onto the trails just beyond the Five Pine Lodge. The trail was mostly dirt, but pine cones and stray rocks were scattered as well. While it remained flat, there was a continual rolling of up and downs along the way, as well as “to-and-fro” winding through the trees. It was very beautiful and surprisingly well-marked. While there were only 2 spots with actual volunteers over the 6+ miles, I was amazed at how I always felt I knew which way to go. The trail was pretty continuous, but in spots where there were options to veer off, minimalistic, yet still functional, flags directed us where to go.
While I was running the trails I remember thinking how much fun it would be to return to run these again, or bring my kiddos and go exploring. Something else that was going through my mind was the sense that I had no idea of how fast I was going. While we were moving and swerving through the trees, the first 2+ miles looked very similar. If I would have been GPS-less and someone had asked me to look around at any point and guess how far away from the start I was, I would not have had a clue. As a result of the trees and the winding trails, pacing became difficult. But given that I knew I was going to come nowhere near a PR, I was taking beauty and experience over pace.
And beauty is what I got. Just before mile 3, we began a rocky climb for a few minutes. There were even some short sections where we were almost in “scrambling” mode. But the view – oh my the view. Eagle Rock (which is what I believe this area is called) took us out “above” some of the trees and gave way to views of the Cascade Range and the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor. The sky was blue, the sun was getting lower in the sky, and the temperature was mild and wonderful. All of these combined for a spectacular aura. As we circled around the trail, there were views looking East and Southeast towards the Bend area and the hills and mountains in the distance. I wish now that I would have stopped running and taken some pictures. I am majorly bummed I didn’t. It wasn’t too long that I started the decline on the other side of the overlook and back into the pine forest below.
At that point, I knew it was only a matter of time until I crashed. A significantly sub-par gas station sandwich can only go so far. At about 4 miles, I could tell that my legs were not moving as fast as my brain was telling them to. They felt heavy and my feet felt numb and tired. I guess 8 hours of driving isn’t the best pre-race routine. Shocker. My pace deteriorated and I was passed by a few people who were cruising along at a steady pace. I graciously moved out of the single lane trails to let them pass, as my long day and energy depletion was no reason to keep them from finishing strong. The final few miles was more about finishing respectably and without burning myself out too much for the Portland Shamrock Run on Sunday.
For a smaller local race, it still brought out almost 50 5k and 30 10k runners. The on-site Mexican restaurant provided fresh fixings for tacos and Three Creeks Brewing poured a delicious IPA. This race made me realize a few things: 1) The lure of moving to Central Oregon is becoming stronger and stronger, 2) Sisters is a wonderful town and the support and energy of this small event was fantastic and well-organized, 3) The Sisters “Better Half ” Marathon is calling my name, and 4) Don’t ever (EVER!) eat gas station food again.
Sisters Multisport puts on 4 races throughout the year, and I highly recommend considering them for your future race calendars.
Full results from the event can be found here.