Are you like me, and the entire week leading up to a race, you are constantly checking the weather apps on your smartphone attempting to gauge what the weather conditions will be for race day? If you are guilty of this behavior like I am, then you know how discouraging it came be to see the forecast for race day look dismal, with no hope of it getting better.
That was the situation I faced coming into the Shotgun Trail Blast race on Saturday, April 5, in Marcola. The weather was just going to be plain crappy, according to the meteorologists. Knowing I had about a 45 minute drive to get to the race didn’t help either, especially having to figure out directions to place in the woods I have never been. To cheer myself up a little about the impending ‘doom’ I had distilled over the race on Saturday, I bought myself a new piece of running gear; the Patagonia Houdini trail running jacket which is simply awesome. New running gear can sure change a bad-running-mood into a happy one.
Saturday morning arrived, and the weather was cloudy but not raining. This was a good way to start the
journey from Eugene to Marcola. The drive was uneventful, and I found Shotgun Creek recreation area with zero difficulty. Parking was uneventful; super easy and tons of parking spaces. Packet pick-up was uneventful; no lines with super friendly volunteers. Even waiting for the start of the race to begin was uneventful; no long lines at the restrooms, a fireplace in the covered area for runners to get ready for their race, and being able to watch the 50k ultra runners complete their first loop of the course and pass through the transition area. I even got to see super-awesome ultra-runner Dan Olmstead cruise effortlessly through the transition area. All of this was simply awesome – uneventful race preparations for the participant is the best, stressing about race stuff is not. Level 32 Racing nailed it here.
At 10 a.m., the 25k participants began their journey on the trails. A couple minutes later, us 10k racers sprung from the start gates on our 6.2 mile journey. For the first mile (about), we ran up gravel and paved service roads, then looped back down to pass the start line. From that point forward, the remaining portion of the course was strictly on single-track trails. I knew coming into the race, from reviewing the course map for the 10k, that there would be elevation gain. Boy, was there! What seemed like close to four miles was nearly all up hill. And through this portion, on super tight single track, the 50k participants were passing us as they completed their second loop. Wish I could run as effortlessly uphill as Dan Olmstead was when he passed me. Upon reaching the top, and preparing for the descent, the sun was trying to break through the fog and clouds – it was a majestic moment.
Then, the descent began! If you haven’t read my posts in the past, know that I am a descent-junkie. My pace descending is typically in the 6:30-7:00 minute per mile pace, sometimes faster (yahoo!). I kick up the dirt behind me and say a prayer I don’t fall over the edge. Well, this time I almost did. The trail conditions were deteriorating due to the rain the week leading up to the race. This caused a perfect ‘storm’ of super-thick, gooey ‘quick-sand’ style mud. Cruising down the hill, I found my back foot sticking into the mud pretty bad. At one point, my shoe was slower than I expected releasing from the tight grip of the mud, and my forefoot planted horribly, grazing a tree stump that was covered in moss and super slippery. Having freed by back foot, it planted conveniently on some larger rocks and made my ankle twist to the side. Through all of this, I knew there was a very steep “cliff” beside me, and that was the only place I would end up if I didn’t hold it together. Thankfully, I grew up ice-skating, and participating in all sorts of sports that require really good balance. Thanks Mom, for taking me to all those skating lessons! I made it through the hurdles the trail presented at that moment, without falling, legs always on the ground, and continued my accelerated pace down the remainder of the hill. The last mile, which followed Shotgun Creek to the finish line, was mostly flat with some nice rollers.
After crossing the finish line, in traditional Level 32 Racing style, there were tons of post-race refreshments available to everyone. Plank Town Brewing Company had an IPA and porter available to try, Chapala Mexican Restaurant catered great Mexican food, and there was traditional post-race food like fruit, bagels, cream cheese, and other runner friendly refreshments. Also, as was the case prior to the start of the race, the awesome fireplace was packed with wood and keeping everyone toasty warm. As participants crossed the finish line, they were informed if they won any of the prize drawing items. Low and behold I did! I got a super cool Shotgun Trail Blast sweatshirt – thank you! Also, finishers could get a print out of their preliminary results, and awards for overall and age-group winners were handed out immediately. I really appreciate this, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in the top three for my age division, which I had really hoped I would, but there were some speed demons on the course in the 30-34 age division! Great job ladies!
The Shotgun Trail Blast was the second of six events in the Run Big Trail Series, a trail running series by Level 32 Racing. The next event, Ridgeline Ramble, will occur on Saturday, May 24, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. This race will feature 20k, 20k relay, and 10k distances.
Thanks Level 32 Racing for another excellent trail run!