Here’s a recap of the 2013 Bald Peak Half Marathon, in which Run Oregon participated.
The Bald Peak Half Marathon was held Saturday June 22nd, and it’s rating by Race Center NW as the 4th toughest half marathon in the Pacific Northwest is well deserved.
The night before the run I had flown home from Washington DC, and didn’t get much sleep. So I wasn’t expecting to have a very energetic run, but my desire to run was greatly improved by both the weather, and the scenery.
The beginning of the race heads straight uphill – no warm up flat stretch – just right up hill. The first two miles were tougher than I had expected, and it took me a little more than 22 minutes to cover them. With about an 800 foot elevation gain, they were a hard two miles. There are several turns on the 2 miles up, and around every turn I kept thinking – oh this is where we’ll stop climbing! Eventually that does happen, but 22 minutes was a long time to keep wishing that.
After two miles there is a glorious downhill, along with a glorious view. This sequence repeated itself throughout the race and it’s really difficult to put into words how pretty the views were – a mix of the countryside, Mt St Helen’s, and Mt Hood. I stopped and took pictures often, but the camera on my phone won’t adequately capture how clear the views of the mountains were.
Just after mile 2 I met Karen. Karen is a super friendly runner visiting from California, who found the Bald Peak Half while looking for a hilly half to run while she was in the area. Miles 2-7 were very rolling, winding, often on gravel roads, either going up or going down with no really flat stretches. The course continued to be very challenging through this section. Running downhill is always surprisingly just as tough on my legs as going uphill, just not as tough on my lungs, and I could feel the fatigue in my quads settling in on each downhill. Left to run by myself, I probably would have spent a lot of time silently swearing, but over those 5 miles Karen and I chatted off and on. I really enjoyed her company, her positive attitude, and learning a little bit about her. Around mile 7 as we headed back uphill on another tough gravel stretch, I slowly pulled away – but knew I’d see her at the finish.
The second half of the run is noticeably less rolling and flattens out in some sections, and the downhill sections here are much more prevalent. There is a nice straight section for almost two miles. My splits from miles 8-12 were quite a bit faster than any from the first 7 miles – my slowest mile in the second half was 8:43. While I was moving faster, I was tired. To put it more accurately, by mile 11 my legs felt like lead.
I knew it was coming. I had looked at the elevation profile, and read the recap from last year. The race director even referred to it during some course instructions, by explaining it’s really the only way the route can go. But it didn’t fully prepare me for the climb that comes in the last half mile. A little over 300 feet of elevation gain…the hill was really steep. Steeper than the hill at the start of the race. Most people were walking up. I tried to dig in and run the entire length of the hill, but eventually I took about a 50 yard break. It was pretty punishing to try and run it. The race organizers acknowledge how tough this is, and included signs of encouragement twice on the way up!
Eventually I made it up that hill! The finish line was just after the hill, and even though this is a smaller race, runners’ names were being announced, medals were being handed out, and water was being poured. I stayed close to the finish so I could watch for Karen, and sure enough in a few minutes she crossed the finish line, (I suspect in a time worthy of an age group award) jogged up to me, and gave me a big high five.
Race volunteers were making bacon and pancakes. I didn’t eat any (it takes me a while to be hungry after hard runs) but plenty of people were wandering around with full plates. There was also the promise of a raffle – raffle tickets included in packet pickup bags – and awards, but I had been out of town all week and needed to go spend time with my teenage son and my dog, so I wasn’t able to stay long enough to see if I’d won a prize.
A quick note on other logistics: parking was easy and there was plenty of room to park, there were no real lines for either race day packet pickup / registration or for bathrooms, and there was fun music at the start of the race. The course isn’t a closed course, but compared to other races I’ve run – the drivers that passed me were all very friendly. The aid stations were a little more spread out than I am used to. They all had water and electrolyte, and volunteers were great at communicating ahead of time which was which. A small piece of advice would be to carry your own water if you require frequent hydration (the aid stations worked fine for me, but depending on the amount of time you are on the course, or just on how often you get thirsty, they might not be close enough together).
A few days later and my legs are still tired and sore, but it was worth it.