The week leading up to the Mary’s Peak 50k/25k race, race director, Mike Ripley of Oregon Trail Runs, was sending out event information to race participants. As I had just raced in the Vancouver USA Half Marathon the Sunday prior to this race (this race occurred Saturday, June 21, 2014), I was a little giddy about the prospect of running a half marathon Sunday, then a 25k trail run the following Saturday. Giddy, more accurately described as discounting my insanity, because this was my first 25k trail run.
As I prepare for the Sunriver Marathon for a Cause “Challenge Race” (one half marathon Saturday (8/30/14), another half marathon the next day on Sunday (8/31/14), I wanted to be sure to have some ridiculous (aka tough) races that forced me to get to the start line, and come across the finish line. Otherwise, if I chalked it up to “training”, I would likely make a million excuses to not get out there as much as I should. Having races makes you get out and pound the pavement, or dirt. It holds us accountable, which I appreciate and like. Never be afraid to sign up for a race to make yourself train. That might be why I am addicted to racing, right?
So here it was, Saturday, June 21 – the first day of summer officially. It was show time. I drove from Eugene to Blodgett, Oregon, about an hour and fifteen minute drive, to get to the packet pick-up and parking area. Parking was at the Blodgett church, and there was parking readily available for the 25k’ers who were arriving after the 50k ultra runners had already parked and started the race. Packet pick-up, at the Blodgett school, was super easy and fast, and I was able to pick-up my event tech t-shirt that I pre-ordered. The shirts were unisex sizing (but my race confirmation showed women’s sizing), so the size I selected was quite big on me. Long sleeve technical shirts were also available for purchase and were super sharp looking.
After putting the race goodie bag and tech shirt into my car, I headed to the porta-pottie line outside the school. The lines were short, and there was even a “ladies” pink porta-pottie, including flowers inside. A lot of ladies were pretty stoked about this concept.
About 9 a.m., two school busses arrived to pick up the 25k participants and shuttle us about 30 minutes to the start of the race in the Starker Forestry area. There was an aid station set-up here for the 50k participants who would pass through to continue the last 25k of their ultra-trail journey on the same 25k portion we were just about to embark on. Many 25k participants took this opportunity to front-load on carbs/salt/sugar and hydration prior to the race. Around 10 a.m., the race director (Mike Ripley) gathered us all together to give us some history on the Starker Forestry property that we would be running through, as well as general information about the course and aid stations. Then – it was go time!
The course can be described in a handful of ways: 1 – You were either running on single track (yes, true SINGLE track) trails, or you were running on wide logging roads. 2 – Snakes. There were a lot of snakes that I encountered on the trails and logging roads. 3 – No bears, but lots of birds with unique calls I had never heard before and some impressive sized slugs. 4 – Holy geez to the vertical climbing and super steep descending! Way more elevation gain/loss than expected. 5– Where are my aid stations!?!
So, I’ll talk about the aid stations, as this was a huge topic of conversations among finishers at the finish line. There was a lull of aid stations after the first two, with one neutral water station. The first two aid stations were super quick into the race, two before hitting about the 5 mile mark. Then … around a 10 mile lull. I was surprised that one more aid station was not put in there, as I saw a large number of 25k participants running without their own aid brought in. I brought in 10 ounces of water, and ran out after the neutral aid station. For about 4-5 miles, I was running with not a drop of nothin’. It was a tad freaky, especially with the rising temperatures as the race progressed. Volunteers were super friendly, and the choices of aid were incredible. Candy, carbs, salted foods, water, electrolytes … lots available to participants. There just needed to be another one out there for sure, it would have decreased anxiety among runners.
The course was fabulous. 25k participants were treated to a touch of Mary’s Peak and then lots of Starker Forest property. 50k racers took on the entire Mary’s Peak adventure (crazy!). Starker Forest is an area that a lot of us would never be able to experience unless we participated in this race. It is a secret gem known by few, and prior to participating in this race, I never knew it existed. Mike, the race director, has worked on these trails for (a lot!) of years, and his dedication to the trails shows very well with this race. There was a lot of climbing, and the climbing, at times, was really steep and unrelenting. You never thought you would make it to the top of the section you were tackling. Then, next thing you knew you were descending as steeply as the incline. I pride myself on my descending abilities, but I had to slow it down on some of these descents, or I would have certainly been hauled out by a medic unit if I was ever found again.
I went through a rough time on this race coming into the final aid station, which was after mile 15. At the aid station, I found out we still had 1.8 miles or so to go to the finish line, putting the 25k at over 17 miles. Traversing the final 1.8 miles, I spoke with a number of racers who wanted to throw the towel in, and I didn’t blame them, to be honest. But, the words of encouragement were flowing among us and we were able to all get to the finish line. Everyone seemed to be beaming (or should I say, cursing) about the mileage reports showing on their Garmin’s. My was on the low side – clocking in at 17.16 miles; many were showing almost 18 miles, and some slightly over 18 miles for the 25k.
After crossing the finish line, I sat down, trying to mentally make sense of what I just did. My first 25k and getting a time I wasn’t expecting (was about 30 minutes slower than I predicted going into the race). Also, when I thought about having completed the half marathon 6 days before, then this race, I was excited about the prospect of finally signing up for an ultra-distance race; knowing my body could handle the pounding and my internal chemistry was clicking as it should (think sodium levels not dropping too low).
“Most said it was tougher than the Mac 50k,” as Mike Ripley informed us in a Facebook post. Sweet.
The post-race atmosphere was very nice with a DJ calling out finishers as they crossed and spinning some beats. The burritos provided for the post-race food were so flippin’ huge – there had to be 2,500 calories at least inside of those (Note: not complaining!). Each finisher received a very nice looking Mary’s Peak 50k/25k finisher pint glass. I will proudly watch my husband use it to drink craft beer out of.
This was the first year of the Mary’s Peak 50k/25k race. Knowing this was an inaugural year, Mike and the Oregon Trail Runs crew did a great job. Going forward, an earlier start time for the 25k (to avoid the heat!) might be something to consider, as well as adding an additional aid station. Additionally, offering women’s sized event tech shirts would be wonderfully appreciated by the female racers.
Job well done – and I am eagerly looking forward to see how the 2015 version of Mary’s Peak 50k/25k goes!
The next race on tap for Oregon Trail Runs is the Alsea Falls 5k Summer Fest on August 9 and August 10, 2014. Check it out!