We arrived to the race at 8:40, with plenty of time to pick up packets (no lines at all) and visit with friends, as well as even enough time to hand out SunRype bars before our start time of 9:15am. The area was hopping with extra tents and booths this year, pre-race yummies for everyone, and a warm fire to huddle around. Luckily, we stopped at a bathroom before arriving to the race, so I avoided any potential lines at that location. The weather was overcast and drizzly, but no serious rain (as projected)…yet.
This year they offered the half marathon on Sunday, with two start times for the participants. Faster runners left at 9:00 and 9:15 for those of us with a two hour and slower time projected time. I registered myself in the second wave and positioned myself at the back of the pack with my friend Robin York when race was about to begin, and soon we were off.
Although this is a trail race, this race gives about a mile of open road to help the initial congestion. I could not remember if this course had mile markers, and I was grateful when I saw that it did. I forgot my Garmin, but it probably wouldn’t matter anyways, because Robin’s Garmin was not working from the clouds and dense areas. About mile one, we hit the trail portion. As with most trail races, you can only go as fast as the person in front of you, and this portion allowed me to just relax into a rhythm. I could have passed some people, but I did not want to leave Robin behind and I was taking it easy for this race.
About mile two, the trail opened up a bit. It also had a neat benefit of a coat/gear drop. This was great! I stopped and dropped my jacket, re-situated my phone and iPod to other areas, scarfed down a bite size Snickers bar (that I will …or will not…admit to stealing from my daughter’s candy bucket) and started running with Robin again.
By mile three we were entering the Silver Falls Park. The beauty of this park in the Autumn, even in overcast drizzle, cannot be put into words. I hope some of the pictures do it some justice. We stopped several times for pictures and just ‘oohed’ and ‘awed’ over the scenes we saw. The rolling hills started and I eased into it at our comfortable pace.
At mile five, we came across a bathroom I was later regretful I did not attend to. By mile six, I knew this was one of my last chances to hit a bathroom, so we veered off the course for a half a mile to go to the bathrooms along the road. Such a wise choice! There were no more bathrooms for miles (that I saw), and err… no places to discreetly go either. Having taken care of that issue, I was able to enjoy the trail again. More beauty met us every step of the way. We would eventually see a total of seven waterfalls, with the ability to go behind two of them. at one such waterfall we ran into the photographer! We took the time to go back and do a few “do over” photographs. What you see is the amazing results of that in the photos.
At mile eight, we caught up and joined my friend Atheana Weeks and her friend Tar. The friendly chatter, the picture stops, all made this race even better than it was! However, it was not meant to last for me. The rain started about mile nine, and about mile ten, I had to split off from the group. I was freezing in my tank top, and the slow pace was not allowing me to warm up.
I split off just before the final large waterfall and picked up the pace. I found I had to slow myself down a few times. I still had three miles, with a large “Nut Cracker Hill” nestled in there at mile twelve, before the end of the race. I did let myself go a little bit though, enjoying the views and the speed. Due to that, miles ten to twelve flew by.
When I approached mile twelve, I remembered that the course veered off from the finish towards the large hill and was mentally prepared for it this year. The hill was still tough. However, much easier than the mud limiting slickness of the year before, and I still had to walk a few places. For the most part, I powered through ( because I knew it wasn’t much longer than half a mile if that) and soon hit the steep downhill.
This was almost as hard as the uphill portion. Somehow I did not fall on my bum this year (squee with joy) and made it safely to the bottom before dashing off to the finish. I halted myself almost immediately though upon seeing the equipment tent! What a serendipity! Our equipment tent was at the finish, well almost, it was less than a third of a mile from the finish line. I stopped, grabbed my jacket (my time was moot by then anyways) and sprinted off again.
I crossed the finish line as the rain started to come down heavier. I raised my hands in glee for the pictures and crossed at 3:04:55. This was officially my slowest race ever, but one of the most fun and enjoyable! I heard my name called and looked up to see my friend Jill catching me with a semi-finish line photo. Not my best photo.
After the race, I did not stick around. I was still a bit cold, I was definitely wet, and the tents were crowded. I remembered them having great food and great volunteers from the year before, but I just did not have the will or energy to try to experience it. I went to the car, and was so grateful to have dry clothes to change into before my journey home.
This is a great race! It sells out every year within minutes despite the threats of inclement weather. The trails and autumn glory are amazing, the volunteers are superb, and by far one of the best bang for buck races you will ever experience in Oregon. Put this on your calendar for next year.