Hail the rain storm! The couple of weeks leading up to the Alsea Falls Spring Fling trail race by Oregon Trail Runs afforded the Eugene area exemplary weather. When looking out my window at work on Friday afternoon, I just knew the streak was quickly coming to an end. Race day, Saturday, March 14 proved to be the day where we would receive (what appeared to be) a months worth of rain in one single day. And yes, people were willingly racing in this.
When the alarm indicated it was time for me to get moving Saturday morning, I, briefly, hesitated. What is this rain stuff again? Ah, I knew I had to get out there and get this race finished, as the next day, Sunday, March 15, I would be racing in Portland in the Shamrock Run’s inaugural half marathon. I had to get my 10k in to help trash my legs as good as possible so I could run on somewhat fatigued legs for Sunday’s half. The things we do while training for a marathon … Someone should check my sanity soon.
The drive from Eugene to Alsea Falls took about an hour. Alsea Falls is near the small towns of Alpine and Monroe Oregon, just south of Corvallis. Driving through the very rural country roads was refreshing and enjoyable. Not a car in sight for my drive once out of the city. The ~4 mile road leading up to Alsea Falls was indeed alive with curves and blind corners. The race director announced to race participants in an earlier email to be cautious during this stretch of road to arrive at the race safely. About 3 miles in, I saw the road-caution-signs out announcing that there would be runners on the road for a race. Shortly thereafter, a volunteer was assisting cars arriving showing us where to park. Parking was easy for this Subaru driver (I love my Subaru), but I saw a couple of sports cars that were navigating the back road we were parking on with clenched-teeth drivers behind the wheel.
After parking, there was a short walk to the start/finish line. In the earlier email participants received from the race, we were informed to allow about 15 minutes to get parked and walk to the start area. The walk took me about 7 minutes. Once at the start/finish line area, I proceeded to the tent that hosted the packet pick-up. Plenty of volunteers were there helping participants get their race bib. I had pre-ordered a race shirt, so I went to the next covered area to collect my shirt. The participant shirts were on sale for $20 prior to, and at, the race. I love the blue color; not many races use blue for their tech shirts. Also available for purchase were event hats for $25.
Plenty of area was available under covered shelters for the majority of racers to be able to stay dry prior to the start. This was great – it was pouring most of the time. Ample porta-potties were also available, and, in true Oregon Trail Runs fashion, a couple pink porta-potties were available. These are cute (think: female ‘friendly’) porta-potties that have flowers inside, mirror, sink … it’s like the Ritz Carlton of outhouses. Also, dry storage areas were available for runners to stash their items so they did not have to trek back to their vehicles prior to the race.
Just after the great pre-race announcements about trail conditions with the rain (Alsea Falls has clay soils!) and what to expect on the various courses, the half marathon trail run began promptly at 9 a.m. 10 minutes later, at 9:10 a.m., the 10k racers took to the trail. This was my group! WooHoo 10k’ers! At 9:20 a.m., the 5k participants hit the course. This 10 minute split between events made the trails noticeably less chaotic, and prevented a lot of traffic jams with the collision of slower and faster racers mixing on the trail.
The course for the half marathon was pretty impressive, touching portions of new trail. I wish I would have changed from the 10k to the half marathon, to be honest (I don’t know what my legs would have thought after Sunday’s mileage … ). The 10k followed a shortened version of the half marathon course. There was a formidable, long, arduous climb near the end of the race for the half marathon and 10k’ers. In the pre-race briefing, it was described as having a 28% grade and over 1,000 foot elevation gain in this section. I can tell you, it was similar to Mary’s Peak 25k climbs in my very humble opinion. It didn’t completely trash my legs, but it would have a couple months prior.
Aid stations were plentiful on the 10k, with one aid station that racers passed at two separate times. I am very thankful the aid station was stocked with gels – thank you for offering those! The half marathon had 5 aid stations and the 5k had one.
There were a couple times on the course where the 10k racers split off from the half marathoners. All the signage was fantastic, and not once did I feel the heart pounding fear of having taken the wrong turn on the course. For those participating in the 5k, if was a simple out-and-back, which is fantastic for new trail runners (one less thing that can go wrong!). The 10k course had a fantastic mix of narrow, muddy single track trails, along with wide, gravel/rocky back-roads. There was ample opportunity for me to enjoy splashing through the mud puddles throughout the course, too. I love splashing through the mud puddles!
Once I hit the ~5.75 mile mark, I was getting super excited that the finish line was nearing. I could hear the finish line music and announcements happening. After just completing the grueling climb and descent, in the slippery clay mud, I was ready to get across the finish line, happy to be alive (because that meant I had not fallen off the trail over an embankment!). Some super speedy half marathoners were passing me about this point, too. After a bit, when the runners who passed were out of my sight completely, I check my GPS again; 6.85 miles. Hmm … did I take a wrong turn after all? I kept slogging through the mud, which was getting thicker, and didn’t want to release from my shoes after every step. Whew, I was feeling that climb and descent real good, now!
A person! I spotted a person on the trail, and they looked to be a spectator, so I must be getting close to the finish! Indeed I was! I crossed the finish line with little left in the tank to spare for this race. My GPS read ~7.27 miles for the 10k. Granted, I am glad it wasn’t under mileage, as those are the worst in my opinion. It felt good knowing I was coming into the race thinking I would be out there for about an hour, but the race plan changed and I had to think clearly on my feet. One mile isn’t much, I know … but when you have a 10k game plan, like I do, you pound out the first (or last) couple of miles a little more aggressively than if the race was longer than a 10k.
The post-race refreshments were plentiful, and included beer for those 21+, brats and veggie options being freshly BBQ’d.
The size of the entire field was excellent, with the half marathon having 63 finishers, the 10k with 37 finishers, and the 5k bringing in 35 finishers. A full list of results, for all distances, can be found here.
Pros: Super friendly and efficient volunteers, both at packet pick-up, shirt pick-up, and on the course. Nice event shirt. Excellent course markings and aid station placement. Fully stocked post-race refreshments.
Cons: Approximately 1 mile long on the 10k course.