The second event of the Run Big Trail Series, Shotgun Trail Blast, was held on Saturday, April 4, 2015. I am a huge fan of the Run Big Trail Series, which is a collection of six trail races by Level 32 Racing which are spread-out over the year, all occurring in the Eugene/Springfield area (or within a short drive). Having participated in this race last year, and taking, at the time, was an almost epic tumble, I didn’t know what would be in store for me this year out on the course. The week prior to the event, there certainly was a decent amount of rain, meaning muddy (aka FUN!) trail conditions yet again for this year. Would I manage to stay on the course again, and avoid a disaster … or would Shotgun Trail tell me who was boss?
Shotgun Creek is a piece of BLM land located in/near Marcola, Oregon, which is about 20 minutes north of Springfield. Participants parked in one of three parking lots available, and all were very close to the packet pick-up area, which also housed the start and finish line. Participants in the 50k event began at 8 a.m., and those choosing the 25k, 10k or 5k kicked off their events at 9:40 a.m. until 10 a.m. in a staggered, orderly fashion. This certainly helped keep trail traffic under control by having the staggered starts. It also allowed 50k runners a chance to get a couple loops in prior to the rest of us making the trail conditions crappy.
After picking up my bib and event shirt, I hung out in the covered shelter area where there was the traditional fire keeping participants warm. I enjoyed watching the 50k racers make their loop(s) into the transition area, and hearing Eclectic Edge Racing make announcements for each runner as they came through. Some famous runners were participating in the Shotgun Trail Blast 50k this year, Florian Neuschwander, from Germany, and local star – professional triathlete and coach – Mackenzie Madison. Having witnessed both of them make there way through the transition area at least once prior to the start, I was in awe of their speed and grace.
At 9:30 a.m., the 25k runners proceeded to the start line to take to the trails. About 10 minute later, us 10k participants were off. As the course is a 5.2 mile loop, us 10k’ers had to make up a little bit of mileage prior to hitting the trails. We headed up a logging road, which had a decent grade climb, then turned around and came back down to make up that ~1 mile needed to turn our distance into the 10k. Race officials held off the 5k start to allow us to pass back to the start line and begin the 5.2 trail loop portion. This was smart and much appreciated, otherwise, there certainly would have been a bottle-neck of 5k and 10k racers hitting the trails simultaneously.
Once on the trails, the 10k group of participants were sufficiently spread out so there was not a lot of crowding. Of course, as with any trail race on single-track trails, there will be ‘jostling for position’. I was pleased with the group of runners I was with, as everyone knew the rules of the trail and we super friendly.
After being on the course for what seemed about 8 minutes, we proceeded up a step-ins incline for about 2 miles. This thinned the group out even more. The trails during the first ~2.70 miles were in great shape; limited amounts of mud, a couple small/easy to jump stream crossings, and not a lot of rocks or other trail obstacles.
Once cresting to the top of the incline, the trees, along with the runners, were also thinned out. This afforded a spectacular view of the area. I tried and tried to take a picture of it, but my phone had decided that it wasn’t in the mood (it wouldn’t turn on – the audacity of it!). Also, the first (of two) aid stations was located just a very short distance past this beautiful spot.
Cruising into aid station 1 was the queue that it was time to begin the much anticipated downhill. I am proud of my downhill capabilities (i.e., being a dare devil), and was stoked to make up some time lost on the uphill portion.
Remember how I said all the runners were displaying fantastic trail etiquette? BAM! From out of nowhere, I had a runner in front of me who thought running downhill was treacherous (yes, it is) and didn’t want anyone zipping past them. Sigh! Really, Jessica? A roadblock! Indeed, the time from aid station 1 until aid station 2 was a line up of runners behind someone who didn’t want to scoot over. Once those of us behind her hit the aid station, we zipped past her as quickly as we could. Whew. This makes for unneeded danger on trail races when you do not yield to faster runners. Also frustration, but I kept that part in check (the folks behind me had some choice words when making the pass along with me).
After the mass-pass at aid station 2, the group I was running with all had the same pace and downhill ability. It was a great group to be in. The trails at this point were in the worst shape, too – lots of mud, thick mud, with trail obstructions … oh, and that “cliff” on the right side of us. Yes, the cliff that I almost took an unanticipated ride down in last year’s race.
Knowing we were nearing the finish line (I could see bits of the picnic structure and the smoke from the fireplace coming through the trees), I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t take a dip on Shotgun Trail. This trail seems to like to play tricks on me. Well, I counted my “lucky” stars just a bit too soon.
Yep, you guessed it. AIRBORNE! During a choice piece of steep downhill, I saw the super muddy conditions ahead, along with a great big boulder that was mostly covered in the middle of the trail. No problem! I’ve been blessed with fantastic balance, and I know I can jump over these obstructions with no issue. So, leaping over the boulder, I notice … there isn’t any group under me! Well, there was, but you couldn’t see it mid-jump! On the other side of the boulder was more downhill, which meant that instead of landing nicely on my feet after my elegant boulder leap, I went face first, like on a slip-and-slide, down the muddy downhill. Sheesh. At least it was an elegant disaster, as a runner who witnessed the event told me … I only have my Grandpa Johnson to thank for that, as he was a wing walker in the 1920’s (talk about balance!).
Quickly, I was able to get back on my feet and keep moving. Just another temporary slow-down … and the finish line was nearing. Coming around another corner, the group I was with stopped fast — there was a participant down in the middle of the course. She had also taken a stumble of sorts and injured her shoulder. We got her up on her feet, and made sure someone would be with her to the finish. Then, some of us took off again.
Wood the finish line! Seriously, Shotgun Trail, you had it out for some of us today! At the finish line, I noticed another runner had a leg injury from tripping/slipping on the trail, and when I arrived home, another runner had posted that they messed up their ankle pretty bad and had to pull out from the 25k due to their injury.
The finish line was a wonderful place to be after taking on the trails. The sunshine was flowing just like the friendly vibe one can come to expect at a trail run. I love trail running, but there is just something about Shotgun that is ominous. Not scary, not something to avoid … but something to respect. The finish line had tons of beer flowing from Plank Town Brewing, great post-race food from Chapala Mexican Restaurant, and of course traditional post-race foods like bagels and fruit. There was plenty of post race refreshment for all.
Age group awards were being handed out immediately as you crossed the finish line as you obtained the print out of your results. Eclectic Edge Racing is so great at having the results available very quickly, so when you cross the finish line, you can make a bee-line to the results area to get your custom print out (and see if you get to take home a coveted age group award!). No award for me, this year … it was a rough race.
I stuck around a little bit to see some more 50k and 25k participants transition through, then started to feel the aching in my arm from the scratches and impact. It was time to head home.
Pros: Ease of parking, fast and efficient volunteers at packet pick-up and at aid stations, great weather, excellent event shirt, well marked course.
Cons: Going airborne and getting stuck behind runners on the descent. (Not the races’ fault!)