Sitting at my computer a few days after the 2015 Peterson Ridge Rumble 20-miler, I never expected that the most sore part of my body would be, of all things, my hand. My knees are feeling great, my legs have no lingering soreness, and I managed to avoid any form of chafing. I am surprisingly good shape and I am ecstatic that I have been able to hit the roads again without any delay. But my hand…
Before we get there, I need to highlight how awesome this race is. I have run one full marathon (Foot Traffic Flat), and this race was my second lost race ever. I signed up with my brother-in-law as we wanted to branch out and try something new. I didn’t have any concern about being able to finish the race, but the doubts started creeping in a few days prior to the race – was I going to be able to pace myself? Were my lungs going to be able to handle the thin mountain air? Was I going to be embarrassed by all the amazing athletes heading to Sisters? Needless to say, I was a little nervous and on edge leading up to race day.
As race day arrived, I had 2 hours to prepare myself on the drive over from Salem. Sisters Middle School was already brimming with excitement when arrived near 8am and registered. The 120 runners of the 40-miler had already taken off and their energy still seemed to still permeate the area. Dogs were chomping at the bit to get started, and so were their owners. The morning was chilly and in the mid-30’s. However, the sky was amazingly clear and the sun was already shining. There was no doubt that it was going to be a perfect Central Oregon day.
Over 310 runners toed the start line with eager anticipation. I made a decision at the last-minute and brought no technology with me – no headphones, no watch, no phone. I was just going to run according to how I felt with no outside gear to cloud my mind and thoughts. My goal was to stay comfortable and not be running rampant with thoughts of how I needed to increase (or decrease) my pace or countdown as to how many miles were remaining. I was just going to run.
The first mile or so kept me at a nice steady pace. The mass start allowed for some initial congestion through the first trail stretch. There were places to pass, but I found myself comfortable with just taking it easy – I mean, I still had 19 miles+ to run. The trail eventually spit us out onto the Brooks Scanlon Logging Road (fun fact: the Brooks Scanlon Logging Mill eventually became the Old Mill Shopping District in Bend). This gravel and rocky road went on for a few VERY straight miles with a gradual incline. This was great as it allowed runners to find their pace and thin out significantly before hitting the mostly single-lane trails.
As we hit the true trails along Peterson Ridge, it was easy to be struck by the beauty. As we started our first climb up Eagle Rock, I remembered back to my last race in Sisters – the 2014 St. Paddy’s Day 10k. That event left me out of breath and struggling even to complete 6 miles. The ease that I felt scaling Eagle Rock this time around had me confident in my abilities and gave me a boost of positive energy. Eagle Rock is one place that I really need to return to on a casual (i.e. non-racing) basis to really just take in the view more so than the few seconds I typically do.
Thinking back on the race now, the next 10+ miles were a blur of just great running. The trails rolled and only gently climbed to the halfway point. The trails were thin, making passing difficult the majority of the time. Aid stations were abundant with energy gel and chews, pretzels, M&M’s, hydration AND volunteers. Not being a veteran in trail running, I still wouldn’t consider the trails “technical”. They appeared well maintained to me, with a variety of rocks to navigate.
That brings me back to my hand. While I wouldn’t consider the trails too difficult, they definitely presented some hazards. I personally witnessed about 5 people fall within 100 feet of me over the course of the race. I also audibly heard more falls in the distance (via grunts and “are you OK?” echoing through the trees). I had managed little more than a couple kicked rocks and stumbles over the first 11 or so miles, but managed to stay upright. The rock must have come out of nowhere, because I found myself face down on the trail. Luckily, my landing one was a clear one, padded by dirt and pine needles. An embarrassed red face was my only injury, and I quickly jumped on my feet to continue without wasting a second. Within minutes, a runner directly in front of me ended up on his face as well. I commiserated with him and we laughed how it was probably a sign to slow down.
10 minutes later, I found myself crashing to the trail once again – and this time my landing was not so lucky. While I managed to avoid and lower body injuries, my left hand was throbbing. I saw no blood forming on my glove, and I could bend my thumb fine – though with pain. I figured it was just a bit of bruise and spent the rest of the race focusing on my throbbing hand and less on my tiring legs – which was probably a benefit in the end. The second fall made me even more cautious for the final 6 miles, something that ended up slowing my pace and keeping some energy in the tank.
As we hit back up with the logging road, I knew it was the final push to the finish. I was feeling pretty good, but was very happy that I didn’t have to head out even further when I passed the 40-mile split off. The logging road, which was a nice straight shot on the way out, became a mind-meld on the way back. The road seemed to stretch on forever in the distance and I desperately wanted to hit the final trail section to the finish.
The push to the finish consisted of the short trail to back to the start line and a little jaunt through the parking lot to the finish line on the football field. As I rounded the final corner, I could se 2:58:50, 2:58:52 in the distance. I was going to be in under 3 hours! Although I then realized that there was still a full lap on the track before I finished.
So close and yet so far away.
My final time of 3:00:59 was well-deserved, as were my finisher’s socks, burritos, and local bakery treats (oh my word, the donuts tasted like heaven). I finally pulled off my running glove and saw the decent gash adorning my now-swollen hand. I compared battle wounds with a runner from Hawaii and accepted the good-natured ribbing from my always-upright brother-in-law. I still beat him, so he happily accepted the retort back.
Overall, this race encompasses all of the great things a race should have. The course is great course and the organization/support were great. It was also inexpensive and catered to both novice trail runners (like myself) as well as to fast trail-running experts. I highly recommend this race to anyone and everyone looking to challenge themselves and have a great time in the process. Registration for the 2016 event should be going live in December of this year. Mark it down!