Race Review: Goat Mountain Gallop…Hills, Hills and MORE Hills!

Getting photo bombed at the start line! I see you back there...

When I heard that there was a half marathon available in Molalla, Oregon, I jumped at the chance to check it out. Many, MANY years ago, I attended first grade in Colton (where my amazing first grade teacher, Mr. Meisinger gave me my first science book!) where the race would begin, and met my best friend of almost 30 yrs in 2nd grade at the Molalla school. This quaint countryside gives me the warm, fuzzy feelings of times passed, so I was thrilled to sign up! I DID, however, notice that the race website mentioned several times there there were lots of hills, but since I had tackled the White Salmon Backyard Half as well as the Vortex Half (both of which have elevation changes around 1800 ft), I laughed at the meager 500 ft elevation change Goat Mountain Gallop warned me about. THIS, is where I learn my first valuable lesson, but I'll get into that in a minute... All participants met at the Molalla High School, where we hopped on a bus and whisked away to the Colton Grade School for the start. On the bus, we were given detailed information on everything from course info to leaving items on the bus. It was actually very helpful and helped ease a bit of anxiety we all seemed to have.

It was finally time to line up at the start! However, there was still about a half mile walk to the official starting line, which worked great as a pre-race warm up. We were preceded by a Sheriff in his trusty black and white…lights flashing as if the start of a true parade. His hearty nature left a smile on my face, as he continued to tell all of us that we’re taking too long and to “get moving and act like you’re a runner!” I guess you had to be there…

The horn blows and we’re off!! We all start off running up a gradual uphill road along beautiful countryside, and I admit, my first thought was, “Is THIS the hills they were talking about? This is gonna be a piece of cake!” I can hear some of you laughing at me already, because this is where I learn my lesson..

Lesson #1: 500 ft rolling hills for 13.1 miles can be harder than running up a mountainside on a dirt trail.

When I ran around my first corner, this is what I saw…


And they just kept coming and coming like that …mile after mile after mile! You’d think that would make the race challenging enough on its own, but wait…….there’s more! At around mile 6, the great and unpredictable weather that Oregon is so famous for peaked its little head out. As if it came straight out of the book of Exodus, a wall of water dropped straight down on us, as if to add an edge to the race. Just as I thought I was done cursing under my breath as the rain abated, Oregon laughed at my cockiness and threw hard, little rocks of ice in the form of hail down on my head……and then the wind picked up. Nothing makes a race more enjoyable than being soaking wet, hailed on, and having the wind blow in your face..all at the same time!

You can’t tell because I’m wearing black, but my clothes are completely soaked…and yes, that’s hail..

I think by mile 10, the weather decided I had taken my punishment well, and lifted its evil off the course and shown its beautiful blue sky….THIS was the ray of sunlight and glimmer of hope I needed to put a smile back on my face, and pace along the last 3 miles confident that I would finish well!

And I did…..finish, that is..slower than my normal half marathon time, but happy just the same.

Despite the pesky hills, I highly recommend this race to anyone! Uberthons timed the event, and as always, Darwin showed as much enthusiasm for the first finisher, as he did the very last. As I came in for the finish, I heard him say via intercom, “The best form runner of the day is…..(as I crossed the line)….Chere’ Nicholas!” He managed to say encouraging little tidbits like that to the late finishers as well, which really impressed me. The aid station volunteers were just as helpful and supportive as they stood out there in the weather craziness just like the rest of us. Did I mention that the police officers continued to stay with the runners the entire race? Not only did they make us feel protected, but a bit safer since the course was NOT closed off…which brings me to my ONLY negative comment. There was a moment as I was coming up to my last aid station, where a truck flew by me causing the car in the opposite direction to have no place to move away from me, and came too close for my comfort to nicking me with her side mirror. I understand it’s not always possible to close off a course, but in the busier parts of the road, it might be worth having a flagger or two around to force cars to slow down.

So, for my conclusion, I realize It’s not always easy to know whether the hills listed in a race are going to be easy for you as an individual, or a challenge. My suggestion, and what I DEFINITELY plan to do from now on, is ASSUME the hills mentioned are gruesome, train for horrible hills, and be pleasantly surprised if they turn out to be nothing but a mole hill. Either way, you’ll be prepared to have a great and memorable race!

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