As I have been training and focusing my entire 2015 race calendar around The San Francisco Marathon (the full), which I’m an Ambassador for this year (woohoo! bucket list race for me!!!), I planned the weekend of June 21-22 to be my ‘long’ weekend of racing. On Saturday, June 21, was Mary’s Peak 25k. Then, June 22 I participated in the Vancouver USA Half Marathon. I was able to get 30+ race miles in, which was my goal to see how I would likely feel for The SF Marathon.
Arriving in Blodgett Saturday morning to catch the shuttle to the start line, I was greeted by a friendly volunteer letting me know where to park. There was lots of room to park, something I am always worried about at races. Packet pick-up was held at the school, and it was quick and easy to collect my bib, chip, event shirt — and even some free soap and complimentary breakfast (yogurt + granola).
About 8:30 a.m., two shuttle busses arrived to pick the 25k racers up to get us to the start line. The 50k participants had started earlier, and the 25k start line was the half way point for the 50k racers. Volunteers checked off each runner as we boarded to the bus. I appreciated this very much; I like to know I am accounted for and if I don’t make it to the finish line, a search will likely ensue to haul me back to the finish.
At the 25k start line, there were porta potties set-up (as there were at packet pick-up), and we all made it through prior to the race starting. The race director gave a great pre-race briefing, explaining the course signage, and other important pieces of the course, and then we were getting lined up and ready to go.
And, we were off. I was excited to be tackling Ms. Mary again. The first couple of miles of the course were strictly on single track trail that was fairly flat with minor ascents and descents. At about the 2 mile mark, I was lit.
Lit? Yes, lit – hornets and yellow jackets were buzzing everywhere! I was stung three times; on my rear-end, on my shin, and on my calf. Holy hotcakes did that hurt! Pain and I are friendly, but this pain was something crazy! I was nearly sprinting trying to get out of the swarm, which I was able to finally break free from in about 30 seconds. At “the end of the tunnel”, I saw the first wide logging road that we would run on. It was a relief to be off the single track for a couple minutes to assess the situation. It sounded like quiet a few of us were stung at least once.
The stings made my head throb pretty strongly; I could feel every heart beat emanating through my entire body. It was strange, but I just kept running. Every minute or so, one of the stings would emit a sharp, fiery pain. Being a runner, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I was definitely getting some excellent practice at this.
Arriving at the first aid station, about 6 miles in, I informed the attendants about the stinging episode. They said a couple other folks had reported stings as well. I took a breather at the aid station for a couple minutes; dropping was not an option (for me), but I wanted to make sure I was generally going to be okay. The aid station was packed full of tons of food and drink, so I was able to get in some good calories and liquids while taking the breather.
Leaving the aid station, the volunteers informed us we would be undertaking the challenging part of the course until we passed the neutral water station and made it to the second manned aid station. I was ready for the challenge. And, I noticed that some of the course was changed up already, so I was excited to be seeing different pieces of the Siuslaw National Forest and Starker Forest Property (private land – Oregon Trail Runs (OTR) obtained a permit to run on the Starker property) compared to the course from 2014.
I have to say, the challenging part that ensued the next ~7 miles were not as ridiculous as I was expecting them to be. OTR events like to have insanely difficult trail runs, but this was mild (in comparison to previous OTR courses). For me, Carl’s Adventure, which was a trail used in 2014 as well, is pretty darn tough, but I was able to feel confident making it through Carl’s Adventure unscathed.
Arriving at the second and final manned aid station (there was a neutral aid station between aid 1 and aid 2), I was able to get loaded back up on calories and liquids.
Tackling the last trails before the finish line, we got to scrambled over some downed trees. It was fun, I have to admit; like an obstacle course run. Passing the final radio check point, the volunteers asked if I needed anything to get to the finish line, 1.7 miles ahead. I looked at my GPS, and saw that the 25k was going to be long if we had 1.7 miles left to go.
These final 1.7 miles were the same as 2014; gravel wide logging-style roads. The sun was beating down on us. It was hot. The gravel was big, so it was difficult to get solid footing, making this portion a lot more challenging than it looks on the surface. The final .5 miles was a pretty decent climb to the finish, but it was awesome hearing the finish line announcements and seeing the spectators lining the “finishing chute”. I had survived, and I had beat my time from 2014, too. WooHoo!
Crossing the finish line, I made a bee line for the post-race refreshments, as I had exhausted all my water. At the finish line, participants were treated to a monster, awesome burrito, sodas, water, and a couple other beverage choices. Since the race finished on school grounds, no alcohol was permitted.
I had a great time tackling the Mary’s Peak 25k. The only negative that occurred this year were the stings; but, no other injuries ensued, and I felt FANTASTIC on Sunday morning when I took on the Vancouver USA Half Marathon. I have no idea if I’ll be back in 2016 – but if you want to experience a very challenging 25k (or 50k!), sign up for Mary’s Peak in 2016. Excellent aid stations, course markings, organization and finish line festivities.