The first time I ever stumbled upon the Row River Trail was a few years back as I was working in Cottage Grove. Like most lunch breaks when I travel, I took 45 minutes to explore as much as I could in the city. I lucked into quickly locating the Row River Trailhead and started heading east. The first part of my journey took me through some back areas between residential and commercial buildings – not exactly the most beautiful of areas. However, as I left civilization and started gaining nearing the halfway point of my lunch break (near Mosby), I really wished I had more time left to head further along the trail. Fast forward to the Summer of 2016, when my family decided to camp near Dorena Lake as I covered the Summer Olympic Trials in Eugene. Heading further up the Row River trail completely sealed the deal – I HAD to figure out how to make my schedule clear for the Cottage Grove Half Marathon on March 11, 2017. And I’m so glad I did.
The event is put on by Oregon Trail Runs, the company behind great events at Alsea Falls, Mary’s Peak, and Hell of the Northwest trail events in the South Willamette Valley (and beyond). Last year was the inaugural CGH and was met with positive reviews by our blogger who attended. I figured it would be awesome, but I didn’t realize just how good of a time I would have!
The day began in the downtown part of city of Cottage Grove. Bib pick-up and bus loading was at nearby Bohemia Park (a beautiful and large park by the way), and plenty of port-a-potties were available for those pre-race jitters. There was plenty of street and lot parking within a short distance, so there were no concerns from that end. We loaded up and took the short drive up into the hills to the start at Dorena School. The weather (like every dang day since October) was overcast and spitting rain off and on. It was much appreciated that the school opened up their gym for bathrooms and a warm place to drink coffee, water, electrolytes, and just stretch/relax until the 930 start. With about 10 minutes to race start, the skies opened up and just started dumping. Typical. But for whatever reason, it stopped to a slow drizzle right as the race started and essentially completely 10-15 minutes into the race.
Runners toed the line in the street (the event hopes to be USATF certified next year), which allowed the 230+ runners to thin out over a mile before we hit the trail. It wasn’t too long before we hit the SE corner of Dorena Lake and continued to be within view of it over the next 5 miles. I shouldn’t jump ahead that far though, because this portion was amazingly beautiful, even on an overcast day. I know there were significant time where I wasn’t even looking at the path because I was mesmerized by the lake and the trees that surrounded us on all sides. It ended up being one of those situations where time actually cruised by, partially because of the gradual downhill all the way, and mostly because of the great scenery to take in. It was about as peaceful a race as there could be. While that is definitely a good thing, I remember being mildly disappointed as I hit the 7 mile marker and was shocked that I was already over half way.
The next few miles were also surprisingly scenic. Though we had left the most heavily forested area of the race, tress still lined the path and we got to cross two bridges over the Row River and Mosby Creek. The final three miles became very familiar, as they were the miles that I had covered on my very first Row River Trail experience (mentioned above). I remembered what was coming up and what I had left to complete, so I started to feel confident with picking up my pace just a little bit (enough to pass a couple great runners in the final half mile or so). I crossed the line just 30 seconds past where I was hoping to get (I wanted a half in the 1:30’s), but was super happy considering I hadn’t run a half in about 7 months. Smiles were all around as I grabbed my medal and started a little cool down.
After the race, there were a variety of covered areas to hang out, 3 beers from Oakshire Brewing to try, and great treats – both sugary and savory. The aid and support were top-notch along the entire course. I felt that the aid stations were evenly spaced out – not too close and not too far – and everyone was super helpful and happy at each stop. There were a variety of times that the trail crossed over small streets and about 2 main intersections. For me, each and every crossing was completed safely thanks to the volunteers paying attention and doing great work.
This is an event that now comes even more highly recommended from us here at Run Oregon. Next year’s early pricing will start on October 1, 2017 at 10am – and at $50, that’s a definite steal !Stay tuned to our site too, as last year they had a secret day where they started registration at only $1 and then increased incrementally $5-$10 depending on how many registrants came forward. We will have that information out there again should they choose to do something similar.
All photos in this post come courtesy of Audra Terra Photography, who provided FREE pictures to all participants.