After all the rain we’ve had over the last few months, it was a welcome surprise that the rain held off on the morning of the Vortex Trail Run. As we picked up our bibs the sun was trying to peek out, but it was a cold morning. We got checked in quickly and had plenty of time to use the real restrooms at Milo McIver Park and try to get warm. While I was freezing at start time, I knew that after the first hill I would definitely be warm. I was running the 10K course, which looks like this:
Both the 10K and the half marathon start out on rough pavement, but soon enough change over to trails. The record rainfall we’ve had this year made for record mud. We’re talking deep sticky, shoe-sucking mud. I’m newer to the trail running scene, so I haven’t perfected the art of running through mud pits. A lot of the slick, gooey mud reduced many of us to a walk. Despite the craziness of the trails, the atmosphere was positive and friendly. In contrast to the silence at many road races, runners on the trail were chatty and cheerful. There was a lot of conversation as we traversed the constantly changing terrain. The scenery was beautiful. My favorite view was as we made our way down a section of trail that led to a large pond. The pond was completely covered in a pinkish-brown algae. It looked so cool set deep in the forest surrounded by mud and evergreens.
At times we enjoyed some nice smooth sections with enough gravel to keep the mud from being a problem, then there were puddles that should really have been considered ponds. Some of them were a good 20 feet long (or more) with shin deep water. One of them was ice cold and made my ankles ache. But the “ponds” cleaned the mud off of our shoes before the next muddy section. Other sections looked more like shallow creeks running down the trail. There were stairs on some of the steeper sections, which was nice because that meant no slipping and sliding as you made your way uphill. And then there was my favorite section – a flat grassy trail along the Clackamas River. The footing was easy, so I was able to look around and enjoy the scenery a bit more. I could hear the sound of the rushing river, that was quite high due to all the rain and warmer spring temperatures. And then it was back to the variety of mud, well-groomed trail, more mud, water, and eventually we were on the rough pavement again that led us back to where we started. After the softness of the trails, I wasn’t a fan of running on the rough pavement in my trail shoes. I had trouble keeping my pace and wished for a softer trail to finish on. But, it wasn’t long and the finish line was in sight. I heard my name announced and some of my friends cheering for me as I crossed the finish line. My hip flexors were quite happy to be done running. All that high-stepping had worn them out. I really need to train on trails more.
After the race there was warm chili, rolls, and peanut butter for snacks. There was plenty of water available – which I greatly appreciated and, of course, post-race beer. Age group awards were by 5 year age divisions – which was awesome. Out of the 7 of us that went to Vortex Run together, 6 of us brought home an age group award. And the age group medals were pretty cool. They are custom wood VW buses with the age group place engraved on the back. Despite my slow slog through the mud, I was quite happy to have earned a 3rd place in my age division.
Everyone I went with had a great time at this well-organized and well-marked trail race. Afterwards, we kept with our post-race tradition and found a restaurant we had never been to where we could refuel with a great lunch and share stories about our adventure and begin planning the next one. We will definitely be back at Vortex again next year.