Success in road races is often a result of perfect form, combining foot strike, stride length, and turnover for efficient movement and maintaining speed. Success at the Hagg Lake Mud Runs is not found in the same fashion. Put on by the ORRC, it is a true cross country race, traversing trails that encircle the lake, including short sections of pavement. With 25 and 50K options on two separate days at Hagg Lake just south of Forest Grove on February 17th (50K) and 18th (25K), participants can choose one of the distances or complete the double.
I have completed the 25K twice in the past few years, placing 5th and 8th. Though I had trained there a few times prior to my first time competing in this event, it was still a learning experience. The second time I was definitely more prepared, but seeing as the biggest challenge is the elements, the core way to be ready, once trained, is to have the right gear and be patient.
It was recently announced that the course direction is changed this year, heading the opposite way than years past. The main factor in my opinion is the infamous ‘pig pen’ a sloppy section of mud and clay, is now towards the beginning of the course and not the end. Extremely slippery and prone to suck on your shoes, this section is best addressed with patience and a slower pace. The first time I ran through it I attempted to maintain speed and only ended up frustrated and very muddy. The key is to have lighter shoes with good traction and water proof socks.
Other than that section, there are a few areas in the fields on the west side that are mildly clay, but not nearly as bad. Most of the race is through the trees, and the ground is muddy, to various degrees. It is a good idea to double check your shoe tying skills, as any section of mud may potentially take them off, but also to counter the water that will be absorbed while going through the constant puddles. While it is always optimal to stay on your feet, there is always a chance of spills, so water resistant fabrics that are still warm when damp are highly recommended.
February is a hard month to predict the weather in. Temperatures could be 20 or 50 degrees. It could be dry and sunny or pouring rain. I always go into the lake right after the finish to rinse off and bring plenty of warm clothes to change into. They set up warmers under the covered area, the happiest people always seemed to be the ones recovering with some hot chocolate that is provided and a big, heavy blanket.
This is not a ‘fast’ event, but it has meaning for everyone that crosses the line. A 25K is a challenge, and when the conditions and terrain at Hagg Lake are factored in, it adds up to an amazing experience. I caution first timers to start slow, and run smart, but that is hard advise to dispense when I can’t follow it, having fun in the mud and dodging trees before paying the price in the last few miles. The key is gear, and being aware of the weather conditions. There is no cap on entries, so invite a friend to join and make it a more pleasurable experience, unplugging for a bit and enjoying our natural areas while testing your limits.
2017 Hagg Lake 50k
When: Saturday, February 17
What time: 7a
2017 Hagg Lake 25k
When: Sunday, February 18
What time: 9a