For the second year, the Salem River2Ridge Relay, put on by Breakaway Promotions came to Salem in mid-September. This triathlon – a paddle/bike/run course that takes runners down the Willamette River, across farm-filled country roads in the Mid-Valley, and eventually navigating waterfalls and trails at Silver Falls State Park – is super unique and a ton of fun. It can be done solo (there are a handful of super fit and talented individuals who do this), but is also perfect for a casual team as well. Like last year, I took over the running portion and left my father-in-law manning the river in his kayak. We swapped out one brother-in-law for another who tackled the cycle ride connecting the two.
You can read our review from last year, but really the only “negatives” we pulled from the race were some issues that arose directionally (some cyclists missed a key turn and runners not familiar with Silver Falls could have used some more guidance). These issues were absolutely NOT an issue this year, as the RD’s heard the recommendations and really well-marked courses that was easier to follow. That made navigating almost 55 miles of course across three mediums (water, roads, and trails super memorable, and keeps my extended family and me coming back for more.
After a summer that saw a record 90 days of dry weather in a row, race day was clearly going to be a change to that. To be honest, it was actually a pretty perfect day for running (overcast, mild, and a little bit of rain), but we were hoping it would hold off for another day or two. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a major issue for us.
The race followed the same basic structure – a 1.1 mile sprint from the Peter Courtney Pedestrian Bridge, through Riverfront Park, over the Union Street Pedestrian Bridge, and finally to the boat ramp in West Salem. There are quite a few Strava routes along this stretch and it’s really quite nerve wracking – at least for me. When I am lining up for a half marathon, I know I have 90-100 minutes to get from point A to point B, and there are opportunities to go slower or faster depending on course and energy levels. When there is just a mile with no excuses, it’s a pretty intense feeling.
After a few brief announcements, we quickly made our way out of the chutes. For some reason, I ended up going out quite quick and, after a quarter-mile, I was still in the lead with a handful of people. I debated pulling up a bit (I’m never used to being in front – EVER), but just decided that I would go for it and see how I could do. It was an entirely different experience from the front and I was passed (and gassed) with about .2 miles to go and cruised in to get my father-in-law on the water quickly.
After kissing my kids at the handoff, and actually discussing plans with my wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law to put together a girl’s team in 2019, we trekked to Spongs Landing Park in Keizer for the paddle/pedal handoff. This is a little-known park tucked away at the end of a rural road surrounded by farmland. It does make for a nice little spot to offload watercraft however. While my brother-in-law was warming up for his ride, I headed down to the banks to see everyone come in.
There was one clear-cut winner in a beautiful outrigger, but after him was a continuous exit of boats. My father-in-law came in near 15th – a solid output and got my brother-in-law out and on the road in short order.
My brother-in-law is a naturally gifted athlete and absolutely crushed the 40 mile ride. About 5 miles were cut from the 2017 event, but it was still a challenging course. Aside from the mileage, there was a pretty continuous headwind that caused some issues (though the rain stayed away more-or-less), and the final 5+ mile stretch to State Park is definitely a challenging climb. Even with these, he ended up passing quite a few cyclists and pushed me out on the trails quite quick.
Even though I have race the trails at Silver Falls numerous times, it really never gets old. There is just something magical about the serenity of the area and the backdrop. I mean, when does running behind waterfalls ever get old. Given that we were near the top of the leaderboard, there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction with other racers. I ended up passing two participants along the way – one in the first 2 miles and the other after the climb out of the valley near mile 5. The rest of the time was lonely and allowed me to get a little out of racing mode and slip into peaceful running mind frame.
And yeah – that climb. It wasn’t super long, all things considered, but after 4.5 miles of running mostly downhill, any uphill was gonna be a challenge. There was definitely walking going on, for me at least.
After the race, we missed most of the rain and got to refuel with a pretty solid full-meal spread, as well as with a surprisingly solid bottle beer selection. A fantastic live band from Portland was killing it, and the vibe was very positive. We ended up taking first (of two) in the Corporate division, but ended up being about the 5th fastest time out of everyone.
Overall, the course directional changes really improved on an already solid event. So start planning now to make a team. My guess is that we will be out again in 2019, maybe even with an all female team as well! Come join us!