The road was long and winding. The cell service spotty, until it failed altogether. As I drove farther away from the familiarity of I-5 and into the countryside, the mood took a turn from pre-race jitters to awe of the forest before me. As I neared the entrance of Alsea Falls Recreation Area for the Spring Fling, where I was once driving alone, cars began to catch up to be and populate my rear-view mirror. This happens when heading into remote areas for an organized event, you start to come together, participants being drawn to the starting line like moths to a flame. Even before the event, camaraderie is beginning to take shape.
Once I pulled off the main artery into the park, I was directed to park on the side of a long uphill, single-lane road. Cars driving up to park, and runner jogging down to race. Since the parking in these remote locations are usually not ideal for larger crowds, the directors graciously moved back the start time 10 minutes to accommodate the game of automotive Tetris. Before the race, the all-familiar sights of Port-a-Potty lines and discussions over trials maps was ever-present.
There were three distances at the event and I chose the half marathon – a lollipop loop that started off into the woods (followed shorthly thereafter by the 10K and the 5K). As the half marathon started out, we climbed gradual switchbacks for a few miles, using the mountain bike trails to gain elevation. At the top of this first hill, a mile downhill was gifted to up on a wide gravel road. Once back on the single track trail, a few miles of flat, or rolling hills gave way to a 1200 foot elevation gain over 0.5 miles. We had been warned about this part of the course and how it was “created by a goat that liked to climb”.
And what goes up, must come down.
At the top of this hill, runners started back from where we came. The same path, as seen from a new direction. The best part of the out and back course, was the finish. 2 miles of steady downhill with banked turns and dirt jumps, created for the bikers, yet gifted to runners for a few minutes that day. I was able to open up my arms, let go, and fly. It was one of those rare finishes, where I couldn’t stop smiling.
At the end of the race, there was cold beer, warm bratwursts and many kind words, as those who had finished cheered those final runners through the finish. The Alsea Falls Spring Fling was everything a trial race should be, muddy and a ton of fun!