I just ran the slowest race of my life. It was my fault. I didn’t train hard enough, didn’t sleep or rest enough, and I was battling a sore hip flexor. So it wasn’t exactly shocking to come in towards the back of the pack, but it still kind of sucked. And before you stop reading this thinking that it sounds about as fun as a bag of poisonous snakes, let me tell you something else. It was worth it. And if you sign up for it, it will be worth it for you too.
I’m talking about the 2019 Tillamook Burn Trail Run, which is a springtime weekend of ultra fun hosted by Daybreak Racing. Nestled in Tillamook State Forest, there’s a 50 miler on Saturday and a 50k on Sunday. Below are some tips to make it an enjoyable experience for you.
- Start training early. This race was on April 27th (50 Miler) and 28th (50k) this year. When I was laying out my race schedule in January, the end of April seemed far away, and then BAM, race day snuck up on me before I got in enough long runs or hills. Many other ultras take place a little later in the season than this one, but it’s nice to get it in and done while everyone else is just ramping up for their big summer races.
- Dress properly. After 15 years of running, I still panic over what to wear on race day, and this one is challenging because it’s in the Spring. The weather is iffy this time of year and even if it’s going to be a gorgeous day (which it truly was this year,) it’s chilly out at Tillamook State Forest in the morning. However, you’ll warm up fast out there on the trails, especially when you’ll be there for many hours. I feel like I got this one right this year. I wore capri pants with some ventilation behind the knees, a light-weight short sleeved shirt, and arm sleeves. I also wore a hat which was helpful at the top of the forest with that sun shining down. My fingers and toes were cold at the start, but I moved those arm sleeves into the pocket of my hydration pack before I’d even reached the first aid station.
- Pack food and a drinking vessel. Speaking of aid stations, they are top notch. The volunteers at them are the true rockstars of the race, because they start cheering and ringing those cowbells for you before you even see them. They dress in costumes and they hand you food and hydration and they are really something to look forward to on the course. I didn’t want for anything, and they were even helping me get my bottles in and out of my pack when my fingers didn’t want to cooperate. They had chips, pretzels, pickles, candy, PB&J, fruit, water, Tailwind, and a whole bunch of other options. In my opinion, you should never depend on aid stations for your nutrition, because there are often long stretches of time between them. They clearly can’t just set up anywhere out in the middle of the forest. I knew that there was a 9 mile span before the last aid station, but I hadn’t packed enough food in my pack. I was feeling pretty depleted of energy before that last station saved me. Also, this is a cupless race, so be sure to bring something that’s easy to refill. I had two bottles and got more water and Tailwind at every aid station.
- Practice your hill training. The 50k had 7000 feet of ascent and 7000 feet of descent. The 50 miler has 8700 feet of ascent and 8700 feet of descent. This means you are basically climbing and rolling down mountains the entire way. I walked a lot. Like, A LOT a lot. More hill training would have helped.
- Practice your distance training. This is an ultra and it’s not an easy one. A lot of people finished in the 6-7 hour range. The cutoff is 9 hours which worried me a lot. Spoiler alert, I did make it but I almost didn’t get through that last cutoff in time.
- Have fun. The best reasons to do this race are as follows: 1.) The forest is gorgeous. You’ll cross several streams (and the water actually felt really great on my feet that day,) and pass some scenic waterfalls including one especially breathtaking one at the turnaround point called University Falls. The forest is full of enormous trees and the “burn” is as majestic as you’d imagine. 2.) The trail running community is the most amazing group you’ll meet. The guy that won the whole thing with a mind-blowing time of 3:52 came back out to the course to cheer on the slower runners after he was done winning his race. Not only that, but the race organizers continued to ring their cowbell for every finisher, even those that came in well past the cutoff time. 3.) The afterparty is super fun! There’s a campfire and smores, and free beer and a burrito truck. There’s nothing better than a burrito after a race like this and they are enormous. There is a raffle board too, so there are chances to win some cool Territory Running Co gear. And finally, 4.) This is a Daybreak Racing event. The event is super organized, everything is well communicated, and the course was extremely well marked. This is not the experience of all ultra races, so I really appreciate the effort. It came shining through. Daybreak Racing also hosts the Wy’East Howl and the Backcountry Rise and I can’t wait to try one of those someday. After I recover from this one, of course.