I don’t know if its just me, but racing seems to have a different feel to things nowadays. As 2021 trudges along, and vaccines are distributed, more and more races are starting to come online. It’s like a sense of rebirth and emotional regeneration for me as a runner – with feelings that I took racing for granted in the past without stopping to enjoy the race right in front of me. So, needless to say, races just feel different – in a good way.
Level 32‘s Shotgun Trail Blast, which navigated the rural Shotgun Creek Recreation Area was an event that I have always wanted to participate in, but just “never got around to it”. So when my schedule cleared up, I was thrilled I could make this happen. It was a bit of a drive from Salem – almost 90-ish minutes – it was well worth the drive. Shotgun Creek sits amidst a forest setting, but even with its distance from urban centers, there are a bunch of thing to make the trek for, such as swimming areas, picnic tables, camping, and most importantly on 4/3/21 – the trail system.
The Shotgun Trail Blast boasted 4 distances, all running on the main 5.2 mile loop that meanders through the park. The 5k utilizes a cutoff trail to keep the distance at the 3-mile mark and the 10k adds on a little out-and-back section at the beginning to meet it’s distance. The longer two distances ran multiples of the main loop. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of multiple loop races, but I remember thinking as I was nearing the end of my 10k that I could ABSOLUTELY run this loop more times. It’s just amazingly scenic.
There was lots of space to stay distanced in the staging area, but this was the first race I have been to in over a year that didn’t have any sort of staggered start. To be honest, there weren’t a ton of people in each distance (I think the 10k had about 45 runners), but it was sort of fun to have a “mass start”. Runners throughout the day were pretty courteous, from staying as separate as possible during the start and short road sections, as well as on the trails. I witnessed (from myself as well) runners taking to the sides of the trail to let faster counterparts pass – and doing so with a smile and some encouragement. It was great to see 2020 didn’t break us all.
For the 10k, the half-mile out and back spaced things out, and was a surprising challenge right out of the gate. There was a gradual and relatively continual uphill for the first half, followed by some downhill speed that spit us out onto the trails. It was evident right from entering the trails that this was going to be quite the beautiful backdrop.
The first 2.5+ miles were mostly climbing up, but it wasn’t anything that wasn’t manageable. Even the steepest climbs were doable (all things considered) and weren’t super quad and lung burners, as far as trail races go. The single track trail was in surprisingly great shape, with minimal areas of any significant mud. As someone who runs trails, but isn’t really a “trail runner” in that sense, I think this was a perfect course for those looking for a challenge, but not one that was going to have them hating life afterwards (and during).
Also, there was was only perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 mile of total pavement – just short sections leading into, and out of, the staging area.
After the race, there was an actual post-race spread! It consisted of canned beverages, water bottles, and milk, pre-packaged items like granola bars and fruit snacks, as well as bananas and oranges. Again – a REAL race! I will reiterate that everyone seemed to be doing a really solid job with being courteous with space. I imagine nobody wanted to mess this good feeling up!
Overall, I don’t think I can do justice to how great this race felt. From the environment, to the organization, to the weather – the overall feeling of “normalcy” was not lost on me. It made me even more excited for racing in 2021!
Remaining on Level 32’s 2021 calendar are the following events:
We highly recommend checking them out!