A few summers ago I was running an incredibly remote trail race on another continent and a man in my starting group was wearing a Haulin’ Aspen race tee. “I’ve always wanted to do that one!” I said to my fellow Oregonian and we ran and chatted together for a few, well, kilometers, and then parted ways. I don’t remember his name, just that he lives in Corvallis and recommended the race. Fast forward through 2020 and a pandemic, and many training cycles and on August 7th I was at the start line for myself.
The race begins at one end of the Wanoga Sno-Park, which is an easy 20 minutes outside of Bend on the Cascade Lakes highway. Another 10 minutes gets you to Mt. Bachelor. It’s an incredibly large area, so we parked at the start line on one end and would finish at the other end of the parking lot, which is a good 7-10 minute walk (maybe 12 post-race!).
There were about 90 runners and it was obvious we were all very much used to social distancing at this point, as the announcer had to ask us all a few times to move closer to the starting line. We had a 7 AM start and took off right on time.
We started out with a decently steep uphill for about half a mile on some dusty double track, then headed off into the woods for some dreamy singletrack. I was leapfrogging with a few runners in here as we all settled into our spots. After my lungs realized there was no convincing me to quit despite the altitude, there were some really enjoyable miles of swoopy trails with some fun technical sections, views of Mt. Bachelor and the surrounding forests, and the morning smoke blew out so it was blue sky all day.
There were ample aid stations with water, electrolyte drinks, and gels. As the day warmed up, I was using the stops more for splashing my face than actually filling up my bottles. Eventually we ended up on a long stretch of forestry road, which normally would be pretty fast going, but I found to be a relentless climb. We got to enjoy some downhill trails at the end of that stretch before popping out onto the dreaded 2.5 mile gravel road climb. Just straight and steep with no end in sight, a few other racers and I slogged it out together. The final aid station at the top of the hill was everything we dreamt it would be! In total, the race had about 2,800 feet of gain.
With just two miles to go at that point, we were back on the same lovely trail from the race start, but would eventually fork to end at the other side of the sno-park.
The course was incredibly well-marked with ribbon and signage throughout and I found it especially comforting when they started to include mileage in the final miles of the race.
The finish line was a sight for sore eyes, as the temperature was over 90 F by the end of the race (and despite being in the high desert, quite a lot of the course was actually tree-covered). The race was chip timed by Eclectic Edge, so we were given our medals and a printout of our results before headed into the food area. There were canopies set up for shade with lots of chairs and of course, a feast, including beer on tap from 10 Barrel Brewing.
After a good while of chatting with other runners met during the race, I made the trek back to my car…in search of the Deschutes River for a post-race soak.
Lay It Out Events has a great lineup of races throughout the year with several still to come and we recommend checking them out as a fun way to explore Central Oregon!
Results and photos for 2021 Haulin’ Aspen events are available, as well!