Despite being just 90 minutes away from Portland, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been to McDonald Forest. My first memory of the place involves a very rainy ultra and what was practically a lake at the finish line. Luckily that was not the case for this year’s 15K just a few short weeks ago.
The race begins at Peavy Arboretum and parking was easy. It’s a beautifully forested start/finish line with such a relaxed vibe that it feels like a group run with friends. Packet pickup on race day was calm and pre-race snacks were plenty. With a 9 AM start, it was easy enough to leave that morning and have ample time to arrive, park, use the bathroom, and I even snuck in a mile warmup run.
The weather was PNW perfect. I wore a light merino baselayer top and capri pants and was a bit warm. There were definitely tank tops and shorts, as well as rain jackets and gloves around. The rain held off the entire race and the course was in really great condition – soft, but not muddy, yet not dusty or hardpack either. If you don’t already know what it’s like to run in HOKAs, these trails were basically it: cushion but not sloppy.
The race offered two distances for the morning: a 15K and a 5K. The longer distance took off first, in somewhat of a lollipop loop to start. A small stinker hill to start and then beautifully fast (but not steep) downhill let the pack disperse before narrowing to singletrack.
The course was marked with signs and flour and it was easy to follow. There were enough runners to find a buddy if you wanted or have some space for yourself. We had one large downed tree to navigate (and catch the photographer!), passed by the finish line and began the climbing. For me, this was power hiking and at this point, the 5K racers had begun and were powering past at a jog. This was short-lived and there was a fork where they began their downhill and the 15K continued the climb.
From the top, the views of the valley, the neighboring forest, and a bit of the Coast Range under the blue sky were stunning and worth the work. I also knew for all the up would come the best part: the descent. Swoopy, dreamy singletrack came first and it lit up the quads, followed by slightly less steep firelanes to really trash the legs (but claw back some time). We spilled back onto some singletrack and another stinker hill, rounded the little lake again to the finish line.
There were ample opportunities for aid stations if needed and all of the volunteers were enthusiastic and wonderful.
The finish line had plenty of post-race snacks and drinks and a big grassy area to hang out. Age group winners were given socks and everyone received a finisher’s medal.
This race was really such a fun one to pop into and I genuinely had such a fun time – whether it’s a weekend training run or your springtime ‘A’ race, it’s absolutely worth scheduling for next year. It’s a race of community – everyone there knows someone running the race, volunteering, or ran it a dozen years ago, or their sister’s coach is there, etc. The post-race email from the RD stated: “We are truly inspired by each of you. Our youngest finisher was only 6 years old, with our more senior runners reaching into their 70s. We celebrated the huge accomplishment of Jay, completing a Hall of Fame worthy 25 finishes. We had others who were crushing the longest run they have ever completed. There were cancer survivors, newlyweds, and aspiring athletes. As we got to talk with everyone, we are completely and totally honored to be among you.” It’s a really wonderful vibe.