The very first ultra race that I ever participated in was the 2018 Mary’s Peak 50k. I enjoyed it so much that I did it again in 2019 before “retiring” from ultras temporarily. It was the only 50k I did twice and what I loved about it, (other than being so scenic,) was the personal touches. I love a “down-home” operation that feels like family and embraces the runner’s community. You get just that from Oregon Trail Runs. I can’t think of another race organizer who gives out his own personal cell phone number to EVERY participant in case they get in trouble on race day, but that’s EXACTLY what Mike Ripley does. If that’s not “race family,” I don’t know what else is.
Oregon Trail Runs have had a partnership with Starker Forests for 30 years, and it’s a relationship that’s built around mutual respect and community. Starker Forests, Inc is a 5th generation local family business and they place an enormous value on getting outside for recreational purposes. They don’t begrudgedly allow the use of their forestland to Oregon Trail Runs, they actually embrace and encourage it. They know that true members of the trail running community appreciate and respect the forests as much as they do and they want to share it with us.In addition to Starker Forest, Blodgett Community Church has allowed car camping for 30 years, and the Blodget Elementary School has allowed use of their facility for this event, so It’s a shining example of a wonderful small community helping each other out.
This year, I opted to run Mary’s Peak 25k Trail Run, and after running the Big Sur marathon a few weeks ago, I was glad to have less distance to cover. The weather was not looking promising in the days leading up to the event, as it had been raining and raining and raining some more. This year, with the wettest April and May on record, Mike had to make some difficult decisions about changing the 50k and the 50 Mile route, but the 25k route was still as it had been the last few years. In 2019, my friend had run the 25k and was surprised to learn it was actually more like a 30k, (as trail races are often not exact) but it’s now a pretty true 25k distance.
I arrived early at Blodgett Elementary School the morning of the race and the weather was holding up pretty nicely. I picked up my race packets quickly and got a cool shirt and pint glass to add to the growing race collection. Oregon Trail Runs is in the midst of a branding change and their new logo looks great. There was thankfully Starbucks coffee on hand, no lines at the porta potties, and no chilly rain. The 25k took off promptly at 9:00AM from the school, which was a change from the last time I’d run here. There used to be shuttle buses that took runners out to a different drop off location from the school, but it had been increasingly difficult to manage due to climate changes and issues with down trees and bus clearance, not to mention logistics with porta potties and other details. What this meant was the first 3 miles or so of our race was mostly uphill on a gravel road. Quite honestly, this was the hardest part of the race for me, as I’ve had my fair share of gravel roads at races and it’s not really my favorite surface to run on. However, I knew it would end and I would be rewarded with the gorgeous forest that got me back out to Blodgett in the first place.
Once I got off the road onto Supertree Trail and to my “happy place” in the woods, it got muddy. There was no way it couldn’t be after all the rain that had been coming down. However, it miraculously wasn’t raining that day and temps were in the 50’s and warmer than I’d expected. I’d brought a rain jacket but left it in the car, and I was glad I had because I never needed it. The mud never bothered me. It slowed me down, but so did the hills, and I wasn’t there to win. I was out there to enjoy a day on the trails, and it was an even better bonus to have aid stations full of yummy snacks out there waiting with people wearing smiling faces.
If you’re a trail runner, you already know that trail race aid stations are really the BEST aid stations, but Oregon Trail Races really does have so much of everything. Pickles. Cookies. Chips. Crackers. PB&J on Dave’s Killer Bread. Fruit. Flat Coke (ahhh, yes, the BEST!!!) And Hammer Nutrition was out there too and had even given runners Gel flasks to fill up and Speedcups for the 50k and 50 Mile participants to encourage less waste with disposable cups.
The course was well marked as always and I never got lost. Not only does this race organization do an excellent job of marking up the course with pink arrows and key mile markers telling you where you should go, they also go out of their way to tell you where NOT to go. Traveling in the wrong direction will get you big yellow “X” marks AND big “NO” vocab on the signs too. There are chalk marks on open forest roads as well and the mile markers are all approx. 2 miles apart.
After a lot of up, (crawing,) down, (sliding,) and quad and calf burning, I reached the exit of Collarbone Alley, and that’s were the logging unit begins. Here the road is under construction and I encountered the 3 inch rock and more mud. There were a few trees to climb over, which we had been warned about previously in emails before race day, but none of it was bad at all.
Frizz Studio was out there taking race pics and they were so wonderful and cheery! It was just what I needed in just the right spot.
If there’s anything I look forward to more than the aid stations at trail races, it’s the post-race food. (Can you tell I’m motivated by food?) After a run, it’s not just nice to have real food waiting but absolutely ESSENTIAL. The thing I crave probably more than anything is a big burrito and that’s EXACTLY what is offered after this race, both meat and veggie options. The Campfire, Home of Cowgirl Cookin was on hand with their burritos and bowls and it was the best! I’m a vegetarian and it’s so nice to have options that they don’t skimp on and I can get something filling and delicious to accommodate my cravings!!
DJ Fresh Jive was there at the finish line, calling out accomplishments and playing some party music and keeping everyone happy. The gym was also open, but the weather wasn’t bad so I didn’t feel cold and miserable as I’d expected.
No alcohol is allowed on the school grounds, but that didn’t bother me since I’m never ready for a beer right away anyway. That’s generally my reward later, after I’m showered and rested.
Overall, this was a super fun race that I would do again and again. Next year’s race will be on May 20th, and I highly suggest you get your trail shoes on for this one. Also Oregon Trail Runs is hoping to organize a trail relay in early October, so stay tuned!!!