After a prolonged training block all spring with plans falling apart, some weeks of personal grief, and a general feeling of being goal-less, I decided to put an end to my Aimless Running Syndrome and hopped into the Wy’East Howl 100K at the last minute.
It’s logistically easy from Portland, with a not-so-far start/finish line at Mt. Hood Meadows, but also offers the option of camping or simple lodging for the weekend just up on the mountain. I know Daybreak Racing puts on incredible events with well-marked courses, fully stocked aid stations, and an electric vibe and community so while the running wouldn’t be easy, the planning would be.
It was going to be a warm day, but not overwhelmingly hot. I had a friend running the 50K and I was excited to cross paths with her on course as the day wore on. I was feeling calm, despite the long day I had ahead. It was a small field of runners and we lined up, in the dark, in the parking lot of the ski hill, and were sent on our way. I was looking forward to the trail therapy.
We started up a hill. A long hill. A decently steep hill. It was relentless and [for me] unrunnable. But the sunrise over the summit of Hood was distracting. Looking behind, the Cascades stretched out to the Three Sisters and Jefferson and they’d be watching over us all day long. Those moments are worth the 3 AM alarm.
Eventually what goes up must come down and we got to enjoy a steep and fast descent to leave the ski area, pass by Umbrella Falls, meadows with wildflowers popping, our first aid station (run by the ever-entertaining Wy’East Wolfpack), a quick jaunt on the highway to catch a gravel road for some more climbing, more views, and more forests.
At this point in the race, the 50K runners were coming at us (their race was point-to-point) and it was inspiring to see these strong and fast runners tackle the trails we would inevitably come back on later in the day.
It was warming up at this point and though the course was a good mixture of covered and exposed, there’s no denying this is a summer trail run. It’s a stout course with around 10,000 ft of gain so we were all working hard under the sun. After the aid station around mile 20, it’s a lovely, buttery downhill with a stinker hill at the end of the section to the cutoff aid and it runs next to a small creek – perfect for dunking a hat, buff, and a splash of water on the face to refresh.
After reaching the aid station at the 50K mark (Surveyor’s Ridge), it’s a hard climb to complete the lollipop and then back on the course you came out on to end back at Mt. Hood Meadows.
Daybreak Racing just recently announced some exciting changes to the 2023 event: a name change to Wy’East Trailfest, offering distances of 50K, 28K, and 14K (a sad hiatus of the 100K for next year) on 3 different days, a new course route climbing up higher on the trails of Hood, while still keeping all the great aspects of their races like the venue, support, swag, and vibes.
Results and photos are up and a huge thanks to RD Jeremy and all the volunteers for having us out for this race – I remember being at the inaugural 50K years ago in the pouring race and though very different experiences at the “same” race, it was just as memorable and spectacular as ever.
Daybreak Racing has other races still open to round out the season this year, including some gorgeous ones on the trails on the coast, so be sure to check those out!