This year has been light on racing front for me for a multitude of reasons. The Wine Country Trail Runs reminded me of how much I enjoy the experience of racing (and inspired me to get signed up for a few more races!) While this race had 3 different distance options (1/2 marathon, 10K, and 5K), I opted for the 5K. There was also an Adaptive Race option.
Since we were unsure about the parking situation, my friend and I made sure to get to Chehalem Ridge Nature Park with plenty of time. It turns out all parking was pretty close to the start area, so even though racers had to park on the street outside of the park (to preserve parking for other park goers) it wasn’t very far to walk. We arrived before the 1/2 marathon start giving me more than hour before my start time. The park had real flush toilets (Yay!) and plenty of open space to warm-up. If you haven’t heard of Chehalem Ridge Nature Park, it’s because the park is basically a baby – just opening at the end of 2021!
With plenty of time, I checked out the post-race food area. ETA was preparing quite the spread! Onions were being sauteed on the grill as the pulled pork sandwiches and coleslaw were being prepped. There was also fruit, chips, brownies, and more. It was pretty impressive!
After the 1/2 marathon start the number of runners waiting in the park decreased dramatically. The 10K group was smaller than the 1/2 marathon group, but after the 10K start I suddenly felt like the park was empty. I meandered around and saw a few 5K runners here and there. It was going to be a small group! Imagine my surprise when there were only 5 of us at the start line!
While we waited for the 5K, we heard that the lead 1/2 marathon runner had spotted a cougar along the trail! The race organizers quickly contacted the onsite park ranger and reassured those of us waiting to run that we would not be in that same area. Fortunately, all runners made it back safely.
At race time, the 5 of us started out together with some chatting as we crunched along the gravel trail. Initially it kind of felt like we were out for a group run instead of a race. There was a doozy of a hill early on that had my lungs burning.
But, what goes up must come down! We were rewarded with a sweet downhill quickly. After that the ups and downs were a little more gradual. About a mile in the 5 of us begin to spread out and there were times when I felt like I had the trail to myself. Normally that would make me a little nervous during a race, wondering if I was off course, but the course was well-marked and it felt peaceful hearing the sounds of nature combined with the crunching of my steps through the woods.
The trails were very well-groomed and not at all technical, so if you are looking for a fast trail race – this has potential. I had been worried about the heat since the 5K started at 10 A.M., but it was a cooler morning and we were mostly in the shade of the fir trees. I couldn’t have asked for a better morning.
I finished the (slightly short) 5K as the first woman overall! OK, so there were only 3 women, but for a slow runner like me that is a rarity. I’ll take the win. 🙂 The race wasn’t chip timed, but there was a computer with the running time for each distance and several people getting finisher numbers and times logged.
Quite the challenging feat, but they seemed to be on top of it. I was handed my finisher’s stemless wine glass, which could be filled with water and/or wine samples available in the food area.
There were tons of raffle items, so many racers went home with some great extras donated by various sponsors. My friend and I lounged in the shade to hydrate and snack on a few of the goodies from ETA while we watched more finishers come in and cheered on the various winners at the awards ceremony. Both of us walked away with an award. Yes, my friend’s win was more impressive as he had a bit more competition in the 10K! 😉
Both my friend and I really enjoyed the Wine Country Trails Runs and we both plan to return next year for the next distance up. The NW Dirt Churners did a great job of organizing a pleasant morning on the trails. The vibe was casual, but well-planned with plenty of post-race bonuses – like great food and prizes. The race staff was friendly and accessible and the location was top-notch. I highly recommend you hit the trails at the Wine Country Trail Runs in 2024!