Silver Falls Trail 50K & My First Ultra!

I had originally signed up for this race forever ago. After helping my friend move to Oregon I had seen a REALLY pretty picture of a park there on Instagram and shared it with her only to find out it was just over 30 minutes from her house! She went on a recon mission and told me I HAD to go there next time I visited. Honestly I don’t remember if I even waited to see the place for myself (We went for a walk there during my next visit.) or just immediately checked if they had any races and signed up for the Silver Falls Trail 50K.

Unfortunately at the beginning of the October I did something to one of my already bad knees at Ragnar Wawayanda so I hadn’t really been able to train basically at all for the rest of the month. In the last few days leading up to the race I had kind of come to accept my fate of simply going for a walk in a really pretty park and cheering on the friend I had managed to sucker into joining me 😜

The cramped legroom on my flights there didn’t really bother my knees like I thought it would. If anything, it was only my neck that was bothering me slightly at the race the next day due to the flights. I even got to talk to a fellow runner and past Oregonian on my first flight since he pegged me as a runner when he saw I was reading Eat & Run. I landed around 4 PM, got picked up by my friend, and headed to packet pickup. Between talking to that guy on the flight and the people at packet pickup I got a bit more amped to attempt to run tomorrow and packed my hydration pack that night as though I was going to complete the whole race.

Race Day
We got there “bright and early” (really dark and early) on race day and I was glad my friend had thought to bring two headlamps (so I was able to borrow one). By the time the race started most people had taken theirs off and I probably could have managed without, but it was nice to have that extra little light when you’re as clumsy as me. I wish I had thought to bring my SPIbeam visor because it would have been PERFECT.

Mile 0-15
I started the race near the back of the line, and made sure to take off really slowly so hopefully my knee would have time to warm up and not hurt. It worked like a charm and the first 15 miles were AMAZING! Since tripping was definitely part of my downfall at Ragnar, I put most of my focus on the ground and watching my step, but also took it slow so I could look at the BEAUTIFUL forest I was running through. I talked to some people, stopped to take some pictures (but not because I felt terrible and had to!), cruised up some hills, and just overall had a blast! I had my hydration vest filled with water because I like to be able to take tiny sips at my own pace. And for fuel and electrolytes I had my Skratch chews and salt pills, which were working well. I did try some potato chips and an actual baked potato dipped in some salt at an aid station because they sounded good so I figured maybe my body wanted something they contained. I’m super lucky and my stomach is relatively hard to upset so I wasn’t too concerned trying “new stuff” to running (long as it wasn’t new to my normal diet I knew it would be fine).

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SO PRETTY.

Mile 16-19
It was a little after mile 15 that my knee suddenly decided it had had enough. I had kind of assumed this would happen and didn’t really want to take the chance of hurting my knee further by pushing on past this point of pain. I was honestly just really happy that I had run a virtually pain free 15 miles and wasn’t upset about having to quit at all. The only issue was I had run 15 miles and my runner’s brain didn’t think about the possibility of turning back. So instead of going about 1 mile back to the last aid station, I saw hobbling 4 miles to the next as the only option. These next 4 miles felt like the longest miles of my life. I felt like my knee had never hurt this much before. Being the excellent planner I am, I didn’t even actually know exactly where the next aid station was. I only knew the cutoff from what they had announced at the start line and began trying to calculate if I’d make it from the times and distances I vaguely thought I remembered them saying. It was all useless anyway though because as soon as I start running I can’t add 2+2. I saw NO ONE. I entered the dark place. I assumed I must be dead last. Did they have a sweeper or would I just be left alone in the woods? Would the aid station even be there by the time I got to it’s location? Finally after what felt like FOREVER I saw the aid station. I asked about taking their truck back with them, and they said this station could only transport a few people so it was reserved for emergencies, but the next aid station could help me. I honestly almost cried at the thought of having to go another 5 miles. With how awful I felt during those last miles I felt I should be considered a medical emergency. Distraught and unsure what to do next I decided stuffing my face with m&m’s was clearly the best decision. In the 10 minutes I sat there debating my fate, 20-40 runners came by. All INSANELY cheery. Half taking shots of Fireball before running off into the woods screaming. Where had they all been before when I was completely alone in the woods? The sugar rush started to hit me, along with now knowing I wasn’t alone, and I suddenly felt like the last few miles had never happened. As the next person left the station, I decided to follow suit and that I officially was going to complete this race.

Mile 20-24
My knee still wasn’t feeling great, but it was manageable. I did a decent amount of galloping (like when you pretended to be a horse as a kid) πŸ˜‚ This time I saw people the whole time and did a lot of trading spots back and forth with them. We started running through the parts of the park where I had actually been before (the parts with the waterfalls). I could feel the sugar rush fading toward the end, but at least I knew what to do to make myself feel better this time. I got to the aid station at mile 24 right before the cutoff time. At this point I had come to far to quit. I took all my planned nutrition and gear from in the front pouches of my hydration vest and shoved them in the back. I then filled one front pocket completely with m&m’s and the other with potato chips, and took a handful of potato chips for good measure. I was getting hungry for real food and that was as close as I was getting. I had also heard on the Training for Ultra Podcast that potato chips are one of the highest calorie snacks.

Mile 24-31
It felt like you weaved around the falls for forever. I was glad I had been there before to take pictures because I was too worried about time to be able to stop and take any. I jog, shuffle, hopped along as fast as I could eating my feast of potato chips and m&m’s. There were some actual stairs to climb at one point, but I had already walked them and knew what to expect. The only other specific thing I remember was right before the finish. At packet pickup a volunteer had warned us you will be able to hear the finish when you’ve still got a ways to go and they were right. They also mentioned one last hill in that section. The uphill wasn’t bad for me, but it goes right back down at the same steepness which was just about the final straw for my knee. I came insanely close to rolling down the hill both by choice and accident. I finally reached the finish with only a little over 15 minutes left, in 7:43:45.

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While this wasn’t exactly how I wanted my first ultra to go I am still insanely happy that I ran it. It feels good knowing that I was able to complete the distance without any real issues besides my knee without much training. It confirmed my thoughts that I have a decent fueling plan down since I never felt sick, but also was a learning experience that some sugar can do wonders for my attitude and chips are great for once you start wanting real food. Also I was super glad I started wearing a long sleeve shirt since it seems when I am out there for so long (even though I’m usually someone who runs warm) I end up going through phases of getting chills.

I can’t wait to actually be able to train for and run my next ultra! I plan to do a “local” one since I think the flights honestly hurt more than the ultra itself. My neck was definitely a bit sore during the race from the flight there and the flight back was not only physically rough, but I also caught a sinus infection (or awful cold?) that I am STILL trying to fully get over. In the end, still TOTALLY worth it though!

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We’re ultramarathoners now!!!

Ragnar Trail Wawayanda Lake 2018

I finally participated in my first trail Ragnar and oh my gosh was it fun!! I still think both types are unique experiences and fun in their own chaotic ways so you should at least try both, but the trail Ragnars are just so much more chill.. Also TRAILS 😍

So just like most of our road Ragnars (because my team is awesome) we started out the night before camping! Mild disappointment at the fact that the sites were provided by Ragnar and therefore we had to listen to their rules of no fires, but I GUESS it was safer that a bunch of sleep deprived crazies didn’t have fire πŸ™„πŸ˜‚ I got there really late that Thursday night and went to sleep almost immediately.. after scarfing down some food since Captain Dad said I should eat something. That’s one of the best things about the trail version, you can bring a camping grill and tons of food and snacks since you don’t have to shove it all into a car. I ate like a freaking queen that weekend! You can definitely stop and get food during the road ones (when you have time), but I prefer eating foods I’m used to whenever I want. They also had food trucks at certain times!

Race morning we woke up way earlier than our start time, watched the safety video (it’s a different one for trails!), and picked up our Salomons! The trail Ragnar are sponsored by Salomon and you can rent a pair of their shoes to test! The area was still really wet from the recent rain and I only had one pair of trail sneakers so I decided to give them a try and have to wear wet shoes at least one less time. I would highly recommend renting some! It’s free and they just take your license until you give them back.

I ended up taking the spot of 8th and final runner so I had A TON of time to kill. We hung out, ate, and overall just kinda camped. It was really fun not being split up or having to worry about driving. They also have “the village” which hosts tons of contests and activities! At night they have movies, fire, and smores. One of our teammates won the scavenger hunt and got a free pair of Salomons! And at one point I ended up in an inflatable ball race!

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Team Rocket caught Pikachu!

We also won greenest campsite and got 50% off our next Ragnar registration!

Now back to the race.. It’s kind of weird how the bracelets and bibs are the opposite of the road relays. You have one bib per team that gets handed off at the transition, but you don’t hand off the snap bracelet since you get your own for each lap that is the color of your loop. You may think it seems silly but by Saturday you’ll be glad you have a bracelet to remind you exactly what you’re doing πŸ€ͺ The transition also has a screen that will display your team name when your runner only has 0.25 left so that’s really neat!

As last runner I had yellow, green, red for loop order, (green being the shortest and red the longest). I would be running yellow and green in the dark, but that also meant I got to run the longest in the daylight, which was what I wanted. You don’t need vests for the trail ones so I got ready to run with just my headlamp. Make sure you know how to use your headlamp and that it’s set properly! I had mine set to red light while in camp and didn’t know how to get it to white so I ended up swapping with a teammate AS I was running to enter the trails. I’m so glad she was there because there’s no way you could navigate out there without light. It was hard enough with light! The trails were very technical at points and at others they were really muddy. The yellow trail was labeled super well though so other than being worried about falling it was really chill running through the woods at night. I really enjoyed it!

I actually enjoyed it so much that when a teammate didn’t think she could do her yellow loop I took it. My second yellow loop was also at night and super nice! The only issue was I felt like I twisted my ankle a bit.

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What? Ghastly is evolving!

After another long wait I had my green loop. The green loop had a lot of road to start (like I think it was the entire first mile) and I don’t know if it was that combined with twisting my ankle or just my knee being bad to begin with but it started KILLING me. I did a decent amount of speed walking because running motion hurt too much. I’m not sure if they didn’t put out as many signs on the green loop or I was just moving so much slower but I kept thinking I had missed turns. The combo of road, pain, and worry made me HATE the green loop. I would have absolutely swapped it for another yellow. Once I finished it I tried my best to fill my next wait with stretches in hopes of not being in pain for my final loop.

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Team Rocket Recovery Area

Red loop rolled around in the morning and I got ready to end the race! My knee felt decent but in the end it went pretty quickly downhill. It hurt so I wasn’t picking my feet up enough causing me to keep tripping and making it hurt more. It was a pretty awful cycle. But at least it was through the woods during the day so I could see all the prettiness! I felt bad I must have slowed my team down insane amounts, but I tried my best to speedwalk, hop/skip, and jog to the finish!

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Team Rocket Blasting Off Again!

Under Armor Mountain Running Series – Killington

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Under Armor Mountain Runner Series – Killington race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

Last weekend I ran the second race of the Under Armor Mountain Running Series at Mount Killington in Vermont! It also happened to be my first race with BibRave as a BibRave Pro and boy was it a memorable one!

I LOVE trail races, but due to a lack of them being offered in my direct area I have raced far fewer than I would like. This race was not only going to be the longest trail race I’ve ran, but also most likely the most intense based on the name “Mountain Running” compared to the non-technical, flat trails around me. It was also really exciting to see the trail system it was being held in was large enough to allow for 25k of unique trail so the course wasn’t just multiple loops of the same trail. (Almost all trail systems in my area are so small a larger distance race must be laps.)

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No loops!!

Being the AMAZING planner that I am, I got home from my trip to Oregon with a less than a day before this race so I was unable to attend the pre-race-day packet pickup even though they generously kept it open until 8PM. I did hear from others it was ultra quick though. I had also been so focused on finishing my Master’s project before (and during.. oops) my trip that I hadn’t figured out my sleeping arrangements until the last T-24 hrs either. I ended up staying at the Happy Bear Motel which was 9 minutes down the road from the start line and a fine little place to stay the night. Had I had more time to be in the area, this race was held <50 minutes from the AWESOME KOA Quechee Campground I stayed at for the Covered Bridges Half and I would have LOVED to stay there again and actually explore the Killington and Quechee Gorge area. (That might be my master plan for next year! 😜)

I woke up bright and early and attempted to eat my first ever actually planned race breakfast. I wasn’t able to eat it all, but looking back I’m insanely glad I ate something to have some energy in me.

Race parking was super easy. It was in an actual gravel parking lot, right where the GPS address said it would be, and SUPER close to the start line! The race venue also had great service which is always nice since I am directionally challenged so there’s no way I’m finding my way back home without a GPS or directions.

It was nice to see there was no line at packet-pickup/resgistration. I had a problem with my registration but they were able to quickly and painlessly fix it for me. I also overheard another woman had forgotten her previously picked-up bib at her hotel and they quickly replaced it for her. With everything so close and run so smoothly I had a lot more time than I thought to just hangout before the race. I chatted with some people, met some of my fellow BibRave Pros, and then cheered on the 50k start.

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Before the insanity I met Brendasrunning!

Another note for next year is this race seemed extremely supporter friendly. Not only did they have a supporter tent that had bells and sign making stuff, but they also had multiple supporter viewing points along the course. I didn’t have anyone with me since I always feel bad having people sit around for hours to only see me at the start and finish so I don’t know exactly what it entailed. I did see supporters at multiple points up the mountain and people in the gondolas though so I’m assuming they were providing transport to these spots for the supporters.

I knew going into this race that it was going to be tough. I wasn’t well trained since I had been focusing on my Master’s and neglecting running, and it seemed it was going to be the toughest trail race I’ve run. But soon as the gun went off I forgot all that and sprinted off into the distance. The first mile was a super easy, mostly gentle decline through grassy fields circling the mountain. It felt like cross country and I was running it like so.

I’m not sure if it was all the travel, the smoke and altitude in Oregon, or what, but the instant we started uphill into the woods back toward the mountain my heart started racing way faster than any other time I can remember. It especially freaked me out since my breathing and everything else felt fine (like I wasn’t even putting in that much effort) so I decided it was already time for a walking break. It was honestly a real bummer since this first little bit of uphill was some of the only uphill you could actually run.

The rest of the race consisted of extreme uphills and crazy downhills (up and down mountain really). We climbed what felt like straight up from about mile 3.5-6.5 and you thought for sure you had to be at the top.. but it had only just begun.

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The view there was BEAUTIFUL!

You then got a taste of the crazy straight down-mountains you’d be facing. This was also when you became alarmed as it was only a little over 6 miles in and you already felt like you were going completely back down all you just came up.. What were you supposed to do for the rest of the race if you had already climbed and descended the mountain? Well, go right back up and down multiple other times of course! The terrain varied between deep thick mud, tall thick grassy (vertical) fields, paths made of fist/baseball sized rocks, and technical wooded paths.

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The guy with trekking poles behind me had the right idea..

It was exhausting and I was really glad I wore my hydration pack even though I could have easily survived off their aid stations were I a normal human who can drink from a cup. I drank almost my entire hydration pack as well as took cups of water from a few of their stations. Their stations had EVERYTHING, full packages of Honey Stinger chews & waffles, Coke & other sodas, sports drinks, candy, pretzels, and at least one even had bacon! I always crave Coke after races so I decided to give it a try at one of the aid stations a bit over halfway. It definitely helped and so I took another one or two cups at other stations. I also decided to bring and try my Skratch chews from my box from The Feed and was surprised how much I liked them. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Honey Stinger chews right before or toward the beginning of runs. They’re so good I actually sometimes just eat them as fruit-snacks for snacks. But as a run goes on, their consistency gets to me because I can’t chew them fast enough for them not to get slimy/stuck in my teeth. The Skratch chews were mildly more firm and coated in sour crystals like a Sour Patch Kid. They only actually had a slight hint of sour, but the coating really helped the texture for me.

There were so many points where I was told it would be the last big uphill, only to go down a bit and find another large up waiting. When the insane inclines and declines continued into mile 12 & 13 I started to doubt we were ever getting off this mountain. It seemed impossible we could finish at the same elevation as we started with how often we seemed to be going up. (Thinking back I think it was just because the downhills were so short due to how steep they were.)

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Wishing I could have looked happy for such a pretty photo lol

FINALLY with under a mile left the course flattened out. By that time though even these baby inclines you probably wouldn’t normally notice felt like Mount Everest. I had to muster every last bit of energy in my body to jog across the finish line.

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I’m not crying, you’re crying!

While Under Armor sure knows how to destroy you, they also know how to pamper you as well. They had a whole recovery station in the after party with all sorts of rollers, yoga pads, hammocks, and Normatec leg compression sleeves.

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Recovery station!

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Finally got to try some NormaTec!

My fellow BibRave Pros had both run the other past race from the UA Mountain Running Series, Copper Mountain, and said the two races were completely different. While Copper Mountain had altitude as a factor, it was just up and down the mountain, nothing like the constant up and down here. I also heard from someone else that Mt. Bachelor is similarly its own unique challenge, this time in the terrain, since its volcanic rock and much softer and different from most mountains. Now that I am off the mountain, I kind of wish Killington had been the first of the series and I hadn’t JUST gotten back from a trip to Oregon so I could participate in all three races. I would also be very interested to see how things would go had I been more trained. (Would it even help since I still wouldn’t be “running up a mountain” trained?) Either way I am extremely grateful BibRave let me experience such an amazing race that was previously unknown to me! One that was so great that I will most likely be attempting to add the entire series to my roster for next year! 😁

If you’re crazy like me and this all sounds like fun to you, use the code BIBRAVE20 for 20% the Mt. Bachelor race on 9/15 and race Mt. Bachelor for me!!

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On top of the world!

Ever “run” up a mountain? Ever wanted to?
What’s the longest trail race you’ve ever run?
What’s the toughest trail race you’ve ever run?