On a beautifully cool and sunny October morning, I ran the Elk-Kings 50K in the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon. I’ve never been much of runner, but I got it in my head last year that I wanted to push my body to see just how much it was capable of. I followed a 16 week training program and felt prepared both mentally and physically when October 13th rolled around.
The race started at the Jones Creek Day Use Area. The weather was crisp and cold and there was a gorgeous fog blanketing the forest. The trail was a double out and back; it went out for 4 miles along the Wilson River before turning back to hit the starting point again and head out in the other direction for 12 before turning back around and finishing at the Tillamook Forest Center. There was roughly 5,600 ft. of elevation gain by my Garmin (though the website says it was closer to 6,500 ft.) with the majority occurring in the second half of the course. (source)
The first 11 miles went by quickly. The trail was full of rolling hills and the energy was high. I rolled my ankle at mile 4 – the terrain was much softer than the rocky ground I trained on in Utah – but I was able to walk it out and keep moving forward. Though it was cold when the race started, the sun came out and I was able to shed my outer layer around mile 8. Matt and Snickers met me at the second aid station around mile 11 to give me a fresh water bladder and take my shirt.
The trail started to get much more difficult after that point. We crossed a bridge and climbed about 1,200 ft. in 3 miles. There was a steep downhill followed by some rollers and another climb before hitting the turn around point at mile 19. At this point my right IT band was getting inflamed from all of the downhill and my knee was in pain (you can see it on my face in the photos below). Luckily Matt came to my rescue with some Ibuprofen and some motivation and I was on my way again.
The return was HARD. The 1,200 ft. we climbed on the way out was compressed into 1.5 miles on the return and my glutes and hamstrings were on fire. I wanted to stop so many times, but literally pushed my legs up that hill. At this point I knew I was 5th place female – the lady in 4th place was behind me in the first half, but left the aid station before me – and thought if I pushed it I could potentially catch up to her. I was never so relieved as when the trail went down again to the aid station at mile 29. From that point, it was 2.75 miles of rolling hills to the end where Snickers and I crossed the bridge to the finish line.
Since I did pretty much all of my training solo, being in a race environment was both foreign and invigorating. I pushed myself harder than I probably would have otherwise. I finished 31.76 miles in 6:09:13 by the race time (5:59:44 moving time – I stopped with Matt and Snickers at a few aid stations), which was far better than I could have hoped. Going in I just wanted to finish under 7 hours with a goal in the back of mind of 6.5, so to finish just over 6 hours was amazing for me. I was 21st overall, 4th place female (out of 30), and 1st place female in my age group (the top 3 overall weren’t eligible for age group prizes, so I technically finished 3rd in my age group 🙂 but I’ll take the win).
A big thanks to Matt and Snickers for being my cheerleaders and support staff all summer and to the Go Beyond Racing crew who put on an amazing race.