We’re a little behind on posting, but better late than never.
The Marquam Trail remains one of our favorite running trails in Portland. We used to run this weekly back in 2016 and our return has been no different. The trail is in the Marquam Nature Preserve in the Southwest hills of Portland, near OHSU. There are many trails in the preserve and it’s easy to add quite a few miles. We typically go out for 4-6 miles and a favorite route is up to Council Crest. There’s a large park and on a clear day you can see all of the mountains (Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. Adams). The trail is lightly trafficked and there are no bikes allowed, which makes it very enjoyable for pedestrians.
The Wildwood Trail is another trail we used to do back in 2016. While it’s not our favorite, it’s a great place to do some trail running in the city. It’s located in Forest Park with numerous points to get on and off the trail. Unlike the Marquam Trail, the Wildwood Trail is very heavily trafficked, especially along the Lower Macleay creek portion. After the Witch’s Castle (an old stone house) the crowds and kids thin out a bit making it more enjoyable, but there are still plenty of hikers and trail runners. Fun fact: the house was actually built in 1929 as a ranger station and restroom for hikers, but it was badly damaged by a storm in the 1960s and only the stone framework remains. The trail runs 27.9 miles point-to-point making it a great place to log some miles.
Pup Creek Falls is a 9.5 mile, lightly trafficked, out and back trail in Clackamas, OR. It’s in the Mt. Hood National Forest, and there are actually two ways to get to the falls – both along the Clackamas River Trail. The trail is pretty easy with only about 1,200 ft of elevation gain over the course. It runs along the Clackamas River and there are numerous creek crossings along the trail, which Snickers loved. At the turnaround point, you’re treated to a gorgeous 240 ft waterfall nestled in the cliffs, which is well worth the distance.
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.