After volunteering at the Shotgun Trail Blast in 2013 I knew I would be back to run at least one of the race distances in beautiful Marcola, Oregon.
The year I volunteered I was unable to run due to plantar fasciitis; but it gave me a fair glimpse of what the trails were like while stationed at an aid table, serving gels, on a wooded muddy switchback.
This year, the 5k race worked into my schedule really well.
Pre- RaceAs usual, I waited until the day of the race to register, but I arrived plenty early with enough time to cheer for a friend, Becky, who I met through Strava. She was racing the 50k... in an Oiselle wedding gown :)
I kept warm in the car until the last possible minute before turning on my Garmin and warming up for a few miles.
It's possible that I was the only nut warming up for a 5k trail race, but whatever. I'm getting used to being the dork doing drills while everyone else huddles in their long sleeves and capris.
Before the race I prayed that the Lord would help me to run to honor Him, and to keep me and others from getting injured during the race.
As is customary, the 50k started at 8 am. The 25k and 10k started at 9:45 and 9:50, with the 5k event at 10. The events share some of the same trails, with the 5k and 10k on the same loop, which the 10k racers did twice.
Start of the 5k. I am somewhere in here, but keep an eye on the boy on the right. He's quick!
Photo by Thomas Moser, used with permission
Photo by Thomas Moser, used with permission
When the shotgun started the race, a few men took off right away and I fell in the back of their pack. There was a lot of testosterone surging around me. I wasn't worried about winning the first 50 yards; but, maybe it would have been a good strategy if I could have! I didn't anticipate how crowded the trail would get...
After a hundred yards of pavement, we took the singletrack trail, which was very narrow, and had plenty of rocks to navigate.
Hurry up and wait.
It didn't take long to run into the first 10k racers on the course, who were going at their own pace.
Like the other 5k runners, I tried to be polite about passing. On a narrow course like this, sometimes you can pass without much trouble, and sometimes there is nothing you can do except stop running until the person (or people) ahead of you are able to move over.
You can't scamper around anyone if there are trees edging the trail on both sides, and especially if there are 5 or 6 runners clustered together in a pace pack.
There was a steady 621 ft climb in the first 1.6 miles, which created one human log jam after another. I also noticed myself catching some of the men who started out ahead of me in the first sprint, which was reassuring that I was running strong.
Again, I tried to be polite, and apologized for forcing people over when there was room to pass. As I moved up on different groups of runners, they were usually kind to yield when they could. Usually.
Some of these 10k runners even offered support in the form of encouraging cheers and comments, which made me feel better about going around them and stomping the ferns out in the process.
Down we go!
By the time we hit the top of the climb, I was ready for some downhill. I knew my pace was crappy, but my heart was ready to burst running at 5k effort uphill for that long.
What pace was I running? 10 minute miles? 8 minutes? I had no idea. It felt like sub 6. It was definitely the best I could do. Honestly, I might have looked at my watch a few times in the whole race, but knew all I could do was run on effort.
After cresting the climb, we were rewarded with a fast downhill.
I do not run as well downhill as I would like. Technical trails, mud, turning and going all-out are very hard to do all at the same time.
The instinct to protect myself from a fall kicks in, and it's hard to negotiate fast running with caution. "Live to run another day" thoughts battle with "Faster, faster! Go catch that guy" thoughts.
I might have made a mistake by letting a man pass me on the downhill.
He yelped about turning his ankle, but I had no idea he was even behind me. When he passed, he took off as if uninjured and I saw him slip away.
If I hadn't let him by, would he have stayed contentedly behind me? I will never know!
Later he thanked me for pacing him up to that point...
Elevation profile courtesy of Strava
Short course? Or maybe my Garmin cropped the trail short.
Later I learned by email that it was a new course record for women (previous record 31:59), and that 14 year-old Jed Wasson earned a course record for the men with a blazing 22:33.
My prize for finishing first female? A medal, 20$ comp towards another race, and very nice Level 32 Racing T shirt.
Of course I stuck around for food, which was catered by Chapala mexican restaurant and a Eugene brewery (I don't drink, so I had some water). Also, there was a nice assortment of fresh fruit including strawberries, which I made sure to get my share of- plus a few for Becky. (Sorry I forgot to give them to you, Becky)
Would I recommend this race?
- Yes! Be aware of what to expect. It's not a PR course-- this is trail running! It is a challenging, rewarding run with a fast (easy on the lungs, but technical for the feet) finish.
- Enjoy the surroundings. Get there early and take a nice warm up run in the forest on the roads. It is beautiful at Shotgun Creek, and I am looking forward to returning there just to camp and hike around. Level 32 puts on some fun races and is accurate with timing and always makes sure there's plenty of post race raffle prizes and food.
- Work on your hill running!
Some thoughts regarding short trail races and on course records.
It seems a lot of runners don't think the 5k is worth registering for, that it is too "easy" or only for beginners. I love how quickly I can recover from a 5k, and that I get a super interval-intensity workout from it.
Also, I know this course record looks pretty soft!! I was the first woman to break 30 minutes in the 4th year of this race. I would love for someone to come and beat it so I can try to steal it back! ☺