Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Silver Falls Marathon Race Report

Since there are about a million things that I should be doing, this seemed like the perfect time to sit down and finally get this race report in writing.

On November 2nd, I ran the Silver Falls Trail Marathon.  When I signed up to run it, I did so because I was still pouting about my poor showing in Newport and feeling bummed about not getting into McKenzie River (which we did end up running).  I wanted to do a race, specifically a trail race, that was for nothing more than to truly enjoy myself.  Plus, when a race website says, "THE SILVER FALLS MARATHON MAY BE THE MOST DIFFICULT AND CHALLENGING, BUT SCENIC COURSE AROUND! *WARNING* THIS IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL MARATHON! IF YOU'RE COMING HERE EXPECTING A NICE EASY LITTLE RUN IN THE PARK AND A POSSIBLE PR, THINK AGAIN...THIS MOTHA PACKS A PUNCH AND FEATURES SIGNIFICANT ELEVATION GAIN WITH TONS OF MUD, ROCKS, CREEK CROSSINGS AND DID WE SAY HILLS? YES THERE ARE LOTS OF HILLS! " I knew better than to plan for anything but a personal worst time a super fun time.  Here's a little preview of those hills:

I had originally planned to camp at Silver Falls State Park the night before the race, but then we moved to Eugene and I figured it would make more sense to just drive up race day morning since it was just over an hour away.  I thought I was going to be going to the race alone but I was pleasantly surprised when my sister showed up at my house the day before the race saying, "I'm here to go to your race with you".  After my initial shock wore off, I was secretly relieved to have some one to drive with, or better yet drive for me, which she did and it was lovely.

We made great time and got to the race start with plenty of time to pick up my packet, visit the heated flush toilets twice
I spy Cookie Monster...
and take the requisite race-day selfie.  (Did you know "selfie" is the word of 2013?!)
I spy my running nemesis in the background...
After a tiny amount of fan fare, we were off.  
I was a little cold at the start and it took me a bit to get warmed up but once I did, I was feeling great.  I really had no other plans than to run a smart, strong and most importantly, happy race.  Then, it happened, I spied my running nemesis and all of a sudden I had a goal... to finish in front of her.  :)  Spoiler alert, shortly after I took this creepy, stalker style photo and sent it to Heather, telling her my new racing plan, I passed her and never looked back.  
Now, it should be known, that she probably isn't a nemesis in the normal sense of the word but she is definitely someone that motivates me.  That and I swear this woman is everywhere... at every race I go to, she is there.  She was at the first 5K I raced post college/kids, I battled with her at my 2nd half marathon, and she has shown up everywhere else, including one of my exchanges at Hood to Coast, Circle the Bay in Coos Bay (apparently I never did a race report for that one) and randomly at other races.  I actually know her, Sharon, she used to be my kiddos music teacher, but I've never really talked to her and doubt that she realizes my one-sided rivalry.  

Anyway, I fell into a nice comfortable pace with some guy who seemed quite chatty.  He was directly beside me and I hadn't really looked at him.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could tell he wasn't wearing a shirt, but that didn't really seem that out of the ordinary.  As we were running along, I noticed we got some comments about outfits.  I was wearing rainbow striped compression socks and a bright shirt, so I just assumed it was me that was drawing the attention.  
Then it happened, that moment in the race, where I realized I had been running next to this:
What was "this" you might wonder?  Well, it was a very nice man, who enjoys running races in various colored bikini style bottoms with little flag type flaps attached to the back.  His choice for this race was of course, a bright red brief with a star themed "flag".  Apparently he gets his wardrobe for around $5 at Hot Topic.  Needless to say, I was surprised when he pulled ahead of me and I realized that all the wardrobe comments had definitely been aimed in his direction.  I'm pretty sure my sister has a nice picture of us running together from the front, but alas, she seems to take a lot of pictures and never share them with me.  :P

Anyway, the race went on and I ran along, truly enjoying every bit of it.  It was tough, there is no question about that.  The uphills were brutal and it was very muddy.  I however, hiked the hills when I needed to, letting people pass me and then I felt like I flew down the hills, able to pass people left and right.  The first half of the race, is all in the back part of the park where there aren't really any waterfalls.  It was still very beautiful and I found a lot to take pictures of.
 There was a pretty intense stream crossing at one point.  I stopped to get a picture, but on tired legs, in a quickly moving and quite frigid stream, this is the best you're going to get because I was really afraid I was going to fall over.
 The stream was great for getting all the mud off my shoes and giving my ankle (which has been bothering me for quite a while now) a nice little mid-race ice bath.  It however, took nearly half a mile before I could feel my toes again.

Around the half-way mark, I was still feeling amazingly happy and blessed to be running so I sent Dan the thumbs up picture, letting him know that I was going to do it all.  (There had been a small chance that I wouldn't run the whole thing if my ankle was hurting too much.)
 Then some more pictures of trees, and fog and hills and mud.
 I was truly in a great place and doing my best to soak it all in.  It did rain quite a bit and we even got pelted with hail.  I took one particularly large piece right on the bridge of my nose, the caused me to yell, "ouch!"

The miles kept ticking by and my sister kept showing up at the aid stations, which was awesome.  It is always a lot of fun to have someone you know pop up when you least expect it.  We were also getting close to the part of the race where we would enjoy the waterfalls.  We came to the first waterfall and I had to stop to take it all in.  The whole point of this race, for me, was to have fun and take a ton of pictures, especially of the waterfalls.  I was so excited to be able to run behind them and I couldn't wait to get pictures of it.  Unfortunately, however, I had wasted all of my phone's battery on the first half of the race and the only proof I have of the waterfalls are these shots of the very first one.
I ran around the corner to go behind the waterfall, pulled out my phone to take a picture, went to snap it and it powered down.  Nooooooo!!!  I tried to get it to turn back on, but all it would do was flash a little plug sign at me.  I was so disappointed.  You'll just have to believe me that the 2nd half of the race, is incredibly beautiful.  The first waterfall was nothing in comparison to the falls, further down the trail.  They were breathtaking.  

I did a lot of walking in the later miles.  I don't think that I had paid much attention to the elevation spikes on the map towards the end of the race, but there were tons of not so little ups and downs.  There was an amazing set of stairs somewhere in the early 20s.  I tried to run up them but couldn't lift my legs high enough and ended up tripping.  By the end of the stairs, that I swear were not going to end, I was pulling myself up by the hand railing.  It was tough.  Without my phone to take pictures though, I think I was doing an even better job of taking it all in, trying to memorize every detail.

When I got to the last aid station, I realized that somehow my watch was an entire mile ahead.  There is nothing worse than being at mile 23 in a race, when you though it was actually mile 24.  At the real mile 24, I felt like I was going to have some cramping issues, so I stopped next to a tree to stretch out my quads.  HUGE mistake.  When I went to lift up my leg to stretch it, the entire thing cramped up... so instead of stretching, I grabbed a big stick and used it like my running stick to do some massaging.  It really helped a lot.  

Finally, we got out of the trails and were back into the park.  At this point, I figured the finish line must be pretty close but had no idea what mile I was at since my watch was being all wonky.  I saw my sister, Stephanie, and told her I was glad to be almost done.  Then I followed the arrows around the park for a while and saw her again.  I was afraid to ask, but had to, "where is the finish line?!" To which she responded, "You have to go around the corner, up and down a hill and then across the bridge."  Of course, of course we did.  Well, I didn't remember seeing a hill on the end of the course map, so it couldn't be that bad, right?!  Wrong!!  I didn't remember seeing the hill because it wasn't quite as big as the ones earlier in the race, but had I looked more closely, I would've seen that the hill at mile 26 was brutal!  Check this thing out:
It literally seemed like it went straight up into the sky and even worse than that, it was nothing but mud.  At this point in the day, all the half marathoners had run up it and a large portion of the marathoners too. It was a slippery, sloppy, slow-going mess.  I had gladly handed my hydration pack off to Stephanie though, so it was just me and the mud.  And then I had to run down the other side on legs that were threatening to cramp every step.  But I manage to do it.  Almost with a smile on my face even and a double thumbs up.
Then, finally, the finish line and I was done.  Official time: 5:05:03.  Officially my worst race time ever, by over an hour... but that was about what I was expecting.  It was a tough, tough course and I was obviously not racing it.

Official stats:
5:05:03 (11:39 pace)
111th/250 overall
5th/14 in my age group (30-34)

Some random thoughts:  I was very happy with my shoes. (Pearl iZumi EM Trail N2) They performed amazingly well in the mud and on the soggy leaves.  I didn't hold back much on the downhills and didn't have any slipping issues at all.  I wore a skirt and compression socks.  I think if I were to do it again, I might want to wear capris.  There was a lot of foliage that was constantly slapping against my legs and it didn't always feel so great.  I didn't really have any tummy issues.  I fueled less, about every 6 miles and didn't take any salt tabs.  I did however use the Margarita Shot blocks but I still had cramping calves and hamstrings by the end.  I think the biggest factor with my tummy issues is my accessibility to water.  I seem to do better when I have my own water than when I rely on the water from aid stations.

After the race, I had some hot chocolate and some chili and some bread and put on some dry clothes and shoes.  They gave out some great prizes... Stephanie and I walked away with chapstick.  We did actually score some gaiters but I gave them away.  I may come to regret that decision in the future... we'll see.

Overall, it was a fantastic race.  I would definitely love to do it again.  If I were doing it solely for the scenery, however, I'd probably look into just the half as it has all the waterfalls without all the hills.


Heather said...

So glad Stephanie showed up to go with you! That makes such a big difference. Of know you wouldn't have to run these things alone if you'd actually INVITE me to join you!!! ;-) New rule of running--don't sign up for races if it isn't convenient for ME to sign up with you!

Pahla Bowers said...

Wow, what a course! LOVE all the pics you were able to take!!
I have a running nemesis, too. Doesn't everybody??

Raina R. said...

This was fun to read. What a tough tough course! They aren't kidding in the description.
PW is nothing to worry about on this race. It's the kind you do that is worth 35 miles when you are done.
FWIW I see the pics from this race every year and think "Next year I am dong it!" Then it sneaks up on me. This year I thought it was the end of November, but then I saw pics and realized I missed it..
You won gaiters and gave them away!?! Oh no..!! Sure would like to meet up with you for a trail run sometime, lady.

Lil' Black Shorts said...

I just signed up for the 2015 Silver Fall 50K and I found your blog looking for any reviews on the race. I am nervous about this because it is my 1st 50k but your take on it is in line with how I want to approach it. I just want to have fun and enjoy the thing. Plus, since it will be my 1st 50k it will be a PR by default! At any rate, I look forward to reading more of your stuff!