Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race Recap: Silver Falls Half Marathon. Emerging from the trails and waterfalls new.

November 2nd, 2014 

I've delayed doing a recap of this because it felt so epic and had such a profound impact on me that I didn't want to dumb down the experience with my lack of eloquence to really explain what is in my heart.

I first heard of this race last year and how it typically sells out in minutes.  It has been voted the best trail race in Oregon and touted as the most beautiful race in the Northwest.  That had me interested, and then I saw the beautiful race photos Nine22 captures and I wanted in.  Silly reasons.  Certainly naive.  I loaded myself in the car last year (despite some anxiety to travel so far alone) and I volunteered at last year's race for a chance to run this year.  

My anxiety was no less in check than last year for the drive to Silverton, Oregon.  I arrived two hours early (because that's how I roll with nerves on race day) with PLENTY of time to gather my packet and use the porta potties.  Even in the higher density times before race, there would have been no lines.

There were just over 760 participants for this event.  The 50K, Full Marathon and 7 miler were on the day before.  This was the first time an ultra race and a 7 miler were events available and the half was moved to it's own day because of it's popularity.

Anyway, I was anxious.  Not just the drive and being a couple hours from home... but I've been running a lot lately, and my knee ached after my last relay a couple weeks ago and then I had a half marathon last weekend.

I really contemplated my sanity, but I wasn't going to NOT do this event.  It was so hard to get into and I had already volunteered to "earn" my spot.  I wasn't going to no show.  If I had to, I would "Did Not Finish" (DNF) but I would at least start.  I would try.  But I was fighting back tears.

I ran into a friend doing the race and we said our hellos and she lead me around introducing me to everyone.  She knows EVERYONE.  I sunk into my shell and tried to hide my negative feelings about running.  She caught on to me and asked if she could run with me.  This is charitable because she is faster than me and was willing to "take it easy" for awhile.

She saved my attitude, because her cheerful disposition helped me through the first mile of park road where my hips and IT band were already hurting.  I was going to DNF in the first mile!  Soon after the first mile marker we hit single track trail and I was instantly feeling the softer cushion of squishy trail, wet from Oregon rain.

I don't remember all the mile markers and my garmin lost satellite, but this is the first of many waterfalls we saw.

Actually, I heard it before we saw it.  And hearing that loud rush of fast moving water did something to me.  I perked up.  My soul was energized.  This was amazing.

There are two waterfalls you can "run" behind.  I say "run" in quotes because the natural erosion of the rock/wall behind the waterfall makes more for a tunnel you have to stoop through and bend over to crawl out so as to not hit your head.

It took some parring down, but I worked hard to limit the photos for this blog post.  It was so beautiful.  Like the water washing over these cliffs, the negative feelings, self doubt and fear was washed away and I was feeling the adrenaline, energy, determination, and excitement as we continued on the course.  I stopped several times to take photos and to stop for a moment to soak in my surroundings.

 It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

The course is technical in many areas and my friend was glad to have trail shoes.  I used my road shoes and I think if I do this again (and I really hope to) that I will invest in trail shoes.  There are some rocks that jut out of the trail and take some careful navigating.  There is plenty of mud and some very slick areas.  With he time of year this event takes place in, you can be garunteed it will rain or at the very least be wet out.

I know that a participant was stung by bee(s) and returned to the start/finish area shortly after we began our race and after mile 6, a participant had fallen on the stairs and hit her knee pretty badly.  It is important to use caution on some of the areas of the trail.  I haven't figured out yet how a trail runner should avoid hibernating bees who nest in the ground.

  There are two sets of stairs on the course.  You will go down some stairs at mile 6 or so and you will have a whole heck of a lot of climbing to do around mile 9 with stairs that are never ending.


When they do end, you will face "Nut Cracker Hill" at about mile 12.  The climb up is not so bad if it isn't too muddy, but the climb down is awful.  I'm not sure how people run it. And I'm pretty sure it is steeper than the 14% grade I trained on over the summer.  ...That could also be a tainted bias as the summer runs were on dry concrete and this was all mud.  Somehow I didn't land on my face and slide down the hill (but that might have been easier).

Once that hill is conquered, you are in for the home stretch.


The race gives you 4 hours to complete the half marathon, course support with three aid stations and first aid available at the start/finish as well.  Hot coffee and cocoa before the race start and hot (non vegetarian) chili is available along with bread, peanut butter, candy, apples, pretzels and beer.  Did I mention a fire? There is a warm, welcoming, amazing fire in the park rest area at the finish and everyone huddles together to get to know each other and cheerfully talk about the adventures they just faced.  The course is well marked with flour poured on the trail.  As a "back of the pack" runner, the arrows were still visible (but a little smudged) after the foot traffic and rain.  Course support remained out until the last runner (and then the course sweeper-runners) had passed.

I think I went into this race expecting the worst and at least not expecting very much out of myself... and I came out of it a different person and with some perspective on attitude and how it can affect a race.  Not just attitude, but believing in yourself, your ability and how much of an impact positive people around you can have on your mood.

It is definitely not a good idea to run with an injury (or multiple injuries) but most of my issue was my pessimism.  Once I was in the race and surrounded by others on their journey to complete this adventure, I started to see the beauty around me, my own strength and how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful area ONLY a few hours from me... no longer seeing it as a chore that I had a distance to drive to but that it is a trip worth taking and that I should do more often.

I hope this makes sense and that my review can do some justice to this amazing race.  I hope you will check it out if you are given the opportunity. Their website is HERE.

I also earned my first wooden finishers medal.
I love it.

Do you run trail races?  (Any advice or pieces of trail gear you can't live without?)  


  1. What a gorgeous race!! That elevation chart- wow. I wish I lived closer, I would love to do that! I have never run a trail race, although I have done a little bit of trail running. I hope to do more in the spring. Your shirt is cute!

  2. Those pathways can truly be a monumental risk. I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Your friend should have that checked by medical professionals as quickly as possible, in order to know what precautions to take and avoid. Thanks for sharing that! All the best to you!

    Agnes Lawson @ Pain Relief Experts