Where – Benson State Park, about 45 minutes east of Portland, OR
When – April 9th, 2017
Distance – 50 km
Vertical – 6000’+ (1800m+) of both climbing & descending
Rainshadow Running has many years of races in their bag, and it shows. Gorge Waterfalls is a well orchestrated race, featuring 100k and 50k distances, the former being and out and back.
I was selected in the 50k lottery on my first entry, so the odds seem good, plus there’s an option for “all or none” with a group of your friends if you’d like to plan a trip together.
I know it would probably be easier to write up a list of events that DON’T have amazing volunteers and community behind them, but I am still continually impressed with the calibre of human beings that selflessly give back to make these events happen.
As much as I do love training on a course all I can, there’s something to seeing it all for the first time on race day. My predictions based off the course profile and race reports proved quite right this time around. This is a very runnable course. There’s no small amount of climbing, but almost all of it is spread out over an easy grade.
Next thing to consider is technicality of the terrain. Despite viewing video evidence of the contrary, I was still hoping that “The Gorge has teeth” rumour would prove true and play to my strengths. Needless to say, this isn’t a course I would call technical myself, coming from the gloriously aggressive trails of North Vancouver.
The course has 3 very well distanced aid stations, coming at about 9.5, 18, and 25 miles. The first one came a bit late according the to ol’ Suunto Ambit 2R, but then much to my pleasant surprise the last one showed up early (by my watch), so I’ll take it. The first two are the only ones that are crew accessible.
Lets talk about the scenery. For a course that essentially runs parallel to the I-84, this is a beautiful place to run. Early race you’re on the final miles of the Oregon PCT, and from halfway on you are running past, over, under, behind too many huge waterfalls to count. Not only are they lovely scenery, the energy is also contagious, and I found some of my strongest points of the day after running by a fall rushing down towards the Columbia River.
Good to know…
Yes it’s true, there are a few pavement sections. One I do believe was due to a reroute around a washed out trail, but a couple are permanent. One is 2 miles. See earlier comment about being a very runnable course. Luckily for the 50k runners they were all slightly downhill, and a good place to regroup before ducking back in to the trails. In my opinion the many 10 000 foot (ok, slight exaggeration) waterfalls, more than make up for and are well contrasted by the encounters with asphalt.
How’d it go…
Formal training had a bit of a slow start this year, with all the snow almost all my time on feet was either in Dion Snowshoes, or microspikes climbing and descending the BCMC. Finally the trails cleared up enough, and I knocked my final blocks of training out of the park. Regardless of the race result I knew I was in great shape going in. I think I got exactly the result I trained for, 5:12:14, even though that was well short of my hoped 4:45. The course certainly favours runners with a lot of consistent speed in their legs, and I’m always better off with a few long stretches of rugged technical climbs and descents to dance my way over. Alas, after being passed on the final climb of the day I said a little prayer to the ultra gods asking for a more technical descent to catch the guy, and my wish was granted. The last 2 or 3 miles of the course are about as technical as the course gets, switching back and forth over small rock, and a bit of mud, perfect conditions for me to be able to light a little fire, and roll in to the finish satisfyingly spent.
Gear I used…
- Inov8 Roclite 290 shoes
- Swiftwick Aspire socks
- The North Face Better Than Naked Short Sleeve
- Inov8 AT/C 6 shorts
- Salomon Sense Ultra vest x 2 (with 2 x 500 ml soft flasks each)
- Camelbak Ultra Handheld Chill (picked up from my drop bag at the non-crew accessible 3rd AS)
- TORQ Energy drink mix, TORQ gels, and Hammer Endurolytes