Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gorge Waterfalls 50k

I had a great time at the the brand new Gorge Waterfalls 50k on Saturday. At the start, James said it may well be the most beautiful 50k in the U.S. It is as gorgeous as any I've run. Simply spectacular, really.

The course is point-to-point, about an hour east of Portland, and includes a shuttle bus in the morning from the finish to the start line. Since I stayed in Portland with Rich, it was an early rise to get to the start. Beware of the Chevron gas station, midway, that advertises low gas prices, but has a fine print sign below that says the price is applicable "with car wash." Music was Talking Heads "Take Me To The River" and Drive By Truckers "Lookout Mountain."

So, you start the race. The trail climbs up and down the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, from Wahkeena Falls east to Wyeth Campground. There is a big 1500 foot climb right at the start. I pretty much walked this, very much towards the back. For the day, probably somewhere between 5000 and 6000 feet elevation gain, and equal amount of loss. So, a fair amount of up and down.

Waterfalls everywhere. Unreal. There are probably 20 waterfalls in the first third of the course alone, some very big. You run by them on narrow trails, maybe over a little footbridge, and then do it again, and again. One waterfall you run behind, as in the picture below. I brought a camera, but it didn't do the greatest job, Casio. There should have been a division for finishers with cameras, and those without, because if you had one, you had to stop and try to take pics.

Rocky single track. Sometimes very rocky, the kind of trail where the rocks eat ankles. Sometimes it is cliff running, with steep falloffs to the left. I worried a bit about catching a toe, because you could fall a long way, sometimes. The Columbia River was frequently in view.

James and his crew simply did an amazing job. He picked a great place for a run, and then totally delivered, with great markings, support, and a post-race fire with finisher cowbell to boot. Every finish line should always have a cowbell--well done.

I spent the first 10 miles in tourist mode, stopping to take pictures liberally. When the rain kicked in--and it really did--I started to pick it up. My hamstrings stayed tight most the day, but I was able to move faster for the last 20. My time was already scorched, but The Course made sure I got a good workout just the same. This is a pretty tough course, for all its natural beauty. I think it is basically an hour slower than Chuckanut.

I had to be in Portland for work, and so the race was a natural for me to do. Pretty cool to see that so many other friends made it, including the Skagit crowd. Glad I caught up with Seth, who is going to be gone for a while. And there was a wonderful little celebration involving the world's biggest bag of Skittles. And really good cookies at the Finish Line.


Mike said...

Looks awesome, sorry I missed it!

Scotty said...

That's ok--you have a little run in Ojai to think about! Good luck!