Friday, November 8, 2013

Mary's 2013 Autumn Leaves 50k Race Report

Mary recently ran the Autumn Leaves 50k at Champoeg State Park in Oregon.
Here is her race report.

My cousin Amy, who some of you met (the woman with the green cast, who had breakfast with us at the Oasis ) has been wanting me to do a race in the Pacific NW for at least 4 years. When she lived in Seattle I looked at some races there, but they looked a bit too challenging for me and the timing never seemed right.

Then she moved to Portland. She joined the Oregon Road Runners Club and this summer she suggested the Autumn Leaves Run, which is put on by the club. She had volunteered last year and thought it was a race I would like. The website made it look appealing, so I registered. The race takes place in the Willamette Valley at a State Park which is the location where Oregon became a territory of the US. It is located about 30 miles south of Portland on the way to Salem, the capital.

I flew to Portland on Thursday to get "acclimated" to the rainy humid weather! It's been so dry here in Tucson that it actually felt good. I intended to watch Amy's son in a district cross country meet, but just missed his heat. Was fun to be part of the event though. It was supposed to be sunny all weekend so I didn't even consider an umbrella or other rain gear when I packed. On Friday it started getting overcast and the weather forecast for Sat. which had been sunny and low 70's now turned into 42 degrees at the start and a high of low 50's. Fortunately I had taken an assortment of clothes.

The Race Start Pavilion at Champoeg State Park in Oregon
There were two distances for the event, a 50 miler which started at 6:00 AM and the 50k which started at 7:00 AM. When we got to the park it was pitch dark and I then understood why they said headlamps were essential.(It's light in Tucson by 6:15 so I sort of thought I could get by without.) There was a festive atmosphere at the start since the 50 milers had started already. Some runners were coming in from doing their first loop before we started. The race director reviewed the course briefly and we were off. I hadn't thought about strategy (I'm not like Dave) for this event and was already about two miles into the race when I realized that this was a very runnable course and not your usual trail ultra where the hills automatically allow some walk breaks. So I reverted back to my marathon strategy of walking about 30 sec. every 10 minutes.

The race consisted of 5 loops. Each loop was a 10k and there was a 1.2 mile section which was single track trail. There was basically one aid station which you passed by on the way out and  back. It was fairly strategically placed, but I could have carried a water bottle. The bike path started on a very flat path which passed through a meadow area for about a mile. The trail then entered a more forested area along the Willamette river and became just slightly rolling with a small hill as you came to the 3.1-mile turn around point. The out and back course allowed for seeing all the participants many times. It was interesting to watch how the look on their faces or their gait changed as they became more fatigued. I was lapped by the lead woman several times. She was doing the 50 miler and ran a blistering pace. Her name is Pam Smith and she was the woman winner of Western States this year.

The cool weather made for excellent running conditions, but it was hard to figure out what to wear. I started with two layers and capris. After the first loop I took off the long sleeved shirt and grabbed my arm sleeves. After the second loop I was chilled and grabbed my wind breaker jacket. Amazingly I wore the jacket for the next 3 laps and was never too warm.

Since this course was relatively easy to run it was more of a psychological challenge to complete the same 5 loops. I was quite relieved after the 1st loop when I suddenly realized I only had 4 loops left instead of 5. It just took me one loop to wake up!  By the third loop I decided I needed to be distracted and put on my I-pod. This worked amazingly well and the 4th loop flew by. When I finished this loop I thought for sure that I would be able to run under 6 hours and 30 minutes. ( I was really planning to slow down this last lap since I had already run almost a marathon ). Well, my cousin Amy had asked if she could run the last lap since she needed to do a 10k that day for her training program. So she joined me with her heart rate monitor on and we got going. I was amazed that I could still run with minimal breaks. She really pushed me and in the end I ran the 5th loop at the same pace as the second loop. My time was 5:52. I was very surprised to see that I had run under 6 hours.

Mary and Amy at the Start/Finish Area
Since it was a very low key event, we gathered my gear, ate the post race meal, thanked the race director and his wife and went home. A couple days later I checked the results and was pleasantly surprised to see that out of 68 finishers I was 34th and I was the second oldest runner in the race. There was one man who was 68 and he finished behind me. This would not be an event for those who like bands at every aid station and lots of fancy swag, but there was chipped timing, a certified course and friendly people helping at the race and running it. What more could a person want?

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