I thought running and cycling had taken me to great places. It’s one of the reasons I love the two sports so much: seeing and experiencing new things.
But what I once thought was amazing was completely upstaged by this past weekend’s half marathon. The Silver Falls Half Marathon in Silverton, Oregon was not only my first race in Oregon and my first trail race EVER, but is quite possibly be the most stunning place I have ever run. So much so that I couldn’t stop audibly screaming, “THIS IS AMAZING!” True story.
I feel like I stumbled upon one of this country’s best kept secrets because this half marathon was a stunning trail run where you run right next to/behind THREE waterfalls, the race directors did a great job at keeping it organized, there was a beer stop along the way and wait for it… it’s only $35. Let’s start from the beginning…
When I moved to Oregon, one of the first things I did was start researching the local running and tri scene. Along with said research came the “Liking” of multiple Oregon/running Facebook pages so I could attempt to be in the know. One random night, I’m perusing Facebook and I see a post from a local running page that registration for the Silver Falls Half Marathon opened the following morning and that people better set their alarm clocks because it was going to sell out fast. After glancing at the post’s comments, you could immediately tell that his race was a local secret and a would sell out quickly.
They weren’t joking…the race sold out in less than 10 minutes the following morning. Good thing my type-A, obsessed self set my alarm clock early and was able to register.
Fast forward a couple months to this past weekend. Chicken Face was in town and we made the 90 minute drive to Silverton. To be totally honest, I was nervous. Not because of the distance, but because it was my first trail race ever and it was raining. I was scared the trail newbie in me wouldn’t know how to properly navigate the terrain and would end up rolling and re-injuring my ankle. As a compromise, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t race it, but rather just take it easy and enjoy the scenery. And I’m proud to say that is exactly what I did.
Alisa, Jen, Penny and I
I’ll spare you the mile by mile pace and course recap (see more course details here) but will tell you this…
It started out fast on some paved roads and winding through trees and jumping puddles.
I ditched my jacket and gloves at mile three when I saw Chicken Face, Jen and Alisa.
We then headed up the hills where the rain started and the legs had to get in their climbing mode.
I kept looking all around me to take in the scenery, but had to remind myself to look at the ground. Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall.
As you approach the first waterfall you just think, “Wow.” You then run behind it, into this dark cave-like area where you can’t see much. I walked so I wouldn’t eat it and simply thought that this moment was unreal.
You continue to run through what feels like a thick red and yellow forest with more of nature’s beauty surrounding you on all sides. It’s isn’t long before you reach the second waterfall. For a moment, I thought this was too beautiful to be real. You feel like you’re in some world that Disney dreamed up.
Deer in the headlights. But whoa.
I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to tell Chicken Face. I wish he could see this!” The boom. a THIRD, jaw-dropping waterfall that we ran behind. Up and down stairs, behind water, and up another hill and I thought I heard people cheering for me.
Keeping it slow and steady, I made my way up to a top of another hill when I saw Chicken Face and Jen again. As I reached the top and saw them, I scream, “This is F***ing AWESOME.” They laughed and I just said it was so, so beautiful.
With 3.1 miles to go, I made may way to what they call “Nutcracker Hill.” Jen’s husband had warned me about this giant climb at the very end of the race and people feared it for obvious reasons. But as I made my way up the hill, I approached it like cycling: slow down, spin the legs and just keep chugging. Because I wasn’t racing, I just enjoyed the small climb and then the steep descent back down (side note: I’m horrible on the descent because I’m purely afraid I’ll fall).
I made my way across the grass, saw friends along the way and then cross the finish line realizing that what just happened back there changed me as an athlete forever.
3/44 AG / 11th Female Overall
As you can tell, I’m having a crazy love affair with this race. But more than that, it was a confirmation of the transition that I’m seeing many road runners make these days: from road to trail. There’s something about being lost in the mileage not because you’re lost in the music in your head or the pound of your feet on the trail, but because you’re completely enamored by your surroundings.
It’s like that one saying goes, “The more you see, the less you know.” The more I push myself to try new sports and go new place, the more I realize that I still have so much more to learn, explore and fall in love with. I’m excited to take on new adventures in running, triathlon and in life… thanks Silver Falls for reminding me of this.