Gorge Waterfalls 50k – Race Report
The pre-travel, travel to Victoria has become a
smoothly integrated slap dash, last minute part of every race for me now. But I’m getting better.
First lesson learned. When you have to travel on Good Friday, DON’T. Go the day before, you won’t regret missing 12 hours of grid lock traffic. Nonetheless it was a beautiful day and we had the most pleasant exchange with our border guard yet.
When Matt, Alex, Fiona and I arrived in Oregon and drove into the Menhimenin’s, the venue for the pre-race party and Trail Running Film Fest, we all kinda felt like we’d crossed into another world. The entire place is amazing, highlighted by an onsite brewery, distillery AND winery as well as multiple venues to enjoy each accompanied by a meal of anything from fine dining to burgers and fries.
The Film Fest offered all of these in the comfort of the in-house theater while watching some of the most gripping and relevant trail running films of modern times such as “Roll Out”…. and a few other ones by some guy named Kilian and another by Krissy Moehl….
We retired to the cabin we rented at Bridge of the Gods Motel and RV, which was a really nice set up if a little bit pricey, and began another time honored tradition, the “stay up waaay too late on the eve of the race” game. Still, the morning began with exuberance as we rose to the sound of bird songs and the slowly expanding glow of sunlight through clear blue skies. It had the feel of a perfect day for a good long run… around water falls.
The race start as always was full of familiar faces and an array of expressions from anxiety to intoxication. After catching up with some friends I found my own little place to get my mind and body ready for it’s first +30k run since August of last year.
James Varner came by with some maps and info to pass on to Matt (who was filming the race) and a pat on the back and a “good luck, have fun”. From all that I had heard of this course, the fun was in the bag but according to my body at that moment, luck was not in the cards.
Almost all at once, every pain I had had since last summer was visiting me. As I joined the wash of runners flowing towards the race start I thought, “we’ll just see how far I can run, then we’ll see how far I can walk, then we’ll see who I can convince to carry me”. I filed in with the middle of the group as James Varner gave us the safety goods on the course and wished everyone well. I rubbed my quads, ITs, calves glutes…. everything hurt. Neat. We were away, along the grassy start and then across the bridge and along the lake and I felt….. amazing! Pure joy somehow replaced all nagging pains and as we made our way to Metheman falls I was quickly filling up with uncontainable gratitude and enjoyment for where I was and for all the help I had getting there.
Feeling absolutely phenomenal… with 40+ km to go… I was well aware that there was more than enough time to mess it all up with a foolishly placed effort on a course I had no intention of racing. That being considered, I did feel REALLY good and that first +/- 2000ft climb was VERY run-able. But so was the downhill on the other side. I was realizing, as I (my perception) flew down the decent, just a hairsbreadth from unrestrained, that for the last 4 months of running, this was pretty much all I did. UP and Down. Up and Down. And I loved it. With the sun spilling it’s golden light through the trees the entire world around us all became surreal. The colours were intensified and the striking contrast of the rushing white water against the lichens, ferns and moss-covered rick was almost transfixing.
I am seriously astonished on a moment to moment basis that I managed to stay upright throughout the run. I almost couldn’t tell you what the trail bed itself was composed of. Even the Columbia river, with its intensely rouge and copper coloured rock faces looming above, seemed excited for the warming spring weather as white caps danced along its surface. I heard Matt shout from down in a hollow and stopped to give him the papers James handed me earlier and said a lot of stuff that I’m pretty sure made no sense but probably got the point across that I was having a good time.
Further into the run everyone gets to run underneath Pony Tail Falls and if I could describe that feeling I’d probably start crying again. Of course Glen Tachiyama was on course to capture that moment. Thanks Glen!
I fell into a rhythm and a great conversation with John Bittle from Arkansauce who knew (as I am beginning to expect does everyone else in AR) Paul Turner and Robert Vogler AKA PT and Po Dog of Leadville race report fame. We got to talking and the km’s slipped beneath us as we shared our ideas and passions in life, joined by another good egg Cory, who was in the midst of his first ever 50k.
We slipped out onto the road section, the only part I was not looking forward to, but the conversation and camaraderie delivered a short sweet trip up the road to the last aid station.
I love aid stations. Can’t help it. Won’t help it. A friend of friends (now a friend of mine) was volunteering at the last aid station and as my comrades smashed and grabbed there way through in good fashion, I lingered and ate and drank and babbled about the vibrance of colours and sounds. I never claimed that aid stations like me but that’s one of the hazards of volunteering I guess.
I’m not a fan of out-and-back sections, but for the record, I loved this out-and-back section. The climb was fast and the waterfall (yes ANOTHER) at the turn around, where you pick up a poker chip to prove you completed it, rewarded your efforts with a refreshing spray as you stand almost beneath it pondering just taking a quick dip in the pool.
Back out on the road section our trio had regrouped and grown to four as we made our way back to the start and I was so stoked to see my friends from Victoria, B.C. on the outbound as we high-fived and whooped along.
Suddenly a car on the other side of the road sped up and swerved in, mere inches from John, laying on the horn in what I can only hope was a disgusting idea of a joke and nothing more malicious. Understandably shaken we slowed the pace a little as we got back into the trail and just fell into a steady and pleasant rhythm as the four of us conversed and commentated on the surroundings.
Matt was filming at the next aid station and ran with me for a good 5-8km as comrades found their own pace and Matt and I caught up on the days events. The entire time I felt amazing, fresh and inspired but also a little weary of the final climb that had been such a fun and fast downhill. This was where Matt turned off on a short cut to his car and as it turns out there was nothing to worry about, nothing a little power-hiking couldn’t overcome anyway.
Away down the final decent to Matnemah Falls and back along the grassy path around the lake where the finish could be seen and heard. It was a perfect day. Four plates of salad and fruit later it was time for pizza and brews, compliments of Rainshadow Running. A good patch of grass to enjoy the sweet tones of The Pine Hearts string band in the sun and cheer on the rest of the amazing finishers. Recapping the race with friends old and new was a treat, to re-live those inspiring moments and congratulate new goals achieved is always one of the greatest highlights of the finish. The celebrations carried on from the finish line back to Mehimenins and as the night wound down it all seemed enchanted.
Woke to another beautiful day and went for a very short run to shake out the legs before the drive back north and enjoyed the quiet of the Sunday morning by the river side. The sleepy morning held the promise of lighter traffic and faster travel times and apparently in the fine print somewhere, running out of gas on a highway bridge… Being from the Island, Matt and I had no real hesitation and did what comes natural. Pushed the car. Fiona jumped in and within a minute or two a passerby stopped and hooked us up to a tow rope and towed us right into a gas station… ****Project Talaria has dug deep into the Karma bank and will be doing our best to make a considerable deposit ASAP**** We thanked the man as best we could (unsure of how to express that amount of gratitude) and carried on. The rest of the drive went on without any further incidents and once back in B.C. my trip ended as is customary. A strong embrace and thanks to my good friends and a parting of ways after another amazing adventure and a ferry ride into the sunset, back to my little island home.
There is nothing cliche or excessive about thanking the Volunteers ever. I truly appreciate all of the amazing work they do and in a lot of cases the distances they travel to do it. With out these amazing people there would be no events like this. Thank you all so much!!