This weekend I ran Silver Falls Half Marathon. It was my first time doing a half marathon, and I’m very happy that I chose this specific race as my first. It wasn’t just a pretty race, it was well organized, challenging, and the weather was perfection.
The weather for this race couldn’t have been better. It was a little cold when we started – about 39 degrees, but I felt comfortable in my long-sleeved shirt once we got warmed up. The only thing that mattered to me weather-wise was that the sun was shining and there was no rain. Perfect trail running conditions? Absolutely!
The half marathon had about 1,250 runners signed up. I was expecting a lot of congestion on the trails and some discomfort, but I didn’t notice much of that at all. There were two different waves of runners, and we left 15 minutes apart. It gave those speedy folks time to get way ahead of the slower ones. There might have been more traffic jams for the faster runners, but for the group I was running with, we only noticed a slow down a few times.
The majority of the traffic was people hiking the trails and not part of the race. I kept thinking that I would be disappointed if I planned a hike and had a bunch of loud, sweaty runners ruining my view.
The race was well organized. Sometimes it can be confusing where to go when you need to pick up your bib, and there can be long lines. There was none of that. I had to wait behind two people to get my bib – it was magical.
Parking was also not bad considering the number of runners at the race. We found a spot right away and there were great volunteers out directing cars. Overall, I was very impressed with the organization of the race and the minimal level of effort it took to get myself to the starting chute.
The aid stations were the best I’ve seen. They had electrolytes or water at each station. The only thing that could have improved those stations would have been food. I had some Clif Shot gels with me, but by mile 10, they were making me jittery and sick to my stomach. Was that because they were mocha flavored and contained 50mg of caffeine each, and I consumed three of them? Yeah, probably.
Even though I spent many years living in the area in my youth, I had never been to Silver Falls before today. It seemed like it was easy to find, with the help of navigation. And the park is so beautiful. The trees seem to stretch forever into the sky, and the waterfalls will take your breath away. There were some fall colors, but I couldn’t help thinking that if the race were a month earlier in the year, the views would be about 80% better than they were. I am sure the color-changing leaves in the area are a real sight to see.
One word of caution on this trail race – watch your head when you are running near the waterfalls. There are some low rock outcroppings that could cause some serious head trauma.
The trails are well maintained, and while they do contain exposed roots and rocky spots, the trail isn’t very technical. Most of the larger roots were spray-painted by the race organizers, so they were easy to spot and avoid. Around mile 10, I did trip over a rock and came very close to face-planting on the trail, but I saved myself at the last minute. That would have been awful.
People say that mile 8 is the worst during a half marathon, but I have to disagree. It wasn’t until mile 10 that my legs started to get heavy. And it wasn’t until mile 11 that everything came apart for me. Every inch of my legs and feet started screaming for me to stop running. Not only that, but I have been nursing a sore IT band for the past week, and any downhill sent shooting pains down the side of my knee.
At mile 12, I was done. I was fantasizing about having a scooter and riding my way to the finish line. That last mile seemed like the longest distance I could imagine.
The more races I do, the more I’m convinced that race directors have sick senses of humor. How else do you explain the large hill before the finish of every race? Why do they do this? My theory is they like to torture the runner. This race was no exception. Mile 12 featured the ‘Nutcracker Hill.’ It was brutally steep and kicked my exhausted tush. Nutcracker hill then proceeded to turn into Nutcracker Downhill, which I would normally appreciate. However, my IT band prohibited me from enjoying it. I ended up descending sideways to make it down at all.
Then it was just a short jaunt, and we were finished. There was beer and grilled cheese, and this amazing chili. I got to visit with friends and shake off a little of the pain and forget about the discomfort of the last three miles.
During this race, I had the pleasure of running with two friends. We stuck together and cheered each other on through the tough times. I could not have made it through the end of this race without them. I’m sure I would have walked so much more than I did without their encouragement. They were an absolute blessing.
There was one last beautiful thing about this race that I must mention, and that is it falls the day the Daylight Savings time ends. Not only did the race not start until 9:15 AM, but we had an extra hour to spend preparing for it. It was appreciated.
I highly recommend this race. It’s a must-run!