Monday, 26 March 2012

Gorge Waterfalls 50k

Photo from the Gorge Waterfalls Facebook page

Yesterday I went up to northern Oregon for what I though would be a beautifully scenic warm-up race to kick-start my season after a bit of downtime to recover from Rocky Raccoon then a road marathon three weeks ago for a bit of speed and fun.

Then I saw the entrants' list included a lot of the fastest runners in Oregon so it looked like being even more enjoyable, both for socializing and running hard. Fast men and women like Max King, Eric Skaggs, Jenn Shelton and my North Face team-mate from Bend, Stephanie Howe.

I mainly entered because the RD, James Varner, has a great reputation for tough courses with great views and this one promised 24 waterfalls along the Columbia River valley. Snow higher up meant course changes and the final course had a few less waterfalls and less climbing, but still was scenic and tough - 5,800ft of ascent and around 29 a little short, but that couldn't be helped.

James had car issues on the morning (a flat tire, I heard) so we ended up starting half an hour late but nobody cared and the course didn't disappoint. It's one of the more technical races I've run in recent years and I found myself feeling tired way too early, after just the first climb at about six miles. Definitely time to start racking up the climbing miles as I only really got into hill work two weeks ago and the course beat me down - this was a tough one.

The revised course was an out-and-back so I could see the leaders as I headed to the turn around - Max was leading as expected, getting redemption for his lost lead the previous week at Chuckanut 50k when he went off course and added 4 miles. I was about a mile back at this point and feeling sluggish.

I had Jace Ives (who won the race the previous year) and Nick Triolo ahead so spent the return trip trying to chase them down, getting ahead, going the wrong way for a minute at the Lord of the Rings-style Multnomah Falls (see photo below) then having to chase Nick and Jace again. I just about managed to stay ahead of them until the finish but was running scared for the last two miles.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

A great event and one that shows off how beautiful Oregon is. Max won in a blistering 3:19 and Stephanie won the ladies' race in 4:07 (watch out for her this year as she moves up from 50ks to longer ultras!). Multiple Garmins told us it was around 26 miles, but they lost signal for a lot of the course so I'm willing to go with the official measurement of 29 miles. Full results here and I was a fair bit back from Max in 3:46...only the 3rd Bend runner to finish, but Bend had a good day with the mens' and womens' wins plus four of the top ten overall.

Also, a whole load of photos of the course are here if you're thinking of running this. But if you are, it'll sell out in hours so make sure you find out the day entries go on sale for 2013.


  1. It was a honor to share the same course as you. As a guy who lives in the Midwest it was great to get out to the west coast and run. Thanks for the great blog, I enjoy reading every post.

  2. Looks like a beautiful race setting. I guess the only problem is being so enamoured by the landscape that you take your eyes off the course, miss a step and end up at the bottom of some of that beauty.