Sunday, 31 March 2013

Gorge Waterfalls 50k

Multnomah Falls

After taking February off running to let my remnants of a sore knee heal, plus to have an off season for once, the perfect first race back is the stunningly beautiful Gorge Waterfalls 50k along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. With waterfalls in virtually every mile it's just about the prettiest 50k course I'm aware of anywhere. The most spectacular waterfall (and most popular with the tourists) is Multnomah Falls but there are so many  along the out-and-back route that it's almost a shame we race past them and can't stop to appreciate them all. Given I'm moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area next month this is the ideal send off and reminder of everything I love about Oregon.

There was even a pre-race Trail Film Fest at McMenamins Edgefield the night before with inspiring movies like the 'Dipsea Movie' and Kilian's 'A Fine Line.' Great idea and it looks like it be back again for next year.

Film Fest with Simon Mtuy's film about running around Kilimanjaro

The course is certainly short (probably somewhere around 28 miles allowing for the cliffs and trees interfering with the GPS) but has plenty of climbing (at least 4,500ft by general consensus and my barometric GPS showed 5,600ft). Also, the trails are rockier, twistier and more technical than most of what we see in Oregon, but that's what the Rainshadow Running races are known for.

As with last year, this was one of the most competitive ultras in Oregon which says a lot when you consider how many sponsored ultrarunners there are in the state, especially in Bend, Portland and Ashland. The race was close at the turn-around Chris Kollar from Missoula (MT) with Bend's 1:06 half marathoner, Mario Mendoza then ex-pro skier, Zach Violett (also Bend). Not far behind were James Bonnett from Scottsdale (AZ), Yassine Diboun (Portland), me, Hal Koerner (Ashland) and a string of other fast runners. Steph Howe (Bend) had a solid lead in the women's race too, as expected.

There were certainly some early season cobwebs amongst the runners but it was fun to leapfrog Hal throughout the first half (he had to be careful on the rocky sections due to a foot injury) then spending the entire second half doing the same with Yassine.

My legs felt dead throughout after a tough training week so I was really happy to keep gaining positions and be able to keep up a decent pace, not realizing I was only a little behind 2nd and 3rd, eventually finishing 4th.   As a bonus we had freaky weather for March (70 degrees F) and Hood River is just down the road, full of wineries like Mt Hood Winery - see the views of Hood below!

Results are already on Ultrasignup but Mario unfortunately bruised his foot and was limping so decided it wasn't worth pushing since he only recently came back from foot surgery which left Chris Kollar to win comfortably. He's clearly got a lot of speed and can run technical trails since he smashed Mike Foote's The Bear 100 course record last year by 44 mins, which beat Geoff Roes' record, which beat Karl Meltzer's record, which beat Hal Koerner's record.


1. Chris Kollar 3:22
2. James Bonnett 3:35
3. Zach Violett 3:37
4. Ian Sharman 3:38
5. Yassine Diboun 3:40
6. Jeff Browning 3:42
7. Jonathan Heinz 3:44
8. Jason Leman 3:46
9. Hal Koerner 3:47
10. Aaron Ray 3:47


1. Steph Howe 3:49 (NEW CR)
2. Catrin Jones 4:05
3. Darla Askew 4:24
4. Susan Barrows 4:24
5. Jenny Capel 4:27
6. Alicia Woodside 4:37
7. Lynde Fitzpatrick 4:51
8. Jessica Lamanna 4:57
9. Shamai Larsen 4:59
10. Debbie Gibson 5:00

Steph and myself at the finish
More photos (of all the runners as well as couple of waterfalls) by Glenn Tachiyama here.


  1. Thanks for the race re-cap Ian. I'd give anything to be running some Oregon trails right now!

    That's an impressive finish! I'm glad you actually got to enjoy an off-season.

  2. A friend said I should have a look at your blog and read about this race, and yes I would love to pop over the waters some day and run a couple of race in the USA. Now moat of now 35km trail races can take 3-4 hours so I don't know how I would go on a 50km race that you guys run I'm the same time...

    Nice write up.

  3. Great recap Ian! Glad you are healthy again!