Yesterday I ran my first trail half marathon.
The Silver Falls Trail Half Marathon. Silver Falls State Park is about 90 minutes south of Portland outside of Silverton, Oregon (Joe Dirt anyone?). It is a beautiful park at the base of the Cascade Mountains and when you’re in it, you’re quite literally in a rain forest. Moss and ferns cover the ground and in the summer wild flowers are rampant. One of the many trails you can follow will take you past 10 of the most majestic waterfalls you will ever see in the Pacific Northwest, it is beautiful, inspiring, and oh, so close. The air you breathe while at Silver Falls is fresh, clean and good for your soul.
These are my shoes and pants after the race was done. One of my girlfriends (who is an ultra runner which equals crazy in my book. . . until I try to run 50 miles myself) told me I was way to clean. I’d have to agree since I’ve run 10 miles on similar trails and come home way more muddy.
This was the second year for the Half Marathon. Out of respect for the park there is a cap of 500 entrants. I heard about the run last year in September and tried to sign up, only to find that it had sold out. The website proclaimed you could register for the 2011 run on August 1, 2011 so even before the 2010 run occurred I had it on my calendar to enter in 2011. Reminders would start two days before registration opened and would continue every 6 hours until I registered. Registration opened at midnight on August 1, 2011 and I completed my registration around 2:00 a.m. By 8:30 the next morning the event had reached its cap. We are nothing, here in Oregon, if we are not serious about our trail running.
I’d been excited to run Silver Falls for months. I’ve hiked throughout the park numerous times but the idea of running through it seemed like a dream come true. Everything is better for me if it involves running.
When I woke up yesterday morning it was cold and raining. Very cold. Very rainy. There was also talk of snow at the park. Sheesh. I’m certainly not a fair weather runner, you simply can’t be if you live in the Pacific Northwest and you love to run, but I don’t like to be cold. For maybe a second I considered not going, but after waiting a year that seemed irrational.
At 9:00 a.m. all 500 of us were accounted for and ready to run. I realized as we headed out that trail running in the rain is not the same as running the streets in the rain. While it’s still cold (after all this IS Oregon, not Hawaii . . . 50 days. . . but I’m not counting) the rain has to filter down through the massive trees before it hits you. Doesn’t stop it from hitting you, but it does stop it from feeling so yucky. Instead, since it wasn’t a downpour, just a steady solid rain, it felt more misty than rainy. And by mile 3 I’d have to admit it even felt good.
The first 3 miles were cold. My waterproof running jacket, ear warmers, gloves long running pants and Nike warm shirt over the sports bra didn’t come close to making me warm. If anything it all made me colder and the cold just seemed to seep into my pores. My feet were dry though and I found myself thankful for the little things like that. By the time I hit mile 3 everything was hot except my fingers.
I wish I hadn’t known that it was mile 3 when I got hot. I hate mile markers. I understand them, but I hate them. I would rather run happily not knowing how far I still have to go so that I may be surprised when I round that corner and see the finish line. Mile markers for me make me do math and I hate math. 3 miles down, 10.2 to go. See, I didn’t even get that right! 10.1 to go!! Yuck. I don’t need that information. Run Wild Events is all about the mile markers so I was forced to notice them all.
At mile 3 I was hot and took my jacket off; mile 4 I noticed how wet I was; mile 5 I was finally able to take my gloves off; mile 6 I downed a bunch of electrolytes; mile 7 I had to put my gloves back on because my fingers were numb and cold again; mile 8 my calves started to cramp up; mile 9 my calves had stopped cramping and a group of very nice people who had set up their own aid station offered me beer and water; mile 10 I climbed up 178 stairs (yes, I counted and wondered who the hell thought it was a good thing to make us climb stairs after 10 miles of trail running); mile 11 was the most beautiful part of the course for me down a natural fire lane where the moss was heavy and soft under my feet and the mud was minor; mile 12 I noticed pain in my ankles as I started the final mile and one tenth. As cruel as the stairs had been at mile 10, the last mile was somehow worse because you were close enough to hear the festivities at the finish line but yet you still had to climb a half a mile up, up, up before you were allowed to run flat-out down the other side of the mountain to the finish. And to be honest, no one was running flat-out. It was raining, muddy and wet, slick with leaves, and moss it was more a shuffle down the mountain until you got to the base and ran over a bridge to the finish.
Running a trail, even with 500 people, is a peaceful experience. When you are actually on the trail you have no choice but to run single file, the trail is only so wide. The slower pace is safer, especially in wet conditions, and it allows you the opportunity to appreciate the scenery and be peaceful while at the same time breathing deeply.
No music this time, just me and my thoughts. I’m thrilled to be able to say that while the Portland Marathon was brutal to my brain with all my thinking, this run was not.
As much as I hate to be cold while I run, my thoughts were positive the entire time. I thought about my kids. My oldest son, who I swear was just born yesterday, getting ready to turn 18 in 20 days. Getting ready to graduate from high school in 7 months. How proud I am of the young man he has grown into after a really horrifying 18 months he put me through a couple of years back. My youngest son continuing to show me signs of maturity that I thought we’d never get to. My christmas present to myself that keeps me smiling 24/7 and Jennifer calling me a bitch (in a loving way), in her blog post the day before. There were more things on my mind, but these were the dominant thoughts. It was fun, it was beautiful, it was good for my soul. As much as I hated being cold, I loved the morning, as I love all mornings that start with me running.
As is generally the case when my soul is fed so completely, I am forced to acknowledge and say out loud: I live a good life and want for very little. I am where I am supposed to be. I am present, accounted for and living in this moment. I am happy, I am healthy and I am grateful.
I am content with me.