Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hagg Lake 50 Kilometer Trail Race

Neil Olsen follows Bend's Rod Bien at the Hagg Lake 50K, photo by Jasmine Nahorniak

The Hagg Lake 50 Kilometer Trail Race kicked off the Oregon Trail Ultramarathon Series this past weekend. We were lucky to catch-up with this year's winner and new course record holder, Neil Olsen. Here's what Central Point's trail master had to say about his day:

"February in the Willamette Valley predictably means rain, so I was mentally preparing myself for a long cold soggy windy mud-fest like last year. The weather report even the day before predicted rain at least into the morning. But weather forecasters, like national security advisers, somehow keep their jobs even when their predictions are wrong. It was crisp at first, but clear skies, no wind to speak of, and beautiful.

Unlike last year, I was determined to be at the starting line before the race started. I set three 3 alarms- one mistakenly for 6:30 PM, one I didn't hear, and thankfully one that got me up. I didn't linger over breakfast at mother-in-law's in McMinnville, but instead ate a big cup of cheerios in the car on the way.

Don't ask me where this came from, but they have a skirt competition at the start. Sean Meissner (Peterson Ridge RD from Sisters) looked as cute as ever, but I thought the stocky guy in the jumper took it up a notch. I didn't see Ken Ward (Mac Forest RD, whom my bother works for in Corvallis). Unless he did a better job of shaving his legs this year that may have been just as well ;-)

Sean may not be smart enough to stay out of the cold while he's got laryngitis, but he's great company. We watched some guys go out fast on the dirt road out-and-back. By the dam they had about a 1 minute lead. I did some mental math and figured it would take 7:20 miles to hit the course record. On a muddy day that wouldn't be plausible, but there were long stretches with good footing and little mud. We were on pace and I felt good, so I started shooting for that. From the 1st to 2nd aid stations I drafted off of Rod Bien (from Bend). He shared advice from longer runs, and I tried to learn from him how not to have a near-dialysis CK level of 9500 and how not to spend 2 days in the hospital after 100 miles. We caught up to the leaders about half way through, and other than some hamstring tightness I was still feeling good, so I put in a little surge to stay ahead of that 7:20 average. Shortly after this I got a boost from catching my friend from Central Point, John Lotts, who had taken an early start for his first trail 50k.

True to it's advertising, there was still mud. It was only shortly after the "Abandon All Hope" trail sign that I gave up keeping my shoes clean and dry, and this is where I took my first fall. My next was on a bridge after the start of the second loop. There were 164 registered for the 50k, 123 of which finished, and almost all the 249 25k runners finished. So each of them had crossed that bridge at least once, and they transferred just enough mud to make it slippery. I reached my hand out in time to squash open the Gu packet I had been carrying in the palm of my glove and got Gu all over my glove and GPS watch. I got road rash and a bruise on my shoulder. My other battle scar came later from a blackberry bush as I swung wide to pass a 25k runner. The blood dripped from mid thigh to my knee. I feared for another skin problem as well, but it has now been two days and no poison oak has shown up yet. A huge amount of trail work must have gone into getting the trails ready.

The second lap I was able to hold fairly steady, ticking off each mile on my GPS watch, which only lost satellite connection a couple brief times. The flats I was able to go well below pace, and the hills and winding sections generally are fairly short at a time. I ran somewhat negative splits, so I was confident I had the race, and with a couple of miles left I knew I wouldn't die hard enough to keep from going under the record. I saw 2 other friends from Central Point, Brett Mitchell and Ken Ellgen doing the 25k. Some of the many 25k runners I passed probably didn't realize I was doing the 50k, and I'm afraid I surprised some of them from behind. One of them called out to me "strong finish!" with 1/2 mile to go. I definitely surprised the guy working the finishing chute, because at first he tried to send me on for another lap.

I was happy to see Southern Oregon well represented with Marily Bailey (SOB RD), Ben Benjamin, and Phil Finch. I went on a very long cool-down, and ran awhile with Ralph Hirt (Redwood Wild River Run RD) who was fresh off his first 100 miler since turning 70. Half the fun of these runs are the quality people. The aid station folks were wonderful. Cheapskate that I am, I just used a Walmart water bottle, but they were able to fill it through it's narrow neck before I even had my 2nd handful of M&M's. And I hadn't tried pumpkin bread on a run before, but it was quite good."

Congratulations Neil!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sequoia 50 Kilometer Trail Race

Last weekend several southern Oregonians traveled south to run in warmer climates at the Sequoia 50 Kilometer Trail Race. The course starts in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland, CA and continues to roll through Redwood Regional Park where runners pass under huge redwoods and catch views of the Bay Area and the Oakland Hills.

Views along the course. Photo by Scott Dunlap

Here's what Eric Poole, of Ashland, had to say about his race and the course.

"What a treat to be able to head down to the Bay Area for a great trail run in the hills above Oakland. The weather could not have been better. It actually felt a bit too warm towards the end of the run. Nice problem to have this time of the year. The race started in Joaquin Miller Park and then jumped into the Redwood Regional Park as well. I started out running with Chris Rennaker and Aaron Brian who are both Rogue Valley boys that were running the race also. Chris was running the 50 km and Aaron was running the 30 km. We had a few laughs as we climbed up the first steep climb of the day that was crowded with runners. Once we topped out on that climb it was some nice fire road running to the first aid station. After the aid station we descended down into and then started climbing again as we got onto the French Trail. The French Trail is what trail running is all about. The trail is soft, the trees are large and the climbing and descending were constant. I felt like I ran the first 30 km too fast and was feeling good but that feeling would not last long. As I entered the French Trail again (we ran the 30 km course and then went to the start finish line and then headed out on the 20 km course) and started to catch the guy in front of me my legs decided to rebel and let me know that the pace that I had set up to that point would not be maintained. So, I tried to regroup and get some food and drink in me but that last 20 km was not too pretty. There was plenty of time to walk and take in the views! Chris caught me with about 5km to go and we ran together to the last aid station where we sucked down some Coke, ate some food and found some energy to finish the run. Luckily most of the 5000+ feet of climbing in the race was over and we just had a steep descent on the Cinderella trail to finish the run. All in all it was a great day. There were over 450 runners that competed in the 10 km, 20km, 30km and 50km and I will look forward to coming back next year to give this race another go."

Chris Rennaker, of Talent, posted these thoughts.

"This being my first official 50K race I had a lot of pre-race excitement and was feeling good about my training. However, I didn't work on my race pace very much. I started out too fast and felt the blow the last 20K loop. The temperature was another factor that I had not incorporated into my training, which reached the 70's. I didn't finish as strong as I wanted but running the last 5K with fellow Ashlander, Eric Poole helped keep my spirits up. The Redwood Regional Park is a very nice and well maintained park and while running in it you do not feel like you are only a few miles from downtown Oakland, CA. I'm looking forward to making it back to this trail run and having a better race."

Poole finished fifth in 4:42:20. Rennaker finished sixth, 35 seconds back. Aaron Brian ran in the 30 Kilometer version and finished fourth in 2:43:21. Congratulations boys! Further race results and info can be found here.

The racers at the finish line. (l to r) Eric Poole, Chris Rennaker, Aaron Brian

Monday, February 18, 2008

Moab's Red Hot 50 Kilometer Trail Race

Southeastern Utah is home to some of the most awe inspiring vistas, unique rock formations, and brilliant winter weather. It was also the setting for the second annual Moab Red Hot 50K+ and 33K.

The La Sal Mountains from Poison Spider Mesa...the setting of the last six miles of the race.

Roughly 300 runners lined up for these two races on what would turn out to be a gorgeous February day. It was the perfect escape for many runners from the cold and snowy environs they had been inhabiting since last November. The race would, in turn, attract the most competitive ultra field thus far for 2008. The 50K has 4,500 feet of gain and takes runners over some classic Moab trails like Gemini Bridges, Metal Masher, Gold Bar Rim, and Poison Spider Mesa.

A View of what's to come. A glimpse of the course from the starting area. Runners would navigate up the Gemini Bridges Trail across the snowy cliff face to the right. Ultimately runners would end up on top of Gold Bar Rim (the cliffs in the far distance).

Race Director, Chris Martinez, shouts out last minute instructions.

Torrid paces were set from the beginning. Young ultraspeedsters, Tony Krupricka (CO) and Kyle Skaggs (NM), set a fast early pace in order to distance themselves from the competition. They were challenged late in the race by Justin Ricks (CO), but were able to out pace him and tie for a win and set a new course record in 4:03 (taking 22 minutes off of Karl Meltzer's 2007 course record). Ricks finished third in 4:04. Johannas Rudolph finished fifth overall and won the men's master's title in 4:22.

A pre-race photo with (l to r) Karl Meltzer, Ian Torrence, Tony Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs.

Perhaps the most exciting race of the day was battled out between Susannah Beck (of Eugene, OR) and Anita Ortiz (of Eagle, CO). Beck, a relatively new face to ultrarunning, see-sawed back and forth most of the race with Ortiz. In the last five miles Beck was able to build one last final lead to win and set a course record in 4:28. Ortiz finish second and won the master's race in 4:34. Darcy Africa, last year's Red Hot winner and course record holder finished third in 5:02.

...And they're off!

In the 33 kilometer race, Romiero Paris won the men's race in 2:32, while Anna Pichrtova won the women's race and finished second overall in 2:37. Anne Pence won the women's masters race in 3:34. Brandon Haddick won the men's masters race in 2:53. 155 runners completed the 50K course, while 84 runners covered the 33K course.

Full results can be found at Red Hot 50K's web site. Another good race report can be found on La Sportiva's Mountain Running Web Site.

Saturday, February 09, 2008



Here it is folks!  Finally, Rogue Valley Runners is proud to present our first organized foot race.  The Tar 'N Trail is a USA Track and Field sanctioned event.  The course will pit runners against some of the best trails and roads Ashland has to offer.  Run through Ashland's park jewel, Lithia Park, ascend the steep Granite Street Trail steps and hill to the narrow and windy Ditch Trail.  After grabbing some water at the half-way mark ascend further up Hald-Strawberry Park hill and Hitt Road.  Then start your downhill run to the finish while taking in the expansive views of the Rogue Valley below.

Course Description
The race will start at the Winburn Way Bridge west of The Plaza in downtown Ashland and head into the park over the bridge, then onto the wood chipped trail on the east side of Ashland Creek.  Continue all the way to where the trail becomes a dirt single track and switchbacks up to and past the water tower and Swim Reservoir Park to Granite Street. The race course will take a right on Granite Street descend to and then up the stairs on the Granite Street Trail to the TID Ditch Trail. Once on the TID Ditch Trail the course will continue to Ditch Road and to Hald-Strawberry Park’s trails. The course will proceed up the switchbacks in the park and stay to the left (cross Strawberry Lane a second time) to Hitt Rd. Up the paved Hitt Rd to the dirt single track Bird Song Trail.  Down Bird Song Trail to Bird Song Lane.  Take a left on Strawberry Lane and down Westwood Street to the dirt connector trail and footbridge with Sunnyview Street. Down Sunnyview Street to Grandview Drive. From Grandview take a right onto Scenic Drive, then a left on Church Street. Descend steeply on Church Street and take a right on High Street, cross Granite Street to the stairs into Lithia Park. At the finish, runners will re-enter the park at that stairway at the end of High Street, pass the bathrooms on the wood chipped trail on the west side of Ashland Creek and finish near the start on Winburn Way.

Here is a course visual (click on the image to enlarge):

Here is a Entry Form and more information(click on the image to enlarge):
We hope to see you out there!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Trinidad to Clam Beach Race

Through driving rain, high water, and heavy headwinds they did press onward.

Conditions were far from ideal at this year's 43rd annual Trinidad to Clam Beach Race. Over 700 runners braved a blistering cold front to run the 8 3/4 mile, 5 3/4 mile and 3 mile races on the northern California coast. The courses runs along rural windy and hilly coastal roads, through the small town of Trinidad, CA, to the ocean where they must ford the Little River and run the final two miles along Clam Beach to the finish line.

Erik Skaggs, from Ashland, OR, was unaffected by the weather conditions and the waist deep rushing waters of the river. He took the lead early in the race and ran full throttle across the final sandy miles to win the 8 3/4 mile race in a time of 47:35. He out paced San Diego's Pete Chenard by more than a minute.
Erik Skaggs races across the final beach miles to the finish.

The top ten was rounded out healthily by several other Rogue Valley runners including Bob Julian, Neil Olsen and John Leuthold who finished in 6th, 7th and 8th places respectively.

In the 5 3/4 mile race, Todd Ragsdale, from Talent, OR, handily took top honors with a time of 33:52. Joe Griffin finished a close third in 36:29, by being out paced slightly by Jim Howard of Applegate, CA, the winner of the 1981 and 1983 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Emily Olsen, from Central Point, OR, took second place in the women's race by crossing the line in 40:17.Todd Ragsdale crosses the Little River in the lead.

A hardy congratulations goes out to all those who finished the races in such tough conditions. Full results can be found on the Trinidad to Clam Beach Run web site.

On a more personal note: Several local Rogue Valley Runners car pooled over to the race and made a weekend out of the event. The guest of honor was John Leuthold, who's 40th birthday occurs this month. After the race we returned to his parent's house near Crescent City, CA for a crab and beer feast. On Sunday morning we awoke to brighter skies and ran 14 miles beneath the coastal redwoods before returning home. A good time was had by all.
Some of the crew (left to right; Joe Griffin, Ian Torrence, Erik Skaggs, John Leuthold) dwarfed by one of the great redwoods of northern California.

Birthday boy, John Leuthold, being helped across the Little River in this year's Clam Beach Race. He's little, but he's fast!