Willamette Headwaters Race Report

for the record my personal condition has nothing to do with the race or it’s organizers so this should not be read as a review of the race or it’s organizers. it’s just some thoughts i have.

physically i would say almost everything went wrong except for what i was worried about but i did finish. it took some digging and a lot of power walking and 2 hours past my goal but i did finish damn it!

about the race: it was the Willamette Headwaters Endurance Challenge or “Whee” run 50k in the Cascade Mountains near Oakridge Oregon. there were only 15 of us doing the “50k” (in quotes because it was 34.5 miles). considering the terrain i felt like the course was as well marked as it could be although there were a few extra out and backs for some of us. at about 1.5 miles in i was just following a fast runner who suddenly took a side trail and onto a big old growth log river crossing. i had to watch my feet on the log so as not to fall 10 feet onto rocks below but when i looked up the person i was following was bounding off into the woods like a rabbit and i was left with no trail. i shouted but there was no reply so i wandered around in the woods for a while until i found the trail again but then got turned around and couldn’t tell which way to go. i picked a direction thinking i would eventually recognize something i had already passed if i was headed back to the start. when i did there were two runners coming up towards me. i thanked them and continued up the path reporting my missteps at the first aid station. i did not feel it was grounds for disqualification since i had doubled back to where i got off originally. there were a couple of sections that had no markings that i could see for over a mile but there were no other trails there either. at about mile 12 though the same girl who bounded off into the woods earlier came rushing back towards me on the trail when i was walking up some switchbacks. she was a little panicked because she thought she was off the trail since she hadn’t seen any markings in a long time. i told her we were still following the river so we must be ok and that the turnaround was much further than the expected 15.5 miles. it was actually at 17.4 according to my watch when i got there. i can see why they did this though because there are only a few places with in-roads-no other choice really. anyway she must have run an extra mile or two on those switchbacks! i wish i had known the terrain better but it was not in my neighborhood. on that: everyone was surprised that i had come all the way from Seattle as everyone else there was local. i felt embarrassed by this (my defense is that i don’t like signing up for races many months in advance esp since ive been injured and that’s what you have to do up here in Wa…and i like small races even though i do get lost sometimes). it was a small event and almost everyone was very friendly and helpful i had a chance to chat with a few different people who treated me well and there was some great veggie stew and a warm fire afterwards (and a chair that i would not yield for some time). another fun thing that happened was that a guy with a much more impressively even split caught up to me at about mile 32 and we kinda duked it out at the end. when he finally got by me he said “how about for a beer?” so a let him pass until just about 100 yards and then i hit the nitro button. that was fun and it was the same thing that happened in the last long race i did! it’s amazing how you can be alone in the woods for 90% of the day and then just at the very end someone is challenging you!
one thing about the race i didnt like is that if you are going to have bonus miles make sure the results reflect that. the pace listed on my ticket would be for a true 50k, not a 34.5 miler. the pace there is based on 31 miles. it is not a valid number. we did the work and deserve accurate results…so i am glad i wore my watch. perhaps just a volunteer with a clipboard would have sufficed rather than the pay-for automated system spitting out incorrect pace numbers.

about me: for two weeks prior i had been feeling ill with low energy most of the time but no other outward symptoms. i always monitor what i am eating and what is going on with other things mental & physical but in the past week i just thought it was the taper and that it would all wash away once i was running. that didn’t happen. i just couldn’t get in a groove and was unable to really relax at all and just felt fatigued the whole race. every bump in the trail took more effort than normal from the beginning and i even fell five times (i don’t usually fall, even on rough terrain). i tried to push through it but that resulted in my heart rate getting too high. during the last 20 of the 34.5 miles every time i started running (even downhill) my heart rate would go up into the red line 150’s when it should have been in the 130’s or lower. i dont wear a monitor or check my pulse often but one reason for that is one thing i have always been good at is keeping my heart rate manageable over long distance and relaxing even when my legs felt like falling off . not this day. not even a bit. why was my heart doing this? was this race really that much harder? i’ll do hills when training just to get my heart rate above 130! what is this? am i fighting an illness? there were even a couple of times when i thought i heard another runner clomping up behind me only to realize it was my own heart beating like a hammer in my chest! anyway in fear for my health and thinking about my family and feeling way too tired than i should i slowed down a lot, alternating running and walking for most of the race. i can say that my power walk is probably good enough to keep me in front of a cutoff for a 50 miler but only a flattish one. then at about mile 25 i started to get severe gut pain. wtf? i have never had this while running. this is not a 100 miler! why is my body giving out? i am feeling pretty bummed about it with all and the usual questions running around in my brain: why do i bother race when it never seems to sync up with when i am feeling good (and when i feel good the race goes haywire somehow or i get lost or something) and why do i travel a long way to do this? if my watch is more accurate than the results from the race people then why bother even joining one? why dont i just plan and run my own? of course i have that 50 on my mind (January). damn i hate that i have to sign up for these things so early. if i had to decide right now i think i would choose to not race anymore. the races help me to stay training and provide me with a goal and a small amount of external motivation, but do i need this? i have always had the discipline to train without a goal race. with an invalid results ticket, an empty gas tank, two less vacation days, an unwearable (my beach) hot-pink race shirt (why???) and some extra bills to pay i just dont know.

i just don’t know.Untitled


5 thoughts on “Willamette Headwaters Race Report

  1. sorry this went this way. i do think the small races are a gamble. understand you’re not laying blame but there are a few issues. sometimes it’s just expectations, right? but it’s hard to not care when you’re putting in money and travel time.Maybe pick a known quantity? Squamish? Hood 50m?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eileen, thanks so much. i am at a crossroads here. i have never been competitive at anything in my life and now at 50 i am doing these races and questioning what for. i give to charity in lots of ways and that’s not really it. maybe it’s a need that i have unfulfilled for my whole life? i dont know. i mean when i was there and i know that country i just wanted to relax and enjoy the woods like the many many miles i have backpacked in these woods (and not race in them). and my DW reminds me of how much joy and adventure i get out of every training run in the city…but what is training without competition?…without the test? one thing stands out though and that was the sprint at the end. for me it’s my strength. it was easy really and felt good after all those drudging miles to stretch my legs and it always surprises people to see an old geezer moving fast. maybe the ultra thing just isnt for me? but i do like the people so much more


  2. Alan,

    I enjoyed meeting you and learned a few thing in my first RD effort. I’m going to put up some “wrong way” signs on the spots were you could miss a turn. The race results will reflect the distance next year and the I’ll make sure everyone knows about the bonus miles in advance.


    1. Thanks Mark, I am getting a lot of traffic today because of the San Diego 50 report. On Willamette, It’s a beautiful course…I just wasn’t having my best day. Glad to have participated…and to have bounced back!


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