|I race mostly for Glenn's pictures.|
Every year in the famously rainy Pacific Northwest there seems to be a weekend in mid-October when the wet season officially breaks - when we stop having spotty showers and settle in to the regular grey that features in every TV show and movie set in the area. I'm pretty sure that break was last weekend, and I'm pretty sure the epicenter of raininess was a beach a few miles outside of Yachats, OR where a bunch of us crowded together for the start of the newest Rainshadow Running race, the Oregon Coast 50k.
Angel and I usually run Baker Lake to cap off the season, but this year we decided to make a trip of it and run this one in its inaugural year, because James Varner always puts together amazing courses and we'd never run in the area. Personally, the race found me in top form - after a month-long taper of virtually no running since the Wonderland, I was unmotivated to run at all, let alone in the cold and rain. Angel and I spent the bus-ride to the start convincing each other not to bow out.
The course starts with a 6 mile beach run. Sand running can be difficult, but in this case the beach was wide and flat, and the sand was hard packed, so it was a pretty perfect surface. The driving rain and consistent headwind was a little bit less ideal though, and in just a couple of minutes I found myself giving Mother Nature an extended lecture about why she was still single and running as fast as I could to get off of the damned beach and behind the shelter of some wind-swept trees. After about an hour of running much faster than I was trained for, and when my face was sufficiently sandblasted, the course headed away from the beach and through a state park to the hotel where we were staying, and where the course would eventually loop around to finish. Angel said she stood at this point for at least 5 minutes trying to find a legitimate reason to quit. I'm too proud to think about quitting, but I was already regretting how fast I ran on the beach and knew I was going to suffer the rest of the way.
The rest of the course lived up to the Rainshadow brand, making a lollipop loop along the coast, up three steep but relatively short (for Varner miles) climbs, before heading back to the finish line in Yachats. Through no fault of the course, which was beautiful and generally really runnable, I suffered for more miles than I ever have in a 50k. The combo of not training and going out too fast taught me the important lesson that one should never take an ultramarathon for granted - even if it's 'just' a 50k. The last 20 or so miles felt like the last 20 of a 50 miler more than a 50k. I tried to keep myself distracted by striking up conversations with the people who were passing me and cursing about how stupid running is.
Mercifully, when I got back on the flats about two miles from the finish line, the sun broke out and it suddenly warmed up. I convinced myself if I could just not walk for about 20 minutes the suffering would be over, and I rolled in to the finish in 6:09 - one of the slowest 50ks I've run, on a course that should've been (on paper anyway) one of the fastest I've run.
But enough about me...
Never mind my own bad day, this first year race fits well into the Rainshadow pantheon, and adds something new to James Varner's repertoire with a tough, beautiful coastal course. There are some similarities with this one to the Deception Pass 50k, but overall I think this is a more consistently beautiful course in an area that makes for a great long-weekend destination. The Oregon coast is notoriously rugged and pretty, and the finish line was without a doubt the nicest of any race I've been to - music, pizza and beer on the coast as the sun was setting made for an ideal end to a long day, as well as a picturesque way to finish out the 2014 trail racing season. And the resort that hosted the finish made for an awesome place to relax for the weekend. Pricier than our normal free camping approach to Rainshadow races, but worth it for the beachfront view, on sight amenities, and totally mellow weekend.