Travel Magazine

Gorge Waterfall 100k

By Travelspot06 @travelspot06
A couple of weekends ago, a group of us traveled up to Portland for the Gorge Waterfall race. This race had two distances: 50k and 100k. The 100k is an out and back with about 12,000 feet of climbing. Some of my friends and I ran the 100k on Saturday and Broski ran the 50k on Sunday. We flew up on Thursday night after work and spent Friday drinking beer at FatHeads Brewery (carb loading), shopping at Powells and wandering around the city. We got an apartment in the Hawthorne district, which was a walkable area with lots of restaurants and things to do. We had dinner very early (around 5) on Friday at Thanh Thao restaurant (Vietnamese/Thai) because our race started at 4 a.m. on Saturday and we wanted to get to bed early.
Race morning we got up at 2 a.m., had breakfast, and drove the the start line at Benson State Park. We got there so early that we had time to see the early start at 3 a.m. and to use the bathroom a few times. It was pretty chilly, maybe around the high 40s, so we huddled next to the bathroom for a while trying to stay warm before the race started. Before we knew it, it was nearly 4 and it was time to get going.
The race started off with a tiny flat portion and then it was an immediate long uphill slog. I think the first climb was about 1500 feet over 2 miles or something like that. It was partly paved at first and then was dirt/rocks for the last mile or so. Then we started to go downhill, and it was a beast. The trail was rocky, full of roots and some of the rocks were not separate smaller rocks, but one big multi pointed chunk which covered the entire trail. It was wet and it slippery and it was very slow going, especially since it was dark. The other thing was that on one side of us was a drop off, but we could not tell how much of one since it was dark. Finally the rock gave way to a downhill paved path and we could finally speed up the pace a bit. I passed quite a few people on this section.
Gorge Waterfall 100k
Once we got to the bottom of this hill, we got to the first aid station (No Name - 6 miles in), which was pretty bare bones. Then we started doing a lot of rolling hills on a single track trail for maybe 5 more miles. The next section was about 3 miles of pavement! I was not really happy about this part, as (1) it hurts and (2) I knew I would have to come back this way since it was an out and back course! The only good part about this section was that it was starting to get light. At mile 13, we got to the Yeon aid station, where I gobbled down a banana and hit the road again.
It was finally light and the next 10 miles or so had a bunch of waterfalls and things to look at. However, the trail was often rocky, causing more slow running and/or walking than I would have liked. I even had to walk some on flat sections, as the footing was very shaky. Somewhere in this section, I felt one of my toes starting to have a hot spot and I knew this was going to be an issue. I got to the Cascade Locks aid station at mile 22, which was where my drop bag was, and I took off my shoes to have a look. Sure enough, I had a blister. I lubed up my feet, taped up the blister, put my socks back on and hit the road again.

Gorge Waterfall 100k

Rocky Road -- Photo Credit: Broski


From here, the trail had a pretty long uphill climb before heading back down to the turnaround point at mile 31. As I was slogging up the uphill portion, I saw all of the elite guys heading back down. It's funny because normally in local races, I am familiar with most of the lead runners. However, this time there were several unfamiliar faces. However, I did see a couple of local guys and it was fun to be able to do so! This race was a big deal because it was a Montrail Cup Race, which means the top two men and the top two women get a qualifying spot in Western States.

Gorge Waterfall 100k

Mossy Fairy Bridge -- Photo Credit: Broski


At the turnaround, I refilled my water (for the first time, which probably means I wasn't drinking enough) and ate some trail butter and hit the road again. On the way back, I ran into all of my friends, who were going the opposite way. The first didn't even see me, as she was so intent on the trail. The second asked "how much farther to the turnaround?" and I knew exactly how he felt. The third said that she was going to drop at the turnaround.
On the way back, my toe started bugging me again, so I stopped a couple of times to put more lube on my toes. Once as I was stopped there, a guy who had been leapfrogging me offered me some tape for it and I gladly took him up on the offer. After taping it again, it felt a bit better, but it still was bugging me. I definitely always go out too fast and end up slowing down a lot of the second half because I always get passed a lot on the latter half. In fact, I hit the 15 mile mark (1/4 way done) in about 3 hours. I got to the halfway mark in about 6.5 hours. If I would have kept the same pace, I could have finished in about 11 hours. But I didn't.
I can't really remember the middle part of the way back. I slogged along, going up and going down and going back over the rocky sections. My legs felt fine but the bottoms of my feet hurt. People passed me. I stopped to take some photos. I ate a lot of squeeze applesauce and bananas. Finally I got to the Yeon aid station again at mile 49. From here it was 3 miles of dreaded pavement, of which I ran the whole way (and passed 4 people -- yes!) and then it was some rolling trails and then No Name aid station, which meant only one huge hill and 6 miles to go.
It was the longest 6 miles of my life. 1500 feet of climbing, a lot (A LOT) of tourist dodging and a lot of either pavement (ouch) or pointy technical rocks (ouch). Finally I reached the top and headed back down. The downhill was way better than I thought it would be. However, I forgot that after the downhill you have to go back up again before heading down the last flat mile to the finish. On the last hill, my blister broke and I limped/ran along. Then I got to the last mile of flat and it seemed so long. You have to run around this lake and you can see the finish line, but it's on the other side of the lake and you can hear the band and you know you are almost there, but it seems to take forever!
I finally got to the finish and Broski and his lady were there, photographing me in all my finest glory. I crossed the line, got a high five from the race director (his hand must be sore by the end of the weekend!) and hobbled over to the beer tent. I ended up finishing in 14:38:xx. I have only run one 100k before and my time was 15:10, so that was a 100k PR.
The verdict? Would I do this race again? I might. However, there are a few logistical things the RD needs to work on. Firstly, the aid stations were poorly run. The people were friendly, but maybe they were inexperienced. I had to get my own water, which is not normal in a big race like this. In addition, at the turn around, there were tortillas and nut butter, but you had to make your own roll-up. Usually these are pre-made and laid out for you to save your time. Also, the food choices were not great. In a longer race, there should be some real and/or hot food choices. Generally there is soup or burritos/quesadillas or at the very least potatoes with salt. They had none of that. At Yeon they did have grilled cheese, which was good, but I really felt that there should have been more.
On the other hand, the after party was great, although they did run out of beer by the time my brother crossed the finish line on Sunday. That's not really fair to the runners who are in the middle/back of the pack. Back of the packers are people too!
All in all, it was a fun weekend and a difficult but beautiful race.

Have you ever been to Portland or the Pacific Northwest? What is your favorite beer?

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