Race Report: 2011 Silver Falls Half Marathon

November 5, 2011

I have a pretty good streak going: I have finished this race every single year it has been held. (This was its second year.) Here’s my report from last year. You will note that I have reused the same scenic picture. Ah, you’ve seen one giant waterfall with little ant-like people running behind it, you’ve seen them all.

Really, though, it’s a spectacular course. I know someone who runs a half marathon or two every single week, and he ran this one today for the first time, and you should see what nice things he’s saying about it on Facebook. Even if you aren’t a runner, if you live anywhere near here and haven’t been, you should take a trip to Silver Falls State Park and hike around a little — it’s a gem. If you live anywhere near here and are a runner, this is a must-do race. But hurry, because it fills up fast. This year they opened registration on August 1st and it filled up on the 3rd. New next year: they’re going to be doing a full marathon also! If it’s just two loops of the half-marathon course (as seems likely), I’ll probably take a pass on that, though.

I was in mostly decent shape coming into the race. No real aches or pains to speak of; not sick; plantar fasciitis very mild. My biggest problem was that I’d only been putting in 22-26 miles per week for the previous six weeks, to give the aforementioned PF a break. Still, I thought I had a good chance of beating my time here from last year, when I was sick and gimpy.

The course has a lot of uphills and downhills. Here is the elevation profile, as published on the race web page.

As you can see, the race sucks you into going out way too fast during those first four gentle miles. I’m not sure what my pace was but I’d guess it was 7:30 or faster through there. Everybody else seemed to be running fast too. Seriously, this race seemed to have attracted a lot of fast runners this year. The winner posted a time of an hour and eighteen minutes. Look at that elevation profile! Remember that most of it is on wet and/or rocky trails. That’s just insanely fast.

Mile four kind of sucked. I complained about this hill last year, writing “My lungs weren’t giving me enough air and my legs felt heavy.” Well, no duh, that’s actually a pretty steep climb there! I probably got up there faster this time around but it was certainly no easier.

Near mile six, we descended into the gorge via a route that wound behind the North Falls, then we got two miles of mostly-downhill trail, downstream alongside a creek. I was feeling OK and I ran this portion hard. Maybe seven-minute-miles; it’s hard to say since I wasn’t doing manual laps on my Garmin and its accuracy is rubbish in that kind of terrain.

Shortly after mile eight, we started heading upstream along another creek, and then we hit the two big waterfall climbs. The first involved an endless series of stairs; the second only some very steep trails. I knew better this year and just briskly walked these sections, rather than pretending I could run them and then petering out into into a gasping slow trudge.

After that, it was all pretty easy except for (a) the fact that this was my longest run in two months and (b) the sadistic hill they insert just before the finish. At least I was mentally prepared for the hill this time around. I finished in about 1:44:10, which would be a 7:58/mile average pace, and more than six minutes faster than last year. So, mission accomplished there.

Post-race, they had bread, chili, and a roaring fire in the picnic area shelter. They didn’t have finishers medals, if you care about that sort of thing. I don’t, and would much rather have a lower race entry fee. I think it might have been $25 this year? An unbeatable race bargain.

Update: Official Results. 1:44:11, 67th of 454 finishers.