Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cascadia TRAIL 51 15k Race Report

This race report is more of a story of events leading up to the 15K and my race experience.  We had some funny stuff happen before and during the race and wanted to include. 

When i set my trip to Utah to visit my inlaws (and my bro who is there for dental residency), i knew i wanted to run a race. Chatted with my bro and tentatively planned on the SoJo half marathon.  However, I got a response from my brother along the lines of "road races are boring, lets run in the mountains" a chicago sea level person, i wasn't quite sure how i would fair but i have never been one to shy away from new things.

We found Cascadia Trail race series was having a 15k that weekend and we signed up immediately.  It was only $25 bucks for the race that gave you a shirt (which i am still waiting for as they ran out) On their website, Cascadia describe themselves as a series that: "is the only Mountain Running Series in Utah County. These races mix runnable trails with challenging and fun courses in beautiful places."  The 15k was the pinnacle of the summer series.

A few weeks before the race....
I see on Cascadia's FB status that the race was the first day of hunting season and to consider wearing bright colors.  They also said they would be providing "ribbons" for better visibility.  When i read this I had to laugh.  As a Chicago runner, the biggest obstacles we have to deal with on a course are the jerk bikers that are so frustrated with the race going on they try to get centimeters from clipping you while making snide remarks or the random roller bladder training for Olympic speed skating. 

Night before the race...
Have been in utah for a day when i get another email recommending to dress in some warm clothes and also reminded us about deer hunting season.  As i packed only a red hat and black jacket, i started really wanting some reflective stuff... so much so, i made my entire in-law family stop at a sporting good store while i stocked up on "please don't shoot me" gear. Scott wasn't too supportive of my compulsive buying as I own all the things i was buying but lent them out for someone doing Ragnar and just didn't prepare for the race as it was hectic getting out of town.  Ended up getting a Nathan Reflective vest, bright orange hat and hand water bottle.  At the checkout counter, my husband and I exchange the following dialogue:

Scott: "you don't need to buy all this crap, there will not be any hunting at the mouth of the canyon.  They are going to be back in the woods and you won't even hear them"
Nic "you aren't sure of that and if this $60 keeps me from not getting shot, it is well worth it"
Scott: "you aren't going to get shot"
Nic "you don't know that, i might look like a deer to someone"
Scott  "an asian deer?!"
Nic "yes, i might look like a deliciously plump asain deer"
Scott... now laughing "well, i have heard that ASIAN deer are not indigenous to this area so it might be a prized kill" this point, the kid behind the counter makes a small chuckle and I look at him and say "we AREN"T from these parts if you didn't figure that out by now"

We bought our $60 worth of stuff and were on our way.  I proceed to call my brother and tell him although i wasn't ready for this race, I definitely wouldn't get shot... so my only chance of dying was just due to the elevation and my whining

The Race
Race:  pulled up to the start with about 20 minutes before the gun. Could tell it was a small race, parking was easy and no stress. Had time to use the bathroom which a lot of people in line complained about but I thought it was one of the cleaner and better smelling ones i have used at any race (perhaps Utahans have higher porto standards?) Got our bibs and was bummed to find out I couldn't get my shirt.. but i paid and am told I should get one soon.  Along with the shirt, we got a Brooks reusable bag, some nutrition and chapstick.  

One of the race guys lined us up a few minutes before the start. He gave us a few instructions and said he marked the course really well... if there was a fork, we were to look for the ribbons for which way to go... easy enough, right?  He also cracked some jokes about the incline that started within the first mile.  Ryan and I laughed and we were off. Ryan took off and I settled in with a few people quickly. I didn't really have a goal time with my back just recovering but I did hope to not be last.

For the first part of the race, we ran along trails that overlooked the valley.  They were probably 18 inches wide with some small rocks in them but manageable.  There was a nice line of us trudging up the hill. 

This incline was the beginning of a rough 2.5 miles.  You can see me in the orange hat

Beautiful sunrise

I am right in front of the girl in the pink.  She quickly passed me and never saw her again
The above photo shows the the last stretch that was parallel to the valley, at least where we could see it, then we started working our way into the canyon.   At about this point, there was a father/daughter that I keep playing leap frog with. They were taking pictures along the course which is why we kept passing each other.  We exchanged smiles a few times and the third time i apologized i wasn't able to just stay ahead of them.. i made a comment like "Sorry, I am from Chicago and slow"... to which they responded.. "SO ARE WE!"  small world!  We had conversed for a few minutes and then i proceeded ahead of them. 

Meeting Danielle and realizing we are both from chicago... for reals
The next 1.5 miles were rough... Probably the hardest two miles I have ever "run" and it was more like a "hike" as there were areas with loose shale rock and steps with a very steep incline.  I walked most of this section (my brother told me he walked parts of this too).  Once I completed the hardest stretch, there were a few miles of ups/downs of really small trail.  So narrow that it was hard to run in b/c my stride was wider than the trail.  I ended up running on the outside of the trail on the edges for parts of it. 
Danielles dad, Mark - fall leaves, crisp air and a 100% chance of rolling your ankles
Right after a nice flat stretch, we find this sign and then we proceed to climb again... ugh
After the sign above, I started hearing gun shots but couldn't tell how far they were.  Probably 5 minutes later, I see two hunters on a bluff.  They wave at me and am grateful I am identified as human and continue to trudge on.  at this point, the trail wasn't too difficult and beautiful views.  I was feeling good and the altitude wasn't bothering me after the first few miles.  I met up Danielle and Mark and ran together.  We celebrated when we believed we hit our highest elevation per my garmin and then started making our way down.  I tried to have them pass me as the trail was narrow enough that it was difficult to make a pass without communicating with the other runner and i didn't want to slow them down.  however, they were cool to stay at my pace and we kept plugging along.  We chatted about marathons, travel, life, jobs, etc.  I did manage to fall at one point as the leaves laid in the trail and it made it hard to know what you were running on.  Many times, you would plant a foot and almost roll your ankle b/c there was a rock hiding under the leaves.  The time i fell was when i just stubbed my toe right up with a huge rock and did a slow mo tumble to the ground. 

Although I am a city person, this was a beautiful site
Mark and I try to figure out when/where we got lost...and how to get back to the start
Then, we hit a fork in the trail with no ribbons.  The dude at the start said it would be easy to find the path and leading up to this part, it was.  However, there were NO ribbons to be found.  (we later found out that hunters take these ribbons down).  I was so happy to be with them when we got lost.  We did a little surveying and realized that as long as we were going towards the valley, we would have to be going to the right place.  So, we continued along stopping every once in a while to make sure we were going in the right place.  Then, around mile 7, we see some hunters on the path.  As we approach, we see they are lugging some cargo.  Cargo would be defined as a dead deer half gutted.  They were kind enough to give us some directions to get back to the road.  We thanked them and then i was awkward and asked them to take a pic with the deer.  Danielle and I held its horns and snapped a pic.  Then, the older hunter gave us his guns and said we had to "do it right" so we took another pic with the guns/deer. This pic might go down as my favorite race pic ever!!!

Oh, we were running a race.. that's right.. so, after the pic, we found the road and ran our best pace the entire race (~11 min miles/per my garmin).  We followed the road, confirmed our direction with one more set of hunters and were elated to see some other runners when we turned to run parallel to the valley.  We ran together the entire time which was great. 

Crossed the finish line to see my brother sitting at the bottom waiting for me.  Poor ryan had to wait almost an hour but was a good sport.  We made it just in time for raffle and they had a ton of awesome stuff they gave away.  It seemed like the Series had great sponsors and put up some good prizes. Waterbottles, gift certificates, shoes, socks, compression gear, food certificates and someone was lucky enough to win a pair of runderwear.. you can google that one. 

Ryan was pumped to get third in his age group (but after looking closer at the results, he actually got 1st in the 25-29 AG.  Somehow he was in the younger group by accident.  I was pumped to not finish last and got to experience a true trail race.  For those interested in trying out a trail race as a change of pace, I definitely recommend it.  It is challenging, fun and I felt accomplished when i finished.  Cascadia was a great series as it was well organized, small, cheap and chill.. a perfect way to get into a new type of racing.  So grateful to meet new friends on the course and validate my $60 of reflective gear.   This gave me the idea that perhaps i should give XTERRA triathlons a go but the biking might kill me.

Some Stats:
Elevation Gain: 1,637 ft
Elevation Loss: 2,549 ft
Min Elevation: 4,325 ft
Max Elevation: 6,529 ft
Thanks bro for waiting 1+ hours for me!
Injini socks+ Brooks Cascadias
New friends, Officially trail runners!!  Thanks Danielle for all the pics!  Can't wait to see your Dad's


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! Totally was.. i told my brother you might have gotten a satin ribbon but i got some awesome pics! haha

  2. Dear Nicole

    I would like to invite you to check out our new start up dedicated to triathlon and designed in Milan, Italy. Will be a pleasure for us receive your expertise feedback.

    Nicolás Nóbile