Two weeks had passed since my 100 mile race at Mountain Lakes and to be honest, I was still trying to collect myself. However, I had signed up for the Oregon Coast 50k months ago, I have an affinity for these particular trails, and I could not imagine not taking part in the event.
A couple hundred runners exited a brigade of yellow school buses, we made the short walk down a sandy trail and as we walked beyond the shelter of the cliffs the wind made its presence known. We were to endure sustained winds of 30 mph with gusts reaching 50 mph. The wind was blowing from the south directly into our faces. We all gathered at the starting line (which was a simple line drawn in the sand), and spent the next six miles headed directly into the teeth of the wind. It was very apparent that venturing out on my own would be tantamount to race suicide, so I found a group of runners and took shelter behind them. Our group of six eventually began working together, the leader would break the wind for 45 seconds and then fall to the back. The next in line would become the new leader and so forth. Although the pace was very slow it was the most efficient way to get through these first six very difficult beach miles. I could see the leaders far in the distance and every minute I was getting farther and farther behind. There was nothing I could do. I simply needed to stay patient and save as much energy as possible while on the beach.
I was relieved to finally leave the sand behind as I reached the first aid station. I scanned through the crowd and found my wife Stephanie and my son Andrew who was proudly holding my pack for me. I was happy to see them, although I quickly noticed Stephanie had a very concerned look in her eye. She immediately asked me if I was alright. I realized I was only six miles into the race and was behind by more than six minutes sitting in 8th place. It must have looked pretty dire from anyone who had not been racing on the beach. I told her I was fine, I just had to take it easy in the wind. The concern immediately vanished from her face. I had only taken a two week rest period coming off of Mountain Lakes and she had been worried that an injury had shown itself during those first miles.
The next three miles were now on pavement with beautiful oceanfront views, but the oceanside location put me right back in the heart of the wind. I could now see a group of runners ahead and I quickly joined up with this pack, then worked on eating some nutrition. The wind was still brutal, I turned my head to see who was on my left, my cheek was immediately filled with air, taking the form of a parachute and the wind actually blew the nutrition right out of my mouth! It completely caught me off guard. At this point, the level of wind became comical.
Although the wind was treacherous, I remained very calm. Yachats is my favorite beach town and I visit quite frequently. I have run on these trails 45-50 times and commonly refer to them as “my” trails. I am a lifelong Oregonian and these trails simply feel like home. I have run on many buffed out trails that hardly require you to think and these trails are the opposite. They are constantly moving up and down and left and right. Avoiding roots and rocks, tip-tapping your feet quickly, shifting your upper body in preparation for a sharp turn, and bounding down wooden stairs bypassing a step just for fun. These trails make me feel like a child again.
I had reached mile 9 and I quickly transitioned from pavement and oceanfront views to single-track trails in dense forest. The first 9 miles were more about self preservation and now I was able to finally start racing. I had reached my comfort zone on the trails and was really enjoying the rolling terrain. I picked up the effort level, passed several runners and moved into third place.
Although I was comfortable and my cardiovascular system felt great, my musculature did not. I would occasionally feel some odd twinges. My left achiles would bite from time to time and my right knee felt like I was missing a ball bearing. The biggest problem though was my climbing. I did not have any pep on the steep climbs. I just felt sluggish. There was a throbbing sensation deep in my legs that just felt like weakness. It was no surprise that I had not fully recovered and was realizing the consequences of racing too soon.
During the later stages of the race my lackadaisical climbing caught up with me and I was passed and moved backwards into 4th place. A short while later I was able to find some strength and moved back into 3rd place. From there I managed to hold on, maintain my effort and just do the best I could on this particular day. I will admit I was lacking some confidence and was looking back quite frequently on the last 6 miles. Regardless, I was able to enjoy the wind at my back for the last 5k and finished with a nice high five and a 3rd place finish.
To sum it up the Oregon Coast 50k is diverse. From the flat windy six miles on the beach to the steep climbs on the single-track up Cummins Ridge Trail it has diversity in terrain. The landscape is ever changing as you run on sand and pavement with gorgeous ocean views only to instantly be engulfed by dense forest and rolling trails. There is also amazing diversity in plant material as you pass by wind blown shore pines, greenleaf manzanita, sword ferns, giant spruce, western hemlock and miles and miles of single-track trail bedded by different shades of green moss. These trails are Pacific Northwest to the core and I for one am completely in love with Yachats, Amanda trail, and the Oregon Coast 50k race. This race is mentally and physically demanding and will test all of your running abilities.