Aug 9, 2022

I am a little late with this entry, but that's ok. A month ago, on a whim, I tackled perhaps the hardest trail run in Southern Oregon. The SOB. Or, the Siskiyou Outback, but SOB is more apt. First, some background on my venture into registering for this. Full disclosure. I hate trail runs. Hate them. There are two types of runners, trail runners and road runners. I am a road runner through and through. I am neither coordinated nor agile enough to run trails. In 2014, I tackled the Britt Firehouse, a weird 10K that runs through the old gold mines in Jacksonville. I swore I would never do a trail run again. I was miserable. Yet, I always saw the SOB lurking. A trail run on Mount Ashland. Reviews for it were that the run was not for the faint of heart. Many, many people DNF, especially in the ultras. There is even a disclaimer on their website imploring one to be in decent shape before signing up. So, like I do with most runs, I took the plunge and registered in June. Contacted Markus and signed him up as well. The SOB has four runs. A 100K (forget it, even the elite of the elite it takes them 10 to 14 hours to finish), a 50 miler, a 50K and a 15K. The 15K is obviously what I signed us up for. So the morning of July 9, Markus and I went up to Mount Ashland. It was glorious morning, one of those crisp days where the air feels fresh. While I trained for this run, my 23-year-old son, like he did with the Pear in April, did not. With the weather in our favor, Markus and I made our way to the starting chute at 8:25. By 8:30, we were off. We started out crossing the Mount Ashland Ski park parking lot and then ascending slightly up a potholed filled road for about one mile. This would be the first test of the morning. The potholes were deep enough to do some damage, so while dodging runners, and pacing one's self, you had to be aware of where you were stepping. Of course this would spoil the glorious view of Mount Shasta as we made our way further up the road. At just over a mile, we turned onto the Pacific Crest Trail. This is where the run became somewhat hazardous. The PCT through this stretch was narrow and rocky. My goal was to finish in under two hours, but when one runner ahead of the pack stopped, we all did. There was quite a bit of slow jogging/walking. After two miles of this, my son had enough and darted in front of me and the pack of runners on an open stretch and disappeared. I knew Miles 3-5 were basically a climb, and this was no joke. The trail took a sharp ascent and I found myself hiking. With the temperatures rising, I hit the midway point and made my way back to the finishline. Here's where the trail running takes its toll. The ebb and flow of ascending, descending, dodging obstacles and tripping over rocks takes a lot of energy. As does the sharp increase and decrease of the pace. You spend more time thinking about these things than you do breathing properly, for example. Despite training on hilly roads for a couple of months, I was not prepared for the trails themselves, nor the people in front who controlled the pace. By Mile 6, I was spent. By the time I got back onto the PCT, which was now mostly a descent, I walked a good portion of it. As did many folks. The website tells you this is where many people fall and get hurt. I saw a lady lying on the side of the trail because she took a nasty fall after tripping over a rock. I was not about to get injured, so instead of running and skipping over the trail, I slowly navigated. When a water run off made the trail hazardous, I lamented that I wore my bright yellow Hokas, which were quickly ruined. Whenever I was on a road, I ran. I still had to navigate potholes, but I ran. By Mile 8, we got off the PCT and were heading toward the finish line. Of course, the road back was a steady climb. Many runners around me walked, included this runner. I picked up a slow pace by the 8.70 mark and jogged to the finish line in about 2:10. What did I think overall? Amazing. Wonderful views, fresh air, spectacular scenery overall. Will I do it again? No. One and done. But I am an SOB finisher. And I still hate trail runs. 


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