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Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

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Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Mark B on Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:54 pm

Hi all.

I’d planned to run this wildly scenic and challenging 50K this past weekend, but fate (taking the form of a house-flooding cat named Fluff and broken pinky toe named #$@%&*!!) sidelined me so effectively this summer that I’m barely up to the point of being able to comfortably run a couple of miles. Attempting to run 31 miles on beach and trail, racking up 4,000 feet elevation gain, probably would not have been the best idea. So I dropped, and offered to volunteer.

It made sense. We still had hotel reservations for a favorite spot, and we’d had to cancel two other vacations this year due to the flood and reconstruction. We’d earned a getaway to one of our favorite places. Moreover, I also needed to repay some of the love I’d gotten from the ultra community when things went south for me at Mount Hood last year.  

Things did not start out auspiciously. It was rainy, and traffic was unusual heavy as we ground through Portland early Friday evening on our way to Yachats. We followed the GPS map suggestion and took a secondary highway that is nice in daylight but a little hair-raising when it’s dark and rainy. Nobody got carsick, which is nice, but it was pointed out to me by my passengers that they were too worried about imminent death to get carsick. Oops.

Oh well. The upside was, the bottle of champagne I’d packed to celebrate tasted extra good.

We arrived on the coast in a torrential, wind-driven drizzle. The sort of conditions that would wash contact lenses out of your eyes. The weather was supposed to improve on Saturday, and for the sake of the runners, I sure hoped so. We’d packed all sorts of foul-weather gear but fully expected to get soaked.

Saturday dawned dark, windy and wet. We watched the 50K runners pass our hotel, already soaked the skin after their first six miles on the beach. The leader was flying, effortlessly, but the rest of the runners were a study in discomfort. This, I thought, might get ugly.

The weather was improving later in the morning, but we decided to be kind and give Alec a pass on race volunteer duty. We let him hang out in our room, which suited him fine. He wasn't feeling that hot, anyway.

We showed up at the finish area — a broad grassy area that overlooked the ocean — and started helping out. We hauled food and perishables in and worked with two other volunteers to set up the food and beverage station for finishers and the post-race party. It was quite the set-up. We were next to the crew setting up to make pizzas in a wood-fired oven, across from the bluegrass band, and the beer guys set up across the way.

People hardly noticed when the winner came flying across the line, finishing 31 miles (and 4,000 feet of climbing) in only 3:59. He looked as fresh as a daisy, too. Seriously impressive.

It was a while before other top finishers rolled in. They were in pretty good shape, too. And instead of a trophy or plaque, they won an engraved growler, filled with their beer of choice. Nice!


"We award you this jug. Have fun hydrating, but designate a driver!"

We four food and beverage volunteers fell into a pattern. Alita and I were the bartenders, and they kept the food stocked. At first, were by far the busier part of the team, because after a brief threat of rain, the skies began to clear and the temperature rose into the mid- to upper 60s. (I was in a T-shirt and shorts in October on the Oregon Coast and was completely comfortable.)

The first few runners didn’t need much attention, but it didn’t take long to start seeing runners who had pushed themselves to the edge. A few had that glazed look in their eyes. A couple were wobbly. We tried to help them get some fluid, offering some S-Caps to those who said they were cramping up, and I went to help a couple of runners who looked to have a rough go of it.

In one case, I brought water and paper towels to help an older runner rinse the dirt out of a massive abrasion on his knee. He’d caught a toe and taken a tumble out on the trail and was still a little shaken up. It took a while for me to notice that he had one of those growlers next to him. Turns out, he’d come in third in the 30K race.

We had a stream of finishers from 1 o’clock (the 50K winner) through 5 o’clock, when the race officially closed. We served up a lot of Coke, lemonade, ginger ale and root beer. Some runners got creative (usually on their second or third visit to our table) and tried mixed juice and ginger ale, or some other concoction. We never ran out, though race directors everywhere should remember to pack away a couple of bottles of sugar-free soda. We didn’t have any, and that irked a couple of runners — including one with an insulin pump.

It was a lot of fun seeing the runners come in, gauging how many brain cells were still working, and trying to talk to them appropriately. We’d make suggestions if they couldn’t decide, offered ice or just listened as they talked.

“Don’t mind me,” said one woman, who’d made a cutoff with 8 minutes to spare, “I’m just going to stand here, drink my Coke, and cry.”

Others needed more help. At one point, a loving spouse of a runner came over hoping to find something she could drink, since she’d been vomiting for hours. We gave him two drinks, and then Alita followed with a cup of ginger ale, just in case that was what she needed. It seemed to help.

We encountered a few folks who’d dropped — one because she broke her fibula out on the trail — and listened to their stories, as well. A friend of mine from high school rolled his ankle .53 miles into the race and dropped at Mile 14 because he couldn’t go any farther, which was hard to see. I’m sure they’ll both be back to take another shot at it.

The finish line finally closed, but the crowd lingered well past six. After the initial shock of finishing wore off, they’d return for more fluid, hit the food table (“What?! You’ve got PIE?!?”) like sharks feeding and then line up for pizza and beer. It was a good party, though it flummoxed the organizers a little — they didn’t expect weather that was so awful to start with turn out to be so glorious. Nobody wanted to leave.

And glorious it was. It might just have been the best day I’ve seen on the coast.

As we wrapped up, the organizer thanked us — it was our pleasure, really — and then turned to me and said, “You ARE running this next year, aren’t you?”

“Boy, I hope so.”

I meant it.

Now I just need to make it happen.

(See my blog for more photos!)



Last edited by Mark B on Wed Oct 22, 2014 11:44 pm; edited 7 times in total
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  nkrichards on Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:01 pm

Nice report...can't wait for next years report though.

I'm still not sure I understand ultra runners but I will admit that the scenery and the community support both appear to be awesome!
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:00 pm

Sounds like an incredible experience.  I have volunteered at many Ultras here in Cleveland and the community is wonderful.
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Julie on Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:41 pm

Wow, sounds like a great experience! I love volunteering at races and I loved my aid station volunteers at the 2 50Ks I've run. A broken fibula, wow!

Fluffy sure has earned a poor reputation around here!
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Mark B on Mon Oct 20, 2014 10:39 pm

@nkrichards wrote:Nice report...can't wait for next years report though.

I'm still not sure I understand ultra runners but I will admit that the scenery and the community support both appear to be awesome!

Thanks, Nancy. The ultra community is pretty amazing. You ought to go check out the Smith Rock Ascent run when they have it next May. They have all sorts of distances offered, and it might be a fun introduction to the community.

I won't want to presume to pick races for next year at this point, but if I can do this one on the coast, I'd very much like to.

Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Sounds like an incredible experience.  I have volunteered at many Ultras here in Cleveland and the community is wonderful.

Hi, Michele! It's a very laid-back atmosphere, very egalitarian and very supportive. Very much my speed.

@Julie wrote:Wow, sounds like a great experience! I love volunteering at races and I loved my aid station volunteers at the 2 50Ks I've run. A broken fibula, wow!

Fluffy sure has earned a poor reputation around here!

Fluff sure has, hasn't he? Well, I'm happy to report that the workers finished the last punch list item today (replacing the water-damaged woodwork around four windows), so the house is DONE. All that's left is the final sign-off... and then us starting to figure out which items out among the boxes populating our garage need to be moved back in the house, and which ones can be donated, sold or trashed.

Luckily, Fluff seems pleased with the work. Whew!

The broken fib was amazing. The eventual winner was near her and heard it snap from at least 10 feet away. She was standing on it when I saw here later -- I foolishly said it didn't look too swollen -- but then changed my opinion after looking at the bruising beginning to form. She'd told us she was going to drive up the coast to the nearest emergency room to get it X-rayed. When I saw her walk toward her car, I cringed.

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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Nick Morris on Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:59 am

That sounds like a great time!! Only next year's will be better Smile
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  ounce on Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:03 pm

I've never heard of a "...torrential, driving drizzle" before.  Must be unique to the Northwest.

Poor Fluff.  He's sooooo misunderstood.
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  KBFitz on Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:48 pm

A very enjoyable read indeed, Mark. Even the part about the broken fibula, though painful. Very pleased you and Alita got out to support the event whilst Alex had the day to himself. I also love the camaraderie of the ultra scene. There's something quite gratifying about being calm, laid back and supportive as fellow travelers push themselves to (and sometimes over) the limits of human endurance. Your report conveys that sentiment quite nicely. Thanks for that.
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Mark B on Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:30 am

@Nick Morris wrote:That sounds like a great time!!  Only next year's will be better Smile

Boy, I hope so! It's a challenging race, but the scenery and novelty more than make up for it.

@ounce wrote:I've never heard of a "...torrential, driving drizzle" before.  Must be unique to the Northwest.

Oh, Ounce. You haven't lived until you've been in something like that. I know you get drenched in downpours, but the level of wetness achieved in torrential drizzle is astounding. I have nearly lost a contact lens in those conditions before -- the air was so saturated that it started to wash the lens out.

@KBFitz wrote:A very enjoyable read indeed, Mark. Even the part about the broken fibula, though painful. Very pleased you and Alita got out to support the event whilst Alec had the day to himself. I also love the camaraderie of the ultra scene. There's something quite gratifying about being calm, laid back and supportive as fellow travelers push themselves to (and sometimes over) the limits of human endurance. Your report conveys that sentiment quite nicely. Thanks for that.

Thanks, Kevin! I think part of the appeal of ultras is that the size of the field is relatively small. We had 261 finishers. It can't help but be more intimate and supportive, even if the last 50K finisher came across the line 4 hours and 22 minutes after the guy who came in first.
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Alex Kubacki on Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:45 am

Looks like you had a nice time out there Mark. Great job supporting and helping everyone.
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Re: Oregon Coast 50K - A non-racing race report

Post  Jim Lentz on Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:07 pm

I hope so too!
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