Trail runs are popping up like wildfire. The growth of the sport is certainly something to celebrate, but those who have grown accustomed to the laid back nature of trail running had better get used to the more recent demand or may find themselves shut out of some of the events that they have been training towards. With limited trail capacities, even brand new events are filling up well before the start date.
For many popular venues, you must register early or apply for a lottery to get in. But unlike large road races large capacities, some races are limited to less than 100 participants. In the Internet Age, those spots can fill up almost as quickly as registration activates. For example, in the next few weeks in Oregon alone I hope to run in a new event – The Trail Factor Half Marathon & 50K – that has nearly reached its participant limit.
Another event, the Dirty Half, that will serve as the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships for 2012, has already reached its 800 person limit. Those who tend to wait 'til the last minute to decide whether to race or not are simply out of luck – or have to hope they know someone who has registered and will not be participating so that they can transfer registrations (and even that must be done by May 31).
However, with so many races available that one could easily fill every weekend, it is actually tough to decide which events to sign up for and which to defer for another year. I decided on the aforementioned Trail Factor 50K and Dirty Half for a couple of reasons. While I have never competed on either course, I have done races directed by the same race directors and that in itself helps me know what to expect.
The Trail Factor races are organized by the Portland trail running community, Trail FactorPDX. The course is conveniently located and traverses some of the storied trails of Portland's famed Forest Park. Despite being from Oregon, I live three hours away from Portland and have only actually run in Forest Park a handful of times so when I heard about the Trail Factor 50K I figured it would be a great opportunity to visit some epic trails with some great local runners and friends.
When I learned that Todd Janssen would be the race director I was sure it would be a quality event. Todd is one of the race directors of one of my favorite trail runs, the Hagg Lake 50K, and he has proven that he knows how to organize a trail run with an eye to the details of course markings, post-race spread, and great sponsors.
One of those sponsors is a new training company called Animal Athletics co-owned by trail, mountain, and ultra runners, Will McBride and Yassine Diboun. I've had the privilege of running with Yassine in a few 50Ks. Yassine's experience and encouragement has been very helpful for a novus trail runner like myself. Yassine created this video preview of the course:
Yassine will compete as he makes his final preparations for Western States as will Nick Triollo who is coming off wins at the McDonald Forest 50K and Capital Peak 50 Miler. Sage Canaday of vo2max productions did an interview with Nick shortly after his win at McDonald Forest in which Nick discusses his training building up to Western States with fellow Portlander and Animal Athlete Yassine Diboun.
While Nick and Yassine will be doing the Trail Facor 50K in preparation for a longer 100 mile race, I'll be stepping down in distance and hope to run a competitive road marathon at the end of June. Consequently, I'll be headed to Bend, Oregon to test/sharpen my speed at the Dirty Half. To be honest, it wasn't until I started trail running that I began appreciating Bend. Before then, it was simply the dreaded place we had to go for conference championships and race solid competitors at altitude.
This past summer as I was preparing to run the Flagline 50K, another well organized event that Dave Thomason directs, I spent a little more time than usual in Bend and really enjoyed it. It didn't hurt that Bend has so many trails and so many great runners. When I went into FootZone to find out about the trails in the Flagline 50K I met a super humble, Max King, who not only took the time to describe the course and tell me which sections were not under snow, he even let me try and run a few sections of the trail with him. Add great food and stunning scenery and you've got yourself a trail runner's paradise.
Last year, as part of his practice of back-to-back hard efforts, Max amazed the crowd with his stamina at the Portland Track Festival the night before the Dirty Half when he ran an impressive 13:56 5K and turned around 20 minutes later to lead a fast 10K from the gun. I was there watching my wife who ran the 10K the night before and was struggling to handle the 5K 24 hours later. I didn't learn until later that Max hopped in his Civic and zipped back to Bend to add another national title to the collection. If he's around town and not doing a steeple chase, mountain run, ski competition, or any other race at the exact moment of the race he will obviously be the favorite, but there are lots of fast locals and others who will most assuredly assemble to make it competitive.