Run Forest Run 50K
The Run Forest Run 50 kilometer race took place on February 18th 2023. I arrived at the start/finish area at Lake Sylvia State Park in the early morning hours as the sun was rising and an eerie translucent fog hung in the air above the lake. Despite being a low key event, the checkin area was on the top of my list for best atmosphere. There was plenty of parking, easy access to restrooms, and a spacious wooden pavilion complete with a roaring fire. Furthermore, the backdrop included a beautiful lake surrounded by lush forest.
Lake Sylvia State Park is a 252 acre park with 15000 feet of freshwater shoreline. The park used to be a logging camp that included a water-powered sawmill and a hydro-electric dam. When logging concluded in the 1930s the city of Montesano donated the land to the state park. Despite starting at Lake Sylvia State Park, the majority of the race took place in the 5400 acre Montesano City Forest.
The race got underway at 8AM under cloudy misty skies with temperatures in the low 40s. We started with a gradual climb up the paved Sylvia Lake Road and I tried to keep things under control. A 25 kilometer runner took off, but otherwise we formed a small pack of 4 runners including, Rob Irr, Troy Haeseler, and Rob Scanlan. After about .75 miles the route veered from the paved road onto a gravel forest road. After the opening 300 foot climb, we descended Nevills Hill trail until things flattened out on the muddy Schilly trail. We crossed a wooden bridge over Sylvia Creek at mile 2.5 and then transitioned onto the Hamby Hill Loop trail which was difficult to follow through the dark forest. Our collective pace slowed as we climbed the steep muddy trail which painfully paralleled the much smoother looking forest road.
The Hamby Hill Loop trail turned into the A 1600 trail which climbed to the Sylvia Ridge trail that topped out at about 508 feet (4.6 miles 39:32). On this climb Troy dropped off the back and I pressed forward with the Robs. The ridge trail opened up into a clearcut area which was a stark contrast to the densely forested climb. We turned northward onto the Espresso Shot trail before sharply descending the A-2500 road down to the W Fork trail. The W Fork trail paralleled the West Fork of Sylvia Creek and this trail was quite fast, and Rob Irr fell off the back of the group. Despite feeling flat, the trail did ascend up to the Satstop Crest trail junction (8.7 miles 506 feet), which I reached in 1:08:32.
Following the continued ascent of Satstop Crest, we turned onto the C Line road and descended to the Cougar Rocks trail. The Cougar Rocks trail climbed through a patchwork of forest in various stages of regeneration and we hit the highest point on course at 793 feet (10.9 miles 1:29:28). After reaching the high point we descended the G Line road sharply down to the East Fork of Sylvia Creek where we picked up the E Fork trail. The E Fork trail transitioned onto the D 100 road which we took southwestward towards Lake Sylvia. At mile 13.0 (1:45:24) we reached the most challenging climb of the day, which was a steep rocky path over a pipeline easement. The climb was not that significant but it certainly ate up some time with the technical terrain and steep grade.
From the pipeline trail, we took the Aunt Bethany trail to the Mid Earth trail which was a muddy steep descent to the B Line road. Rob Scanlan distanced me by a 20 or 30 seconds and I could not see the Rob Irr chasing. After crossing a long wooden bridge the route took us on the Lake trail which was quite muddy and riddled with water filled potholes. I reached the paved bridge over Lake Sylvia and returned to the start/finish area (15.2 miles 2:06:33) where I quickly started my second loop bridging the gap to Rob Scanlon. We were together until about mile 17.5 but I was dropped for good on the Hamby Hill Loop trail climb. I managed to keep it together on Sylvia Ridge (19.8 miles 2:50:49; 44:16 or 4:44 slower than first 4.6 miles), but I noticed I was moving about 1 minute per mile slower on the W Fork trail this lap. The wheels really started to come off as I ascended to Satstop Crest and in the same area I dropped Rob Irr on the first lap, he caught back up and passed me on the second lap.
I reached Satstop Crest in 3:25:38 (mile 23.9) which means that I ran the first 8.7 miles of the second lap in 1:19:05 or 10 minutes 33 seconds slower than the first 8.7 miles of the first lap. I was fairly discouraged by this embarrassing positive split but I had to focus on limiting my losses. I knew that my race was over, but I still wanted to put forth a strong effort in the 2023 opener. I continued to struggle and walked a bit more of Cougar Rocks trail than I would like to admit. I reached the highpoint in 3:53:19 (26.2 miles) which was 1:46:46 for the second lap or 17:18 slower than the first lap. After churning the legs downhill I reached the dreaded pipeline climb in 4:12:36 (mile 28.2) or 2:06:03 for the second loop which was 20:39 slower than the first lap.
The muddy descent of Mid Earth trail was difficult to keep footing but I managed to glissade the mud perfectly. I hit the Lake trail and reached the finish line in 4:38:46, meaning that my second lap was 2:32:13 or 25:40 slower than my first lap. On a positive note, my time was 8 minutes under the previous course record, but I just could not match the two Robs in this years edition. Perhaps my lower than usual mileage for the year put me at a disadvantage or maybe I should have eaten a few more gels. Either way, from a cardiovascular stand point I felt great, but unfortunately my legs could not keep up with my aerobic engine.
After completing the course, I would say that it was deceptively difficult because there were no real long climbs, but since there were so many short climbs, the overall vertical gain reached a surprising 4990 feet. In addition to the vertical gain, the trails were twisty and muddy, both of which slowed the overall pace. The weather was quintessential Pacific Northwest winter, sporadic rain and mist under mostly cloudy skies. The temperatures ranged between upper 30s and mid 40s. The scenery was classic south peninsula, with a mix of narrow trail and logging road weaving through forest in various stages of growth. I thought the course was perfectly marked and very easy to follow and I had a great time on the trails as usual.