Mary's Peak 50k

I've heard of Mary's Peak 25k/50k/50mi for a few years, but it hasn't been on my radar as it's not near a mountain or widely known as particularly scenic. This year, with our "A race" in mid-August, the 50k stuck out to us a a good training race with decent climbing (about 5,000 ft), only a two hour drive from home.

Ready to go at the start

Ann drove down in her van to camp, and I drove down with my family to spend the night in Corvallis. As is customary, Ann picked up the race packets for both of us since I didn't make it in time. In a surprising move, however, I had my family drop me off early at the start at Blodgett Elementary School for fear of always being late, and I was one of the first people there.

The race director was hanging out and very friendly. He made a point to chat with everyone, and offered his cell phone number in case we needed anything during the race. We loaded up on two school buses and made the slow, windy drive on a narrow, gravel road to the start.

Blue diamonds, just like Wildwood at home

After everyone had ample time to use the portapotties, shiver in the damp, cloudy morning, and cheer on a 50 miler runner, the RD gave an overview with tons of directions involving place names we didn't know, and we were off. We had a nearly two mile descent on the same road we drove up on, before turning into the woods.

This was the main climb, but there were also some rolling downs. Ann was eager to eat up the hills, and I was eager to chat since it had been a long week spent apart. We were in a bit of a line for a while, with me keeping us slow, but people thinned out as we reached the first aid station and ran on a gravel forest road again.

Power hiking up Mary's Peak

As we made our way back onto single track and began switchbacking up Mary's Peak, we got up into the clouds with fog blowing past the trail. I said aloud that we wouldn't have any view at all, and Ann pointed out the cracks of blue sky beginning to gleam through the grey fuzz. 

I looked up and she was right; as we crested the hilltop meadow, we broke through the clouds and arrived on an island in a sea of clouds. It was beautiful. We completed the summit loop and hit another great aid station (oreos dipped in peanut butter for the win!) before heading back down on the long cruise back to the base of the hill.

Sea of clouds from the top of Mary's Peak

The rest of the course was a series of rolling hills mostly through forest much like our home stomping grounds in Forest Park. There were some clear-cut areas, some intense ruts, and some chunky rocks. One of my favorite sections felt like someone had just come through with a mower and cut the trail within the last few days. It was like a secret tunnel where we weren't supposed to be, with surprising twists and terrain variation.

The run went by quickly for me, and as we hit halfway (and more downhill) I was now pulling Ann along. At the final aid station, she saw a bottle of beer sitting out and half-jokingly asked for some. The volunteers pulled out a fresh Corona and poured us each a little shot. I was pretty amped up from caffeine and enjoying the race and Ann's company, and definitely made a fool of myself saying silly things ("I'm high on Coke! Um, I mean Coca-Cola!" comes to mind). The volunteers were fun and gracious, joking with us and telling us stories.

The sign is definitely pointing to Ann

The final stretch was arguably the toughest, with some rutted downhill that wasn't easy to run and lots of big gravel road that didn't feel good on tired feet. And then we came to a surprise "1 mile to go" sign. "DON'T SPEED UP!" said Ann. She knows me well. I tried to keep my barn-smelling instinct in check.

As we rounded a bend on the residential gravel road, I saw two turrets. "Am I hallucinating or is that a castle?" I asked aloud.

This one must have a story

"You're not hallucinating," said Ann, "and they've got a pizza oven!"

"Now you're hallucinating" I laughed, but it's true-- the strange, half white-washed castle had two huge outdoor pizza ovens. And then the mini Statue of Liberty came into view. I would've snapped a picture except that the occupants were outside: a woman worked in the garden near a man tending to one of the pizza ovens. As we ran past I saw a statue of two people and a cat and declared "These are my people."

Enjoying the trails and sunshine

The gravel road ended in a T with a paved road, which caused much grumbling. We both pulled out our phones to see just how long we'd be on this uphill, paved monstrosity-- our least-favorite running surface. Luckily it was only a third of a mile, but it sure felt longer-- and we did walk for a bit. Suddenly we rounded a curve, saw people sitting in lawn chairs, and knew we were at the end.

With a sharp right at the school, we navigated past fences and Ann pointed out my kid swinging on the playground. I called out his name and that's when Ann surged ahead. We picked up our finisher's pint glasses at the table near the finish, and the volunteer at the table said we might've won our age group. She checked, and sure enough we got second and third-- a great end to a great race!

Views once the clouds cleared

This event also clearly demonstrated something we've been thinking about recently: why we always stick together during races. Ann kept me honest on the uphills, and showed me the blue sky when all I saw was grey. Likewise, towards the end of the race I spurred her on when she was getting tired of the downhills. So much of running is mental. And rather than one of us holding the other back, speed-wise, it's that the other is lifting up the one who needs it, mentally. That's only one of the reasons our partnership works so well, and it stood out to me on this day.

After cooling down a bit, we took off and stopped by a few places for treats on the way home, including Benny's Donuts in downtown Corvallis. I would definitely do this race again, possibly the 50 miler. The course wasn't too steep or technical, had some nice ups, downs and views, was well-marked and organized, and the volunteers and aid stations were great. See you soon, Mary's Peak!

Ann with her trees

Descending a rutted logging road

Recovery donuts from Bennt's


Relive 'Mary’s Peak 50k'

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