Gorge Waterfalls 100k (2014) - Race Report

gorge waterfalls
Waterfall-fest on the course (photo: Paul Nelson)

Your first race of the year is always special. This is the race that you’re going into without really knowing if you did a good job on your early season training but hoping that you did. For me, this race was Gorge Waterfall 100k, my second assault to the 100k distance.

Back in January, I had to decline a spot in the HURT 100 because of a knee injury that occurred after Chimera 100 last year. So just the fact that I was healthy again and that I had just completed a great training block was good enough to make me happy whatever the result of this first season race will be. More importantly, I had to share the week-end with awesome friends, also running either in the 50k on Saturday or in the 100k on Sunday. What more do you want to ask for? Portland, Oregon, here we come!

The day before, Katie and I had a glimpse of part of the course while crewing/cheering on Dom and Andy, and supporting our other California based runners friends, Ethan and Billy. The boys were doing awesome, and it was very fun to watch. Andy finished the 50k in a very strong time, showing everybody that you can destroy a 50k on a 15mi/week training plan, and Dom showed once again his magic in an other “second part of the race Dom-ination showdown”, making up a 6 place deficit on the last 7mi to end up on the podium of the 50k! Oh, and Andy lost his bear in the process and gained a mustache. Anyways, we got to enjoy some waterfalls, and that made us very excited for the race to come the next day!

After an early 2:30am wake up call, we drove to the start line, pumped by the beats of Electric PowWow Drum from A Tribe Called Red. Oh yeah, an epic battle was about to happen.

4:00am, in a go-hard-from-the-gun Clam Clayton style, I quickly took the lead with Yassine and Rod. I love races starting with a big climb right off the start, and the Gorges 100k was no exception (did I tell you I love climbing?). It was (very) dark and raining, conditions that I like particularly.

gorge waterfalls start
Already in the lead right off the starting line (photo: Paul Nelson)

I settled in a comfortable pace for the climb, and the road quickly became a technical slick rocks-based trail. At the top of the 2.5mi climb I was alone in the lead, and I quickly dove full speed into the very technical descent delimited by a rock wall at my left and a dangerous cliff at my right. I thought that if I might fall, I should definitely better go for the left side. Adrenaline started to rush and I flew down the trail. Oh boys, it was good!

gorge waterfalls cascade locks
Almost at the top of the first climb, with Rod and Yassine not far behind (photo: Paul Nelson)

At the first aid station, I was welcomed by the amazing volunteers, I refilled my bottles and grabbed some gels before going back playing on the trails. The first 12mi clicked right by and we hit the 3 mile flat road section. I was surprized not to be caught back by Rod on the road as he is well known for his blazing running speed. Well, I won’t complain. An other AS. Friends, gels, water and I was off again, entering Waterfall paradise. It was still dark, so I couldn’t really see Elowah Falls, but at least I could hear its roar! The good news is that I was about to pass by again on my way back in a few hours, so I won’t miss any part of the show.

The trails leading up to the Cascade Locks AS (mile 21) are so much fun and I really enjoyed my time leapfrogging tree branches, streams and rocks.

gorge waterfalls cascade locks
Cascade Locks AS. In the lead, with Rod Bien and Yassine Diboun still right on my heels (photo: Billy Yang)

More trails in the forest, more fun. The scenery was gorgeous, there were trees everywhere. I really think the RD should rename the race the “Gorge(ous) Waterfall 100k”.

I finally arrived at the 30 mile AS, marking the turn around. I was still feeling really good and I was amazed by how well my legs were responsive.

gorge waterfalls turnaround
Approaching (top) and leaving (bottom) the turnaround AS. Still feeling really good! (photos: Paul Nelson)

I passed by the little wood bridge after the AS and I quickly ran into Rod, reminding me I was in a race. After a quick look at my watch I calculated that I had a 1-½ min lead on him, not much. 1 min later I ran into Yassine and Matt Cecill. Wow, this race was close. From that on, I started to push every single climb.

The sun showed up, offering beautiful views over the river. I tried my best to open up my stride, but the technicality of the trails didn’t make this task very easy. At least I knew that if Rod, Yassine and Matt wanted to catch me up, they’ll have to work very hard.

gorge waterfalls trails
Beautiful technical trails (photos: Glen Tachiyama)

The miles flew by and running into every single runners on their way to the turn around was very nice. They all cheered on me and I did my best to return them the compliments! I was so stocked to run into my friend Katie who was looking very good and was having what looked like an amazing time! She shot me a roaring “ALLEZ ALLEZ” before I disappeared into the switchbacks.

I finally was able to see all the waterfalls I missed during the first 50km due to the night, which made the second half of the race even more interesting. The trails here in Oregon are awesome!

gorge waterfalls scenery
Gorgeous waterfalls and trails. Oregon, you sure are a beautiful green state! (photos: Glen Tachiyama and Paul Nelson)

I made sure to run every single step of the last steep climb of the race to secure the win. I crossed the finish line in a time of 9:52, pretty happy with how I managed my race.

The post race party was awesome, pizza, friends, war stories. Rainshadow Running sure knows how to put on some great events! Do I want to get back there next year? Hell yeah!

If you want to really appreciate the views/atmosphere of this race, be sure to watch the fantastic summary video made by Ethan!