Well my life officially does not suck! Oregon is my absolute favorite state that I've been to and my latest trip there did not disappoint! I first visited Oregon back in 2007 and absolutely fell in love! I wanted to go to Crater Lake National Park during that visit but it was a bit too far out of my way. When I discovered there was a marathon actually in the park, I was sold on it being my Oregon race.
|Stunning views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island|
In addition to the race, my trip to Oregon also involved a SLEEPOVER WITH SLOTHS!!!!! I am not joking. This is exactly what it sounds like. I had a sleepover with seven sloths!
|My friend for the night.|
|This one was a crazy beggar.|
|Oh, ya know, just taking a selfie with a sloth. No big deal.|
I basically slept in a tent in a big room where sloths live at a zoological/wildlife center (NOT a zoo). I wasn't sure how I felt about the place at first, since as a vegan I don't really like to see animals in cages. But after meeting with the owner, I felt like the place was legit! All of their animals are endangered and they have two species that are actually extinct in the wild. I asked why the animals were there and not in the wild and the owner explained that there would be no place for them to go due to habitat destruction and poaching. They also "rescue" animals from zoos (animals that were going to be put to sleep due to injuries or other circumstances). After the sleepover, I got to have breakfast with a penguin and several lemurs and monkeys. Again, I'm not making this up!
|Josie the penguin|
|Leeza the lemur|
So Friday morning after all the excitement with the animals, I headed to Portland to pick up GK so we could head down to Klamath Falls which is basically the largest town closest to Crater Lake National Park (and it's still about a 1.5 hr drive from Klamath Falls to Crater Lake). It was a LONG drive down there from Portland. There is no packet pickup for this race. Your bib and pre-race instructions are mailed to you about two weeks before the race so there was no need to go to Crater Lake Friday night. You basically just show up at the Rim race morning. And that's what we did. We left the hotel super early Saturday morning to get to Crater Lake and didn't have any issues with parking at Rim Village and catching the shuttle to the start line! I about froze to death at the start since it was pretty much winter for this Mississippi girl with temps in the 40s!
|What a view at a start line!|
This is a no frills race (who really cares though with that view?), so nothing fancy at the start. Remember you're running in a NATIONAL PARK, so that should be frills enough for you. Someone basically said "go" and we went. There are three different distances at the race - 6.7 miles, 13.0 miles (NOT a half marathon), and 26.2 miles - and we all started together. All of the races are point-to-point so if you are a marathoner you will pass the other two finish lines. The course follows Rim Drive and the views are absolutely spectacular! This makes up for the hella hard course! I think this is the hardest course that I have done as we had both significant hills and high altitude to contend with. Check out this elevation profile (all is correct except the last 4.2 miles, which I'll explain later).
|It is as brutal as it looks.|
We started at about 7600 ft and on a hill, but soon after we went down for a bit. I decided that was going to run the flats and downs and walk the ups. The first significant hill was right after the mile 2 marker. It lasted about a mile and I definitely walked. After this hill, we were rewarded with several downhill miles. At some point I warmed up and was able to take my long sleeve shirt off. The temp was pleasant for much of the race and we had a nice breeze.
|First significant hill|
I'm going to apologize in advance for the obscene number of lake photos in this post. But, DUH, that's the most amazing part of this race!
|Many many views of the lake and all its awesomeness.|
|I had to stop for a picture every single time!|
|It's as awesome as it looks.|
At mile 6.5, we began to roll a bit until the mother of all hills started at mile 9.5! Your life will basically suck for almost 5 miles! You will go UP a very steep hill with almost NO relief! You will climb from 6700 ft to 7900 ft over about 5 miles. You will pass the 13.0 finish line and continue to go UP for over a mile! I walked every bit of those miles. Soon after the 13.0 finish, we did a short out and back to the highest point on the course at Cloudcap overlook (7900 ft).
|We also had this view opposite the lake for much of the race.|
|Cloudcap Overlook. Our efforts were definitely rewarded.|
After the torture of the previous 5 miles, you are rewarded with almost 10 miles (from about mile 14.2 until 24) of basically constant downhill (a few short ups, but nothing terrible). Of course, the scenery continued to be amazing.
|Coming back down from Cloudcap Overlook.|
|No ugly part on the course.|
|Of course, more views of the lake.|
|It really never stopped.|
I ran just about all of these downhill miles (which probably explains why I'm pretty sore today). We hit mile 22, which is where the finish line is. I guess last year, the course turned here and went UP a very steep hill on a trail for ~2 miles before you turned around to go back DOWN that hill for the last ~2 miles to the finish. Well this year they decided to have us continue straight down the road for ~2 miles. I was flying at this time but I noticed that every single person that was on their way back to the finish was walking. The hill didn't feel that steep going down and I was actually making pretty good time. I wanted a sub 5:30 finish. When I hit the turnaround just past mile 24, I was right at 5:00. Surely I could do the last ~2 miles in 30 minutes. WRONG! I soon found out why everyone was walking. Two miles up a very steep hill to the finish. I finished in 5:35, which I consider an excellent time for this course and my current level of fitness.
Since this a no frills race, there was not much at the finish line - some sports drink, water, soda, and watermelon. GK said maybe some bagels too. Again, you just had the opportunity to run in a NATIONAL PARK, so don't get your entitled panties in a wad over the lack of festivities. The aid stations were very bare bones too - only water and sports drink, so bring your own gels/etc. if you require them. You get your medal, shirt, and bag at the finish line. We headed to the bus to get back to our car (you had to take a bus from your car to the start and also back to your car from the finish). Our bus driver was no less than 1 billion years old and was driving the school bus like a MANIAC! He was for realz going 60 mph in a 20 mph zone along a windy mountain road with steep cliffs. Once safely at our car, we snapped some shots of the lake before heading back to Portland.
|I assure you that what is behind me is very much real!|
Obviously, this is a FANTASTIC race. It is definitely no frills, but you are running in a NATIONAL PARK (have I said that enough times)!!!!!!!!! Crater Lake is a bit out of the way, so prepare to do some driving. You'll be in beautiful Oregon though, so relax, sit back, and enjoy the ride! Here are the deets for my travel/logistics:
- Registration was $95. High, but you are running in a NATIONAL PARK. Totally worth it for this one.
- I flew into Portland, OR. My flight was pretty expensive at around $460 (ouch)!
- I rented a car out of Hertz in downtown Portland (not at the airport) for $120 for Thurs-Sat night. By not using the airport rentals, I saved a significant amount. The Red line takes you from the airport to downtown Portland for $2.50 where I picked up my car no problem. I dropped the car off Saturday night and took the hotel's free shuttle to the airport Sunday morning. GK and I shared the cost of the rental and gas.
- Hotels - Thursday night I stayed with sloths, but I'm not counting that as part of my race expenses. Friday night we stayed at the Golden West Motel ($80) in Klamath Falls (1.5 hr drive to Crater Lake Saturday morning for the race). Highly recommend this motel. Saturday night I stayed at the Quality Inn Airport in Portland ($122). No room share, so this was all me.
- This was obviously a very expensive trip, but totally worth it.