Blink and You Miss It: The Molalla River Trail 5K

The first - and shortest - race I ever ran was a 15K. Specifically, the Shamrock 15K on a rainy St Patty's Day weekend in Portland four years ago. Prior to that, almost all my running had been on a treadmill. I had never run for more than an hour.

My second race was the Portland Marathon in the fall of 2011. No, really...

Since then, I've never run a race shorter than 15K. The idea of running a 5K seemed a little absurd, but hey... What if I could run it hard? Marathons and 50Ks don't really lend themselves to hard running (for me, anyway, cuz I'm no spring chicken). I decided to train specifically for a 5K PR.

Initially I planned to choose a road 5K as a goal race. But then I saw this little 5K down in the Molalla River corridor and altered my plans a bit. I would still train for a 5K PR, but I knew I wouldn't PR on the trails. So I changed the goal a bit. I wanted to place in the top five.

I trained for six weeks, mostly on the road with a bit of trail running thrown in here and there just to keep me on my toes. The training plan was a combination of easy runs, fartlek/tempo work and long runs of no more than six or seven miles. This felt like a cake walk after training for 50Ks most of the year - well, except the tempo runs. Tempo runs never feel easy, but I guess that's the point, right?

The day of the race was cool and overcast, perfect running weather. I didn't eat much, just a bit of Greek yogurt and granola that I downed with some orange juice. I drove down to the start at the Hardy Creek Trailhead with a non-runner friend in tow.

The 5K had sold out, which meant I would have 149 other runners to compete against. Looking at the folks milling around near the start, I was worried. There were a lot of fit folks at this race! Would I even make it into the top ten?

The 5K start was 15 minutes away when everyone headed up a 1/3 mile hill to the start line. I was feeling good and my energy was high. The announcer asked that we line up for the race according to our pace. I lined up at the front and got off to a strong start out the gate.

One guy sped out ahead of me, a youngster who I tried to keep pace with for the first mile before abandoning the idea of catching him. The dude was fast, no doubt, but I was in a good position at 2nd heading into the mile and a half of single track. Incidentally, Squatch made an appearance here!

The single track was pretty runnable with the occasional rocky area and enough uphill to keep it from getting boring. My shoes tend to slip a bit on wet rocks, so I wasn't able to maintain my speed through this section as well as I'd hoped. I knew the guy in 3rd was gaining on me, I had seen him just a little way behind me when we started up the single track.

I held him off for a mile before I had to concede my spot to him. The last half mile of single track was mostly downhill and I churned down it relatively quickly, but I wasn't making any distance on the guy. When we finally spilled out onto the doubletrack again, I kicked into high gear in the hopes of catching him.

Unfortunately, I ran out of time. I knew it was going to be a fast race, but I was still a little shocked to see the finish line around the corner. I finished in 3rd overall with a time of 27:11. I have to admit... I really wanted that second place finish! But third wasn't too shabby, and it hit my goal of a top five finish. Here's the Garmin file and the official race results:

So I'm done with the 5K PR training. I'm already thinking of 50Ks to race next year, but in the meantime, I think some fun trail runs out in the muck of a Portland winter are in order while I continue to work on my weight lifting.

Happy trails, dudes!