Flagline 50K

Stepping off the plane at the Bend/ Redmond airport I see snow covered mountains. If I’m properly oriented, the snow covered ones are the three sisters (South Sister being the one in the center, the other sisters being behind the airport roof), with Mt. Bachelor over the airplane.

There is no snow in Santa B at the moment and so much in Sept. impressed me.

I must admit this race has proven the least organized race I’ve ever done. At least as far as advance planning goes. It was listed as the USATF 50k championship last year, but there was essentially no information on it. Finally in May or June there was a post saying they didn’t know what the route was because it would be under snow until mid-August. I found this disconcerting. If it’s under snow in mid-August, generally the hottest time of the year, won’t it be under snow again by the end of September? Oh well. I signed up anyway. They didn’t ask me for my USATF membership number (required for a championship race — or so I thought). They didn’t provide even a rough idea of altitude, elevation gain/loss, nor such simple things as where/when bib pickup would be. In mid-August a preliminary map appeared, so I made travel arrangements. Still no idea when/where bib pickup was, but I assumed (hoped) if I arrived the day before everything would work. On 13 Sept. they posted a new route for the course (less than 2 weeks before the race). On 23 Sept (two days before the race) I got an email with yet another route for the race.

An almost right course map. The start and finish were a little different. (click on it to make it bigger).

At the end of August, a friend who lives in Bend, told me it had snowed the night before and the route was under snow yet again.

So I stopped worrying and started laughing. I assumed it would all work out.

Everyone seemed to sign up for this race at the last minute (perhaps they were waiting for the map?). When I checked the site the week-end before the race there were only 34 entrants. But the ones whose names I knew were all good runners (really good). This woman beat me on the White River race last year by about 2 hours, and this 52 year-old guy is the one who beat me last year by an hour, and… Then when online registration closed on Wednesday there were 50 entrants, and all the new-comers were really fast. When I went to pick up my bib I heard there were more than 100 entrants, and on the race day I heard that some people signed up after that…

I was nervous about the competition.

Pickup was at the local running store Friday afternoon before the race. There I met up with an internet/college? friend. Dave went to CalTech (another darb), but he was 4 years ahead of me, so was gone before I arrived. When I started running, and writing about running he found me on the ‘net. Somehow. Since then we’ve been emailing. He lives in Bend, and although he wasn’t signed up for this race, he had offered to show me around the area.

He showed me how to get to the start (about half an hour out of town) at the foot of Mt. Bachelor (I presume that Mt. Bachelor is so named because it is right across from the
South Sister
Three Sisters, the snow capped mountains I saw upon arrival. Bachelor has some glaciers but is mostly snow free at the moment). Thence he drove me on a dirt road which in places paralleled the route, and then, further up, was the route.

He points out little red flags beside the road. I hadn’t noticed them, but they are the course markers. I hate it when people mark things with red. I can’t see it. Colorblind monkeys can’t find ripe fruit and die; colorblind humans can’t find their way and lose.


Bend itself looks dry (except that (by Barbarian standards) it has a river running through it); it’s in the rainshadow of the mountains; so as we climbed up to the top of those mountains it got damper, and I started to see the moss that covers the trees on the coast (not to the same profusion, of course).

I looked for Poison Oak to see if I would need to apply Teknu, but saw none. Nice.

Then we took a quick sight-seeing excursion. There is an extraordinary mountain called Broken Top which looks like a volcano with half of its crater blown off (which is, indeed, what it is). I found it impressive from the valley floor, so we drove over to a neighboring ridge which had a good view and looked across at it.

That night I slept well until 2. Then I started tossing and turning and looked at the clock every 2 minutes. At 4 or so I managed to get to sleep again, but at 4:30 I awoke to a car horn honking, thinking it was my alarm. Then at 4:50 my normal Saturday alarm went off. I’d forgotten about it. At this point, I gave up. I had three alarms set for 5, but I got up at 4:50 anyway (and then 10 minutes later started turning off alarms as they went off).

I drove to the race start; I had plenty of time and was in no hurry, so I stopped a couple of times to take pictures of the mountains. The (almost) full moon was setting right behind Mt. Bachelor. When I turned around I realized there was a
Lupinus lepidus
Dwarf lupine
tiny little lupine growing in profusion on the road’s shoulder.

Today is the equilux in Bend (or as close to it as Bend will come). On the equilux the day and night have equal lengths. It happens a few days after the autumnal equinox and a few days before the vernal one.

My car’s thermometer said it was 39° at the race start-line, so I bundled up, with two technical shirts over my racing garb and a windbreaker on top of that, gloves and one of those ear warmer straps. Chilly. Last trip to the port-a-potties. Then I went back to the (warm) car and stayed there until 20 minutes before the race start. Ate some Gu. When I got out of the car I found the sun had risen and it felt warmer, so I put the wind breaker back in the car.

I went to the organizer’s tent to see if they had any route maps (no), but they told me that the race start was actually .9 miles down the road. So I set off down the road. Someone very kindly offered me a lift. There was one guy at the official start. He came up and shook my hand (I guess he was getting worried about being at the wrong place — there was no mark anywhere to show it).

We waited.

More people trickled down. This spot was still in the shade and it was chilly; there was frost on the ground. I was shivering. I noticed one young woman in bra and shorts who looked much warmer than I, in spite of all my layers. I was impressed.

But now we were all lining up at the invisible line on the road. A woman beside me turned to her partner and said “What are we doing in the front?” and moved back. I sort of felt that way too, but no one seemed to want to be at the front, so I figured I might as well stay.

The RD said a few words. The course was marked with little orange flags`(Dave and I had figured that out yesterday), but that wasn’t all. There were some little blue signs too at tricky places, and a mountain biker was going ahead to draw arrows in the dirt (forest service didn’t let him use chalk or flour). Suddenly I felt a lot better about the markings. Even I can see arrows scratched in the dirt.

And really the course was well marked. There was only one place where I wasn’t sure which trail to take, but doing the obvious thing (stay on the main trail which I’m already on) worked. Oh, yes, there was one other place but as the two forks rejoined later it turned out not to matter.

The RD put on a good race. Not so good at pre-race stuff, but the important thing was the race, and that, I thought, was great.

The RD adds that we should watch out for mountain bikers on Flagline Trail, as the course is not closed. He also mentions that this is bow-and-arrow deer-hunting season, and that might be an issue on Forest Route 370 (the road Dave took me up the day before). He encourages us not to annoy the car-drivers on that road because they might be armed.

And then we started. We poured across the road (no traffic at 8am Sat. on a road leading mostly to closed ski areas), up it for a little bit, and then ducked onto a trail. It’s good to start on a road because it’s easier to pass on the wide spaces roads provide and there’s a lot of passing going on at first. Oops, not a trail, but a forest service road. Not nearly as wide as the paved road, but easily space to pass. It was a nice surface and we almost immediately started going downhill.

I started to worry. My breath felt constricted, my legs stiff. I reminded myself: This happens sometimes, especially if I don’t warm up. Don’t panic. But still my breath wouldn’t come…

I tucked in behind two women. I have enough hubris to think that I can keep up with most women. But that was ignoring the fact that I knew there were lots of fast people (of both sexes) in this race. I wasn’t foolish enough to try to run with the leaders, but these two seemed to be setting a pretty comfortable pace. When I glanced at my HR after a while it was reading 77%, which was fine. And it was (mostly) downhill.

Lupinus polyphyllus
Though fir trees. Not very dense. Pretty, when the sun wasn’t in my eyes, though it often was. I didn’t try to take pictures because of the sun. Down below the trees there is another, much larger, lupine blooming. But it’s almost finished, more seedpods than blooms.

For the moment it was enough just to run. It felt good now.

After a bit I glanced down at my watch. We’d been running for 20 minutes and were averaging 7:47min/mile. To me that seems really fast for a trail run. But it was (mostly) downhill, on a forest road with a good surface.

Whoever was running behind me had very loud breath. I wondered if he might be running too fast and whether he’d drop back in a bit. Then the two women passed someone, and after a bit, I passed him too. Stentorian breath didn’t pass him immediately. Then the woman who was behind passed the leader, and suddenly I was running with them. I was thinking I should pass the former leader too.

But I glanced at my watch. Oops. I’d let my HR climb to 85%. Normally on ultras I try to keep it at 80%, so, regretfully, I slow and drop back.

The morning had (of course) warmed up now that we’d started running and after a bit I thought about taking off one of my layers. This was a complex operation. I had to remove the camelback from my back; unclip the camera, store it inside the camelback so it wouldn’t fall; take off my cap; take off my ear warmer (which I also decided to remove) and stuff it in the camelback; then remove the shirt (all the while holding the camelback in one hand and running fast enough that no one behind will catch me, and avoiding any trees that I might want to bump into while the shirt was over the head); move the camelback to the other hand to get the final sleeve off; open the camelback, and stuff the shirt inside; realize that it was time for a GU too, take that out; eat it (the GU gel is cold and stiff this morning and harder to extract from the package than usual); stuff the wrapper in the camelback (because these shorts have no pockets, I just now remember); extract the camera; put the camelback back on; clip on the camera.

No one passed me but the women are some distance off now.

There are two guys running ahead of the women, and the women slowly overtake one of them. He has a white shirt. I run behind him now—sometimes closer to him, sometimes further as our speeds dictate. The women disappear into the distance.

From behind I notice that he is examining a fork in the trail. It is not marked with orange tags, or a blue sign, or an arrow. It is marked with little pink bits of flagging tape. Hmm. We weren’t told about pink flagging tape, but it appears recent, so he takes the fork. This gives me a chance to get closer to him (which isn’t really fair. I don’t need to stop to look at the route).

We’ve been running for 7 miles now (my watch beeps every mile. Sometimes I hear it, sometimes I don’t. I heard it just now). We’ve maintained an average pace of 8min/mile. Silly slow for a road race, but quite good for a trail.

Then I hear a dog bark. Hmm. Most likely that means we’re coming up on the first aid station. Then loud music. Then people. I think someone checks my number off as I run past. I don’t bother to stop. I’ve barely touched my water. Oh… But it is time for another GU. So I go through a second, but slightly less involved, wrestle with the camelback to extract a GU and then store its wrapper.

The trail is now mostly uphill. I slow. And take a picture.

After a bit white shirt (I think it’s he) catches up again. I offer to let him pass, and after a long pause he says “No, I’m good.”

I had intended to run this race at 80% as I normally do. But I’m thinking. Why don’t I try to run at a pace that seems comfortable? I don’t want to push too hard, but why not try to keep my HR between 80 and 85%? I seems to be what I’ve been doing. My HR is currently about 82%. I know! It’s an experiment. Mike told me to keep my HR at 80% when I was training for that 50M last year, but he didn’t really give me a target when I was training for a 50K. It’s shorter, obviously the HR should be a bit higher.

Later, when looking at a HR graph from the race, I see that by trying to run between 80 and 85 percent I actually averaged about 80%. Interesting to see the connection between HR and altitude change.

A little further on I glance down at my watch. We’ve been running for 10.7 miles, which is a bit more than ⅓ of the way. I mention this to whoever is behind me but I get no response. Not very talkative. Hmm. And we’ve been going for 1:20 or so. Wow. This looks like a PR. If I can keep up this pace I’m set for a 4 hour 50K. Of course I know that is silly, we had 7 miles of blasting fast downhill. Now the trail is climbing and I’m know I’m going more slowly. Still… it’s nice to think about.

Since I’m going fast, that means there’s less time to get tired from an elevated HR, so even more reason to try to push a bit harder.

Um. That sounds awfully like a rationalization, doesn’t it?

Anyway here is some yarrow blooming still, and a little further on is a blue aster and then a white. And that’s about all the wildflowers I’ll see.

Around 12 miles I glance back (when going round a hairpin turn) and see there are now 4 people stuck behind me, so I once again ask if anyone wants to pass. A little pause and then someone new says “No, I think we’re all hurting.”

Someone with a bib comes running down the trail toward us (reverse direction). We ask if he’s ok, and he tells us he took a wrong turn. Then he’s gone. Erp. “Have we taken a wrong turn?” I yell at his retreating back. “No, you’re good.” he responds in the distance.

Odd. I speculate a bit. Did he give up because the wrong turn meant he wouldn’t win? or wouldn’t PR? I’m not likely to learn. I don’t think I’d give up… but who knows?

Someone now passes me.

Some mountain bikers pass us (going the other direction, thank goodness) and it all goes very easily. They cheer us on.

Ah, the loud breather is behind me again. Or a loud breather is. We chat a bit. This guy is talkative, or as talkative as anyone is in a race. He’s Kevin, from Seattle. After I say I’m from SB he tells me his first ultra was in the Santa Monica mountains. Not one I’ve done, but then my first real ultra was White River up near Seattle. So there’s a sort of parallel. I ask if he was behind me near the start. He was. The altitude is affecting him (I guess that’s why he’s breathing so loudly, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing him). He asks if I have a goal time. Not really. I’ve never run this race before so I don’t know what to expect. Um, I’d kind of like to break 6 hours. Kevin tells me he always runs in 5 something. Then he says he likes to take the middle part of an ultra easy (we’re now in the middle third, so I’d call that the middle), then he passes me.

Oops. He takes the middle easy, but he’s passing me in the middle. I guess the pace of someone trying to break 6 hours is too slow even for “easy”.

He’s got a red shirt on, I see, as he disappears ahead of me.

Some other people pass me too.

When there were 4 people running behind me, I felt I couldn’t slow down and my HR was about 85%. Now there’s no one there. I lose my motivation a bit. I do one of my first walks.

We’re coming up on the highest point of the race (at least by my watch). I don’t realize this at the time but mile 13 reaches a peak of almost 7000ft. Then we drop precipitously down. I’m a little dismayed by this; I don’t realize how high we’ve climbed, and it seems to me that we’re spending a awful lot of time going down, and we’re not halfway through yet.

I begin to catch up to people ahead. There’s a guy with a red shirt on, and I assume it is Kevin, so when I reach him I complain about the amount of downhill. He seems surprised, so perhaps it isn’t Kevin? I don’t really know what he looks like, and being colorblind I might confuse his shirt… Looking at the course now, I realize that it doesn’t look like that much downhill to someone who realizes how high we just climbed, so perhaps that was what generated the surprise…

Bink. We’re at a small aid station with just water. I’ve still got plenty so I don’t stop, and I pass some more people who do. But we start climbing again, and they all seem to pass me back. The guy in red says “See you on the next downhill.” as he passes me.

A guy in a black shirt passes me as if I were standing still. Just powering up this steep slope.

I find it very strange. I think of myself as a good uphill runner and a bad downhill runner. At least in SB. But in races the reverse seems to be true. I take the uphills a bit conservatively, and then I can go fast on the downhills. And I do pass people on the downs… Of course I don’t dare run fast on the SB downhills, I’m too worried about trail conditions and breaking my neck…

I’m walking again. A guy in a blue shirt passes me. This is the first guy I’ve worried about passing me. He looks like he’s older than I. I fear he’s in my age group. I know that Patrick (guy who beat me last year at White River) is ahead of me, but I was still hoping to get second…

However that hope isn’t enough to push me ahead of blue shirt.

I turn a corner and there is Broken Top. Ah. I know where I am now. I just go a little north (right) of Broken Top and I’ll be going in the right direction. Of course, really, I’ll just follow the trail.

Another corner and there is South Sister. My first view of her from the trail. My mind wanders. When I was 5 my family rented a canal boat and spent a month on the waterways of the Netherlands. Our boat was called “De Vier Zusters” (the four sisters). And now there are three sisters in front of me.

The third aid station has a lot of hype going on before it. Lots of little signs on the trail. These get my hopes up long before the station is actually in sight. This time I do stop. I could have passed blue shirt if I’d run through, but I think I should refill my water. This takes longer than it should, and blue shirt is out of sight by the time I’m ready to go again.

As I leave the station, I realize this is one of the spots Dave showed me yesterday. He thought it it might be the highest point on the run, but my watch says its about 50ft lower than the spot at mile 13. Still I remember Dave’s words and feel a little better about how tired I was climbing up to it. Of course! It’s the altitude. (That begs the question why mile 13 wasn’t quite as bad, but since I don’t realize how high it was, I don’t worry about it now).

I’ve also been running 17+ miles. I’m more than half way! And it has only taken 2 and a quarter hours to get this far.

Now I’m on the road, Forest Route 370. No one has tried to shoot me with a bow yet. The road goes downhill. There’s someone ahead and I’m catching up! I’m hopeful it is blue shirt, but it turns out to be a woman. Now where did she come from? She’s not someone I’ve been passing and repassing. She doesn’t seem tired, she’s going at a reasonable clip. Slower than I, but not a pace I’d associate with exhaustion. I just wonder why she’s letting me pass her. But I don’t ask, and cheer her on.

I’m catching up with red shirt (is it Kevin’s red shirt?). Slowly. He yells something I can’t make out, and when I do pass him I ask what he said: “Oh, I was just saying ‘Hi!'”. 🙂 Probably Kevin.

I realize I haven’t been paying attention. I haven’t noticed any trail flagging… but I haven’t been looking for it. Could I have missed a turn off? I’ve sort of spaced out in a tired daze. I mean I’m running pretty fast downhill (that is, somewhere between 8 and 9 min/mile) but my focus has been internal, not checking for flagging on the roadside.

Small, nagging worry.

The road now runs above a noisy stream. I can hear it, but it’s a long way down and I can’t see it. Yet. But then the road comes down and crosses it.

Ug. Uphill again.

But not for long.

Then, off in the distance I see blue shirt. (I’m not lost! Yay!) He’s running with black shirt (another person I’ve played leapfrog with). I slowly gain on them. Slowly. Then blue shirt passes black shirt. Then I pass black shirt. A truck comes roaring up the road, and we crowd over to one side (it doesn’t shoot us, but it does go by awfully fast). “Well that was exciting,” say I. “Wonder what his hurry was,” responds black shirt. I pull away from him. But I don’t pass blue shirt. Disappointing that.

And blue shirt finds the flagging I’d been wondering about (and I follow him) and we’re off the road and on a trail and going up. Damn. Lost my chance. I’m unlikely to pass him going uphill. We pass a couple of runners who are walking. I push. I try to run when blue shirt does and walk when he does. I don’t catch him up, but I don’t lose him. We climb the hill. I see someone running slowly ahead of me. Ah ha, I think! But it isn’t blue shirt, it is some woman who stops to let me pass. Then down into a valley. There’s another woman whom blue shirt has just passed. (Why am I passing so many women and almost no men? Weird. Doesn’t usually happen). This woman hops across a little stream and then lets me pass her. Of course, crossing a stream means an uphill on the other side, and blue shirt pulls away again.

Then I trip and fall headlong. Not a bad fall. I’ve skinned my knee and that’s about it. But when I start to run again I get tired very quickly. I have to slow down and walk. Not sure what that fall did to my body (or mind), but it’s not going to let me go fast for a while. My HR has dropped to about 77%, as well.

Oh well. I make the best of it.

I feel better after a bit and start to run again.

I can see blue shirt again. And there’s yet another woman ahead whom he is passing. There are also two mountain bikers waiting for us to go by. I pass the woman, then the bikers. She tells them to go on ahead of her. Oh. I probably should have done that too. I’m not going fast. But they aren’t close enough to tell any more. I keep hearing a bike bell, but when I look back I see their dog has a bell and is wandering all over the place. Now ahead, now behind me. A couple of times I fear he’ll get in my way, but he never does.

The trail steepens, and blue shirt vanishes again.

After a couple more miles the bikers suddenly zip past me. Which means I have to run outside the trail which is harder and slower. After 200 yds I crest a hill and find them stopped. So why on earth did they bother to pass? I’m not sure why they stopped, but they now seem annoyed with me and complain “Why didn’t you guys post a notice at the trail head?” Um. That’s a good point. Why didn’t the RD? I will suggest it for next year. All I can say to the bikers now is “Sorry.”

It’s getting harder and harder to eat my GU every half hour. At the start of a race GU doesn’t taste bad, but by the end it is just awful. I make a face with each swallow.

Now I’ve looped back and am coming up on the previous aid station. I don’t need aid. So I zip through. Blue shirt isn’t there. They tell me to turn left when I get to the road (so they’ve figured out I’ve been through before); the course sort of does a figure 8 here, and this is the cross over point. They tell me the next turn is in 2 miles.

I’m at ~24.5 miles now. So the next station is roughly a marathon.

On the road again, and down in the other direction. I crest a slight rise, and on the other side of the next dip I see blue shirt. Walking! Ah ha! I am not walking. Maybe I’ll catch him. But as I come down the dip, he stops walking and starts running again. And disappears. Again.

Sigh. Looks like I won’t catch him.

First view of Mt. Bachelor. I’m getting close to the finish…

I’m going “fast” again. I average a 9 minute pace on this 2 mile section. I’m starting to check at my watch (to see if I’m at 26.5 miles) and look uneasily for flagging on the road. Yesterday Dave and I couldn’t figure out where the race left the road. It’s got to be near here… I come to something called “big meadow”. And at the very bottom of the meadow is another aid station, and the route crosses a small bridge and then heads south. Dave had looked at this bridge and dismissed it for two reasons: 1) It wasn’t flagged (it wasn’t yesterday, but is today) and 2) it was going in the wrong direction. But it only goes the wrong way for a little bit, then loops back and heads up the other side of big meadow before turning and climbing the hill above it.

A nasty uphill and then a downhill. But this downhill trail isn’t fun to run on. It’s the only trail we’ve been on so far that is the “technical” (or difficult) to run on. But it’s a short stretch, only .8 miles and I’m at the final aid station.

I don’t realize it at the time, but I’ve been here before too, this is the second aid station I came to. But my recollection of the map has faded with my increasing tiredness. My watch says I’ve run ~27 miles, so only 4 more to go. But “Oh, methinks, how slow these old miles go./They linger my desires…”

A little further on there are three people guarding an intersection to keep me from the wrong route. And they cheer me. I thank them. Only three miles they say. I look at my watch and I realize they are right. Then I look back at the watch. I’ve been running for 4:35:–. Only — only three miles! Wow. I try to guess what my body can do. Ten minute miles? that’s 5:05. Whee… I’m actually close to breaking 5 hours. Forget about 6. Lets see. I’d need to do the next 3 miles in ~24 minutes, or 8 min/mile pace. I feel my body again. I might be able to push to a 9 min pace, but I think 8 is out of the question. They say it’s all downhill, but I don’t believe them. In fact it is starting to climb right now.

I think breaking 5 is a pipe dream. Still, I do have a bit more umph as I leave that little group.

There’s another woman up ahead. Walking. I promise myself that I’ll catch up to her and then walk behind her (it’s uphill). But as I come up, she pulls over to the side and stops. So I have no choice but to run by. I’m a little resentful. I wanted to rest. I run a little further and then I, too, start to walk. She doesn’t pass me. Then it starts going downhill again, and I run along.

Finally I get to pass a man. Sadly it isn’t blue shirt. This guy looks very tired. I feel tired too, of course, but not that tired.

Now I’m at the bottom of the downhill, and, despite past assurances, there is a slight net uphill from here on. Around a bend is Mt. Bachelor. That is encouraging. I start to hear the noise of the main road we crossed at the start (I have to cross it again, and then run up the side road to where I parked). Unfortunately the main road doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. I’m going parallel to it.

There’s a downed tree across the trail, I hop on top and down the other side. Suddenly my right hip seizes up. Damn it! I’ve only got ¿1.5? miles to go. I’m so close. I don’t want to collapse now. But I have to slow. A bit. Whew. I can still run. Slowly it improves, and then I forget about it.

And the road is very loud, and I’m out. No cars coming, so I cross. Oops. I wasn’t supposed to cross here, because there’s a short cut on the this side of the road. So I ignore the short cut (which means I must cross another road). And then there’s the start line. (this is where I should have crossed, there are two crossing guards to help me here).

I’ve been thinking. I don’t need any more GU, or water. It’s only .9 miles now. I can dump my camelback here by the side of the road and come back and pick it up later. I also want to finish in my SBRR shirt, but I’ve still got on the Flagline technical shirt I put on for warmth early this morning. I don’t need the warmth now. I’ve thought about removing the shirt before but it would mean doing that dance with the camelback so I never tried. I dump the camelback. And now removing the shirt is easy. It also falls by the wayside.

A lighter man, I run up the final stretch. And there is blue shirt. Maybe a quarter mile ahead. I don’t think I’ll catch him; he has too far a lead for this final stretch. But I try. On this section I was able to get my pace up to 8:35, even though it is uphill. But it isn’t enough. I hear a cowbell sound as blue shirt crosses the line. A little later I cross behind him.

5:04:08 by my watch (official time is 5:04:12). Well, I didn’t break 5 hours, but it’s a huge PR for a 50K. I guess Blue Canyon really is a hard course (that being the only other 50K I’ve run).

I am 51.

I promised myself I’d run 51K. And anyway I have to retrieve my camelback. I get some water, and then head back down. I run on the other side of the road from the racers. Very, very slowly. It takes me 11 minutes to run (downhill) what took less than 6 on the way up. I find I dropped my camelback almost exactly 1K from the top (.63 miles), perfect! I cross the road, grab the camelback, then the shirt, and get out of the way again.

As I was running down I saw Kevin coming up. He shouts at me “Did you break 4… I mean …”. “No,” I yell back, “I just missed it.”

I walk back up the hill. This takes a long time. I cheer people on as they come up.

I sort of collapse at the top. I don’t think I’m safe to drive a car. The thought of food is nauseating. I just want to sit. I force myself to drink. And I have some watermelon. I sit in the shade. I get some more to drink. Kevin comes up. He asks me “You said 6 hours… did you really mean 5 hours?” I laugh. “No, the only 50K I’ve done before this had a lot more elevation, and I really never have broken 6 hours. I hadn’t realized how hard that race must be.” I ask how he did and he finished in 5:11 (so 5 hours and something, as he said; he knew better than I what to expect).

Eventually I leave my shady spot and I find the official results. I finished in 5:04:12, according to them. Rats. I’d kind of gotten attached to 5:04:08, it sounds so much faster. I turn away. I turn back. I was 25th overall (of 70) and second in my age group (of 4). Blue shirt (Larry) was not in my age group after all, he’s in his 60s. That’s a little demoralizing too. I turn away. I turn back. Patrick was first in my age group, and was only half an hour faster than I this year. An improvement!

And now it feels safe to drive.

My car’s thermometer which had been sitting in the sun for 6 hours says the outside temperature was 72°. But when I got back to Bend the temperature was 86°. Whewf.


  • Footzone race wrap up (they put it on)
  • Bend Bulletin (local newspaper)

    The top 5-10 runners took a wrong turn 3 miles from the finish. The guy who arrived at the finish line first stopped and waited before crossing it until the other 4 leaders caught up with him. Then they all crossed the line, one after the other, in the order they had been in at the 28.1 mile mark (where the bad turn happened).

  • Scott Dunlap (won masters men)
  • Stephanie Howe (2nd woman)
  • Wildflowers

3 Responses to “Flagline 50K”

  1. JoeBro Says:

    Outstanding run and race recap, George.

    Bend looks like a beautiful place; I’m happy the snow cooperated.


  2. mitch thompson Says:

    There were signs posted at the trailheads stating there was the flagline 50k race going on. Most likely some bikers removed the signs along with the flagging at five of the intersections which i replaced as i rode ahead of the racers on my bike the morning of. Sorry it took so long to get the course mapped but it was due to late lingering snowpack plus flagline is off limits to all till august 15 due to elk habitat. Plus superdave the RD has plenty to deal with in his personal life so take it easy on him. Most would have bagged even trying to put the race on in his shoes. Next year should be much smoother.
    Thx for running! Mitch Thompson

  3. Jill Allison Says:

    I just signed up for Flagline 50k (2016), and came across your report. So glad I read this! Now I’ll have a better idea what to expect, and will be sure I have a map with me. This will be my first mountain ultra (I’m from TX), and will also be my first time running an ultra without friends. But I’m super excited after reading your report – sounds like a pretty and fun race.

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