Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Hagg Lake Double (50K and 25K) - February 15th & 16th 2014 - Forest Grove, OR

Running the Hagg Lake Double in 2014 was one of the most painful running experiences of my life.

Photo by Paul Nelson.


Snowmageddon in PDX!
Rollin' to the start in my PT Cruiser, the rain was falling steadily. The "snowmageddon" that devastated Portland the weekend prior, compiled with about 1 inch of forecasted rainfall between Friday night and Saturday night, prompted general expectations of muddy trails. But by the end of the race on Saturday, most people were calling this THE MUDDIEST year in the race's 12 year existence.

My body was feeling pretty good at the start, and my confidence was high. In 2013, I somehow pulled the 3rd fastest 50K time out of my ass (on a dry course), and that prior success was giving me all kinds of swagger. My goal for the day was for a top 3 finish, and my plan was run the race like I had nothing to lose.


Okay, so this is my 4th blog about this race. Instead of diving into the intimate details of the course, I will say that it starts with a short 1.5 mile out-n-back on a gravel road before going around the lake twice for the 50k (once for the 25k).

For those that lack imagination, check out this 4 minute video of the course that some handsome guy made with his GoBro.



I took off like a cocky lightening McQueen. Taking advantage of the dry road, I pushed the pace to a barely uncomfortable uphill effort. Jacob Puzey FLEW by me on the downhill last year, so I wanted to get a little head start on him. Shortly after reaching the turnaround first (King of the Mountain?), I hauled downhill. Soon enough, Jacob Puzey flew past me, followed by Gordo Freeman. Then to my delight, they "allowed" me to catch up to them. By the time we reached the start/finish and entered the Hagg Lake trail, there were about 6 of us running together in a party train. Nobody was trying to win the damn race at this point, and it turned into an enjoyable group run.

Photo by Paul Nelson.
The mud was sloppy, but navigable. Some portions of the trail were turning into definitive bodies of water, and the uphills were like running on banana peels. The party train didn't break apart until the Dam road (mile 7). My flat road running pales in comparison to Zach and Jacob, but I ran OH so hard to keep up with them on the pavement. As we jumped back onto the slick trail, it was just the 3 of us running together.

At the first aid station, Zach Gingerich actually drank water. That was the first time I've ever seen Zach drink anything during an ultra, and both Jacob and I were in disbelief. Given that Zach was the 2010 Badwater champion, I can't imagine how low his thirst threshold is when running in 45 degree rain.

The three of us chatted for the next several miles and enjoyed each other's company, and I ended up in the lead by way of courtesy. Eventually, I had to bail off into the blackberry bushes to drop it like it's hot. In the amount of time it took me to pull my pants down, I went from 1st to 5th place. Holy shit! I had no idea that Neil Olson and Monkey Boy were so close behind us, but I probably should have expected it. Nonetheless, I fell behind by about 1 minute and instantly felt lonely. The next several miles were spent trying to rejoin the party, which may have exacerbated issues that would eventually lead to my demise.

Photo by Paul Nelson.
The rain was absolutely ceaseless, and the trails collected much of the runoff as it flowed towards the lake. The mud was getting thicker, my shirtless body was getting colder, and my frustrations were beginning to bruise my feet. It was so hard to grip anything, I started pounding my feet into the mucky muck, desperately searching for traction. My hip flexors were also getting sore from trudging with mud covered boots and dragging my feet through ankle deep mud/water. The course was tearing me apart. As the first lap ended, I gave up pursuing the front runners and decided to coast the rest of the race. After putting on a shirt (sorry ladies), I began lap 2 with a 'survival' mentality.

The mud was much worse on the 2nd lap due to both the rain and the 300 pairs of footprints that morphed the trail into something real muddy and ugly....mugly. Runners were passing me here and there, but I didn't care anymore. I just wanted to finish the race with enough of legs for a 25k the next day, and ideally without serious injury. My mind started visualizing the growler in my hands in all it's glory (the prize for completing both the 50K & 25K), because there was very little else that could possibly prompt a positive attitude...growler...growler...growler.....1984 Kevin Bacon...growler...

Photo by Paul Nelson.
At last, the finish line cometh, ending a suffer fest that left my hip flexors pulled and my feet bruised. Jumping in Hagg Lake certainly helped, but the damage was done.

RESULTS: 4:18:33, 7th out of 210 Finishers
PACE: ~8:19 min/mile

Shivering from the Hagg Lake soak, Dana shuttled me to my car (thanks Dana!), and I helped myself to some brief nudity, dry clothes, and my car's heat vent. The rest of the day was spent eating grilled cheese, drinking hot chocolate, and cheering in my friends as they finished. The rain may damper my spirits, but it will never douse my Love for this stupid race and the community that it gathers.


Recovery consisted of pizza, skinny jeans, and watching Footloose (1984) with some good friends. Best night ever.


Holy mother of OW! Waking up, my feet were so sensitive to any pressure on my forefoot(s). But this was my 3rd time doing the Hagg Lake Double (50K + 25K), and every year there was always something that made running the 25k seem impossible. So I sucked it up, put on some dry shoes, and journeyed back out to Hagg Lake...with by GoBro.

Every GoPro needs a GoBro. Photo by Paul Nelson.
My description of running the 25K could be summed up in one sentence:

ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..mierda..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..shit..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..balls..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..Taylor Swift..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..ow..

I seriously thought I may have had a Jone's Fracture in my right foot, mainly from running off trail on the cambered grass surface. It was bad. Twice I seriously debated dropping out, but I somehow found enough reasons to finish the 25k. One of those reasons was to complete my GoBro video of the course. Being one of the muddiest Hagg Lake years to date, I felt compelled to document the race not only for myself, but for everyone else to send to their "spartan race" friends and show them what a real mud course looks like.

Also, running with Megan was another reason why I was able to finish the race. Given that she was running with a fractured pinky toe, we became suffer partners and helped each other stay positive by singing Timbers chants, songs from Grease, and various pop songs. Megan, thank you.

RESULTS: 2:59:46, 125th out of 280 Finishers
PACE: 11:34 min/mile

Me and Megan! Photo by Paul Nelson (Dana Katz).

Growler time. Photo by Paul Nelson (Dana Katz).

Me, having a moment. Photo by Ann Peterson.


Thank you Trail Butter, I'm honored to be a part of the Team this year! I Love this stuff.

Photo by Paul Nelson.

Thank you Float Shoppe for the peace of mind, and for the recovery.

Thank you Sean Meissner for being out of town.

Thank you Paul Nelson, and everyone else who was out there taking photos!!!

And last but not least, thank you Race Directors and Volunteers for enduring the cold weather to help hundreds of masochists finish the muddiest race of their lives. You all were amazing.


I'll definitely be there for the Hagg Lake Double next year.

Much Love,