Champoeg Park, Oregon
Potentially the fastest 50k in the Northwest may also be the brightest diamond in the ruff. The ORRC Autumn Leaves 50/50 has been a long-standing annual event to mostly Oregon ultra-marathoners. In preparation for the Sunmart Texas 50M in December, I was looking for a flat and fast 50k. Hence, I found myself driving north through early-morning heavy fog, from Eugene to Champoeg Park, Oregon.
The 50k course consisted of a short 1.2 mile out and back, followed by six 5M loops (2/3 black top and 1/3 trail/grass) while the 50M event required just ten loops. At the beginning and end of each loop was a cone to run around, as well as, a fully stocked aid station and restroom. Other than that it was simple...run fast.
At 8AM we were off (joining the 6AM early starters) and by the start of the first loop, I found myself ahead of the second pack of three by one minute. It would be a solo adventure along the Willamette River on a perfect day (Sunny and 40 degrees).
The nature of the course enabled me to lock into a steady rhythm. With the exception of laps 3 & 4 when I needed a quick jump into the port-o-john, my lap splits were very even, relaxed, and steady. The first 5 turns around the start cone the lap splits read: 31:17, 31:16, 31:53, 32:23, 31:19. After hitting the marathon mark (2:45:42) and heading out on the final lap, I started to feel my hamstrings cramping a bit. If I just kept the rhythm, I would be fine through the finish. Although slowing a bit on lap 6 (32:17), I made it through the fog for my first Autumn Leaves 50k win and solid PR (3:17:59).
Great weather, great course, great volunteers. Eventually, the word will get out on this little gem.