Race: Operation Jack 6 Hour

Runner: Ashley Nordell

Race Date: 12/07/2019

Location: Tigard, Oregon – Summerlake Park

Results: Official results not posted yet, my result was 1st OA and CR with 41 miles and change (it’s a 9/10 mile loop, so you stop at the finish if you can’t make it one more loop)

operation jack 6 hour race report
Photo Credit: Steve Walters, RD

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

*This race was a last minute decision (signed up the night before) and one of the main reasons I did it was that it was a fundraiser for Autism and I was intrigued by the idea of a timed race. I didn’t go into it with any big expectations on great views or big crowds. So keeping that in mind, what I did like was…

1) All the money goes to a good cause
2) The park we ran loops around was open to the public, so I loved seeing so many people out walking despite the POURING rain
3) Getting to see the other runners so frequently and having access to our bags so often, plus I was fortunate that Zach Gingerich was there spectating and he jumped in and crewed for me for the first 4ish hours, since I was out solo. I love how awesome runners are. If I had my things more organized this could have even been a greater help, but I was so happy to see a friendly face so frequently offering to help.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

-It rained for 6 hours straight – that was a bit hard for my muscles, especially since I don’t often run long on pavement or do runs that are so runnable, so it took a toll pretty quickly.
-The loop was challenging in that it had a lot of hairpin turns and lots of little hills. This would not be ideal if you were wanting to go for a lot of miles (about 2,000ft gain over 40+ miles, which is not major for trail ultras, but feels like a lot when trying to run steady splits). It is also pavement for the whole loop, so just good to know for those who prefer dirt timed courses.
-The small aid station was positioned behind the timing mat and hard to access easily.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

I am pretty sure running so many loops around a park is weird to most people.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Hmm, I can probably list a lot of things I did not do well since I went into it so unorganized. I would say smiling the whole time, despite running mostly alone and soaking wet for so long. It was hard to stay in it mentally and keep going for the whole time. Oh, and one of the bathroom stalls had a heater in it.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

See below in Lessons Learned.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I think I went into this too casually. Even though I had no goals or big plans for it, just being organized could have made my day more enjoyable. I had my bag all thrown together and in the back of the covered picnic area that was not close to where we ran by, so I ended up not accessing my bag enough, thus not getting enough calories. I also only brought minimal calories since I signed up on a whim, and was in the valley, not at my house to grab my usual stuff. Because of how cold and wet I was, I never felt thirsty, but I could tell the next day I definitely did not drink enough. I also think I underestimated how hard running loops for so long would be. I had visions of meeting all sorts of runners and running with other people and it being a social event, but I think because of the weather people were so bundled up with heads down that I never really got to interact with others as much as I envisioned. Because of that, it was a long solo six hours. My legs went from feeling like I could easily run 7:50s-8:10s all day to suddenly feeling so tight and sore that by the end, 9:00 pace felt like torture. I am sure part of that is just due to never really running long on pavement and the cold rain, but I am sure part of it was also due to my lack of fueling/drinking/electrolytes. I love doing some races casually and not worrying too much about the details, but there are definitely things I could have done to help myself feel better and enjoy it more. Doing a loop course is such a great way to practice fueling, and I should have taken advantage of that since fueling at ultras is my challenge. I think being low key is great, but being unprepared is not so great. I was more the unprepared person on this day.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The mini hills feel huge by the end, and knowing the way the loop goes so that you can position your gear or car would be really helpful. It is a short loop, so you have lots of time to get to know the course.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It is a paved loop around a neighborhood park, but it is a pretty park with a pond in the middle. I saw lots of birds – geese, ducks, blue heron. But it is an urban course still.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It is not tough like a trail run, but it is challenging in a different way. I learned several lessons out there.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

It is pretty laid back and put on mostly as a fundraiser. The race also offers a half and full marathon option. The timing system was very well done – we had chip timing and every time we crossed the timing mat our information was relayed onto a big TV screen so we could see what mile and loop we were on.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

No, lots of people use this race as a chance to walk a marathon with 6 hours to finish. But I think in a run like this it is kinda cool to be yourself against the clock. I was more aiming to get 41ish miles because the course record was 40ish, so in a way I was racing an imaginary person.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Nope, signed up about 12 hours before it started and I could have signed up race morning.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Pretty minimal. Bring your own stash. I wish I had brought some more choices. They did have hot cider which was nice in the cold weather.

Weather and typical race conditions

It is Oregon in December. Probably pretty standard to have pouring rain, though not sure it always lasts the whole time.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Warm food/drink in a thermos, (wish I had had), waterproof mittens, organized gear bag if going crewless.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yep! Great for family. There are playgrounds on the park, so if the weather is ok, it is very family friendly

How’s the Swag?

Not really, again, it is more put on to raise money. There are shirts if you sign up early enough.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I give the race an 8/10 as far as an event, just not sure the loop course on pavement is for me. Of course, I will probably want to try to do better someday, so I am sure I will try another one at some point. I think if the start/finish area had a bit more going on (music, people cheering, etc) it might be a bit more fun, but I don’t blame people for not wanting to hang out in the weather.

Ashley Nordell is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Ashley, check out her coaching page.