Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 mile Race Report – Ashley Nordell

Race: Peterson Ridge Rumble (20 mile and 40 mile- I did the 40)

Runner: Ashley Nordell

Race Date: 04/14/2019

Location: Sisters, Oregon


peterson ridge rumble

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

  1. This race is a fundraiser for our local cross country team (which my husband coaches), so we see first hand how the money raised from this race is used. The race is a non-profit, and all proceeds benefit the cross country team, with a donation also being made to the Sisters Trail Alliance. So going along with this, the community aspect of the race is my number one “best.” The race finishes around the track, and people congregate in the infield post race, so everyone hangs out cheering on other runners. The cross country kids all volunteer at the race, so they give back to the event that gives so much to them. It has a very “small town community” feel.
  2. The organization- I will admit I am biased here – we are good friends with the race director, and help with many aspects of the race, but that also gives me an “in” to see all the work that goes into putting this event on. The RD does not live here in Sisters anymore (though he is looking to move back), so he comes out here a week early and is very attentive to all the important details that make a race successful. He hires out the timing and post-food catering so he can focus all his attention on the other aspects of race directing.
  3. Post race meal – burritos by Long Board Louie’s

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

We can have very fickle weather in April here in Sisters. This year was perfect running weather, though a bit cold for the post race hanging out. It could snow, rain, or be 70 degrees. A week before the race we still had a bunch of snow on the course, though by race day it was 99.9 percent gone. The 20 miler allows dogs and this year there was a record number of dogs, so if you are not a dog person, you might find the 20 mile start a bit overwhelming.

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

Probably 70 dogs (rumor has it that was the number), or the three feet tall chocolate bunny I won.

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

I ran the first half of the race with two friends and the time flew by. I think keeping the Peterson Ridge trail section a bit more conversational pace allowed me to have a strong second half. I also tried a new nutrition plan – I used Skratch drink instead of Tailwind, and though it had less calories, I liked how it tasted and seemed to settle well in my stomach. I even ate some gels, which I usually cannot stomach, but the cooler temps and easier effort early on made me be able to eat a bit more. I felt super strong at the finish, which is always way more desirable than the death march finish.

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

This is a very runnable course- I ran every step of the 40 miler (closer to 37 miles). I passed several people at the end who were having cramping issues. I think the faster pace and using the same muscles for so long caused people to have muscle issues. The 40 miler is sort of two parts – the up and down on the Peterson Ridge Trails (first half), and then what we call the red cinder road section, which takes you up a long climb before hitting the Metolius Windigo Trail to complete the second half. Dividing the course mentally into two parts helps with pacing. It is important to save some legs for the longer climb on the second half, and I think many people take the race out too fast. If training specifically for this race, it would be important to do some long runs that are really runnable.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Bring a bit more calories to carry with me – other than water from aid stations, I mostly use my own stuff, and I ate more early on than I normally do, so I wished I had a couple more gels. Cooler temps can make me more hungry too.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Like I covered above, I think what gets most people is how runnable it is. The trail sections have some rocky areas, but also some great fast single track. There are some long stretches of fire roads, which can either be mentally daunting or nice because you can open up your stride a bit. The 40 miler finishes with a net downhill the final 9 miles with two sneaky climbs.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Sisters, Oregon is high desert, with lots of Juniper and Ponderosa Pines. The course is all dirt – whether it be single track (Peterson Ridge and Metolius Windigo trails) or fire roads, and finishes running around the middle/high school track. Because I live here, I often get a bit tired of those trails, but those who visit say they love them. There are some great views of the Three Sisters and other mountains if you are lucky to get a clear day.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No, other than the fact you have to run so much more than a lot of ultras. I find the 20 miler to be harder than the 40 because the pace is that much faster and you can’t really ease into the pace as much.

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

This was the 17th year – it is dialed in well. This year they switched to pink ribbons (instead of yellow), which made it much easier to see course marking.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, especially the 20 miler. Bend, OR is so close, we get a bunch of fast runners. But it is also a fun, low key event, so the draw to this race is not the competition as much as a great weekend event.

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.

The race fills every year. The permit is for 500 runners between both races, and the RD usually allows about 575 to enter (factoring in the average number of no-shows). Lots of people camp in the middle school parking lot or in the national forest right by the school. We have limited number of hotels here in town, but lots of house rentals available. Bend is also close by, so I know of many runners who stay there or rent a cabin in Camp Sherman.

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

There are doggy treats for the dogs. Standard fare – oranges, soda, candy, hot food (at least at an aid station in the 40), Gu, Nuun, etc. There are also drop bags available. Aid stations are every 4-7 miles.

Weather and typical race conditions

Weather can be ANYTHING. It spat snow for a bit this year, but was also 50’s and sunny for part. We have had it lightly snow and we have had 70 degrees. It can often be windy. The trails dry out quickly, so it is rarely muddy except in sections.

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

Because the race is so fast, it is nice to be able to be fairly self sufficient and not have to stop too often (if you are trying to race for a specific time or place). I used two aid stations the entire race, and carried two 12.5 oz bottles in my Nathan pack. If it had been hotter, I am sure I would have used more water. Paying attention to the weather beforehand can help in knowing what clothing to wear. I was able to get away with shorts, a T shirt, and arm bands, but some years you might need more layers. If you are a watch person and are paying attention to the mileage, the course comes out at about 37 miles, not a full 40.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes! It is a friend and family encouraged event! There is a gravel road called Brooks Scanlon that runners head out on for several miles, and also come back on for some miles. It is a great place to spectate because there is ample parking and places to stand, and you can see runners both directions. Cow Camp Aid (about 4 miles from the finish of the 40 miler) is another good place to watch for your runner because there is plenty of parking and it is easy to get to. Most of the aid stations are crew accessible. Everyone hangs out around the track at the finish, and runners’ friends and family can pay a small donation to eat the post race food as well (this year significantly fewer people paid the donation and unfortunately that is a lot less money that goes to the team in the end because the food is catered and one of the highest race expenses). This is a great race for families with kids- the grassy infield and high jump mats are a hit for little ones. There are a LOT of dogs at the finish, so just something to keep in mind if your kids are scared of dogs.

How’s the Swag?

Drymax socks to all finishers. They are always awesome (and secret until race day) designs. The race is also fairly cheap as far as ultras go, and it is always nice knowing the profits are going to benefit kids (or any great cause). There is always a raffle with lots of great sponsor prizes (Mountain Hardware/Montrail is one of the sponsors), and winners receive $100, plus an assortment of other prizes.

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

I definitely recommend this race if you want a fast, competitive, well put on event that has a great community feel.

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