Race: Run Forest Run 25k

Runner: Tyler Sprague

Race Date: 02/16/2019

Location: Lake Sylvia State Park, Montesano, WA

Results: 1st, 2:12:40

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2154045927

run forest run 25k

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

  1. Scenic – The course is in a large park next to town, but within the first mile we were climbing up a fire road and hitting trails that felt like the middle of nowhere. Multiple times it ran up and across big ridges with vast, sweeping views of the (very misty) forest and hills beyond. There was also a really nice section in the middle were you run on a more flattish groomed trail next to a creek through deep woods with a couple fun little bridge crossings. It was expansive and gorgeous, clearcuts notwithstanding, and I can’t wait to come back and run here in the summer.
  2. Post race – Big shout out to the very friendly and generous Craig for cooking up burgers, dogs (vegan for me!), and butternut squash soup next to the finish line, on the edge of the lake with a nice smoky campfire going. It was very helpful to be able to warm up after putting on dry clothes and get some calories in! I spent most of my time here between finishing and heading home.
  3. Small, cozy feel – It was quite a small race, although only in its second year. Even so, runners represented places far and wide in addition to lots of locals. I like the low key, low stress environment of smaller events because it allows me to relax and enjoy the company and the outdoor setting. This may not apply if you choose this as a goal or “A” race, but many seem to run it as a tune-up workout.

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

Snow. It was pretty deep in places, and in others it was quite slushy which made for soaking wet shoes and feet. This is beyond anyone’s control and it did add to the beauty of the course so I can’t complain too much. I also forgot my running shoes at home, so I ran in my barefoot/minimal street shoes and fortunately it all worked out fine, just with less traction than I would’ve liked.

We also missed one turn early on, though this is my fault and the course was well marked. Fortunately this only added about .3 miles and a small climb. I’m still a bit inexperienced at running in the front so I will be more watchful of that in the future.

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

Four or five miles in we ran over fresh cougar tracks, so that was pretty cool. Fortunately I wasn’t alone at that point or it might have been a tense for awhile.

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

Aside from the cougar tracks and majestic views, the highlight of my race was making friends and running with Makenna, who I met when she caught me about a mile in. A former Division I collegiate athlete, she was very fit and we pushed pretty hard early on. I had experience with trails and ultras, and she had lots of energy to pull us along so it was a complementary match up. We worked together for 9 miles, when I went ahead at the aid station and she hydrated. She came with her friend Tara, also a TRR athlete that I had seen around on the local race circuit but not yet met. Tara had a great race, taking 3rd OA. It was good to put a face with a name and we will both be at Chuckanut in a few weeks, fit and ready.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The course is a classic example of Pacific Northwest sub-alpine trails during the cold and wet season. The best way to prepare is to train on a variety of surfaces and study the elevation profile. Be ready for anything and you’ll have a great time!

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

Very well run operation, the directors and volunteers knew the area, seemed experienced, and used the UltraSignup app for quick, accurate results keeping. There were also lots of park rangers, so any emergency would have been well handled.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

As with any burgeoning race there is not a ton of depth, but as the years go by it should attract more and more competition. It’s in a cool, unique location off the beaten path and is timed well for those wanting to sharpen up before a March or April ultra, or to run the full 50k once the gloomiest part of winter is over.

run forest run 25k

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

There was one aid station around mile 9 with all the standard fare, as far as I could tell, although I just grabbed a splash of water. It was nice to see some people and get some brief cheers after running alone with Makenna through some cold, wet, slush for miles. The finish line, which was an aid station for 50k runners, also included a cowbell which I consider mandatory.

Weather and typical race conditions

Apparently the inaugural year was very rainy and significant sections of the course had large puddles and standing water. This year there was almost zero precipitation, but lots of snow, slush, and some puddles as well. Going forward, the weather will probably be somewhere between those two poles, but mostly unpredictable.

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

Good trail shoes, warm/waterproof clothing, and maybe even some supplemental traction devices like Kahtoola microspokes or Yaktrax if there’s snow on the course. Personally, I always err on the side of overdressing, then shed layers into a pack or drop bag as needed.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

The whole park is crisscrossed with logging roads and hiking trails so it’s pretty accessible. There is plenty of single track, however, so to avoid getting in anyone’s way, I would consult with a race official, or just head out in reverse on the last few miles of the course, which contains some paved and unpaved road and has plenty of space.

How’s the Swag?

Top finishers received a cool piece of Sasquatch art painted with coffee, and a wood-burned medallion made out of a tree from the forest you just ran in!

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

4/5 stars! This race had almost all the stuff I like. The only thing lacking would be the excitement/prestige X factor of more popular races, but that’s not even always desirable, so maybe Run Forest Run will remain a gem flying under the radar for some time to come.

Tyler Sprague is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Tyler, check out his coaching page.

run forest run 25k
Photo: Brian Hornback