Kristina Pattison: Hagg Lake 50K Race Report

MTC Note: If you've been following us over the past few weeks you've seen that even though our local trails are just beginning to reappear from their winter hibernation, a number of Montana runners have already tested their early season fitness with speedy ultras against top level competition. In the following race report Missoula runner Kristina Pattison shares her experience with the Hagg Lake 50k near Portland, Oregon

Starting lap two - Credit: Andrew Pattison

Hagg Lake 50K, February 15, 2014, by Kristina Pattison 

    Despite flood warnings from heavy rain across Northwestern Oregon for Valentine’s Day weekend, over 200 ultra runners toed the line at Hagg Lake 50K for a muddy two laps around the lake’s 15+ mile perimeter.

    The race started with a steady climb on a quick out-and-back up an adjacent road, gaining nearly 750’ and making up necessary mileage. The climb gave runners a chance to spread out and size up the competition before heading onto the mostly single track course. On the trail, I already had lost sight of the iconic dark braids of eventual winner Joelle Vaught, a seasoned ultra runner who holds the second best time for females on the Hagg Lake course. The trail conditions gradually declined throughout the morning with the constant downpour. While trying to stay upright, muscle fatigue and chilly weather chipped away at leg speed on the hilly trail complicated by shin-deep puddles and shoe-sucking mud. Later, stories spread on the news about road closures and cars washed off roads with the heavy rain in the greater Portland area, but race volunteers and crews stayed inexplicably positive and cheerful throughout the morning.

    By the second lap, I was feeling the "first race of the season" fatigue. Around 20-miles, Amber Bradley, the eventual second place woman passed and bumped me out of top three since Emily Kalenius still had a gap on us. Finding it difficult to divert my attention from a screaming hamstring, I focused on taking in steady intervals of Hammer gel and Endurance Amino and found solace in the beauty of the course and the steady rhythm of forward motion and falling rain.

    At the last aid station (mile 26.8), my steadfast crew and husband, Andrew, informed me the third place woman, Kalenius, was slowing down for unknown reasons. In the last 1.5 miles a final "surge" of back-to-the-barn energy surprised me, and I was able to catch up to Kalenius and barely bump back into third place female. The last stretch is a thick, deep section of mud making a ‘surge’ more like a "slog" and making it clear why race organizers call Hagg Lake 50k a "mud run" rather than a "race." I made it to the finish line soaked to the bone, numb to the knees and elbows, and happier than a pig in…well, mud.

Finish line at Hagg Lake - Credit: Andrew Pattison
    Fun fact: many participants complete the both the 50k Saturday and the 25k the following day—the “Double”—proving Oregon runners are both tough as nails and perhaps a bit crazy. Also, Joelle gave us a great insider tip: McMenamins in nearby Forest Grove offers a $5 entry to the public for the outdoor soaking pool, great to warm up and relax after a well earned beer or bowl of clam chowder.

Cheers from the finish - Credit: Andrew Pattison

Race facts:
When: Second week of February. 
Where: Henry Hagg Lake, 1-hour west of Portland, Oregon. 
How long: 50K or 25K (or B2B for the “Double”). 
Where to stay: McMenamins Grand Lodge. 

2014 Top 3 Females: Joelle Vaught (4:27:15) Amber Bradley (4:45:17) Kristina Pattison (4:55:10)
2014 Top 3 Males: Neil Olsen (4:04:58) Jacob Puzey (4:09:00) Ian Little (4:09:22) 

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