Gorge Waterfalls Races: 5 Tips to Survive Wet & Muddy Trails

Want to run one of the Gorge Waterfalls races (30K, 50K, 100K) in Oregon?

Before you sign up to run one of the Gorge Waterfalls races, there's something you need to know about the Pacific Northwest in April...

"The Gorge is a famously turbulent place," according to race organizers from Freetrail and Daybreak Racing.

There's plenty of vert along the three courses, and there's a good chance you'll face:

  • Wind
  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Hail
  • Water crossings
  • Chilly temps
  • Muddy trails
  • Poison oak
  • And you'll see a lot of waterfalls up close

Think you're up for the challenge?

Check out these race tips and insight from five members of Team WeeViews to help you go the distance...

Wil Walmsley passes a waterfall during the Gorge Waterfalls 50K. Photo credit: Somer Kreisman @somerrunner

🏃‍♂️1. Wil Walmsley: Train for hill climbs

Wil Walmsley ran the Gorge Waterfalls 50K and finished in: 5:10:17.

What did you like most about the race?

  • Seeing so many familiar faces the entire weekend. I never expected when signing up for a destination race over 2,000 miles from where I live that I’d know more people than most of the local races I have run. 
  • My parents made the trip from Phoenix, Arizona to come watch. That was awesome. 
  • I stayed at an AirBnB with 3 friends (Casey Koza, David Moore, and Rob Myers), who were also signed up for the 50K race. 
  • The West Virginia guys (Caleb Bowen and Alex Minor), who were running the 100km race. 
  • Friends that I’ve met through my brother (Jim Walmsley) who live in the Pacific Northwest and were either running in the race (Vincent Bouillard and Lindsey McDonald), volunteering at the race (Ryan Thrower), or crewing (Kamilah Journet).
  • Plus, I got to meet a bunch of other great people during the weekend.

What was the hardest part for you?

  • Trying to not get too caught up in the race day atmosphere at the start of the race. 
  • The 50km course starts at Wahkeena Day Use Area and immediately ascends 1500’ over the first 2 miles. Then it goes over to Multnomah Falls, where the course descends 1500’ in 2 miles. 
  • The vert early in the race. It would have been easy to try running as much of the incline as possible or try to go bombs away on the descent with the extra bit of energy from the start and seeing all the other runners. I believe I managed this section well, though, by hiking enough of the incline and not going too hard on the downhills. It was hard enough to where it probably contributed to the cramping I was feeling later in the race around mile 21, but still minor enough that some pickle juice kept it a good day. 

What did your food, drink, and fueling look like?

  • Being a bigger runner who also sweats a lot and cramping issues in both of my other 50km races, I wanted to be aggressive on my nutrition. 
  • My goal was to consume 300 calories, 800mg sodium, and 300mg potassium per hour throughout the race. I was able to maintain this without any stomach or GI issues. 
  • Food & drink. I had 4 soft flasks and a handheld bottle prefilled with 1 scoop of GU Energy Roctane drink mix and two Nuun Sport tablets per bottle. For food, I had a bunch of Motts fruit snacks and consumed one package every half hour. 
  • The power of pickle juice. At the Cascade Locks mile 21 aid station, I was starting to cramp in my legs. So I drank some pickle juice there, which helped out a bunch and the cramping went away. Overall, I was happy with my nutrition plan. 

What shoes and gear did you use?

The Gorge Waterfall race bib doubles as an elevation profile for runners as they complete the course.

What would you do differently?

  • One would be the training. Most of the training leading up to the race was during wintertime, which in Ohio means a lot of treadmills. I wish I had chosen to do some jogs with small inclines to help simulate some of the climbing during the race. I practiced a decent amount of hiking with 12-15% treadmill incline, and that helped a lot on the steeper grades of the course. But there were plenty of those easier grades I could have performed better on.
  • The other area I would do differently would be trying to take it easier the day before the race. I got too excited cheering on runners in the 100km race and stood for a few hours in 40°F rainy weather. In hindsight, it was way too much time on feet the day before my race and negated the benefits from tapering that week. 

What did you do after the race?

  • After hanging out at the finish line, our group of 4 went back to the AirBnB to relax and have some beers. We started with a Pliny the Elder while relaxing and recovering in the jacuzzi. Then ate pizza, drank a few more beers, and shared our race day experiences with each other.

Why did I choose to run the Gorge Waterfalls 50km?

  • A rugby buddy of mine, Casey Koza, had traveled with me to watch the UTMB races in Chamonix, France last August. Not long after we had gotten back to the States, I received a text from Casey asking if I had any interest in signing up for Gorge Waterfalls 50km. I’ve wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest and knew my brother had run the Gorge Waterfalls 100km race before, so I was immediately interested. 
WeeViews co-founder David Moore ran the Gorge Waterfalls 50K.

🏃‍♂️2. David Moore: Consume more electrolytes earlier in the race

David Moore ran the Gorge Waterfalls 50K and finished in: 7:52:51.

What did you like most about the race?

  • I enjoyed spending time (for the first time) in the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River Gorge. We stayed in an AirBnB in Stevenson, Washington (fyi - there is $6 round trip toll every time crossing Bridge of the Gods from Washington to Cascade Locks, Oregon). 
  • Visiting the local attractions, breweries, food and atmosphere with friends. 
  • Completing the 50k which was an incredibly scenic 31-mile tour on foot. This all made for an amazing experience!  
  • This is also my favorite race bib I’ve seen which doubles as a race elevation profile when looking down while running.

What was the hardest part for you?

  • Climbing Mount Doom. This was the last major climb of the race between miles 20 and 24. It was steep to start and technical throughout. Although not actually named Mount Doom, this was a fitting description as coined by runner Casey Koza.

What did your food, drink & fueling look like?

  •  I had two Clif Blok packs, some salt tabs and pickle juice. I also had some PB&J sandwiches, snacks and filled hydration at aid stations one and two. I was feeling good and well supplied to skip through aid station three and four.

What shoes & gear did you use?

  • Vest: Salomon ADV 5 hydration vest,
  • Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 7. I was very happy with these shoes on this course. The trail was definitely muddy in spots, but overall pretty firm underfoot. 
  • Trekking poles: This was the first endurance race that I ran with a pair of Leki trekking poles. I was happy to have the poles to absorb some work on the climbs and add stability in more technical areas.
  • Watch: I wore my Coros Pace 2 running watch. The battery life is incredible! I didn't have to plug in once for a full 10 day trip which included an 8 hour ultra and two other activities tracked. I had a full charge before I left home (from Ohio!) and still had 20% when I got back.

What would you do differently?

  • Consume more electrolytes before the start and earlier in the race. The start of the race is straight into a 1500 foot climb and followed by some fast and flat sections. I had leg cramping start around 12 miles that maybe could have been avoided with some earlier sodium. 

What did you do after the race?

  • After the race I had a burrito and some kombucha at the finisher area. The post-race setup was fantastic, along with volunteers on and off the course!  Post, post-race I soaked in the AirBnB hot tub with a cold beer.

Anything else you'd like to add?

  • The cutoff times were very tight for early checkpoints in the 50K. I was right on the cutoff time through the 15-mile and 21-mile checkpoints, yet still finished the race a full hour ahead of the allotted time.  
  • Although it appeared they let people continue through early cutoff points beyond the published time, it was stressful chasing the cut through much of the race. I expect they may adjust these for next year, it seemed to be a common concern. 
WeeViews co-founder Rob Myers plans to run the 2024 Gorge Waterfalls 50 to settle some unfinished business.

🏃‍♂️3. Rob Myers: Gear up to run in cold, wet & muddy conditions

Rob Myers plans to run the Gorge Waterfalls 50K in 2024 to settle some unfinished business (more about that below).

What I like most about the race?

  • The overall feel of the race truly made it feel special. Gorge Waterfalls was the first race I attended that felt like a professional, athletic sport. From the podium to the cash prizes, to the professional film crew that was following the athletes around. This really felt unique, and it was a cool experience. 
  • Visiting the Pacific Northwest. This was also my first time in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The mountains are truly magnificent, even though it rained the entire time. 

What was the hardest part for you? 

  • Not running…LOL! Unfortunately, I hurt my knee, climbing the first mountain before the race even started. This was a unique experience. It's the first time I had signed up for a race and not finish. This time I didn't even start. My plan is to go back next year and get that finish, until then it’s going to bug me. 

What gear did you bring for the race?

  • Shoes:  Altra Lone Peak 6...wait a minute, the reality is I only really needed my raincoat and boots.😭 

What would you do differently?

  • The obvious answer: Run the race. But you’ve already heard how that went. I didn’t pack nearly enough cold-weather rain gear. Now that I know how quickly the weather can change in the Pacific Northwest, I will bring additional rain gear and layers for the next race.

 What did you do after the race? 

  • Enjoyed pizza, beer and celebrated with my friends who ran the race. The stories after a big race like Gorge Waterfalls are sometimes the best part.
Casey Koza finished the Gorge Waterfalls 50K in 6:40:54, running through rain, snow, hail, and muddy trail conditions. Photo credit: James Holk @jamesholk

🏃‍♂️4. Casey Koza: Train on technical trails with lower stack-height shoe

Casey Koza ran the Gorge Waterfalls 50K and finished in 6:40:54.

What did you like most about the race?

  • The scenery. The best part of the race was by far the scenery, passing all the waterfalls, the rockslides and the beautiful giant snowflakes on Mt Doom.

What was the hardest part for you?

  • Technical terrain. The hardest part of the race for me was that I wasn't expecting the trails to be so rocky and technical. I was not ready for that.

What did your food, drink & fueling look like?

What shoes & gear did you use?

What would you do differently?

  • Run more technical trails to just get more efficient at running them. I'd also use a lower stack-height shoe so I'm more confident in where I step and confident in not falling.

What did you do after the race?

  • After the race I drank a bunch of kombucha, and beer...lots of beer.  I also ate a great after-race burrito at the finish.

Anything else you'd like to add?

  • Gorge Waterfalls was an awesome experience and a ton of fun to go out with some friends, run some sweet trails, and participate in an event that was so smoothly ran. It's definitely what trail running is all about.
WeeViews editor Evan Jensen ran the Gorge Waterfalls 100K, but there was a little problem. He missed the 4 p.m. cutoff at Cascade Locks Aid Station (Mile 38.6) by four minutes.

🏃‍♂️ 5. Evan Jensen: Check the cutoff times before you go

Evan Jensen ran the Gorge Waterfalls 100K, but there was a little problem. He missed the 4 p.m. cutoff at Cascade Locks Aid Station (mile 38.6) by just four minutes.

He even begged Aid Station Director Yassine Diboun to let him through. But it wasn't meant to be. "Sorry man. You're four minutes late. It's a hard stop here."

What did you like most about the race?

  • It's in my backyard. I've ran sections of the Gorge Trail #400 many times over the years, and hiked past many of the waterfalls. Multnomah Falls is only 20 miles from where I live. Sleeping in my own bed and waking up to run an ultra is always a good recipe for a run.
  • Chatting with the WeeViews Team over dinner on Friday: Cheese-stuffed manicotti topped with tomato sauce, green salad, French bread, and chocolate cake.

What was the hardest part for you?

  • Missing the 4 p.m. cutoff by FOUR minutes. When I rolled into the Cascade Locks Aid Station (Mile 38.6), I felt pretty good. By then I had passed about 100 runners since the start of the race. And I had plenty left in the tank to run the rest of the race. 
  • Mud slop and the climb after Multnomah Falls. There were some pretty muddy sections along the course. Not quite lose-a-shoe muddy, but pretty close. I thought the climb up the backside of Multnomah Falls was pretty hard, which I mostly hiked.

What did your food, drink & fueling look like?

  • Fueling strategy. I was aiming to eat about 400 calories per hour and 400mg of sodium. Plus drink, 4 to 6oz every 30 minutes or so.
  • Drink: LMNT Citrus Salt
  • Food: Pretzel & cheese snack pack, E.L. Fudge double-stuffed cookies, Reese's Take 5 candy bars, Huma gel packs, pickle-juice shots.
  • Aid stations. I had a couple peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, Coke, and a Spring Energy gel. At the Wahclella Aid Station, my crew brought Yoo-hoo chocolate milk and salty French fries.

What shoes & gear did you use?

  • Shoes. Nike Pegasus Trail 3 GORE-TEX. I've been running roads and trail in this shoe for more than a year. Burned through four pair so far. I felt a little unstable at times on slick and muddy sections, but otherwise they performed well. Amazingly, my feet stayed dry running through rain, hail, mud, and some tippy-toe water crossings.
  • Vest. Nathan VaporAir 2.0. There's plenty of storage in this pack, room for the bladder, and zippered pockets. Truthfully, the original version fit better, but I wore mine to shreds over 10 years of running trails.
  • Watch. Garmin Fenix 7X (Solar). Amazing battery life for running ultras. Ran in GPS mode for 10-plus hours, and it still had 90% battery life left. One of my favorite features: You can set a drink alert to help you stay on top of hydration and fueling.
  • GPS Tracker. Garmin InReach Messenger. I'm testing this out for remote runs later this year + the Mountain Lakes 100-Mile Ultra in September. It's worked well on other runs. But for this race, satellite communication appeared to be hit and miss, possibly from heavy cloud cover.
  • Mittens. Burton GORE-TEX Mittens. This is probably way too much mitten for most people. But my fingers turn to ice cubes anytime it's colder than 45 degrees. At least half the race was colder than that, and my hands and fingers stayed pretty comfortable.

What would you do differently?

  • Check the cutoff times. My big mistake. I didn't do this. I showed up to run this race at a comfortable pace, enjoy the scenery, and meet-ups with my crew at the aid stations.
  • At Wahclella Falls Aid Station, my crew and I took some group photos on the bridge. I sat in a chair eating salty French fries, drinking chocolate milk and washing it down with some pickle juice. And we chatted about the trail conditions over the first 30 miles. I could have EASILY made up four minutes there.

What did you do after the race?

  • After the race, I went home (less than an hour away from Cascade Locks), took a shower, ate pizza and watched the cast of New Girl play the ridiculously complicated drinking game True American.
  • I also spent a lot of time bemoaning my four-minute failure.

Anything else you'd like to add?

  • I plan to run the Gorge Waterfalls 100K next year. I may play it safe and take the 5 a.m. early start.
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Evan Jensen
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SANDY, Oregon
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I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...

Comments

David Moore Great trip guys and thanks for putting it all together Evan! I'm excited to get back next year for Rob & Evan to tackle some unfinished business!! Definitely an experience I could do again

Casey Koza Awesome time! Evan’s wife makes a really good manicotti!

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