Oregon trail runner Anne Crispino-Taylor checked her Timex watch. She was chasing a cutoff time at the Tillamook Burn 50K.
And she was feeling the heat of the day. Dehydration was setting in. She wasn’t eating enough. And she was concerned about making the cutoff.
The 63-year-old cancer survivor who’s finished a long list of 100-mile races, wasn’t about to give up.
But she was running under unusual circumstances that only one other runner was attempting at the Tillamook Burn...
If anyone could do it, Crispino-Taylor would be at the top of the list.
But trail running and ultras have an interesting way of leveling the playing field.
Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes finishing isn’t in the cards for even the most prepared runners. And there’s always a chance for a DNF from a sick stomach, getting lost, or taking a fall.
For Crispino-Taylor and so many other runners, that’s exactly the reason that draws them to the starting line.
Crispino-Taylor knows what it’s like to face challenges and overcome them.
She’s part of the Prosper Portland team tasked with creating economic growth and prosperity in Portland, Ore., a city that’s dealing with the aftermath of months of rioting and an ever-growing homeless problem.
It’s a tall order. But she knows sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
“In late 2013, I was diagnosed with cancer,” says Crispino-Taylor. “I underwent surgery in 2014. I wasn’t running much, but during my recovery I signed up for the Siskiyou Out and Back 50 Mile Race.”
And that got her back on track to keep chasing a goal she set before she got cancer...run one 100-mile race a year by age 60.
By the time she made it to the Tillamook Burn starting line for back-to-back races, Crispino-Taylor was ready to go the distance.
Almost 100 years ago, the first documented Tillamook Burn fire ravaged 350,000 acres of forest.
But it wouldn’t be the last. The same area was devastated by wildfire several more times over a decade.
After one of the largest replanting campaigns in history, this rugged terrain became the home for the Tillamook Burn 50 Mile Race and Tillamook Burn 50K, hosted by race director Jeremy Long.
“There’s dozens of miles of exquisite single-track trails for us to enjoy, while showcasing hundreds of massive, emblematic ‘grey ghost’ snags and charred stumps,” says Long. “Enduring relics of the vast old growth rainforest that reigned here prior to the Tillamook Burn.”
Crispino-Taylor was planning to run a 100-mile race in California, but when COVID complications shut it down, she decided to run both Tillamook Burn races.
“I was left with the question…’what should I do instead,” says Crispino-Taylor. “When the race date for Tillamook Burn was moved, I thought, ‘I’ll just do the double.’ Fifty miles one day, 30 the next. Why not? It turned out to be harder than I thought.”
Crispino-Taylor wasn’t in a hurry. She knew running back-to-back races would take a toll.
“The first climb was about 3.5 miles,” says Crispino-Taylor. “I settled into a good pace and hung with a group of runners. And the next section was a nice downhill.”
When she reached the aid station hosted by ultra-running legend Yassine Diboun and the Wy’east Wolfpack, she was feeling good.
But as the day wore on and the miles ticked by, she started noticing little things that could make the 50K run harder to manage.
“It started getting warmer,” says Crispino-Taylor. I wasn’t hydrating enough. I felt OK, but I started wondering about running the 50K.”
Her foot slid off the edge of a narrow trail lined with loose shale, and she started going down the cliff. Her water bottle started slipping away. And she scrambled to save it, scraping her knee in the process.
“I usually fall at least once in a race,” says Crispino-Taylor. “I was walking and eating, and not really paying attention when I slipped. I just tripped on a rock, and thankfully bumped into a tree to stop.”
After that, she she settled into a comfortable pace with a runner she knew from other races. And the two pushed each other to the 50-mile finish line.
But the race wasn’t over for Crispino-Taylor.
“Afterwards, we sat at the finish line,” says Crispino-Taylor. “We had a beer and talked about the race in the parking lot. And my friend was glad she wasn’t running the 50K the next day.”
Run 50 miles. Wake up and run a 50K. That’s what Crispio-Taylor had to wrap her mind around when she stepped up to the starting line of the Tillamook Burn 50K.
“When I got up the next morning, I thought, ‘Do I really want to do this?’”
Only one other runner was running both races...Portland resident Sean Harasser. Both connected early in the race and ran about half the course together.
“But I really started feeling it,” says Crispino-Taylor. “I think from being dehydrated the day before. I was really slowing down as the race started to progress, and I just needed to do my thing.”
She rolled into an aid station, trying to eat and drink as much as possible. She chased another cutoff time with Harrasser. But the miles were wearing on her, and she was worried about making the next cutoff.
“When I’m stressed and anxious, I lose focus on eating and drinking enough,” says Crispino-Taylor. “I got too focused on getting to the next aid station, but I should have taken a little more time.”
The heat of the day, dehydration from the day before, and climbing an estimated 16,000 feet was taking a toll.
“It was a struggle to keep moving,” says Crispino-Taylor. “I was really hurting. When I got back to the Bell Camp Aid Station, they got some fluids in me and I was able to eat. And that was enough to run the last 3.5 miles to the finish.”
“It took me a couple of days to recover from being dehydrated, get my appetite back, and start eating normal food again.”
Running 80-plus miles in a weekend can have that effect on you.
Oddly enough, running back-to-back ultras was harder than getting the COVID vaccine.
Want to run a race? If you’re just starting out or you want to move up to running longer distances, Crispino-Taylor lives by this advice…
“Run your own race. Don’t go out there and get caught up in what other people are doing. Don’t compare yourself to other runners. You’ll just end up feeling worse.”
“Instead, really try to focus on competing against yourself when you’re out there. When you run this way, it will be a lot easier to just relax and enjoy the experience.”
Anne Crispino-Taylor is just a few races away from running her 100th ultramarathon. And it just so happens to be the one that got it all started...the S.O.B. 50-Miler in Ashland, Ore.