Picture this: You are driving along the highway when you come around a bend, the trees make way to the most beautiful view. right in front of you stands Mt. Hood with an elevation of 11,250 ft. You continue driving until you come to the White River Sno-Park on the other side of the Mountain. More than adequate parking, a super easy registration/packet pick-up process, then you just have to wait for the start. The Mt. Hood Scramble is put on by X-dog Events, the majority of their races are on Sundays and typically start at 10 am. This means that racers have plenty of time to get to the venue from nearby towns and suburbs of Portland Oregon, pick up their packets, and get warmed up for the scramble.
On the registration page X-dog Events describes this race as the grandfather of filth with a description that says “Do not expect some cutesy lil' downtown 5k, or some wussy boy trail run.” while many of us enjoy our man-made obstacle course races, there is something about natural obstacles that increase the level of fun.
The course is well marked with orange cones, flags, or ribbons tied on trees, so if you get lost it is your own fault. However, navigating the course is a part of the adventure. You should never follow the person in front of you, but make sure you can always see the next marker up ahead. For those of you who hate climbing hills or death marches, rest assured there is only one hill at this race, it's called Mt. Hood. The race begins on a simple gravel trail along the river before the steepest ascent of the course. This is typically where the front of the pack breaks away as it is a race to make it across the river, and into the forest. If the various sized rock scramble didn't get your ankles, the next section might. This is no neatly groomed trail like many of us are so used to. Your eyes have to be continuously searching for the next marker hanging from a tree. Don't forget to focus on where you are running, though, or you will get tripped up by whatever lay on the forest floor or smacked in the face by a branch the person in front of you just ran through.
Around a mile and a half into the course, you get to start running downhill on a trail that allows you to gather some speed. As you finally get into a groove the markers suddenly disappear unless you were able to notice the course made a sharp turn into the trees just enough to throw off your rhythm. About 50 yards ahead the course drops back onto the trail and you get going again.
Halfway through the course, you are back near the starting line at the temptation station, where you have the option of water or a shot of fireball and a small cup of beer. Many racers take this as a challenge and accept the alcohol before continuing to run downriver. A little over 3 miles and you have entered the roughest part of the course. Technical rocky terrain, and switchback markings with small gaps in trees to shoot through. When you have successfully navigated your way and begin running back up the river this is no easy task either. The sandy terrain shifts under every footstep, and the incline continues to play a factor.
After you have crossed the finish line you are welcomed with a beer and buckets of pasta salad, there is a raffle for some prizes and an awards ceremony. As they do with all the X-Dog races, overall and age group winners receive dog tags, and if it is your first X-Dog Event you can get a sticker that says, “I Lost My V with the X.”
The following photos showcase your top 3 male and female athletes, with 1st in the center, 2nd on the left, and 3rd on the right;
I would argue that this is the most underrated race in the Pacific Northwest. A good mix of everything, from short steep hills, extremely technical terrain, bushwacking and tree dodging, river crossings and course navigation. I would rate it a 5 every time as it was fantastic, and one of the best races, every season. The lighthearted atmosphere and the genuine love for running that the hosts at X-dog bring really makes you feel like part of the family, not just another source of revenue. So if you're up for the adventure, and wish to tackle some real obstacles, I hope to see you next year!
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