By Ryan Ghelfi
On a high mountain ridgeline, early morning rays glance off your face as you stride over undulating single-track with never-ending views. Perfection. This is the setting of the Siskiyou Out Back Trail Runs (SOB). Starting and finishing only 30 minutes from downtown Ashland, OR, atop the Siskiyou Crest, all three races (15k, 50k, and 50-mile) traverse west along the backbone of the range and return to the Mt. Ashland lodge. SOB is my favorite race to come back to each year. RDs John and Rob don’t mess around and always put on a top-notch event. 2015 was no different for the 500-plus finishers.
The 50-mile race saw the men’s course record go down as Ben Stern (24) of Humboldt defeated Hal Koerner, dropping him by mile 20 and never looking back. At least Ben told me he had to work hard to break my time of 6:32 (2012), bringing the new record two minutes faster to 6:30! Youth has its upsides, no doubt.
Susan Barrows of Bend was the women’s 50-mile champion in a rout, beating the next competitor by nearly two hours! She cracked the top 10 overall and notched the fourth fastest time on the SOB 50-mile course. Stacy Shelly and Jodie Wood were second and third, respectively.
The men’s 50k saw the deepest field in the race’s 17-year history. Seven men ran under 3:56. A lead pack of four separated early and exchanged positions all morning. Ultra newbie Eric Ghelfi (my little bro) was near Max King’s CR pace (3:33) with seven miles left. But it was not to be, as his wheels completely derailed on the final 1,200-foot climb. Tyler Van Dyke (22) took the lead with 10k to go and held off Brett Hornig (23) and myself, finishing in 3:40. Hornig and I were not far behind, finishing in 3:43 and 3:44.
On the women’s side of the 50k, Natalie Ghelfi (my wife) ran from behind all morning, only taking the lead in the final 10k to take the win in her first ultra with a time of 4:30. Tracy Bowling held onto second in 4:38, and Roxanne Woodhouse of Weaverville rounded out the podium finishing in just over five hours.
I encourage any first-time or veteran trail runners to make the trek to come run along the crest of this great range next year. The course and the stunning backdrop of the State of Jefferson will keep you grinning from ear to ear, and the post-race celebrations are second to none. Mythical Mount Shasta watches over all the finishers as the sun departs on the western skyline.
Unending gratitude to the volunteers who selflessly beat up their cars’ suspensions to supply all the remote aid stations along the course. We could not do it without you!