If you’ve tried looking up results for the 2014 Dirty Half Marathon, you won’t find any. The race was canceled less than 24 hours after the first major fire of the season broke out just west of Bend, sending smoke all over the would-be race course and causing several hundred homes to evacuate.
Claire and I were southeast of town on Saturday afternoon riding and running the trails around Horse Butte. I was doing a light 60 minutes with a couple of pre-race pickups over the curving single track to get the legs ready to go for Sunday’s race. Midway through the workout I noticed two small smoke columns rising to the west of town. They seemed small enough to be prescribed burns, which have been used recently, but by the time we got back to the car the columns were merging together into a black super storm that was blotting out the cascades. Another hour later and it seemed an apocalyptic mother ship was hovering over Bend, the sun disappeared in the smoke, intermittently reappearing as a blood red harvest moon. Everything was cast in an orange light without shadow. Given that Phil’s trails are directly south of the fire and the prevailing winds were southerly, it was soon apparent there would not be a race the in morning.
The next day at Smith Rock (instead of racing) the views were relatively clear to the north, but the Three Sisters were completely hidden in haze. Redmond basked in sun, while just outside of the Bend the smokey mother ship controlled the skies, tanker planes and helicopters darting underneath its ceiling in the orange glow. Atop Pilot Butte that evening there were more people than I’ve ever seen, all trying to capture or comprehend the action just a few miles due west. Notions of erupting volcanoes and rampant climate change seemed a little closer to reality.
I’m now 0/2 at starting the Dirty Half. In 2012 I was recovering from a stress fracture in my foot and had to pass; this year mother nature didn’t let anyone start. Not sure if there will be another race before Loon Mtn in New Hampshire, so I might have to get creative.