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Posts Tagged ‘trail running’

Last weekend I went camping with two of my dearest girlfriends. For approximately two weeks prior to the trip I had debated with myself about whether or not I would actually go. My debate most often centered on money and my desire to spend as little as possible due to a variety of unexpected expenses this summer. But as the date got closer, my need to get out of town, decompress and feed my soul was far greater than my penny-pinching-debt-pay-down ways.

Friday morning I had to drop my puppy off at the kennel. I always feel guilty about that, even if it’s only for a couple of nights. To ease my own guilt I took him for an early morning run. I reasoned he would be so exhausted from the run he wouldn’t have enough energy to give me his sad puppy eyes when I said good-bye at the kennel. For those of you not familiar with my puppy, here he is.

Trigger

At a little over 200 pounds he is not a lover of the run, but he does love me and if I want to run with him he will run with me, for at least a little while. I’ve pushed him to run 4 miles before, but his limit is really 2. Friday we ran just under 2 and he was beat. After drinking a bucket of water, he sprawled out on my bedroom floor while I showered and got ready. We went to the kennel and said our good-byes with a minimum of sad looks.

Then I was off to drive 3 hours to my girlfriends home in Terrabonne, or as she calls it “TerraBama.” The day was sunny, the drive was lovely and Mt. Hood was a spectacular site.

mt. hood

I got to C’s house around 10:30 and while she and S finished getting ready I enjoyed a nice cup of hot tea while sitting by her koi pond.

koi pond

Later I sat in her backyard with Frank. C’s standard poodle. You would never know from this picture that just seconds before he was all in my face attacking me.

MeNFrank

C had purchased a month’s worth of groceries and after her husband helped us get them all out to the cars we headed to our final destination. Camp Sherman. We arrived a little before 2 and were allowed to check into our cabin a little early. When we got into the cabin we all just kind of stood there looking around in amazement. It was pretty spectacular. The photos online were nice, but actually standing in the cabin looking around was far, far better.

After dropping our things in our bedrooms we opened the French doors and lounged in the Adirondack chairs a few feet from the Metolius River and let the vacation begin. C (who is a master chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris), made Margaritas, fresh salsa and chocolate chip cookies in a matter of minutes. Instantly everything was right in the world.

Travis2

SnacksonDeck

Later that evening we walked around Camp Sherman for a bit before we had dinner at the Kokanee Café.

TravisNCait

Dinner was to celebrate C’s 60th birthday that happened a couple months ago. The Kokanee Café was charming and even though we were in the middle of Central Oregon and the menu was pretty meat heavy I was able to enjoy a wonderful and oh-so-pretty beet salad.

BeetSalad

Then we went back to the cabin, sat on the deck and I drank my first glass of bourbon. “Drank” is probably not the right word, it was more like “sip, let it burn down my throat, and then sip again.” Needless to say I was ready for sleep after that.

Saturday morning I got up while the cabin was still quiet and put my running clothes on. It was a pretty, bright and sunny morning and I couldn’t wait to get out there and run. I ran away from the river first, along a bike trail. So, so pretty. Constant reminders of why I love Oregon so much.

Morning run

Morning run6

After that portion of my run I made my way to the bridge we had walked over the night before. I noticed there was a path that ran along both sides of the river so I followed the one on the right. It was amazing. I ran, walked, took pictures, ran some more and was happy to see other runners out.

Morning run4

morning run5

When I got back to the cabin the ladies were up and on the deck. C handed me a cup of tea and I sat for a while before I jumped in the shower. When I got dressed and came out into the living room I was taken by this view. I had to take a picture. So, so happy I decided to come and be a witness.

TheCabin1

We drove into Sisters and did some shopping.

TravisConvertible

I bought some olives (LOVE) and some Strawberry infused balsamic vinegar and C & S bought some clothes. Headed back to Camp Sherman that afternoon C advised S and me that it was time to do some fishing. “If we must” was kind of the attitude S and I had, but since we were gathered to celebrate C, and she wanted to fish, we were fishing.

After we got to the location we had to put on waders and boots. It was painful. The boots were the right size but they seemed to squeeze my foot so painfully tight I could have cried. C swore it would be better as soon as I got in the water but I didn’t believe her. Still we joked and laughed and had the best time, all while preparing to do some fly fishing. It was so fun. Again, glad I had come.

TravisFF5

TravisFF4

Then I stepped into the water and made my way out to the center of the river. Wow. I am not a fisherman. In fact, I don’t “GET” fishermen. I don’t understand why people fish. It seems boring, time consuming and silly. Um, until I found myself standing in the middle of this rushing river and loved it. Didn’t catch anything, in fact, I wasn’t really trying. Standing in the middle of the river as the water rushed around me, on a beautiful, sunny day brought a peace on me I had not experienced in quite some time. I loved it and while I won’t say that I’ll ever fly fish again, I will most definitely stand in the middle of a river with waders and boots on and hold a fishing pole, just to get that sensation back. Peace. Pure and simple.

TravisFlyFishing

TravisNSandraFF

After that excursion we went back to the cabin to claim our spots on the back deck, eat munchies and I think I drank a beer as we watched the water. Later that evening C whipped up dinner and after it got dark we walked back to the Kokanee Café to sit in the bar and have a drink together. Wonderfulness.

While C & S were staying one more night, I was leaving on Sunday. I wanted to get back by 1 p.m. to pick up my puppy from the kennel so that required I leave shortly after 9. I got up early to run and say good-bye to Camp Sherman and the Metolius and again spend some time being grateful for my life.

When I got back to the cabin I enjoyed a cup of tea, jumped into the shower, passed out hugs and headed home. I made pretty good time considering I went home over the Santiam Pass, which is a two lane road with not enough passing lanes and way, way, way too many motorhomes traveling. Since I made good time I stopped in Salem to see my niece. Her and her fiancé have a dessert company and they were selling their products at the Salem Bite & Brew. She was surprised and happy to see me since it’s been awhile and she asked me to hang around for a bit because her mother would be arriving soon. It was worth the wait! I was thrilled to get to see and chat with my former sister-in-law. It had been about 6 years since I’d seen her last. After that reunion I got it in gear and went to pick up the puppy.

When I got home I put my stuff away and lounged in my quiet house reflecting on the weekend and the joy of friendship and family that will always be family regardless of circumstances. There is a lot going on in my life right now, but all things considered I have very little, if anything, to complain about. I’m happy, healthy and content with me. Can’t ask for much more.

C got us a gift to commemorate our trip at Camp Sherman. The bracelets have the longitude and latitude location of the cabin we stayed at. So unique and thoughtful.

Bracelet

All3ofUs2

Until next time people! Be well!

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It was a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest!  The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the otherwise nonexistent wind was a gentle whisper when you needed it, and the temperatures were in the 70s.  It was summer perfection at the end of spring.  A perfect day!

In my world any day is a great day for running, but a flawless day, like this one, demanded I put on a running skirt, match it with a wicking shirt, lace up my bright and vibrant Saucony’s and hit the road for a run.  As luck would have it this particular day on my calendar was already booked with a marathon!

When compared to other, more prevalent marathons, the Timberline Marathon is very small.  While the Portland Marathon draws 12,000 to 15,000 runners, (and I don’t doubt Timberline could draw that many too), due to its location Timberline has a cap of 300 combined for all of their events (a marathon and two halfs).  This year there were 104 marathoners and I couldn’t have been more excited to be one of them.

The event location was Timothy Lake.  It’s one of many dazzling lakes in the Mt. Hood National Forest, which sits approximately 50 miles southeast of Portland, Oregon.  Timothy Lake is a popular camping destination for Oregonians, offering campers an ideal setting to boat, horseback ride, bike, hike or run with spectacular views of Mt. Hood in the backdrop.  As excited as I was to get up there and run, I never imagined the day would be so packed with lessons I needed to learn.

The marathon started at 8:30 that morning.  Since it was a two hour drive from my house to Timothy Lake I was up at 4:30 preparing for my day; eating my pre-race meal, drinking water, filling up my hydration pack, packing my Garmin, iPod, mosquito repellant, etc.  I managed to get out of the house by 5:30!  Since I’m naturally slow (thanks to genes passed down, with love, by my mother) 5:30 was a victory!  Lesson learned:  not hitting snooze is the way to roll.  When I pulled out onto the street, I had to stop at the corner and take a picture.  It seemed novel, and worth documenting, that I could see the mountain I was headed to from my driveway.  But then again it is the highest peak in Oregon!  Lesson learned:  beauty is all around me.

Mt Hood from my House

The drive up was uneventful but pleasant and only required I stop twice to use the bathroom.  Lesson learned:  I may not EAT McDonalds food, but they are ideal for quick bathroom stops.  I arrived at the Ranger Station, where the run started, shortly before 7:30.  It gave me time to pick up my bib and t-shirt, hook up with my two running chick friends and use the porta-potty before the 8:30 start.  The mosquitos were fat and relentless, diving in pairs at uncovered skin and being outright annoying.  Apparently, as part of a mosquito’s buffet, I am a delicacy and never fail to be bitten to the extreme.  I hurried back to my car and silently thanked my mother for giving me a stack of Off! Deep Woods Repellent Towelettes!  I ripped a couple open and took great care to wipe down my legs, arms, neck, back and face!  Instantly the mosquitos became a non-factor, nothing more than dive bombing acrobats on the stage of someone else’s skin!  They left me alone and I was grateful.  Lesson learned: never enter mosquito territory without the Off!

As the Race Director made random announcements and told us how long before the start, the group of runners waiting to begin their day’s journey of 26.2 miles gave off an electric energy.  It’s an energy I love, an energy that keeps my passion for running strong and consistent because I’m reminded I’m not alone, I’m not crazy, and I’m part of a mighty group of people who find peace, solace and joy in pushing their bodies to an extreme any other person would likely reject outright.  Lesson learned:  runner’s rock!  Amidst the power-driven energy the chicks and I talked, laughed, stood in line for our last nervous pee, and took “before” pictures. 

MeNA

Then it was time to get in line.  To ensure our timing chips registered on the computer we were directed to run, one at a time, across the starting mats.  Given there were only 104 of us it didn’t take as long as it could have taken and I was over the mat and on my way within the first ten minutes.

Tranquility is found when I run on wooded trails.  The hum of machinery, din of traffic, and vibration of people talking is replaced with the hush of trees, songs of birds and the often melodic sound of insects.  It’s an opportunity to breathe deeply, release what weighs me down and see, with clear eyes, the beauty that surrounds me with gratefulness in my heart.  While I was anxious to see Timothy Lake I enjoyed the peacefulness of the trail as it made its way away from the Ranger Station, down quite a hill and then up to a ridge that offered, after quite a steep climb, the first view of Timothy Lake.  I was so happy to be there.  Lesson learned: a magnificent view is worth the wait.

THE First View Timothy Lake

The natural avenue of trees and thick mossy foliage was tight, shady and cool at times but yet the sun, where the trees allowed, kissed the earth with gentle warmth to remind me it was truly a beautiful day.  Down, around, through the trees I ran towards the lake.  Periodically I passed, or was passed by other runners, but for the most part I was alone in the woods and enjoying it.  Lesson learned: time alone is a gift.

Timberline Marathon

The first of three aid stations was at the 5 mile mark and after running for an hour I was sure I had to be getting close.  I might have known with more certainty, or possibly cared less, if I had remembered to pull my Garmin and iPod out of my bag in the car, but I hadn’t and all I could think about was my dire need to pee and how it was far too early to be squatting in the woods.  Lesson learned:  maybe a little less water before the race starts.

Finally I entered the clearing where Aid Station 1 sat, rushed into the porta-potty and after that, grabbed a cup of Gatorade.  I thanked the volunteer and headed back out into the woods, hoping I wouldn’t need another porta-potty for at least 5 miles since that’s when the next opportunity would present itself. 

It was about this time when I realized my hydration backpack was much too heavy.  It was a new item that I had run with once before, on a 24 mile trail run, but it hadn’t been as cumbersome as it seemed now.  Friends familiar with the Timberline Marathon had stressed the importance of being self-sufficient with respect to food since the aid stations only provided water and Gatorade.  On reflection I’m sure I took this suggestion too far because it felt as if I had packed enough food to survive in the wild, with no human contact, for at least five days.  It was uncomfortable and distracting.   Lesson learned:  don’t pack as if it’s the end of days.  26.2 miles is not that far.

As I continued on I came upon another runner and we started to talk.  Since I like to talk (understatement), and love to meet new runners, I was grateful for the distraction.   She was from Florida, in town for a conference and had made the decision to come a day early so she could run the marathon.  She was a strong runner, with many marathons under her belt, but being from flat Florida she was having more trouble with the elevation gains than she had expected.  She had set her Garmin to allow her to run five minutes and walk one and asked me if I wanted to run that sequence with her for a while.  The conversation was enjoyable and the distraction seemed necessary so I jumped at the opportunity.  Lesson learned: friends can be made anywhere.

By the next aid station, at mile 10, we had begun to run through the campgrounds that surround the lake and had crossed over the dam.  People were everywhere, playing in water, laying in the shade, fishing.  They were more welcome distractions.  I ate a Lara Bar, which did nothing to lighten my load, and continued on with the run.

Timothy Lake

By the third aid station, at approximately mile 11.5, I was struggling.  My quads felt tight, I was getting tinges of pain in my back and my ankles were cramping.  My ankles had rolled a few times while running and were really sore, but the cramping was a new and weird sensation.  It hurt.  Lesson learned:  cramping can happen in the oddest locations.

The pain and discomfort I felt was slowing me down and in turn slowing my running partner down so I told her to go on without me.  At that point I knew I was coming up on the intersection where I would be offered the choice of turning left to start my second loop around the lake, or turning right toward the finish line.  For at least half a mile I considered turning right and calling it good with the half.  I rationalized a half was better than none.  When I saw the trees with the markers a few yards ahead my mind was saying “alright I’m out of here, right it is.”  But when I actually got there, without hesitation, I went left.  Lesson learned: the mind is no match for the will of a runner.   

The left turn had me climbing up onto a really cool log bridge.  It was my favorite bridge the first time around the lake, but the climb up onto it the second time was painful.  Ironically, I had forgotten that shortly after crossing the log bridge you had to climb up the steep hill (that seemed more extreme on the second loop) to the initial glimpse of the lake.  My legs screamed at me but they kept going.

The log bridge

Once I reached the top the running was better and the ankles seemed to work out their issues.  My legs still hurt but they were able to keep moving along the path that fluctuated with rolling hills, and flat spots.  There were multiple trees down across the path that you had to climb over.  The first time around I jumped over most of them as I continued to run, this time, to avoid falling, I slowly climbed over them.  While I didn’t fall, I got a couple of good scrapes climbing over the trees.  Lesson learned:  when you’re tired, fallen trees can be dangerous.

I realized I hadn’t seen another runner for quite some time.  This small realization was an open invitation for my mind to start its attempt to defeat me.  Lesson learned:  the mind is powerful.

First  View of Timothy Lake Timberline Marathon

I knew without doubt I was the last runner and it was a first for me.   I’m the queen of encouragement.  Novice runners can count on me to help them drink the runner’s kool-aid as I assure them that where they finish in a race doesn’t matter.  What matters is that they run, that they move, that they keep going with relentless, forward progress.  But as I trudged along, in a little pain, with a heavy pack on my back, alone, so very far from the finish and without a doubt last, I lost my composure and I cried.  Lesson learned: sometimes crying is necessary.

When I stopped crying I tried to figure out where I was.  I guessed I was about 2 miles from the first aid station, which would mean when I reached it I would have approximately 8.5 miles to the finish.  There was a time limit on the marathon of 6.5 hours.  I looked at my phone, saw it was twenty minutes before 1 and worked out a “plan.”  If I could get to the aid station by 1 p.m., I would have two hours to get to the finish.  I knew the average person could walk 4 miles an hour, so even if I walked I could likely make it by 3, and I didn’t expect to just walk.  This realization calmed me a little as I said out loud “doesn’t matter when you finish, it just matters THAT you finish.”  Lesson learned:  having a plan is important. 

By the time I reached the aid station my phone battery was dead, so I didn’t know what time it was.  It was probably a blessing since knowing the time could have sent me into a tailspin and heightened my stress about finishing.  Lesson learned: sometimes electronic devices can be detrimental to your spirit.  

Relentless Forward Progress

I headed back into the woods towards the next aid station.  My legs were heavy, my ankles were sore, my feet were tired.  I could feel pebbles, twigs and the like in my shoes.  One particular pebble in my right shoe was under my heel and every time I stepped down on it sharp pains would shoot up my leg.  Had I been of sound mind I would have stopped, took off the shoe, got rid of the pebble and other debris and continued on.  I was emotionally unstable, however, and my thought process didn’t work like that.  Instead I thought “if I stop to take out the pebble I will waste time that I don’t have, better to continue on and live with the pain.”  Lesson learned: stupidity knows no bounds.

During one of my walking breaks (which truly wasn’t that much faster than my running pace) a man approached me from the other direction.  At first I thought he was a mirage because it had been so long since I had seen anyone other than the volunteer at the aid station.  He smiled at me and said “are you okay to finish?”  It took a second for me to figure out he was part of the race support.

I said “yep, I’m okay.  I’ll finish.  Pretty sure I’m last though.”  Then I asked him if he knew what time it was. 

Instead of telling me the time he said “you’re about 15 minutes from the dam, and it’s about 5 miles after that.”  With that he turned and continued his walk the other way.  I was irritated with him for not answering my question.  But after a little more walking I figured he had done me a favor.  The time would not have been as helpful as the 15 minutes and 5 miles.  Instead of sending me into a panic, his information gave me hope.  Lesson learned: what we think we want is not always what we need.

Fifteen minutes sounded so close, but as I continued the pebble in my shoe began to feel like a boulder and when I ran my ankles hurt so deeply I imagined my legs would snap right off.  So I walked. 

I was dejected, disappointed, frustrated and felt incredibly alone.  I cried again.  Sobbed.  Questioned my ability as a runner, wondered why I thought this was something I could do.  Laughed, through the tears, at the mere idea of me running and completing a 50 mile event.   Decided I would hang up my shoes and try something else.  Swimming sounded good.  With that decision made I wiped my face, sat on a stump, took off my shoes and shook out a pile of crap that had accumulated.  When I put the shoes back on the difference was astounding.  My rational brain yelled loudly:  “DUH!” 

Within five minutes I came upon a clearing where an older man sat in his chair.  I’d guess he was in his late 60s or early 70s.  Because I hadn’t reached the dam, which is where the campgrounds began, it was odd to see him out there.  He hadn’t been there the first time around.  He saw me and reached for his noise maker.  He cheered at me, told me I was doing great and then said “this here is 21+ miles.”

I said, “really?  Then I’m closer than I thought I was.” 

He said “yep, you’ve made it!  Congratulations, you’re doing great.”

As I continued on, doing the math in my head, I realized he was way wrong.  There was absolutely no way I could be at 21+ miles since I hadn’t reached the dam.  And while I was at it, I realized the first guy I met had lied to me as well.  I had certainly been moving for longer than 15 minutes and yet I still hadn’t reached the dam!  I cursed at them both and considered going back to the old man and pushing him out of his chair, but I knew that was silly.  Lesson learned:  see encouragement for what it is, encouragement.

Mt Hood Timothy Lake

Finally, after what seemed like forever I came out of the woods into the lot that approaches the dam.  The sun felt amazing on my skin and seeing people enjoying the laziness of camping made me happy and lightened my heart.  I ran a little and it didn’t hurt like it had, so I ran some more.  As I ran across the dam, towards the second aid station I decided possibly I’d give running one more chance.  Lesson learned: decisions should not be made in the middle of a crisis.

At the aid station I realized the same two men that had been at the first aid station were now at the second aid station.  The older gentleman smiled at me and asked me how I was doing.  I assured him that while I was hurting, I was fine.  He asked if there was anyone behind me and I said, “nope, pretty positive I’m the last one.” 

He said “alrighty then we’ll see you at the next aid station!” I laughed.

Hearing myself say out loud, for the second time, that I was the last one to finish was cathartic in a way.  It didn’t seem as bad as thinking about it in my head.  I felt less like a failure and became more in tune with humble gratefulness for my ability to actually finish 26.2 miles.  Lesson learned:  humility is powerful.

I made my way along the trail that travels through the countless camp grounds.  As I passed people they cheered me on, told me l was doing great, that I was almost there, that I should be so proud.  Every time someone said anything to me, I smiled and said “thank you” and then as soon as I was out of their line of vision the tears would stream down my face.  The tears were for mixed reasons:  I truly was almost there, and kind words are uplifting.  Lesson learned: don’t miss an opportunity to say a kind word to someone.  It might help more than you’ll ever know.

I got to the final aid station and the same two men were waiting.  The older man smiled again at me and said “are you still last?”  I laughed at him.  To you as a reader, his question may seem rude, but he really said it in the kindest way possible.  There was no malice behind his words and I took it the way he intended.

I said “yep, still last.”

He said “the girl in front of you is less than a minute ahead of you!”  The excitement in his voice was incredible.  He continued “I swear, she just came through here, if you hurry I’m SURE you can pass her!” 

It made me laugh again.  A lot.  I thanked him for the information and for just being out there and then I made my way back into the woods.  I was surprised and oddly grateful that there was someone else in front of me.  So close.  I hadn’t seen another runner in hours and the idea that there was one relatively close made me feel not so alone.  Of course, I immediately doubted the validity of his statement, thinking once again someone was simply trying to make me feel better, but as I rounded a corner I saw another runner ahead of me.  As she approached a switchback on the trail I was able to see it wasn’t just any runner, it was one of my girlfriends!  She waved at me and I yelled “hey!” with a smile in my voice.  It was the first real smile I’d felt in at least 10 miles.  I had no need, or desire, to catch up to her, no need, or desire, to pass her.  Merely seeing her and knowing that she was out there gave me comfort.   Lesson learned: a familiar friendly face is worth a million bucks at times.

Finally I arrived at that intersection I’d come to before and with a heavy sigh of relief I turned right and put my momentum into the 1.5 miles to the finish.  It was a brutal mile long climb up a mountain and I felt every stinking inch of it in every part of my body and then I was on even ground and headed for the real finish.

For multiple reasons I started crying again.  I was exhausted, my whole body ached, my feet were on fire, my fingers were big fat sausages that screamed in pain when I tried to make a fist, and I felt dizzy.  I didn’t know what time it was, but I was fairly certain it was beyond the 6 ½ hour time limit.  I wondered if the finish line would still be there.  I wondered if I’d get a medal.  I wondered if I’d come around to find nothing.  I wondered what that would feel like and how I would handle it.

I reached the clearing, wiped my face, put one foot in front of the other in a flat out run and made my way around the final corner to see both of my girlfriends, their husbands, the finish line and the timing clock still ticking.  After everything it was finally over and as bad as I felt, and geez did I feel bad, I was elated that I had finished. 

Mecrossingfinish

As I caught my breath the cutest little girl walked up to me and handed me a medal.  As I put it around my neck I felt, without an ounce of doubt, it was the most well deserved marathon medal I had ever received. 

Finishers Medal Timberline

I’m not sure why this marathon was so difficult for me.  There are endless possibilities:  I hadn’t trained enough, my nutrition was off, I didn’t get enough sleep, I didn’t wear the right shoes, or something else in the grand scheme wasn’t right.  The other possibility is that I simply had a bad run.

I know bad runs happen.  While it would be ideal for them to happen at times other than while I’m running a marathon, I can’t deny that this particular bad run taught and reminded me of some great life lessons.

Life is not a cake walk;

Through challenge comes triumph;

Anything is possible; and

I am stronger than I think I am!

 

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marathon_motivation1

Woot-woot!!  Excited is an understatement.

Work’s been a bear, life has been challenging but I cannot tell you how excited I am to get out there and run my 26.2 little miles tomorrow amidst the trees and lovely greenary. 

The weather people are predicting temps in the 70’s and a clear blue sky.  The views of Mt. Hood should be spectacular!  Expect pictures!

Running Makes Me Smile

Enjoy your weekend people!  I totally intend to enjoy mine! 🙂

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I ran with Maureen in Forest Park on Saturday.  The trails we touched on our 11 mile adventure included Wildwood, Wild Cherry, Dog Wood, Fire lane 1 and Leif Erickson (where the masses tend to run because either (a) they don’t like actual trail running; (b) are afraid to venture onto an actual trail; or (c) think running on an actual road (not accessible by vehicles) that travels through the park is as good as it gets!   HA!  If they only knew!)

Maureen had just run the Tacoma Marathon (in heat we, in the Pacific Northwest, are not used to running in) six days earlier and I had run 24 trail miles seven days earlier.  As such, we were in no hurry in our efforts and did a good bit of hiking mixed in with the running. 

I’ve decided I’m not going to beat a dead horse here. 

I love running.

I love trails. 

I love trail running.

If you’ve been following along, you know this already. 

Maureen took this picture of me on Saturday and I love it because it is truly me in one of my very happy places. 

 Me Away on Trail

 While I’m not running at the moment this picture was taken, what I see when I look at it is Me,  happy to be alive, healthy in ways I never imagined, grateful to live where I do and content with my life. 

Even with the bullshit.

I can’t really ask for more than that.

Have a good week people!

*************************

P.S. Here is a new blog that I love and have started following — murchubrian — I think he just started it.  The content is enjoyable — if you like trail running take a peak (of course even if you don’t like trail running you can take a peak!)

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First, a picture of me, taken by an official race photographer that doesn’t look horrible!  You’d never know I was not feeling this race, would you?  I think it has something to do with the tulips in the background!

Race Photo

For the sake of preparing for the Timberline Marathon (in 26 days!), over the last month it’s been my goal to run at least one day over the weekend on the trails in Forest Park.  Sadly I had to miss one weekend, but only one.

I’ve always known I have a “thing” for long runs.  A love, love, hate, love “thing” for long runs.  I live for the runs that are greater than 15 miles.  They give me time to bitch, moan, pout and get the “I don’t want to do this” mantra out of my head and then they let me relax and ever so gracefully remind me that Oh.My.God.I.Love.To.Run!

This last month has taught me something else.  Trail Running is where my heart is happiest.  Trail running kicks ass and leaves me with a satisfaction I have never had on any road run I’ve done in the almost four years I’ve been running.  Trail running and long runs are like peanut butter and chocolate.  Perfect.

Last week, thanks to Craigslist, I purchased two hydration backpacks.  One was a never used Nalgene backpack with a 50 ounce bladder, the other a slightly used CamelBak with a 70 ounce bladder.  I’d never run with a hydration pack so I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel and which would work best for me, etc.  So I bought both of them for $30. 

It was supposed to be hot on Saturday, in the mid 80s, and I was running 24 miles with one of the Chicks so I thought it would be best to use the 70 ounce bladder.  Only thing was the CamelBak pack was not that big.  I could get the bladder in there but very little else.  So I put the 70 ounce bladder into the Nalgene pack that had tons of room, allowing me to throw in a couple of bananas, my individual packs of almond butter, some pretzels, trail mix, protein granola bars, a stinger gel pack and my cell phone and keys.  Instead of just water in the bladder I added some recovery drink. 

Friday I ate pasta with pesto for dinner and a really great bread roll and then I got up at 3 in the morning to down a Warrior Meal bar with 20 ounces of water, before I went back to sleep for a couple of hours.   When I got up at 5 I ate a piece of toast with jam and a banana, drank some more water and packed up all my stuff.  The pack weighed 7 pounds fully loaded.

I was meeting Aleta at the zoo which is where Wildwood officially starts.  On the way to the zoo I drank some more water and a little bit of Gatorade, but not much really because I hate Gatorade and it’s hard for me to choke it down, yet it works for me when I do.

We were on the trail by 7 and headed out.  It was a beautiful morning and it felt great being out there.  Before we reached one mile I had to pee, which made sense with all the liquid I had been drinking since 3 a.m.  Interestingly (to me) I’m getting more comfortable with squatting in the forest to pee.  It is far better than trying to hold it for 5+ hours.

We made our way up to Pittock Mansion then we ran down the other side into Forest Park – fun.  I loved it.  Once we got to the 5¼ mark we started our climb back up the mountain.  Huge elevation gains, beautiful views, nice shade.  Perfect.  Around mile 9½ we started dropping back down into the bowl of the forest and maintained that downward (for a good portion) descent all the way to mile 12.  We turned around at mile 12 and headed back.  Up, up, up, level, rolling, down, up, up, up, level, level, level, rolling, down, down, down, straight up.  It was awesome.  Almost back, we passed a mile marker and Aleta said “you realize we’re past 20 miles, right?” and it dawned on me that while I knew we had passed 20 miles on some level, it was unlike any 20 miles I had ever run because I felt GREAT.  My wall is usually around mile 18 and when I hit it, I hit it HARD and it takes at least a mile, sometimes two to recover.  I never hit a wall on this run.  Never.

We got back to our starting point where it was a very hot 84 degrees and stretched out.  Could I have run another 2.2 miles?  Definitely.  I believe I could have run quite a bit more than an additional 2.2 miles!  Yay!

If there were any negatives it would be during the last few miles I really, really just wanted some PLAIN water.  I was sick of the recovery drink.  Not sure yet, but I think I might try to put the other bladder into the pack and see if I can handle both of them.  I’d put recovery drink in the smaller one and plain water in the second.  It would increase the weight of the pack, but it really didn’t seem that heavy since it’s made to evenly distribute the weight.  We’ll see.

Another negative, towards the end I could tell I was tired because I wasn’t picking my feet up very high, which isn’t good on trails since there are rocks, tree roots and other organic stuff out there.  I almost fell a couple of times, but managed to stay upright and only bang on my big toes – they are fine though.  No black toenails have surfaced yet.  And I still love my trail shoes.

This is how I looked at the end of 24 miles.  No pain.  Happiness for sure!

24 Miles Done

Next Saturday I’ll be running with Maureen.  Not sure how far she wants to go (she just ran a marathon yesterday in serious heat!), but I’ll be up for whatever it is – I’d guess in the 15 mile range.  The following weekend I want to run at least 26, possibly 28 starting early from the zoo again.  That’ll give me a nice long run two weeks before Timberline and then two weeks to run shorter distances (I suppose we can call it tapering).  That last week I probably won’t run much at all with the holiday weekend and my youngest son’s birthday – but I can’t be sure of that.

Saturday night Blue Eyes and I went to the late movie and saw 42.  It was worth the price of admission and the company was good.  Whatever I was feeling on Friday has moved on.  The situation remains but I feel more sure of myself and less needy.  This too shall pass.  Hoping it passes quickly.

Have a wonderful week people!

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I’m not sure what it’s equal to, but let me tell you that it feels like a whole hell of a lot more than 23 street miles.

This past weekend was the Vernonia Marathon.  I didn’t run it, even though I considered it.  I ran it last year and didn’t finish.  I need to run it again so I can quit being afraid of it, but this year I wasn’t prepared to do that.  All the same I told myself I’d run a marathon distance this weekend, on my own, just to reassure (or possibly remind) myself that I actually can (and have) run 26.2 miles.

I meant to run a few times last week prior to the 26 on Saturday, but I didn’t.  Life seems hectic and busy of late and while I’ve been diligent about my lifting, kickboxing and yoga in the evening, I didn’t make it a priority to get out of bed early last week to run.   It didn’t derail my desire to run the distance on Saturday, however.  If anything, it made me look more forward to it.   

On another note, I found out recently Timberline has a 7-hour time limit to finish.  Timberline: the lovely, high altitude trail marathon I will be running on June 1st.  Has it EVER taken me 7 hours to finish a marathon?  No.  Has it EVER taken me close to 7 hours to finish a marathon?  No.  But for some reason when I know there is a time limit I start to freak out.  Running is my mental mind fuck. 

So, while I wanted to run 26.2 on Saturday, it seemed more important to prove to myself that I can and will finish the Timberline Marathon within the 7 hour time limit.   Mid-week one of the chicks asked if anyone wanted to join her for 23 miles on the Wildwood trail.  Given all of the foregoing, I jumped at the opportunity.  Twenty-three trail miles would not be the same as 26.2 street miles, but it was more in line with what I needed and, depending on how long it took, it would hopefully help me calm the fuck down. 

Christine, the chick looking for a running buddy, runs fast.  She’s 13 years younger than me and ran her last 50k in a little more than 5 hours – because she rolled and twisted her ankle at mile 15 and had to go a little slower because of the pain.  Her normal pace is 8:30.  Mine is 10:10 on a good day, 10:30 on an average day and 11 if I haven’t slept much.   I was thrilled to run with her though because it’s always nice to run with company, and I thought it might help me run faster.   We were joined by another chick that I adore.  Here we are at mile 7.  Still happy.

TheThreeChicks

Even though it wasn’t raining when we got to Wildwood, it had rained off and on, at times hard, for the previous 48 hours.  The trail was a mud pit in places and I still hadn’t purchased any trail shoes.  That wasn’t good.  My left ankle took a beating, constantly sliding out from under me, unable to get the appropriate grip and it HURT before we got to the turn-around spot.

We started at the 53rd trail head which drops you down onto Wildwood at the 9.25 mile marker.  We ran, talked, laughed our way eleven and a half miles out to mile marker 20.75.  I took this picture and posted it on Facebook with the words “half way!” without thinking too much about it.  It wasn’t til I got back to my car and saw some of the comments that I realized how misleading that was.  HA! 

HalfWayTurnAround

My brother’s comment was “Oh hell no” – I had to go in and say no, we didn’t actually run 41.5 miles, only 23.  To which I had multiple girlfriends text me and say “who says ‘only 23’?”

On the way back Amy told us she had never run more than 18 miles, ever.  We were probably at mile 16 when she told us.  Christine and I were excited for her, she was excited, but I’d say within the next 4 miles she started to fade fast.  By mile 21 I was starving, my left ankle was throbbing and I was sure I was going to fall on my ass from the mud.  We started walking up the hills (which seemed to be relentless) and by the time we had less than 2 miles to go Amy announced she could not run anymore.  I was fine with that.  I’m not sure I could have run anymore either.

We finished the 23 trail miles in just under 6 hours (and this included walking for 2 miles, peeing in the woods a couple of times, and the times we stopped to take pictures and eat).  I stood at the street looking back at the trail and said “I should be able to finish an additional 3.2 miles in less than an hour right?”  They both laughed at me and assured me I could.  I think they may be right.

Here are my sad, sad shoes after Saturday’s 23 muddy miles.  I drove home in my socks because my ankle demanded I take it out of the shoes immediately. 

ShoesAfter23

After a hot shower the ankle felt better but I knew I couldn’t put off purchasing proper trail shoes.  I went to Road Runner and did the whole Shoe Dog thing.  I walked instead of running on the treadmill to be nice to my ankle.  I tried on a bunch of shoes.  Asics, Mizunos, New Balance, Saucony, Brooks.  I liked the Asics GT 2000.  I also really liked the Mizuno Wave Ascend 7, but when I tried on the Saucony Progrid Peregrine 3 my feet were home.  I. Love. Saucony.

NewTrailShoes

I expect to see Wildwood again next Saturday with Maureen.  And then I get to run a pretty flat half marathon through lilac and tulip fields with views of Mt. St. Helens and the Columbia River on Sunday.  That’s a good weekend for sure. 

Have a great week everyone!

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My next marathon is Timberline on June 1st.   A trail marathon.  While it’s not my first marathon it is my first trail marathon and I’m excited, like first-marathon-ever excited, without the same amount of nervousness. 

I love trail running!  I’m not talking about running on paved walking paths that wind through a park, forest, etc.  I’m talking about running on dirt, through puddles, in mud, over rocks, through the forest all while trying desperately to miss tree roots and not twist an ankle.  I love it!

If you live in a big city you might have to travel a distance to actually find some honest trails to run on, but here in Portland we have a forest within our city limits.  It’s one of the largest urban forest reserves in the country with 70 miles of recreational trails including Wildwood (which in and of itself is 30.2 miles). 

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With Timberline fast approaching (53 days) it’s my intent to run trails as much as possible.  Sadly it’s not as much as I’d like it to be, thus far working out to be once a week.

I met Maureen in Northwest on Saturday morning so we could put some time in on Wildwood.  We parked at St. Honore’s Bakery so we’d have something to look forward to on our return.  It had been raining off and on throughout the night but it wasn’t raining when we got together. 

It was a nice half mile warm up (uphill) from the bakery to the trailhead.  Here is a picture of the park where you pick up the trail.  The pavement ends just beyond the bridge at the back of the picture.

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Even though it was drizzly and kind of cold, there were tons of runners heading up into the park early Saturday morning.  It was an amazing day for a run among the trees.

What I love most about trail running is the peaceful, fresh air, natural beauty that you cannot help but notice while you’re out there.  I also love a good mud puddle. 

After we’d reached a point mid-way up Wildwood we stopped to take some pictures.  Maureen snapped this picture of me all sweaty – not flattering.

Me

Here are some pictures I took with my phone.

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I ran in my oldest (and favorite) pair of Sauconys.  I’m a diehard Saucony fan.  They fit my feet perfectly, give where they should, support where I need it most and feel like a second skin.  Sadly, however, I realized these particular shoes are not great for running on trails.  I need a stiffer sole, with a more aggressive tread.  I’m sure Saucony will have a perfect trail runner for me, but I’m stressed about finding one I love and having time to break it in this close to the marathon.  Trail running is on my agenda for the next 6 weeks, so I better get on it. 

All told we ran 9.47 miles of Wildwood.  It was a heck of a climb up and a thrill of a run coming down.  It was perfection on the trail and I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to get out there again!

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