Monday, July 28, 2014

Running on empty

Missing mile marker on the tree - sort of like our diet on the detox

Ok, running on empty might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure felt like it. Susan and I decided in the middle of one of our highest mile weeks (~70 miles) to start a 10 day detox. We decided to try Dr. Mark Hyman's The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox because it had excellent options for vegans and vegetarians. In a nutshell you cut out sugar, grains, caffeine, alcohol, dairy and gluten. There wasn't any real reason I/we needed to do a detox, we have had several friends do similar detoxes and post about awesome they felt, so I was really just curious how I would feel.

None of our friends who did similar detoxes run the amount of miles we do, so I wasn't sure what we would do about food for our 23 mile run on Saturday. The first 2 days of the detox we were both hungry and a little irritable, Saturday was day 3 of the detox, I was hoping my energy level would be up by then. Back to our food dilemma, we normally take tortilla wraps with peanut butter or avocado or some other protein, along with bars, dried fruit and gels. Besides the insides of the wraps most of this wasn't allowed on the detox. I really wanted to stick to the detox as closely as possible without suffering too much on the run. I looked through all my "running" food and everything had some sort of sugar in it, so I ran over to REI to see what they had. I was able to find an assortment of things that didn't have any artificial sweeteners or sugar in them, they did however have dates but I figured that was as close as I was going to get. I also picked up some Pocket Fuel which has sugar in it, but again it was better than a lot of the other options. I also packed almonds and soy jerky. Susan was more creative, she make quinoa sushi roles with tempeh and avocado. (Quinoa is allowed on the vegetarian/vegan detox in small amounts.)

My mostly "ok" detox foods from REI for our run
We decided to run from the end of Wildwood at Newberry to the Birch trailhead on NW 53rd. The start of the run my legs were feeling really heavy but I started to perk up a few miles in. We stopped more frequently than we normally do to eat, but we had smaller snacks rather than one stop in the middle of the run for "lunch". When we got to the top of the hill at mile 11 on Wildwood, Susan said she needed to sit down because she felt awful, I was surprised because I was feeling great. She said most of the run she was feeling horrible. The only thing I equate to the difference in the way we both felt was she was getting less sleep than I was.

We are now on day 5 of the detox and I am feeling great, I was in a good mood all day at work and I have slept well the last few days. All I can think is the detox is working, but who knows. But I really miss beer! I think some of the detox is sustainable but not the no alcohol thing, life is too short!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pre-fatigue 10

Ann needed to run Sunday this week, so we decided to run 10 miles in order to pre-fatigue-- but not over-fatigue-- before our day-off run on Monday. Luckily, Anna posted on our running group that she was looking to run 10 miles on Sunday, so we joined forces. 

Not pictured here are Sara and Dana, who also joined us but took a different route back. It was so good to run with these awesome women and trade some stories. Hopefully they won't hold this hilly route against me...

A blurry photo of Susan, Anna, Ann & Sally, taken by a kind stranger

Start at Springville trailhead.


  • Springville to Trillium-- .13 mi
  • Trillium to WW (18.57)-- .25 mi
  • WW (18.57) to FL5 (16.69)-- 1.88 mi
  • FL5 to Leif (6.58)-- .23 mi
  • Leif (6.58) to Maple (le 6.44)-- .14 mi
  • Maple to Saltzman-- 1.18 mi
  • Saltman to Leif (6.20)-- .83 mi
  • Leif (6.20) to Gas Line/FL7A  (8.03)-- 1.83 mi
  • Gas Line to WW (19.96)-- .28 mi
  • WW (19.96) to Springville (ww 22.49)-- 2.53 mi
  • Springville to car-- .33mi

Total 9.61


Sunday, July 20, 2014

West Highland Way (or how to run an ultra without running one)

West Highland Way trail marker


In June I went to Scotland with my Dad and step family to hike the West Highland Way. The West Highland Way is one of Scotland's most popular multi-day walks, it is ~100 miles from Glasgow to Fort Williams. The hike starts in the low-lands but most of the hike is in the Highlands. You pass quite a few mountains, spend a few days walking along the forested shores of Loch Lomand. Towards the end of the hike the trail becomes more remote without a lot of options for shelter or escape routes, in case of bad weather or injuries. Luckily we had good weather our whole trip and never found the trails too crowed. Most people do it in 6-8 days, we decided to do it in 7 days. Most days were around 13-15 miles, but we did have one 9 mile day and a 20 mile day. 

I decided to run at least one leg of the West Highland Way, of course I picked the longest day (20 miles). Luckily all we had to carry were day packs, the rest of our luggage was transported to our next hotel. After years of backpacking in Oregon and trekking in the Alps, this felt like I was cheating, but it is nice not to have to carry all your stuff everyday. 

Our 20 mile day also happened to be the day the West Highland Way (ultra) race was going on.  The race started at 1am and we started around 8am at mile 51, I figured it would be towards the end of my 20 miles before anyone passed me, but it was a lot earlier than that. Apparently the guy who passed me won the race last year and was trying to break his record (which he did). Then it became obvious to me that all the hikers I had been passing all morning thought I was in the race. At one point I passed a photographer and his helper and I heard, "here comes the first female". I corrected them, but it was fun to think for a moment that people thought I was an elite ultra runner. So that got me thinking that you can run an ultra without really running one. 


The real ultra runner and winner of the race

How to run an ultra without running one:
  1. Plan a multi day hike with family
  2. Run the longest day which also happens to be the day an ultra marathon is going on on the same trail
  3. Wear a shirt from a previous ultra, just in case people had any doubt.
  4. Profit!



The start of the West Highland Way

Distillery stop mid-hike on the first day

Scottish Highland cows

Selfie with Gretchen after making it to the top of the hill on the 2nd day

View of Loch Lomond on Day 2

Forest! Which was rare, a lot of clear cuts. 

More hippie cows!

Recovery beer


Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

Gretchen and John at lunch

Iconic Scotland green hills

Rock wall crossing

Dad photo bombing me

Fox glove




Just like New Zealand, more sheep than people

Race photographer 

John and Dad telling me what they really think of me

Mountain on the 6th day, which I cannot remember the name of.

Gretchen on the 2nd to last day



Gretchen and me at the end, we were so happy to have finished

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ecola Point to Tillamook Head

Great views and a perfect day for a run

I spent the long, Fourth of July holiday weekend in Manzanita with family. Usually I run Cape Falcon, but this time I decided to switch things up a bit and run up Tillamook Head in Ecola State Park. My husband, his brother and his father came along to hike, and my brother-in-law's wife, Shetha, joined me for a run.

Tillamook Lighthouse in the distance

Sea stacks and an arch

The problem is that the tons of other people at the coast for the same reason had the same idea. The park was packed. So full, in fact, that we had to park at Ecola Point instead of Indian Beach, where I normally start. Because of that, we ran a mile and a half of the Coast Trail I had never been on before-- up and down bluffs, through forest and past amazing sea stack views.

Gorgeous coastal views

Oregon Coast Trail

Once at the Indian Beach picnic area, we (accidentally) took the old road up. It's not exactly scenic, but it's shady and cool(er), and it's graded so it's runnable. At the top of Tillamook Head, we took in the view of Terrible Tilly before continuing north on the Coast Trail.

Indian Beach and Terrible Tilly

South Jetty in the distance

Once we had run for an hour, we turned around and headed back. This time we made sure to take the Clatsop Loop between Tillamook Head and Indian Beach-- it zig-zags along the edge for gorgeous views and makes for some fun downhill running. We stopped for photos, and were happy to find the guys just getting settled into the car. I think our run ended up just over nine miles, and now I know that parking at Ecola Point is the way to go.

Shetha and another beautiful beach

William Sullivan's map of Ecola State Park

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mental toughness training

a gnome representation of what Willie put us through
At the beginning of June Susan and I started training with Willie from Animal Athletics in preparation for our 50 mile race in September.  Willie provides us a monthly training plan and meets with us twice a month for an hour long training session. This past Friday was one of our training sessions and in an email from Willie confirming our session he wrote, "I'm glad were good for Friday, it will be a real doozy of a session". This statement made Susan and I both a little nervous. 

We met Willie on Friday and chatted a little about his recent fast packing trip in the Sierras and then instead of heading into Forest Park to start our training we headed towards the hilly neighborhoods of NW Portland. We started out jogging slowly up and down some hills to "loosen up", then we headed up some stairs and up a few more hilly roads and then Willie stopped and looked up at house. Quickly I realized he wasn't looking up at a house but instead a hidden staircase. This wasn't any staircase, it is equal to about 9 flights of stairs, it is broken into 3 parts. He told us to "warm-up" by walking every step on the first section, every other step on the 2nd section and then every step on the 3rd section and work it out on the way down. No problem! It was a little tricky skipping a step, but otherwise it was pretty easy.

Well I should know better than to think that was all he was going to have us do. He then told us that we had to run every step in the first section, every other step in the second section, and every third step in the third section. Then on the way down we had to skip every other step on the first and third section and not to skip any in the middle section. Then run down the street to a stop sign, back up the hill to a car and back to the stairs. Holy crap! Oh yeah and we were suppose to do this fast and try and beat each other.

It was difficult trying to skip one step, let alone 2 steps and trying to do it with speed, oy vey! Coming down and skipping steps was just as hard, then trying to sprint up and down the street, well that was the easy part. 

After our first round, we had 2 more to go and we were suppose to get faster each round. Willie then informed us after the 3 torturous rounds of this we would have to stand on one leg with our arms held out, like we were on a cross, for 15 minutes. He told us most people have a hard time doing this for even 7 minutes, but we could deduct time if we got faster this next round. I honestly can't remember how much time he would deduct for every second faster we were, but I just knew I was going to get faster. 

It was really hard to get any faster going up and down the stairs, but some how Susan got a lead on me. But once we hit the street and headed uphill I was able to get ahead of her, not really thinking that I didn't need to beat her per say, but just my previous time. I also forgot that I had one more round to go and I would need to beat the time I just set. Well that was going to be a problem, because I didn't think I could possibly run any faster than I just did.

We both beat our times enough to shave 5 (me) and 6 (Susan) minutes off, but Willie said he would add on time if we didn't beat our previous time. We both tried as hard as we could to beat our previous time, but we both came in a few seconds slower. At that point I didn't care how long I had to keep my arms out, just as long as I didn't have to run those effing stairs again. Willie informed us that he was going to give us "a break" and we would only have to hold our arms out for 7 minutes. 

Well holding your arms out for 7 minutes is harder than it sounds. I made Susan tell us a story, which probably killed 4 minutes. By the end of her story, my arms were feeling heavy and really wanted to drop. Willie kept telling us to pull our shoulders back and keep our arms up. He also kept reminding us how good this was for mental toughness training and that we were lucky to be able to be do what we were doing. As crazy as holding your arms out for 7 minutes sounds, especially after crazy stair training, he as right we were lucky to be able to do this and training for something we love to do. And I am sure at some point during the 50 mile race when I am feeling low the memory of this training will come back to me and make me smile. 

As if the training with Willie wasn't enough, we ran 24 miles on Saturday. I tried to plan a route with enough hills in it that Susan might curse my name a few times. But it is all about mental toughness! 

Route: 
holamn - ww .76
ww - pittock - 2.06
pittock - wild cherry - 4.01
wild cherry - leif - .56
leif - dogwood - .59
dogwood - ww - .34
ww - alder - .93
alder - leif - .84 
leif - maple - 2.33 
maple - saltzman - 1.45
saltzman - ww - 1.38
ww - birch - 8.5
birch - 53rd - .23 
total: 23.98

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Annual 4th of July run

Mt Hood from Bald Mountain



Since this is the 2nd 4th of July weekend for me to run the Ramona Falls - Bald Mountain loop, I guess it makes it an annual run! This year I added on a few more miles by continuing on the Timberline trail to do an out and back before turning onto the trail to Bald Mountain. When I got back to the trail junction to Bald Mountain I ran into Chris, Karrla and Oscar!

"ran into" Chris and Karrla


Oscar trail running

The wild flowers were out in full bloom, Mt. Hood was as majestic as ever and I never tire of the of the alpine views from Bald Mountain down to the Muddy Fork river. The 2 Muddy Fork river crossing were a bit tricky but I had my hiking pole which made it a bit easier once I found a good crossing point.
My add on section (out and back)

I am looking forward to the run next year and maybe making it to Mc Neil Shelter.



Mt Hood from Muddy Fork




Muddy Fork with Bald Mountain in the back ground



Eagle Creek - Ruckel Creek loop


Susan and I took a day off of work, just before I headed out of the country again, to run a 27 mile loop in the Columbia Gorge on Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake and Benson Plateau and down Ruckel Creek.

I few years ago we ran a 22 mile out and back on Eagle Creek and ever since then I have wanted to run the loop. I backpacked the loop years ago and had awful memories descending Ruckel Creek and was hoping running it would make it go by quicker. Ruckel Creek is ~4 miles downhill with a descent of ~4000 feet, but more about that later.

William Sullivan's map

The weather was forecasted for possible rain in the afternoon, but in the low 60s most of the day. Perfect running weather. I didn't anticipate that I needed a long sleeved shirt until we got to the trailhead and got out of the car. Luckily Susan brought one and arm sleeves, so we were all set and ready to go.
One of many waterfalls

Ann near the start

The Eagle Creek trail is one of my absolute favorite trails close to Portland, in the first 7 miles you pass at least 6 waterfall, each one them unique and different. The full Eagle Creek trail is 13.1 miles to Wahtum Lake, it is a gradual climb for the first 7 miles and gaining 2300 feet in the last 6 miles. By the time we reached Wahtum Lake we ready for a break. Susan commented on how nice the wind sounded in the trees, but all I could think of was how exposed parts of of Ruckel Creek are and that I sure hoped the wind stopped by then. We found a nice spot by the lake for a "lunch break", but the wind picked up more and we started to get cold, so we knew it was time to move on.

Tunnel Falls


Twister Falls




We still had ~900 feet of elevation gain before we reached the junction the the PCT and Benson Plateau. There were tons of wild flowers out and I think Susan stopped to take pictures of every one of them. Normally I don't care if she does this, but the wind hadn't stopped and it looked like the rain might start early and we weren't getting any warmer. I finally convinced her that we need to start running to get warm and take pictures later.

Ann at Wahtum Lake

Lilies

Rhodies still in bloom at this elevation

Iridescent beetle


By the time we made it to Benson Plateau we had finally warmed up, the wind had died down and the sun looked like it might make an appearance. The relatively flat plateau was a welcomed change from the last ~15 miles of climbing. Benson Plateau has a confusing network of trails (405, 405a, 405b, 405c), so you have to pay attention to signs or you will easily get turned around. We ran into a group of backpackers who had tuned on one of the wrong trails and made a big loop. After talking to them for a bit we figured out they were headed the same direction we were headed and told them that we would leave trail makers and the junctions, so they would know they were on the right path. Shortly after leaving them we came to the junction with Ruckel Creek Trail.

Chinidere Mountain on the PCT


Dry and windy shelter on Benson Plateau

Eagle-Benson

So began our 4000 foot / 4 mile descent. The trail on Ruckel Creek is well maintained but pretty steep and hard to run. Susan was smarter than me and pulled out her hiking pole pretty quickly to help her "run" down the steep hills. I finally gave in and got my pole out, it helped but we were still hiking more than running. There were a few rare flat spots, and we would holler, "yay we are running".  Though it was still overcast we got some good views of the Gorge. It took longer than 4 miles downhill normally does, but it wasn't as never ending as it felt when I hiked it a few years ago, but we were both very relieved when we saw the sign for Gorge Trail 400.

Hatfield Wilderness
Rainy view of Bridge of the Gods


Rainy view from Ruckel Creek Trail


Once we hit Gorge Trail 400 it was only a mile to the car. But a half mile from the car, the rain that had been holding off most of the day just let loose. We were soaked when we reached the car but it beats running a whole race in a cyclone.

Relaxing in Eagle Creek near the trailhead


A giant "turd slug" trailing pine needles-- looks ready for battle


Strange burn pattern

Yep, that's part of the trail


Wahtum Lake panorama



Wahtum Lake trail (from right to the log-bridge at left)

Precarious cairn

Snake puppet tree


Two lady deer staring down at us

Funky fungus

A change in ecosystem



Blow-down repetition


Lichen gemstone