Saturday, April 5, 2014

Flowers for Sally

I wanted a 15 mile run, but had trouble planning a route for that distance. So I wrote down 11, 13 and 17 mile routes. I picked up Sally at 7:30am and we were off.
A bed of trillium
The Thurman Bridge was closed for [belated] repairs, so we started at Birch on NW 53rd. When we got down to Leif, we decided to go to the porta-potties about three-quarters of a mile away-- adding an additional mile and a half. Perfect! It added on just enough to bring us just about to the original mileage I wanted.

Sally laughed when I stopped to take photos of flowers, but she didn't mind the breaks too much-- despite being up for such a long run, she's only done double digits a few times. She's just a beast! Here's to a lovely spring run, without the rain.

Yellow dog violet
Birch to WW (7.49) is .22mi
WW (7.49) to Alder (ww 9.40) is 1.91mi (2.13 total)
Alder to Leif (1.49) is .84mi (2.97 total)
Leif (1.49) to Maple (le 4.22) is 2.73mi ( 5.7 total)
Maple to Koenig is .38mi (6.08 total)
Koenig to WW (14.23) is .28mi (6.36 total)
WW (14.23) to Birch (ww 7.49) is 6.74mi (13.1 total)
Walk up Birch for a .22mi cool down.


Monday, March 10, 2014

First Kiwi run (Piha 20k)

I arrived in New Zealand early Monday morning. Ann & John picked me up, we returned to the hotel, I freshened up, and then it was time for a run! 
Piha beach panorama
Ann picked one about an hour west of Auckland, on the coast, that sounded good. It started in Piha, a cute seaside town. 

There's a trail up that seastack-y hill, but we didn't take it
We ran up the beach until it ended in cliffs and steep hillsides. We ran through rocky tidepools trying to find the start of the track (trail) in the route description.

Piha tidepool resident
We couldn't find the start of the track and the hills looked too steep to even have a trail, so we started back along the far perimeter of the beach.

Ann at the dead end of Piha beach
Suddenly, behind a dune and under low-hanging trees, we found the signs. Then it was up and up and up, the air thick with the screech of cicadas and warm summer air that felt alien to me, fresh off the plane from winter in the Pacific Northwest.

The hidden track start 
At the top of the first climb was a detour out to a view from a promontory. We took it, and were rewarded with gorgeous views up and down the wild coast.

Permanent cairn at the top of the first climb
We were delighted by a permanent rock cairn with an inscription and a sculptural rock bench-- a great place for a rest that we didn't yet need.

View from the cairn
Back on the main trail, we continued to climb. We emerged from the trees into open, grassy hillsides. The sun was strong and it felt hot. It was delightful to run in our summer gear, but I started to worry about our race being in such warm conditions.

Panorama from the cairn
Our directions were easy enough to follow with the trails well-marked. Then we came to the roads, and it got confusing quickly. We ran out a ways along one road, but the metric distances confused us. When we didn't find the trailhead, we turned around and ran the other way.

Hilary track sign
We asked at a convenience store, but the clerk hadn't heard of the trail we were looking for. The map at the closed post office next door was covered up with ads, inaccessible behind locked glass.

Cleaning shoes to protect kauri
Luckily we were able to use our phones and Google Maps to find a nearby park with some trailheads. Funny enough, there were signs imploring us to clean our shoes to stop the spread of disease killing a native tree. We saw these a few times and weren't sure if we should wash coming or going-- so we did both.

Finally, a map!
Finally, we found a map! We had somehow missed the original route, but were able to piece it together from there. Then, on a jungly climb, I felt a stab on my ankle and looked down to see a wasp stuck in my sock at the top of my right foot. I flipped it off and got the hell out of there.

A second map, convincing us to check out Kitekite Falls
The pain was sharp and there were lots of wasps around, so when we got to the top of the climb and a trail junction, we decided to head back. Once we got back to the park, however, we saw signs for a waterfall only 30 minutes away. A 30 minute hike is probably only a 15 minute run, we reasoned... so off we went.

Kitekite Falls
It was a fun climb to Kitekite Falls, although the trail was fairly crowded and we were never sure if we should pass on the left or right (since you drive on the left in New Zealand). We never answered that question satisfactorily, but it was fun to see the falls and then run back down.

Downstairs from Kitekite Falls
This little add-on lifted my spirits after the wasp sting, although we then had a bit of running on the road from the park to the town.

Ann is already loving her vacation
We shared a pizza at the Piha Cafe, right where we had parked our car, and enjoyed a treat I anticipated the entire run-- a chocolate iced coconut cream bar. It was worth it-- yum! Good thing we ate before driving the long, wild, windy, narrow roads back to Auckland...

Post-run treat

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mangawhero Forest, National Park

The morning after we hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Ann and I got an early run in before packing up and driving three hours north to Waitomo for a cave tubing adventure. Since our accommodation bordered on the south end of National Park (Tongariro is in the north), we decided to run into the park to see what we could do for an hour.


Luckily we came to this sign just inside the park. We took the Mangawhero Forest track, which took about half an hour, then turned around and ran it the other way. And just for good measure, we added the Rimu walk at the end before running the two blocks back to our apartment. It was a lovely, meandering forest run, and so fun to explore just outside of our (rental) front door. According to my Nike+ it was just over 5 1/2 miles.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

20 mile taper


This weekend's long run was my last one in the States for 6+ weeks and 2 weeks before we run the Tarawera 85k. So technically we should be tapering and I guess we are since we have been going down in milage, but not really if you include the difficulty of the runs in elevation gain. But then again this is Forest Park, how much elevation can you actually gain in 1 run? /sarcasm 

This week I planned the route especially for Susan, 3 miles of climbing right off the bat, from the bottom Saltzman to the top. Well my plan backfired when Susan texted me at 6:30am Saturday morning to say she was too sick to make the run. Our friend Sally was running 15 miles with us this week, she hadn't ran 15 miles since April and that was the first time she had ran more than 9 miles. So not only was she running a lot further than she normally does, she had to run all of Susan's hills. But Sally is a bit of a badass and said she had been looking forward to the run all week. 

When I met Sally at the trailhead, she got out of her car and said that she drank some water in the car and had a few nuts on her, so she should be fine for 15 miles. Then you have me with my hydration vest filled with water, gels and bars. Towards the end of the run Sally did drink some of my water, but I was happy to share. 

It was great to catch-up with Sally and running with her you would never know that she doesn't consistently run longer distances.  The last 5 miles of the run I did a solo loop on Maple and Leif and got to catch-up on some podcast. I meant to have the route end on firelane 4 instead of Saltzman, so I guess that means Susan will have to run this route some other time with the revised ending. 

Route:
saltzman to firelane 5: 2.95
fl5 - leif :1.1
leif - hardesty (mm 9) : 2.43
hardesty - springville: .67
springville - wildwood: .33
ww - saltzman: 6.5
saltzman - car (sally) :1.83 - total 15.81
saltzman - maple :1.38
maple - leif : 1.45
leif - maple : 2.22
maple - saltzman : 1.28
saltzman - car : .45
total 20.76

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Splish splash groan


In order to train for our big 85k race in New Zealand, we ran 8 miles on Friday to pre-fatigue, and then 30 miles on Saturday. We decided to re-use a route (that was already stolen) with lots of elevation change, so we did the Trail Factor course. It rained hard from start to finish. So hard that the only sound was the splashing of our shoes in the puddles and impromptu streams. So hard that there were lots of downed trees and mini mud slides. So hard that it was difficult to run on the sloshy, slippery trail.
Deck the halls with boughs...
 We weren't sure if it was the rain or the run from the previous day, but we were both tired and slowed way down. So slow that after about 5 hours into it, we decided to avoid the run up Firelane 5 and back down Saltzman, to leave out some climb. A little while past that, we realized that we had miscalculated and knocked off too much mileage.  So we added another little up-and-down. I had to walk most of the uphill, while eating the last of my food.

Old friend down
We were both ravenous and ate far more than usual. We were also far more tired than usual-- for most of the rest of the week! Was it the rain and our bodies trying to stay warm? Or the additional fatigue of the previous day's run? We're not sure, but hopefully we won't have the combination again for a long time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

10 miles in the snow

Friday morning run - only a few inches

We have been pretty fortunate to have a pretty mild winter in Portland so far, it has been so nice in fact that it almost felt like spring. But that all changed on Thursday around 11am, snow started to fall and hasn't stopped much since. Susan and I had a 20+ mile run planned for Saturday, which I wasn't sure was going to happen or if it would just turn into a snowshoe trip.

Friday 
Friday

Since I live a 1/4 mile from a trailhead I did a quick trial run on Friday. The snow was light and fluffy and a lot to run in, though I was wishing I was snowboarding in it instead of running. Forest Park being covered in several inches of snow was gorgeous, my own private winter wonderland. I knew we would have a lot of fun on Saturday, as long as Susan could make it to my house.
Friday morning - you can still see the
pole for the trail sign
Saturday morning - the pole is almost
completely covered with snow

Saturday morning I got the text from Susan that she was on her way to my house. Yay! I took a quick glance outside and realized a lot more snow had accumulated over night and that our run was going to be quite a bit different than my Friday run in 2 inches of snow. There was probably 6-7 inches of snow on the trails and only one other crazy person ahead of us breaking trail. The uphills felt like they took 3 times the effort than normal, maybe the whole run did but the uphills really stand out in my mind. We decided to only do 10 miles instead of 20 because of the amount of snow and the difficultly running in it. And I swear that running 10 miles in that amount of snow is like running 20+ miles normally. As soon as we got to the 5 mile mark and started to head back the snow started coming down pretty steadily, which really validated our decision to cut the run short.

Snow selfie

We had a lot of fun on our 10 mile snow slog and stayed warm enough for most of the run. I am happy that we don't have to do this every weekend in the winter but once or twice a year it is fun. But I am looking forward to snowboarding in the snow tomorrow instead of running in it, again.

Susan getting snow out of her shoe






Saturday, February 1, 2014

A different start

"We are going to meet at FL1 on hwy 30 behind la quinta" began the subject line of Ann's email. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't surprised. I had suspected we would start from that odd trailhead in its junky, industrial location. Hidden behind a hotel you wouldn't want to visit and starting with a concrete Jersey barrier, you would never know it's there-- and you certainly wouldn't be tempted to follow the gravelly path-- unless you had taken it before.


Mt Hood and the sun rising as we start to climb FL1
We must have talked about the one time we ran it-- with Willie McBride of Animal Athletics, during their Mountain Goat Hill Running series (which, by the way, was fantastic)-- during our long run the previous weekend. Once stirred awake, the memory of that long, rambling, rarely-traveled trail could not be dismissed. Sure, it's a climb, but most of it is rolling and runnable, and it's just so different from other fire lanes and most of Forest Park's trails that it is utterly charming.

Ann at the very top of FL1
Ann's route took us all the way up Fire Lane 1 to the top; it's rare and fun for us to bag the entire length of a trail like that. Even better, when we got up to Leif Erikson, about halfway up, we saw a group of three runners who said hello... and then recognized our friends! It was wonderful to see their smiling faces and chat for a few minutes before we all got cold and continued on our runs. The serendipity renewed my legs for the steep part of the climb up to Wildwood and beyond, to NW 53rd Dr. Then we got to take Morak down-- one of my favorites because it's ridiculously short (.08 mi) and pointless, with a name like an alien.

The perfect picnic spot on FL4
From there we did a good, regular loop, but from Maple we took Fire Lane 4 all the way back down to its trailhead off Highway 30-- a section and trailhead we had never done. There was a flat, grassy landing partway down FL4 that was open, with gorgeous views. In the sunshine, under the open blue sky, it would make the perfect spot for a picnic or a rest. I snapped a photo and we vowed to return.

Mt Rainier, stunningly clear
The lower trailhead of FL4 connected with Saltzman-- a neat loop and another new section of trail for us. Then we had to climb all the way back up to Wildwood, and up my nemesis hill between mile markers 13 to 11, before bombing down FL1 to the end. That was the plan, anyway, but some of the steepness, parts of the path still icy, and those rolling hills that on the way up had provided welcome downhill... well, all of that made for a painful but adventurous end. What a route! It had a little bit of everything and a lot of great, challenging climbs. Definitely my favorite route in a long time.

Trail sign without a trail name

fl1 - 53rd 2.29
fl1 - morak .08
morak - ww .10
ww - alder 1.3
alder - leif .84
leif - maple 2.7
maple - fl4 .97
fl4 - saltzman .34 
saltzman - maple .45
maple - leif 1.28
leif - fl7A 1.6
fl7a - ww .25
ww - fl1 (22 - 11.20) 8.8
fl1 - car 1.96
total 22.96