Monday, December 15, 2014

Annual birthday run

Our very first "ultra" (distance greater than a marathon) was running the Wildwood trail from its start near the zoo in Washington Park to its sudden end at Newberry Road in Forest Park in 2011, only a few weeks after running our first trail marathon. The day we did it happened to be right between our birthdays, which are only six days apart and fall near the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Back then, it was more birthday challenge than treat.

Our start at the Newberry end of Wildwood
In 2013 we did it again, the opposite direction (in 2012 we ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in San Francisco the next weekend, so we skipped Wildwood). This way is supposed to be more challenging because the major hill up to Pittock Mansion (mile 3.9) comes closer to the end, when you're more tired. For some reason it felt great the whole way, nearly effortless. In fact, it was on this run that we decided to change our registration in the Tarawera Ultra from the 60k to the 85k-- our first attempt at a distance greater than 50k.

The sun emerges
So this year, we had to do something a little different. We started at the Newberry Rd end, ran all the way to the start at the zoo, then back up and over Pittock again to Birch Trail and Ann's house. Thirty-eight miles. We left Ann's car at the Wildwood trailhead on NW 53rd (mile 9.18, or around 21 miles into our run), filled with fresh clothes and shoes to change into, snacks, treats and gear.

Inside the Audi aid station
Right from the start, the weather was fickle. We had rain, snow and sun within the first three miles! We joked every time the weather changed that we must've completed another mile. Nothing lasted for long and it was all quite gentle, but we had at least five separate bouts of snow, a few of icy rain, lots of light rain, quite a few sun breaks, and even fog at our second summit of Pittock. But through it all, with our now-extensive experience and fine-tuned gear, we stayed pretty comfortable and had fun.  


Changing of the guard: fresh shoe with old, dried mud and old shoe with fresh mud
Predictably, one of the toughest parts was starting back up after our "Audi aid station." We had stopped just long enough to cool off, so when we started back up we used disposable handwarmer packs to help defrost our poor hands. Although I bought them last year, we had never used them before and they were a revelation. The next day Ann bought a whole box for all of our upcoming winter adventures.

Wildwood at its start-- only one way to go!
We started around 7:15am and finished around 3:30pm-- just about dawn til dusk. My birthday happened to be the best day for the run and I couldn't have asked for a better present. Now what can we come up with for next year?

Back at Birch and the end of our Wildwood excursion

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Some days are harder than others

I got home late on Friday night, and it was my turn to pick the route for our long run on Saturday, so I searched our blog and chose a 20 miler we hadn't done in a while. It was a straightforward loop, but it felt hard; much more difficult than our 38 miles last Saturday.

Was I still recovering from last week's very long run? Tired from a night of little sleep? Dragging from the wine I drank last night? I think the answer is yes, to all of it.

After our picnic break, Ann was feeling it too. Although the conditions were great-- it wasn't raining and it was a great temperature-- we were both glad when it was over.

A long-toed salamander on Wildwood

Nearly to Birch, on Wildwood, we almost stepped on this cute little long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum)-- a welcome distraction! This is only the second salamander I've seen in Forest Park in the decade I've been running there.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey Trail Trot

This Thanksgiving we want to give thanks to all our friends and family who enable, tolerate, cheer on, our crazy running habit. We know you don't always understand why we would possibly want to run 50+ miles, but you are always there for us. From driving us to trailheads at 4am, to flying half way across the world to wait at the finish line for us, or simply being Mr. Mom every Saturday morning. 

This Thanksgiving several of us met at NW 53rd and Wildwood for a Turkey Trail Trot. Susan was adventurous enough to even bring her running stroller along. Most of the group ran about 4 miles, Sally and I did a 10 mile loop. We both ran into several other people we knew along the route. We are very lucky to have such an amazing running community and trail system in Portland.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Turkey Trail Trot crew

Route:
53rd and ww (9.20 - 14.5) - koenig: 5.3
koenig - maple : .27
maple - leif : .38
leif - dogwood: 3.3
dogwood - ww: .34
ww - 53rd: .71
total: 10.30

Sunday, November 23, 2014

23 and some change

Our first sun break

23 and some change was the subject of my email to Susan with our route for Saturday, but given how much the weather changed on Saturday I thought it was an appropriate title for this blog post too. The run started out overcast and as we ran down BPA Road we got into a fog cloud, which stuck with us all the way to the top of Springville. As we ran down Hardesty the sun started to peak in between the fog and the trees. Over the course of the rest of the run we got rain, full sun and more fog, the only thing missing to complete an Oregon winter was snow.


The start of the run at the top of BPA road
6 miles later at the top of Springville the fog had settled in


The route was as varied as the weather, we were never on one section of trail more than 5 miles. Lots of ups and down in between Wildwood and Leif Erickson but nothing too daunting. I love when we have routes where we don't spend a big stretch of it on Wildwood at one time, mentally it makes the longer distance runs go by quicker.



Susan on the "Maple Bridge"


The bridge at mile 10 on Wildwood that was replaced 2 years ago got destroyed again.


Route: 
top of bpa - ww (23.40) : .46
ww (22.5) - springville : 4.9
springville - gate : .33
gate - hardesty : .12
hardesty - leif : .55
leif - ridge : .52
ridge - ww : .34
ww (20.80 - 16.5) - fl5 : 4.3
fl5 - leif : .23
leif - maple : .15
maple - ww (13.5) : 3.07
ww - alder : 4.1 
alder  - leif : .84
leif - thurman : 1.42
thurman - aspen : .50
aspen - ww : .23
ww - birch : 1.13
birch - 53rd : .23
total : 23.42   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Oregon Coast 50k

Susan and I love Rainshadow Running races, so of course when we heard about the inaugural Oregon Coast 50k, we knew we had to run it. When I saw that the race was taking place in October on the Oregon Coast, I was a little skeptical, since that time of year the coast is notorious for bad weather (well really all Fall and Winter). But we had ran in plenty of races with bad weather, so what is a little rain on the coast? 

Our pre-race selfie with Kat
                        
Showing off our kokopellis


The race took place on Saturday, October 18th. My sister came to Yachats with me and the house we rented was only a few miles from the start. The race didn't start until 9 am, which seemed so late and leisurely compared to most ultra-marathons. We did have to be at Adobe Resort in Yachats by 8:30 to check-in and take the bus to the start. After I checked in I heard my name, but it wasn't Susan, it was Kat. It was a pleasant surprise to see her, I had forgot she was running the race as well. As it was getting closer to 8:30 and people were loading up on buses, Susan was nowhere to be found. I grabbed her race bib and started to head over to the buses with Kat, then we finally saw Susan. 

As we drove the few miles to the start the wind and rain started to pick up, which wasn't thrilling anyone, since the first 7 miles of the race were on the beach. We got off the buses and tried to find some shelter from the rain and wind while waiting for the race to start. Finally James (RD) made his announcements and told us to watch out for sneaker waves and off we went. There really isn't much to say about the 7 mile beach stretch except, holy hell did the headwinds suck! The rain was manageable, but I was glad when we finally made it to the Adobe Resort and were off the beach and able to change into dry shoes from our drop bags. 

Susan, Kat and me trying to stay out of the wind before the start of the race - photo credit Justin Richards

And away we go - photo credit Justin Richards

From the Adobe Resort we ran on the road through Yachats for a few miles before we entered forested Cape Perpetua, where we would run a 9 mile loop before heading back to the finish line. The elevation gain of the whole 50k was around 4000 feet, which made it pretty runnable. The highest point was around 1500 feet, so all the climbs were very manageable. I am use to Rainshadow Running throwing in some tough (mean) climbs. There were some sections of the trail that were pretty muddy from all the rain and there were a few times I felt like my shoes were going to get pulled off. But overall I think this was a great course. 

Mushrooms! Along with the 50k it was the Mushroom Festival weekend in Yachats
 Susan - photo credit Glenn Tachiyama
 Me before we had matching outfits - photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

Once the weather started to clear up Susan and I decided to change into our dry shirts, which we just happened to bring the same shirts, our shirts from The North Face 50k in San Francisco. I really hated the fact that we looked like twins, like some sort of bike team. Susan took great pleasure in knowing that I didn't like the fact we matched. 

Twinies selfie 
At some point Susan ate some Pocket Fuel with caffeine in it and started hauling ass on the downhills, so much that I couldn't even keep up with her. I made the mistake of over doing it in a weight class 2 days before the race, thinking we were only running a 50k. Even though she was far enough ahead of me, people still noticed that we had matching outfits, I passed some spectators at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Centers they told me my team mate was only a few minutes ahead of me. Ugh!
I finally caught up to Susan at the 24 mile aid station, well she waited for me at the aid station. I have to admit it was a little humbling having Susan waiting on me. She told me if we got going we could break our 50k PR. But I needed a break and to use the bathroom. Even though I was not keeping up with her, I felt like I was really pushing it. 

me trying to keep up with Susan

We finally headed off again into the forest and the muddy section of the trail. We stopped to try and take a selfie of us in our matching shirts at a view point when a woman asked if we would like her to take our picture, and we said sure. She then asked if we were the ones with the blog. We said yes we have a blog, but which blog are you talking about? She said the Wildwood one. We smiled and said yes, she told us how much she liked our blog. I think her name was Emily. It made our day. I really had no idea that anyone but our friends and family read our blog. After chatting about how cool it was that we were recognized, Susan took off again. She waited for me where the trail ended and road started. 

I am trying to smile but on the inside all I could think about is how I wanted to change my shirt

Susan asked if I thought I could push it on the road so we could PR, I said I didn't think so. The road felt so awful to run on. I take back the part earlier in the post about James/Rainshadow Running not throwing in any mean parts in the race, running the last 2+ miles on the road sucked ass! The nice part was it was nice and sunny and we could see the beach and ocean, which we weren't able to see in the morning. As we approached what I thought was the Adobe Resort, Susan told me it wasn't, that there was another resort before it. As we got closer I saw a sign that said Adobe Resort property, I was so happy she was wrong. 

We saw my sister and her dog waiting for us at the finish line. We didn't PR but we were only 2 minutes slower than our PR. 

sun and blue skies!
We met up with Kat again, had beer and pizza and hung out watching the ocean in near perfect weather. 

Susan and I also won $50 gift certificates to Seven Hill Running Shop in a raffle. 



Courtney relaxing post race with me watching the sunset.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kevin's birthday run

Amazing blue sky and autumn colors
When I first started running in Portland, I was lucky to find an amazing group of people who became my friends and running crew. We logged miles, trained for marathons, cheered each other on, and have run countless events together. Although most of them don't want to run quite as far as I do recently-- and I don't want to get up quite as early as some of them do!-- we still run together on a regular basis.

Sunbeams cut through the fog

Friday was Kevin's birthday, so Saturday morning Gretchen, Travis, Bob, Kevin, his wife Chris, his daughter Cat and I all met up at the Leif Erikson trailhead at the end of NW Thurman, and ran a 5 mile out-and-back. Then we met at St Honore for coffee-- I ran and the others drove. After hanging out, chatting and enjoying our beverages, I set off back up hill.

Pickle tower sculpture, seen on NW Thurman
Whew, what a slog! Going up Thurman felt tough, and I wasn't sure I was good for more than just another out-and-back on Leif for a total of 10 miles. Then I got to Dogwood Trail, and ran up to Wildwood. It started to feel good. So I went past Wild Cherry to Aspen Trail, for a slightly longer loop-- about 11 1/2 miles total. It was a beautiful, sunny day with the saturated colors of autumn and the joy of sharing stories with good friends.




Running while on the road

The last few weeks I have been traveling more than normal for work. I was in San Francisco on 2 different occasions, once by the airport and the other time downtown.

When I found out my conference was at a airport hotel I had resided to the fact that I was going to be running on a treadmill. Which is almost enough to make me not want to run, but 4 days without working out would make me very cranky which my co-workers would not appreciate.

Pedestrian bridge on the path I ran by SFO 

One of things I have learned about traveling for work is to ask the hotel concierge if they can suggest running routes, a lot of the time they even have maps. When I arrived at the airport hotel it was dark so I had no idea of my surroundings, even though I fly into SFO several times a year, but I never stay at the airport. I was pleasantly surprised when the guy at the front desk told me there was a biking and running path behind the hotel that "went for miles". I was even more surprised to find out in the morning that it ran along the water. It was pretty neat to be able to watch the planes land and take off while running.


Market Street crossing over the Ferry Building

My second trip to San Francisco I stayed in Union Square, which I normally do when I am traveling for work. I typically run down Market Street until I hit the Ferry Building and run down the The Embarcadero for as long as I have time for and back. I love watching the city come alive in the morning while I run: people on their way to work, vendors setting up at the market, various piers opening up for the day, other runners saying hi, the sun over the bay.

I am not always excited about traveling to work, but I do love discovering cities by running around them.