Monday, August 24, 2015

Bigfoot 200: Council Bluff Aid Station

A couple of weekends ago my friend Belia and I loaded up her trusty SUV and headed south to volunteer at an aid station at a race called the Bigfoot 200. It is (was) a 200 mile endurance race-- on foot-- through the Cascade Mountains. It started on Mt. Saint Helens and ended in Randle, WA, in the shadow of Mt. Adams. For many pictures of the runners and the race, check out their photo album on the Bigfoot 200 Facebook page.

It wasn't until the last few months that I even heard of a 200 mile race. It was with complete shock that I let that information sink in. Two. Hundred. Miles. Even driving 200 miles is like, nah, I'm good. I'll stay here. That said, way back when I heard about this event I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it. 

The drive to the aid station was about 4 1/2 hours from Seattle, close to two hours of that was slowly navigating over the gravel roads deeeeeeeep in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the aid station. Council Bluff, the name of our aid station, was 127.8 miles in to the 200 mile race.

Tent city for the volunteers at the aid station (mine is the yellow one).

When we arrived at Council Bluff there were already volunteers on site who had been there since Friday. They had everything all set up and were hanging out and waiting for runners. Unfortunately it took a lot longer than we thought it would for runners to arrive, we didn't end up seeing our first until after 11:00 pm. It was so exciting to spot his headlamp emerging out of the darkness!

Welcome to Council Bluff!

All set up and ready for runners

My first working shift lasted until 4:00 am. Only a handful of runners come through that night, so it was fairly slow and mostly us volunteers were hanging out and drinking beer. Which of course was quite enjoyable, despite the strange animal sounds and gunshots we heard out in the forest!  

I hit my tent at 4 am and slept until just after 8 am. Snuggled in to a borrowed sleeping bag (despite my meticulous preparations, I forgot mine at home!) I just wanted to keep on snoozing, but that wasn't why I was there! I crawled out of my tent, checked in on the chipper volunteers who were up making breakfast for runners, and hung out while I ate.

This is what the runners saw as they approached the aid station.

This is the sign runners saw as they headed back out on the trail. 71 miles to go! 

Belia and I decided to make our way out for a quick run and check out the trails before our next shift. The short section of the race we explored was gorgeous. There was an incredible view of Mt. Adams and peek-a-boo views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier. 

Belia on the trail.

Belia on the trail.

Back at the aid station it was time to jump back in to action. We were quite busy from noon until about 5-ish! There were up to six runners at a time taking a break, some with crew members and pacers with them. It was a hopping, and fun!, place to be!

It was wonderful to be able to take care of the runners. All of us volunteers took turns manning the propane stoves, preparing everything from canned soups to quesadillas, eggs, grilled cheese, and lunch meat sandwiches. There was also a buffet of goodies out on our table, like candy, chips, assorted drinks and fruit. We refilled many water bottles and handed over first aid supplies, baby wipes and sunscreen. The runners stayed anywhere from a couple of minutes to well over an hour, depending on what kind of break they needed. Our aid station was not an official sleeping station, but we did have a cot for the runners who needed a rest before they pushed on to the next aid station almost ten miles up the trail. I loved hearing our aid station captain, Ana, rouse sleeping runners with a "good morning sunshine!" 

View of Mt. Adams from Council Bluff.

The runners were all pretty much in great spirits. They were chatty and funny and so very appreciative of our efforts as volunteers. I wished there was more time to talk to each runner, to find out why in the world they were running this incredibly tough and remote 200 mile race!

While Belia and I packed up and left at 6:30 pm, the rest of the volunteers were at the aid station until the cut-off time on Monday morning. Such rockstars!

I hope I get a chance to help out again next year. It was truly a unique experience. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Another Brain Dump Post

I think I'm melting. Seriously, NOT a fan of this heat in Seattle. Apparently we've been breaking heat records and all that makes me want to do is move somewhere much, much colder. Yukon, maybe? Are there trails to run there? 

It's been an interesting last week and half-ish. 

First! I am annoyed that Blogger isn't consistently sending me an email notification of the comments that are left on the ol' blog so that I can approve them (damn spam!). Sorry Stephanie! I appreciate your comments!

A bit ago I brought my girls up to the Talapus Creek trail and we met my friend Heather and her awesome kids for a short hike. It ended up going pretty much perfectly. Would say the only bad part was when we made it to Talapus Lake it got cold and started to rain! Didn't really expect that. Iris started getting crabby, but then began chatting with the other kids about Minecraft and all was well in her world. 

Chillin, literally, at Talapus Lake.

Last weekend my friend Belia and I headed out for a run at Grand Ridge. It's been a looong time since I have been out there and was excited to get back on the trails. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling great the night before and wasn't 100% sure of how my body would like the long run. Also? It was raining. POURING. Crazy town, as we have had so little rain this summer. We loved it, though it didn't stop for our 3+ hour run. The plan was to do 10 miles, I kind of wanted Belia to agree to bail at 8, but she was like, nah, we got this, so we kept going. I completely mis-calculated the mileage (it was an out, then a loop, then out some more, then straight back, plus my Garmin turned off roughly a mile in to the run). Anyways, we ended up doing closer to 12.5 miles. I ended up enjoying it, though, and we had a great run. One of the many mountain bikers we encountered (who were all very kind!) told us we were "gnar gnar" for being out there, and another cheered us one by telling us we were keeping a "great pace!" (it was like 14 min/miles at that point) so that was fun.

An open section of the trail, that's Tiger Mtn shrouded in clouds.

This past week was kind of tricky. My girls were both in camps, but they required 3 hours of total driving daily to get them to/from where they needed to be. Oof. But one good thing is each time I drove south of Seattle I had an absolutely magnificent view of Mount Rainier, which made my heart feel super happy. I thought about the adventure on the Wonderland Trail, I thought about the upcoming traverse of the Mother Mountain Loop.  

Then my little one got sick, the gross kind of sick, and was home with me Thursday and Friday. It was hot as balls on Thursday and Friday. My workouts were pretty miserable, but oh well. Such is life. That week I got in one great run on the pavement around my 'hood. Managed to gain over 700 feet of elevation in 6 miles by planning a route around a couple of big climbs. I hate speed work, but I love, love, love hills! 

Climbing my second hill. My first one took me to the bridge above.

So what's up next? This weekend I head down to volunteer at the Bigfoot 200 (yes, 200. A 200 mile race. On foot.) aid station. It is going to be crazy amounts of fun, despite the fact I will be (gasp) camping overnight there. Look for a fun post about that next week. 

Volunteer-related, I really, really, REALLY wanted to offer to be a pacer at the Cascade Crest 100 at the end of the month, but sadly, I just don't think I'm in solid enough shape to be a really strong pacer for 20 miles. I would call the shape I'm in "able to get it done", but no one needs their pacer to be a possible liability, you know? 

And lastly, for this random post, I have been selling a few things here and there on ebay recently. It's not quite as lucrative as I hoped it would be, but it's given me a small amount of spending money. All I am doing is selling random stuff I don't need anymore, so no money invested in the first place! Anyways, I have decided to use my meager earnings to buy things I need, and so far that has been 100% running related. So far that has meant a new Sawyer Mini water filter and bunch of Injinji socks! Woo hoo! Now I am keeping my eyes peeled for a running headlamp and a bigger running pack. 

Friday, July 24, 2015


This past weekend I hit two fun milestones:

1. I surpassed 100,000 feet of elevation gain in my running/hiking/walking for 2015. This was my goal for the entire year, so I am pretty excited about already getting there.

2. I have been running for an entire year injury-free. Do I have aches and pains? YES. But nothing that has been serious enough to require me to stop running. Heading in to Ragnar last year I was sure I was messing with my third stress fracture and the relay would be the nail in the coffin. Fortunately, I came out of the weekend stronger than ever--it wasn't a stress fracture after all!-- and have been running on my own terms ever since. No forced breaks. No boots. No trips to the doctor. Just smart training, lots of PT exercises, and plenty of visits to my chiropractor to keep me moving. 

This October marks four years of running for me. Less than a year in I was already barreling down the road of near-constant injury. One thing after another, it seemed. While a year isn't long in the grand scheme of how long I want to be running (is 50 more years too much to ask?) it's a huge milestone for me. There are some big goals coming up later this year and the beginning of next year and I have to be healthy to get there!

I am also closing in on 800 miles for the year, when my goal was 1,000. Barring injury, that should be easy for me to hit, as well. 

Love it when goals become reality!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

WIAS (or figuring out how to gear up for a long run)

AKA What I Ate Saturday . . . 

Saturday's run on the Wonderland Trail was by far the longest I had ever been out on the trails without any sort of external aid. I learned a few things about what I am going to need to carry with me in order to make those sorts of long runs a little more manageable!

Whenever I have a long run to do, I figure in my head how many hours it will take then pack 200 calories per hour. Preferably more, because you just never know!

Here's what I packed:

I threw one more pack of fig bars in there, too.

This was a total of roughly 1500 calories. Originally I guessed the run would take us 4-5 hours, so 800-1000 calories. It took us almost 7. Now, I did have enough food for 7 hours, luckily I packed more than I thought I would need-- you just never know! Or rather, I could have known if I had asked a few more questions before the run, because the gals I was with might have known how long it would take. I ended up eating about 900 calories. This shocked me when I added up my empty wrappers at the end because I legitimately felt like I was eating a lot. Fortunately I never once felt like I had low energy, so it all worked out. Also? Those Oreos were a pretty awesome idea. 

I give myself an A+ for variety of types of food (ie not all gummies and gels like at Sun Mountain!), but man, all of that sugar got old well before I was done running. I started seriously craving a turkey and cheese sandwich about 3/4 of the way in. Will be trying to figure out how to incorporate more savory snacks in to my arsenal. Just not exactly sure what that would look like! Wendy had salami and cheese in her pack, which sounds amazing, though I am wee bit leary of un-refrigerated cheese. Now my gears are turning, how could I efficiently pack food that needs to be kept cold?

I also had salt packets with me, which were simply leftover in my pack from Sun Mountain. I did swallow one about half way through the run, just to be safe. 

My pack carries 1.5L of water. This wasn't anywhere near enough for the run. Fortunately all three women I was with had a water filter and I borrowed one to add a bit, probably about .25L to my pack just before the half way mark. At that point I still wasn't exactly sure how much longer we would be out there. I made an effort to conserve water and ran out before the end, as well. My headache the next day told me I was definitely a bit dehydrated. On Sunday I bought the same water filter my friends had, as it was small and easy to use. They had the Sawyer Mini. Now I have a Sawyer Mini! Such a copy-cat. 

Can't wait to use this! Except mine is pink. Because pink is awesome.

Of course, the idea of carrying MORE food and MORE water and MORE gear made me really want a bigger running pack. I absolutely adore my Ultra Vesta, and it had served me well for the past almost year I have had it-- but I think that a seven hour unsupported run is about it's limit. One drawback is a bigger pack full of more stuff = more weight and can potentially be more uncomfortable. Bigger packs with a larger water bladder also means $$$. Not cheap at all!  

This is all food for thought as I expand my running horizons. Would hate to have something as simple as the wrong gear keep me from being able to participate in, or succeed at, a new adventure! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mt. Rainier and the Wonderland Trail

Sitting at the laptop to write my recap, I am simultaneously attempting to ignore and appreciate the incessant itching of bug bites, the tight ring of sunburn around my neck and shoulders, and the dull ache in my quads. All three physical reminders of Saturday's adventure on Mount Rainier.

Without a hint of exaggeration, this run (well, mostly hike due to it's difficulty) was one of the most amazing adventures I have ever been on. It easily rivaled the Sun Mountain 50k as far being a total package of fun, difficulty, and jaw-dropping views. I feel incredibly lucky to live in the shadow of Mt. Rainier and have relatively easy access to it's trails. And even more lucky to be getting to know some seriously badass trail running mamas who were kind enough to invite me along for this experience. 

My Garmin consistently spits out data that is shorter in mileage and lower in elevation gain than anyone else's GPS watch, Garmin or otherwise. My on-going joke is that my next watch will be the vanity version (longer mileage, higher elevation). 

Here's what my watch said:
Here's what Callista's watch said:

So, I'm going to go with the more impressive data. Obviously. Both of us left our watches running the entire time, so that isn't just moving time.

Because I am a bit of a data geek, I checked Garmin Connect to compare this run to the Sun Mountain 50k. This one took almost as long and held about as much elevation (that one came in at 5,416 ft on my watch), but was much shorter in distance.

The run was planned by Ellen, who became a friend over this section of the Wonderland Trail, and I was invited along by Wendy, who I have had the pleasure of running with several times previously. Callista, who I have met at HHRG runs, and I rounded out the group.

Wendy, me, Ellen and Callista at the start of the run. 

The original plan, before the heat and intensity of the day sunk in, was a bit more elaborate, but here's what we all ended up doing: We left one car at Box Canyon, where we would finish the run, and carpooled up to Frying Pan Creek where we started the run. 

Click on map to see it larger. Map from

The Wonderland Trail is pretty straight-forward, at least I know that it is on this section. There is just one trail, nowhere to get lost. I bought a fancy map to carry with me, but the only map I ever looked at was a print out of the map above to get a sense of where we were on the trail. 

The trailhead we started from was quite popular but the trail didn't feel overly crowded. We started at 9:15am and already there were dozens of cars parked along the narrow mountain road. Apparently the hike from Frying Pan Creek up to Summerland/Panhandle Gap and back down is a popular day hike. 

That section, up to Summerland, was beautiful. It started going up almost immediately! The first part of the trail was wide and tree covered. We stopped in a couple of spots to check out Frying Pan Creek, which was more of a raging river! Eventually the trail opened up to meadows.

The view from the first section of trail. 

The first bridge crossing. It felt very exciting!

One of our first glimpses of Mt. Rainier from the trail. 

We gained almost 3,000 feet of elevation in about 6 miles to Panhandle Gap, which was just beyond Summerland. 

Callista filtering water from the creek. 

The view at Summerland.

All of us at Summerland. 

Callista (in purple) climbing from Summerland up to Panhandle Gap. 

The trail and a log bridge.

Callista waiting, me walking, Ellen taking photos. Photo by Wendy.

This one might be out of chronological order. Ellen mentioned that green water behind us was frozen over last August. In fact, there were spots on the route last year that required them to wear yaktrax to navigate! Photo by Wendy.

Callista climbing up, up, up.

The view south from Panhandle Gap. The mountain peak in view is Mt. Adams. We could also see Mt. Hood but it didn't really show up on the pictures, sadly. 

Once we continued on past Panhandle Gap the crowds were gone. I would guess we passed about 12-15 people in the next 11 miles. This section of trail is a commitment! There is no road access anywhere until Box Canyon, 17 miles from Frying Pan Creek.  

As we continued on we climbed a little more, then it was down, down, down to Indian Bar. Unfortunately it wasn't an easy downhill. There were water bars across the trail, which were essentially chunks of log crosswise along the trail creating steps and were put in to help with erosion. Some of the steps were very high, almost up to my knees. So instead of the trail being a long, windy, downhill, it was a clunky step-step-hop as we navigated along. It didn't feel like it was any easier than going up the other side! I was glad we weren't doing the trail in reverse, however, as those steps would have been a pain to go up.

Wendy and I. Mt. Adams in the background. Photo by Ellen. 

Callista and Wendy navigating a creek crossing. 

These waterfalls looked like trickles but sounded HUGE.

At the bottom we reached Indian Bar and the Ohanapecosh River. We stopped for a break and to soak our feet in the icy water.

Ellen and I resting at Indian Bar. Photo by Wendy.

Pearl Izumis and Injinjis hanging out. This water was FREEZING.

Our view of Indian Bar from the spot we stopped on the river. That building is a shelter, I believe for camping. And we had to hike straight up that! Photo by Callista. 

On the bridge as we made our way out of Indian Bar. That shelter in the photo above would have been straight in front of me. Photo by Callista. 

After Indian Bar it was time to climb again. I think I speak for everyone when I say this next section felt really hard. My elevation map indicates it wasn't anywhere near as big of a climb as the first one up to Summerland, but it felt like it! The trail was mostly exposed for the next 3 or so miles and the heat was getting to us. 

This is my favorite shot of the day. Ellen climbing up out of Indian Bar.

Ellen and I. Photo by Wendy. 

Found a flat section of trail! The views felt surreal up here. 

A ridge trail laid out before us.

Running! Photo by Ellen. 

Wendy, me and Callista. Photo by Ellen. 
This picture cracked me up because we are all standing the same way! 

I love this shot Wendy got of Mt. Rainier. Much more detail than my phone was picking up!

The section from Indian Bar to our next point on the map was about 4.6 miles. Once we hit about 3 miles the trail started mercifully going back down. We were able to run a bit! The trail was quite narrow, however-- barely wider than both of my feet next to each other-- and had many roots and rocks, so we had to be extremely careful. There were a few little stumbles, but luckily none of us fell. Whew! Eventually the trail wound under tree cover and we spent the rest of the run in the woods. It was a nice break from the full sun. No pictures from this section as I just wanted to keep moving forward as quickly as possible!

We were all pretty tired by the time we hit the next spot on the map. It was just an intersection, where you can turn to go to Olallie Creek, but it was a milestone. Unfortunately when we stopped there the biting flies descended on us! At that point I also realized I was going to run out of water, but the other ladies had a bit of extra water on them, as well water filters, so I didn't worry too much. 

From Olallie Creek it was about 1.8 miles to Nickel Creek. This was more downhill in the trees. I didn't stop to take any pictures, it just felt good to keep moving. All I could think about was my bottle of Coke in the cooler at the car-- and not falling. It is easy to start dragging your feet when you get tired on the trails and dragging feet means tripping over roots and rocks. I did not want to fall! Callista stopped to offer me use of her water filter at Nickel Creek but all I wanted was to just keep going to the end. I didn't even want to drink, or eat, anything. 

Another half mile or so later we came to a river. I can't exactly tell on my map what river it was, though my guess was Muddy Fork. We were all so excited! First Callista walked in to it, wearing her shoes. I thought it was a good idea and went in, too. Soon we were splashing water on ourselves and eventually just plopping right down for a rest in the river. It was the most amazing feeling ever. I could have sat in that river all afternoon! 

Pearl Izumis taking a bath. 

Messing around at the last bridge crossing. Photo by Wendy. 

The bonus to soaking here was it got off a lot of the dirt and dust from the day's run. From here it ended up being only about half of a mile to Box Canyon. Despite sloshy shoes, I just wanted to run. I took off, and a bit down the trail I heard "squish squish squish" behind me and up came Callista! We were so excited to be so close. Hearing the people and traffic at Box Canyon was a sweet sound, food and cold drinks were within reach! 

We tumbled in to the parking lot and grabbed food and drink out of the car. My running companions clearly have done this before: they came seriously prepared with delicious post-run food and drink. My baggie of pretzels, Pop Chips and Coke paled in comparison! Now I know exactly how it's done. After eating, checking out the bridge over Box Canyon, and stretching tired legs, we headed out. We had to pick up the other car and make our way out of the park to get some dinner! A big plate of cheesy Mexican food never tasted so good. 

I absolutely cannot wait to go back and explore the rest of the Wonderland Trail. Maybe this group will ready for part two soon . . . hmmm. Even when it got hard I loved every moment and embraced the gratitude I felt for being strong and healthy enough to take on something that was quite difficult. There were many, many points where I thought "I can't believe I am out here doing this!" 

When I finished the run I decided my new motto would be Do. Epic. Shit. And the more I tip toe in to what I consider Epic. Shit. the more I realize I am capable of not just imagining, or wishing for it, but getting out there and actually doing it. 

One other thing I wanted to mention: while I was out there I kept thinking of Gary Robbins and the recent Fastest Known Time (FKT) he just set at the beginning of July running the entire trail. He went the same direction we did, clockwise, and traversed that same section in the final third of his run (he went about 17 more miles further to Longmire to finish). He ran the 93 mile trail in just under 19 hours. Incredible and insane.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rattlesnake Mountain

Not going to lie, summer has been wearing on me a bit. It's not just having the girls home, or the heat, or the change to my usual routine. Nope. Rather, it's having my quiet alone time every day almost completely wiped out. As an introvert at heart, I need (really and truly NEED) alone time every day to come back to myself. I think being a stay-at-home mom for so long has dramatically increased the amount of alone time I need to feel sane!

Fortunately this summer has been extra amazing so far, and despite not having as much me-time as I desire, I have been enjoying being home with the girls and doing activities with them. There is no where near as much bickering or fighting as there has been in past summers. Hooray!

But on Tuesday I finally got to steal away for a few hours. All by myself! One girl was at day camp, the other girl was off with her grandparents. Ahhhh, six whole hours to fill. I eschewed chores and errands and instead spent most of my day focusing on getting in a run in the mountains. 

It took me a while to get out of the house: there was an episode of The Bachelorette to catch up on, you see, then I packed up my gear and jumped in the car. Unfortunately what should have been about a 30 min drive to the Snoqualmie Point trail head turned in to more like an hour. Ugh. Traffic was bad. Then I went to the wrong trail head because I remembered the directions wrong from the WTA website. No mind, I finally, finally figured it out then pulled in to the parking lot and set out on my run.

One other thing of note: there are two parking lots here. One for Snoqulamie Point Park, which has 2 hour parking, and another that appears to have no time limit. The no limit lot is right next to the trailhead. If you park in the 2 hour lot, take the gravel path  over to the other lot and the trailhead.

Sign at the trailhead.

I knew Rattlesnake Mountain was, well, a mountain, but I didn't exactly know the elevation profile. Well, it was almost straight up until the turn-around. Not drastically so (just over 2,000 ft in 4 miles), but still almost totally un-runnable for me. I was practically gasping for breath even quickly hiking! It was frustrating, I felt like I was totally out of shape.

Garmin elevation profile.

Met this little guy on one of the posts on the trail.

My first stop was Stan's Overlook. It was a beautiful view over the North Bend area!

View from Stan's Overlook.

 Fortunately once I got to the Grand Prospect viewpoint (4.25 miles in about an hour fifteen) it was then downhill the whole way back. I didn't stop at all on the way down and it only took me 45 minutes.

View from Grand Prospect overlook. I don't know what that peak is, but thinking maybe Mt. Si? 

All in all I was out there just over 2 hours. It ended up being a perfect little solo weekday adventure. 

I highly recommend checking out Rattlesnake Mountain. The trail is extremely well-marked and is just a straight shot. You'd have to work pretty hard to get off track up there! Some day I want to take a friend to do a car shuttle so we can run from the Snoqualmie Point trailhead to Rattlesnake Lake on the Rattlesnake Mountain trail, which is 10 miles one way. Or who knows, get crazy and run there and back for a 50k training run . . . hmmm . . .

This run was a good little training run for a big adventure this weekend! I am once again hopping in to plans some awesome trail running ladies have made, this time for a run at Mt. Rainier. So. Incredibly. Excited. Look for a post on that next week!