Monday, November 23, 2015

Well That Was Awful: Race Recap of the Grand Ridge Marathon

I should have known that the day would be a bit rough. The forecast was 100% chance of rain and temps in the high 40's. However, being a true PNWer, I didn't let the weather deter me, I had a new rain jacket and an adventurous spirit!

Turns out that wasn't quite enough.

Last year I ran this race as a goal several years in the making. That day was cold but dry, and an absolute blast. This year it was simply a training run, mentally and physically challenging, and cold and wet. 

The "gun" went off at 8:00 am. and from the start I attempted to remind myself to hold a very comfortable pace. The rain was pouring down, but I was cozy in my jacket. Life was good until the first stream crossing just over two miles in. I knew my feet would eventually get wet, that was a given, but a tricky stream crossing in water over ankle deep that early on was frustrating. I ran up to the stream and muttered "holy shit". The woman behind me ran up and said the same thing, which made me laugh.

Shortly after the stream crossing I got hot and slid off my hood. Huge mistake. 

The run was quite lonely from the get-go, so I was especially excited to see a friend hanging out at the first aid station. Then at the first turn-around, about two hours in, I met up with a couple of ladies that were a lot of fun to chat with. One runner who does ironmans and the other who has run 100 mile races. Despite wanting to continue to run with them, I decided I needed to speed up to get to the finish line/half-way point where I would meet my friend Belia. She came out to run the second half of the race with me and I told her I would be there to meet her three hours in to the run. 

Belia navigating a stream crossing.

Unfortunately, once I got to her I was already feeling done. I think I set far too aggressive of a goal when I said I would be at the half way point in three hours. That is faster pace than last year's marathon, and this was just a training run. What was I thinking?!

The wheels came off on the second out-and-back. My shoes were starting to fill with tiny rocks-- not exactly sure how, but guessing they came from the stream crossings as I don't typically have issues with rocks in my shoes. To add insult to injury, whenever I bent over to take my shoe off a bunch of water poured over my shoulder. My jacket hood, which I took off earlier when I was hot, was collecting rain. Lovely.

A section of trail that was now a raging river.

Eventually I got cold again, probably because I was moving so much slower, but I couldn't put my hood back since it was full of water. And the third time I bent over the water in my hood went down the inside of my jacket. My hands were freezing. The "flip mitts" on my jacket were a great idea in theory but eventually my hands and my mitts were soaking wet. I either had to tuck wet mitts in to my sleeves or let them flop on my hands, neither being a great option. 

My nose was running faster than the streams. My glasses kept sliding down my nose. Despite my attempts to empty my shoes of rocks I couldn't ever quite get all of them. My body hurt. Hamstrings, hips, feet, everything. My Garmin died less than two miles from the finish line. Wah wah wah.

To say my spirits were low is an understatement. Mostly my thoughts centered around "this is ridiculous. Why am I doing this? No way am I going to run Deception Pass if the weather is like this."

And to make matters feel even worse, my time was abysmal. Last year I ran the race in 6:15. My (stupid, far too aggressive) hope was to meet or beat that time. This year? 6:51. 

The only thing saving me was Belia's company. If not for her I would likely still be curled up on the side of the trail somewhere crying. She was encouraging, upbeat, and kept a nice steady pace for me to work off of. 

At the finish line Belia and I were completely drenched, freezing and muddy. We high tailed it straight to her car where we huddled in and somehow managed to wrangle out of our running clothes. Then it was off to a restaurant for beers and burgers. It took most of the meal for both of us to stop shivering.

I don't think this picture conveys how disgusting these shoes really are.
Photo taken the next day, which was lovely, dry, and sunny!

It took a few days of going over and over the myriad frustrations and mistakes from the marathon to figure out what I would do differently next time. Will touch on that in another post.

* * * * *

It was somewhere around mile 22-ish that I swore I would never run the Grand Ridge marathon again. I know that runners, particularly trial and ultra runners, are a hardy bunch, but I need a little more  . . . comfort, I guess.

In a race I need the company of more runners around me. This is the third small, local marathon I have done, and each one had very few runners in the marathon distance. It makes for a long, lonely day on the trails.

The aid stations (well, mostly just the one I used in the middle of each out-and-back) was basically stocked. I heard rumors of it having bacon, but I never saw it. I needed more real food (not sugary carbs), and I should have just carried that with me. I have no idea what was offered at the finish line, because I didn't touch any of it. I was simply too cold and wet to do anything other than make a beeline for Belia's warm, dry car.

Some of us had been out there running for 7+ hours, and there was not so much as an offer of a space blanket to warm us up at the finish.There wasn't a spot to dry off and warm up at the finish line (other than porta potties?).  Of course, runners could leave a drop bag at the half-way point/finish line, but it was laughable. Fortunately I double bagged my gear, as it was sitting in a pool of water when I finished. There wasn't even shelter for the gear or a dry place to swap things out. And times when I needed to sit down and deal with my shoes, there was nowhere to sit at the aid station.

I just don't want to pay to run another lonely marathon (actually, to be clear, not lonely, because I dragged Belia out-- but I didn't need a race for that!). For my race fee I got a bib number, a handful of Chips Ahoy and a few small cups of nuun. The course was lovely, but I have run it several times. Honestly, I think I would have rather run some shorter loops around Cougar with friends, swinging back to a car to change clothes or shoes and refuel in shelter.

Despite all of this complaining-- I do appreciate the efforts of those who worked hard to put the race on. The volunteers were out there for a very long time, and it was no less cold and wet for them!

Glad this marathon is behind me, and I can learn from it and hopefully have a great race at Deception Pass. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Joy of a Running Group and My Third Marathon

I first ran with the High Heel Running Group in April 2012. It was over two years later that I visited them again for a run. I know, what?! If memory serves, that second run was August-ish 2014.

That second run was good, there were only three of us, so that made it super easy for me to fit in to the group. The next few times I showed up I felt so incredibly intimidated. All these amazing trail running women and then lil' ol' me! Being an introvert who was very new to trail running, it was difficult for me to figure out where I fit in. After a few runs and getting to know a handful of group members more one-on-one, it got much easier. Faces became familiar. The route became second nature. I got more comfortable chatting with the girls. Then I even, (crazy!), made some friends. It's been a really fun group to not only run with, but use as a resource. The HHRG is literally the only reason I haven't deactivated my facebook account-- I need to keep up with what's happening with the group!

It isn't always easy for me to stick my neck out and make new friends, so I am glad this group exists, and that I have been not only outgoing enough, but patient enough with myself to find my place in it.

My very favorite thing  about the group runs is when I end up sharing a bunch of miles with another runner I just met at the trailhead and the conversation flows super easily.

Last Sunday I had that exact sort of run. It wasn't an HHRG sanctioned run (those are on Saturday) but it was with women who are part of that group. Had such a wonderful time. It was my last run before this coming Saturday's marathon. MARATHON. My third one, and I am again running the Grand Ridge marathon, which was the same one I did last fall as my first ever marathon.

Part of me is looking forward to it, part of me isn't. I tend to get easily bored, so re-running routes I know well, or worse, doing loops multiple times in one run, is so tedious. This race will hold both of these challenges for me. Besides getting in a good, solid long run, the marathon will be perfect practice in mental strength.

On a tangent, I listened to a wonderful Trail Runner Nation podcast the other day on my five hour run. It was an interview with Matt Fitzgerald about his new book called "How Bad Do You Want It?" and they chatted about mental strength. Oh, man. It resonated with me. I think for me it's not so much about pushing myself harder, but rather, do I have the mental strength to be out there for hours upon hours to reach my goals. I remember when an hour run felt insanely long, then I ran for two hours in a half marathon, then there was my first time running over two hours, then I pushed further and further. I ran for four hours. Then I ran for six hours and 15 minutes in the marathon before going for six hours and 59 minutes in the 50k. Then I went for over seven hours on Mt. Rainier. Twice.

But that's still nothing compared to a hundred miler. Do I have it in me to run for 30+? As an ultrarunner, a huge part of the challenge can come from just wrapping your brain around that challenge. Because your legs will follow. So I will practice that on Saturday.

As of now the weather looks less than favorable for the marathon. Last year it was below freezing. This year it looks like it will be wet, wet, wet. The trails will be more difficult simply because of mud. What that means for me is likely a slower race than last year.

But! I did finally settle on a new rain jacket. I ordered five and ended up keeping the one I knew I wanted all along: the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket.

Women's Ultra Jacket
Hello, lovely.

I also tried the Outdoor Research Helium II and the Patagonia Houdini, both in men's and women's sizes. Before I ever even set foot outside I knew the UD jacket was the one. It has so many more features than the other jackets! And, well, costs quite a bit more than the other ones, too, let's not beat around the bush. But it honestly fit me better than any other jacket, so that was what sealed the deal. 

This jacket will travel with me on Saturday. Looking forward to its company. Marathon #3, here I come!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Solid Runs and New Gear

Finally, finally!, I feel like I had a really solid week of training. One really solid week spells success for my upcoming 50k, right?! Let's hope so.

Last Sunday I had a five hour run on the training calendar. Yes, five hours. That seems kind of ridiculous, right? It turns out that when I allow myself to just sink in to the enjoyment of the time on the trails, five hours can be really wonderful. This past weekend we had some crazy weather move in to the area that seriously threatened to thwart my training. The original plan was to meet a few ladies for a run on Rattlesnake Mountain. Unfortunately rain and wind advisories scared off several of the runners (with very good reason! Mountains can be a dangerous place when trees are falling and ground is sliding out from under you!) But my faithful adventurers Belia and Lisa still wanted to get out there and check it out. Just to see. Forecast be damned! After some back and forth and a change of trails in case we needed to bail due to weather, we got in a glorious 3+ hour run. There ended up being no rain and very little wind. What's up with that, forecast?! I went around and around in my head about what to do about my scheduled five hour run and just decided to get the rest of the time in after getting back home from the trails. I dropped off Lisa then drove home, walked in the door, said hi to the family, changed my shoes, then headed outside for more miles. 

I fit in my full five hours. It was fantastic. Yes, I was tired when I was done, but mostly I just felt awesome. 

The next day was a one hour recovery run, and that, too, felt great. Usually my recovery runs are the hardest of the week-- stiff, heavy legs make for sluggish running.

Less than two weeks until the marathon, just over a month until the 50k!

Remember the fancy new running pack I was all excited about?  I returned it. Turns out that it really wasn't the right pack for me. There were a few major issues with it, the biggest being that the fit ended up being all wrong. Can't fix that! I wore it on one run and it was just bad news. Don't even get me started on the soft flask bottles feeling like external floppy breasts on my chest (and really don't get me started on what it felt like to drink from them!). Fortunately, the shop I bought it from was super obliging when I brought it back.

I couldn't leave the running store empty-handed, however, so I got a new pair of road shoes to replace my Sauconys that are wearing out. I went with a pair of Pearl Izumi Road N3s, which I have high hopes of loving as much as I love my Pearl Izumi Trail M2s. My first run in them, which involved hill sprints, went wonderfully! More cushion than I am used to in a road shoe, which felt nice and cozy.

Mama's got new kicks!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Volunteering and Pain in the Butt

Last weekend I volunteered for the last Cougar Mountain Race Series race of the, uh, series. It was my third time volunteering for this race series and I have enjoyed it every time!

This time I signed on to be a course sweeper. Since I had a 5-ish hour run on my schedule I figured I could take care of both volunteering and running at the same time. Little did I know it can be difficult to run very much when you are a course sweeper. There is so much to carry!

Good look for me, no?

I swept the first ten miles of the course and then ran three more miles on my own. It took me four and a half hours! Lugging all the course markings was tricky, but a few sections were also pretty steep, so it made for a slow moving day. Despite my snails' pace I still worked my booty off. I definitely appreciated my plan that has me training by time and not mileage. If I had to run by mileage that day I would have been out there much, much longer. So, it was good. I rewarded my effort with a sandwich, chips and cherry coke from Jimmy Johns. Yum. 

Sweeping the race was a good end to a tough training week.

A few things ate in to my usual training time: my youngest daughter broke her thumb at school, so she was home from school and we had to visit a few different doctors.. My husband had a birthday. There was a lot of delicious treats and fun celebrating involved there! So I just tried to appreciate the extra rest time and not freak out.

Fit in one run that went in to the dark of night. 
Definitely not hit by a car!

Something is going on in my right hip/booty area. My chiro thinks it is a tendon. The specific area is new pain (of course!) so that's odd. Maybe it was feeling left out? Since it doesn't actually hurt while running I have the tentative go-ahead to keep running, so I will!

It's two weeks to the marathon (that is a training run). Six weeks to the 50k! Would be lying if I didn't say I was excited about my self-imposed break over the winter holidays. Definitely laying low between the 50k and the new year. Then it's training time for the Sun Mountain 50 miler! I already have the same nervous feelings about that race as I did around this time last year when I thought about running the Sun Mountain 50k. Like, whoa

Monday, October 19, 2015

Money Can't Buy Happiness, but It Can Buy New Gear


Recovery after the Point Defiance 30k was much harder than it should have been. I was very, very sore. The rest of my runs that next week were mostly good (except for a 3 mile birthday shuffle on Monday), but were all followed by unusual soreness. A six mile run on Friday left me achy the rest of the afternoon. What in the world?!

I still don't know exactly what's up, but it has meant that I need to make sure I am being more gentle with myself. Saturday was an unscheduled rest day, Sunday I cut an hour off of my long run. It was the right call, but I would be lying if I said it didn't make me nervous. The main thought that circles my brain center around: "how can I be ready for a race while missing workouts?" 

Sunday's long run was so much fun. As a member of the High Heels Running Group I have participated in plenty of group runs but have often been unsuccessful in finding buddies from the group for random runs I wanted to do. Until this weekend, that is! Ten girls joined in my run on Sunday morning! It was so awesome. I really enjoyed chatting with women I hadn't met before and catching up with those I had. We started before the sun came up, so for about 30 minutes our headlamps lit up the trail. It was my first run with my new headlamp and I really enjoyed it, the experience was easier than I thought it would be.

This is the headlamp I bought (thanks mom and dad for the birthday money!):

Black Diamond ReVolt.
I particularly love the color!

I bought a new running pack this week, as well. It was a huge investment, but necessary. I just can't go out and do 7+ hour runs in the wilderness without the ability to carry more gear. I love, love, love my Ultra Vesta, but it only holds 4L worth of stuff. My new "S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12SET" (yes, I copied/pasted that, what a crazy long name!) holds 12L (hence the "12 set"). There are approximately eight million pockets on the thing, give or take a few. 


I am a bit annoyed, however, that this pack seems to really work best with a Salomon bladder. After taking out a second mortgage on my house to afford this thing I wasn't about to drop more $$$ on that specific bladder, so I am trying to figure out how to use the Camelbak one I have. Trying being the operative word, I can't quite figure out how to keep the bladder secure and thread the hose out to a spot I can easily access it. You would think this stuff would be obvious, but not to me. It should come with a tutorial.

Between that pack and my Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta I am all set for just about anything I should want to do for the foreseeable future. 

And speaking of foreseeable future, I just heard about registration for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k. The lottery opens this coming week. It would be the perfect long training run for the Sun Mountain 50 miler! Am I feeling lucky???

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Visiting the Oregon Coast

Last August my family had a lovely vacation on the Oregon coast. I have lived in Seattle for 14 years (that is INSANE!) and had never been to the Oregon or the Washington coast before. It was definitely time-- and I can't wait to go back!

We stayed in Waldport, OR in the best rental house-- it's always fun when the rentals are nicer than the house you live in! The house was on the peninsula between Alsea Bay and the ocean. My parents graciously offered to rent the house for us, and despite having zero knowledge of the area themselves I don't think they could have picked a better location. We could see the bay from the back windows of the house, which was home to all sorts of critters, including seals! At night the Alsea Bay bridge was lit up, it was just gorgeous. 

The drive down from Seattle was a little looooong (as was the drive home), but we got to stop for Dutch Bros! 

Coconut mocha. Mmmmm.

Not surprisingly, I woke up on the first morning and headed out for a run. Down across the Alsea Bay bridge then on to the sand along the ocean. Having never run on sand before, I thought it was an extremely fun experience. At low tide the exposed beach was very flat and the sand was the perfect firmness. 
Looking back at the peninsula from the Alsea Bay bridge.

Driftwood sculpture on the beach.

Feet selfie with bird footprints.

After breakfast it was time to build our own driftwood huts. Apparently that's a thing on the ocean.

Checking out a hut we found.

Figuring out how to start the structure.

Big enough for half a girl!

Eloise and her new home.

We also learned how to go crabbing and clamming from the Alsea Bay Interpretive Center. Unfortunately being there in town just a few days meant it wasn't really feasible for us to buy all of the gear we'd need to really get in to it, but we did rent a crab net and buy some gloves and a license to try it out.

The girls spent the next few days digging up clams-- they mostly found purple varnish and heart cockles, and Matt tried his hand at catching crabs. Unfortunately we couldn't keep any of the crabs he caught as they were either too small or were females. It was still fun to try!

One of the crab hauls. No keepers.

Child labor.

Her first clam!

Eloise's birthday fell during our vacation and we nudged her in to the idea of going horseback riding. After breakfast and presents the girls and my mom and I headed south down Hwy 101 to C&M Stables. My husband and dad weren't so in to it. It was mostly a great experience-- the ride went on some beautiful trails over to the beach before heading down the sand, then back up and returns to the stables. The ride on the trails was great, but the wind was so crazy strong that the part on the beach was downright miserable. And the bones in my booty region hurt. 

Look like a natural, huh? I was riding Sandman.

Eloise on Zeus.

Iris on Bailey.

On the beach. Much windier than it appears.

We had Eloise's birthday dinner at Grand Central Pizza, which was far better than we thought it was going to be! The waitress was so nice, she brought a plate of cookies to our table along with a Good Humor ice cream cone for the birthday girl.

Of course, we still went back to the rental house and had birthday cake! 

Eloise picked German Chocolate.

The next morning the girls, my mom and I ventured to go kayaking in Alsea Bay. I absolutely loved this activity! We rented the kayaks from the Kayak Shack, which is run by Waldport High School. We paddled out in to the bay to watch the seals. There were dozens of them! Many were sleeping on the shore, several were swimming in the water around us. They were curious but didn't come too close. It was amazing. Unfortunately the little buggers were hard to photograph, so alas no pictures.

Intrepid paddlers.

Watching for seals.

My mom and Iris.

That afternoon my parents, the girls, Matt and I went down to Cape Perpetua, just south of Yachats (which was south of Waldport). Cape Perpetua is in the Siuslaw National Forest and is just gorgeous. The plan was for me to run on the trails while everyone else explored the shore, then we would all meet up to poke around a little more before heading back to Waldport. 

The trails in Cape Perpetua are beautiful and well groomed! It was a tough run, despite the weather being fairly mild, it felt pretty warm and muggy in the woods. 

View of the ocean from the Oregon Coast Trail South.

Signs at first intersection-- the trails are very well marked!

Bridge near the end.

I started at the visitor's center then went south on the Oregon Coast Trail South, east on Gwynn Creek Trail, then west on Cook's Ridge Trail back to the visitor's center. It was about 6 miles.

The run was tough, it was uphill more than half of the way, so it was a lot of hiking for me. I would recommend running that loop the reverse of what I did and get your climbing out of the way in a shorter, steeper burst!

Some pictures from exploring along the ocean:

I think this was by Devil's Churn.

Family portait in the tunnel under Hwy 101.

Happy Iris.

The next morning it was already time to head home . . . but not before one last stop. My parents showed us a cool little spot called Seal Rock just north of Waldport on Hwy 101. 


Iris in the mist.

The seals were out there.

It was a perfect vacation-- equal parts relaxation and adventure. I definitely can't wait to visit the Oregon coast again!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Race Recap: Defiance 30k (Take Two)

What a difference a year (and a deluge!) makes!

This year's Defiance 30k was a pretty different experience from last year's. Which is okay! I am glad it wasn't the same race--how boring would that be? Unfortunately this go around was definitely more difficult. 

Heading in to the race the weather report was pretty unrelenting in it's prediction of rain, rain and more rain. Leading up to the race it was 100% chance of rain. Okay, I like rain. Bring on the rain! I would live to regret that attitude.

As I drove south to Point Defiance park in Tacoma very early on Saturday morning it was dumping buckets. My nerves threatened to become totally shot before I even made it to the start line. While I am generally okay running in the rain, I absolutely hate driving in it. Thankfully it let up and most of the drive was deluge-free.

Pre-race things were pretty chill. I was able to find Belia and her family, and say hi to a couple of friends who were there to run the 30k as well. Picking up my bib was easy, except for my age being listed as 45 (?!) so I had to sort that out-- you know, in case I was eligible for any AG awards (ha!).

It was cloudy and rain-free as the race started. Perfect running weather, despite the canopy of the trees making the trail feel a bit muggy. Belia and I started the race together and it didn't feel as crowded as it did last year, which was nice. 

That's me on the far left. Photo by Belia's mom. 

We weren't too far in to the first of two loops (each one is about 10 miles, not 15k) when the skies opened up. It was dumping rain. Huge puddles quickly formed on the trails and there was even one lovely section where a small raging river flowed right down the middle of the trail. Runners didn't even need to run through puddles to get their feet soaked-- shoes were filling with water from above. 

By the time we reached the aid station half way through the first lap we were as soaked as we could possible get. The aid station was fantastic, lots of volunteers and plenty to eat and drink. I grabbed a small package of Oreos, ate a couple, then stuffed the rest in my running pack. I moved through the rest of that first lap thinking I was working far harder than I really should have been for the first half of such a long race. The puddles were relentless, but I ran right through them, thankful they were mostly very shallow.

The steep downhill right before the finish line, the one where you have to hang on to ropes to keep from sliding down the cliff, was pretty treacherous. Last year it was very fun, but it was also very dry. This year there it was basically mud the whole way down. 

Belia and I finished the first lap and said hi to her family (her smart brothers ran the 15k so they were all done running and all cozy wrapped up in space blankets), hit the porta potties, and headed back out. I was thankful for her company as I was ready to bag the rest of the race! The rain and my low energy were making for a tough day. At that point it was pretty clear any random goals I had of besting last year's time were out the window.

The second loop was better, weather-wise. There were occasional sun breaks and only a little rain. The trails cleared up significantly, most of the puddles and rivers disappeared. My legs were more sore than I would have liked and I felt like I had weights around my ankles. Of course, shoes soaked with water and mud has to add a decent amount of weight! 

Just before the aid station half way through the second lap we were passed by a group of five guys all running the 50k. They were funny and a nice break in the quiet of the trails. As we hit the aid station we ran in to a girl who was running the 50k who was having a lonely go of it on the second loop. She ran with us a bit and it was nice to chat some. 

About four miles from the finish I finally started feeling really good and decided it was time to use the flat section of trails to finish strong. I took off running as fast as I could (which wasn't actually that fast) and slowly but surely began catching up to the group of 50k guys. It became my goal to pass them before the finish. I powered through, passed them by charging through some puddles they were tip-toeing around, then took off down the final stretch of road before ducking back in to the woods for the rope descent. Yes, they were running the 50k, but it made me feel good to "beat" them to the finish, haha. I even broke out my hard sprint to the finish line, probably looking a little silly!

Everything hurts and I'm dying. Photo by Belia's mom.

My finish time was 4:30:55, over half an hour slower than 2014 . . . and fifth out of five in my AG. Whomp whomp.

In hindsight I can say it was a fun race, though in the middle of it I wasn't having that much fun. It was a very hard race.

Soaking wet girls post-race. Photo by Belia's brother.

The Defiance race also had a few new positive (and one negative) points about it compared to 2014. I loved that I could register for the race and pay for a shirt separately. Learned my lesson last year and did NOT get a shirt this time. I also loved that we got a free pint glass at the finish! This year you could also use a tag from your race bib to get a free beer at a local place after the race. I didn't take advantage, but it was a great offer. This year they had a photographer, too. Yay! Drowned rat pictures! Haha. Better than what they had last year, which was nothing. The major negative is the course didn't seem as well marked this year. I overheard a runner telling someone that the markings were being messed with, which sucks, but at any rate, there were a few spots on the very twisty course that we were unsure about. Luckily Belia and I didn't get lost.

It was a good "character building" training run, and I excited to move on to the rest of my 50k training! 

Friday, October 09, 2015

Running in to Fall

And just like that, my running anniversary has come around again. It's been four years since I fell in love! So much has changed since that first run, but even more has changed over the past year.

Last Sunday's four hour run (which ended up being just over 16 miles) was fantastic. I felt strong the entire time, just a bit tired at the end. Throughout the run I was reminded of the first time I ran 16 miles, which was a year ago that same weekend. I was training for the Point Defiance 30k. My friend Stacey practically had to drag me through, I was seriously struggling! 

Since that first 16 mile run I have run 16 or more miles at least a dozen times. Not all of them amazing runs, but none of them as tough as that first one. It felt so impossible the first time, but now is a manageable long run.

Tomorrow I am running the Point Defiance 30k again, this time as a training run for the Deception Pass 50k. The weather? 100% chance of rain! This actually doesn't bother me at all-- in fact, I love running in the rain!-- but it's a pretty long run, and I am wondering how tough a couple of spots on the trail will be (including the last steep downhill that requires a rope). So, a four-ish hour mudfest it is. 

Running lately has felt great. I am slacking on everything else (stretching, strength, etc) but running? Perfecto. Wednesday's 60 minute run, with some hill sprints in the middle, was so much fun. I found the perfect hill, steep enough to make me work, not so steep I can't sprint up it with decent form. 

Part of my run on Wednesday. Not the hill.

So far I am thrilled with my new training plan. Running by minutes instead of distance takes a lot of the pressure off. Of course, having been through a 50k training cycle already, I feel more at ease all around-- I know I can do it. It's just a matter of how well trained I will be!  

I still need to post about my family's August vacation on the Oregon Coast (yes, two months ago!) and last week's camping trip on Mount Rainier. Here's a preview of how that went:

Eloise and I being photobombed by a mountain.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Training Updates

Officially a week in to my new and improved training plan, and it's been . . . interesting! Overall it's enjoyable, and I am excited that my workouts now have a more specific purpose other than just simply getting in more miles. And I have to say-- my first 50k training cycle was about just running, and it was great, and my race was great, life was great. BUT, I want to consider the idea that I can do it smarter and better (and maybe, just maybe, a tad faster), so here we are!

I did a run with hill sprints. Six 10 second hill sprints in the middle of an easy run. It was fine. The plan calls for a lot of rest between each sprint and that was a little boring. A 10 second sprint is a great place to start, but it wasn't that hard. Yet. It will build from there. 

I did an easy run where I tracked my heart rate. The basic calculation for an easy run is 180 minus your age, so for me it's 180-37=143. I had heard this before, many times, but when you start running by heart rate you slow waaaaay down. I thought I was already running pretty easy, but nope. I averaged over a 12 MINUTE MILE on that run. It would have been more like 10 min/mile before. I was shuffling along and even then had to constantly keep walking. Tried tackling one of my favorite hills to see what would happen-- unfortunately at that point my HRM (heart rate monitor) went haywire and started spiking, so I am not exactly sure what my HR was on that section. Basically I walked the whole hill.

Speaking of spikes, here is what my reading was for the run:

It's pretty obvious where the HRM spiked. I have read all sorts of things about why HRMs spike like that, but feeling a bit too lazy to figure it out on mine.

And see how the line goes a little up and down over and over? The down is every time I had to walk. For real. 

The other thing you can do, I recently learned, is try to breathe only through your nose while running. If you're running easy enough you can do it. If you are running harder you can't. 

The long run at Rainier last weekend, which was much longer than I would typically do in training. My runs in training will mostly be between about 4-5 hours each weekend, a couple shorter, one longer. 

There was one other short easy run in there, too. 

My other challenge this cycle is to focus on time on feet over distance. That way when I head for a run with a ton of elevation I don't have to get frustrated with how much more time it takes me to do my prescribed mileage. 

And that's that! Looking forward to keeping my easy runs truly easy, my hard runs hard, and becoming a stronger runner.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mother Mountain Loop on Mt. Rainier

This past summer, after traversing a section of the Wonderland Trail, I decided I had to get back down (up?) to Mt. Rainier again before the no-snow season was over. With some back and forth planning, it was finally settled: The 17 mile "Mother Mountain Loop" would be the perfect spot for an end of the summer run/hike. 

Belia was in from the get-go, and our friend Lisa joined in the day before, so we had a great little group. Two is more than good for a run, but on bigger adventures having 3-4 people feels just right to me. Fortunately the weather was looking good and the rangers confirmed trail conditions were snow-free, though a bit wet. We readied our gear for the 7+ hour trek and headed out at 5:30 on Saturday morning!

The loop we took goes around Mother Mountain on the northwest side of Rainier, hence the name Mother Mountain Loop. Some people refer to the loop as something like the Mowich Lake to Spray Park to Carbon River to Ipsut Pass to Mowich Lake loop, which is a bit more of a mouthful! 

Our route.

We started our journey at 8:45 am on the Spray Park Trail, heading south from Mowich Lake. The trails around Rainier are jaw-dropping gorgeous, but many sections just aren't running friendly for people without a ton of technical trail experience. We ran when we could, hiked when we could, and it was a good pace for all of us. 

Lisa, me, and Belia at the start.

Within a mile or so we passed some hikers who asked us if we had seen the bear (Yikes! We hadn't.) we made our first stop at the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint. Rainier was "out"! Lisa gave us a quick lesson on clouds, explaining the circle above the summit was a lenticular cloud-- meaning it was very windy at the top! 

Belia and the mountain.

We then pushed on towards Spray Falls. 

Spray Falls. Much more impressive in person!

After Spray Falls it was time to start climbing up to the Spray Park. I imagine that in the Spring/Summer it is gorgeous covered in wild flowers, but at the end of summer the flowers were gone and the foliage was starting to turn deep reds and yellows. 

Lisa hiking up to Spray Park.

Mt Rainier from Spray Park.

Belia continuing up!

This next section was my favorite. I am not sure the exact name, but heard it referred to as "the rock garden" and that exactly describes it! Last time I was on Rainier, heading up to Panhandle Gap, we went through a similar section. My friends explained that you had to follow the cairns, which are stacks of rocks, that mark the trail. Fortunately I had this piece of information to share, as that was the only way to pick your way through the rocky section. 

The biggest stack of rocks! 

Extremely happy me!

Looking for the trail. It's in there somewhere! Like a game of Where's Waldo.

Heading down.

The rocky section in this photo is where we were in the pictures above.

After the rock garden we went down, down, down towards the next landmark, which was Cataract Valley camp. We stopped there for a little break, the continued down even more to the Carbon River. As we descended, so did the clouds. The previously sunny skies turned ominous and we were all worried it would start to rain. Thankfully we never got more than a few sprinkles, but the clouds stayed put for the rest of the day. 

The whole morning I had been looking forward to going over the suspension bridge at Carbon River, but it was actually kind of scary! The bridge rocked as you walked across it. I went straight across and waited. Belia and Lisa stopped in the middle to enjoy the view.

Waiting at the end of the bridge.

Enjoying the view.

After the bridge we stopped and sat down for a snack. I had been thinking about heartier, savory foods to carry with me (sugary running-friendly food gets old fast!) and thought I would try out an Amy's frozen vegan burrito. It was delicious! I put it in my pack frozen at 5:00 am and by the time we sat to eat, maybe around 1:00?, it was thawed and perfect. 

Once we were on the other side of the suspension bridge we began to follow the Wonderland Trail for the rest of the way. The trail was fairly runnable for the next section as it followed along the banks of the Carbon River. 

Approaching Carbon River again. 

A mile up the trail we had to go back across the Carbon River.

Crossing another section of the Carbon River.

My favorite part about the section of trail along the west side of the river was watching for mushrooms. There were so many different kinds, close to a couple dozen that I spotted! This was probably my lowest point, physically and mentally (there was a lot of yawning!), which thankfully wasn't actually too bad, but I kept myself alert with my mushroom searching. 

Amanita Muscaria

This section was extremely green!

From Carbon River the Wonderland trail gradually heads down to Ipsut Creek campground, then it begins climbing again. As I watched my Garmin I thought we didn't have far to go, and knew it would be a climb up to Mowich Lake. We had no idea what we were about to get in to, however! The climb to Ipsut Pass was, in a word, intense. We all looked up at what felt like a wall of rocks on all sides, knowing we had to somehow get over or around it, but not seeing any way that it was possible! There were 2 1/2 miles left. Two hikers came towards us and we asked them how to to get to Ipsut Pass. They pointed up high on the rocks. Deep breaths all around, and we went on our way. We were all pretty tired, this loop already a stretch for all of us to complete, so throwing in that climb at the end felt like almost more than we could take on! However, we soldiered on. Everyone was in good spirits and laughing and talking despite the fatigue we each felt. At many points during the day I felt grateful for the company of Lisa and Belia, but during that climb I couldn't have asked for better companions. When we finally, finally!, got to the top it felt like we had summitted the mountain itself (which is something Lisa has actually done, twice!)! 

A bit over half way up to Ipsut Pass.

Almost there! We came from the bottom!

At the top of Ipsut Pass.

We stopped to enjoy the moment, but knew we had just a mile left to get to Mowich Lake, and that it was down hill. Willing our legs to run, we took off down the trail. It was a beautiful trail, very soft dirt with some roots here and there. Down, down towards the lake. We ran up alongside of it as we pushed towards the parking lot where our post-run food was calling our names!

Mowich Lake.

Lisa took this, it cracked me up. Yummy food!

We made it to the car and grabbed our food. I learned from my trail companions the last time I was on Rainier that there is nothing better than great food post-run. It all tasted so good as we ate and rested down by the lake, tired and happy.

A quick change of clothes and we were off to head home.

I can not wait to go back!

A few notes on the run: I was extremely bummed that my Garmin died at 15 miles, two miles short of the end. I don't have the exact data from my watch, but I think the total elevation gain was over 5200 feet, and the climb to Ipsut Pass was half of that! The loop is 17 miles. It took us about 7 1/2 hours, as we enjoyed lots of stops and moved at a comfortable pace, walking all uphills and carefully maneuvering over the technical downhills. I brought far more food with me than I consumed-- which is a good thing! I always want to have extra food. Despite carrying my water filter, we never needed it. My 1.5 L water bladder was not quite empty when I finished, so I probably should have drank more. There were plenty of places on the trail to filter water had we needed up, until we veered away from Carbon River, about 4 miles from the end.

If you want to attempt this route, and I highly recommend it!, there are a couple of things I suggest you should do: first, check to make sure the road to Mowich Lake is open. The park closes it mid-October or at the first snow, whichever comes first. If the gate is closed, which is five miles out from the lake, you can run/bike in, but it's up hill to the lake. Also call the ranger station at Carbon River and ask about trail conditions. Snow can often linger at Spray Park well in to the summer, and though we saw a patch near the trail, we didn't go through any. For me, snow might have been a deal-breaker, as I have no experience trail finding or hiking through snow.