Mary’s Peak 50k – 6/17/17

The 50k distance has become my standard distance, so I was excited to get a free entry to the Mary’s Peak 50k.

It was graduation weekend for many schools in Corvallis, so I didn’t bother trying to find a hotel to stay in the night prior. I just woke up at 4 AM and made the ~2 hour drive from Portland to Blodgett that morning. I arrived around 6:45 AM (the first shuttle bus was leaving at 7:10 and the second/final was scheduled to leave at 7:20). I had plenty of time to pick up my packet, run my swag back to my car (after the volunteers graciously let me exchange my shirt for a more appropriate size), use the porta potty, chat with race director Mike, and relax in general. I took the 2nd shuttle bus, which was running just a few minutes behind schedule.

I chatted with two guys on the bus about the Portland Marathon controversy and how they came upon Mary’s Peak as their first trail event. About 15 minutes into our 20 minute shuttle, we came to a game of chicken with the first bus coming back down the hill. Our driver had to do some anxiety-inducing maneuvering to make it past (meanwhile, the 50M runners were trying to run down the same road and had to navigate around the buses). We all made it in one piece, but we had a bit of an adventure before we even made it to the start line! The poor runners on the first shuttle bus had been waiting in the chilly forest for us for almost 40 minutes at this point.

Untitled

Once we all arrived, the RD gave us the course breakdown, provided his personal cell phone number in case anyone needed anything at all, and impressed us with his knowledge of the forest. Soon, we were off! The first section was a lovely downhill on the forestry road we just ran up and it was tempting to sprint, as downhills are my favorite. We made our first turn onto gorgeous singletrack and I could feel the day beginning to warm up already.

Untitled

The course was muddy and slick and the singletrack was rolling with a net gain. After a few miles, we popped out onto the forestry road again for our first aid station and had a good 7 miles of uphill ahead of us to the top of Mary’s Peak. It was grueling and after a few minutes of breaking away from the pack, I found myself alone for most of it. No sign of any other runners, no other hikers or bikers, no photographers, no volunteers…just me.

Untitled

Eventually we turned onto singletrack again after a forestry road gate and the true hill climbing began. The trail was stunning; the trees and underbrush were thick and lush, the switchbacks relentless. A few of the 50 milers were on their way down and I was greeted with “good job!” and “keep it up”, which always feels nice.

Untitled

After many slow uphill miles, we popped out onto a meadow and finally saw some volunteers. A man with a dog told me “Just that way, then you’ll circle back to me in about 6-7 minutes.” “Challenge accepted!” I told him (for the record, it took me exactly 10 minutes to make it back). Mary’s Peak would have given 360 degree views of the coast range and valley, but sadly we were pretty clouded in. There was also a radio tower, loads of wildflowers, and an empty picnic table. I didn’t linger.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

After passing back by the volunteer, it was less than 1/4 mile to the aid station. Here, I grabbed an Oreo, a few chips, and a cup of Coke – standard ultra fare. The 50 milers went south and I headed north into the woods. This section was easily the best part of the race. It was singletrack perfection in the moody forest. The temperature was cooler in the fog and the switchbacks provided a nice mental challenge. I picked up the pace and booked it for miles. Eventually I caught another runner and thought “I’m so glad to see another 50k-er!” She grunted and let me pass, making it obvious she wasn’t up for chatting. Shrug.

Untitled

The course popped out at the very first aid station and then backtracked along the first singletrack section we ran up initially. It seemed to be uphill both ways, to me. From here, I ran with 2 other ladies who were up for some company. We hit an intersection of forestry road and another girl joined us. From here, our group was enjoying the solidarity as the course continued it’s rolling nature. Although it was net downhill, any sort of uphill was rough and [for me] unrunnable. I felt like I power-hiked most of the course. We were all vaguely aware of the cutoff time and at our next aid station, we inquired about what time the cutoff was and if we were at the proper aid station for it. No one seemed to have a clue what we were talking about, which was a bit disappointing. We weren’t in jeopardy of missing it, but it seemed reasonable that the volunteers would have this information. I grabbed another Oreo, poured myself another cup of Coke, ate a few more chips (I was wishing for some refreshing orange slices at this point in the day), and we all took off again.

Untitled

We came up to a section of the forest that was clear-cut and we found an unmanned water station. The day was starting to really heat up, so we all refilled out bladders and bottles and caught up with a guy who had clearly taken a bit of a fall earlier in the race. And then there were 5.

Untitled

Winding through the forest, we took turns who was pacing, who we were chatting with, and who jumped at the snake(s) first! I was grateful for the company. As our various strengths became obvious, members of the pack went on ahead and/or took up the rear. I ended up finishing the last bit of seemingly endless forestry roads of the race with a girl my age from Albany and I enjoyed getting to know her more. We came into the final aid station, joking and cheery! The volunteers told us we had about 4.5 miles to go. I looked at my GPS watch, did some calculating, thanked them all, and we took off. We ran down a pretty gnarly section of forestry road (dried mud ruts) and eventually came to the infamous “gate”. “Good, only about half mile to go!” I said as I photographed the wildflowers. After a few more steps, we came upon a depressing sign telling us there were, in fact, 1.7 miles to go. Disappointed, we discussed whether it was my watch that was horribly inaccurate or if we were given misinformation from the aid station. In any case, we plodded along, laughing at the noisy rooster, cooing at the barking dog, and curiously looking at the strange castle/church/mansion in the middle of the forest.

Untitled

Because Mary’s Peak doesn’t mess around, the final stretch was uphill. We “sprint” finished and were treated with finisher pint glasses, watermelon, all-you-can-eat spaghetti, all-you-can-drink soda, massage chairs, and general relaxation at the finish line.

Untitled

Untitled

I hung around for about 45 minutes, laughing with other runners, enjoying the beautiful afternoon, and watching the other racers (in both the 50k and 50m events) come across the finish line.

 

Mt. Defiance – Starvation Loop Hike – 6/11/17

The Oregon Hiker’s Field Guide gives these details about this hike:

  • Start point: Starvation Creek Trailhead
  • End point: Mount Defiance
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 11.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 4940 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult (and that’s only because we don’t have anything harder)
  • Seasons: June-October
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

“And that’s only because we don’t have anything harder.” Apparently this is the “hardest” hike in the Gorge. I hadn’t heard about it until about 2 weeks prior. In an effort to keep up my hill training, I slapped it on the calendar, rounded up my best adventure buddies, and off to Defiance we went.

There are 2 things I have PTSD about: sunburns and poison oak. I have become terrified of both and will go to great lengths to avoid them. This hike was sure to bring both and I was prepared: long pants and SPF 70. The downside to this? It was freaking hot, which make both a terrible idea.

The first section of the hike was exposed, steep, and noisy, due to the freeway. We just came off the flat and paved path, enjoying a quick waterfall before starting up the trail, so I was spoiled from the gate. The struggle in the heat was real and I told the boys to go on ahead so the pressure was off to keep up.

Eventually we hit the woods and felt the nice relief of a breeze. There were a few pockets with a view and took the opportunity to rest and enjoy them.

After cooling down (and slowing down slightly), the hike seemed less daunting. I received a text message from Jesse that he made it to the summit and warned us of the “fork in the road”. When we came upon it, the choice was obvious: ‘more difficult’.

We hit some snow and eventually the summit (it was tempting to cut up the gravel road to the radio towers, but my inner hiker stuck to the singletrack). Our view was a bit clouded and there were a few other groups up there, but we sat and enjoyed our lunch, mapping out the route down. We looped back around the ‘easiest’ way, just to mix things up, and decided to descend on Starvation Ridge, rather than just back down the way we came.

Quick pit stop at Warren Lake

This was easily the best part of the hike. It was a steep descent (after a bit my left knee started to argue with me about the decision we’d made), but it was quite a cool ridge in the middle of the trees.

Our group of 4 was all hiking together at this point and we spent the bulk of the time trying to figure out which plants were poison oak. We came across one hiker who shared his “wisdom”, but as we continued on, we still weren’t convinced.

The switchbacks down to the car were unrelenting, but we had such a good mix of terrain throughout the day I was happy to enjoy it all.

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 9.03.40 PM

It was an all day excursion and I was glad to check it off the “to-hike” list. Also, no one suffered any poison oak outbreaks…win-win!

Mailbox Peak – 6/3/17

I love this photo. Everything about it is my favorite. Laughter. Girlfriends. The moody Pacific Northwest. Novelty. Precariousness. Pink. Adventure.

I heard about Mailbox Peak from a woman at the Green Monster Duathlon a few months ago. She told us she uses the hike as a training route and I knew I had to visit it. My favorite Washington ladies and I had been planning this hike ever since and the day finally arrived. I added one of my best Portland friends to the mission and at a very dark 4 AM, we made our way up to the trailhead some 3 hours away.

We took up the last of the parking spots at the trailhead and started up the Old Trail. “Non-trivial” is going to be my description: 2.5 miles and 4,000 ft of elevation gain.

The actual trail wasn’t always obvious and we took turns being the trailblazer, not wanting to claim responsibility for getting the group lost in the woods! It was foggy and cool and I wasn’t complaining. It was steep and root-y. I was amazed at how different this forest in northern Washington looked from other nearby hikes I’d been on. I enjoyed every grueling second of our ascent.

After passing the intersection of the Old and New trail (and teasing the man with the enviably luscious locks), we hit the rock scramble and I scoffed. “These are basically stairs!” we all thought. The path was clear as day and easy to navigate. The trip reports warned of it being a bit technical, so I was surprised at how basic it seemed.

Eventually, the boulders turned to rocks and then turned to stones and then pebbles, and indeed the hiking guides were right. It was a short but vertical climb to the summit.

As the photos show, we were socked in all day. Our views should have been of Seattle, Rainier, and various other mountain ranges all around. Just a few hundred yards from the summit we stopped to see just the tip of Rainier peeking out. Within about a minute it was gone and never popped out again.

We reached the top, elbowed our way through the crowd to the mailbox, wrote our letters to Santa, took a few photos, then plopped down to eat some snacks. I was thankful I put on some bug spray at the car, as we were swatting mosquitoes away.

The mailbox’s contents are ever-changing. This particular day there was a Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen, a hiker’s log, stuffed animals, some foreign currency, a water jug, and many other random items. It is such a unique destination and a fun way to leave behind a piece of yourself at the summit.

On the descent, we took the New trail, which was much less rough, but twice as long and had relentless switchbacks. It was a beautifully maintained trail and I was wishing I could run (or sprint) all the way down.

At some point, I had to pee so badly I couldn’t stand it. The new trail was relatively busy, so I hussed up the side of the trail behind a tree, telling my buddies to keep watch. No sooner had I dropped my pants, did a fellow (male) hiker come walking up and then sat down on a tree stump directly in front of me, just feet away from my “watchwomen”! Mortified, I aborted my mission and jogged down the hill. “You people had ONE job!” I teased. Laughing, they were distracted by a bag of candy. I think the male hiker was more embarrassed than I was. “I didn’t see anything, I promise!” he assured me. I conceded I’d have to wait until we were out of the woods (no pun intended).

It was such a lovely adventure and after reaching the cars and changing clothes and shoes, we picked a nearby brewery to convene for lunch. Over a few homemade chicken strips and french fries, we planned our next ladies hike. I can’t wait!

Mt. St. Helens – 5/20/17

Jesse & I were offered permits to hike up Mt. St. Helens with our friend, his wife, and their 2 former neighbors. We’d been planning it for a few months and just a few days before our permit day, our friend’s wife could no longer join us and their neighbors told us they had company visiting from Michigan. The downside was that they wouldn’t be joining us, either. The confusing upside was that they were sending their friends in their stead.

A few days of questionable planning ensued and we all decided to caravan up together at 3 AM so we could begin hiking before sunrise. We [mostly] stuck to the plan, though it was light enough at the trailhead that we didn’t need headlamps. We were just about 1/2 hour behind schedule.

img_3549

The sun coming up over the mountain was beautiful. We were hiking in snow right away, but it was warm. It was unclear what sort of conditions we’d have to trek through, so we all packed all the options: snowshoes, crampons, ice axes, poles, layers…the works. It was a much different experience than our summer ascent from last year.

img_3552

img_3554

Our hike was slow going, as we sorted out the appropriate gear as we climbed. Some hikers we saw had nothing but YakTrax on, others began with crampons right away. Some were skinning up with skis on and we all knew what that meant – they would have an incredible ride back down! One particular skiing group brought their border collie along. My day is always improved with a dog sighting!

dsc0017.jpg

We stopped for photos and lunch before the final push to the top and we were almost blown away by the wind. Once we got going again, I counted my steps in increments of 20 to pass the time. It seemed to take ages.

img_3555

Once we reached the false summit, I threw down my pack and smiled to the north at Rainier, who was there to greet us. Mt. Adams to the east only peeked out a few times that day, Mt. Hood just the tip, and no Jefferson this time. You can’t win ’em all.

img_3556img_3557

The rest of our group joined us and we relaxed on the top for about an hour, eating some, reapplying sunscreen, taking photos, and preparing for the descent. We wandered over to see the summit and after chatting with a few other groups, decided it wasn’t safe or wise to venture to it. No one had done it that day and it would take quite a bit more time. We just gazed from afar.

img_3560

_DSC0065

_DSC0071

Jesse & I brought garbage bags for glissading and made pseudo-diapers out of them. (Note: it does not work as well as one would think).

Of the 5 mile descent, we were able to do about 3 miles on our butts. The chutes were well worn and it was easy to find a track and take off. The problem was all the gear we brought! I had to figure out how to hold my body so my feet were off the ground, my snowshoes wouldn’t drag behind me, my ice axe was at the ready, and also that I wouldn’t impale myself. It took most of the afternoon to sort it out, but it was such great fun!

At some point we put our snowshoes back on and were back on our feet. We arrived at the car and made plans to stop at Burgerville just down the road a bit. We were all famished, sunburned, and sleepy.

_DSC0092

Never have I ever been so badly burned. The next morning, my nostrils had blistered and my lips were swollen from it. I went on a 7 mile run with a friend in Forest Park and she politely didn’t say a word!

Capitol Peak 50M – 4/29/17

“So don’t you sit upon the shoreline

And say you’re satisfied

Choose to chance the rapids

And dare to dance the tide”

–Garth Brooks, “The River”

Well, I did it. My first 50 mile race. I was never confident that I could run that far – not on the day I picked out which event it would be, not on the day I finally registered for it, and certainly not on race day. And yet, somehow, my legs and my lungs proved my brain wrong. Probably because my heart wanted it bad enough.

As we do, Jesse drove us up on Friday night to Capitol State Forest (near Olympia, WA) and we slept in the car. We arrived late to the camp site and backed in next to the river, trying to be careful not to shine our headlights at the others tents, while simultaneously trying not to run into a tree. We found a flat enough spot and rolled out the sleeping bag. I didn’t sleep a wink. I promise you, it wasn’t nerves. I was calm and legitimately tired, but I couldn’t warm myself up. I listened to the river rush by all night, clawing at Jesse’s warmth, wondering what the next day would bring.

The alarm went off at 5 AM, though I was already awake. It was dark and the car was foggy. I pulled out my baggie of questionable muffins (“these are easy enough to make and bring to the start line!”, I thought, and proceeded to fail miserably at making them). I ate two. Jesse awoke and I awkwardly pulled on my running clothes in the front seat. We drove the .02 miles to the start line and I immediately stood in the porta potty line. I’ve gotten better about that.

I set my drop bag down on the confusing staging area (“Where is aid station 3/5, from the map?” “Um, not sure.” **thinks to self, “Isn’t this your f**king race?**). It was too early for this. I set it down, knowing I wouldn’t need anything from it, as it only had my old trail shoes in case mine got soaked, a roll of Oreos, and an extra jacket because why not? Sigh.

Jesse joined me and we chatted to some other runners while I ate half a bagel. It was cold, but not miserable. The race director started his briefing and of the approximately 50 runners, he asked who the newbies were. Me + 2 others. I felt even more unprepared. I kissed my love for good luck and took off at a snail’s pace down the trail.

img_3479

There were some dogs, some old people, some young. The typical gamut. I ran with a young guy, Kyle, for maybe 20 minutes. He was training for the Bigfoot 200. Of course he was. I ran with another girl (Colleen) for a few miles; it was her first 50M as well. She wasn’t super keen to chat with me, but I appreciated running near someone. I stopped for a photo of the sunrise and she continued without me.

img_3481

img_3482

Eventually we started up hill #1 (Capitol Peak) and a man joined me from behind (Glen); he had started late. He gave me some advice (“Jog the flats, even if it’s only 10 yards. In a 5k, it won’t matter, but over this distance, it could save 15 minutes or more! Like this, you should be running!”). I needed to run my own race, so I politely let him pass, but I logged his advice away. Power hiking up the hill, I caught another woman (Kim) and commented that I was jealous that she had sunglasses. We chatted about various summer events – she was training for her umpteenth 100 miler. Of course she was. She ran into her friend, who was in some sort of pain, and she stopped to chat. I carried on up the hill.

img_3480

Aid station #1 came quickly at 5.5 miles. I enjoyed a few Oreos, some watermelon, and some Coke. I thanked the volunteers and continued hiking up to the radio towers on hill #2 (Larch Mtn). The view of Rainier against the sunrise was breathtaking. This is why we do it.

img_3485

img_3487

I enjoyed some glorious downhill by myself here, and then traversed on some incredible singletrack before joining a logging road and ascending Larch Mountain.

img_3486

Here Kim caught up to me and we power hiked together. At the top of Larch Mtn, we were instructed to take an army man, to prove our ascent. We paused to enjoy the view, then took off running on the way down. We both professed our love of downhill running and picked up the pace.

img_3488

Kim & I maintained a decent distance behind another group of women (ultra runner princess Jill, Christy, Colleen, and the girl in pink). We were chatting up and down the logging roads, matching our pace, and enjoying the run. We reached the same aid station again (#2, the half marathon mark), dumped our army men, and took off through the forest, joining the woman’s group. Every now and then we’d hear gun shots from people target shooting. It was a little unnerving and eventually Christy explained that was why the race shirts were fluoro yellow – an inside “joke” about gun safety in the forest. Makes sense!

We all stayed together, for the most part, leapfrogging as we all took our turn off trail for bladder relief, kindly passing as we found our place in the pack on the varying hills or descents, chatting about everything and nothing all at once. The miles flew by. I was so happy.

A tiny downhill into aid station #3 (mile 17-ish) was a nice intro to the hill to come. I had a few chips, an orange slice, and an Oreo for the road. I refilled my front pocket bottle with Coke and we were off again through the forest. I was just behind Christy and saw the photographer on the side of the trail, clicking away. With no one behind me, I asked if he was ready and gave him my best jump! Classic race shot, both mouth and hand filled with Oreo, and we thanked each other. I’ll cherish that photo and that memory. See it here.

I ended up power hiking with Christy and Jill, talking running, up and up the hill, while the water ran down. Jill stopped for a break and eventually it flattened out enough to pick up the pace. I was out in front, on flowy singletrack with lush, vibrant ferns all around. Pretty soon Colleen and Kim are behind as well. Jill eventually caught up and asked to pass (“I want to be going faster”) and I pulled to the side. No one else joined her, so I took the lead again. This would be my position for the rest of the run (and I heeded Glen’s advice about running the flats. Maybe it helped).

img_3489

This section was 13 miles out to the far aid station and back again (making a full marathon). It featured views, dense forest, logging roads, clear cut, and, finally, the lead runner. Obviously hours ahead of us, we were impressed. But he didn’t look to be in good shape. He was in the lead by a good margin, but did not appear to be having a very good run. We came upon the “unmanned water station”, and we kept on keepin’ on. I would stop to take photos, and my pack stopped behind me. I offered to give up the pacing position and was assured I was doing a fine job. Christy, Colleen, Kim, & I were in it together at this point.

We started passing groups of runners on their way back and finally one girl said “It’s almost 1:30, you better hurry!”. Oblivious to what she meant, we confusingly chatted about the vague notion of a cutoff. We reached aid station #4 (mile 30) at 1:32 PM. The volunteer said the cut off was 1:30. Whoops! He looked us all intently in the face and asked how we felt. I shrugged and replied “Good…hungry”. I ate 1/4 of a PB&J, an orange slice, a few chips, and, you guessed it, a few Oreos (Colleen took off with half a picnic in her arms). He let us go, but only if we “hustled back”. No problem.

We ran for maybe 15 minutes and saw pink shirt girl sprinting down the hill in front of us and then she was gone. “Didn’t we pass her ages ago going the other way?” We all agreed she was either horribly lost or out of her mind. We never caught her.

We came across a woman who was clearly in the event, walking (with poles) and we stopped to consult with her. We told her the last aid station was still a few miles away and that the cutoff had come and gone. About 15 minutes later, we ran into a volunteer, asking about her. “She went thataway!!” I all but said. I felt bad for her (and him).

Here was where Kim & I parted ways with Christy and Colleen. It was unspoken, we just suddenly realized that they were no longer with us. We didn’t want to linger and decided to continue on, but I felt conflicted about leaving them behind. I reminded myself to run my own race.

The rain started and I got cold. I put on my headband and we re-entered the forest. We came upon a young couple who we saw just before the last aid station and they were asking about the distance left. We urged them not to drop out, but it seemed inevitable. We carried on.

We reached aid station #5 (mile 43) and huddled under the tent. I pulled out my ultralight jacket to help preserve the heat, as well as my gloves. They were out of Coke, so I took a swig of Mountain Dew, something I’d never tried before during a run. Screw it. They also had tiny pulled pork sandwiches and since it actually sounded appealing, I had a few bites. It was going to take too long to eat, so I tossed the rest, grabbed a few chips, and we took off again.

Reckless Kelly’s “Eight More Miles” was playing in my head (“I can’t decide, if 8 more miles, is the top of the world, or the end of line…”). Kim & I talked about anything and everything. It was mostly downhill and we ran it in. I started to hallucinate a little through this section (“Is that a man with a cowboy hat on?”) and had to really focus. “Ready for lap #2?” she asked, insinuating it was a 100 miler. “There’s no way! I could not…” I replied. “That’s because you know it’s only 50,” she said. I know she’s right. Eventually your body will do what you ask it to. It’s just up to you to mentally make it.

At mile 45 my GPS watch beeped – low battery. Shrug. We passed over beautiful bridges, ran next to raging mini waterfalls, sloshed through the mud, and at one point, it looked identical to my beloved Forest Park. I was amazed.

img_3483

At mile 49, my GPS watch beeped again – ‘saving activity’. It died. I laughed. The cutoff for the entire event was 13 hours and we were toeing that line, but my watch just couldn’t hold on. Nearing the end, I said “Kim, did you see the beautiful mugs for the category winners? Maybe they’ll have an extra one I can have for being in last place”. She humored me and replied “Maybe!”

“Kim, I see the finish line! OMG!” We sprinted. Kind of. Jesse was waiting sweetly with a chair as I doubled over, elated, out of breath, and exhausted. I hugged Kim and we laughed at the ridiculousness of having just run 50 miles for fun. The race director said “We have a mug for you!” and I was thrilled. I didn’t earn it for last place, though, apparently, I won my age category! “The other person dropped, didn’t they?” I asked. “Hey. A win’s a win” she told me. I’ll take it. Funny, because I’m the most proud of that mug. I wanted it so badly.

img_3490

I ripped off my pack and sat down. A volunteer handed me a package of Oreos and a cup of soup. And a La Croix (I took it, but where’s the freaking Coke!?). After about 15 minutes, Christy came sprinting in. Colleen had to DNF, but Christy booked it to the finish line. I was so happy for her!

In all honesty, it was the best I ever felt during a run. I was never sad or on the verge of tears. I never once thought I wasn’t going to make it. My legs were fatigued, no doubt, but my heart was happy. I enjoyed every.single.second. That is no lie. Because let’s be honest. The race is a culmination of my entire running career – it just happened to be the last 50 miles of hundreds of hours on the trails. Countless training days. Endless podcasts and music streams. Good days and bad. A DNF was never an option: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

There. The gritty details of my 50 miler. Almost 6 weeks have passed and I have more on my docket, but that event is so, so special to me.

My incredibly large blister has healed:

img_3498

My little toe turned black (not just the nail, the entire toe) and is now back to normal, though the nail did come off.

I’m back to running, climbing, hiking, and all my normal activities. I was in an incredible amount of pain the following day and spent the day napping and watching videos of the late Ueli Steck.

In the 12 hours and 45 minutes that I was running, my incredibly supportive husband ate breakfast, took a nap, ran the 25k and rocked it, ate lunch, and volunteered at the finish line until I was back. I adore him.

“That’s amazing!” is the standard response to my 50 mile achievement, followed by “What’s next?”. Stay tuned!

Easter in Canada (4/14-19/17)

It had been over a year since I journeyed to Ontario (and almost 6 months for Jesse), so we thought we’d take a few days this spring to head east to see the fam’. Luckily, tickets were reasonably priced over Easter weekend so we booked it!

We took the red eye from Portland to Minneapolis and while I’d ideally be sleeping through this, I was captivated by the sunrise (while true, it’s also a fact that it’s difficult to sleep when your 6’2″ husband is sprawled across your lap trying to catch his own zzzs), which was subtle, yet beautiful.

img_3440

We arrived mid-afternoon (EST, of course) and hung out in Michigan on the banks of Lake Superior, enjoying the cloud-free day and walking off our jet lag.

img_3442img_3444img_3443

No Easter weekend is complete without some egg-dyeing. Round 1 of simply dipping the eggs is on the top row, while round 2 with the more carefully crafted, hand-painted eggs are on the bottom row. As a small tribute to April the Giraffe and her new baby, Jesse painted an egg in her honor.

img_3450

One particularly cold and windy morning beckoned us for a run along the HUB Trail through Sault Ste Marie. We managed a very slow 14 miles around the city and I enjoyed running with Jesse, as we are seldom able anymore. I put most of the blame for my sluggishness on our trip to Gilbertson’s for some maple syrup-y goodness the day before, but it could have just been general travel fatigue. I guess we’ll never know!

img_3454img_3453

My favorite spot was in the Fort Creek Conservation Area. It was a quiet green space tucked away in the northern part of the city. There were signs warning us of bears and I was secretly hoping we’d see one but alas, no such luck. Only dogs and Moms with strollers.

img_3455img_3456

We had such a great visit with family and friends; loving and being loved is the best.

Spring Training

A story in pictures. Spring in the PNW is incredibly refreshing.

img_3391

Wildwood

img_3392

Finally, I can run in a t-shirt!

img_3403

Some aftermath of a wind storm in Forest Park

img_3414

Beautiful singletrack  – Wildwood

img_3416

An early trillium in Forest Park

img_3427

Marquam Trail = hill training

img_3428

Banks-Vernonia Trail

img_3429

An old trestle bridge

img_3430

Banks-Vernonia Trail

img_3431

The view from below


Hawthorne and Hood

Green Monster Duathlon – 3/4/17

Inaugural years for events can be hit or miss. As race directors work out the kinks in logistics, they can be the awesome event we’ve all been waiting for or it can fall flat and a few years have to go by before anyone is brave enough to return.

The Green Monster Duathlon was close to the former for it’s inaugural year in 2017. I happened upon this random event on Ultra Signup and immediately recruited Jesse and our good friend to join me. Jesse was keen to do the middle section, the mountain bike, and our friend took the final running leg, leaving me to start us off.

None of us had ever been to Green Mountain before – it’s west of Seattle, across the bay, just outside Bremerton, WA. We drove up the night before and stayed at a hotel, waking at 4:30 AM to make the rest of the drive to arrive by the suggested 6 AM time to ensure parking. We had the option to camp, but given that there was frost on the ground, I was incredibly grateful for the warm bed at the Hampton Inn (and the wi-fi, as we had a hilarious time sorting out the recommended mapping app).

When we arrived at Horse Camp, we were greeted by the race director and were told we could park just up the road from the starting area. This was ideal, as we could then hang out in the warm car until the sun came up. We had 2 hours to kill until the start time, so we meandered to the camp fire, socialized with the volunteers, and just generally relaxed, digesting our hurried and desperate McDonald’s breakfast.

At long last, the leg 1 runners were off. I was battling a horrible, awful cold and was running with what felt like only 25% of my lung capacity, coughing all the way. My leg was called “The Miserable Loop” – about 7.5 miles with 1,350 ft of climbing. I settled into the run, walking the hills when I couldn’t breathe, and making friends left and right.

img_3369

Everyone there, I gathered, were locals and most seemed to know the race director so it was interesting to hear about the history of the town and the trails (being some of the only out-of-towners, we were in somewhat of celebrity status up there). One girl I was running with was celebrating her 30th birthday that day and she was in the best of spirits. I enjoyed running with her all morning.

img_3370

At the aid station, we were told to continue up to the vista (might as well, we’d come this far, right?) and then rip a page from a book corresponding with our bib number, then head back to the starting line. The view was beautiful and I had a strange experience with a guy wanting to video my running shoes. I sure hoped he was part of the event!

My running buddy and I enjoyed the lovely downhill back to the starting line / transition point where Jesse was waiting on his bike to begin leg 2: “The Slaughterhouse Onslaught”. A quick kiss and he was off.

I was soaking wet and starting to shiver so I headed to the car to change my clothes. Afterward, I enjoyed fistfuls of Swedish Fish, oranges, and pretzels, washing it all down with my favorite trail running beverage: Coca Cola. Our friend and I sat by the camp fire…it was incredibly chilly on Green Mountain!

Eventually, Jesse came rolling in and our friend took off for leg 3: “The Fire Swamp”. Within minutes he was back, looking a little lost. This seemed common among the leg 3 runners; the course was marked in pink and orange ribbon…but so were the logging roads on the mountain! Not ideal.

img_3371

While our friend was out running, Jesse & I took in the spectacular burgers from the Grub Hut food cart that had rolled in. We, per usual, bogarted seats by the fire, devouring our well-earned lunch.

img_3372

After a little while, we headed down to the finish line to wait for our friend. It was raining and we stood under the tents, watching other team members finish and celebrate. Some badass athletes did the entire event solo and they were quite inspirational as well. One particular team, a couple also from Portland, got engaged right at the finish line! As he finished the last run, he knelt in the mud and proposed. Teary-eyed, she said yes! Unfortunately, I am in the background of nearly every photo of the moment (as seen on Facebook). Sorry, friends!

Our friend came in, looking strong. We returned to the firepit, food in hand, and hung out for the raffle. Many of the competitors left right after finishing, so the group had dwindled and our chances of winning were looking quite good!

img_3374

The raffle ended up being the best part of the race. It was laced with hilarious commentary and embarrassed multi-winners. Our friend won a massive jug of electrolyte powder (“add some water so it forms a paste and layer it on!”). The event had some inspiration from the Barkley Marathon, hence the books / tearing of the pages, and aptly named leg titles: “Misery” by Stephen King, “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, and “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman. I, ever so fittingly, won a book signed by the race director and volunteers. I was thrilled!

My winning ticket was the last to be drawn so with book in hand, we piled in the car and headed for home.

Whistler – 2/3/17 – 2/11-17

We had this trip planned for the better part of a year. Our dear friends invited us to their timeshare in Whistler for a week and we blocked out the vacation on our calendars and all but forgot about it.

Finally, 2017 arrived and it occurred to us that we probably need to buy ski passes, arrange for a dog-sitter, and generally start planning to be gone for 9 days. With two days eaten up for travel, that left 7 days to play. Our discounted ski lift options were either 1, 3, or 5-day passes and it was agony deciding which way to go. We settled on 3 days and it ended up being the perfect amount.

We left Friday mid-morning, after slipping and sliding our way through an ice-coated Portland [insert funny stories about gas stations, fragile credit cards, bank teller errors, and a transient person here]. We stopped in a very snowy Vancouver, BC for a beautiful dinner with our friend’s former colleague, and continued slowly to Whistler (after a quick stop at Canadian Tire to invest in some decent ice scrapers). It was a long travel day in wonderful winter weather.

Our Creekside condo was lovely, greeting us with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and a lovely view of snow-covered trees. The elephant in the room was the bedroom scenario: who gets the bunk beds and/or twin beds? Since we were technically the guests, Jesse & I channeled our inner 5-year old selves and embraced the bunk beds. We were in Whistler, who can complain!?

Saturday was a settling in day, of sorts. We slept in, went to brunch, stocked up at the grocery store, picked up everyone’s respective ski rentals, and wandered up and down (and up and down) the snowy sidewalks of Whistler Village.

16406908_10210286138023276_3545877022125129482_nimg_3247

Sunday we skied. It dumped an incredible amount of snow Saturday night and was a gloriously sunny day that morning. As expected, the line to the lift was 45 minutes long. It was cold, but the snow couldn’t have been more ideal and I couldn’t get enough of the views from the top. We were cutting through powder all day long.

img_324816508813_10210293493887168_9198204081782161551_n16425789_10210293493767165_4446675569588714636_nimg_3253img_3252We stopped for lunch near a random hut and sat in the snow to eat our sandwiches. Soon several fat little birds were swooping down on us, trying to steal our lunch! They would stalk us from atop our skis and then make their move. It was cute at first, but then they became brave and obnoxious, diving right at Jesse’s mouth!

img_3256IMG_3189

After our 6 hours of skiing, Jesse and I scrambled up Blackcomb, literally ran to catch the last P2P gondola, and raced down the mountain before the last run call. It was a stressful, yet hilarious endeavor, but we made our happy hour date. We met at the bar for German sausages, hot chocolate, and the end of the Super Bowl (complete with an upsetting come back from the Patriots… what the actual f***?).

Monday was day #2 for skiing. The snow was still pretty good, but it was an extremely gray, cloudy, windy, and cold day. Because we spent most of Sunday on the backside of Whistler Mountain, we traversed over to Blackcomb for some variety. The snow seemed a bit icier and I was frustrated with how cold I was. We ended up stopping at the lodge for lunch and buying hand and toe warmers. It was hard to enjoy the day when I couldn’t warm myself up at all. We called it quits about 30 minutes early and headed back to the condo where I bee-lined it for the hot tub.

img_3261img_3260

Tuesday was another sunny day and we slept in and slowly got around to making breakfast and then headed over to the Olympic Park for some snowshoeing. We ended up doing about 4 miles through the woods. It was much warmer and again, BC was too gorgeous for words. After several hours wandering through the woods, we headed back to Whistler Village because our friends had booked a bobsled ride! They went through an hour or so of training and then raced around the bobsled track for about 45 seconds. It was quite cool to watch! Later, in the hot tub, the relaxation of the evening was ruined by some drunken locals talking about Donald Trump, incompetent snow plow drivers, and seasonal employment. It was awkward and unpleasant but they eventually left and the world was good again.

img_3263img_3268img_3264IMG_3202IMG_319617192242_10154473629832404_7844231131586934022_o (1)

One of our friends had to head back to Portland on Wednesday morning, so we dug her car out of the parking lot and said our good-byes…at 6 AM. Then the 3 of us headed to the trailhead to begin our Garibaldi Lake trek. It had snowed a fair amount and was going to be decent weather day… until the late afternoon. So we were working against the weather AND daylight, but were really just out to enjoy the snow. The first mile or so was up the road, as it is not plowed in the winter. We decided we were following the tracks of a skier and/or snowboarder combo, but were the only ones on the mountain otherwise.

img_3305img_3309img_3319

The trail featured ~3,800 feet of climbing in a few short miles and about 650,000 switchbacks. We crossed a frozen lake, found a few incredible viewpoints, and enjoyed being in the Canadian Wilderness for the day. Besides my lengthy argument with a squirrel, we didn’t see anyone else on the trail until we were on our return trip. Eventually, we had to make the call to turn back before reaching our destination. We had no intention of sleeping on the mountain and the storm was rolling in. We headed back down, making up time on the descent and finishing just before dark. It was an epic day and I look forward to returning to complete the adventure in finding Garibaldi Lake.

img_3311img_3314IMG_3214My little toes were trashed from 14 miles in my snow boots. I suppressed a scream as the hot shower water rushed over my raw little piggies. Soon after that, I happily crawled into bed and fell asleep immediately. It had been a long day.

The plan all along was: on Thursday we rest. And indeed we did. It was a PJs-all-day type of day. It was cold and snowing all day long. The fireplace was on, the 3 of us nestled in, plugged into our various electronic devices, wrapped in blankets, and truly relaxing. That evening, we dug out the car and Jesse & I wandered to Whistler Village for a bank run (because who doesn’t need a foreign bank account in this political climate?) and, randomly, a haircut… and also a Whistler Blackcomb Hydroflask. Now there’s an adventure story.

img_3322img_3323

Friday was day #3 of skiing and we were all in pretty rough shape. Jesse was sick and had black and swollen toes, our friend had leg/foot cramps, and yet again, I couldn’t warm up my body enough to enjoy the day. We begrudgingly spent a few hours on the slopes and just after lunch, we all gave in to the struggle. We made our way back to Creekside, enduring the icy moguls of Lower Franz’s. We spent the afternoon at the condo, slowly packing up the place and trying to eat all of our remaining food (which we gave up on and went out for tacos anyway, after several frustrating trips to the post office waiting on some important mail).

img_3324

On Saturday, we made the drive home. It was a spectacular week and almost makes me want to invest in a timeshare of our own.