Hell of the Northwest – 11/16/13

Hell of the Northwest. That name is no lie.

Jesse was away for work when this fun little trail run sparked his interest. I received an email from him randomly containing a link and the words “How do you feel about a 25k?”

Suuuuure, why not!? My [naive] response: “I’d be up for 25k!” I was then instructed to create a profile on Ultrasignup.com (much to Jesse’s delight), which had some sort of error in that everyone had to enter as children, but eventually I was officially registered. Only 15.5 miles. I could handle that.

Later, I poked around the actual website a little more and realized what the hell I had just agreed to. Over 3,000 feet of climbing. Um….okay. So I’ll run some and hike walk some. No biggie.

Here’s the course info (note: these are not our stats):

11-16-13 map

So, we get up at the crack of dawn, as we do, and drove down to the greater Corvallis area. It was cold and was supposed to rain and/or snow (naturally). Jesse had all sorts of extra layers in his pack – base layers, mid-layers, jackets, hats, gloves. Most of which, might I add, went unused. I think I put my jacket on around mile 14 and ran without gloves or a hat the entire way. But I am forever grateful for his preparedness (and even more appreciative that he is willing to run with all this stuff…just in case!). He probably just doesn’t want to hear me whine about being cold without having available options to shut me up! =]

Our plan was to walk the hills, as I had not been training properly for this event. Jesse could probably run it easy, and likely be a top finisher, but I’m still getting used to what it means to do “hill training”. I had been doing too many casual bridge loops downtown! Again, he was prepared enough to have noted exactly when the climbing started, how much it gained, and over what distance. So I had ample warning to take a GU, mentally recharge, or to commence crying. You know…whatever felt right. I kept thinking “Yup, should have dropped to the 10K!”. But I hadn’t and was now internally repeating my favorite running pun: “It’s a hill. Get over it!”

Here we go!

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We were off and the entire pack quickly left us in their dust! “We’ll catch some of them” Jesse claimed, but my legs were already burning by the .25 mark and took in this statement rather skeptically.

Despite my general feeling of being completely unqualified for the event, it ended up being such a gorgeous day for running! We had quite the mix of weather elements – wind, rain, sun, all of which equated to mud, cold, and the debate of whether or not we should be wearing sunglasses at any given moment. Even though we were caught in some rain, I was never miserable (weather-wise). So there’s a major plus!

Need a break – strike a pose!

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The course itself was also spectacular. Set in Blodgett, OR in the Starker Forest area, we had such great terrain. Some gravel road running, single track, grassy areas, and mud! Jesse was testing out his Salomon Spikecross shoes and though they were noisy on the road, he gave them rave reviews through all the mud! While I am consistently in love with my own trail shoes, they were a bit slippery at times and I required more than one arm up while climbing.

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Embarrassingly, the mountain biking sweepers caught us 3 times. “No pressure!” they yelled and hung back for a while. But you know the saying “You won’t be last. There’s always someone slower than you!” Yeaaaahhhh…..I was the slow one. Granted, there were only 50 people in the 25k, I was reassured time and again that it didn’t matter, and I knew/know in my heart I’m the only one who cares, but I was still mortified to be the one holding up the event finish. The poor aid station people, the volunteers at the finish line, and Jesse. I didn’t feel like a badass at all. I felt like an amateur in over my head.

I had to talk myself out of these feelings in order to finish at all (I was tempted at aid stations 3 through 7 to drop), and was again deflated when we had no sooner crossed the finish line when they immediately took down the banner. Everyone was super congratulatory and sweet as could be, but I just wanted to hang my head. I was in need of an attitude adjustment and that came with the free cookies at Eats & Treats Cafe on our way home!

This run was on a Saturday and I was sore and hobbling around until Wednesday. Again, the name was not just for dramatics!

Although I am beating myself up over this one pretty badly, in hindsight I’m glad I did it. I’d do it again (or another one like it) and just have to remember that it’s really all about getting out there and getting it done. No one except me cares that I’m last. And I suppose someone has to be!

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Silver Falls Marathon – 11/02/13

Earlier this month, after an excruciatingly long week (or two) away from home for work, Jesse returned to Oregon to run the 2013 Silver Falls Marathon. The night before was a good friend’s birthday so we were out partying it up until the wee hours of the….evening (i.e. home by 9:00 PM) playing some good ol’ Cards Against Humanity. What can I say? We are horrible people…

We arrived at Silver Falls with a ton of time to spare. The never-ending debate of “jacket or no jacket” was had, and then off to the starting line. Well hey there, good lookin’!

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I wore running clothes and was hopeful to go over to Shellburg Falls while Jesse was gettin’ his marathon on. I will admit, though, that I did not make this happen because it was cold and blustery that day at Silver Falls and I couldn’t talk myself into it. So what did I end up doing for 5 hours?

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Soooo…..yeah. I enjoy post-apocalyptic YA novels, what of it? I am also a sucker for a strong female protagonist, but don’t judge me unless you’ve read them – they are addictive! Anyways, I read all the pages from the “comfort” of my car. And no, I don’t want to talk about the ending. Veronica Roth, if you’re reading this (what are the odds!?), I’m not speaking to you.

As I often do hanging around the finish line, I was partaking in some light jest with the volunteers and making new friends. I knew Jesse would be having a rough day, preceded by a rough week and it’s so much fun having these brief moments with strangers – they suddenly become your support crew best friends and cheer just as hard as you do when your runner is spotted. And, naturally, the sentiment is delightfully returned. I love it.

Despite being in less-than-peak condition, Jesse says Silver Falls delivered, per usual, the event was great, and it only hailed for a little while 🙂 At the end of the day, he still ran a freaking marathon! And he is ridiculously photogenic doing so, am I right? Or am I right?

Some photos from the finish line:

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Afterwards, we sat in the tent area for some post race food and, as we were both shivering quite a bit at this point, we hit the road for home. It’s been 2.5 weeks since, and Jesse’s shoes have yet to be cleaned off. Gotta love trail running!

Ft. Steilacoom – 10/20/13

My first half marathon…Ft. Steilacoom, October 20th, 2013. So many miles logged. So much anticipation (or as I generally call it…anxiety). It was on a Sunday and I made sure to hydrate, eat well, and do basically nothing else the day before. I was careful not have a repeat of the sore ass debacle that was my 10K.

We had about a 2 hour drive to Lakewood from our house that morning, so I made sure to put out everything I would need the night before. Pants, shoes, socks, backup socks, blister treatment, sports bra, long-sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirt, rain jacket (let’s be real. PNW in October?), drink bottle, regular clothes for afterwards, GU. All the things. Called it good and I’m fairly certain I was asleep by 9 PM.

We left the house super early, since we didn’t really know where the hell we were going. About 60 miles from the event, the gas light came on. Because we were cutting the time short as it was, we had a Kramer moment of “Where’s the needle!? Oh, it broke off, baby!”. Finally, 9 minutes to our destination, Jesse couldn’t take it anymore and had to stop to fill up. Typical of him to not risk it! Note to self: use the bathroom whenever you can. The lines at the porta-potties are just not worth it.

Arriving at the park (which was a bizarre place in and of itself, but I digress…), we picked up our packets, attached our bibs, downed some GU, and took a quick ‘before’ photo.

Oh hi!

Oh hi!

The temperature was actually perfect for running that day. It was cloudy, a little misty, and about 45 degrees. So it was cold at the starting line, but just perfect once we got going. It was a diverse event with 50K, marathon, half marathon, 10K, and 5K options, but each had a small enough group of runners that I wasn’t feeling too intimidated. The race began and there was a camera guy first thing. Go figure. Can you find us!?

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Keeping up with the pack, Jesse reminded me to stick with my own pace and to not get dragged along with everyone else. It’s easy to run with them for a while but it might not be sustainable for the long-term. So I was careful to find the pace that felt familiar.

The course was a nice mixture of grassy meadows, gravel roads, pavement, single track, etc. It had pretty much everything, as well as some good climbs and equally good descents. The half marathon course did a 5K loop, a 7-ish mile loop, and the 5K loop again to finish. The 5K loop had a fun single-track bit, which I’ve decided was my favorite part of the course. I guess it was just familiar and jumping over logs and dodging roots added a little flavor.

Here we are around mile 2.5 – and me hamming it up for the camera!

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The 7 mile part is where things got interesting. This is where I had to really trust myself that I could finish. I wouldn’t try anything more than a couple MnMs and sip of water at the aid stations and I was feeling thirsty, which was new for me on a run. I had never taken water on any of my training runs (aside from Jesse’s Camelbak on our mountain bike/run adventure). I’d never responded well to anything in my stomach while running, so I was torn about my decision to feel thirsty or to feel nauseous. Luckily, keeping it really basic with small sips worked and I didn’t have any major issues.

Somewhere in the 7-mile loop part, a guy was behind me and I started feeling crowed (and self-conscious) so I stepped aside to let him pass “Oh no,” he said “I need someone to pace me”. I pointed to Jesse and responded “Then you should follow him!” He replied “Nah, I need someone slow.”

WTH, dude!? I had to laugh it off because he didn’t mean it the way he said it, and he ended up being pretty cool, but still! Burn!

In other news, much to my surprise and delight, my calf was not bothering me at all! I’ve conceded that it was just my body telling me to slow the training down and to trust that I was prepared enough and that I shouldn’t push things so much. My blister situation was non-existent as well, so I was feeling pret-ty good.

Until, as I mentioned in my last post, mile 11. The home stretch. Only 2 miles left. I could run two miles, easy. But my hips were not on board with this plan…..

My only issue before mile 11 was on a fairly grueling climb where I ended up gulping some air and getting a massive side ache. Slowing down the pace at the bottom quickly eased it and I was back in the swing of things. But at mile 11, things were different. This was my muscles on strike and getting pissed. I was careful not to cry (not from the pain, but from feeling like a failure at this point) and Jesse’s sweet offer to walk for a minute was met with a stern “No”. But my new habit was checking my watch every few minutes (er, seconds) until I could see the final stretch. I didn’t beg my body to finish, but rather, begged Jesse to distract me. To sing, to tell stories, anything to pass the time. At this point, 2 miles was going to take about 25 minutes so I needed anything to divert my thoughts from the agony. I’ll keep it to myself as to why, but I ended up laughing a whole bunch and being so grateful for him (the whole way, but mostly these last few miles).

Somehow, in the final stretch, I was able to pull off a sprint (well…”sprint”) finish and felt really good about the race in general…

Final time:

10-20-13 GPS

My legs were D-E-A-D though, and I couldn’t stop to hug Jesse properly, as I strangely felt the need to keep moving (such a bizarre sensation). I managed not to collapse, walked a few minutes on wobbly legs, and then commenced the painful stretching routine. After and adequate amount of sitting, we ate some pizza (well, Jesse did. I wasn’t going to risk it), solicited a spectator for a quick ‘after’ shot…10-20-13 after

…and headed home. Again, I think I spent the rest of the afternoon asleep. It was a really great first half marathon for me and I am proud to say I ran the whole.damn.thing.

Here’s our sweet (and/or crazy) map:

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One thing I loved so much during all of this was being able to see real runners just doing their thing. And being one as well. 5K fun runs are great, but casual. Being at Jesse’s events is so inspirational, watching everyone take off together and come in one by one in varying states. But this time I was out there, feeling it for myself and seeing everyone else in action at different stages on the course. I knew I wouldn’t be competitive and that isn’t typically what these “races” are about. You’re really only trying to be your best. Whether your strategy is to be a consistent runner the whole way (my goal), or to be fast on the flat and walk the hills (the woman in front of us), or to just finish in general (which I experienced just this past Saturday), it’s really all about running your own race the best way you can and comparing yourself to others is absolutely, 100% minute.

Running Myself Ragged

“In running, you can’t be a beggar. Never beg your legs to keep moving, never beg yourself to keep pushing forward. Because that implies that you don’t have control. Eventually you’ll have to beg your mind too. No don’t be a beggar, but instead be a commander. Command your legs to push, command your feet to keep going. Because you want this. And you’re going to make it happen.”

I wasn’t reciting this quote to myself the entire time, but I remember Jesse asking me around mile 11 if I wanted to walk for a while. But I had to command my legs to push. I wanted it, and I had to make it happen…

A little flavor for how my first half marathon went, but first…let’s backtrack a little to my training days. After the 10K at Hagg Lake, I decided it was half marathon time. I could run 6 miles, and on any other day it would have easy. Well, easier. That much I knew. There are not many 15K options ’round these parts, so it had to be a half. Might as well. Go big or go home, right!? So I spent an afternoon exploring some various options available in the timeframe I thought I needed to train properly and came up with 4 possible events:

How I narrowed it down:

  1. I knew I wanted it to be a trail run, ruling out Columbia Gorge;
  2. I hadn’t quite decided if I wanted Jesse to run with me, but wanted the option, ruling out Happy Girls; and
  3. Let’s just get this over with; the sooner the better, which eventually ruled out Grand Ridge (yikes, I’d still be in training today if I’d chosen that one!)

Ft. Steilacoom in Lakewood, WA, wherever that is, get ready for me! I started doing research on a good training schedule I could implement and stick to. I opened up my handy dandy Google Docs and made a little spreadsheet from a training plan I found online. I pared it down to 10 weeks, rather than 12 (since that’s all I had!). I should note though, that at this point I had not fully committed…I had not officially registered and I had not told Jesse, or anyone else, what I was up to. Just quietly upping my weekly mileage. I eventually told L (as she became suspicious of why I was pushing her to run longer and longer distances), and she became my training confidant and after-work running partner. Funny how Jesse got me started with all this running nonsense and I found myself, for the majority of my runs, without him.

Here are some of my workouts with L.

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As you’ll see in the photo on the right above, there is a large break in my training from August 26th to September 17th. No, I wasn’t being a total slacker – it was just that I thought I needed a bit more intense training…in the Alps!

Jesse and I had been planning a trip to Europe and finally made it happen. PDX to AMS on August 29th. Then on to Bristol, London, Paris, Samoens, and Barcelona. We did a few runs throughout the cities, but we both agreed that our time in the Alps was the best by a wide margin. It was in Lyon, France, at the most basic airport known to man, waiting on our delayed flight to Barcelona that I told Jesse about my half marathon plans. He was so impressed (i.e. skeptical) that I was thinking of a trail run for my first half that I knew he’d have to sign up too so I could prove my worthiness of such a feat. In that tiny airport, with sketchy wi-fi, we registered together. I guess it was official O_o

Some of my best training was in Europe (shocking, I know). Not only because it had great terrain, endless routes, and unbeatable views, but also because nothing was tracked with GPS. No apps to start and stop. No time constraints or pace to beat. Just running when we wanted to, and not running when we (i.e. I) didn’t want to. It was all really low pressure and casual, which I enjoyed so much more than my training with my ruthless internal coach. Details on that will have to be an entirely separate post, though!

After 15 glorious days abroad, we returned home and real life resumed.

9-25 to 10-14

The 9.72 miler is a lie. Well, I did go that far, and farther, but I was in Forest Park during the “Pacific Typhoon” in Portland. Jesse was…I don’t know, somewhere, and I had to get in 10 miles that day. So I drove to the trailhead and started in by myself. It was a good start, actually. I remember my first several miles being sub-10 minutes/mi. Some guy in a blue jacket was (unknowingly) pacing me, I had a good playlist going, and the rain wasn’t an issue as I thought it might be. Until…..mile 7. Oh, so much pain! The blister forming had now taken over my entire life and all I could think about was that run being over. “You can do it, only 3 more miles” “Only 2.8 miles and this will be finished” “Only 2.6 miles now!” “Only 2.5 more miles. Wait, I’ve only gone 1/10th of a mile!? FML!” It. Was. Agony. No song could help me. I tried to continue running to just get it over with sooner and I had overcompensated for my foot with my stride that my back was hurting. Worst. Run. Ever. And then I get to the bottom and due to sketchy GPS service, my watch said I’d only gone 9.7 miles (the app was way off from about mile 4 and it kept pausing, hence the discrepancy). So, I kept limp-running past the car for my own masochistic pleasure of having the distance read 10.0. (Note: that blister ingrained such a paranoia in me and has been a bane in my every run since that I now swear by Dr. Scholl’s Blister Treatment pads for every run > 6 miles.)

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That was the longest distance I put in before Steilacoom. Here’s why.

The weekend after the 10 mile run, some friends and I were signed up to run the Neon Run 5K at PIR. Before I get into the details of the event, I must preface by saying this was a terrible event that I would strongly advise EVERYONE to avoid. It was so poorly organized and coordinated/directed, packet pickup was a complete joke in that it was mandatory in BFE, and parking was so terrible that it backed up I-5 in both directions. The course was unlit and perhaps a little dangerous, cones were unmarked and people were constantly running into them, walkers couldn’t follow directions and were just in the way (Dear Neon Run: people who plan to walk the entire course should have a different start time. Kay thanks. Sincerely, An Annoyed Runner). Okay, rant over.

We finallly all arrive at the event and our wave was supposed to be at 7:15 PM. Although we were enjoying being herded like cattle, our gun eventually went off around 7:40 PM and off we went. When we were able to break away from the pack, I started feeling better about the event and we were able to have some fun with it.

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Easy 5K on Saturday night, followed by an 11 mile run with Jesse on Leif Erickson Drive. Or so I hoped. It’s never been clear to me if something happened at the 5K the night before or if I was running weird that day with Jesse but I was really struggling around mile 5 with my calf. Okay, struggling is an understatement, I was in such anguish I couldn’t even talk to Jesse and sent him on without me while I cried and walked and in my mind said all the swear words I could think of. I’d worked too hard to have an injury at this point! It just wasn’t fair.

Jesse came back to me, worried, and we had to devise a plan to get me home, as I was barely walking at this point, it was getting dark/cold, and it was at least 4 miles back to the car. We looked at the map and decided I would walk to the fork in the trail about a mile up and then take the trail down to the St. John’s Bridge while he sprinted ahead to get the car and would drive around to pick me up. About this time, 2 boys doing who knows what* (*we all know what!) in the woods came running down, skinny jeans and all, music blasting. How lucky, they were headed the way I was going to go. I lied to Jesse, told him I’d be fine, I’d take the flashlight but not the phone (worst case scenario, I get clubbed and abducted in the forest. Best case scenario? I don’t. But, meh…YOLO). I won’t bore you with the thoughts in my head during the 17 hour (i.e. 12 minute) walk to the bridge, but we’ll just say I was limping fairly quickly now and was quite alert.

The next few (ahem, 6) days I didn’t run, for fear of only injuring myself more. We were in Idaho for my niece’s birthday party and I decided I had to test the leg and see where I was at after all that rest. It’s true what they say:

“Seven days without running makes one weak”

It was a bit of a challenge to get back into it! We did 7 miles that Saturday on a gravel road out by Forest, ID, though I ended up walking the last mile. I could feel the dull ache in my calf and was equally annoyed and terrified that I’d really messed something up. My doctor had said to take some ibuprofen before the race (with lots of water) and as long as my stride wasn’t altered, I’d be fine. With 8 days to race day, my heart was still deflated about my current limitations.

I ended up trying 2.5 miles that Monday and 3.5 miles on Wednesday and not feeling super confident in my ability to run 13.1 miles in two days. I conceded to the fact that if I couldn’t do it, then that was that. I would walk if I had to and would just have to be proud of how far I’d come, regardless of how things ended up on race day.

5ks to 10k

I started “training” (i.e. more than just jogging with my dog 3 days a week) after the Rugged Maniac, which I ran with Jesse and a friend in early June. A different friend, V, was supposed to join us and had to drop out, but we found a Groupon for a 10K to do together in August as an alternative. It was then that I realized I needed to start running for real.

6-23 to 7-11

The 4.51 mi run on June 26th was a personal record for me at that time. I remember wanting to make 4 miles that day, and somehow pushed through to make 4.51. I was running downtown, in the scorching heat, and I was miserable. I had the app set to notify me at every half mile and I remember thinking it was broken after mile 4 because it seemed to take hours to get to 4.5! Jesse was away for work (it was his birthday week, too!) and I immediately took a screen shot of my stats and texted him, trying to play it cool, even though I felt like the most badass runner in the world.

These are the rest of my training runs (ones tracked via Runkeeper, anyways).

7-18 to 8-4

The 10K was on August 11th at Hagg Lake and Jesse had entered the half marathon, which was running simultaneously. It was obvious to spot the regular runners vs. the Groupon bunch (I fell into the latter category!), but it was a good sized group, great weather, and I felt only slightly unprepared *eye roll*. As you can see from the above runs, I’d only hit 6 miles once. And that wasn’t even on trail! Also, the day before Jesse was able to talk me into a 12 mile “mountain” bike ride (i.e. Leif Erickson ride on my friend’s bike). My ass was sore and on race morning I realized…

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But, I had been training, damn it! After the half marathoners took off, we lined up in wave 2 and hit the trail! As you can see, though, I was not super stoked!

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The first half was going all right. There was one aid station around mile 3 and I had a swig of yellow Gatorade (we all know Gatorade by colors, not flavors, right?) and then it was all downhill from there. By downhill, I mean my motivation, energy, and general well-being. I knew my nutrition was going to be a problem – I still hadn’t worked out how to take Clif Shots, Gu, or otherwise replenish my energy – and this run was no exception.

I lost my stamina. I was walking all the hills, while V waited so supportively at the top. We started talking about sports bras to pass the time, meanwhile I was being passed time and again. Trail running is annoying in that it’s hard to let people pass on single track sometimes. It was mostly awkward clutching of trees while they all jogged on by.

Finally we were getting off the trail and onto the paved sidewalk that took us back to the finish line, aka the car to take me home. One woman had stopped off to the side and V explained “When you pass someone who is stopped, you’re supposed to run past and take their energy to carry you on”. Huffing and puffing I replied “She didn’t have any!” Laughing, she told me “That’s the funniest thing you’ve said all day!”

Although my spirits were temporarily up, I was ready to be done. We mustered up a “sprint” finish (final time: 1:18. Missed my goal by 3 minutes. Figures), did some stretching, and hit the food table for some watermelon and red velvet cookies (is there any other kind!?), then headed back to the finish line to watch for Jesse. Awwwwww yeeeeaaaah!

Jesse 8-11-13

Some additional race photos can be seen here and here.

On the drive home, I was tired and quiet. And then, as I suspected, I got sick. Two miles from home, we had to pull over (sorry residents of NW Cornelius Pass Rd, probably shouldn’t pick the blackberries in that spot). Once home, I showered and slept the rest of the Sunday away. Was definitely sore the next day, although most of that was likely still from the bike ride!

To sum up, I made some obvious rookie mistakes. But with a 10k completed, I started to [masochistically] think “I could probably do a half…”