Volcanic 50 – 9/3/16

“As a runner, you have to face the truth about yourself on a regular basis, and it makes you more honest. You can’t pretend to be faster than you are. You can’t pretend that you are better prepared than you are. You cannot pretend to be a runner, you actually have to run.” -John Bingham

In all honesty, I wasn’t properly prepared for this run. I had a crazy intense July and I slacked off in August. September 3rd was Volcanic 50 and I knew it would be a slow day. I’d power through and keep an eye on the cutoffs, but it was going to be hard.  With over 32 miles, around 7,500 ft of elevation gain, and almost a completely exposed course around Mt. St. Helens it was going to be the toughest run on my books.

My running buddy (I place the blame for my entry on her) wasn’t going to be able to run it this year after all and I’d accepted the added challenge of running this event alone. The run was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and I looked forward to the extra two days of rest before heading back to work.

The weekend before the race I began to prep. I was asking Jesse for advice about maps and gear and was constantly checking the weather. Prior race reports ran the gamut for weather: 90 degrees and sunshine to 60 degrees and fog. I was fervently wishing for the latter.

I argued with myself over running with poles or without. How much water would I need, really? Did I need a proper GPS device or would an app on my phone be okay? Through these internal debates, Jesse’s advice turned into his own planning. I don’t know if it was jealously or the thought of missing an epic run, but with 3 days to spare, he signed up as well. While I try to think of myself as a badass adventurer, I was relieved that he was going to be there, too.

Friday night came and we decided the start line wasn’t actually too far from Portland and we would just drive up in the morning. Another friend of ours from Cascade Lakes would be there as well and we looked forward to catching up with him.

After our mandatory gear check, another quick stop at the port-a-potty, we shivered at the start line before taking off. It was a gloriously misty day; the fog and dampness of the air made for an ideal running day. I was incredibly grateful for this.

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Jesse & I had no expectations of each other. We agreed to run the entire race together and I was glad the pressure of pushing it to keep up was off. The first few miles were a steady incline and we took off at a brisk hike. No need to over-exert. I wore my heart rate monitor, more for curiosity’s sake than a guide. My average bpm was 162 and I peaked at 189. Not bad!

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We were on beautiful single track which eventually was a nice, runnable, rolling terrain. We were park of a pack at this point and around mile 4 we heard screams. Bees.

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I knew they were coming. The race reports talked about them and I was hoping to avoid them with the cooler weather, but no such luck. The girl out in front was stung 4 times, the guy behind her 4 times, and me twice. One crawled under my GPS watch and stung. Another got me in the glute through my pants. I tore off my watch and pulled out the stinger from my wrist. The other one would have to stay until later. Luckily Jesse wasn’t stung, as he has a stronger reaction than I do, but it was still an annoyance for the rest of the run. Swelling and an eventual itch on both stings reminded me just how far we had to go.

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Aid station 1 (of 4) came around mile 6 and I loaded my front flask with Coke. I grabbed a few Oreos and we took off, feeling like a million bucks. Boulder fields and river crossings await!

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There were a few fun sections where we needed to climb down valleys with ropes and up the other side. We had to scramble over lava rocks and jump over streams and rivers. After 6 more miles, we reached aid station 2. This was a bit of a longer stop, as we studied the next course section ahead. We entered more forest, ran through pumice fields, and traversed steep sandy sections.

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After 8 miles of pretty lonely running, we came to aid station 3, which was a great relief. There was music, food, and a tiny waterfall. The volunteers at this aid station were so full of energy (and some were even dressed at astronauts…because why not?) and we took their compliments and well wishes to heart.

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Four more miles of pumice fields, a huge hill climb and an equally long, rocky descent brought us to aid station 4. The last one. We had made the cutoff by about 45 minutes. It was raining at this point and there was a guy in red shorts we had to catch. We didn’t linger very long. It was almost over. My legs (and my back) were ready to sit down. Just 8 more miles.

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These last miles were brutal. On the mind and on the body, it was a never ending cycle of descending the valley, climbing out the other side. Descending, climbing out. Repeatedly. For ages. Followed by boulder fields. And then there was a break of glorious single track and I prepared myself for the descent to the finish line. After just a few minutes of actual running, another boulder field presented itself. I groaned and power hiked up and over. Jesse was out ahead, stopped at a corner and he looked back at me. “How much more of this?” I pleaded. He flashed me his most evil smile and disappeared around the corner. That wasn’t a good sign.

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We passed the guy in red shorts and didn’t see another person until the finish. We reached the proper trail and jogged through the trees, enjoying the final minutes on soft forest footing. We saw a trail marker telling us we were 1/2 mile away. We were quiet. And then…cowbells. Cheering. The photographer and the finish line. Jesse and I crossed it together and we were both smiling like fools.

The race director came to congratulate us, handed us our swag, and pointed us to the food. I asked her where the chairs were. Our friend came to greet us (he left us on a big hike and finished well before us…I was proud of him!) and the race director brought a chair to me. I collapsed in it and began to shiver as the 3 of us rehashed the race, ate a little, and basked in the glory of the day.

After emptying my hydration pack back at home, I calculated my intake. A Clif Shot Blok (just one package), about 6 Oreos, 1/4 of a PB&J, a handful of MnMs, about 16 oz of Coke, and 3/4 L of water. In other words: not much for over 11 hours of activity. I always swear I’ll be better at that. I never am.

Here are the links to Paul Nelson’s beautiful professional photos:

In the weeks following, I’ve been asked so many questions about it, but the one I never have a good answer to is:

“Did you feel trained?”

Yes and no. I finished and now have 3 points toward the UTMB. But I wish I had been faster. I wish I could have run more of it. I wish I hadn’t been sore for 5 days after it. Coulda woulda shoulda. But I’m damn proud of it.

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Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

An update from the world travelers!

Jesse and I are safe and sound back in Portland. It isn’t where we necessarily planned to land, but here we are…and it feels like home.

Portland welcomed us with open arms. One of the first things we did was go for a run on our beloved Wildwood Trail in Forest Park and it was such a treat. We also have taken up ice skating as our new sport! (Just kidding, it was just this once but still! Look how cute we are!)

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We are staying with our incredible friends in North Portland while we settle in and begin our house / job hunts and resume real life. Sometimes it feels like we were never in NZ at all. It can be funny how you plan and plan and do and go and see and pretty soon it’s all over and you’re only left with pictures and memories. But ‘home’ isn’t ever the same because you’re different now. I guess that’s how you know it really happened.

I flew to Idaho shortly after our arrival to get Riley and my car. I spent almost a week with my family and was grateful for all the time with my sister – horseback riding, shopping, lunches, the playground…(and yes, there are 5 dogs in there. It’s a bizarre pack)

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…and even though we came from a beautiful summer down under, the weather in the PNW has been so lovely we were able to get to the lake for a quick boating excursion. It was such a glorious day and it was a rare occasion where it was just Mom, Dad, my sister, and me.

A little food, a few blankets, and 33 miles on the lake. Perfection.

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I managed to get in one run before I caught Sheridan’s cold. A lovely 8 miles on Rolling Hills Road. Aptly named, I might add…

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I hope everyone is having / had a lovely weekend! xoxo

July 2014

July 2014 has been such a bittersweet month with the highest highs and the lowest lows.

Let’s start where everything should – at the beginning.

I last posted about Jesse’s birthday hike up Elk Mountain, which we did on June 29th. Three days later, on Wednesday, July 2nd, Jesse and I were newlyweds.

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We hiked a mile from Lower Macleay up to the Stone House in Forest Park and promised to love and take care of each other for the rest of forever. I borrowed a dress from a dear friend (but bought a pink ribbon to make it my own, from the Button and Ribbon Emporium, no less), I bought my flowers from the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, Jesse made our “wedding bands” that morning out of a guitar string, and 7 of our closest friends joined us as we said “I do”.

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My favorite Portland photographer, Katy Weaver, spectacularly captured the evening (the photos above are courtesies of her) and my close friend / mentor / office-wall-sharer was our minister. After our ceremony, we hiked back down and went to our favorite Portland restaurant to celebrate with everyone. It was absolutely perfect, just like my new husband!

(Please note this was our legal U.S. wedding. We are busy planning a second ceremony in France this September with our friends and families – the countdown is on!)

On Friday, July 4th, Jesse, Riley, and I journeyed to Idaho to spend Independence Day with my family. It was a classic Fourth of July, complete with boating, water skiing, air chairing, wake surfing, sun tanning, BBQing, and general family time.

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On Sunday, July 6th, Jesse, Riley, and I were venturing back to Portland when we received a phone call that broke our hearts in two. Jesse’s mother, my new mother-in-law, was in a fatal cycling accident in New Zealand.

We were 3 hours from my parent’s; 5 from home. The miles were agonizingly long. The minutes ticking by seemed like hours, the journey seemed to take days. The tears came to me in waves, the silent droplets racing down my cheek. I couldn’t be bothered wiping them away. Jesse was next to me, speechless for an infinite time. I drove while he made calls and sent emails. I remember 0.0 miles of that drive.

A few days later Jesse and I traveled to Canada to be with his family. Mourning the loss of his mother while simultaneously being congratulated on our marriage was an overwhelming juxtaposition but everything went as smoothly as it could have, given the circumstances. There’s a silver lining – I love his family endlessly and it was bittersweet to be back with them and to meet those I’d missed on our trip in late May.

I’ll be brief here because I’m not sure what’s appropriate, but want to say Jesse’s mom was one of the most vibrant and loving people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Her smile was contagious; her energy and excitement unparalleled. Family was the most important thing to her and I’m very lucky to be part of those special bonds now as well.

With the "Golden Gromit" in Bristol, England. September 2013

With the “Golden Gromit” in Bristol, England. September 2013

While in Canada, Jesse and I had a nice visit to his family’s camp, though we were completely devoured by relentless mosquitoes and managed to only make exactly 2 s’mores.

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IMG_4371IMG_4368IMG_4373We also had a lovely trip out to Lake Superior with the entire family. It’s so beautiful out there – such a great spot to enjoy the water and just relax.

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Also, a few weeks ago my Facebook status update was “Nothing says summer like ripping out handfuls of grass and putting it on the person next to you”. I guess the same can be said for rocks on the beach!

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Suffice it to say, running in general, let alone any sort of proper training, has been the lowest priority. We ran at Hiawatha Highlands after a very special ice cream treat…

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…and I had two good runs this week back in Portland. One with Riley up to Kelly Butte Natural Area…

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…and one with a good friend (who, to top it all off, was at a wedding in South Africa earlier this month and was involved in a very major train crash). I am grateful that she is safe and I enjoyed catching up with her. Running is often the best way we do that.

Tomorrow morning I am running the Lacamas Lake Half. It’ll be my first ever road half and I’m doing it all by myself, as Jesse is still out of the country. Fingers crossed for me!

Sault Ste Marie, ON, Canada – 5/24-5/29/14

As our wedding date is quickly (yet also very slowly) approaching, Jesse and I decided to take a few days to travel to Canada for me to have a meet and greet with his extended family, many of whom unfortunately won’t be joining us in France.

We flew to Sault Ste Marie on a Saturday and arrived at his Grandma’s late that night.  After adjusting to the time change on Sunday morning, we had a big day planned! I was first introduced to Mitsy, Grandma’s cat. She has quite the reputation and as Jesse walked by a little too briskly, I found out why! (A quick swat to the leg to remind him who’s the boss!)

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First on the agenda that day was the traditional Sunday lunch at Swiss Chalet, followed by a meet ‘n’ greet so kindly hosted by Jesse’s aunt and uncle. Everyone came over for the afternoon to meet me, catch up with Jesse and each other, and to enjoy the beautiful weather. The Soo, as it’s called, had a very long and cold winter and we apparently brought the sunshine and warmth with us!

After everyone said their farewells, Jesse and I stayed behind, just chatting all through the evening with his aunt and uncle. It was such a special day; his [and now my] family is really quite wonderful.

Monday was an adventure day. We started out for a run from his Grandma’s house around to Bellevue Park and decided it was too hot to run, so we walked along the waterfront, had a spectacular lunch at Muio’s, and then walked out on Whitefish Island for a few hours, Jesse explaining and reminiscing all the while. It was really quite sweet how much he loves the town and his memories of being there.

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We had to terrorize the seagulls just a little…

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Canadian geese. Fitting.

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To escape the heat, we made a pit stop at the mall and ended up in the arcade room. We both failed miserably at both basketball and Dance Dance Revolution, but the incessant laughter made up for our lack of skills. We ended the day with a run to his aunt and uncle’s place and enjoyed some Mr. Sub subs with Grandma.

Tuesday was a different, more relaxing “adventure”. After stopping at the infamous Tim Horton’s for coffee and bagels, we began our trip up to “the cove”; a beautiful beach area on the bank of Lake Superior. First stop was Chippewa Falls:

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Jesse is such a boy sometimes and caught a frog!

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I was clearly skeptical:

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We carried on down the road, stopping for souvenirs and ice cream, and then made it to the cove. Now, I know Lake Superior is called a “Great Lake” for a reason but its size is still remarkable. The water is an indescribable blue and the temperature – well, it’s just plain cold! Jesse and I had a lit-tle competition to see who could stand in the water, up to the knees, the longest. I won’t say who the winner was, but if you could see my smirk right now it’d be an easy guess 😉

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We put our bouldering skills to work, scrambling over the rocks and braving the wind to get the best views.

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“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” –E.E. Cummings

We found some snow still lingering on the beach and Jesse did some pretty sweet rock skipping.

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Back in town, we found some terrible dinner at a local restaurant. Most of the food was cold; we’re guessing it was just some sort of lunch buffet that they warmed up for us. We found a napkin someone else wrote on alluding to their bad dinner, and, well, yeah. It was unfortunate. After dinner, Jesse and I drove out to his great aunt’s place for a quick catch up with her. We played Triominos (my new favorite board game!) and ended up being out there until 11 PM! Whoops!

Wednesday was our last full day in the Soo so Jesse and I headed up with the Hiawatha Highlands to get in some proper running. But first, Timmy Ho’s! (Also, I love that everything in Canada has both English and French writing!)

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We only ended up running a few miles, but spent time exploring anyways.

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We made a quick stop at Crystal Falls:

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This photo is from our creek crossing:

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We hiked up an old ski lift:

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And then called it good to avoid the black flies and to get ice cream. This place puts Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors to shame…I swear there were at least 50 options! I opted for maple walnut; Jesse went with pistachio and chocolate peanut butter.

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After our “run”, we drove out to his Grandma and Grandpa’s camp, which is about 20 miles outside town. His grandparents built it themselves and it seems like such a cherished place that holds many great memories.

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We wrapped up Wednesday night with a family dinner at Giovanni’s – an Italian favorite among the locals – and then spent some time around the fire pit with Jesse’s friends.

On Thursday morning we had to say good-bye and fly back to Portland. It is always hard to leave a place where love is so palpable. I feel very welcomed by everyone and am extremely lucky to be part of this family. They’re all so very special.

*A special thanks to Sonya for many of the photos from Lake Superior! xoxo

Whisked Away to Whistler

Back in the fall, as we were registering for winter running events, I agreed to do the Hagg Lake Mud Run 25K, and Jesse signed up to do the double feature (50K on Saturday and 25K on Sunday…eek!). Upon further review, I noticed this happened to fall on Valentine’s weekend and I was less than thrilled. I thought it would be awful to spend two full days at Hagg Lake just running, but agreed nonetheless, as Hagg was Jesse’s very first ultra and he was determined to beat his previous time. We later found out that we both had the following Monday off for President’s Day as well, and it seemed like an additional downside. *sigh*

Just a few days before the event, Jesse suggested we skip Hagg and get out of town instead. Secretly delighted, I was eager to brainstorm a long weekend adventure. San Fran? Bend? Canada?

The Whistler option won and the night was then consumed with booking accommodations, lift tickets, arranging for doggie daycare, etc. I do just love spontaneity..when it’s carefully planned. 😉

We drove to Vancouver Friday night, arriving at the hotel around midnight. I’m always irritated at my dependence on technology when I have to be without, but we successfully navigated to the hotel using only text directions rather than GPS. Always a good skill to retain!

After a quick breakfast buffet at the hotel, we headed straight to Whistler-Blackcomb and were skiing by noon. The snow wasn’t great but I had never been to Whistler before and was excited just to be there.

This is what happens when we try to take selfies:

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Ok, that’s better…

Love the trees in Jesse's goggles!

Love the trees in Jesse’s goggles!

It was snowing by the time they called last run and they predicted over 20cm (err…9 inches) to accumulate that night. Our drive to our rental was sketchy at best, but we were in the Subaru so it was no big thang!

Our rental was a small basement apartment in Pemberton. Our host had a helpful “welcome book” with local business suggestions and we ended up at The Pony for dinner. It is a rustic place with the Olympics on every channel – I do love Canada for that.

We arrived at the hill a little later than planned on Sunday due to a detour to a local bakery in Pemberton for “breakfast”. I’m such a sucker for pain au chocolat!

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The line(s) for the lifts were absolutely ridiculous! We shopped for some neck warmers (I was only slightly miserable the day before regarding the cold) and were able to avoid what was apparently a 45-50 minute wait. But then, of course, that means everyone is on the hill!

The snow on Sunday was really great – lots of fresh snow and less ice. The view was not as great, though, as it was foggy and snowing pretty much all day.

I will admit, I was anticipating Whistler being extremely intimidating. I’ve been skiing since forever but I am still a pretty cautious skier. I very much dislike moguls and am slow on black diamonds, double or not, but I was pleasantly surprised at the ratios of beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs they had. No wonder people stay for weeks! Jesse is a far superior skier than I, but he is sweet and picks the trails he knows I’ll enjoy and I try not to whine (or seem annoyed) when we change it up to his preference. I must say, we make a pretty good ski team.

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                                                                                          Though clearly I’m a gold medalist here…

On Monday we made a quick stop at The Pony for brunch, an even quicker stop in Vancouver for Jesse’s coveted watermelon bubble tea (yes, it’s a thing) and made our way back to Portland.

It was definitely a whirlwind weekend, but it was fabulous nonetheless.