Tom Dick & Harry Mountain – 1/7/17

More fun in the snow. More adventures with friends. More crazy weather. One particularly questionable day, we were invited on a snowshoe adventure with a friend and a others up Tom Dick & Harry Mountain. It’s an easy enough trail and we opted to bring RileyDog with us this time, too.

In the winter, the main trailhead is blocked by the massive snowbank the plows create along the highway, so hikers must park at the ski hill and walk along the road nearly a mile. Riley insisted on relieving himself several times before we even began the roadside walk, so several trips back to the car were in order, but finally, we could take off.

We strapped on our snowshoes at the trailhead and entered the woods. The trail features a couple of wooden bridges and then climbs up the mountain with plenty of switchbacks. We reached Mirror Lake in no time and decided to keep heading up to the summit.

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After traversing an exposed part of the mountain through the wind and blinding snow, Jesse and two others decided to trudge on ahead to the summit, while I and another turned back toward the lake, knowing they wouldn’t make it too much farther anyway. Here’s where the adventure began: my group got lost. With the wind and snow, our tracks were quickly covered, even in the forest. We knew where the lake was, and where the intersection of the loop trail was, but we didn’t know where exactly we were. So we went left. Then went back and went right. Then went back and went down the hill. Then turned around and went straight. And finally, the literal sign we had been searching for! Also, a few run-ins with other dogs and a lost bootie (Riley’s, not mine) added to the stress of the day.

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We stood at the intersection, chatting away, after 20 minutes or so, the others showed up. We headed back down the hill, working up the courage to trudge up the highway to the car; the thought of pizza motivating our quick descent.

Poor RileyDog struggled on the last mile. His poor paws (well, 3 of the 4) became ice packed and he was desperate to lie down on the trail to gnaw at them. It took some coaxing to finish the trek and once he was in the car, he was neither seen nor heard from again. There’s “dog park” tired and then there’s “hiking” tired. Dogs are on their best behavior after the latter.

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I hope to return to this trail in the summer for the lake views and a proper summit adventure. Until then, I’ll enjoy this frosty selfie:

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Portland – A Winter Wonderland

“As I turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat,
this wind is blowing my mind.”

A little Michael Jackson to kick off this post. While MJ wasn’t actually talking about the weather in this song, it seemed a fitting quote for the way this Portland winter has been treating us.

We had a few days of incredible wind (including tonight)! We had several consecutive days of ice storms and freezing rain. And the snow…how it was so lovely, so calming, and so MUCH! Snowing ~13″ overnight was a first for so many people here. And it stayed for a solid week.

Now, as a girl who grew up in Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Idaho, I’ve seen my fair share of snow. When I was super little, my mom had to drive my sister to school on a snowmobile. A day off from school was rare; a day off of work due to snow was unheard of. A late start maybe. But seriously, kids in school got more days off for harvest and hunting season than they did for bad weather. In Portland, the city is halted. Cars are abandoned on the highways. Signs are lit up across the roadways requiring chains or traction tires. Facebook photos feature nothing but friends in PJs with cups of tea, kids on sleds, and neighborhood snowmen/women.

Me? I went about business as usual, taking advantage of the sunny days. One day I did 9 snowy miles on Mt. Tabor, post-holing all the way. Another was spent navigating icy trails in Forest Park. Lots of days included walking Riley Dog in my snow boots. And yes, sometimes even *gasp* driving to work (after I unearthed my car). I had a lot of days off, but I made the most of them…and have truly enjoyed having a proper winter in this silly city.

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December 2016

December was filled with all wonderful things. Jesse made friends with urban farm animals, I did some volunteer leaf raking on our favorite trail, and we got some skiing in.


Portland had some strange weather – wind storms, ice storms, and snowy days. I ran 30 miles one Sunday and caught the aftermath.

16 miles of downed trees makes the miles seem long

Riley dog, enjoying the icy trail in Forest Park

For Christmas, we packed up for several days and journeyed down to Sunriver, OR. We rented a house with my parents, my sister & brother-in-law, and my two nieces (and a few dogs, too) for even more fun in the snow.

Kylee at the top of the lift!

Ms. Sheridan’s first time on skis

Snowshoe adventure on Lava Butte

Sleigh ride in Sunriver, OR

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Ice skating in Sunriver

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Walkin’ in a winter wonderland

Oh, and just to be thorough in this catch-up post, here’s a photo of our Thanksgiving dinner. My favorite item: stuffing.

Silver Falls Half Marathon – 11/6/16

As you may (or may not) know by now, Jesse & I love the Silver Falls Half Marathon. It’s the first weekend in November, it’s wildly popular, and it’s incredibly gorgeous. A high percentage of our favorite running people join us for the mud-fest and we have such a fantastic time catching up, running, eating, and enjoying Silver Falls.

As we do every year, we mark our calendars for when registration opens and sign up right away. There are now 2 waves for the half marathon and I was bold enough to think I could finish in under 2:15…I signed up for Wave 1.

This event was only 2 weeks after the Circumburke Marathon in Vermont, so we were both skeptical of recovery time. But hey. I was never going to be first so I am never too hard on myself about being in peak performance mode. I’m just there to enjoy the trails. And did I ever!

The weather was ideal and the trails did not disappoint. I ran along with a former colleague of mine and we kept a good pace for the first 10 miles or so. Going up the stairs, I stopped for photos and he pulled away. Jesse, of course, finished ages in front of me.


I ran without water or food (for the first time in a while). The last aid station I had a quick cup of electrolytes, as I knew the final hill would need to be conquered. A woman shouted “There’s Coke, too!” and I tossed the sports drink aside for some carbonated high fructose corn syrup. I grabbed a vanilla Oreo and sped away to the finish line.


The final hill seemed much less daunting this year. I climbed it with ease and enjoyed the slip and slide down the other side. The sun was shining and I looked forward to the fire pit waiting for me.


I came in at 2:17. Almost Wave 1-worthy. I’ll take it!

Psst! You can see our professional photos here, here, and here.

 

New England – Oct 2016

During one of our “research American real estate” sessions Jesse & I discovered Vermont as being a beautiful and reasonably priced area of the country that we wanted to explore. Neither of us had spent any significant time on the East Coast (he had a work trip and I’ve been to NYC) and so we found an excuse to go check it out: The CircumBurke Marathon.

One Wednesday evening, after we watched the 3rd Presidential Debate, we took the redeye to Boston. We picked up our tiny Ford Fiesta rental car and started driving north. Neither of us could get over how small the East Coast felt. We flew to Massachusetts, had lunch in New Hampshire, spent the night in Maine, and were in Vermont for dinner the next day. It had me nostalgic for Europe and reflecting on how big the states in the West really are.

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Sunrise over NY (from Newark Airport)

A few things to note about the East Coast: 1) Toll Roads; 2) Parking meters that only accept change; and 3) The No-Small-Talk, No-Nonsense attitudes. All three were hard to get used to and that I definitely take for granted in our corner of the world.

We spent our first night in Portland, ME. Cheesy, but it had to be done. The town is definitely a coastal city and we enjoyed the next day exploring the Portland Head Light, America’s 2nd oldest lighthouse.

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We took off from there to our AirBnB in Vermont. We drove in the torrential rain through the White Mountain National Forest and eventually realized we had to run a marathon in the morning and needed to find some food. We knew our room had a full kitchen so we begrudgingly stopped at a Walmart and grabbed some pasta, eggs, and granola bars. Good enough.

We were greeted in Vermont by our hosts and they were impressed that we were running the event (it’s mainly a mountain biking event to which they recently added the running component). Their son was biking it as well and they told us it was a pretty tough course. “No worries,” I thought. “Portland is always muddy and 3,000 ft over a marathon isn’t too much climbing”. We went to bed, crawling into the softest flannel sheets in existence.

Morning came and we calmly got ready. The starting line was a mere 6 minutes from our door, so we were a bit spoiled for race day. It was cold and we both struggled with dressing ourselves properly. We ended up in merinos with ultralight jackets, gloves, and hats.

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The course was a loop over and around the ski hill. We started at 8 AM along with a few hardcore mountain bikers who would do the loop twice. The cyclists doing the loop only once would start at 10 AM. We were off…and Jesse lost me right away. About a mile in I was ripping my jacket off, along with my gloves and headband. I was running without the bladder in my pack and just a flask in the front pocket and was thankful I for the weight to be off my back for a long run.

The course was beautiful. The fall colors definitely did not disappoint. The forest floor was covered in brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows, often blindingly so. It was muddy and perfect. Around mile 2.5 I started chatting with a girl who thought I lost a hat. I told her the story of the man behind me who threw it aside after he couldn’t find its owner either and we decided to run together for a while. “A while” turned into the rest of the run and I enjoyed her company immensely for the next 6+ hours.

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The first “aid station” was a cooler with a water jug and a pump. This was confusing and I rejected the measly offering. A few miles later was the second aid station with an actual tent, table, person, and race fare. We leap-frogged with a few women for a while up and down the hills and just enjoyed the beauty of the run, talking about all the things in the world.

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Aid station #3 featured chips, cookies, and ramen. I gave the ramen a try and was disappointed to find it was flavor-less and had gone cold. Not ideal. We were off again, on cross country ski tracks now, and the first of the mountain bikers caught us here.

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We were on the backside of the ski hill and fighting the mud and cyclists. It took up a lot of time to move off the narrow track to let them pass, but I had no time goals in mind. Everyone was quite supportive and it was easy to feel like a badass when the hardcore bikers were so complimentary. Then there was the funny story about the ibuprofen and salt tablets..!

Eventually my legs began to tire. The hills were hiked more frequently and the energy was slipping. Aid station #4 was at the bottom of a hill and was crowded with cyclists. We grabbed some chips and kept on. We joined another woman for the final miles and her good-nature and interesting life stories helped the miles tick by. Her watch read over 27 miles, mine was reading 23 miles, and the volunteer told us we had 4 to go. It was a confusing time for us all.

Eventually we emerged from the trees and raced down the hill, past the chair lift, under the inflatable finish line, the clock was finally stopped: 6:49:43. I could sit down. I could chat with Jesse. I could drink something warm. I could check another marathon off my list.

We had some pumpkin soup, listened to the band, lost at the raffle, and when I began shivering all over, we left. We drove the 5 minutes “home”, showered, crawled into the soft bedding and slept. It was a fantastic day. We later realized the course had a bit over 4,100 feet of elevation and concluded it was indeed a tough run.

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The next morning we awoke to the most beautiful winter wonderland. The same view from our window was now bright and clean with about 3-4″ of snow. The orange and yellow in the distance gave the landscape an inspired pop of color. The resident chickens scurried in front of the window, Jesse began playing Christmas tunes, and I was happy.

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Our opinion of New England is now slightly biased, as we went during the second half of October…but it was gorgeous. We drove north to Newport and had brunch, then drove south to Burlington and wandered around Lake Champlain, stopping for maple syrup and souvenirs along the way. It was windy and cold, but driving through rural Vermont was incredibly scenic. After a few hours in Burlington we drove to the capitol city of Montpelier for dinner (although it was secretly in search of Bernie Sanders). We ate a lovely Italian dinner and then headed home.

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The next day we slowly packed up and drove back to Boston. We spent a very small amount of time at Boston Common Park and then headed to the airport. After a series of unfortunate events, we ended up being stuck at the airport for a while, waiting for skies to clear up in San Francisco for us to head home. Several hours later, we were boarded and headed back West.

Where does the time go?

The second half of 2016 is almost over and I still have summer photos to share! I’ll make it brief, but just so you know, it wasn’t lacking for adventures!

We ran the Ramona Falls loop…


We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary (complete with a beautiful German feast, made by Jesse)…

We ran the PDX Runway 6K run at the airport…

We still have RileyDog…

We went to Idaho to our friends’ baby party (and took in a county fair)…

We watched summer turn to autumn (and I got a new job)…


We went to New England (a full post will be dedicated to that trip, I promise)…

America made a huge mistake (although I played a small part in ensuring that didn’t happen)…

Jesse also hiked up Mt. St. Helens solo one day and we ran a 10K in Mt. Angel with some friends for Oktoberfest. We survived Portland’s “Windstorm 2016” and basically skipped Halloween (save for a few bags of candy corn and various other treats).

Oh. And I had tacos one day (had to end it on a good note).

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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Mt. Rainier – 8/7/16

You remember my 50k buddy Sybil, right? We finally got around to running together again and planned out a weekend on Mt. Rainier. Well, it was less of a weekend and more of a Sunday-Monday adventure. But then I started a new job on August 1st and it turned into just a day trip. But still – it was a fantastic day!

I woke up insanely early, as running tends to require, and drove 3 hours to the mountain to meet up with Sybil & Belia for a day of exploring the Wonderland Trail.

I was in awe of Rainier the entire time. Mt. Hood is a great mountain right in our backyard but Rainier is Hood’s bigger sister and I fell in love instantly. Driving into the park had a very grand feel to it; the top of the mountain barely visible, expansive forests and valleys, and other daunting peaks cropping up along the way. I guess that’s why it’s a National Park!

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Our route took us from Fryingpan Creek up to the Panhandle Gap and as you can see, it was not a beautiful sunny day! Our views were limited but the trail (and the company) were spectacular!

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It was a decent hike up to Panhandle Gap; around 3,000 ft of climbing in 5.5 miles. We traversed some sketchy snow patches, fun bridges and water crossings, and enjoyed the marmots scurrying about. Although we were climbing, it cooled off quite quickly and hats, gloves, and jackets came out. It didn’t stop of from playing in the glacial pool, though!

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I could have watched the marmots play all day!

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“If that lady can hike this with a baby on her back…!”

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Sybil was certain this hole would be the death of us

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Photo courtesy of guy in Saucony’s and school backpack

We ran most of the 5.5 mile descent and it felt great to get in some mountain running with my badass lady friends.

Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon – 7/31/16 

Another weekend, another event. This time though, I had a fabulous running partner who came all the way from California to run with me! And, this event was even her idea!

This marathon is exactly what the name suggests: downhill. It makes for a speedy run, but as any runner knows, eventually trashes your quads and the fun is over. But this particular race was special because the first 3 miles were through an abandoned tunnel in northern Washington. The entire course was on an old rail line so it wasn’t quite trail, but it wasn’t road either. And the views were spectacular. But first things first.

The run was on Sunday so we headed to Seattle on Saturday morning and caught the Chihuly Glass Museum before picking up Erin. I had viewed some of his work on a trip to Las Vegas and his art is incredibly creative, so I was excited to share that with Jesse. The museum is at the base of the Space Needle and there was a festival happening in downtown Seattle so we crawled through the city and miraculously found a parking spot right out front. We wandered around the exhibits and then had lunch in the courtyard. It was a relaxing way to start the weekend, albeit very tourist-y!

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We met up with Erin and headed to North Bend to pick up our packets and kill some time. We got in some hilarious outlet shopping (see matching pants below!) and then found some pizza to carbo load.

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The hotel left much to be desired and we all slept horribly. Five AM came quickly and we groggily packed up and drove to the finish line to catch our shuttle bus to the start.

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It was like we were in high school again – do we pick a spot near the back of the bus like the cool kids? Pick near the front so we can be the first ones off? We settled on the middle, dug out some bagels and cream cheese, and enjoyed the ride.

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Our bus driver got us lost only once, and then we arrived at the start line. We had an hour and a half to kill before the race began and it was chill-ay (see: pants!)! We sat on the pavement, ate some more breakfast, took some photos, arranged our drop bags, and restlessly tried to keep warm.

There was some confusion about where the drop bags were to be left, if there was any water for us, and then a national anthem [send comments about national anthem controversies to igetallmyhatemail@gmail.com].

With headlights intact, we were finally off! I was excited to spend the next 4-5 hours catching up with Erin (luckily not actually catching up since we decided to stick together, despite her being the superior athlete). We enjoyed the tunnel, cold as it was, and emerged on the other end undressing and unloading. We took pit stops to pee and stretch, to take photos, and chatted the entire way. This run is a Boston Marathon qualifying run and I have no doubt Erin can and will qualify someday. I reminded her that she could leave me behind and could run it for time, but she insisted we were in it together. This became very important later in the day!

The half marathon mark came and went in what seemed like no time at all. I looked at my watch: a half marathon PR in the bag!

We were feeling strong, passing some people, getting passed by other people, laughing with other runners, and enjoying the event. The views of Snoqualmie Pass were incredible the entire way. We were in and out of the forest, crossing bridges, and making our way down the hill.

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But then: mile 18. And 19. And every mile got harder, my legs gaining weight with every step. Erin’s company was much more than two girlfriends catching up at this point: she was my life support. The sun was heating up the day and I was over it, fatigued setting into my physical self more than I could bear. The aid stations had only water and Gatorade (I’m clearly spoiled from the ultra aid stations and expect a smorgasbord) and I couldn’t get enough to drink. That’s what I get for not running with my hydration pack! Jesse claimed he hit the “bonk” in a similar spot.

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We passed a woman in dire need of an ambulance (she confessed she was having surgery the next day! #notworthit). We passed some people who gave up and were walking. And we passed each mile marker…slowly but surely.

At long last, the finish line was in sight. We “sprinted” to the end and I headed straight to the ground. My legs had died miles ago and all I wanted was a shower and to lie down. Jesse was feeling pretty spent as well (Erin, she had a few more miles in her, I’m sure!) and we were eager to get out of the sun and away from the crowds. We grabbed some water, our medals, and slowly walked up the hill to the car.

To wrap up the weekend, we were locked out of our hotel room, despite repeatedly asking for a late checkout. If I could be bothered, I’d leave them a terrible review! We eventually regained access to our stuff, packed up quickly, and went to Safeway for some chocolate milk and snacks for the road.

Erin’s friend picked her up, we said our good-byes, and sadly parted ways. Let me tell you; a joint marathon effort is an excellent adventure with a friend!

Psst! You can see our race photos here!