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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Mt. St. Helens – 06/27/16

A few years ago Jesse climbed Mt. St. Helens (as a winter ascent) with some friends and while we looked through the incredibly beautiful photos, I began cultivating an interest in mountaineering myself. The summer hike of St. Helens seemed like a good place to start and I added it to my to-do list. The problem with the summer route is that everyone and their dog wants to do it and because it’s by permit only over 4,800′, it’s hard to do.

For 2016 though, I had it dialed in. I had a calendar reminder set in February to get a permit on the day it opened before they sold out (it only takes a few hours before they’re gone). Still, by the time I logged on, the weekends were all taken. So we picked the Monday after Jesse’s birthday, hit “add to cart” and called it good.

The months ticked by and Jesse’s birthday arrived (we were incredibly busy: a few concerts, a pavlova, dinner, a waffle date, bouldering..!) and then Mt. St. Helens day was here already! Crap!

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We dropped off the dog at his friend’s place, drove to Climber’s Bivouac, and were on the trail by 7:15 AM. Along with the other 100 permit holders.

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It was a beautiful, clear day. Blue sky, a light breeze, a good temperature. Up and up we climbed; the boulders relentless, Monitor Ridge unforgiving on the quads. Mt. Hood stood tall behind us and Mt. Jefferson just beyond that. Mt. Adams to the right, wearing a cloud as a toupée all day. After a few hours, we reached the top and Rainier was there to greet us.

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We traversed over some snow and ice to a less crowded spot where we could see into the crater. It was steaming a bit and we enjoyed our lunch overlooking Spirit Lake. We met an interesting ecologist who filled us in on the mountain goat population in the region and then began our descent.

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“Aren’t you going to play in the snow with me?” Jesse asked, sitting down, ice axe at the ready. With several onlookers encouraging the glissade, I caved and down we went. On our butts we slid, laughing all the way!

By “all the way” I mean only a few hundred meters. We didn’t make it very far – the snow was wet and heavy; not ideal. Not wanting to risk ending up in the wrong valley, we returned to the trail for more boulder scrambling.

We chatted with other hikers as our paths crossed and I was surprised at the number of people who were sad-faced about the day. Many said they’d never do it again and that the view wasn’t worth it. It’s a difficult, all-day adventure to be sure, but I hope after they got home, showered, reminisced about surviving, and posted all of their photos on social media that they changed their minds. I am proud of all of them for summiting that mountain!

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We ended our own adventure around 3:45 PM. My boots were shed immediately (small toes still intact, but just barely) and headed for home. Monday peak bagging: done.