Monday, February 19, 2018

Woolley Runs Marathon

On Saturday, I walked the Woolley Runs Marathon in a downpour, mixed within winds, holding up an umbrella for much of the day.  I wore four layers up top, including a Marmot rain jacket, plus two hats (OR sombrero), a buff around the neck, and long running tights. I wore the wrong socks (Smartwool), in some old shoes (Montrail Masochists), and blistered bad under the foot and on some toes. My back was stiff going into this, and it hurt more as the day went on. I never seriously thought about trying to run, but there was some shuffling going on, now and again.

It was an ok day, notwithstanding.  This is an out and back on the Cascade trail out of Sedro-Woolley, put on by NW Ultras (Terry, Delores, James, et al.). Thank you all! The Woolley Runs are a terrific way to get out on a flat, rails trail in Skagit Valley in February.  The start line is about 15 minutes from home.  The trail parallels the Highway 20 corridor, from a distance. You pass fields upon fields, some with snow geese, Canadian geese, and swans. There were some bison.  Some horses and some cows. I think I saw some Alpacas. Definitely some sheep.  The hills and mountains on either side had snow in them. At some points, the trail parallels Lyman Slough and the Skagit River.

Indeed, the weather was miserable. I almost bailed, but I really wanted a long walk to clear the head, and so that's what I did. Basically, it was a hike with support at miles 4, 6, 13, 20, and 22.  There were great eats at the finish line (chili, chicken noodle, hot dogs, et al.), and soon enough I was home and watching the Olympics. The memory will last longer than the pain and discomfort. Walking for miles on end, with rain and wind my constant companion, is a good way to re-connect with myself and nature, at least in measured doses.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Nookachamps Half

Ran the Nookachamps Half today. And walked it. It was the first time in a few years that I did the half. I was plenty slow. Rich came up and ran it too, running strong.  Mike showed up at the finish. Many of the usual characters were there, volunteering. I ran into Dean out by their place, which is out by Clear Lake. Great to see the Cross-Country teams doing their part. Thank you!

The weather was very mild. If I was fast, I could've ran fast. It seemed like there were more cars than usual. I probably shouldn't have listened to the radio, but I'm trying to bring music with me again, to help with the step to step motivation.

Afterwards, Rich and Mike and I headed to Calico, and then we drove around looking for birds. Bird nation represented--they were all over the place. We made it out to Edison and Fir Island.

A very good day.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Best of 2017

As I like to do here, here’s a list of the best of the trails the year offered:

Work provided me opportunity to visit Fairbanks in September, and it was gorgeous.  I ran, hiked, jogged, and walked the 55th year of the Equinox Marathon, and came home with a finisher patch. The course was a mix of roads and trails, with a friendly 10 hour course limit, so walkers can do their thing. Fairbanks in September is gorgeous, with trees turned golden everywhere. I was lucky to see Tony there, and later that trip get together with he and Shawn. 

We visited Kona in March for the first time.  We were fortunate to spend time with Aaron, Kelsey, Mike and Fran.  We hiked across a steaming crater in the National Park, as well as through a lava tube. There was the hike to the green sand beach at the bottom of the island, with Mike and Fran. Only sort of green, really, but different. I swam with the manta rays one evening, which is one of the coolest things ever.  Deb and I saw whales on a whale watching excursion. We briefly visited the tropical Hilo, snorkeled with the turtles, and ate too much poke. I also managed to fit in the Run for the Hops 10k in Kona.

After the Equinox Marathon, I caught the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks, through Denali National Park, to Anchorage.  The only running on this twelve hour trip involved running to take pictures of Denali and other sights along the way.  Another one of the coolest things I’ve done—it was the last ride of the season, and the fall colors were spectacular.  Denali, rarely visible, was out in full display. Afterwards, I spent a couple weeks in Anchorage, working.  The following weekend I ran the Oktoberfest Run to End Homelessness 10k on the Tony Knowles Trail, which is Anchorage’s favorite waterfront trail. 

4.    Needles 25k

The Needles 50k is a tough trail event in early summer, partially on the Cascade Crest 100 course.  The first couple hours are full on climb.  The views are amazing.  The 25k+ course was challenging enough for me. Tuckered, I was. I enjoyed camping out under the stars, and a good time with friends old and new in the running community.

5.    New Orleans

Deborah and I went to New Orleans for a conference. We got out in the French Quarter, and along the Mississippi.  The food was more memorable then the running (sticky weather!), but there was an amazing swamp tour with marshmallow-eating ALLIGATORS and a nice ride on a cable car through the Garden District.

I ran and hiked the Easy Pass to Colonial Creek point to point route for the fifth time, with my good friend Craig.  This is one of the finest slices of the North Cascades National Park a trail runner can find. We’ve talked about doing the route for a few years, and so it was terrific to share the trail.  I earned an Ultrapedestrian patch for the effort.  This trip will forever be remembered as that time I got chased by a bear.  A juvenile black bear—more brown than black---charged up on to the trail as we were running by, and scared me to pieces for a few seconds. Order was restored when we stopped, stared, and took a picture.

My good friend Breean and I ran the Seattle Half Marathon.  We’ve been running on and off together since the 1990s, and so just having the opportunity to once again toe the line with him was special. He roasted me, but I got across the finish.  I used to do the Seattle full every year.  Thanksgiving weekend is just not the same if I’m not running it—good to be back. The marathon and the half both have new courses, and while they are a bit tougher, I liked running through the new neighborhoods. As usual, I dropped a few too many coins at the Expo.

I went out east of Cle Elum and joined in the Starlight Overnight fun, doing only four laps--10 miles or so. Most of the time was spent on trail with friend Glen, and we talked up a storm with the headlamps on.  Good times.  I love the eastern Washington night sky, and everything about this event.

For years, I’ve done the same loop on Blanchard Mountain, which is modeled after the old Blanchard 50k loop.  The mountain has become more popular, which I suppose is good, but I like my solitude. I found that again one weekend by revising my loop to include the English Army trail, and then went out and did this for a few weekend in a row. Those early morning walks/runs really stick in my memory. I hope the government figures a way to protect these woods. They’re good for my soul.

I did the Beat the Bridge run.  I clearly remember in 1986 going to Nordstrom on my lunch hour, to get a registration form for this race, and then convincing a few friends to run it with me.  Thirty-one years later, I toed the line with Deborah and slough of other family members. With that sort of gap between races, I have to throw this up on the list. And, I can still beat the bridge, which tells you its not too tough. This event does a great job at raising funds for the fight against diabetes.

15 miles of trail on Orcas Island is always going to be a good day. Love Moran State Park, and Rainshadow races are a great time. Thanks James et al. Throw in a ferry ride and a few hellos to friends, and its all good. This event will always be a goodie.

I participated in a number of other events.  I ran my 14th consecutive Baker Lake 50k, slow, but steady. Several local favorites, including Loggerodeo, Fowl Run, Have A Heart, and Nookachamps.  There were some half marathons—Birch Bay Half (Rich on the full); Berry Dairy Days Half; and Skagit Flats Half.  I ended the year with the Last Chance Marathon, my third long race of the year. That’s the most of those for me in a few years. Still slow though, way slow.

The year included other highlights.  There was a trip to Las Vegas with some great news, during a difficult time. We also flew to Washington D.C. for some work, tourism, and family time.  I was down in Portland for a few days, and saw MVP Russell Westbrook take on the home team Trail Blazers.  We went up to Vancouver for Jackson Browne, and down to Seattle for Joe Biden, a Prince tribute, and a few Husky and Mariners games. I went out to Easton for CC, and visited with BJ, Erica and others. It was a tough year for work, but I had work and was always busy.

My overall exercise discipline was poor.  As I get older, I should be more thoughtful in my approach: diet, training, stretching, mental. Have to do it. I am thankful for the fact that I am able to get out there, for all the great trails and places I see, and for all the great friends I’ve kept along the way. Onward to ’18!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Chance Marathon

A marathon is a lot longer than it used to be for me. Today I hiked the Last Chance Marathon. There was some jogging, but there was also a lot of walking, especially on the second out and back. While I'd like to be better, I'm pretty happy about it. A nice day out on trail with good peeps.

This race has been around for several years, always scheduled on the last day of the year. The idea was to have one last chance to add to your marathon totals for the year. I've never ran it, mainly because I usually work on 12/31. This year, the date fell on a Sunday, which is perfect, since I get Monday to rest up. And I'll need to--my feet hurt.

The weather was cold, but not as cold as the rest of the U.S. Maybe mid-30s. A heavy fog got me wet, I think. I felt cold most of the day, and hope I didn't catch anything.

The marathon is an out and back, done two times, from Fairhaven Park to Larrabee. There's a half marathon option, which a wiser fool would've done.

Terry, Delores, Scott, and everyone put on a top notch race. Great soup at the finish line, grilled cheese, and lots of holiday cookies. Good to see Stan--we're set for onions for the next three months---John, Dean, Ruth, and many others.

All the best to all my friends in 2018. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fir Island

This time of year, one of my favorite things to do is grab a cup of coffee and go looking for birds locally. Skagit County is a terrific place for birds: snow geese, swans, eagles, and other birds winter here. 

The flocks of snow geese on Fir Island are spectacular. Thousands of snow geese--they are loud, and will fill a field. Trumpeters swans, who pair up for life, also hole up here. We hear them honking as they fly over the house. Raptors--hawks, eagles, falcons--hunt the sloughs and wetlands. They can be seen sitting on telephone poles, doing the sentinel thing on stand alone trees in people's yards. 

These pics are off my phone, and merely illustrative of the sights to been seen. One of these days I'll go out with a nice camera and do the bird portrait thing. I did land a nice spotting scope/tripod setup, which I gave a run for the first time today. Works real good. Maybe I'll figure out a way to mount a phone and take shots through it. The internet says it can be done.

Trumpeter Swans

Snow Geese in Flight

Snow Geese in Flight

Looking out towards Camano Island

Snow Geese

Swans Again

Momma Eagle, Daddy Eagle, and Guest/Baby, By Nest

Through a Glass Darkly

The New Setup

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Seattle Half Marathon

It's been a terrific Thanksgiving weekend, with family and friends, capped by the Seattle Half Marathon.

I met up with one of my oldest running buddies, over from Spokane, and we toed the half at 7:30 AM.  Hard to recall the last time we ran a race together, but if I had to guess I'd say it was a Bloomsday in the mid-2000s. Always in touch over the years, and many trail runs, but our first race in while. I was going to do the full, but stepped down, when he stepped up. Probably for the best, since I would've taken forever on the full. Surely for the best, since we were able to get breakfast afterwards.

The Seattle Marathon has a new course. It is hillier. The course starts down by the Space Needle, and finishes at Memorial Stadium, as has been the case for many years. In between, it re-routes through the International District, avoiding I-5, and then takes some trails and streets above Lake Washington, before eventually picking up at the Arboretum, as in the past. It is harder, though still a road race.

This was another one of those days where the stomach didn't cooperate. I walked a bunch. We were fortunate to miss the worst of the rain, in a day full of gullywashers. I have a better sense of what I need to do for race prep, besides preparing for the race, but my execution is not excellent.

Good to chat with Brad beforehand, as he headed out on page 4 of Quadzilla. Good to head down to the expo with Mike, despite dropping a bit of money on this and that there. Last year I missed this race, and I realized during the nice weekend at home that I really like this routine on Thanksgiving weekend. I'm not sure how many offhand, but I've done a lot of these.

When I got home, Deb and her son had the Christmas tree up in the living room. That time of year again, ready, set, go.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fowl Run

Once again, I was a Fowl Runner. I feel so fortunate year in and year out to be able to toe the line at some of my favorite events. It's been a while since I last ran fast, but only a few days since I last ran happy.

This year's race had a touch of rain. So many familiar faces volunteering in the gym and around the start line. Then, my colleague Carin came running by me around mile two--a great surprise! I was able to keep a slow jog the whole way. I was a little off, overall, but I had enough to do the race.

Pumpkin pie at the end. Deb wanted me to bring a home a turkey, but I never seem to get so lucky. One of these years...

Thank you Skagit Runners. You make a difference.