Sunday, September 11, 2016

Skagit Flats Half Marathon

I ran the Skagit Flats Half Marathon today. Today is also the 15th anniversary of 9/11. These memories are so hard, even now. As I get older, I live in wonder, of those younger, who have only known this age of terrorism and technology. I also have immense respect for those who serve our country, here and abroad. I have several family members in this group. Its nice to have a race that pays tribute to our heroes and national interest.

I may have run the Skagit Half 15 years ago.  I can’t be sure, but it seems like 2001 or 2002 was the first time I ran this one. Probably 2002. Anywa, I’ve done the half a few times, and the whole at least a couple times.  My times are slower these days. My friend Stan, the legend, does the full every year. He’s up to something like 40 in a row now.

The event is put on by my running club, Skagit Runners. This is a great bunch of folks, who year after year give back to the club and community through volunteer service. Some of the proceeds of the race go to a scholarship fund. I volunteer occasionally, at least once or twice per year, but there are stalwarts in this group for whom I have great appreciation. 

The course is indeed flat and fast.  Departing from Burlington-Edison High School, the course wanders out into the farmlands of the Skagit Valley, out in the direction of Samish Island.  Open views across the valley, simple country roads.  For me, home.

The weather was fantastic. I did a poor job with my pre-race meal the night before. I'm improving, though nothing crazy. I dropped 20 minutes off of my Berry Dairy Days time, but there's still lots more time to drop to get anywhere near I used to run, which then too wasn't fast. I figure if I get out there I'm doing good. And well.

The race was the perfect set-up for the first NFL Sunday of the year. I might’ve done the full marathon if I was a little more fit, but I really liked the idea of coming home and watching the second half of the first set of games. The Seahawks pulled out a squeaker at home against the Dolphins. And so fall is officially here.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Pelton Basin

My friend Mike and I went up and over Cascade Pass last week, and hiked down into Pelton Basin.  I typically head up to the spectacular Sahale Arm, but I've heard good things about this trail, which goes all the ways to Stehekin. Cascade Pass trailhead is one of the most popular ones in the North Cascades National Park complex, and for good reason.

Pelton Basin is about a half mile beyond Cascade Pass. It rained the whole way in. I haven't hiked so long in the rain in a while. This isn't really a complaint--I have good memories of many rain hikes, and this one will be included in that group now. It's just something different. Glad I bought the right jacket, and if I had to do it again, I'd have an extra poncho to go over it, just in case things got cooler.

We made steady time up to the pass, which is still snow free. The hope was that on the other side of the pass, which I consider eastern Washington, things would dry up. Eventually they did, after we went past Pelton Basin campground. We probably went another half mile beyond the Basin, for something like 10 or 11 miles on the day, with some healthy climbing to the 6pass.

There were much better views of hanging glaciers in the valley just a bit further down the trail. Unfortunately, my camera battery died, so all I have here is a few pictures here, reflecting the conditions. Pelton Basin itself is basically a somewhat tight valley with some beautiful North Cascades style flat land in the middle, with a creek running through it. We looked for bears and other big, live animals, but at best we saw perhaps spots on far hillsides that may or may not have been.

In the next couple years, I want to take the trail to Stehekin. From the trailhead, it is a bout 31 miles or so, i think, but a bus into town can be caught from High Bridge, which is at about 22 miles. I could see it being done in a day with an early start, though there are many options.

So glad Mike could get out and hike this trail in the rain with me. Mike, you are the best! He had to get up early--probably in the 4 AM hour, just to meet me in Mount Vernon at 6 AM. We also had the pleasure of picking up two Swedish environmental science students who were on holiday at the trailhead, and were returning from Sahale Arm. It was kind of funny---they asked us for a ride to Marblemount, and hit the hitchhiking jackpot, with a ride all the way to Seattle.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Lime Kiln Point State Park

We visited Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island this week, as part of our staycation events. Lime Kiln is one of the best places in the world for watching whales from shore. This Washington State Park has some amazing spots. The place feels like it should be a national park, even though it only encompasses some 130+ acres.

We sat and read, while watching the water.  It was a beautiful afternoon, with not too many visitors to the park. We didn't see whales, but we did spy porpoises and seals. The snort of one seal made me look up as I was reading. Birds too of various species are notable.

A simply beautiful place. The cool thing about this little trip was the decision to go was made after morning coffee on the mainland. Go catch a ferry. Zip over to the park. Watch for whales. Dinner afterwards in Friday Harbor. A late night ferry return, completing a well-executed day.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Little Bear Aid Station - Cascade Crest 100

We had the great pleasure of volunteering at the Cascade Crest 100 miler this weekend. My good friends BJ and Erica did a bang up job of taking care of all the logistics, and so were just there to help as we can, and spend the afternoon with friends. Mike, Aly Deb, and I made up the rest of the crew. The aid station captain was Killer, BJ and Erica's fierce pooch.

This is a new aid station, sitting right on the Pacific Crest Trail, at Mile 19.7.  It's an interesting point in the race, as the runners have already made it up the Goat Peak climb, as well as a new pull up Blowout Mountain, the second highest point on the course, at 5750 feet. Most looked fresh; some were showing signs of fatigue. With 80 more miles to go, things are just getting interesting here.

Great to see Rich making the run. He did so awesome, finishing fast, in addition to leading the effort to put on such a great event! So many other long-time friends, both at the start and through the aid station.

The drive out to this aid station is more than an hour, over some rocky, dirt roads. Beautiful setting. The nice thing about this aid station is we were able to watch the start of the race, and then get to the aid station for the first runners, who came through sometime around noon-thirty, I think.

The best part of the day was hanging with good friends, and seeing so many peeps I haven't seen in so long. I felt very inspired. I've done this race a couple times, but it has been several years now. I'm still young enough to get out and toe the line again, so that's something to move forward towards. Finishing Cascade Crest is such an accomplishment, and its always great to see everyone's immense and justified pride in making this journey.

Weather-wise, it was a little cooler than expected on the ridge. I wish we brought warmer clothes. Weather conditions cannot be assumed when it comes to this course. The microclimates can vary significantly.

The course re-route takes you around Blowout Mountain. At the end of the day, I walked up to the top of Blowout Mountain, and along the way said hi to friend Glenn, who was taking his great photos, as usual. Unfortunately, my view was obscured by clouds, but it's clearly a 360 view with Mount Rainier figuring prominently.

One more bonus for the day was meeting a number of thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Most were headed northbound ("Nobos"), and were excited to find our "trail magic" of an aid station. "Yes, we'll take your garbage and lighten your load! Sure have a ho-ho!" Some delighted trekkers there! Another inspiring group. I studied their packs, and listened to their stories. Maybe someday, I'll be making this journey as well.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Little Mountain 10k

I ran the Little Mountain 10k trail run yesterday, in Mount Vernon. This was one tough little race-- just perfect for me right now!

The race is 95% trail, starting at the Carpenter Creek Winery on the south side of Little Mountain. The Mount Vernon Trail Builders, charity beneficiary of the event, have put in 14,000 volunteer hours on Little Mountain over the past 7 years, and it really shows.

The first three miles are plenty of up, with a few really steep pitches. Already gassed, I just groaned when we came upon Fred's Trail, which is basically a miner's trail to the top.  I've seen my share of trails like this in longer trail races, but it was kind of cool to get a challenge in the middle of the 10k distance. There's really a need for more shorter distance trail runs like this. They're just perfect for a Saturday morning.

At or around 3 miles, you hit the top, and get views of the beautiful Skagit Valley, Olympics, and San Juan Islands, if you care to stop and look.  The rest of the course is mostly downhill or flat, with a few steep pitches thrown in for good measure. Love the downhill, switchback glide to the finish.

I ran slow, as usual, 1:40 or so. Plenty of walking, and a five minute break up top.  I see some improvements with my recent efforts. Carry on, carry on. The temperature was in the high 80s, low 90s, so caution was merited. Most of the course was under tree cover.

The event was put on by RunFare, operated by friends Joe and Shawna. Good to see them out there, as well Rob, Darlys, and many others from Skagit Runners. Mount Vernon Trail Builders were also out there. Carpenter Creek was a great place for race HQ--pretty cool to check them out. Thank you all for your good works!

This is one of my favorite shorter trail races I've ever done. Really excellent, especially for me, since it's a 5 to 10 minute drive to the start. Skagit Flats Half is next on the list. Happy to note that I'm on pace for my annual goal of at least one event per month on average per year.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Once Around Lake Cavanaugh

I ran in the Once Around Lake Cavanaugh Fun Run on Saturday. 7.8 miles on a beautiful road around Lake Cavanaugh.  This was the 31st annual running of the event, which is located east of Big Lake in Skagit County. I've seen the event on race calendars for many years, and finally made it out there.

This is a small community run, with separate starts for walkers and bikers. The race benefits the local fire department, and is sponsored by families and local businesses. I'd say about 25 people did the run.  I really enjoyed the event. I've never been to Lake Cavanaugh. I found it to be a beautiful little community.  The moss on the trees on the side of the road is similar to what you see out at Baker Lake.

I guess my finish gives me blogging rights, if not bragging rights. I'm improving, though progress is slow, just like me. Just happy to be out there on a Saturday morning, lacing them up.  Next up is the Skagit Half.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Washington Trails Association's August Hike-a-Thon

The Washington Trails Association is one of my favorite non-profit organizations. The organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Every August, they host a "Hike-A-Thon" fundraiser, where persons can hike and try to raise funds in support of trails. I have signed up. My goals are modest---I want to raise awareness about WTA, maybe raise a few dollars through donations, and hike throughout August, as time permits. Here's a link to my Hike-A-Thon page!