Sunday, February 22, 2009

Coyote Nights

Skagit flats, including Chuckanut Drive, from the hang glider launch
I did a five hour tour of the Chuckanuts Friday night, starting from Fairhaven around 6 PM. The stars were breathtaking, as were the hills in the chill. No moon to be seen. The stars felt like they were dropping from the sky--I wish I knew them better. There’s a supercomet around here somewhere, sometime, right now, but did I know this? No....The temperature was somewhere around freezing, the air was still, and my two shirts left me cold after a while. Bad planning there---I didn’t intend on going that long, or starting that late, but that's how it went. I was slow, particularly going up the hills, but I ran ok, especially since it was so dark. I bonked at about hour four, probably because I didn’t have any water left and I was cold. Did I mention--it was cold?
Adventures with wildlife. About 1.5 hours in, I heard a pack of coyotes somewhere off to the west side of the Lost Lake trail. They were a loud bunch, scary at first, in the pitch black cold. “Ayyyye ayyye ayyeya!” (Go away!, I think.) “Ayyyae ayyyae ayy aee!” (Stop! Where are you, anyway?? Idiots.) I stood and listened to them for a while—they seemed to be up on a ridge above the trail. I thought about turning back, because I didn’t want to be eaten, and they were pretty near. Then I figured, no way, whatever. There are critters all over the place at HR, and I need to train for them. If I get attacked by a pack, I need to learn how to deal with it. Coyotes are no big deal anyway, just scary. Years ago, camping in Yellowstone, I had a pack yelping up a storm really nearby, as I tried to sleep in the back of my uncovered pickup. And then, when I was in my teens, my cousin and I were hiking a canyon in eastern Washington, and as the sun set, they started barking at us from the canyon walls. Still, I haven’t heard much talk about coyotes up in the Chuckanuts.
And, it gets better. I left that party behind, and went over the shoulder above Lost Lake, wrapping around to Chinscraper. Right as I start up the Chin, I hear a coyote bark at me from no more than 50 feet. Really really near. AYYYE WEYYYE YAAY YEEE!! It was pitch black under the trees, except for my headlamp. I barked back, really loud and mean like. I probably could have just yelled, but I lost it a bit, and went FERAL. Then I started growling like a bear for the next ten minutes up the trail. Nice little shot of adrenaline to push me up the hill. This is one way to get past the work week.
So, night running like this…maybe a bit sketchy, I know. But the coyotes, the stars, standing on top of Raptor Ridge, watching a satellite arc across the sky, trying to pick out Orion---on the right night, it’s an amazing experience. And, the fact is, HR has TWO FULL nights of running, and so I need to put in some night time running. There's no better prep than experience. From this Friday night run, I realize I should’ve carried more, like one more layer, and probably water treatment and supplement pills. And company, of course, that would be best--but it's tough finding someone who's going to do this, at my pace.
Saturday I was pretty lame, but on Sunday I did my favorite 11 mile loop of Blanchard Mountain. Pictures here. Lilly and Lizard Lakes are frozen. Also, there’s a new outhouse up by hang-glider launch. I ran pretty well—better than on Friday night. I was tall in the saddle, very casual, and my pace was steady. I stopped a bunch for pics, goofing off, but it was a nice run to cap the weekend.
Last week I wrote about mantras--I think I have one now. "This is the way to Hardrock." I think its important to have phrases and mental imagery that help with visualizing goals. "Successful people see what they want to have happen, and unsuccessful people see what they don't want to have happen," says Coach Vernacchia. And this is the way...
Lizard Lake, On Ice

Samish Island

Trail Near Lilly Lake

New Facilities

Lilly Lake

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The sun is shining, snow is on the hills, and the air is blue blue blue. I'm still under the weather, but I've managed to represent on the trails the last couple days. Yesterday I got up early and went from Larrabee up to Fragrance, then Chinscraper, and then back down. Then I did a repeat. Total of about three hours, with plenty of hiking. I think it's about 2000 feet up each time, maybe a little more. I wanted a threepeat, but common sense won out, as I wasn't feeling well. I'm officially calling this my chinup workout, and I expect the number to grow. My theory is I need to do a lot of hills for Hardrock. (You think?) Onefriend went as far as to say marathons and anything flat is worthless for prep. I don't know about that--in fact, I disagree with Onefriend, but I think the gist of what he says is right. Hills, hills, hills.
I have lots of mantras for hills. "Why must I always ascend?" I said for three weeks, all the time, when I trekked to Everest Basecamp--not a lot of down on the way up. I've found myself reaching back to that adventure, to help me prepare mentally for HR. Another one I say to myself sometimes is, "Updown girl, you've been living in a flat earth world." And then there is "I am able," which somehow naturally stuck with me during Wasatch. I was saying "I am able, I am able" for hours, as I'd chug up hills. The trouble with "I am able" was--- somehow, in the middle of the night when my thoughts were drifting and slightly delusional, I paired Able with Cain. Of course, in Genesis, Cain kills Able, and so I started thinking about this, and Springsteen's "Adam Raised A Cain," and this totally messed with my mantra, as I started wondering what my personal Cain was. This is why folks do ultras--they take us to interesting places, outside and in.
Anyway, today I ran up to Fragrance again, this time with a friend. The lake is still a bit iced, and then we made it up to a perch above the lake, and then out the back side with some top notch island views. (Which, when I see, at some point I usually think, Island girl.....Elton John.) I would say my weekend effort was rather pedestrian overall, but considering that I'm still sick, it was about right. You can tell it's February on the hills---a lot of Chuckanutters were out there both days, most of them looking much more prepared than me. Also, there are lots of eagles in the Skagit flats right now. I saw a bunch of them playing catch with a mouse yesterday, kind of like seagulls down at Ivars. Circle of life.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Out With The Flu

No Orcas for me. I'm kind of bummed. It's Saturday, and I'm sitting around the house, sicker than a dog, a sick dog--I don't get this phrase, "sick as a dog." Maybe it's sic as in sic him! I was really looking forward to getting my butt kicked on the Orcas hills, as an early year struggle and a suitable start to HR training. Unfortunately, two days ago I woke with a sore throat, and it has now gotten to that point where standing is a challenge, that point where you get irritated at how difficult is is to open up medications and you're throwing pills across the room, where just about every little thing is a struggle. I don't know whether or not a 50k was truly impossible, but I feel like I'm in the last 25 miles of a 100 right now, and it's pretty obvious that showing up would've been stupider than stupid. "You're going to catch pneumonia!" Well, it does happen. I mean, my snot is really thick right now, sort of like Elmer's glue, and my voice is not my own, and everyone asks me how am I doing with a sort of worried look. Still, maybe I could've run it. I don't know. But then my stomach wretches every fifteen minutes, occasionally I see stars when I bend this way or that, and it is really cold and windy outside. I suppose I could've dressed warm. Popcorn. Blankets. Movies. Tomorrow will come.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I won the lottery! I'm in Hardrock! The odds were totally against it, and I'm a bit dumbfounded, as I really didn't expect to get in, as much as I'd like to take this challenge on. I entered because I know the run is one I want to do in my life, I was qualified, and it seemed like a natural next challenge for me. Plus I've never spent time in Colorado. The terrain is simply amazing--gorgeous, high Rocky mountain running. The run includes a 14k peak, 33k in elevation gain, all at an average elevation of 11k--it's tough. Here's the site if this all prompts interest--- And be sure to check out the pictures--it is truly some of the most beautiful high country in the world. I was very lucky. The weighted lottery system the race organizers use heavily favors veteran participants and prior applicants--the first time applicant is sort of like a freshman in high school--little respect. And I totally respect that. Well, the freshman got in! I feel a tad awkward about it all, because there are some incredible runners on the wait list--my best wishes to all.