Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013 Runs

Sockeye spawning - Mile 18 Copper Ridge Loop

Years ago—maybe 2001 or so—I decided that I would try to do at least 12 events a year.  The idea was that participating in events on a regular basis leads to good things. I’m pleased to reflect back now and see that I still remain true to this goal, despite my infirmities and all the other things I have going on. It didn't really feel like it, because I didn't have a string of long finishes and I was always slow, but 2013 turned out to be an ok year for running. Another couple ultra finishes would've been nice, but I'm going to give myself a break and focus on the good, and I had my share of adventure this past year.

So, every year, I put together a list of highlights. The rankings aren't particularly material, but I do them anyway, just like I'd do with a list of desert island discs. It's nice to revisit a list like this down the road, maybe click on the links, and share with my friends. 

So, here's a list of my favorite running related memories from 2013:

10.       Cutthroat Classic 11 Miler.  The Cutthroat Classic begins of Highway 20 at Rainy Pass, climbs the Pacific Crest Trail to Cutthroat Pass, and then descends in a series of switchbacks to Cutthroat Lake.  It’s gorgeous and I’ve done it many times.  It was all the more special this year since I camped with family on the Methow River, and ran the race with Dan and Holley.

9.         Dawg Dash 5k.  As a UW alum, I’ve always wanted to do this event.  This year I finally did, along with my sweetie (who’s not a runner) and family members. Afterwards, lunch at the Ram.  The day was also memorable because the great Don James passed away. R.I.P.

8.         Running for Boston.  The GBRC organized a weekday evening run related to the Boston Marathon bombings.  Runners are always running for causes, but this was a particularly special gathering.  I ran with long-time friends who may not run as much these days, but who wanted to come out and show support for Boston Strong.

7.         Fort Ebey Kettles Half Marathon.  This seems so long ago, but Rich, Chris, myself, and other friends ran all over Fort Ebey trails of Whidbey Island.  Loved these trails. I ran the half marathon, slow, but enjoyed the morning looking out at water and checking out the trees.

6.         Dog Island 10k.  Towards the middle of the year, I sought out local 10ks that I’d never ran, including this Guemes Island gem. A short ferry ride from Anacortes landed me on Guemes for the first time.  The quiet roads wind around the island, with plenty of water views. Loved it. Some year I may string together a bunch of island events, for an informal island series, because there is some terrific island running around here. Thanks to Joe, Stan and others for volunteering.

5.         Broken Skagit Bridge Run.  I imagine when the Skagit Valley Herald recounts the top stories of 2013, the I-5 Skagit Bridge will top the list.  On a weekend soon after the bridge’s failure, I ran the Skagit River dike and then took pictures of the bridge reconstruction.  Kudos to the powers that be for getting the bridge fixed so quickly.

4.         Berry Days ½ Marathon.  This too involved a long run on the Skagit River dike, in association with Burlington’s Berry Dairy Days Festival.  It has been 10 years since I last ran the festival runs.  This new course was beautiful, passing by strawberry fields and along the Skagit, with long views in all directions across the valley.

3.         White River DNF.  I made it 37 miles, but I was too slow.  The PT had helped, but I just wasn’t there yet.  In some ways it was a defeat, but it’s all perspective. I choose to remember the wildflower fields above Corral Pass and at Suntop, the amazing views of Rainier this year, and the campfire afterwards. It was a good day.

2.         Baker Lake 50k.  I ran ok for the first half, albeit slow. I was really slow for the second half, and opted out of the 100k option.  Still, a beautiful day, my longest finish of the year, and my 10th Baker Lake finish in a row.

1.         Copper Ridge Loop.  Mike, Rich and I did this 35 mile loop in the North Cascades in late summer, and despite some cloud cover, the route did not disappoint. Here's Mike's writeup, with great info. Good times with good friends, and I checked the box on a loop that had been on my list since 1995, when I first crossed the North Cascades with a backpack. The highlight of the day was fording Indian Creek and the Chilliwack River at Mile 18 or so, amidst spawning red and green sockeye.  Pure Pacific Northwest. The cable car crossing a little later on was pretty cool too.

I could’ve done this list a number of other ways.  This year's list really doesn’t reflect my travel, but there were trips to Panama, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.  Panama is particularly noteworthy, for seeing the Canal and spotting green birds and big lizards on a short beach run. San Francisco was a wonderful trip, but I didn't do a lick of running.  

I also made it up to the North Cascades a few times, including a very nice hike with Seth up to Easy Pass, always a favorite. The view of the Fischer Creek valley from there is one of my favorites anywhere.  Some other local events included the good old Loggerodeo 5.17 miler, the Race Beneath the Sun,  and the March Point 10k.  Unbelievable to me that this is the first time I did the March Point 10k--that's a cool little event.  Thanks Terry et al. And then there was an Orcas 50k DNF, and the always beautiful Deception Pass 25k.  Thanks Rainshadow Running.  I finished the year with Dean’s headlamp event, the Northern Lights Almost Solstice 5 miler. There's nothing like a starless December night sky, while running on snow, across open fields.

I was also inspired and just plain floored by my friends' achievements on trails this past year. Friends, you know who you are. Wow! Thank you for the inspiration. And thank you friends for the good times--let's find some more time together soon.

As always, I’ll look for new adventures this next year. Already, I'm excited about plans for a bit of Hawaiian island running and trails. ( :  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Northern Lights Almost Solstice Headlamp 5 Miler

On Friday night, my friend Dean hosted a run he calls "The Northern Lights Almost Solstice Headlamp 5 Miler." Dean originally put this event on in 2007--and I was there!--but the event was called off due to inclement weather in 2008, and then he and Ruth flew the coop to Whatcom County for a few years. So good to have them back in the Skagit now.

The run is held out east of Sedro-Woolley at the Northern States grounds, where elk are known to roam, and the fields are wide open.  The focus of the event is to have it on or near to the Winter Solstice (December 21st), in the dark, for headlamp running.

This year, we just happened to have snow the night before the scheduled event.  Some of the course was marked with arrows in the snow.  The course wasn't really all that complicated, and Dean took the time to put up little signs here and there, directing the way.  I think what I liked best, besides the peeps, was looking up at the winter sky, which held many different shades of darkened gray.  No stars.

So, the nighthawks ran again.  We only had about 10 runners on the course, and I'm sure some people with the best of intentions bowed out due to the weather, which was questionable.  But those who showed had a great time.  After a good hour of running around in the snow, we finished to a propane tank fire in the middle of a field, minestrone soup, and smiles.

Thanks Dean and Ruth!  Good to see Craig, Heather, Terry, Sam, and all the Skagit peeps out there, representing.  Afterwards, Anchorman 2, making for an altogether fine Friday night.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Deception Pass 25k

Ran the Deception Pass 25k yesterday.  Conditions were perfect for a mid-December day in the Pacific Northwest, with overcast skies and temperatures rising to the 40s. This year the 25k and 50k are being held on different days. I ran the 25k because I’m really not up for the 50k right now. 

I saw three seals swimming in Deception Pass as I crossed the bridge the first time.  Beautiful views throughout the course.  This is one of the more beautiful 50ks out there.

I was reduced to walking and jogging, due to ongoing issues. I finished towards the back.  But it was a good morning.  I stopped for cod and chips at the Shrimp Shack on the way home, prior to more Christmas activities.

Hopefully I can use this one to kickstart me towards more systematic training. Not sure what the next event will be, but I need to line something up.

Thanks Rainshadow Running and everyone involved in organizing the run.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dawg Dash

Several folks in my family participated in this weekend's 28th Annual Dawg Dash at the University of Washington.  Purple and gold everywhere.  The 5k course winds all over the main campus, and the 10k course adds a jog out towards Ravenna. Dogs welcome.  Afterwards, lunch at the Ram!

R.I.P. Coach Don James. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Baker Lake Ultra Runs

I signed up for the Baker Lake 100k, with the knowledge that if I didn't have it, I could step down to the 50k.  As I haven't been training as much as in past years, I ended up settling for the 50k.  And I'm quite happy about that.  This was my first 50k finish this year, and though it was slow, it was a finish.

Baker Lake is special to me.  This was my 10th year in a row finishing the event.  It's basically my favorite ultra.

The weather yesterday was splendid.  Starting at 6 AM with the 100k runners put a different spin on things.  It was dark for the first forty-five minutes or so, with about 25 minutes of dark on trail.  In years past, I've ran this trail in the dark with friends under the full moon in winter.  I was reminded of those runs.  It was a bit odd also to be far down the trail at 9 AM, as opposed to the past routine with the 8 AM start.

My run to the turnaround was ok--I was still on pace for a 100k finish. The trip back was really slow, with lots of walking, an empty stomach and some bonking.  I just don't have the endurance right now. Technically, I was ahead of the cutoffs, but I know when a turkey is done. Also, hanging out with friends at the finish plus a big UW-Stanford game in the evening spoke to me. Like I said, hard not to be happy with a 50k finish, and then look for bigger things down the trail.

Every year is a little different with this race.  This year I noticed much more water flowing in the creeks, with a few waterfalls. The snow level on Mount Baker was much lower than in past years, reflecting our recent storms.

This was also the year that Skagit Runners took over the race again. Everyone did such an amazing job.   It was great to see Kevin, Chris, Toi and others at the new Maple Grove aid station, and a bonfire early in the morning. Terry was congratulating every finisher, Delores checking everyone in, and Joe and Shawna put together an awesome post-race spread, with barb et al.  Cool medals and buckles. Glenn and Takao out there taking pictures near the turnaround. I think the club did an excellent job taking the handoff from the Duttons, who have always done such an awesome job. Thank you friends.

Good to see so many friends and familiar faces, and hang out.  I stopped a couple times on the trail to talk with friends for a minute or two. Wish I could run better, and there are any number of contributing factors to my deficiencies there, but it's all part of the journey. Congrats to all the finishers--many first time finishers, many returnees, and then those 100k runners who all looked so determined.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cutthroat Classic

Ran the Cutthroat Classic in the North Cascades today. The best part of this was it was a family thing, with Holley and Dan also running, and lots of family members over in Winthrop.

Cutthroat is a terrific 11.1 mile run, beginning on the PCT at Rainy Pass, on Highway 20.  The first four or five miles are uphill, about 2000 feet in gain, up to Cutthroat Pass. The second half is mostly downhill, on dry, rocky terrain.

The high pass is absolutely gorgeous, as these pics endeavor to show--though my phone pics never really do justice.  The one above is a panorama effort from the top of the pass. Best to click on it.  Below, my uncle, a mushroomer, found porcini in the parking lot before the race. The rest pretty much speak form themselves.

This race is getting really popular.  It always sells out early.  I understand 400 runners were registered this year. To spread things out, a wave start format is used. The Methow Valley Trails Sports Association does a terrific job--so many volunteers out there to support this event.  More on them at Thanks all!

My effort was about what I expected. A real struggle going up--not enough flex in the legs, and something up with the breathing. Once on top, I was able to run steady enough down. Probably my 6th or 7th finish--this was one of my first trail events. I suppose this is the year of the bee stings. I got stung twice, and Holley and Dan both got stung too.

Great to see friends and familiar faces over there.  Mainly, great to camp out and run with the fam.  We camped in Winthrop on the Methow River. Originally, I was registered for CC this weekend, but I knew I wasn't up for it--this was a winner alternative.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Copper Ridge Loop

The Copper Ridge loop trail is an American classic, tucked right beneath the Canadian border, in the North Cascades National Park.  While I’ve been on parts of this trail a few times before, I never have tried the full loop, until this week.  Far too long on the bucket list, but no more.

My friends Mike and Rich and I ran the loop in a day, starting at about 7:20 AM and finishing sometime before 9 PM.  This made for a long day, indeed, after meeting in Mount Vernon just after 5 AM.  The loop is about 35 miles, give or take, and I understand our technology registered 8800 feet of climbing.  We took our time, in part to enjoy various stops, in part because the trail is sometimes slow, and in part because they waited for slow old me.  Thank you guys!

The day started overcast, with even a bit of a mist.  A clear sky is highly desirable here, to maximize views from the 6000 foot ridge.  We climbed through the mist, eventually reaching the ridge, and then the Copper Ridge Lookout, which is perched at the highest point for miles, amongst a sea of mountain ridges.  We spent a bit of time at the lookout, talking with the Park Ranger and checking out weather meters, the lightning stool and the library.  I’m always a little curious as to the book choices in lookouts.  Are people reading classics or paperbacks?

Wildflowers are still in bloom on the ridge, which doesn’t open until late in the season.  Yet, there are also subtle signs of fall.  Ranger Abby said that this was the first time in three years the ridge trail was completely snow-free, or at least so early, or something like that.  Message:  we picked a good weekend.

The trail past the Lookout took us by a beautiful teardrop called Copper Lake.  The lake is cobalt blue—my camera doesn’t do it justice, with a little peninsula on the far side.  Worthy to camp at some time.  While the trail had a number of backpackers and hikers up to the Lookout, we really didn’t see anyone on the middle 15 miles of the loop.

After Copper Lake, the Ridge meanders through huge white boulder gardens, at a gentle runnable grade, with views of Whatcom Pass, Canada, and a host of other mountains.  Eventually, just before descending, we caught a beautiful peek-a-boo view of Chilliwack Lake (which at first we thought might be Ross), up in Canada.  Then, it was downhill for four or five miles, into the valley.  Hard on my quads.  I think I heard a bear on the way down, but didn’t register this until a few switchbacks down.

Highlight of the day for me:  fording the Chilliwack River and Indian Creek, at the bottom of the ridge.   Sockeye salmon are now running in these crystal clear waters.  The sockeye are the salmon that turn that red and green when they go to spawn and die.  I can’t think of anything quite like these in nature, and it was just amazing after 18 miles of hiking and running, just five miles south of Canada, and pretty far from anyone, to encounter this bit of nature at work.

The Chilliwack Valley trail is relatively flat, with perhaps a slight grade uphill.  The trail is full of ancient, old growth cedars. Additional highlights include as a number of glacier clear creeks, one very jangly suspension bridge, and then the cable car river crossing.  The cable car holds up to five hundred pounds, rides about 30 feet above the river, and is operated by pulling yourself across the river. It's pretty cool, so far in the middle of nowhere.

The final eight or so miles were hard for me, and I walked a lot.  Basically, you climb out of the valley, and then trot down Hannegan Pass.  If I was in better shape, it would’ve went easier, but it’s August, the mountains are open to play, and I was willing to push myself, and so I expected this.  Soon enough, we were all back at the car, and we never needed to use our headlamps.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Easy Pass

Friend Seth and I got out to Easy Pass in the North Cascades this weekend.  We were looking for something with a serving of amazing, and this fit the bill.  I've been here a number of times before, and have blogged about it too. I don't mind going back--it's great to visit familiar places to see how the change of season might affect the view.

Basically, Easy Pass is a 3.5 mile climb up, whereupon on a good day you can get amazing views of the Fischer Basin. and a slough of glaciers.  Larch trees line the ridge of the pass area, and will turn golden in a few months.

Good day--amazing views, with close to empty trails.  The Pass and trail beyond are true wild areas.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

White River 50 DNF

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I didn't make it to the finish line at White River this weekend.  Made it to Suntop, at Mile 37, but didn't make the cutoff.  I definitely could've made my way to the finish line, but I was moving slow.  If you know the course, you know from here it all downhill, followed by a plod through Skookum Flats.

I was nauseous for the first climb and descent. The left leg-hip issues persisted, so I could never climb too fast, or descend that way.  Some of it was fitness, some of it was a stomach that wasn't race ready.  I don't know.  The second hill was a real slog, with mostly walking.

Beautiful day.  Wildflowers, booming view of Rainier, happy faces.  While a finish would be good, I'm not too bothered by this. I just can't get too worked up about it. I am only getting back on the horse again, probably three months removed from not being able to run at all.  And I got in my longest run in maybe a year, on a beautiful day.  Plus, it was great to see so many friends.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trail Work

I put in a day of trail work on Saturday on Little Mountain, close to home, in Mount Vernon. This little park is getting some serious upgrades on its trails these past few years, thanks largely to the efforts of Mount Vernon Trail Builders.  It was about time that I checked it out.

It's interesting comparing the trail work rules for this crew v. what is required with Washington Trails Association.  The Mount Vernon group does allow the use of power equipment, whereas WTA is pretty Amish in their methods. On this day, a number of people focused on building a rock wall on the Bonnie and Clyde trail, just south of the summit, while others (including me) worked on improving the trail higher up.

White River in less than two weeks.....

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Great Sedro-Woolley Footrace

The Great Sedro-Woolley Footrace is a 4th of July tradition for runners in Skagit County.  This year marked the 36th year of the event.  The event is all road, starting and ending in "downtown" Sedro-Woolley, along the Loggerodeo parade route.

We're lucky to have so many wonderful community events like this, so close to home. Skagit Runners, the local running club, was well represented on the course and volunteering at the finish line. Great seeing so many friends running and volunteering.

My running is improving a bit.  I was winded after a mile by what used to be an easy training pace for me. Still, I ended up running 44:13 for the 5.17 mile course, which is over 4 minutes faster than my off the couch effort last year, and about a minute per mile faster than what I've been doing in my other "Run Local" events this past month. On the other hand, I know I've ran this event several minutes faster than this before, so there's always another chestnut to reach for.

I think testing my wind in shorter events, and also trying to focus more on core and diet, are probably more effective than just signing up for the longer, more expensive events right now. Physical therapy has been helpful too. I couldn't even run a few months ago. Keeping it fun while trying to incrementally improve a bit--that's the right approach, I think.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Blanchard Mountain Loops

I got up at 5 AM today and ran two loops around Blanchard Mountain, on the old Blanchard Ultra loop.  22 miles.  The farthest I've gone in a while.

I wasn't quick, but pretty steady. Hike the hills, jog the flats, run the downhills.  I'm encouraged by the improvement.

Great weather today--hitting the mid-to high 80s  Saw a big frog.  The first huckleberries of the year.  A number of different types of flowers.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tesoro March Point 10k

My unplanned "Run Local" June series continued today with the Tesoro March Point 10k.  This 10k is out near the Anacortes-Deception Pass junction of Highway 20, in Skagit, on and around the Tesoro Refinery. This was the 19th edition, but my first crack at it.  My fourth Saturday in a row at a Skagit or Whatcom County race.

It was a good way to start a Saturday morning again, but my digestive tract wasn't having it.  I ended up having to run/walk the last couple miles, which knocked my time effort out of the water. Came in slightly over an hour. I think I can do better than that now, though the miles still don't come easy. More core exercise and stretching required.  It's a journey, and the journey is the pleasure.

The course isn't particularly hard.  There's one big hill, called North Texas Road, right before Mile 2, and it's a slog. But it is matched with plenty of gradual downhills too.  Also, some great views of the water as you circle the Point.  This is a supermoon weekend--meaning the moon is as near as it gets, and full--and so the low tide was very visible along the waterline.

I'm glad I did this race, and which I had sooner.  It is a great value, w/ a great course, nice 1/4 zip tech shirts for an additional $15, and a hot dog barbq afterwards, with chips, drink, and all that sort of stuff. Skagit Runners were in attendance, volunteering mostly--good to see friends all about.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Berry Dairy Days Half Marathon

My little June running series continued this weekend with the Berry Dairy Days Half Marathon in Burlington.  The race kicks off the annual Burlington town festival, and concludes with a finish on the parade route in downtown Burlington, with spectators lining the street. 

Berry Dairy Days includes a 2 miler, a 10k, and a recently added 1/2 marathon.  The 1/2 marathon starts a half-hour before the 10k, with an early start option also available. The course takes country roads to the east of Burlington, running by berry fields and cow pastures, and ultimately after a turnaround or two, goes out on the Skagit River dike, with an nice five mile or so out and back. 

The  Skagit River dike trail is beautiful, but presents a bit of a challenge, because you can see w-a-y ahead of you, which got into my head a little bit.  Also, at some points, the gravel slowed me down, though usually I was able to find a bit of hard pack. The course offers a mix of road, dirt road/gravel, and even a bit of single track. All flat, with some great long views of the Skagit Valley and Skagit River. 

A+ weather for the day, with the sun shining enough to make me thing about sunscreen. In Washington??  I typically ran a mile, then walked a bit, staying steady, on my way to a 2:12 finish. I know this is not fast, but I'm pleased. I couldn't even run a couple months ago, and now I've managed to keep a 10 minute pace for a half.  I think I would be a bit faster if I could better manage my breathing and stomach. I feel like I'm relearning pacing and distance. Pleasures of running--I'll keep at it.

Breakfast afterwards at the wonderful Burlington Cafe, with a parade of John Deere tractors, Mariachi bands, and rodeo queens passing by outside. Good stuff. Nice to see so many folks coming out to the parade, race and festival. The small businesses of Burlington can use a little help now with the bridge down.