Saturday, December 27, 2014

Best of 2014 Runs

2014 saw a precipitous decline in my running, across the board.  I ran less, I ran shorter distances, and I ran much slower. And this for a guy who was never all that fast to begin with.  

Oh well.  There's always next year. There's also always room to smile, and be thankful for the good things.  I've seen enough life to not take anything for granted, and notice all the moments. There's joy in the little things. And frankly, my running and trail life do not live in a vacuum.  2014 was a terrific year for me, just not so much as a runner. I'll set some goals, and go from there.

So, here's my Best of 2014 Runs/Hikes list, with limited weight given to the rankings, although #1 and #2 were easy choices. 

1.         Kauai

It doesn't get much better than Kauai. We got married, on the north shore, with friends and family watching on. The wedding and reception were simply magical--everything we could want, and the memories are great for everyone. The week after was filled with outdoor adventures, including a five hour boat ride with dolphins and whales along the Na Pali Coast; a helicopter ride to the other 80% of the island, including Waimea Canyon and the Coast; kayaking on the Wailua River with several friends and hiking to waterfalls; surf school in Hanalei; and my daily routine of watching the sun rise over the ocean. So good.

2.         Easy Pass to Colonial Creek

This 25 mile run across the North Cascades National Park is about as good as it gets.  I think this was my fourth time on this point-to-point route, and I struggled.  I rolled my ankle near Fischer Camp, and basically had to walk the last few miles. So worth it, as the natural beauty of this area is heavenly. Thanks Allen and Rich for sticking with me.

 3.         Ptarmigan Ridge

I did a full day hike up Ptarmigan Ridge, up by Mount Baker, all the way to the Portals.  I saw a bear, lots of goats, a variety of birds, glacier green lakes, and more.  The picture above is a bear, though a lanky one which might be mistaken for Bigfoot.  Afterwards, I hung out with friends Dean, Ruth and Al up at Heather Meadows. Got pretty sun burnt that day. 

4.         Cutthroat Pass

I was up on Cutthroat Pass twice this year—once for the Cutthroat Classic trail run, and then a few weeks later with friend Rich.  Great trip-- we took our time exploring the ridges above the pass, getting a good view of the PCT headed north.  I've been on the pass many times, but have never really looked around. Pizza at the end of a long day was well earned.

5.         Boston Fun Run

I ran a short Fun Run in Boston along the Charles River in June with friend John.  Big city running is always a quick way to get a sense for a place. Managed also to catch a great game at Fenway and tour the stadium; have a great Italian meal on the North Side, with canolis; and hiked the Freedom Trail with Deb.

6.         Baker Lake 50k

My favorite ultra was my only ultra for the year.  It was hard.  It took me four hours to get to the turnaround, and I was beat by then.  I turned around immediately, so there could be no doubt I’d bring it home.

7.         Nookachamps Half Marathon

The 2014 edition of this Northwest tradition had some of the worst rain at a race I can remember.  Cold, windy rain. Builds character, I'm told, but at my age, I'm not in need of much.  This race is five minutes from home, and lots of friends show up, so I'll probably keep toeing the line. Nice to see the trumpeter swans, when they're out there.

8.         Run Ridge Run 25k

Great to head up to Canada with Rich and see Gary and Linda and come in last place on this beautiful technical course.  I was just a wreck, tip-toeing over slimy, slick roots. Heavy rain before the race gave way to clear skies.  The course is on the Diez Vista course, with plenty of climb and technical running. Sure to be a good one in years to come.

I made a few different trips over to the Skagit Wildlife Recreation Area with Seth, Rich, Deb, and others.  Near home, this is a great place to find some birds, some nature, and some quiet time. I love this place.

10.       Windhorse Half Marathon

This run benefits Mongolian children.  It is a simple out and back on Bellingham’s Interurban, and it was just the right thing for me on the weekend I did it.

So, as usual, not everything got into the list.  There was our annual full-moon snowshoe trip up to Artist Point, which went great this year, in 40 degree weather.  I ran a few other half marathons, including the Woolley Runs and the Seattle Half Marathon.  I also put in a number of shorter races, including the March Point 10k, Loggerodeo, and the Fall Fowl Run.  Aaron ran the Fowl Run with me, for his first 10k, and placed in his age group. In all, I did at least 12 events, which is my annual goal. I also DNS'ed a few races--I need to stop registering way in advance for races.  I'll probably actually run less events going forward, and focus more on trail time.

I also managed trips to Washington D.C. (work) and San Diego (friends). Deb and I came to call this the summer of baseball, as we attended 8 or so games, including games in San Diego, Boston, Seattle, and even Everett. Even Derek Jeter's last game in Safeco. Maybe next year the Ms can improve a bit, and so can I with this whole running thing. 

OK, on to 2015! Good things, good things.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seattle Half Marathon

I did the Seattle Half Marathon last Sunday. I have the medal to prove it, and my legs still hurt a bit. I'm downright bothered by the precipitous decline in my amble. Then I'm not bothered.  Then I sign up for another race, after a few weeks of non-training.  It's time to break this vicious cycle of inactivity.

The Half is a first for me, after having done the full a dozen times or so. I liked it. The course feels a little more natural than the full, which carries on over the I-90 Bridge to Mercer Island and back.  As far as half-marathons go, I suppose this course is challenging, with significant hills at Madison Park and through the Arboretum. You still get the I-90 tunnel, views of Lake Washington, the Cascades, the Olympics, and the volcanos. You get it all--it's a good course.

This year's edition featured sub-freezing weather and clear blue skies. Pretty nice to be able to see Mount Baker, my hometown mountain. Not so cool to weather the cold.  I had a bad bronchial cough afterwards, and I may or may not be under the weather this week.

My favorite part of doing the half was to have Deb with me. She got up early with me, we shared the coffee and the drive, and she got me home in one piece. Usually I head down to this on my own.

Next up is Deception Pass.  I'm not ready for that either.

Footnote:  I did the Fowl Run a couple weeks ago. Aaron's first 10k!, and he came in second in his age group. Always a good event.  I'd like to say the training helped me with the Seattle Half, but I'd be lying.  Thank you Skagit Runners! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Run Ridge Run 25k

Traveled north to Canada on Saturday for the Run Ridge Run 25k.  This is a new 13k/25k which is the finale of the Coast Mountain Trail Running Series.  The course largely pulls from the Diez Vista course, which I did a few years ago.  The trail is full of rocks and roots, and is a trail runner's delight, if you like technical running.  The view from Diez Vista Ridge, as seen above, is expansive, looking across a beautiful inlet.

For me, it was more like the Walk Ridge Walk.  With longer runs over the previous two weekends and a recently turned ankle, I couldn't run worth beans. Therefore, I hiked, with purpose. The roots on the ridge were slick from all the rain, as were some of the rock faces. There was lots of climbing, some slipping, and on occasion my hands and knees got dirty.  I was in last place almost from the start, with the friendly grim sweeper always not too far behind. I just plowed ahead to the DFL. Not my first even-- but as long as I'm getting them, I'm outside, I guess.

The day started with an absolute downpour, but things turned pretty nice by midday. Views from the ridge were somewhat obscured, and there was frequently mist on the trail.

The flagging on the course was some of the best ever. Seriously, there was a flag every three minutes. Gary is a terrific race director--really enjoyed his contagious enthusiasm, and the volunteers everywhere were all smiles and encouragement, despite my less than awesome result. Thank you. Really great to see friends Linda, Gary and others and hang out with Rich on the way up and back. 

Footnote 1:  we got stopped and subjected to a random search when we crossed into Canada. When they send you around, you're supposed to go inside. You're not supposed to stand outside your car eating a sandwich, waiting for the search team to arrive.

Footnote 2: the homemade tacos my wife prepared for us when we got back home were the best. Home sweet home.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Baker Lake 50k

This year's Baker Lake 50k was a tough one for me.  I really wasn't ready for the distance.  Last week I ran 25 to 28 miles in the North Cascades, which up to that point was the longest I had ran in one stretch all year.  But I know the Baker Lake trail well, and I love this event, so I was game.

I found myself to be stiff right from the start, causing a strain on the breathing and sweating more than I should. My shoes felt like boards. I rolled my soft ankle in the first few miles, which always seems to happen when I'm just ramping up.

Steady as it goes.  I just kept moving forward down the trail, running when the trail gave it to me, walking with purpose when it did not. I drank untreated water to make up for the sweating, and took supplements and salt to make up for the salt loss.  Eat early, eat often, I did.

Around Mile 15 I had thoughts of packing it in at the turnaround point, and I looked that way too. I met friends Kevin and Tim helping out at the turnaround, and they filled the bottles, and I got going immediately, so that I wouldn't dwell on other options.

Soon enough I was a mile or two on my way back down the trail, trying to figure how much further until I hit Noisy Creek.  Then, Noisy Creek to Maple Grove, and then Maple Grove to Anderson Creek. And then the last stretch from Anderson Creek to the Forest Service Road, which always takes five or ten minutes longer than it should. Once I hit the road, I pretty much jogged it home, to a welcoming barbq at the finish line.

So, a tough year for me, but a finish I'm happy to have, and one which will age well, hopefully. Whatever I didn't get in fitness returns was made up by the mental challenge. And the trail itself, which is always so perfect.

Going slow has its benefits--I noticed more big trees than ever.  The lake seemed particularly turquoise this year, for some odd reason.  Many varieties of mushrooms on the trail. Many, many little wet bridges.

So great to see so many friends.  So many folks I haven't seen in a while. Plus, a great spirited contingent from Canada, eh. "How many kilometers until the finish?" left me doing math in my head for a couple minutes at a time.  Afterwards, burgers and drink at the finish line, hanging with good friends and cheering the finishers. Nice to come home to an eventful day in college football.

Thank you Skagit Runners, Terry, Delores, Tim, Kevin, and so many others.  A great year and event as always!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Easy Pass to Colonial Creek

Rich, Allen and I went from Easy Pass to Colonial Creek in the North Cascades on Saturday.  This is a favorite route of mine. The weather was good to us, and fall colors were in abundance. The famed larches were in full turn to gold. The berry bushes provide hillsides of reds. We saw mushrooms and fungi of all sorts and colors--this route is particularly good for this.

As I'm not in ultra running shape, this was a tough effort for me, though it shouldn't be for anyone who is running long frequently.  The distance is somewhere between 25 and 28 miles.  This is a point to point, requiring two cars. I pretty much had to walk the last few miles, and we walked many early miles too, just because. I rolled my ankle near Fischer Camp, which meant 20 miles of careful steps later. Rich and Allen were phenomenal in showing patience with me.

This is a favorite route of mine. The trail cuts through the heart of the North Cascades, while going through several ecological zones. The trail starts in east side sub alpine and finishes in west side old growth. The best part in my opinion is the Fisher Creek basin, which is simply spectacular. There are magical green moss fields down low, clear creek water running over riverstone, and a stunning headwall at the top of the valley.  Lower, but before the forsest begins again, you run through shoulder height bushes which surely hide bears and other critters. Nary a soul. In fact, we didn't see anyone the whole day, which is amazing, for such a long trail in the middle of the North Cascades. Such solitude is treasure.

There were a few creek crossings of modest safety interest. One log bridge was missing a rail, which gave me a slight surge of fear, as it required four steps on the wet log, about 10 feet above running, ice water. A couple other crossings had high log crossings, but I decided to get the feet wet rather than trust my untrustworthy balance.

A good day in the mountains. Thanks guys!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cutthroat Pass

Had a great day Saturday checking out Cutthroat Pass on Saturday with friend Rich.  Fall is just beginning to show signs at the higher altitudes, with some berry bushes turning red and a few larches just starting to show their fall gold.  We had an outstanding day, with 80 degree weather and clear blue skies.

Rich ran the Enchantments the day before, and then met up with me at Rainy Pass off Highway 20 early Saturday morning.  There, we met Pacific Crest Trail hiker "Trek", trying to hitch a ride to Mazama.  We weren't in a hurry to start, and so we gave him the lift, went for coffee, and bought some very tasty sandwiches for later on at the Mazama Store.  We ran into many other PCT hikers during the day, happy to be near the end. I always marvel at that effort.

We hiked the same route that is the Cutthroat Classic run.  Since I always run this route, it was nice to   spend more time exploring, especially at the top of the pass.

There are a number of side trails up there, for camping and for climbing routes.  We climbed above both sides of the Pass, including a relatively easy scramble to a notch at about 7100 feet, which gave us sweeping views of the PCT going north, Tower Mountain, and the dry country of the Pasayten.

In all, we spent at least an hour and a half exploring the Pass.  The quiet air and steady breeze has a way of pushing the cares of the week aside.

We jogged down the backside, which is about 5.5 miles. A short stop at Cutthroat Lake--a pleasant lake with a large amount of eelgrass (or something akin) growing bright green on one side.

I saw a bluebird on the way down. Bluebirds are mostly on the east side of the Cascades, and while I haven't tried too hard, I haven't seen one in a few years. Made me smile.

There were plenty of small patches of red at or around 7000 feet. It looks like in two weeks or so the autumn colors will be in full force in the North Cascades.