Sunday, July 17, 2016

Siouxon Creek

Me and Courtney at Chinook Falls

My sister, Courtney was visiting from Seattle and we had planned to hike around Mt. St. Helen's, because in the 10 years she has lived in the Pacific Northwest, she hadn't been. Saturday morning I checked the weather and the forecast called for no rain but overcast at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, so we headed out for the 2 hour drive from Portland. We were within 10 miles of Johnston Ridge and it started to rain and as we got a little closer the fog was so dense that we could barley see 10 feet in front of us. We pulled over at a look at point and pulled out our hiking book to figure out what plan b was going to be. We picked Siouxon Creek.


The awesome trail

I wasn't thrilled to have to drive another 1.5 hours but we were determined to hike! As soon as we started to hike we almost forgot that we spent ~3 hours in the car. The very well maintained trail gradually follows Siouxon Creek, through a Doug Fir and Hemlock forest. There were at least 2 of the most impressive trail bridges I have ever seen, outside of New Zealand. The water in the creek was some of the clearest I had seen in awhile, in some sections it was almost aqua blue. 2 miles in we passes Siouxon Falls, a small waterfall that pours into a greenish-blue pool of water. 



One of the amazing bridges

Siouxon Falls
At ~3.5 miles we got to a bridge crossing Siouxon Creek, where a lot of people were hanging out, taking picture and turning around. I knew I had read there was another waterfall, I checked the map and noticed that it was only .20 miles away, we continued on. We were so glad we did, we were rewarded with an impressive Chinook Falls, with no one around. We found a perfect rock in front of the falls, enjoyed lunch and happy we ended up with plan b!


Courtney at Chinook Falls

Chinook Falls
After getting home and examining the map more, Susan and I can easily make a 20+ loop around Siouxon Creek. Next year!!!!


More trails to explore


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Elk Mountain - Kings Mountain loop

Friday Susan and I did our "long run", since she was leaving on Saturday for a 2 week vacation to Ireland. A long run meaning an incremental increase to what I did the week before, since I am slowly easing back into running because of my herniated disc. We ran 2.5 hours / ~13 miles in Forest Park. With the long run done and the long 4th of July weekend ahead of us, I planned a few harder hikes for John and me to do. The first being the Elk Mountain - Kings Mountain loop.

From the top of King Mountain

Saturday John and I headed over to the Tillamook State Forest to hike the Elk Mountain - Kings Mountain loop. In all the years I have spent hiking in Oregon, I had never done this trail, the closest I got was when ran the Wilson River trail last year. Depending on what source you look at the loop is somewhere between 10.5-12 miles with ~3200 feet of elevation gain. But the trail is rated as very difficult because of the terrain 

We decided to hike the loop clockwise, starting at the Elk Mountain trailhead, hiking on the Wilson River trail for 3.5 miles before heading up the Kings Mountain trail. Besides being incredibly steep in places the the Kings Mountain trail was really well maintained and not too overly technical. At this point I figured everything I had read about the trails being difficult was out dated. That was until we started on the trail that connects King and Elk Mountains. 


The top!

The connector trail was over grown, rugged, steep and rocky in places. There were quite a few places that I was using my hands to crawl up and down the rocks, we even had to use a rope at one point to get up the trail. I am thankful that John brought his poles, because I don't know if I would of been able to complete the loop without them. Figuring that once we reached Elk Mountain the trail would get better, I was enjoying the rough unmaintained connector trail.


Climbing up the rope


The top
Again, I was mistaken, the Elk Mountain trail was nothing like the Kings Mountain trail. It is rugged, rough, steep with a lot of loose ground. Again I was on my butt a lot grabbing onto rocks and branches to help navigate myself down the various inclines. I was so happy when we finally reached the Wilson River trail. I said to John, "this trail is bullshit!", but really I enjoyed the unexpected challenge and we had spectacular views from the top of Kings and Elk Mountain. 

After completing the hike, I have a lot of respect for the people who run the Elk - Kings 25k/50k.


From the top of Elk Mountain

Sunday, June 26, 2016

5 week update with a little bit of running and a lot of hiking

Forest Park
It has been 5 weeks since I went to the ER for what turned out to be a herniated disc. I have also changed jobs, so I had a few weeks in between jobs to focus on physical therapy and recovery. 

The only pain I have had is a little in my lower back when I sit and slouch for a log period of time, but even then the pain is probably a 2 on a scale of 1-10. What I have been experiencing is paresthesia. Paresthesia is often described as "pins and needles". The best description I found is from here. "The sensation, sometimes, occurs without warning and is a mostly painless sensation. It’s best described by its tingling, numbness and distinct skin crawling feeling." 
Lake 22 in Washington

The first few weeks my lower left leg didn't have as much sensation when touched as my right leg, which felt really strange when I tried to shave. It also felt like my leg had come into contact with stinging nettlesIn the 3 weeks since my original blog post about why I am not running, the paresthesia in my lower left leg has lessened and isn't constant. Now it is just a small sensation, which doesn't seem to worsen after a long hike or the little bit of running I am doing. My PT is amazed how well I am doing in such a short period of time. 


Forest Park - my sanity
I have done a ton of hiking in the last 5 weeks, which at first was mainly in Forest Park but in the last 3 weeks I have done several hikes in the Gorge and the Mt. Hood Wilderness, I even went to Seattle to see my sister and got hike in there. 


my running schedule
The Gorge
We have slowly started to add running back in. The first week of running was 3 days of 15 minutes of run walk intervals, the 2nd week was similar but for 20 minutes at a time. Going into the 3rd week, I asked Ariel, my PT, if she thought it was ok to increase the amount of time I was running, but keep with the run / walk intervals. She said it was ok as long as there was no increased pain. Last weekend I ran for 80 minutes, this weekend Susan and I ran for 2 hours and I will probably increase it by 30 minutes next weekend. My weekday runs are ~40 minutes. It is no where near the 60+ miles a week I was running 5 weeks ago, but it is a lot more than I thought I would be doing after I was diagnosed and thought I wouldn't be able to run for 6 months. With all the hiking and walking my weekly milage is still pretty good, ~45 miles / week. 



Coyote Wall

The Gorge from Coyote Wall
Mt Hood from Bald Mountain
My goal is not to over do it, keep recovering, enjoy the summer and to make it to Chamonix for CCC at the end of August. We might be hiking all of CCC, but I am feeling positive that we will make it to Chamonix. 

Some of the recent hikes I have done:
Salmon River
Bald Mountain from Ramona Falls
Lake Twenty-two
Coyote Wall
Larch Mountain
Lookout Mountain

Dad on the way to Larch Mountain

Before hiking with Dad


Back at Nike and running with Susan -- just like I never left

Mt Hood on the way up to Lookout Mountain

Mt Hood selfie
Forest Park with Dad

Monday, June 6, 2016

Why I'm not running

Friday, May 20th 
noon : yoga, I tweaked my back while twisting, enough that it hurt to go into a headstand.

Saturday, May 21st 
7am - noon : We ran ~23 miles, my lower back did hurt when I started running but it didn't feel any worse when I was done. 

Sunday, May 22nd 
7am : It was hard to bend forward and my back didn't feel great so I decided to skip going to yoga, since I didn't want to make it worse because we were going to run 30 miles in the Gorge on Tuesday. I instead drove an hour to my mom's house. 

11am - 4pm : At my mom's my left leg felt sore, but after lunch I had a noticeable pain going down my leg, I wasn't sure what was going on. 

4pm - 5:30pm : Driving home the pain in my left leg just kept getting worse, I kept rubbing on it hoping that would help, but it didn't. 

5:30pm - midnight : When I got home I could barely walk from one room to another without stopping to laying down. I WAS IN SO MUCH PAIN. It felt like my leg muscles were spasming, I had never felt anything like it. I eventually made it to the couch, where laying flat on my back seem to relieve most of the pain. I had no idea what was going on, but was hopefully that a good nights sleep would help. The whole evening I was texting my husband, John, who was in Copenhagen for work, about all the pain I was in. I am pretty sure at that point he thought I was being melodramatic. I took an extra sleeping pill to make sure I slept through the night. 

Monday, May 23rd
2am : I woke up a few times in pain but I was able to get back to sleep, but finally at 2am I woke up with my left leg in so much pain that I was crying and screaming. Trying to walk to the bathroom was so difficult that I didn't want to get out of bed again to try and find painkillers. I was home alone and didn't know what to do, the pain wasn't going away and nothing I did made it any better. My husband told me to call an ambulance and go to the ER, but I was afraid of how much it would cost, even though I had insurance. I thought if I could just wait it out until 5am, then I could call a friend to come and take me to the ER. 

3am : I couldn't take the pain any longer, I tried calling my friend Chris but he didn't pick-up, I then called Susan who picked up on the 2nd ring and she said she would be over in 15 minutes. 

3:30am - 6:30am : The ER - It really was a blur, I was in so much pain. They gave me a cocktail of pain meds along with a shot of morphine, and finally the pain started to subside. They suspected I had sciatica, even though the pain was on the side of my left leg and not down the back of it. The x-ray showed a narrowed space between L4-5, which was probably causing the pain. The ER doctor suggested I contact my primary care doctor to get an MRI. I do remember Susan telling the nurse or doctor that we were running a 100k in 2 weeks, I don't remember them responding to her. I also felt very lucky that I had Susan there taking care of everything.  

7am : Back home. Susan got me situated on the couch with everything I needed to be comfortable. We called my moms, who could come over and take care of me so Susan could get back to her family. I texted with my primary care doctor and he was able to fit me in at 2:30pm. 

2:30pm : more pain pills... I was at Dr. Shay's office trying to coherently tell him the events of the last 72 hours. He didn't think it was sciatica, since the pain wasn't going down the back of my legs, he thought I might just be experiencing severe muscle spams but wanted to check with a specialist to make sure it wasn't a bulging disc. 

Tuesday, May 24th - Friday, May 27th : The next few days were a real haze of pain, pills and doctor's appointments. I ended up going to an Orthopedist who recommended me getting an MRI. I went to PT twice and had a few strength exercises to do. By Thursday, I was standing without any pain and was able to go on an hour walk, which was a huge improvement over the previous days where I couldn't stand for more than a few minutes without being in pain. I still had some numbness on the inside of my lower left leg, which caused it to be heavy and weak. My PT, Ariel, said it was fine to do hour long walks as long as I wasn't in pain, but no yoga, spin, or RUNNING. UGH. And the Orthopedist never called back with the MRI results, so I went into the long holiday weekend wondering....

THE LONGGGGGGGGGGG WEEKEND (May 27th - 30th) : I made the mistake of Googling "running with a bulging disc L4-5", after that it was a downward spiral. I got really depressed thinking I was never going to run again, I only got out of bed to go on my hour walks and then it was even a struggle. I hit rock bottom Sunday night, but that is a story left for another time. 

Tuesday, May 31st : The Ortho's PA finally called me back with the MRI results and said I did have a bulging disc between L4-5, I tried to write down everything he said, but he seemed rushed and I didn't get it all down. He did suggest I get an injection, which seemed strange to me since I hadn't had any pain for almost a week. 

Luckily I had a PT appointment that afternoon and I could ask Ariel all the questions I didn't get to ask the PA. I have been seeing Ariel since February, when I started having knee and back issues, and she has always been able to set my mind at ease when I mentally start to freakout about something at doctor tells me, and this time was no different. She called and got a copy of the MRI report and we went over it with me. She suggested I talk to my Dr again about the injection, since I wasn't in pain. 

I got ahold of the PA and he said if I wasn't experiencing pain that I probably didn't need the injection. (Only if he listened to me the first time!!!!) He also said it would probably be 2 months before I could run, but yoga and spin class were ok. Ariel advised me against yoga and spin class because of the forward folding. I was quickly losing trust in the PA, but I scheduled a follow-up appointment for 2 weeks out.

Wednesday, June 1st - Monday June 6th : I have been walking/hiking in Forest Park every day and even hiked 10 miles on the Salmon River trail over the weekend. I ended up with 43 miles for the week, not bad for being injured. I am diligent about doing all of my PT exercises and going to see Ariel twice a week.

I got a referral from Ariel for another doctor to get a second opinion. The new doctor, Dr. Tatsumi got me in right away and spent 30 minutes going over my MRI and answering my questions. He said I had a large bulge that I could have removed with surgery, which only took and hour but would have me at home for a few weeks and recovering for at least a month. Or I could see if the bulge reduces or gets resorbed, he said larger bulges are more likely to do so. He said since I wasn't experiencing any pain I could try running again and see what happens. Which at first I was excited to hear, but as I thought about it more I got scared, I don't want to go through the pain again.

I am conflicted about what to do, luckily I have a PT appointment tomorrow can talk to Ariel about the options. I debated canceling my follow-up appointment next week with the first doctor, but for now I am going to keep it to see what he thinks. 

This is not the way I wanted to spend the summer, but I have very thankful I am not in pain and I am able to hike and hopefully (slowly) add some more activities back, so I can stay in shape. I am trying to stay optimistic, which isn't always the easiest thing to do, especially when I start Googling about running and bulging discs. I am very luckily to have found a great PT and have a VERY supportive family, husband and bff/running partner. I know I will get back to running, but I just have to be patient, which I am not good at.   

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Big D

Katy Trail in Dallas


I flew to Dallas for the weekend to surprise my nephews, and my Dad and Stephanee-- who were also visiting. I grew up in Dallas and had not been back in 7+ years. If someone asked me what I thought about Dallas or Texas I normally didn't have very positive things to say, so I was curious if going back after all this time would change my perception. I also wasn't much of a runner the last time I was in Dallas, so I was eager to see what kind of trail my sister Gretchen would take me to. 

Saturday morning Gretchen and I ran from where we were staying to Dad and Stephanee's Airbnb, to surprise my Dad (Stephanee was in on the surprise). I wish I had a picture of his face when he saw me. I tried to surprise him in November by flying to Michigan for his birthday, but he is nosy and read an email I sent to Stephanee. So this time I was very careful not to send her any text or emails about the visit. It also meant not posting to social media and turning off all location tracking once I was in Dallas, as my dad is obsessed with Friend Finder. It is really hard to be sneaky in the digital age. But somehow we managed to pull it off. 


Me, Stephanee, Gretchen and Dad after running the Katy Trail

Saturday was pretty packed with family activities, and we only had an hour or so to run, so we headed over to the Katy Trail. The Katy Trail is a 3.5 mile paved pedestrian path built on an old rail road track. It was the perfect distance for a quick out and back for all of us. 

Sunday morning Gretchen and I had a little bit more time and headed out to some trails. She took us out to Cedar Ridge Preserve, which is 25 minutes from Dallas but feel like you are running in the Texas Hill Country. The trails are very similar to the ones at Bandera, which makes sense why Gretchen did most of her training there. There are only 10 miles worth of trails, but given the amount of time we were going to run it was perfect. I took a picture of the trail map but didn't really look at it, I figured I wouldn't get too lost. 


A sign I never see trail running in Oregon



A pond at Cedar Ridge 

I was pleasantly surprised how nice the trails were and the area in general. When I think of the Dallas metroplex I don't think of trail running, but if you look hard enough you can normally find an oasis anywhere, even if it is only a few miles of trails.

Overall I didn't feel that Dallas had changed that much since I last visited-- though they do have several microbreweries now-- but what had changed was me. I have grown up and Dallas just felt like another city to me. It wasn't about all the memories and feelings from years ago, but more about my family who I was visiting and the time we got to spend together. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Two loops with Anna

On a de facto recovery week, I txted Anna and Leslie to see what they were running this weekend. They were looking for about 8 miles, and I was looking for about 18. I wanted to not end on the uphill (so they'd agree to run with me in the future); starting at the NW 53rd trailhead was just about the best option.

Leslie decided to skip and get some much-needed rest, and Anna and I enjoyed a cool, cloudy run on surprisingly dry trails-- a far cry from the hot weather we've been having and a welcome change. The first loop went by so quickly, enjoying Anna's company. The second loop was more of a slog for me, but it was nice to zone out on the Leif and Wildwood stretches.


Start at Wildwood/NW 53rd trailhead

Wildwood (9.18) to Alder (ww 9.4)-- .22 mi
Alder (ww 9.4) to Leif (1.49)-- .84 mi (1.06 total)
Leif (1.49) to Maple (ww 4.22)-- 2.73 mi (3.79 total)
Maple (ww 4.21) to WW (12.84)-- .86 mi (4.65 total)
WW (12.84) to 53rd (ww 9.18)-- 3.66 mi 
8.27 total


WW (9.18) to Dogwood (ww 8.47)-- .71 mi (8.98 total)
Dogwood (ww 8.47) to Leif (.92)-- .34 mi (9.32 total)
Leif (.92) to Koenig (le 4.57)-- 3.64 mi (12.96 total)
Koenig (le 4.57) to WW (14.23)-- .15 mi (13.11 total)
WW (14.23) to 53rd (ww 9.18)-- 5.05 mi 
18.16 total

Friday, May 6, 2016

All the ups and downs

My son loaned me his lovey for our run-- as long as I didn't get him stinky.

Thought I'd have a little fun and make us hit lots of the trails between Wildwood and Leif. My first iteration was only 20 miles, and by the time I got that far into route-making I just used the easiest method of adding on. So there's a longer stretch on Wildwood from Nature Trail to Ridge. The multiple, short climbs break things up nicely.

Firelane 4 is difficult to run even downhill, so might as well go up it.
I knew the hike up Firelane 4 would be overgrown, but I didn't realize there'd be stinging nettles there, too. Now that's incentive to get up a hill quickly!

Moss creeping in on Firelane 3.

Dogwood to ww (8.47)-- .66 mi
ww (8.47) to Alder (ww 9.40)-- .93 mi (1.59 total)
Alder (ww 9.40) to Leif (1.49)-- .84 mi (2.43 total)
Leif (1.49) to FL 1 (le 3.03)-- 1.54 mi (3.97 total)
FL 1 to Nature-- .53 mi (4.5 total)
Nature to ww (11.83)-- .65 mi (5.15 total)
ww (11.83) to Ridge (ww 20.99)-- 9.16 mi (14.31 total)
Ridge (ww 20.99) to le (8.47)-- .35 mi (14.66 total)
le (8.47) to Saltzman (le 6.20)-- 2.27 mi (16.93 total)
Saltzman to hwy 30-- 1.26 mi (18.19 total)
FL 4 to Maple-- .55 mi ?? (18.74 total)
Maple to Leif (4.21)-- 1.03 mi (19.77 total)
Leif (4.21) to FL 3
FL 3 (le 4.22) to WW (13.64)-- .31 mi (20.08 total)
WW (13.64) to Chestnut (ww 12.14)-- 1.5 mi (21.58 total)
Chestnut (ww 12.14) to le (3.46)-- .49 mi (22.07 total)
le (3.46) to Thuman-- 3.46 mi (25.53 total)
Thurman to Aspen-- .25 mi (25.78 total)
Aspen to ww (6.36)-- .23 mi (26.01 total)
ww (6.63) to Wild Cherry (ww 7.88)-- .1.25 mi (27.26 total)
Wild Cherry to 53rd-- .32 mi (27.58 total)

Lovely spot for a slug nap.