Monday, December 15, 2014

Annual birthday run

Our very first "ultra" (distance greater than a marathon) was running the Wildwood trail from its start near the zoo in Washington Park to its sudden end at Newberry Road in Forest Park in 2011, only a few weeks after running our first trail marathon. The day we did it happened to be right between our birthdays, which are only six days apart and fall near the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Back then, it was more birthday challenge than treat.

Our start at the Newberry end of Wildwood
In 2013 we did it again, the opposite direction (in 2012 we ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in San Francisco the next weekend, so we skipped Wildwood). This way is supposed to be more challenging because the major hill up to Pittock Mansion (mile 3.9) comes closer to the end, when you're more tired. For some reason it felt great the whole way, nearly effortless. In fact, it was on this run that we decided to change our registration in the Tarawera Ultra from the 60k to the 85k-- our first attempt at a distance greater than 50k.

The sun emerges
So this year, we had to do something a little different. We started at the Newberry Rd end, ran all the way to the start at the zoo, then back up and over Pittock again to Birch Trail and Ann's house. Thirty-eight miles. We left Ann's car at the Wildwood trailhead on NW 53rd (mile 9.18, or around 21 miles into our run), filled with fresh clothes and shoes to change into, snacks, treats and gear.

Inside the Audi aid station
Right from the start, the weather was fickle. We had rain, snow and sun within the first three miles! We joked every time the weather changed that we must've completed another mile. Nothing lasted for long and it was all quite gentle, but we had at least five separate bouts of snow, a few of icy rain, lots of light rain, quite a few sun breaks, and even fog at our second summit of Pittock. But through it all, with our now-extensive experience and fine-tuned gear, we stayed pretty comfortable and had fun.  


Changing of the guard: fresh shoe with old, dried mud and old shoe with fresh mud
Predictably, one of the toughest parts was starting back up after our "Audi aid station." We had stopped just long enough to cool off, so when we started back up we used disposable handwarmer packs to help defrost our poor hands. Although I bought them last year, we had never used them before and they were a revelation. The next day Ann bought a whole box for all of our upcoming winter adventures.

Wildwood at its start-- only one way to go!
We started around 7:15am and finished around 3:30pm-- just about dawn til dusk. My birthday happened to be the best day for the run and I couldn't have asked for a better present. Now what can we come up with for next year?

Back at Birch and the end of our Wildwood excursion

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