Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hawaii Four-O


sunsest from our airbnb

Seven months ago I decided I didn't want to spend my 40th birthday at home, I wanted to go somewhere with just John (my husband) and relax. As much as we travel it had been a few years since just the 2 of us had taken a vacation together. I looked at how many airline miles I had and based on that and wanting to go somewhere that wasn't cold and rainy, I picked Hawaii (the Big Island). Added bonus, we hadn't been to the Big Island before, so I was excited to be able to go somewhere new. 


end to end rainbow over a lava field 

What I didn't know at the time was, shortly after booking that trip, I would spend the next 6 months interviewing / looking for a different job. I had a co-worker who took another job at a different company, who wasn't really looking but responded to an inquiry on LinkedIn and ended up with an awesome job working from home. I really didn't have any intention on looking for another job, yet alone leaving the company I had worked for for 12+ years. But one day after coming home from a frustrating day at work I responded to recruiter on LinkedIn. One thing led to another and I found myself interviewing at different companies, which almost became a full time job itself. Preparing for technical interviews is almost like cramming for final exams, it's fun but exhausting. I had several offers, but for one reason or another they weren't a perfect fit. Then what I thought was the perfect job came around, but they didn't think I was a perfect fit, which affected me more than it should of. 


walking out to the green sand beach


Just when I was about to give up, another opportunity came up via one of my best friends, which led to another job offer. Deciding to take the offer and leave the company (Nike) I loved and had worked for most of my career was one of the hardest decision I had to made in a long time. I flipped flopped on it a lot and probably drove a lot of people up the wall, because I wouldn't make up my mind or talk about anything else for a few weeks.  I met some of my best friends, including Susan at Nike, which made it even harder to leave. My last day at Nike was 2 days before leaving for Hawaii, which timing wise couldn't of been more perfect. 


kayaking with John and the spinner dolphins


The first few days in Hawaii, I was in a funk because I felt like I had lost a big part of my life and still wasn't sure I had made the right decision. (Yes, I know poor me, I am in Hawaii and sad. The irony wasn't lost on me) I thought I really needed to go on a run to clear my head. Well finding a trail run on the Kona side of the Big Island was a little more challenging than I expected, so much of it is covered in lava rocks, which doesn't make for very runnable trails. 


My 1 trail run

A friend of mine suggested the Ala Kahakai Trail which is actually a 175 mile trail along the coast line, the trick is finding where the trail connects.  The closest trailhead to where we were staying was at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. The first 1/2 mile of the trail was runnable, then I reached a long stretch of sandy beach. Just when I was about to turn around and give up on running on the "trail" I came upon a turtle. There was something really magical about being the only person on the beach with the turtle. The beach eventually ended and the trail continued on lava "paved" trail back to the trailhead. I covered a lot of Hawaii's terrain in 4 something miles- beach, lava trail and dirt trail. 


The turtle I shared my run with

The rest of the trip I gave up trying to trail run and just enjoyed all the other things the island had to offer: kayaking and snorkeling with spinner dolphins, stand-up paddling, hiking on an active volcano, drinking mai tais, watching amazing sunsets and just relaxing by the ocean. Hawaii was exactly what I needed to unwind, relax, enjoy my birthday, and realize sometimes it is ok to take a break from running.  

Ahu
place of refuge

Walking in a crater

Ahu = Cairn

View from one of our hikes



Arch over the oecan


Friday, November 20, 2015

Pre-birthday, semi-celebration run

As we've done the past few years-- with our birthdays only six days apart-- we wanted to run our age in miles on Wildwood trail. Since we're three years apart, we have a bit of wiggle room on the total distance. This year, however, is a milestone birthday for one of us and we wanted to run that particular number.

Travel plans have us apart and out of town for nearly three weeks around our birthdays and the conveniently long Thanksgiving holiday, so we decided to postpone the official birthday run. Instead we ran all of Wildwood, from the zoo to Newberry Rd (simply because we hadn't done that direction since 2011) on Saturday, before Ann left on her trip the next morning.

Wildwood's start, at the zoo

I parked at the Newberry terminus, then John and Ann picked me up, and John dropped us off at the zoo. To cement his spot as Top Trail Spouse of the year, John then parked the car at the 53rd Ave trailhead so we would have an aid station at mile 9, and he hiked home. Now that's service. Thank you, John!

Just a couple of miles from the end we let a man pass us who then said our pace was helping him not go too fast, as he had just twisted both of his ankles. I told him we were running Wildwood end-to-end and were nearly finished, and he was amazed. He took off, but was there at the Newberry trailhead and took a nice photo of us at the end. Thank you, sir, and take care of those ankles!

A decorated trail marker
We lucked out and despite the forecast, it stayed dry our whole run. I have to admit that starting at the zoo is easier, because you get the climb to Pittock Mansion out of the way. We had a great, uneventful run and all too soon it was over. So soon, in fact, that it felt like we barely had time to discuss what our next adventure should be. We have been working on our 2016 race calendar, though. It's the adventures and mountain circumnavigations I can't wait to research.

Girls gone Wildwood, at the Newberry end

Friday, November 13, 2015

Michigan in the Fall

Hall Lake
Last weekend I flew to Michigan to surprise my dad, which ended up not actually being a surprise since he read an email I sent to my stepmom about coming. It was still nice for him to pretend to be surprised. As we normally we do we spent each morning running on the trails around Gun Lake and Yankee Springs Recreation area and the afternoons trying local microbrews. 
Me and Dad

Every summer when I visit we run these trails, I have posted about them a few times, but this was the first time I have been on the trails in the fall. The trails felt so different with all the leaves off the tress and being able to see a lot more of the surrounding area. 

Every time I start to get a little burnt out on running the same trails all the time, the seasons change and the trails start to feel different and new again. This is one of the things I really love about trail running. 

I am ready for all the changes this Winter is going to bring us. 








Saturday, November 7, 2015

Running Unplugged

It's been a long time since I've run solo and in silence-- no talking, podcasts or music to distract from my thoughts. But Ann was in Michigan, and I didn't realize I forgot my headphones til I was almost to the trailhead. I frantically txted her husband to see if I could stop by their house an borrow a pair. Moments later, I decided the silence was just what I needed and rescinded my query.

Sunrise silhouettes Mt Hood

I had meant to start out at the Thurman end of Leif to do my standard Ann-less loop, but drove on autopilot to Birch. So instead I did the 18 mile loop Ann picked for us the previous weekend, with a few added flourishes-- like going up Morak on the way out and Keil on the way back.

With four hours of quiet ahead of me, I was nervous I would bail early because the time would go slowly and make the run feel like a drag. But the first hour whizzed by. After a recent, impromptu trip to Florida for a family issue, I had a lot to think about. I consciously steered my thoughts to specific topics, sometimes just listened to the music in my head, and at times enjoyed the silent and observative mind that is one of my favorite things about running long distances on trails.

A lovely russula

The weather started out mostly dry, with a few short-lived showers. Then it rained more than not. And then the dry pauses gave way to bouts of heavy downpour. I enjoyed getting the full spectrum of autumn weather; it's been so dry that running in the rain felt like a rare treat (I know that in a month I'll reread these words with an eyeroll) and the trail didn't even get muddy. By the end I was sopping wet, and so glad I wore my long tights-- first time since about April. I can't believe we've had such warm weather this year that I went for seven months without wearing running tights!

Old growth tree selfie
I'm not sure when I'll do it on purpose, but I know I won't dread the miles next time I forget headphones or am unable to listen to a device.

Birch to Wildwood (7.49)-- .22 mi
Wildwood (7.49) to Morak (ww 10.65)-- 3.16 mi (3.38 total)
Morak to Firelane 1-- .08 mi (3.46 total)
Firelane 1 to Wildwood (11.18)-- ?
Wildwood (11.18) to Saltzman (ww 16.01)-- 4.83 mi (8.29 total)
Saltzman (ww 16.01) to Leif (6.2)-- .5 mi (8.79 total)
Leif (6.2) to Maple (le 6.44)-- .24 mi (9.03 total)
Maple to Leif (4.21)-- 2.66 mi (11.69 total)
Leif (4.21) to Nature Trail (le 3.40)-- .81 mi (12.5 total)
Nature Trail (le 3.40) to Firelane 1-- .93 mi (13.43 total)
Firelane 1 to Wildwood (11.18)-- ?
Wildwood (11.18) to Keil (ww 9.18)-- 2 mi (15.43 total)
Keil to Dogwood-- .17 mi (15.6 total)
Dogwood to Wildwood (8.47)-- .66 mi (16.26 total)
Wildwood (8.47) to Birch (ww 7.49)-- .98 mi (17.24 total)
Birch to trailhead-- .22 mi (17.46 total)
~18 miles total

Friday, November 6, 2015

Runicorns' Hood to Coast 2015

This year's Hood to Coast was singular, if only for the weather. With gusts of wind up to 70 mph, rain from all sides, and lots of lightning, it was very unusual for August in western Oregon. Despite that, we had a great time in van 2, did some running we were all proud of, and reveled in our new team name: after years of being the Honey Bucks & Buckettes, we are now the Runicorns.

We were lucky to get a team this year after last year off; my dad and brother, Ted, came out for it and Ann's dad, Fred, and step-brother, Noel, did too. At the last minute her step-sister, Gretchen, was able to join us, which meant that Noel got a reprieve from running to help out as one of our required three volunteers. Our team start was 6:45am, the earliest I've ever had, which meant that van 1 had to get to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood at a painful pre-dawn hour.

Awesome tshirts designed by Travis

Gretchen kicked butt as our first runner, but Fred wasn't feeling well after his first leg, so he swapped out with Noel. We later learned that Fred really enjoyed his volunteer job seeing all the runners at the Hawthorne Bridge and telling them what to do. Noel, always strong and steady, kicked out the second and third legs.

In my van, I ran first with leg 7, then Ted with 8, Sara-- who was training for the Portland Marathon-- ran 9, Erik ran his first Hood to Coast with leg 10, my dad ran 11, and Alex-- the 16 year-old son of my friend Kari (who has also run the event for many years)-- was our anchor on his first H2C with leg 12.

We arrived at our first van exchange in the early afternoon with not much time, so we didn't get to hang out with van 1 as much as we'd hoped. I didn't feel much of anything until it was suddenly my turn to run, and then I felt slow in the heat with short gasps of breath. I was certain my inability to calm my breathing was slowing my pace, but as the road gave way to a series of rolling hills, I began to pass people.

I hadn't realized I'd want something to listen to until we were nearly at the exchange, so I had only cobbled together a short playlist of songs on Spotify; about 10 of the songs had the time and connection to download to my phone. I got to listen to all of them and then a few over again-- Leon Bridge's awesome debut album. It's pretty low key for running music, but it was just what I wanted.

Alex and unicorn 'do rag

Along the way I passed a kids' lemonade stand and stopped for a cup-- something I've always wanted to do. It was fun to chat with them for a minute. I finished my leg and was surprised at just how fast I'd run. Soon it was time for Erik's first leg, which I really wanted to run with him since it was his very first Hood to Coast. We were worried about both heading out of the exchange together, so he took off solo and then van drove around to find an access point to the protected Springwater Trail. Luckily, just as soon as I hopped onto the trail I saw Erik coming. We enjoyed  running together. He kept a nice, steady pace and I was impressed.

The rest of the van went went well until we got to our final exchange of the round, at the Hawthorne Bridge. We enjoyed some time with van 1, but when Alex came in he had pulled something in his leg or hip and was limping. We went back to my house-- very close to the exchange-- to eat and rest. Sara had brought five light beers and a non-alcoholic one for Alex, and we all cheers'd in an awesome tradition we'll be repeating from now on.

A few hours later, we headed to the next van exchange at the Columbia County Fairgrounds. We got there fairly early, so we had time to hang out and I had time to get ready. I saw a police car slowly circling the field and I had a fleeting thought: Wouldn't it be funny if my coworker-friend Jeff, who volunteers regularly as a deputy... No, that would be too much of a coincidence. Not five minutes later, I heard my name called out and turned to see Jeff leaning out of his cruiser. He stopped and we had fun chatting while other runners begged him to take photos of him pretending to arrest them. He demurred.

It was almost my usual bedtime, but seeing Jeff got me jazzed to run in the soft, cool night. Rain began to sprinkle down as I started out into the darkness, enjoying the awesome headlamp Ann gave gifted me last year for my birthday. I soon realized that I had forgotten to update my music playlist, and furthermore this time only six of the songs would play.

Deputy Jeff making Hood to Coast safe

To pass the time I set my sights on the person in front of me and enjoyed their music as I passed them (headphones aren't allowed, so people with music blast it out from little, portable speakers). I was surprised when I came to the van-- it seemed too soon-- but they assured me I was halfway done with my longest leg. I picked it up a bit and felt triumphant when I finished much faster than anticipated.

For Erik's second leg, the van dropped me off just down the road. I was surprised to see him running without the headlamp; he just hadn't been able to figure out how to turn it on. It was raining harder now at times, but Erik held a good pace, aiming his light up at the trees so he didn't have to see the distance and undulations of the road.

Then came time for Alex's second run. He took off in the heavy rain, and we stopped for him about halfway. "Do you want to run for me?" he asked me as I handed him water. "Sure" I said, "I just need to change out of my flipflops." He had seemed earnest at first, but then said nevermind or "just kidding."

How I wish I had just put on my running shoes and pushed him into the van!

We drove on to the exchange, and were surprised to find our van 1 teammates quickly despite the dark and having no phone signal. We hung out until close to when we thought Alex would arrive, and then went to the runner exchange with Shawna, who was up to run. She was the only one of us allowed across the street to the actual exchange, so I waited in my sole, soaking jacket, getting more and more worried as the minutes ticked by.

Nearly 20 minutes later, Alex limped up the road into the light of the exchange, and I burst across the street to grab him and try to put my jacket around his bare shoulders. The muscle he pulled on his first leg had worsened and he had barely been able to walk the rest of the leg since we had seen him. My stomach was in knots from worrying about him-- after his mom trusted me!-- and we hurried back to the van.

This next part is always the low point of any Hood to Coast. Race traffic is at its densest and slowest, and you have to just follow the race route and bear it. As we sat in traffic in the worsening wind and rain, I began to feel nauseous and dizzy in the way back of the van.

Finally, I couldn't take it and asked my brother, who was driving, to pull over. I knelt in the gravel next to the van the side of the road and puked as I watched the rare lightning flashes and marveled at the thunder. We just don't have thunderstorms in western Oregon.

Thoroughly voided of all I had eaten that day and exhausted, I got back in the van. We finally got to the sleeping grounds just after the final van exchange, and Sara, my dad, Erik and I set out with our sleeping bags and tarp while the others stayed in the car.

By setting out the tarp, laying on it, and then pulling it over us, we made a cozy cocoon that protected us from the rain and wind that was really picking up. I only fell asleep for about 25 minutes, but it was heaven to stretch out in the fresh air.

When my alarm went off, we picked up and noticed the damage the wind was beginning to cause in the brightening morning light. Leaves and small branches were coming down, things were blowing around between the vans, and people were struggling to set up tents.

We roused the van-sleepers and I got ready to run. Standing out at the runner exchange, waiting for Travis, I heard a massive crack and saw a huge tree snap and fall-- luckily away from the sleeping field it grew at the edge of. Travis came in, and I learned we no longer had the exchange snap bracelet. Oh well. I took off down the road and saw Ann and Gretchen running up toward me with Leif's unicorn hobbyhorse that they were using to help find each other at the exchanges. I laughed, happy to see them, and ran on into the sideways rain.

The wind shifted, at my back for the first half and a headwind for the last. Branches were breaking off and flying through the air, littering the road. Emergency vehicles ripped past with sirens blaring, paying no heed to the runners on the side of the road. Some of us had to jump aside a few times.

I was relieved when I finished my leg, but it had been exhilarating to have a good run in such weather. Ted took off on his last leg, Sara killed her long leg in really heavy rain, and somewhere in there we heard from an official at an exchange that the party at the end of the race was cancelled and the finish line moved due to the extreme weather.

Then I got txts from Ann in van 1 that we should stop, not finish, and just go home. I thought she was joking until I got the same thing from Travis. I couldn't believe it.

They were eating and resting in Astoria and thought the weather was just too dangerous to continue. We were halfway through our final round and incredulous-- we would finish the race, as slow as we needed to, given the conditions. We continued on, and van 1 returned to Portland.

Erik ran his last leg solo (I was running Alex's final leg) in total chaos. He ran more through lakes than on roads. Still, it was warm enough and he had a great run. We had decided that my brother would run with our dad on his last and longest leg, since it was isolated, there was nowhere for the van to stop and us to check on him, no phone signal, and the winds were pretty dangerous. I was so glad to have them running together.

Then it was time for the last leg of the race, and I felt good. It didn't matter how fast I was, since I had already run all of my legs and most of two additional, besides. I've tried to run a new position each time I've done Hood to Coast, so this was a very rare opportunity to run a leg I was familiar with.

I wore a cute new running skirt I had saved for the end, realizing my mistake but with nothing else remotely dry or unoffensive-smelling. Let's just say that someone told me I looked like Marilyn Monroe in her iconic skirt-blowing scene, and I was basically running in bright purple hot pants while the skirt flew up around my waist.

Still, I set out to give it all I had and tore through the forest road, knowing that some great downhill was coming up. I passed a good number of people but then heard someone come up behind me and stay there. I encouraged him to pass me, but instead we struck up a conversation. He really pushed my pace, and I enjoyed asking him questions so I could hear about his running at home in Colorado while I tried to catch my breath.

We rolled into Seaside and the intense winds made it impossible to stay upright. We had to lean into the gusts, staying low to avoid being pushed backwards as our feet left the ground mid-stride. We missed a turn because there weren't many volunteers out, but got back on track and then finally made it to the promenade, which was surprisingly lined with spectators. They cheered us on, facing us with their backs to the wind as we ran right into the stinging, blowing sand. I tried to pull my hat down to protect my eyes, but got pretty burned on my chest.

The beach was in a shambles with scaffolding and tents knocked over and blown about. I was relieved to not have to run out onto the sand, which would have been especially painful. Instead, we ran to the end of the promenade where I saw my van-mates and said a grateful goodbye to my Coloradan running buddy. We turned the corner away from the beach to the impromptu finish line.

It was done! We went to Dairy Queen, exhausted, and I was finally able to consume some food. Well, just fries. On the drive home, everyone fell asleep and Ted, who was driving, started to as well. I took over and got us home. That's when the exhaustion (having only slept 25 minutes) and the hunger (having voided my stomach and not eaten in the 12 hours since) finally caught up to me.

The next morning, some of us went to breakfast and relived the highlights and low points of the race. We all agreed it was an epic one and we were glad we persevered to finish. Ted-- who turned 40 on the first day of the race-- said it was his favorite yet and Erik said he was excited to do it next year. We had such a great van full of strong runners who all took care of each other. I can't wait to do it again next year. Van 1 might feel differently...