On writing and running

It’s hard to believe it’s already September. While I haven’t written here since May, I have been writing and running, perhaps more than ever over the last several months. In June, I began a 10-week essay-writing class through Stanford University, during which we wrote short essays each week, as well as a longer piece toward the end of the course. Among other topics, I wrote about how heartbreak led me to both long-distance running and writing, which over the years have become inextricably linked. The story also focused on how we shape our patterns and how they shape us. Women’s Running Magazine published the essay last week. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it: Focus on the Mile You're In.

On changing patterns, I realized in May--after missing my goal of qualifying for Boston by more than six minutes--that it was time to try a new training plan. After a month-long post-marathon recovery period, I hired a coach in June through Hanson’s running program. Coach Katie and I have been working on increasing my mileage base this summer by running six days a week (my old routine consisted of running five days a week) along with incorporating more speed work and strength training. Yes--it's tough, but I do feel stronger and I love having a coach. Over the next few months, I’ll work up to 62 miles a week (from about 42 now) for an early December marathon. If I can stay healthy, I'll be ready. During the last five days, I've been training in the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon (on a family vacation) at elevations between 4,000 and 8,200 feet. I'm sure I was breathing harder than usual, but in the midst of such immense beauty, I hardly noticed... 

Training at 8,200 feet in the Wallowas, a.k.a. Oregon Alps

Training at 8,200 feet in the Wallowas, a.k.a. Oregon Alps

Tamanawas Falls

Waterfall
Don't ever change your ways
Fall with me for a million days
Oh, my waterfall
-- Jimi Hendrix

Lyrics from May This Be Love--the song that came to mind as we soaked up all this magic at Tamanawas Falls, one of my favorite short hikes close to Hood River. After all the rain and snow we've had, the falls are especially powerful this year--gushing and plunging with breathtaking force. However, our wet weather also caused a huge boulder slide about a quarter mile from the falls, so be prepared to scramble a bit which was tricky with our pups, but worth it.

Getting there:  From Hood River, head South on Hwy. 35 for about 25 miles and look for a large gravel parking area on your right just before you hit milepost 72. The trail head is marked. 

Miss Heidi, small pup Foster and 5-month-old Harper

Miss Heidi, small pup Foster and 5-month-old Harper

Eugene Marathon

If you're looking for a smaller marathon with a fast, flat course, Eugene is a great one. It's well-organized and logistically easy (convenient shuttles, bag drop-off, etc.). A good portion of it runs alongside the Willamette River on shaded bike paths and finishes in historic Hayward Field. The temps are usually ideal. Yesterday it was about 39 degrees at the start and warmed to the mid-50s. The crowds and volunteers were awesome. Favorite signs included: Chafing the dream and Pain is just a French word for bread and Remember, you paid to do this! 

Despite near-perfect race conditions, my body felt far from perfect, unfortunately, and I did not meet my A goal of qualifying for Boston. I felt sludgy from the start and bonked hard around mile 21 (UGH!). At least I finished healthy (no injuries) with a time that I was relatively happy with. I gave it everything I had, but it just wasn't my day to BQ.

In an article I recently wrote for Competitor Magazine on how to bounce back from a disappointing race, pro-marathoner Matt Flaherty said, “There’s as much to be learned and enjoyed from the journey as the race. If you achieve your goal every single race, you’re probably not setting challenging enough goals.” So true. His words have encouraged me to keep setting the bar high and not beat myself up when things don't go as planned. Despite slamming into the wall during my last two marathons, I still love the distance. I love that it's really f*cking hard. That it humbles and inspires. That it illuminates our fragility and our fierceness. While it's always tough to fall short of a goal you've worked hard toward, it's certainly not the end of the journey. Perhaps it's time for a new training plan. Or time to hire a coach... we shall see. Most importantly, I'm just grateful to be running, period. 

One of the highlights of yesterday's race was when a lady who must have been in her 70s zoomed past me somewhere around mile 20. She rocked it. People like her give me hope that I can keep doing what I love for many years to come. Onward...

My sweet strong running girls, pup Harper and daughter Amelia

My sweet strong running girls, pup Harper and daughter Amelia

Pre-marathon ramblings...

In a few days, I’ll attempt to qualify for Boston at the Eugene Marathon. I don’t feel nervous yet, but my subconscious tells me otherwise. Last night, I dreamed that I decided to run a half marathon two hours before the marathon to warm up. The night before, I dreamed that at mile 20, I took a wrong turn and ended up in an amusement park—specifically in a funhouse that I couldn’t find my way out of with way too many weird mirrors. Tonight, I'd love to dream about running into Hayward Field strong, which is what I'm visualizing each night, although it doesn’t seem to be sinking in!

In 2013, I got a BQ in Eugene and ran Boston in 2014, which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life; however, I ran it with health issues and inadequate training. (I wrote about my struggles here for Runner's World.) I managed to shuffle my way to the finish line, but the brutal course ate me up. I've wanted to go back and try again ever since. In December 2015, I attempted to BQ at CIM (California International Marathon), but missed it by a few minutes after going out too fast and hitting the wall hard at mile 20. Lesson learned. You can't bank time in a marathon. I've promised myself that this time, I won't bolt out of the corral or push the pace too soon. 

The debate I’m having today is whether to wear my watch for the race (you would think I’d have this stuff figured out by now). When I ran my marathon PR, I ran by feel—no watch—but only because my watch died that morning, which turned out to be a good thing. If I’d known the pace I was running, I might have doubted I could maintain it. 

I’ve created a playlist for the drive down to Eugene (I don’t listen to music while running). Lots of favorite artists… Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, The Jayhawks, Liz Phair and always, some AC/DC. No matter how the race turns out, I’m planning to rock this weekend with thousands of other crazy runners, including many from the Hood. The marathon is the party—it punctuates all your hard training through rain, snow, wind, niggling aches and pains or whatever shows up when you push yourself hard. It's time to do this thing...

Four sweet miles on the lovely Deschutes this morning. 

Four sweet miles on the lovely Deschutes this morning. 

Running and Trekking in Patagonia

I've just returned from trekking and running in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, which offered some of the most dramatic, breathtaking views of nature I've ever seen. If you ever have a chance to visit this amazing part of the world, Go!

The trip has changed and filled me in ways I'm not even sure I realize yet--that's what pure, stunning beauty does to you. Best of all, I experienced it with longtime and new friends. Here are some photos from Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile and Glacier Perito Moreno in El Calafate, Argentina...

(L to R) Halina, Melissa and I in Torres Del Paine

(L to R) Halina, Melissa and I in Torres Del Paine

View from our hotel, Explora Patagonia, which I highly recommend. My room overlooked the Salto Chico waterfall, which lulled me to sleep each night. Simply divine. 

View from our hotel, Explora Patagonia, which I highly recommend. My room overlooked the Salto Chico waterfall, which lulled me to sleep each night. Simply divine. 

A full day's hike to the base of the towers in Torres Del Paine. No filters here--the water really is this milky turquoise color. 

A full day's hike to the base of the towers in Torres Del Paine. No filters here--the water really is this milky turquoise color. 

The W circuit in Torres Del Paine

The W circuit in Torres Del Paine

Glacier trekking in Argentina 

Glacier trekking in Argentina 

Ten-mile road run in El Calafate, Argentina

Ten-mile road run in El Calafate, Argentina

At long last, our trails are back.

The snow has finally melted from most of our Gorge trails, thank God. End of next week, I'll be running and trekking with dear friends in one of the wildest places on earth, Patagonia. Grateful to be getting some singletrack miles in beforehand... 

Running with Mark and Ida (the beloved Shortt Supply shop dog) up Hospital Hill, White Salmon, WA

Running with Mark and Ida (the beloved Shortt Supply shop dog) up Hospital Hill, White Salmon, WA

Post long run on the Deschutes with long-time running partners Tim and Heidi

Post long run on the Deschutes with long-time running partners Tim and Heidi

Gear for running on snow and ice

Had I known two months ago that we would have the snowiest, iciest winter in 50 years, I’m not sure I would have signed up for a spring marathon. But I'm glad I did because the extreme conditions have forced me to push my boundaries out a little farther. Through it all, my running friends and I have learned how to run safely on slick roads and stay warm when getting pelted with sleet (I refuse to run on a dreadmill). Aside from the obvious, e.g., layer up, wear warm gloves, here are a few things we’ve found to be especially helpful...

Today's run after 6 inches of new snowfall last night

Today's run after 6 inches of new snowfall last night

Traction devices are key. Due North Ice Cleats ($24) work really well on ice, packed snow, and plowed roads—that is, most conditions except for deep snow, which I’ve avoided. The design is simple, streamlined, and they are easy to strap onto your shoes unlike other devices that are more bulky or have coils. You can also stash them in a pocket if you only need for parts of your run. My friend Brandi and her ultra-running friends have been using Kahtoola nanospikes, which also get great reviews ($49). 

Short gaiters keep snow and slush out of your shoes. I wear strapless Altra trail gaiters which attach to all Altra trail shoes. You won't even notice you're wearing them. 

Wear warmer tights. I've recently discovered the Patagonia Borderless tights, which are super stretchy, soft against your skin, warm but not too warm, not too tight (you can wear knee-high wool compression socks underneath), fast-drying, and they have no annoying seams or tags (I'm super picky about clothing). They also have side pockets and a zippered back pocket. Stylish, too. I need more than one pair. 

Be flexible with your schedule. While I'm getting my weekly mileage in, the most challenging part is nailing tempo paces on slick surfaces, so I do them when nature cooperates, which sometimes falls on Saturday as planned, but often not. For instance, last Thursday, we hammered out an 11-mile pace run when the pavement was visible for a change--felt like we were flying without clawing the ice.

Also, remember that running in extreme conditions burns a ton of calories. For the past couple of months, I've added several tablespoons a day of vanilla almond butter to my diet. I keep it in the frig and eat it by the spoonful right out of the jar--it's like dessert. 

If you're dealing with a tough winter too, hang in there. It's so hard, but I keep reminding myself that spring is not too far off now and we'll be flying once again in shorts in the sunshine...

Kite Skiing on the Spit

 

A few days ago, I was driving across the Hood River Bridge on the way home from a run when I noticed a kiter below. Surely, I thought, no one is kite boarding when it's 20 degrees. Then I realized that the kiter was on skis. I had to learn more, as I'd never seen this before, so I drove down there and introduced myself. I learned that in the Gorge, we don't usually get the right kind of snow and good wind at the same time--but when we do, wow! Here's Peter Hill, a Gorge realtor and ski instructor, doing his thing (and who was kind enough to answer all my questions about kite skiing). 

Ice, Baby

I have just been blown away by nature's beauty lately. Logged some singletrack miles on the PCT this morning from Cascade Locks to a semi-frozen, spectacular Dry Creek Falls. I passed quite a few ultrarunners who seemed to glide over the snow--so sure-footed. I'm not there yet, but working on it. Yesterday, I ordered gaiters and the waterproof version of my favorite trail shoe (Altra Lone Peak) and finally bought warmer gloves so that my fingertips don't turn purple and white and go numb (Raynaud's syndrome) in freezing temps.

Dry Creek Falls

Weldon Wagon 5-miler

If I were a white oak, I would want to live here. The trail traverses the White Salmon Oak Natural Resources Conservation Area, which includes hundreds of acres of these magnificent trees. I especially love the area's magical winter landscape when the oaks' curvy limbs glow with tufts of lichen and their lovely furrowed bark is in full view.

Oregon White Oak--what a beauty! 

The trail is primarily single track with some double track. The surface, a mix of grass and dirt, is perfect for running; however, it's a lungbuster--you'll climb about 1,300 feet in the first 1.5 miles or so. 

Getting there: From Hood River, cross the Hood River bridge and turn left onto Hwy. 14. Go 1.6 miles and turn right onto WA Hwy. 141 ALT. Drive 2.2 miles to Hwy 141. Continue on Hwy 141 for 4 miles to Husum and turn right on Indian Creek Rd. near the rafting outfitters (before you hit the Rattlesnake Creek bridge). Drive .6 miles and turn left onto Indian Cemetery Rd. Go .3 miles and look for a gated primitive road on your right. Park here. Head up the primitive road a few hundred yards and you'll see a sign marking the trailhead on your right. 

Herman Creek to Dry Creek Falls 8.7-miler

This is an awesome lightly-traveled hike/run that includes beautiful streams and waterfalls through lush, old growth forest. It's also less rocky overall than many Gorge trails. Start by taking trail #406 at the Herman Creek campground near Cascade Locks (exit 44 off I-84). After climbing for a half mile, take the Herman Creek Bridge trail (#406 E) that veers to the right heading down to the creek. Around mile 2, you'll connect with the PCT (#2000) and soon come to Pacific Crest Falls. At mile 2.5, you'll see the Herman Creek Pinnacles--a couple of cool monoliths. While this is a good turnaround spot for a shorter run or hike, you can continue on the PCT to the spectacular Dry Creek Falls for a round trip of 8.7 miles.

Herman Creek

Dry Creek Falls

You can also do an easy 4.4-mile hike/run to Dry Creek Falls starting on the PCT at the Cascade Locks trailhead.

Viento State Park to Starvation Creek 5-Miler

If you haven't checked out this recently-completed, car-free section of the Historic Columbia River Highway, you're in for a treat! Starting at Viento State Park (exit 56 off I-84), you can now run 2.5 miles heading west to the end of the Starvation Creek trail (5 miles round trip). The paved path rolls alongside several waterfalls and streams while offering sweeping views of the Gorge. Learn more here about the historic highway's future restoration projects. 

Columbia Gorge Half Marathon

The Columbia Gorge Half Marathon is one of my favorite road half marathons anywhere (you can also run 26.2). Stunningly beautiful and well-organized, it draws runners from across the country. Be sure to register early because it sells out. Pups can run, too! They even get their own timing chip and results by accompanying their owners in the dog leg categorySo darn cute! I was cheering for all the doggies along the way. 

Photo by Scott McMullen

Today, we had ideal running conditions—low 50s, no wind, no rain, peak fall colors, and AC/DC blaring at the start, always a good thing. After climbing about 400 feet over the first 3.5 miles, I settled into a comfortable 8:25 pace finishing in 1:50—two minutes slower than last year, but a time I was happy with nonetheless.

I was definitely inspired by meeting Olympian Shalane Flanagan, one of my running heroes, and Chef Elyse Kopecky, who also ran the half marathon, at their Run Fast Eat Slow book-signing event yesterday at Shortt Supply in Hood River, where we picked up our race packets. Shalane and Elyse were so kind and engaging, and their cookbook is fabulous. My 8-year-old daughter and I have been making the (addictive) superhero muffins lately. Elyse suggested substituting apples for zucchini in the recipe this time of year, which I'll definitely do. Yum! 

In the last blog post, I wrote about tapering for the Portland Marathon, which I didn't get to run because I got sick a few days beforehand. As I lay in bed wracked with fever and chills, I finally accepted that no amount of elderberry, echinacea, or vitamin C was going to get me to the start line healthy. Of course I was heartbroken—all those miles over the summer! And worse, this was the second marathon I'd recently trained for but didn't start due to illness or injury. I was discouraged and depressed, but the support of my husband and dear friends helped me put things in perspective. Interestingly, both local marathons I'd signed up for had problems with their courses: the Vancouver USA Marathon was too short; Portland was too long, at least for runners in corrals C through H, which likely would have affected my goal of qualifying for Boston. Perhaps running 26.2 just wasn't meant to be this year. I still enjoyed all the training, which is what running is about for me anyway—the pure joy of it, even on the hard days. 

Time to Taper

I snapped this photo during a 20-mile run today, the final long run before the Portland Marathon in three weeks. I'd planned to run a marathon in June, but strained my right hip while lifting a heavy rock about five weeks before the race. Ten days later just as I was finding my groove again on an easy trail run, a dog charged toward me and bit my right thigh, which required a trip to our local urgent care clinic and a tetanus shot (I hope this never happens to you, but if it does, be sure to get the owner's information and report it to your doctor and/or the health department). Clearly, things were not flowing, so I modified my goal and ran a half marathon instead while setting my sights on a fall marathon. And here it is--taper time already. No dog bites or injuries and just a few weeks to go after many sweaty miles this summer. My mantra right now: Stay healthy. 

The Dalles Riverfront Trail

Deschutes River Railbed Trail

I'm deeply in love with this magical place. While it's often too hot and dry here in July and August, it's perfect the rest of the year. Today we started at 7 a.m. and ran 20 miles in ideal conditions--light breeze, sunshine, low 60s. The air, as always, was deliciously pungent with sagebrush and juniper. There are a few different trails you can take, but we typically stay on the railbed trail, a flat, double-track, fine-gravel path that follows the river. It's great for mountain biking, too. You can also take single-track trails through the hills, although some are rather rocky. 

Sagebrush in late September

Getting there: It's about 40 minutes east of Hood River. Off I-84, take exit 97. Follow OR 206 E for 3 miles to the parking lot and trailhead at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area.