Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Running Across the Nation Blog 6: Western Washington

Western Washington
So many mountains, not enough time! I have had an amazing time with Julie and Jeremy. Running moutains, exploring the cities, and enjoying the time with great friends. 

Day 16: Mt Ranier: 
Mt Ranier is a beautiful vision that I have had the joy of seeing evvery singleday that I have been here. I just can't get enough of her. Just stunning. So, of course I had to run her! Once Julie got off of work, me her and Jeremy headed up to the moutain. It is a little over hour drive, and we start at the Mowich trail head and run down the mountain first. This is a fun trail! There are spots on the trail that are very narrow with a drop off that you have to watch your footing, there are spots that are covered in roots and rocks, and we had to climb over a fare share of trees. At one point there is a huge tree that requires some mad climbing skills to get over. But over we go!
We are doing an out and back and we end at the White River. We take a minute to enjoy the beauty of the area and then climb back up the mountain. It was such an awesome run!
On the way driving down the moutain on an old dirt road that is like driving down a washboard, we spot 3 elk, a black bear and an exceptional view. Worth every second of the run!

Day 17: Squak Mountain
I know I have a 50k the next day so I head out for an easy 5 miles. Nothing major, just an easy run. I take Waylon with me, he hasn't had mileage in a few days. 1,000 feet of elevation gain, out and back. Squak mountain has well groomed and well posted trails and I saw quite a few hikers outside enjoying the day.

Then home to make homemade pizza and get ready for race day! 50K tomorrow!!! Wooohoooo!

Day 18: Taylor Mountain 50k
PR BABY! 1 hour and 15 minute PR to be exact. AND broke the previous female course record by 17 minutes. So here how this went....

This race is 3 loops, 2 13 mile loops and a 5 mile loop. The first 3 miles are a climb on the 13 mile loops. We get our race instructions and then the race starts. It starts pretty easy and then at mile 0.8 there is a creek crossing. The water is approximately half way up shin and its refeshingly cold (well at least its refreshing later in the race at least). Then comes the muddy climb. In this first loop my thought process is to use this as an easy run, and I keep myself in check the first loop. I hike the climbs and just keep an easy pace. I am passed by a bunch of dudes who are either running faster than me, or even hiking faster than me. I make sure to step off trails to let them pass when on a single track and give them a "have a good race."

On loop one I meet and run with a man named Mike for awhile. He is from Philadelphia and is trying to run marathons in every state. He is running with one of his former students who is ahead of us. This is his very first trail run, like ever. So we chat a bit about race strategy for trails and after a few miles I pull ahead. I run with another female for a little while, her and her husband are both running and she is going to drop from the 50k to the marathon. I finish loop 1 in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Loop 2: I feel great. So I pick it up a little. I half run, half hike the hills. Then I pick up the pace on the flats and hills. Starting at the aid station at the bottom of the loop I start counting how many people I pass. By the 1st aid station I have 6, including Mike's student. By the 2nd aid station I am 11. I am feeling great! Every time I come up on a guy, they briefly pick up their pace and then step off the trail to let me pass. Every single one give me encouragement as I go, usually along the lines of "GET IT!". I thank them and keep at it. I am starting to do the math in my head, I am set for a good PR. As I am calculating my paces, I start to realize I could hit or even maybe beat the course record. Time to pick it up!  By time I hit the aid station on the bottom I am up to 13 guys. I leave 3 at the aid station and start in on the 5 mile loop. This starts with the creek crossing and climb. I run the whole thing, catching a few more guys as I go. I am spotting guys and then working up to them. By time I hit the final stretch I am up to 23 guys.

I finish in 5 hours and 17 minutes. WOOP WOOP! 2nd overall female. The top female finished in 4:17 and it a professional trail runner. She hasn't lost a race yet. I would like to meet this woman!
After I drink some beer, eat some pizza and wait for my friends to finish. I spend some time chatting with the other racers. What a great day! :-)

Day 19: Point Defiance
This is a great urban trail system in Tacoma.  Julie and Jeremy join me, this will be their first back to back. We head out on the outer loop and keep an easy pace. This is about time on feet. I think it was mile 5 when Julie threatened to throw me off the cliff. hahahaha. But, we all do an easy 8 miles. Then off to Seattle. I want to be a tourist! We go to Pike Place Market, watch cheese get made at Beechers, grabbed home made ice cream and walked down the pier to enjoy the view.


Day 20: Rest Day 
Physically I feel great, but mentally I need a break. 19 days of hard core running has worn me out. So I spend the day hanging out in the hammock, reading a book, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Glorious!

Day 21: It's my Birthday! So we head to Rattlesnake Moutain, where we meet John who we had met at the 50k. We run up the moutain, gaining a few thousand feet. We hit both of the overlooks, getting stunning views of Mount Si. 
At mile 5 we get to a little blockage. By a little blockage I mean so many trees downed it is basically an obstacle course. After about quarter of a mile we decide we aren't getting any where fast, so we are going just climb up the hill. A steep hill covered in downed trees. When we get to the top, there is nothing but lumbered trees. It looks like the death of christmas. LOL We take some photos and decide to head back.  It was a great run with old and new friends.

The rest of the day I spend relaxing, watching Straight out of Comptom out on the porch with my birthday mimosa's.

Cheers and Happy Running

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trail Running Across America Blog 5

The Transition from MT to WA

So I LOVED Montana. I mean, I LOVED it! Get the seriousness of the love? The mountains, the people, the town. All of it was just amazing. However, my wanderlust had set in, and I was ready to see my friend in Washington, so it was time to go.

Day 13: This is my last run in Montana. So I wake up, pack up the tent (which I am getting seriously good at) and make my way back to Rattlesnake Recreation Area. Now, when I woke up I noticed that I was way way way stiff. You see, during my last marathon training season I got really good at stretching, but on this trip I have been really bad at it. So I wrote myself a little post it note to stretch every day and stuck in on my stereo in my car as a reminder. 

Now, back to the run. There are a multitude of trails of here, and I would like to find an easy one to do with Waylon. I found one that was a gently incline, much different than the mountain climbing I had done the past two days, and set out. Just an easy 6 mile out and back.  At one point I made myself a little arrow so that I could find my way back, and not take a random off shoot trail and add goodness knows how much mileage.
 This run had 717 feet of gain... which at this point is like nothing. Waylon got to duck into the little creek, which he loved and we just easily jaunted along. No rush, just a recovery run.
When I got back to the car, I read my note, got out my mat and my resistance band and dutifully stretched under a tree for ten minutes before I got into my car.

Now my goal was to get to Idaho and run there. I had put out the word to the local community in the Couer D'Alene area but hadn't heard back yet, so I got online and found a campground that was about 1.5 hours north of that area. It said it was right on Priest Lake (YA for W!) and had two trail heads just a stone throw away, plus another dozen or so within a few miles. Sounds good to me. So, we drive up there, find the campground... and it is everything promised and more. It. Is. A. Stunning Rustic campground that is surrounded by big beautiful trees and moss covered grounds. Beaver Creek Campground.


Now, admittedly the guy running the place is a little, shall we say, odd. But, I assume if you live your life in a camper running a rustic campground, that is bound to happen. I get camp set up and immediately take Waylon down to the lake where he gets to play fetch in the water. He loses the stick a few times, which means I had to wade my happy ass out into the lake, but it is warm enough that it isn't a issue. After playing fetch for quite a while, we head back to our camp site where I build a fire, make some dinner and enjoy drinking a nice summer shandy by the fire with my book and my dog. I could make that picture into a post card. For Real.

Day 14: I slept it, I think my body needed the extra sleep. Once I get up and I get Waylon loaded into the car, we head to one of the trail heads. We pick the Navigation trail. I am only going to run 4 miles. We will call it a rest day. :-) This is a nice little trail, heavily wooded.

I am cautious as my little odd campground manager made sure to tell me multiple times that they are on grizzly bear watch and there are signs posted about how to tell the difference between a Grizzly and a Black Bear. (luckily I know this already growing up in Wyoming). For those of you that don't know, grizzly bears have a hump and longer claws and are a whole lot fricking meaner. Like, they will destroy you! So avoid at all costs! (Actually, since there has been multiple instances in Yellowstone...Lets make a PSA here... It is NEVER a good idea to approach or touch a wild animal.)

We do a few easy miles and then get in the car, we are headed to Washington. I put on season 2 of Serial and head across the state.

As I get into Washington I am just awed by the beauty of the mountains I am driving through. Then, as I come through Snoqualmie Pass I get my first glimpse of Mt. Ranier, I can't not adequately describe the sense of aw I felt looking at it for the first time. It is majestic.

I finally get to Julie's house is Pullyap where I am greeted with a wonderful welcome package for me and Waylon. She knows us well, a rope, a ball, a bottle of wine, coffee, chocolate and gum. My favorite things. Julie plops down a huge map and a book full of routes to run and I get to planning.  We spend some time catching up and then I take my worn out ass to bed.

Day 15: Wake up, stretch, make some coffee, let's get this day started. One nice thing about being based at someones house for this part of the adventure is a.) a bed, and b.) breakfast. Like real breakfast. Jeramy has made peach pancakes. Delicious.

Today I am running Cougar Mountain. It is about an hour drive, which goes smoothly getting there. I get parked and start in. I climb for 1.5 miles. It is so very green. Now, I have been running in the mountains for 2 weeks, I should be used to lot of green. Nope, this is a different type of green. Everything is green. The trees are covered in bright green moss, the ground is covered in beautiful green foliage, everything is just green. It is stunning.

During the run I come upon a lot of hikers, who look at me like I have lost my damn mind for running up the hills and through the mountain. I cheerily state good morning and keep upon my merry way.

At one point in time I accidently turn right instead of left. Okay, honesty time, I maybe did the same thing in the same spot twice. haha So I ran a little loop twice until I figured it out. Just for fun I took a picutre of a slug, this isn't something you find on the East Coast, or even in the west really. Needless to say it got a lot of funny reaction on the social media sites.

Overall it was a great run. 10 miles with 2700 feet of gain. Not too shabby. I spend the rest of the night relaxing with my friends and playing with Waylon. He loves having a yard to play in! Tomorrow we are going north to Bellingham in the evening to run up there. So I will take W to the sound to go play in the water during the day. I am sure he will love it!

Hopefully you are enjoying your own adventure, whether it be roads or trails! Happy Running!

IG: pghrunchick
Twitter: a_real_life_1
Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/12656839

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Trail Running Across America, Blog # 4

Welcome to Montana!

Friday morning I hit the road and headed to Missoula, MT. I had been in the area ten years ago and remember how beautiful it was, and how many mountains there are. My memory didn't have it right, it is way more beautiful than I remember.

Before I left, I had posted on the Trail and Ultra Community on Facebook to find runners in the area and I lucked out by connecting with a man named Darren. He was a god send and truly made the stay in Missoula amazing. He connected me with Jennifer who runs the Jim and Mary RV Park (if you ever come here and have an RV, camper, etc PLEASE stay here!). She hooked me up with a little spot to put my tent right by their greenhouse, which was just steps away from the bathrooms with showers and everything. Darren also connected me with runners who were going out for a long run Saturday, and his teenage boys watched Waylon for me while I was our running. Truly a God send!

Day 10: Pull into Missoula, get camp set up and head into downtown to get a pizza. I have been recommended a place, Biga, that gets its ingredients locally sourced and am told the pizza is delic. So I order the pizza and head back to the car to change into running clothes. Now, I have to say I was 110% impressed with myself because you see, I was in "normal clothes" at this point and I wanted to take W for a few miles through town while my pizza cooked. Yet, I was parked in the middle of downtown with people walking by. And, me being me, instead of finding a bathroom to change in, I totally changed my outfit, in my car, with no one the wiser! It took some doing, but I did it. hahaha

I headed down towards a local park that had a live band singing, people paddle board and kayaking in the rapids in the river, and families out enjoying a nice evening. We ran just a few miles, enjoying the sites and sounds of the city. Then we grabbed the pizza and headed to camp. Side Note: the pizza was awesome!

Day 11: Sheep Mountain: Get up early and head to Darren's to drop of Waylon. Darren had fresh coffee brewed and waiting and we spent a few minutes drinking some coffee and talking about the upcoming run. I am taking his pup, Daisy, with us on the run. So I load her into the car and head out.  I head towards the trail to meet up with Chad, Noah, and Travis. We are doing a 20 miler. I don't really know what to expect having never run in this part of the country. The short version is: 10 MILES STRAIGHT UP, and 10 MILES STRAIGHT DOWN!

The longer version goes like this: Get to the trail head, introductions are made, dogs are happy to greet each other and we head up the mountain. Now, this really is 10 miles straight up the mountain. We do a mix of run and hike as we head up. We are chatting about races we have done, history of the area, and just about everything else under the sun. When we are about halfway up the mountain, Travis comes back from around the bend and says "I just scared a black bear off the trail, call in the dogs". So we call in the dogs, make some noise to announce our presence, and keep running. Within 100 feet we find a fresh bear track. Very cool! We keep the dogs close for a few miles as we keep climbing. We stop a few times to let the dogs play in the pockets of snow and grab a drink from our packs. Both Daisy and Humphries (Chad's pup) will drink from a bottle or bladder.

We get to the top. At the top of the peak there is a big rock wall that we all add a rock too. We stop and grab some nutrition and look at the panoramic views. Mountains on Mountains on Mountains. It. Is. GORGEOUS! Then we head back down.

Now on the way up we had to crawl over and around several downed trees. So I decide I am going to count them on the way down. Now, I though there maybe was a dozen. So when I get to a dozen pretty quick, we are all surprised. Then, we hit 2 dozen. Oy Vey! Final count.... 31. 31 times we either had to crawl over and completely go off trail to get around a downed tree. That is 62 trees overall. We will call it cross training.

At one point we take a wrong turn, but we figure it out pretty quick. Luckily Chad had his map on him or else we would have ended up on a different mountain. Oops. We turn around and get back on the right track. Then we hit the trail head. 20.5 miles. We say our goodbyes, I take Daisy back to Darren's and grab Waylon and head back to camp. I get showered and lay down for a little bit. A storm rolls through and we wait it out in the tent, reading a book and chowing on some gummy bears and trail mix.

Once the storm rolls through, I take Waylon up to Rattlesnake Trails and we do an easy 3 miles. Mostly walking to be honest. He gets to play in the crick and sniff all of the things. He is a happy dog! Then I drop him back off at Darren's and head to a local brewery where I have a slice of pizza and a great wheat beer, learning more about the history of Missoula. Then back to camp, eat some food and head to bed.


Day 12: Sleep in until 7:30, it was awesome. Grab the pup and head to Darren's. Once there I get a cup and of coffee and we head out to meet up with Chad. We are doing a 10 mile loop. We are running Mt. Sentinal, which is right by the University. We ran, yuup you guessed it, UP the mountain. Now these guys are BEASTS on these hills. But I pushed and ran up most of the way. I really feel like I am getting stronger.

Now at one point we hit a section with a cross trail. Darren points left and says "if you look this way" well, I looked that way, and my toe hit a rock. Down I went! And not a dainty little fall, I did a full out slide into first base on my stomach fall. *Eye roll*. No blood, not really at least. Just a full body of trail burns and dirt. *Sigh*. Brush myself off and keep running. We run around the mountain, stop to take a photo at "The M" and head down.

Then some eggs Benedict (without the meat for me of course). I plan on taking W up to the mountains and a lake later today to get his some exercise. I will do one more run in the area before I head out to Washington. It has been a great place to run!

Happy Running!

Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/12656839
IG: pghrunchick
Twitter: a_real_life1

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Trail Running Across America Blog 3

I am in Wyoming! 

Day 7: Wake up, grab some hot coffee, some quick breakfast, and head to the Big Horns. I am leaving Waylon with my uncle so I can do a longer run. I have looked at the Big Horn race site, and there are very clear directions to the start. So I drive up the mountain and get to the start. The course is really well marked with orange flags. The course is exceptional. There are sections on old 4-wheeler roads, single track trail, and meadows. And that is just the first 8 miles. ( I did out and back).
When you first start the course, you go up a nice hill, which puts you on top of the ridge of the mountain. You run up that ridge for several miles which gives spectacular panoramic views of the mountains that go for miles on miles. Finally you turn left and go through some wooded areas, where the smell of fresh pine just makes you say "ahhhh". Honestly, nothing smells as clean and fresh as a Wyoming mountain. Clean, thin air that smells of fresh pines trees, sagebrush, and wild flowers. Just, relaxing.

After going through the wooded area you come out to a 2 mile descent across a meadow.
Thankfully this was well flagged as there is no way I would have known where to go. It is not really a trail here, as much as its running around the sage brush to get to the trail. Eventually it reconnects and I continue down into the bottom of the valley. Once I hit the bottom, I am at my halfway point. So I turn my happy little butt around and start the climb back up. WOOF. And for a little over 2 miles, I climb and I climb. As I am going up, I am thinking to myself... "Half a bowl of cereal, half a box of wheat thins, 10 licorice strips, and a salad, maybe was not enough for this.". Dumb ass. However, I am prepared and have packed some granola bars which I reward myself with when I get to the top of the hill. On the way back I am just running, running, thankful for the chance to be here, doing this. 

Like a jackass I however, did forget to put on Suncreen. ummmmm, yeah. I started at 7, 474 feet and climbed up to 8. 524 feet. That is really close to the sun, in really thin air. My fair skinned red headed ass (not literally) got burned. Well, shit! I also had a little bit of a hard time breathing, especially going up the hills. They were tough to climb! 

But it was seriously worth it! The views are incredible! When I was done I drove down the mountain and spent the rest of the day hanging out with my Uncle, grabbing dinner, and checking out classic cars. It was a great day! 

Day 8: Woke up, strapped on my road shoes and headed out to run the small town of Sheridan. They have put walking paths in around the city and for about half the run, I stick to those. Then I go through the town. I forgot what small towns are like. Everyone is friendly. Literally every single person I saw, whether they were walking their dogs, walking by themselves, or sitting on a bench watching the world go bye, said Good Morning. Cars stopped when they didn't have a stop sign and signaled me to cross an intersection. And everybody greeted everybody, stopping to shoot the shit as they walked down the street. I love to VISIT small town America. It is a nice break from the city. 

Once I got back I cleaned up, packed up and headed South to Casper to see my mom, brother, and sister-in-law. I haven't been here in 5 years, so there is a lot of catching up to do. I am up late bull shitting and talking about all the things you just don't talk about over the phone, so when the alarm goes off in the morning, its not easy to get up.

Day 9: Casper Mountain. When I was a teenager one of my favorite places to go was the waterfalls. There is a trail that runs up and above them that if you stay on the trail is about 3.5 miles. Of course, this is me we are talking about. So I end up climbing up series of rocks and over trees and around random rocky areas to get to the little water falls that are hidden everywhere up here. I LOVE waterfalls. If I could have a waterfall in my house, I would. Maybe... someday when public educators get paid millions I can do that. hahahaha
Anyways, me legs are kind of tired, and my back unhappy after sleeping on a real bed, so I keep my run short and make it more of a run/hike to make it a quasi rest day. Plus, I have a brunch date with my Grandad.

Which brings me to now, I have to get my car dropped off to get an oil change and then we are headed out to Pathfinder to hang out before going to Grandad's for dinner.

Happy Running!