Monday, May 23, 2011

A Day Off to Run

Had you asked me a year ago if I would consider taking a day off to run I would have told you you were crazy. I mean, day's off are supposed to be for tromping around in the gorge, the mountains, or lazily hanging out home. Last Thursday came with the promise of a beautiful Friday forecast - sunny, warm, dry - it was going to be a perfect day. I couldn't conceive of spending such a perfect day sitting in the office so Adam and I decided to take the day off.

Arriving home on Thursday night we talked over whether we should climb Hood. It would be a pretty day in the mountains so it would be a great day to do it. However, it was already 7 pm. By the time we packed it would be 8. Then we would lay down for 2 1/2 hours to "sleep," getting up at 10:30 to prep and drive to the mountain so we could start slogging up the Palmer around midnight. We knew there would be a bazillion other people on the mountain with the forecast, and, quite frankly, neither of us wanted to do it.

I came up with Plan II. I wanted to get in a long run and Adam was game for a long run for him as well. I put together a nice route that would give me 32 miles and him 16. We left the house at 8 am on Friday (perfect for hitting rush hour traffic) to drop a car on Germantown Road where Forest Park's Wildwood trail crosses over. This trailhead is mile post 24.62 on the Wildwood Trail which is a total of 30.2 miles long, beginning at the Oregon Zoo and ending at Newberry Road.

Adam then drove me to a drop off spot on Broadway Drive just on the south edge of downtown, right off of 405. Sadly I had realized on our drive that I had forgotten my GPS watch. I didn't want to lose the time of driving home and then back to the drop off spot so I decided to forego the watch and run "naked" for a change. My drop off spot was about .5 miles from the base of Terwilliger Hill. I started at appx 100 feet of elevation. I had about 2 miles of road running to do before hitting, and staying on, trails for the rest of the day.

I started running at 8:55 a.m. (according to my phone which I was carrying with me). I was wearing a running skirt, tank top, long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, gloves and my amphipod belt. My belt was loaded with two 8 oz bottles of grape drinking vinegar, one 8 oz bottle of Gatorade, one 8 oz bottle of chia seed coconut water, 2 packages of clif shot blocks (400 calories), and 2 gu's. The first 2 miles seemed to go by pretty quick. Unfortunately I realized in the first 1/2 mile that I was overdressed. I took off the long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist, stuffed my gloves in my skirt pocket, and pushed down my arm warmers. The climbing wasn't too hard and I was listening to my iPod for this stretch. Thankfully there was a bathroom about 1.5 miles into the run and I was very happy to be able to take advantage of it. In short order I saw the sign for the Marquam trail and headed into the woods. The turnoff is around 240 feet of elevation. I turned off my iPod at this point - it distracts me too much to listen to music while running trails. The trails through here are pretty narrow and the signs are just odd. It is super easy to get lost. I'm pretty sure I took a wrong turn somewhere but post-run even looking at the map I couldn't figure out what I had done.

The trail goes up, up, up and I was feeling it in my legs and chest. I made it up to a road crossing in about 2 miles, and was at 780 feet of elevation. I was very confused by this intersection and stopped and asked a few people for directions - they were of no help, so I just continued on hoping I was making the right decisions. Then had to drop down 260 feet, just to climb up another 520 to top out at Council Crest (1073 feet - the highest point in Portland). I took quick notice of the mountains, drank from the water fountain, and then found the path that would take me down to the zoo. This path was relatively well marked, and in another 2 miles I was at the zoo. I figured I was around 6.5 - 7 miles in at this point. I sent off a quick text to Adam to alert him to my whereabouts. Without my watch it was hard to figure out how fast I was traveling. When I had left Adam that morning I had expected to hit our meeting spot around 2:45 - 3 hours.

I made another wrong turn going through the Zoo area. There are so many side trails through here that it is challenging to stay on the main trail. But soon enough I found myself back on Wildwood and leaving behind the mayhem of the zoo on a sunny day. It was 4 miles from here to Pittock Mansion. You have to climb up about 200 feet from the zoo, then drop down 200 feet to the arboretum, and another 300 feet to cross Burnside street. From Burnside you gain about 400 feet in 3/4 a mile to arrive at Pittock Mansion. I was already starting to feel the heat.

I stopped for another bathroom break and ate a Gu. I was about 11 miles in at this point and had already drank 3 of my 8 oz bottles, along with drinking water at three water fountains along the way. I called Adam to let him know I was at Pittock. From here it was 5.5 miles to our meeting spot. I figured I would be about 55 minutes to an hour. Our phone call ended at 11:03 and I started off again.

These miles rolled by pretty quickly. There was quite a big downhill to start this leg, and then a gradually climb for several miles before settling into some rolling hills/descents. I drank the last of my liquid around mile 14 and was getting excited to see Adam and get some more fluid. I arrived at our meeting spot at 12:01 (Leg 1 of 16.25 miles had taken appx 2:55 of running time - appx 10 minutes in bathroom breaks/phone breaks). No Adam. I figured he had probably gotten stuck in Friday traffic and sat down to wait. 10 minutes, then 15 minutes passed. I started to get worried. I didn't have a contingency plan for him not showing up. It would have been very hard running back to civilization without having any more fluid on me. Thankfully he pulled up around 12:20 - he had gotten snarled in bad traffic.

I drank some water, ate a bar, resupplied all the liquid on my belt, dropped my long sleeve shirt, arm warmers, and gloves. Adam was carrying 20 oz of Gatorade in a handheld bottle along with several packets of Gu. We left the car at 12:35. We were at mile post 9.2 on Wildwood and were headed for the car at mile post 24.75.

We settled into a good rhythm pretty quickly. Even though we don't talk a whole lot while running it was very nice to have company. I also find it really nice to run with someone that I don't need to keep up a steady string of conversation with. Sometimes I find that pressure to be stressful, and since I run to relieve stress, it isn't a good thing for me.

About 10 miles in we ran into a couple that had their one year old beagle of leash for the first time. They were walking the opposite direction of us. The pup saw us and got scared and started running in the direction we were going, not the direction his parents were going. So we had to stop and they had to go try and catch the beagle. It was pretty entertaining. She was a cute little pup - clearly quite terrified of the scary runners.

The heat was starting to get to both of us about 12 - 13 miles in. There is a good long climb from mile 21 - 23. We were both low on fluids. I had started the run that morning at 58 degrees and it was up to 75 by the time we got home. Having had such a cool spring so far we just aren't used to the heat yet. We picked up the pace for the last couple of miles, drinking our last fluids about a mile from the car. That leg of 15.75 (we tacked on a bit extra at the end) had taken 2:53:13. Total distance 32 miles, total running time - appx 5:48, elevation gain - appx 4500 ft.

Overall a great day. I think if I had had enough fluids for a resupply and if Adam could have gone farther (we are taking it slow ramping up his miles b/c of a knee issue) I could have done another 8 - 10. It wouldn't have been easy, but I think I could have done it. Since I have my sights set on a 50 miler at some point that was a good sign.

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