Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas at the End of the Road 5K and 1K

 Here are some pictures from Christmas at the End of the Road 5K and 1K in Winthrop, WA.  27 runners showed up to run the icy and snowy 5K course that weaved through downtown Winthrop.  This is the first 5K James has put on and was a  part of Winthrop's weekend long holiday celebration.  The weekend festivities included a visit from Santa and Saturday night a fireworks show. 
James, Emerson, and William get the registration table set up

Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekend in Oregon: Gorge Waterfalls 50K Test Run

Bushwacker and me
I think James took me seriously when I said my goals for post-Washington Ultra Running Series is to do a 50K every week.  This week (November 20th) we ran his future Gorge Waterfalls 50K course.  James mapped the route out with GPS to determine the elevation, distance, and what trails to include in the race.  Bushwacker, of Portland, joined us for the entire run, which is a point-to-point course. 

The course starts near Cascade Locks, Oregon.  It begins with a steady uphill and stunning waterfalls with views of the Columbia River Gorge.  After the first few miles we began the first decent with many views of waterfalls, moss covered rocks, all on very runnable single track trails.

The last third of the race has fewer waterfall views, instead there are views of the Columbia River Gorge and a lot of running in the mossy and magical woods.  Overall the elevation gain and decline is pretty mild, probably around 5,000 feet gain.  On the GPS James got 6,000 feet, but on the Garmin Bushwacker got 5,000 feet.  The course feels "rolling" and will likely be a fast race, with lots of runnable hills. 

This race is sure to be one of the most scenic 50k's in the Northwest!  Don't miss it... March 12, 2011
Visit Rainshadow Running for more details

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What a 91 Mile Week Looks Like

Monday: 8 miles on road, Langley, Whidbey Island
Tuesday: No Run.  30 minute trampoline, 90 minute core/yoga workout
Wednesday: 6 miles on road, Freeland.  1 mile swim, 35 minute trampoline
Thursday: 8 miles on the road, Langley, Whidbey Island
Friday: 5 miles roads and trails, Langley, Whidbey Island
Saturday: 33 miles in North Bend, Goldmyer Hot Springs
Sunday: 31 miles Yakima Skyline Rim
Total Running Miles: 91


Yakima Skyline Rim Trail 50K: Two 50Ks in Two days

 I thought doing one 50K in a weekend was tough and intimidating, but somehow the idea of doing two 50K's was pretty exciting.  Yes, this is the kind of thing that excites me!  I love a good challenge, and boy oh boy was this to be a challenge, especially the Yakima Skyline Rim 50K on Sunday.  Doing two 50Ks also meant that I'd do more than 90 miles of running in one week, a new personal record.  The main reason I have never done so many miles in a week is mostly the sheer amount of time it takes, it's a part-time job!

The weekend went like this: Saturday in North Bend James and I ran to the Goldmyer Hot Springs and in the process got 12 miles off course, making our total mileage for Saturday a whopping 34 miles.  Sunday we ran the future race course for James' Yakima Skyline Rim 50K (31 miles). The race will be April 3, 2011.

The two days couldn't have been more different in terrain and weather.  Whereas North Bend was wet, cold and overcast, Yakima Skyline was sunny with a mostly warm strong breeze (until nightfall when it got freaking cold!).  If I had to run Sunday in the rain like we did Saturday I think it would have been torture and I would have been a whining mess, and I am not much of a complainer.  Instead, I enjoyed the warm sun on my body, a feeling that I missed so much coming from Western Washington.

Yakima Skyline Rim 50K
The Yakima Rim course is an out-and-back run.  It consists of two major climbs (3 descents) on the "out" portion of the course, and three major climbs  (2 descents) on the return.  Each way is approximately 15.5 miles and the elevation gain is a whopping 10,000 feet!  This is the roughest and likely the toughest 50K I have done.  It feels like the course is either up or down, almost the entire 31 miles.  Several steep sections of the trail are riddled with loose rocks that threaten to trip you up if you take your eyes off the trail to admire the incredible views.  A great 50K for runners who love the "adventure" part of trail running.  The sunshine and treeless terrain is refreshing after months of running in the evergreens.  I loved being able to see where I was going and where I had come from, smelling the windswept sagebrush, and feeling the sun on my face.

James asked me on the way back portion of the 50K after we had experienced the many challenges of the trail, "Are runners going to like this course?" Ummm.  Hmmm.  If they want a challenge, not a "time".  If they are running to experience the trail and the beauty of nature in whatever way it expresses itself- wind, dry desert scents, striking geology of  the Yakima rim.  If they enjoy burning legs and technical terrain....  then a big YES!  

James and I started the run at noon, much later than we had hoped, partly due to sleeping in and partly due to a dead car battery.  This meant that we would be running the second half of the 50K in the dark, something I don't really like to do.  As we reached our water stash at the turnaround spot, the sun was setting and we still had 15 miles and 3 major climbs (and more significantly two major descents, which are more difficult than the ascents in the dark) to get back to our car. All of this on tired legs from the previous day's 50K.  What an incredible challenge and confidence builder.

I like to challenge myself on my fun runs.  Even if it's only an eight mile road loop, I can find ways to push myself.  But this particular 50K challenged me in some new ways.  I really had to work on staying in the moment.  My mind kept jumping to: I just want to be done!  And then I would remind myself to enjoy what I was doing.

This was especially difficult on the return to the car in the dark and cold with minimal clothing, a hungry stomach, tired legs and very little water.  I actually ran out of water a few hours from the car and kept expecting that I would feel horrible or suffer from dehydration or....or....or.... It was a good opportunity to refocus on the present.  It's amazing how my preconceived ideas about my need for water kept putting me in fear, when in reality I was fine, albeit a bit thirsty upon arriving at the car.  On that note, I am going to try to assume the best rather than the worst in challenging situations. 

Here are some pictures from the Yakima Skyline Rim Trail 50K:
This is where we car camped the night before the run.  It is close to the farthest point out in the 50K where we left some water and snacks for the halfway point

Canal near our camping spot, for watering fruit trees

James assesses the dead battery

A common sight, James puts info in the GPS for mapping purposes

The start of the 50K, crossing the bridge.  What fun!

The first 1-2 miles of the course, we climbed 2,300 feet in 2 miles.  Ouch!

The Skyline Rim

James can climb!

James runs on the skyline rim, mile 3-ish


James on the second major climb of the course.  The wind was blowing hard and there were a lot of loose rocks in the trail.  This hill proved to be the toughest for me on the way back in the dark.  Even with a new headlamp I had trouble distinguishing the rocks from the trail.

who are you looking at?

Candice runs the rim

The course follows the mountain in the background. It was really fun to see where we were going.

We were still 3 miles from the halfway mark and the sun was setting fast!  No stopping to eat our sandwiches, we kept moving while eating.

Snow Run on Whidbey Island

 It snowed between 4 and 6 inches on South Whidbey yesterday laying a beautiful blanket of powdery snow over everything.  Here are some pictures from my 5 mile run.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inov8 Footwear

I have been eying these shoes for a while now.  I just ordered this shoe the Inov-8 F-Lite 230.  Inov8's keep coming on my running shoe radar. These shoes are becoming increasingly popular, especially with trail runners looking for a neutral lightweight running shoe.  With their popularity they are becoming increasingly hard to find as Inov8 hasn't quite caught up with the demand.  Trying to find the right style in my size was more difficult than I expected.  It reminds me of last year when I was trying to find some Vibram Fivefingers in my size.  It took a few months and a few orders later before I had a pair on my feet.

When I'm looking for a running shoe I look for a minimal features/design, lightweight, attractive shoe with little arch support and a low profile.  I want to feel the ground underneath me while keeping my feet safe and warm.  These shoes seem to strike a nice balance between barefooting and more supportive shoes.   When I try the shoes out I'll let you know what I think.

Alright, my Inov8 shoes came in the exact day that I needed them to come in so that I could take them with me on my weekend in Portland.  Thank you Zappos!  It took 2 days for me to get the shoes in the mail...isn't that crazy?  

I used the Inov8 F-Lite 230's for the first time on James' Gorge Waterfall's 50K course in Cascade Locks Oregon.  The trail is mostly single track with some really rocky sections and some short river crossings.  The shoes were a pleasure with lots of grip on the rocks.  I had to pick my way though the sharper rocks on the trail as the shoes are very minimal and I could really feel the trail (which is just what I want!).  My feet felt pretty worked by the end of the 30 miles.  The next day i did a 45 minute run and the shoes still felt great.  Highly recommended!

Here are the shoes I am running in right now:
La Sportiva Crosslite, Trail shoe: Just got these shoes and I am loving them, although after 20 miles my toenails start to hurt.  Other than that they are very comfortable.
Nike Free 3.0
I wore my Nike Free 3.0's all of 2010 and I am still wearing them when my feet need a gentle shoe.  Gentle as in they don't rub on any blisters or hurt tender toenails.  I wore them for most of my training in 2010 and most of my races, including 6 ultra marathons.

Fivefingers KSO:
I really love using these shoes on Whidbey trails during the warmer summer months.  I chose to use them on more mild trails with few rocks and mud.  They are excellent for perfecting your running form and building up your calf and foot muscles.  I still have not used them for a trail race, although I ran in them for the Rhody Run 12K in Port Townsend, all on the  road. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

North Bend Adventure Running

The beauty of being lost...
Our Detour, Bonus Miles and Little Gifts from the Trail
It started out with James' really sweet idea.  Let's run 10.5 miles to the Goldmyer Hot springs, go for a soak and run back!  A nice, relatively flat 21 mile run with warm reward halfway through.  Well... that's what we thought we were doing.  James and I camped out the night before the run and set out Saturday morning on what we thought was the Snoqualmie River Road.  It quickly turned into a trail, our first hint that something was amiss.  The route was supposed to be a recently closed down road that was to open soon, and this trail was no road.  A few miles in we ran into a group of fisherman still sipping beer and carrying fishing rods at 11 in the morning.  The informed us that yes, it was the Snoqualmie Trail.  Which was good news to us as the Snoqualmie River Trail goes to the hot springs as well.  We ran three more miles, for a total of five and came to a good sized river.  Holy cold legs!  The only way to cross was to wade though up to out mid thighs grasping rocks to keep upright.  At this point we thought there was a good possibility that we had taken the wrong trail as the directions did not mention raging rivers to cross. What to do??! 

Since we had already gone 5 miles out of our way (possibly) making a total of 10 back to our car, we opted to cross the river and see if we could get any more clues as to whether we were on the right trail.  After all, why come this far to go back to the car and find out that we were going the right way all along.... We forged the river and the trail led us uphill past some incredibly big trees.  The trail narrowed and kept climbing.  Holy tired cold legs!  This wasn't looking good!  We decided to head back to the car, it wasn't looking like we had the right route.  James rightly figured that the fisherman may have meant that we were on the Snoqualmie Lake Trail, whereas we wanted to be on the Snoqualmie River Trail. Damn!

Back through the river, back through the rock bed, back down the trail and on toward the car.  Four miles from the car we met a man who was looking for Otter Falls with his tripod and camera.  It turns out Otter Falls is a 800 foot waterfall just off the trail marked by some stacked rocks.  We were able to point him in the right direction and decided to take a look ourselves.

Wow!  What an incredible sight!!  The waterfall cascaded down a huge rock face in what seemed like slow motion. The rocks reached into the misty sky, like the water was flowing from the clouds themselves.  The sight was truly a gift, and well worth the extra 12 miles!

Back on Course: Finding Goldmyer Hot Springs
Despite the late time of day (3 PM) and 12 extra miles logged, James and I decided to go to the Hot Springs when we returned to our car and found the real trail head.  We had planned to do 21 miles today to the Hot Springs (rather than 33 miles) and 31 miles (50K) tomorrow at Yakima Rim, but it was looking like we would be doing back-to-back 50Ks instead this weekend.  Oh boy!  Those extra 12 miles were a big mental leap for me.  The actual route to the hot springs was a road that was closed down and appeared to be in fine driving condition, making for an easy 10.5 mile run to the springs, although we arrived at the springs in the dark and would be returning to the car in the dark.

Goldmyer Hot Springs was wonderful!  We arrived just as everyone was heading out for dinner or whatever else normal people do at 5 PM.  The springs are cared for by a couple in a cabin who live without electricity or running water.  There are three natural pools, the highest one comes out of a 20-foot long cave and is really hot!  You can swim all the way to the back of the cave.  Warning: at night it's a little steamy and claustrophobic feeling.  There is a bench at the far end of the cave for those who want to sit out of the water in the steam.  The other two pools are outside the cave and are cooler as they are farther from the spring.

We ran back to our car that night after an hour of soaking.  Try putting on wet shoes and socks and running clothes that you just ran 23 miles in.  Oh yeah, and dry off with t-shirts.  We didn't bring towels.  Luckily we were hot from the springs and the transition wasn't as painful as I expected.  The run back to the car was in the dark and I used my new black diamond headlamp.  All said, we ran 33 miles that day.  Not too shabby.  Next?  Drive that night to Yakima to do James' Yakima Rim 50K route on Sunday.  The real race will be in April so this was a mapping and information gathering expedition.  More info to come!
James on the Snoqualmie Lake Trail
Despite being 6 miles out on the wrong trail, we found some cool trees and waterfalls!

 Otter Falls, Snoqualmie Lake Trail

It's getting dark, but we're on the right road, headed to the Hot Springs!

Road to the Hot Springs follows the River

Alright, where do we go again? Almost at the Springs!

Cabin at the Hot Springs

Hot Springs: Rules
Goldmyer Hot Springs, picture courtesy http://www.goldmyer.org/
For more pictures of the hot springs visit here:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Birthday Weekend Fun Runs

As part of a whole weekend long birthday celebration James helped me plan a Saturday and Sunday run.  Who better to help plan a fun run than Mr. Race Director?  Saturday we went to Discovery park in Seattle with a few other runners and had a fun run through the trails to the beach.  We ran on the beach for a mile or so before we came to a dead end of sorts.  We doubled back and scrambled up a steep trail back to the park trails.  The trails are great for faster trail running and trail tempo runs as they are relatively wide and clear.
    On Sunday James and I ran with a group of runners from Mt. Vernon and Anacortes, who are part of Skagit Running Club.  We ran most of the trails in the Deception Pass State Park starting at West Beach on Whidbey Island.

Below I posted pictures of both fun runs and a more in depth description of our run at Deception Pass. 

 James, Candice, Pablo
picture courtesy of Eric Hamilton
Eric, James, Candice: ready to run after breakfast at Citizen
 picture courtesy Eric Hamilton
 Discovery Park, Seattle: Running down to the beach, Pablo, Eric, James

 Bear crawl! Typical Varner course.... (also see below)
 James adds sand climbing to our run...
I know there was a story behind your hand gestures Eric...something about last night's dancing?


James is putting on a race at Deception Pass in December 2011.  To see the rest of James' races for 2011 visit Rainshadow Running.  On Sunday we ran the first 2/3 of the 50K course he designed for Deception Pass.  Although the last 5-6 miles was modified for our run and we finished the run with 2 miles fast on the road (in the dark).  To see a map of the park's trails click here.

We started our run at West Beach and quickly headed to North Beach.  From there we ran across the Deception Pass Bridge to Bowman Bay and Rosario Beach.  We then backtracked through the Bowman Bay trails and crossed the road doing a loop around Bowman Hill on the Fidalgo Island side of the bridge.  From Bowman Hill we crossed back over the bridge and under the bridge to Goose Rock and all the way up to the lookout at the top.  Sweet views!

The sun was beginning to drop in the sky and we had done about 14-15 miles.  We descended the lookout and made our way to Cornet Bay and Hoypus Hill as the sun was setting.  After about an hour in the trails at Hoypus, I had to pull out my headlamp. The trail was really dark by the time we made it back to the road.  We decided to run 2 miles back on the road rather than go through the trails, cutting a few miles off our run.  This turned out to be a good plan as the park ranger was waiting for us when we got back to our car!  Apparently the park closes at dusk and we could have been locked in.
A few of the Skagit Runners, Terry and Delores had us over for dinner after the run and surprised me with a birthday cake! Thanks everyone!
Skagit Runners represent at Deception Pass Fun Run: left to right Candice, James, Terry, Kevin, Robert, and Sukey. 
 The course will go over Deception Pass twice.

We ran the last 1 hour or so in the dark.  This is actually a picture of the incredible sunset.  It looks more like a ferry boat to me though.