Bunchgrasser’s World

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Posts Tagged ‘Running’

My Sunday Rumble

Posted by bunchgrasser on April 17, 2010

This past Sunday I headed over to central Oregon and ran the 2010 Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters, OR. Ultra runner and Race Director Sean Meissner puts on this annual race as a fundraiser for the Sister High School Cross Country Team and does a very good job of it. The race is well organized, but very laid back with that small town feel to it. This was my first Rumble but I had heard and read lots of great comments about the course, so I was really looking forward to it.

Rather than get up way too early on Sunday morning to make the drive over from Portland, I chose to stay a night at the Ponderosa Best Western Lodge in Sisters. The Ponderosa is 1/2 mile from the race start, very reasonable in cost and has a giant hot tub (like small swimming pool size) in case you want to soak a little the night before. They also provide a complimentary lite breakfast featuring waffles & boiled eggs, among other things. You can also feed the llamas (if you are into that).

Sunday morning I packed up, had some breakfast, checked out and drove over to the Sisters Middle School to watch the 60k start at 8:00am. My 30k start was at 9:00am, so I had plenty of time to mingle. I did meet up with an old college buddy of mine (Gene Trahern) who lives in the area and was running the 30k with his son Garrett.

The weather turned out to be perfect, with a cold start and some light clouds in the morning. The mountain views were still visible though. This pic was taken near the race start just prior to 8:00am. As the day progressed the temps warmed up quite a bit and it stayed dry the entire day.

As the clock drew near 9:00am, I finished my gear preparation and tried to determine what I wanted to carry with me for 20 miles (note: this course is longer than a standard 30k). I had planned to use my Nathan hydration vest with 2 liters of Nuun and a few snacks tucked away in various pockets. However, at the last minute I scrapped that plan and went with my Ultimate Direction hydration belt with a single bottle of Gatorade. Given the distance and that there were enough aid stations – I wanted to travel as light as possible. In retrospect I’m glad I did as the single bottle worked out fine. The aid stations did indeed have plenty of food for those that needed it.

The 30k start (across the road from the middle school) sent us out on a dirt jeep track for the first mile or so, giving the pack a chance to spread out some. One very cool aspect of the 30k was that dogs were allowed to participate. The dogs were clearly enjoying it as they chased each other up and down the trail. I would later be amazed by all the dogs finishing the entire 20 miles. We quickly popped out onto a long, straight gravel/dirt road. This was my least favorite part of the course as it seemed to stretch on forever. In reality this section was about 3 miles or so, but I was very happy when we left the road and hit the trail.

The 30k follows a slightly modified out and back course, which seemed to be gentle uphill on the way out and gentle downhill on the way back. There is one steep, rocky butte that runners must climb (both directions) which features the most technical, narrow, rocky singletrack. For me it was fun on the way out, but not so much fun on the return trip where the climb posed more of a problem for tired legs.

After grabbing a couple of tasty Oreo cookies, pushing gel and salt caps at the first aid station, I crossed over a road and followed the trail up a ridge. As the elevation increased there were several vistas off to the right with some wonderful mountain views. I had a fellow runner snap a quick pic of me during a short rest break. Over the next several miles there were plenty of great views that called to me but I wanted to keep moving since I was close to the turnaround point. My only goal for this race was to finish in under 4 hours. This allowed me to take it slow and spend plenty of time enjoying the scenery and aid stations.

I soon hit the turnaround and headed back down the hill. The next several miles were my favorite part of the course. Partly due to it being a gradual downhill slope, but also because the trail meandered through a beautiful open pine forest. Enjoyable as it was, it felt long and I kept thinking I would pop out of the trees onto the road soon but the trail just kept going. By the time I did hit the gravel road, I was feeling tired and my glutes and hamstrings were pretty sore. Also, somewhere along the last section of trail I developed what I would later learn was a huge blister on the end of my big toe (almost like having another toe). I knew my toe was causing pain but also realized nothing could be done about it. Strange that I’ve never had a blister there before – but it is always something, right? Just part of the adventure…

Remember the 3 miles of gravel road that I didn’t like on the way out? Well, that same section became even more evil on the way back. I seriously didn’t think it would ever end. The pain coming from my toe was causing me a slight limp but I pressed on, albeit very slowly. I began to wonder if that sub-4 hour finish time would elude me. I finally came to the turn onto the dirt jeep track and knew that I was probably only a mile or so away from the finish. I pushed on, staring at the dry trail in front of me, and after a very long mile I saw a clearing through the trees. I crossed the road, shuffled through the middle school parking lot and onto the track for my “final lap” to the finish.

I crossed the line with a 3:50:26 time, which was 118/172 for the 30k. Clearly not an impressive time, but I made my goal and truly enjoyed the run (well, except for that return section on  the gravel road). When crossing the finish, I was given a water bottle and the coveted pair of “Rumble” socks. I found a spot on the track to rest and stretch for a minute and snapped this pic. Hot, tired & very sore would accurately describe me in this pic – but the underlying emotions of peace, happiness and satisfaction are there as well.

It is hard to describe the feeling I get when running trails. I’ve put in a lot of miles on the pavement over the past 5-6 years. And, generally speaking I’ve truly enjoyed most every mile. But there was always something missing, and I never knew what it was until I started trail running. It is the connection between human and earth. Yeah, sounds silly right? Well, as they say – don’t knock it until you try it. In all the hours I’ve spent running on pavement, surrounded by traffic, buildings & noise – I never experienced that zen-like feeling of being connected to the natural world around me. Call it my “Avatar” moment, but it is real, at least for me, and I’m flat out hooked on it. It seems clear to me that trail running has become the next revolution in the sport of running and I’m very eager to see where it will lead me.

After resting for a few minutes I stumbled over to the food area and loaded up my plate. I was extremely happy to see chicken & black bean burritos being served rather than burgers & hot dogs. I want to specifically thank RD Sean Meissner for this, as I believe it be the best RD decision ever! I hope this tradition will continue at next year’s Rumble as well. I scarfed down the burrito, chips and a decadently sweet brownie. Washed it down with a “retro” can of Mountain Dew and headed for my car. The sugar and caffeine in the Dew actually helped me stay alert on the 3.5 hour drive back to Portland.

I’d like to thank Sean and all of the other organizers and volunteers for putting on a great race. I very much look forward to running the Rumble again next year.

Gear used: North Face Rucky Chucky, Injinji socks, Drymax trail lite socks, Zensah compression calf sleeves, Montrail hat, Nike gloves/shorts/shirt, Ultimate Direction hydration belt, GU gel, SaltStick caps.

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7 mile beach run on Easter Sunday

Posted by bunchgrasser on April 5, 2010

Kirsten and I spent Easter weekend at my parent’s house, but slipped away for a few hours on Sunday for an exhilarating run on the beach. We drove to Pacific City, which is an easy 35 minute drive from where my parents live. We timed it to start our run at low tide so as to have a wide, flat beach to run on.

We arrived in between storms, so the weather was gray and breezy – but no rain. Leaving from the parking lot at Cape Kiwanda (near the Pelican Brew Pub), we headed south on the beach with the turnaround point being the Nestucca Bay outlet which is about 4 miles down the beach. The first 3 miles went a little slow with the headwind and getting our legs warmed up. Running in the sand (even the hard, wet sand) always feels sloggier than running on pavement for sure.

At 3.25 miles we noticed a major increase in wind and blowing sand as we ran right into the leading edge of a very strong storm. The rain started off light but was being driven sideways. I was leading and Kirsten was tucked closely in behind me for protection. I put my head down and pushed on a little ways further, but at 3.5 miles we decided to flip around and head back.

Once we made the turn the wind was now at our back and literally pushed us down the beach. Our pace turned from very slow to quite fast (and much easier). Kirsten said she would liked to have gone slower but the wind gusts were pushing her very hard. Needless to say, the return trip went a little quicker, and aside from my bare legs being sandblasted all the way back it was pretty enjoyable. It felt very surreal being on the beach, with the angry, dark clouds and thunderous surf pummeling the beach. It is one of the things I like best about the Oregon coast.

We finally finished back at the car, and although our run ended up being 7 miles instead of 8 neither of us minded much. A run on the beach in any weather is better than most runs, and I always feel great afterwards. We threw on some dry clothes, stopped for a hot latte and drove back to my parent’s house for Sunday dinner. It was a great weekend!

Cheers

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22 Mile Trail Run = A Good Day

Posted by bunchgrasser on March 23, 2010

This past Saturday was a good day for me. It was one of those days where all things come together in a positive way that reeks of Karmic influence. Who knows, maybe I’ve been paying my dues on the trail (and treadmill) enough over the past few months to warrant the running gods tossing me a bone. Or, maybe I’ve just been persistent enough to get through yet another bad patch of illness and injury, both of which seem to come as a package deal with running for me. I’m not a spiritual guy by any measure – so I’ll leave that answer to the philosophers.

Saturday was clear, sunny and in the low 60’s – perfect for spending a few hours on the trail. I loaded up my gear and headed for Leif Erikson Drive, which is a scenic, 11 mile gravel/dirt/mud road spanning the entire length of Portland’s Forest Park. My objective for the day was to run the entire length of Leif Erikson Drive (out and back) for a total of 22 miles.

The first few miles served as a good warm-up, so I increased my pace a bit and settled into a nice rhythm. I stopped once to push a Hammer Gel and 2 salt caps. For hydration I simply took periodic hits from the bite valve on my hydration pack. The beautiful scenery and miles flew by and before I knew it I was standing at the trail head (and turn-around point) on the opposite end of Forest Park. There were plenty of runners, walkers & mountain bikers on the trail – and you could just see the happiness on their faces.

I took a few minutes to down another gel (GU – Espresso Love this time), 2 more salt caps, and a Bonk Breaker bar. A couple  hits of Nuun from my hydration pack to wash it all down and I was headed back up the trail for the return trip. On previous runs, my hamstrings and glutes usually cry mercy at about mile 15. This time, all systems felt pretty strong at that distance so I pushed on with a smile plastered across my face. I stopped once more at around mile 18 for a final energy boost (another gel and 2 more salt caps) and then cruised on to the finish. I arrived back at my car feeling pretty good and very satisfied with myself. All of my gear, shoes, clothing worked well, so (hopefully) no changes will be needed for my upcoming race (Peterson Ridge Rumble).

For those interested – below is a short list of gear & supplies that I’ve been using on longer runs:

Nathan HPL #20 Hydration Pack, Nuun tablets, SaltStick caps, Hammer gel, GU gel, Bonk Breaker bars, North Face Rucky Chucky shoes, Injinji toe socks, DryMax socks, Brave Soldier Friction Zone lube, Zensah compression calf sleeves.

Cheers

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15 miles on Leif Erikson Trail

Posted by bunchgrasser on March 15, 2010

After getting only a couple of 6 milers in during this past week I was determined to get my long run in over the weekend. Saturday was booked up, so on Sunday I grabbed my gear and headed to Forest Park. At least the weather cooperated – with mid-50’s temp, overcast skies and no rain in sight it was close to perfect for a long trail run.

Unlike the very popular Wildwood Trail which is single-track heaven, Leif Erikson is essentially a wide rock/dirt road that spans the entire 11 mile length of Forest Park. It is mostly flat with a few moderate hills, and this time of year has a few shallow mud holes to make it interesting. More importantly, it is closed to all traffic other than runners, hikers, bikers and the occasional horse rider. It is quite popular on weekends, so runners should listen for approaching mountain bikers.

For this run I used my Ultimate Direction hydration belt with a single bottle, and also carried one Nathan hand-held bottle for backup. Both bottles contained Nuun. I also carried one GU gel, four Salt Stick caps and one Bonk Breaker for energy replacement. As it turned out, I could have used more liquid as I ran short the last few miles.

I started my out-and-back run at the Germantown Road trail head and continued until mile marker 3 which is exactly 8 miles. At the turn-around point I stopped long enough to eat my GU gel, another 2 SaltStick caps and Bonk Bar before heading back the other way. It took a few minutes to find my rhythm again but the peaceful scenery made it easy to find my “happy place”.

At around mile 12-13 I could feel my upper legs starting to complain. By mile 14 my hamstrings and glutes were hurting pretty bad. It actually surprised me how fast they went from mild soreness to obvious pain. Clearly I need to work on strengthening these muscles as there seems to be an imbalance. My lower legs and feet felt fine, as my North Face Rucky Chucky’s seemed to be doing a great job.

I ended up cutting my planned 16 miler short by walking the last mile. I’ve battled injuries consistently over the past few years so I try to ease up and listen to my body when it complains. Walking the last mile also gave me a nice cool-down period before jumping into the car. My lessons for the day were: take more liquid and energy food for a run that length. And, I need to spend some time strengthening my hamstrings and glutes to support longer runs.

Until next time…

Cheers

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Hagg Lake 50k turns into 25k

Posted by bunchgrasser on February 22, 2010

Well, my quest to run a 50k ultra continues as I opted to drop after one lap (25k) around Hagg Lake on Saturday. As expected, my lingering chest cold robbed me of energy and made breathing difficult. After finishing the first lap I knew starting the second lap probably wouldn’t end well. I normally can run strong for at least 10-15 miles before starting to feel tired, but my chest felt tight and breathing was difficult pretty much from the start of the race.

Yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve my goal, but it was such an amazingly beautiful day for trail running that I honestly felt lucky to be there. It was a cold start (mid 30’s) but clear and sunny which was optimal for running. Once the sun hit the lake it not only warmed up quickly, but cast a gorgeous, scenic picture looking out across the lake. It was hard not to be distracted by the many lake views from the trail.

The legendary Hagg Lake mud lived up to the hype in my opinion. Although we had no rain for several days prior to race day, there were still many spots that were challenging to get through, particularly in the section near the last aid station and on to the Start/Finish line. My hat is off to the 25k and 50k winners for getting around the course in unbelievably fast times. Race results are here.

Thanks go out to the race organizers and volunteers for putting on a fabulous event. I thought they did a great job making this a very memorable race for me. The hot chicken soup tasted so good and I now have a spiffy new pair of running socks to show off. As a final bonus – I won a Montrail running hat in the random drawing.

I’m already looking for another 50k to sign up for so that I can eventually reach my goal. Wish me luck…

Cheers

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OMG, Hagg Lake 50k is……TOMORROW!!!

Posted by bunchgrasser on February 19, 2010

How do I feel right now? Scared to death actually. Tomorrow I shall attempt my first ever ultra, the Hagg Lake 50k.

Am I trained properly? No, my Achilles injury has hampered my training severely.

Am I Healthy? No, I’ve been (and still am) sick this past week with head & chest cold.

Am I mentally prepared? Actually, yes – but mostly because as an ultra-newbie I’m blissfully ignorant of the pain to come tomorrow morning. I’ve come to peace with the idea that I may drop after 25K (one loop around the lake) if things aren’t going well.

I have managed to complete a couple more long runs over the past few weeks though. I ran a 16 mile out and back on my normal (road) course a couple weekends ago. I also managed an 11 mile run on my dreadmill last weekend. Running 11 miles on a dreadmill is a new distance PR for me – with my previous treadmill record being 10 miles.

The weather has been cold and sunny the past few days, which should help dry out some of the muddy spots on the trail. The race day forecast is for partly sunny with a low of 31 and high of 52. Having no rain will be great – but the morning start will be a cold one. I’m still planning to wear my North Face Rucky Chucky GTX trail shoes in order to keep my feet dry.

Cheers

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14 mile trail run on Wildwood

Posted by bunchgrasser on February 11, 2010

Catching up on my posts here…I’ve been trying to ramp up my mileage some over the past few weeks in anticipation of the Feb 20th 50k ultra. Clearly I’m way behind due to the 2-3 months of lost time from my Achilles injury. At this point I’m not very confident that I’ll be able to finish the Hagg Lake 50k, but since the course is a double loop around Hagg Lake – I will be able to drop after the first lap if necessary.

I’ve been getting pretty decent mileage lately without any substantial pain in my left lower leg, which is very exciting. Running injuries are so depressing and I’m just happy to be out on the road/trail again. Hopefully I can stay injury free for awhile as I have many races planned for 2010. Most importantly being my first ultra.

I recently did a 14 mile out and back trail run on the Wildwood Trail in forest Park near my house. I’ve ran Wildwood many times, but what made this one different was the driving rain, mud and 40 degree temp. My intent was to closely simulate worst-case conditions for the upcoming 50k – and I think it more than qualified. I did opt for running tights and gloves that day, which I’m typically loathe to do. In retrospect, it was a very good decision. By the time I finished the 14 miles and arrived back at the trail head – I was close to hypothermic. I learned a good lesson that day – that you cannot count on running to keep your body heat at sufficient levels. Once you get soaking wet your body temp can drop no matter how hard/fast you run.

I also learned that I need more than 2 Nathan water bottles (filled with Nuun) and a Bonk Breaker bar for that distance.

Needless to say, the copious amounts of mud and the many ups/downs on the Wildwood trail helped me use some muscles that don’t get much action on flat ground. I was quite sore for the next few days.

Cheers

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Update on my ultra aspirations…

Posted by bunchgrasser on January 3, 2010

The past couple of months haven’t gone according to plan. I expected my Achilles/calf muscle problem to go away with rest and some light daily stretching – but such is not the case. I’ve started running again in moderation, but I’m still having the same problem with soreness in those areas.

I did see an orthopedist recently and had an Xray, but unfortunately it showed nothing out of the ordinary with my foot & lower leg bone structure. The doctor suggested that my calf muscle pain could be compartment syndrom but since my Achilles is also sore I’m unconvinced. Since I’m not really interested in any kind of “exploratory” surgical remedy – I’ve chosen to keep with the status quo (stretching) while adding some miles to my base to see if it gets better or worse.

Given my lack of training, I’m doubtful of being ready to run a 50k by Feb 20 (bummer), but I’m going to try and ramp my miles up some anyway.

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I just registered for my first ultra…

Posted by bunchgrasser on November 5, 2009

Yesterday I registered for my first ultra marathon, the Hagg Lake 50k Trail Run. After about 2 minutes of staring at the email confirmation, fear began to replace the excitement that I was feeling.

The first thought that came to mind was – I just wasted $60. It’s not that running 31 miles around a lake on a muddy trail bothers me. It’s more a question of whether I can make it to race day without any race-stopping over-use injuries. My past history hasn’t been good in this area. I’ve made several race fee donations over the past few years due to injuries. It seems every time I train for a long race (i.e. marathon), I end up with a sore leg or foot that either prevents me from racing, or affects my ability to run well.

I guess I’m one of those runners that doesn’t handle high mileage very well. It’s unfortunate because my attitude and psyche are both perfectly suited for long, endurance runs. I just need to get the muscles & tendons on board and I’ll be ready to kick some ultra ass!

I’m currently nursing a sore Achilles tendon which has been an on-again, off-again problem for me this year. Not sure how to get rid of it other than just stop running for a long period of time. I actually did that (2 months), but it came back again. I’m trying to approach this problem in a smart, realistic way – but the bottom line is that I need lots of miles to be ready for an ultra. My fingers are crossed..

Cheers

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Black toenails again…

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 29, 2009

I’m currently sporting two black toenails again (courtesy of my last marathon in early October). I realize I’m not alone in the running world when it comes to this particular affliction. Judging by the many, many questions about it that I saw on various forums and websites – it seems to be a common problem.

I was actually searching online for ways to prevent black toenails, but every site seemed to mention the same things over and over again: buy your running shoes a size larger to prevent your toe from hitting the end of your shoe, tie your laces tight to keep your foot from slipping forward, etc. These suggestions are certainly good advice – but I’ve been doing them for several years and they haven’t prevented my black toenails at all. So, I’m left wondering…what am I doing wrong?

I’ve tried all kinds of preventative measures, to no avail. Taping my toes, thin socks, thick socks, two pairs of socks, massive amounts of Vaseline or BodyGlide. But alas, so far – no relief. I’ve also consciously monitored my toes while running to make sure they are not hitting the top of my shoes (they aren’t).

My latest idea was silicon toe caps, which seemed like a surefire winner. And, I believe wearing toe caps on each of my big toes would have solved my problem, except for one small issue…once my feet became warm and moist from running, the (now sweaty) toe caps just slid off the end of my toes and formed a lump in the ends of my socks. I tested these toe caps on two separate runs (different days). Regrettably, both toe caps slipped off of my toes between mile 4 and mile 5 on both days. I suppose I could try taping the toe cap to my toe – but I’m not too excited about that. At some point, the preparation time and effort of going for a long run becomes too much of a hassle. I’m deeply envious of those who just throw on some shoes and go for a run.

For lack of a real solution to this problem, I’m starting to resign myself to the idea of revolving, colorful toenails. Maybe I’ll paint them over with black toenail polish (midlife crisis?), or have the nails permanently removed (seems a little harsh). I guess there is always the “badge of honor” thing. If anyone has solved this problem or has any (new)  suggestions please feel free to comment.

Cheers

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