Bunchgrasser’s World

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Posts Tagged ‘trail run’

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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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…


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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.


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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..


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8 Mile Trail Run in Forest Park

Posted by bunchgrasser on June 23, 2009

You know, 8 miles goes by much quicker when running through a serene forest on a trail. Yeah, should be obvious I know. Yet day after day I slip on my Kayanos and run the paved streets, forgoing that wonderful zen-like experience. Why is that? Bad habit I suppose…

Well, this past Saturday I got in my car and drove 10 minutes to the Springville Road Trail Head and proceeded to change that bad habit with a nice 8 miler through Forest Park on Leif Erikson Drive. It had recently rained, so there were some muddy spots, but not so bad that I couldn’t jump over or avoid those spots. In general Leif Erikson Drive (LED) is rocky enough that there aren’t many true mudholes.

I started with a 10 minute downhill fast-walk on the Springville trail from the trailhead to where it joins LED. It drops about 450 feet in elevation over 3/4 mile so it makes for a great downhill warmup. It’s also a killer workout when you are walking (or Mt Biking) back up that hill.

I started my run on LED heading East/Southeast toward NW Portland where LED terminates roughly 10 miles away on NW Thurman Street. In its entirety, LED is about 11 miles long and makes for a wonderful bike ride as well as a long run. Incidently, one of my favorite brewpubs is located in NW Portland, not far from where the trail ends – but I digress…

One of the nice things about running LED is that every 1/4 mile there are labeled white concrete posts sunk into the ground, allowing you to track your mileage. No GPS watch or pedometer needed – just find your pace and enjoy the sounds of the forest. The sounds of birds chirping certainly beats  the sounds of cars any day of the week.

Around mile 3, I was passed by a group of young runners. I asked one of them and was told they were part of the Westview High School cross country team. Apparently they do their long run each weekend and today chose to run LED. I made my turn at mile 4 and headed back to Springville trail. It went quickly, but my legs were kind of sore by the time I finished mile 8. I still had the uphill walk to the trailhead, but it was a nice cool-down.

All in all a very enjoyable run and I’m planning to do another shorter run there tonight with my wife. Since I’m always training for the next big race – I may try running the full length (11 miles) and have someone pick me up on the other end (after a pint of beer of course).


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2009 Vernonia Half Marathon – Race Report

Posted by bunchgrasser on April 8, 2009

vernonia-half-bc_img_02431I made a last minute decision to run the Vernonia Half Marathon this past Saturday, April 4 and I’m very glad I did. I was simply looking for an organized race to gauge my fitness level in preparation for the Eugene Marathon next month. The Vernonia Half was roughly a 30 minute drive from my home, not terribly expensive and had a fairly small number of runners participating (around 160).

I had never run this race before, and as I understand it was cancelled last year due to serious flooding in the city of Vernonia. I arrived about an hour early on race day and in spite of the 30 degree temperature outside, the sun was promising to break through the fog eventually. Vernonia is a smallish city tucked into a charming little river valley. Driving through the city takes you back to a time when Main Street was still the center of commerce. Absent entirely were strip malls and other evidence of modern suburbia.

I easily found parking less than 100 feet from Anderson Park, where race day registration and packet pick-up was located. In less than 5 minutes I had my race bib pinned to my shirt and was ready for the 9:30am start. I’m normally used to long lines and crowds, so this was a refreshing change. I warmed up with a slow jog around the block a couple of times and then crossed over the river on the footbridge to the Vernonia High School track which served as the start line for this race. After milling around for a few minutes, we were given a verbal start and the small group of runners were off!

The first segment of this point-to-point race was a two mile out-and-back to the lake on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Then we crossed back over the footbridge, past Anderson Park and continued away from town. The Bank-Vernonia State Trail is an old, converted railroad bed that meanders through scenic woods for most of the race. The trail was paved for roughly the first half of the race but turned to gravel somewhere close to the midpoint. There were several rough areas that were newly graveled and also a couple of large mud holes that were downright hard to navigate. I really enjoyed the Zen-like, peaceful run on the paved trail through the woods. The cool air, shade and mossy green colors were a stark contrast to your typical urban half marathon course. The latter half of the course was definitely a trail run which offered its share of challenges. Not really mentioned in the race description were the two short, but steep, quad-burning hills that slowed me down to a walk. The first hill was located near the middle of the course where you cross the main highway. The second hill is in the last quarter mile where you switch from the trail to the highway for the last uphill push to the finish in LL “Stub” Stewart State Park. There were several water stations along the way (3-4 if I recall correctly) and at least one that was also serving Gatorade.

I didn’t start this race with any intention of getting a PR. But my splits early in the race were good and at mile 7 my Garmin GPS watch showed a pretty decent overall time. Encouraged by this I decided to attempt beating my old half marathon record. By the final half mile and in spite of slowing to a fast walk on the last steep hill, I was just under my record so I pushed hard and crossed the finish with a 1:53:32 time, effectively beating my previous half marathon record by 3 minutes. Certainly not an impressive time as compared to many of the talented runners that day, but I always try to remember that I’m 42 years old, only competing against myself and that any PR is a good PR!

The race organizers had water, bananas and oranges waiting at the finish, as well as the clothing bags that we had sent forward to the finish line. I put on my fleece and running pants and then boarded the big yellow school bus that shuttled us back to Anderson Park for the awards ceremony, food and raffle. After eating hot chicken noodle soup, muffins, cookies and hot coffee I laid down to relax in the sunshine for a few minutes. My body was sore and tired, but for those few minutes the world seemed perfect.

A short while later the awards were given out to both men’s and women’s age group winners. Congratulations to overall winner and local Vernonia runner, Tim Pillow who crossed the finish line with a very quick 1:19:29 time. After the awards ceremony there was a raffle which included prizes of both long sleeve technical running shirts and pies. Yes, you heard me correctly…I did say pies. Not realizing how much I desperately wanted one of those pies, I wandered up to the front of the crowd and listened for my number to be called. One-by-one the shirts and pies disappeared with each number called, until the last one was gone. I guess it wasn’t my year for a pie – but I did get a PR and I thoroughly enjoyed running the 2009 Vernonia Half Marathon. My hat is off to the city of Vernonia, ORCC, Mark Barrett (Race Director), all of the race volunteers and the folks at Vernonia Cares who provided the hot soup and pies!

I’m planning to be back next year and I would unconditionally encourage others to consider running this race next year as well! Race results have been posted on the ORCC website. Race photos are available here, courtesy of Brian F Conaghan Photography.


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