Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

Posts Tagged ‘trail running’

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.


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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…


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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.


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Trail Running – Arizona style

Posted by bunchgrasser on January 29, 2010

I recently spent 4 days in the Phoenix area where my daughter was playing in the ODP Regional Championship Tournament. Since most days she only had one game, that left plenty of time for running the trails. Before I left Portland I scoped out some great trails online and printed a couple of maps. As luck would have it, there was a great trail system right next to the Reach 11 soccer complex north of Phoenix. I literally walked 50 paces from the soccer field, stepped onto the trail and proceeded to “get some”!

I ended up going 10 miles total (5 out and 5 back) all on a dirt/sand/gravel trail that followed along a big canal. I passed under a couple of freeways and crossed a 4 lane road before turning back. Clearly this isn’t a peaceful, remote trail – but what it lacked in scenery and peacefulness, it more than made up for in convenience. The relative flatness was exactly what I was looking for on that particular day also.

The following day I was invited by friends to hike Camelback Mountain. I’d never heard of it before, but it sounded like fun – so away we went. A pretty strong storm system had moved in to the Phoenix area the night before, so it was pouring rain when we arrived at the trail head. There were still quite a few people there in spite of the wet weather. Being from Oregon, I didn’t think twice about the rain – in fact I may have been the only person that packed a waterproof shell on my trip to Phoenix.

The hike was quite steep in places, actually more of a scramble with actual climbing involved in places. I managed to snap a pic with my cell phone at the top (poor quality, unfortunately) of the amazing 360 degree view. The rocks were also a little slippery in places but the climb down was much easier.

The sun came out for my final day in Phoenix. I packed, checked out of the hotel and headed for the North Mountain trail system which was only about 10 minutes from my hotel. I parked at the trail head, strapped on my GPS watch and water bottle, then headed out. I ran the Shaw Butte loop which was very steep going up and very steep going down. The views from the top were fantastic though and helped me forget about my screaming quads. Once down in the flats I jumped onto the #100 trail (also called the Charles M. Christiansen Memorial trail) and ended up back at the trail head. Not wanting to finish so soon, I got back on the #100 trail, crossed under the road through a tunnel and ran a couple more miles before turning back. My distance ended up being roughly 6-7 miles total and I was pretty tired once I got back to my car (mostly from the steep hills).

After a quick sink-bath in the trail head restroom, I jumped in my car and headed to the airport. This was my first ever visit to Phoenix and I very much look forward to returning soon for another go at some different trails. I truly enjoyed running through the desert, mostly I think because it is such a different look and feel from the green forests of Oregon. Naturally I enjoyed the sun and warmer temps as well.


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Yes, I (kind of) ran the 2009 Portland Marathon

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 14, 2009

I’ve been avoiding this post for more than a week now. Not sure why – but most likely because there is little positive to say about it. The net-net is that after training for the Portland Marathon for many months I suffered a weird injury in my left calf muscle around the first week of July.

I’m still not certain if it was a calf muscle tear or an Achilles tendon problem. The actual spot was not right above my heel, but further up where the tendon spreads out and attaches to calf muscle. I’m equally perplexed as to how I got the injury in the first place. Although I did increase my mileage enough to warrant this type of response. I was also doing some trail running at the time which could have been the culprit.

Regardless of the cause, I was smart enough to stop all training in order to fully recover. It would be about 2.5 months later that I started easing back into a few miles here and there, which brings me back to the marathon. I had completely decided against running the marathon for obvious reasons (little/no training) during the 3 months prior to race day. Actually, I did run the Timberline Trail Half Marathon on September 14th as kind of a “test run”. That went ok, but it was clear that my body was not at all ready for 26 miles.

As fate would have it, my daughter’s soccer team volunteered at the Portland Marathon expo the day before the race, so I offered to drive her there for her “shift”. I figured that I would pick up my packet and browse through the expo for any cool running goodies or gadgets.

However, once I had my race bib in-hand, cruel forces began to conspire against me and my decision to sit this one out. I began to think how bummed I would be if I missed even one year of the Portland Marathon. I envisioned how much fun it would be running past the thousands of spectators, cheering and yelling my name…Go Danny! Looking good! And, finally I started rationalizing just how far 26.2 miles could possibly be. Heck, I could just run most of the race and then finish the remainder by walking! There’s no reason to skip this race at all! I mean, how bad could it possibly be???

Well, as you can probably surmise…I now know exactly how bad it could possibly be. And, yes it was that bad. For the record, I did finish the race in under 5 hours…but not by much. In fact, my splits were pretty good up until about mile 16-17. But crossing the St Johns bridge seemed to be a turning point for me, as both calf muscles started to cramp simultaneously. I pushed on a little further, but by the time I hit mile 19 the wheels fell completely off and my lower legs were in full-on mutiny. The calf cramps were severe which made running impossible and even walking seemed like too much to ask.

Needless to say, I found myself in a difficult situation with 7 miles left and no real ability to get there under my own power. I attempted to stretch out my calf muscles several times and continued to walk, hoping that eventually my condition would improve. Over the next 3-4 miles I tried running (slowly) a few times but couldn’t keep the cramping at bay. It felt so strange to be walking the course rather than running. I noticed things that I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed if I had been running. For example, I saw several groups of people along Willamette Blvd that were seriously partying. I’m not sure if they realized there was a marathon going on right next to them. I noted that people don’t cheer for the walkers much, other than an occasional, quietly-spoken “good job”. I also now realize that walkers aren’t a very exciting target for race photographers.

Well, not to belabor this any further…once I hit the long downhill section starting at the Adidas HQ I was able to manage a slow jog (mostly gravity I think). I eventually made it across the bridge and with an alternating run/walk strategy pushed myself up Naito Pkwy to the turn at Salmon and across the finish line.

I accepted my foil blanket and finishers medal, then stumbled through the food section – carefully avoiding the chocolate milk that didn’t sit well in my stomach last year. Bananas and fritos chips tasted good this year. I picked up my shirt, skipped the photo and did the zombie-walk through the cordoned-off section to the reunion area. Life would have been good had there been someone waiting to whisk me away to a hot shower and soft bed, however I spent the next 20 minutes walking the 6-8 blocks to where my car was parked in a garage. To make matters worse, I wasn’t quite certain where my car was and actually had to circle a few blocks before finally locating it.

I’m tempted to say…”let this be a lesson of what not to do”. But in reality even though it was ugly (well, actually very ugly), there was something that I truly enjoyed about the experience and I think it was pushing myself well past my “perceived” physical limit. It was ignoring the warning signals my brain was voicing loudly. It was venturing ever-so-slightly into that uncharted territory of the unknown, wondering just exactly what would happen if I just kept going. I think we could all benefit from pushing ourselves beyond our fears and our own limitations. It reminds me of a quote I jotted down some time ago:

“Few of us know what we are capable of doing… we have never pushed ourselves hard enough to find out.” -Alfred A Montepert


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Running the 2009 Timberline Half Marathon

Posted by bunchgrasser on September 23, 2009

Mt_Hood_Timothy_ LakeKirsten and I ran the Timberline Half Marathon last Sunday and we both had a blast. It was Kirsten’s first half marathon and my first trail half marathon. The course took us on a beautiful loop around Timothy Lake that was mostly technical single track but opened up to dirt access roads in places. We also ran directly through several of the campgrounds around the lake.

The weather ended up being perfect with blue skies and plenty of sun. Although the majority of the trail was deep in the trees so we stayed pretty cool. Kirsten and I ran together the entire race, except once when we were separated accidently. I stopped to chat with a friend at the first aid station around mile 7 and she went on. The idea was that I would catch up, but she mistakenly followed a couple of ladies down a wrong trail and I ended up passing by her. I ran (really) hard for 2-3 miles and never caught up to her, so I eventually determined that she had to be behind me. I waited at the next aid station and she came cruising in a few minutes later. I was guzzling Powerade and nursing a bee sting. The yellowjackets were numerous and fierce on the trail.

As we neared the finish line we could hear people cheering and the announcer’s PA. Kirsten and I both raced the last 1/4 mile and crossed the finish line strong. I immediately started looking for any kind of food as I was starving. A couple of bags of salty chips and a cereal bar helped. We retrieved our shirts and finishers medals and headed to the car to relax a bit before heading back home.

Kirsten handled her first half marathon very well and I’m so proud of her. Before the race her previous longest run had been only 10 miles – so this race really pushed well beyond that distance. The actual distance of this race was more than 14 miles. It was also a pretty technical trail with lots of rocks, root and hills.

Personally, I loved it and can’t wait to do my next trail race. I’m hoping to do my first ultra in 2010 and this was a good starter. I’ll be looking for a 50k trail race someday soon I hope.


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I really, really want to run an ultramarathon…

Posted by bunchgrasser on September 9, 2009

I’m giving my wife (and extended family) yet another reason to think this 43 year old desk jockey has lost his mind. Last year, after completing my first (and only) marathon I decided that I really liked running long distances. Never mind that every time I build up my mileage I seem to injure myself. Knee pain, plantar fascitis, achilles tendonosis, sore this and sore that. Whatever. I’m taking it all in stride though because I know getting stronger takes time and patience. Did I mention that I’m very, very persistent?

For many months now I’ve secretly been watching (lurking?) and reading about trailrunning and ultramarathons. I didn’t know much about ultras, so I ordered some books from Amazon.com, I subscribed to a couple of magazines and currently I spend seemingly every spare moment reading any trailrunning or ultra-related blog site. Heck, I feel like I already know elite runners like Scott Jurek, Sean Meissner, Hal Koerner,  yet I’ve never actually met them (yet). They and many others have inspired me in ways I may never fully comprehend.

I have a history of deep-diving into whatever activity occupies my mind at a given time. And yes, my obsession knows very few boundaries.  Not only am I deeply envious of all those who have completed an ultra, but I had my “aha!” moment and realized that ultras are my perfect event. Clearly I’ll never set any speed records running half marathons or marathons. Not to mention I much prefer the natural scenery and mind-enriching trail environment over paved streets any day. The slower pace and focus on simply finishing a challenging ultra course really appeals to me. I’ve also read many times that the close-knit ultra community is like an extended family. Cool… 

Yes, like many before me – I’ve stumbled onto something that I believe will enrich my life in many ways. I sit here in my office chair – dreaming about crossing the finish line of my first ultramarathon. I feel a wave of emotion fill me up just thinking about it. I’m pretty sure I’ll cry like a baby when it happens. Yes, I’m certain of it…

Someday soon…

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Doing the Timberline Half Marathon

Posted by bunchgrasser on August 19, 2009

I registered Kirsten and I for the Timberline Half Marathon on September 20th. It will be our first trail half marathon and given the setting should be an amazing experience. I’ve finished several half marathons but all have been on pavement. I’m truly looking forward to a loop around Timothy Lake. Hopefully my leg will be feeling better by race day…


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Still on the bench…

Posted by bunchgrasser on August 18, 2009

I’m in my 4th week of R&R and I’m getting really, really anxious to run again. The first couple of weeks were the most difficult but I’m slightly more at ease with my current reality. Deep down I know it would be wrong to put the shoes back on before I’m completely healed up. That is the strategy I used to use and it never worked out very well for me. I’m somewhat impatient and its just that I don’t know how much longer the healing process will take. Come on already…!

I’m not entirely sure what my problem is because I haven’t seen a doctor about it. I’m pretty sure it is either achilles tendonitis, or possibly a bad muscle tear in my left calf muscle. I have some pain and stiffness (especially in the morning right when I get out of bed) about 2-4 inches above my heel. I also have extremely sore muscles going in a vertical line all the way up my calf almost to the back of my knee. The deeper I push with my thumb the more tender it is. I first thought I had multiple muscle tears, but it seems more logical that the upper muscle soreness is caused by those muscles attempting to cover for the injured muscle/tendon lower down.

At this point the soreness in in my upper calf has decreased and (I hope) is almost healed. However I still have a ways to go with the lower area pain. If it is an achilles tendon problem – I’m guessing it will be awhile longer before I can run on it. I’ve read that achilles tendon problems are notoriously slow to heal.

Meanwhile, I daydream about running my favorite trail in Forest park and look forward to restarting my training for the Portland Marathon, and hopefully my first 50K or 50 miler someday soon. I’ve been adding equipment to my garage gym and my latest acquisition was a nice bike trainer. I’ve been able to put in some nice 30-40 minute rides that don’t seem to bother my sore calf. I’ve also been hitting the weights and various other strengthening exercises (pullups, pushups, situps, air squats, etc).

With the Portland Marathon coming up on October 5th – I’m not certain of my status for that race. It is clear that I won’t be prepared to go for a PR, but the question of whether I’ll be suitably trained enough to run it at all is unclear. Bummer days…

Wish me luck…

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7 mile trail run

Posted by bunchgrasser on July 17, 2009

My wife Kirsten and I took our very first trail run “together” last night. We don’t normally run together much because we run at different paces. However, I’ve really enjoyed the trail runs in Forest Park lately and I convinced her to join me. When the temp is above 80, running in the trees is the only way to go.

I rushed home after work and changed into my running gear. As we left the house, the temp was well into the 90’s. A short 10 minute drive and we arrived at the Wildwood Trailhead. I grabbed my hydration belt and we hit the trail. We had planned to run the Wildwood Trail (singletrack) for the first 3 miles, then cut down the Hardesty Trail and run the much-wider Leif Erikson Trail the last 2 miles back to the road. However, we somehow missed the Hardestry Trail cutoff and ended up going quite a bit further. We finally came to Firelane 7a and used it to cut down the hill to Leif Erickson.

In spite of our navigational error and running 2+ miles longer than we originally planned – the run was amazing as usual. Kirsten loved her first trail run (at roughly 7 miles it was her longest run ever). My legs were a little sore, but mostly because it was my 3rd consecutive day of running. I normally run every other day. Ahh…days to remember.


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