14 October 2017

White Pass to Chinook Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail

How do you turn a six-hour run into an eight-hour run? Add 2' of snow.


Two new friends and I went for a "run" from White Pass to Chinook Pass and guess what, the seasons have changed in the mountains.

Friday I posted in the Seattle Mountain Running Group that I was looking for a group to tag along with for a run Saturday and within minutes Ghislain Devouthon invited me on this adventure. I love community. We met his friend Christophe Fiessinger and hit the road.

This piece of the PCT is the beginning of "Section I" and under normal/summer conditions would be very runnable. On this day we had to walk/hike/posthole for roughly 10 miles. Let's just say it's a good thing I have gotten into the habit of carrying extra food/water/clothing. And that the day turned out perfect. Nasty weather would have made this a horrible death march. As it was, the worst we had to deal with was some mild dehydration and muscle cramps. Not because there wasn't enough water, just because we didn't drink enough...

We started out all smiles and full of enthusiasm.


And we were able to run (slowly) the first 10 or so miles. Then we hit a big climb. And then the snow got deep. 16 miles in our pace was about 25:00/mile and we joked lightheartedly about what time we were going ot finish. By mile 23, and realizing that our pace had not sped up appreciably, the jokes got a little dryer.

In a nutshell? WE COULDN'T STOP TAKING PICTURES! There were so many amazing sights. Here are a few highlights.

I need to come back here in the summer!

I'll say this, we got lucky. This is not a short run and had the weather not cooperated, this would have been much, MUCH less fun. Dangerous even. As it was, the sun was out all day and in spite of the ambient temperature being cold, as long as you were in the sunlight you were quite warm.

There is plenty of water on this route but you need a filter or something to purify the water.

For most of the run we were making first tracks in the snow. The exceptions were when we met a group of equestrian campers and as we got closer to Chinook Pass, it seems lots of people start to hike from there and do an out-and-back to their cars.

If you look at my Strava track below, you will see there is a significant climb about halfway into this run. Because of the steepness of the trail and the snow, this was pretty much one, long hike. Plan on slowing down here.

The Pacific Crest Trail is well marked and even in the snow we did not have a problem finding our way.

My Sealskinz socks saved my feet! I usually get very cold hands and feet and when they are wet it's terrible. My feet were in the snow all day long and were fine. So great!

Here are all my pictures.

Nutrition (during)

07 October 2017

Oregon Coast 50 km

Perfect weather. It was not what I was expecting. Friends have told me the Rainshadow Running Oregon Coast 50k is usually wet and windy, I was okay with this anomaly.


These days you have to register for events so far in advance (because they sell out) that when they finally show up, I have little confidence my preparation has gone like I hoped it would. Shit happens. Sometimes you've just finished a great training block, sometimes you break your leg and have to pull out. This time I was coming off of a freak infection that I got trail running with my sister and some friends three weeks ago. I nicked my shin on a rock and it seems some bacteria got under the skin and I couldn't even walk until we got this diagnosed and I started taking antibiotics. Thank goodness it cleared up quick once I did. At least I was showing up well rested. Which I have learned is not to be underrated.

James Varner puts on great events. Part of his formula for success is really good venues for the finish. This race finishes at The Adobe Resort in Yachats, OR. The start is six miles north of here on the beach. To get there we took a 'field trip' in yellow school buses.


I had blissfully forgotten how little leg room there is on these things...


James gave his pre-race announcements in shorts and a t-shirt! I was starting to feel a little silly with my undershirt and sleeves and gloves but these days I do run a bit cold. Plus, why carry an awesome running pack if you are not going to put anything inside, right?


Walking down to the beach the field trip feeling continued. If we had all been holding onto a knotted rope or if someone had been a dragging big, plastic cooler it would have been for real.


This is with about one or two minutes to go. Race? What race? Who brought a Frisbee and where is the beer!


Finally, people moved closer to the start line.


And we were off!


Beach running can be a blast or it can suck. Today it was most definitely the former. There was ZERO wind. It was warm. The sand was firm. We kept passing groups of locals and tourists that cheered us on and within maybe one mile my gloves came off.

At the start, there were two guys who showed up in sandals and if you look closely at the video above, you will see one of them. He took his sandals off for the beach run. Barefoot on the beach, it was that kind of morning. There was also the occasional off-leash dog that would dart in and out of all the runners. It helped to pay attention.

At times we had to jump over/hop through some streams that flowed into the ocean.

Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

At the end of the sandy beach you climb up a few steps into the outskirts of Yachats, ran south through town right along the water and a mile or two later you cross Hwy 101 and head up into the woods.

The trails were awesome! The surface was damp but not slick, it was soft and it was real singletrack meaning narrow, twisty and FUN. I also pretty much stopped taking pictures at this point. :( I guess I was concentrating on where to put my feet and I was pushing myself. Since my training these days has been incredibly erratic my pacing strategy was to go easy for the first 10 miles (it was nine miles until we turned into the woods) and then try to ramp up the pace or at least put in a solid effort. As much as my current fitness allowed anyway. I also wanted to be very efficient at aid stations, even more so than usual. I figured if I had a great day I could run sub-five hours but I was not going to be upset with 5:30.

Just relatively recently my fueling has gotten pretty dialed in and it lets me be just that - very efficient. I now carry my powder in pre-mixed ziplock bags so I can pull one out as I'm approaching an aid station and can hopefully just hand a bag and bottle to a volunteer and ask them to fill the bottle with the powder and water while I adjust my clothing or suck down a gel. And since I carry two bottles (each one lasts me roughly one hour), I was able to bypass the first aid station altogether. Nice.

At the second aid station, all I needed was that bottle of water for my powder. Ditto for the third. I stopped at the fourth and last aid station but when I pulled out my bottles and saw that each one was still about half full I realized I didn't even need to stop. But I felt a little foolish having pulled over and a volunteer was holding a pitcher at the ready so I let them top off one bottle and then I scooted out of there.

Volunteers make races! One standout at this event was Yassine Diboun. Yassine was working aid station 2/4 and the first time I saw him I had to do a double take. Who was this weirdo, err... Viking that was calling my name?


Thanks for the speedy bottle refill Wy'East Wolfpack Viking!

Another thing that makes races is seeing friends and having them cheer you on. At the top of the first climb, Just when I ran past Glenn Tachiyama, I heard my name being called. Being so "focused" and "in the zone" it took me a few seconds to figure out who this was and by the time I realized it was Mitchell Burbick I was already past the crest of the hill and heading back into the woods. Sorry Mitch! I really did appreciate the cheer!

Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

ASIDE - even though I am pretty darn fun to cheer on, Mitch was mostly here to encourage Meredith Heestand who schooled me by almost 10 minutes and was the 2nd woman finisher!

When I left the shore and entered the woods it seemed like there must have been at least 100 people in front of me. But I don't recall passing 80 runners on the trails. Thinking back I must have passed many of them at aid stations because I really was zipping through those today. I don't think I used to spend a lot of time at aid stations but now I'm spending even less. And when you look at the results, there were six people that finished within about 120 seconds of me. That's the difference between top 20 and top 30. Eek.

I used to fret over gear. Especially shoes. These days I just choose between two pairs for trail runs and I can't go wrong with either choice really. I wore my MT-2s today and it was paying off on the descents. These shoes hug my foot so I don't slide forward and with the soft surface I was moving just fine thankyouverymuch and much of the passing I did was while going downhill. I love going downhill!

That's not to say it was a walk in the park. Around mile 19 or 20 I had a low. Suddenly I realized I was walking on a flat section and it snapped me back to attention. And a few miles past the last aid station when I was descending back to the road I had to stop and get a rock out of my shoe. I sat down, pulled my foot close to me to untie the laces and every muscle in my leg cramped up. Oops. Obviously my pace was exceeding my fitness today but luckily when I stood back up and tried to move the cramps went away. Close call for sure.

One of my concerns was the flat run back into town and to the finish. I'm not fast on the flats. [Some might argue that I'm not fast anywhere...] I have vivid memories of running the Chuckanut 50k (my first ultra) and going out too hard for the first 10k on the Interurban Trail. I DIED coming back on that darn trail and it was the longest 10k I have ever run. Today I wanted to go slow enough on the beach that I could at least run the same speed coming into town, hopefully a tiny bit faster.

And I did it. Once I hit the pavement I tried to relax and gradually increase my cadence. It happened. Slowly. But in those last three miles I was able to pass another four runners. Absolutely nothing against them but it was a nice confidence booster for me.

Every once in a while I would look back to see if anyone was gaining on me and I didn't see anyone. Until they passed me with less than .25 miles to go. I was just thinking, "the finish has got to be coming up soon..." when this guy sprinted past. And sure enough, as I rounded The Adobe Resort (I didn't know that's what this building was until after the race), there was the finish shoot. Turns out this guy was a local and lives in Yachats. Home course advantage for sure and good for him, that was a nice kick.

Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama



I'll have you know that I took this picture after finishing, after checking into my second hotel, after showering and after having my recovery drink and a piece of pizza. Not only was it warm today it was also very humid and my camera lens was constantly smeared with water and I didn't have anything dry to wipe it with since about mile 10.

Here is James doing what he does so well, greeting EVERY SINGLE RUNNER THAT FINISHES.


And here I am doing what I do well(?). Using hair products. Ha!


I am so excited that I was able to do the following.

  • Fuel pretty darn perfectly. The only thing I could have changed to go faster would have been to be fitter.
  • Be efficient, both at aid stations and while moving. I never stopped going forward, I just slowed down a little a couple of times.
  • Close strong. Flat running is my Achilles heel and this time my pace at the end was faster than my first nine miles.
  • Choose the right gear. My shoes, clothes and even my arm sleeves (it was my first time wearing them) were perfect. Yes.
  • Finish with a smile on my face. Some people smile all the time no matter how hard they are working, I am not one of them. :)
The last thing I'll say is this is a VERY cool use of event shirts. #quiltingforgood


Here are all my pictures and videos.

Nutrition (before)
  • Water
  • Hammer Gel 10 minutes before start
Nutrition (during)
Nutrition (after)

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