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Running to Goat Lake.

13 June 2018

On Saturday, BB and I drove for two hours from Seattle to the Goat Lake/Elliot Creek trailhead off of the Mountain Loop Highway. If you’re going to do it, I recommend driving a high-clearance car. After a while, MLH becomes a gravel road that’s pitted and pocked with ruts and potholes. You don’t need a jeep, my Crosstrek was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend just a regular sedan.

The parking area had a sign up that warned of an aggressive bear at the campground by the lake. BB and I have started carrying bear spray as a defensive measure, and I wore a bell to keep from surprising any forest denizens. From the trailhead to the lake is just more than five miles, and has about 1600 feet of gain. So modest compared to some recent runs. But it had a lot of stream crossings and some very technical spots. We also had to clamber over some large rotted trees that had fallen across the path.

At about four miles in, there’s a rootball stuck out of the ground with an orange plastic tie on it. If you detour to the right, and go about 100 yards, you get to a beautiful rapids/waterfall. Warning though, the water is very cold. It’s basically glacier melt, so be careful. The rocks are slippery. But it’s beautiful.

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From there it’s about another mile of semi-steep switchbacks up to Goat Lake. The lake is one of the more picturesque I’ve been to, but sadly it was too cold and wet to linger much. As soon as we stopped I started shivering; I get really warm when I run and then really cold when I stop. But the lake was beautiful even with low clouds and fog.

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Overall, it was about 10.5 miles for a “loop”, consisting of the upper and lower Elliot Creek trails, and then the unified switchbacks up to the lake. A beautiful run, not to tough, and between the bell and the few other people we saw, we didn’t see any bears or other wildlife except for a lot of birds.

It was a great hike/run that I’d definitely recommend to anyone who can scramble over a few rocks and trees.

Race Report: Coeur d’Alene.

29 May 2018

Well, over Memorial Day weekend, BB and I drove out to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to run a half-marathon. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, after all the running I’ve been doing. Running in Seattle is a lot different from running in ECC. The hills here are B A N A N A S, and as a result I am stronger and fitter than ever. I’m also doing more distance than I have routinely done in the past, even while marathon training. Harder workouts. More time on my feet.

And this weekend it paid off. Though I’m finding myself feeling oddly disappointed too. But let me describe the race first. First of all, Lake Coeur d’Alene is staggeringly beautiful. Just a jewel in the heart of the foothills to the Rocky Mountains, and the weather this weekend was mesmerizing. Cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon, sunny, crisp, and all around delightful. We got in Saturday morning, and wandered about the charming, hipsterish idyll that is CDA. Good coffee, great art, cute little local shops and services. LakeCDA.JPG

The race began at 0700. It was sunny and about 54 degrees. I’d have loved a bit of overcast skies, but I wore sunscreen. BB and I went out together, as we always do for half-marathons. We did our first mile at 8:38, which would be our fastest for the race. But we didn’t exactly slow throughout. The next two miles I deliberately held back a little bit, in order to save some for later in the race.

Mile 4 had a hill. About a half mile long, and about 150 feet of gain, that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re trying to set a PR, it’s a lot of work. It was also on a curve, and the road was steeply graded to allow water runoff. The result was running with my left leg an inch or two higher than my right, which caused my IT band on the left side to start singing. But we made a 9:49 pace up the hill, even with a shoe-tying stop!

The mile down the hill we did at 8:40, and I was feeling good about my paces. It was around the halfway mark that I figured I wasn’t going to get below an average of 9:00 min/mi, but that I also figured if I could maintain what I was doing that a new personal record was definitely in the cards for the day. I was working very hard, and in a decent amount of pain. But I felt like I had the legs and the lungs to break 1:59:42.

Mile 7-8 was after the turnaround, and back up the hill. It is a longer but shallower hill going the opposite direction, and we managed a 9:20 pace up it. BB was stronger than me all day, but I’d at least managed my bladder and hydration well. I didn’t need to stop to pee at all. I should have had more calories though. I ran the race on 4 Clif shot bloks (133 calories total) and three Skratch chews, for another 60 maybe. I should have probably had another 100 calories.

Nevertheless, as we came down the hill and into the homestretch, I felt like I was going to succeed at my new PR. But I was feeling frustrated too, because I felt like it ought to be easier. I’ve been training so hard, I was really hoping that breaking 9:00 would be “easy” and that I’d feel like I was flying the whole way. Probably a ridiculous expectation from the start. After all, CDA is at about 2200′ of elevation. That’s not a lot, but it’s enough to reduce your maximum oxygen consumption by 5-7%.

So, maybe on a good day at sea level I’d break 9 min. Hard to say. What I know is that despite suffering and fighting and leaving every last drop of energy I had on the course, I ran through the finish line, hand in hand with BB as usual, with a brand new personal record of 1:59:10.

I worked as hard as I could, and gave everything I had, and I took 32 seconds off of my personal record for the half-marathon. I did it on a course with a couple big hills, and at higher altitude than I’m used to training in. The last couple of miles were constant pain and I had to dial it back just a bit, turning in 9:26, 9:05, and 9:11 for the last three miles. But I had a good kick for the final tenth. Overall, my pace was 9:03 min/mi.

That’s a reduction of about 5 seconds per mile from my previous PR, more than two years ago. 5 seconds per mile may not sound like a lot, but it represents a noticeable change in effort when running. I wish I’d gotten another three seconds per mile out of myself. But I still have a goal to pursue at the half-marathon distance, I guess. That’s a good thing.

On the way home from CDA, we went a couple hundred miles out of the way to take highway 20 across the North Cascades. It was as beautiful as you’d expect it to be:

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And on we go!

 

Race Weekend!

25 May 2018

I’ve been at my new job for three months now. I really like it. I’m happy, I’m productive, and I like my team. We’re doing great work and moving fast on a bunch of fronts. It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m thrilled to see everything coming together. My boss is already talking about a promotion and additional responsibility for me. But I want to keep my head in the now.

My ultramarathon training has been coming along nicely too. May was my second 100+ mile month, consecutive with April. I have four more running days in May, over which I expect to do about 30 miles. I’ll have averaged about 32 miles per week, though my elevation gain has dropped a bit from April. That’s fine. Plenty of time to get the vertical miles in.

I’ve been training on long slow grades to try to improve my ability to run up hills. In the past two weeks I’ve run the mile from the lake up to my house at least eight times. It’s a 240′ climb in a tiny bit less than a mile. That’s about a 5.5% grade. Steep enough to be a challenge, but shallow enough that it’s reasonable to run it, not hike it. I’ve been able to average about a 10:15 pace coming up the hill. That feels really good to me.

This weekend, BB and I will be in Coeur d’Alene to run the half-marathon. It’s a flat, scenic road race. I feel like if everything comes together and we feel good, there’s a good shot that we can set new personal records. We’re both in really good condition at the moment. BB set a HUGE PR at her last 10km race, a full minute and a half faster than my PR at that distance from two years ago.

Yesterday I ran a tempo 10km in 54:39. It was really hard work. But it was also 68 degrees and I was a bit dehydrated. I’m hoping the race, which is expected to start at 50 degrees – and for which I will manage my hydration better – will be an easier effort at roughly the same pace. If it isn’t, it isn’t. Coeur d’Alene is also up at 2500′ of altitude. I don’t know how that will affect a sea-level runner like me. Maybe a lot. Maybe not at all.

I’m hoping for a PR because I feel fit and strong. But everything has to go really well to get a PR. I have to manage my hydration in a way that lets me run strong but not have to stop to pee. I have to sleep well. I have to fuel right both the day before and the morning of. And BB has to have the same good fortunes, because we run together. And that’s more important.

But I can run almost 20 seconds per mile slower than yesterday, and still PR the race, if I can keep it up a little more than twice as long. I think I have a chance. Here’s to fine fortune and strong legs.

A Season of Grief.

21 May 2018

It has been nearly two months since my father died, and his funeral and memorial are now over. The memorial was lovely, and we saw family in from all over the country. Several cousins I haven’t seen since childhood attended and it was good to see everyone. I’m finally ready for this to be over though, and return to my regular life. My father is gone. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, and what sudden paroxysms of grief and guilt and loss and sadness are likely to arise. But I know they will come.

I was afforded the honor of giving the eulogy. I thought about it for weeks, and jotted down notes from time to time. In the end I didn’t know what to say and just spoke. I told stories, and focused on the things my father did well. Teaching me to play chess. To swim. To take time for pleasure in life.

I am doing well and my life is good. I have had little to say here recently. Perhaps I’m done.

A Few Trail Pictures.

4 May 2018

Our trail running has been wonderful the past few weekends. The views cannot be captured in pictures, but I’ve tried anyway. The last few weeks have taken us to Wallace Lake, Rattlesnake Ridge, and Poo Poo Point. The views around the Pacific Northwest mountains are staggering, and we’ve only just touched the low and close places. As summer wears on, we’ll be able to get to more remote places and see more amazing things in deeper wilderness.

Here are some panoramas I’ve taken recently:

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The above two are from Rattlesnake Ridge, and the one below was from the Chirico Trail, also known as Poo Poo Point, on Tiger Mountain.

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There are some truly amazing places we’re still planning. And I’m sure there are a bunch we’ll just discover as time goes by by accident. Sunday we’re planning 12 miles and 2700′ of gain up Granite Lakes trail. I’m excited even if there’s expected to still be a bit of snow on the ground. It’s been warm the past week so I’m hopeful a lot will be melted.

But we’ll get there regardless. 12 road miles Saturday, a new tattoo, dinner with new friends, and then a hard trail run to a remote lake Sunday. It’s shaping up to be a good weekend.

A New Standard.

23 April 2018

This weekend was a good one for fitness. Saturday, I took my niece out for her first ever race. She’s 14, and a natural athlete. She hadn’t trained assiduously, but she was determined and dogged. I was impressed with how much grit she showed. We ran 10km around Lake Union, in Seattle, in the Oiselle Tenacious Ten. We ran step for step, and she WON her age group. I was so proud of her.

I was also super proud of BB, who set a new PR, under 52 minutes. So she’s now beaten my PR at that distance by 1:10. She’s been training hard, as have I, and it’s exciting to see it all pay off. I ran a 55:14, which makes me quite happy. It’s not near my PR, but it was an 8:53 pace, which is a really stellar performance as far as I’m concerned. I was moving hard the whole way while talking to my niece and encouraging her.

Then, Sunday, we did something rather stupid. We went out for a 10.7 mile hike/run on Tiger Mountain with more than 4200′ of gain. There was one 2.4 mile stretch where the MEAN incline was like 16.5%. It took us a long time. It was painful, especially after the hard run the day before. And it was beyond anything we’d done before by 2000′.

In the not-quite-a-month since I signed up for the ultramarathon, I’ve run 108 miles with 15,000′ of gain. That’s halfway up Mt. Everest. The actual race itself is 31.1 miles and 7,500′. I’ve run 87 miles in April and hope to make it 100. Though I have a trip next week that may make that a touch more challenging.

Trails are without doubt an entirely different world from road running. Slower, harder. More of a run/hike combo than actually running. The vertical distance we are doing is a genuine challenge that’s changing my body and my fitness dramatically. I have discovered little muscles in my butt and legs that I never knew I had. Everything hurts. But this is going to be a massive accomplishment and I’m excited to take it on.

My goal is to finish a Mount Everest (29,029′) by the end of June, which right now feels very, very doable. I’m getting there. Eventually, I’m getting there.

Blood Don’t Lie.

19 April 2018

Lots of athletes use the phrase “blood don’t lie” to mean we may be feeling good or bad, but blood tests will tell you the truth about where your health is, and how you are improving or falling backward. Yesterday I visited my new primary care clinic, and had a history and physical, along with a bunch of blood tests.

As many of my longtime readers know, my number one fitness goal, the one that casts the long shadow over all the others, is “Don’t Get Diabetes”. I have the insulin resistance. I’ve had some troubling A1c scores in the past. And the only reason I’m not diabetic is that I fundamentally treat myself like I’m diabetic.

I also wanted to ask the provider about my lingering knee issues, a lump on my thumb, and a new issue with my foot. But mostly, I wanted those blood tests to see where I am with my metabolic control. I work like a dog at it, and I want to make sure that I’m seeing the results.

So the results: my A1c, which measures long-term blood glucose control over about a three month period, was 5.3. That’s stellar. Not even prediabetic. The number I was terrified of was my post-prandial blood glucose. That’s just my current blood sugar after a meal. It was 118. Again, stellar. Based on my glucose results, I am controlling and managing my risk of developing diabetes very well.

My cholesterol was 197, with an LDL of 121. Both normal. HDL of 53. Good. Blood Pressure is great. My diastolic was a little high for me, at 80, which is the top of the normal range, but I’ve had repeated measures in the high 60s recently so I’m not worried. BP varies rapidly. My resting pulse was down in the mid 40s.

So, the work I’ve been doing – and I know I’ve been writing less, but I haven’t been working less, has been paying off. I feel strong. I feel capable. And blood don’t lie: I’m in great health. Now if only that knee would ease up.