Monday, October 20, 2014

Portland Marathon - Round 2

I had high expectations for marathon number four.

In 2012, I ran the Portland Marathon with my friend Cami.  (Read about it here)  Cami had a tough time, and I ended up slowing down and staying with her (totally my choice, and a decision I don't regret).  But I felt good that day, and since then I've always wondered what could have been.

Fast forward to 2013.  My son and I spectated at that year's Portland marathon, cheering his old college roommate (who proposed to his girlfriend at mile 26).  Seeing all those runners streaming by rekindled previous year's memories.  The marathon bug bit hard.  A month later, I was clicking "register" for Portland 2014.

Roger and I in the wee hours prior to start time

What seemed like a good idea at registration time, by late summer became a huge time-sucking obligation.  At first, I had high hopes of taking care of 2012's unfinished business.  I wanted to break my previous fastest marathon time of 4 hours and 30 minutes.  However, by September, I was so tired of running, my training started to flag.  I missed hiking, and began to substitute hikes for training runs.  By the time race day rolled around, I was ready to get this thing over with.

Mill Ends Park - Smallest park in Portland

Early the morning of October 5th, Roger accompanied me into downtown Portland.  I found my designated corral, and began a long wait until the 7 am start.  To pass time, I took advantage of closed streets to investigate Mill Ends Park, Portland's smallest City park, located in a tiny median island in the middle of a normally busy road.

Sunrise over Mt. Hood and Willamette River

And I witnessed a lovely sunrise silhouetting Mt. Hood in stunning shades of orange.  (Too bad I had only my point and shoot camera to capture the moment).

Ready to run a marathon!

Anticipating cold early morning temps, I'd brought a jacket and arm warmers.  But the air was so warm, I was comfortable in short sleeves.  This wasn't a good sign - I was afraid by mid morning things would heat up.  It's no fun to run in hot weather - especially for 26.2 miles.

Inching towards the starting line

My corral started to shuffle towards the starting line, so I bid Roger goodbye, and plunged into the crowd.  It was a high-spirited bunch of people, whooping and cheering.  I got caught up in the revelry.  Crossing under the start banner, I never felt more ready.  When the crowd began to spread out, I let 'er rip.

Marimba band on an overhead pedestrian bridge

The early morning air was still cool and fresh.  My body, rested for most of the past week, was ready to go.  The pack of runners headed south of downtown Portland, then circled back after three miles.  Early on, there was lots of entertainment.  Bands, cheerleaders, singers, and a wonderful marimba band stationed on an overhead pedestrian bridge.

Golden morning light bathes runners

Heading back into downtown, the sun rose above the hills, bathing runners in a lovely golden light.  I tried to capture a few photos on the run, but only a few actually turned out.

Liked this guy's shirt

From the very beginning, I got caught up in the crowd's energy.  Looking at my watch, I ran the first few miles at sub 10-minute mile pace, which is fast for me.  My plan had been to start slow, and then gradually increase my speed.  But at the starting line, all that went out the window.  I was feeling good, and started having visions of beating my previous personal best.  I also knew it was going to get hot later, and wanted to bank some time against a slowdown in the later stages of the race.


Mile 4, I passed back through downtown, and I was surprised to see Roger in the crowd.  He'd come down with a nasty cold the night before, and was feeling lousy when he dropped me off at the start line.  I didn't expect him to hang around!  It was nice to see him one more time before I headed out of downtown, not to return until mile 26.

One of many funny signs

Miles 4 through 11 passed quickly.  There was lots of entertainment along the course, complete with more bands, cheerleaders, and my personal favorites - the pirates.  Miles 11 through 13 routed runners through mixed residential and commercial areas.  Lots of spectators lined the streets, holding funny signs.  One neighborhood group had erected a tent, and offered cups of PBR to runners  ( thanks!)

We ran through some of the more "interesting" parts of town

I passed the half marathon mark with a time of 2:08, which in a marathon, is a fast time for me.  Although I was still feeling good and running well, tiny alarm bells were sounding in my head.  A little voice kept nagging "you'll pay for this fast pace later!"  And the bright morning sun was beginning to heat up the course.  I made the decision to slow down.

Wonderful aid station volunteers

About the time I decided to back off, I noticed a very enthusiastic lady, cheering and smiling.  I love running with upbeat people, and sidled over to her.  We began a conversation.  The woman's name was Leigh, she was from Seattle, and was running her very first marathon.  I began to chat with her about my past experience with this race.  Mile 14, 15, and 16 quickly slipped by, and before we both knew it the St. Johns Bridge came into view.

Military men and women cheering for the runners

The St. Johns Bridge is a very lovely span that crosses the Willamette River.  Running over this bridge was the highlight of my 2012 Portland marathon experience.  But first runners have to climb up a steep on-ramp, the only significant hill of the entire course.

Crossing the St. Johns Bridge

But Leigh and I chatted away the entire climb and we reached the top of that ramp in no time.  Easiest hill I've ever run!  And then it was time to soak in the sights from the bridge deck.  Leigh grabbed my camera and got this great shot of me running towards the St. Johns' Gothic towers.

I tried to reciprocate and get Leigh's photo, but it didn't turn out quite as well.  She's the one in the Seahawk green hat and t-shirt (a diehard fan!)

My buddy Leigh on the St. Johns Bridge

Mile 17 occurred mid-span of our bridge crossing.  As I hit the ground on the opposite side, my quad muscles began to complain.  Hmmm......this wasn't a good sign.  I still had a long ways yet to go.  Somewhere between miles 18 and 19, my legs began to hurt.  My pace, which up until then had been holding steady, slowly began to decrease.  Instead of running, I felt as if I was now shuffling.

Leigh and her brother

Passing by the University of Portland campus, I got an unexpected boost.  My neighbor and morning running partner Penny, materialized out of the crowd, and ran with me a short distance.  It was great to see her and I appreciated the encouragement.  After Penny left, Leigh's brother jumped into the street, and kept us entertained for another mile.

Almost at the finish - and I'm dying!

Leigh and I wound through the neighborhoods surrounding the U of P campus. The people who live here are great marathon supporters, and they were out in force!  Lots of cheering, more funny signs, and some folks even offered food, drink or aimed their sprinklers at the road.  At this stage of the race, very much appreciated by this tired, hurting runner.

Finish line celebration with my new friend Leigh

By now the temps were downright toasty.  The combination of heat, my fast start, and undertraining had caught up to me.  I was dying.  My legs felt like there was no energy left.  I wanted to walk so badly, but Leigh kept egging me on, saying "C'mon! We are not walking!"  I continued on, shuffling alongside my new friend.  Leigh, although not feeling good either, kept up her positive banter.  It helped so much - by then I was starting to feel tired and grumpy (I'm afraid I wasn't great company, it's a wonder Leigh stuck with me!)  As we crossed over the Broadway Bridge, en route to downtown Portland and Mile 25, a fellow runner commented to us: "All this suffering for a lousy t-shirt!" 

My son Cody came to watch

Back into downtown Portland again, the crowds began to thicken.  Spectators cheered loudly.  But I was overheated and beyond tired.  My legs kept shuffling along, but it felt like I was barely moving.  Leigh, on the verge of completing her first marathon, was getting excited.  A half mile from the finish, she began to pull ahead.  I kept her in sight and willed my legs to follow.  The last few blocks were pure agony.  But, finally, the finish line came into view.  With a final burst, I propelled my tired feet over the timing mats.  I was never so happy to be done.

Boy did I earn these!

Leigh and I celebrated with a high five and sweaty hug.  I thanked my new friend for her help, and then we headed towards the crowd to find our families.  Roger and Cody were waiting, and I was so very happy to see them.  I headed home for a well-deserved beer, and a huge slice of cheesecake Cody had made especially for me.

Although I didn't beat my personal best time, I came awfully close.  Despite the dramatic slowdown over the final seven miles, I finished with a time of 4:32:30.  Not too shabby for a fast start, hot day, and slack training.  I owe a lot of this to my new buddy Leigh.  If not for her encouragement in the final miles, I'm sure this time would've been lots slower.  Thanks friend!

Am I ready to run another marathon?  No....I'm quite done for now. 

Time for some fall hikes!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Running Along the Deschutes

Along with hiking and traveling to visit family, this summer I've also been busy preparing for the Portland Marathon.  They say the hard part about running a marathon isn't the race itself, but the enormous amount of training required.  So true!  What seemed like a good idea when I first signed up last fall, morphed into a huge obligation, taking precious time away from hiking and photography activities.

Well-signed trails

Still, I did my best to work in the required training runs around my other stuff.  The weekend I traveled to Bend, after hiking both Friday and Saturday, Sunday was dedicated to a weekly long run.

The mighty Deschutes.with Mt. Bachelor in the background

Lucky for me, Bend is an outdoor enthusiasts playground.  Trails abound throughout town, reaching out into the surrounding plains and foothills.  And I'd heard the trail that followed the Deschutes River was the most scenic of them all.  A perfect place to get my run in!

Yellow vegetation lined the river

The Deschutes River winds through the town of Bend.  Numerous parks and trails line it's banks.  Some areas are very developed, while others are wild and unimproved.

Morning reflections

Because hot temps were predicted for Sunday, I started my run as soon as it was light.  Parking at Riverbend Park, I did a warm-up loop to the north, passing by the Les Schwab Amphitheater and Old Mill District.  The morning chill felt good, and I kept my long sleeve shirt on for most of the first two miles.

Nice wide path

Stopping back at my car for a water break, I ditched the long sleeves, and grabbed my point and shoot camera.  Time to explore the trail south of Riverbend Park. 

A rougher portion of the river

Oh was I in for a treat!  The river bank, lit up by the early morning light, was stunning.  Large yellow-fringed bushes (I have no idea the name) lined the river.  The combination of the yellow vegetation and blue water made for some gorgeous photo ops.  At one point, I even glimpsed a tiny Mt. Bachelor wayyy off in the distance.

Admiring views from the bridge

As I ran south, the trail became narrower, rocky and much more rugged.  The river's placid current was replaced by fast-moving water.  The developed parks and adjacent homes disappeared.  I felt like I was back in wilderness.

A bit of fall color

After a couple of miles, my trail crossed the Deschutes on a high pedestrian bridge, and I headed back on the opposite side.  The closer I traveled towards the park, the more people I began to see on the trail.  There were walkers, runners, dogs, kids, all enjoying a beautiful September morning.  People who live in Bend are so lucky to have this amazing trail network along such a lovely river.

Heading back towards town

I made a couple of loops around the river, trying to get in the required 16 miles.  However, two prior days of hiking were taking their toll.  My body fatigued fast, and my pace became turtle-slow.  After 11 miles, the heat and my growling stomach persuaded me to finish (that and a breakfast burrito was calling my name).

Tall, rocky cliffs

About a mile from my car, I stopped to capture a final photo of the lovely, wild scenery.  A lady walking by generously offered to take my picture.  This is what I look like after running 11 miles on a hot morning.  (Yep, you can tell I need that breakfast burrito!)

A nice lady took my picture

Back at my car, I noticed this sticker on the SUV parked next to me.  Some runners post "13.1" or "26.2" stickers on their cars (indicating they've run a half or full marathon).  But this sticker made me laugh - especially since I'd just finished a run.

This car sticker made me laugh

You're probably wondering when I'm running the Portland Marathon.  Well, I already ran it about a week and a half ago, on October 5th.  I'm working on a recap, and in my next post I'll tell you all the gory details.  :)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Broken Top

I love visiting the Bend area.  It's open Ponderosa pine forests are so different from the Cascade's western side.  There's lots of cool volcanic mountains to climb.  Sunny, dry weather is the norm.  And best of all, my brother Dale lives here.

Broken Top Mountain

Dale loves hiking just as much as I do.  But, with a job and school-age kids, he doesn't log many outdoor miles.  That all changes when his big sis comes to town!

Horrible road to the trailhead

After reading multiple online trip reports of hikes into Broken Top Mountain's crater, I was itching to get up there.  Lucky for me, Dale was an easy sell.

This sign has a "broken top"

Many trails lead into Broken Top, but the shortest most direct route is to depart from the Broken Top Trailhead.  The hike may be easier, but the drive is anything but.  Reaching this trailhead requires a slow slog on a terrible, rocky dirt road.  My brother happens to have an old 4-wheel drive pickup, and loves driving these kind of roads.  With Dale at the helm, we bounced along on the rutted access road.  Although the going was tough, the fantastic mountain views made it bearable.

Fantastic mountain views all along the trail

Reaching road's end, Dale parked his truck amongst the various other large pickups and SUVs.  Hitting the trail, it didn't take long for Broken Top's craggy crater to show it's face.  See the patch of snow in the middle?  That was our destination.

Crossing the canal

Dale and I followed a well-worn path through a bleak field of pumice.  Occasional clumps of stunted trees provided a little break in the open plains.  After a mile, we crossed an irrigation ditch that diverts water from Crater Creek for irrigation far below.  Dale remarked that it was unusual to have such man-made structures in a designated wilderness area.  We both surmised the ditch must've been established first.

Off-trail through the rocks

Because there is no official path to the crater, Dale and I decided to leave the trail here at the irrigation ditch, and follow the creek upstream.  So cross country we went, following this cute little brook flowing from Broken Top's crater.

Broken Top beckons us on

Broken Top's craggy crater walls rose up from the plain like huge castle spires.  It was an impressive sight.  Everything was brown, except for a tiny patch of green surrounding the flowing creek.  I could hardly believe there was still enough snow in the crater to keep it flowing.

Colorful rock bands on the crater wall

I zoomed my camera lens in on the colorful crater walls.  Broken Top is considered a composite volcano, formed from many layers of lava flows over time.  The multicolored stripes indicate different flows - red cinders, yellow ash, and black lava, all having a hand in building this peak.

Peek-a-boo through the trees

Geologists say that Broken Top, like many of the adjacent Cascade peaks, used to be a smooth-sided typical volcanic cone.  But violent eruptions destroyed the mountaintop, hurling 8-foot lava bombs across the area, and burying what is now Bend city limits under 20 to 50 feet of volcanic debris.  Erosion by glaciers added the finishing touch, further defining Broken Top's jagged profile.

Lunch break selfie

Dale and I continued across the rocky, barren plain, still following our little creeklet.  The crater didn't seem to get any closer.  It was nearing noon, and my tummy began to rumble.  We took a short lunch break alongside the flowing water.

More rock climbing...

Then it was up, up, up again.  The terrain got rougher.  We stuck to the creek bank, which was a little bit less rocky.  We could see up ahead a steeper slope that looked to made be entirely of fine sand and rocks.  Our little creek tumbled through the middle, cutting a jagged slash.

Following the glacial melt stream

Reaching the foot of this steeper slope, the going really got tough.  Although it looked like fine sand and ash from afar, up close we discovered the slope was really composed of large rocks.  We had to be careful where we stepped, as many of the rocks were loose and wobbly.  Slogging up this extremely steep slope, our pace ground to a crawl.

Inside the crater

Dale discovered the footing was a bit more stable adjacent to the water.  So we started climbing in the creek bed itself.  We had to watch for slippery rocks, but at least most of them stayed put.  Slowly we pulled ourselves up through the rocky dam.  And the very top kept getting closer...

Woo-hoo! We made it!

And then finally - hooray - we climbed the final steps over the top pitch, and there before us was Broken Top's snow-filled crater.  A wonderful sight indeed!  The crater walls rose above us, like lofty towers, while below the plains and mountains spread out in a glorious panorama.

Tremendous view from the crater

Dale and I enjoyed a quick water and snack break.  Then Dale climbed up through the snow, exploring a bit more of the crater.  I was amazed to see such a large snowfield still lingering into mid-September (especially after such a hot summer).  I struck up a conversation with a friendly father-son team, who'd followed our route, and arrived several minutes after us.

Heading back down

After soaking in the marvelous views we'd worked so hard for, it was time to work our way back down the rocky creekbed.  Descending was muck trickier than climbing.  It was very easy to lose footing and slide in the loose, rocky soil.  I was thankful for my trusty trekking poles.

Lovely Central Oregon scenery

After successfully downclimbing the steep portion of our route, Dale and I decided to strike out directly across the trailless plain.  We could see ahead to our destination, and knew as long we continued downhill, we'd eventually reach our original trail.  Besides, I had my gps, and if all else failed, I could point us toward the trailhead.

We ended up following an old jeep track through the scrubby pumice plain.  A nearly snowless Mt. Bachelor anchored the horizon.  It was our beacon, guiding us back to the trail, and Dale's truck.

Mt. Bachelor looms big on the horizon

Upon completion of a successful hike, there was just one thing left to do.  After bumping back down that dusty, terrible road (we actually saw someone pulling a camping trailer up it!), Dale and I rewarded ourselves with a cold beer at one of Bend's fabulous breweries.

The area around Broken Top is wonderfully scenic.  It's definitely going on my "must explore further" list for next summer.  And hopefully Dale will join me again.

Stats for the day:  5 miles round-trip, about 1000' of elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday.