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Feb 16

2017

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Shorts: Hydrating for Running

Hydration can be crucial to happiness. But all things should be taken in moderation.

Seated at my computer in the ICU, I chuckled out loud while reading an interview with Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg. When the nurse next to me asked what was so funny, I explained that this famous endurance couple clearly dealt with the same controversy as do Taylor and I: do you need to bring food and water with you to run or ski, and if so, how much? Kilian and I are on the same page: likely not, and if so, not much.  Emelie (and Taylor) say:

“He doesn’t like to eat when he is out! I take some food with me when I am out longer, like eight hours. And sometimes I wish that Kilian had some. I have been telling him that why can’t he have some chocolate in his backpack for me. Just in case. But it has not happened so far. So, I often take my own.”

Today I want to briefly address hydration for running, and my thoughts on the matter are governed by two observations. First, most people begin their workout dehydrated. Second, most people drink far too much during exercise.  I’ll add the caveat that you have to figure out what works for you, and you should be safe about it, but that said, here are some thoughts to chew on and a plan to be more effective with your hydration.  Read on →

Sep 22

2016

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Complete Enchantments Loop, Car to Car

Some days I just feel lazy. Like lead, but with more natural affinity for a sofa. This afflicts me often, or on most days even. Like there just isn’t enough coffee in the world to get me going. But life doesn’t happen if you don’t make it happen. I don’t want memories of my sofa. I want to feel sore and tired and anything but stagnant.

Prussik peak, pristine snowmelt, and in a photo, why this 'run' is worth running.

Prussik peak, pristine snowmelt, and in a photo, why this ‘run’ is worth running.

That’s how I found myself driving out of Portland at 5 am on the way to Leavenworth, Washington. I’ve been talking for years about wanting to run the classic Enchantments Loop through what is certainly one of the most beautiful places in Washington, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I was busy.

This is the kind of immersive environment that can get me off of the sofa. At least, it can sometimes.

Asgard pass. Dragontail peak. This is the kind of immersive environment that can get me off of the sofa. At least, sometimes.

Inconvenience or not, I wanted to make it happen this year, and I wanted to do it right. As I see it, it’s not a loop if the beginning and the end aren’t in the same place. Lots of folks do this run from the Stuart Lake trailhead to the Snow Lakes trailhead and spare themselves the gap by shuttling cars. That’s the most bang for the buck, but if you’re driving almost five hours to get to the damn place you might as well do it right. Run the road. Make it happen.

Topo for the full enchantments loop. I recommend beginning at Snow Lakes trailhead and going CCW, running the road early and taking the trail itself in a generally downhill direction.

Topo for the full enchantments loop. I recommend beginning at Snow Lakes trailhead and going CCW, running the road early and taking the trail itself in a generally downhill direction.

On account of the long drive, I got a late start. Still, the road went quickly. It was hotter, far hotter, than I had expected. The eightish miles from car to trailhead took a bit over an hour and twenty minutes but a startling 60 oz of water. All of my electrolyte tabs were consumed, and I was a bit concerned.

Running up the forest road was a dusty affair. Thankfully, most cars slowed down to avoid dusting me. This one didn't.

Running up the forest road was a dusty affair. Thankfully, most cars slowed down to avoid dusting me. This one didn’t.

After a crucial toilet stop at the trailhead, the welcome shade of the forest singletrack took over. From Stuart lake trailhead to the Colchuck lake turnoff went quickly. Mostly runnable, some power hiking. After the turnoff, it’s a rooted mess that requires selective walking.

First views towards Mt Stuart climbing towards Colchuck lake.

First views towards Mt Stuart climbing towards Colchuck lake. Also, the first of many granite slabs.

I made good time to Colchuck lake, passing a woman who started telling her friend how this time last year she “was passed by some guy who looked just like that and they were running up Mt St Helens“. I had a good laugh to myself, and started cramping. First, my toes cramped, going around Colchuck lake. That was a new one, but it turns out you can run while your toes cramp.

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Asgard pass, shadowed by Dragontail peak, rises a grossly foreshortened 2000 feet above Colchuck lake.

Then came Asgard pass. It’s a cool two thousand feet in one mile of switchbacking scree dirt. My calves started cramping. As I power-hiked into the cold wind on top of the pass my watch read 3:30 and I was happy to have the climbing behind me.

The enchantments “core”, as the flat-ish four-mile stretch through the alpine plateau is called, is gorgeous. Gorgeous like the girl you can’t help but ask her to marry you a day earlier than planned. Problem is, you don’t get to look at it, if you like staying upright.

Dragontail peak from the rear. This shot, though not a great photo, accurately captures the texture of the enchantments core.

Dragontail peak from the rear. This shot, though not a great photo, accurately captures the texture of the enchantments core.

The running in the core is rough. Smooth trails are marred by the addition of granite boulders to pave the way so backpackers don’t have to get their leather hikers muddy. The only time that you get to look around is if you stop, which I couldn’t because I’d cramp, or when running down one of the many granite rock ramps that dot the route.

Hikers crossing a small patch of snow through the core area.

Hikers crossing a small patch of snow through the core area.

Navigation here is oddly challenging for such a well-traveled route. The problem is, people are everywhere, and they’ve made cairns and false paths this way and that. I’m sure it works if you’re going slowly and don’t care if you get side-tracked, but was on a mission. Thankfully, unlike my last trip through the enchantments, when my partner and I struggled to find the route out of the range, I found the exit near the mouth of Lake Vivianne without mishap.

Lake Vivianne and the iconic Prussik Peak. Knowing that the descent trail begins at the mouth of lake Vivianne is probably the single most crucial navigation detail for this trip.

Lake Vivianne and the iconic Prussik Peak. Knowing that the descent trail begins at the mouth of lake Vivianne is probably the single most crucial navigation detail for this trip.

Now this is a trail! Occasional cairns mark a zig-zagging route down steep rock slabs with sometimes startling exposure. I’m surprised that the forest service puts this one on the map, because it’s definitely not a wise choice for the typically unstable and overladen REI hiker.

'Trail' along the Vivianne slabs. Here, and only here, are cairns actually useful and accurate.

‘Trail’ along the Vivianne slabs. Here, and only here, are cairns actually useful and accurate.

Never mind that, they manage it anyways, and they were polite about letting me pass. I ran, stepped, climbed, and hobbled down. Down, down, down, 6500 feet downhill in one go. Connective tissue was tested and blissfully held true. My quads cramped, which drove me crazy because I never get cramps, so I ate all of my sodium-containing foods as quickly as possible.

Another bad photo, but this time of the typical descending trail beyond the Vivianne slabs: prominent roots, dotted with rocks, and startlingly steep.

Another bad photo, but this time of the typical descending trail beyond the Vivianne slabs: prominent roots, dotted with rocks, and startlingly steep.

The finish is monotonous. There are innumerable switchbacks, and the trail is just rough enough to bite you if your mind strays. I was focused, because I’m getting old hand at this kind of thing. Namely, my car had a cooler full of beer and New Seasons’s banana cake, which is heaven after a long run. Also, typically, I got fixated on finishing before a nice round-numbered time, so I kicked it down those switchbacks as quickly as I could manage and chugged into the parking lot with a moving time of 6:28:15, bumped irritatingly to an elapsed time of 6:31:59 by a bathroom stop at the Stuart lake trailhead.

Not to rest long, I savored a quick lager and some banana cake with my feet in Icicle creek before grabbing an obligatory Heidelburger and heading for home. By sunset, I was back to Mt Hood, kicking up my feet and heating up the sauna.

The spoils of war.

The spoils of war.

Sometimes, I just have to do it, or dammit, it’ll never get done.


Support Mountain Lessons and hook yourself up with a pair of shoes that were built for miles of rough descending, the Salomon S-Lab Wings.

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Sep 04

2016

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Running Around Broken Top

Man, what a hiatus. This summer has been a rough one. I’ve been inside, doing the hard work of becoming a doctor by undergoing the rights of passage called Surgery and Internal Medicine. It’s a necessary sacrifice, but it hasn’t been easy to watch summer slide by without me.

Now, finally, I’m on to lighter stuff. Two-day weekends. In to the hospital after sunrise and out before dark. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. And now that it’s quickly becoming fall, it’s time for some long runs.

I’ve been mulling over the Broken Top loop for a while now. It’s a great distance (~27 mi) in the great high country above Bend, OR. It’s part desert, part alpine, and part Ponderosa forest. The smells are amazing. This weekend, Taylor was going to go backpacking with a friend, so I headed out along to get this thing done.

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In the first quarter mile, a mountain lion track. That’ll put some energy in your step.

Running Around Broken Top

The most direct way to begin the loop is at the Three Creek Meadow trailhead on the Northeast side of the mountain, about a 30 minute drive from Sisters, OR. I opted to go clockwise, as that put the uncertain navigation up front, and I knew from scrambling around near Broken Top with Taylor a few weeks ago that the second half of the loop would be prettier this way.

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Overview map of the Broken Top loop. (PDF) (Zoomable Map).

Read on →

Sep 23

2015

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Breckenridge Crest Half Marathon

The “Breck Crest”  is a 20-year Breckenridge, Colorado footrace tradition described as “quintessential Breckenridge” by race director Jeff Westcott.  The marathon and half-marathon courses bring racers just beneath the peaks of the 10-Mile Range–the town’s stunning backdrop and setting of the famed Breckenridge Ski Resort–before descending dirt road through the resort boundaries. I opted for the shorter distance because “up & downs,” as I like to call them, have become somewhat my specialty. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t raced much else.

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Sep 21

2015

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Mt St Helens Worm Flows Speed Attempt

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Peter, getting warmed up in his patented shirtless-w/ultra-vest getup.

With Mountain Lessons contributor Peter Innes making his rounds in the Pacific Northwest before retiring to Gothic, CO for the winter, some shennanigans were in order.

Peter met Taylor and I out in Bend, where I was maximizing my limited recreation time by staying at a ranch home Airbnb and shredding some desert dust. We had a good warmup day riding bouncy bikes from Mt Bachelor to Bend along the Mrazek trail, and then set our sights for something dumber.

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Only the beginning of the uneven ground.

Read on →

Sep 01

2015

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Kendall Mountain Run Recap

By mid July it was high time to put my summer training to the test. As chance would have it, my dad had notified me he’d be visiting Colorado with two friends to race the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton on July 18th. He suggested I race as well–I’d get to see a new part of Colorado, eat good food and drink good beer (for free), race against some serious competition, and (most importantly!) get to spend time with my father. Read on →

Jul 30

2015

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Living, Working, and Running at 9,500′

I’ve been spending the summer living and working at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL, pronounced “rumble”) in Gothic, CO. Life is good. First of all, I get to pursue my love for ecology while being immersed in an inspiring community of scientists and students. Also, I get to run in the mountains every day. Read on →

Apr 23

2015

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Columbia River Gorge: Angel’s Rest to Larch Mt

Spring is in full swing, and that means at least two things:

Trails across the Pacific Northwest are drying and calling out to runners weary of winter mud and wet pavement.

Volcanoes are basking under a hot sun and shine like voluminous diamonds in the eyes of climbers and skiers alike.

Running and skiing typically occupy distinct seasons, but springtime in the Northwest harbors ideal conditions for both. I took advantage of this duality last weekend with some friends of mine. The plan was to climb and ski Mt. Adams on Sunday. The only complication was that Ethan and Richard were racing the Yakima 50k on Saturday, which boasts 10,000′ of climbing. Thus, they demanded I run at least 20 miles and 4000′ on Saturday to even the exhaustion score. Despite a relative lack of fitness for long distances and vert, I consented and drove to the Columbia River Gorge for a long run amidst its new verdure.


INFO

Parking/TH: Angel’s Rest Trailhead. Oregon Gorge exit 28. No restrooms at TH. Very busy on sunny weekend days. Go during the week or early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Map: Angel’s Rest to Larch Mt USGS (trail in red). Incomplete Strava track here.

Stats: 22+ miles, 6500′ vertical. Bring water and food. Water refills available from streams/springs after Devil’s Rest (drink at your own risk).


The journey begins with a long and moderately steep climb to Angel’s Rest. The trail was incredibly crowded up to this point, and I did my best to politely weave past hikers. As a runner it’s easy to get annoyed by crowds, but it’s important to remember that the trail belongs to everyone. Plus, it was great to see so many people being active and connecting with nature. If the human race is to make any progress in preserving the integrity of the natural systems upon which we ultimately depend, I believe this is the first step.

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Pahto (Mt. Adams) shines bright on the horizon. The next day I would be standing atop her flat head.

Read on →

Mar 03

2015

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Glacier Peak In-a-day Attempt

Saturday was a flash flood that followed a week and a half of severe adventure drought. After spending all of last weekend in the library, Ethan asked me if I wanted to attempt to climb and ski Glacier Peak in a day with him and Richard Kresser the following weekend. Will Thomas, a friend of Richard’s, had attempted the route solo a week before only to turn around 2000′ below the summit. Will suggested an earlier start than his would likely put us at the top. I said yes, mostly out of blind ambition. Although I knew it was going to be a long day, at the time I didn’t consider the specifics of the suffering.

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Suffering can be beautiful.

Ethan thought a midnight start “had a nice ring to it”, so we forewent sleep and found ourselves at the North Fork Sauk Trailhead when the clock struck 12. Twenty minutes later we were jogging down the trail by headlamp with packs and skis on our back. When Richard took off down the trail, I thought he was having a laugh, employing a short-lived tactic to wake the body up, but nope, he kept jogging. Ethan shuffled in behind Richard and I kept up as best I could. A glance left or right illuminated five-hundred-year-old cedars and firs towering over us in the darkness. I thought of my friends partying in Portland and was struck by the absurdity of running through an old growth forest at night with skis on my back. Read on →

Sep 29

2014

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Running Around Mt Hood: The Timberline Trail

The first painless run after an injury is a startling joy, a cautious joy.

“Can I do this? Will the pain come back? Am I pushing it too soon? I have to push it sometime, might as well be now.”

When the pain doesn’t come back, all of the runs that I’ve spent nursing the stinging knee quickly fade from memory. The coddling, the careful steps, the painfully slow descents, they all get shelved. Finally, without pain, I can hurtle through the woods without thinking about each step.

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Heading off into the morning (Photo: Siggi)

After pacing Ethan at the Pine to Palm 100, my IT band pain had returned. Why exactly, it’s hard to say, but even with careful tending and strategic resting, I was not feeling really confident this past week that I could pull off a long run without the pain rearing its head and shutting me down. I was training and planning for the last two months, preparing to run around Mt Hood, and now my knee was going to make me wait for next season.

Still, it was fall break. The weather was perfect. And, improbably, I had a partner.

Sigurþór Einar Halldórsson, or Siggi as we call him, is an Icelandic idiot who is also dumb enough to enjoy running long distances for no reason. He caught wind last week that I might have something up my sleeve, so I told him to pack his shoes, and when I decided to give it a go, he was ready and willing.

Read on →