Tagged ‘ultra running‘

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.


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 →

All Paths Lead Nowhere

In the Fall of 2006, I was a freshman at Reed College. I though that I wanted to be a philosophy major, and despite a pronounced lack of experience, I considered myself a competent outdoorsman. With ambition blind to my own abilities, I talked two dorm friends into attempting the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood. At 41 miles in length, and with significant elevation gain, Outside Magazine had hooked me by calling it “the hardest day-hike in America”.

At that time, my idea of lightweight was an underloaded 60L pack, with a small tent, and only one (!) stove for the 3 of us. We didn’t plan to bivy, but goddammit, we were prepared to if it came down to it. And it did. As Yvon Chouinard famously said, if you bring bivy gear, you will bivy. A scant eight miles into the loop, under a drizzle slowly turning to early October snow, we were unable to find the continuation of the trail after it crossed Clark Canyon, a glacial moraine divided by a snowmelt river. We not only bivied there in the tent for a few hours, but subsequently retreated to the nearby ski resort, Mt Hood Meadows, where we spent hours in the abandoned lodge drying our clothing with hand dryers and cooking oatmeal on the floor.

Newton Creek

The Newton Creek trail traces the precipitous edge of the moraine.

While I still have a considerable amount to learn about mountain travel, it’s fun to look back at myself and see, if nothing else, the power of unbridled enthusiasm, and to appreciate the experiences that I’ve had since that which have changed my perspective and my competency in the mountains. Read on →

No Excuses Interview Series: Ethan Linck

The No Excuses Interview Series explores the approaches and personalities of athletes who are inspiring in both the quality and consistency of their achievements. They’re real people doing great things. What they do, you can too, if you want it.

Ethan Linck chasing powder on Mt Hood.For part two of the no excuses interview series, we’re joined by Ethan Linck, a West-coast Vermont transplant, mountain runner, and inspiring friend.


Ethan Linck is best known in the Pacific Northwest endurance community for setting the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for an unsupported run around Mt Rainier’s Wonderland Trail (93 miles, over 22,000′ of climbing) last year in 27 hours and 19 minutes.

He has also run around Mt St helens, Mt Hood, the Three Sisters, and placed in several PNW trail races and ultras. Most impressively, he accomplished all of this while a biology student at Reed College. His resume is impressive, and he catalogs his adventures and observations on his blog Beyond the Ranges

A self-described would-be naturalist, he also “nurtures particular interests in the ecology of New Guinea and Melanesia, mountain running, and backcountry skiing. He’s currently spending the winter in Gothic, Colorado”. He joins us by email to talk about what goes into his big endurance efforts,where his naturalism and athletics meet.
Read on →

Trail Factor 50K Trail Run Recap

La Sportiva Anakonda

It only took 48 hours for these shoes to dry in the sunshine.

Two days ago, I did a bad thing to my legs.  At least, that’s what they’re telling me today.  Not that I’ve stretched or anything, but to bend and tie my shoes is a trial, and to descend stairs is another thing entirely. Two months back, I wrote about a training schedule for a 50k trail run; I hurt now because of that run.

I was lured into this maniacal plan by my friend Alex Ragus, who suggested that we train for it together.  For the record, he did register, but he also bailed a few weeks before the race, having been otherwise occupied and not having trained in the slightest.  In spite of Alex backing out, training for the race became a positive experience for me.  While training I discovered that there’s just an ineffable pleasure to traveling by foot over great distances.

Muddy feet

Only when the course is truly muddy does the dirt work its way to the toes.

The morning of the race, I was grumpy, but I had a plan.  I was grumpy because it was the end of a long process.  Not to get into any cliché hippy nonsense or anything, but these days I’m slowly discovering a newfound patience that lets me tackle bigger projects, and that patience is pretty satisfying.  Reaching the end of the road, by comparison  doesn’t hold a lot of learning potential.   Read on →

CRG Running and First Ultra: Photo TR

These past few weeks have been crazy.  Nevertheless, I’ve been trying to stick to sneaking in a few longs runs each week to prepare for the 50k that I signed up for months ago and which now looms in the near future.  The Columbia River Gorge is a trail-runner’s paradise, hiding deep gorges full of waterfalls which within a few miles provide access to miles of trail through Mt Hood National Forest. Early in the last week I took a solo trip up Larch Mountain, a local classic, to see where the snow line was hiding, and then just yesterday, I made it out with Ethan for a run up Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake, a run which marks my first Ultra-distance outing.

Multnomah – Larch Mountain – Oneonta Gorge


Parking: Multnomah Falls Parking Area, Oregon Gorge exit 28, no fee required, busy on weekends and sunny weekdays.

TH: Bathrooms, food, and water available

Stats: 17 miles, ~4200′ vertical gained.  A whopper of a hill right up front with a long and gradual down to follow.

Time: 3:49, with a fair bit of time lost up running around in the snow.

Larch Mountain inset, click for full map (big file).

Larch Mountain inset, click for full map (big file).

Read on →

Training for a 50k Trail Run

Forest Park Trail Panorama

(Click to make me big)

For those who don’t know me personally, let me fill you in: I’m too busy these days.  I’m applying to medical school this summer, which means working 20 hours a week in one hospital, volunteering one day in another, studying organic chemistry, studying for the MCAT entrance exam, preparing application materials, and generally just taking on too much.  It’s a passing fad that will start to wind down in June once applications are in and school is done, but for now, I have to suck it up and do less of all of the things that I love to do, like climbing and skiing. It’s sad to say, but they’re just more involved sports that require weather coordination and advanced planning, which makes them hard to fit into an ever-morphing schedule.

LaSportiva Crosslite 1.0

This mind and body though, they rest for no schedule.  I’ve written before about the need to get outside and move.  It’s primal, and necessary, and I’d implode without an outlet.  Moreover, I like to dream big and I like to have trips and such to look forward to so that even in the darkest, busiest days of city gloom, I know that escape is looming. When I ruminated on my schedule with these needs in mind, an idea came to the fore: running.

BORING.  I can hear you say it.  But there’s something undeniably satisfying in the ability to cover run long distances.  Most people think that you’re crazy to run 13 miles, or that this is some superhuman feat.  Thankfully, we’re not most people. With a plan, I think that it’s reasonable for any athletic person to train for and run a 50k.  So that’s what I’m doing. Read on →