"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Monday, July 25, 2011

Go 'head, chase waterfalls

In Oregon...

I gave myself plenty of time to recover from my long run by taking Monday morning off, then
planning to do an easy 10 in the afternoon, mainly on the Wildwood Trail in Forest and Wash
ington parks. I had covered a bit of it on Saturday morning, but I wanted to see a little more, so I ran up Cornell Drive to about five miles into the trail, then started climbing. As the Fox can attest, they are some long climbs, though heading south I had some steep ones near the Pittock Mansion. I retraced my steps from Satur
day morning and kept going, well over an hour at this point. Then the trail just kind of stopped at the edge of a parking lot. I ran around it trying to figure out where I was, and the only major road I could find heading anywhere was a highway, so I backtracked until I found Kingston Road. I pretty much let loose down 2.5 miles of hill, running 6:00 pace as it turned out for a relatively relaxed run, which gives you an idea how gentle but constant the hill was. I ended up running 1:53, which I gave myself credit for 16 miles, definitely more than I wanted. (Photo by Jennifer Wallace)

I wanted to reverse most of the trail that I had done, so I climbed Kingston until I hit the Wildwood Trail again, then headed out to Cornell Road. I wanted to keep going, but a nagging sense of prudence convinced me to stop.

Given my 2 pm flight home Friday, I could maximize my use of a rental car by picking it up at noon Wednesday, so I ran a short track workout at Lincoln High School, alma mater of renowned miler Jim Grelle. I was a bit dehydrated, and the sun was direct for the first time I had been in Oregon, but it was still much cooler than it would have been in Virginia. I initially planned to do 12-16x400, but after the first, in 75, I knew that would be a tall order, given how thirsty I already was. I ended up doing eight, running a second faster on each subsequent 400, with 200 recovery. I then turned my attention to the row of hurdles that was just waiting for me to use for HMDs.

I picked up my rental car and headed south to Cottage Grove, past Eugene. My plan was to stop in Eugene to get a photo of the balcony at the University of Oregon's McArthur Court for Craig, since he loves Without Limits so much, particularly when the girls invite Pre to a Three Dog Night concert. Then I would head to the trail Steve, Molz and Benford chronicled here, then out to the coast to drive back north as the sun set. Brilliant plan. I came across a set of outlet stores on the way, and was pumped to find a pair of size 12 supernovas for $50 at the Adidas store and a $20 pair of tights at the Nike store, along with several pairs of socks to replace those I had decimated over the prior few days.

When Steve said this trail, in the Umpqua National Forest, was remote, he wasn't joking.
It was mostly single track trails, except when you come around a corner so fast you can fall down the slope if you lean the wrong way, then the trails are about a foot wide. I pretty much echo what everyone else says about running in Oregon forests- it's just so green!

Reaching the Lower Trestle Falls was my first order of business. I climbed and climbed and climbed until I got there. In between gasps for air, I looked around and realized how lucky I was that my office had flown me to Oregon and all I had to do in exchange for this kind of running was work eight hours a day. A pretty nice arrangement, if you ask me. The falls were great. Turns out "umpqua" means "thundering waters." Pretty apt, if you ask me.
I went back down to the primary trail, then decided to head out and back. I didn't look at my watch to figure out when to turn back, the opportunity to run out here was too valuable to leave up to arbitrary numbers like time.
Just a knockout. I didn't see anybody else for the 1:50 I was out there. As far as I was concerned, it was my forest. My plan did backfire, twice, though. While climbing over a tree trunk that had fallen across the path--and someone had cut a helpful chunk out of it to help people climb over, I slipped on the trunk, which was a little slimey, and fell chest first, my shoulders taking the brunt of the blow. I got back up and kept going, and a few minutes later, my trail leg caught a rock sticking out of the trail and I went down and slid, landing a few inches from a stake-like branch coming out of the ground. So, I was a little tired, and really beaten up. I then though I took a wrong turn and backtracked three times until I realized I was on the right path.

My favorite part of this run was when the trail ran along the side of a cliff above Brice Creek. I went back to Portland that night, too late to get out to the coast in time to see the sun set. I stopped for dinner at Track Town Pizza in Eugene, but was underwhelmed. The pesto, chicken and artichoke pizza was so-so, and the various photos and memorabilia around the place didn't really do it for me. While Steve Prefontaine's personality, charisma and racing style makes him a great personality, even 36 years after his death, maybe I'm just too jaded to really appreciate him. Moreso than Prefontaine, I was drawn, as a teenager learning about the mythology of Oregon track and cross country, to Matt Davis, who struggled with injury throughout his Duck years but through guts, determination and such and such, still popped off a few great races. He was not featured on
the pizza shop's walls.

I left from Portland on Thursday to do three things- run the trail Steve said I had to do, see a fish ladder, and go to Hood River. I got out to Multnomah Falls around 10 and drove along the highway until I reached Horsetail Falls. It was chilly and raining, though not as hard as Sunday's long run. My shoulders were so sore from my fall the day before that I took a few minutes to lift my arms to change my shirt. Steve and Matt Llano ran out here before NCAAs last year, and I count myself lucky to have great advice on where to find an outstanding trail, and to have a photo preview to serve as an appetizer, which, according to Cartman on South Park, is what you eat before you eat to make you hungrier, if my memory serves. Well, I was hungry as heck for these trails.

These trails pretty much just travel alongside the face of the Columbia River Gorge. Again, I didn't see anybody for the majority of my run.

I had traveled along the Columbia River in 2000 with my mom, but we only took a cursory look at the waterfalls, and didn't bother hiking. Our destination at the time was the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam. My mom loved taking my sister and me to see fish ladders when we visited the northwest. I'd see the dam, and the ladder, and with it, the fish, later. For now, I had my second amazing run in two days ahead of me.

When I saw the photos from Molz and company's run in Umpqua, I told Steve that's where I was headed. He suggested I get to the gorge instead. I got greedy and did both, even though they were far away from each other- I made it work, and every few minutes a feeling would wash over me and I would audibly say, to nobody at all, "I'm so glad I did this." For the most part, the trails were a little wider than yesterday, but they were wet, so slipping was a threat. This bridge was kind of cool. It spans the Oneonta Gorge.
Yep, more climbing. You can run under Ponytail Falls, the upper portion of Horsetail Falls.
It was pretty foggy, though east of Multnomah Falls, visability was a little better.
Every now and then it's great to get out from the canopy of trees and see just how high you and climbed.
Then I hit a paved path and started seeing people. There was a hill in front of me, so I instinctively started climbing it. I dodged walkers and saw a sign "Switchback 3/11," which gave me an idea how close I was to the top. Then I saw a break in the trees, and had a really, really great look at Multnomah Falls, all 542 feet of it. Framed through the trees at a distance, it was an awe-inspiring sight. Shrouded in fog, the top was just out of clarity, adding more mystery and majesty to the sight. I am not exaggerating to say it struck me more than most natural features I have come across. Again, part of it was the climate that day, but I couldn't wait to see more. The trail got steeper as I climbed, and it seemed like there was an awful lot of distance between the "official" switchbacks that were counted on the signs. Breathing got kind of hard, and when
I came across some walkers heading down, I shouted out "Is it worth it?" when they laughed about me running up the gorge. They said yes, and I was glad, because it would be a shame to go all the way up there and have it suck. I did get to the top, where I saw a Chesapeake resident on vacation, and got to the viewing deck at the top of the falls. The fog was pretty thick, so I didn't have a clear view, but I saw enough to give me the full scope of everything, eerily enough it was more majestic than if everything was laid out in front of me. I went back down the paved trail to the bottom of the falls, looked right up at them and instantly knew I preferred my first vantage point. I ran a few miles along the Historic Highway back to my car, and took a quick dip near Horsetail Falls. I would have stayed in longer for a quick ice bath, but given the temperatures in the upper 50s, it didn't seem prudent.
I drove to Hood River, where I decided to forgo the pizza I so enjoyed 11 years ago for a chicken burrito that was seasoned to perfection.

There was no telling how the weather would end up being in Crystal City Saturday night, so there was still a chance I would race, so I decided to only run 10 miles on Leif Erickson.
I thought that without the rain that drove throughout my entire run on the trail Sunday, that I would enjoy the Leif Erickson Trail more. Oddly enough, I didn't.
Maybe I was tired. From Saturday to Friday, I ran 106.5 miles, 101.5 of which were up and down long and/or steep hills. Even my recovery runs were a little taxing.
What was taxing was my trip home. My flight to Chicago was smooth enough but my flight from Chicago to Washington was delayed three hours, leaving at midnight central time. I got to Dulles, not Reagan, at 2:45, and by the time the cab got me home, it was 3:30. It took me an hour to get to sleep, then I got up at 7:15 to run 3.25 miles with Slosky, who was in town for a wedding. It was a sweaty jaunt, and Virginia told me that after a week of being spoiled, I was entering a world of pain.


  1. But the hit 90's R&B group TLC told me: don't go chasin' waterfalls

  2. It's not the 90s anymore, and I doubt you followed Left Eye's example and burned Andre Rison's house down...