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Running, Top Trips

Orcas Island 25K

I’m back! And, importantly, I’m still alive!

Orcas Island 25K

Our long weekend began with a Friday ferry from Anacortes. Nora loves any sort of public transportation (except for that one flight from Reykjavik to Seattle which we shall never speak of again), and between her fascination with water and all the people-watching (“why are all of these passengers wearing trucker hats”, she must have wondered), ’twas a good voyage.

Orcas Island welcomed us with a magnificent rainbow, which I took as a good omen from the universe re: my chances of survival the following day.

Welcome to Orcas Island

Still, my stomach was in knots when I lined up for the race on Saturday morning. Everyone else just looked…more prepared. And like they actually knew what they were doing. JK snapped this photo of me and captured my look of reservation quite well.

Orcas Island 25K

But, as always, everything seems better once you actually start running, even though the start of the course was a long, uphill asphalt road.

Orcas Island 25K

I settled into the back of the pack and ran what I could of that hill, walking the rest.

Orcas Island 25K

But then! Trails! I could run again! Aaah, heaven. Soft singletrack wending through a veritable wonderland of lush moss, creeks, and waterfalls.

Orcas Island 25K

Lord-of-the-Ringsian bridges!

Orcas Island 25K

Magical trees!

Orcas Island 25K

I reached the first aid station at 5.something miles, refilled my water, grabbed a handful of potato chips and some really delicious, juicy orange slice, and got started on the main challenge of the day – the dreaded Powerline Trail.

Orcas Island 25K

This thing was nothing like my friendly neighborhood Powerline Trail here in Redmond, no, this was a straight-up-the-mountain, Cable Line-esque climb complete with shoe-sucking mud and soul-sucking, NSFW internal monologues. Eventually the mud gave way to snow, because of course, and then, miraculously, the Powerline was over.

Orcas Island 25K

Finally I could run again, and it felt so good! Until we hit another hill. This was the kind of switchbacking trail I can usually hike up in no time at all, but my post-Powerline legs were just spent, and these (supposed) 1.2 miles took foreeever. At least the snow made everything look like a fairytale. One of my fellow runners shouted “OHMIGOD this is the most beautiful thing ever! But I think I’m delirious.” – I think that summed up how most of us were feeling at that point.

Orcas Island 25K

At long last I reached the second aid station on top of Mount Constitution. I had planned for a long break there to take in the views, but since it was just white in every direction, I filled up my water again, grabbed more orange slices, and got ready for the descent.

Special thanks to the volunteers on Mount Constitution who remained cheery and helpful while looking downright hypothermic! This was the same aid station where I volunteered back in 2012.

Orcas Island 25K

The next section was the most beautiful of the entire course, thanks to the snow, but also absolutely freezing. After a couple minutes of running, I realized I couldn’t really feel my fingers, so I had to stop again in order to find my gloves and hat. Opening my pack took forever with my useless Otter Pops fingers, but luckily they warmed up quickly once I got the gloves on.

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

The next four miles or so just flew by – I cranked up the tunes and ran my little heart out, only stopping when I felt an irresistible urge to hug one of the giant cedars that lined the trail.

Orcas Island 25K

The course ended with some rather rude but mercifully short hills that I couldn’t find the energy to run up, and then I was done. Huzzah! I got my well-earned high five from race director James Varner and forgot to look at the clock, but I found out afterwards that I had crossed the finish line in 4:34:39, which I’m reasonably proud of given the amount of elevation gain and my lack of training/general laziness.

Orcas Island 25K Orcas Island 25K

The post-race party was classic Rainshadow Running – live music, lots of food, lots of beer. I was a very happy kind of exhausted.

Orcas Island 25K

Back at the rental house, we watched the sunset with our furry neighbors, had dinner, and went to bed embarrassingly early. It was a very good day.

Orcas Island 25K

Hugs to JK for watching Nora while I was out gallivanting through the woods, and big thanks to Rainshadow Running for organizing such a beautiful race. I know I spent most of that horrid Powerline climb thinking NEVER AGAIN, but of course now I’m like I’M TOTALLY DOING THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.

And look, now I even have my very own trucker hat so I can at least look like a runner, even though I still don’t know what I’m doing.

Turtlehead Overlook

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Baby, Running

Nora walks, mamma runs

Nora’s first big act of rebellion against her hiking-obsessed parents was to hold out on walking until now. But on Friday night she suddenly got up and walked over to pappa, and by the next morning she was dribbling a soccer ball across the room (in an adorably waddly way). On Sunday, she took her first trail steps on Cougar Mountain, and my heart burst into a million pieces for the 975th time since she was born.

Hiking

We’ve spent some time on lowland trails like Cougar, Tiger, and the Redmond Watershed this past month since I suddenly realized the Orcas Island 25k was coming up rather quickly and I really should start training. Eeep. I’ve run through ice and rain and mud and a few little bits of sun, from frosty landscapes to ferns and moss so intensely green they look downright Photoshopped.

January January

So now we’re two days away from the race and my longest training run was 7 miles long, and now I’m supposed to go out and cover more miles and more elevation gain than I have since the summer before I was pregnant. EEEP. My initial goal, “don’t finish last”, has been downgraded to “just finish, period”…but I’m not going to complain about getting to run (and walk…there will be lots of walking) for 25 kilometers on a gorgeous Pacific Northwest trail.

January January January

See you on the other side of the weekend, when I’ll be stiff and sore and waddling in a much less adorable manner than this little toddler of mine, but hopefully looking just as happy and proud of myself as she does.

Hiking!

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Running

I Beat the Blerch!

Two and a half weeks ago, I was hit with that awful feeling of having totally forgotten about something. And by “forgotten”, I think I mean “pushed so far to the back of my mind that maybe it’ll just go away if I don’t think about it, lalala”. I’m talking about the Beat the Blerch 10k. I talked a good game about wanting to run this spring, and then summer came along and I was apparently content with sitting on my ass eating chocolate every night.

Normally in this situation, I would bail, bail, bail, but I seem to have grown up a little bit in this first year of parenthood, so instead I decided to go for it. I figured that even if I ended up walking most of the course, then (a) who really cares – no one, no one except for myself and (b) there would be Nutella. And a couch along the route. This clearly isn’t a race that encourages taking oneself too seriously.

In case you don’t know, Beat the Blerch was started after Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) made this comic called The Terrible and Wonderful Reason Why I Run Long Distances. It hit a nerve with a lot of people, and led to this excellent book and this race series. When I was looking through my photos after the race, I suddenly noticed the whipped cream action going on behind me and Nora. This is very descriptive of the race, and naturally I highly recommend it.

Beat the Blerch Beat the Blerch

Anyway, I finally took Nora out in the running stroller, which is actually pretty fun, and a godsend in the rainy weather we had those two weeks – the rain cover is awesome and can withstand some very soggy runs. I got some good runs in, but never more than two miles in a row of running. The trails near our house are just too hilly for me to not take walking breaks, especially while pushing a stroller. I set a goal for myself that on race day, I would run to the halfway point, then switch to walking.

Beat the Blerch

But come Saturday, you know what? I ran that entire thing. I was slow as molasses – 1:10:48, I have to live up to my blog name, after all – but I ran it. I didn’t even need to stop at the aid station, but I ended up doing it anyway since I couldn’t miss out on a photo op with a real live Blerch.

Beat the Blerch 10k Beat the Blerch

Lessons learned:

– My shins hurt for the first two miles and I was starting to consider maybe walking a little bit, and then suddenly BOOM I was warmed up, nothing hurt, and I felt great. Must remember this next time when everything sucks. I even got several comments from strangers about the fact that I was smiling while running, so yay! Endorphins!

– At one point, before my shins stopped hurting, I was about to walk but told myself that fer chrissakes, you rocked contractions, you can make it through this. And it totally worked.

– I started out way too slowly and didn’t realize until the end that I had way more to give. Don’t be so cautious!

– Podcasts work better for me than music, unless I’m running downhill. Music gives me time to mull over things, and those things usually involve some sort of negative self-talk. Podcasts take my mind off whatever I’m doing, and suddenly I’ve been running for ten minutes without really noticing.

– I tend to shy away from big crowds and love running alone in the mountains, but there’s something to be said for the motivational aspect of being surrounded by lots of people. Especially when they’re all high on sugar.

– My body can run for over an hour straight on basically no training. That’s pretty awesome.

– I really need to stop bailing on things that intimidate me.

Beat the Blerch Beat the Blerch

So yeah, that was a really great experience, and a huge confidence-booster. If I could run this race without training for it, what could I do with training? I went ahead and put my name in the lottery for Orcas 25k in January to find out. Fate will decide whether or not I get in, but if I do, I decide how prepared I will be. I’ve entered this race before, and bailed – but now I really do know that I can do hard things. Please send good lottery vibes my way.

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Challenge, Hiking, Issaquah Alps, Running

This Shy Bear is coming out of hibernation

When we took Nora to Cougar Mountain to hike the Shy Bear Loop back in February, I really started feeling the urge to run. That loop is one of my favorite lowland routes to run, and as much as I enjoy walking it, I really, really wanted to just gun it along those rolling hills without a care in the world, fueled on by a manic endorphin rush…and then I immediately felt guilty for longing for something that didn’t involve Nora, like I was cheating on her or something.

I realize how ridiculous that sounds, especially since I spend all day every day with Nora and can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve left the house without her. I’ve always felt that it’s incredibly important for parents to maintain their own lives and interests outside of the kid realm (mommy martyrs are the worst), but now that I’m the parent* in question, it doesn’t feel right. I think it might have something to do with the fact that we wanted a baby so badly, and now that we have that awesome baby, it feels wrong to want some of the things I associate with my old life, when I was desperate to become pregnant.

Coal Creek Falls

The thing is, I know it’s healthier for all of us if I have a life outside of motherhood – especially when that life makes me all happy and chill and fulfilled – so I am going to work on pursuing some goals of my own, starting with running. I want to run some of my old classics this summer, like the Rattlesnake Traverse and the Melakwa Loop, and I also signed up for Beat the Blerch in September (just the 10k, because it’s flat – that means I won’t have any hills I can use as an excuse to walk).

Now that it’s still light out after Nora goes to bed, I can run in the evenings, and I am also going to take better advantage of weekends when JK is home. Also, the next time we visit Shy Bear, I’ll run while JK hikes with Nora…she deserves some good alone time with her pappa anyway.

I need to remember that I’m still me, I just also happen to be a mother now.

On the Shy Bear Loop

*HOLY SHIT I’M A PARENT

Hiking, North Cascades, Running

Ptarmigan Ridge to the Portals

I am slowly but surely waking up from my marmot-like winter hibernation, so while I’m stretching my paws and getting my hiking mojo reset, I’ll play catch-up with some of my favorite trips from this fall.

The same, but different.

Since we had our furry running coach, Brutus, with us, we picked a trail we knew would be excellent for running, the Ptarmigan Ridge trail on Mount Baker, but due to the heat (omgz way too hot for September – little did we know it would rain the rest of the month) and my getting over a cold, we ended up just hiking most of the day…

Oh yeah

…with lots of breaks to cool off in streams and roll around on snowfields.

Them dogs be bananas

I love this trail. Similar to Paradise and Sunrise on Mount Rainier, Ptarmigan Ridge lets you cheat your way through thousands of feet of forest and drive straight up to the timberline. Alpine views from start to finish!

Last flowers of summer

Last time we were here, we stopped and camped at the turquoise lake, but this time we had our eyes set on the Portals, which you can see in the distance in the photo above. Last time we also didn’t have any views until the last fifteen minutes of the hike, so we were kind of blown away this time.

Inviting trail

Still, I was feeling pretty blah from my cold, so Brutus and I took a very satisfying nap while JK and the Italians explored the Portals.

Snooze Rock

The hike back to the car was breathtaking (the views, not the trail – it’s mostly flat) – Mount Shuksan ahead…

Mmm, Shuksan

…and Mount Baker in the rear view mirror, all taken in while snacking on trailside huckleberries. Hells yeah.

Mount Baker, you are magnificent

Oh, and marmots, marmots all around. All in all, it was an excellent summer for marmot sightings.

It's been a good marmot year

It was hard to leave, so we stopped the car at Heather Meadows to watch the sunset and feed the hounds before driving the long road home to Redmond.

– The Portals | 12 miles | 1600 feet elevation gain –

Aah

This was the perfect ending to the best and most fulfilling summer of my life – so far.