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Scenes from the trail

Well, this winter has been very wet. And very cold. The last time we had a shitty weather year like this, I was just about ready to defect, but this time around, I am as in love with Washington as I ever was. (In fairness, that blog post was written in mid-July and now we’re only in April. Ask me again if we’re still living inside a cloud come summer.)

Redmond Watershed

(This photo is titled ‘Pacific Northwest Child Sees Sun’)

What’s changed? I’ve embraced the magic of (a) lowland forest trails and (b) trail running. It started back in 2013, when I grew tired of depending on sunny days for my mood to lift. Instead, I hit the trails on Tiger, Cougar, and the Redmond Watershed no matter what the weather or month, and learned to love the feeling of soft rain drizzling on my face. Running and hiking the same trails over and over and over again may not sound very interesting, but it feels really rewarding to see the changing of the seasons, especially these days when the trees are a little bit greener with every visit and the trails are, uhm, fragrant with the arrival of skunk cabbage. Spring is definitely running late this year, but I finally saw my first trillium of 2017 yesterday.

Winter trails 2017 Winter trails 2017
First trillium of the year TMT

I’m finally able to run again after the bladder prolapse, thanks to five million kegels and a bit of structural support from my trusty ol’ Diva Cup. Sun Mountain is less than two months away, so I won’t really have the time to get into the kind of shape I had originally hoped, but I want to at least get to a point where 25K won’t feel miserable and I won’t have to walk too much of the course. I “ran” ten miles yesterday, but it included a lot of walking (and trillium photo breaks). But! I did focus on actually running the uphills, and was shockingly successful, something my thighs keep reminding me of today.

Winter trails 2017

(This photo is titled ‘Pacific Northwest Adult Sees Sun’)

I’ve spent a lot of time on the Cable Line this winter, slogging up and running a variety of longer trails back down, but lately I’ve decided I should probably focus on more runnable, rolling trails, like my favorite Shy Bear loop on Cougar Mountain or, closer to home, the Redmond Watershed.

Winter trails 2017 Winter trails 2017

(Mud and ice – all in a day’s work on the Cable Line)

I also suffered another minor setback that fortunately turned out to be much less of an issue than I had originally thought – I got shingles! That was the last illness I expected I would ever end up with, but in hindsight it makes sense – almost a year of hardly any sleep and a pretty serious bout of depression can do that to you. The Norwegian word for shingles translates to hellfire, and man alive is that accurate. Luckily for me, it was really only that painful for a day and a half, and then the lesions disappeared a couple of days after that. Hopefully that means that my immune system is finally on the mend, which would come in handy since Nora started daycare three times a week and is bringing home every virus under the sun.

Winter trails 2017

(Finding beauty in the puddles)

JK is back to work now which means that from now on, most of my running will happen on my old friend, the Powerline Trail, after the kids (it still feels so unreal to use the plural form there) are tucked into bed. That means the days are getting longer, friends! In the good way, not the dreary way.

Winter trails 2017

(Drenched and happy)

I usually like to listen to upbeat music while I run, but this drizzly, muddy winter called for a more mellow soundtrack. My constant auditory trail companions have been:

These songs are so mellow that they need to be listened to on headphones, loudly (especially Jupiter) – preferably while running through the forest, enveloped in an ethereal Pacific Northwest mist.

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Challenge, Health, Hiking, Nutritarian, Running, Top Trips

Cable Line Revisited

I should probably write more about this, but I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in a relatively short amount of time (30 lbs since New Year’s), and the best side effect of losing that weight is how much easier it is to run without it. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that it’s easier to run when you weigh less, but I didn’t realize just how much easier it actually is. And how much more fun! It’s like a whole new world.

Misty Cable Line

So on Sunday I decided to test just how much faster I am now by timing myself hiking up (you can’t run up this thing unless you’re insane) the Cable Line on Tiger Mountain. This trail is just a muddy track that goes straight up the mountain, climbing 2100 feet in 1.5ish miles. The first time I hiked it, it took me about an hour and fifteen minutes. In 2013, when I was in what I thought was the shape of my life, it took me an hour and four minutes. On Sunday? 46 minutes. This is what my face looked like.

Incredulous Cable Line PR face

The best part was that I had tons of energy to spare when I reached the top, whereas earlier I would have to sit down, curl into a ball, and recover for a while. This time, I ate a date, admired the non-existent views, then ran down the mountain (taking the West Tiger 3 trail instead of the Cable Line, because I’m generally a fan of having functional knees) to brag to JK about my time and then hike a somewhat less strenuous trail with this adorable little hobbit.

Wee hobbit

Man, I cringe when I think of all the years I spent obsessing about how to shave ounces off my pack weight when I could have just dropped a few pounds of belly blubber instead.

Tiger Mountain posse

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Doing Trail Time

My mood has been all over the place lately, vacillating between high highs and low lows for seemingly no particular reason…until I made the connection that my little baby has decided she’s done nursing (sniff sniff) and these downer feelings are most likely the effect of prolactin/oxytocin withdrawals. At least I hope they are. And I hope they’ll disappear as my body continues adjusting to this new hormonal normal (or this old hormonal normal, I guess).

March running March running

In the meantime, I am treating it the only way I know how – with endorphins! I’m having more fun with running than ever before, and I’m counting the days until Daylight Saving Time starts so I can run after Nora goes to bed. For now, JK has stepped up to ensure that I have some solo trail time, so he’s either hiking with Nora while I run on Cougar or Tiger, or running errands with her as I’m running loops around the Watershed. They’ve become invaluable to me, those hours when I am out there all alone with my thoughts fluttering among the trees, all carefree and feeling 100% like my own person.

March running March running

I’ve known for years now how important it is for me to have time to myself so I can recharge my introvert batteries, but it’s very hard at home – if I go into another room while JK and Nora are hanging out together, I’ll inevitably hear them laughing and having the time of their lives, and I’ll get massive FOMO and go join them. But out in the woods, I have no choice. It’s just me, my feet, the trail, and the trees that are getting greener by the day. Love it.

March running March running

(Oh, and last weekend I had a little too much wine and ended up signing up for the Tiger Mountain Trail Run Half Marathon in April. Egads!)

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Albums, Running

I’ve got the runs

…is what I really shouldn’t call this album, but I probably will, because now it’s in my head and there’s no turning back.

For my first month on the Ali Edwards Creative Team, I decided to use her adorable little encouraging phrases to make a scrapbook of my races. Since I’ve only participated in two so far, it came together quickly.

Running scrapbook

I love having a home for my race bibs! The 6×8 pocket size was perfect to show off the fancy one from Beat the Blerch, but I cut down my Orcas 25K bib to fit a 6×4 pocket since it didn’t have anything around the edge.

The little take the next step speech bubble is from the Encouragement Bubbles set, the all the feels heart is from Valentine Hearts, and the you got this card is from Encouragement Journal Cards.

Running scrapbook

…and because this album deserves to be thicker than these two measly spreads, I signed up for the Beacon Rock 25K in June, which looks gorgeous but dreadfully hard. I fear I might end up using the struggle is real for that one.

Cabin Trip, 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