Brian's Journal - Summer 2012

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07/15/2012   The 2012 Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon  
Our big event of the summer, the sixth running of the Tunnel Marathon, was probably the best ever. With about 360 runners and 351 finishers, so it was our biggest field yet. Thanks to cool and even drizzly weather our median time was 4:08, five minutes faster than last year. 21% of our runners qualified for Boston 2013 under the new tighter qualifying standards and many more runners set PR's. Most people I talked to after the race really enjoyed the run. I did too. Despite a tight right hamstring which I felt at every step and which grew steadily more painful throughout the race, I managed to run 3:32 and pace Rikki Bogue to a big PR. I think that without the hamstring problem I would have run under 3:30 since I had to walk for a couple of minutes after a PP stop at mile 16 and was barely able to run for another couple minutes after that until it loosened up some.
Although both Susan and I had a great time on race day we were both relieved that it was over too, though it wasn't quite over. Due to a glitch in the timing system we failed to capture exact start times for about a third of our runners. Rather than use gun time, I analyzed photos (as did Steve and Chris, who provided the timing service) and between us managed to come up with accurate start times for virtually everyone though it took us most of the following week.
Altogether I figure I spent some 400 hours working on the race over the previous four months, and Susan probably put in another 100 or more. Daniel and David, and Daniel's friend Lisa Bigler, helped on race day and the night before. On race day Daniel and David took all the runner photos and Lisa Bigler prepared food and served chili. Susan took care of all the food - shopping, preparation and serving - with help from the kids and from June Siapco, who had planned to run but made half of our chili and helped at the start on race day instead. She was one of about 60 volunteers who did most of what had to be done on race day. Tony did the race announcing and provided the start and finish arch, as he did last year. Matt Hagen was my right-hand man, putting in several days of work in the week prior to the race, managing the tunnel aid station on race morning then sweeping the course after the race. Working with him was a delight; he was tirelessly cheerful and kept coming up with better ideas about how to do things. Race day would not have gone as well, nor would I have been able to run, without his help.
08/03/2012   Saddle Mountain  
Several months ago I received an email from a guy named Mark Winston from North Carolina. He'd come across my website while doing some research online in preparation for a rockhounding vacation to Washington state and was interested in some of the agate hunting locations I described. We made arrangements to get together when he and Erica came out in August, and this afternoon, I drove over the mountains to meet them in Vantage. We met at the Vantage rock shop and posed among the petrified stumps in their parking lot for photos of each other before heading over to Saddle Mountain. The logs at the rock shop are very impressive, some of them 5' tall and 3' in diameter. I suspect at least some of them were pulled out of some of the big holes up on Saddle Mountain - the wood looks very familiar.
While waiting for me to arrive Mark had struck up a conversation with the rock shop owner, who cuts and polishes some of the petrified wood specimens for sale in the shop. His stand-ups, about 3" across and 4" tall with the top surface cut at an angle and polished, are for sale for $30-60, not unreasonable considering the work involved. I don't know what they'd go for on eBay. He didn't have any paired pieces of bookends, perhaps because they take more work to create, so I don't know how much mine would be worth. I'd given Mark a matched pair of standups polished on the front face, nice but not exceptional; I'm guessing the rock shop would have asked $35 or so for them. I also gave him a large Lucas Creek carnelian nodule, rather more valuable I suspect given the scarcity of comparable material. That was probably too generous of me, though it was too narrow to cut easily so I probably wouldn't have done anything with it. None of the pieces in the box Mark had sent me a month or two ago were comparable, but I don't get to entertain rockhounds from out of town very often. As it turned out, we did exceptionally well at Saddle Mountain and at Studebaker Creek a few days later, both trips I wouldn't have made had it not been for their visit, so I can't complain.
Mark and Erica had spent the morning hiking north of Vantage. They covered about 10 miles, a hot and unproductive outing until the last half mile where they found a couple good-sized chunks of wood not far from their car. They're mostly float collectors and I'd proposed alot of digging so they wanted to get some hiking time before joining up with me.
We caravaned down to Mattawa, stopping at a fruit stand for cherries, tomatoes, peaches and canteloupes, then rumbling up the dusty "R" road. Up on top, we had an hour or two before it would be time to set up camp so I found a hole Pat had told me about and started digging it out while Mark worked another hole and Eric hiked back parallel to the road looking for float. Back in June I'd found a couple of pieces in the crumbly orange stuff on the right side of the hole but Pat reported that most of the material was in the gray ash over to the left. Maybe it was, but if so, they got it all. All I got for my efforts were a couple of small blisters. Mark didn't get much in his hole either.
We camped up by Mark's pit. Around sunset I rinsed off with the gallon of water in the back of my car, nicely warmed up by the afternoon sunshine. Erica and I set up their tent in the hollow in the road, hoping to find shelter from the rising wind, while Mark fixed a thick and tasty glop for supper. The wind kept up; I even felt it in the car and I don't think Mark and Erica got much sleep with their tent flapping around them all night long.
08/04/2012   Saddle Mountain  
We did very well today, finding one big log and two large chunks of decent-quality petrified wood before lunchtime, and that without even digging up the one I'd found back in June and saved just for this trip. Mark and Erica are going to have a seriously distorted view of how easy it is to find petrified wood on Saddle Mountain.
To start the day we found a promising area with chips of wood in several places. I had Mark and Erica start digging out a spot with lots of chips of glossy black wood but the "wood" turned out to be basalt glass from a layer several inches thick on top of a pillow three feet across. I hadn't seen that before. Nearby I found a large chunk of dark brown wood just under the surface, but there didn't seem to be any more underneath it so we dug deeper into the hole where I'd found the chalky wood back in June, and sure enough, down a couple of feet we ran into the butt end of a two foot diameter log of yellowish wood. It didn't even vibrate when I struck it with the heavy pry bar so I knew we had little chance of digging out anything we could carry. We covered it up again. That made two significant finds and it wasn't even 9AM yet. Unfortunately I was too excited to take any photos.
Driving up the road a ways, we stopped at an area with lots of old pits. If nothing else, it would be a nice place for lunch, but before eating, we tried a bit of digging ourselves. Mark found some fist-sized chunks just under the surface but unfortunately the deeper he dug, the less he found. I was finding similar stuff when I heard Mark call out. He'd found a big chunk of solid-looking yellowish brown jasper, possibly bog wood. It had potential so I carried it up to the car, then went off to check out some of the other holes. One of them had an exposed backwall of white ash. Within just a couple of minutes of digging into the wall, I struck a big chunk of wood. I pried that piece out and two or three smaller ones with it. Though the smaller ones were slender, all were at least a foot long. I accidentally chipped a piece of one of the chunks and it seemed to have some blue color along with brown, tan and gray - could be very nice. That made two big pieces, plus Mark's jasper , before lunch. What a morning!
Mark and Erica were thinking they'd found about enough petrified wood for one day but I wanted to check out another hole Pat had told me about. He said it was at least 8' deep with a big overhanging backwall. He was right about the depth even though the backwall had collapsed and filled up the center of the hole with rubble. He'd found some nice limb casts in there and that's what I was after. As I walked up to the hole I told Mark I was looking for a limb cast the size of a cow femur. It didn't take much digging to find one; a yellowish chunk of bog wood was sticking right out of the bottom of the hole. I dug it out of the crumbly yellowish clay matrix and found more pieces all around it. Though good-sized, most of the chunks were either flattened or very irregular, not so good as cutting material, but between the three of us we collected a bucketful and left even more on the lip of the hole. None were quite cow-femur sized but close, as if from perhaps a rather short cow.
With that we were done. We drove down the hill and back to the fruit stand where I stocked up on peaches and canteloupe and gave away a few small pieces of wood to the kids. Back across the bridge in Vantage we stopped down by the boat landing and went for a quick swim to rinse off while a lesbian couple in bikinis made out by the picnic tables. The water was cold and not particularly clean and it made my blisters sting, but it felt great to wash off the dust and sweat before driving home. I left Mark and Erica in Vantage; they planned to sort their rocks and mail some home before heading over to Mt Rainier for some hiking.
08/07/2012   Studebaker Creek  
I met Mark and Erica again in Toutle this morning with plans to take them to Studebaker Creek and Salmon Creek. The Studebaker Creek digging area is actually in the woods, nowhere near the creek, but it has lots of carnelian agate. From prior visits I didn't think much of the quality but this visit proved me wrong on that point. We filled several buckets and left almost as much behind. A lot of it is mostly quartz, and that mostly orange without much contrast with the agate rind, but we also found solid nodules of orange agate up to 5" across and smaller pieces of reddish to dark red agate, some with prominent banding. I can see why Pat wants to go back down there.
To get there we walked in about a mile and a half on a gated timber company road south of town. The diggings are an area of water-filled pits in mixed second-growth woods rich with mosquitos. We picked a couple of dry pits which had been worked recently. Whoever had last been there had taken everything they'd found because there was nothing on the surface but a few pieces of weathered basalt. It didn't take long to start finding rocks in the clay soil of our pits. Though coated in clay, the agates began to reveal their colors with a little scrubbing, and as we kept digging, our piles of rock kept getting larger. We dug for probably four hours including a break for lunch and by the time we were done, my pile probably weighed 100lbs. Even after sorting through it I carried out over 60-70lbs, probably twice what I should have. Agates always seem to have so much more potential in the field than back in the shop. The walk back out to the car was a struggle.
We spent the night back at Seaquest State Park. The campground was back in the woods and crowded despite the lack of any obvious nearby recreational attraction. Actually, I think the attraction is Mt St Helens. Mark fixed another delicious supper and we washed and sorted rocks, leaving another 20lbs behind for future campers to find.
08/08/2012   Studebaker Creek 2  
We'd planned to do Salmon Creek this morning but because we did so well at Studebaker Creek yesterday Mark and Erica wanted to go back there, so we did. We found even more today but, recalling the painful hike out yesterday, I was more selective and only hauled out about 30lbs today. That included several very nice pieces. My best was a cylindrical orange agate nodule 5" long and 4" across, triangular in cross-section with bright red banding on both ends. No doubt the deep red color is only on the surface but it should still have some internal banding.
Mark and Erica were even more selective than I was since they have to mail everything back home. I high-graded their leftovers. After lunch Mark and I swapped holes. I found a few more nice pieces in his hole, more, I think, than he found in mine, but at the end of the trip, they had no complaints. They came out to Washington for carnelian and petrified wood and I think that what they found and received, not only from me but also from another rockhound they met up with before I met them in Toutle, far surpassed their expectations.
09/02/2012   PCT run 28 miles, 6500'  
I ran 13 miles north and back again on the Pacific Crest Trail from Snoqualmie Pass today, two miles farther than my four day backpacking trip up there three years ago. A little side trip up to the gentle summit at the east end of the Chikamin Ridge added an extra mile for 28 total round trip, though I figure I only actually ran a little more than half of it.
The weather was perfect, cool and sunny. I met Matt and Betsy, Tracy and a British woman named Kay at the trailhead around 7:30 and we were on the trail by 8. Matt and Tracy ran the Cascade Crest 100 Mile run last weekend and Betsy did a 100K two weeks ago so we didn't push the pace. At the catwalk I stashed a couple small Gatorade bottles and talked the others into continuing to Ridge and Gravel Lakes, 6.7 miles on my old Green Trails map but 7.3 on the newer maps, and on both Matt's and Tracy's GPS's. We reached the lakes at 10:30 and hung out there for twenty minutes or so. They were turning back but I wanted to continue on so Matt offered me two of his gels and I took one. I could have used the other as well, but with the stashed Gatorade I was OK. I left the lake at 11AM and reached my turnaround point, the little peak above the Chikamin-Alta Pass overlooking Park Lakes, two hours later. Five hours for 13 miles - hardly running pace under normal circumstances, but the scenery was spectacular and the elevation gain significant, probably close to 5000' on the way out and another 1500' on the way back.
Near the west end of the traverse across Chikamin Ridge I caught up to a guy from Israel laboring under a 70lb pack. His name was Yuval and he'd been out for six days, hiking south from Steven's Pass 65 miles to the north. We chatted about the weight of his pack and how to make it lighter, and then about politics and health care and such. He was carrying a ukelele (non-negotiable) but agreed that he needn't have brought the two 8 1/2 x 11 books of ukelele tunes. His clothing was all cotton and his mess kit weighed 5lbs, so those were a couple other areas where he could lighten up. I sat with him while he purified water from a little tarn, straining it through his T-shirt to try to filter out the brown flecks which I suspected were little unclean critters, though I didn't say so. I stayed with him until Joe Lake, adding an extra hour or so to my overall time, then decided that I needed to get back before it got too much later.
After the lakes I began running into lots of people, especially from the catwalk down; most were gracious about letting me pass but I can see why trail runners up there try to get out and back early in the day. I ate my last gel at the catwalk but the Gatorade gave me energy for the last five miles back to the trailhead where a sun-warmed lunch was waiting for me. Overall a great run; I only wish I'd been able to carry a camera. I'd carried my phone instead and had talked briefly with Susan up by Chikamin Peak before the battery died because I'd forgotten to charge it.
09/06/2012   Chikamin Peak hike  
David and I have been talking about a backpacking trip for a couple of weeks now, but when the time came, I didn't really want to go. Perhaps that's why it took so long to get out the door, but get out we finally did, just in time to squeeze in 90 minutes of hiking before dark. Because I couldn't carry a camera during my run last week, and because I really enjoyed my last trip up around Chikamin Peak, I decided to go back there. I figured we could do a shorter loop by only backpacking as far as Joe Lake and maybe this time we could find the way up the crag which is the true summit of the peak. In past trips I've only made it up the west end of the ridge but I've read that the peak can be walked up from the east, from Glacier Lake, and last week during my PCT run to Chikamin/Alta Pass, I saw a couple of hikers on the summit. I also saw two other hikers on the steep meadows above the trail as I was passing below the peak and they appeared to be descending. I didn't meet them to inquire but I suspect they'd found a way up to the summit.
Our plan today was to camp at Joe Lake but we didn't leave the trailhead until 6:50PM so we made it only just to the far side of the big avalanche fan about three miles in. There's a trail across it now unlike when I was there back in 2009. It was warm today, close to 80F, but the valley was all in shade by the time we started out. The air was comfortable; the only remnant of the heat of the day was the warmth radiating from the cast concrete restroom at the trailhead. There seemed to be more bird activity than I remembered - leaves rustling in the bushes, as in the poplars at home, hinting at the tide of warblers passing for the most part invisibly in their fall migration. I've been missing the migration, absorbed in cutting and polishing rocks, this fall. David, waiting for me, watched a junco catch a flying moth and observed that the moth's erratic flight didn't seem to help it evade its predator. As we walked we wondered what moths gained by their irregular flight and I speculated that perhaps it helped them trace the path of a diffuse stream of pheremones back to a potential mate.
We reached the actual trail after a half hour of walking on paved path and gravel roads. We crossed the avalanche fan at dusk. My revised goal was to camp beyond the fan so we dug out our headlamps at the entrance to the woods on the far side and hiked a few more minutes until we came across a level spot. We laid out our pads and sleeping bags in a small grove of big tress at the foot of another avalance chute, though we couldn't see that until morning. In the quiet darkness we ate the potatoes and seasoned tofu that Swee had fixed for our supper. Having spent most of the afternoon eating lunch, I was surprised at how hungry I was. The tofu was particularly tasty. We went directly to bed but it took a while to settle down to sleep. My mind seemed a bit giddy. From my sleeping bag I took a few photos of the trees towering overhead, using my flashlight to illuminate them while David coached me on camera settings. Lulled by the white noise of the stream 50' away I fell asleep sometime after 22:20 by my watch.
09/07/2012     route from Joe Lake
I awoke about a half hour before the sun reached the Kendall Peaks above us. It was cold so I stayed in my bag and wrote some for an hour or so while David slept in, caccooned in his sleeping bag. We started up the trail at 08:40 and reached the Alaska Lake turnoff, trail mile 5.4 (gmap-pedometer says 4.9), 35 minutes later. That's a very pretty section of trail, big trees intersperesed with talus fields and huckleberry clearings with views of tall peaks all around. Beyond the turnoff the trail crosses a broad avalanche runout area and the trail is not officially maintained. Though not too hard to follow it was slow going through the brush, and wet too at first until the sunlight reached us about 15 minutes in.
Towards the far side we began to come across helpful bits of pink plastic tape marking the route. The air was getting warm, the vine maples obstructive and the steep dips and climbs annoying by the time we reached the stream descending from Joe Lake. Actually three streams meet at that point. David ate breakfast and I had a snack then we found the trail, which follows the middle stream then crosses it and climbs a steep dirt bank on the right. More dirt slopes and root ladders followed on the very steep climb up to Joe Lake while the stream cascades down waterfalls alongside. The reward at the top is a beautiful little pond with trout jumping for moths and Elephantella spikes blooming in the peat moss along the water's edge.
We followed the trail up to the campsite by the main lake but decided to leave our packs across the stream at the edge of the woods. I packed my fanny pack and we ate a snack there, sitting in the sunshine while a breeze shirred in the treetops. Very quiet and peaceful, a nice break before the strenuous hike ahead.
We scrambled up slippery dry duff under big firs to a slope of loose orange scree, then up steep grass and huckleberries and finally even steeper gravelly ledges to the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail was a welcome relief, and it's a particularly beautiful section of the PCT, traversing up through flowers and meadows, groves of gnarled Mountain Hemlock, bright gray ledges and boulder fields and even a small tarn and a few lingering patches of snow, with continuous views of meadows, peaks, cliffs and crags and the deep forested valley of Gold Creek. We took lots of photos and saw only one other group of four hikers headed back the way we'd come.
The trail traverses east across the south face of the Chikamin Ridge which forms the headwall of the characteristically U-shaped glacial Gold Creek valley. Precipitous meadows climb from the trail up to cliffs divided by narrow rocky gullies and interspersed with patches of krummholz and grass. The top of the ridge west of the peak is a rounded shoulder carpeted with crowberries. It drops gradually for about a third of a mile to the base of the peak, an irregular block of rock about 300' high which looks like a point only when viewed from the south. From the top of the peak the ridge to the east drops about 800' to a saddle then continues through a set of crags to the gentle summit which I hiked up last week.
I've been up to the west end of the ridge twice, both times by climbing the first gully east of the high point on the PCT. I knew we could go up there today but couldn't tell from below if we'd be able to cross over the south face of the peak to get to the ascent route on the east side. As we passed the high point on the trail, we made our decision. We'd try to find a route directly up to the peak from about a mile farther east on the PCT. If we could gain the ridge east of the peak we'd be able to hike up to the top. If not, at least we'd have explored some new ground.
We left the PCT at the second switchback to the west, more or less directly below the peak. From there we traversed across a gully and up a steep meadow to a little saddle formed by a patch of hemlock. The route beyond looked feasible but we were hungry so we stopped for lunch and took of our boots to air out our feet in the sunshine. That felt good. After lunch we crossed a one or two ribs and scrambled up the next gully, mostly easy but with one somewhat more difficult pitch, then traversed to the right out of the gully up another steep grassy band below a small cliff, then up across an easy ledge onto gentler meadows leading up to the ridge. It doesn't seem too bad in retrospect though at the time I was pretty sure I wanted to find a different way down.
Once on the ridge the route up was obvious, particularly since another party of two hikers was ahead of us not far below the summit. We followed a generally clear track up and met them on the top. Great views of peaks far and wide, four volcanoes (we couldn't pick out St Helens in the haze) and below us, snowfields, ledges, deep blue lakes, meadows and forests. The only sign of civilization was I-90 at Hyak about five miles away and 4000' below us. David spotted a Mountain Goat playing out in the middle of a snowfield below us all by itself, jumping and twisting just like our goats used to when we let them out of their pen to go for a walk. I spotted an adult Peregrine Falcon gliding over the ridge where we'd come up. It soared up to the east then dove down past the north ridge and over the snowfields above Chikamin Lake, flushing a flock of rosy finches but apparently without catching any because it soared up again over the west end of the ridge, at least a couple thousand feet this time, then plunged down to the north where I lost it against the flank of Lemah Mountain. Only a peregrine can make 70mph look slow. We saw other raptors, a Golden Eagle on the way up and a Red-tailed Hawk, a Cooper's and a couple of Sharp-Shinned Hawks from the summit, all riding the warm breeze rising up the south face of the ridge.
We lingered on the summit for an hour. I called Susan and left a message; David called Katie and they talked a while, then he checked his email. Internet access was spotty, working from one rock and not from another next to it. The other two hikers took a photo of us and we of them. We tried to recall the names of the high peaks north of us then one of the hikers pulled out his IPhone, fired up the peaks app and pointed the phone at the view. In a moment, the names of the summits appeared on the screen, just slightly offset from the peaks themselves. Amazing.
At the base of the summit block we decided to try to get across the south face to the west end of the ridge and go down the way I'd come up in the past. I figured it might be shorter and easier than the way we'd come up but it was neither. We did see the peregrine again though, a closer view this time as it sailed over the ridge and circled up in front of us. Starting down, I didn't like the looks of the gravelly ledges I'd crossed last time at the head of the main gully. Instead we followed grassy slopes down to the left looking for opportunities to traverse back to the west into the gully below the sketchy ledges. I scouted below the first clump of trees and it looked feasible, which was a relief, but we ended up following a goat track farther down the slope. It led west along a steep grassy band across the cliff face but didn't quite reach the bottom of the cliff. Instead it switchbacked down to the east on another steep grassy band but the cliff appeared to be getting higher in that direction, so David went straight down while I climbed up and further to the right. My route wasn't bad; his involved a fairly exposed pitch of downclimbing. we both ended up safely in the gully though it didn't feel very safe, particularly where we followed a goat path east along the top of a little cliff to get around a short vertical pitch in the gully (the same pitch I'd avoided by detouring around to the west three years ago). We also found a trickle of water in the gully and refilled my empty water bottle. No filter - I recently read an article claiming that the risk of water-borne illness from backcountry sources is very low, so I'm testing that theory this trip. Our thirst satisifed, we continued picking our way down the steep meadow for another ten minutes or so and reached the trail again.
The sun was near the horizon and the light was golden but the urge to stop for photos was tempered by our awareness that our packs stashed in the woods might be quite difficult to find after dark. We did find them, right at dark after one last strenuous descent down steep meadows and slippery fir needles. David fell and bruised both his rib and his camera. We used our headlamps to find our way back to camp which we found occupied by another party of four hikers. Fortunately they had hammocks so we weren't competing for tent sites. They were all gathered around a smoky fire down by the lake shore and we didn't see them until they tromped past our tent like a herd of elephants sometime after we'd gone to bed. We set up the tent and sat on a log to eat our bread and avacado, Swiss cheese and plums. We're on a limited diet since it's a short trip and we didn't bring a stove.
09/08/2012     Joe Lake home
I didn't sleep all that well, probably because my legs felt pretty beat up though by morning they weren't too bad. We packed up quickly and left by 8AM, before two of our fellow hikers were even out of their hammocks. Maybe those hammocks are more comfortable than they look. The other two hikers told us that they were headed down Gold Creek so we warned them about the steep descent and the brush. From camp we climbed the ridge south of the lake, first through beautiful open old forest then up a game trail through younger trees, many of which had the bark ripped off the uphill side of their trunks, down near the ground. I'm guessing deer or elk were practicing for the rut. In a sunny meadow sporting three big bear poops full of mountain ash and huckleberries we stopped for breakfast and finished our granola and plums. We gained the ridge at a saddle about 200' below the trail crossing, which at that point is about 5600', almost 1000' above the lake. At Ridge lake we stopped for a snack and drank the water. That will be a good test of my backcountry water safety theory because that lake, right by the PCT, gets lots of use.
From that point on to the catwalk and beyond we encountered more and more hikers, probably at least 50 by the time we turned off the trail to bushwhack over to the Kendall Lakes. A few were thru-hikers, relatively easy to identify by their small backpacks, dirty running shoes and general scruffy appearance. One young woman we questioned had left the border with Mexico back on May 2 and expected to reach Canada in another 11 days or so. I almost choked up reflecting on the magnitude of her accomplishment, though David and I agreed that that kind of hiking didn't really appeal to us. We'd be bored in the tedious forested sections and frustrated at not having time to explore the more interesting areas.
We left the PCT where it gains the gentle crest of the ridge after traversing down across the face of Kendall Peak, perhaps a mile and a half from the Catwalk. That might have been a little late since we ended up traversing back across the other side of the ridge and came out at the lowest of the lakes. We ate lunch there, and were surprised to see two women with buckets, looking for huckleberries. They trotted off down the trail having found very few berries, due to the drought they speculated. When we followed them half an hour later we lost the trail right away and had to bushwhack across a clearcut to the road. From there it was an hour of warm and somewhat uncomfortable walking down old logging roads to the trailhead. My toes and the bottoms of my feet were sore from my boots, the brown Limmer-branded ones which are a bit too narrow. They felt much better when we ditched our packs along the road and put on flip flops for the last couple of miles back to the car. Altogether the hike out from Joe Lake via Kendall Lakes took us 6 1/2 hours excluding stops and I guessed we covered about 12 miles though the gmap-pedometer reported only 10.7.
09/16/2012     Tunnel Lite Marathon
The point of the Tunnel Lite Marathon was to provide second chance to run the tunnel to runners who didn't get in to the Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon back in July. It was intended to be a "ghost" race, a smaller, less expensive, bare-bones version of the Light. I also saw it as a chance to see how little work we could do in putting it on. It was a very successful little race. Though not really a "ghost", we did manage to make it about $15 cheaper than the Light. We ended up having to provide almost all of the services we provided for the larger race; our costs were a little lower only because we did our own timing and piggy-backed on the Light for equipment and medals. We did have a few runners who'd wanted to run the July race but didn't sign up in time. We had many more who did run the July race and came back for a second go at it. Of those, two thirds achieved a faster time on the second try. Regarding the objective of working less, the smaller race was very successful. Thanks to the absence of a wait list (we didn't fill up) and mail-in registrations, and to cloning the Light web pages, my workload was far lighter than in July. Race day was significantly simpler too. Susan and I had only four helpers. David took photos while Lisa did the Tunnel aid station and helped Susan w/ food. Bill Barmore brought his porta-potty in the morning and lent a hand the rest of the day and Chuck Cathey came over to manage parking and set up the finish area. A handful of runners helped out on the spur of the moment - Monte w/ parking and Kristen Parker and Mike Mahanay at check-in. All the aid stations were self-service and according to runner reports, that worked out well.
I worked a few hours here and there - mostly permit applications, service and TShirt arrangements and the web site - in the weeks prior to the race but was really only full-time for about six days, Wednesday through Monday, around race day on Sunday. The big pre-race tasks were runner communication (Wed, Thu) (generating runner lists (Thu), assembling runner packets (Wed, Fri), organizing gear and supplies (Wed, Fri), marking the course (Fri, Sat) and setting up aid stations (Sat). For food, Susan planned on Thursday, shopped on Friday and prepped Saturday evening. On race morning I arrived at Ole Cedar Mill about 5:40AM to find the gate locked so I couldn't get in to load the car from the storage unit before runners began showing up. Cindy and her boyfriend didn't wake up until they saw the lights of runners pulling into the front lot (and heard me pounding on her front door). He ran out and opened up the gate for us but I was about 15 minutes late leaving for the start, which in turn delayed the early start until 7:30. I had the first bus follow me out of North Bend to ensure that I could pet up signs at Hyak and set up check-in before the runners arrived. I never made it over to the finish area at all but Chuck took care of it, setting up cones to mark off our finish chute shortly after the second bus left around 6:50AM. Bill didn't arrive w/ the porta-potty until somewhat later; next time it would be helpful to have a porta-potty at the bus loading area as well.
(to be continued...)
09/22/2012   Middle Fork 50K, 30+ miles, 3200'  
Paul David has written up a nice race report so I won't try to duplicate it. I enjoyed this race last year and have been looking forward to doing it again. As usual though, when the alarm went off in the pre-dawn darkness I lay in bed for a moment and wondered if I really wanted to get up. I thought of Skagit Flats Marathon two weeks ago when I did stay in bed, and how as a result I haven't run any marathons in almost a month, and I got up. Then I looked at the clock and saw that I was already 30 minutes late. Instead of reading 5:40 as I expected, it showed 6:15. That explained the dim light outside; it should have still been completely dark.
I was out of the house in my running gear with breakfast and lunch by 6:35AM, probably a new record. Google said it would take me an hour and a half to get to the start, but Google doesn't know how fast I can drive on gravel roads. I made it in 1:10, and that included a five minute stop to change a flat tire half a mile from the trailhead. Dodging a pothole, I'd hit a sharp fist-sized rock and I knew even before the low pressure light came on that the tire was toast. Hoping to reach the parking lot, I'd made another couple of miles before it went completely flat. Even without the delay I'd have been late for check-in but it's a small race and the race director, Eric Bone, is a nice guy, so they had my bib waiting for me. It turned out I could have taken a little more time to drive the gravel road and probably spared my tire. We started 20 minutes late.
Low overcast, vegetation a bit damp from earlier drizzle, the trail rather dark under the closed canopy of tall Doug firs. I didn't recognize many of the other runners; most of the people I know had done the early start. I saw Paul, and Tracy Marshall with whom I ran some at the Transcendance 12 hour back in August, and who qualified for Boston last week at our Tunnel Lite marathon after just missing a BQ at the Light at the End of the Tunnel in July. We set out together at the back of the pack. I was surprised at that; it felt like we were running a pretty good pace yet three miles into the race we were still sharing last place.
After the Dingford aid station at 8 miles, I picked up my pace. It's a beautiful run, mostly in forest which is often carpeted with moss. The trees are a mix of second growth conifers and old growth with occasional areas of alder and maple. The trail runs along the river in some places and below cliffs in others with views of craggy forested peaks wherever the forest opens up. The river is icy-clear with a tinge of blue in the water from glaciers hanging on high up in the headwaters.
At the Goldmyer aid station, 13 miles (11.6 on my gps) and 2:45 into the run, I'd still only encountered a few other runners. Above Goldmeyer the course climbs about 1000' in under 4 miles. It crosses the river where waterfalls cascade down over white granite ledges from one clear blue pool to another, then switchbacks across avalanche chutes where vine maples are beginning to turn color and finally gains the old Middle Fork road near the obscure trailhead from which the boys and I used to hike up to Hardscrabble Lake and Big Snow Mountain. The course descends the road back to Goldmyer. From trips a decade ago I recognized some of the big cedars growing out of the talus along the road. Big-leaf maple leaves, curled and yellow, carpeted the rocky track. Up there we were only a few hundred feet below the overcast and skeins of fog were hung up in the old tree tops.
Back at Goldmeyer, mile 20 (17.2 on my gps) and 3:55, I caught up to half a dozen runners, including Paul. Refreshed by the descent on the road and my 6th gel, I felt good and ran fast for the next couple of miles, passing another half dozen runners. Trail running feels great when I'm feeling strong and I felt like I was just dancing, or skipping, almost flying down the trail. Unfortunately by the time I reached the Dingford aid station, mile 25 (22 on the gps) fatigue was catching up to me. Eric made some comment about how the wheels come off at about marathon distance when he runs a 50K and I hoped that wouldn't be true for me this time. Unfortunately it was. I took another Gu and then another but neither helped much. My legs weren't particularly sore but I was so tired I almost felt faint. The feeling of faintness was especially pronounced when I stood up after squatting to rest my legs. In the past that has meant that I'm low on calories but with 2 gels plus a bunch of potatoes at the aid station, that shouldn't have been the case. Anyhow I struggled on, still passing other runners now and then. About 2 miles from the finish I met Matt coming up to find Betsy and he gave me a Roctane since I was out of gels. That one made 9 altogether, and it seemed to help. I was able to run pretty continuously those last two miles and reached the finish line in just over 6:15.
After the race I felt pretty good other than my fingers going numb as I cooled down. We hung out and talked and cheered other runners as they finished. Back in North Bend I found a Les Schwab and though my flat could not be repaired (as I suspected), they fortunately had another of the same make and model and amount of wear. The alternative, since the Subaru is AWD, would have been new tires all around, an expensive prospect. To celebrate, Matt and Betsy and I had dinner at the North Bend Grill, talking over beer about, what else - running ultras.
09/23/2012   Training Plans  
One of our runners from the Tunnel marathon back in July recently asked me for advice on how to get a faster marathon time. Here's how I responded:
Three things work for me.
1: increasing my mileage (including races) from my typical 100 or so/month up to about 200 miles per month for a couple of months (best to spread the increase over three months or so).
2: Tempo runs (about 10K pace, or ~30 seconds faster than goal marathon pace) starting at 2 miles and working up to about 5, about once a week.
3: Running 2-3 marathons per month w/ finishing times at least 30 minutes slower than my goal time, and up to 90 minutes slower than goal time. I cheat on this one and occasionally (like once every couple of months) throw in a harder race, maybe 5-15 minutes off goal time, but do this too often and I'll get injured.
Finally, I'll have several goal race options, so if I have a bad day on one I'll back off and try again another day, though I often can't tell if I'm having a good day or not until about 10 miles into the race. This all assumes I have a base of at least 100 miles/month for a few months, including 1-2 marathons per month.
Of those three things, the monthly mileage is the most important, the tempo runs the least important. My last big training cycle was last fall. I ran every day (often just a couple of miles) for September and October, including 4 marathons or 50Ks in each month, then tapered the mileage back to about 140 in November (but still ran 4 marathons/50Ks) then ran 3:25, my second-fastest marathon ever, at California International on the first weekend of December. I actually ran a stronger race the last weekend of October at Cape Cod (3:29) but my time at CIM in early December was faster due to the faster course.
I ran one more fast race in December then fell apart, running only 50-80 miles/month January-March, and only one marathon a month. I'm still struggling with nagging minor injuries due to trying to run either long (50 miles) or fast (3:32 at Tunnel) with too little supporting mileage and running days. This fall I'm planning to pick up my mileage to about 140/month and try to run a BQ in one of my 6-8 marathons between now and the end of the year, then I'll probably rest a bit in January before increasing mileage again up to around 180 by March in order to run a fast (hopefully under 3:30) race at Boston.
09/29/2012   Reunion  
My 40th high school reunion felt about as awkward as the 38th did two years ago, which is to say tolerable. Ali and I arrived together, which helped considerably, and I ran into Bobby Toabe right away so that made two people I knew. Before I'd moved far from the front door Jeana walked in. She looked more as I remembered than any of the other high school friends I've reunited with. We broke up in 11th grade and I don't think I've seen her since a year or two after graduation but we felt instantly comfortable with one another. We talked some and posed for a couple group photos but I didn't end up spending much time with her after that. I talked with several people I didn't remember well, Peter Haley among them, and went on a bit too long about running marathons. After collecting pasta and salad in the buffet line, I sat to eat with Ali, Peter, Kathy Egan and Erik Burke. Kathy, a gastroenterologist, urged us all to get colonoscopies and we all were pleased to be able to announce that we'd been there, done that. "Colon cancer is the one cancer which can actually be prevented", she explained. After supper I found Billy and Bobby and we compared recollections of the summer in Jackson. They didn't remember "Navel Destroyer" and I didn't recall the time we skinny-dipped in the river with the girls and so distracted a young Davis plowing the field that he nearly steered his tractor into the river too.
I left with Ali, grateful for her support; had she not first indicated her intention to attend the reunion I probably wouldn't have signed up. At Sally's when I was getting dressed to walk over to the reunion, I'd have been quite content to sit around and visit with Sally instead, but now I'm glad I went. I left about 11PM. Sally had gone to bed but left the lights on for me.
09/30/2012   So much for Training Plans  
The Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon today was my first chance to run a qualifying time for Boston 2014, and so I did, by two minutes with a time of 3:37:48. I really didn't expect to be able to do that this early in the season; in recent training runs I've often had trouble even maintaining a nine minute mile pace but today I averaged 8:13/mile for the first half and 8:25 for the second half, and that with only 5 hours of sleep last night and not quite enough the night before either. The weather helped though, 60F and wet, especially in the second half. I did fuel reasonably well, a bit late with the gels in the first half but sufficient overall. The course was quite flat with gradual ups and downs and a few short hills, probably not more than a couple hundred feet total, so that helped too. The biggest factor may have been the long and moderately strenuous run at the Middle Fork last weekend provided a strong training effect, helping to make up for little running in August and barely 100 miles in September, including today. I expect I'll pay with sore muscles this coming week.
Loved the lobster roll at the finish. The beer garden would have been more satisfying on a sunny day. Huddling with a crowd of runners I didn't know under a tent in front of a loud rock band with rain pouring down and a 45F breeze blowing through, and drinking a cold beer, wasn't all that much fun. Limping a quarter mile back to my car in the aforementioned cold rain wasn't much fun either but munching on my lobster roll while I drove away with the heat on full blast, knowing I'd just run my Boston qualifier for 2014, was not bad at all. Actually I had an excellent parking place, one of the last available in the lot closest to the start/finish area when I arrived this morning at 6:45AM. I was able to pick up my packet right away and had plenty of time to get ready to run. The rain actually didn't start until the second half and was just a light sprinkle until the last few miles, so really wasn't a problem either.

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