Thursday, December 15, 2011

Next year's schedule unfolds...

I decided not to enter the lottery for Western States - I'd rather focus on a couple of solid 100's before graduating to a more rigorous schedule.

The big races:

March 30-31: Badger Mountain Challenge 100 - Kennewick, WA

May 12: Quad Rock 50 - Fort Collins, CO

August 18-19: Leadville 100 - Leadville, CO

October 7: Blue Sky Marathon - Fort Collins, CO


February 18: Hagg Lake 50K - Forest Grove, OR


February 18: Moab Red Hot 50K - Moab, UT

June 23: Black Hills 50 - Rapid City, SD

And maybe one or two of the 10 milers offered in the Winter Distance Series in Littleton. On the one hand, Hagg Lake is epic - lots of mud and PacNW camaraderie - but it will require a plane flight. On the other hand, I've never been to Moab, and it is 'closer' (I have no delusions about the length of the drive). Probably Hagg Lake.

I have heard that the Black Hills races will put hairs of iron on your chest. Participation depends upon whether the grueling Quad Rock 50 in my hometown will eat me alive. Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain are not things to be toyed with...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Briefly noted: NF Endurance Challenge 50 Mile

I ran a pinch faster than I did last year - 9:45-ish, 10 minutes better.

What saved me was one of those Pro-Tec IT-band straps. I had to tighten it throughout the race, but it never became painful, just a little tweaky.

Until Stinson Beach (mile ~28) my stomach was all over the place. Even broth and boiled potatoes did not sit right. I have a feeling something happened with my electrolyte balance, but I also switched over to drinking plain water from Stinson onward, and that really seemed to help. I think I'm just going to have to do that by default from now on.Nevertheless, that didn't stop me from eating. It just meant I had to slow down on occasion to prevent a stomach blowup, and I think I spent about 20 minutes in porapotties.

Brownie bites, Coke, and potatoes dipped in salt - I had those at every aid station in the second half of the race. Can I just say that brownie bites go down really easy, and apparently they're ridiculously caloric. New race food?

Mile 25-35 was slow going, as I think my nutrition from the first half of the race caught up to me. However, once I got to Old Inn and hooked up with the Miwok trail, I was cruising. I blasted out of Muir Beach and passed a ton of people on those uphills, and left a lot of folks in my wake on the long descent into Tennessee Valley. Now that I know how to run downhill properly (leaning forward and planting my feet behind my body), I was able to really open up on the fire roads down into the valleys.

I had so much fun from from Tennessee Valley to the finish. I hiked the first steep section of the uphill, but then I kicked it into gear, knowing that if I wanted to finish with a faster time than last year I'd need to pour it on.

I bombed down the fire road and ran hard up the last hill to the Alta Water stop.As I did last year, I basically flew down the last downhill and ran hard around the final hill and into the finish.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Le update

Hey, grad school is tough. Also, ice is cold!

NSF fellowship application: done. Who knew writing a proposal, personal statement, and summary of research, while hitting the broader impacts and merit criteria, would be so hard?

Hell week 1.0: almost to break, one more midterm and then I've got a week to unwind, do some homework and a project, and study for a ton of midterms when I return.

IT-band: improving rapidly. After massage and physical therapy, the pain in my glute is gone but it still isn't kicking in to keep my leg stable, so there is still a bit of a wobble. Otherwise, I'm getting the TFL stretched out, and I'm almost back to my normal daily mileage.

North Face in San Francisco seems like a go, although I'm waiting until mid-way through next week before committing to tickets and a hotel. Shuttle information for the race hasn't been posted, so I can't book the hotel yet, anyway.

Just like last year, I'm going into this 50 miler coming off of an IT-band blowout. Last year it was Pine to Palm, this year, Leadville. My injuries are a broken record.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The grinder

Here is what's on my plate right now:

-NSF Fellowship application: my adviser and I decided I should go for an NSF fellowship, since I have a paper and a few presentations to my name. I have ten days to crank out a proposal, personal statement, and summation of previous research. Yowza.

-Grad school classes: they're hard and time consuming, what can I say? Thankfully I have only one midterm between now and Thanksgiving. The week after turkey day is going to be intense - two midterms, an oral presentation in atmospheric chemistry on hydroxyl radical production from obscure sources (much more interesting that it sounds), a weather discussion to lead, and at the end of the week, I catch a jet to San Fran and run 50 miles on Saturday. This is the meat grinder, but I did this sort of thing last year with the NF50.

-Getting this IT-band/piriformis under control. It's getting better on some sort of logarithmic slope.

-Realizing that heating an apartment in Colorado can cost you a pretty penny.

-And doing research for my thesis. LOL

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I should have gone into sports medicine

Because at this point, I've become such an expert on running injuries, having self-diagnosed and treated so many. Well, I've got another one I'm working on, this one a new twist on a classic.

My right IT-band and lateral leg has been going crazy lately. I'll get warmed up about 1-2 miles into a run and start to feel the onset of a tweaking sensation in my lower IT-band - not "painful" as in soreness, but almost a neurological thing. Then, all of a sudden, the tweak intensifies and my leg gives out for a few steps. If you have ever had a sensitive tooth, it's similar to the feeling you get by poking the exposed dentin - you can feel the nerves going crazy, but it isn't really painful at all.

Fast forward from two weeks ago to today, and this crap is still hanging around, even after my arsenal of IT-band exercises. Clearly, what I'm targeting with these exercises is not the source of the problem.

I spent a couple of hours doing all sorts of range-of-motion movements, stretching and contorting my body, and found a very tight, sore, hard muscle just above my knee, on the lateral side. I also noticed a lack of tone in the piriformis muscle on the same side.

The former is the vastus lateralis, of the quadriceps family. Pain in this muscle can develop as an overuse from cycling and running on steep inclines. Yes, I've been stepping up my cycling since moving to FoCo, and I bike to the department, but the hills...back in Seattle, I might get 200ft of gain on a daily run. I get almost ten times that on average without trying too hard. The clincher is that this came on during a long run at Horsetooth Mountain after doing repeats up and down Towers Road - a 3-mile gravel road that rapidly ascends/descends the mountain.

The latter is probably a basic case of piriformis syndrome.

Solutions: targeting the piriformis with strengthening exercises and rolling on a tennis ball. Heat and massage on the vastus, stretching, and range-of-motion for now. I developed a stretch for the vastus utilizing a theraband, picture coming soon.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"This is the long forgotten..."

"...light at the end of the world."

Good morning, Rockies.

Some lonely trail lit by a rising sun.

Hallett Peak. 

Don't get too close...

Getting too close, now...

Inches away from too close!

Remnants of the first snowfall in Bighorn Flats.

No words.

High elevation (11,000-13,000ft) alpine tundra is by far my favorite running terrain. Short-grass and moss fields strewn with lichen-covered boulders, rolling terrain, and the most expansive panoramas imaginable.

You feel very small here, overshadowed by rocky peaks but also overwhelmed by the amount of space. The steady wind chills your core while the strong sun burns your cheeks. It's humbling.

And it's empty. If you seek true solitude and wonder what "nothing" sounds like, this is the place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This is what a sunrise run sounds like

Solitude on a lonely trail under the pink and orange skies.

Bathing in the sounds and smells of a crisp autumn morning.

Feeling the warm tendrils of the sun pouring over the horizon.

Finding inner peace before the day awakens.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Easing back in

Worked my way back to 55 miles this past week. My IT-band doesn't hurt during running anymore - even on steep downhills - and it only feels sore if I sit for a long time (like I do every day as a grad student).

Monday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, my usual haunt. Ran within a few feet of a large pack of mule deer. I think they're becoming accustomed to me whizzing by at 6AM.

 6:30 AM, good morning Fort Collins.

Tuesday: 8 miles, same time same place. I took the camera and photographed the sunrise under the stratus clouds just starting to roll in. Not half an hour after this beautiful shot the rain started to fall and the sun was choked out by a thick cloud deck. Looks like the Seattle weather finally found me.

 7:00 AM, not so good anymore. Well, rain is always good around here, I guess.

Wednesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail. This crisp morning the landscape was bathed in thick fog, though it wasn't too deep since the full moon was shining bright above. The lichen-covered rocks and twisty pines were eery silhouettes until sunrise, when the fog began to glow pink and orange. Absolutely beautiful. Also did 15 miles on the mountain bike in the afternoon. The clay mud was so thick that it kept clogging up the wheel at the front fork.

Thursday: nada. Busy day with classes, colloquia, and research.

Friday: 8 miles, Foothills trail. A clear but unusually cold morning filled with mule deer. I think they start their feeding a little later on the days when it isn't sunny. Reminds me of winter in Seattle, when getting up for a morning run in the dark overcast was nearly impossible.

Saturday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge trail. I added four miles to my usual route, extending the turn-around to the Reservoir Ridge loop just south of the Cache la Poudre Monument. I really like this area - the trail runs the ridge line through Ponderosa pine, thick shrub, and very tall grass before spilling onto this very prominent peak at the break in the Dakota Hogback. The trail is wider, the grass is shorter - and there is a short hill on the reservoir side that makes Widowmaker on the Lower Woodland course look like a joke.

Sunday: 11 miles, Blue Sky and Rimrock trails. An out-and-back along the heavily-trafficked Blue Sky (tons of mountain bikers) with a diversion into the Rimrock Open Space. There's a colony of prairie dogs guarding the entrance to the open space, and they were on full alarm as I and a group of bikers passed through. The varied landscapes on this run are striking: rich, pink and red soil trails on the west side of the hogback, full of green grasses and shrub; on the east side of the hogback, large red slabs, cacti and succulents, and sparse short grass. It's like going from the Methow Valley east of the Cascades to Arizona.

Total: 54 miles, ~8000ft of vertical.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I'll post a "race report" on Leadville soon. Despite DNFing, I can already say that it was one of the most defining moments of my life. Running 50 miles on a blown IT-band is hard, very hard.

From mile 35 to mile 70, where I dropped, I ran with a limp, and every thought I had was laced with physical pain. I told myself that the only thing that would take me out of the race was the inability to physically move forward - and that happened, as I had to be carried into a med tent at the Half Pipe aid station with a black, swollen IT-band!

I'm back to running; each run I'm going a little farther, while the tightness and irritation is dissipating. I have four exercises I'm working on to strengthen my glutes and tensor fasciae latae, I'm stretching the band out often, and I'm improving my downhill running form.

Apparently, I've been doin' it wrong. I think. I did a 14 mile out-and-back along the Foothills Trail today and tried out a new downhill technique, just for kicks. Boy does it work well, and it doesn't pull on my IT-band like my old style would.

Here's the technique: loosen your muscles and keep your legs fluid, point your toes down, and lean forward. I know, this sounds like any how-to-run-downhill technique, but you always imagine you're running correctly. It's easy to run uphill - running downhill is an art.

This style is responsive - instead of tensing up and committing to a particular foot placement/knee angle, the muscles tighten upon impact and respond to the terrain immediately. Running down rough trails is no longer jarring and much more enjoyable.

Be like the stream.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leadville preview

I used Dillon/Silverthorne as my home base this weekend to spend time at altitude, get a run in at Leadville, and get some work done.

 We're going...somewhere up there.

While the 100 mile Mountain Bike race was in full swing, I headed over to Twin Lakes on Saturday to get a feel for the climb up Hope Pass. The jeep road to the river crossing is full of ankle-deep streams and puddles, and the river itself was only just above my knees at its deepest.

 A lot of this for half a mile.

The river, she is cold and swift.

The air has such a low relative humidity that my shoes were dry before I knew it, and I can tell that the cool water will be refreshing after 40 and 60 miles.

 You know you've taken a wrong turn when you don't see or hear the river.

The climb up the outbound side of Hope is somewhat steep and rocky for the first half as it weaves up to Willis Gulch, running parallel to a stream most of the way.

 The scribbled additions were more helpful.

As the trail breaks into grassy meadows interspersed with weathered pines and moss, I was able to run up the mild grade without much effort, and it's really only after breaking the treeline and making the final ascent that I think I'll have to power hike full-time.

 The hills are alive...

Amazingly, I did not feel that deep breathlessness I felt on the top of Flattop Mountain - maybe some minor acclimatization to the altitudes around the Front Range (5,500 to 7,500ft) has helped.

The descent was fantastic. With the exception of the rocky stretch about 1 mile from the base of Hope, it's very runnable - nice grade, nice trail. The other side is another story, but at least I know what to expect on this section.


On Sunday I went up to Loveland Pass and ran up Mt. Sniktau (13,234ft). The trail never dips below 12,000ft and there are several false summits on the way to the top.

 The trail is laid out before you; do or do not, there is no try.

Looking at the final climb from the (third?) false summit.

Ridge running over scree and rock fields along the Divide is exhilarating.

 From the summit East to Georgetown.

From the summit West to Leadville. In the far distance are Mount Massive and Mount Elbert. Somewhere around those two are where I was running yesterday!

Again, no acute effects from the elevation - and what fantastic views! You can definitely tell you're in thinner air up here, though. It's a bit harder to run uphill and maintain momentum over large boulders, but downhill is still a breeze.

The return trip skirting the Continental Divide.

So my take on the situation: I am not likely to have any trouble with acute mountain sickness associated with those Hope Pass climbs. The cumulative effects of running a long time at higher altitudes (gradually diminishing blood oxygen levels) - who knows until race day? That's still the big question, and because it's such an insidious problem, it could be well-masked by the general fatigue of an ultra until it finally strikes.

Also - weather report for next weekend at Leadville shows highs in the upper 60's with isolated thunderstorms. In my opinion, that's perfect weather for a race.

These two pictures sum up the weekend:

Mount Sniktau trailhead.
Just hanging around in some river almost 2 miles up.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The final countdown

This time next I'll be in Leadville, spending the day before the race eating, going over my strategy one final time with my crew, and hanging out with some people I've met at other races.

In fact, I'll be there this weekend, too! Sort of. I'm heading up to Lake and Summit Counties to get in some time at 9-10,000ft, about 3 days or so. I'm not intending to make much more than a minor adaptation, this is really a mental and physical preparation.

Mental in that I need to experience extended time at this elevation so I'm not surprised the weekend of the race. If I discover any problems, I'll know what to expect and how to deal with it. Mental in that I'm going to run the Hope Pass and Powerline sections to get to know the climbs so they feel familiar - both the actual trails and terrain, and the brushes with 12,500ft.

Physical in that I expect some discomfort the first day or so, but hope to start feeling good by the time I head back down to Fort Collins - a little nudge toward acclimation would be helpful. If my run up Flattop is any indication, I don't see the acute effects of elevation having an adverse impact on my running. My main concern is eating and, even more, hydration; perhaps my body will have enough time this weekend to take a crack at the latter.

I'll be equipped with music from my new go-to artist, Madeon, and a little something from the dirty dirty (Skrillex):

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flattop Mountain (12,324ft)

What better way to enjoy my first week in Colorado than run up a high peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.This is the highest I've gone on foot.

 Trail starts innocently enough in a typical high-altitude forest populated with aspen and assorted pine trees. The trails here, by the way, are extremely rocky (who would have guessed?) I'm thinking of getting a pair of New Balance MT101's just for the rock plate, because these things hurt going down!

 Emerald Lake, one of several lakes in the Tyndall Glacier drainage area. It's a long way down...

Trees are starting to thin and it's getting windy.

Starting to see a few krummholz on outcroppings. The wind at this altitude is a little chilly and the sun burns noticeably stronger.

Not much here except stunted Colorado blue spruce and a few hardy bushes. And rocks, of course.

I've only seen peaks like this in pictures, never in person. Just one big hunk of rock, man.

The views are 360-degree panoramic once you clear the treeline and hit the alpine tundra.

 This marmot decided to hold his back to me and refused to cooperate with the camera.

Yeah, it's that cold up here, although I'm sure this snowfield was much bigger and thicker several months ago.

Preparing to traverse the snowfield. The edge, visible on the left side, teeters over a sheer cliff. I decided not to get too close.

The naming is appropriate - this mountain has a very flat top, and holy cripes, is it cold and windy. My hands were started to go numb from the upslope winds coming up over the Continental Divide. I could see rain falling on the ridge to the north, and without a shell or gloves I just headed back down to the trailhead.

Where else can you run on snow in the middle of summer?

I only started to feel the elevation near the summit - a faint feeling that my breaths weren't complete - but I was able to keep up a good pace without getting trashed.

Leadville tops out at 12,600 twice (the two Hope Pass crossings). This run simulated the summit to Hope, as both have a similar rate of elevation gain-per-mile and they put you above the treeline for the bulk of the ascent.

Thinking of elevation, I think my plan at Leadville will be to get to Twin Lake at ~40 miles feeling fresh, enjoy the first climb over Hope, and power as fast as possible over it on the way back. I have a feeling that the second brush with the elevation will not be pleasant. I'm also thinking of hitting Estes Park this coming weekend to chill at 8,000ft and get a few more high altitude (10,000+ ft) runs in before the race.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Long Run

Hit the Tolt Pipeline at 5:30 this morning and finished my 30 miler at 9:40. There were some pit-stops and a refueling/stretch session at my car around 8:00, so while my average pace was 7.5 mph, it would be a little higher considering my time only while making forward progress.

Tolt was great. The hills are extremely runnable, in fact I only hiked up one hill, the 25%+ grade slope out of Blythe Park. Otherwise, my route was two out-and-backs between Woodinville and Snoqualmie Valley, and one out-and-back from Woodinville to Blythe Park in Bothell. The Pipeline has two ~15 degree kinks just before Snoqualmie, so it's essentially a straight shot except for the jog around the Red Hook Brewery on the way to Blythe Park. You'd think that this would make it quite boring, but it isn't. The hills constantly keep you entertained and never allow more than a half-mile or so of visibility of the trail ahead, and the scenery changes constantly. One moment you're running through horse farms and meadows, then through thickly-wooded valleys filled with gorgeous houses, and then across the 405.

I had 5 Gu's and 4 S-caps on the run, along with 70 oz of water. Very little for this distance, and I certainly started dragging ass the last hour. My right hip flexor/gluteus medius started to feel tweaked about 3 hours in, so I'm going to have to go back to work on it immediately (the glute was part of what caused my DNF at Rocky, the hip flexor gave me grief after Badger Mountain). More clam exercises!

Calorie burn from running was 2300 (weight x 0.63 x mileage), but if you consider my basal rate plus the exercise, my total calorie expenditure was around 2700. Eating 5 Gu's, that puts me at a net of 2200 calories burned, so I was definitely putting a strain on my reserves*. Hopefully my crazy hypothesis is correct - that training with a bare-minimum calorie intake provokes a more substantial response by the body to conserve glycogen and burn fat.

If nothing feels like absolute crap, I'll try to go for 2 hours tomorrow. Running on tired legs is good training. I need to hit mile 40, before Hope Pass at Leadville, feeling fresh and ready to do some work.

*A 150-lb man stores about 2500 calories worth of glycogen (2000 muscles, 500 liver). However, it's your leg muscles that need the energy, so some of the glycogen stored in muscles isn't going to be of much use to you while running. These numbers also assume you're "topped off". I estimate that at 120 lbs, I probably store at most 2000 if I carbo-load right before the run.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Prepping for Leadville

Leadville is a rather interesting race - it's a very runnable out-and-back with most of its elevation gain concentrated between miles 40 and 60. I've heard from many folks that if you can make it over the second ascent of Hope Pass, and you keep eating and drinking, you are very likely to finish. In fact, the aid station with the greatest number of DNF's is Winfield. The prospect of a second hike up the steep side of the beast certainly has something to do with it.

With that in mind, I'm planning to do a nice, long (mileage and time) run sometime this week, probably Tuesday. I'll be heading out to the Tolt Pipeline to do some out-and-backs between Duvall and Bothell. The trail is rolling, with numerous albeit short hills. You are almost always going up or down, and it's extremely runnable...gee, sounds like a race I know. I'm aiming to do 33 miles or so, figuring just a smidge under 5 hours. 33 miles gives just under 5000ft of gain, a similar amount per mile as Leadville. Although, in this case, the gain is much more evenly spread throughout the run.

I've been testing out my right ankle lately, which has developed an instability and potentially a little tendonitis (more acute than chronic). It started after I rolled it a few too many times on a run at Cougar Mountain. The Cougar Mountain Ring trail, as it's called in 50 Trails Runs in Washington, is not so much a run as a series of jumps over rocks, logs, and roots, and around countless curves and chicanes. After my 20-miler there today, I am resolved to not set foot there whenever I'm nursing even a minor injury. Late in the run, I rolled my right ankle twice in two minutes and decided to call it a day. I don't think there is any other trail that chews me up so much. If you're looking for a good training run for the HURT 100, Cougar is certainly an option.

I picked up a Nathan 2V Elite Plus (pet peeve: there is no "normal", the "Elite Plus" is the only 2-bottle belt offered by Nathan...just call it the "2V") and tested it out at Cougar. It's great: shock cords around the belt to stash gear, removable pockets, and well-padded holsters. Hopefully it performs well at Tolt, and if it does, I'm sure I'll be using it at Leadville. Aid stations are sparse compared to other races, and I feel that I can monitor my hydration and refill better with bottles.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Olympic Peninsula Tour

 Looking out on Samish Bay from Larrabee State Park

I took a three-day tour around the Olympic Peninsula and north Puget Sound, driving from trail to trail and camping out of the back of my Jeep. I'm short enough that I can put down the rear seats and stretch out in a sleeping bag, and it's nice not having to put up/take down a tent every day.

Day 1
 Another view of the afternoon mist.

Drive: From Seattle to Bellingham, overnighting at Larrabee State Park between Puget Sound and Chuckanut Mountain.

Day 2

View of the bay from halfway up Oyster Dome.

Run: Oyster Dome Loop, 8 miles and 3000ft of gain. I was treated to a great view of Samish Bay at the top and watched clouds roll west off Chuckanut into the bay. This trail was really gnarly and gave my ankles a good workout; I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 Are your ankles and quads ready?

No, no they are not. Going up burns almost as bad as going down.

View from the top of Oyster Dome, about 2100ft.

Drive: From Bellingham to Whidbey Island via Deception Pass.

 The bluffs at Ebey; thar be whar we're headed.

Run: Out-and-back at Ebey Landing, heading northward out of the park along the bluffs, then dropping down to the lagoon and the beach to return to the park. 8 miles and maybe 400ft of gain from the initial climb and rolling hills. The trail was overgrown past 2 miles, but the dirt trail is runnable with few rocks and unobstructed views of the Sound. There was some misting rain and a weak westerly wind.

 Heading up to the bluffs along the edge of the farms.

On the bluffs looking north to the lagoon that hugs the coastline.

Running the lagoon trail, which snaked all over the place and was overgrown at the south end. Certainly the road less traveled, here.

Drive: From Whidbey Island to Port Angeles via the Keystone Ferry, overnighting at Altair campground in Elwha in the foothills of the Olympics, nestled in the Elwha River Valley.

 Bringing it home on the beach.

Day 3

 The first of many stream crossings.

Run: Hurricane Hill Trail, from the Elwha Ranger Station to the top of Hurricane Hill and back, 14 miles and 6000ft of gain. The trail is very technical and steep for the first 3 miles, but once it reaches the meadows above 4500ft it's very runnable. There were numerous stream crossings early on, surging from the unusually large snow pack this year.

 Starting to hit the high country as the underbrush disappears.

Looking beyond the meadow to the start of the craggy ridge.
I heard snorts and cries just before entering the meadow, so I made a few clicks and vocalizations. Good thing, because as I spilled around the last switchback, I was greeted with a field of about 40 deer, including a few young bucks about 100 feet away who were not going to move off the trail. I slowly bushwhacked around them, cutting a few hundred feet up the hillside.

 Chompin' on the wildflowers.

The run across the ridge to the final ascent was great, as I was treated to views of the mountains to the east and the ocean to the west. Patchy snow was still on the ground starting at around 5000ft, and on the final ascent I entered a cloud and encountered snow flurries. Visibility deteriorated to only a few hundred feet at the peak, and I could only faintly make out the other mountains.

 Ridge-running over to the final ascent.

The view from below the cloud base.

I must not have noticed it on the climb (I was pushing hard to run the whole way), but on the descent I became aware of how cold and windy it was - a brisk, northerly wind of about 10mph, combined with temperatures below freezing, started to nip at my face. I zipped up my jacket tight and entered a now curiously empty meadow...empty, save for a black bear foraging in the bushes farther downslope.

 The nice thing about running at this altitude is that you can see the bear rather than stumble into one on a wooded trail.

(S)he glanced at me briefly before returning to the fresh berries, I imagine. I have had numerous encounters with black bears, including one in the Redmond Watershed, and I've found them to be relatively docile, although I suppose that's because it's always been a solitary bear and never a mother and her cubs.

Like Icarus, reaching for the heavens only to be struck down. I wonder how much this tree had seen before its recent demise.

I dropped out of the meadow now devoid of deer and back onto the trail as it curved north around Hurricane Hill toward Elwha. The run finished rather anticlimactically, abruptly dumping me back onto Whiskey Bend Road. Because there was no running water at this campground, I took a quick bath in the Elwha River, with the added benefit of getting an ice-bath, as well. Of course, the time I decide to bathe is the same time that a group of whitewater kayakers drift on by.

Drive: From Elwha to Granny's Cafe for a hearty breakfast. If you are ever in the area, stop by and enjoy the good food and the comfy dining room. It's also the only real restaurant between Port Angeles and Forks.

 The original size is huge, but even that doesn't do the view from Cape Flattery justice.

Drive: From Granny's Cafe to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the continental U.S. There is a short hike down to the rocks overlooking the Pacific, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Tatoosh Island. A helpful Makah woman was at the overlook, offering up her binoculars and telescopes to the visitors and pointing out the amazing biological diversity of the Cape - thousands of common murre floating around the island, sea lions sunbathing on isolated rocks, puffins fishing in the surf, and crabs on the far cliffs making a meal of barnacles and muscles affixed to the rocks. The drive to Neah Bay is slow but scenic, and everyone in town was extremely friendly.


Drive: From Neah Bay to South Beach campground, just south of Kalaloch Lodge. The campground was packed, and I ended up sharing a spot with a Canadian couple. Pro-tip: driftwood releases a lot of aromatic smoke when it's burned. It's easy to start a campfire with it, but it left my clothes and car smelling like a smokehouse. I slept with the rear window open to savor the ocean breeze - by morning it was about 40 degrees and the interior was lightly coated with salt.

Day 4

A calm morning on the lake. Actually, I think this lake is almost always glassy.

Drive: South Beach campground to Lake Quinault. Nothing but trees and logging areas for miles.

Looking off the bridge to one of the many streams that feed into Lake Quinault.

Run: Lake Quinault trails, 10 miles and 500ft of gain. This was a gentle, well-groomed trail with a few short, steep climbs and a few stretches on boardwalks through the bogs. I did pseudo-loop-out-and-back, running along the hillside on the way out to the far campgrounds, and then doubling back and running along the lake. It was a clear, pristine morning with a few thin, wispy layers of fog over the clearings near the lake.

 The trail continues up onto the bridge above the falls. There were a lot of these crossings on the hillside trails.

Drive: Lake Quinault to Seattle, stopping in Aberdeen/Hoquiam for coffee and breakfast.

Running the boardwalk through the bog.

3 days, 40 miles, and just under 10000ft of gain. I have never been out to the Olympic Peninsula, and after this trip I'm sure I'll be heading back at some point in the future. I was going to head back to run the Dosewallips-Gray Wolf Pass trail in a couple of weeks, but apparently the road has been washed out and trail conditions are a little hairy. Maybe I'll do Cle Elum Ridge, instead.