Tagged in: Columbia River Gorge

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Helpless to Hopeful: Race for the Trails

I was on a roll with this blog for a couple of years. I enjoyed writing about my triumphs and difficulties, and helping others locate quality races to run and where to run in various cities. I’m not proud of the fact that it’s been 9 months since my last post. As much as I love running and the running community, things went sideways for me late last year.

I suffered a nasty back strain in early December that reduced me to shuffling with trekking poles just to make it from one room of my home to the next. The pain of my spinal column crushing nerves and muscle tissue each time I tried to rise from bed is something I would never wish on another living being. I finally returned to walking, and, in late January, I ran a few miles.

Through work layoffs for my wife and I, a move from Portland to Bend, family bereavement, and enduring illness, maintaining a positive outlook on a day-to-day basis has been difficult. I’ve struggled mentally and emotionally with my physical limits, while trying to return to form after my back injury. I was buoyed by a visit from my parents, who cheered me on to my first race finish of 2017, the Bend Half Marathon. I felt slow, but optimistic as I thought I was progressing at a good clip at the time.

Bend Half Marathon Medal

I struggled to break through the 15 mile barrier on subsequent long training runs. Eventually, I entered the Under Armour Mt. Bachelor 50k on the weekend of my 38th birthday, and suffered my first DNF, dropping out at Mile 22 after my body decided to stop accepting food at mile 10, and stop sweating soon after. On a hot, dusty day on the mountain, I realized for the first time that I might not regain that level of endurance and fitness I prided myself on for the last couple years.

As usual, running and the running community have supported and encouraged me. Throughout the summer, I’ve worked hard on core strength, hip flexibility, and hill workouts. My wife and I started attending Max King’s Tuesday Performance Group runs to improve our speed and meet more locals. I’m a long way off from where I want to be, but I’m getting there. And I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, despite setbacks that include a 3 week period in August where I couldn’t run because of another back strain. Over these last 9 months, I’ve felt distance between myself and the running community. Distance from the like-minded folks who made my last few years so great. I was excited to celebrate in the triumphs of my fellow runners, but to not be able to join in the shared efforts has been a hard pill to swallow.

But just 11 days ago, something happened that pulled me back into the running community entirely. An irresponsible kid with a smoke bomb lit a fire on a popular trail in the Gorge. My home turf. The place where I learned to run trail. The place where I learned to love the green forests of Oregon. The place where so many people have achieved incredible things in their running careers and have learned to love the trails. I was heartbroken; devastated.

My coping mechanism for the wildfires decimating the Gorge was supposed to be running in itself. Alas, the smoke in Central Oregon is so bad from wildfires, that I’ve been reduced to spending time on treadmills, putting in long, boring miles while staring into a parking lot and wishing I could time travel to one year ago.

But some good has come from the treadmill sessions. With so little to distract me, my mind wandered endlessly. I considered the sadness of the Eagle Creek fire in the Gorge and the people who are working hard to prevent the fire from getting worse. I considered the people who worked so hard to save the Gorge from corporate interests in the first place and how their work might just be starting all over again with opportunistic companies looking to profit from the lost beauty of the Gorge.

I came to a conclusion. I have web development skills. I have running skills. I’m going to organize a virtual race as a fundraiser for the original defenders of the Gorge: Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

Putting this race together has been extremely cathartic for me. So many people have joined in to help. From promoting the race, to donating, to registering, I’m thrilled each time I receive a notice that someone else has contributed or wants to be a part of it.

Race for the Trails 2017 Logo

Crafted by Grant Garrett

And so, Race for the Trails is a reality. 100% of the proceeds are going to Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Promotional partners are coming on board. People from the other side of the globe have gotten involved. People I’ve never met are joining the cause and showing what this community is made of. We’re going to make a difference. We’re going to put the Gorge trails back together again. And we’re going to make sure that this never happens again, so future visitors can discover the forest, the trails, and learn to love trailrunning the same way I did. The same way so many people in the PNW have. Thanks to those of you who have already contributed and registered. Thanks to those of you who will in the future.

As of the writing of this post, the Eagle Creek fire is only 13% contained. We have a long road ahead of us, but the collective rolling up of sleeves is something to behold. Let’s get to work.

Trail Run Columbia River Gorge

Gorge 400 Trail Training Run

I spent Halloween morning trail running on the Gorge 400 Trail with some terrific and goofy running partners. We started from the John B. Yeon trailhead, scooted past Elowah Falls and much more. We have had some rain recently and the waterfalls were in spectacular form. It was a slippery, muddy, rainy, and altogether gorgeous day. Video footage below from a really fun training run.

Chicken Feed Hood River

Trail Running East Fork Hood River #650

My wife and I recently took our first trip to Hood River, Oregon. The reason for the trip was two-fold: run a trail together and tour Hood River’s breweries. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

We left early on a Saturday morning in the first week of June and headed for the Polallie Trailhead. This was a quick, 80-minute drive from Portland. The trailhead does require a Northwest Forest Pass. Ours had just expired, but we lucked out because apparently this was a no-fee day. There is a ranger station down Highway 35 where you can scoop up a pass, so be sure you’re up-to-date before you arrive at this trailhead.

We headed across the street to the actual trailhead and started uphill. We were aware of a certain amount of elevation change, but the first mile alone included a startling amount of elevation. We quickly switched to hiking mode on uphills to save our energy. It was a very hot day and we didn’t want to overdo it. To add a bit of interest to our run, we decided to visit Tamawanas Falls. This added a couple of miles to the run, but was well worth it. The trail in and out from Tamawanas Falls is generally wide and easy to run. Most of it is single- or double-track dirt, with just a few areas of technical, rocky terrain.

Away from the falls, the trail was single-track dirt and gentle, undulating hills. For beginners or professionals, this is a fun, relatively easy trail. The elevation gain wound up being a surprise, but didn’t cause any great difficulty. Our goal for the day was 10 miles total, so when we were satisfied that we had gone far enough, we took a side trail to the river for a quick bite to eat while enjoying the lazy river flowing in front of us.

After closing out the remaining 5 miles of our out and back run, we headed for Parkdale, Oregon. We wound up hitting Solera Brewing, with it’s spectacular beer garden view of Mount Hood. After a quick beverage, we went to Apple Valley BBQ for a very hearty lunch. From there, we headed for our AirBnB, which happened to be on an amazing little farm, where the owner let us hang out and feed all the animals. Beyond that, we headed for downtown Hood River and wandered from coffee shop to brewery to shops to restaurants. We spent a fair amount of Sunday copying our routine from Saturday, including a stop on the Washington side of the Columbia River at Everybody’s Brewing. Again, this is a stellar place for a beer and some food with a spectacular Mount Hood view from the patio. I highly recommend the quick trip to White Salmon, Washington for this brewery.

This was a terrific two-day trip that could easily have been a single-day running adventure. But if you’re going to drive to Hood River for a trail run, do yourself a favor and spend some time in this lovely city. It’s worth your time. See the video below for some shots of the trail and the farm.

Table Mountain Summit

Injury at Table Mountain

My marathon training took a major hit this past weekend while hiking Table Mountain in Washington state. I opted for trail running shoes instead of boots and twisted my right ankle while climbing a talus slope over loose rock. I made it through the remainder of the hike, but I’ll be taking some time off from running. I’m depressed because I was quite happy with my prep for the inaugural Pacific Northwest Marathon, but I want to be smart and heal fully. There are still two remaining marathons on my calendar for the year. This just means that my May 2 attempt won’t be my A race for the year. On the bright side, Table Mountain was a great place to hike and I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to hike in the Columbia River Gorge once again. I used a GoPro to film the hike and the below video is the result.