On a beautifully cool and sunny October morning, I ran the Elk-Kings 50K in the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon. I’ve never been much of runner, but I got it in my head last year that I wanted to push my body to see just how much it was capable of. I followed a 16 week training program and felt prepared both mentally and physically when October 13th rolled around.
The race started at the Jones Creek Day Use Area. The weather was crisp and cold and there was a gorgeous fog blanketing the forest. The trail was a double out and back; it went out for 4 miles along the Wilson River before turning back to hit the starting point again and head out in the other direction for 12 before turning back around and finishing at the Tillamook Forest Center. There was roughly 5,600 ft. of elevation gain by my Garmin (though the website says it was closer to 6,500 ft.) with the majority occurring in the second half of the course. (source)
The first 11 miles went by quickly. The trail was full of rolling hills and the energy was high. I rolled my ankle at mile 4 – the terrain was much softer than the rocky ground I trained on in Utah – but I was able to walk it out and keep moving forward. Though it was cold when the race started, the sun came out and I was able to shed my outer layer around mile 8. Matt and Snickers met me at the second aid station around mile 11 to give me a fresh water bladder and take my shirt.
The trail started to get much more difficult after that point. We crossed a bridge and climbed about 1,200 ft. in 3 miles. There was a steep downhill followed by some rollers and another climb before hitting the turn around point at mile 19. At this point my right IT band was getting inflamed from all of the downhill and my knee was in pain (you can see it on my face in the photos below). Luckily Matt came to my rescue with some Ibuprofen and some motivation and I was on my way again.
The return was HARD. The 1,200 ft. we climbed on the way out was compressed into 1.5 miles on the return and my glutes and hamstrings were on fire. I wanted to stop so many times, but literally pushed my legs up that hill. At this point I knew I was 5th place female – the lady in 4th place was behind me in the first half, but left the aid station before me – and thought if I pushed it I could potentially catch up to her. I was never so relieved as when the trail went down again to the aid station at mile 29. From that point, it was 2.75 miles of rolling hills to the end where Snickers and I crossed the bridge to the finish line.
Since I did pretty much all of my training solo, being in a race environment was both foreign and invigorating. I pushed myself harder than I probably would have otherwise. I finished 31.76 miles in 6:09:13 by the race time (5:59:44 moving time – I stopped with Matt and Snickers at a few aid stations), which was far better than I could have hoped. Going in I just wanted to finish under 7 hours with a goal in the back of mind of 6.5, so to finish just over 6 hours was amazing for me. I was 21st overall, 4th place female (out of 30), and 1st place female in my age group (the top 3 overall weren’t eligible for age group prizes, so I technically finished 3rd in my age group 🙂 but I’ll take the win).
A big thanks to Matt and Snickers for being my cheerleaders and support staff all summer and to the Go Beyond Racing crew who put on an amazing race.
The Stansbury Crest Trail to Willow Lake is a 7 mile out and back hike in the Wasatch Cache National Forest. It is ~50 miles west of Salt Lake City and the last few miles are on an unpaved gravel road. The trail is lightly trafficked with 2,000 feet of gain over the course of 3.5 miles. At the end, you’re treated to lake surrounded by cliffs – it was muddy and a bit dried up when we went (end of a hot summer) but it’s likely full in the spring and early summer from snow runoff. We ran into some cattle towards the end enjoying the shade, but otherwise it was a nice, peaceful hike. The leaves were already starting to change colors in early September, which made for a picturesque drive through the canyon on the way out.
Sawmill Slough Preserve – Jacksonville, FL
Sawmill Slough Preserve is a preserve at the University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville, FL. I was able to get out there while I was at work and do about 5.5 miles on a few of the trails: the Gopher Tortoise Ridge Trail and the Goldenrod Trail. The trails are very flat and easy, and run through a tree grove. They’re not the best maintained – many of the bridges are missing boards – but it’s a good option close to the city. None of the trails are very long, but doing a few loops can get you some decent mileage.
Military Reserve is a 728 acre area of land in the foothills of Boise. It is filled with miles and miles of trails suitable for both running and biking. The trail system in Boise connects a couple of different nature areas including Military Reserve Park and Camels Back Reserve. Beth did a 15 mile run through the hills with Matt and Snickers joining for the last two one day and went back during the week for some shorter runs. The hills are rolling and sandy, making for a relatively easy run. The trails are not shaded so we wouldn’t recommend them for hiking (it’d be a relatively boring hike), but they were perfect for getting mileage on a cloudy fall day. There are so many trails it’s easy to do as much or little as you’d like. Snickers thoroughly enjoyed doing a couple of shorter runs through the area.
The Table Rock Trail is a 3.5 mile, heavily trafficked trail. The trail climbs approximately 890 ft. up to the mesa, and the uphill climb makes it moderate difficulty.The trail starts by an old penitentiary, which you get a nice view of as you climb the hill. With plenty of breaks to catch your breath, it’s a very doable trail offering a great view of the city and canyon from the top.
We’ve been a little silent over here lately. Life has gotten busy and we’ve just been enjoying our time. In the last month we: visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, packed up our belongings and said ‘goodbye for now’ to Utah, traveled for work, spent a few weeks in Boise, and popped up in Oregon. So, without further adieu, here’s a rundown of our brief time in Boise.
We chose Boise for one reason: it was the largest city roughly halfway between SLC and Portland. While it’s a small college town, it packs a big punch. We stayed in an extended stay hotel right near Boise State University and Ann Morrison Park. The park along with a greenway that ran along the Boise River were great for walking Snickers. We were there at a great time of the year – the leaves were changing colors and the temperatures were perfect. We were also in walking distance to downtown and the Capitol – there were great parks all around including a beautiful rose garden near the Boise Zoo.
Snickers at the Boise Rose Garden
Train bridge walking path – Downtown Boise
The downtown area boasts plenty of restaurants and breweries in addition to art installments. Freak Alley is one such art installation where local artists are able to paint murals on the buildings; it’s constantly evolving and new murals are added every few years – either painted over or incorporated into existing art.
Below are a few places we tried and enjoyed during our short time in town:
- White Dog Brewery: expansive collection of beers and a tasty food truck – Smoke and Thyme – outside
- Gas Lantern: bar next to White Dog serving up unique cocktails in a modern atmosphere. Heidi got a drink that had toasted meringue on top and tasted like a lemon meringue pie!
- Spacebar Arcade: you know we love a good barcade, and Spacebar fit the bill. Great basement space with a decent beer and wine selection and plenty of pinball and arcade games.
- The Stil: ice cream shop scooping up delicious flavors and ice cream and beer flights!
- Payette Brewing: extensive beer selection and great outdoor space. Good for dogs, and, unfortunately, kids.
- Tree City: tasty smoothies and simple sandwiches. It was perfect for a quick, healthy lunch.
- Dawson Taylor Coffee Roaster: coffee roaster right by the university. Roasts were a bit hit-or-miss, but the lattes were quite tasty.
As if that wasn’t enough, we also got to enjoy quite a few hikes/runs in the trails around the city. Boise is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. While the mountains aren’t as looming as those in Colorado or Utah, the view of the hills from the city are gorgeous in their own right. The main areas are Military Reserve Park, Camels Back Reserve, and Table Rock. There are miles upon miles of trails connecting all of the parks and they’re filled with mountain bikers and runners any day of the week.
While not a place we would hang our hats, it was a great stopover destination.