Wildwood Trail – end to end

Portland is rife with hiking trails throughout the city. Forest Park, alone, has about 70 miles of trails within its boundaries. The Wildwood Trail runs for 30.2 miles through both Washington Park and Forest Park. When we moved here in October 2018 my goal was to run the trail end to end, and I finally did it in June 2019.

Forest Park is gorgeous this time of year. The trails have dried out from all the winter rain, and the spring foliage is incredibly lush. There is plenty of canopy coverage to keep you cool on a hot day. Spring and summer running make up for all of the wet, winter runs through ankle-deep mud.

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 10.15.14 AM.pngI run portions of the Wildwood twice a week, and have run approximately 22 miles of the trail. Since I’m in the thick of ultra marathon training, it was the perfect time to do the trail in its entirety. I needed to hit 35 miles for the day, so I tacked on an additional 6.5 miles to get from our apartment to the trailhead. I started at Portland State University running on Terwilliger to the Marquam trailhead, followed the Marquam Trail up through Council Crest, before finally meeting up at the start of the Wildwood in Washington Park.

The weather was cool and cloudy – perfect for a long run. The first 2.4 miles to the trailhead are on the road and quick. The next 2.6 on the Marquam Trail up to Council Crest are always slow-going for me; the trail climbs roughly 1,100 feet in this section and I end up doing quite a bit of hiking. Thankfully, the next 1.5 miles to the start of the Wildwood are downhill. The Wildwood is mostly rolling hills the 2-ish miles through Washington Park giving a bit of breather before climbing to Pittock Mansion. The trail is closed for about 1/2 mile at Burnside before the hill to Pittock Mansion, but luckily someone posted a detour that runs along the road. After Pittock there’s a downhill to McLeay Falls before a long, rolling climb to Fire Lane 1 (my halfway point). I got to Fire Lane 1 where I met Matt for a refill of my water and to grab some snacks.IMG_0550.jpegThe second half of the run felt a lot slower than the first. I was able to keep a decent pace and just kept moving forward, even if that meant walking. The Wildwood is a fairly easy trail without a lot of climbing. While this is usually a good thing, a very runnable trail means, well, a lot of running :). I enjoyed the rolling hills and quiet section of trail for next 8 miles, when I started to get pretty fatigued around mile 25. I fueled myself with plenty of GUs, potatoes, and peanut butter crackers, ensured I was staying well hydrated, and kept chugging along. There weren’t any more major climbs after Pittock, so it was mostly a mental game to move forward as quickly as I was able.

After crossing Germantown Road around mile 30, I knew I was in the home stretch with about 5 miles to go. I took a tumble a mile in – tired legs + tree roots are a recipe for disaster – but, aside from a slightly bruised ego I was fine to keep going. I met Matt and Snickers at Firelane 15 with 1.8 miles to the end. They helped me keep moving, though at this point my knees and feet were achy so I was going pretty slowly. We finally made it to the car in around 7 hours. Not the fastest by far, but it felt really good to accomplish something of that magnitude.Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.58.37 AM.png

Smith Rock Ascent 50K

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A few weekends ago I ran my second 50K at the beautiful Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, OR. I couldn’t have asked for better weather – the temps were cool and the sun was shining. The course was a lollipop on a mostly single-track trail with about 4,600 ft of elevation gain. There were roughly 300 racers toeing the line and the excitement at the start line was energizing. I didn’t feel very strong with my training, so my goal was just to have fun and hopefully finish in around 6 hours.IMG_0675The first three miles were fast – we wound along the Crooked River through the basalt cliffs. Miles 4-5 started a steady 1,100 ft climb with plenty of switchbacks. This is where the pack started thinning out and racers fell into place. I did a lot of hiking on this portion but the sweeping views of Mt. Hood and Three Sisters made it worth the slower pace. The next two miles I fell in line with a group who kept a quick pace into the first aid station at mile 7.SmithRock1After swinging through the aid station, it was another short climb before four miles of downhill relief. I chatted with another runner through this section about all of the other races he’s done (he had quite the impressive resume!). He helped me keep a sub-10 min/mile pace – and even one sub-9 minute mile – and before I knew it we were done with 12 miles and rolling into the second aid station. After refilling my water bladder I was on my way again.

I need to work on my facial expressions when I see the photographer!

There were about 7 miles to go until the next aid station with some killer climbing. We climbed 1,400 ft in the first 4 miles before diving back down. This portion of the trail was also through some ranch land so we saw plenty of cows. Matt and Snickers had been out hiking and surprised me at mile 17! It was nice to see some familiar faces just past the halfway point. The trail turned into a gravel service road so it was a couple of fast and easy miles into aid station 3.

It was another 7 miles to the next aid station; the first couple of miles were on the gravel road and I sped down those at a quick clip. I ran into Matt and Snickers again around mile 23 where I snagged some sunscreen and body glide before continuing on. The next three miles to the aid station were at a slight incline. My mind was saying “run” but I had a hard time getting my legs to follow suit. It was no doubt a combination of fatigue as well as altitude – the course started at 3,000 ft. and had a max elevation around 4,700 ft. I ended up hiking a good portion of this section before hitting the final aid station at mile 26.IMG_6639 v2 I refilled my water bladder, grabbed a popsicle, and hit the trail for the final 5 miles. I fell back into step with a couple of the people I had run with earlier in the day and we cruised along for two mostly flat miles. We hit a steady descent where I gained some speed and peeled off from the pack. The last mile wound along the river again before a final steep climb to the finish.

I cruised across the finish line in 5:52:49, besting my 50K time by 20 minutes! I was 30th female out of 118 and 13th in my age group. There were a lot of amazing, fast women in the field and I was happy finishing strong. The biggest surprise for me was just how good I felt at the end. In my last race I was dealing with some intense IT band pain, and, aside from the usual aches that come with running for 6 hours, I ran this pain-free.Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 7.54.20 PMScreen Shot 2019-05-19 at 7.52.58 PMIt was another amazing race put on by the Go Beyond Racing team! A huge “thank you!” to all of the volunteers and support teams who made it possible, especially my personal crew. Matt and Snickers have pushed me along through miles and hours of training and put in another long day cheering on me and the other runners. I truly couldn’t have done it without them.

Elk-Kings 50K

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. DSC_0961-X3(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. DSC_1713-X3

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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.

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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.

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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.