The observation that I returned to all day was the variety of mushrooms that I found along the trail in the Tillamook Forest on Saturday. Color, form, size. I’m not sure I saw the same type of mushroom twice.

If I had to qualify the difficulty of the race… it was more difficult than Mt. Hood 50 miler. Not as hard as Leadville 100 (bike). It was a very difficult day. When I realized what I was signed up for, at about 8 miles in, I adjusted my goals to 1. Not get hurt, 2. Finish, 3. Time. It’s difficult not to go into analysis when the race doesn’t go according to planned – so I’ll just stick to my experience.

I was up at 3:45am on Saturday making coffee and toast. I grabbed my bags and set off West toward the coast in my rental car. Once I turned off Rte 26 toward Tillamook, the rain began. It rained off and on all day with a couple of hours of mist and breaking clouds/sunshine in the early afternoon. We started at 7am in rain and darkness – the sun came up about 25 minutes later. I stashed my headlamp at the first aid station – around mile 2.5. The trail was … I would posit about 95% singletrack with a few road crossings. The footing was extremely technical for the first 20 miles.  The course consisted of 2 out and back loops. 20 miles for one loop, back to the start, 12 miles out and back in the other direction. The second loop was actually 14 miles and had the biggest elevation gain of the course.

As I neared the start/finish at the end of the first section I had an interesting exchange… with myself :) I went through the DNF / bail scenario. I could have easily bailed and gone and taken a nap in the car before driving home. That idea was churning in the forefront mentally as I approached 20 miles. But there was something else…something deeper, not an explicit thought, more of another observer listening to the self-doubt and whining (whinging?). And that part of me never paused, never glanced over to the Forest Center where people were waiting. That was the hammer watching; and I was the nail.

The climb up from this point was crushing (or so I thought). It was 15% grade in places. I was pushing on my knees with my hands and power-hiking up. I ran where I could, the surface a very nice runnable bed of spruce and fir needles. When I reached the top of  this climb, I descended for about 20 minutes of steep downhill running; a very fast, pounding descent. I reached the aid station and checked my mileage. 26.2. I just ran a marathon, I thought – and now I have a 10k remaining.

I occasionally take a caffeinated gel on long runs if my energy levels are low (I mostly try to stick with a timed eating schedule), I don’t ever drink caffeinated soda  (yes coffee). Most ultra aid stations late in the race are stocked with Coke (Cola). Given that I was turning around immediately and ascending the 2 mile hill I just came down, I opted for Coke. I chugged 3 cups, ate a caffeinated Espresso Clif shot, took a piece of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some Pringles – had my bottle filled and started walking up.

I hadn’t listened to music all day but carried my shuffle in a plastic baggy in my run pack. I was so mentally consumed with my footing, not rolling my ankle and trying to move quickly over moss and leave-covered rocks. At 26 miles though – I knew I needed to get up this climb fast and make some time on the descent back to the finish. I put my earbuds in and started powering up the climb. Very steep. Very difficult. Very caffeinated. This music was perfect and got me through.

From the top of this climb the next few miles were very runnable and I made good time to the finish. I ate a cheeseburger from the grill back at the forest center and then walked back to the car to change and drove back to Portland.

7 Clif Shots
1 Package Clif Blocks
Pieces of peanut butter/jelly sandwich
Nuun / Water / Coke

I have a time to beat for next year.

Elk-King’s Mountain Traverse 50k from Chris Rivard on Vimeo.

This much fun

That was the first time I’ve raced in the dark and thought it would be fun #2 – a little suffering with the pace on Leif Erikson and then more suffering climbing Fire Road 1 followed by more suffering on the singletrack… but it turned out to be fun #1. Fun fun. Shocking.

I was running Mt. Tabor before sunup a couple of years ago but there was only a short section that was all trail. Tonight I was race pace in the woods on single track for about 5 kilometers.

Imagine flying through the forest just above the ground following a single beam of light illuminating just 2 meters in front of you. You can’t see anything in your periphery, and are completely focused on the beam of light and the surface beneath it. It’s like that. Fast. Surreal. Flying through the forest in the dark.

We started with 5k on Leif Erikson (an improved but rocky fire road) as the sun started to go down. I made a half-hearted effort to turn on my headlamp, mostly to have it on before I needed it, but couldn’t get the correct beam setting – the button combination is weird with double and single hold presses to get the proper beam (it’s a new Petzl Tikka+). I finally got the brightest most dispersed beam just as we turned to start the climb up Fire Road 1. Essentially a wall. I ran until I blew up, then power hiked to recover, then ran again until I blew up, wash, rinse, repeat until done.

Going up that climb and looking back and seeing all the headlamps coming up behind me was beautiful – the bobbing lights in a row all the way down the hill. Very cool. There was so much moisture in the air that the headlamp was useless as we ran through little clouds. Same as driving in fog. The light just illuminates the moisture. The headlamp was clicking down a few notches and wasn’t staying where I wanted it to – the angle grooves were too light and a hard landing would cause it to jump down a few clicks. We started to descend and I pulled out my spare headlamp and turned on the focused beam – not sure how many lumens it is (Black Diamond … something) but it was perfect. I held it in my right hand and pointed it ahead on the trail, and kept my headlamp pushed back to give me a little more dispersed light. It was a pretty good setup.

At one point I passed a runner coming up from the side of the trail – he had run off the trail into the woods. Oops! Everyone’s pace definitely seemed to slow when were in the woods. I passed a couple of people – but made an effort to keep everything under control and not roll my ankle like I did last race. I couldn’t see the slope changes, but could feel my heart rate going up, so I assumed I was climbing a hill. So much fun for a Wednesday night.

Inhaled a huge bowl of green chile chicken soup (super spicy yum) and cornbread when I got home and started the process of winding all systems down for the night.

50K on Saturday. It’s my treat. I plan to enjoy it.

Portland trail series race #4 from Chris Rivard on Vimeo.

Digging the Nick Mulvey lately. Some of it reminds me of Ali Farka Toure.

Fixing and Breaking

I vividly remember when this lesson manifested itself to me… which ultimately means you reach a level of understanding so that you can incorporate the lesson into your life.  The opposite being the lesson that keeps presenting itself to you in creative ways until you have the epiphany and understand the lesson. I’ve found this is how life works.

It was just before my first 24 hour mountain bike race in West Virginia and I was working on my bike.. and working on it.. and working on it. I was adjusting the suspension to get the dampening and rebound just perfectly dialed in… and I was turning the 8mm hex wrench and then … I turned it too far and the inside tube of the oil chamber sheared off.  I pulled out the wrench with the threads of the aluminum tube still attached… and suspension oil gushed onto the ground and I realized I had gone too far.

Such a great lesson.
It’s about backing off and allowing things to be unfinished, messy and imperfect. It’s also about trying to determine where the edge lies. Always a tricky proposition. Best taken on a case by case basis.

This is going to be a high mileage week with only 2 races. Wednesday is the Trail Series in Forest Park (which may be in the rain and dark according to the weather forecast). And Saturday’s 50K at Elk Mountain. I haven’t had any really long runs in a few weeks, I have a good base and a season of racing behind me. I’m not so much nervous as a little tired of racing. Maybe I’ve gone to far — hard to tell.

I think this will be my last ultra of the year before I wind down for the holidays and rest (and ski).

A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus? If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.

- Arthur C. Clarke

Flow control

24 miles in 3 days has left me tired and sore in the legs.  I did yoga with the kids tonight; both to get them to settle down for bed and to stretch out my legs. Just getting them to slow down and think about their breathing: inhaling deeply and forcefully exhaling helps them settle. Flat on back with knees bent, palms down, breathe a few times… then onto belly and up to cow pose, then back to plank, upward dog, downward dog, cow pose, then child’s pose and relax. That’s pretty much it. I had us all doing sun salutation during the summer, but the start of school has compressed our morning schedule.

I was thinking about this concept of overspin on my run today; in a prop plane there is a situation where the engine can no longer control the rotation of the propellor and it begins to spin faster than it normally would (if it were still controlled by the engine). My brother the aviator is the one who explained the concept. The risk in overspin is that the speed of the prop exceeds the materials strength of the propellor. If that happens, the propellor can shear and then really bad things can happen. Take away any analogy from that you like. My takeaway is that you just need a larger engine.  Flow control.

Mind Weeds

Good lunch run this afternoon. We ran the arboretum loop with what I think has been coined the “Rivard addition” – just a tiny quarter mile drop and climb back up to the road after the lookout…always the hard way though – if there is a hill, why not run up it?

From the new office coming across the bridge – it makes this route a 9 miler. The (mostly flat) city running pre and post make the 2 additional miles feel zippy.

I ran with D and A today. It was nice to have company  — not super fast but lots of chit chat and running closely on the trails. Good to work on the pack running technique. I was thinking at one point if we bumped feet we’d probably all take a tumble ass over heel down the mountain.

Gazing up at the vapors on Council Crest.

Soon it’s going to be time to put sunglasses away and seal the hatches for the winter. In Portland it’s as if we close the submarine hatch and spin the handle closed until the Spring. Our little Portland submarine.

Knocked askew a little bit this week; but re-centering. Sometimes the paths we’re traveling intersect, roiling waves like an ever expanding Euclidean mesh. It makes no sense to me.

You should be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because they will eventually enrich your practice.

-Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind



Too much breath holding this week.

Good runs from the new office to my trails in Forest Park.  I haven’t ventured out to the arboretum or zoo or done the full council crest loop but I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

I’ve found it’s extremely tough coming back over the Burnside bridge after running Wildwood in Forest Park – the total mileage to the new office is 7 miles, the same loop was only 5+ from my old office. From Voodoo doughnuts it’s a climb to the top of the bridge and a descent to Grand Ave, but that climb is kinda annoying.

I’m not used to seeing so much bodily fluid in the street when I run. Most of the homeless shelters are just over Burnside bridge into downtown, so I have to go through the 2nd, 3rd and 7th circles of Hell to get to the trails. (I think there’s actually a strip club called Dante’s that I pass). Honestly it’s a good reminder of the range of the human condition. There was a younger guy and an old woman sitting criss-cross applesauce on the sidewalk on Tuesday engaged in a drugged out staring contest. Sometimes when I look at the people, their bodies and faces wracked with substance abuse, I catch a glimpse of what they looked like before the descent – before their cheeks caved in and they lost all their teeth.

Good travel coming up. Looking forward to exploring in my running shoes.

Upcoming race in Tillamook Forest in a couple of weeks.  I only took a small 10oz bottle with me last Sunday on my 15 miler. I think I may do this 50K super light and rock the aid stations.  Looking forward.

Bad Idea Jeans

That’s all I could think about. I should have stayed at the office tonight and worked. Instead I set in motion *insane* machinations to get to the starting line of this race:

I finished a meeting, reserved a Car2Go, then packed up all my crap… which included my cycling kit, 2 rain jackets, 3 bike lights and all my running gear (and lunch box) and then proceeded to ride half a mile (in the opposite direction I needed to go) to get the Car2Go.

Unlocked the car, precariously placed the bike hanging out of the back of the car (sans front wheel) and then started tearing from SE to SW to get to Forest Park and the start line.

Still in my work clothes mind you. Like a crazy person, I put the Car2Go in the smallest possible parallel spot it would fit. Fuck it. It was a *9* point parallel turn to tuck it in.

6:14pm (1 minute to start)
Stripped my shirt and put on my running shirt standing next to the car. Looked around as I considered dropping my trousers to put on my running shorts… back into the car to change into my shorts (gross!) and then … and then …. realized I packed Injinji socks! I nearly lost it at this point as I uncurled the socks, determined which foot was which and then painstakingly slipped each of my toes into the toe socks. Note to self: in a hurry, don’t go for the Injinji’s.

Heart rate strap installed, shoes tied (TOO LOOSE), I then hopped on the bike with an overstuffed, unbalanced pannier, wearing my running kit and rode the final 200 yards to the start… race director is giving instructions – I shout out my name, drop the bike, get my number, start my watch and….. GO!

Bad Idea Jeans.

Passed a bunch of people on the first climb, gaining ground on my regular pack who started near the front.  Futzing with my headlamp on the climb… blah blah. Excuses excuses. Not recovered, not snappy, mostly just not mentally ready to race tonight.

Hit the turn around and was positively *joggin’* up the long climb. Runners at my back on the last singletrack downhill – oops, roll my ankle. WHAT AM I DOING HERE!?

One of those days. Everyone has them. I haven’t in a while, I was due.

Rolling with it.

*I think the slowest race of the series is tossed in the final results – that’d be this one.