Run.David.Run A blog about running, life, and stuff Tue, 05 Jun 2018 19:18:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Distance Runner Mantra Tue, 05 Jun 2018 19:12:21 +0000 Whenever you challenge our will, consider this distance runner mantra. We know a few things about endurance, and constantly train to build lasting strength. We have learned how to go both faster and slower, to pace ourselves so we don’t come up short. We have a good sense of our strengths and weaknesses, and are …

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Whenever you challenge our will, consider this distance runner mantra.

We know a few things about endurance, and constantly train to build lasting strength.

We have learned how to go both faster and slower, to pace ourselves so we don’t come up short.

We have a good sense of our strengths and weaknesses, and are honest about what we can both do and not do.

We enjoy doing very difficult things in the name of fun, and are accustomed to being called “beast”, “mystic warrior”, and “f*cking crazy”.

We understand and accept all of this as normal behavior, and cannot imagine things differently.

It doesn’t matter what the challenge is. When you call out a distance runner, know that we’re always ready to lace up and meet your challenge. Are you?

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Race Report: The 2018 Bend Marathon Tue, 15 May 2018 06:01:46 +0000 One of my favorite running events, the Bend Marathon is equal parts gorgeous and challenge. Taking place in one of the most geologically diverse regions of Oregon, and with equally diverse climate conditions, the race combines distance, elevation, and weather in ways for which few can prepare. This was my third year running the marathon. …

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One of my favorite running events, the Bend Marathon is equal parts gorgeous and challenge. Taking place in one of the most geologically diverse regions of Oregon, and with equally diverse climate conditions, the race combines distance, elevation, and weather in ways for which few can prepare.

This was my third year running the marathon. I’ll admit, leading up to it, I wasn’t sure this year was going to work out. Despite a season of training, a slip of my right ankle in January had me on crutches for close to a month. Through my recovery, I’d worked to steadily increase mileage and duration of training runs. Walks had become brief jogs, and from that, 5-mile slow runs. Slowly, confidence returned. The San Diego Half in March was my first double-digit race, and just six weeks before Bend. I’d done okay, more or less, give or take some stiffness in my joints. But this was different. And here it was.

Nervous as I was, on the morning of April 22, I managed down a small breakfast. Though gut issues set in, and which would persist through the first quarter of the race, I would not be stopped. Angela was going to run the Half, and together we set off for the race. It was a quick drive through the eerily quiet streets of Bend that morning, and we were able to park just a block from the start line.

It’s easy to recall the conditions that morning of the race. The sky was brilliant blue. The air, crisp and fresh. The temperature, near freezing. I became keenly aware of one of my feet going numb. Wow, it was cold! It was now or never. Standing in the company of hundreds of other runners, we lined up, and we were off.

The course began in beautiful Drake Park, set in downtown Bend, lined by Mirror Pond and shaded by tall trees of every sort. The first two miles past quickly, as we circled around the park and onto Wall Street. The course then shifted us back down towards Deschutes River, following waterfront trails and roads. This year, the course had been shifted away from the Old Mill District. It’s fine by me, that space is too stuffy to appreciate the fun that this race provides. Instead, runners turned up along Colorado Avenue and past Deschutes Brewery.

I was hoping we’d have some trail time, and was not disappointed! The route took us down to Reed Market Road, which lines the southern portion of Riverbend Park, and then crossed the river once more to place us on a trail of finely crushed volcanic rock and dirt. This three mile, out-and-back stretch of the course provided incredible views of the Deschutes. At mile 8, we exited the trail for Reed Market once more. We turned left and South, to follow a gravel trail and paved path along SW Century Drive out of town, and up towards Mount Bachelor.

The six mile climb took us all the way up to the Cascade Lakes Ranger Station three miles further up the mountain than before. A freshly-paved trail, beautifully set back from the highway a good 100 feet, provided shade and protection, and allowed me to take in nearby slopes and rock faces that I’d never before seen. At mile 14, the turnaround was almost bittersweet. I’d wanted to keep going, but the path had ended.

The descent back down into Bend was quick. At mile 16, we left the protected trail and rejoined SW Century Drive. I knew that another climb (ahem, “rolling hills”) lay ahead. Sure enough, we turned up Skyline Ranch Road for a few feet, before heading up into the Tetherow community. The architecture of the houses in this area are simply breathtaking, but in the moment, I was having a hard enough time catching my breath, so chose to instead focus on a few gummy bears and called it good.

Turning North along Mt. Washington Drive, then Metolius Drive, and finally Skyline Ranch Road, I was now solidly walking. I’d hit a wall at mile 18 that I just could not shake. My pit stop at mile 5 had left me dehydrated and lacking nutrients, and I’d been borrowing time up to this point. I took in as many calories and Nuun as I could get at the aid stations, but I just could not get my feet to move. At one point, I actually contemplated lying down in the gravel to take a nap. That’s never happened before. I stopped for a moment, taking in the view of the mountains to the West, and regained my composure.

I pushed on. I realized Angela was closing in on my position, just like last year, and I took some comfort in the possibility of crossing the finish line with her once more. Whatever it was, I finally passed the wall, and by mile 23, I was ready to wrap this thing up. I met Ang at about mile 24, and I was encouraged that she was on a PR pace. We ended up those last two miles pacing each other.

At mile 25, at the exact same house we’ve passed before, there was a loudspeaker blasting the theme from Rocky. It was Ang’s father’s favorite song, and his fight song during his battle with cancer. It’s one of those things that we hear when we most need the inspiration, and we have come to accept it as a sign he is cheering us on.

And then, there was long, wooden footbridge across Mirror Pond, and the path beyond it through Drake Park toward the finish line. We’d made it! As we did last year, so did we again cross the finish line together.

The wrap-up was nice. The weather had turned warmer, the sun was out, and smiles were all around. Runners came in and were cheered by all. Deschutes Brewery’s mobile beer keg was pouring pints of a few select ales, and after a long race is one of the rare times I can manage down a pint or two of beer. We rested for a bit, and headed on to a hearty lunch in town.

And so it was a wrap for the 2018 Bend Marathon.

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Relearning the Love of Running Tue, 27 Feb 2018 02:34:33 +0000 *WARNING: Nasty foot pic ahead!* In 2012, I learned a tough lesson about “overdoing it” in my second half marathon. Due to rain, the course was shifted, which added almost three extra miles, making it a 16-mile course. I was able to keep up a sub- 8-minute pace for all but the final two miles …

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*WARNING: Nasty foot pic ahead!*

In 2012, I learned a tough lesson about “overdoing it” in my second half marathon. Due to rain, the course was shifted, which added almost three extra miles, making it a 16-mile course. I was able to keep up a sub- 8-minute pace for all but the final two miles of it. And then came the reality of just how badly I had injured my right ankle.

Exactly five weeks ago, I learned a new tough lesson about “watch where you put your feet while descending concrete stairs”, when I missed at least one full stair. I landed hard, howled like an infant, and did in precisely the same ankle and in precisely the same location as before. The $1300 ER bill would have bought at least the next three years’ worth of running shoes.

Now, five weeks later, I’m reminded of the healing that took place in 2012, and all the good that came from it. It wasn’t just a physical reset of my ankle, but a philosophical reset of the reasons why I run, and an emotional reset of the joy I had lost, leading up to that initial injury.

For 18 months, I’ve wrangled with ongoing bouts of depression, and a general lack of interest in running. I was confronted headlong with the sudden passing of a dear cousin, and it just hadn’t been the same since. In a way, I knew a reset was coming.

My first run was almost two weeks ago, just two brief miles, late at night, and admittedly while wearing denim jeans. It started off as a walk, shifted into a faster-paced hobble, and finally a solid, smooth stride. I realized in that short outing that my injury, though visually awful, hadn’t greatly impacted the parts of my foot and ankle that I rely on for running.

In the weeks since my errant fall, I have pushed through what I call Frankenstein Foot Syndrome (“FFS”!) and have found many a reason to celebrate the fact I can still run, regardless of pace or distance. It’s like running is new and exciting, all over again.

I’ve been able to push beyond the negativity and depressed thoughts that had for so long started holding me back. In some situations, an injury can help your body, mind, and soul to reset. This was one of those times.

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The 2017 Columbia Gorge Marathon Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:32:23 +0000 Last year, I discovered my favorite marathon course. Though I was registered for the Portland Marathon, a family tragedy at the time made it impossible for me take part in it. Instead, I signed up for a different race that I’d stumbled upon by luck: The Columbia Gorge Marathon. My impression after that event, just …

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Last year, I discovered my favorite marathon course. Though I was registered for the Portland Marathon, a family tragedy at the time made it impossible for me take part in it. Instead, I signed up for a different race that I’d stumbled upon by luck: The Columbia Gorge Marathon.

My impression after that event, just as this year, is pretty simple: If ever there’s a marathon you want to remember running, this is it. It’s not just hype. I truly believe this course is the most beautiful in the U.S.

The Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge is bordered by three transportation systems: Interstate 84; A major train line; And historic Highway Route 30, the original roadway built through the area. Most of the epic photographs you’ve seen of the Gorge, especially those featuring a narrow two-lane road bordered by a white, wooden guardrail, were taken along that highway. If you follow it from just outside Troutdale, it will take you past breathtaking waterfalls and Multnomah Lodge. Ultimately, sections of it have been marked for non-motorized vehicles. These portions are a great way to bike or hike or run your way down the Gorge, and without the danger of dealing with vehicles on narrow roads.

The event was based on the shoreline of the Columbia River. The start line was there for some of the shorter events, including the half. For the full marathon, runners loaded into school buses that took them the short drive through Hood River and up the winding section of Highway 30, to a secluded parking lot. This is the Mark O Hatfield West Trail Head, and the start line for the marathon.

The course heads east on highway 30 along its hilly route through the quiet town of Mosier, up to a plateau lush with vineyards and orchards, then out to Rowena Crest overlook and back, retracing itself before the final two miles of a fantastic, steep descent down into Hood River, and to the finish line along the edge of the Columbia River.

As runners lined up in the starting chute, a rainbow behind us marked the end of the stormy weather that had battered the area the night before.

At 9am, runners set off! About 200 runners had signed up for this race, and some had been allowed an early, 5am start as their finish time might not make the standard sweep.

The pathway was covered in bright, yellow leaves, and framed by trees, all going through their fall color shifts. The path began a gentle uphill grade for the first mile, then an equally gentle downhill grade for the second mile. From the elevation profile, only a few miles of the course are actually flat, and with almost 2,400 feet of elevation gain and drop, this is a challenging race.

Runners started spreading out, and it surprised me how quickly we all settled into our own pace groups. Unlike last year, I fought the urge to blast ahead and burn out early. I’d learned my lessons from Bend in April, and the fact that at 42 years old, a guy my size simply isn’t built for speed like I once was. I based my pace not only on time, but also comfort: Heart rate, being able to speak while running, and feeling relaxed. I figured if I held back enough, I would tap into some fuel reserves, and conserve blood sugar energy for the second half.

As we neared mile 4, we came upon the infamous “Slimer” tunnels. They’re actually called the Mosier Tunnels, two distinct stone and wood structures. The cement ceiling of the first tunnel is dotted with drainage tubes that drip out some really alien looking slime.

Pushing past, the path emptied onto a quiet, two-lane road and dropped down into the town of Mosier. Residents lined the roads with signs, cheered, and rang cowbells. I remember this from last year’s race. It’s always nice to have a bit of encouragement along the journey.

Climbing out of Mosier to the plain above the gorge, we reached mile 6, and Highway 30 put on a beautiful fall display of golden pastures, tree-lined fields, and quaint homes amidst rocky outcroppings. I’d forgotten about this stretch of the course, and it stands out in my mind as an area I wouldn’t mind calling home.

At mile 8, I passed by someone holding a sight that read, “Never trust a fart!” That’s all I have to say about that.

The course continued a gentle uphill climb, past orchards and vineyards and onto yet further rocky hillsides. Views of the Gorge and of Washington State filled the horizon. Miles 10 and 11 flew past.

We then came to mile 12.something, and the midpoint on the race was unfortunately not at Rowena Crest. Construction on a bridge to the overlook was behind schedule, and just as the race announcer had said at the start, the scene was too sketchy to risk runners going across.

Instead, runners were directed to turnaround right as they reached the bridge. This shortened the course by about 1/4 mile, and so would the mile markers on the way back be equally off. So, the race director had adjusted the last mile to compensate.

Heading back, I nearly lost my hat with strong west winds, but I also noticed the weather was really clearing up and drying out. The temperature ticked up a few degrees, and I realized this year was going to turn out better than 2016.

The clouds began lifting, the road dried out, and the wind settled down. Then, there was sunlight casting shadows! The fields were aflame in fall colors.

Around mile 13, I realized Wisdom Ming and I were pacing each other. This would carry on for almost 10 miles. Friendly faces helped pass the time. Wisdom gradually pulled ahead, and would finish a solid five minutes faster than me. I’m continually amazed at the strength and endurance of the many awesome runners I train with back home!

At mile 16, I told the folks with the sign that I had trusted a fart at mile 14 and gotten lucky. They “cracked up”, if you get my drift. πŸ˜‰

Heading back into Mosier at mile 17, the crowds again applauded and cheered. Heading up the hill towards the Mosier Tunnels, I wasn’t getting tired, or cramping up. I was working through some pretty bad memories of last year, in which Mosier marked the start of six solid miles of leg cramps, hobbling, and cursing. Not so this year.

Reflecting on my strategy, I had placed less water in my hydration pack, and relied more on the aid stations. I’d made a point of downing about 8 ounces (two cups) at each stop, and despite the fact the beverage of choice was Gatorade, and at a few stations, the unmentionable *blue* variety, it did the job. I remained hydrated, fueled, and charged up throughout the entire race.

Aid stations were like mile markers now. I was keenly aware of the approaching finish line. A few more hills, and we reached a downhill stretch that told me we were near the start line, and then past it. Just three more miles to go into town. The quiet road began its descent into Hood River, with the sharp switchbacks along the old road giving incredible views of the city, and far off, the finish line.

The course had been adjusted a bit, taking a detour out-and-back to add some mileage, and then the course continued through the historic downtown, and along a footpath under Interstate 84.

And then, there was the finish line along the river. The course wound its way into a gated chute, and runners of all of the various races came into the finish line together. My stepson especially loved the Half Marathon Dog Leg participants, as runners crossed the finish line with their four-legged friends.

I crossed with a smile on my face, physically drained but confident. I shaved nine minutes off last year’s finish time, but more importantly, I’d done so while setting out at a slow, steady, calm pace. I had no intentions of even matching my previous time.

And that’s the lesson. From the beginning, I was set on keeping focused, steady, safely, and consistently. I had no desire but to finish, in one peace and without injury. The point was, after all, to finish. And finish I did.

The Columbia Gorge Marathon is something to experience. If you’re not up for the full, then get out there and try the half. Walk it. Take your dog. Just do it. You’ll not regret it. Quite the contrary, once you experience this course and the impossible beauty it offers, you’ll always want to come back one more time.

I’ll see you on the trail…



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Race Report: The 2017 Bend Marathon Mon, 11 Sep 2017 20:47:09 +0000 I’ve made a point of blogging with a race report after each full/half marathon and relay. I got caught up in a busy summer, some life changes — mostly all good — and I’m just now catching up on this one. This year, my wife and I participated in the Gorgeous Series’ Bend Full and …

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I’ve made a point of blogging with a race report after each full/half marathon and relay. I got caught up in a busy summer, some life changes — mostly all good — and I’m just now catching up on this one.

This year, my wife and I participated in the Gorgeous Series’ Bend Full and Half Marathons. They took place in Bend, the largest Oregon city east of the Cascade Range and what is becoming a Mecca for trail running. Also offered were 10K and 5K runs.

It was my second year running the full, with a slightly altered, “flatter and faster” course compared to 2016.Β  It was my wife’s first time running in Bend, and her very first half marathon ever!

I’d been running each weekend with a Portland-area training group organized by James Mattern, a retired running coach and all around good dude with an affinity for the ukulele. We’d begun training last fall and steadily increased our Saturday morning runs to 18-20 miles like clockwork. We were each prepared for our races.

The morning of the race was beautiful, with barely a cloud in the sky and hardly a breeze. We’d arrived in downtown Bend with plenty of time to spare. As we made our way to the start at Drake Park, music was pumping and the crowd was excited to get started. The countdown began, and the full marathoners were off!

I soon found myself in the middle of the 3:55 pace group, its leader announcing he would be our “foot tour guide for today”, and we introduced ourselves. The space was buzzing with energy, and despite the elevation and chilly air, I would keep on pace with the group for the first 2/3 of the race.

The course went through Drake Park and across a footbridge spanning Mirror Pond, before circling around it clockwise and back across it at Newport Avenue.

We turned South down Wall Street, through Bend’s historic business district and onto a footpath along the banks of the Deschutes River, before crossing it via the Colorado Avenue bridge, looping back along Reed Market Road, and East through Riverbend Park.

Heading North, we crossed the Colorado Avenue bridge again, and headed back along the Deschutes clockwise along the eastern side of the river, and right past the picturesque Old Mill District, before heading Southwest out of town by way of Reed Market Road and onto Century Drive.

Thus began the long, gradual climb out of the city and about halfway up towards Mount Bachelor. As with last year’s race, the course took us off road at the turnaround point at the Cascade Lakes Ranger Station, down a dirt path, and through a pedestrian tunnel connecting hiking and mountain biking trails on either side of Century Drive. We turned around on the other side of the highway, and began our descent back into town.

As we approached the city, the course abruptly turned right onto Good Dog Trail, a lovely foot path made of fine pea gravel, and continued on for what seemed a mile. By this time, I was starting to feel the effects of elevation, and I noticed the 3:55 pace group had slowly inched ahead of me. One more sharp turn down the path, and I felt both of my knees almost give out. I was not prepared for the descent as the course dropped onto dirth path along the Deschutes River.

At this point, there was nothing wrong with the course; I’d simply hit a wall. I did a quick calculation as I slowed and caught my breath: How badly did I want to finish this race in under four hours? It would be a PR for sure, but I was not quite at 18 miles, and the thought of pushing a sub-9 minute pace for another 8 miles seemed impossible.

I stopped for a few moments and watched the 3:55 group charge ahead. I looked and listened instead at the Deschutes River flowing past me. I literally had an entire river to myself! I’d forgotten the real reason I wanted to run this race: The scenery, the air, the experience of running in Bend.

Taking a deep breath, I started back up along the path, realized Angela had been on her half marathon course for some time; That she would be running the last few miles on the same course as I; And I had an opportunity to finish this race with her. I knew she could use the moral support, as could I at this point. And that’s when the Bend Marathon took on a new meaning for me.

The next two miles saw me hike up from the river path and back onto Reed Market Road, crossing onto Washington Drive, winding up through yet more hills into the Tetherow Golf Course along Skyline Ranch Road. It was here, at mile 20, that I met up with Angela, and contemplated my own existence as a second wall hit. I was resigned at this point to slow it all down and focus on the moment.

The course took us through an unplanned but beautiful detour through Discovery Park — which added about .3 miles — and then back towards the town along Skyliners Road.

After that point, it was a quick succession of quiet residential roads, full of people cheering on runners, before turning Southeast towards Mirror Pond and across the iconic wooden footbridge that would lead us into Drake Park and back to the finish.

We crossed the finish line together, which stands out as one of my happiest running moments ever. πŸ™‚

At the finish, Angela’s brother and sister-in-law met us. We stayed around a bit, enjoyed a frosty beverage, and took in the moment of what we’d just accomplished.

I’m excited to continuing this race in the years to come. The Bend Marathon offers runners a little bit of everything: Elevation, fresh air, unpredictable weather, lots of laughs, the joy of running in a sacred part of the running world, and of course, the glory of finishing the race surrounded by friends and smiles.

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Race Report: Hood to Coast 2017 Wed, 30 Aug 2017 08:21:25 +0000 Running with the Metalcats The Hood to Coast relay is billed by its organizers as the “mother of all relays”, and it may well be the case. With 1,500 teams spanning 12-person, 6-person ultra, 8-person walking, and high school divisions, HTC has it all. The relay begins at Timberline Lodge, 6,000 feet up Mount Hood …

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Running with the Metalcats

The Hood to Coast relay is billed by its organizers as the “mother of all relays”, and it may well be the case. With 1,500 teams spanning 12-person, 6-person ultra, 8-person walking, and high school divisions, HTC has it all.

The relay begins at Timberline Lodge, 6,000 feet up Mount Hood in the Oregon Cascade Range. Winding down into Portland through forest and valley, the course takes runners 198 miles across well-supported back roads and major thoroughfares. 36 distinct legs continue up through the Coast Range in the wee overnight hours, before breaking into coastal valleys. Finally, as Noon strikes the following day, teams begin arriving in Seaside, Oregon, almost 36 hours after they began the day before.

The journey, to say the least, is epic.

This race report is going to focus a little less on the specifics of the relay, which has been documented countless times on just as many blogs. Instead, I want to write about something that is often left out of these posts: The importance of kinship, trust, teamwork, and connection that makes it possible, especially for a two-van team, to get from start to finish.

In any relay event, organization is key to ensuring things go as planned. When you factor in 1,500 teams with approximately 2,500 vehicles, 18,000 runners and walkers, and thousands of volunteers, only a well-oiled machine will succeed. A few random monkey wrenches are all it takes to throw things into a lurch, and in those situations, it is up to organizers and teams alike to keep the focus, to see it through to the end.

For my part, this year’s HTC was a new experience. It was my fourth year running the event, and my first time in Van 1. I was looking forward to kicking off the race atop my favorite mountain, not to mention finishing up first, rather than rushing to the finish line to meet the rest of the teams as has always been the case with Van 2.

It was also the first time I used my own vehicle, a Subaru Forester, in an overnight relay, and is something I’d hoped for a long time to do. That baby has seen me through thousands of road trips and a handful of one-day relays. It seemed fitting now, as it enters its “break-in years” of 130k+ miles, to put it to the test on road and trail, and perform it did.

Our team was organized by a running couple, Rick and Aurora Roth. They did a bang-up job, and I am very grateful for their efforts to bring together a mix of both experienced and first-time relayers, in a two-van setup, and to see it through to the end with support all the way.

Our team was the Metalcats, fashioned after a love of cats and a particular metal band. Big hair wigs and leather jackets didn’t appear as much as I’d thought would be the case. I think at the heart of it, we’re far more metal than an of us outwardly showed, and that’s really what counts: We were all very committed to putting in our miles, come hell or high water, and so we did.

We all met up Thursday evening before the race, at a karaoke bar in east Portland. For three hours, we terrified the living daylights out of each other and whooped it up. I have to admit, I’ve never had so much fun behind a mic, and on the basis the rest of the crew agreed to still run with me, I must not have scared them all off, so I’m going to count that as a big win. πŸ™‚

The First 6 Legs

Van 1 departed from there, all gear loaded, and with a brief stop at a grocery store, continued on to a cabin we’d lined up from a friend in Rhododendron, just 30 minutes from Timberline. We took some time that evening to chill, as we whipped up a nice pasta and chicken dinner in the kitchen. The wood stove was stoked and set a relaxing tone as we finally settled in for not enough hours of sleep.

The dawn came early, and the five of us were packed and ready to go in just over an hour’s time. We made our way up to Timberline, and noted how some of the vans that rushed past us, were quickly caught by police. Active patrolling is one of the things I was very thankful for this year, and as we would find out was called for at a later exchange. You never know what you’re up against at these events, and the last thing you need to deal with is hot heads from other teams, driving recklessly or worse, endangering the lives of others.

As we reached Timberline, the temperature on my dashboard read 46F. It was lightly breezy, but the Sun was just coming up, and I could tell it was going to be a beautiful, warm-but-not-scorching kind of day. We found coffee and warmed up, and as 7:30am approached, our first runner, Nic, settled into the starting corral.

“They like Kittens and Metal… it’s the Metalcats!” shouted the announcer. That was a nice touch, as he called out all of the other teams as well.

And then, Nic was off… and we got back to the Forester to catch up and track him as best we could. Nic’s first leg was six miles, and encountered 2,000 feet of elevation drop. This leg in particular is a deceptive one, as it can destroy even the best athlete’s quadriceps and knees if they aren’t ready for the impact that is placed upon the body.

However, Nic was all smiles, and we quickly got situated at Exchange 1 for Chris to take over. He was soon off, and it was a good two miles until we caught up with him, only to see that he too was focused but relaxed on his own downhill course. He handed off to Elizabeth at Exchange 2, and she headed out to an unsupported forest service road for Leg 3, before dumping back onto now-busy Highway 26.

My wife Angela was up next for Leg 4, and as she took the baton bracelet, set out for her favorite portion of the area, which took her right past Lolo Pass Road, where the cabin is located, and through the town of Rhododendron. Ang’s first leg was the longest for that first set of six for Van 1, at 7.1 miles, and she was nursing a sore achilles. Nevertheless, she came into Exchange 4, and handed off to me.

Now it was my turn to face Highway 26. This portion of the road saw many fast vehicles whizzing past me, including a tractor trailer rig just 24″ away from me, and close to 500 feet of elevation gain, over 6.2 miles. A race official was patrolling this course, with cameras mounted to his vehicle as he recorded teams breaking the race rules, as this leg was not to be supported, nor were teams to part on the shoulder. Penalties in HTC include 60-minute time fines, and possibly disqualification depending on the severity of the rule broken.

The final two miles of my leg split off from 26 and onto a quiet country road, and it was here that I saw a healthy handful of roadkills — or just “kills” — when you pass other runners. Elevation gain is a quiet hell I’ve come to accept and to some degree, enjoy. I took that role and went for it. Finally, I was into the exchange, and I handed off to Nic, for his second run of this segment. You see, we were down a runner, so Nic and I agreed to fill in for the other three legs.

As I walked back to the Subaru, I was stunned at how long the lineup of vehicles had already become and so early into the relay. It was a good 1/4 mile from the exchange before I reached the car. We jumped in, and were able to pull out to merge back into traffic as we passed the exchange. This was a reminder of how choked HTC has become. There are literally places where a runner will pass the vehicle and reach the exchange first, and then have to wait for many minutes until the next runner shows up to take over.

We drove past Nic, and he had this big grin on his face. We knew he was in good hands and we continued on to Exchange 6 at Sandy High School. This would be our hand-off to Van 2, and provide us a respite of several hours as the other runners took over for their next six legs.

Our van made its way for a food break, and then onto Exchange 12 to await the next van’s arrival. We had estimated times that had been calculated by the team captains. The exchange was located along the eastern bank of the Willamette River in downtown Portland, and with the hot afternoon Sun beating down on everyone, the shade offered by the 405 overpass was welcome and provided us a perfect space to chill. I stretched out a blanket on the warm concrete edge of a planter bed and sunk into a deep meditative state.

Friday Afternoon: Legs 13-18

Our team got word that Van 2 had arrived and were awaiting their runner into the exchange. My time was approaching, as I had agreed to take the first slot for this and the next set of legs, as well as position 5. In all, I would cover five legs. My leg was just 4.1 miles through Portland and into the industrial blocks along Front Avenue, so skipped my hydration pack in favor of a handheld water bottle, and strapped my phone to my shoulder.

Aurora came in, and I headed out for my next leg, across the Hawthorne Bridge, and into a very familiar stretch of Waterfront park. The next four miles were retracing history, as I’d run this section dozens of times when I lived in NW Portland during my divorce in 2012. Running, since that time, had become therapy for me, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the emotions this leg evoked in me. I pushed on and finished those miles in the hot afternoon weather with an overall 7:46 mile pace. Damn, that felt good.

I handed off to Chris and the team headed to the next exchange. There, we found the quintessential cluster — an entire exchange blocked by a locomotive train and its cars, continually shifting forwards and backwards, and blocking traffic for a good 20 minutes — and yet, we were still able to get in and out without any delays. Elizabeth headed off, and we drove on, now into the evening hours and with night falling, for Ang to take up from Liz and onto her next run.

Darkness fell, and fast. The evening legs, if you’re not accustomed to night running, can drive up anxiety, as your reflective vest, flashers, and headlamps still cannot protect you from the fact you’re running along a busy stretch of highway, and with vehicles indiscriminately racing past you. Ang came into the exchange and she was in pain. Her heel was flaring up, and it was hard to leave for my next leg, but I had alerted the team to her condition and they were ready with support and ice, so I took off.

My leg followed along Highway 30 all the way into the town of St. Helens. Despite being a good 20-25 miles from Portland, traffic was solid and seemed to go faster and faster the further I ran. Alongside the road were rails, and a large freight train approached me going the opposite direction. With stars overhead, the road finally black from no vehicles, and a glaring headlamp of the oncoming train, the scene took on a surreal space and I just absorbed it.

Miles counted by, and the lights of St. Helens approached. Soon, I was running through the streets, and I caught up to some of the elite runners that had passed me minutes beforehand, as everyone had to wait for a crossing guard to light the signal and allow us to cross Highway 30, on our way to the St. Helens high school just a few blocks away. I came racing into the parking lot and handed off to Nic.

We drove to Exchange 18 and awaited Nic’s arrival. This was the halfway point in the race, and we were ready to secure our vehicle and drive on to the next major exchange, 24, for a few hours of sleep. Nic came in fast, we assembled our van, and drove off into the quiet back roads between St. Helens and Vernonia.

At this point, exhaustion began catching up with us. I drove us for what seemed like hours, though it was about 30 minutes, along winding roads, near-summits, and overlooks along logging roads. We finally met up with Highway 47, which turned off onto 202, and led into Exchange 24.

Exchange 24: Hood To Jail…?

A dark part of the story is what happened at this exchange. We’d arrived about 1:15am, and had figured we had about four hours until the other van arrived. We unloaded tarps and sleeping bags from the Forester and made our way to one of the designated sleeping areas. The air was cooling rapidly, and within 30 minutes, I realized my sleeping bag was covered in dew, with the air chilling to the mid-40’s. It was cold.

Around 2am, I heard some engines revving, and a few minutes later, heard sirens of an approaching emergency vehicle. What I didn’t know is that a runner from another team, some guy that owns a mortgage company in Bend, had gotten himself either so drunk, or so jacked up on drugs, that he decided to steal a pickup truck from Honey Bucket staff that were on hand to clean the porta potties. He drove it through one of the other sleeping areas. Thankfully, several people were able to get out of his way in time, but sadly, he still managed to drive over one of the people that was sleeping in the field.

He was caught by a Beaverton K-9 unit and quickly locked up. His social media accounts were also quickly shut off, as well as his company’s website pages altered to try to hide his profile, but if you Google it, you can find his picture and his company. There is also a pretty telling 1-star review someone put on his company’s Yelp page that states it as best I could: “The owner of this company drives over people, so how can you possibly trust him to safely manage your money?”

HTC has enough to deal with. This person made a very poor choice and put many lives in danger. It could have been us. One person was overheard saying, “Huh, maybe he thought this event was called, ‘Hood to Jail’?”… and that statement has stuck ever since.

The Back Six: Legs 25-30

Back to reality, the clock was nearing 5am, and I was trying to warm up for my next run, Leg 25. It was 3.8 miles and had some moderate elevation gain. I was delayed getting to the exchange, with bathroom lines backed up for 20 minutes, so took off in a hurry to make up time. As with my second run, I averaged a solid sub-8 pace and counted endless “kills”. As I came into the exchange, my van mates told me they thought I was going to have a very good run, based on the state of other runners on the course. They were right. As much as I try to support all folks I meet on the road, when it’s 5am and you’re barely awake, anything you see that can feel like an advantage, including being just a bit stronger or faster than the others out there, can do wonders for your self-confidence and mental state.

Chris and Liz crushed their legs, and with dawn arriving, Ang set out for her final run. We drove on Exchange 28, and I waited for her to come in. I had been worried about her heel, but sure enough, there she was, right on time, and she looked strong. As she handed off to me, she said, “Yeah, I’m done”, but did so with a tone that told me she was in much better shape than she thought. Now it was my turn to take one for the team.

Leg 29 is a solid 10K, 6.18 miles of mostly uphill distance, 665 feet of elevation gain and up winding, narrow back roads. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is the “toilet paper” leg, where teams lined up rolls of TP for runners to pass through as they reach the summit. I was passed by several more ultra team runners, as well as a few hot heads that burned out early. I figured I would catch up to them, and I was right.

I think I can.. I think I can… and do so I did. I reached the top, and what do you know, my wife was right there snapping a pic of me as the rest of Van 1 held TP right at waste height for me to cross through. Without thinking, I turned around and ran backwards and well, put that TP to use if you get my meaning. πŸ˜‰

Then, it was two insanely fast miles downhill, with 500 feet of drop, and an average pace of 7:13/mile. I flew past lined up vehicles, including our team, and crossed into the exchange, awaiting Nic. He arrived soon after. I walked up the hill to our vehicle and we took off. Nic was flying, and had that same grin on his face that tells me he’s just loving life. Who wouldn’t look that way? It was early morning, the Sun was shielded by three shade, and we were all celebrating the completion of our runs.

We came into Exchange 30, got some coffee and refreshments at a nearby house-turned-concession-stand, and as Nic arrived, cheered for Van 1’s success!

The Wrap-Up to HTC 2017

From there, it was a blur. We were exhausted and ready for some refreshment. So on to Pig And Pancake in Astoria, it was! We fueled up, then made our way to Seaside to await the rest of our team’s arrival at the finish. We were able to check into our hotel a bit early, and even checked out the beer garden at the finish party, before we got word that our team’s final runner was heading into the finish.

HTC lines up teams in corrals to await their last runner, with the idea that all team members can cross the finish at the same time. We weren’t given clear instructions, however, from any of the race officials or volunteers near the finish line, so I finally went up the stairs to one of the announcers to hear it for myself. As this happened, our runner came in, so it was a mad dash to get down through the corrals, and then across the finish line we all went!

And then, it was done. Our 11-runner team had covered 198 miles in 32 hours and 19 minutes, and with no major hangups. We’d cheered each other on through heat, elevation, busy roadways, cold and dark hours, and through it all, succeeded.

And that’s the real story that needs to be told. Not the random details, like PR times or kills or total miles covered, but the stuff that matters, like how the team came together, performed, and achieved, from the captains, to the runners, and of course, the volunteers that made this a great team and once that rocked it in true Metalcat style!

Hood To Coast is a tough course. Sure, there are harder Oregon relays out there, like Cascade Lakes or Wild Rogue, but there is something about HTC that resonates with Northwest flair. Starting at a beloved mountain, passing through a busy city, and ending at another major landmark celebrating Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the coast… it rings through my Northwest bones, that in some way, each of us was retracing a piece of history, and adding to the legacy of exploration and adventure that defines those that undertake the Hood To Coast relay.

Happy trails and safe miles…

— David

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Race Report: The First Gorgeous Wine Country Relay Tue, 25 Jul 2017 06:49:54 +0000 As a Gorgeous Guru, I am a volunteer organizer for the Gorgeous Series of races and relays. This month, I was lucky to run the first ever relay of its kind in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. The relay had been planned for some time. It was some luck and exploration on the part …

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As a Gorgeous Guru, I am a volunteer organizer for the Gorgeous Series of races and relays. This month, I was lucky to run the first ever relay of its kind in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. The relay had been planned for some time. It was some luck and exploration on the part of a couple Gurus, and an insane amount of planning by the race directors, that saw 2017 grace the landscape with the first ever Gorgeous Wine Country Relay!

I don’t feel like I can take any credit for the relay, save perhaps for a few details, but I’ll come back to that. More importantly, I was over the top excited about this event from the moment I learned of its planning, and am honored to have been among the first to sample its fine vintage of roads, paths, and vineyard-scapes throughout that warm summer day of July 16, 2017.

The setting simply cannot be understated, and the photos don’t begin to do justice to the experience. If you’re not familiar with Oregon’s wine industry, or wine in general for that matter, it’s not important. Just know that the course, the people, and the fun are what matter most about Gorgeous events, and this one is no exception to that rule. And, everywhere you turned, you were reminded: This is wine country!

For the wine aficionados: The Dundee Hills, Chehalem Mountains, and Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) are specially designated wine-growing areas within the larger Willamette Valley region. Each area is known for specific soil and micro-climate variations, meaning grapes grown in one AVA go on to become wines that are distinctly and chemically different from the other. The relay’s course passed through those three AVAs, which are well known for producing some of the world’s finest Pinot Noir wines. And guess what? I’m sipping one of them right now. πŸ˜‰

My running buddy, Rick Roth and I know the local terrain well. For over a year, he and I have set out on weekend runs, journeying 10-20 miles into the hills, sometimes running a bit, um astray by stopping at a random winery mid-run, but for the most part we stuck to a simple plan: To explore the area, to challenge each other to new heights, and to help in the planning process for some of the course legs. By my estimates, we have covered the first 17 miles of what would become the relay’s 2017 course.

The relay comprised 12 different legs, covering a total of 47 miles of quiet back roads, gravel lanes, and vineyard paths that offered challenging elevation gain, breathtaking views, and delicious wine samples at the various winery stops along the way. The fun kicked off at 7:15am Sunday morning at Argyle Winery, in the heart of Dundee, a small town nestled at the foot of the red, volcanic soil-laden Dundee Hills. The sun greeted several dozen team vans as we met and gathered our bibs and vehicle signs at Argyle’s tasting room. Though not open, staff all greeted us, and I made a note that I must return to repay their welcome.

We gathered under the large, outdoor covered space, and with a countdown, the runners were off! Rick and I had decided to run the relay as a Dynamic Duo, a two-person team. He would run the first two legs, which passed near his home in Dundee and up into the hills. I would take the next two legs. Thereafter, we would alternate one- or two-legs each. Rick’s legs involved more elevation, mine more distance. It was a balance of our various strengths, and we were committed to seeing it through.

I loaded into my vehicle with my wife, Angela, who was volunteering at Exchange 2, and partway through Leg 5. We drove up through the quiet roads of Dundee, and passed the group of runners. There were perhaps a dozen teams released in that first wave. The second wave would soon be on its way, at 7:45am. Our team had decided to drive the entire course, despite there being shortcuts and despite Rick and I being largely self-supported.

As we climbed up Worden Hill Road into the Dundee Hills, the sun bathed vineyards in golden light. It was fantastic! We drove past familiar wineries and Exchange 1, Knudsen Vineyards, tucked away along quiet back roads, and continued on. Some of the volunteers weren’t in place yet, as we were ahead of the wave of runners, and I needed to get Ang to Exchange 2 so we could be sure it was set up to receive runners and team vehicles. Rick had looked strong on his ascent into the hills, and I’d calculated his arrived around 8:15-8:20am, about an hour or so as it was six total miles and 970 feet of gain he was facing.

Leg 2 continued along Fairview Drive, a quiet, winding country road that leads to the highest point of the AVA, with an incredible view of the entire Willamette Valley, before plummeting down the other side and into Exchange 2 at Torii Mor. We arrived there, got Ang set up, and I awaited the teams while chatting up Eddie, the winery’s tasting room manager. He was offering samples of Torii’s Pinot Gris, and it was lovely, with supple pear and crisp green apple, in that fresh morning air.

As teams arrived, we counted down the minutes, and there was Rick, right on time. He handed off to me, and I set out on Leg 3, down Fairview Road, which was now gravel in places, and headed back into Dundee. The course wound its way up North through town until dead-ending into The Four Graces’ vineyard. Runners were guided onto the property of the vineyard, the vines full of leaves and grapes, and we traced the edge of the land steeply downhill on bumpy grass and dirt, as runners headed down the hill into Exchange 3.

And that was the start of Leg 4: Back onto the pavement of Fox Farm Road and more or less North through the farmlands at the base of winery slopes. Sweeping views of the Chehalem Mountains and Bald Peak loomed on the horizon. The air was alive and full of energy. The course winded along rolling hills, before a brief section of busy Highway 240, and then turning back onto quiet roads, northward. I handed off to Rick, and he set out on Leg 5 and King’s Grade. By this time Ang’s brother Brian, who ran on my Hood To Hood Relay team, had traded off his car to Ang, so he could be the support driver for me at Rick. He met me at the exchange, and we headed off, taking in the views of Rick’s next leg.

There’s a back story to this leg, and it’s something I call “hellevation”! As previously noted, starting last summer, Rick and I had tried out some different roads in the area. He’d mentioned Gorgeous was thinking of a wine country relay and we thought, what better way to get a lay of the land, than to head out and experience it? So we did… and King’s Grade, to this day, stands out as one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever been on. Endless miles of steeply inclining, gravel roads, ultimately summiting the Chehalem Mountains near Bald Peak and with a huge view to the West, including Hagg Lake and the farmlands of Gaston, were the payoff. Along with some very tired legs.

In our conversations with Gorgeous we pushed for that incline, and I’m pleased to say, the best of that run was included. The slope up King’s Grade isn’t “too” challenging at first, but as you slowly grind up the flank of the mountain, your mind is overtaken by unbelievably beautiful views of wine country. Though I didn’t take any pictures on the day of the race, I’ve included some pictures from the early “planning runs” here to illustrate. Rick took that leg and owned it. He finished strong as he arrived at Exchange 5, at Colene Clemons Vineyards.

This began Leg 6 of the race for me. It was uncharted territory. I have to say, it stands out as one of the memorable legs of the entire race. I love exploring new courses and paths, and the first two miles of this quiet gravel road were shaded by tall oak trees and almost no road traffic. The cool air was refreshing, and as we headed back out to the sun, paved roadway returned. The course took me straight through flat farm land in a section of the valley I’ve never before seen. It crossed NE Valley Road before winding up into the hills near Yamhill.

I had begun slowing my pace on this run. I recognized we were only half finished with the race, and I wanted to conserve energy as best I could for the second half. The runner who at the start of this leg was only 30 seconds ahead of me, had opened her lead to more than 1/4 mile, and I was fine with that. My goal was to finish all the legs, strong and safely, and most importantly, to enjoy the space. The course winded behind some hills before nearing Exchange 6, which took me up a steep gravel entrance to Saffron Fields Vineyards. I’ll admit, I walked a few feet of that incline. Just a few. πŸ˜‰

I handed off to Rick for Leg 7 and sampled some of the wines. Saffron Fields was pouring a Chardonnay, a Pinot Blanc, and a Pinot Noir. All of them were delicious and balanced, though my palate wasn’t exactly discerning by that point. Brian drove us onward to the next exchange. For these three middle legs, Rick and I were running just one each at a time, before the next sets of two-legs-each. We arrived at Exchange 7, Hirschy Vineyards, atop a hill with a beautiful view of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and awaited his arrival. I had a chance to change my entire outfit, replenish electrolytes, and get some calories down. Across the road, a large swimming pool boasted an almost as-large inflatable duck floating in it. A few of us giggled. It was getting to that point in the race where logic starts breaking down. πŸ™‚

The sun was starting to warm up the space, and the humid summertime air of wine country felt electrically charged and increasingly heavy. I was aware of exposure and had tried to reapply sunscreen as best I could. It wasn’t enough, as I would find out later. Rick arrived a short time later, and I set off for the next two legs of my journey. This too was new terrain. The road became gravel, and remained that way for the entire distance. I was becoming aware of an impending wall: Despite calories, protein, and electrolytes, I wasn’t keeping up with the depletion rate. I was literally running out of fuel, and entering into that uncomfortable space of “can’t stomach anything but desperately need it anyway”.

I allowed myself a few minutes of walking along the course. A few vehicles passed by, kicking up dust, and I remembered I’d forgotten to pack my buff. Ahh well. A patch of oak trees along the road provided several minutes of much needed shade, and I continued on to Exchange 8, Monks Gate Vineyards, nestled between farmland and vineyard-laden hillsides. I messaged Ang: Need Support. Brian arrived moments later, and I was able to start Leg 9 after re-hydrating and some fantastic orange slices.

This segment was similar to Leg 8. Quiet roads, few runners, just myself and my thoughts. It crossed NE Hendricks Road, on the outskirts of the town of Lafayette, and suddenly, I found myself running through the town. Only two miles to go to the exchange. I can do this. The course headed up the hilly eastern flank of the town, and families had gathered to cheer on passing runners. Several children offered to dump cold water on my head and neck, and it was precisely what I needed. Another team saw me and cheered. “Hey, you’re still smiling!”, they shouted. “Yeah, because it’s all I can do right now!” I retorted.

A half mile later, and with just one mile to go, my legs started cramping up, badly. It was another wall, and I was reminded again, in this heat and elements, even the stuff I’d been taking down was simply not adequate. And then I saw it: The entrance to Stoller Family Estates and Exchange 9. Though another climb up a hill to the parking lot, I was determined to finish these two legs and in one piece. Ang ran down the hill and met me. I was in pretty bad shape, fighting back tears. It’s one of those things I will never understand: When emotions overwhelm and you simply have to push through.

And there was Rick, in a Where’s Waldo outfit. Okay, that was good. πŸ™‚ I always forget the importance that costumes play for him at running events. He took off and I found myself with a few minutes to breath and reflect on the fact we were almost done. And there I was, at a winery with stunning views on the south end of the Dundee Hills, of the Oregon Cascades, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood. Stoller poured me tastes of their RosΓ© and Pinot Noir. The RosΓ© was nicely balanced and a bit dry. The Pinot Noir, fruit-forward and not overly oaked. I made another mental note that we’ll have to return to properly sample all of their wines.

From there, our team had just ten miles until the finish line. By this time, Brian had switched cars back, and Ang drove us to Exchange 10 at Joel Perkins Park in the middle of Lafayette, to await Rick. He was doing well. We refilled his water, and he was well underway to continue the next leg as well. We drove on, checking on Rick once, before heading out to the final exchange, a private property along Gun Club Road and Old McMinnville Highway outside of Carlton.

We’d counted the runners ahead of Rick, and as they came in, I knew my final four miles was about to happen. Brian and his wife Anna were there, and together we awaiting the arrival of Waldo. πŸ™‚ Rick finished strong and with a smile, and I set out on my final four miles. This part was strange. I knew I was tired. I really didn’t care about my pace. I alternated running anywhere from a tenth to a quarter mile, alternating with about a half minute of walking. I took in long sips of my bottle, full of berry Nuun, and fought off more leg cramps with a little bit of stretching, and mostly carefully placed and paced steps.

Ahead of me, another runner was showing signs of fatigue, as well. She extended her arm out into the blowing barley that was rustling along the gravel road, and traced it as she ran. It was a peaceful space, and by that point I think all of us were ready to wrap up the run. In the distance, a tree-shrouded grain elevator, which takes me right back to my childhood experiences of growing up in rural Oregon, told me we were nearing Carlton, and that long-awaiting finish line.

And then, I was turning left… onto Main Street… and there was the quaint, wine country town of Carlton dead ahead. It’s shops and ornately designed town center told me I had just a half mile left, but still, I was pushed to alternating running and walking… until I was guided by volunteers to cross Yamhill Street, and down the hill to the finish. Ang met me at the entrance to the Carlton Winemakers Studio just as my right leg cramped up again.

And then Rick was there, complete with his Darth Vader helmet, and together we crossed that finish line!

We were greeted by fellow runners and teams. We were one of just two teams that attempted the race as a two-person relay, but every single runner at the finish line earned their medals. We had all run so very hard, had poured so much into the relay, had laughed with and cheered on each other… it’s the kind of finish that you hope for every race, but rarely does it turn out so picture-perfect!

The finish area was nicely set up with ample shade tents. Fellow Gurus handed out wine glasses, which contained a nice five-punch card for sampling different wines from the wineries present there. Eddie had magically teleported from Torii Mor and was now pouring their wines there, too. A food truck behind the wineries was serving what looked like fantastic Spanish tapas. I simply couldn’t handle any solid food at that point, but I did make use of those five card punches, trying each of the rosΓ© wines being served.

And then, it was all over. I walked back to the car, grabbed a change of clothing, and was shocked to find an immaculately clean portapotty to freshen up and change in. I know, too many details… but after eight hours in the sun and covered in dust, those kinds of amenities really stand out as the lap of luxury. We all rested up for a bit, and then headed off back into wine country, for a bit of tasting at our favorite spot — you guessed it — Torii Mor.

The Gorgeous Wine Country Relay is one not to be missed. If you have an opportunity to run it in a future year with a team, or you are interested in starting your own team, know that it has been carefully designed with fun and safety as priorities. It’s not a competitive, chip-timed relay event. That kind of stuff, nor the aggressive racing culture it attracts, has no place in this relay. It’s about you and your team, getting out into a beautiful setting on a weekend day, taking in the sights, wines, roads and trails that the best of wine country has to offer up. It’s truly a Gorgeous experience… and I hope you will consider it.

You can learn more information about this and other Gorgeous events by visiting the website, at



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Race Report: The 2017 Hood to Hood Relay Fri, 16 Jun 2017 03:15:49 +0000 Last weekend, a team of four runners braved an early wake-up time and oppressively gentle mist, and prepared for a day that would test their mettle… Ahh, overblown drama. You’d expect that from an all-family event… but not this time. πŸ˜‰ The Prosecutors, consisting of Brian Bixler, Anna Naef, Angela Anderson, and me, had decided …

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Last weekend, a team of four runners braved an early wake-up time and oppressively gentle mist, and prepared for a day that would test their mettle… Ahh, overblown drama. You’d expect that from an all-family event… but not this time. πŸ˜‰

The Prosecutors, consisting of Brian Bixler, Anna Naef, Angela Anderson, and me, had decided over an afternoon of wine tasting to run the Gorgeous Hood to Hood Relay. Ten exchanges, totaling 48 miles, starting at Government Camp and finishing in Hood River, awaited us. Angela’s son Connor, and my son Julian, would volunteer at the finish line.

And so, that drizzly morning of June 11, we set out from a cabin at the foot of Mount Hood and headed up to the start line. Our team had been given a 7:15am start. We arrived to find that the rain had stopped, and the cold morning air, enshrouded in low clouds and a steady breeze, wasn’t so chilly as we’d thought it might be.

Picking up our bibs, I chatted with Traci Manning, one of the Gorgeous Race Directors. She said that Kerry, the co-Director, reported that the weather improved dramatically after the first exchange.

With a brief welcome and introduction, we were off! About 20 teams were in the first wave. We set out East through Government Camp, and onto Highway 26. 

The road at first dropped several hundred feet, then began rising as I came into Exchange 1. I was slated to run the first two legs, and continued on through. The second leg rose more than 1,000 feet, crossing White River Canyon, which made for a great selfie, before rising to 5,000 feet elevation at Bennett Pass.

As I reached Exchange 2, I handed off to Anna, and she headed out for a smooth 6 miles downhill along Highway 35, around the southeast flank of Mount Hood. The road had wide shoulders, and a large storm channel along the shoulder made for open space and excellent visibility.

We checked in a couple times with Anna, stopping every few miles as we do on relays. She finished strong and with a smile, and she handed off to Brian at Exchange 3. We checked in with him at several points, as well. This was their first relay ever, and we wanted to be sure if they needed any support, we would be there for them.

Leg 4 was split in two, so as Brian finished the first half, we all loaded up into our cars and drove through a narrow, winding portion of the road. A little more than a mile later, we turned off of the highway and onto Cooper Spur Road, which began Leg 4B.

Anna was feeling ready to head back out, but no one realized the road was about to climb upwards. We switched Brian back onto the course, and in genuine Bixler fashion — a healthy dose of salty sailor metaphors and unabashed stubbornness — he came into Exchange 4.

Now it was Angela’s turn. As she took off, I managed to peel Brian off of the asphalt, and we drove off to catch up with Ang. The look on every runner’s face told us this leg was perfect! A gentle downward grade, along a quiet, winding, tree-lined road, made this leg stand out in my mind as perhaps one of the best on this race.

I was up next. We’d lost a little time, and at Exchange 5, Kerry greeted us and gave us the option to leapfrog, to help us make up time. It’s something I’d never done before. It works like this: I would leave before Ang arrived at the exchange. When she got in, they would drive to the next exchange and optionally, Brian would leave from Exchange 6 before I came in. It would mean two runners on different legs at the same time.

And so, that’s what we did. Anna took our boys to the finish line so they could help out, and I set out on Leg 6, which was more or less straight and gently downhill. Around mile 2.5, Ang and Brian drove past me, and as arrived at Exchange 6, Ang met me. Brian had already left. We drove to Exchange 7, and Ang departed, while I waited for Brian. I knew the last mile of this leg, steadily uphill, was going to be a challenge for him, but he finished strong.

We left for Exchange 8, and again in true Bixler fashion, saw Ang’s sign language tell us exactly what she thought of the first mile of her leg!

I prepped for my last run. It would be legs 9 and 10, and more than 10 miles. By this time, we’d more or less caught up with the other teams, but fatigue was setting in and my pace had slowed considerably. Heading out, I passed a single runner. I wasn’t sure where the others were.

Nearing the end of the first leg, I was struck by the beauty of the rolling hills, lush and green, which framed Mount Hood in the distance. The road headed uphill and into Exchange 9, and I gave thumbs-up to my team and continued on.

It was towards mile 7 that I hit a wall and walked for a few minutes. I stopped long enough at our rig to down some apple juice. I was getting very close now, and by mile 8, realized the course emptied onto the same route as the Columbia Gorge Marathon I’d run last October.

It was a steep descent! Then, it was the last mile, and then, I saw the race volunteers, including Connor and Julian, who guided me into the final turns and the waterfront park overlooking the Columbia River.

The rest of my team joined me, and togethet we crossed the finish line together!

When we first set out, we had no idea what might happen. What followed was a fantastic show of teamwork and celebration. Oh and profanity, too. Enough for a fleet of sailors. As it should be. πŸ™‚

The Gorgeous Hood to Hood Relay is a fun, safe, family-friendly event. If you’re looking for a one-day race or are new to relays, you should check it out, or consider another of Gorgeous’ many great events held throughout Oregon!

For more information, visit

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Pacing Through Chaos Thu, 30 Mar 2017 01:25:00 +0000 My company is currently going through two separate business acquisitions. This means two distinct sets of customers, each with different expectations of how to interface with our Support team, the ways we conduct business, everything. And they will all need help all at once, as we get them rolling in our network. I’ve worked longer …

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My company is currently going through two separate business acquisitions. This means two distinct sets of customers, each with different expectations of how to interface with our Support team, the ways we conduct business, everything. And they will all need help all at once, as we get them rolling in our network.

I’ve worked longer hours and with less sleep these past weeks, than any time I can recall. I’ve not been this focused in a very long time. Running has almost become an afterthought, despite upcoming marathons and distance events I absolutely must continue training for. This very blog post came out in perhaps 20 minutes’ time, and it’s a reflection of the high-functioning state I’m currently locked into.

I know it’s unsustainable. It’s exhausting. It’s hard to catch my breath. It’s hard to find balance. But also, it’s creating moments of completely new systems of behavior I’ve never before contemplated. For example, yesterday’s evening run, after a long day in the office, is something previously I would not have considered because of all the things going on. I allowed myself to slow it way, way down, to focus on my breathing, and to take that hour for myself and to find peace and balance.

Coming away from that were some revelations about the ways success may present itself, and, whether prepared for it or not, we are faced with some hard choices we must make in order to reach the goal.

  • Empires aren’t built by waiting. If you want to create something, you have to go out and build it. But be sure you are building with the right mindset and not rushing through it.
  • Work it with the connections and resources you have at hand. Determine what you can do, versus delegate to a trusted partner or vendor. Look at the big picture of what you are actually trying to accomplish, and cut everything not aligned with that goal out of the picture at least in the short term, and possibly in the long term.
  • You have to want it so bad that you’re not just willing to adopt a stricter discipline, you need to actively work that discipline without a manual and continually ask yourself if that is even good enough.
  • Get ready for sacrifice, so make sure you’re not sacrificing the successes already in your life. Remember to uphold the good you already champion and to know the difference between the things helping you, and those hindering you.
  • Focus on the positive and embrace it, and run as far and fast away from the detractors, negative energies, and find alternate routes around the roadblocks in front of you.
  • Remember to breathe. The majority of what we do in this life involves simply existing, and breathing directly regulates our body’s ability to function, relax, and repair.
  • Find a rhythm that can carry you the distance. Ultra runners don’t run fast, they run slower in exchange for drastically increased distance. Taking the edge of your activity, so you can catch your breath and reduce your heart rate, can see you to the finish without breaking a sweat.

For the past few months, I’ve regularly attended long-distance, weekend runs with Coach Jim’s group here in the Portland area. We specifically set out to pace ourselves at uncomfortably slow paces, but which facilitate long distances (15-20 miles) in preparation for upcoming races and relays for which we are each training. The exchange of speed for distance is hard to understand until you try it. And, it grows on you.

While some may be concerned about their pace time — me included — in the bigger picture, I’m appreciating the way this method is helping me while not straining me. I can go out, drop 20 miles with a group of fun people, at a pace where we can talk the entire time, and walk away thinking hmm, I’m hungry, versus feeling like on death’s doorstep from overdoing it.

It may be one of the most frenetic, near-panic-striking, and intense periods of my professional career, but I’m still smiling. Running and training have directly helped me understand the need to find the right pace to get through this time, knowing it will balance out in the end, and when I do reach that goal, I want to be just as strong and refreshed as I was at the onset. πŸ™‚

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Manifesto for 2017: Real change begins with small steps Mon, 27 Mar 2017 09:10:18 +0000 Reading recent news headlines can be demoralizing, disempowering, disappointing… and many other words beginning with the letter “d”. There seems an endless trove of negativity about us all. One need only refresh their social media feed to be slammed with all sorts of awful stuff. What would happen if all the folks upset over celebrity …

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Reading recent news headlines can be demoralizing, disempowering, disappointing… and many other words beginning with the letter “d”. There seems an endless trove of negativity about us all. One need only refresh their social media feed to be slammed with all sorts of awful stuff.

What would happen if all the folks upset over celebrity deaths this past year were to have focused all that concern instead on humanitarian crises? I don’t mean just the ones elsewhere in the world. How about caring for homeless families in our communities? What about that person in front of you in the checkout line that can’t afford their groceries? Could you afford to put something back and give them a few bucks, so they can feed their family?

Our global society’s blind eye to things happening right before us all, is precisely why I think so many of us are collectively tail-spinning. It seems like reports of simple acts of selflessness reach near-heroic status on social media. We are all so very thirsty for good news, and yet, we are missing the fact that each of us has the ability to make this world a better place.

Each of us can effect real and positive change. We simply have to choose to do something about it. I think the greatest thing preventing that is our uncertainty, fear, and doubt about what taking a step would look like. As with running, it’s getting off the couch and planting that first step out the door that is the hardest.

Instead, many of us limit ourselves to a status quo existence. We don’t think we can change anything, so maybe it’s enough to get through our day without making things worse. We surround ourselves with the familiar, finding comfort in what we can control, and leaving it at that. We celebrate our small successes and happiness, without any sense that these are but fleeting moments that can be turned upside down due to “bad luck”.

It’s what happens when we focus on the “me”, not the “we”. We forget that everything near and dear to us is to some degree dependent on other people, systems, and synergies. But that doesn’t matter. Just work harder and maybe that raise will happen. Chase that carrot. Someone else runs the show, so just make sure you get your share in the end and call it good.

The carrot-chasing scenario hits close to home. For years I wrangled with the endless guilt of being torn between my job and being a parent. I figured out that one pays the bills, but the other fuels your soul. I own a business, but I treat it like a paycheck that helps me be a better dad. Isn’t that the point of entrepreneurship? To self-actualize and find happiness?

I may not be able to affect global issues or political shifts of concern, but there are many around me, and around each of you reading this, that are looking up to us all for help. Family, children, nieces and nephews, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and random strangers… If we want a better future, we need to be prepared to invest in them, especially those younger than us, who need our parenting or guidance.

That moment when we realize, yes, we *are* part of a much larger system, not of control but of energies, is the moment that we needn’t be oppressed by what we cannot control, and instead, that we can be a source of positive energy and change for those around us. To create synergies, is perhaps one of the most powerful things each of us can do.

Change happens in small, simple, quiet ways. The future is all around you… and it starts within each of us. Simply being a light in the midst of darkness is a big part of it.

Care for those around you. Give blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless. Volunteer at a family shelter. Get involved in community activities. Run for the local school board, or public office. Set your goals on change, and commit yourself to a higher purpose than immediate gratification or profit motive, and flee from greed in all forms as fast as your legs can carry you.

Make your time matter, and you will find your purpose.

Today, I am at a crossroads of incredible opportunity, which would not have been possible but for the collective support and leadership of those closest to me. Had I not listened and learned, I would not now be in a place to pay that back and forward. I believe in a philosophy that, “When we all win, we all win”.

Each of us can create the future we want to see and for the next generation to have. But also, we must do what we can so when the baton is passed, we know it will be carried with the right conviction and respect. The future begins with every choice we make towards that vision. Every step in the right direction, no matter how small, is one step closer to that goal.

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