Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend "Running Camp"

Two years ago I participated in the Western States Memorial Day Weekend running camp that covered 70 miles of the Western States trail over 3 day of running. I did this for personal training purposes but also because I planned to pace a friend at the race and I wanted familiarity with the trail. It was a grueling event and the longest back to back runs I had ever done to that point. After the first 30 mile day in the canyons I wasn't sure how I'd manage to run 20 miles down to the river on day two, never mind the 20 mile section from Green Gate to Auburn the next day! But, lo and behold, I actually managed to put one foot in front of the other on day two and then again was able to get and stay moving on day three. It was a great accomplishment.

This year I wanted to do the same thing but decided to save myself the LONG drive down to that part of California and instead headed to Humboldt County where my sister,Karen, lives. We would together build our own running camp on trails through the redwood forests. It was a grand success.

On day number one I did close to 30 miles on day #1 and about 7K climbing. It was a beautiful mountain bike trail in the King Range on which I ran two loops. Karen's friend and coach Bill and her dog ran with me the first time around and Karen ran with me the second.

We had some great views of the ocean from top of the ridges. There was a fair amount of shade and lots of wild flowers. Most of the climbing was gradual enough that it was runnable and the downhill sections were a lot of fun. We ran into a collection of mountain bikers and played leap frog with them along the trail. At one point they stopped to photograph each other going over some jumps in the trail and graciously let us run through. We took the jumps too and got our photos taken as well!

I have a new ultra food I'm fond of now: Turkey and cheese sandwich with avocado. Yum, yum. It was fairly warm (mid 70s by the end of the day) and sunny but most of the trail was shaded by oak and fir trees. We crossed the Bear Creek twice (shin deep) and actually laid down in it on the last crossing of the second trip for cooling purposes. The trail ran along ridges, down to the creek, back up to the ridge then back down to the creek then back up to the ridge. It wasn't usually too steep and most of the uphill was runnable. On the second loop I found my ice bandanna very refreshing. It was a great day!

Day #2 we did in the Redwood State Park on the Lost Man Creek Trail. This is essentially a 10 mile out then back on an old logging road that started at about 200 feet and climbed (relentlessly) up to about 2300 feet, when we turned around and went back.

The return trip was a lot more fun! It was beautiful, that's for sure, but cooler and mostly foggy, just like the pictures.

Karen and Bill both ran with me that day but we split up for some of it. Karen turned back a few miles short and Bill ran ahead to catch up with her and I caught up with them a mile from the end. It was fun, retrospectively, but the climbing for the first half was not so much fun as it entailed lots of walking/hiking. I found that frustrating. We were also on a bit of a time crunch to get back for a memorial service for Karen's friend who died last year, but we made it in plenty of time.

On day #3 Karen and I set out together to run the Skunk Cabbage Trail, Coastal Trail and eventually part of the Ossagon trail for another 10 mile out then back in the redwood state park (can't find a good link). We ended up doing about 5 miles on the beach (4 miles on the outward journey and 1 on the return after we found the paralleling dirt road). The Skunk Cabbage part is like my local Fort to the Sea trail at Fort Clatsop National Park, but with more roots from the Sitka Spruce.

It ends at the beach then connects to the Coastal trail and Ossagon which, after the beach, is on flat prairie areas next to bluffs near the beach.

It was very pretty and the weather was perfect - started overcast then got sunny but never too warm. We finished the whole thing together except the last few miles and Karen was less than 5 minutes behind me.

I was really proud of her for doing her 15/17.5/20 combo! She's never done back-to-backs that lengthy.
At this point I feel just fine and don't feel tired and my legs don't hurt. It's amazing the amount of endurance I've developed. I felt good every day and never got worn out. The spectacular scenery really helped, I'm sure. And the company, no doubt.