Pretty pictures to make up for my long absence? Sure.
We'll start with a few to sum up the end of summer:
In Rainier National Park. I went hiking there for a weekend with some friends. Washington beats Oregon handily in the mountain department.
We spent the second day of hiking in the Tatoosh Range. It's a very small but very scenic range!
More Tatoosh. Very distinctive-looking.
Rainier, you looker, you.
An adorable kitten I had to throw in even though I don't like cats.
School started at the end of September and since then most activity has been restricted to 6:30 - 8:00 a.m. Yes, it's true, even the most committed afternoon runner can become a morning runner if circumstances require. It's actually been a surprisingly easy transition, even before Daylight Savings when the first hour outside was spent in darkness. Anyway, this is my explanation for why the nearly all of the following photos feature a sunrise.
Foggy morning at Spencer Butte.
Sunday excursion to the beach, back when I had time for that shit.
It was such a nice day.
Mounty Baldy. This hardly qualifies as a hill, let alone a mountain, but it's got some great views.
There is no filter on this photo. The sky was WACK that morning. It was so cool. Also Baldy.
Pisgah. I try to make it there at least one morning a week even though it's a 20-minute drive.
The fall colors have been pretty unbelievable. This does not remotely capture it.
Pisgah summit. I love it when the valley's fogged in.
This is from my ten-miler yesterday just before Baldy's "summit." It was SO COOL, all the trees were covered in ice so I spent the entire run with small ice chunks raining down on me. I was so pissed that my phone died just after taking this, it really was breathtaking.
Aaaaand, what you probably care about most given that this is a running blog: pictures from the Silver Falls Half Marathon!
You see me?! Purple shirt. See that guy in the tiny skirt and pink compression socks? I ran just behind him for, like, five miles. It was a sight to behold. I should have known that long-sleeve shirt was coming off in like five minutes.
Yes, this is a screen shot. Yes, I am poor. The leaves were really beautiful.
Race to the finish!
I'm not sure how the clock advanced nine seconds between the last picture and this one. This guy was not nice about our little race. The finish chute was incredibly muddy and I was sliding all over the place but having a great time and figured it was just friendly competition. Well, he beat me to the line by inches, which I was totally fine with, and when I turned to congratulate him he flat out ignored me and walked off. Nice job, bruh. Joke's on him, though, because they put me ahead of him in the results.
This race is my real reason for dragging myself back to this corner of the internet and posting. I talked about it back whenever that was and finally got around to running it on November 2. I was a bit hard on this race because I don't consider it to be a very scenic trail (mountains, please), but it really was so much fun. Trail races are the way to go.
I've been majorly slacking at blogging but not at running. I spent this summer building up a strong base through multiple-hour outings 4 - 5 times a week. Once school started, I obviously didn't have that kind of time anymore but I did commit to doing as much as I could. These days, I wake up at the ungodly hour of 6:15 on weekdays to run. I know, I know, that's sleeping in for a lot of you but for me it's pure madness. I spend as much time as I can on trails, which has been great for so many reasons. I mean, running by yourself on a trail when it's pitch black is kind of terrifying, but you get to see so many beautiful things once the sun rises (fortunately Daylight Savings gave me enough time back that I don't have to run in the dark anymore). And it's a great workout, obviously. It's so empowering to run up things I once thought unrunnable.
Anyway, I've been consistently running 30 - 35 miles per week on reasonably rugged terrain and it's definitely paying off. Going into the Silver Falls Half, my goal was to finish under 2:45. I wasn't even sure whether that was a reasonable goal since the route advertised a 1,500 - foot elevation gain, which seemed like a lot to me. I thought 2:30 might be attainable but didn't want to put any pressure on myself to run harder than I was capable. I've said before that I don't really like racing, largely because I don't like the pain that comes with it. I'm fine with some fatigue, but when you're nauseated and everything's burning, that's just not my idea of a good time. Which is probably-slash-definitely why I don't do any speed work (and in fact haven't done any since my marathon a year and a half ago - yikes!).
Most of my trail runs are around 12:00 minute/mile pace, so imagine my surprise when I finished this race with a 9:29 average! I seriously couldn't believe it. My Garmin flipped out when I was in the canyons so I couldn't figure out what my pace was. A 10:40 average would pop up every once in a while so as I neared the finish I thought I might even be able to snag a 2:20 if I pushed it. Shortly after I crossed the finish line I remembered to turn around and check my time, which appeared to be 2:20:xx. Just short of 2:20 but still an amazing result. And then...
... I realized I was looking at the first wave time. See, when we signed up we had the option of running with those who planned to finish under 2:15 and those who planned to finish over 2:15. I obviously belonged to the latter group, right? My road half PR is 2:03:xx (I think? I need to look that up again) so I was surely going to be much, much slower. But no! I somehow managed to run a full 15 minutes faster than a time I didn't even think was attainable.
It really pisses me off when people claim they're training to race at a certain pace and then "accidentally" pull a much faster time out of their asses as if by magic when in fact that's been their goal all along. This is not that. I really, truly had no idea what to expect since I hadn't done a trail race before or bothered to run faster than an 10:30 pace in ages. But I have been running on much harder trails than what we ran on that day. In fact, I was amazed to find that much of the course was flat. There were three or four steep climbs but other than that it was very reasonable.
So yeah, that was a shock. I was actually kicking myself for not starting faster, though, which would have almost surely netted me a new PR. I'm a little too good at starting off slowly, which means I often finish with a lot of gas in the tank. This race was no exception. A few hours after the race ended, it was almost as though I hadn't run at all. I didn't experience any soreness and any fatigue was completely gone two days later. I suppose it's for the best because I'm more into training than racing (said only me, ever) and was happy to get right back to running. Nonetheless, I should probably start off a bit faster next time.
Anyway, grad school calls so I'll end this here. It may shock you to hear that I have been keeping up with all of your blogs (super big shoutout to Meagan for a great performance at the Marine Corps Marathon a few weeks ago!) but haven't commented on anything in ages. Sorry dudes. I can either spend all my time reading or comment; I choose the former.