Run to the hills

After Eugene, I’ve taken to the hills east of Los Angeles, to spend 10 days with my father in law. After a year in Iraq, surrounded by the same people and same desert, day in and day out, I wanted / needed to get away and regroup.

10 days in Eugene sure did wonders for that. It was fantastic — a great chance to clear my head, think about the world and life and the things most important to see, while also reconnecting with the wife and kids.

But the kids needed to get back for school, so I’ve come here, to escape from it all some more. Hanging out with my father in law, and running some. I’m earning my keep by helping with drywall and the laundry list of tech support issues around the bachelor mountain pad.

The view from the house.  What's not to love?
The view from the house. What's not to love?

Did I mention the view? Lovely, isn’t it? I could just sit and stare for days on end. I’ve arrived just after some nasty weather had rolled through over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The snow lingers on the ground, the air is cool but not too cold, the sky is clear and the stars are about as bright as can be. Being here, and listening to the speech from President Obama, I had to wonder if mountainous views are my true calling.

And did I mention the running? The Honolulu Marathon is on 13 DEC, just a couple of days after I am due to leave here. After my long 20 mile run right after we landed in Eugene (the next day, actually), I am tapering. Which for me means less miles. I’ve gone from 40 mile weeks, to this week (21 total) as I work down to next week and running just 9 miles ahead of the marathon.

But I can’t come to the mountains and expect to run on flat terrain. Part of the fun of it all is the running and exploration and adventure of getting out and about, to see things. And a wee bit of it is about the challenges of running here — at 5500 feet elevation, in the cold, with snow on the ground and mud everywhere as snow melts.

Tuesday I did my prescribed 4 miles. Not having any idea what I was just, I just went out the front door, down the street to the end, and I took a right. A bit later, was passing this little ditty:

The roadsign said it was 3W12, and was for approved off road vehicles but not cars.
The roadsign said it was 3W12, and was for approved off road vehicles but not cars.

I’m unsure if the photo really captured how steeply this path heads up. It’s about half the width of a car, it’s all mud, and it’s steep. I made a mental note of the 3W12 name on the sign, and I headed further on down the road. The road ended at a water processing plant, but I headed further on down the road on what was likely a fire trail. My little 4 mile jaunt included just 341 feet of ascent and 571 feet of descent.

So on Tuesday, I headed back to go see what this 3W12 thing was all about. FIL said that it was one of a number of ATV and quad-friendly trails in the area, which sounded especially good for a Wednesday morning run (really, what ATV / quad driver would be out and about on the mountainside on a Wednesday morning?) Six miles was the plan, and whoooo doggie, was it a great six miles.

How good? Well, for starters, I averaged 12 minutes per mile, when I normally do about 9:15 or 9:30 per mile on these medium to longer runs. An hour and 11 minutes to do what I would otherwise have done in, say, 56 or 57 minutes.

It was 833 feet of ascent, and 1025 feet of descent — 1855 feet of elevation change, in 6 miles. I did do six mile runs in Iraq, that had less than 100 feet of elevation change. My 18 mile run in Hawaii had just 2600 feet of elevation change, when I ran up the mountain to my new office — three times as many miles, but a little over 1.5 times as much elevation change.

3W12 is pretty steep, it turns out.

Up through the mud and snow

But, I hope you’ll agree, it’s scenic and awesome. If mud and snow and puddles and steep trails work for you. They do for me. I love this stuff.

Heading up 3W12

Steep, and then steeper

It would be snowy and muddy and steep. And then it would get snowier, and muddier, and steeper. I was plugging away as best I could, picking up one foot and putting it down again and again. The altitude and the thin air did make it hard as hell to hold anything close to a normal rhythm, so I’d slow down enough so that I could keep running without having to stop. When I did stop, it was to take photos.

Down was much steeper than it looks

I’d get to places like this, and look out over the lands. I’d try to spot where the other trails were, and see if I could figure out how to get there. When it’s a really long run, that’s great. When it’s just six miles, it’s dangerous — if I’m not careful, I’ll tell myself it’s OK to just go on to that next peak, that next hill, that next trail, and before I know it, I’m trying to figure out the absolutely shortest route back.

Coming back down was slick and muddy

Coming back down was pretty slick and muddy. I don’t think these photos, especially this one, really capture just how steep this trail could be. Oh, I’m sure it’d be great fun on an ATV or quad-runner, but for running, it was high adventure trying to make it back down this without having a yardsale of me and my running gear all over the hillside.

Thursday, I went back out and found a different ATV / quad trail in the area (3W13), and knocked out my three miles for the day. Wonderful day, a bit cooler than the other days, but great running. Three miles, and over 1000 feet of elevation change.

But yes, I am tapering. This weekend, I am suppose to run 8, which I look forward to doing. I’ve been peeping at Google Earth, at where I’ve run and where else I can run in the area. 8 miles — that could be some good exploring!

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