20 February 2012

Hells Gate State Park: A Little Piece of Heaven

I took it easy for a couple weeks after the January 50k -- a couple 15-20 very easy miles weeks. I needed a little battery recharge for the legs. 

"But my leg doesn't hurt that bad. I can still run."
And Sadie needed a break too. Since December, she's been dealing with an achy joint above her paw on her front left leg. I gave her three weeks off from running in hopes that she just needed some rest. After a couple easy runs after her rest, she was favoring her leg again, so I took her to the vet. She has some inflammation in the joint due to (I'll give you my translation of all the vet jargon) the specific way her joint bends -- basically it bends (think hyper-extends) more than her other joints. No injury, just an anatomical thing. But it cause extra stress on her joint, especially when she has increased impact on her front legs, like when she runs down stairs or trails, or jumps out of the car, or lands after catching frisbees.  Anyway, I have some anti-inflammatory pills to give her from here on out. So far, so good; she ran 35 miles with me this week with no limp in sight.

My running goal #1 for 2012 is the West Highland Way Race at the end of June. Goal #2 is to fight the urge - and my enthusiasm for this race - by over-training and hurting myself (see my over-excited and just two weeks before Atacama Crossing 2011 result). The plan is to wait to start ratcheting up my mileage until mid-March or so.  

In the meantime, as the snow still covers the trails on the Palouse I've found myself heading down to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley (an hour drive and a couple thousand feet lower in elevation) to get my trail fix at some sweet winter-free single-track at Hells Gate State Park.
This is what winter near the bottom of a
Pacific NW canyon looks like.

My buddy, Aaron, joining me on his bike.

After a green light from the vet (and some pills),
Sadie's back where she's most comfortable.

Overlooking the Snake River.

Looking toward the norther tip of Hells Canyon
(the deepest canyon in the USA.)

Cool formations on the canyon walls.

Rainy-day single-track above the Snake.


To further help my winter trail-running blues, there was an 8-mile trail race at the park on Saturday, called the Edge of Hell. I've skipped this race the last couple years -- why, I'm not sure. 

This race has an interesting format. There's a 4-mile and 8-mile option. The 4-milers run a loop, then the 8-milers turnaround and run the loop in reverse. Thing is, you don't know who's running the 4 or the 8 until the 4-mile mark when you either shoot down through the finish line or announce you're doing the 8 (someone marks your race tag as such) then turn around.

My legs were feeling light and fresh at the start and I planned on pushing it hard, but I wanted to be careful not to get caught up with the fast 4-mile crowd. But as we crested the first climb about a half-mile in I got the sense that I was likely the fastest one to show up on this particular day. I played it conservatively for the first couple miles and followed a short distance behind the only guy out in front (who ended up being the 4-mile winner). By a rocky descent near mile 2 I decided to push the pace some more and jump into the lead, and I never really looked back after that. I was the first one to hit mile 4, and turned back to run the loop in reverse (the tougher of the two directions) with my legs still feeling good. I finished in first place with a time of 52:54. (results)

A few race photos:

Great shot of runners along the Snake River cliffs.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Man, I get a bit teary-eyed when I see sweet single-track and blue skies like this.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Enjoying a little descent.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Running happy.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Snaking up and over and around the canyon-side.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Still feeling good nearly six miles in.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Steep descent.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

Pumping those legs on the steep climb.
(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

(photo courtesy of Aaron Whiteman)

This running thing is pretty good to me. I hope I'm giving back as much as I'm taking.

Half marathon in two weeks. Maybe a little rest? Nah, I'll keep running. :)