26 March 2014

Hells Canyon Adventure Run 2014

Hells Canyon and the Snake River

The Hells Canyon Adventure Run is not a race. It's an annual for-fun run that's been put on by Alan Douglas for many years. There's a 30-mile stretch of trail between the Pittsburg Landing campground and the Hells Canyon Dam. I've been down to this trail a few times before, but this was my first time coming down for this organized run.

The run has three options:
  1. Long Version - Take the jet boat from the campground as far as it can go upriver and then run back to the campground. The distance seems to vary each year depending on how far upriver the boat can get due to the rapids. This year we were dropped off just shy of 25 miles from the campground. I've been told other years the boat has been able to get much closer to the dam to make for a near 30-mile run.
  2. Short Version - Take the jet boat upriver for 15 miles and then run back to the campground.
  3. Out and Back - Skip the jet boat (and save $65) and just run an out-n-back from the campground. 
We were told there were no 'drop bags' allowed on the jet boat, so the dilemma for all the long version folks was how much to wear on the hour-long jet boat ride starting at 6:15 am when temperatures were below 30 degrees Fahrenheit but would be up around 50 degrees by the end of the run. I dressed for the run (shorts) so I didn't have to carry all those extra clothes when I was on the trail and then spent every second of that very long boat ride regretting my decision not to wear full winter gear. 

Sadie wasn't too thrilled with her first jet boat ride either. She was as nervous as I was cold, and I spent the entire ride trying to calm her down and keep her from freaking out. But it was all worth it when we hit the trail.

With Sadie happy to be on solid ground and me excited to get moving, a group of four of us started down the trail. After five miles or so, our group was down to three: me, Dan H., and Riley.

We spent a good majority of our run in the morning shadow of the west-facing canyon walls. The Snake River was rarely out of our site as the trail weaved in and out of smooth, grassy meadows and then up and down rocky cliffs that boasted wobbly-leg inducing drop-offs up to four hundred feet high.

This is one of the trails worth bragging about. This is one of those trails worthy of a road trip. I tell trail runners new to Pullman that they must run in the Wallowas, and they must run this section of the Snake River.

I took a bunch of gopro video on the run. A lot of it didn't turn out so great because of the poor lighting from running in the shadow most of the day. But I put a few of the clips together in this short video.

And enjoy some photos.

Freezing with Sadie on the jet boat.
But enjoy the views and herds of elk.
(photo by Dan Hollingshead)

Early in the morning.

Dan H during the first couple miles of the day.

When the sun was out, the views were spectacular.

Riley and Dan enjoying trail.


View from Suicide Point.



Dan and Riley as we leave Kirkwood Ranch.

Campsite trailhead, and the end of our day.

Boston is less than a month away, and I'm excited. But I can't help being even more excited to see winter melting away from my favorite mountain trails. I think this is going to be a great year for trail running.

Keep running!


03 March 2014

Snake River Canyon Half Marathon - Race Report

My training for Boston is on schedule, and I'm feeling fit.

Saturday was my big tune-up race, the Snake River Canyon Half Marathon, put on by the wonderful folks at Palouse Road Runners.

This race unofficially marks the beginning of spring running on the Palouse. Temperatures in the canyon are usually near 50 degrees for the race, and it's usually one of the first runs of the year when you can appropriately wear shorts. But this year we received a cold blast of winter on race day. Race-time temperatures were in the mid-20's and snow was fluttering in the air all morning. The canyon is also notorious for brutal headwinds on the out section of this pancake flat out-n-back course. We still had the headwinds (~10-15mph), but it wasn't nearly as bad as we've seen in the past.

I'm hoping to blister my marathon PR at Boston, so my training has been geared - more than ever -toward running a fast time at a road marathon. I'm not doing track stuff or anything like that (I'm not that invested in my marathon PR), but I have been doing pace-specific training runs for the first time in my life. And it's been paying off. I've seen some of my (admittedly soft) shorter-distance road PRs fall the last couple months.

So I was feeling pretty good about myself heading into the race.

Race Goals
A goal: sub-1:19
B goal: sub-1:20
C goal: beat my PR (1:21:09)

The gun went off and after a quarter of a mile there was a group of 20 or so slowly pulling away. I was running with my buddy Dan Froelich (we had the same A goal). The faster group was doing 5:50's or so - which was a bit faster than we wanted, but with a group that big there is quite an upside when you're running into a headwind. We decided it was worth sticking with them, so we hurried up to get on the train.

Then around two miles the group of 20 or so split into two groups when about 10 guys starting surging. Too quick for us, so we settled into the second half of the pack with a few familiar faces (Dan Hollingshead and Chris Morlan). Around mile four, our group started splintering a bit, and the wind started to become a factor. The last couple miles into the wind before the turnaround was starting to get tougher than I was hoping it would be.

Chris hit the turnaround first, then I hit it a little behind him in about 39:45. I was just off my A goal pace but still feeling optimistic that I could make up the lost time with the help of the tailwind. Dan and Dan were just behind me at the turnaround.

Nothing eventful on the way back. It was just a long, lonely attempt trying to hold pace. Chris held a 15 to 20 second advantage over me most of the way back. For four miles or so I tried to slowly reel him in, but it wasn't happening. Every once in awhile I'd feel a gust of wind hit me from behind, and I kept imagining it was the Snake River kicking me in the butt to "go faster, Scott!"

With three miles to go, I was still under my 1:19 pace...I just needed to hold it.

With about two miles to go, Chris started fading a little and I snuck up beside him and then eased by. "Hey, Chris." "Hey, Scott." "Hoping to hold this pace to sneak under 1:19," I said. "Dig deep. You're almost there," he said.

I hadn't looked back since the turnaround, so I didn't know where Dan and Dan were. I was hoping one of them would catch up with me so we could run with each other to the finish.

With about a half mile to go, I finally knew I had 1:19 in the bag. I tried to make a little bit of a surge to see if I had anything left in the tank. There wasn't much left, but that last mile was my second fastest of the day.

I crossed the finish line in 1:18:17. (official results)

I'm pretty stoked with how I ran. It has me feeling good as I start counting down to Boston. Now that my big tune-up race is done, I can officially start getting excited about the starting line in Hopkinton.

Keep running!