Friday Night: Company Halloween Party. Open bar. Vodka tonics. Surely this was not the best way to prepare for Saturday’s long training run. Despite an evening of excess, I awoke Saturday morning with only a slight hangover (it could have been so much worse!). I downed a few Aspirin, drank some coffee and packed my backpack. I was determined to have another trail running adventure and I’d be damned if I let vodka tonics slow my roll.
I laced up, jumped in my Saturn and took off down the highway. My destination was forty miles outside of Portland at the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia Gorge. I read about it in the Trail Running: Oregon (I highly recommend this book) and was eager to test it out. How could you not want to check out a trail with a Pain Level of Three and a Coolness Factor of Four? (Also, how can you not love a book that rates trail runs by pain factor and coolness factor?)
I arrived at the trailhead later than I wanted – maybe around 1PM. I went through the regular prep I do before every long run: Slide on arm warmers, strap on the heart rate monitor, get Phil (the Garmin) to locate satellites then strap him on, strap on a backup watch, stash GUs in a pocket, stash salt tabs in another pocket, stash cell phone yet another pocket, apply liberal amounts of BodyGlide. Double check that I have the car key, get out my hand-held water bottle. Triple check that I have the car key, double check that Phil is working, and finally… I’m ready to hit the trail.
Right away I was struck by the awesomeness of the trail. The trail begins at creek level but soon it starts to climb up the canyon wall. In the first couple of miles I pass quite a few walkers, backpackers and day hikers. It’s a popular trail and it’s a beautiful day to be outside. I call out ahead to let them know I’m coming up and I receive a few shocked, “Oh, you’re running this!?” and “Ohhh, a runner?” as I pick my way past. The trail is rocky and technical – a true challenge, but I’m too busy gawking at the scenery to care.
I pass Punchbowl Falls first.
And then another waterfall, and then another waterfall. . . I can’t believe I’ve lived in Portland for over a year and no one thought to mention this amazing trail. Anyway, I digress. Back to the trail run.
I stopped at after 45 minutes for a quick GU break. A few hikers warned me that it would get “a little rocky” up ahead. I nodded and went on my way. Little did I know just how rocky it was going to get.
The rocky section was… ahem… much rockier, and I’m secretly ecstatic that I made it through that part of the trail without spraining an ankle or my pride. The payoff for getting past all the rocks was not a disappointment. The highlight of the trail was running through this: Tunnel Falls
I stopped briefly to admire just how awesome it was and then continued on my way. I ran several more miles and into a far-less visited portion of the trail. I had to skip, hurdle and launch myself over fallen trees. I negociated less-friendly creek crossings, survived attacks from vicious brambly forest bushes and was thwacked by a particularly violent twig – all before realizing that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to turn around. I stopped for a GU after running solidly for 1 hour and 37 minutes. I wiped my snot, made a U-Turn and retraced by steps back to the trail head.
I received a few more compliments from other hikers during my run back to the car. A woman said, “You go girl, great run!” An older couple said, “Hoo. Awesome! We love trail runners.” One guy said, “Hey. You better stop, you’re making everyone else look bad.” I don’t need to be in a race to appreciate those little compliments! I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a little encouragement during a long, solitary run.
I finished back at the trail head, exhausted and frustrated because Phil was reporting that I had only run 17.6 miles. I stopped for a quick drink in the parking lot and then found another trail head. I went up a steep incline for another 1.5 miles before turning around and heading once and for all to my little car.
Distance: 20.2 Miles
Highlights: Waterfalls, brambles, cheerful hikers giving out encouragement like Halloween candy.
Lessons Learned: Vodka tonics, you are dangerous!