Monday, July 7, 2008

Running in Oregon & Other Adventures in the Pacific Northwest

Ironically, I didn’t run much while in Track Town USA. I did, however, get in most of the cliché runs and, while doing so, saw some great sites. Below is a wrap up from my week:

RUN #1 – The Wildwood Trail
I arrived in Portland, OR on Sunday en route to Eugene for the Running Film Festival. I got in at 10:45 PCT and had 2 hours to kill before my colleague arrived so I decided to head into town and go for a run. I ventured out to an area I had researched southwest of the city called FOREST PARK (Caps not necessary). After way too much driving I decided my “address” wasn’t specific, rather general, so I decided to back track to where I had seen some nice looking trails.
I parked, changed, and was eager to hit the trails. As I waited to cross the road and enter the trail system, a runner came stumbling out of the woods. I quickly swarmed him and asked 3 questions at once; which way should I go, what’s the trail like and how hilly would it be? He replied “this way”, “very hilly” and “stay on the Wildwood Trail”. I began to limber along and quickly found myself running straight up hill…after a mile it flattened a bit but it still climbed, and by 9 minutes I was definitely breathing hard. Soon the trail (a nice dirt-packed trail sans roots) headed downhill dipping in and out of valleys of old growth trees – a symbol of the Pacific Northwest. It felt at times like I was in a rain forest with all the lush green around me. Mile after mile, the trail ran up…and then downhill. There was a plethora of other trails that darted in and out but I remember what my guide said – “stay on the Wildwood Trail”. Most of the hills weren’t steep, but they were very long (like switchbacks on the Appalachian Trail). After about 4 and ½ miles I turned around and headed back. One of the hills on my return was heartbreaking. I hadn’t breathed this much since that time I quit smoking Marlboros back in ‘78. I’m usually fairly good on hills, but this hill certainly left me breathless. The last mile-plus dropped me straight back down to the parking lot. I jumped back in the car, picked up my friend and then we bombed our way south to Eugene. It was definitely one of those runs I will always remember.

RUN # 2 – Pre’s Rock
Everything about Eugene involves track & field to some capacity. Additionally, everyone is biking to campus and there are a ton of “Capital Crescent-like” trail systems that allow for lots of commuting and physical fitness. My day started out testing beers at a microbrewery at 8:30am. I sampled 7 or so of microbrewery heaven. Needless to say I left the bar (where we are holding a Happy Hour later in the week) a bit dehydrated and “happy”. I was running around most of the day doing odds and ends; handing out fliers, putting up posters and getting accustomed to the area. When the races began in earnest around 7pm PCT, Phil and I decided to go on a run wearing our new dry-fit Running Film Festival t-shirts. I parked at Gabe Jennings’ house (where we were earlier in the day watching and receiving his film) and headed over to the stadium. We ran as advertisements up and down the lines heading into Hayward Field. We got a lot of funny looks, some drunkin’ yells and at least one ass pinch from the various folks in line (the last part I made up). Phil stopped back at the car but I continued up into the hills towards Pre’s Rock. There are signs that guide you to this space where pilgrimages of sorts had been taken place all week. Again, the hills were brutal but I loved them. Up and up I went. I stopped briefly at the rock and eyed the various running “stuff” that was cast about. If you’ve ever been there it is very hard to imagine how he could have been going fast at all on that road. It’s extremely curvy and really not a long road. I drove the road earlier in the day and simply could not get going to a point that if I had hit the rock I would have caused damage to myself. Anyways, after pondering this for about 3 hours, I decided to continue on my run and hit the trails atop skyline drive. Again, more hills but it was great for the soul.

RUN # 3 – Hotel Run
My hotel sucked, simply put. It was “non smoking” (for the trials). That means that 2 weeks ago, some fat dude in a tank top without underwear, was probably smoking Winstons in the bed that I was now sleeping in for a week. As you all know, the smell of cigarette smoke is hard to mask especially if you only make the room non-smoking during major sporting venues. The bathroom smelled like an ash tray and there wasn’t even a chair for the desk nor shampoo for the shower (I used soap for 3 days before finding some). Needless to say, I was happy to have a room. I stayed in Springfield just outside of Eugene and ran on July 3rd around my hotel. It was one of those awful office park runs that you do simply to get the time in. The only highlight was finding a hazelnut orchard near the end of the run. I felt like a character in a Mother Goose and Grim Fairy Tale story. I ran up and down this grid of trees for a couple miles without ever seeing the sky above me. I only did an easy 6 and then went to set up for the film festival.

RUN # 4 – Pre’s Trail
Jarrin and Bain (who now were in town for some reason) and I ran Pre’s Trail on July 3. The goal was to get going early in the morning in an effort to get to the film festival and begin setting up. I got to the hotel to pick the guys up, but Jarrin was wicked late. Apparently he needs lots of time in the morning before getting out the door, unlike Bain and me who “don’t care bout’ nothin” (copyright – KLIM 1999). Halfway to Pre’s Trail, Jarrin realized he hadn’t even brought his running shoes (God knows what he was actually wearing at the time). He dropped off Bain and I and we began to explore the trail system. We eventually hooked up with Peter Silverman (who needs a nickname) and ran on the lovely soft wood chip trail. We did a myriad of loops and figure eights and saw many elites getting ready for their big race. Eventually Jarrin returned, this time with shoes, and we all ran about. GRC had invaded Eugene and it was a proud day (tear drop).

RUN # 5 – Brooks Run
The Brooks Team had a house next to campus. I had done a FloTrack intvu earlier in the week here and learned they held group runs at 9am each day. Every morning the run was led by a different member of the Brooks Hansons Team. The day we arrived most of the folks milling about were still hammered drunk (as was I – see previous post by JARRIN) and I had no idea who was there. There were definitely a couple of pros. I hadn’t run in a day or so and was itching to put my nose out and be a workout hero. We headed up to Pre’s Rock and then back down to Pre’s Trail. 15 minutes into the run I needed to find a “Pre’s Bathroom”. Lack of sleep, a poor diet and lots of beer does terrible things to a stomach. Our small group of 6 or so led the other 30 people in the run. It wasn’t one of those crowds who you could say “I need to go to the bathroom, can you wait a minute?” so away the pack went. I finished up my business with Geir (but not in the same portajohn) and I began to search for the pack. I saw Bain, Jarrin and some other guys blazing down the trail on the other side of the river and quickly caught the pack with new vigor. As soon as I joined, Bain bailed for the restroom too. In a way, it was awesome. Jarrin, Geir, some kid from Oregon and I hammered our way around the trails and then onto campus. Jarrin, like always, REALLY pushed the pace. We flew down campus and back to the house. A solid 10 with a free bagel at the end. 10 minutes later, Bain came storming down the road.

It was truly awesome to run with a huge group of guys and push the envelope a bit, especially after watching the men’s 10k and women’s 5k the night before. Combined with running around Pre’s Rock, Trail and Bathroom (?) the energy of competition and the general aura of being in a town where running is NOT considered “weird” was omnipresent.

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