Entries tagged with “Running”.

I started out no less than 5 times, over the course of the weekend, to run. I knew it would be a challenge – as it always is with the differing elevation and climate in Bend – but I was determined to get some miles under my feet nevertheless. Though the medication I am taking will inevitably make me puffy, I have decided I need not become soft, thereby. Moreover, training for the Blerch and a potential half-marathon in October, I know that running in varying conditions is both good for me generally and imperative to any race since I won’t have the luxury of meticulously curated route selection.

Previous attempts at running in central Oregon had not gone well. Even at times when I was in a good and stable pattern covering decent distances, as soon as I’d set out I’d be forcefully reminded that there is just more air in the air at sea level where I live than there is at 3625 ft. Usually about the middle of my first mile, I’d be stricken with the feeling that my lungs were like to simultaneously explode and collapse and I’d stutter to a halt, ashamed of the ill-founded confidence I’d developed running in Portland where the oxygen rich atmosphere makes a person soft and air greedy.

Couple this with the strong preference to run somewhere scenic which would on its face seem a small thing to ask; literally ringed with mountains, rivers and lakes as Bend is. Instead I was confronted with a surprisingly vexing scenario wherein I set out on what appeared to be a picturesque gently winding trail that would follow the river for miles, but was instead quickly dumped unceremoniously out on the street through neighborhoods I can only describe as “High-Desert-Ant-Farm-Chic”

This time I was armed with a route map for the Deschutes River Trail, and I thought with a clearly marked legend, I’d be able to plan my course such that I needn’t ever hit the street. More, I’d be able to get the lead out in the most scenic possible setting to forestall too much notice of my lungs fighting to extract as much oxygen from the scanty amount present in the air. Assured by my host the trail “totally flat” along the river, I felt that would increase my odds of getting in the extra-long run I was shooting for on Saturday. Having hosted guests, had my long run curtailed earlier in the week, and traveled the previous weekend as well, I was a bit behind on the self-imposed 20 miles a week quota. I knew I wouldn’t make the 12 I needed, but I figured 7 more miles to hit 15 for the week was perfectly reasonable.

Silly, silly me.

For you see, I didn’t realize how atrociously bad I am at reading maps. I started out driving 15 minutes in an attempt to start at the end of the trail that would give me what appeared to be the longest uninterrupted stretch off pavement. What I actually situated myself to do was to try to run north to the south end of the trail, and was totally baffled when the course simply came to a hard stop at the river bank. I ran the length of this section twice before I realized I’d been reading the map backwards.  So, that was a mile, total.

I tried at this point to just turn around and head north. A closer inspection of the legend made it clear that doing so would require me to run over paved roads and surface streets for more or less the entire distance I wanted to cover. Because I was reading the legend backwards, too; blue meant trail while green meant road. Took me about a mile to figure that out here, too.

I decided I needed to give up and start elsewhere. I drove back toward the other end of the trail, which I realized was the unpaved, river parallel portion I had been looking for all along. I got diverted in downtown (thanks Bite of Bend!) and ended up encountering another section of the trail in the meantime.  I thought I’d just start there instead. I was jumpy from having powered down a coffee and wanted to get my legs under me as soon as possible; the dithering was making me cranky. I started off lakeside, but only made it about a ½ mile before the end of park trail and was back out on the street. More or less insane with annoyance at this point, I got back in the car and made my way back over to a trailhead that once and for all seemed to be the starting point I had now spent over an hour trying to find, less than 5 minutes from the house.


Determined to log some distance, particularly after all the false starts, I trotted off riverside. I was struggling for air, taking in noseeums with every gasping breath, and feeling fairly grumpy about the whole effort when I came around a curve and was confronted with what ended up being the death blow for this “run”; a decidedly not-flat section of trail. Sharp enough I could not clearly see the top of the hill, faced with its prospect, I simply turned on my heel and ran the other direction. Mark down a mile, on that attempt.

I figured, if I wanted to start the new week with the right number of miles, I’d have to mount the hill at some point. I reckoned if I tried it with fresh energy and expecting the climb, I’d be able to marshal the resources both physical and mental to make that happen. At this pass, I was beyond my ability to buck up and power through anything. I wanted hollandaise and a hug. Happily, I went back up the hill and was provided with both, before the morning was out.

Sunday, eyes open at just shy of 5 am I climbed out of bed and forced down the handful of Ritz that allow me to take my prednisone without incident. Guts gurgling in more than customary protest, I ignored their exhortations and before 5:30 I was at the trailhead lacing my shoes around my swollen feet trying to remember the last time I’d actually felt like I wanted to run. It had been only the previous Saturday, and I’d logged three runs in the meantime, so though I was disappointed not to be more excited about what is usually one of my favorite things to do, I was grimly satisfied at my perseverance in the face of a dearth of enthusiasm.

Even expecting it, rounding the corner to face the first hill, I was daunted by its pitch. It has become pretty apparent to me over time that what some people consider “flat” may not be in perfect alignment with my own definition of the term. This, however could in no way be construed as anything other than a climb. It was relatively short – no more than several dozen yards – but it was unquestionably steep.

I straggled my ass about halfway up at the best speed I could muster before I realized doing that might push my lungs past a threshold where they would be distressed enough I might struggle to complete the rest of the run. Resigned, I slowed to a trotting walk – which always feels like cheating, and blows my pace all to hell – and mounted the hill as quickly as I could shy of actually running.

Much to my chagrin, immediately thereafter was the other side of the hill and its concomitant downside slope. Turns out the trail climbs and descends again rather quickly to avoid a golf course built more or less right in its path. I was both annoyed that I’d had to make the detour and dismayed I’d have to work my way back up the opposite direction when I’d be considerably more tired. Boo.

Once past this initial obstacle the trail proved to be exactly what I would have asked for. I was surrounded by rimrock, clifftop river views, and vistas of the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mount Jefferson. I saw bunnies, squirrels, birds of all kinds, and at one point a trio of deer barreling down the path directly for me as they fled from a cyclist coming the other direction. Plenty of charm! Nothing but picturesque!

All The Scenery A Girl Could Want!

All The Scenery A Girl Could Want!

Finally at about mile 2.5 I hit my stride and began to enjoy the run itself. I knew I’d be able to get to my turnaround point feeling I’d allocated my energy such that the rest of the run would occur at a relatively stable pace, and I was feeling like I could relax into the process.

Then again, I saw something decidedly not flat.

Definitely. Definitely a hill. Yeah.

Definitely. Definitely a hill. Yeah.

To a cyclist, or even someone walking, this wouldn’t present much of a concern; such a short distance to cover! As a runner – and one who already struggles more than average with hills of any kind – it was profoundly sad-making. Cue another bout of shuffling semi-trot uphill.

Overall average pace having slowed to the neighborhood of a wounded buffalo, I just kept pressing on. I might not be getting there quickly, but I was going to cover the ground nevertheless. Back to grim determination, me.

At about 3.75 from my starting point, the trail ended out on pavement near the far end of the golf course that had thwarted me near the beginning. I started back calculating the reserves I’d need to deal with the handful of ups and downs I knew were in between, a mild interest in trying to reclaim some speed on the backside to make up for the slowdown on the out, and deciding how much a walk I should take at the end to wind down.

About a ¼ mile from my turn, I saw the first runner I’d encountered that morning. Considering it was even then only just past 6am I wasn’t too surprised to have the trail largely to myself. He offered a cheery “Good morning!” which I pantingly returned. This fella was moving a whole lot faster than I was and I noted with some amusement he’d be lapping me in no time at his current pace.

Sure enough a few short minutes later, I watched as he passed me going the same direction I was headed.

Good Morning!

Good Morning!

And very quickly disappeared from view.

Good Afternoon & Good Night!

Good Afternoon & Good Night!

The backs of other people being the most common view I experience when I run, I found this fairly comforting. He got so far ahead of me I lost him entirely, but it’s still nice to know the members of the early morning running club are by and large a pretty friendly lot.

I didn’t end up gaining as much speed back on my return as I would have hoped and my overall pace – usually between 12:00-12:30 – plummeted to a dismal 13:46. That I could finish a run of that distance, at elevation at all had to be my only consolation. And it was. I was proud of my ability to complete an effort that had always been beyond my capacity before. It was gratifying to feel the difference between coming to a hard halt and pressing on through the resistance to do what I believed I could despite the added opposition.

Suck It Up Buttercup

Suck It Up Buttercup

And though I am not a girl who glitters instead of sweats, I was nevertheless flush with my accomplishment. Though you can’t read it here, my shirt says “Suck It Up Buttercup” I am pleased to say I did.

One of the side effects of all the steroids I’m taking* is that my already tenuous grasp on sleep has become even slipperier. Though I have gone to considerable lengths to control for sound, light, and other elements of sleep hygiene it has been my custom these last few weeks to waken at about the same time the very faintest traces of light begin to show in the eastern sky.

The Angle of Approach

The Angle of Approach

This works out to be a time that a lot of people still consider the middle of the night. And I am one of them.

Try as I might, I am usually unable to coax myself back to slumber. At some point, I realized that given the turn of season, and the impossibility of running after work for the intolerable temperature that time of day, I might as well avail myself of the insistence of my body and use my wakefulness to put some miles under my feet.

I love running first thing in the morning. Everything is limned in pinkish light and cool as it will be all day. It is quiet and still on the streets and down the trails I favor. The city is stripped of pretense and beautifully bare. Places are unhaunted by a populace too occupied with their devised reality to notice or participate in the full flower of the one around them. I am elated to encounter the bronze-haired Portlandia as I have always known her; maiden earnest, singular, and strong. That is how I prefer to see her, rather than the awkwardly hewn caricature she has been wrought of late.

So, despite a list of complaints that range from a shocking need for drinking straws at every turn for my newly sensitive teeth, to aching tendons, to butterface of EPIC proportions, I am grateful to these chemicals in my blood. Not least that they allow me to rise from my bed of pain at all, but also so that I do in such very good time as to see my city in a way that reminds me why I love her after all.


*Not the kind one takes to get mad gains in the gym, though don’t kid yourself; ‘roid rage is a thing. I can’t speak with authority about whether my testicles have shrunk…