Friday, July 16, 2010

The Trip to Runner's Paradise

So here it finally is... a blog entry. I've been gone from my blog for far too long, and my apologies for that! It's not intentional... I absolutely LOVE writing, especially about running. I think it's just I need to make more time for it, and from here on forward, I will! :)

Enough about that... on to what really matters... and that is sharing with all of you my experiences in Runner's Paradise - a.k.a. the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., specifically Eugene, Portland, and Seattle!

We descended upon Eugene - TRACK TOWN USA - on a Thursday evening... unfortunately too late for a run, but we did stay at the Valley River Inn, which is where so many elites have laid their heads to rest before races at Hayward Field :) I got up the next morning and headed out for an AWESOME 9 mile run on the Willamette River Trail (which ran right past our hotel!) and then, of course, on to the woodchips of Pre's Trail. I absolutely loved the gorgeous view of the river and the peacefulness and tranquility (AND softness!) of the entire run. The next day, my good feelings continued as I ran a 12 mile tempo on Pre's trail and surrounding trails at 6:37 pace! :) I felt like I was floating as I ran on those woodchips; and imagining Pre along with plenty of his teammates running through that exact area (probably not nearly as well groomed, but that's ok ;) ) honestly gave me chills. It was such great motivation and obviously aided me in running what I believe is the fastest 12 miles I have ever run!

The whole area where Pre's Trail is - in Alton Baker's Park - is such a runner's dream. Paths not even suitable for bicycles, only runners. This is something I've never actually experienced before! It was awesome :)

The same day as my 12-miler we finally made it on to the University of Oregon campus and to my surprise I was able to walk right on to Hayward Field! It was such an unbelievable rush of emotions to me as I stepped on to that track. I forced myself not to run on it at all, because I want the first time I run on that track to be for a LEGITIMATE race. I have a true goal to make it there for a real race someday! Nonetheless, even standing on it, imagining the roar of the crowd as you approach the finish line was again enough to give me chills. So many Olympians and world record holders have graced the stadium with their presence - and there I stood among it all! It was pretty crazy how deserted it really was. We missed the Pre Classic by just 5 days, which is disappointing, and tough at the same time because it meant all the Oregon Track apparel was sold out at the bookstore! Luckily I managed to snag a small "Stop Pre" t-shirt which was all I truly wanted anyways!

I think I could've spent my entire vacation in Eugene - as it was I only hit up one of dozens of trails within the city. Unfortunately, I'm the only runner in my family, though, so the rest of my fam was ready to move on and see other things. I just told myself that only means one thing -- I'll have to get back to Eugene again soon. (see my big goal listed above!)

Ooh, and one quick side note about Eugene-- I wanted to be sure to run in the best trail offered there, so using my resources on Twitter, I asked a variety of pro athletes, mainly OTC athletes, where in their opinion is the best place to run. It was really, really fun reading each of their responses (and, yes, every single runner I asked answered me back!), and quickly realizing Pre's Trail is the Best of the Best!

So, from Eugene we made the trek to Portland. On the way there we drove on up to Mount Hood, which was stunningly beautiful, and fun to see snowboarders in July! It's always awesome to get to the top of a mountain and be able to look out at the world below. The view is so incredible, and to be able to just sit there and quietly reflect is an experience I wish I could have more often. I don't take enough time in my life to sit and relax in a serene atmosphere; which is why I think moving somewhere with mountains will probably have to be in my future :)

Sunday was my long run day, and I was lucky enough to again tap in to my Twitter pals and get directed to an AWESOME trail called Leif Erikson Drive in Forest Park near downtown Portland. It was a soft, gravel, gradually inclining trail with plenty of bigger rocks that at times made footing a bit interesting! I didn't quite realize how hilly it was going to be until I started - woman who I talked to prior to the run said the course is "relatively flat." Psssh... you can tell I'm from Wisconsin... it was the hilliest long run I've ever done! Fortunate for me, it forced me to slow down... I'm notorious for running my long runs much too fast. Another fortunate thing was the way back down -- pretty much completely downhill - phew! I definitely would not want to do my long run there every week, but it felt so good to again run with nature - no cars to try and avoid, no irritating people yelling "Run Forest, Run" out their car window... just me and the woods surrounding me! I know it sounds corny/cliche, but I really felt so free out there! Trail runs are going to become a staple in my training for sure.

That next day I was supposed to do a tempo run on a flat surface after all the hills I had done during my long run, so I headed off to Nike's Beaverton headquarters thinking I'd have a nice, easy, flat 4K loop! WRONG! It was an awesome little course - woodchips all the way around... but it was NOT flat. I guess I should've realized Nike's not going to make their trail easy! But remembering Nike's "Just Do It" motto, I managed a 6:40 pace overall for about 8 miles... and had Chris Solinsky pass me not once, but twice! It was just Chris and me on the trail for most of my run, which definitely made me smile. Two Wisconsin runners just gettin some mileage in. One happened to run an American record 10K... no big deal! Haha! It will be a run I'll remember forever. Oooh, and their track is SUPER sweet. It's hidden in the "woods" - the infield is all trees/forest, so when you're running workouts there, it's basically like a trail, but in the shape of an oval. I think I actually wouldn't mind doing 400 repeats there! ;)

From Portland we headed North again to Tacoma. I think my whole family wishes we would've stayed in Seattle - Tacoma was a bit... past its prime. I found a flat trail along the waterfront that had a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier in the distance, though, so it ended up being okay. And the one day that we did get to Seattle, I was able, again with the help of a Twitter buddy- the University of Washington's track announcer, Paul Merca - to find the Burke-Gilman trail which goes right through the heart of the campus! It was nice and flat and definitely opened my eyes to the reality of biking commuters! I was passed by too many bikes to count, all absolutely whizzing by me! It was a bit frightening at first, but I tried my best to stay out of their way. As I approached the main part of campus, there was a huge car traffic jam on the highway, so I understand the need to commute by bike!

By the next day, it was already time to head back to Wisconsin. As I ran along the waterfront at 6 am, it was time for reflection. I thought about all the gorgeous scenery I had the opportunity to see (Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls), all the track history I was able to finally see/experience in person (Hayward Field, Pre's Trail, Pre's Rock), and the fact that it never even rained one single drop the entire time we were there visiting! I thought about my future - about how running on Pre's Trail just felt so natural - how much the whole experience affirmed my aspirations to continue to keep running competitively - at an elite level - for as long as possible! Being in an area where literally thousands of elite runners have stepped foot on tends to put you in that frame of mind ;) I also thought about how anxious I am to run with people at my talent level or better, who can push me day in and day out. There's only so much running by myself a girl can take! I can't wait to surround myself with people who are as passionate as I am about running.

Yes, I thought about all of this on a 6-mile run at 6 in the morning. I then brought myself back to reality, calmed myself down a little bit, and remembered I have to first focus on the here and now. The truth of it all is that I'm scared to death of life post-collegiately, of anything but my college running routine, but I have to put those fears aside for now and live up the opportunity that has been given to me to be able to finish out my collegiate eligibility in cross country this Fall! One thing is for sure... I will pour my heart and soul in to my final XC season - give the kind of passion and energy that has always filled the seats of Hayward Field in Track Town USA. I will finish my races with pure guts, as Pre always did, and what about fulfilling my goal of winning a National title you might ask? Well, that's simple... I'll... Just Do It. :)

Whoever's out there reading this, I don't care if you're a runner or not... get your butt to the Pacific Northwest! It's one, if not THE most beautiful places I've ever visited... it's a place you may be able to read a lot about... but it's just not the same until you can see it and experience it for yourself.

And, quick sidenote... if you can, get there with your family. Family vacations seem to be happening less and less these days. Yes, every single member of my family certainly has our different interests, which cause plenty of conflicts, but the bottom line is I wouldn't be where I am without their love and support, and getting a chance to experience all this amazingness with them by my side was more fun than I can even begin to describe. I'm so incredibly thankful for them; they put up with waiting in the hotel room while I finished a run or a lift and put up with me when I got crabby because I had to wait till the afternoon to run one day :) They (for the most part) understand my passion for running... and so I come back again to say...I am SO blessed.

I think that's all for now... I've certainly written enough :) Thanks so much for reading of my adventures, and as I said, I will be updating this thing much more frequently from now on, so keep following me as I continue to mature as a person and as a runner!

Till then, Happy Running... may you find the happiness and contentment that I found on the top of Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, in standing at the bottom looking up at the gorgeous Multnomah Falls, and in running in the footsteps of a legend on Pre's Trail.

-- A Very Inspired KnightRunner :)

Here's a couple of pictures from my adventures to Runner's Paradise. Catch more breathtaking pix in my Facebook album HERE.

My Mom & I at Hayward Field... :)

Running on Nike's trail at their Headquarters in Beaverton...

Mt. Rainier...

And one more quick sidenote... I am going to be working on the layout of my blog - trying to get it wider so it's easier to read!!


  1. I got chilllllls reading about your Pacific NW passion... and, of course, about all of your amazing running experiences you had out there. You are Officially ready for the best running season of your life!!

  2. ...but no picture of the Dempsey?!?