The Enchantments

If you’re a very strong hiker, you can make it in and out [of the Enchantments] via either trailhead in a single day, although seeing all of the lakes this way is so grueling it borders on the impossible. –WTA

As 2017 wraps up, I was thinking back to my favorite running accomplishment of the past year. With moving to Seattle in July, I thought, ‘Perfect! I’ll grab a couple of race finishes in a new-to-me part of the country!’ But, apparently leaving a state I called home for several years, starting a new job, and navigating life in a new city is time-consuming, and adding the cost of races on top of moving expenses just didn’t add up. So, my most memorable running accomplishment of the year wasn’t really a run at all, instead a thru-hike in one of the most beautiful places in Washington and also one of the most challenging endurance events I’ve done to date ranks highest on the 2017 list.

At the start of the work day one morning in late September, a co-worker asked if I’d be interested in joining him and a few buddies on a grueling 18+ mile hike through the Enchantments, a gorgeous area located within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, not far from Leavenworth, WA. Of course, I said absolutely! Sure, my legs had dabbled in a few ultra-events, but at the time of the invite I was averaging a few miles a few days a week. Probably most helpful though was spending a day or two a week bussing to a new neighborhood to run and explore, then walk several miles home. In other words, I was in “great” shape for hiking 2,200 feet in less than a mile through a mountain pass.

We left Seattle Friday afternoon and set up camp at Eightmile Campground. My co-worker’s Mountaineer friends arrived later that evening and not long after we all settled into our tents for a few hours of sleep before our 4:30am wake-up call. As bad luck would have it, my co-worker ended up with food poisoning and I can’t imagine how miserable that must’ve been overnight, in a tent, and even worse, having to miss out on the big hike. Fast forward through car logistics, a quick breakfast in the dark, and driving to the Stuart Lake Trailhead. Headlamps on, outhouse utilized, I started what would end up taking 12 hours to complete with three people I had just met the previous evening and who each seemed far more experienced for this type of endeavor. Confidence on hold, a more pressing issue emerged: my vision was blurry. I tried in vain to adjust my contacts, swapping back and forth thinking I had made in error in the dark, loaded my eyes with drops, but nothing worked. The group offered to stop while I swapped the contacts for glasses (luckily, I had decided on a whim to bring them along, although I’d never done that before for a hike). Already feeling like the weakest link, the eyewear issue didn’t help, but glasses on, the blurriness disappeared and I fully enjoyed viewing the early morning sun seep through the trees as we made our way through the easiest part of the day.

And here’s one reason why making a career out of writing race recaps or hiking adventures is out of the question for me—I’m awful at remembering the details. What I did know at the time and what I remember now is how beautiful the Enchantments are and how grueling the hike was! The combination of elevation gain (Aasgard Pass alone was 1,900 feet in less than a mile), difficult terrain, and speedy hiking partners pushed my body and mind in ways reminiscent of the couple ultras I finished, but with the bonus of working through an issue with my confidence, since this was only 20 miles. I recall the brief altitude sickness, the intense change in temperature (hello, snow and ice), and a scary moment when screams were followed by a boulder barreling down Aasgard Pass as we were climbing up.

So, here we go with a few photos from the day in chronological order, with a few details that I do know and a few others that the Washington Trail Association is awesome enough to provide.

The Enchantments
I was mesmerized from the start!

The EnchantmentsThe Enchantments

The Enchantments
Colchuck Lake
The Enchantments
Hiking buddies, onward and upward through Aasgard Pass
The Enchantments
Up and over Aasgard Pass
The Enchantments
Feeling nauseous at this point after the steep and quick climb over Aasgard Pass

The Enchantments

The Enchantments
Post lunch/nausea

The Enchantments

The Enchantments.jpg
Hiking crew

The Enchantments

The Enchantments Thru-hike Stats: Sept. 30, 2017 / Colchuck Lake -> Aasgard Pass -> Snow Lake 12 hours, 28 minutes / 20.64 miles / 5,189 ft elevation gain / 7,845 ft max elevation

 

From lakes to mountains

View of boats sailing on Union Bay
My first run as a Washington resident, Foster Island via the Washington Park Arboretum

I’m no longer a runner in Minneapolis–now I’m a runner from Minneapolis. That swap of a single word is packed with hoards of change. Two months ago, I flew with a one way ticket to Seattle–my new home. Minneapolis houses some of my closest friends, a weekend drive to my family, familiarity, and even my wife and our dog. After weeks of solitary hills and walks and hikes and any combination of those things with the few friends I have in the PNW, Jen and Eleven will soon make the trek and join me in our recently acquired new space. So much newness in the past couple months; job, apartment, running routes, friends, neighborhoods, co-workers, grocery stores, routines, travel, roommates, and simply adjusting to a new home that can be so similar to Minneapolis it unexpectedly intensifies occasional homesickness.

Selfie among greenery at Carkeek Park
On the run at Carkeek Park

Running has been my best friend through this transition. It has taken me to several group runs, impromptu conversations with fellow midwestern runners I’ve encountered at a taproom and a trail running shop; an awkward introduction to a well-known ultra runner and local run specialty owner whose voice and face I recognized from a podcast; incentive to try out new urban trail routes like Seward Park, Discovery Park and Carkeek Park; $1 mediocre tacos; an interesting story or two to share about myself with a new acquaintance; the lungs and legs I needed for hiking at altitude in Colorado; incredible mountain views with the promise of more trail runs this fall and beyond; and a comfort in making the physical move out here, alone, for now.

The beauty of running, aside from the landscapes it reveals, is that it still connects me to my beloved first home as an adult. On a recent trip back to Minneapolis, one of my first stops was to pick up a dreamy pair of Altra Escalantes from the shop I used to work at and running into so many Marathon Sports friends at the shop and even unexpectedly the next evening at a tap room (I suppose craft beer is a great friend too ha). Running provided a fun meet-up with some of my favorite Mpls buddies around one of those 10,000 lakes.

I suppose with that in mind–just as running is with me emotionally just as much as it is physically–there’s comfort in knowing that my Minneapolis roots may manifest as an ever-present companion too.

Salomon City Trail Loppet​ 10K​

Looonnnggggg overdue race recap, so here’s a heavily condensed version. 

Elizabeth sitting on a podium holding race finisher pint class and singlet
Big smile for a fun race! A light wool long sleeve and lightweight tights were a good choice for a 50-degree spring morning.

Per the encouragement of a friend, I registered for the Salomon City Trailers Loppet 10K a couple days before the race. Fortunately I’d been running weekday mornings with Eleven, so I was somewhat prepared and ended up finishing in just under an hour!

It was a cool (50 degrees), soggy day in May and totally worth caking my Terra Kigers in layers of mud. The course started in Robbinsdale and followed a sidewalk/single track/rocky/railroad/bike path to Minneapolis. Definitely a new-to-me trek from a suburb to the city.

Highly recommend this race to brand new trail runners and experienced trail racers alike!

New routines

Over the past month anytime someone asks me, “What’s new?” I automatically respond, “We adopted a dog!” Our lives revolve around this little rescue pup and honestly, our family of two feels so much more complete with the addition of a four-legged creature. Eleven (yes, named after the character in Stranger Things) also happens to be my new running motivation.

Eleven-2
Eleven and me, post-run

One of the best things about having a dog is that now I have a live-in running buddy! Sort of. We’re still working on leash training. We’re doing okay, but okay isn’t ideal for running on sidewalks in downtown Minneapolis. Regardless, we get in at least 40 minutes of running/walking and as of late, sprinting at the dog park, every morning before I go to work. Avoiding the snooze button is much easier when as soon as the alarm goes off, her little feet tap on the hardwood floor until I hop out of bed. Just as suddenly as I’ve gone from a sporadic runner over the past year to a 5-day a week runner, I’ve turned into a daily bike commuter. Between running in the morning, occasionally visiting Eleven over my lunch break, or leaving work early to coach my Girls on the Run team, biking has been the best transportation solution. And now we have a pet bike trailer that Eleven has little issue with for those days we need to cover a lot of ground. Hauling an extra 50 pounds should absolutely strengthen my legs for trail running.

Running buddy logistics

Eleven-1
Adidas Supernova, Front Range Harness

At first, I used our everyday leash (a Mendota-brand slip lead) for running. After perusing a few blog posts, it sounded like a harness was a better option for running with a dog. So, I used my REI dividend to pick up the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. Eleven had no qualms with the harness for a couple weeks, and then one morning she turned into a statue. Seriously. She’d be amped once the alarm went off and then once I put the harness on her she wouldn’t move. I couldn’t get her to move with treats, a slight tug, anything. We’ve since made progress in re-introducing the harness by putting it on her in the apartment while she eats dinner or plays with her beloved squeaky frog. The ability to attach a leash at her chest (mimics an anti-pull harness to some degree) is worth the effort.

Hopefully we’ll run a race together this summer or fall. Having a dog is the best!

Getting Started Presentation

Today I had the opportunity to present at MnDOT on my favorite topic… running of course! Once the nerves settled a bit, it was fun to talk to a filled room of people interested in running. Hopefully each person enjoyed the presentation, even if I tend to ramble on…

As I promised the group, here’s a copy of my presentation with lots of things to think about as you get started, or restart, running.

There were some questions I was able to answer on the spot and a few I offered to look into after the talk. Check out Getting Started for a more in-depth list of tips and links. I’ll be adding more information over the next several days (edit: new info added on 3/26!).

Thanks, MnDOT, for your hospitality! Happy running:)

Learn to run

Recently I’ve gone from 80 miles (“running”) to zero (recovery) to an uncomfortable 3-4-mile max a couple times a week. I’m [re] learning how to run. Nagging 2+ year injury aside, I’m starting from square one point five (square one is the couch), as I nurse a cranky hip flexor back to health after January’s long hike on the Tuscobia State Trail.

Progress feels awfully slow, but with weekly visits to the chiropractor, twice weekly strength workouts at home, and an actual run here and there, I feel almost confident that completing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler in Wisconsin is within reach this fall.

On the bright-enough-side, low mileage means time for other running-related things, like reading the latest edition of Ultrarunning Magazine. It may not come as a surprise that I thinking running is cool and therefore appreciate any opportunity to learn, or share, more about it from or with others. So, speaking of…

In January, Jen and I had the chance to hear John Storkamp–a local race director/accomplished ultra runner–speak at a local running shop about his experience as a ‘human sled dog’. The talk came a couple weeks after I completed my first winter ultra, and it was a mental recovery boost to hear John, one of the first two people to complete the Arrowhead 135, share tips I had incorporated into my training. As Jen and I prepped for Tuscobia, we learned one of the same things John shared about winter ultras: “…You can’t run fast; you just move forward.” I also liked his comparison of spring/summer/fall ultras vs. winter ultras: “If you stop in the summer, you are just standing there… stop in the winter, you’ll freeze.” Yep. One tip I definitely need to practice if I want to continue these types of events: hip conditioning.

A week later we headed to another shop for a viewing of Billy Yang’s Life in a Day–an awesomely inspiring film featuring some of the best female ultra runners. In another life, I’d love to be like one of those ultra runners that I listen to on podcasts, or were featured in this documentary, that comes out of nowhere as a rockstar ultra athlete… Maybe after North Face this fall later this year (or, I’ll just keep dreamin’).

So, my random running IQ typically comes from listening to podcasts, reading, working (at the side gig), or attending a talk. And sometimes I get to share that bit of knowledge with others. This month features two of those instances…

This year I decided to make a point of volunteering. Instead of picking a race or two, I upped my commitment to twice a week for 10 weeks, as an assistant coach for Girls on the Run! I’ve taught many learn to run clinics for adults, but this will be an exciting, new challenge working with elementary school kids. This program is all about girls building confidence, instilling healthy habits, and learning life skills–combined with running.

The same week I officially start as an assistant coach I’ll trek over to St. Paul to resurrect one of my learn to run clinics over the lunch hour. Up until last year (pre-job change), I taught a series of learn to run clinics in the summer to colleagues. I’m looking forward to one more opportunity to share advice on getting started in this awesome sport!

If you were a new runner, or getting back into running, what would you want to know?

Happy National Pizza Day 2017

A runner's calendar and veggie pizza

It’s National Pizza Day! Last year I celebrated with Black Sheep. This year, on my ‘own’ while Jen is out of town, I couldn’t decide between ordering in Pizza Nea (specifically for posting this sentiment online) or picking up ingredients to make my own pizza.

After walking up and down each aisle at the Wedge, twice, and realizing the dough I had my eye on would take a few hours to thaw, I opted to try out a new-to-me-frozen-pie from western Minnesota. Spinach, mushrooms, parmigiano reggiano cheese, whole milk mozzarella, and a crust enriched with organic golden flaxseed meal. A mile walk home and 10 minutes later I had a delicious pizza all ready for one.

Bonus: My aunt is fascinated with my running adventures and sent me this surprise package with a 2017 running journal and a cute note of encouragement, “Hi Elizabeth, Happy Running!”

I’ll definitely have to visit Pizza Nea in the near future–to support a local business that routinely speaks up for what’s right.