Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Valsetz to the Beach 2012

Valsetz to the Beach 2012
 When I first started planning Valsetz to the Beach, and targeting late June, I remember looking at the clear cut areas and thinking about how hot it was going to be without any tree cover.  As it got closer, I started worrying about how much it was going to rain and how cold it would be at the top of the pass.  As it turns out, neither were worth worrying about, we caught the most perfect weather a runner could hope for.

Kellie, me and Steve in Falls City, last semi civilization.
Steve and Kellie arrived at our house a little before 7:00 AM and promptly started listing the things they had forgotten.  Technically the listing started with a text message sent while they were in route, that they had forgotten gloves.  We ended up forgetting quite a few things too, but I usually just make sure I have shoes and shorts, I figure I can improvise the rest.

We stopped briefly in Falls City to take a few pictures, and then headed “into the hills”.  The normal friendly chatter in the car was only interrupted a few times by comments like “where are you taking us?”

As planned, the four of us to walk the first mile together, from the locked gate into the ghost town of Valsetz.  Valsetz was a company owned mill town in the Oregon Coastal Range.  When Boise Cascade decided to close the mill in 1988 they literally erased the town of Valsetz too.  It had once been home to nearly 1,200 people.  In 1988, the mill and the entire town, houses, stores, the 2 lane bowling alley, everything, were bulldozed and burnt to nothing.
This is the only thing resembles a structure left in Valsetz.
With that, Steve and I were off, while Kellie and Jeanne hiked back out to the car, and then drove the 5 mile detour around the old lake bed.  By any conservative planning, they should catch up to us before the turn up Gravel Creek at mile 7.  It’s slightly downhill to Gravel Creek, it was early, cool, we were talking, I knew we were running pretty quick.  Steve had a Garmin on and he would check it every mile, at about mile 4 he asked if I wanted to know how fast we were going, I said I knew we were going pretty quick, and we then had a long talk about pacing strategies for long events.  We talked about his upcoming first attempt at a full Ironman in October and before we knew it, we were at Gravel Creek before the car.  Jeanne and I had decided this would be our first “stop”, of course that assumed the car would be waiting for us, not the other way around.  Before I could worry too much I heard the sound of tires on the gravel road and here they came around the corner.

Uphill on gravel.
Downhill on gravel.

The few miles up Gravel Creek are absolutely beautiful, with several bridges crossing the creek.  We also got our first taste of “nowhere to run but on loose gravel”, this would only get worse.  Miles 9 to 11, were a beast of a hill, made all the more difficult by miles of very loose gravel.  Making our way around Suncrest point it was difficult to get any real traction, and felt like it took us forever to get to top (not really the highest elevation), but we surprised Jeanne and Kellie, so we were at least faster than they expected us to be.

The view from Suncrest Point
Steve had originally planned to run about 14 miles with me, but he was feeling good and I think the views just sucked him in, so he decided to keep going.  Running through Black Tent Saddle we were running in and out of the cloud line.  At times it was awesome to have no view, but a cold mist in your face, then we’d come around a bend and could see for miles.  I never did ask what the temperature was at the top, we were cold when we stopped and fine while we were running, so we didn’t stop much.

I felt my first serious fatigue around mile 17, mostly in my hips and lower back.  As difficult as the uphills in loose gravel were, the downhills were even worse, and all that sliding around starting taking its toll.  At some point I remember encouraging myself, “only a few more miles and then you get sweet smooth asphalt to run on”.  Steve ran the first 21 miles with me, which was awesome, it left me just under 5 miles to Ichwhit Park on the Siletz River, where I was planning to take a small break, change to road shoes, have a little lunch and then have Kellie run with me for the next 6 miles.

I was so happy to come down the last gravel hill, happy with the thoughts of sitting down for a bit, getting some different shoes on, but as I came into the parking lot at Ichwhit, something seemed amiss.  I wasn’t really expecting a heroes welcome, but I clearly wasn’t the most obvious concern.  Everything from the Subaru was scattered about in the parking lot, because there was a screw in the back left tire, and they had just put the spare on.  I tried to just relax, change my shoes and eat something, confident that everything else would be taken care of.  I was relieved that this happened once we had reached “civilization” and not in the middle of the Coast Range.  We had cell coverage now and Jeanne was busy finding the nearest Les Schwab location, one of the greatest customer service companies ever.
That's road crew!
 Kellie and I set out for the beach, we talked a lot more than Steve and I do.  Steve is one of my best friends and we have plenty to talk about, but we trained together for so many years, that I think we also got comfortable just running in silence a lot.  We have started many marathons together, though we’ve never finished one still running together.  I remember once talking about how we just ran 20 miles in a marathon together, with nothing more said other than an occasional acknowledgement of pace.

Kellie and me entering Taft
Siletz highway has little to no shoulder, and winding turns so plenty of blind corners.  The people working in their yards, no matter how shirtless or toothless, seemed very friendly, the drivers on the road, not so much.  We even saw a troll driving a rust colored Toyota, honest!  I really struggled for the first few miles after I ate.  This problem never seems to have a solution.  Eat and suffer, or don’t eat and crash.  I know the answer is to find some magic compromise, there is a reason why many people say “got my nutrition dialed in”.  As we got closer to Highway 101 and the last 3 miles of the journey, Kellie decided she was going to run all the way in with me.  I immediately took this as a condemnation of my slow pace, and that she hadn’t had enough of a workout yet, but maybe she didn’t mean that.  She did tell me that she needed to think of something to say, that would convey her admiration for what I was accomplishing, without stepping over the boundaries of idolatry.  Yeah, she really didn’t say it that way, but that’s how I heard it.  I suggested a quote from the movie Zombieland, “I'm not great at farewells, so, uh, that'll do, pig.”
With the greatest crew ever
We made it, even picked the pace back up to something close to decent for the last 3 miles.  I had planned on finishing the 35 mile run in the ocean, but there was some new urgency to get the car in for a tire repair before they closed down and the ¼ mile walk along the bay and back would have made it pretty tight. 

I soaked my legs in the Siletz bay for a few minutes, took some pictures, drank some chocolate milk and Jeanne was off to get the car fixed.  I can’t say enough about how much easier and fun these journeys are with good company.  Steve and Kellie both running further than they originally planned was a treat.  All of the planning and recon outings with Jeanne are what really make these trips fun.  

Steve and Kellie
So, all in all, a very successful trip.  We got lucky on the weather, nailed the logistics, and while I’m not in the condition I’d like to be, I was very pleased with how I ran.  AND, we found a very cool new (well, new to us) breakfast spot on the coast, Nelscott Cafe.  

Finished at the beach
 Now, 6 weeks to get ready for PCT Mt Hood 50.

1 comment:

  1. What a great run that was! I'm so glad we were able to share the adventure with you. And, just to clarify to your readers, I continued running with you because I was feeling good and was having a great time. It had nothing to do with the the pace. Sorry, but the condemnation will have to wait for another time.

    That'll do pig... That'll do!