Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Running Around the World - McKenzie Pass and the Back Pack

Sisters as seen from Mckenzie Pass
 Earlier this year, I learned something that I can’t believe I didn’t know until now.  The Old McKenzie Highway, between Sisters and the McKenzie River, closes to car traffic every winter.  In normal years, there are a few weeks in June, where the road is plowed but still not open to car traffic.  I’ve seen pictures of cyclists on the road surrounded by 40 foot high walls of snow and ice.  From the minute I was aware of this, it became a must run.  An invitation went out to several runners to join in, but in the end, it was just Bo Camero and me, and no snow, at all.
Bo, and the Dee Wright Observatory
 With temperatures predicted in the 90s we considered getting a really early start, but the drive was already 2.5 hours to get to the east snow gate outside of Sisters so we got some extra sleep and decide to just deal with the heat.  It was hot, especially going through the lava fields, yes lava fields.  That feels a lot more bad ass to say than it really is, but there is no shade, for about 9 miles.  It was a tough run.  The elevation, heat, distance and having my new Ultimate Direction pack at an overfilled 6 pounds, trying to get used to it, made it pretty challenging.
View from the top of Dee Wright.
There were easily 100+ cyclists on the road, we were the only runners.  This resulted in a lot of words of encouragement, a few strange looks, a few jokes about where our bikes broke down and the most humbling experience of the day.

We were about 10 to 12 miles from the east gate, already over the summit and still 10 ish miles from the west gate.  We received numerous compliments all day but in pretty short succession, 3 things happened.  First, a large group of cyclist came around a corner, they were going slightly up, we were going slightly down and at a pretty good clip.  As the group rounded the corner the wave of astonishment was audible as it went though the group "Wow.....wow.....oh wow.....wow".  They went by with waves and encouragement.  A few minutes later a young, very fit looking couple were really moving up the hill and as we passed the female, looking toward us said...."there are the real bad asses".  Just as our heads were about to swell out of our hats, we took a quick walk break to get some food out of our packs and eat.  As we were walking and eating, a woman rode passed going the same direction as us on a bike, how shall I say, not as well equipped for the ride as others.  As she passed she looked at us and with the sweetest, best intentioned old hippie encouragement said "way to go walkers".

Brought back down to earth, we worked our way down to the west Snow gate and met up with Jeanne who had dropped us off in Sisters and the drove around to crew us on the other side.  As people tell me all the time, yes, I know, she is a saint.  Also a bit a of a mind reader.  We were on a pretty steep downhill, both of us were feeling it in the hips and maybe Bo’s mind thought his body needed the distraction, because out of nowhere he said, “Man, Red Vines sound good right now”  Bo, is super healthy, vegan, so this seemed a little strange.  I said, “What?” and he replied “I don’t know, I could just taste Red Vines there for a minute…..and they’re vegan”.  I told him that was Jeanne’s favorite road trip snack, and we didn’t speak of it again.  When we met up with Jeanne and the car, we ditched our packs, and sat down for a few minutes and refilled our bottles.  I told Jeanne about Bo’s Red Vine hallucination and she pulls a package of them from the front seat.  He was pretty happy about that.

The Ultimate Direction pack is working pretty well.  I’ve got 86 miles on it so far.  My ‘round about’ goal is to get around 500 miles with it before the run down the California Coast next summer to complete my Run Around the World.  As of today, I’m 2,304 miles from starting at the Golden Gate Bridge. On my virtual map, I’m about halfway between Cleveland and Chicago.  Right now, it’s looking like a late July, early August 2016 run.  

The next big adventure is running the Barrel to Keg Relay (69 miles) solo.  Rumor has it, there are “several” runners signed up to run it solo, so that should be a lot of fun.  We get a 2 hour head start on the relay, so I’m thinking we won’t get caught until after mile 30.  Having just run in the 90’s for the first time this year, I’m hoping to get a few more long runs in heat before Barrel to Keg, then really hoping for a day in the 70’s on race day.

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