Sunday, August 10, 2014

Timberline Mt Run

Oh, the lazy summer time.
Have not done a decent race in some time and feel like it is time to hit a road or trail again together with a nice bunch of similarly excited runners.
Oregon race calendar is a good place to start looking for such a venue.
And here we go:

"Featured in the August 2014 issue of Runner's World Magazine. This is one of the highest foot races in Oregon, covering 6.97 miles of trail, mountain slope, and just a bit of road. The entire course is above 5000 feet in altitude, with 3900 feet of total elevation change."

Timberline Trail Running Club

That immediately gets my attention.
The location, the elevation, the terrain.
It starts and ends at Timberline Lodge high on the slopes of Mount Hood. I know that area very well from my hiking/climbing adventures but I have never tried to run there.
It's got some nice features:
* Rocky and dusty trails low in the woods
* Barren volcanic landscape higher up
* Snow crossings even higher up
* Less oxygen
* Great views

And doing it barefoot will definitely stir things up a bit.

Sunday morning, August 10.
Waking up at 7 AM.
Juicing my morning fruits, packing stuff, getting excited, then nervous, then excited again.

The race starts at 10 but it is going to take me an hour and half to drive from Portland to Timberline Lodge. 
9:30 AM
Sun is scorching hot, it is already 72 F. There is about 100 runners at the start, most of them look pretty competitive. I definitely catch a couple of curious glances at my bare feet but no one comments (yet).
"He does not look like he forgot his shoes at home so he probably knows what he is doing" I get the impression from the serious looks around.
My goal is just to finish the run with no goals time wise so I am in no hurry and start slowly at the end of the pack.

Downhill comes fist. On just a mile and half we drop some 800 feet. Some old paved forest road, then gravel but mostly dry dusty rocky trail in the middle of a ski slope. I manage just fine, maintaining speed with others, so far so good.

Most of the race course looks like this

Next three miles ascending back to 6000 feet. A lot of switchbacks. Forested area provides much needed shadows to cool down. The pack of runners is still quite condensed, one following the other in one long zig-zaggy line.
I slowly start passing people uphill and first comments start pouring from behind:

"There is no ouch out there, the trail is really nice." I politely throw back hoping to sound convincing.

"Wow!" - a silent one

"Don't your feet hurt?" - another one at a water station.
"If they were hurting I would not be running here, believe me" I smile back.

Vegetation stops, we are above timberline running on a barren old broken lava landscape. Noon is coming, burning sun depleting my water reserves. Really glad I left my t-shirt in car, occasional light breeze cools me down.

The real scramble comes up. We gain the last 1000 feet over only 1 mile. Towards the top it is more of a power walking than running. Runners are much more scattered now, some stopping and resting. Snow patches start appearing. At one point we are passing under a ski lift with some skiers riding it up (Mount Hood has year round skiing). A bunch of snowboarders starts pointing at me:
"That guy is doing it barefoot !"
I show them two thumb up with a smile and get loud shouts of encouragement in reward.

Mile 5.5, the highest point at 6,960 feet. Running on old packed snow patches brings the much needed refreshment and cooling for the feet.

Meeting skiers along the race

Running over snow

Now I am flying down. Everyone in front of me seems to be running slow crashing heels hard into the ground. Just painful to watch. I quickly pass everyone in sight and just keep enjoying the crazy downhill ride alone.

Finally downhill

Running downhill on coarse glacial  till

Finishing in 1 hour 23 minutes.

After the race more people come over to chat a little.

"Man, what is you strategy for running downhill? You were just flying out there! My knees always hurt on steep downhills" one the guys I passed on the downhill section.

We chat a little, all I can tell him is running barefoot really makes the difference. All I do is just relax the whole body, bend knees a lot and let the gravity pull me down the mountain while maintaining really high cadence.

Another girl tells me she is a strong believer in running barefoot but her arches are too weak to actually do that.

No one calls me crazy, hardcore, bad-ass etc. (as I have been often called at other races)
In general people here today are much more open to the idea running without shoes actually makes sense.

I take it as a good sign, times are changing.

Feet after the race - no blisters, no cuts, no bruises

Race stats:

Distance  6.97 miles
Time  01:23
Total elevation change  3,900 feet
Max elevation  6,982 feet
Placed   5th in my AG

Elevation profile

Map of the course

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing!! dig the photo of your feet at the end...doing what they were meant to do:)