Monday, May 22, 2017

Race Recap: Tiger Mountain trail race (or, running with mono)

Saturday morning was my last race before my big races in June. I had planned on doing the 12k version of the Tiger Mountain trail run, which would have been a great training race for my half marathons in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. The 12k gains 1,780 feet of elevation, including a 900 foot climb.

However, I've been sick for the last two weeks and after seeing the doctor the afternoon before the trail race, we both determined it's likely that I have mono. Most people are in bed for weeks or can't do much at all since mono tends to make people very tired. I haven't missed any time from work (we don't have sick days and I've already planned out and put in for all of my paid time off for the year), but I haven't run much at all in the past two weeks. I figured it'd be a good idea to switch to the 5k version of the trail race instead, which only gains 590 feet of elevation.

5k course

Luckily, it only took them about 60 seconds at the registration table to switch me from the 12k to the 5k, and those two races started together anyway. There was also a half marathon and 50k version that both started earlier in the morning.

I knew my time would be slow, as trail races are always slower than road races, and I knew I'd have to walk a bit and would be slowed down by the mono. I started out running and ran for about half a mile until I encountered a hill. At that point, I started walking, since most of the other runners were walking up it as well.

This was definitely one of my most difficult races. I've never had mono before and from what I understand, it hasn't hit me as hard as it hits most people, but it's an odd kind of tired. My entire body and especially my legs felt tired. I wanted to sit down, not run, but I kept going. I'd already paid for the race and one of my goals for the year is to run a race every month, so quitting or not doing it wasn't an option.

Fun stats that I get with my new GPS watch. Although, they'll be more fun when I'm actually running a race

SmashRun stats

I spent most of the race alternating between running and walking. I ran all of the downhill parts and about half of the flat parts, but walked all the uphill and half of the flat parts. The bulk of the other runners were way ahead, and there were a few that were way behind me that were probably walking most of the race. There were two people ahead of me that were alternating between running and walking the whole time, and there was a mom and little girl doing the race together that stayed near me most of the time and eventually passed me.

I was happy to be done, but I wish I could have given more effort for this race. Both this one and the Lord Hill trail race back in February I was either sick or injured for, and I'd really like to do both races again next year to see how I can actually do with the elevation gain and other challenges.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trip Report: Palouse Falls & Saddle Mountains

On the second day of my Palouse trip, I checked out of the motel and started heading west. Palouse Falls was right along one of the routes home, and the Hanford Reach National Monument was also along that same route. I had been to Palouse Falls during my last Palouse trip, but when I visited Hanford Reach a few weekends ago, I didn't have time to check out the Saddle Mountains.

Palouse Falls was spectacular, as usual, at 198 feet tall. The last time I saw it was in late July and there wasn't as much green then. I noticed this area is starting to get a bit more crowded, especially for being out in the middle of nowhere. It took me a few minutes to find parking, but I spent plenty of time taking photos and walking around.

I may have spent more time taking pictures of the sky than the waterfall, but when it looks like this, how can you not?

The next two pictures aren't even from Palouse Falls or the Saddle Mountains. I pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway to take these because I was obsessed with the sky that day. However, it's one of those things that you have to be there to experience - to see the entire sky for miles in every direction.

Part of the reason I didn't visit the Saddle Mountains last time is because the directions to get there aren't very clear and the signs in Hanford Reach aren't always obvious or large enough to read from the road at a high rate of speed. To get to the viewpoint, I came in heading west on 24 from Othello. The turn for the road to the viewpoint is between mile marker 61 and 60. I was watching them closely, and I'm pretty sure mile marker 61 was missing, as I went from 62 and then after a while saw 60 and knew I went too far. It took another few miles to find a place to turn around, but I finally got there.

The drive up. This is a cell phone picture.

The drive back down

My car has been driven to some fun locations

I was expecting a gravel road like the one I drove on to get out to the White Bluffs hike, but this road was more in between gravel and paved, so it was a little easier to drive on most of the way. Towards the top of the mountains it deteriorated a bit and got rough in places, but my car made it up with no trouble. I continued through a loop at the top and ended up parked right on top of one of the mountains. The views were amazing. The sky was blue, there were a thousand white, fluffy clouds out, and I could see for miles in all directions.

The mountains themselves were awesome - lots of gentle slopes. There is a hike that leaves from this point, and I saw part of the trail in the saddle between two of the mountains, but it wasn't exactly clear how to get to that point. I wish I had been more prepared to hike, but I will have to come back another time for that, preferably when it isn't too hot.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Trip Report: Rolling hills of the Palouse

The first time I came out to the Palouse region was back in 2014 in late July. My previous trip report explains a little about the region. At that time, most of the fields were golden. I wanted to come back during a different season, so I planned a trip out here in mid-May when more of the fields would be green.

There was rain on and off during my drive in, including some torrential rain and some miniature hail when I reached the town of Colfax. Luckily the rest of the weekend was supposed to be clear, partly cloudy, or overcast. When I checked into my motel, the owner asked if I was here to take photos. It's apparently a popular weekend for photography in the Palouse, and several photographers had already checked in. He told me where I could park to unload all my gear and take it up to my room, and I told him I was a beginner and just had one bag, haha. I did see some of the other photographers taking tripods and multiple bags of equipment to their rooms, so I was a bit intimidated since it seemed like I'd be the amateur among professionals this weekend.

This might be my favorite. It's hard to choose. I love the trees in the lower right corner, and the sun ray.

My goal for Saturday was to get sunrise photos from Steptoe Butte. Since sunrise is currently around 5:15am, I had to get up at 4am to drive over to the butte and arrive a little before sunrise. I did hear other motel guests up around 4am, so I figured that there would be a large amount of photographers on the butte and I was worried about parking, since there are only a few spots at the top. They must have decided to try other locations, because I only saw a handful of photographers on my way up the butte, and to my surprise I was the only one at the top. The rest of them had parked somewhere along the butte road for different views.

This reminds me of Christmas with the red, green, and white.

I love the rust colored red in this one.

I had underestimated the weather. When I came out of the motel to get in my car, it was covered in a layer of frost and thin ice. I had to remove the ice from the windshield and defrost the rest of the windows. According to my car, it was around 35 degrees on the butte. The wind was blowing at the top. I was dressed warmly enough, but I had not brought gloves and I was only wearing Converses with thin socks, so both my feet and my hands froze. I had to take a break and sit in the car for a few minutes at one point because I couldn't move my fingers anymore. I probably would have gotten more photos, and potentially better ones, had I been properly dressed.

The circle pattern in the lower center is my favorite thing about this.

The sunrise was gorgeous. There were some clouds in the sky, so there was a mixture of pink, purple, orange, and yellow. Once the sun was up, it cast a lot of light on the hills and created shadows as well, making the landscape look even more dramatic. I did pretty well when I focused in on areas of the landscape, but because of the lighting and my lack of photography skills I struggled to get any good photos of the entire landscape plus the sunrise.

The sky is washed out but there wasn't enough light in the foreground.

This one is a little better. 
My cell phone does not take photos with the level of detail of my camera, but it did manage to get the best picture of the sunrise plus a large portion of the landscape. It's amazing how much cell phone cameras do in terms of processing. 

I was back at the motel by 6:30am and was able to start editing photos. This trip was definitely more low key than my other trips. Usually I'm hiking or trail running and trying to visit 2-3 different areas in a day, but I didn't do much physical activity on this trip. I'd had a mild version of the flu in the days before this trip, so it was a good opportunity to sit around and edit photos. I went out later for a short drive and was able to pull over and get a few photos of the hills from the road.

Later that day, I drove back up the butte to get some photos at full daylight. In the sun, the fields with new growth were bright green; almost a lime green. It was some of the brightest natural green I've seen anywhere.

I also saw a few more fascinating patterns. I particularly liked one section of fields that looked like velvet and had one bright strip of green running through them. The Palouse is basically art by farming.