Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Running from What? A Trip to Washington State

Well, a trip back to Washington State to visit family was a long time coming.  Me running in Washington was even longer since I haven't run in the state since high school over 27 years ago.

The challenge with visiting family is my wife and mine's families are spread between Eastern and Western Washington.  Combine that with timing the visit with their schedule, it was definitely a challenge.  We would start off in the Tri-Cities for a four days, travel over the Cascades to Tacoma for a four days, and then wind up in Central Washington in Ellensburg.

It was my goal to run at least one day in each location.  In the Tri-Cities I would run the Horse Heaven Hills.  In Tacoma, I wanted to run my old cycling grounds in Point Defiance Park.  In Ellensburg, I wanted to run along the Yakima River.  

So keep in mind I am from the Bay Area in California.  So for me cold is the 40's.  Well the first run in Eastern Washington was pretty cold, well in the 30's with a major wind chill.  Not that I was complaining since the drive up through Oregon saw temperatures drop in the mid-teens.


Horse Heaven Hills - Kennewick, WA

 The run through the Horse Heaven Hills was awesome and proved to be a good test for a first run with my Hoka One One Stinsons.  I left my father-in-laws and quickly got into the hills.  Barren but beautiful, the hills provided vistas of the Blue Mountains to east, Badger Mountain to the West, and the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the North.  The terrain was wet sand and rolling hills, however, with the direction of the gusts I found myself being pushed up the hills and being held back on the descents.  It was a good 7 mile run though and the desolation provided a perfect outlet. You can find the map and Strava detail here.

Point Defiance - Tacoma, WA

The next run I have been looking forward since I began running seven years ago.  When I was in my twenties, I had convinced myself that while I needed to have some sort of exercise, I was not and would never be a runner.  So I turned to riding my bike. From my parents house I could ride 10 miles round trip through 5 Mile drive in Point Defiance and back.  I wasn't fast, but I could easily see the winter pounds drop as I rode from May to September.

This trip though would test my will to run in the rain but I was going to this trip no matter what.  I also wanted to run the trails instead of staying on the 5 Mile Drive.

I would have to say after my first run in the park, I really don't understand why anyone would ever run on the road.  This is a beautiful trail system.  It isn't technical at all but the single track through the Ferns and Douglas Fir and was awesome.   And someone with trail running background must have marked these trails with each loop color coded and easy to follow.

I took the dark blue trail which besides taking me deep into the park also had me running along the edge of the bluff overlooking the Puget Sound.  I would also say the vistas of Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, and the Narrows Bridge were spectacular. You can find the map and the Strava detail of the first Point Defiance run here. This route ended up being 5.8 miles.

I had such an awesome run I talked my wife to run the next day.  We were rewarded with no rain.  I made a slight adjustment to the run this time which took us deeper into the forest, where the trees cause twilight on the trails.  It was gorgeous and I felt privileged to share the run with my wife.  A note for next time though: this route is best run clockwise instead of the counter clockwise way we went since it is pretty much all up hill until the last half mile.  Overall, it was a good 4.3 mile run.  The map and Strava detail of this run is found here.

Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park - Ellensburg, WA

The final run was in Ellensburg which sits along the Yakima River.  I had run here with my wife 5 years ago when we were training for our first attempt at the San Francisco Marathon.  This time I wanted to run along the River though.  I had used Strava to locate a couple of segments in Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park I wanted to make my mark; however, I thought I could string along a good long run along  the river.  Well, the total trail access I could find was a little over 2.5 miles long round trip.  This meant that I would also string along another trail that afforded me beautiful views of the snowy Cascades to the west.  

By now the temperatures had dropped again and I found myself running at 18 degrees.  Burr!!!  However, I have to say the run along the river was beautiful, abet short.   The leaves were still falling so the golds and yellows were a wonderful contrast to the roaring river.  I wish this portion was longer but oh well, it was again a perfect outlet before the long marathon of a drive home.  For the map and Strava detail, check here.

I normally don't run on trips and I have always kicked myself for not doing so.  However, with this trip it has me really considering doing a trail run up there.  On my radar is the Volcano 50K around Mount Saint Helens, the Chuckanut 50K (a place I am really familiar with - I came down with chicken pox on the way back from Canada), the Orcas Island 50K (I used to fish off the islands near there) and if I truly am ambitious someday doing the White River 50 Miler (near Crystal Mountain which I skied every Christmas). 

We are definitely spoiled here in the Bay Area but I can say that the runners in Washington are just as spoiled.  That is probably why the likes of Geof Roes and Hal Kroener got their start there before moving south.  Definitely a place I plan on running again.

submit to reddit