When Kaela and I started planning out races for this 50 states journey, we knew the west coast would be a challenge. Since we would not have the ability to drive in a weekend, flights were going to be the main mode of transportation. Due to cost and time this made planning difficult. After I completed my first back to back in Kansas and Oklahoma, I had a little more confidence in those types of trips with races in close proximity. Keeping Kaela’s vacation schedule in mind I was online looking for races and I found two races in back to back weekends in Oregon and Washington that would allow us to have a vacation between the two races. We were heading to the Pacific Northwest!
Race: Timberline Marathon
Location: Mt. Hood, OR
Date: June 15, 2019
After taking a week off after the Brookings marathon, I got back to work on the road. I put in a 3 great weeks of training to prepare for the races. Both of the races out west were trail marathons with a decent amount of vertical gain that I needed to get ready to conquer. I modified a route that I saw my friend Jamie complete at Highbanks metro park in Columbus for my hill training. It allowed me to get 1,000 ft of gain in a 10 mile route. It was a ball buster but it made me feel so much stronger heading into race week.
We received an email a couple months before our flights informing of a time change. We went from leaving Columbus at 3pm to leaving after 6pm. I was frustrated as the delay would cause us to get into Portland later than I wanted until I looked deeper into the email. They were changing the flight schedule because we were on one of those Max 8 planes that were seemingly falling out of the sky. At that point I was ok with the delay in schedule since it was probably the safer option.
A few days before we flew out, I started to look at the weather in hopes that there would be no issues in flying out of Columbus. Things looked great until the day of our flight. There were some storms hanging around the east coast causing all sorts of issues. I was going to be leaving work early to get to the airport on time but kept noticing our flight getting delayed. I started to try and search for additional flights to get us out to Portland to see what options we had. There weren’t many viable options as they all had connecting flights. When I got home, Kaela helped calm me down and said that based off of the current flight time we would still have some time to make our connection.
On the drive to the airport, we received an update showing yet another delay in the flight. Now at this point, if the flight took off at the most recent updated flight time it would still have us landing in Chicago after our connection would be taking off. Kaela called customer service for American Airlines as we were pulling into airport parking at CMH. A very friendly agent talked us through some possible options and situations. We could go to Chicago and 99% miss the flight to Portland, but then stay the night and take a flight to Dallas in the morning that would then connect to Portland. Next option was just heading directly to Dallas tonight and possibly make a connection there to arrive in Portland around 1am or if we missed that, just stay the night in Dallas and take the first flight out.
It made more sense to head to Dallas that night since we would end up having to go there anyways as I was 100% confident we would be missing the connection in Chicago. The agent set us up with the flight to Dallas and then the flight to Portland the next morning but told us that when we arrived to Dallas to check the flight that was going out that evening.
Once Kaela got off the phone all we could do was laugh it off. We have had some travel issues in recent races that would get me all bothered but for some reason this one just brought humor to us. Maybe it was because it was also a vacation trip for us that we were able to keep a positive attitude for whatever came our way. With new boarding passes in hand for a take-off at 7:50pm we made our way through the airport and security (thank goodness for pre-check, just sayin’).
That positive attitude was quickly checked as right after security, Kaela checked her boarding pass to locate our gate and the flight time was updated. We were now scheduled to leave at 8:57pm, about 3 hours from current time. We made our way to Land Grant to have some beer and dinner. We finished our dinner and enjoyed a snack of an Auntie Anne pretzel before heading to our gate to wait until take-off.
We took off at 9pm and arrived in Dallas at 10:10pm. The flight that was heading to Portland that night was scheduled for a 10:30pm departure, so we had a chance to make it. We hustled to the new gate to try and get on the stand by list. We were told by an agent to head to the customer service desk a few gates down where we just came from. The line was about 30 families deep and we wouldn’t have been seen before the flight took off. A rep there told us to head back to the gate and they would be able to assist. We were then greeted by a very rude supervisor (here’s looking at you Bill). He said that we were too late and that it was going to take too much time, then he threw our IDs down on the counter and just walked away. Luckily there was a friendly agent named DJ that did not appreciate the way he treated us and wanted to see if there was a way she could help us out.
The flight ended up being totally booked but DJ was determined to help us out. She provided us with a hotel and taxi voucher so we would have a place to stay for the evening and then confirmed that we were all set for the first flight out in the morning. We went down to get the taxi and since DJ only printed out one ticket they said that we would have to pay for the second person in the taxi. I had lost my patience with airport folks at that point and just ended up getting an Uber to take us to the hotel. The hotel was musty and not the cleanest, but it was a place to lay our heads for the night. I was super dehydrated from the day and Kaela ran down to the lobby and purchased bottles of water for $3 each! We were still half the country away from our final destination but we finally got in bed at 12:40am CDT.
I slept okay but still only got a few hours of sleep before we were back on the go. The breakfast at the hotel needed to be the start of my carb loading but the options were limited. I had a few bagels and some cheerios and tried to stay hydrated since I did such a poor job the day before. We headed back to the airport and made our way through security and to our gate. We were also given meal vouchers for the issues the night before and they could only be used at the airport, so I decided to use them for food for the day. I saw there was an Einstein Bagel on the other side of the terminal and decided to make the walk. Since it was basically free money, I got a little bit of everything.
2 bottles of apple juice
2 chocolate chip cookies
Rice krispy treat
I did my best to get in carbs between bagels and apple juice on the plane. The first agent that set us up on the flight put us in an extended legroom row which was clutch especially now that we were flying the day before the race. The flight was just under 4 hours so I slept a little bit, read some and then got some more sleep. Once we landed we made our way through the airport and picked up our car rental. The guy driving our rental shuttle was telling me about the area and how he and his brothers have hiked almost all of Oregon. We talked about me being in town to run near Mt. Hood and he told me about some other areas of the state I should check out on another trip.
Kaela and I thought about our timeline and realized that if we would have made it to Portland the night before, we probably would have started our day around 9am. It was currently noon, so we were really just 3 hours behind schedule. We made a quick stop at Walmart for cranberry juice and more bagels since they would be a staple for this week. Kaela was looking for some lunch in the area and found the Wood Village Burrito Shop. The menu sounded good and the reviews made it seem like a must stop. It was in a small office complex building but man was it authentic once walking through the doors! I got the veggie burrito and Kaela got the “Oregon Burrito” with carne asada. For just $9 we ended up with two massive delicious burritos. I thought about getting another one to go just to have it for after the race.
We made our way out historic highway 30 to get off the interstate and see some nature. From expansive views from the road to trails to see waterfalls, we were taking it all in. We stopped at one spot to check out two waterfalls, Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls. They were definitely a tourist site as the small parking lot was completely full and they had a gift shop and restaurant at the trail entrance. I met a guy named Joshua that was asking me about my camera. He said it was unusual to see a camera out here since everyone was taking photos with their phones or even worse their tablets. He lived about an hour away but said he doesn’t make it over as much as he would like because of the amount of tourists.
We continued down the highway to the city of Hood River. There were a handful of breweries in town but due to our shorter time schedule we decided to just stop at one. Double Mountain Brewery was the choice. We sat inside and relaxed while enjoying a beer flight. They had some pretty solid beers and a delicious Belgium cherry sour. We took a short walk around town and stopped by a local sporting goods store to get some extra caffeine gels to make sure nutrition was covered for both races. Then we got back in the car and made the hour drive to our home for the night.
It was a beautiful drive; once we left Hood River we had views of Mt. Hood almost the entire way. Our place was on the other side of the mountain so we made our way through the “fruit loop” that was comprised of local orchards and vineyards growing a little bit of everything. We crossed a bridge that had a really good view of the side of the mountain and I asked Kaela to pull over so we could check it out. As we were walking up the trail out of the parking lot, Kaela noticed what looked like sand was actually glacier silt. We found a sign post talking about the area. This was the white river which was a glacier run off. Apparently the area gets flooded each year with glacier melting and back in 2006 the bridge and road were completely destroyed by the flooding. We made our way to the thin remnants of the river. The water was filled with silt and ice cold. We kept saying that this area and the drive reminded us of our time in Alaska, which we both loved.
We finished the drive to our tiny home that was off the main road and surrounded by trees. It looked a little sketchy as we pulled off the road but when we arrived we loved the location. It was secluded from neighbors and just the right size. It was our first time in a tiny house and we really liked it! We dropped off our stuff and headed out to dinner. There weren’t many options around with broad menus but we found a local spot that not only had a cool history but more importantly had spaghetti. The ZigZag Inn had a little bit of everything on their menu but they were known for their burgers and pizza. Neither of those options were smart for me to eat the night before a race so I stuck with the pasta.
After dinner we realized we were out of water since we (read “I”) forgot to get bottles at Walmart, so we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some and to also get Kaela some items for breakfast. The prices were next level.
$6 for tray of Oreos (not even double stuff).
$5 for small box of Pop Tarts.
Kaela decided that she would just have a bagel and Honey Stinger waffle for breakfast and we just grabbed water since that was the only real necessity. Back at our place I set out my items and tried to get off my feet a little before bed. Being out in the quiet was so peaceful and helped me gather my thoughts and just relax. I showered and cleaned up before climbing the ladder into bed.
So I just realized I didn’t talk about the race at all in all that back story! The race was taking place on a trail that circled Timothy Lake. The lake was up on a mountain that would give us some great views of Mt. Hood. Well that’s what they told me— I had not experienced it for myself yet. The full marathon course went two laps around the lake with a half marathon that they marked as 14 miles in distance. The lake was about a 45 minute drive from our house and with packet pickup taking place race morning, I wanted to arrive about 45 minutes prior to the start.
I slept pretty well, only having to get up at 3am to use the restroom. That was an adventure in itself. The roof was just a few feet above my head when laying in bed so I had to slowly slide out of bed and then climb down ladder without falling in little light. My breakfast in the morning was my typical meal of bagels and Honey Stinger, but no jelly this time since I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping it cool during the trip. I listened to my playlist and just mentally relaxed in preparation. There was no need to go over a race map as it was a circle with the lake to our left so I felt confident that I wouldn’t/couldn’t get lost.
We left the house at 7am to give us plenty of time to arrive for the 8:30am start. The drive was full of gorgeous views with Mt Hood and then just pine trees lining the road as we made our way southeast. We took a skyline road to take us 11 miles into the wilderness. The start was just outside the main campground area. I gathered my items and made the walk to check in and use the restroom. The mosquitos were out biting and of course I forgot to pick up some bug spray from Walmart the day before (seems to be a theme). I tried to keep level headed and not let them frustrate me already before the race even started.
We talked with some volunteers about the course layout after checking in to understand where Kaela would be able to walk and set up to take pictures. We walked around the corner to the porta-potty and luckily they were still fresh. The sun was beating down on them but the cool of the morning had not allowed it to “activate” the smell. I had some extra time until the start so I went back to the car to reapply some bodyglide, get my shoes on properly and get my bib pinned to my shorts. I had brought my bib holder but I was going to carry my handheld for the first lap and thought about using my vest for the second so it wasn’t needed. It made more sense to just carry what I needed and get additional nutrition from Kaela when I would see her near the halfway point.
Once I was all set up and ready to go, we made our way back to the start. I had the urge to use the restroom again and luckily had a few minutes to spare. The announcements were starting as we were walking back to the start. Kaela took my pre-race photo, I gave her a kiss and made the short walk into the corral.
The race director advised us of a tight first few miles once we made it into the trail. They would handle this with having a time trial start. Basically every 3 seconds or so a person would start to allow some space. We lined up in a fashion where we judged how fast we thought people were by their appearance and waited for the start.
The first few folks waited the appropriate time to start and then it slowly turned into a few body length separations heading past the start line. Kaela was at the first little turn and wished me luck as we made our way past the porta-potties and onto the trail. I tried to maneuver around a few people that I knew from their stride were going to mess with me at the start. Once on the rooted trail, we made a slow descent down to Timothy Lake. I was bouncing from root to root, paying attention to not only my steps but those in front of me to make sure we didn’t end in a pile up.
I was in a good little pace group but I could not catch my breath. This was my first time running over 3,000 ft altitude and I wonder if that had something to do it. We approached the main trail at around mile 1.5. There was a lead bike there letting us know that this is the point we would be coming back to for the second lap. We crossed a short wooden bridge before making a rocky switch back ascent. The group I was in was powering through the ups and downs so we ran or power hiked up, passing a few people in the section. On the back side of the climb we continued the decline to get closer to the lake. One more quick steep climb around mile 3.5 and things started to flatten out a bit.
Most of the group I was in had broken up with some folks falling back and others charging ahead. I had caught up to two guys that were talking about holding around a 10 min/mi pace and I decided to hang behind them. As I have long been told, if you don’t meet someone new during a trail race you are doing it wrong, so I sparked up a conversation. They were both originally from AZ with one of them now living just outside Portland. We just chatted about the area and other races we had done. Alaska had come up in the conversation and we talked a good bit about my trip there last year. A voice from a lady behind me joined the conversation. It startled me a bit as I didn’t even realize there was someone that close behind me. The conversation turned into mostly me and Anna while the guys stayed a few steps ahead. The trail just wrapped through the endless trees with the lake peeking out often to our left. Our footing was soft with pine needles but still had us paying attention with the occasional tree root.
At mile 6 we hit the first aid station on the course positioned in the bed of a pickup truck. This was the furthest stretch between aid and I was looking forward to some sports drink. That was until I saw it was red Gatorade. I’m sure I talked about it previous posts but red sports drinks do not sit well in the tummy. I knew I needed to have some for the electrolytes so I decided to risk it and hope my stomach would not act up. The guys seemed to be hanging out a little bit at the aid station, so Anna and I grabbed our refills and made our way back out in the trail.
This was her first full marathon and she was excited for experience. She had asked me if I minded her hanging out with me to get her mind off some leg pain she was going through, and I told her that I’d love the company. We had some great conversation about work, running and really just all aspects of life. She had lived in Portland but had moved out to the coast. She was crazy smart and worked in an avenue of environmental science. I won’t even pretend like I remember all she said as it was over my head but it boiled down to her making some strides for the environment. The conversation was helping the miles just click off. We had some people catch up to us and they just hung on to the back of the train as we chatted along. The views of the lake were getting more prevalent as we had slowly gained a little more elevation from the water level.
Before we realized it the dam was in sight. The dam was the site of the next aid just before mile 10. We exited the trail and entered the parking lot of a camping area to get us to the road crossing the small dam and levee wall. The sun was strong and was beating down hard now that we were out of the trees. At the end of the section the aid was set up on our left. Again, only red Gatorade. Considering there was only one more aid on the course I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get the option of a non-red sports drink during the race. While Anna and I were refilling water and grabbing some extra to drink, one of the ladies that was on the back of the train said “I don’t know how you do it. You had kept us as a consistent pace that entire stretch.” It made me smile to know I was helping out, even if it was something as simple as holding my pace for someone else to follow.
As we headed out of the aid station we started down a trail that went through the campground area. We were hugging the lake this entire section. People that were using the lake for their summer vacation gave us a cheer as we ran on by. This is where the beautiful views started to come into play. With no trees to block the view of the lake I was just taken back by the beauty of it all. After wrapping a few more turns we then were treated to an amazing view of Mt. Hood on the other side of the lake. We would bounce around some campsites and then be right back next to the lake with spectacular views. Anna and I didn’t talk much in this section as we both were just taking it all in.
Shortly after mile 12, we made it to the next aid station. Kaela was here taking photos as we approached. I introduced Kaela to Anna and let her know that she was keeping my pace in check and pushing me forward. Kaela handed off some refilling of nutrition as I choked down another red Gatorade. I told Kaela about the views of Mt Hood just down the path and that if she wanted to take the short walk to take photos that would be great. This would be the only time that I would see her on the course until the finish so I wanted her to have something to do for the next few hours until that happened. I gave her a kiss and headed back out on the trail.
Anna and I were making some really good time on the trail as we came to the split in the trail to start the second lap. I had let her know that I started out a little too fast so I wasn’t going to run these hills the second time around and going to be walking the inclines and powering the downhills. She liked the idea of it and said she would follow suit. We completed the first loop in 2:15.
The climbs seemed much longer and harder this time. It’s hard to say if it was because of the tired legs, slower pace or the sun just warming up the forest but I was starting to get on the struggle bus. Once the trail leveled back out we started to catch up to a few marathoners and even some half marathoners. The folks running the half had started 1.5 hours after us so it surprised me when we caught them at this point. We gave them some motivation as we slowly passed on by. The marathoners turned and asked us if the course cut short on the way back because they thought it was going to be long. We compared watch distances and found that they had about 3+ extra miles tracked than what we had traveled which put them in a disappointing news when we had to break it to them that it was the same trail as the first loop.
Our conversation slowed down as we both conserved our energy and focused on the running. Anna started to fall behind a little bit and told me to keep pushing on and not to hold up. I knew that I was just feeling a little spark from my last Honey Stinger waffle and that it wouldn’t last. This was true as we hit the aid station at mile 17.5. I spent a little more time this time around at the aid. I was starting to have stomach issues, so I popped two Gas-X and washed it down with water since the Gatorade was for sure the culprit. As I was getting ready to walk out of the aid Anna was walking up and after a quick refill she was back on the trail. It wasn’t too long in the next stretch before she had passed me holding to a good pace. I told her I’d see her at the finish just because comparing our appearance she was feeling much better than I was.
Mixing in more walking than running, I just enjoyed the time in the trees. It was just so peaceful being outside with a clear mind. My body wasn’t enjoying running but I made sure I didn’t walk for too long in any stretch because I knew my body would get too comfortable with that pace. The temperature was increasing, causing me to sweat even more and I wasn’t replacing those electrolytes as I should have been. The salt tabs weren’t cutting it so I just had Honey Stinger gels every few miles to keep the calories up. Once I had the dam in sight, I picked up the pace to get to the aid. I knew that the open exposure on the way to the aid would not be fun so I wanted to get it over with as soon as I could.
I dumped my water on my head and then refilled my handheld. I had some more Gatorade to try and offset the sweat. The volunteer here was super friendly and I made sure to thank him for his hospitality as I ran back to the trail. The lake shore was now full of people. Some I remembered from the first loop but many had arrived after the last time I ran through. I tried to keep my positive attitude even when my body seemed to reject the fact that I wanted to run. I started to get a little light headed and overly cautious that I was getting off the trail. My surroundings did not look familiar and just when I thought to stop and question myself, I would spot another marker. Well, that was until I didn’t.
Around mile 23, I hit a spot that didn’t seem to have an apparent trail route nor did I see any markers. I started to head up towards a parking lot and then remembered that I did not do this on the first loop. I caught the eye of some folks that I had passed a mile or so back heading my way and off their trajectory I was able to cross through some brush and make my way back to what could have been the trail. Luckily about ¼ mile later I was confirmed with a course marker.
I was mentally and physically exhausted when I made it back to the final aid station just short of the trail split. I refilled my water as I had drank the 16oz in the last 3 miles, took a shot of Gatorade and left as quickly as I could. I ran up to the split as I caught up to a half marathoner making her way back to the finish as well. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before but the 1.5 miles that I went straight downhill to start the race, I was going to have to climb to finish. About half way up the first climb she noticed I was behind her and stepped off the trail so I could pass. I wasn’t running but my power hike was still at a good pace and I caught up to and passed a few people on the climb.
At the top of the steepest hill we crossed the park road and I knew that meant I was a mile out from the finish. I picked up the hiking pace as I headed up the next set of short climbs. The roots seemed to be sticking out another 6 inches from their spot this morning, or maybe it was my heavy legs not wanting to pick up. There was a guy ahead of me that became my goal to pass by the finish, when a lady a just a consistent shuffle passed right by me. I noticed that she had a full marathon bib on and it gave me a new goal. I had to finish before her.
I could hear the music from the finish line through the trees and knew that we were getting close. I matched her pace with a few yards between us as we both passed the guy. I recognized the turn near the porta-potties and started to pick up the pace a little. By the time we got to the clearing we were side by side. I know she noticed me pushing the pace as we quickly sped up from 10:45 to high 8’s. Kaela was at the last turn cheering me in and that was the push that I needed. I put it into overdrive as I approached the turn, driving my pace to the high 7’s and taking a tight turn to get in front of the lady. I didn’t give it one look back as I powered through to the finish.
I crossed the finish just a few seconds before she did. After she finished, we exchanged smirks followed by “great job.” Kaela met me in the food table in the shade. I slammed some clementines, fruit snacks and chips while trying to catch my breath. Anna came by and thanked me for spending time with her and helping her keep her mind off any pain she was feeling for most of the race. I gave myself a “bath” by wiping down with baby wipes before grabbing a handful more to change in a porta-potty. With no shame I used the handicap accessible one to give me more space to actually get changed. After struggling to get changed (mostly with putting on my compression socks) we made our way back to the car.
The Timberline Marathon was everything that I hoped it would be. Very runnable trails with amazing scenic views. The spots with Mt Hood in the distance were fantastic. Even though it was slower than I hoped, the challenge of the terrain with slight rollers at higher elevation gave it a freshness compared to other races I have ran. This is for sure a race I would recommend for those looking in Northern Oregon.
Now this was just the start of our vacation. From the race we made our way into Portland and switch gears into relaxing. We grabbed dinner and beers at Great Notion Brewing before passing out for the evening at our next Air BNB.
At the beginning of the post I mentioned that this trip was bookend with races. Next up we made our way to Washington for me to climb Taylor Mountain (twice) in the Taylor Mountain marathon!