Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eagle Creek 26 miles

Current Mile total: 160 miles

I was a little nervous going into today's run. I had planned on jumping up my mileage considerably by making a loop out of a couple intersecting trails. I planned on running up to Wahtum Lake by mean of the same trail I ran last week, Eagle Creek Trail. This is at about 13 miles out. Then I'd jump on the Pacific Crest Trail and go over the Benson Plataea finishing on the Ruckel Creek Trail. I figured I could do it but I knew I'd be completely wasted toward the end and it might involve a lot of walking. The weather didn't help. I woke up to overcast and cold temperatures. It was 39 when I woke and expected 54 high for the day. But at the altitude I was planning on being at, I knew it would be freezing. I decided on heading out with the plan anyway.

I sometimes think Karma has a way of looking out for me. Some call it Guardian Angels, other might call it luck, but I do sometimes think that I'm being taken care of out there. This is what I was thinking when I faced the decision to turn around, for the third week in a row.

As I neared the lake my elevation was increasing faster and the temperature really dropped. I entered the clouds and what started as mist turned quickly into snow. The path then became covered in old winter snow yet to melt off but I pushed on seeing the obvious trail cut through the trees ahead of me. I really wasn't able to run anymore through this snow as it's angle was to steep to one side causing me to plan every step. It wasn't dangerous at this point, just slow going. I knew in my head that I should turn around but in my heart I was stubborn and did not want to give up so close to my goal. Reason won over in the end when I could no longer tell where the trail went. I believed it continued up along side the river I had been following but could not be sure.

I looked around and assessed the situation. I was poorly clothed if an emergency should happen, with just half a PB & J sandwich and not much water left to drink. The trail as I had planned would be in these conditions, higher and more exposed. It was lightly snowing and I was all alone. I was also beginning to get fatigued with my core temperature pretty low. Sometimes pride makes us make really stupid choices in life. In these conditions it's easy to lose your reason but it didn't take me long to choose the safe route back. I had already gone about a half mile without a clear path but this was surely the end of the line.

So I turned around thinking that it was all for the best. I began justifying my decision because of my pride. It's hard to let go of a goal you just put three and a half hours climbing toward. I thought to myself, "I wasn't ready anyway. Over twenty miles was too much anyways, right?" But even though I was slightly bummed out I knew that I would have been crazy stupid to have continued. The trail I had meant to take followed along the crest of the mountain and would surely be very dangerous to pass without the right equipment.

But as I started down, I though to myself about the mileage and I began thinking that I was actually running more returning the same way I came. The second half of the trip after the lake wasn't a long as the first half. In fact, it was about 3 miles shorter. Had I taken the route I intended I would have run about 23 miles. Going back this way I was about to run a full marathon's distance.

So now I'm thinking, well, so much for Karma protecting me from taking on too much of a task. Instead, I'm being forced to run far more than I was already nervous about running. Today it would seem that logic and reason saved me from a big mistake. Nothing mystical today, although I will fully admit I've had moments where I've been very lucky and would swear someone is looking out for me, today was not one of those moments. Or was it?

When I got back and looked at the map I discovered I was less than a quarter mile from the lake. Had I reached the lake I honestly believe I would have pushed further and tried to go over the plateau. That would have been a huge mistake with potentially dangerous if not deadly consequences. Losing the trail ended up being the best thing that could have happened. Maybe I might have turned around later. I'd like to think that I'd never put myself in a life threatening position but you never know. What if I had made it up there and then added on another couple miles before I was forced to turn around? Then my trip back would have been even more difficult. As it was I still had to run very narrow trails with vertical drops of hundreds of feet all the way back. I read that each year people die on this trail because the fall of the edges. The longer I run, the more fatigued I get and the more I trip, stumble and fall.

These are the things I think about as I turn around. And then I say to myself, someone's looking out for me. Cause sometimes I'm just not that smart to make the right choice.

So in the end I ran for 5 hours and 10 minutes and covered ~26 miles. The weather stuck and I was very cold when I finished. Overall my legs felt really good and was happy with the hour and a half jump in total time run for my weekend long run.

On a side note, the web site Portland Oregon's Hiking Network claims that what I ran today was a 4 day 3 night hike. Now I love saying this and love that I did this in just 5 hours 10 minutes, but really, 4 days? That means you're hiking just 6.5 miles a day. Even if you were crawling at 2 miles an hour, you'd be done you daily requirement in just over 3 hours. What are you doing with the rest of your day?

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