Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain and back

August 31, 2012

On Thursday, I hiked as fast as I could up to the top of Larch Mountain from the base of Multomah Falls, then ran back down.


The highways at the base of the falls (it’s accessible from both I-84 and the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway) are at an elevation right around 50 feet. Sherrard Point, the top of Larch Mountain, is at 4056 feet. So that’s a 4000 foot elevation gain over seven miles. It’s a relatively consistent climb.


The first mile is on paved switchbacks, getting up to the top of Multnomah Falls. The first quarter mile of that is wall-to-wall tourists, getting up to the bridge over the creek between the upper and lower falls. The rest of the paved way to the top is only a little less crowded. If you’re a runner doing this, don’t plan on running this part.

Up at the top, you can follow a dead-end trail branch to go over to the overlook at the top of the falls, or follow the main trail upstream along Multomah Creek. This is “Larch Mountain Trail 441” and you follow it all the way up. The next few miles along the creek are scenic and offer varied terrain, including some difficult-to-run rocky bits.


Eventually you leave the creek and head off into a section with some serious rocky bits. This was entirely unrunnable on the way back down.


There’s only a quarter-mile or so of this kind of exposed carved-through-the-rockfall trail, but long sections of the forested paths around there are also dangerously rocky to run through.

After slogging uphill forever, you get past all the rocks and reach the last stretches, angling up the side of the shield volcano that is Larch Mountain. The trails here are fairly evenly graded and runnable, though if you still have the energy left to run it on the way up, you’re a stronger man than I.

I took two hours and one minutes up and an hour six down, stopping for lunch at Sherrard Point in between.


Race Report: 2012 Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon

July 5, 2012

I’ve been getting back into shape over the last few months, working my way back to 40-mile weeks while focusing on speed instead of distance. (In the past, a 40-mile week was often a 20-mile run on Saturday plus twenty more miles spread across four weekdays; this time around I’m running six or seven days a week without the really long run.) Based on some recent training runs, I thought I might have a shot at a PR at the Foot Traffic Half, the same race where, back in ’09, I set my previous best. That was a 1:31:47, a 7:01/mile average pace.

July 4 was a Wednesday this year, so that’s when the race was. I tried to get up early to beat the traffic out to Sauvie Island, but I failed: even at 5:40 in the morning, there was still a very long line of cars backed up on the road to the start. I was finally parked at 6:15, which didn’t leave me a lot of time to pick up my bib number and use the bathroom before the 6:45 start. The weather was sunny but not hot. There were some unpleasant headwinds on the course.

I ran it hard, focusing on the race and on staying in the moment, rather than on the scenery or on worrying about whether I could finish. Or I tried to, anyway. Once again I was reminded that racing my hardest never feels good. Up against my limits, I always feel out of shape — it doesn’t matter what actual speed I’m running.

Mile splits, according to my GPS: 6:40 6:43 6:46 6:42 6:37 6:43 6:50 6:51 6:53 6:50 6:55 6:48 6:32. The same, in graph form:

So, I guess I came out fast and slowed for miles 2 and 3, then warmed up and got a little faster until mile 6, when I started getting tired. I picked it up nicely for the last three miles, though. Near the end, I knew from my watch that my average pace was going to be near 6:50/mile, but I wasn’t up to trying to do any math to figure out what that meant as far as total finishing time — all I knew was that it would be a PR and be close to an hour thirty. In fact, between my last couple fast miles and my poor math skills, I did better than that.

Official time: 1:28:46. 6:46/mile average pace. Three minutes and one second better than my old PR!

Official results here. It was a strong field. I was 61st place overall, out of 1874 finishers. 50th male out of 610. 8th male aged 40-44 out of 85.

20: St Johns Bridge and Leif Erickson

March 31, 2012

I ran my first 20-miler in what seems like forever today. The route, above, worked out really well. Running over the St. John’s Bridge in far North Portland is fun (as anyone who’s run the Portland Marathon can tell you) but running on NW St Helens Rd/Highway 30 to get there or back is not (as anyone who’s run the Portland Marathon can also tell you). But you can detour around that by taking Forest Park’s Ridge Trail, which connects the south end of the bridge to milepost 8.5 of Leif Erickson Drive. If you finish the loop across the Broadway Bridge, it works out to almost exactly 20 miles, all on sidewalks or trails and with few busy road crossings.

The Ridge Trail is a steep little six-tenth of a mile. It’s pretty obvious where it falls in this elevation profile. (Ignore the dip between mile eight and nine; that’s where the software doesn’t know there’s a bridge and thinks I  ran across the water.)

I mostly walked going up the trail. It was in pretty good shape, especially considering all the rain we’ve had lately. The rain continued during my run and there were lots and lots of puddles everywhere. For a while I tried to go around them, and found myself irritated every time I drifted off and stepped in one. But after three or four miles I gave up on keeping my shoes dry and just waded through.

My feet were sore by the end of the run, but other than that, all good.

Accomplishment Unlocked: Cross Ross Island Bridge on Foot

February 18, 2012

Check one more lifetime accomplishment of extremely dubious value off the list: I’ve now run over the Ross Island Bridge.

There’s no reason to ever do this, other than to say it’s been done. The bridge run is seven-tenths of a mile on a sidewalk with four lanes of very fast traffic shooting by right next to you. The river view from up there might get more interesting when they get further into the construction of the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge, but for now you find yourself looking at pretty humdrum section of the river with a few barges and cranes playing around it it.

The west-side approach to the bridge is pedestrian-unfriendly, involving scrambling across a crosswalk-free ramp. Neither side is particularly easy to navigate on foot — it’s not obvious just how to get up to the bridge from the more usual running paths down along the river. (I ran west-to-east, since I had a slightly better idea of where to get onto the bridge on the west side, and figured getting off the bridge would be easier to figure out than getting on.) I can’t give any good directions, but if you stare at that GPS-generated map up there closely enough, you might get the idea.

The seminal work on being a pedestrian on the Ross Island is, of course, cyclotram’s “How to walk the Ross Island Bridge and not die, if you’re lucky“.  It is an absolute must-read for anybody with any interest in the topic of how crappy it is to walk across the Ross Island Bridge. It is a true classic in the genre. (I refer here to the how-to-walk-across-various-Portland-bridges-without-dying genre, of which cyclotram is the primary and perhaps only contributor.) My small efforts (like this) perhaps don’t count, since I am in fact running, not walking, which arguably makes it easier not to die. Cyclotram’s posts also have a lot more pictures, maps, and history than mine. He makes the interesting note that the Ross Island Bridge has been crappy to walk across since the 1940s, which demonstrates some remarkable forward-thinking.

I decided to run across the Ross Island Bridge today because (a) I never had and (b) I thought it would be a good way to get an eight-mile run from our new place in NW Portland. This eight-miler capped an 18-mile week for me, and my toe feels entirely healed. I’m slow slow slow still but I’m getting back.


February 7, 2012

Three very slow miles yesterday, with the running group. It was fine. I could feel a little pressure and numbness in my toe, but nothing alarming, and it felt perfectly fine post-run. As much as I’d like to ramp up my miles immediately, I’ll probably try to stick to alternate days running and resting it until it regains its full flexibility: right now, it’s still  little difficult to bend it fully down, presumably indicating that there’s still some swelling.


February 4, 2012

I ran a mile today.

A small problem with my toe

January 9, 2012

Two days before Christmas, we were almost done unpacking the important stuff after moving to a new place. (For the first time in either of our lives, we’re actually living inside the Portland city limits! But that’s a story for another time.)

That’s a ceramic platter we have. It weighs nine pounds.  It fell off a chair onto the tip of my left big toe. I was wearing socks and standing on a hardwood floor. The platter hit edge-first. The good news — the platter is fine. The platter thanks you for your concern. My toe hurt like a mother. Here’s a blurry picture of what it looked like a few minutes later, after the searing pain had subsided.

I could wiggle my toe and touching it didn’t seem like it hurt that much — except for the nail — so I didn’t think it was broken. But soon it started to bleed out of the corner of the nail, and once it got going the blood wasn’t stopping. It didn’t hurt much, so we wrapped some paper towels around it and had dinner.

It was still bleeding an hour and a half later. It showed no sign of letting up and I was going through a lot of paper towels. We decided to go to the emergency room. I put on a flip-flop and we drove over. Here’s my toe in the hospital:

After an hour or so of waiting and triage, we saw a nice PA. The best thing about her was that she was also a marathon runner, so she was very sympathetic. Especially after her and my wife talked me into getting an x-ray, and it came back looking like this:

You don’t have to be much of a medical expert to see something wrong on that big toe. That should all be one bone, not five or six. Ouch. Shouldn’t that hurt more? Don’t ask me.

They pressure-bandaged the toe to slow the bleeding and sent me home in one of those open-toed post-surgical shoes. It oozed and bled for about four days; it was such a relief when I no longer needed any bandages. I limped pretty badly for a week and I still have to be very careful if I’m wearing shoes. I saw a podiatrist the week after it happened, but he didn’t give me anything different to do — no casts, splints or boots.

Obviously, I can’t run either. I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be out — I’m supposed to go by how it feels. Six to eight weeks is a good guess though. I’m two weeks and three days into it now.