I’m a comfort zone person, admittedly. It’s safe to say most people like some semblance of routine, which can be equated with comfort zone. In the age of life hacks and wanderlust, the term comfort zone is often conjured as a negative. I don’t think that’s really fair. Comfort zone, to me, states underlying confidence in how one can budget their time. I know my work schedule, my training schedule, how much sleep I should try to get, and what I need to pack for breakfast and lunch during my workday. That’s comfort zone to me. Also, relating to running, I plan pretty much every route I’m going to run either the day before or morning of. There’s some embarrassment in my fingertips as I type this, because so many fellow runners crave the adventure.
This past Friday, I left the comfort zone was grateful for the experience.
The plan was simple: 20-mile long run on the Wildwood. Hop on the trail from the lot on Germantown Road, cruise a ways past Saltzman Road, loop down to Maple, and cut back to Leif Erikson and loop to where I started. My friend Jay reached out the day before, and we made plans to do the long run together. On the drive over, he called me to let me know both Germantown and Newberry Road were close, so we would have to park on Skyline Road and get onto the Wildwood down Firelane 15.
This is where I got sketchy. 20 miles is still a hell of a long ways for me to run. Anxiety is often an overused word and I don’t think it’s fair to use when there are people that truly suffer from anxiety; so let’s just say I was sketchy, and nervous. My hydration pack was filled to the brim with water and a healthy dose of Tailwind Nutrition mixed in. Jay also shared some delicious date/chocolate/almond power bites his family made that were delicious. Shoes tied and pack strapped, we ventured into new territory, taking Firelane 15 down to Wildwood.
There was a good amount of climbing right off the bat. There was nothing smooth about it, considering Germantown and Newberry Roads were closed due to potential landslides; Jay and I were ducking and jumping downed trees, while trying to stay steady footed in the mud. This was not the worst condition either of us had seen Wildwood, but it was just a good reminder spring is not quite here yet. If the condition of the trail was not reminder enough, the ominous clouds that rolled in over us reinforced the month of February. It’s Oregon, it rains, and there’s no cheating what has been one hell of a winter here in the Pacific Northwest.
This is a rough map of our run. If you’re a Strava nerd like me, you’ll notice the run ended about 2 miles shy of where we started. Just a technical note, Strava abruptly ended the run at 18.1 miles, which was really weird. Don’t know if it’s an Apple Watch or Strava issue, but I assure you we ran the full 20.
After a few miles of getting in my rhythm, Jay suggested we cut off from the Wildwood and do a quick bit of climbing on the Water Line Trail. That took us back up to Skyline and directly across the street to Skyline Tavern (legendary among my cyclist friends, and Jay also assured me a great place to grab a beer). We did a quick stint of road running, neither of us exactly sure where we would meet back up with the trail, but we weren’t going to walk it. Not far down the road we were able to cut down to Firelane 7 and then spit out on the Wildwood. It was a great little adventure and certainly something out of my comfort zone. If I hadn’t of been with Jay, I probably would have backtracked. I was grateful for his tenacity to keep exploring. Once we were back on the trail, with our road interlude behind us, it was time to grind out some miles.
We made it to Saltzman and decided to get off the Wildwood and cut down to Leif Erickson. This was clearly the halfway point for both of us, and I knew there was some serious climbing and descending south of Saltzman, as far as the Wildwood went. Jay and I both agreed we would tackle that end of the Wildwood another day. Both of us were dealing with some nagging body ailments. My knee had been bothering me since the previous week, and we were both feeling it, so we decided to start heading back. I’m not implying we were bonking or fatigued, but I think we could both sense how much we had left in the tank.
Leif Erikson allowed us a nice reprieve from the rolling portions of Wildwood. I’ve never utilized Leif Erikson as much as I should for long runs. It’s nice to have a surface to get a little bit of speed and miles. Leif looped us back to the Germantown parking lot, which lead us to climb up Cannon, and get back to Wildwood, which would eventually lead to where we parked on Skyline.
Those last 6 miles were definitely grinders. The climbing wasn’t too bad, but we paid for every step. The weather certainly turned on us toward the end, but the sun poked through between the fits of rain. Jay managed to get a picture of us. We stopped for a couple minutes to admire the sun peeking through the silhouettes of the bare trees, illuminating the run-off streams that recently carved their way through the earth.
As you can see, there’s blue sky, but a lot of dark clouds rolled through our territory. It was such a strange day for weather. Due to the road closures, we barely saw other runners or hikers in the park. Aside from a few breaks in the rain, this Friday was not the most inviting weather for an outside adventure.
The last few climbs on Firelane 15 back to Skyline were deceptive. You know those moments when you think you are so close to the end, only to come over the hill and see there’s a few more waiting for you. Jay and I walked the last mile, letting our tired limbs chill out and prepare to be seated in what would surely be a long commute back to our homes.
Friday was a good day. It had been a couple weeks since I’d done a LONG run like that, so it was good to know my legs can still get going when needed. It was the first time Jay had run that distance and I was pretty stoked for him, as he crushed it. Jay’s in training for a 50k, so it was great to hear his thoughts on training schedules and what’s been working for him. I love my podcasts, but I’ll take good conversation with a friend over earbuds any day, especially on a long run.
As the cliche goes, I left my comfort zone and was very glad I did. I get easily discouraged when the drive or other factors leading up to my run don’t go the way they should. Road closures and a brand new route would have freaked my shit out if I had been alone. It was good to have a friend blaze down the the trail and give me confidence to do the same. Leave your comfort zone, people. You’ll most likely be surprised at what a good base of training can prepare you for.