I’m 36, as of Friday, April 21st. Unfortunately, I share my birthday with the death of Prince, but I choose to look it as an excuse to listen to Sign O’ the Times on repeat all day. Just a warning, this post is going to get deep and gory about everything leading up to this year. It’s going to be a very self-centered post, but as of now, none have answered my call to contribute to the site, so you’re stuck with me.
But first, I finally made it out to the Columbia Gorge for a run on my birthday. It’s criminal that I had never been on a run up in the Gorge until yesterday. That is a mistake I intend to remedy this summer. I chose the Angel’s Rest–>Devil’s Rest Loop. 10.5 miles overall, but I got my fucking ass kicked. Sorry for the profanity, but there is no other way to say it. I’m sure anyone reading this would chuckle. That 10.5 mile run destroyed me. I have my theories, so let’s start with nutrition.
I woke up with sun in my eyes, peaking through the usually gray-light illuminated blinds next to my bed. There’s often a silver cape of clouds falling down over Portland in 2017. We Portlanders are in constant acclimation to the sun. As pleasant as it was, the rays were a rude awakening…as if I felt pressured. I planned on going for a run in the Gorge all week, but I felt less ambitious waking up to my birthday; a day, where, I feel entitled to do whatever the hell I want. Birthday Kyle wanted to have a marathon of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Sensible Birthday Kyle knew that he should get his ass out the door, into the Subaru, and out to the Gorge. I promised myself I would do this a year ago and dogged out.
Where nutrition comes into play I have a routine. No matter the length of the run I have a strict breakfast regimen. 1 large banana, with peanut butter thinly spread across it, eaten in small bites with a fork (ala George Costanza with a Snickers), paired with an 8 ounce cup of black coffee (Guatemala El Injerto Bourbon preferred). For my birthday morning, I splurged. I made 2 pieces of Dave’s Killer Bread, a hearty slab of peanut butter for each slice, covered in maple syrup. It’s basically a lifehack (I hate that term and concept) to French toast or pancakes. On top of that, I got gluttonous with the black coffee. Once I finished my breakfast, I made it to the front door, hopped on I-84, and pulled off the Bridal Veil exit.
The first thing I noticed were the cars. This is a little after 10AM on a Friday and there was literally nowhere to park. Cars were parked along the shoulder of the exit ramp. I got lucky and found a spot that looked as if it had just opened up. I triple-checked it to make sure I wasn’t going to get towed, or that there wasn’t a fire hydrant anywhere. I imagine there’s some tow-happy, tow truck drivers that probably watch those NO PARKING spots. A bit of wind kicked up as I prepared my loaner hydration pack, a smaller Nathan one I borrowed from a Strava friend while my regular one is being repaired at Patagonia HQ. It was my first time using a Nathan pack, and it’s a great one. The wind definitely sent a chill through me as I walked up to the trailhead, so I decided to give my new Patagonia Nano-Air Hybrid Vest a try. This was purchased the week prior and I honestly didn’t think I would use it until next fall. Turned out I didn’t need to.
Not sure why, but I decided to start the climb up to Angel’s Rest running…as fast as I could. This was a dum-dum move, which I mostly blame on the running video YouTube binge I did the night before. Most people aren’t Killian, Sage, Jim, Anna, or Kaci. I am no exception to that. It was also poor trail manners on my part, because the climb to Angel’s Rest was very crowded. There was no reason in the world–other than wanting to feed my inner delusion of badass–that I should have been running up that trail. I dodged couples, elderly, dogs, and children when I should have just slowed down to a power hike and enjoyed the air. I was acting like it was a race, which is the only good reason I can think of to push that hard during a 1,000-feet-per-mile climb. Just before I reached Angel’s Rest I slowed down, but it was too late. My heart was thumping, sweat drenched me, and the allergies I thought Gorge wind would take care of came into full effect. Also, I twisted my ankle hopping off a small boulder. It ended up being pretty minor, but it was definitely nagging throughout the run.
The hearty breakfast and gallon of black coffee felt like bricks in my stomach. I learned a valuable lesson about not messing with nutritional habits when you are going to be doing some serious climbing.
The view was worth it. I promptly readjusted my set-up. Stuffed the Nano Air vest into the hydration bag, removed my headphones, and kept pressing on to Devil’s Rest. This was my first run in the Gorge, so I really had very little idea where I was headed. I made a map on Strava and used the All Trails iOS app to cross reference where I thought I was. Unfortunately, this view didn’t stick around for long, as Devil’s Rest is tucked back a little further into the woods. I accidentally got off on a side trail, following a hand written sign that put me about 1/2-mile down a logging road. As a native Montanan and someone raised with a healthy fear and respect for grizzly bears, I get nervous when I get deep into the woods. There’s no grizzlies in the Gorge, but I definitely felt my instincts go on alert, just from old habit. No worries, though. Turned around and made my way to Devil’s Rest.
Once I got there, I took a little time to hydrate and get my bearings. An older gentleman was having his lunch on the shady peak, so he pointed me in the direction I needed to keep going. It was kind of nice getting somewhat lost back in there. Nothing against routine or my usual running routes, but it was nice to be surprised by little things. If I had packed more nutrition along with me, I would have extended the run further.
Lots of downhill on my way back. My ankle was still feeling it. From ankle to quads, I was really wishing I had worn my Altra Olympus 2.0’s for some extra cushioning. Being reminded of my age on this run, I am beginning to gravitate towards more cushioning. The Lone Peak 3.0’s are great, but for some reason I was feeling every rock or root in the trail. I’m mulling over my next shoe purchase, and this run will certainly help me with the decision.
Next time I will certainly take better pictures. I’m so used to putting my head down and pushing through runs on Wildwood. Maybe it’s because the weather this winter has been such shit, and really isn’t letting up, aside from this respite. This run reminded me that I need to stop and take things in. I treat so many miles like they are either a race or a Strava stat. By the time I got back to my car I was relieved, but felt like I missed out. Allergies and ankle twist were turned up a notch, so I was glad to take a seat on the bumper of my car.
For a first run in the Gorge, it was good, if not a little humbling. My pace was much slower than usual, but this was also the most elevation gain I’ve had in a long time. I understand the hashtag I often see around social media…the Gorge has teeth.
Now, onto the gory stuff. 35 sucked. Shitty presidential elections aside, it was a year that started with me completing goals-—both fitness and other—and ended with some pretty major slumps. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, I apologize for the inconsistencies you’ve no doubt observed since the beginning. Some of the lofty goals I set for myself are pretty laughable at the moment. The lack of completion of most everything I set my sights on is what’s really getting to me. Anxiety from the birthday reminder that sand still falls through the hourglass, whether I’m doing something constructive or am on my fifth hour of Netflix.
Running was initially something I used for goal setting. 13.1 miles was the first goal, then I crossed that off. 26.2 miles was the next goal, then I crossed that off. After that it was 50 miles, or 100 miles, and I really fell off the map from that point. I could blame the extreme weather that covered Portland with ice, but it was mostly due to me giving into the emotional rollercoaster that is me. Though running was a good goal setting tool for me to have, I realized it also helped me with depression.
Depression is something I’ve struggled with since I was a child. It never really goes away. There are periods of time where the person I want to be can get in front of the person I am. It’s not something I would call a fight–though I feel like that often–but more of a balance. I’ve been to therapists, been on and off anti-depressants, but the best medication I’ve found is exercise. It used to be cycling, then P90X/plyo insanity, and then running. Running was the most enjoyable and sustainable, not to mention the most bang for my buck. If nothing else, running was an excuse to give myself an hour or two to just focus on either whatever podcast I was listening to or thoughts going through my head. Running became something meditative for me, with the constant influx of oxygen through rhythmic breathing, coupled with a good dose of endorphins, I felt like I possessed some secret cure to depression. Turns out it’s no secret, but I guess I treated it like a secret as applied to myself.
My goal for 36 is not a distance, weekly mileage, or a race. My goal is to get out to the trail when I can, not make excuses, and do the thing I know helps me win the mental game I face daily. I’ve accepted that depression will always try to get one over on me and that the person it turns me into is not the person I want to be. I don’t want to be sad, angry, and closed off from others. I don’t want to be frustrated with myself and focused on every limitation I might have. I don’t want to make excuses and then regret what I should have done hours or days later. I don’t want to compare myself to anyone else except the best version of myself. Once I get these tenants down, or learn them again, then I’ll start setting goals again.
Hopefully, 36 is the year where I just land on my feet.