2015 Columbia Gorge Marathon

October 25, 2015
Hood River, OR
Event website

With the Columbia Gorge Marathon finished the Lower 48 states! I only missing Alaska and Hawaii for the 50 States. Like last weekend at the Hayden Lake Marathon, I was right over the Washington state line at Hood River, a small ski/activity town in Oregon.

I didn’t have much time to enjoy the surroundings though. I drove down from Seattle and arrived the night before just after 6 PM, when paid parking was no longer enforced but most of the shops had just closed. After packet pickup I drove back to Cascade Locks to stay in an inexpensive hotel (which, by the way, was so much better than the Tropicana Resort I stayed at in Atlantic City).

Day 6: Bridge of the Gods

You may already know Cascade Locks because it operates the Bridge of the Gods, the passage between Oregon and Washington for the Pacific Coast Trail (mile 2,155). It’s where Cheryl Strayed ended her trek; you can see Reese Witherspoon stop there in the movie version. I didn’t get to see it since it was already dark, and I left for Seattle right after I finished the marathon.

My story starts to go a bit wobbly the night before. I needed to eat, but I’ve been trying a new diet where I can’t eat protein and starch at the same time. I’m also trying a gluten-free diet for a month just to see what that feels like. That might otherwise be dangerous before the New York Marathon, but it’s mostly what I already eat with some sequence changes. But, what a pain in the ass to do that on the road with little control over portions and combinations! And, in a small town with limited options!

I saw a burger drive-in shack across the street and wanted to try that but they’d closed their kitchen even though they advertised as open so they could sell ice cream to what looked like a bunch of prom dates. I ended up in a divey bar with a kitchen and ordered a plain steak with a salad. Boy was that stupid. Normally I’d eat Thai food the night before—a light meal—but that’s not allowed on this diet!

Once back at the hotel, I forgot to charge my Garmin. With this East to West Coast travel I’m tired at just the right time to get enough sleep to run a marathon the next day. I’d like to say that I forgot about my watch, but I did lay out everything the night before and put my watch in its place with the brief thought “it should be fine”. I think my dinner steak made me stupid. I passed out, which is also unusual.

The Columbia Gorge, part of the Lewis & Clark Trail (another thing I did not visit), is amazing. I thought this was a trail marathon since the start is at a trailhead, but it’s all roads. Most of it overlooks the Columbia River from several hundred feet up. This is one of three rivers that connect the east side of the Cascades to the Pacific, and there’s a lot of water it connects. At the end of the previous ice age, big floods carved out this valley and exposed all sorts of rock, including igneous varieties. I saw that on the run in some place and thought it odd, but Mount St. Helens isn’t that far away. Mt. Hood is nearby too.

Columbia River Gorge

As with last week, I had no goal and was putting no pressure on myself with this run. I treated it as a training run for next week’s NYC Marathon. With no pressure, I planned to run the whole thing with no food and only drink water. Last week I cheated with two bites of a banana.

The no-food thing comes from my friend Ken who does it in much longer runs (and at a much faster pace than me). I’ve run enough races to want to experiment. What if all this stuff I’ve been eating during a race is giving me insulin shocks? Most of the stuff has a high glycemic load, but my body is in fat-burning mode. I’ll just go without instead of putting a bunch of sugar in my blood then having to keep that up to fight the insulin. If none of that works out, I haven’t missed out on anything other than some snacks.

Again, like last week, this is another hilly run. The start at Mark O. Hatfield Trail is uphill right away. The course rolls a bit then drops down into Mosier, where at Mile 5 it’s uphill to around Mile 9. I did okay with that, although my belly was complaining enough that I stopped for a bathroom break at the turnaround at Mile 12 (and again at Mile 21).

After the turnaround I ran down the parts I’d run up. I think I destroyed my legs doing that. I don’t like downhills. People think downhills are easy, but they are higher impact and really shock the quads. I’d much rather go up than down.

Most of this was on open (but lightly trafficked) roads, with lots of curves. This was the old highway that went through the Columbia Gorge before they made the one right next to the river. On the crowned road around these hilly bends, I think I turned my ankle. That ankle hurt more and more as the day went on.

I ran until Mile 18 and I was doing fine on just water. My belly wasn’t any better, but that started long before the race. At the end I fell apart, but that was mostly the downhills I think.

I made it all the way to the end with no food. I don’t know if I want to do that for every race. I thought for a few miles that my brain needed some sugar, but I feel like that with food too. Who knows?

But there it is. My 48th state.

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