Monday, April 29, 2013

A Liberty Park Love Affair (with oodles of stats and links)

So, I have been saying that someday I would sit down and look at my Excel spreadsheets of running data and see how many miles I ran around the 1.5 mile loop of Liberty Park during the 4-plus years I lived there. I have heard numerous measurements about how far the cement loop is around. To be exact as possible, it is to my understanding it is 1.45 miles, if you hug the outside of the sidewalk. (This also means that you never once had to run around an object or a person or anything else to add some distance to it. I can count on one hand the number of times I ran a loop there without something - snowdrift, dog, other runner- making me veer somewhat, making the loops much closer to 1.5 anyway.)

Now, .05 of a mile doesn't sound like much but for every 20 loops of the park you run you would lose a entire mile if you are calling it 1.5 and not 1.45.  So, while I counted each loop as 1.5 in my log book over the years, I knew there might be some discrepancies in the long run.

I also knew that while I keep pretty adept records, there are runs in Liberty Park that I did which were not just runs in Liberty Park.  By that I mean I did a run here and there that had loops around LP that weren't immediately recognizable without Excel scrutinizing. As such, these runs added up over the course of 4-plus years and since I would not be counting them toward my total miles run at Liberty Park, they would inevitably make up for the discrepancies of the .05 per loop, if any existed.

So, without any more blathering, I recently totaled my miles of Liberty Park (and I am still sure I missed a run here or there.) From my first run in the park on the morning of February 2nd, 2008 until my last on June 21st, 2012, I ran quite a few miles.

3090 miles to be exact. On 556 separate runs. All around one 1.5 mile loop.

Here is the break down of miles run per year and number of runs.

2008: 899.25  (163 runs)
2009: 822.9    (140 runs)
2010: 676.5    (120 runs)
2011: 488.2    (93 runs)
2012: 204      (40 runs)


During the same time period, my total mileage ran was over 11000.  Nothing major for some people; astronomical for others.  Nevertheless, that means 28% of the total miles I ran, all over the globe, were run around that 1.5 mile loop. Almost half of the number of times I put on shoes to run (42%), be it for training, racing or anything that was recorded, I did it to hit the big ole park in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City across the street from where I lived. I ran 350 miles up the coast of Oregon. I ran 66 marathons. I ran in Korea, China, various Caribbean Islands and virtually every state. I competed in triathlons, adventure races, sprints, ultras and everything in between.  Yet when it comes to one particular loop, I might know it as well as some of the other runners out there who carry on similar love affairs with stretches of land (the Raven in Miami and Gary Allen on Cranberry Island come to mind.)

So much do I love running here that I still use it as a means to measure distances.  When I am in a race and I have a certain amount of miles left, I break it down into Liberty Parks. Six miles left? That's just four LPs! Easy peasy.


Some facts about Liberty Park I have learned:
 
* It is not a flat loop.  The southwestern corner actually has a little bit of a rise to it which you really notice if you ride a bike there.
* Riding a bike there and thinking you are safe is a fallacy. 2009 and 2012 as proof.
* You can run literally thousands of miles there and never see the same cute girl twice.
* I have run three races that end at Liberty Park, but never got around to putting on an ultramarathon event there like I wanted to for all these years. I did run 2 separate 26.2 mile runs around the loop on consecutive Christmases and even did a 6 hour solo run there.
* It is a rare day when the sidewalks have not been plowed and/or swept of ice and snow.
* The Sandhill Crane is very vocal in the morning and may scare the crap out of you.
* The carnival scene from The Sandlot was filmed there.  You didn't know that?! You're killing me, Smalls!

So when I say I know this loop, believe me, I know this loop. And if there is a Friends of Liberty Park group, I think I should be inducted immediately simply for this article.

Seriously, go run there. You'll thank me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Salt Lake City Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 7th Edition 
1 mile skied, 5 miles biked and 93.5 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Salt Lake City Half Marathon
Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Miles from home: 763 miles
Weather: 40s; Oodles of chilly rain and wind

When I originally scheduled this race I was going to use it as a barometer of where my racing was at this point in 2013.  I thought I was in line for a 1:23 or so, which would be putting me back where I wanted to be after nearly a year of being, well, off.

Then, like an alpaca out of nowhere: staph infection! Don't try this at home, folks.

So, not only did I have to cancel an appearance at the Peterson Ridge Rumble last week (when the foot originally flared up and I thought it was a stress fracture) but I knew this race in Salt Lake would be nothing but a "run".  This bummed me very much beyond the obvious reasons.

Taking over the race from the much-maligned Devine Racing last year, US Road Sports was putting their own stamp on the race which included changing the course a bit. Most importantly, instead of climbing up the gradual incline of State Street for the final mile plus and then ending on cobblestones near the
Gateway Shopping Plaza, it was ending in my beloved Liberty Park. So to not even be able to slightly race was disappointing. Then again, 48 hours before the race I didn’t even think I would be on the starting line so I guess it is all about perspective.

This was the first marathon of any particular size since the horrible tragedies of Boston just five days earlier. The thought of not running because of a safety issue didn’t cross my mind once.  Not because I am such a bad ass that nothing deters me- rather I simply knew the chances of anything happening that would endanger me were infinitesimally small. Nevertheless, the race and the city were taking plenty of precautions, with police beefed up in certain areas, along with bomb sniffing dogs and detection equipment placed in what I am guessing where strategic locations. These don’t bother me per se. I like being safe and as far as I felt, none of my liberties were put into lockdown. However, I felt they were basically unnecessary and if they were necessary, when do we stop thinking about them? It is impossible to police the vast majority of a marathon course. But this is all food for thought for other blogs.

At the expo prior to the race the mood was apprehensive.  The suspects were still at large on Thursday and for most of the day Friday.  Then, about ten minutes before I was scheduled to give a speech, cell phones began dinging, people began murmuring and the news spread.  The second suspect was in custody! I knew the idea of any sort of speech would be thrown completely out of the window so I instead simply sat down with a large group of runners and we talked. It was beyond cathartic. I had planned on using my speech to get a release for myself and let others blow off steam.  Virtually everyone was using the race for the same purpose. But now, with seemingly all of the bad guys in either a morgue or handcuffs, the healing could officially begin.

There were a lot of sighs of relief that evening.

Race Morning:

Even though the morning broke cold (but perfect for me) and a little bit of rain wet the brows of runners, the air was quite jubilant.  It was rather palpable.  As I ventured toward the start, I saw one of the higher-ups for US Road Sports standing out in the rain, handing out the blue bands for runners to show their support for Boston.  That is one of the thing I really love about this company is how even those involved with the race from a corporate standpoint are willing to do work anonymously to make it all come together. I am sure I was probably the only one there who knew who he was with the company. So I slid up next to him, grabbed a bag of bracelets and started handing them out as well. With about 5 minutes to go until the start, I had to leave to find a place in the masses. But the joy on people's faces was so wonderful to see.

As the race clock counted down to the start, my friend and announcer Jeremy Pate led us into song. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” was sung by the runners as our own personal tribute to Boston.  Away we went. (Side note: knowing that Caroline Kennedy, aged 11 at the time, was the inspiration for a 28-year old Diamond's song is a little bit icky.  Try not to think about that, though.)

First 5 miles:

If the weather had simply stayed the way it was, it would have been rather ideal.  However, while the cool temps remained where I loved them, the rain (described by some as “icy buckets of ouchiness”) would come and go. Mostly it would come.

I had virtually no idea what to expect of my foot and tried to feel it out as I went. As the vast majority of this first 5 miles is rather forgiving with flats and downhills, I felt I might as well see what I could do.  Averaging
right around a 6:30 mile astounded me.  I was pumped full of antibiotics, had a swollen foot, was running at elevation for the first time in months and hadn’t run in two weeks at all.  These miles felt great. Well, moderately good, at least. Yeah, let’s go with “they didn’t suck” as the actual metaphor.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Karhu Flow 3 Trail shoe review

I originally intended for this review to come out last week.  On Patriot’s Day to be exact. Yeah, nuts to that.  Then I played around with it some more to get it just right. I realized I hadn’t really done the review justice and wanted to tinker.  The reason I felt that way was because the shoes I was reviewing were just that fantastic.

So here in my review of the Karhu Flow 3 Trail.

When I read reviews in other magazines about shoes, I often wonder how long the testers wore the shoes, in what pristine conditions they traversed the ground and for many days they ran in them. To me, a shoe feeling great for a four mile run down the sidewalk doesn’t mean bump.  Even though the vast majority of my miles are on pavement, I want to know what the shoe does in performance gear. This is especially true when I am getting off of the roads and onto the trails, something I don’t race in too often.
Dirty in Nicaragua

With the Karhu Flow Trail, I definitely decided to wear it on a few runs prior to racing in it.  But it was the races itself that mattered to me.

I originally planned to do four rather distinct and different races in the shoe to really give accurate feedback on how it performed.  Then a nice little case of Staph infection grabbed ahold of my foot and the final test, the 20 mile Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters, OR, had to be canceled.  So the sample size of races was down to three.  But what a three they were.

First, I took part in the Fuego Y Agua 25k in Nicaragua in February.  I had a pitiful race damn near dying from dehydration. Raced upon and then back
down a jungle volcano the terrain was not only mushy on one side but scree-filled on the other. In fact, it was about as dry as a popcorn’s fart. The juxtaposition from one side of this volcano to another was hard to understand until you ran it.
Flying at X-Trifecta

Second, in my ever-increasing desire to jump head-first into shallow water, I took on the X-Trifecta Winter Triathlon. Downhill skiing (never once done it) followed by mountain biking (never once done it) followed by a trail run (have done it.)  Well, considering the shoes doubled as my footwear for the bike and the run, they got double duty that day.

Throw in the quarter mile of snow and half mile of pavement on the “trail” portion of the run and these puppies were tested in many terrains.

Finally, the Gorge Waterfalls 50k in the greater Portland area was the final test. Road, trail, rocks, roots and basically hiking up the side of a large hill (twice; both ways) were what the Flow Trail had to encounter. 
Traversing the Gorge.

To say the shoes passed with flying colors would be a massive understatement. Each one of the races, in and of itself, was a testament to the flexibility that the shoes were able to give me in comfort, terrain-grabbing-ness (industry term) and plain ole not-thinking-about-my feet. When it comes to my shoes, the one thing I want to do, above everything, is never once think about them. When pushed to think about what I have on my feet because I am lacking in any foot pain, blisters, abrasions or anything negative whatsoever, that is when I know I have a shoe that
works.

For technical specs and things that I’d rather not think about, check out the Karhu site here.

But here are some quick facts and details from the Karhu website.

"Rugged enough for the toughest single track trails, yet accommodating to road surfaces, the Flow Trail features a counter-directional T-lug design equally adaptable to both uphill and downhill running. The lower profile maximizes the feel of the terrain without compromising the Fulcrum Technology's ability to increase propulsion. A durable waterproof mud guard protects the runner's feet from harsh wilderness elements including creek crossings, rocks and roots while the faster transition through the gait-cycle makes it easier to flee from angry moose."

Weight (M) 9.0 oz (255 g)
Heights: Midsole heel/forefoot: 16 / 8 mm ; Outsole : 2.5 mm

For my money, this is the shoe I will have on my feet when I go off-road.  It should be for you as well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon Atrocity - A Few Thoughts

I had a Boston Marathon viewing recap all written in my head. It was going to tell the compelling story of Ana Dulce FĂ©lix who made the women’s race extremely interesting for a while. Then I was going to talk about how Jason Hartmann, with two top-four finishes in a row at Boston, is unsponsored. Then, well, it happened. 

*Big Breath*

Some raced to be the first to give the body count or provide unconfirmed information so that they can…actually, I have no idea why people feel the need to do that. Others just wanted to know what was going on. Were their loved ones OK? Did they catch whoever did it? Are we really in the midst of another major marathon being embroiled in a tragic loss of life and liberty?

It was a tale of two different races: one that led us up to 4:09:43 and then the one after. As I heard friends and acquaintances doing what they could to take proud stances, refusing to be intimidated, I thought about what was really going on.  These bold “we are runners and won’t be deterred” ideas were a little offbase.  Sure, the atrocity hit during the Boston Marathon – the granddaddy of them all.  But the bombs didn’t target runners. They targeted pedestrians. Fans. Those who stand on the sideline and cheer the runners on. It is egotistical to think that we need to boast about how long runs make us tough and setbacks are parts of our lives.  These explosions or attacks (presumably) were meant to devastate large groups of people.  The Boston Marathon just happened to be a place where large groups of people would be together with the world watching.

It is also not about the city of Boston or the United States alone.  This was attack on not only the 27,000 people running the race and the half a million spectators lining the course, but the 96 different countries represented by its runners. This was attack on everyone.

Think about when someone tries to harm you or cut you down. You fight back.  But if they do the same to someone you love, the old Mama Bear instincts kick in and you lose your crap, so to speak. Whoever did this atrocious, heinous and cowardly deed wanted to indiscriminately hurt you, the others “you”s from around the world and all the people who support you. This was attack on your family, both the one created by blood and the one created by sweat equity.

When  Sandy hit NYC last fall and the marathon was cancelled, due in no small part to potential threats from those hurt towards the supposedly spoiled runners, as a community we were shocked. Undoubtedly, there was going to be a selfish person or two who would only think of the hard work they put into the race and of no one else. However, 99.9% of the other runners were dismayed that people could see us this way. As a clan, a family, runners are some of the kindest, giving and charitable people on the planet. Call us weird for running in the snow or at night or for 100 miles or more. Call us obsessed with the latest shoe or watch. But calling us out on our temperament was the thing that stung most.

Yet here in Boston, videos and report show runners who just finished, or who were about to finish, rushing to the scene of the explosions. They weren’t running away but rather toward the danger.  Apparently, while not confirmed, some runners kept right on running to hospitals in case blood was needed. Mind you, these are people who just ran 26.2 miles. They are depleted, wrecked and often without the energy to stand.  But they forgot about their chafed body parts and dehydration because some else needed help.  While the Boston Marathon is set up to handle all kinds of maladies from the race itself, and I am sure they have more than a few doctors and nurses there, it is not a M*A*S*H* unit. There is video of runners, some doctors, some nurses, and others who have done something in the medical field, immediately helping while still wearing a bib number.

There is so much left to find out about this but honestly there really is never going to be enough answers. If you are looking for the answer to the question of “Why did this happen?” as the young son of a friend asked his mom (who just so happened to be running the race) you are never going to get a satisfactory answer.  None will justify the dozens seriously injured and the at least three who have died.

I heard someone say the world is gone to the wackos. I say it is the exact opposite.  The world is a fine and caring place which is populated with billions of good people. Unfortunately, their acts are often undocumented and build over time (Just look at this list of people in Boston opening up their homes to people who may have no way to recover their belongings or were evacuated from hotels.) No, it is the fanatic, pitiful few who have to be heard in loud brutal ways. Their acts grab the spotlight but often fade away. Violence and terror inevitably grab out attention because of their nature.  But our nature, as humans, is to cope and move onward. Those natures prevail.

Now, even after saying this is not about runners, I have to recant a bit.  You know what – it sure as hell is about the runners.  This is the Boston freaking Marathon.  These are MY people. These are the ones I can identify with the most.  Someone asked me if I knew anyone who was running today. I said, yes.  I know all 27,000 of them.  I might not know their name and I might not have even met them but I know their struggle.  I know the sacrifices they have made and the challenges they have overcome. I am one with them.  Meet a runner and instantly you know you have something to talk about for hours.

So I take all of this extremely personally.

While obviously infinitesimally smaller than what happened at 9/11, the events in Boston immediately took me back to that tragic day (I touch on this in my second book at greater length.) I remembered how I coped with what happened when nothing else seemed to work – I went for a run. Unfortunately, I got a foot infection the other day swelling my foot to twice its normal size. I couldn’t stand on it yesterday.  It is far better now but no running for a day or two.  And it is absolutely freaking killing me. I know changing my profile picture doesn’t do anything to help anyone.  I have limited to zero belief in prayer to do the same. But running could at least help me out a bit.

I have run Boston on two separate occasions. I have often said I don’t like to repeat races too often simply because there are so many other races in the world to enjoy. Well, I have a feeling I will be there next year. I need to create a better, much more wholesome and more recent memory than the one that is sitting with me now.

This one sucks.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Be an Iron Person

The fact that long-distance running is hard on the body is hardly a novel idea. Of course, by “hard”, I do not mean “detrimental.” Let’s nip the “running is hard on your knees” people in the bud right now. What I am talking about is that running can exact a toll from you but one that pays you back in dividends later - if you simply take care of yourself. Even if you are doing things right, however, there are many things we aren’t even aware we are doing wrong which can make “taking care of yourself” difficult. An example of this, which has been brought to my attention recently, revolves around problems with iron.
Talking with Pam Reed, legendary ultrarunner and mutual fan of eating lean beef.

Iron itself is important for us endurance athletes as it binds to oxygen, which is then circulated through the lungs and to the muscles we use to power us. The downside of this is that our bodies are rather inefficient in absorbing the iron we ingest (only about 15%), with distance runners trying their best to deplete even that 15% nearly every time they go for a long hard run. The case of iron loss is even more severe with female runners, due to their genetic make-up.

Even more common than iron deficiency is iron depletion from low ferritin stores. A runner I know recently went through a long bout of declining performances, heavy legs, muscular tightness and a loss of motivation. As conditions worsened, she gave up running completely. Initial tests made her and her doctors think that something very sinister was afoot with even talk of Parkinson’s. Fortunately, further tests revealed she was simply having a hard time digesting iron and her stores were at ridiculously low levels. Added to that was the fact she was gluten intolerant. So even if she had been paying attention to her iron in a way most of us might, chances are she wasn’t getting enough. As she was trying to get her iron through cereals and the like (which do not traditionally have the best type of iron digested by the body) she was putting her body through tough spots without even knowing it.

First food I wanted after running 202 miles? Steak!
So she changed her diet, added beef (known to be one of the most easily digestible iron sources out there) and ran some of the fastest times of her life. Personally, when I am feeling worn down and a little tired I do a little check.  Chances are I haven't been taking in as much iron and protein as I should have been.  So I throw a steak on the grill and soon I am feeling great again.

The main point is that even when you are doing things right, and are often paying attention to your diet, you can forget some of the things you need in order to function at high level.

As runners, we cannot afford to be so forgetful.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gorge Waterfalls 50k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 6th Edition 
1 mile skied, 5 miles biked and 80.4 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Gorge Waterfalls 50k
Place: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, OR
Miles from home: 30 miles
Weather: 60-70s; sunny

As a resident of Portland for rapidly approaching a year (wow, really?!) I realized a bit ago I had not yet raced a single race in my new state. In addition, I had not taken advantage of the wonderful Columbia Gorge and all the gorgeous places one can run there. Not doing so is mostly because of my traveling schedule but somewhat because I hate driving to run. When there is so much awesomeness near your doorstep it is hard to justify driving 30 miles to find other such awesomeness.  I like my car but I like running more. However, I decided to remedy both of those deficiencies when I signed up for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k.

Given sort of a journalists entry into the race (which sold out in 75 minutes!) I wanted to do the best I could to describe the race for others while also looking to push myself to compete. As such, I going to break this recap into two different sections. The first will be to describe the race itself, and the second will be to describe my race specifically. I think far too many recaps for trail and/or ultras leave so much to be desired in terms of describing the course for those who may not be able to run on it beforehand, so I want to remedy that.


The Race Course:

My stance on beautiful vistas during races is fairly well-known: for the most part I do not care. If I am racing, I rarely see more than a few feet in front of me. In the Little Grand Canyon Marathon, a race I was fortunate enough to win (and a picture of the race around mile 25 graces the cover of my second book) I barely noticed the unbelievable beauty until post-race. Having said that, there are a select few races where I do indeed notice the scenery around me. As such, I can say without equivocation that the beauty of the Gorge Waterfalls 50k is jaw-dropping. In fact, there was no shortage of relatively competitive runners stopping mid-race simply to take picture after picture.With regards to eye-pleasingness, the race probably has few equals out there.

Of course, some of the beauty is hard to enjoy simply because of the nature of the course. While not an overly technical trail, it is run on a trail that does not exude the buttery smoothness of so many of Oregon's other trails. Rather, it is indeed tough on the footing in some areas. It is also rather twisty and turny through most of the sections, leaving runners with amply opportunities to twist ankles. In other words, one must be a little careful while enjoying the scenery not to become part of it. Granted this is true of virtually any race but is is even more so here.

The course is a simple out-and-back of ~15 plus miles. Different distances were accounted from different GPS watches and the race's stance on the absolute exactness of the distance of the course is wonderfully stated: "...if the course is not exactly 50k and this will upset you please do not do the race." That's exactly how I feel when a race has a cutoff time that some people feel is too strict.  If you don't like it, it is not as if it is the only game in town. Like just about everything the people at Rainshadow Running do, this is great.

The course can basically be broken into 4 distinct parts.

Part One:

Starting at the Benson State Park, the first section begins with a quick one mile jog around a pond fed by the Wahkeena Creek. A word of caution: about 100 yards into the race there is a small narrow footbridge.  If being in the first few to cross this unimpeded is important to you, I would sprint to the front. I got caught in a bit of a bottle neck that I never expected on a trail race. After this jaunt around the pond, you traverse through a parking lot and up onto a trail which runs parallel to where your car is parked. Enjoy this slightly rolling section because before long you will be hitting the biggest climb of the day (well, until you have to do it again coming back at the end, that is.) In the next mile and a half, give or take, you will go up ~1500 feet of switchbacks and climbs which bring basically everyone to a walk. Some people will still insist on doing that silly hopping-up-and-down-as-they-try-to-simulate-running-but-are-going-no-faster-than-you-walking-and-burning-three-times-the-energy trot. Let them. Save your energy.

Part of this section going up is on well-packed dirt, and some on a little more technical footing. You will be completely shaded against any sun, and probably most of any such rain that may fall by the abundance of glorious trees.

Cresting this mountain, you want to just let fly and for a while you can.  The footing is relatively fine and while the track is a bit narrow with some harrowing falls to the side, if you are vigilant you can pick up some time lost going up the mountain. Throughout the remainder of this downhill (and a short but slightly unexpected other set of switchbacks) is the area with both the beauty and the danger I mentioned above. Even with basically ideal footing conditions like we had on race day, there is a need to pay heed here. As you pass Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, Multnomah Falls, Oneonta Falls and tons of other gorgeous rivulets which may not even have names, there are some tricky sections. I took a few sharp stones to the heels and balls of my feet that made me wince. Later on, thinking of the few brave souls wearing sandals or (I swear to god) aqua socks, I wondered how long they would be out of commission.

When you get over the most technical portion of this downhill, you are treated to some screaming downhills on asphalt.  These are also a tad bit tricky for two reasons.  The first being that the switchback nature of them rarely allow you a chance to build up a full head of steam before needing to break your ankles a bit to go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Also, even at this early in the morning, if you are blessed with beautiful being-outside weather, you will have a plethora of hikers and tourists "clogging" the path a bit. Many are courteous but the random dog on a long-leash not being paid special attention to can make for a quick end to your race. Lots of credit to the pedestrians who made an effort to allow runners to pass and for those cheering us on as well.

Part Two:

After finishing the switchbacks, you pop out onto a short trail before running down onto the road to the first of two aid stations which you will hit twice. Very adequately stocked with all sorts of food you would expect at an ultra there are volunteers more than willing to fill your bottle or pack or what have you to speed you on your way. There is also a portapotty here and a place where you could leave a drop bag if necessary. All top-notch stuff here.

Photo by Takao Suzuki
Just as soon as you enter the road you leave it again and head back to the trail. The next four miles contain some of the most runnable sections of the trail that you will encounter all day. While the footing can be a little dicey in spots (e.g., you cross what appears to be a rock slide in one 25 yard section) the vast majority of this section allows you to thoroughly enjoy the woods. There are some places where some well-grown moss can make the footing a little slippery and I imagine on a wetter day some of the mud would be less than forgiving.

The first part of the course is known for its waterfalls. I would say this portion feels much more like a jaunt through the forest.  There are no large waterfalls in this section but there are places where the water trickles down the rocks from above. Soon the run turns into the aforementioned twisting and turning. No switchbacks to speak of but a pure trail run, leaping over a downed tree here and there, barely feeling like you are disturbing nature or that you feet are leaving any mark. Again, not a buttery smooth trail but easier to traverse than earlier.

As with the last section, this part of the course is almost entirely shaded from the sun's rays. It is also slightly cooler in the forest than it is just a few hundred yards away down on the road so it is about the best you can ask for.

After a slow but gradual downhill section you get spit out onto the road for what I think of as the third distinct part of this course.

Part Three:

This was absolutely nirvana for me. After carefully picking my way down trails and waterfalls over hill and dale, a 2ish mile section of road awaits runners before they hill the next aid station.  Mostly flat with one small rise near the aid station, this is a chance for road runners to really stretch their legs. Nothing much more to say about this other than it is a nice road with very little traffic on it. A welcome respite for some and for those who do not like road, well, you won't have to worry about it for too long.

Part Four:

After hitting another aid station as fully stocked as the first, runners will take off for the last section before turning around. This area will contain some climbs but the footing is very forgiving. This section combines the wooded wonderfulness of the second section with the waterfalls of the first.  After climbing gently for less than a mile, runners will begin a nice little section of downhill.  Before long, a quick series of switchbacks down a hill will lead to the turnaround in front of Elowah Falls. I am unsure if the race offers different ways to mark this turnaround each year so I will keep it a secret.

That's it.  Now just come back the way you came.