Adventures of Oregon Laura Through rain, through darkness, through spiders, through bears, 26.2 here I come!
Posted By:Laura Luksich
Posted On:Oct 7 2010 3:08PM

With less than two weeks to go before the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon, our long runs are finally done!  Even though we had a month off between the SOB 50K and starting training again for this marathon, I feel like I haven’t been able to go out for a quick 3 mile run in quite a while. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the accomplishment of running for hours and covering double digit miles.  The part I don’t like is planning my life around the hours and miles I need to fit in.  No, I am not giving up running, and yes, I am looking forward to a casual 10 miler on Sundays here and there, but only if we all have time.  I look forward to testing out new foods, clothing, and shoes on short runs so I don’t have to pay the price of quarter sized blisters on a long run if the shoes don’t fit correctly (oh yes, I made that mistake!)

In training for this marathon, Brooke, Kouba, and I have done three long runs (15+ miles).  Courtney is an all star and has done many more than that.  The four of our schedules have been conflicting.  Courtney has had to do many of her longer runs on her own, but the strong woman she is, powered through every single one of them.

In the beginning of September, Brooke, Kouba, and I headed out for our first long run of 18 miles.  I don’t think we’ve ever complained so much in the course of three hours.  It was the weekend after Hood to Coast, and I think that race took a lot more out of us than we thought.  We purposely chose a route that had about 10 miles of mostly flat fire road and then the remaining eight miles were downhill on the trails – the first 18 miles of the Lithia Loop marathon, run backwards.  We were all aching, stiff, and just couldn’t get going.  Deep down, I was worried.  I was thinking this was supposed to be an “easy” 18 miles, mostly downhill, and I am having serious issues.

Two more weeks passed, and Brooke and I were back at it for another long run.  Kouba had since been diagnosed with Achilles Tendinitis and advised to not run – that wasn’t going to stop her, but she wasn’t going to do the long distances anymore.  The morning of our 20 miler, I woke up to pouring rain.  Brooke and I met, drove up to the Toothpick trailhead only to find it doesn’t get light outside until after 6:20am.  Between the two of us, we probably own ten headlamps – none of them were in our cars.  We started out that run in the dark and quiet.  It was a  little nerve racking when I let my mind wander … what other animals are out in the predawn hours (especially after seeing the sign for a cougar sighting on the trailhead)… but we were sure to keep the conversation going.  After an hour, the rain let up and we paused to watch the gorgeous sunrise before us – and not even five minutes later, the down pour hit.  We ran for two and a half more hours in a complete down pour.  (Sara, Kouba, and Courtney met us for part of it.)  When we got back to the car, we were both soaking wet, cold, and mentally drained, but we agreed, we felt great running.  Maybe it was the rain, a distraction from the running, I’m not sure, but I know I was happy again to be running (and rejoicing that non-cotton running apparel was invented).

Soaking wet, but enjoying the sunrise.

The following week (September 26), Brooke went camping.  Courtney, Kouba, Sara and I meet for our Sunday run.  Another blow to Kouba – besides being advised to not run, she was leading the four of us on the trails when she was bit, we think, by a spider.  None of us saw it.  She said it was big enough that when she pulled it off her leg she felt its body. (yuck!)  Kouba had some pretty thick tights on that morning, and she had two fang marks on her inner thigh above her knee.  In Oregon, we are in the land of Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders. 
We start going over symptoms (increased heart rate, heavy breathing, sweating… oh wait, that’s running) and carry on our run.  The bite proceeds to swell and we check it every five minutes.  Thankfully, the swelling started to go down and Kouba and Sara decided to cut their run short, just in case.  I carried on with Courtney for another hour and then she went off to finish up her last long run totaling 23 miles.

Last week, I had a 23 miler on the schedule for myself.  I knew I was going to be out of town for the weekend, so my only option was to run back to back 10-12 milers during the week.  Wednesday, I headed to the trails around Ashland.  My plan: run 11 hilly trail miles just outside of town.  In the first hour, I saw a large brown/black mass shuffle across the trail about 30 feet in front of me.  It took me a minute, and I think it took the large black mass a minute too, but I realized it was a bear and he scurried off into a dead tree. 

(not my picture, but this sure is what it looked like!)
I turned around, walked in the opposite direction, and tried to calm my breathing down.  I wasn’t way up on the mountain this time and this was no bear cub.  I was probably less than 50 yards from a house – on a ditch trail on the edge of town.  After I calmed down a bit, I got angry at the bear (even though he has more right to be there than I do).  I had my entire run planned out and wasn’t even half way done yet.  The tree he was hiding in was right on the trail.  I decided to be brave and stubborn – I headed back on the trails clapping and yelling, walking slow.  I scared up a few deer and kept going.  Then, I saw him again - staring at me from the tree, not too high off the ground.  Arrrrghhh!  He hadn’t run off yet.  My bravery turned to – I want to see my family again and not get mauled by a bear – so I had to adjust my route a bit and carry on.  My new route involved one full mile of steep hill that feels like it just keeps going forever.  I usually do everything I can to avoid this climb, and if I have to complete it, I promise myself walk breaks.   My adrenaline must have been pumping, I was sure to be loud, clapping my hands and singing the entire way to the top (of course fearing every noise and grasshopper that flew in front of me) but before I knew it, I had conquered the hill.  So, in the end, I thank the bear for being there.  That was a great hill to climb, and I worked my butt off to get to the top – and the animal lover I am thinks it’s pretty cool to see a bear in the wild. 

The next day, I ran about 12 miles of hilly highway just outside of Medford.  It was a hot 80+ degrees.  I ran out of water.  No shade.  I was aching.  I was by myself and not happy.  I kept saying – this is it.  This is the last long run for a while.  Soon I will be crossing that finish line at 26.2 miles.  Saying a mantra over and over again in the midst of a miserable run really does work (even if the cars going past me think I’m crazy talking to myself).  I made it, without stopping, the full 12 hilly miles.

On the schedule are a few five milers and one more 10 miler this weekend.  Hopefully no more rain, cougars, bears, or spider bites.  I am really looking forward to the 26.2 finish line with the firemen holding my Tiffany’s necklace…

Coming up:
Shoes! -  Brooks, Montrail, Columbia, TrekSta
The versatile Chariot Jogging Strollers!
Taking care of blisters.
San Francisco – 26.2

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