The Running Highlight of my Summer?

After my second year of volunteering as a counselor for cross country camp, all I can say to college runners is: GO.  You will have a fabulous time, break up the monotony that sometimes comes with running over 50 miles a week, and focus your training on the upcoming season, inspired by the new friends you have made.  Here are, in no particular order, the reasons that I love White Pass and will tell anyone who will listen how fun it was.

  • Breathtaking views around every corner.  Morning runs have us running around Leech Lake, a picturesque (albeit mosquito-infested) lake surrounded by trails and pine trees, and dotted with fishermen.  Ta-daaa!
  • Breaking out into random dancing is not only acceptable, but encouraged.  It doesn’t matter if it is a choreographed dance, a flash mob, or a line dance; by the end of the week the campers will be wondering whether counselors are there to run or to dance.
  • Training at 4500+ feet throughout the week.  I will say, this makes a great excuse for various things, from bad runs to bad hair “…it’s the elevation!”
  • Meeting great high school cross country runners, and being reminded where it all began.  I worked with a couple teams who talked about tie dye parties, team sleepovers, pasta dinners, and putting matching ribbons in their hair and it just made me go “Awww I remember that!”
  • Meeting other college runners and swapping stories about terrible freshmen years, living in the dorms, roommates, and such.
  • Making new friends and bonding over the lack of sleep.  It’s amazing how hilarious other people can seem when you all are running on 5-6 hours of sleep per night.  This is probably one of the reasons that our table at mealtimes was constantly laughing, and why our camp skit sometimes doesn’t seem as funny a couple weeks later on well-rested eyes.
  • Running and more running and more running.  Hands down, easiest week ever to run 50 miles.  Running twice a day with new people every time, and new routes means it’s never hard to get going on that run you were supposed to do today…
  • Running up a freaking mountain.  Normal people might use a chairlift; we use our legs (and our legs know it, trust me).
  • Playing super fun camp games like Jenga, volleyball, and four square.  Not to mention eating peaches as fast as you can and watching kids eat half a cup of dry oatmeal.

I could go on and on, but I won’t because I probably should run now, before it starts thundering again.  Parting words, however, are that every year after camp, I come home exhausted, but strangely motivated, with a new focus for my summer training and with my eyes fixed on the coming cross country season.  I am reminded why I love running, and how running truly does bring people together.  Even though I did not go to high school in Washington, and can’t swap stories with other Washington runners about the state meet of 2008, I could still appreciate the fact that all of us are fellow runners, who devote hours of our time to an activity most reserve for fleeing cops or catching buses. As Brooks would say, “Run happy.”

On Washington and Running

Well, it has certainly been a while.  Although, I do have a valid excuse why I have not written a blog post in nearly a month.  First of all, I was not actually in Oxford for many of those days, and I didn’t think it would be fitting to write a blog post for a blog about Oxford on a topic not relating to Oxford (which I am about to do…whoops).  Secondly, for at least one of those weeks I was away, I didn’t have access to Internet, seeing as I was away at the best running camp ever, and I didn’t bring a computer so I could soak up as much of the running camp awesomeness as I could.  It worked.

So being away from the Oxbox was pretty strange at first, actually.  I could drive everywhere I needed to go; I was eating real food for every meal; I didn’t have to work every day.  Man, it was the life.  I just hung out, ran, and ran errands in the super fun state of Washington.  Slight sarcasm there, but really, it was nice.  Coming from Ohio, in which I had to run on the treadmill more than once this week to avoid the scorching heat, it was utterly pleasant to be able to run whatever time I desired and be certain it would only be a brisk 60 degrees.  And I could had to work some hills on every run, seeing as they are absolutely everywhere.  It was easy to hit my mileage for the weeks I was in Washington just because I wanted to do all my favorite runs before I had to leave.  And I did. 🙂

On my last day in Washington, I had a long run on tap.  I had just gotten back from camp the day before, so after sleeping for a million hours, I headed up to Port Gamble, the cutest little logging town ever, to do 11 miles.  That morning, it was thundering like crazy, which let me tell you, is the only thing people talk about when it happens in Western Washington, because it never happens.  By the time I went for my run, it had cleared up, but it was still classic WA weather: cloudy, moderate temperature, and kind of foggy, with pops of sunshine here and there.  Ever since I started running at Port Gamble, I have wanted to take a camera out there to capture some of the views that this massive expanse of trails affords, but I never actually did it.  Until my very last run there.  I started out my run with a kind of crappy camera, and 11 miles and almost 90 minutes later, I had over 60 pictures taken.  Despite the quantity of pictures that I took, I still don’t think that they do the trails justice.  I start out my runs at the North side of the trails, by the espresso stand, and wind my way up the old logging roads that are now double track trails, until I get to the “top.”  At first, I feel like I am running through Jurassic Park, because of the dense overgrowth and abundance of ferns (the creepy fog doesn’t help), and then as I climb up the deadly second mile (all uphill), I get bits of Twilight with some peeks of sunshine and wildflowers from time to time.  When I finally reach the top, it levels out, and the trail straightens, where I can relax and enjoy the run for a little bit rather than just trying to make it up the hill without dying (just kidding, I love it).  The fifth mile has me doing some S-curves, all of which look the same, before I start to go down a hill, which is kind of depressing, because I know I am just going to have to turn around and go right back up it.  I turn, do the whole thing backwards (downhill whoooo!) and finish with a loop around the picturesque touristy town with great views of some large body of water (Hood Canal? Puget Sound? One of those Washington-y sounding things).  

 

And the best/worst running place in Washington is…Pioneer Hill.  I must confess, I didn’t actually run here this time, but I have run it many times in the past.  Last summer, I virtually lived on this hill.  A half mile of straight hill, not gradual in any respect, and it just keeps going.  You get halfway up and think “Man, this hill should be ending soon.”  Nope.  It keeps going.  I took a picture to commemorate the sight of the hill from the bottom, which is enhanced when you’ve done 5-6 miles and you’re kind of tired, then you see the hill and realize you have at least a mile and a half to go until you get home and just think “What the…*expletive*”.  Super fun, let me tell you.

Again, the picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but please note you cannot actually see the summit from where this picture was taken.

Since I am so behind on blogging, and I have a good deal more to say about running and my adventures here and beyond, I will save the rest of my ramblings for another couple posts.  Next post: on my love affair with White Pass XC Camp, and why pictures from this camp become my screen saver every year right after camp because I don’t want to stop thinking about how much fun it was.  So yeah.