Rogue River: Testing Endurance

We went round and round about this trip. Forty miles in two days along the magnificent Rogue River in Oregon… The last time I completed a long back-to-back trip was on the Eastern Loop on Mt Rainier, and I ended up injured for two months post-adventure. I had struggled with our previous trip on Silver Star (see previous post), and I hadn’t been able to train much due to my work being crazy. We had an alternate plan that we could opt in to, but we didn’t seem too excited about a beach fastpack in May. Rogue River had it all; minimal elevation gain, maintained trails, extraordinary scenery, and garunteed dinner complete with beer! Friends were rafting the river, and had invited us to rendezvous at their campsite. They were able to carry our primary gear (tent, sleeping bags, pads) so all we had to carry was replenishment food, water, first aid, and a spare clothing layer. It seemed like a no-brainer.

We made the choice. We would start at Grants Pass, camp with friends at the Rogue Ranch, and end at Foster Bar. I was excited and nervous, but confident I could do this. We made the decision that we would make this a fun trip, keeping the pace slow, stop to stretch often, and communicate honestly about how I was feeling. I was feeling euphoric!

We had twenty-two miles to cover on day one. This was the furthest I’d gone in one day. My goal was to maintain a mere three miles per hour, including stops. I started off strong, but soon realized that when you’re stopping to replenish water often so you don’t have as much weight to carry, and stopping to stretch to ensure you don’t get injured, this can be a challenging pace for someone at my skill level. But with views like this, you tend to forget about miles per hour and just smile while doing the best you can….

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By mile seven on day one my hips were screaming at me. Why didn’t I think to do some runs with weight on my back? I was only carrying ten pounds, but on a frame like mine, an additional ten pounds is a lot! I popped some ibuprofen and held my pigeon stretches a little longer on our quick breaks.

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I must have been doing something right, because I couldn’t stop smiling! I felt strong, even knowing my weakness. I was thinking back to when I could barely run three miles in a day. How far I’ve come! I felt like a rockstar without the hangover. Who wouldn’t feel amazing running along this river?

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I was proud of myself and my calorie replenishment planning. I had lots of gels, Nuun, high protein bars, jerky, and even the new “baby food” packets made for runners. I never knew pureed sweet potatoes with sea salt could taste so good! Even with my planning, I still ended up dehydrated on day one. I realized this when we had been going for 6 hours and I still hadn’t peed… whoops… mental note to drink a liter of water when we arrive to camp, and another liter the morning after before we hit the trails again.

We got to camp and met up with our friends around 5:30pm (we got a late start!) and I realized at that time that it hurt more to sit than to stand. Muscles were tight. My feet were sore. I felt amazing.

I ate enchiladas and drank beer that evening. Friends were going on about how crazy we were to run so far… I kept saying things like “We didn’t run the whole time!” or “It took us almost eight hours to go 22 miles!” I should have just acknowledged that what we accomplished was pretty amazing, and not many people out there did what we did that day.

My pad in our tent never felt so comfortable. I don’t even remember falling asleep, but I did wake up with the sunrise, which was sadly a little annoying. My coat over my face helped me get a little more rest. I won’t deny, I didn’t feel too guilty when I heard the rest of the camp up and making breakfast. Typically I’m the one helping and pulling my weight with work, but I was tired, sore, and hungry!

Our friends made an amazing breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and sausage, which we graciously devoured as we packed up our gear. Soon we were back on the trail, with a lesser 18.5 mile day ahead of us!

Inspiration point was probably my favorite part of our trip. A waterfall, amazing trails blasted into the rock wall along the river, and stunning views in all directions made this area true to it’s name…

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I was giddy. This is why I endure the pain of gaining strength each week. This is why I run, why I love adventure, and why I push my body to adapt.

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By mile fifteen on day two my feet felt like they had been beaten with a baseball bat. When I thought about it, they had been beaten with rocks for two days, so it didn’t seem crazy that they hurt so much. I am used to sitting at a desk or in a car for fifty hours a week, so a few “training runs” here and there certainly wouldn’t prepare me for pounding my feet into rock laden trails for eight hours a day, two days in a row. At this point in our trip, I was doing that awesome “walk-run” move that you see women do in their velour pants at 2pm around Starbucks with a latte in hand. Except, I didn’t have a latte, and I still had 3.5 miles to go…

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Once again, the scenery helped me forget about the pain I was in, and I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other until we got back to my car. I had to walk that last mile along the road, but I didn’t care. I was still smiling, and so excited that I made it. I was excited about the opportunities that I had because of this trip. I was excited to go home to keep running, to continue training, and to research our next adventure. I was excited to know that I had so many adventure options, knowing that I was able to accomplish the miles, and knowing that I can get so much stronger with more training.

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My goal is to make this trip an annual event, and to become faster every time. Well, maybe not faster, but less strenuous. Why would you want to make this traverse faster when you have such breathtaking views along the entire trail?

The Rogue River now has a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to hear her sweet melody along the trail again. The Rogue River helped me discover a lot about myself, and taught me a lot about what to expect in a back-to-back adventure run. This adventure built my confidence, as well as my motivation for future challenges. This may have been the best forty miles of my life to date!

Cheers to the next adventure, the next challenge, and the next mile!

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