Chase Parnell November 18, 2011 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Run Me to Death - Page 2

You see, Smith Rock is a runner's nightmare. One exemplary trail section is called Misery Ridge, a three-quarter of a mile series of calf-killing switchbacks on loose cinder rock. Smith Rock is located in Oregon's high desert, where the trails weave around bulbous outcroppings and tall and orange-hued rock spires and scraggly juniper trees and sage brush dot the landscape.

If Rod's pace didn't do me in, then Smith Rock's poor footing and rugged terrain surely would. A classic over-analyzer and pessimist, I went to sleep that night anticipating the worst.

My pessimism deepened when I awoke on Saturday morning to freezing rain and ice-covered ground. But neither Rod nor I was going to bail, even if it were hailing fire balls. We began with a two-mile gradual climb up a singletrack trail that instantly put me into oxygen debt. My nose hairs froze and feet spun out on the ice as I jumped from rock to rock, trying in vain to achieve some kind of rhythm.

After just 20 minutes, my hands were as numb as if they were submerged in an ice bath. I worried about frostbite and the possibility of amputation. If only I could've married before becoming an amputee, I thought. I wondered why Rod wasn't complaining about his hands. Then I noticed the half-inch-long "booger-cicle" hanging from Rod's nose. I stifled a laugh and relaxed a little.

We descended into a 100-foot-wide slot between sheer red-rock walls that Rod called Cougar Canyon, where mud glommed onto our shoes like wet cement. Rod recounted the story of running here a few years back, when he came upon a freshly killed cow. The cow's right-shoulder skin was pulled away from the muscle and fresh blood gushed from the wound. Rod realized that he had interrupted the feast of Oregon's most-feared predator. Not wanting to be a second dish, Rod took off down the trail, screaming like a little girl to scare off the unseen cougar. Listening to this harrowing tale, I added a fear of becoming cougar kill to my list of worries.


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