I’ve never been a big believer in the “couples that play together, stay together” concept.  To have a healthy relationship I think you need to spend quality time together and apart.   Yoshimi and I enjoy many of the same activities, but we have also tried to cultivate separate interests.  Even though running has had an incredibly positive affect on my life, I’ve never tried to push it upon her.  I did once talk her into joining me on my sister’s Hood to Coast team.  It was a fun couple of days, but after we arrived in Seaside, Yoshimi declared she would never run again.  While it’s common to make such proclamations after a difficult experience, she was serious and did not run a single step in the next ten years.

Since then she’s been extremely supportive of my running obsession-cheering me on at races in Tokyo, Montana and Buenos Aires, but has showed no sign of changing her mind.  It wasn’t until I started doing more trail running that I noticed her interest slowly starting to blossom.  One day out of the blue she said that she wondered what it was like to run through the woods like a wild animal.  That’s when I knew she was coming around.  A few days later I came home from work to see a brand new pair of Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes.  Hmmm, I wonder who wears size 7 in this apartment.

Remaining true to her strong mindedness, Yoshimi has no interest in racing and will only run on trail, as opposed to me, who will run on anything: trail, road, sidewalk, treadmill, track.  I’ve even run up-and-down airport concourses during extended layovers.  You should try it.  Everyone just assumes you’re running to catch a flight.

Portland is a great place to be a trail running purist or surface snob, as she likes to call herself.  There are dozens of trails less than a 15 minute drive from our apartment.  Nevertheless, I thought it would be fun to go away for a trail running weekend.  Nothing more romantic than a weekend of mud and sweat, I say.

We decided to rent a cabin in Champoeg State Park, 40 minutes south of Portland.  We timed the trip to correspond with the Oregon Road Runners Club’s Champoeg 30K(18.6 miles).  There was also a 10k, which is part of their 10k Series-7 races for $90, a pretty sweet deal.  Unfortunately this series has become so popular that a large percentage of the state park permit limits are filled with series participants.  This year only 29 of us 30k-ers were able to signup before the quota was filled.

Once again the weather turned out to be decent–no rain, not too cold.  During the first mile I struck up a conversation with a guy named Eric Kelso (chatting with other runners during long races is a great strategy for not going out at too fast a pace).  Eric and I talked about past and futures races.  It turns out that he is also a fan of destination marathons and we discovered that we both ran the Tokyo Marathon last February.  He’s also run marathons in Singapore, New York, Bangkok, Chicago, Berlin and Boston.  Before we knew it we were already at the halfway point.  I decided to pick up the pace a bit, but was sad to leave Eric behind, knowing that running is so much easier when you have someone interesting  to talk to.

With all the 10k-ers already finished, the course was nearly empty and kind of lonely.  I cranked it up to a 7 minute per mile pace and felt pretty good.  My stress fracture now seemed like a long ways away.  I crossed the line in 2 hours 15 minutes and finished in 2nd place overall.  Placing well in a race I’ve realized is not just a matter of running fast, but also choosing one with less participants.  Now if I can just  find a race where I’m the only runner, than victory will finally be mine.

After the race we checked into the rustic little cabin.  It’s located right along the Willamette River and connected to miles of biking and hiking trails.  We spent the rest of the day reading, writing, walking and relaxing.

For dinner Yoshimi made one of her classic Japanese nabe hot pot stews.  This perfect post-race meal is nourishing, warming, hydrating and delicious.  Afterwards we crawled into our sleeping bags and slipped into a deep cozy winter coma.

The next morning we woke up to clear skies and decided to  drive out to Silver Falls State Park.  I had been dying to return to this wonderful park since running a half marathon there in November.  This time the park was covered in a fresh blanket of snow, making the whole place seem even more magical.  My legs were still sore from the race, so I left the running shoes behind, but Yoshimi attacked the trails like a wild animal.  Later the sun came out, illuminating the falls and brightening everyone’s spirits.

On the way back from Silver Falls we stopped off in Woodburn for a bite to eat.  There are dozens of little Mexican restaurants in town, but we decided to check out the Guacamole Market, a place recommended in an Oregonian article on the best taquerias in the outer Portland metro area.  We walked in the door and immediately the sights, sounds and smells transported us to a local mercado in rural Mexico.  Though it wasn’t on the menu, we ordered a tlayuda, a giant tortilla covered in meat, cheese, veggies, salsa and other goodies.  This Oaxacan specialty is the size and shape of a giant pizza-easily enough for two and a bargain at $10.99.  It was the perfect end to our first romantic running weekend.  I look forward to many happy returns.

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