Author: zach

Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the West Loop FKT

Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the West Loop FKT

On August 21st 2022, I visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park for the second time in my life. I previously visited the park on a cross country road trip (visiting Ohio from Washington) on December 15th 2017. This time the pretense was the same, I was 

Winter 50K “Warm Ups”

Winter 50K “Warm Ups”

Capitol Peak 50K I started off the year with two semilocal 50K races in order to start increasing my long run distance and get myself warmed up for longer distance races of the spring. I like to have a balanced mix of big “A” races 

Southeast Florida Expedition

Southeast Florida Expedition

Apryle and I traveled from Seattle to West Palm Beach on December 3rd 2021. Her parents picked us up at the airport and we traveled north to the town of Stuart, where we would be staying for the next week.

Day 1: December 4 2021

I went for a moderate run along a sand spit called Hutchinson Island and did a quick out and back over the causeway to Sewall’s Point. The birding was interesting with several unique-looking shorebirds and wading birds, but the route was mainly on the road and uneventful. Hutchinson Island is a 24-mile island that consists of two barrier islands that are separated by Fort Pierce Inlet.

Sand Spit Run: 12.08 miles 1:32:02

Later that afternoon we all went to Johnathon Dickinson State Park, which at 10,500 acres is the largest state park in southeast Florida. There are numerous natural communities such as coastal sand hills, upland lakes, and scrub forest. One of the main features of the park is the Loxahatchee River. While at the park we did a few interpretive walks including the Kitching Creek Loop.

Day 2: December 5 2021

Starting out the second day Apryle and I ran some miles across the causeways and I did some laps around Stuart.

Sand Spit Run: 14.04 miles 1:56:40

In the afternoon we explored Riverside Park, which was home to a host of interesting waterfowl and shorebirds. However, the most interesting part of the park was the 1200-meter mangrove boardwalk.

To close out the day of running I decided to do a quick 5-kilometer tempo around the retention pond in the Kingswood condominiums.

Kingswood Retention Pond Impromptu 5000m Tempo: 3.13 miles 17:47

Day 3: December 6 2021

On the third day I went for a long run along the beach of Hutchinson Island. I started at Dollman Beach and ran through several beaches on the east side of the island. Unfortunately along my northward journey I stumbled upon a nude beach at Blind Creek. After picking up the pace, I decided rather than risk another bare encounter; I would pop over to the west side of the island. I entered Vitolo Family Preserve and enjoyed the natural mangrove wetlands before finishing out the remaining miles on a hot exposed road.

Hutchinson Island Long Run: 17.23 miles 2:16:35

In the afternoon we explored the unique Seabranch State Park. This 920-acre park was shaped by ancient oceans and is home to rare habitats such as sand pine scrub, scrubby flatwoods, baygall and mangrove swamps. The terrain was quite flat and consisted of white sand with various species of cacti, succulents, palm and pines. The tall trees were mainly Slash Pine while the understory included saw palmetto, gallberry, and wax myrtle.

Day 4: December 7, 2022

The fourth day was relatively uneventful; I went for an out and back run to the Seawall and back. Then in the afternoon Apryle and I ran from Hutchinson Island back to Stuart via the causeway after a morning at the beach.

Stuart Seawall OAB: 6.02 miles 42:05

Hutchinson Island to Stuart: 6.06 miles 56:55

In the evening we searched amphibians and discovered an invasive Cuban Tree Frog. This was a very fun sighting, but unfortunately they are leading to the decline of native tree frog populations.

Day 5: December 8, 2022

By vacation standards I woke up early on the fifth day and decided to go for a tempo run along the causeway in an effort to get the strava course record. I managed to take the Stuart to Seawall Causeway record (.62 3:17) and the Stuart to Hutchinson Island record (1.94 10:34).

Causeway Eastbound Tempo with Westbound Cool Down: 5.02 miles 32:37.

The remainder of the day was highlighted by wildlife sightings. The first sighting was in the form of a West Indian Manatee at the Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach. The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) is primarily herbivorous and spends up to eight hours each day grazing on seagrass and other plants. They typically surface every 5 minutes to breath air but can hold their breath for upwards of 20 minutes if needed. They are quite adept at hearing high frequencies and are very buoyant due to their lung positioning. Manatees were listed as endangered in 1967 but maybe downgraded to a threatened status soon due to conservation efforts.

The second sighting was of a Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) that I spotted from the road as we were driving down the highway. The tortoise was walking the fence near the sidewalk in Karen Marcus Ocean Park Preserve. Later on we spotted yet another Gopher Tortoise in Seabranch State Park. The Gopher Tortoise is native to the southeastern United States and is considered a keystone species. It has received this designation because the burrows they dig provide shelter for over 360 other animal species. Unfortunately, despite their 40-year life expectancy, the tortoise is threatened by both predation and habitat destruction.

It belongs to the genus Gopherus, which is the only genus of tortoise native to North America. They are herbivorous and opportunistic grazers meaning they eat hundreds of different plant species. As their name suggests, they are skilled diggers and spend up to 80% lf their lives in long burrows. These burrows averages 15 feet in length and 6.5 feet in depth but some are as long as 48 feet! They are generally solitary animals that wander a four-acre area, but they are also noted to be the most social of tortoises. They live in well-defined colonies, and often dig burrows near “friends”. In fact some males travel up to 500m to visit females in their burrows.

We finished out the day with a run to pick up our rental car for the Everglades trip (4.02 36:40).

Day 6: December 9, 2022

The sixth day Apryle and I drove south to Everglades National Park. We picked up our tandem kayak at the Florida Bay Marina and started our paddle at 5:45AM. Even at 5:45AM, the sun was already burning through the sky and temperatures were in the mid 70s. It was exciting to visit a National Park in which the primary focus was not on mountainous terrain but instead a vast swamp. The expansiveness and eerie calm set the tone for an unforgettable adventure. We followed close to the shoreline as we passed by mangroves. The trees were so densely packed with colorful birds that they appeared to be decorated for Christmas with beautiful live ornaments.

As we floated by we spotted White Ibis, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Brown Pelican, and our favorite – Roseate Spoonbill. Around every corner we spotted more charismatic birds posing for the camera. What the Everglades may have lacked in topographical drama, it more than made up for in species richness.

As we rounded Christian Point en route to Gibby Point, we encountered the greatest number of shorebirds I had ever seen. We spotted flocks of American Avocet, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Short-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpipers, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, and many others. However, we noticed that the tall egrets and heron were standing tall in the water, way off in the distance. Then we looked at the birds closer up and noticed they too were standing in water with the majority of their legs showing. At this point we tried to paddle and realize that in our excitement over the birds we had neglected the receding tide.

We were minutes from being stuck in the mud flats in Florida Bay, but some quick action and kayak rocking allowed us to get free and into deep enough water to start the journey back to the marina. Although our goal was to make it to Snake Bight to find Flamingos, we were still elated to have encountered so many amazing bird species. This was undoubtedly the most incredible birding of my life. As an interesting side note, a “bight” is actually a bay (Snake Bight) within a larger bay (Florida Bay) and has nothing to do with venomous snakes.

The bay itself contains seagrass which provides habitat for federally listed species such as manatees, smalltooth swordfish, and sea turtles. The seagrasses thrive completely submerged but also need high levels of light. In addition to providing shelter for wildlife, seagrasses help maintain water quality. Florida Bay seafloor is legally designated as submerged wilderness as a part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness.

Florida Bay Kayak and Snake Bight Birding: 6.17 miles 3:03:21

After a quick break for lunch and to search for manatees in the marina, Apryle and I put the kayak back into the water, this time on the Buttonwood Canal side. Our main wildlife encounter in the canal was the American Crocodile. We paddled past ten of them varying in size from 3 feet to 12 feet. At one point we accidently paddled a little too close (within 10 feet) to a sizable crocodile, which was intimidating but not quite as dangerous as highway 95. In addition to the crocodiles, Apryle and I were excited to see all of the bromeliads and epiphytes hanging in the trees overhanging the canal. We took the canal to Coot Lake and then returned back to the marina.

Florida Bay is the largest body of water within Everglades National Park and contains over 800 square miles of marine seafloor covered in vegetation. Coastal lowlands known as coastal prairie surround the bay. This area is between the tidal mud flats and dry land and consists of shrubby salt tolerant vegetation.

We were very surprised to have only seen Crocodiles on this trip and no Alligators. Crocodiles and alligators belong the same group called crocodilians, which contains the largest living reptiles. Only 2 of the 23 total species are native to the United States, and south Florida is the only place where both of these species coexist. The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) ranges throughout the southeastern United States, but are at the southern extreme of their range in the Everglades, whereas the American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) are at northern extreme of their range.

The Buttonwood Canal is home to mangrove forest, which is a blanket term for salt-tolerant trees that thrive in harsh growing conditions along the coast. The bottonwood canal consisted of Buttonwood, red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) which are recognized by their long stilt-like roots, black mangroves, and white mangroves. Everglades National Park has the largest continuous stand of protected mangrove forest in the western hemisphere.

Buttonwood Canal to Coot Lake Kayak: 6.26 miles 2:22:04

Following a long day of paddling, my shoulders and upper back were quite sore and we decided take foot and do a few short hikes in the park on our way out.

Mahogany Hammock

Our first side trip was to a half-mile boardwalk loop hike called Mahogany Hammock. This destination is a small dense forested island, which was growing on a slightly elevated area of land in a sea of grass. It consisted of hardwood broad-leafed trees. These trees thrive because they grow on a natural rise of a few inches in elevation. Although we only visited this one, hammocks are found in many different Everglades ecosystems. There were many species of trees including mahogany, gumbo-limbo, cocoplum, live oak, red maple, and hackberry. Acids from decomposing plants dissolve limestone that surrounds each tree island and creates a natural moat, which protects them from fire, allowing the vegetation to grow tall and thick. The understory hosts many species of ferns and epiphytes.

Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout

Our second and final side trip was to Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout. Pa-Hay-Okee is the Seminole word for “River of Grass” and the name that Marjorie Stoneman Douglas gave to the Everglades when advocating for its establishment as a National Park. The Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout trail is a boardwalk path that leads to a lookout tower. From this tower there are excellent views of the wetlands, marshes, and water-filled solution holes of the Everglades. The boardwalk path is closely surrounded by Cypress trees (Taxodium species). These trees are deciduous conifers that survive in standing water. They typically grow in a dome shape with the largest trees in the center. These Cedars can live over 600 years!

Although we could have spent weeks in the park to fully explore its diverse habitats, I was extremely happy with how much we saw in just one day! Everglades National Park is such a special place and we are all fortunate that this area was set aside as a National Park.

Day 7: December 10

On our seventh and final day in Florida, Apryle and I ran to the rental car place to drop off the car and then I continued on to Stuart beach to spend a little more time in the Atlantic Ocean with Apryle and her parents. While on the run we spotted a Roseate Spoonbill in the ditch near the airport, which was quite a surprise to see it in such an urban area.

Rental Car Place to Stuart Beach: 10.02 miles 1:29:00

I closed out my time in Florida with one last walk around Witham Creek Area. Here I observed many wading birds and native vegetation before making the journey back to the temperate Pacific Northwest rain forest.

Overall it was an incredible trip, Apryle and I had an excellent time with her parents. Although I highlighted mainly running and wilderness adventures in this post, we shared many wonderful dinners and days at the beach as a family. Although, the topography is thoroughly uninteresting, the flora and fauna of the state more than make up for the lack of geographic interest.

Bird Species:

Green Heron, Cattle Egret, Northern Flicker, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Egyptian Goose, Mottled Duck, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Ring-billed Gull, White Pelican, Willet, Roseate Spoonbill, Tri-colored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Fish Crow, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Muskovy Duck, Boat-tailed Grackle, Magnificent Frigatebird, Black Skimmer, Osprey, American Avocet, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Dunlin, Fosters Tern, Long-billed Dowitcher, Short-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Gray Kingbird, and Palm Warbler.

Reptile Species:

Gopher Tortoise, Cuban Tree Frog, Cuban Anole, Cane Toad, Red-headed Rock Agama, Green Sea Turtle, and American Crocodile.

Mammals Species:

West Indian Manate.

Sawtooth Ridge 50 Miler

Sawtooth Ridge 50 Miler

The Sawtooth Ridge 50 miler was the hardest 50 I have ever run and it took place only 2 months after the previous hardest 50 miler I have ever run (Bloodroot 50). The race was initially scheduled for July of 2021, but because of the 

Bloodroot 50 Miler

Bloodroot 50 Miler

The Bloodroot 50 mile race was one of the toughest ultra trail races I have competed in to date. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate due in large part to Strive who handled all the logistics and my wife who cared 

Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Washington Traverse

Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Washington Traverse

In the build for a hundred-miler that I had signed up for in late April, I decided to put in a 40+ mile long run, but I wanted it to be on an inspiring route. Therefore, I went to strava maps and put together an interesting point to point that linked Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend with Lake Washington in Newcastle. However, I wanted the route to be as difficult as possible, therefore I was sure to cross over as many summits as possible en route.

I could not have picked a better day to complete the Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Washington Traverse. The conditions were ideal, with temperatures in the morning in the low fifties under cloudy skies. Then by the afternoon the temperatures increased to low sixties and the skies were sunny.

I started the run from the shores of Rattlesnake Lake with Jayson Hefner. We started up to Rattlesnake Ledge at a tempo-like pace covering the steep first miles in less than a half hour. The trail surface was mostly dry soil but nearing the higher reaches of the ridgeline there was a few inches of snow. We traversed Rattlesnake ridge in about 1:36. Then we continued down the hill towards the Raging River crossing.

Because I had only crossed raging river three or four times previously, I had to consult the map a few times to be sure we were headed in the right direction. The river was about knee deep and took a little effort to safely cross because the current wanted to take me down stream. We entered Tiger Mountain (11.7) in 2:22 and then began the climb to East Tiger Peak. I accidently took a series of trails that added about two miles to the overall route, but we still reached the summit (19.1) in 3:51. We descended to Tiger Mountain Road and made quick work of the gap between the West Tiger I climb.

We traversed the bare ridgeline of West Tiger (23.2) in 4:49:19 and after tagging Tiger I, II, and III, we descended Section Line to the Highschool trailhead. Upon reaching the trailhead, Apryle had food waiting and Jayson called it a day for his portion of the traverse. Things were heating up in the Issaquah Valley as I started my forth of five significant climbs. I ran through the Sycamore neighborhood en route to the East Ridge. I summited Central Squak Peak and West Squak Peak (30.4 6:47:04) and then descended the Margarets Way trail (33.6) 7:24:13.

I was fading on the Margarets Way descent and was nearly out of water and food again. Fortunately Apryle planned to meet me at Redtown trailhead on the other side of Cougar Mountain. So once I reached SR 900 I bridged the gap to Wilderness Peak trailhead and ascended the cliffs up to Wilderness Peak (35.6 8:01:29). I descended the new trail (that I help build on a WTA work party) and took the shortest route to Redtown trailhead where Apryle had a salty and buttery bagel waiting (38.5 8:33:04). I downed the bagel, filled my water and continued onto the easiest part of the route – Coal Creek trail.  

I followed the windy Coal Creek trail through the steep wooded ravines that surrounds it to its terminus at I405 (42.5 9:24:06). Apryle met me fairly close to this intersection and paced me down to Newcastle Beach where I stopped the clock when I felt the cool waters of Lake Washington. I finished the 43.62 mile run 9:34:36. Overall I feel that this run served a great dual purpose of an inspiring traverse and quality long run prior to the hundred-mile race on my schedule. Thank you to Apryle for crewing me along the way and pacing the last miles. Also thank you to Jayson for accompanying me well over half the distance!

Moran Constitutional Relay

Moran Constitutional Relay

In the first days of October I journeyed over to Orcas Island to run the Moran Constitutional Relay with Team Run Determined. After a busy workday I was able to hitch a ride up to Anacortes with two teammates: Jayson Hefner and Bret Jorgesen. We 

Lake Washington Half Marathon

Lake Washington Half Marathon

This was the final remaining race from the 2020 season, except it was originally supposed to be the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon in March as a build up to Boston in April. It was the first in a long series of race cancellations. So finally 

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon


I was originally signed up to run the Boston Marathon in April of 2020 but for obvious reasons the race date was modified to October of this year. I ran Boston purely for its historic significance in long distance running. I generally detest both road running and crowds and because Boston checks both of those boxes, I had not yet competed in the famous event. That said, my expectations were low and I was pleasantly surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. That does not mean that I am going to abandon trail races in lieu of returning big city marathons, but I would like to run a few more in the coming years.

My original plan for the 2020 racing season was to stay on the road for the spring and then launch mountain trail training for the summer, which made logical since in terms of training. However, with the date change, there was nothing logical about my 2021 racing schedule. I ran the Boston Marathon just over a month after finishing Cascade Crest Hundred and my body was not prepared to switch gears so quickly. Not to mentioned I ran two legs in a competitive team trail running relay on Orcas Island the weekend before.

The Road Trip

In the days leading up to the marathon I flew back to Ohio where dad and I made a road trip from Tiffin to Boston with several interesting stops along the way. We did some birding in Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on the north end of Lake Cayuga on Saturday evening. Then after being turned away from every hotel within a hundred mile radius, I slept in the bed of dad’s new truck at a rest stop.

Sunday morning we drove up the road to Harvey Mountain State Forest on the eastern border of New York. We hit the trail before sunrise and completed a scenic loop that included two summits, one of which was on the boarder of New York and Massachusetts. After a solid prerace shakeout hike, we made our way into the city of Boston and I completed all the check-in protocols.

We were fortunate to meet up with my old college teammate Kenny Janosko who was also running Boston. Kenny is a good friend and an incredible runner; he was an excellent training partner and pushed me to my limits in workouts. After lunch with Kenny, dad and I had enough of Boston and checked in to our hotel in Framingham.

The Race

On Monday morning dad and I got an excellent parking place less than half a mile from the starting area. It was an electric atmosphere at the starting line, but I was not terribly nervous because I knew I was merely competing with myself. In an ultra trail race, I would be concerned about competing for the win, but at Boston that was not an issue. I started mid-pack of the first wave of runners and found the first mile to be frustratingly slow. I tried to run on the shoulder and even in the grass in order to pass runners ahead of me.

There were very few moments in the race that the roar of the crowd was not overpowering and the first five or ten minutes encapsulated that timeframe. The silence was broken only by the thousands of footsteps striking the pavement in unison. It was truly a serene time for me, as I became member of the herd leaving Hopkinton determined to reach Boston. The herd gradually began to fracture and faction into smaller pace groups and I tried to cling onto groups that held a consistent tempo. The first six miles felt incredibly easy, as if I were out for a casual morning jog. The slight downhill and ever-changing suburban landscape made the miles tick away quickly.

I remember as I reached Framingham, the crowds began to grow and the street was completely lined with people. The pace began to feel slightly more strained, but I was satisfied to break sixty minutes for the first ten miles of the race. Once I reached the half marathon mark, I knew I would have a difficult time even splitting the race. I was still confident that I could beat my personal best of 2:39 from Cleveland back in 2011.

At the halfway point, I had eaten more gels and drank more water than any other road marathon I had done in the past, but I wonder if I actually consumed too much. I began to develop some discomforts in the diaphragm region. Additionally, the course began to switch from mostly downhill to flat with hilly punctuations. By the time I reached mile sixteen, I knew that my race was pretty much over. I began to split some very slow miles and my quadriceps felt like led.

I spent most of my mental energy going forward on calculating the mile splits I needed to keep in order to consolidate my losses. I realized that even if I let my pace climb up to seven-minute average, I could still salvage a sub 2:50 performance. I felt as though cardiovascularly, I was still in a comfortable zone, but my legs could not match my heart.

The tunnel of people that was energizing earlier in the race became stifling and I grew claustrophobic. As I passed over the iconic heartbreak hill and hobbled my way past historic neighborhoods I was only wishing the race to be over. The goal became to turn in a respectable time instead of a personal best time. My body was happy to cross the line, but ultimately I was disappointed in myself. I put forth a lot effort to travel to Boston making life at home more difficult for Apryle, only to turn in a marginal result.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and am grateful I had the opportunity to participate in such a storied event. I also really enjoyed the autumn atmosphere of the race and I am now actually less excited about doing the race again in the spring.

Post Race

Since dad and I are not city people, we got out of Boston as quickly as possible and drove to southern Vermont where we would be staying for the evening. En route, I was able to review the EMG data from the race with Zach Shelly of Strive, which was very interesting (highlighted below). Additionally we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors of surprisingly mountainous Vermont.

On Tuesday morning dad and I did a beautiful out and back hike to Mount Baldy of Green Mountain National Forest. My legs were actually a little tired, which I did not expect given that it was only a marathon. I think running quickly for the marathon took more out of my legs than running a manageable pace for a hundred. The hike featured a forested hillside with a cascading stream, rocky talus fields, upland bogs, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Dad and I were both very impressed with Vermont, but we had to journey back to Ohio. We stopped once more at Akron Falls in New York before arriving back in Tiffin on Tuesday evening.

The Data Analysis

The first 8.5 miles of the course were mostly down hill and I would have expected the quads to be most active, but on average the hamstrings fluctuated between 36% to 43% whereas the quads were lower with 28% to 32%. As the course began to trend upward from mile 8.5 to mile 20 my glutes became the most active, which is what I would expect ranging from 30% to 39%. During this portion of the race my quads became even less active ranging from 26% to 28%. In the closing 6 miles, the course began to descend and my quads became most active ranging from 26% to 40%.

My muscle activation was only slightly different from right to left with my right leg generally carrying the greater percentage of the workload. Another observation of note was the fact that in the final three miles my major muscle groups fell off a cliff in terms of activation. One potential explanation is that in the final miles of the race my smaller accessory muscles began to take over.


Time: 2:49:53

Overall: 727/15379

Male: 664/7941

18-39 Age Group: 537/2231

Mammals of Washington State

Mammals of Washington State

In previous posts I have highlighted the deer family, reptiles, amphibians, and my favorite plants of the Issy Alps. In this post I will highlight the extensive list of mammals in the state of Washington. There are a total of 141 different species of mammals