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"Kong is our songline. We run it into existence;
without that it would disappear." - Manciata

A Hill Called Kong

Rage Kong Photo Essay Rage Thoughts on Kong

Kong: Can You Handle the Truth? A Photo Tour, Course Description and Runner's Perspective from The Rage (with stats provided by Al Whalen)

Here are some stats and pictures from today's run (8/16/07). On the attached images, the horizontal axis is TIME, not distance, so even though we went up/down the same hill, it appears we made a gradual climb, then jumped off a cliff because the mile times were shorter (obviously) coming down. Here are the splits w/ altitude data for each mile.

Keep in mind that the summit was AFTER mile 3, so there was still a little climbing to do. - Al (8/16/07)

Lap Time Lap Time Altitude Avg of Lap Ascent Grade % VAM
1. 0:09:43.9 0:09:43.9 454 219 454 8.6 2799
2. 0:20:54.0 0:11:10.1 1119 782 645 12.6 3465
3. 0:31:49.9 0:10:55.9 1609 1421 500 9.3 2744
4. 0:39:06.8 0:07:16.9 1438 1592 66 3.1 544
5. 0:45:20.4 0:06:13.6 681 997 0 14.2 0
6. 0:51:41.2 0:06:20.8 193 405 0 9.1 0
7. 0:55:08.6 0:03:27.4 0 59 0 7.2 0

 

1.

(1) Kong, better known as Buck Mountain, as seen from 3,000 feet (with Mat Northway at the controls approaching from the southwest, to make it possible to get this shot).

2. 3.

(2) Go about one inch to the right from the saddle, and that's where we finish (above left).

(3) Drawing a line down from the top of the picture, starting slightly to the left (about a half inch) from the midpoint of the wing is where we finish (above right). We make our way up from the lower right of this picture, which is where the transmission line is shown in the start photo.

4a.

(4a & 4b) The Start (above and left). Kong begins with one of the few flat sections on the course, and this one, like the other few, does not last long. Runners head east for about a minute and a half along a transmission line before they start up and head northeast toward their destination: Buck Mountain. If I want to run in the low 31 minute range or take a shot at breaking 31, I like to run a pretty upbeat pace on this short section to bank a few seconds. Believe me, they come in handy up the hill, especially with my parakeet quads.

(4b) Lori McKenzie (left): Little does she know what lies ahead...

 

 

 

5.
(5) The First Turn (left). My legs are immediately put on notice for what's ahead with the first incline. My thoughts go into survival mode as I start thinking about keeping my stride short, quickening my turnover, pumping my arms, rolling up on my toes and pushing off without burning up my calves. In the summer months, when the course is dry, the loose gravel has my eyes darting around for bare spots, trying to keep my feet from slipping back down the hill. This is one of my least favorite parts…having to look for places to get a firm push off when I am tired. This is not such a problem in the winter months with much of the gravel imbedded and the footing is a lot firmer.

6a.

(6a) The First Split (right). Bruce established the first split about fifteen yards before where Bill and Tommy are in this photo. Somewhere between 4:00 and 4:15 is in the ball park for where I like to be at this point. If I am rolling the dice, I might be under 4:00, which is a pretty spirited pace for me. In the background, well into the distance is Spencer Butte.

 

 

 

 

 

6b.

(6b above) A spirited approach to first split.

6c.

(6c above) First gate. Fatigue starts to build.

"Cougar Corridor." It was here (I'm in the blue shirt, below) where I spotted a young cougar (up the road about 40 yards above my head), as Tommy ran with his head down in front of me, into the jaws of certain serious maiming…or worse yet, death (he continues to not acknowledge any of these facts, including the one that Isaved his life). Of course, he was unable to confirm my sighting and the story lives on in the lore of Kong (see Rage on "Cougar!").

7a.

(7a above) Cougar Corridor: Rage says, "You Go First!"

7b.

(7b) The second split is at this gate (left). If I am running on all cylinders, I can get here in 7:10 - 7:15 range. However, I don't plan on it, usually, with 7:20 usually a good position to be at this point. Two minutes of climbing have us breaking out into a clearing, which is split number three. If I am running well, I can get to the clearing in 9:05 - 9:15, where the steepness yields to a more merciful grade for about three and a half minutes of gradual climbing through a stand of Ponderosa Pines. Runners hang on through this stretch, trying to keep their minds in the present tense.

8.

(8) The Corral (right). While not pictured here, Tommy and I are passing by an old corral on the left. Yes, the top of that ridge above us is where we are headed. This is also the fourth split. If I am going to have any shot at breaking 31 minutes, I need to be no slower than 12:45 at this point…and feeling confident. Doubts at this point are not a good thing…e.g. you picked the wrong day to go out fast, baby.

 

9a.

(9a) Let the serious steep begin.

9b.
(9b) The First Big Hill (left): This is the steepest part of the course. Just above my head is a vein of sandstone that we refer to as "The Spine" which is what you feel is about ready to come shooting out of your lower back to get up what looks like a concave stretch of grade…about 25-30% according to Bill's estimate from the contours on a topographical map. A good first big hill for me is about 4:30. The fifth split, perhaps the most telling in how a runner is progressing toward their goal time to the top, is at the base of the first big hill. My all time best was 14:28, trying to run away from Tommy and Manciata. They both passed me right about where I am now in the picture.

 

 

 

10a.

(10a right) The Top of the First Big Hill (right): Looking out past Bill and Tommy, you can see how high we have climbed. That's the Willamette Valley down below, which is roughly at about 440 feet above sea level. At this point, we have climbed about 1,300 feet. Nineteen ten or so right here is a record pace for me.

 

 

10b.

(10b above) The Top of the First Big Hill:
"No. You Ain't Done Yet."

10c.

(10c above) "Is there no mercy on this hill?"

11.
(11)The Second Big Hill (left): This is the worst part for first time Kong runners. About thirty yards after you crest the first big hill, they throw this one at you. Fortunately, it's not quite as long (about three minutes worth for me on a good day) but it is just about as steep. I don't care who you are. Any runner is just hanging on here. (Tommy is letting me run with him just for the camera).

12.

(12) The Top of the Second Big Hill (right): We have come up another couple of hundred feet in three minutes and we still have more climbing to do. Your legs are on fire and you have three minutes to the top. The only motivation I get is looking at my watch. If I am somewhere around 22:10, I have a good chance at breaking 31:00. This is the best motivation to get me to give an honest 2:50-3:00 minute effort to the most welcome and thankful flat section on any course anywhere on the planet…gauranteed.

 

 

13.
(13) The Top (left): Not to be confused with the finish, The Top is where runners get to gather themselves for the 6:00 -6:30 push to the finish. Here, Tommy is rounding the sharp, still steep corner that will flatten out in a few more strides. The fastest I have ever seen anyone get here was Tommy and Bruce, who arrived here in 24:45. I knew it was fast when Bruce almost lost his brunch from two hours earlier. The best I have ever done is 25 flat.

14,

(14) The Top - Continued (right): If you are going to break 31:00, you have to run fast on top…no worse than 6:10. The problem is what your legs feel like at this point. If you feel good (relatively speaking, of course), you can make hay up here, with only a couple of gentle hills left to negotiate, and even a couple of nice downhill sections.

15.

(15) The Second to the Last Gate (above): The camera taking this shot was on a timer, sitting on the second to the last gate. When the gate is open, I think that's worth a couple of seconds, by not having to go over it. At this point, you have about a minute to go. I have covered it in 52 seconds before, which felt like sticking a couple of daggers in my legs. The only reason I did it was I got the the gate in sub 30 once and got real motivated. Bill, Tommy and I will be turning left to the finish just ahead.

16. Smelling the barn.

17. The Finish: The white thing in the background is the last gate. The key thing to remember, is you finish on the blacktop. Bill and Tommy ain't done yet.

18. Blacktop never looked so good.

19. Ta Dah!

20. The Rage After a Long Hard Climb.

21. Lori enjoying the trip down.

22. This ain't L.A.

23. "It was a bit harder going the other direction!"

Kong Vital Statistics: Complements of Mr. Bill Welch

Mel Damewood dug up the Coburg 7.5' quad. I did a little estimation using my map wheel and the contour lines and came up with the following:

Total distance: Approximately 3.3 to 3.5 miles (my wheel slips a bit on the tight turns)

Elevation gain: About 1,680 ft. Start ~440 ft., End 2,121 ft. (There should be a benchmark near the junction at the top)

Average grade: (1680ft/(3.4mi*5,280ft/mi))*100 = 9.4 % Max grade: 22% +

So a 32 minute time to the top is about a 9:25 pace assuming a distance of 3.4 miles. Yowza.

This analysis is, of course, purely on paper. I suppose you could get your road bike with your cyclometer and haul it to the top and record the distance with somewhat better accuracy--unless you wipe out on the way down. Unless you've got a good altimeter, the topo elevations are probably pretty close. I don't know what all that's worth, but I've been curious, so inquiring minds find out. --Bill Welch

Thoughts on Kong by Bill Welch

Kong is a classic love-hate relationshipI love what it does for conditioning, how I feel afterward. I love conjuring up Kong when I come to a hill in a regular run or a race-all other hills I've run pale by comparison. The hate part is chugging away at the steep hill or trying to speed up in the top section after running the hill. I think you describe it best, Mike, when you say you just can't think about running it or you'd never do it.

Kong is one of those complete workouts-legs, lungs, heart, and head. There's no easy part.

You leave the first gate, the short, gradual incline gets you warmed up for the first semi-steep hill-about a minute into the run. Then it's 13 or so minutes of gradual and not-so-gradual climbing that leaves you winded and into a slow burn by the time you momentarily level out at the corral and see the left turn looming up ahead. You go up the incline to the turn and there it is. You say to yourself, "Here we go!"

Round the turn and it's up, up, up. You chug like a steam locomotive-legs taking short strides, arms pumping in line with the hill, breath trying to stay regular and not too shallow, head down, body leaning into the hill. Focus on the running, stay in the moment. Just when you're getting good and winded, there's the spine and the grade gets even steeper-somewhere between 25 and 30%. Don't think about it, stay in the moment, focus on breathing, chugging on up. Suddenly there's a level spot at the quarry, but only for about 15 seconds and it's up, up again. Around the curve and up some more. God, my legs are burning, lungs too. Focus, don't think about how much farther. Finally, the curve, a steep bank to the right and you feel the slope lessen. Keep the strides short, don't let up, push on with renewed effort. Now it's uphill at a saner pitch. You see the craggy firs at the top poking above the younger growth like a bad haircut. You're on a roller coaster ride for the last six minutes. You have nothing left, but then there's a short downhill and back up to the gate. Yes, the gate. You know there's less than a minute left. You can stand anything for a minute. Push hard, round the last turn and up the last steep pitch. There's the big gate. Give it all you've got, around the gate to the blacktop. Done. Hit your watch. It's over. You're bent over, sucking air noisily trying to get your breath back. You've just climbed about 1,700 feet in 32 minutes and change.

Everyone hangs out and regroups for a few minutes and then it's back down. Now the front side of the legs get their workout. Keep those strides short and under control. You test your stride and find one that's just right-not too choppy, but no so long that you're putting too much strain on the quads and knees. Now you get to enjoy the views. Beautiful! Going up you were too busy looking at the ground in front of you. Time for conversation and quad building. Back down the steeps, shorten up those strides, stay under control. At the bottom of the steep sections, you notice the ponderosa forest and meadows. On down you go through the shade of Cougar Alley and out into the oak forests. Almost there. There's the first gate and the car. Done! Wow, that was great. Don't forget to stretch or you'll be really tight when you get back to Eugene.

I'm a mere rookie at Kong, but it has left a pretty strong impression on me. I haven't found the right strategy that leaves me feeling like I was in control rather than the hill controlling me, but it doesn't matter-it's going to hurt no matter what strategy you use.

So, you can't help but hate Kong when you're doing it, but like so many other physically demanding pursuits the experience gets better and better as time passes. Running Kong doesn't require a big passage of time for the experience to turn positive; it feels pretty good about the time you've reached the car. - Bill Welch