Category Archives: TRAIL RUNNING

FOURMIDABLE 50K (Lessons Learned)

Well the first race of the season has come and gone and boy was it a ginormous MUD-FEST!

I ran the FOURmidable 50K last year for the first time and had an amazing race. In the days leading up to this year’s race however, I noticed that my race recap from 2016 generated a lot of traffic (and a few emails). FOURmidable this year was a USA Track & Field 50K trail national championships and therefore garnered a lot more interest and entrants (almost double in the 50K alone). Quite a few top names and elites showed up which was pretty amazing to watch.

My day started with an awesome comment from elite runner (and blogger) Jean Pommier on my last year’s report. That put a nice smile on my face.

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Then I found a little present from Vans while I was chilling in my car pre-race. I love his simple, but wise advice: Keep Running. Watch your step. 🙂

The weather leading up to the race was definitely something to contend with this year. I have been running on these exact trails for weeks now so I knew what to expect … and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

My peeps!
My peeps!

I’ve spent the last few weekends running with Pigeon, Not Chris and Grumpy. Not Chris and Grumpy were making their Auburn trail race debut! Not Chris ran the 35.5K and Grumpy the 13K.

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Watching the excitement on their faces in anticipation of the race was awesome. I love seeing new found trail love and joy.

Pigeon and I saw Not Chris and Grumpy off at their start since all the races (50K, 35.5K, a half and 13K) had a staggered start.

boys

After the 35.5K and 13K left, it was time for the 50K runners to line up.

Pigeon and I all smiles!
Pigeon and I all smiles!

One thing to note, is that the start of this race was completely different than last year. We started and ended IN the overlook parking lot. Last year, we started down by Gate 142. This is important to note mostly as it pertains the finish … and we’ll get there I promise.

Cute Heather Morris with her hands up. Me behind her. Photo courtesy: Nelson Medeiros
Cute Heather Morris with her hands up. Me behind her.
Photo courtesy: Nelson Medeiros

Similar to last year, the 50K runners had to run down to base of Cardiac. This year however, the route to get there was different. We were on trails a bit more than pavement, which was nice.

As we descended down, I noticed that my pace was in the low 8s. That didn’t unnerve me much because I did the same thing last year (although this year I was faster).

Photo Courtesy of TrailTaylor
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

When we hit the base of cardiac, I first saved a runner who somehow did not see ALL the pink ribbons and was on his way towards the river. He was pretty grateful I stopped him.

The climb up Cardiac hit me like a ton of bricks. Very similar to last year and that is what I kept telling myself – which was a huge mistake and my biggest lesson this race.

I let quite a few people pass me on this section. My legs just felt heavy and my lungs not quite ready for what I was about to ask of them.

Happy to be at the top finally, I shook off any bad feelings and just kept moving.

We hit the first aid-station at Gate 142 and I ran right by. I had enough fuel in my pack that I didn’t feel the need to stop. The trail then brought us around and below the overlook and popped us out right by the horse staging area.

A girl standing on the side of the trail said, “You are in the top ten for female.” Ugh, don’t tell me that! It’s way too early for that kind of info and, to be honest, I think she clearly must have miscounted!

MUD Photo Courtesy by TrailTaylor
MUD (not me)
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

From this point on, the only competitor that I fought with ALL day, was the mud. The above photo doesn’t even do it justice, that section was nothing compared to what was ahead.

I ran the section down to No Hands Bridge, still not feeling like I was “in” this yet. I had stepped into a mud pile that went up to my knee and was trying desperately not to throw my back out on these slippery sections.

It felt good to finally reach No Hands Bridge and then see that it was almost completely under water.

Me on No Hands Photo Courtesy of TrailTaylor
Me on No Hands
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

After swimming through that puddle, we reached the aid-station. I climbed the trail towards K2 fueling as I knew what was ahead.

K2 believe it or not, seemed like it was in better condition this year than last year. Last year there was a stream running down the hill.

Normally I love K2. I do. I am a hills kinda girl, but I still wasn’t finding my mojo yet and I was beginning to get frustrated.

I kept comparing this race to last year’s race and how I felt at each point last year. BIG MISTAKE. NEVER compare yourself to other runners and NEVER compare RACES. So much can change in a year. Clearly the trail conditions were a separate competitor this year. I also have a lot more going on in my life.

However, I would not come to this realization until later in the day. I kept battling with myself that I was not doing what I thought that I was capable of doing.

Needless to say, the muddy conditions only got worse as the day wore on. I was done with dancing around mud and puddles. A lot of people were running off course to try and avoid it, only to be hit with a section where there WAS no way to avoid it. Forget it, just run straight down the middle. Simple as that.

Oh just a abnormally large puddle! Photo courtesy of: Rob Schmidt
Oh just a abnormally large puddle! (again, not me)
Photo courtesy of: Rob Schmidt

I finally reached Knickbocker Aid-Station #1 (mile 13.4) and stopped. I grabbed some stuff and refueled and walked at the same time.

The next section took us down to the Old Auburn Damn. I ran that section pretty well, just letting it all open up.

I hit the damn hill and settled into a hike. I was beginning to feel a little bit better but again, was still comparing myself to last year.

At the top of the damn, we made our way back to the single track and I just focused on moving. I was finally beginning to feel like my old self.

The trail took us back to the Knickerbocker Aid-Station (mile 18) and I grabbed more fuel and continued on my way. My spirits were beginning to finally come around.

The section through Knickbocker Creek (um, it was more like a raging river) was awesome. The whole section of trail on the Cool side was one giant mud puddle.

There was no getting around it. You’d cross a bridge and be grateful there was a bridge only to have it “T” into a giant mud puddle that went up to your shorts anyway.

I hit the Cool Aid-Station (mile 23.4) and was eager to get moving. I knew that my favorite “roller-coaster” section was coming up and best of all, that would lead me back to the finish!

I flew down roller coaster much like I did last year. I think I was tad slower and then out of no where, I ran into some horse back riders and had to stop dead in my tracks to let them pass.

When the trail dumped me onto No Hands (mile 27.2) I knew we only had 4 miles to the finish. I fueled as I walked through the lake sitting on top of No Hands and I texted a few people telling them I was 4 miles from being done with this $hit!

I ran/walked the next section staying close to a guy who seemed to be following the same plan that I was which was: Let’s get this over with!

When we finally made the sharp left that took us down to the river, we both said, “Here we go!” Having run this last year, I KNEW what was in store. Paulo, our Race Director, makes your work HARD to get to the finish line.

I ran the down as well as I could. Then I ran and hiked some of the other sections. Then, you are hit with an uphill climb that will blow your mind.

Remember earlier when I said the new location of the finish would come into play? Moving the finish arch to the overlook added ONE MORE steep climb to finish … and believe me it was a doozy!

Luckily, I saw two little blonde girls standing there with huge smiles on their faces!

Photo Courtesy: Vans
Photo Courtesy: Vans

I wanted to hug them but if I stopped, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep going.

Way up there is the finish!
Way up there is the finish! But you still have a smidge more to go!

I saw the finish arch, heard some voices cheer my name and ran.

I finished! Wow, what a crazy race. I ended up running 15 minutes slower than last year and considering the conditions, I guess that wasn’t so bad. I still didn’t feel 100% like myself out there but I learned my lesson. I won’t compare races or seasons anymore. Life sometimes has other plans and I have to learn to go with the flow.

Although unofficial, I may have gotten 5th in my age group (though remember I am bad a math) – not entirely sure yet as the age division results are not up.

Once again. Single Track Running and Paulo put on a stellar event. The course was extremely well marked. The aid-stations were stocked and the volunteers amazing.

Having Vans and the girls surprise me at the finish was awesome.

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The post race festivities were great as well. Massages, beer, and some awesome swag!

That my girls stole!
That my girls stole!

I am happy that I ran it. It was a great indicator of where my fitness may or may not be. I love the trails and I love that course, despite how grueling it is but that’s what makes it so special.

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In the end, the sun came out, Vans gave me a hug and we waited and cheered for Pigeon to come in. Could not be a luckier girl right now.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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STILL RUNNING

Even though it appears that I have not been running (it might if you only follow me here on the blog), don’t worry, I have been. I just haven’t been posting much about my runs for various reasons.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking photos while I run though. I always take photos. 🙂

2017 has brought some changes in my training routine. I don’t really care to go into detail but I am training and I am focusing. I fully admit that I entered 2017 in a bit of a lull, lacking “mojo” and motivation.

However, luckily it was short lived and I have my zest for running trails back where it should be. A lot of that has to do with who I have been running with lately.

My usual partners in crime (Pigeon, Stonegate, Burning Girl) for a while were not able to run with me. They have a life and sometimes life gets in the way (fully understandable). I also have a life and my life lately has been consumed by the Peanut and Squeaker’s basketball teams.

Coaching means tying shoes.
Coaching means tying shoes … oh wait, I do that as a mom too. :)

I am the assistant coach to Squeaker’s team and they are hands down the cutest 5 and 6 year olds on the planet!

Squeaker looking to pass!
Squeaker looking to pass!

Peanut is on her own team but this is the first year either of them have ever touched a basketball, let alone play the game.

Peanut!
Peanut!

I have a long history and love affair with the sport of basketball (Vans SO does not) and so I’ve happily taken the reigns of shuttling to practices and working with the girls. I love it.

Look at that form! :)
Taking the shot! Look at that form! :)

Yet because of basketball and coaching, my run days have been moved around.  No big deal but it was hard to find people to run with from time to time and I am not one to go out on the Auburn/Cool trails by myself for very long (safety first).

Enter Grumpy and Not Chris ….

Grumpy, me and Not Chris
Grumpy, me and Not Chris

I work with both of these two and they both were looking to get into trail running. Not Chris is registered for the FOURmidable 30k in a few weeks. I have no doubts he will do well. Grumpy is also registered for the 13K FOURmidable race and is really putting in the work.

It has been fun running with two people who are new to trails and who are smitten by them just as much as I am.

This past weekend my worlds collided! Pigeon is back on schedule to run with me now (thanks to a new baby in her immediate family) and she met Grumpy and Not Chris for the first time (she is actually to blame for Not Chris’s nickname).

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Pigeon!

We all met in Auburn and agreed on the mileage beforehand. The route we picked was nice because even though Grumpy doesn’t need to go as far as we do, he’s able to join us on some pretty cool sections.

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Not Chris
Grumpy!
Grumpy

The weather this past weekend was amazing. I know we need more rain, but the rain has made for some pretty gnarly runs lately. I do love the sunshine especially early in the morning.

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I’ve taken the boys out a few times solo but this past weekend we took them on a different loop. I think they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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We’re all different paces but it seems to work. We run, we meet up at any turns and we continue on. Sometimes we stick together. Sometimes I run ahead because I want to take photos! 🙂

Pigeon and Not Chris
Pigeon and Not Chris
Grumpy flipping me off - hence the name Grumpy. :)
Grumpy flipping me off – hence the name Grumpy. :)

After we got done with that loop, we took them up Stagecoach. I’ve taken them up before, but Pigeon took us a different route which led us to the famous “bench” and we forced the boys to take the obligatory “bromance bench” photo.

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After the climb up Stagecoach, Grumpy left us and ran back down. He doesn’t need to rack up mileage. Not Chris, Pigeon and I continued on.

It was an awesome day. I finished feeling strong. My legs felt worked but I was smiling ear to ear. Later that afternoon, I ended up playing 90 minutes of basketball with the girls and some friends at the park! I guess I had more pep left in my legs than I thought.

So I apologize in advance for not writing much this year about running. I’ll pop in from time to time with some photos and maybe some recaps of the girls and their basketball games. Race reports are one thing I love to write about since I do go back and read what worked and didn’t work race by race, so you’ll see those for sure.

Maybe now that I have found my running mojo, I’ll find my blogging mojo. 🙂

Until then ….

So far, she loves it and that makes me happy!
So far, she loves it and that makes me happy!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

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CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON RACE REPORT

This is the worst parade ever!” – That was by FAR my favorite sign on the course. 🙂

On Sunday I ran the 2016 California International Marathon (CIM). It was my 14th marathon to date, my 8th (full) CIM and the 10th year I have been part of the festivities.

Clearly there is something about this race that keeps me coming back year after year. Last year I “raced it” meaning I set out to try and get a specific time. Boy did THAT hurt (I PR’d but didn’t reach my race goal).

This year, I just set my sights on pacing my boss to the finish-line of his first ever marathon.

Boss at the race expo.
Boss at the race expo.

Last year when I came into work after having run CIM, my boss said, “I want to run CIM next year. I want to run a marathon before I turn 50. Do you think I could do it?” I told him he could absolutely do it so long as he trained.

So, he trained. Every so often, Boss, SS (another running coworker) and I would run mid-week on our lunch hour. SS and I would give him some pointers or tips. Tell him stories of our first marathon etc. Boss would listen, take our advice and continue training.

Boss, Me and another coworker
Boss, Me and SS

Finally race morning arrived and I could feel his excitement. Sometimes you forget your first marathon and just how excited, nervous, anxious, freaked-out you are.

Right before the gun went off.
Right before the gun went off.

We made our way to the start line. I vowed to stick with him the whole race as I had no goals or objectives. I was out there to see him finish.

SS left us to go find a spot higher up in a faster group. We situated ourselves with the 4:00 hour pace group. I knew deep down Boss would love a four hour (even a sub four hour) finish time. I was okay with that, albeit a bit nervous having not run much on pavement these last few months.

The gun went off and we took off at a respectable pace. We stayed right where we were supposed to be for a 4 hour finish. Then, we started speeding up.

Miles 3 through 8 were faster than I thought we should be doing but Boss kept saying he felt good. We were slightly ahead of the 4 hour pace group.

Miles 9 and 10 we were right back down where we should have been.

Mile 11 included a pit-stop at the porta-potties. We didn’t take too long but it was long enough to have the 4:00 hour and 4:08 hour pace groups pass.

I could sense a little disappointment from Boss. He even asked if I was going to try and “catch” them. I told him if he wanted to we could try or we could just run and see what happens. The latter is exactly what we did.

Miles 12 through 14 we were back to our usual pace.

Around mile 14.5 I asked him if he took that gel he grabbed a while back and he said that he had taken 2/3rds of it. Uh-oh. I could feel his energy depleting. He had stopped talking and joking with me too.

I handed him some jelly beans. At first he refused but then he ate them. He seemed to gain some energy after that, enough to be more talkative.

Miles 15 – 18 he slowed significantly. He would no longer run along side of me, he’d run behind me. We would often walk a bit. I gave him a gluten free peanut butter and jelly bar to have as well, hoping that he wasn’t too far in the hole to bounce back.

Prior to this he had been urging me to go on without him but I refused. To appease him, I told him that I’d get him to mile 20 and then we’d reassess and if he still wanted me to leave him, I would.

Mile 18.6 he pulled to the side and told me to go. He said he really wanted me to go on without him. He promised he wouldn’t quit. I handed him all the fuel I had left on me and I made him swear that he would eat all of it.

I left him. I felt badly doing so but sometimes I can understand wanting to be alone, in your own misery to get yourself out of it.

I surged on. I knew my family was at mile 20.

So happy to see my girls!
So happy to see my girls!

My pace quickened, Mile 20 was 8:19 (super excited to see my family!). I hugged my girls and Vans and kept moving.

You've gotta laugh and smile. Then you don't feel the pain.
You’ve gotta laugh and smile so you don’t feel the pain.

Mile 21- 8:45/mi

Mile 22 – 8:51/mi

Mile 23 – 8:41/mi

Mile 24 – 9:00/mi (the sharp turns from J Street to Alhambra then again to L Street)

Mile 25 – 8:56/mi

Mile 26 – 8:53/mi

I was doing my best to push and try to catch the 4 hour group but my body was not having it. It would give me a few good strides and then would feel as if I was running in quicksand. I had no fuel left and I ran out of water between miles 24 and 25 but refused to stop.

I was super happy to see the finish. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 6 minutes. I just could never quite catch that 4 hour pace group. 🙂

My favorite cheerleaders!
My favorite cheerleaders!

Once I finished I found my family and went in search of SS. We then heard from Boss that he was at mile 25 and walking in. Finally we saw him!

Running Boss into the finish!
Running Boss into the finish!

He seemed happy to see us because he started running so we joined him.

SS trying to take a running selfie.
SS trying to take a running selfie.

We made the sharp left turn towards the finish shoots and SS and I peeled off screaming Boss’s name the whole way! He had done it! He finished! His time was 4 hours and 50 minutes.

I am super proud of him. He followed through in his goal. He said he has a whole new appreciation for running and the distance. He doesn’t think he’ll sign up for another anytime soon but he’s super excited to have completed his very first marathon!

Three marathoners!
Three marathoners!

And I feel honored to have been there to witness it. Like I have been telling my coworkers all day, he put in all the work, I just tried to keep his mind off all the pain. 🙂

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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WOLF-PACK

wolfpackWhat started out as a joke on Facebook before our road trip a few weeks ago (you can read about that adventure here), got me thinking about the people I run with and who honestly, I spend most of my happy time with (besides my own family).

I feel very lucky to have the set of friends that I do. Friends who do crazy things and who enjoy Mother Nature and getting muddy just as much as me.

Waterfall fun!
Friends who jump off rocks and take a million photos
But remember, Blue is Bad!
Friends who goof around in the middle of a run.

If you read my posts, you know who these usual suspects are in my life. Pigeon, Stonegate and Burning Girl are the most frequent. Occasionally we are lucky enough to run with Miss P and Pearls.

These ladies rock!

I also run with a dear friend, TiggerT. She doesn’t run ultras but when we do run, we usually laugh, a lot. She is my California International Marathon buddy and my “road-running” friend.

TiggerT and I
TiggerT

But more importantly, she and Stonegate, Burning Girl and Pigeon are my friends. My wolf-pack. They are the ones I know will support me in a race and in life.

FullSizeRender
They also send you funny texts during races.

Truth be told, before I ran trails, I ran alone. A lot. I used to read Kristin Armstrong’s blog Mile Markers on Runner’s World and would be so envious of the stories she’d write about – meeting her friends for a morning workout or a long training run – laughing and sharing their life’s problems with each other. I wanted that.

2016 Selfie

Well now, I have it but 100 times better.

belt7

My wolf-pack doesn’t run together every day or every weekend, but we are connected. The trails may have brought us together but it isn’t what keeps us strong.

Trail Girls

My wolf-pack keeps me sane. They keep me on my toes. They are resources for things I know nothing about. They build you up and remind you, that you are worth it and that you deserve the best. They are shoulders to cry on when life gets hard and they remind you when you may be making the same mistake twice.

Hugs!

They give you hugs when you need them and they make you laugh.

Oops! hahaha

I adore my wolf-pack and while it seems stereotypical to “give thanks” this time of year, that is exactly what I want to do.

Thank you ladies for all that you do. Thank you for being a little bit crazy and a lot-a-bit fun. Thank you for being adventure seekers and thank you for supporting my often crazy ideas. Thank you for the hugs, the laughter and the tears. Thank you for listening. Thank you, for being you … my wolf-pack, our wolf-pack.

wolfpack-2

Happy Trails!

(and Happy Thanksgiving!)

~Trailmomma

 

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LITHIA LOOP TRAIL MARATHON RACE REPORT

They are going to kill me! But this is way too funny not to post!”
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(warning – this is a super long post but a fun one)

The Thursday before I left for Oregon, my coworker and I were discussing the fact that I was going on a road-trip with two friends (also moms) and how we were headed to do a trail marathon put on by race director and all around ultra-running legend, Hal Koerner. One thing led to another and within minutes the above photo was created and shared on Facebook.

Hal was tagged and my friends laughed. He seems like he has a good easy going personality, so I hoped he didn’t mind. 🙂

First, let’s step back just a bit shall we? How did this all come about? Well, quite a few months ago I decided that in my final year of being 39, I wanted to do races that I have never done and go places and have fun! So I registered for the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon which takes place in Ashland, Oregon and I booked a hotel.

Vans and I have been to Ashland before and we loved it. He told me that he’d go with the kids but that I should really take my friends. So, I did.

My wolfpack was set free!
The wolfpack was set free!

Vans tagged us as “the wolfpack” on Facebook and the name has stuck. My girls and I hit the road ready to explore, live and just laugh our bums off!

Mt Shasta
Mt Shasta

The drive up was easy. We stopped along the way for photos and rest-stops but we made really good time and were in Ashland with lots of time to explore.

We stayed at the Ashland Springs Hotel which was the race host hotel and is conveniently located across the street from Rogue Valley Runners – where packet pick up was located.

We grabbed our shirts and bibs. We saw that Hal was there but he didn’t seem to “recognize” us from our photoshopped post on Facebook. Whew! Saved (or so I thought).

Standing Stone Brewing
Standing Stone Brewing Company

We walked down the street and had drinks and snacks at Standing Stone Brewing Company. We toasted our weekend freedom and talked about the race.

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Lithia Park

Then we walked a block or two over to Lithia Park to find the race start and finish area. This park is mind blowing and GORGEOUS!

Feeling so lucky
Feeling so lucky

We wandered the park, taking photos and then came across a little park with THE coolest climbing structure ever.

When in Rome right?
When in Rome right? (photo by Burning Girl)

Stonegate and I couldn’t resist. We had to climb to the top. My kids would love this!

Since we were racing, we made it an early night and grabbed whatever food we all needed and headed back to the hotel to settle in and get ready for the race.

We felt kind of lame going back to our hotel when it was so early but we wanted to be rested for the race.

The race started at 8:00 am which for us, is extremely late. We were sort of thrown by the late start time but realized the next morning that it doesn’t get light out until about 7:45 am. Aaah, now I get it. 🙂

Burning Girl, Me and Stonegate at the start.
Burning Girl, Me and Stonegate at the start. (photo by Stongate)

The best part is that we could leave our hotel and walk to the starting area. I love being able to do that.

As usual, we arrived a bit too early and watched as the race directors and volunteers helped put up the starting arch.

The start. Photo from Facebook.
The start. Photo from Facebook.

We knew this was not a huge race but we also knew that it was filled with mostly Oregon locals. Locals who looked like they could crush this course.

Promptly at 8 am, Hal counted us down and the race started. The first 10 miles are on a partly paved and partly dirt fire road. TEN MILES … UP HILL.

Course profile
Course profile

We all started out together and then quickly realized, that NO ONE walks. No one. Everyone was running. Mile 1, mile 2, mile 3 … no one stopped despite the fact that we were climbing some serious hill.

Burning Girl said, “I’ll catch ya later! Good luck!” as she stopped to walk. I must add, that Burning Girl’s farthest run to date had been 12 miles, once. This girl’s life has been hectic to say the least and yet she traveled to Ashland and made a game day decision. She started the race and would see how the day would unfold. Stonegate and I had our fingers crossed for her but to be honest, the odds were against her.

Stonegate and I ran a little further and then she stopped. I kept going but eventually stopped too. Stonegate caught me and we did a run walk combo up that hill. Everyone was looking at us as they ran past but we knew we wanted to be a bit conservative as we still had a lot of climbing to do!

Good morning Ashland!
Good morning Ashland!

The weather was perfect. All week they had predicted that it would be down pouring rain – first it was for the entire day, then it moved to the second half of the race and then, it wasn’t supposed to rain until late that evening! It was beautiful out. Not too cold. Not too hot.

Trail selfie
Trail selfie

The fire road was getting a little tedious. It wasn’t ugly but it had this gravel that was just very hard for me to get footing on. I would slide back an inch every so often. The tread on my shoes are also pretty worn so that didn’t help.

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Finally we made a sharp right turn onto a single track. I don’t think Stonegate and I could be any happier. The funny thing is, all the people who had ran the fire road, walked the single track. That just made me laugh. I was ready to run at this point!

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The trail was well marked and it smelled like pine! It was awesome.

I am not quite sure when it was, I think it was mile 8 or 9, Stonegate told me to go ahead that she needed to walk. So I ran thinking she would catch me eventually. I never saw her again.

This sign just makes me laugh.
This sign just makes me laugh.

I just kept running. I was starting to feel good. My legs were no longer tired from the climb and my lungs felt okay. We had reached the top of the hill and I knew that the rest was just a super flat-ish section until about mile 19 or 20.

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There were six aid-stations throughout the course and I just took them one by one. I didn’t really need much as my pack was pretty stocked but the volunteers manning the aid-stations were SUPER nice!

One aid-station was crewed by a mountain biking group.
One aid-station was crewed by a mountain biking group.

The only downfall with this race is that there is no where, and I mean no where, to pull off to the side of the trail when nature calls. You have a cliff on one side and a wall or mountain of dirt more or less on the other.

This kind of stunk as I had to go twice during the race. Both instances I had to literally climb over a cliff and down an embankment one time and then climb over some downed trees another. That took a lot of time.

Finally I came to the last aid-station at about mile 19.5. I just said hello and was ready to keep running. I almost went the wrong way until they pointed me towards some single track trails. Yes!

It was a short single track that then dumped you onto a short fire road that then led you to Caterpillar Trail. As I understand it from the locals, this trail was newly built and this was the first year the course was running on it.

I hit this trail and it was like a fire had been lit inside me!

Photo by Stonegate
Photo by Stonegate

I just ran and ran and ran! I felt no pain. I was in heaven. I was smiling ear to ear cheering on runners as I passed them. I think I passed about 10 people on this section of the trail. I had passed about 8 on the fire road the last few miles as well. My energy was strong.

Photo by Stonegate
Photo by Stonegate

Up, down, up, down the trail was full of little rollers that weaved in and out of trees. There were downward switch backs and tight corners. To your left was a cliff. The trail itself was only a foot or two wide and to your right was a dirt wall. I prayed no mountain bikers were out there (as it turns out, mountain bikers have their own section of caterpillar to ride on that is just for them, how cool!?).

Runners cheered me on as I passed them. Finally at mile 24 I came to this …

Cause why not add stairs at mile 24 right?
Why not add stairs at mile 24 of a marathon right?

I had to laugh and take a photo. Always throwing in stairs for good fun.

Finally the trail dumps you out onto a paved road. After a turn, you realize that you’re on the same road you started the race on and that we only had a mile to go.

I ran hard. I knew the race had a 6 hour cutoff and I had no concept of time. I never once looked at my watch for time. I’d occasionally look at it for mileage when it beeped to see if the mile markers were accurate (they were) but never once did I glance at the time or the pace I was running.

I passed about 4 more runners on this road (they looked like they were hurting). Locals were sitting on their curbs cheering us on! It was so cute.

Then I see the finish arch ahead. I was so happy but then something to my left caught my eye. There was a  HUGE buck just standing at the curb, not five feet from me. Four feet from it, was a woman just sitting and cheering.

I looked from the buck to the woman and from the woman to the buck thinking, “Does she not SEE that? Am I imagining this? He is RIGHT there!” I wanted to stop and pull out my camera but I was literally just 30 yards from the finish.

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As it turns out, when I did finish, there had been a family of deer to my right as well! Crazy!

I finished in 5 hours even. I apparently snuck past everyone as they had to chase me down to give me my medal and race swag.

I then waited for Stonegate and Burning Girl to finish. I hadn’t heard from either of them throughout the race. The cell coverage was spotty most of the day so that was understandable.

Stonegate coming down the hill!
Stonegate coming down the hill! Deer to her right!

Stonegate finished and was smiling ear to ear. Her time was about 5 hours and 30 minutes and she was feeling good.

We quickly walked down the street to Pioneer Hall where the post-race food was located. Here they gave us growlers!

How cool is that?!
How cool is that?!

My very own growler! I was so excited. Stonegate grabbed a burrito. I took a photo of all the local beer being served to send to Vans back home.

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Then we went back to the finish area to wait for Burning Girl. Neither one of us had heard from her. I talked to the guy manning the finish area and he said no one had dropped at any of the aid-stations that he was aware of.

Then, we saw Hal, the race director. I wanted a photo so I grabbed Stonegate and we wandered over. We asked if we could have a photo with him.

At first he laughed, then said, “Yea, I think I saw a photo or something Facebook already … that took a lot of work.” 🙂

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I assured him that it really didn’t take much! hahaha It was so funny. He truly was a super nice guy and a good sport about it. He shared with us some places where we could go and hang out tonight post race.

All of a sudden, Stonegate gets a text from Burning Girl that she had HIT THE PAVEMENT! She was on her way into the finish! There were 5 runners out there and she was one of them.

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Down the hill she came! She looked amazing! She did it! She freaking ran that hard-a$$ marathon with little to no training. Mind over matter she did it! I am so damn proud of that woman. She is one helluva strong runner! Sadly, we did NOT get a post race photo of all of us! Grrr!

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But we did stop on our walk back to the hotel at Standing Stone Brewing Company again to fill up our new growlers!

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Photo by Stonegate

Then it was back to the hotel for a mini celebration and showers. Despite being a little sore and tired, we were anxious to get out and really experience downtown Ashland.

We had drinks, followed by a nice dinner in a great place with locals cheering on the Oregon football team. We told stories of what we all experienced during the run and how we felt at certain points. It was pure bliss.

Alas, we are moms and we were tired so we called it quits pretty early and headed back to the hotel (in the pouring rain). We had our growlers and were eager to get foam rolling! haha

The next morning was day light savings. The time change didn’t really help us, our internal mom clocks had us up the normal time. We grabbed coffee and breakfast from the hotel and went back to pack up and hit the road.

Stopping at scenic over looks again.
Stopping at scenic over looks again.

The drive back was good. Again we made it a point to stop at scenic over looks for photos.

The wolfpack. Stonegate, Burning Girl and myself (photo by Stonegate)
The wolfpack. Stonegate, Burning Girl and myself (photo by Stonegate)

We stopped in Redding to visit Burning Girl’s mother-inlaw. She is the sweetest woman. We also stopped in Weed, California to have a little fun – gotta have fun in Weed!

Burning Girl trying to get the perfect shot of Stonegate
Burning Girl trying to get the perfect shot of Stonegate
I ran into Sheldon
I ran into Sheldon too. :)
Beautiful Mount Shasta behind me.
Beautiful Mount Shasta behind me.

All in all, it was one of the best weekends that I have had in a really long time. I feel truly blessed to have a supportive spouse who encouraged me to go have a weekend with friends and I feel truly lucky to know these two ladies who love to travel, love to run and love to adventure just as much as I do! So thank you Vans and thank you Stonegate and Burning Girl for being the two best adventure pals ever. I love that you are always willing to go on my crazy adventures and destination races.

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So the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon was my last trail race in my current age bracket. I have one more race of the season left in December and then I cross the proverbial line into a new age bracket, a new era. So far I have to say that I am not afraid. I am not sad about it. My thirties have been fabulous. I have been so very blessed and so very lucky thus far to have the family, friends and adventures that I have had. This year in particular has been one helluva year for me running wise.

I have met and talked with some outstanding runners and athletes this year and it is all because I love to explore. If my mom’s death taught me one thing (it actually taught me a lot) but most importantly I have learned to live life! There is no telling what tomorrow may bring. So grab life by the horns, and cherish it. Then, let it go and find the next big thing. Make memories (heck make waves if you can). Just do it. And don’t forget to smile.

I've been blessed to make many acquaintances this year.
The last year in my thirties hasn’t been too shabby. :)

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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