Category Archives: Race Reports

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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THAT DAM(N) RUN HALF MARATHON RACE REPORT (and a million other things)

The October love is still flowing strong. This past weekend was no exception. We squeezed in a lot!

Crazy is as Crazy does!
Crazy is as Crazy does!

The weekend started off with the school’s Harvest Festival on Friday night. I am giving the PTA props because they made some changes to the festival and it was well done. Vans helped with some set up too.

Just hanging around
Just hanging around

Saturday we found ourselves at the Loving Lane event down in Sacramento. Sally Edwards, aka the Head Heart is a dear friend of ours. Her nephew Lane Edwards was in a terrible accident about two years ago and was left with a C4 spinal fracture which has left him unable to walk.

Lane is defying all odds with the help of a huge team of trainers who are supporting his efforts to be able to walk again, on his own two feet.

We attended his event to help support LovingLane.org which is enabling Lane to continue with his therapy. Check out his website www.lovinglane.org and see how you can help.

Pinkhouse age 97
Pinkhouse age 97

Also attending Lane’s event was Pinkhouse, our 97 (soon to be 98 in December) year old friend who contributed by doing an indoor cycling ride for Lane! How is that for inspiration!?

Indoor cycling workout led by Sally the Head Heart
Indoor cycling workout led by Sally the Head Heart

Sunday morning came bright and early for us after the great day we had at Loving Lane.

A few weeks ago I ran into Coach Nikon (my old trail coach and friend). He is the Race Director for That Dam(n) Run – trail 10k and half marathon.

Pre-Race
Pre-Race

Coach Nikon invited Vans and myself to come out to his race AND he told us to bring our girls. He said that he and his daughter the Cheetah, would watch them while Vans and I ran. How absolutely perfect (and nice) is that?!

Trouble!
Trouble! Peanut, Squeaker, Cheetah and friends

I ran the half marathon and Vans ran the 10k. My race started first. After a few announcements from Coach Nikon, I was off and running.

Coach Nikon talking to the 10k Runners
Coach Nikon talking to the 10k Runners

The 10k runners followed yellow and black checkered ribbons while the half marathon runners followed pink and black striped. The course was well marked with ribbons and with flour on the ground. If you got lost, you clearly were not paying any attention.

Day of the Dead theme ALL over the place
Day of the Dead theme ALL over the place

I should note that Vans does not run much if at all. He’s probably run once this entire month. Needless to say, he was pretty stoked to find out that he was the winner of the 10k.

Here comes Vans!
Here comes Vans!

He was also pretty tired and really did not enjoy the uphill finish! ha!

Winner winner tofu dinner!
Winner winner tofu dinner!

He had a blast though and loved the challenging course. Hmm, maybe I’ll sign him up for the half next year?? 😉

Coach Nikon and Squeaker - TOTAL trouble here.
Coach Nikon and Squeaker – TOTAL trouble here.

My race was fun. I ran hard and had a great first half. Second half, after climbing the old dam hill, I slowly started running out of steam.

There was a young(er) girl who passed me at one point and who I stayed behind the entire second half of the race. She was running super strong.

She stopped at the last aid-station, about 1.7 from the finish and I grabbed her arm and said, “Nope. Come on! This is your race. You’ve got this, let’s go!” She followed and took the lead.

She asked if I wanted to pass and I told her no, this race was hers as she had been a super strong steady runner the whole day.

We turned a corner and saw the final stretch to the finish. It was completely up hill!!! I had been running steady for the last 3 or 4 miles with no walking … seeing that hill just knocked the wind out of me!

Best race photo EVER
Best race photo EVER

Vans snapped that photo as I was cresting the hill. I was giving Coach Nikon the evil eye with a bit of Jersey-attitude for throwing that darn hill in at the finish. FYI – You had to run the hill because EVERYONE was watching and cheering at the top. 🙂

It was a FANTASTIC race. Such a gorgeous day and a very well run event with amazing volunteers!

First in AG, 4th overall in the half - Vans was first overall and first in AG for the 10k
First in AG, 4th overall in the half  – Vans was first overall and first in AG for the 10k

We chilled at the finish line laughing and chatting with friends.  We didn’t really want to leave ….

Two little monsters!
Two little monsters!

but alas, we had promised the girls a trip to Apple Hill to get pumpkins since next week is Halloween. Where is time going?!

All the tutus and all the fairy wings = heaven for Squeaker
All the tutus and all the fairy wings = heaven for Squeaker

We stopped quickly at an orchard to get pumpkins, apples and look at the all the vendor booths. Squeaker found her happy place at a booth that sold tutus and fairy wings.

Next stop, was at our dear friends winery. Our peaceful happy place. The girls just love it here and so do we.

Sisters
Sisters

The girls run around playing while Vans and I chat with the owners and our friends, Ann and Paul (in between masses of people visiting the winery of course).

Peanut - love her
Peanut – love her

October is always an insane month for them. It is the busiest time of year actually. Vans and I are low maintenance and happy to sit and enjoy the views. We also love to help them out when they need it, carrying boxes, empty glasses or whatever they need. It makes us happy to help.

Happiness
Happiness

Needless to say, I am bummed this is the last week of October. It has been one amazing month and I have been so blessed and over-joyed with all that we have been a part of this month.

Next weekend is my plant-based cooking class and I am super excited about that. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, November isn’t looking too shabby at the moment. My trail-girls, Stonegate and Burning Girl and I have a little road trip adventure coming up which should be fun!

Life is just good all around.

Loving life
Loving life

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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HEADLANDS MARATHON RACE REPORT

Wait! Stop! Just LOOK at that EFFING city! Oh my god!

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That pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks and made me laugh, out loud. When Stonegate sees a view that she wants to capture, she makes sure you (and everyone else around her) knows about it! 🙂

Last year on a whim, I reached out to Stonegate and asked if she was interested in running the Headlands Trail Marathon with me. She was … so we did and we laughed… a lot.

So when sign ups came for the 2016 Headlands Trail Marathon we both jumped at the chance, not really thinking too much about our fitness level and mileage.

I have had a few longer runs under my belt recently, nothing more than 15 miles or so though. Stonegate however, had not really run much more than 7 since her 50 mile race back in April. Still, we went into this run looking for fun and adventure. Pure and simple. No expectations. No agenda.

We arrived in Mill Valley late afternoon on Friday. We bummed around town a bit checking out the shops and planning our post-race meal location for the next day. This town is absolutely adorable. We crashed at our friend Mill Valley’s place just as we had last year. We made her a plant-based dinner in exchange for two comfy beds to crash in pre-race and a nice shower post-race. We are super lucky to have her and she is one of THE nicest people I have ever met.

Saturday at 4 am my alarm started blaring and we began getting ready. We arrived at the race start pretty early. We sat in the car until race registration opened up and we could go get our bibs and use the restrooms.

Start area
Start area

The race start is steps, literally, from the ocean. The temps were breezy and cold but the salt water air was a refreshing change from the pollen and smoke filled air of the central valley.

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When race time neared, we headed back down eager to get the day started. While milling about waiting for the pre-race meeting, we ran into Miss P and Pearls (named for her Pearl Izumi shoe obsession – which by the way, she’s super sad the shoe has been discontinued, but she’ll always have her nickname!).

Me, Pearls and Miss P - love these ladies!
Me, Pearls and Miss P – love these ladies!

While also hanging around, we noticed two people wearing shirts that said VEGAN in super large lettering. Of course I had to say something. I sort of walked over and said, “Awesome shirt! Woo Hoo, go vegan!” The conversation started and we all talked about being plant-based and learned that Vegan Skott, who was from Boston, was running the Headlands Hundred! Rachel, his crew, was assisting him. Super sweet people!

Vegan Skott and Rachel
Vegan Skott and Rachel

The race director jumped on top of the water fountain and gave us a little pre-race briefing. After that, we lined up at the start.

RD on a water fountain
RD on a water fountain

Different from last year, the marathon started at the same time as the 100, 50 and 75 mile races but instead of going right, we went left to tack on an extra mile to make our distance equal 26.2.

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There seemed to be a lot more marathoners this year than last year. You spread out pretty easily though so there is no stepping on feet or anything but it does take a minute or two to get some space.

My legs felt a bit heavy from the start. They had not quite woken up yet and I hoped that the sensation would eventually fade otherwise it would be a super long day.

I knew it wouldn’t fade right away though because the start of this race is up hill. Like REALLY up hill, for quite a while with very little break. Like hands on hips hiking straight into the fog up hill.

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Looking down

The central Valley allergies were still present. My chest felt tight and my right eye started watering. Stonegate affectionately started calling it my “leaky eye.” It was annoying but we kept hiking.

A quarter of the way up, we noticed something moving on the side of the trail. None of the other runners seemed to see it.  It was a coyote! It had been at the start and now, it had run up the hillside and was watching us runners run by. It blew me away that no one else seemed to notice, or maybe they didn’t care. We stopped and took photos. Of course. 🙂

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Photo by me – he looks superimposed!
Photo by Stonegate
Photo by Stonegate – we swear he’s real!

Unlike last year, the fog never seemed to dissipate. Last year we were rewarded with some amazing views of the ocean from the top of the hill but not this year. This year, we saw fog and lots of it.

Still we ran the flats and hiked the up hills stopping to take goofy photos along the way.

Do Not Climb On Historic Gun TWSS
It says: “Do Not Climb
On Historic Gun”  ……TWSS
What? Oregon Border?
What? Oregon Border? On my way!

The fog also didn’t deter us from taking photos on amazing cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Stopped to get one of Stonegate ...
Stonegate soaking it all in

When we reached the aid-station at Muir Beach, for some reason I glanced up and saw that someone had placed a plastic pig on top of this sign hanging from a lamp post.

See the piggy? haha
See the piggy? haha

Because I am a dork, I pointed it out to Stonegate and the whole aid-station heard and they all started laughing wondering why this plastic pig was just sitting there. I assumed it was kind of a weird treasure hunt game thing. 🙂 Only I would notice something as random as that.

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After that aid-station we were back on the trails hiking back up hill. One of the things I told Vegan Skott before the race had started was that he might enjoy the many “eco-systems” that we’ll get to run thru throughout the day.

Maybe “eco-system” isn’t the right word but it is the best way to describe running from a cliff beach like setting into something that looks like it belongs in a rain forest!

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These “rain-forest” sections are my absolute favorite. It brings a huge smile to our faces and often draws out an “Awe yea” or “Look at this!” from one of us.

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From the rain-forest eco-system you are then thrust into an urban/city-like touristy eco-system as the trail has you running high above the freeway one minute and then down below the Golden Gate Bridge the next.

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You run a paved road down until you are underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s kind of crazy. The aid-station is at the bottom and this year it was closer to the bridge. Stonegate and I stopped and added some water to our pack. This was about mile 20 here.

We got to see Vegan Skott arrive. Rachel, his crew had this mini-van that was full of plant-based food and she invited us to have anything inside that we wanted. She also offered to get us coffee to have at the finish. This girl is crazy sweet. We wished her well and told her we’d see her at the finish.

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As we were making our way back up the hill, we looked to our left and did a double take. A bunch of people were gathered around this guy who appeared to have the largest gold chain and what looked like a gold roll of toilet paper hanging from it??!!! He was also rapping … about being under the Golden Gate Bridge. They were apparently shooting a rap video?! It was the craziest thing and totally unexpected!

Photo by Stonegate
Photo by Stonegate

We climbed back up the way we had come. Slower now, as it was uphill and there were still runners coming down. The trail leads you back across the windiest section of the race. Last year Stonegate almost lost her visor. This year she was prepared and she held it in her hand. The trail even has ropes on either side to keep you safe.

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Back across the we went. Stonegate I think was starting to feel a bit off at this point. The girl hasn’t run more than 7 miles so I don’t blame her. I think her stomach had decided it was done. She battled some nausea the last few miles or so.

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We would run and then stop to walk. She urged me to go on without and I wasn’t quite sure that was a good idea. This race wasn’t about time or performance but at the same time, sometimes when you are not feeling well, the best thing is to be left alone.

So I told her, “Let’s run some. If you need to stop again, I will just keep going. Don’t feel you have to rush to the finish or anything though.” So with about 2-ish miles to go, she stopped again and I continued on.

I have to say, those were the longest two miles ever. My legs had regained some energy somewhere along the run, I think back on the “rain-forest” trail so I had some pep in my step. I ran and cheered on all the ultra-runners who were coming back up to start their second loop of the race.

The trail along the ocean was pretty but never ending. You had the ocean to your left and a parking lot to your right. Lots of spectators were standing about which was nice as they cheered for you as you ran by.

Finally, I made the turn to the finish. There wasn’t much hoopla. A few claps from people but boy did it feel nice to be done! Stonegate finished not long after either. We’d made it, we finished the Headlands Marathon despite our lack of training.

We chatted with Miss P and Pearls for a bit. Said hi to Rachel and wished Vegan Skott well on the rest of his race. As it turns out, he didn’t finish the 100 but stopped at mile 50. Having only trained in Boston, that was one tough 100 to try and run. Kudos Skott!

Stonegate wanted to jet out of there as we had to get cleaned up, eat and hit the road so that we could be home for the last concert in the park with our families.

Overall, it was a great day. The cool temps were great compared to the warmer temperature last year but I did miss seeing the views just a bit.

I am super lucky to have Stonegate who is open to adventure on a moment’s notice. She dug deep on this one and finished. Not sure if this will be on our calendar for next year. We love visiting with Mill Valley but maybe we’ll pick a different race? Who knows, but no matter what, it’s always an adventure.

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Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

(Finish time: 5:44, 1st AG)

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BUFFALO STAMPEDE 10 MILE RACE REPORT

Home from Plant-Stock and trying to get back into our routine and into the swing of things.

One of those “things” was running the annual Buffalo Chips sponsored Buffalo Stampede 10 Mile race. I have been doing this race since we lived right on the course many years ago.

It is a road race, not a trail race which meant I had to dust off my road shoes and hoped they still fit.

Last time I wore these was for CIM December 2015.
Last time I wore these was for CIM in December 2015.

The morning was a bit chaotic so I ended up leaving the house solo and letting Vans and the girls sleep in. The plan was for the Peanut and Squeaker to run the kid’s free half mile race when my race was over. There was no reason to wake them up at the crack of dawn to drive down and wait.

Having left the house much later than I wanted, I arrived at Rio Americano High School, parked the car, RAN to the race area, picked up my race bib and schwag bag and then ran BACK to the car to put that all away. I then pinned on my number and raced to the starting area with about six minutes to spare. Whew!

The race started and I just tried to find a groove. I had no expectations for this race. I haven’t been running regularly enough nor have I done any speed work. I just decided to let whatever happen, happen and hope I lived to blog about it.

Mile 1 (8:13 pace) : Okay, that’s probably about as fast as I will be able to manage today…that’s fine. Good pace.

Mile 2 (8:14 pace) : Yup. Hey look there is Allyson! She’s running strong.

Mile 3 (8:00 pace) : Okay. That’s okay. Still seems manageable. You tend to run faster when chatting with people.

Mile 4 (7:51 pace) : Hmm, that was quite a jump but it is because I am running past my old house and while I know Vans and the girls won’t be there, I always speed up here thinking I’ll see them. Settle down. 

Mile 5 (7:58 pace) : Yup, slowing back down. Uh oh! What’s that? A giant turkey?! Oh geez, not again!

Mile 6 (7:49 pace) : Your pace is faster only because of the turkey, I am blaming the turkey on this one. Where did he go?

Mile 7 (7:58 pace) : Is that them!? Is that my family?! No. Man, there are a lot of tall skinny guys who have cute blonde little girls out on this course. 

Mile 8 (7:47 pace) : Just hang with these two guys. You’ve been behind them all day and they are setting a nice pace. BEEP BEEP! Hey! Look! It’s Vans and the girls! They made it. Now just stay steady. Don’t go crazy. 

Mile 9 (7:52 pace) : What!? My pace guys are pulling away! They must not want to be “chicked” at the last minute haha. Come on, you can do it, pick up the pace. Move past this group but keep it steady, you still have a mile to go.

Mile 10 (7:49 pace) : There they are! I see my family! They made it! Woo hoo you did it! Now don’t hurl, whatever you do, don’t hurl! Your kids are watching!

The Peanut cheering me on at the finish.
The Peanut cheering me on at the finish.

While I hadn’t set out to race this by any means, I did end up with a 17 second PR! Whoo hoo. I ended the race 6th in my age group (out of 60) and a sub 8 pace (per my Garmin – official race results have  me at about 8 mins).

After my race was the kid’s 1/2 mile free fun run on the track. Both the Peanut and Squeaker showed up ready to run. Squeaker’s best friend from her old daycare also joined them and it is total cuteness from here on out!

Squeaker and her BFF about to run!
Squeaker and her BFF about to run!

Ready set go! They all took off!

3

Squeaker blew me away. She kept a great starting pace while all the other kiddos took off like a bat outta hell. Eventually, all the speedsters slowed down realizing that two laps, is kinda hard!

Even the Peanut was winded and tired but not Squeaker! That girl just kept going!

My little speed demon
My little speed demon

When they completed their two laps, Squeaker said, “Can we do it again!?” 🙂

And they did. She and her BFF walk/ran another two laps around the track bringing their distance to a full mile! She’s five! 🙂

Racing kids!
Racing kids!

It was so adorable to watch. I hope that we can get these three together again soon for another run.

The rest of Sunday was spent visiting with an old friend of Van’s and then home for a nice family afternoon.

I was pretty hungry after my  race and only had a few random things in the fridge.

Homemade Chipotle Bowl
Homemade Chipotle Bowl

I took some left over rice that we had in the fridge and I threw it in a pan with some lime juice and some veggie broth and cooked until warmed through. I added a bunch of cilantro and cooked it a little longer. I then layered the bowl. Steamed kale with vinegar on the bottom, my cilantro lime rice in the middle followed by some oil free roasted onions and zucchini. Some salsa to finish and voila, an easy homemade post race meal that really hit the spot.

I do say that was a perfect Sunday after a weekend of traveling.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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QUICKSILVER 100K RACE REPORT (First 100k and Western States Qualifier)

About 53 miles into the race is the aid-station called Tina’s Den. It is home to four female mountain lions who like to hang out there. Two days ago, one of the cougars scared away a few mountain bikers. Don’t worry though, just don’t be last.

That’s essentially all I heard during the pre-race briefing from the Quicksilver Race Director on Saturday. Not exactly comforting news before I am about to begin my first ever 100k race.

While I haven’t written much about it on here, it was evident beginning back in January that I have been training for something …. something big. I wanted to run a 100k and not just any 100k, I wanted to run the Quicksilver 100k.

Yes, I am that kind of runner - folders, labels etc.
Yes, I am that kind of runner – folders, labels etc.

Last year everyone I knew did that race, including Pigeon because it was a Western States 100 mile qualifying race. I wanted to run it because I wanted to conquer that distance and I loved all the race photos from everyone last year. The chance to qualify was just icing on top for me.

Earlier this year, I raced two very challenging 50ks (one in February and the other in March) and that set the tone for my training. Going into Quicksilver with its 13,000 feet of elevation, I felt ready to climb but I was uneasy about the distance.

Insanely confusing course
Insanely confusing course

So sit back, grab a beer or cup of tea and read on if you care to see how my race unfolds (warning: it is LONG) or if you want to see a million photos, feel free to skim. 🙂

With its 4:30 am start time and the half-ish hour drive to the start, Quicksilver definitely taught me a few things about being flexible with my morning routine. I woke up at 2:15 am, ate and finalized my drop bags. I have never used drop bags before. This was totally new to me. You can tell it was new to me too because I used Star Wars lunch boxes that I got free from Target as two of my four drop bags!  I also used two Dylan Flinchum RockOn Foundation bags as my other two because if anyone can boost my spirits, it’s that little boy and his family back in New Jersey.

My "fancy" drop bags!
My “fancy” drop bags!

I even taped a photo of my girls in one of them to give me a boost late in the race.

Inside my drop bag - my shining light!
Inside my drop bag – my shining light!

After that little “pep-talk” by the Race Director, we were off and running in the dark. I had my lights with me and everyone around me had headlamps so visibility wasn’t an issue. Pigeon and I ran into Miss P who was also running her first 100k.

The race starts with a pretty good climb and everyone is reduced to a solid hike in the dark. Miss P and I chatted a bit on the way up which was nice. Eventually though, everyone spread out. Pigeon and I just ran. Our plan had been to run the race together. She knew the splits she wanted or needed in order to get a Western States qualification. I was content to run with her because I was unsure as to how the day would unfold having never approached this distance OR this type of elevation before and of course running with a friend for that long is always nice.

Soon the sun was rising and the views started to appear around us. It was pretty amazing and the temperature was nice and cool. I started in shorts and a tank top never needing anything more.

The sun is waking up!
The sun waking up!

One thing to note about this race is that there are a lot of “lollypop” loops in it. Picture a lollypop at the end of stick. To get the mileage we needed, we’d run up a trail, do a loop and then run back down the same trail passing runners. I noticed early on that we’d pass a lot of the runners coming down from the loop but none when it was our turn to descend. It was clear that we were the back of the pack. This unnerved me a bit as it is something I am not used to but I also knew there were many more miles to the day and that anything could change at a moment’s notice.

Such amazing views!
Such amazing views!

A few times Pigeon and I found ourselves behind some runners that I wanted to pass but I wasn’t sure how she was feeling so we devised a “code” for those situations. We’d ask each other, “How is your foot?” And if we said, “good” we’d pass and if we said, “not good” we needed another moment. This situation actually only came into play once during the race. Pigeon asked me “How is your foot?” and I said, “What are you talking about? My foot is fine!” Hahaha I had completely forgotten about our little plan.

Hicks #1 Aid-Station (mile 7) was first. I had a drop bag here but didn’t need it. I did take advantage of the restrooms. We both did. The volunteers were so nice and cheerful. They were very eager to help. Pigeon grabbed some more apple sauces from her drop bag.

We left Hicks and headed towards Bald Mountain. I remember feeling pretty good. Nothing was bothering me and the trails were rocky but not too technical.

Coming into Bald Mountain - Photo by Quicksilver volunteers
Coming into Bald Mountain. Yes, I have a huge smile.  -Photo by Quicksilver volunteers

Soon we approached Bald Mountain Aid-Station (mile 12.2). It was another lollypop type loop. You run past the aid-station to this beautiful cliff area, grabbed a purple rubber band to prove that you did the full loop and then back to the aid-station. We didn’t stop long here other than to use the restroom again.

After Bald Mountain we ran a short down hill followed by a pretty nice climb to get to Kennedy 1 Aid-Station (mile 18.9). Again, no drop bags for us but I noticed the aid-station was pretty bare bones. Not much to offer runners. I was fine with what I had been consuming thus far which was mostly fruit leather, some jelly beans (on the climbs) and my homemade Engine 2 Peanut Butter Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. We did refill our packs here though and discovered that the water at the aid-stations tasted like rubberized chlorine! UGH! It was barely drinkable and we had to run 5.4 miles to the next aid-station with that water.

After Kennedy however, we ran DOWN and by down, I mean far down. Still, I was feeling okay. I was worried about my left knee going into this race as it tends to not like a lot of steep down hills but so far, it was behaving just fine.

When we reached Lexington Aid-Station (mile 24.2) I was feeling good. Pigeon’s wife Missouri and son were at this aid-station as was Miss P’s pacer, Christine. It’s always nice to see people you know and have them give you a good pep talk. We also had drop bags here.

We both dumped our packs and refilled them with our own water. I dug into my drop bag for the first time and swapped out a few things, grabbed some more cookies and dumped the apple sauces as they weren’t working for me.

We left Lexington and headed for the longest biggest climb of the day, Dog Meat Hill. I have seen the photos of this climb, but none of them do it justice. This is one brutally long fully exposed climb. We were lucky in that it was overcast most of the time but it was definitely warm out there.

Welcome to Dog Meat Hill!
Welcome to Dog Meat Hill!

However, I was just in awe of the views and the trail itself. I did my thing and power hiked up every hill taking photos whenever I could. I’d wait for Pigeon at the top and then we’d repeat it again and again.

A little Dog Meat selfie!
A little Dog Meat selfie!

I had overheard a guy talking about how this is the hardest climb in the race and that nothing in the second half of the race compares. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear right then. It gave me a little boost that once we were done with this beast, things would be easier.

You can see how far off in the distance the road actually goes. Insane.
You can see how far off in the distance the road actually goes. Insane.

When we finally finished Dog Meat, we arrived at Kennedy 2 Aid-Station (mile 31.1). I mentioned to Pigeon that we had completed a 50k! She didn’t seem amused. She’d been battling some tummy issues along the way which is never very fun in a race.

Hot and sunny on Dog Meat. Brutal.
Hot and sunny on Dog Meat. Brutal.

When we reached the aid-station, they had nothing. Pigeon wanted a Coke or a turkey avocado sandwich desperately and they had none. I think this hit her pretty hard and knocked her spirits down quite a bit. Her mood had been quiet thus far but I could sense her go a little deeper into a dark spot.

I just tried my best to keep hiking and chatting when I could, hoping I wasn’t bothering her too much. Eventually, I told her that we had to just let it go. We couldn’t rely on the aid-stations at this point, they’ve proven to be pretty useless in the quantity of fuel provided and we’d have to make do. I knew we were heading back to Hicks 2 Aid-Station and I knew we had drop bags there. I tried to get her to focus on that.

QS Dog meat 5

Her stomach just wouldn’t let up though. Once we reached Hicks 2 Aid-Station (mile 36.4) we both used the restroom and then attacked our drop bags. I grabbed a few more things here including some Advil. My right knee (not my left knee as I mentioned earlier) had started to really bark on the long descent from Kennedy to Hicks. So much so that at one point, it literally gave way and Pigeon almost had to catch me from cratering to the ground. At Hicks 2, I took 2 Advil. I didn’t want to but I had no choice at this point.

From Hicks we ran towards Hacienda Aid-Station (mile 39.3) which was a little hard to stomach because Hacienda is where my car was parked!!! Yes, I had to run past my own car to get to the aid-station! That’s just cruel right?

The nice part about this section of the course though is that the distances between aid-stations were cut in half essentially which means, the next one after Hacienda was Mockingbird, just 3.1 miles away. Although Mockingbird was also the finish area so you have to run past the finish arch to go another 20 miles … again cruel.

Pigeon needed the restroom at Hacienda. I talked to the volunteers and took some pebbles out of my shoe. When we were finally back on the trail running, I reminded her that we were on our way to her wife and son. We had to do some climbing to get there, but I assured her it would be worth it.

QS Hill

She was in her dark spot I think again. She snapped at me once about starting to run, which is fine, I get it, when you hurt you hurt. I wasn’t offended. I mentioned something about the time and trying to qualify and she shot back that she was already well aware. Up until that point, I hadn’t really been focusing too much on the time. It was on our way to Hacienda I think that I started calculating the math in my head with the pace that we’d been going and realized, our chances of qualifying for Western States was slipping away. I battled in my head with what to do.

The dilemma in my head was broken by the sights and sounds of Mockingbird Aid-Station (mile 42.9). I needed this boost. As I ran in, I told Missouri that Pigeon was hurting a bit, her tummy was just not happy. I had a drop bag here so I swapped out some things and I grabbed some cream for my knee. I applied some but I wanted to run with it just in case. The Advil had kicked in by now and the knee was feeling much better. As we left Mockingbird, I turned my phone on (it was on airplane mode most of the race) and I texted Stonegate and Vans that we had 20 miles left in the race and that any chances of qualifying were starting to slip away.

While I had been texting, a bunch of texts from earlier in the day came in, one of them was from my Peanut. My girls had a mock swim meet that day and my Peanut had sent me this:

QS Sierra text

That gave me such a boost. It got my thoughts running again. My little girl didn’t give up today. I shouldn’t either.

From Mockingbird to Bull Run 1 it’s up hill. We did not have to climb the huge rock pile that the Quicksilver race is known for but instead, they rerouted us an extra quarter mile. What’s an extra quarter of a mile in a 62 mile race?

I powered up the climbs but instead of waiting at the top for Pigeon like I had been, I wanted to keep moving. So on the downs, I’d slow down a bit hoping she’d catch up and she usually did.

QS flowers

We reached Bull Run 1 Aid-Station (mile 46.1) and we ran a weird little lollypop thing again. Pigeon and I ran that together. I think she was starting to get her mojo back because she said, “Hey, do you want to try for it? We have 15 miles to go and about 3.5 hours, we can push it. Want to go for broke?” I was just thrilled she had her spirit back! “Sure! Of course!” I said. Pigeon was coming back! She then said, “Okay, we’ll take turns pulling each other. I’ll go first!” She took off running down hill and I was hot on her heels behind her.

About five minutes later, she turned and said, “Ok, your turn!” and she let me pass. I never looked back. It was if a fire had been ignited within me, one that had been burning all along but I was too afraid let to come out.

Since Mockingbird I had been thinking, a lot. I thought about the time, about the race and about this course. Sure this race was a Western States Qualifier and while not my only reason for running, I had ran so much today that I wanted it. I wanted it bad. Pigeon is running Tahoe Rim 100 in July. I hated thinking this but I knew she had a second qualifying chance down the road. This, this race was my ONLY chance. So, I ran. I ran hard.

QS trail

I passed runner after runner. I passed runners sitting on the ground. I passed pacers urging their runners to just take another step. I ran uphill. I ran down hill. I entered the scariest freakiest single track trail I have ever seen in my life. It led to Tina’s Den (remember Tina the mountain lion from the beginning of this post?) … I can see why Tina and her friends like to hang out there! I was too afraid to stop to be honest that I just high-tailed it as fast as I could.

QS Side Trail

You finally get dumped onto a road. A volunteer said, “It’s a mile down that road and then turn left and the aid-station is about a half mile from there.” What he failed to tell me is that it was like a half-mile UP hill but whatever. As I had made the left turn, I saw this woman jumping up and down on a rock.

I thought she was waving to the guy in front of me who didn’t look too enthused to see her. In my head I was like, “Man what a jerk!” Little did I know it was Stonegate!!! She had raced the 2.5 hours from home to catch me at mile 53!!!!! She was a sight for sore eyes!

She hiked with me to the aid-station. We got there and they were dry. Nothing left. I had a drop bag but my stomach did not want much. Stonegate refilled my pack with ice cold water without me even taking it off. THAT is what I wanted. I told her that I had left Pigeon and that if she sees her to tell her how sorry I was and that I really wanted to push. I felt bad for leaving her.

Stonegate encouraged me and reminded me that Pigeon will understand and that she would WANT me to go. So, I went. Less than 9 miles to the finish and I was racing the clock with a lot of uphill between us.

Photo by Stonegate
Photo by Stonegate

After Tina’s Den (luckily I saw NO mountain lions) it’s a good uphill climb to get to Enriquita Aid-Station (mile 55.8). I ran quite a bit of this uphill. I channeled my training runs up Stagecoach and just pushed. Every so often, I’d hike and then I’d run again.

At Enriquita Aid-Station I didn’t even stop and instead made a sharp right hand turn and went down this gully of a trail with terrible footing.  Never mind there are runners hiking their way up too so it was a bit of a mess. When you reached the bottom, you had to read a sign (Read?! You want me to read and comprehend right now?). The sign said that in order to prove that you made it to the bottom of the hill, you had to hole punch your bib and show the volunteers at the top.

Um, the hole punch was attached to a cord that was ridiculously short! So after 56 miles, you have to try and stand on one leg while lifting your other leg, and hole punch your bib. Lordy!

I did it and then I ran my bum back up that hill. Just before reaching the top, I saw Pigeon making her way down. I hooted and hollered for her and she hooted and hollered for me and told me to just GO!

After reaching the top of Enriquita again, I ran towards Bull Run 2 Aid-station (mile 58.8), the final aid-station before the finish. It just happened to be completely up hill. I had to hike. There were moments where I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I couldn’t eat anything. I wasn’t sure if it was from how hard I was pushing myself or from nerves of being on the edge of not making the cut off.

When I got to Bull-Run 2, I was sprinting, or at least I felt like I was sprinting.

The volunteers went wild when I came through! “Just 3.5 miles to go! You got this! Run just like that and don’t stop and you will qualify!” Wait, can they not SEE the big hill down the road that I have to go up in a minute? They want me to run like this, up that?! I had to laugh, it was funny.

I kept having these mini dialogs in my head pleading that there would be no more “rollers” and then I saw a sign that said, “Just a few more rollers and you’re at the finish!”  I just want to note, you don’t SEE these “rollers” on the map or elevation chart but holy cow, were they ever there!

Course profile.
Course profile.

I pushed and pushed. I passed runner after runner. I was cutting every corner I ran around even if it meant cutting in front of another runner. Soon, it was all downhill. I pleaded with my knee not to flare up (it hadn’t make a squeak since Mockingbird).  Other runners cheered me on. Hikers on their way up cheered me on and told me I was close. The sky to my left was insanely gorgeous with the sun setting and I wanted to stop and take a photo SO bad but I didn’t dare!

Finally I saw the finish. I heard Stonegate first, “You got this girl! Just up this hill!” Which made me laugh out loud! Another freaking hill! I heard Missouri and Christine (Miss P’s pacer) cheering. I was so overcome with joy and happiness. I had made it! I qualified! I made it with about 20 minutes to spare (my time was 15:38). I was done.

Smiling the whole way into the finish!
Smiling the whole way into the finish!

Five months of training was over in one day. It was totally worth it. My friends congratulated me and then asked where Pigeon was. I told them I left her on the way to Tina’s Den. I said she’s behind me but I am not sure how far.

Pigeon came in a short time later. She too qualified for Western States with just minutes to spare! She gutted it out and ran her butt off to get to that finish line. I am proud of how deep she dug to do it.

As it turns out, she wasn’t upset at me for leaving and was happy that I qualified. That’s how friends work, especially trail friends. We support each other.

Overall, I feel pretty good. I have some soreness and I stiffen when I sit too long but my heart is full. I feel like I set out to conquer something, something I’ve thought about for a while, and I did it. I worked hard for it, very hard.

QS 2

Not sure what is next. I have a few training runs planned as I am pacing Pigeon at Tahoe Rim Trail in July so I have to be ready for that.

I definitely plan to rest though and let my body recover. I owe it that. It did everything I asked of it this season and I am grateful. So I will enjoy some down time with my two amazing little swimmers.

My little fish!
My little fish!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

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