Tag Archives: Love Trails

OREGON COAST 50k RACE REPORT

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Spontaneous (spon-ta-ne-ous) adjective: performed or occurring as as a result of sudden inner impulse or inclination and without premeditation.
Spontaneity was our theme, our goal, our mantra this past weekend. We only had two items on our road-trip agenda:
1) Stop, stay and explore Eugene, Oregon; and then
2) Head to the coast and run the Oregon Coast 50k.
We’ve had this trip in the books for a while.  When Stonegate presented me with the idea of running the Oregon Coast 50k, I was all-in because I love a good race destination road-trip ESPECIALLY when that destination is in Oregon.
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com

When I signed up for the race, I decided that I truly wanted to run it. Maybe the correct phrase is “race it” but in a middle of the pack kind of way. 🙂

I started training in July. I told Stonegate and Burning Girl (who was supposed to join us but had last minute family obligations), that my intention was to push it hard(er) on this race than I have for our other road trip races. I don’t normally run “hard” in the fall, instead I use this time as more of a recovery period from a gnarly spring race schedule. Yet, something compelled me to want to run harder.

The Oregon Coast 50k boasted an elevation gain of about 4500 feet. I tried not to let that get in my head. That is probably the lowest elevation I have raced on trails in a long time, but I know better than to underestimate any race, especially a coastal race.

I had an A Goal (place top 3 in my age group), a B Goal (place top 5 in my age group) and a C Goal (finish standing and smiling). The day before, Stonegate and I played “tourists” a bit over zealously and man, did we both feel a tad bit tired! Oops.

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The race had a 9:00 am start time which is something completely foreign to me! Most ultras start in the dark and super early. Stonegate and I really didn’t even need to set an alarm for this one. What did require some juggling, was our pre-race fueling but we managed okay by making huge smoothies and taking selfies on our hotel patio.

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They have you head to the finish line and then they bus you to the starting line up the road. The race starts on the beach! The bus ride was quick and painless. Some runners had to stand but no one seemed to mind because the weather was gorgeous. I guess in years past it has been rainy and pretty gloomy … it was sunny and quite warm for us.

Starting line - Jason (in red) is the Race Director
Starting line – Jason (in red) is the Race Director

Stonegate and I were pretty excited. The energy around was happy and everyone was so nice and talkative. Jason, the Race Director let us all get situated on the beach before we took off running.

Stonegate and I minutes before the start
Stonegate and I minutes before the start.

Boy did everyone RUN! The whole race started off crazy fast! I was hoping it was just the excitement and that everyone would eventually settle down. I mean, 6 miles all along the sand … that can be brutal on your body if you’re not careful. Stonegate stuck with me. My first mile rang out on my watch. …

Stonegate: I feel like we’re going really fast.

Me: Well we’re doing about an 8:30 pace according to my watch.

Stonegate: Okay then, you go ahead, I am going to slow down dude. I don’t want to start out too fast. 

Me: Okay! I am sure you’ll catch up to me soon!

I felt okay and not like I was pushing to keep the pace so I tried to just settle in and run. A few groups passed me so I assumed that I had slowed a little bit.

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Now don’t get me wrong, the ocean was GORGEOUS. You had the beautiful Pacific to your right and an adorable coastal town to your left but six miles, on sand … is a really REALLY long time. It was for me at least. I found my mind wandering, “What will I eat later today?” and “What do I have to do on Wednesday again?” I tried to zone in my thoughts and focus on my form like my coach instructed me to but every so often I would drift.

At the end of six sandy miles you literally hit a rock wall. You then have to climb up some steps (that felt like boulders at the time), and then you run along the most beautiful path!

We walked the path the next day ... super cute!
We walked the path the next day … super cute!

I sort of felt like a weight had lifted off me when I left the sand. I am not a sand loving runner. 🙂

You then run through the coastal town of Yachats (pronounced Ya-Hots).  The first aid-station is here, Mile 7 except that I never actually SAW the aid-station. When I crested the grassy area, I saw a ton of elite-looking guys changing their shoes but I never saw a table and I didn’t really want to waste time looking for one. I decided to fuel with what I had on me. In hind-sight, I probably should have fueled a tad earlier in the race given the later start time.

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The course was extremely well marked. We were assured at the start that if there was a major turn that there would be clear markings and signage and there WAS! I only had a few moments when I was alone on the trail, that I had those “Oh crap! I haven’t seen a ribbon lately!” thoughts but to be fair, there were no turns or any other trails around…you just had to follow what was natural and in front of you.

 There were more stairs much to my dismay but not a ton. Not like at Stinson Beach or in the Bay Area. I just kept moving. Then we hit our first climb and it felt like a ton of bricks had landed on my chest! “What the heck?!
I decided to fuel thinking that maybe I was in need of calories. However I could barely chew because my chest felt so tight. I pulled out my inhaler and actually took a puff. I can’t remember when I have had an allergy attack like that. I say allergy because I never had it again and Stonegate had the same thing around the same spot on the trail! Something was blooming that my allergies didn’t like.
Around this time, about 20 people passed me on the uphill deflating my inner fire a bit. How on Earth did they have the strength and power to climb like that?!
I decided to power hike as best I could. I knew I was on the first of the three climbs and that the second one was way bigger.
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com
Photo from: www.rainshadowrunning.com

When I got to the top and started on my way down, I was eagerly looking forward to bombing a downhill! The trail however was super technical with lots of tree roots and rocks. Still, I did my best trying to open it up on the down.

I was flying down a hill, somewhere at about the 12 mile marker when I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my left quad! “What the heck!” I yelled. I had thought that I was hit with a be-be gun! I didn’t stop running but the pain was intense! I looked down and there was a stinger sticking out of my quad! “A bee?!”

I was seriously just dumbfounded.  I kept running afraid to stop and have it blow up and swell. I haven’t been stung by anything since I was like 8 years old so … I had no idea if I was allergic or not.

It burned, it itched, it stung. I didn’t stop. Finally, I came to Mile 14 and the Cape Perpetua aid-station. I grabbed a hand full of grapes and I asked the guy there if they had bees around here and he goes, “Oh yea! We have an angry bunch that just stung a ton of people!” Great. Well at least it wasn’t a be-be gun. 🙂

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I continued on a bit, knowing that the big second uphill was coming. I was starting to feel a little bit better around mile 17 or so. The views were just outstanding and really were lifting my spirits.

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Just keep moving Pam, you can do this. You trained for this.” That’s what I kept telling myself at least. Then I ran with a guy for a little while who was talking about the 100 milers he had done and how he was excited to have his Western States Qualifier. He lived in Ashland and I told him that was our race destination spot last year!

THEN! I was stopped dead in my tracks on the trail. There was a bunch of runners and some guys just yelling. Turns out, there was a Yellow Jacket’s nest in the middle of the trail with tons of angry yellow-jackets.

One dude said, “I am going to go for it!” and he ran straight through! I felt like I was watching him in slow motion … BAM stung in his calf … BAM stung in his quad.

I turned to the girl next to me and we were like,  “Um nope! No way. No how!” We followed the other group that had to bushwhack their way FAR around the buzzing yellow jacket’s nest.

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By the time I reached Cooks aid-station (mile 19.5) I was already coming back to life. I was excited that this was essentially the “turn-around” spot which mentally always helps propel me in races.

I ran into that aid-station ready to be in and in out but then I looked at the table and saw mini dill pickles! Oh my. I’ve never eaten pickles in a race before though I hear a lot of runners like them. I had a quick mental battle of “should I or shouldn’t I?” in my head and decided to grab one and walk out. It was THE BEST PICKLE ON EARTH! 🙂 Seriously, that little dill pickle recharged me and I floated out of that aid-station light as feather!

One more aid-station to go and the biggest down hill section of the race was next! I honestly felt like I was flying down the next section. It was one of the few NON technical downhills in the course. I am going to assume that the intense thick tree cover interfered with my pace on my Garmin. 🙂 I know it did with the mileage because the race came up short in distance according to my Garmin but we were under some pretty thick tree cover for a lot of the race.

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I just kept running. I’d pass a few people here and there. Sometimes they’d pass me back. In my head, I had settled on my C Goal but a part of me wasn’t giving up completely.

I came across one guy who was laying on the ground. I asked if he was okay and he said he had swelling in his knee. I asked if he wanted any Advil and he hopped right up and said, “Sure! We can keep walking so that way I won’t slow you down.

I handed off some Advil and wished him luck and continued on my way.  Finally, I came to the last aid-station! Woo hoo! I was getting excited knowing that I was getting closer and closer to the finish!

I chatted with the aid-station volunteer. I asked him if anyone dropped here earlier because of bee stings and he said he had a lot of drops, but not sure if because of bee stings – Stonegate is allergic and I had been worrying about her all race.

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I continued on my way running all the ups and the downs. When I encountered any stairs, I walked. 🙂 FINALLY I was dumped back onto the pavement! Yes!!! I could smell the finish but I knew that I had to run a lot of pavement first.

I looked up and saw a woman that had passed me earlier in the race. She had looked SO strong too. She powered up all those hills like they were nothing. A small part of me was excited to have caught up to her.

I ran along side her and she seemed excited to have someone to run with. I told her to go ahead and she said she was out of water and that she couldn’t go any faster. I asked her if she wanted my handheld water bottle, “Are you sure!? You don’t mind?” she said. “Of course not! Go ahead, I have plenty.

The two of us ran through the town together. Then we made the turn onto the grass. The woman said, “Come on, we have about 400 yards. We can do this! I don’t care about time.” In my head I was thinking: First of all, how does she know it is 400 yards and second of all, my C Goal had turned into “finish this BUT finish under 6 hours” since I was way off what I had hoped I would finish in … so for ME, I did care about time, MY time. It wasn’t about beating anyone but myself. It always is.

We were running across the grass. Everyone was cheering. I saw the finish and that it was a little up hill and something just turned on inside me and I went for it. I sprinted as hard as I could. I saw the clock and I pushed it!

Whew!!! I did it. I was done, thank goodness, I was done! That is one helluva race. It is unassuming in many ways, but don’t be fooled, it’s a doozy of a race and I was thrilled to be done!

The woman came up to me and thanked me and said, “When I saw you turn it on, I said, I don’t have what she has!” 🙂 Then the Advil guy finished shortly after and he thanked me for the Advil.

I found my drop bag and waited for Stonegate to finish. She texted me so I knew that she hadn’t dropped because of an allergic reaction but she had been stung.

Stonegate Finishing!
Stonegate Finishing!

I changed out of my smelly shirt and ran back out on the course to find her. I ran through the town with her until she reached the finish! What a day!

Final stats:

I finished in 5 hours and 53 minutes.

I was Second in my Age Group!! 🙂

And 17th female out of the 91 that started the race.

I will take it! I conquered my A Goal after all despite feeling like I had run a terrible race. It just goes to show you, never give up, never quit. Give all that you have left to give!

Stonegate and I didn’t hang around the finish for long. We were hungry! 🙂

Post Race Tradition - Champagne!
Post Race Tradition – Champagne!

We headed back to our hotel, showered, stretched, had some champagne (a tradition), hummus, carrots, crackers, chips and salsa. Food never tasted so good!

Later that night, being that we are both Plant-Based and know the importance of post race fuel being key to recovery, ran out to the store and bought kale! We made a rice, bean, kale and salsa dish in our instant-pot that night which was perfect!

Plant-Based Athletes recovering with plant-strong food!
Plant-Based Athletes recovering with plant-strong food!

Overall, I am happy with the race outcome. It was a gorgeous race, super well marked and well run. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone even though I had some dark(er) moments out there. I was able to pull through and not wallow for long … there is always a silver lining, there is always something you can do or try to pull you out of your funk. No one can do it but you.

In the end, it was the best road-trip ever. I am in love with Oregon and I finally got to visit and run on the coast. It was everything I expected it to be and more.

I truly am blessed to have a friend like Stonegate who seeks and cherishes adventure like I do and a husband who is willing to let me go and explore and feed my soul on trips like these. I missed my family immensely while I was gone, they would have loved the Oregon Coast. I guess we need to head back all together. 🙂

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Until next time Oregon!

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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Some of my favorite road trip photos from our four days of fun!

We discovered a selfie-stick in Stonegate's car and it opened a whole new level of fun for us.
We discovered a selfie-stick in Stonegate’s car and it opened a whole new level of fun for us. Thank you to her 10 year old for leaving it in there!
Wandering the University of Oregon campus ...
Wandering the University of Oregon campus …
Discovering the Sea Lion Caves on 101!! One of the best random finds of the trip!
Discovering the Sea Lion Caves on 101!! One of the best random finds of the trip!
No shortage of laughter while driving long hours.
No shortage of laughter while driving long hours.
Our home away from home most of the time - our ocean side patio.
Our home away from home most of the time – our ocean side patio.

 

 

 

 

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RUCK A CHUCK 50k RACE REPORT

Much like last year, this was only supposed to be training run. Last year’s Ruck a Chuck turned into a battle for the finish (read that report here), this year was a little bit different ….

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Once again, Paulo and the crew over at Single Track Running, put on a stellar event. This is the second event of theirs that I have done in the last month.

I really enjoy STR events because they are fun, low-key, well marked races and they typically really challenge you (which I like) and they often are on trails that you wouldn’t normally find yourself on, which I also really like.

The Ruck a Chuck 50k is entirely on the Western States trail, which is pretty awesome in and of itself.

First let me start off by saying, I was bad blogger this race. I took only one photo the entire day! So all photos in this recap are from STR and Chasqui Runner (THANK YOU!) and from Not Chris.

The day started with my Garmin dying. I’ve been having charging issues and needless to say, it was going to be a Timex kind of day for me. Which is fine, it was just kind of a bummer to not have my mileage, pace or elevation at the end of this race.

Not Chris however did have his Garmin and he was running his very first 50k! He’s been running well and if we’re honest, he really didn’t officially even “train” for this race, he just kept his mileage up. He’s a stud.

The parking at Driver’s Flat is limited so Pigeon and I carpooled to the start and were able to score a spot and chill.

The weather was warmer and dry and having remembered last year how humid it was out there, I started this year in a tank top. So glad that I did.

Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
Photo Credit : Casqui Runner

Love seeing so many familiar faces at these races. Lots of good people. I even met a few people that I “know” from social media only and that was super cool.

Paulo gathered us at the starting arch, gave us some final instructions and then passed the megaphone off to a friend to count us down.

We were off and running the 3 miles down the road to the river. Last year I remember really blowing this section up, yelling at myself and then stopping to use the restroom at the bottom as a way to calm myself down.

This year we flew down (Not Chris said we ran a sub 8) but it didn’t feel like we were flying super fast. I did tell Not Chris that we’d have to stop at the restroom at the bottom. I didn’t share with him yet that I’ve been battling an unsettled tummy for the last two days.  I hated to stop but it was unavoidable.

Photo credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo credit : Chasqui Runner

Our plan was to stick together all day. His main goal was to finish feeling really good and to fuel better than he did at FOURmidable. My goal was to not race. I was supposed to “jog” nice and easy – Not Chris’s job was to make sure I did that.

After our bathroom stop we continued on. I noticed that for some reason, it was hard for me to breathe. The trees and flowers have really been blooming lately and man, have my allergies felt it.  It felt like I only had one working lung instead of two.

Not Chris was LOVING the views and the raging river on our right. He was mesmerized by it all. I love when people get to see new trails for the first time.

Stream crossing! Photo Credit: Chasqui Runner
Stream crossing!
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

We settled into a run and then hit the single track section and so the climbing began.

Profile from Single Track Running
Profile from Single Track Running

The course is very runnable. The trails were much clearer (the over grown grass section was gone) but in some sections, it seems the rocks have multiplied.

I tried to just focused on running and hiking. My lungs took a while to come to life but they did eventually. My stomach however, was always just one step away from being a problem.

Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

Not Chris and I bypassed the first aid-station (mile 2.7)  and the next one wasn’t for another 7.5 miles. We chatted along the way, having a good time and enjoying the day.

Everything was so green and pretty! The flowers were in bloom and the ticks were out. That was the one thing that I was super nervous about but hey, that’s mother nature for ya!

Pigeon Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Pigeon
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

When we made it to the Cal 2 aid-station (mile 10.2) we couldn’t help but laugh. They were the happiest bunch of volunteers! The aid-station was fully stocked with everything you could need (including beer and shots) and they were cracking jokes. I almost didn’t want to leave … Not Chris I think was overwhelmed as he took some time at this aid-station. 🙂

On our way to Cal 1 we ran into a fellow co-worker of ours, Brad Rogers. The three of us chatted for a bit about work and running. Then I ran into Shavi! Shavi and I have never really met but we have many mutual friends so I said “hi” and introduced myself.

The down into Cal 1 (mile 14.6) is pretty steep but I knew that once we reached the bottom, aid would be close. Last year the race was shortened due to a rain storm and the aid-station was our turn-around. THIS year, we had to run past the aid-station a mile, grab a wrist band and return to the aid-station.

Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

Not Chris and I barely stopped at the aid-station. As we were reaching the turn-around spot, we ran into lots of friends on their return. It was such an energy boost with lots of whooping and hollering.

Not Chris let out a bit “WHOO HOO” when we reached the bucket holding our wrist bands. We grabbed ours and headed back, eager to get to the Cal 1 aid-station (mile 16.6).

Once through we started our climb out. The section leading back is a gorgeous single track that’s super runnable and boy did we run! Last year this was the section where I ran into my Tommy Lee Jones friend Roger. Funny enough, I ran into Roger within the first 3 miles or so during this race and he laughed remembering last year’s brutal run and how he helped me push to score a nice finish. This time I said, “Don’t even think about it Roger!” 🙂

At one point, I think I was hallucinating as I told Not Chris that I saw the Cal 2 aid-station through the trees. Not sure what the heck I saw but it sure wasn’t the aid-station! 🙂

When we finally did come up on Cal 2 (mile 21) I was looking forward to the sections ahead. The descent out of Cal 2 is super fun. A switch back down that can really give you a boost of energy. Before we left the aid-station though, we laughed with the volunteers again. They were a riot, they told us to give them a good “YELP” review. 🙂

Photo Credit : Me
Photo Credit : Me

Not Chris took the lead and down we flew. I was no where near the speed I was last year as my ankle (that I tweaked the weekend prior) was starting to bark at me, a lot. Still, I think we ran down pretty well, excited to be on our way home.

Not Chris was thrilled because he ran his farthest distance ever on this down hill. Followed by his first ever marathon distance when we hit 26.2.

At one point on our way back we passed a guy on the trail and he said, “Trailmomma?!” and I turned and said, “Yea!” He said, “Hi!” So whoever that was (I missed the name on your bib), you totally  made my day! 🙂 It also made Not Chris laugh … “Did that guy just call you Trailmomma?” 🙂  I hope you had a great race too!

Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

When we hit the fire road that runs along the river, I was feeling a little bit better tummy-wise (though still bloated – started the race that way but what are you gonna do?) but I was also having some swelling issues. My fingers had started swelling as I was starting to retain water. I stopped consuming anything salty and luckily, there wasn’t much farther to run. The temps were humid and it even sprinkled on us a bit but it was still warm. Warmer than I think I anticipated and ultimately was a bit behind in my hydration.

LOVE this photo of Pigeon Photo Credit : Casqui Runner
LOVE this photo of Pigeon
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

We reached the final aid-station at Gate 101 (mile 28.5) and prepared ourselves for the climb out. It’s a nice long climb up a dirt fire road. We started out hiking, neither one of us eager to run. Then, as we both tend to get, we got bored and would pick “trees” to run to. “Okay, run to that second big tree! Now, run to that tree on the left!” Do what you have to do to move.

We turned a corner and I noticed a speed sign that was just littered with bullet holes. We both were looking it, talking about it when I turned my head right and saw the arches! “Hey!!! Look! HA! Let’s go!”

The finish line totally took us by surprise! We both started running and smiling.

Photo by : Not Chris's Family
Photo credit : Not Chris’s Family

I saw all of Not Chris’s family off to the side and they were cheering for him. Even his dog looked like he was cheering!

He did it! Photo Credit : Not Chris's Family
He did it! (that’s his dog too)
Photo Credit : Not Chris’s Family

Woo hoo! We crossed the finish line smiling. We both had reached our goals, but I was beyond proud of him. He has the potential to run much harder than he did and I know he will some day, but it was so nice to watch him reach his goal and to see his family there at the finish witness it too.

SO happy for him! Photo Credit : Not Chris's Family
SO happy for him!
Photo Credit : Not Chris’s Family

Another awesome 50k in the books. Thanks Single Track Running for a great event, a challenging course and a well executed race.

Thanks Not Chris for keeping me company all day. You looked strong, ran well, kept me moving and my mind off my stomach. Man, the bloating and the swelling was not fun but that is what these training runs are all about right? They make us stronger. They help us figure out what we need to work on. I’ve been super lucky the last  few years to have some stellar uncomplicated runs and races. I can’t always rely on the fact that everything will be perfect, but I can rely on myself and my ability to problem solve as I go.

Swollen and bloated by happy. Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner
Swollen and bloated but happy.
Photo Credit : Chasqui Runner

As it turns out, Not Chris ended up second in his age group and I ended up third in mine! Woot woot! I’ll take that. 🙂

And a shout out to my hubby Vans, as he also raced this weekend on Sunday and he also came in third at a gnarly (muddy) mountain bike race in Cool.

Two very muddy boys! Photo Credit : Me
Two very muddy boys!
Photo Credit : Me

Overall, a great weekend. I raced Saturday morning, Vans raced Sunday morning and our girls had their swim team clinic on Sunday afternoon. Perfection.

Cheers to Third Place Parents! Photo Credit : Me
Cheers to Third Place Parents!
Photo Credit : Me

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

Full Disclaimer: I am not associated with SingleTrack Running at all and was not paid or compensated for writing this report. This is the fourth race of theirs that I have done, and I truly believe they host stellar, challenging and thoroughly top notch events. 

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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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WESTERN STATES TRAINING RUN 2016

Where on Earth is the trail? I don’t remember having to climb straight up do you?” “I don’t either,” Pigeon said, “but everyone else is going this way.

Pigeon starting in the snow!
Pigeon starting in the snow!

That’s pretty much how our day started on Saturday. Climbing hands over feet up a snowy wall blindly following other runners and on occasion, seeing a few yellow ribbons to boost our confidence.

Climbing in snow.
Climbing in snow.

Memorial Day Weekend is my favorite running weekend of the year because it is when the Western States Training Runs happens! I love this weekend. Generally I only do the first day (32 miles) with Pigeon and we typically laugh, no matter what the day throws at us and this year, it threw a lot.

2016 Selfie
2016 Selfie
2015 Selfie
2015 Selfie

You can read the 2015 recap here. 

2014 Selfie
2014 Selfie

You can read the 2014 recap here.

2010 and first WS Selfie
2010 and first WS Selfie

You can read the 2010 recap here. 

The day was warm to start, even with the snow on the ground. All that initial climbing definitely warmed my body up fast – confirming my thoughts that I didn’t need anything other than a tank top and shorts. Neither Pigeon nor myself have run much if at all since our Quicksilver 100k finish exactly two weeks to the day.

Perhaps we were being a little too optimistic thinking this training run would be a breeze? It might have gone a lot smoother if it wasn’t for the super-hot temperatures, my angry tummy and Pigeon having a nasty chest cold. All of which proved to make our day a bit challenging.

We started our day at Robinson Flat and saw some amazing views right away. Last year it was rainy and foggy so I missed seeing some of this beauty.

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The first event of the day is when I decided to try and “jump” in the snow and quickly slipped sliding on my bum down an embankment. Pigeon laughed hard. I was fine. It could have been worse and I prefer falling in snow than on a rocky trail any day.

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It took a bit to get the mojo back into my body. It felt good to run along the single track just chatting away with no regard for time or pace.  Somewhere in here, I believe Pigeon tripped, but didn’t fall. I then stepped over a rock but apparently landed on a fallen tree branch that swung around and whacked my shin. It stopped me dead in my tracks and I yelled out in pain. “What the heck happened?” Pigeon said. I mean, it looked like a little twig but it wasn’t and in within seconds I had an acorn size goose egg forming on my shin. That would pretty much set the tone of the day, we would alternate tripping or rolling ankles.

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We talked about all the other training runs we’ve done. This would be our fourth Western States Memorial Day Weekend run that we’ve done together. We even reenacted some old photos for fun.

2016
2016
2010
2010

The aid-stations were great, super friendly. The “item of the day” for me was fresh cut watermelon (and I typically HATE watermelon) dipped lightly in salt! Oh my word! The combination of the sweet, the water and salt was exactly what my body was craving in the scorching heat.

The trip down to Devil’s Thumb was causing me some nasty knee pain similar to what I had in Quicksilver. I tried to go slow and easy but it was pretty relentless. I ended up taking an Advil to numb it for a bit.

The beautiful Swinging Bridge
The beautiful Swinging Bridge

When we finally reached the bottom near the infamous Swinging Bridge, I wanted to stop and take a few photos. Also a bunch of guys had come flying down into the canyon and seemed eager to start their climb.

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When it was time to start climbing, Pigeon moved to the side to let me pass. She knows I love to tackle mountains.

I ended up passing a couple of the guys who had passed us on the down section. There was one guy who came running back down. I joked with him that he must love a challenge but he said he was helping out a friend.

When I reached the top, I saw two girls standing there. It was two of my “Instagram” friends, Yvonne and Steph. Yvonne came down and gave me a hug. It was nice to see smiling faces at the top of such a brutal climb. I chatted with them for a bit, ate some food and reapplied some bug spray (oh my word the mosquitoes were back this year and it was horrible). Yvonne and Steph were trail-sweeps for the day but were out on the trail early to cheer on runners. How nice is that!?

That is what you climb.
That is what you climb.

A couple of people came up from Devil’s Thumb and looked pretty beat up. One lady was not walking straight and seemed very out of it. Another guy came up and instantly stepped off to the side and began to vomit profusely (and loudly – ugh). Pigeon made her way up and looked like she had been breathing through one lung, which in reality she probably had been because of her cold. She needed to stop and hack cough a few times before we moved on.

The next aid-station was a welcome site after that super-hot climb. Water, ice and watermelon were music to my ears at this aid-station. I knew that after this, it was another super long descent to El Dorado Creek and then the brutal 2.5 mile climb up to Michigan Bluff which I knew would be HOT.

Random guy playing the cello out near Deadwood Cemetery.
Random guy playing the cello out near Deadwood Cemetery.

The descent down to El Dorado was okay. My knee felt a lot better but I ended up rolling my ankle here. Nothing serious but it definitely threw me for a loop. When I reached the river at the bottom, I climbed down to soak my bandanna. Two nice guys kindly took my bandanna and my hat and soaked them in the river. That felt amazing. Cooling my body temp before the heated climb was exactly what I needed.

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When Pigeon arrived she mentioned that she was already dreading this climb. It was really hot out and some of this climb did not have shade. Off we went and soon I found myself alone. I came upon a guy who did not look very good. I asked him if he was okay and he assured me that he was. Then about 5 minutes later I saw the same guy who ran down Devil’s Thumb running down Michigan Bluff! I laughed. He was going to help his buddy again which as it turns out, was pretty sick by the time Pigeon passed him. Everyone was overheating.

I LOVE this day!
I LOVE this day!

When I reached the top I found some shade and just enjoyed drinking water and having my peanut-butter cookies when all of a sudden, in mid-peanuty-chew I realized that I had run out of water! I was praying that Pigeon was close because I could barely talk my mouth was so full. HA!

We attacked the Michigan Bluff aid-station, refilled our packs and off we went. The hike out is on this pretty exposed fire road. I mean FULL sun beating down on you without any relief in sight exposed.

Ouch
Ouch

As we were trying to muster the energy to start running again. Pigeon noticed a foot print in the dirt. Holy cow! I had to pull out my camera and take a photo … it was huge!

Grrrrr
Grrrrr

Finally we left the scorching hot fire road and entered the trail that would lead us down another descent to Volcano Creek.

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When we arrived at the creek it was full of runners cooling off in the cold water. It was also infested with lady bugs! I hated stepping on them but there were millions of them flying all over the place!

Lady Bugs!
Lady Bugs!

We crossed the creek and knew that we had 3 or 4 miles to go until we were done.

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Pigeon and I were surrounded by a lot of people who seemed anxious to be done with the day and who looked very dehydrated.

When you reach the top of Bath Road you have to run down the road until you get back to the Foresthill school. A guy standing on the side of the road told us it was a little more than a mile down the road. Both Pigeon and I did a, “WTF?” We knew it wasn’t quite that far and luckily, we were right.

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Overall, the day proved to be a tough one for us physically and mentally. Besides my earlier tummy troubles (which were not caused by the run itself – it was something I had been dealing with in the days leading up to it), I felt genuinely “ok” all day. My knee is still an issue, IT band related most likely. Running 32 miles with over 7000 feet of climbing two weeks after a 100k with 13,000 feet may have been a bit much but I am proud that I was able to do it.  I love this run. I love that you see and meet so many other ultra-runners from near and far and everyone is genuinely excited to be there! There is just something special about that trail.

The best part about doing the Saturday training run is that you get to have the rest of the holiday weekend with your family! I had dinner with Vans, I attended a trail running film festival with Stonegate and I lounged by the pool with my Peanut and Squeaker. To me, it was a perfect weekend.

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I look forward to next year already.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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