Tag Archives: Pigeon

CANYONS 100K RACE REPORT

If I had listened to all the signs the Universe was throwing at me, this race should never have happened.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

Last year when I ran the Quicksilver 100k, I promised myself that I would run another 100k and push myself just a little bit harder. I finished Quicksilver with a lot left in my tank. I wanted another shot at a 100k, not just as a Western States Qualifier (though that was a bonus), but to prove to myself that I could run and run a little bit stronger.

However, I quickly realized that once training for Canyons started, I was struggling. A small bit of running-burnout combined with the disappearance of my morning running crew (injuries and life happened – not their fault) and the onset of one of the wettest coldest winters we’ve had in a while, I was left trying to motivate myself to run at 4:30 am on weekdays in the pouring rain all alone.

So for the first time ever, I reached out and found myself a coach. I have never had a running coach before. Not one that gave me one on one attention and wrote a plan designed specifically for me and my busy family life.

I admit, it was definitely a hard adjustment for me at first. As much as I really liked not having to “plan” my runs each day … I had to trust that HIS plan was better than MINE. I’ve had a fairly successful trail running career thus far, and giving up (what seemed like) total control, was hard for me. I had to have faith that what he designed, would work. Trust me, there were times I questioned it and emailed him asking him “why” or “when” I can do certain things. He was awesome. Always responding instantly and calming my nerves, I just kept doing what he told me to do.

So when I rolled my ankle pretty severely on the last long run, two weeks out from race day, I panicked. Pigeon and I had been pounding out the miles in the canyons every single weekend for what seemed like forever. One weekend it was super hot. The very next weekend it snowed! And it hailed. And it snowed some more!

SNOW in April!
SNOW in April!

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We never quite reached the mileage we intended each weekend because of either the weather or because the trails were in terrible condition due to all the mud slides and trees that were down.

Massive trees all over the course
Massive trees all over the course
Dangerous mudslides
Dangerous mudslides

On top of all of that, I had some major work stuff happening AND Peanut and Squeaker started their swim season. OH! And The Peanut also turned 9 and Jersey Dad came out for a visit. My life was a train running at full speed and I really didn’t see any signs of it slowing down.

So when I rolled my ankle, I quickly emailed my miracle worker and friend at Elite Spinal and Sports Care. Dr. Lau is used to my emails by now and we have known each other well before kids came into our lives. He got me in and fixed me up good as new.

Then, the Sunday before race day, my back went out. Like really out. Spasms and stuff. I could barely walk at the Peanut’s birthday shindig let alone think about running.

Again, I reached out to Dr. Lau and told him what was going on. I assured him that I had done NOTHING to warrant the pain. So on a random evening, I told the girls they were not going to swim practice and I dragged them and Jersey Dad to my emergency appointment in hopes that 4 days before I was to toe the line, Dr. Lau could do something to help me.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

When the Friday before the race arrived, I was feeling about 80% of normal. Definitely not 100%. Luckily I was able to work from home that day and I had planned to drive up to Auburn for packet pick up. Instead, the morning started out with two massive screws in my car tire. Awesome.

Despite all the obstacles and signs, I was still hell bent on starting the race. Internally, I accepted that my day might not unfold as I wanted. That the training I have put forth all season, might be for nothing if my body didn’t cooperate.

drop bag

I packed my drop bags, set out my gear and went to bed early on Friday evening unsure of what the next day would bring.

The race started at 5:30 am at the old Foresthill Elementary School. I woke up at 2:00 am without an alarm. I was anxious. My friend Stonegate had offered to take me to the start of the race which was super nice considering she had to be at my house at 3:15 am.

However, when 3:15 arrived .. then 3:20 and then 3:25 and Stonegate wasn’t there and wasn’t answering my texts, I started to panic a little. I love Stonegate she is an amazing friend and one of the things we have in common, is that we’re always on time … or early, especially for races. I had no other choice but to jump into action and shuffle some cars and my gear around so that I could drive myself to the start. As it turns out, Stonegate didn’t hear her alarm. She felt terrible and still feels terrible, despite that I keep telling her it is okay and that it really makes for great blog material. 🙂

That little adrenaline rush of panic quickly turned into ease as I realized driving myself and listening to some pump up music, was just what I needed after all. I got to the start in plenty of time, parked near Pigeon and waited.

When 5:30 neared, Pigeon and I gathered at the starting line. I had quickly filled her in on all the drama I had faced that week and the status of my back. I told her that I was hoping to stick with her the first half and see how things go.

For this race, the 50k and 100k runners start at the same time. I have to say, that’s my only complaint with this race. The race is amazing, the volunteers are awesome but the crowds and conga-lines on these narrow trails, really turned me off.

I started with a mini-headlamp as the sun had not fully come up yet. Pigeon and I settled into a nice pace. The race starts out on the pavement and then you turn right and make the descent down towards Volcano Creek. It wasn’t that cold either. The day was expected to heat up quite fast. I started in a tank top and arm sleeves which I took off pretty quick.

As soon as we hit the dirt, the conga-lines started. We’d been warned that the Volcano Creek crossing was strong and that they had set up two ropes to help us cross as well as provided course marshals to assist us.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the crossing wasn’t as “raging” as I had expected. It came up to my knees but that was the start of us runners having wet feet … something that would last almost the entire day.

us

The first aid-station was Michigan Bluff (Mile 6.2). We knew that we’d see Miss P and Pearls volunteering there as well. I tried to stop and use the porta-potty here but the line was too long and Pigeon gave me that look like “Dude, we can’t wait.” So we passed on any fuel and headed down toward El Dorado Creek.

This down section is pretty fun. You can really pick up the pace here and make up time because it is almost 3 miles of total downhill. However, we were stuck running behind a line of runners so you are sort of left at whatever pace the lead runner is setting.

When we got to the bottom, I had to dip off the trail and take care of mother nature. Pigeon just continued on.

The El Dorado Creek aid-station (Mile 9.0) was hopping. I didn’t grab anything here but I did pull some things out of my pack to eat on the long brutal climb out.

Photo from www.runcanyons.com
Photo from www.runcanyons.com

I wanted to catch up to Pigeon so I ran up for a bit passing runners. Finally I saw her and I settled into a nice hike. I noticed that I was feeling okay. My breathing was better and my back felt good.  I love climbing and have had some really good moments on this exact climb during training.

When we reached the top Pigeon and I reconnected. We both felt fine. We started running.

The next aid-station was The Pump (Mile 13.5) and they had huge blow up unicorns and all kinds of fun stuff here. The volunteers were awesome and were quick to help you refill whatever you needed.

I refilled my water bottle and soon Pigeon and I were headed towards Devil’s Thumb. I have to say, the volunteers that came out and cleaned up the trails the weekend prior did an amazing job. The trails were not nearly as torn up as they had been during training. A lot of the downed trees had been cleared.

When I reached the top of Devil’s Thumb I was excited. I settled in with a group of guys who were just bombing the downhill. My friend Roger was in this group and he always makes things fun. The pace felt great to me so I stuck with it. It was frustrating here because you had lots of runners climbing out so you were constantly moving to the side or stopping to let them pass. The trail isn’t that wide mind you, so often times you’re standing in a poison oak bush letting someone by.

On the switchbacks I couldn’t see Pigeon but I knew she had to be close. Finally we reached the bottom of the Thumb and had to grab a bracelet as proof that we went all way down. Then, we turned right around and started climbing back out. Devil’s Thumb has 36 switch backs. It’s a brutal climb and it was definitely starting to get warm.

I saw Pigeon on the turn around, she was not far behind me at all. I just put one foot in front of the other and power climbed my way out.

When I reached the top, I was eager to get to the aid-station at The Pump again (Mile 18.5). I was hot and I wanted something salty. I figured I’d see Pigeon when she made it there herself.  However, I never did see her again again until much later in the race.

I grabbed what I needed at The Pump and started walking out. Then I started running. Despite the climbing I had done, I felt pretty good and I was looking forward to the descent down to El Dorado Creek. I’d been killing this section in training lately and I was eager to take off the brakes and just let gravity take me down.

At the bottom of El Dorado Creek (Mile 23.0) I didn’t stay long. I grabbed something to drink and then power hiked as I ate. Once again, I found myself in a line of guys all climbing about the same pace.

When I reached Michigan Bluff Aid-Station (Mile 25.8) I said “hi” to Miss P and Pearls again. I refilled on some stuff and started out. It was definitely getting hot out and I couldn’t wait to revisit that creek crossing again to cool off.

The next aid-station is back at Foresthill, where we started (Mile 32.0). I ran into Diane Hanes from the Folsom Lake Trail Running Series here. Diane asked, “Where is your crew?” I just said, “I don’t have one! But I have a drop bag!” She found my drop bag and helped me refill my pack. I noticed that I had arrived at that aid-station slightly before my predicted arrival time which made me feel good.

I barely spent more than 5 minutes there and was back out running. The second half of the race was a section I had not done since I had run Ruck-A-Chuck back in March.

This section of the course was for 100k runners only so the amount of traffic on these trails was minimal. In fact, I often found myself alone much of this section.

At one point, I came to a pretty heavy flowing stream crossing. I stepped in and relished in the cold water for a minute. Taking my bandanna, I dunked it in the water. THEN! I had an amazing idea, WHY NOT DUNK MY HAT!? So bent down to dunk my hat in the icy cold water when all of a sudden, my foot slipped! And as if it was in slow motion I saw my whole body go UP and then come down. I was flat on my back in the middle of this heavy flow of water. The only thing sticking out of the water was my head! I died laughing and there was NO ONE around to witness it. I knew Pigeon would have died laughing at me. 🙂

I got up and kept running.

Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 35.5) – such a sweet and friendly aid-station. Again, I didn’t stay long. The one thought that kept entering my mind during this whole run was that I would have to come back on these same trails later to get to the finish. That was a mental hurdle of sorts.

Cal 2 Aid-Station (Mile 40.5) I knew was the last aid-station before the turn around and the longest between stretches (7 miles to the next aid). I also knew that it had a decent down hill portion to it combined with a nice gnarly climb and some sandy trails.

By the time I was about 3 miles from the turn around spot and the Rucky Chucky Aid-Station (Mile 47.8) I had run out of water in my pack. I still had this yucky tasting warm water in my water bottle if things got desperate.

When the single track dumps you out onto the fire road, I thought the aid-station would never come. Every runner I passed seemed to tell me it was “one mile out still.” I was anxious to get there because Stonegate promised to be there with some ice (I was so thirsty!).

True to her word, she was there with ice and a plethora of fresh cold beverages for me to choose from. She made me laugh and that is what I needed I think. Just a little boost of energy. Someone to tell me that I was doing a ‘good job’ and to keep going.

I was probably there maybe 5 minutes? Back out on the fire road I went, ready to finish this thing. On my way out, I ran into Pigeon. She looked okay and said she was ‘fine’ but she didn’t have her usual spark. I knew she didn’t want to bring me down by telling me she wasn’t feeling well. As it turns out, she dropped from stomach issues when she got to Rucky Chucky (which was an aid-station full of carnage).

I decided the only way to finish this was to keep moving. Run any flats that I could, all the downs and keep moving firmly on the up hills.

When I reached the long climb to Cal 2 (Mile 55.1) I was overcome with a sense of strength. I hiked that climb like it was nothing. I stopped at the aid-station quickly for a drink and then headed back out. I wasted no time. I knew in my head that I only had 8.5 miles at this point until I was done with this beast.

The section between Cal 2 and Cal 1 is something of a miracle for me. I am not sure what happened or what occurred exactly, but I was overcome with a surge of energy. I started running. Not just shuffling, but actually running. I was doing some 8:30/9:00 minute miles here. What the heck?!

I passed some guys and as one guy moved to the side he said, “Holy crap! You are running really strong right now! Wow!” I just told him that I was “ready to be done” and he said, “So am I but I can’t get my legs to do what yours are doing! You go!

That just fueled my fire. I kept going. It was getting darker by the minute but I waited until the very last glimpse of light before I put my headlamp on. I’ve never truly run “at night” … I have run in the dark with friends, but never “in a race” so to speak.

Eyes straight forward. Any rustling to the side of me I ignored and attributed as a squirrel. 🙂

I wanted, I needed to get to the Cal 1 Aid-Station (Mile 60.1). The bonus of running at night, is that you can see the aid-station lights through the trees so you can have a sense of hope that they are near.

When I got there, I simply dumped out all of the trash in my pack and left. 3.5 miles to finish. I could do this! I knew I had cell coverage here so on my hike out, I texted Vans who had been chilling with Squeaker at the finish line since earlier that evening.

Squeaker waiting!
Squeaker waiting for me!

I told him that I was about 3.5 miles from the finish but that it was an uphill climb to get there. I texted Stonegate who immediately texted me back with some pump up kick a$$ motivation.

Then, I put my phone away and got to work climbing. No stopping. No slow moving. Hike girl! Just hike!

I passed a few runners on my way out. When I reached the pavement, I knew I was done. I knew that I had enough in my tank to get to me to that finish line. I started to run and I encouraged the guy who I had been chatting with to join me. He said, “No thanks. I am going to hike this one in.” Fair enough, it had been a long day. I said my goodbye and I ran!

The road through town was dark, very dark. I saw the finish up ahead. I actually had to ask for directions because I wasn’t sure where the arch was exactly. I heard Vans say, “That’s her! That’s her!

I crossed that finish line and threw up a fist-pump! I effing did it! And I finished well under the time I had expected to finish. I was just over 16 hours which was pretty sweet in my book, especially after the recent weeks that I have had.

Done and smiling!
Done and smiling!

What a day and what a race. When I finished, I felt good. I mean I was tired, but I was able to walk and change and heck, I had to even drive myself home! 🙂

My Squeaker girl. Always at the ultra finish lines.
My Squeaker girl. Always at the ultra finish lines.

I am normally a person who listens to all the signs the Universe sends out. I truly believe things happen in life for a reason.  Despite all the obstacles I faced leading up to this race, I think I was tested for a reason. They weren’t signs to deter me from starting, they were signs to see if I was tough enough to endure what is considered one helluva difficult race. 63.6 miles and over 15,000 feet of elevation on hot terrain.

I couldn’t have done so without the support of my coach, my friends, my running partners and my family. I think Vans may have been a little afraid of what the day might turn into based on how I had been feeling, but he remained my biggest supporter, my strongest friend and without him, I am not sure I would have finished.

A quick side note, that he’ll kill me for sharing, but Vans stuck TONS of little personalized notes of encouragement and jokes throughout my pack. Whenever I went into a pocket, I’d find a new note. They were stuck in my drop bags, my pack and even in some of my food pouches! 🙂 That alone, gave me more energy than I think he realizes.

My rock with me post race - at midnight.
My rock with me post race – at midnight.

I truly am a lucky girl. I am looking forward to some R&R now. My calendar isn’t empty by any stretch but what I do have on there, is for pure enjoyment only. I’ve missed running trails for fun. I’ve missed running and exploring and soaking up nature without an agenda, a goal, a specified mileage.

I want to run free of obligations. I want to run and laugh with friends and support those who are gearing up for bigger and better things. For me, I am content to just be.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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FOURMIDABLE 50K (Lessons Learned)

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

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

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

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

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

My peeps!
My peeps!

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

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

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

boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of TrailTaylor
Photo Courtesy: TrailTaylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy: Vans
Photo Courtesy: Vans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That my girls stole!
That my girls stole!

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

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

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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STILL RUNNING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squeaker looking to pass!
Squeaker looking to pass!

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

Peanut!
Peanut!

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

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

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

Enter Grumpy and Not Chris ….

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

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

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

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

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Pigeon!

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

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Not Chris
Grumpy!
Grumpy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then ….

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

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

 

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WOLF-PACK

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

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

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

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

These ladies rock!

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

TiggerT and I
TiggerT

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

FullSizeRender
They also send you funny texts during races.

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

2016 Selfie

Well now, I have it but 100 times better.

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

Trail Girls

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

Hugs!

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

Oops! hahaha

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

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

wolfpack-2

Happy Trails!

(and Happy Thanksgiving!)

~Trailmomma

 

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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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