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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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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 ….

ruck

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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HEADLANDS MARATHON RACE REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start area
Start area

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

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

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

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

Vegan Skott and Rachel
Vegan Skott and Rachel

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

RD on a water fountain
RD on a water fountain

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

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

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

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

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Looking down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the piggy? haha
See the piggy? haha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Stonegate
Photo by Stonegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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

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BUFFALO STAMPEDE 10 MILE RACE REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready set go! They all took off!

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

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

My little speed demon
My little speed demon

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

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

Racing kids!
Racing kids!

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

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

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

Homemade Chipotle Bowl
Homemade Chipotle Bowl

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

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

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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