As I mentioned in this post, the Peanut’s swim season is over. It seems, for the time being, I have my Saturday mornings back! Pigeon wasted no time and emailed me that we were meeting at 6 am and hitting the trails by 6:30 since the temperature was supposed to hit the low 100s.
She had emailed me that we were doing the Clementine and Stage Coach loops using our car as a make shift aid-station between loops. I remember this run. You can read about that adventure run here … I very clearly remember it being anywhere between 15 and 20 miles depending on how we finished the route. Ouch. 20 miles!? I haven’t been running more than 7 or 8 the last few weekends. My last run of 15 was about two weeks before Pigeon ran the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race. Still, I was excited. I have missed my weekend trail runs and all the adventures that follow and yesterday’s run had its share of adventure.
Let’s start out with me waiting at my car at 6 am at our usual meet up place. I see Pigeon drive in and park a few spots behind me. I immediately jump out of my car and head to the back to gather all my things. I grab my bag and cooler and walk over to the back of Pigeon’s car. “What is that sticker? Did Pigeon put a sticker on her car?” I think as I am about to throw my bag into the back of this car. I stop and realize it IS NOT Pigeon’s car! The woman in the car just looks at me. I turn around and there is Pigeon, in her car, behind me “What are you doing?” she says. I just start laughing. Luckily, I kind of knew the woman whose car I almost climbed into but she looked a little confused. Just to clarify, they were the exact same car (make, color, everything) this girl had a few stickers on her car that Pigeon would never put on hers.Â I quickly climbed into Pigeon’s car and we took of laughing pretty much the first 20 minutes over my mistake.
I was excited for this run because three other girls were going to join us! Pigeon had thrown it out there that we were running early and luckily a few other ladies wanted to join us!
I have run with some or all of these ladies at various points over the last year. From left to right we have: Doc, Legs, Miss P, Pigeon and myself. These ladies are awesome runners. They are all super strong and a lot of fun. I was definitely the slow one in this group.
We started off with some climbing. Nothing like starting the lungs out on a high note up a big hill. Doc, Legs and Miss P took off running. Pigeon is still recovering from her 50 miles at Tahoe two weeks ago, so she was content to hang with me hiking and running our way up the hill.
We were just running along when all of a sudden my head gets stuck and I realize that once again, my pony tail was caught in the zipper on the back of my jenny vesta hydration vest. Â This has happened numerous times to me on various runs. Trust me, I have tried two side braids, a french braid and even pigtails but my hair is that long that it sort of just swings and gets caught in the zipper. This time however, it was bad. I stopped and yelled to Pigeon to help me.
“What!? Again? You and your wardrobe malfunctions.” She comes to take a look at my pack and situation and goes, “Oh man, that’s stuck. That’s really stuck. I don’t think I can get that one out. I think you are going to have to pull a chunk out of your hair.” I start laughing and then start pulling. I could tell it was pretty wrapped in there. I pull and pull and all of a sudden I hear RIP! Ouch.
We eventually made it to the top of the hill and the others were waiting for us. We shared my little drama story, each of them agreed that it must have hurt.
Off we went down the trail. It was a nice run. We’d sort of separate at various points, each of us talking to a different person for a bit catching up on what is new in life or for me, finding out more about some people. It really makes the miles fly by when you have runs like this.
Eventually we got back to our car after a 6 mile or so loop. I hit the restroom and then when I got out, it seemed everyone was ready. I refilled one water bottle and dropped another thinking I wouldn’t need it since my pack was still quite full and had some ice. One thing that I forgot to do, was grab any additional fuel. I didn’t eat anything on the first loop as it wasn’t that long but I knew the second loop had some additional climbing and that we’d face some heat.
Off we ran up the Stage Coach hill. When we got to the top, Legs called it a day and ran herself back down to her car. The four of us kept going towards the Auburn Damn Overlook with Miss P leading the way. She took a little different route to get to the overlook than Pigeon or I am used to but we were content to just follow her lead.
At the overlook we all tried to soak our bandanas Â in water as it was starting to really heat up and fast. The water in the fountains however was luke warm at best. Not exactly refreshing.
Down the hill we went. Occasionally we’d stop and talk to some runners who were also out running. It seems everyone was trying to beat the heat with an earlier start.
Miss P was really feeling great on this run and was quite a bit ahead of us at all times. She’s in training for some nice races this year but both her and Doc ran the San Francisco marathon just the weekend before. Like I said, studs. 🙂
Pigeon was starting to slow just a bit. She was still in good spirits but the heat was rising fast. While the climbing slowed me down more than I would have liked, the rest of the run I felt pretty good. Occasionally I would pick up the pace and run a little harder or run up some tiny hill. Clearly I need to work on my climbing and hill repeats in the near future.
Soon we were coming to No Hands Bridge and the decision was made, we would head back to the car instead of heading up to K2 to try and make our run 20 miles instead of 16. I was fine with that.
When Pigeon and I reached the car and cooled down and said goodbye to the girls, the temperature gauge at 10:30 am read 97 degrees. That is hot at that hour!
I was home by 11 am and excited to spend the day with Vans, Squeaker and the girls. We had a little pool party planned and it was nice to just relax poolside (as much as you can with a million kids under the age of 6 in a pool) and enjoy the weekend.
Happy Trails! (it felt so good to be back on them)
PS: I have some very exciting news to announce in the coming week or so. Please stay tuned and be sure to “subscribe” to my blog (in the upper right hand corner) so you don’t miss out on this amazing once in a lifetime opportunity.
We agreed (me, begrudgingly) to meet at 6:45 somewhere in the middle and carpool ourselves to ADO (Auburn Damn Overlook). It was the day after the Fourth of July! Granted, we (meaning me), did most of our celebrating early in the day and on the evening of the 3rd of July, but I wanted a few more minutes of sleep. Luckily, Pigeon let me sleep a few extra minutes and pushed our run back (she originally wanted to be IN Auburn and running right at 6:45 am).
When we got to Auburn, we hopped out of the car and pretty much just took off. I wore my Ultimate Direction Jenny Vesta because the past few weekends I have been testing out how I want to use it when I am pacing Pigeon in two weeks. I think I have decided on a plan of attack. I’ll use the hydration bladder and one bottle (jug) to allow myself some extra storage room.
Almost immediately into our run we hear something off to the side and not 5 feet from us are a couple of beautiful deer having some breakfast. I just knew it was going to be one of those days on the trail. The kind of day where it is just gorgeous out and I find myself smiling from ear to ear no matter what.
The first couple of miles Pigeon and I talked, a lot. We talked about the recent happenings in our lives and also about TRT and what lies ahead for her.
The trail was dry and very dusty. When we approached the first “stream” crossing waterfall or watering hole, (however you want to describe it), Pigeon immediately got down and doused her bandana to wear around her neck. Even at 7 am, the temps were getting pretty warm. This SHOULD have been an indication or warning to us that the day would be a hot one, but we both sort of just shook it off and kept running.
We ran down towards No Hands Bridge, across and up towards K2. I knew where we were going without even having to say it. I didn’t mind. There is a porta potty at the end of No Hands so I decided that was the perfect time for a quick break.
The climb up K2 felt pretty effortless for both of us. We’d climb, talk and stop on occasion but for the most part we hiked pretty solidly all the way up.
I was pretty excited that I was feeling really well. I had some tummy troubles in the beginning but I always have tummy troubles. Once that subsides, I am generally a happy camper.
Pigeon always tests me out on the trails. She’ll ask me ‘which way’ at every turn or corner. She knows that I am generally looking down (trying not to fall) instead of watching where we are running. I think I can safely say, that I can park at ADO and run to No Hands, across and up K2 and possibly even the full loop without getting lost.
Which is kind of funny because if I park at the Cool fire station and you ask me to run to No Hands, I’d probably get us lost. 🙂
As we were coming to the point in our run where we could go back down towards No Hands or go straight and head to the Cool fire station we decided to hit the fire station. In my head I was thinking porta potty.
When we reached the parking lot though we both took some fuel and just stood there. We emptied our trash in the bin and pretty much just turned around and headed back out on the trail. We knew there was fresh water at the fire house but neither one of us thought to stop and fill up our packs. We thought we’d be fine with what we had (aaaah, hind sight IS 20/20).
When we reached No Hands Bridge again, Pigeon turned to me in the dead sun and said, “So I completely underestimated how hot it would be today. I have very little water left. This is going to be a long hike back.” I also felt like I didn’t have much water in my pack, but I also hardly use my hydration bladder, normally relying on my water bottles up front.
It was warming up pretty intensely on our way back and the trail was getting pretty crowded with hikers, runners and horseback riders.
Our pace was slowing considerably as we hiked more than we ran. At times, it felt like we were running from shaded section to shaded section. Finally, Pigeon tells me that her pack is completely empty. So I take off mine and I pull out my hydration bladder and realize that it was still pretty fully and I happily poured half of my water into her pack. Another runner was passing us as we were doing this and asked if we were good on water.
Off we went. This time, I knew that when we approached that waterfall, that I too was going to dunk my bandana in and rinse myself off a bit. I was sweating a lot. As we ran down the hill approaching the waterfall, we noticed that it was pretty crowded. It was full of hikers who clearly looked like they had taken on an adventure without realizing how hot it was outside. Many of them were sitting IN the waterfall.
Pigeon and I ran up, not really noticing too much and just squatted down in the water and took off our bandanas. We rinsed our faces, necks and arms. I looked up and I realized that everyone in the waterfall was glaring at us like we were some wild animals in a zoo who had approached them and were going about our natural course of wild life business.
I wanted to pull out my camera SO bad and take a photo but I didn’t. As we climbed out of the water and back onto the trail, quite a few more hikers were splattered around the trail. I turned to Pigeon and said, “Did you feel like you were an animal in the zoo back there with everyone sort of just staring at us as we cooled off?” She looked at me and busted up laughing, “Yes!” she said.
For the life of us, we couldn’t stop laughing about what had just transpired which for me, made the remaining sweltering miles, fly by a little faster.
When we finally reached the horse staging area, we decided to head straight for the canal. We were pretty overheated at this point and our nice little 15 mile run that should have taken us 3 hours or less, had taken us over 3.5 hours.
I have talked about the canal before but I am not sure I have ever posted a photo of it. To many non runners, this probably seems pretty gross …
For trail runners however, the canal is the perfect place to cool off during the hot summer months and in the cold winter months, it provides an amazing full body ice bath for recovery.
I am incredibly excited for TRT in two weeks. For starters, Be-Well-Run is flying all the way from Whistler Canada to help myself, Missouri and a few others crew for Pigeon. I love when she comes to visit. Second, just being in Tahoe for TRT is probably one of the most exciting times for a runner. I have crewed for Pigeon a few times (you can read about them by clicking here (2010) and here (2012)Â and here (2013)Â ). Â In 2011 I skipped but I had an excuse (Squeaker was only about a month old), but Pigeon ran the TRT 50K in 2011 as well, read about that here.
I truly believe Pigeon is ready. Not only is her training spot on, but her mind is in the game. Not that her mind wasn’t in the game before, but I think having experienced this race at the 100 mile distance once before, has put her in a whole new realm of readiness.
The support she has behind her as well, no matter the outcome, is beyond amazing. There is no denying the Pigeon that I met in 2010 is not the Pigeon I run and train with now just four years later. Some of that change comes from life experiences and some of it comes from her amazing and supportive wife Missouri. Most of it though, I think comes from Pigeon’s desire, drive, confidence and diligence in making sure she is 100% ready to conquer her goal. She is a goal driven runner. Someone I’d admire and feel lucky enough to call my running partner and friend.
So in my last post I said I was excited for my run this weekend and boy was I ever! I went from being “ho-hum” about running this week to having a day on the trails where I do not think I stopped smiling for even one minute!
In the four years since we last ran this training run, Pigeon has excelled as an ultra runner. She is officially training for a 100 mile race (again) and I have run my second 50k and my second 50 miler in addition to quite a few marathons. When we ran this run in 2010, we were naive. We both had run one 50 mile race and pretty much signed up for this training run on a whim and decided we could handle it. We did but we were complete novices out on the trail climbing mountains that are pretty intense. While we finished in 2010 laughing the whole way, we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into on that run.
With quite a bit more mileage under our belt, this time around would be a little different. We both have a lot more respect for this trail. In my mind, there is no better place to run than on this trail as it has a little bit of everything and if you are not careful, the trail can rule your day.
Pigeon and I carpooled to Foresthill Elementary School and checked in with the people putting on this run. We paid the fee to run this organized training run because that not only provides us three fully stocked aid-stations along the way it also goes towards restoration and maintenance of the trail itself.
In 2010 Pigeon and I rode the yellow school buses along with hundreds of others doing this run. This year, Pigeon coordinated with a friend to get us a ride to Robinson Flat so we could avoid the bus. The same ride in a bus takes an hour (and it is a curvy road with no shoulder) … in a car that ride took us a half an hour. That means we’d have a good jump on all the hundreds of other runners headed out for a long day out on the trail.
I agreed to the ride, although I admit I was a little bit worried when she told me who else was coming and the car we would be in Â (a Rav4). The numbers didn’t add up in my head. Where would I sit?
While I was sitting nice and illegal cosy in the back of the Rav4, I listened to everyone talk about their past 100 mile experiences whether in races or on training runs. The whole car was training for a 100 mile race whether it is Western States or Tahoe Rim … and then there was me, in the back. 🙂
When we arrived at Robinson Flat we all got out and stretched and used the facilities. In 2010 there was so much snow on the ground that we could not ride all they way to Robinson Flat. I had forgotten about that and quickly realized that the first 6 miles that I was about to run, I had never seen before!
The excitement started to grow. The girl who drove us was waiting for another person to arrive so Pigeon and I decided to follow some guys who had also avoided the buses and started our run. I didn’t know which way to go and Pigeon had a pretty good idea but we wanted to start out following someone just in case.
Once we left the camp ground and started on the trail following the yellow ribbons, I was in awe. At first we climbed a bit and were behind these guys who seemed equally excited to be out running. At one point they all stopped, not sure which way to go. One guy said he thought we should go right. I looked to my left and saw about 3 yellow ribbons so I said, “I think we go left, there are the ribbons.” Even Pigeon was thinking it was to the right. Luckily we went left. 🙂
Pigeon was cruising pretty fast. She was sticking close to the guys. While I was feeling fine, I could not pass what was before me! Every which way that I turned was the most amazing view I have ever seen!
I was slowly getting left behind because I kept stopping to take photos. I also knew we had a very long day ahead of us and I didn’t want to blow up my quads running down hill racing after the boys. Pigeon was on fire and sticking with them. Me? Nah, I’d rather have a photo op. 🙂
At one point I caught up to Pigeon and the terrible pacer that I am I made her stop. I reminded her that I had never been on this section before and that I was just blown away by the trail and the views … and then I made her take my picture. 🙂
I tucked the camera away (finally) and we kept on running. I knew that I had lots of photos from the second half of the run from 2010 so I needed to make sure I captured all that was before us on the first few miles.
My Jenny Vesta Hydration pack was FULL of fuel and water. I knew there would be aid along the way and mostly I was thinking I would only need water and maybe a few potatoes here and there at the aid-stations. I have been experimenting with my fuel lately and have been relying recently on ProBar products. I am more inclined to use real food instead of gels or chews but the ProBar Bolt chews have been working nicely as well as their ProBar Fuel bars. I prefer the bars most of the time.Â So when Pigeon stopped to find a tree, I had a snack and of course took another photo.
While we were running there would be the occasional runner who would catch up to us and chat for a bit. At one point, a guy who had originally missed the turn but heard us chatting off the trail, ran up behind us and thanked us because we had made him realize he had gone the wrong way. He joined us for a bit.
Now I have shared before that sometimes when Pigeon and I are off running deep in the woods, we will hear the occasional gun shot off in the distance. It sounds miles and miles away and is just the echo throughout the canyons that we generally hear. Not on this day. The three of us are running at one point I had looked down to my right and saw what looked to be a shotgun shell. My brain did a mental pause when all of a sudden we hear BAM! BAM! That wasn’t miles and miles off in the distance that sounded like it was just 15 feet away! The three of us jumped. BAM! again and we looked to our left. We couldn’t see the shooters but they felt way too incredibly close.
With our heart rates pumping, we just kept moving. We came across the first aid-station at Dusty Corners. I didn’t need anything really. I don’t recall what the heck I did at this aid-station other than fill one of my bottles with water.
The temps were definitely rising and in some sections it was down right hot. I felt good though. We just kept trucking along. I knew soon we would be coming to the long descent at Last Chance. It was this section in 2010 leading to Devil’s Thumb that I rolled my right ankle pretty severely and twisted my knee.
It is a very technical descent and the trail is covered in dry leaves so you can’t quite see what is underneath. Pigeon was not bombing the descent like she normally does so I was able to stick pretty close to her. All of a sudden I see her right toe get tripped up on a rock and what followed was in complete slow motion (for me, not sure about her). She trips and starts to fall forward and I go, “oh no!” and as I do, she rights herself almost catching herself from falling. However, out of no where it is as if gravity was pulling her and Pigeon just falls face first down the trail. Her hands didn’t pop out to protect her, at least not from my view but her arms were scrapped and she also ended up with a mouth full of dirt and her feet kicked back behind her like a scorpion’s tail. I did ask her if she was okay but my second question was “can I take a picture?” 🙂 She immediately snapped “no!” and popped up before I could even get my camera out of my pocket.
She had a few minor scrapes on her however we had quite a ways to go until we reached the bottom. Luckily there was a mini stream half way down and Pigeon was able to wash off some of the dirt and blood.
This fall took a lot out of Pigeon. When you fall on a trail run, it is more than just the injury or scrapes that you might end up with. You all of a sudden feel more exhausted than ever and your mind starts to play games with you. Thoughts like “oh, you must be tired” or “I fell because my legs are tired” start creeping into your brain. I was trying to not let Pigeon get down on herself about the fall because we were quickly approaching the toughest climb of the entire day, Devil’s Thumb.
Between Last Chance and Devil’s Thumb is a bridge called The Swinging Bridge. I posted about this in my 2010 post. It was old and scary but it thoroughly did its job of getting runners across the river. However, with the massive fires that this area had last year, this is all that is left of The Swinging Bridge …
Of course I completely forgot all about the bridge or the lack thereof. I had been watching the posts on Facebook over the weeks and I totally confused the construction of “the new bridge” as the replacement for the Swinging Bridge.
So how were we going to get across the river? Not to worry! The Western States crew had thought of everything …
Now the river doesn’t look that high in the photo but those men standing there to help us cross, were standing on rocks. In between those rocks, the water was almost up to our chest! I even asked one of the volunteers to take my photo because you know, I was still smiling.
That dip in the water was SO refreshing. It really cooled the body temperature down which was a good thing because the next item on our agenda was to tackle Devil’s Thumb.
I have only climbed “the thumb” once before. I’ve been to it a few times but the only other time that I actually hike up was back in 2010 with Pigeon. I remember it was tough and I remember going up switch back after switch back.
When we started the climb, Pigeon was leading as usual. I noticed she was getting more and more quiet but we were climbing and I know she was still thinking about that fall. I just stayed behind her and tried to offer some words of encouragement. Occasionally a few other runners would catch us and pass and I know that mentally, it bothered Pigeon. She’d ask to stop a few times and take a breather and that was totally fine with me. I didn’t want to tell her but I was feeling really good on the climb. Of course I was tired and of course my legs were burning, but overall, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other trying to make our way to the top. The top was very far away.
If you look closely at the above photo, you will see little specs of people up the hill. Way up high, between those two trees, is a person and that person is barely half way up this climb. Devil’s Thumb is no joke and we were soaking wet from the chest down (yes, including wet socks and shoes). While it was nice to cool off, it didn’t last long as parts of the Thumb are exposed and as you can tell from above, pretty steep. It was also sad because you can see all the damage from the fires and how barren and charred the trail now looks.
It took a while but we made it. Pigeon had completely sucked her hydration pack dry and finished The Thumb with zero water. She didn’t tell me until we reached the top and I had plenty left in my pack so I handed her one of my bottles that had a few inches of water left. That is what training partners do.
The next aid station would be at the water pump, which the organizers called Deadwood because it is close to Deadwood Cemetery. When Pigeon and I stopped, she filled her pack and I filled my bottles and pack as well. We ate a few things from the aid-station and as we were leaving I asked Pigeon if she wanted to soak the bandanas we had around our neck. We’d stop at a few streams and soaked them along the way putting them on our necks to keep us cool but the pump water is COLD. It felt pretty awesome to soak those and have a nice cool cloth around our neck as we continued on our way toward Michigan Bluff.
The rest of the trail is the same section that we ran just two weeks ago. You can read about that run here and see the photos. It felt like we were on the home stretch and I was still feeling really well however, I knew that we’d soon be entering the El Dorado Creek Canyon and that massive descent which murdered my knees just two weeks prior.
Up until this point, my knees and been feeling pretty good. There were some sections where I would feel a twinge or two but nothing that ever prevented me from moving. El Dorado Creek Canyon leading to Michigan Bluff is a 5.5 mile descent. That is five miles running deeper and deeper into a canyon that doesn’t exactly scream smooth easy trail. It is rocky, technical at times and down right painful when you are battling an IT problem (Iliotibial band). Pigeon’s knee was bugging her from her earlier fall so she wasn’t flying way ahead of me like she had two weeks ago but she was moving a helluva lot faster than I was at times. Occasionally she’d stop and turn and would catch me winching in pain every other step. I may have been wincing, but I was still smiling!
When we got to the bottom, we crossed the bridge and started making our way back out of the canyon towards Michigan Bluff where we knew another aid-station was waiting for us.
As we were climbing, Pigeon started coming back to life. She had a little more pep in her step. Maybe she knew we were close, maybe she had overcome whatever it was that was bringing her down but she was back to her usual self.
As we climbed, we came across two guys who were sitting on the side of the trail. They were not together but they were probably 5 feet apart. One was dry heaving and the other looked like he was dizzy enough to pass out. Pigeon asked the first guy (Mr. Dizzy) if he had any salt on him. He said no and was kind of wish-washy about wanting to take one. I handed him two salt tabs and we told him to take them.
Then Pigeon moved on to the next guy who when she approached, about vomited at her feet. Knowing my feelings about this, she quickly turned to me and said “you may want to look that way for a bit!” 🙂 This guy had a girl with him and she was trying her best to encourage him. He said he wanted something solid, no more gels (who can blame him). I handed him my last granola bar (gluten free baby!). Pigeon also told him that I had ginger chews so she told me to give him one and I did and then I quickly ran back down to Mr. Dizzy and gave him a ginger chew too.
So at this point, we said good luck and continued our way up the hill. I had a gel left in my pack and I think one more package of ProBar Bolts but I was done with wanting any of that.
When we reached Michigan Bluff we were greeted by Ann TrasonÂ (SO COOL) manning the aid-station along with some other women. There were a lot of stragglers who were hovering around this aid-station. I wanted something solid and I quickly dove into some plain potato chips and even and a few pieces of a PayDay candy bar which I have not eaten since 2010. This was sort of a slow aid-station so I ended up filling up my pack myself which was totally fine, I wanted to be on our way.
Pigeon and I started walking and eating at the same time. We were heading to Bath Road which would be our final climb of the day.
I had completely blocked out the section leading to Bath Road. It was a bit up hill with some definite run-able sections. We were moving along at one point, when all of a sudden we hear BAM! I screamed and jumped a mile. Then BAM BAM! Again. These were not shot guns, this was a regular gun. Don’t ask me how I knew the difference, maybe it is too much TV but I could tell, this was more of a handgun than aÂ shot gun and the sound was coming from in front of us and not off to the side.
Pigeon, the girl we were running with and myself were pretty petrified. I pulled out the whistle that comes with my hydration pack and started blowing. Pigeon told me to keep blowing my whistle and the girl we were running with started yelling “hey!” at these people. We could see them and their gun off in the distance. They were standing over a cliff and we couldn’t tell what they were shooting at whether it was a target or if they were just shooting over the cliff. Whatever it was, it freaked me out and when they saw us (and heard sirens in the distance) they stopped shooting and started getting into their car.Â Well that sure made me run faster!
When we reached the bottom before our climb up to Bath Road, there was a stream. In 2010 it was much higher and we needed a rope to help us cross. Now, the stream is not so high but it was pretty darn crowded!
Pigeon and I once again used our bandanas to wipe off our faces and put them around our neck. Bath Road is paved and leads us to the Foresthill Elementary School and ultimately the finish. In 2010, Bath Road and I did not get along. I was done at that point, completely toast (mostly due to the ankle and knee pain I had) so this year, I had some unfinished business.
We didn’t run up the hill the way we did in 2010 but I do feel like I probably could have run portions of it which made me feel good inside that I had the energy and the mojo. Instead though, Pigeon and I just power hiked our way up the road.
We were joined by a group of 3 who were extremely chatty and trying to be funny. Some times they were and sometimes, not so much but it was still entertaining and we just rolled with it. When Pigeon and I reached the top and got to Foresthill Road, we started running and we ran ourselves all the way to the finish.
We’d done it. We completed the training run again! It felt good for me to be able to finish and not feel so completely depleted like I did in 2010.
This year I bypassed the massage tent and instead we went to my car and just tried to clean ourselves up and we hit the road home.
We laughed on the way home about how naive we were in 2010 trying to do this run with very little experience under our belts. That’s how you learn though. That is how you do it sometimes and while the outcome could have been much worse, Pigeon and I are strong runners and when we are together, we seem to be even stronger. We help each other out and we motivate each other when the time comes.
Now, two days later, I have to say, I feel great. While two weeks ago, when Pigeon and I ran in the same canyon, I could barely walk for 3 days straight. I was much kinder to myself when I got home after this run. The kids were in the pool so I stood in the pool too all the way up to my knees. I rolled my quads on the foam roller that night as well. The next day at work, I used The Stick to knock out any additional kinks that I was feeling in my quads. I feel amazing. Stronger.
It was a great day and I couldn’t be happier with myself despite the sour weeks I’ve had leading up to this run. It really is a matter of mindset sometimes. If you talk yourself out of something, you are destined to have a miserable time. Reading my old blog reminded me how much I love everything there is about the Western States trail. While I don’t need to race and be competitive, I am most content when I can just have an awesomely fun day out on the trails with my ultra running partner.
And coming home to two awesome kids and a hubby who fully supported me and this run, was pretty awesome too.
Finally, here are the stats for the day (edited to add: 32 miles inÂ 8 hours). Check out the elevation gain AND the elevation loss. Pretty crazy.
(Edited to add: I hardly ever proof my posts before posting so please excuse the typos and terrible grammar. I do eventually go back and edit … eventually).
With Miners Revenge behind me, it is time to get back into building miles again so that I can be ready to pace Pigeon at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Miler in July. Last week was a hard week for me. I took a couple of classes at Diane’s that made me so incredibly sore, running last week was a struggle. I did manage some hill repeats one night although it wasn’t a pretty sight.
When Pigeon reached out to me to plan our Saturday run, I was a little nervous. She gave me some options but she really wanted to get some time on her feet in the canyons which involves a lot of climbing (both up and down). My shaky tired legs were a bit nervous.
The drive to Michigan Bluff takes about an hour. Pigeon was pretty good at getting us there without too much trouble. After we parked and started to get ready, we noticed that it was pretty darn cold outside. Her temperature gauge in the car had said 40 degrees! We knew it would warm up but boyÂ it was a chilly start to our run.
Right near the parking area (really just in front of some people’s houses) is a monument dedicated to the Western States Trail and Michigan Bluff’s role as a big aid-station in that race.
We weren’t alone when we arrived. There was a group of about 15 boys (teenagers?) who were also unloading their cars. They didn’t look like runners to us at all and so we assumed they were hiking. We never fully figured how who they were or what they were doing but they were pretty funny to run past on our way down into the canyon as they were cheering for us and wishing us a great day.
However, not one mile into our run I had a little malfunction with myÂ Ultimate Direction Jenny Vesta pack. I love this vest/hydration pack more than anything but this is the second or third time I have had this same malfunction. My hair is on the longer side and when I braid it down my back, the braid inevitably gets caught in the pack zipper! So we are starting our run and all of a sudden I can’t lift my head! It is tilted back and totally caught in the zipper. I yell out to Pigeon that I need her help. She stops.
Me: “My hair is caught, can you get it out please?”
Pigeon, “We are not even 1 mile into our run and you are having wardrobe issues? Wait. It’s stuck in that thingy! How did you did you do this? I can’t get it out! It’s stuck in the loopy-d-loop thing!”
Me: “Don’t mess up my hair! Don’t undo my braid!”
Pigeon: “I have to! I can’t get it out!”
We were laughing so hard. I never take myself seriously and clearly our runs always have some element of fun to them.
However, things would change a bit a little further into our run. The first 2.5 miles are a pretty deep descent and Pigeon is loving long descents lately. Me? I like them but I can honestly say they are not my strong suit. I’d rather run up a climb than run down a hill. I know, odd.
Pigeon took off down the descent and soon I lost her yellow jersey from my line of vision. Normally this is how we roll. She goes on ahead and I just take up the rear doing my thing, taking photos, whatever. However there is something about Michigan Bluff and the canyons that had me a bit spooked on this run.
Granted, not more than two months ago Robert “Bob” Root was lost for two days and then ultimately found on this same trail!!! Also, Facebook has been inundated lately with bear and mountain lion sightings all throughout Auburn and other areas. I am petrified of seeing either on the trail (more so the mountain lion).
So of course it was absolutely natural for my mind to go to dark dark places when I was running solo down these long descents where the trail was narrow, foggy and totally in the middle of no where. Sure Pigeon would be waiting at various turns or cross sections, but within moments she’d take off again and I would be mentally picturing in my head some gruesome scene played out around every corner. I know, I know, not smart but that is the way my brain works. I had my cell phone in my pack but of course I had it turned off and all I could think about was “if I get eaten, my phone isn’t ‘on’ so they can’t track my phone!” I need to stop reading scary books the night before I go on these trail runs. Clearly.
Did I share any of these thoughts with Pigeon? Did I tell her how petrified I was? Did I tell her that my heart rate was spiking not because of the physical activity but because I was totally imagining some vampire meets the hunger games scenario in my head? Nah. Instead I would just run my little heart out so that I could get as close to her as possible.
Soon we were climbing which is a good thing because then I was close to her! We were hiking our way up the trail when I heard something off in the distance. Pigeon turns and looks at me and I am smiling.
Pigeon: “What? Why are you smiling?”
Me: “Nothing. Nothing at all. I didn’t hear that gun shot did you?”
Pigeon: “Nope. I didn’t hear those gun shots either.”
Granted, they sounded miles away and it sounded very much like target practice. Â Whatever, some sick twisted part of me was thankful for the gun shots as I was hoping it would scare away any four legged creatures that might come eat me.
We continued climbing, up and up we would go, switch back after switch back. There was no one on the trail. It was quiet except for a few birds and the lizards darting through the leaves.
Eventually we made it to Deadwood Canyon. I remembered this section of the trail from 2010 although it looked a lot different.
So of course the curious side of me gets going: “Why is it called Deadwood Cemetery? Is it a real cemetery? What does it mean?” Pigeon has no clue but luckily there are some state park educational billboard things out there to ease inquiring minds (like mine).
These little bits of history were kind of neat. They also calmed me down a bit because if there are state parkÂ info boardsÂ like this out there, that means we were closer to possible civilization!
The water pump in the above photo was our destination but we had not quite achieved the mileage we wanted so we decided to keep going. As we were running away from the water pump I saw 3 girls running in our direction.
I MAY have been a bit overly excited to see people on the trail that I MAY have squealed “PEOPLE!! PEOPLE!! HI PEOPLE!” Pigeon was pretty mortified but then again, she had no idea WHY I was so overly excited to see these three strangers.
We chatted briefly with them but the time had come for me to come clean with Pigeon and I shared with her how terrified I was earlier on our run. She was shocked and had no clue and couldn’t understand why I would be so frightened. I have a very over active imagination and sometimes it gets the best of me. 🙂
Soon however we had reached our destination, Devil’s Thumb. I have been out at “the thumb” a few times. Once as a volunteer for Western States and then again in 2010 when Pigeon and I ran up and through it. I have to say, I was shocked by what is now left of Devil’s Thumb.
Pigeon and I took a few moments to wander around and look at all the damage. It truly was heart breaking to see this area just burned almost beyond recognition!
We gathered ourselves together and decided to turn around. Neither one of us wanted to go down to the bottom of Devil’s Thumb only to go back up (the climb is brutal and we’ll be doing it in about 2 weeks anyway).
Our run back was good. Pigeon stayed with me for most of it. We ran into those teenagers again who said hi. The first section of the trail however, involved a large descent and would end with a large climb (the reverse of what we ran out).
Pigeon stayed a little closer to me on some of the downhills. Maybe she didn’t want me to be afraid or maybe she just was taking it easy but at one point, she stopped dead in her tracks which scared the living day lights out of me. Now normally my brain would just think “did she see a mountain lion?” but instead, I had heard what she heard … a motorcycle!
What?! We are on some random single track trail in the middle of no where and it sounded as if there was a highway near by! Nope, barreling around the corner was a guy on a dirt bike.
Luckily, there just happened to be a big rock off to the side that could fit the both of us while the motorcycle dude passed. He also shared with us that there was another guy behind him so we stayed put on our rock. Thank goodness for that rock! It totally saved us from either getting run over by the bikes or worse, getting poison oak by jumping into the bush.
We continued pounding the downhills with Pigeon moving quite a bit faster than myself. We did see a lot of people though on our returnÂ trip which was more reassuring. However, my IT band started to yell again a bit at about mile 13.
With the sun peaking out behind various clouds, our return trip was gorgeous. I had to stop to take a few photos (or maybe it was to rest my IT … maybe both?).
Once we got to that bridge, we helped a couple of hikers find their way and then it was a LONG 2.5 mile climb out of that canyon to the car. Pigeon managed to get ahead of me on a few of the switch backs and tried to be “funny” by dropping a rock down from above so that I would freak out. It ALMOST worked but I was onto her. 🙂
We paused a few times to say hi to a few runners along the way and then it was just climb climb climb. Once again, Pigeon stopped, only this time she screamed like a girl (and I say that in the nicest way possible). I grabbed my vital organs (my heart and chest area) and yelled “what!? what!?”
She pauses, ” a lizard!!!”
She screamed because of a lizard. Okay, I may scream because someone’s random dog (off leash) creeps up behind me or because some venomous turkey is on the trail, but she screamed for a lizard!? Okay, maybe this lizard was larger than normal and she almost stepped on it.
We laughed our butts off for a bit on that one and then continued on our way. Soon enough, I was D-O-N-E with this 2.5 up hill climb. I wanted to move so I started running. I ran various stretches of the uphill with Pigeon kind of giggling behind me at my attempts.
She had run 15 miles on Thursday and had some tired legs under her so she was content to work herself up that climb with a solid power hike. Me? I am barely in the shape that she is and I wanted to run to add an extra workout to the day (um, I had mega sore quads this week which I attribute to all the downhill but still, a reminder of what we conquered).
Overall it was a great day. I struggled with some highs and lows. My motivation is on the low side since finishing some of my key races but I want to keep my fitness levels on the up and up because:
1. It feels amazing to be able to go out and run the canyons on a few days notice;
2. I have a Western States Training run in 2 weeks (that is 30 plus miles); and
3. I have to pace Pigeon anywhere between 20 and 30 miles for Tahoe Rim Trail in JulyÂ and I want to be ready.
This runÂ also gave me a chance to try some new fueling and experiment more with running with my heart rate strap but secured a little tighter.
My favorite part of the run was all the laughter. Pigeon and I generally have a fun time on the trails and I always know she’d never leave me or risk my safety. I was out of my element a bit but it was also a little invigorating! Not saying I’d go out and run that route solo like a few of the other runners we saw (no thank you) but it does make me feel good inside and out.
Once again my recovery was nonexistent. My body was quite sore come Monday and I didn’t really rest much at all. Stretching MUST become my new best friend otherwise, I think my running days may be numbered. I see Dr. Lau this week and I am sure he will tell me the same thing.
This coming weekend I have a 10 mile race that I am not so sure how to tackle. Part of me wants to run hard and gauge my fitness level, part of me wants to run it easy so my body can fully recover and part of me wants to run with TiggerT who is also doing the race and would be somewhere in between. I have never been on the course before so really I am going into it with no real expectations. I just want to run.
Just so long as the course elevation looks nothing like it did last Saturday!
Have you ever had a race on your calendar that you absolutely dreaded? I never have until Sunday, April 27th. I was signed up to do the Miners Revenge Trail Marathon and when I signed up I was super stoked to run this race mainly because the Race Director is my old coach and friend, Coach Nikon. But life seemed to hijack the month of April on me and I felt like I was driving a car that I had no control over on a busy highway. Going in the wrong direction.
The birthday party was on Saturday and Miners Revenge was on Sunday. When I came home from the party on Saturday I was beat. I might have fallen asleep standing up at one point I can’t be sure. My legs felt like heavy weights and my whole body just sighed with exhaustion. The last thing I wanted to do was pack my race vest with fuel, gather my post race clothes and prepare my mind for 26.2 miles on the trails. Very hilly trails mind you.
So instead, the Trailmomma family went to Whole Foods for dinner and to listen to a friend’s husband play guitar and singÂ (he is awesome, so if you are local check him out here).Â Um, yea, probably not the wisest of choices to go to the Bier Garten but hey, I was a full of poor decisions leading up to the race, why stop now? I behaved myself though and ate and drank well.
When we arrived home from Whole FoodsÂ we had to get the kids to bed and I hopped into bed myself, after 8 pm. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned a lot and got up a few times. I just had a lot on my mind, mostly the race and also the day’s events.
When my alarm went off I was already awake. I just didn’t have a great night of sleep and my whole body just felt tired. Great. If that doesn’t send the mind into a negative tail spin I don’t know what will.
Luckily my body cooperated most of the morning as I got things organized. Pigeon and Missouri were picking me up at 5:30 which was a lot later than they usually pick me up for races so I had no excuses for being late. They surprised me by arriving a bit early but soon we were on our way driving the long windy road to Cool.
They humor between these two will make anyone smile so it was nice to ride to the race with some laughter. When we arrived, Coach Nikon gave us a clue as to where to park so we were not stuck on the Haul Road (the only location of parking for the race).
We parked and chilled. We did our usual pre-race routine of eating what we normally eat, using the porta potties and justÂ relaxing ourÂ bodies and mindsÂ in the car. Â I also had to pick up my race packet. Instead of a t-shirt, the race schwag was a duffel bag! Sa-weet!!! I have a million raceÂ shirts that I don’t wear but a bag?! Awesome!
On one of our trips to the bathroom, Coach Nikon stopped us. He told us that the course was tough, as in REALLY tough. A few have mentioned that it may be TOO tough actually with some really gnarly climbs on both loops. I have to say, this didn’t ease my already less than stellar excitement for the race but I do appreciate his honesty. 🙂
Soon it was time to get dressed and head to the start line. It was chilly but not too bad. The forecast called for some clouds and rain but I knew that once I was running that I would get warm. Missouri was a true crew person and she took our warm up jackets from us just before we headed to the starting line.
I believe Coach Nikon said there were only about 144 people total for the event whichÂ consisted of aÂ half marathon, a full marathon and a marathon relay. 44 of those runners were doing the full marathon and there was a chance that some, if not most, might drop to the half once they came through the 13.1 mile check point.
The race itself was basically a figure 8 with the “middle” being the parking lotÂ Â (aka the mile 13 aid-station).
Before the race start, Coach Nikon had us all line upÂ as he gave us a little pep talk and some additional information about the course.
He told us about the massive amounts of poison oak, the fact that one of our aid-stations had moved to the bottom of a climb instead of the top (best thing ever!) and he wished us luck. When the horn (?) went off, we started running.
Pigeon has been steady in her training to date. Me? Not so much. The sky was an ominous gray color but luckily it wasn’t raining. On the first loop we had both the half marathoners and full marathoners all running together on some very tight single track trails. It definitely felt like a race.
Pigeon and I just ran. We had agreed prior to the race that this was a nice “training run” for her and a chance for me to pace her but as soon as we started, I knew this was going to be a challenge for me. My head and heart were just not in it.
Eventually the crowd thinned out a bit. Pigeon was bombing the down hills and I wasn’t too far behind. The ankle has improved tremendously since surgery so I feel better but the ground was muddy andÂ tacky and the rocks slippery which always makes me a bit nervous.
We were just running along the trails talking when we could, letting some of the half marathoner’s pass us when eventually Miss P and Poison Oak came up behind us and ran with us for a ways. It felt like a Saturday training run … almost. I couldn’t lose the feeling that I was running too slow for everyone behind me.
Soon we approached the first climb that seemed to go on for ever and ever! Pigeon took off, she was ahead of me to begin withÂ so I just put one foot in front of the other and kept moving.
When you reach the top of this VERY long climb, you have a turn around. So as you are climbing this monstrosity, you have runners coming down cheering for you and telling you that it isn’t much further to the top. Some were even honest enough to share that coming down was much easier than going up. I am not kidding when I say, this climb felt like it went on forever.
On the way down I lost Pigeon completely. She was on fire and I was battling the same IT band issues I had the second half of the American River 50 mile race. Of course this set my mood off even more since we were only on the first loop and I was battling knee pain on the downhills.
When we reached the aid-station, they knew that I was running with Pigeon and they told me that she hadÂ stopped to use the bathroom which was great because I needed to use it as well. It made me feel better to reconnect with her again. I was also happy to see that we really only had 3 more miles until we were back at the parking lot and were alreadyÂ half way done with the race.
I will not lie, I had entertained thoughts of dropping down to the half marathon a few timesÂ but I knew deep down that I could notÂ leave Pigeon nor did I want to. She kept believing in me and I was trying to dig deep and find my mojo to turn my race around.
I was wearing my heart rate monitor for the first half of the race. I dropped it at the half way point because it was starting to fall off but it was really informative having it on for the first loop. Looking back, my heart rate was steady, never spiking too much, not even on the climbs. It wasn’t low either.Â Â It just read my usual marathon pace heart rate which tells me that I was having a mental battle and not a physical one. If I was over trained or battling a cold, my heart rate would be super low or super high, not even and steady. It was clear, my issues were mental and I needed to overcome this and quick.
As we came through the half way pointÂ aid-station, Coach Nikon greeted us with his usual bellow and laugh. No matter how down you are, his smile and positivityÂ are infectious. Missouri was there as well. Pigeon was in and out of this aid-station not wanting to stop. She knew that if I had a moment to sit, that I might not continue. So less than 5 minutes for a quick fuel up and we started our second loop.
If I can say anything about this race, it would be that it totally felt like two DIFFERENT races when we started the second loop. I have run one marathon wherein I have had to do two loops (two of the same loops at that). I used the same jedi-mind trick here wherein basically I “ended” the first race andÂ just started a new race in my head.Â The Miners Revenge course is two different loops whichÂ helped meÂ create that feeling of aÂ “new race,” veryÂ easy. With the half marathoners finishing at the parking lot, we felt almost as if we were completely alone on the second loop. It felt like a true training run between Pigeon and myself.
We had crossed a few streams on the first loop but it was nothing compared to what we had to cross on the second loop. It was on the second loop that Pigeon and I had some fun.
Before we really started diving into the stream crossings, someone thoughtfully placed this board across the trail so we wouldn’t get wet.
Pigeon and I approached the board like it was made of oil. We both cautiously crossed it and then stopped to laugh. Pigeon agreed to go back and recross so that I could get a photo.
I enjoyed this. We were running but we were no longer racing. We were having fun which is what running trails is all about for me. Occasionally Pigeon would pick out a runner ahead and tell me we need to get close to that person but for the most part, we ran and we laughed.
I was still battling my demons but they were subsiding slowly and surely. I decided to let go of eating the bars I normally eat and I started consuming gels. I don’t really enjoy them but I was just tired of the solid food. I haven’t used gels in a long while. I don’t carry them so I was stuck with the variety of gels provided on the race course as well as the potato chips they had as well. This wasn’t an ultra so the aid-stations had minimal food (rightly so) but they had gels and potato chips and boy did those salty potato chips taste great.
All the food aside, it was time to start swimming. Our first stream crossing was upon us and it was probably the deepest of the day.
The second loop had a lot more fire road type trails compared to single trackÂ and it just seemed easier. The views were gorgeous too. My mood was clearly starting to come around.
There was one major climb on the second loop, it was about 2.25 miles long but before we reached that we had to descend quite bit and my knees were not loving this section. Pigeon was flying and I felt like I had a peg leg.
When we got to the bottom of the hill it got really warm and sticky. We felt like we were in the middle of no where. It was kind of creepy. We saw a few runners ahead of us so we just kept moving.
Pigeon was great. She was doing everything she could to get me back to my happy Trailmomma self. I was coming around. The closer and closer we got to the finish, I felt better and better.
The last few miles of the race are gorgeous. The sky was darkening and it looked as if a Â storm was coming. I think that made the trails even more beautiful.
When we passed our last aid-station at mile 24 (ish), I felt great. I am not sure why, maybe it was the adrenaline kicking in that we only had about 2 miles to go, but I really started running. Soon we connected with the fire road, the same fire road that Way Too Cool finishes on and I knew we were on the home stretch.
Vans, the girls and Jersey Dad were all supposed to be at the finish. Â I was a bit worried because the race took us a lot longer than I had anticipated due to all the intense climbing.
When we entered the fire road straight-away before the finish, I could see two little blonde heads ringing a cow bell up ahead with a big birthday balloon and my heart just filled with joy and my eyes teared up just a bit. My girls were cheering for me!
As Pigeon and I rounded the curve, I high-fived my girls! I started sprinting and turned to find Pigeon “where are you?” I yelled. She was quick to be by my side as we sprinted full force to through the finish!
I could be wrong, but I would venture to guess that it was probably the best finish of the race. 🙂 We laughed, we hugged and we posed with our Race Director,Â Coach Nikon.
This was my 7th marathon and the first time Jersey Dad has ever seen me finish a super long tough race. I wish the weather had been a bit warmer for him but he gave me a tentative hug (poison oak) after the race. My little Squeaker hugged me and softly said, “Congratulations Mama.” 🙂
This was probably my toughest race to date. The course itself was tough but mentally, I have never felt so low in a race and I can definitely attribute my low energy to the busy schedule I had leading up to the race. Yet, it makes me kind of proud that I was able to power through to finish. I don’t think I would have done so if it had not been for Pigeon. She believed in me, more than I did in myself at times and that is what friends and runner partners are for really. Even Vans thought I would drop down and only do the half.
Nope. I rallied. Overall, I felt okay. My tummy didn’t have any issues. MyÂ fueling, although completely different than I have done in any other race, seemed okay and never really caused any problems. I do think the gray skies didn’t help my mood as I tend to like things a bit sunnier, but running this same race in warm weather would have been pretty harsh as there were many exposed sections of trail.
My knee pain is an issue. It would alternate between knees. The left would hurt on the down hills and the right would hurt on the uphills. I need to work on my IT bands I guess. I did take some Aleve during the second loop but honestly, I didn’t really touch the pain in my knees at all.
I plan to do a post about recovery soon. I have a lot to say about that actually but I also have a few other posts in the works so be on the look out.
I have another small race on my calendar and a few big training runs with Pigeon as she continues on her training schedule for TRT100. Miners Revenge was my last big “paid for” race of the season but I have a few training runs lined up that will make for some interesting posts.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and I will say that this race proved that for me. I also think I under estimated this race quite a bit thinking that I had just ran 50 miles 3 weeks prior so running only 26.2 should have been easy… right? It might have been if I had treated my body properly with rest, proper nutrition and sleep. Live and learn and boy did I learn a lot. Thanks Pigeon for your support and thank youÂ Coach Nikon for one helluva race!