Running with Sasquatch

Sasquatch-Racing-logo-300x300-2Last month, I ran my very first race of the year – The Rattlesnake Ramble. It was an awesome run out at Lake Chabot  in the East Bay. The course was interesting and challenging and the pre- and post-run festivities were upbeat and just plain fun! And really, any run that offers delicious, locally brewed adult beverages after the race is awesome in my book.

At this point, I’ve run enough races to have seen it all (bad, good, and great) and I have to say, I was totally enamored with the good vibes, quirkiness, and fun of the Rattlesnake Ramble. I was so stoked, in fact, that when I read that Sasquatch Racing put out a call for ambassadors, I immediately threw my hat in the ring to be considered. Now, I’m usually not the kind of person to try and sell people on products or companies, but I just loved the vibes of this race so much that I wanted to tell everyone about it! Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to become a Sasquatchador!

Sasquatch Racing puts on a series of races each year, and I’m planning to do them all. Next up is the Sasquatch Scramble on April 17. The race looks awesome! It’s being held out at the gorgeous Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland hills. I’ve hiked in this park before, and I’m really looking forward to running on the trails through the beautiful redwood forest.

The race is going to feature three different courses, 5k/10k/half and will include all of the awesome perks that are standard with a Sasquatch Racing event – technical tee, post-run beverages and snacks, and woodallions for the 5k/10k finishers and medallions for the half-marathoners! The schwag isn’t the only thing that makes Sasquatch Racing events so awesome though. The race also includes a trail treasure hunt and an appearance by Sassy the Sasquatch! After not having scored any of the treasure during the Rattlesnake Ramble, I’m really hoping I have better luck this time.

I’ve signed up to run the 5k course for this race and if you’re a NorCal local, I hope you’ll come out to run it too.  If you want to register, the awesome folks at Sasquatch Racing have offered my readers a $10 discount on the race. Just enter the code SASSY. Don’t wait too long, prices increase on March 31st!

Scratching the surface of Death Valley

A few months back I signed up for a 10k race in Death Valley. I’ve always been fascinated by desert landscapes, but I haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time in them. The run was a great excuse to take a few days to explore California’s most famous desert. After making the long drive down on a Wednesday, we arrived in the desert on Thursday. We had planned to stay at an off-the-beaten-path campground, Wildrose Campground, but driving into the park, we found that the road to the campground off of Hwy 178 was closed! After a consult with the map (because, no cell service!) we found that we could likely take in another road off of Hwy 190. Whew! Crisis averted! After a quick side trip to hike out to Darwin Falls, we made it to Wildrose Campground in the late afternoon. The husband and I instantly fell in love with the secluded campground, tucked in a canyon on the west side of the Panamint Mountains. We had the campground almost completely to ourselves and had a great time exploring the area. Sometime in the middle of the night, we heard wild horses come through our campsite! The husband didn’t initially believe that I had heard the neighing of horses, but in the morning, the two other people in the campground both confirmed hearing neighing and hooves during the night. Vindication! Darwin Falls Scrambling up the side of Darwin Falls. wpid-wp-1423602296632.jpeg wpid-wp-1423598899252.jpeg wpid-0129151544.jpg The race we were running early on Saturday morning was taking place on the east side of the Panamints, in order to not have to wake up super early that morning, we ended up staying at Wildrose for only one night. On Friday morning, we drove east toward the Furnace Creek area, checking out the sights and stopping for hikes along Hwy 190. wpid-wp-1423602321390.jpeg wpid-wp-1423602450154.jpeg wpid-wp-1423602303738.jpeg wpid-0130151211b2.jpg.jpeg wpid-wp-1423602309901.jpeg The Furnace Creek Campground, sadly, was nothing like Wildrose. It was packed with both people and RVs, and is right off the highway. Thankfully, I had reserved a spot in the tent-only loop that is in the back of the campground, and we were mostly spared from having to listen to the noises from the RVs and traffic. The one great thing about the site we stayed in was that it backed up to an open area and we had a nice view of the east side of the Panamints. wpid-wp-1423602314710.jpeg We quickly set-up camp, and after a full day of hiking and sightseeing, we were looking forward to a relaxing time around the campfire that night. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and around 6pm, the skies opened up and a steady rain fell for the remainder of the night. Thankfully we had a small tree next to our tent that provided enough protection from the rain so that we could cook dinner. On Saturday, we woke up to overcast skies but no rain. Unfortunately, we also woke up to the quicksand-like pit that our campsite had become. The rain had turned the sandy ground into a wet, sticky, muddy mess of soft ground. Our shoes were caked in mud, and it was almost impossible to move around without sinking into ankle deep mud. Ugh! We did the best we could to get ready for the race without getting mud all over ourselves, but it was definitely a challenge. The race was an out-an-back running along the shoulder of Hwy 190 to just past the Harmony Borax Works. The course was not overly challenging, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. The husband and I had a blast running the 10k course. Afterward, we spend the remainder of the day hiking and sightseeing on the east side of the Panamints, hitting all of the usual spots, Badwater Basin, Golden Canyon, etc. Later that night, after returning to our now dried out campsite; we were visited by a pack of coyotes within a few feet of where we were sitting! Later, we enjoyed their boisterous calls as the sunset over our campsite. It was a great end to our trip to the desert. wpid-0131151306a.jpg wpid-0130151628.jpg wpid-0131151206.jpg wpid-0131151156c.jpg

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wpid-20150131_111911.jpg Though we were able to see a lot in our short visit, I know that we only scratched the surface of what Death Valley has to offer. I really want to go back and explore the non-touristy areas of the park. The husband and I are now talking about making this a yearly trip! How about you? Have you visited or ever wanted to visit Death Valley?

On (almost) completing my running goal for 2014

If you’ve read this blog from the very beginning (unlikely), you might remember that one of the goals I had set for myself this year was to complete 14 races in 2014. I wanted so badly to smash this goal, for so many reasons. After I had surgery in March, I impatiently waited for my body to heal so that I could get back to running. By May, I was back to it, but had lost so much of my fitness during the healing process, it was almost like starting over from the beginning. I ran my first post-surgery race in June, and I was so SLOW! My legs felt like lead and I felt like I could barely move. I stuck with it though, and by October, I was running 5k races faster than ever before! In the process of completing this arbitrary “14 races” goal, I discovered trail racing, got faster, and gained a TON of self-confidence.

By December, I was two races from completing my goal, when Mother Nature intervened to derail me.The week that I was to run my 13th race, brought the biggest storms that Northern California has seen since the late 90s. My street, along with tons of other roads and freeways in the North Bay flooded, my workplace closed for a day due to flooding, and the course for my 13th race was under standing water. This was on Thursday. By Friday (the day before the race was due to go off), I received an email from the race organizer saying that due to flooding, storm damage, and downed trees, the course was un-passable and the race was being rescheduled to the following weekend (the weekend of my 14th race). After searching in vein for a replacement race somewhere in the Bay Area, feeling incredibly disappointed and upset after not finding a replacement, I accepted that I wasn’t going to complete my “14 in 2014” goal. There was really nothing I could do about it other than get over the feelings of failure and disappointment. I was a little heartened to learn, the following week, that the rescheduled race was completely cancelled due to further flooding and course damage that week.

So, all in all, I ran 13 races in 2014. While I’m still a little disappointed that I didn’t get to run #13, I know that I still achieved something pretty amazing! I am incredibly proud of completing so many races, and beyond amazed that my 5k time improved so much over the course of the year. For the most part, I almost never race for time…I’m just not that competitive, but it’s incredibly satisfying to see that for the first time in my life, I ran a 10 minute/mile pace.

I feel like I’ve learned so much in running all of these races. Since I started running, I’ve never LOVED running. This year, I discovered that I didn’t LOVE it because I don’t love road running, BUT I really do LOVE trail running. I really don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out. I mean, I love hiking and backpacking. It makes since that my love of trails would extend to running. Is it more challenging? YES! In many ways, I’m starting over with trail running in terms of speed and endurance, but it is just so much FUN. One of the other important lessons I’ve taken away from this racing year is how much more I should trust in my ability. When I first set this goal, I honestly wondered if I would be able to physically complete so many races. I hate that I even questioned it. I’ve learned to trust in my body’s ability to carry me toward the things that I want to accomplish.

I had originally planned to do a recap post of every race I completed, but I decided that all of that minutiae would be too boring to document. Suffice to say, I had a blast running every single race. Some were tougher than others, either physically or mentally, but I feel like I learned a TON every time I crossed a finish line. Someone jokingly suggested that I run 15 races in 2015, but I can honestly say that I have no desire to ever race so much in a year again. It was exhausting! Though I felt like I became a better runner over the course of the year, I also felt like I lost a lot by not focusing as much on training rather than racing. While I do have a running related goal for 2015 (more on that soon), it definitely won’t involve running so many races!

Can’t stop, won’t stop

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I’ve been pretty quiet these last few weeks but, BUT, I have a good excuse, I swear. I’ve been running non-stop!

Earlier this year when I set a goal of completing 14 races in 2014, I didn’t anticipate that I would be out for almost 2 months due to surgery, and that I wasn’t going to be totally recovered and back to my pre-surgery running pace until almost 4 months later. I thought about modifying my goal to account for all that lost time, but, well, I’m stubborn. Very stubborn. “I’m going to complete my goal, even if it kills me,” I thought. Ok, maybe not kills me, but definitely makes my life much crazier.

Since just before Thanksgiving, I’ve had, and have, a race every.single.weekend. Yikes. It’s definitely exhausting, but the end is in sight! While I originally wanted to do a recap of every single race, I honestly don’t have the time to do that, what with all of the holiday hustle and bustle that’s happening right now. I’ll likely just roll out a single post recapping all of the races I’ve run in the last couple of months.

What about you? Is your holiday season packed with races too?

A weekend of ag-tourism and trail running

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Chico, CA to run my first ever trail race and attend one of my favorite NorCal events, the Sierra Oro Passport Weekend. Though I could write a ton about the weekend, I’ll spare ya and keep it fairly brief. Photos are worth a 1,000 words anyway, right?

Passport Weekend is a great ag-tourism event in Butte County. Ag-producers from all over the county open their doors for tastings and tours of their facilities. Producers include everything from wineries to citrus orchards to olive oil producers.  It’s a great opportunity to sample and purchase locally made products that aren’t widely available outside of Butte County.

After a quick coffeneur on Saturday morning, I met up with my parents. Having grown up in wine country, my family is big into wine. Appropriately, we planned to visit the majority of the wineries that were participating in the Passport Weekend. After a bit of discussion, we headed south to the Oroville area. We managed to visit six wineries and an olive oil producer on Saturday alone!

Great eats at Calolea Olive Oil.

Great eats at Calolea Olive Oil.

Morse Family Farms. Wheat beer made with mandarins. Food was good but photographed looking pretty unappetizing.

Morse Family Farms. Wheat beer made with mandarins. Food was good but photographed looking pretty unappetizing.

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Dad and the winery pup.

Dad and the winery pup.

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After getting back to my parent’s home on Saturday night, I was a little worried that drinking wine all day before a quarter-marathon trail race was going to turn out to be a bad, bad idea. When I woke up the next morning, though, I was relieved that I felt great! I was rested and ready to set-off on my first ever trail race.

I only recently started trail-running, and honestly, I knew that the length of this race was going to be a challenge! Running on smooth, flat, paved roads is so SO different (and much less tiring) than running on rocky single track trails. I knew that even though I had run longer distances in road races, it was going to be a lot tougher on the trail. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this race as my first trail-running race experience, but because it’s part of the Chico Running Club’s series, I *had* to complete it. I really want the jacket that comes with completing the 4-run series!

As I lined up at the start, my nervousness grew and I started to worry that I wasn’t going to do well. I told myself that my goal really was to just finish. Before I had another chance to question myself, the horn blew and we were off!

The race began in Hooker Oak Park and wound its way through Upper Bidwell Park along the middle trail. This trail is incredibly rocky and I definitely had to keep my eyes on the ground for fear that I would tumble over one of the large rocks littering the trail. Around mile 2, the sun was starting to beat down. The majority of the Middle Trail is exposed and even though it was October, the day was getting hot! Thankfully, I knew that the route would soon hook us onto the Yahi Trail, a lovely creekside trail with plenty of lush tree cover to provide shade! Halfway through the run, I could feel myself getting tired (probably due to all that wine the day before!) and my pace began to slow down. I pushed on, but by the time the route made it back to the Middle Trail for the final 2 miles of the race, my legs started to feel like lead. I kept on but with about 1.5 miles to go I had to walk for a bit. As I walked back toward Hooker Oak Park, I reached deep and found the motivation and strength to continue running, and as I neared the finish, the cheers and support of other runners, spectators, and my parents kept me going until I crossed the finish line. Definitely a great experience for a first-ever trail run. It was tough but I kept going. By the time I crossed the finish, I felt amazing and incredibly proud of myself! I definitely have the trail running bug now and I’m looking forward to completing a couple of more trail races before the end of the year.

After the race, I headed back out to partake in some more ag-tourism with my parents. We visited several wineries, a nut producer, and even a sun-dried tomato producer. Yum! Unfortunately my phone froze up early on in the day and I missed getting photos at the 5 other stops we visited on Sunday 😦

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All in all, it was a great time spent with my family doing the things that make me happy. I couldn’t ask for a better weekend. Plus, it’s always great to come home with a bunch of new, fun foodstuffs for the pantry.

Wine from Odessey Vineyards, Roney Winery, and LaRocca Vineyards plus locally produced spice blends, lavender jelly, sun dried tomatoes, pickles, and a spicy mustard.

Wine from Odessey Vineyards, Roney Winery, and LaRocca Vineyards plus locally produced spice blends, lavender jelly, sun dried tomatoes, pickles, and a spicy mustard.

Starting Over With Running?

So, it’s been almost 2.5 months since the last time I ran.

I  had surgery in March, and the Dr.’s orders were that I could not run until a full 2 months had passed. Well, that 2 months came and went, and while I had imagined being giddy and throwing on my running shoes as soon as the 60th day clicked by, I didn’t. Why? Honestly, I was a little scared to start running again because I knew, that in some ways, I would be starting over with running. And, really, starting over kind of sucks!

I’ve never been a strong running. I’ve never been very fast and it’s always been hard and never really gotten easier. Granted, I haven’t been much of a regular runner, and I know that once I get going again and make it a regular routine, it will probably get easier/better. Still, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle getting to where I was before the surgery; able to run just a couple of miles without stopping. Even though I *wanted* to run, my head kept getting in the way and I ended up giving in to the fear.

Well, now, I am being forced to get past the fear because on Sunday I am signed-up to run one of my all-time favorite races, the Sacramento Women’s Fitness Festival 5k! This event was the first ever 5k I did, way back in 2010, and I have run it every year. I LOVE that the run is open only to women and the post-run expo and breakfast are awesome! Even though I hadn’t been running, I didn’t want to miss out on participating this year.

This week, my plan has been to get in a couple of short runs to prepare for Sunday. I did my first one yesterday during my lunch hour. Was it hard? Yes! Was it as bad as I thought it was going to be? Definitely not! Even though I only ran 1 mile and I was breathing hard and running slow, it still felt great! I even ran the whole mile without stopping! Tomorrow, I’ll be doing another lunch-time run (runch?) and am aiming to go a bit further than Monday.

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As for the 5k on Sunday? My plan is to take it nice and slow (aiming for a 12 min/mile pace). I still haven’t decided whether I want to try to run the entire route or do the run/walk method. Any thoughts?

I’ll have a full recap of the upcoming weekend’s shenanigans, including (possibly) a long bike ride and Sunday’s run. Until then, send me good run vibes!

Taking It All In Stride

On Saturday, I ran (sort of) the Bidwell Classic 5k.

It started off all well and good. I set out at a comfortable 11 min/mile pace and quickly fell into a comfortable stride. By the time I hit the first 1/2 mile, I began having discomfort and minor pain on my left side. Being stubborn and not wanting to let my current medical issues interfere with the race, I kept running. My pace began slowing, and slowing, and slowing. At about the 1 mile marker, my side started gently yelling at me. Shortly after, there was a water station and bathroom, and I took the opportunity to sip some water and use the rest room. I resumed running. As I chugged through the first turn in the course I finally conceded that I really shouldn’t keep running. Along with the discomfort and pain, the fear of torsion had become a nagging thought. “That’s all I need,” I told myself, “I really don’t want to end up in the ER two weeks before I have surgery.” I begrudgingly slowed to a walk.

At this point I was disappointed and upset that I wasn’t able to run the entire race. “It’s only a 5k,” I told myself. “I should easily be able to run this.” As I made my way through the course I started thinking about everything I’ve accomplished since I began running. The first time I ever ran a 5k, I walked most of the course and was incredibly winded. Now, I’ve run a 15k and know that I’ll accomplish my goal of running a half-marathon later this year. Even though I wasn’t able to run the entire 3.1 miles, it wasn’t because I couldn’t physically do it, but because I didn’t want to put myself at risk of greater injury. I made the decision to listen to my body and take care of myself, and that is more important than some arbitrary goal.

Even though my time was nothing to write home about, I still finished. Whether I ran or walked, it still felt amazing to hear people clapping for me as I crossed the final timing mat.

I have one more 5k race before I have surgery in mid-March. Although I know that I will likely not be able to run much of it, I’m making the decision not to bow out of the race. I am listening to my body and taking care of myself, but I’m also not letting my medical condition completely derail the things I want to accomplish. I’m looking forward to the next race, and no matter if I run some of it or walk the entire thing, it is still going to feel great to cross that finish line.