Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Beacon Rock 50k: Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?

Happiness captured by Glenn Tachiyama. (Support race photographers)

My face hurts.
Legitimately hurts.
Is it possible to smile too much?
My stomach is cramping from laughing and I'm out of breath, no not from running, but from singing at the top of my lungs.
If you would've asked me on Friday if I would've thought the day would evolve into so much happiness- I would be in disbelief.
But alas!
It is true.

Not happening.

My hands cover my face as I hold back tears.
With merely 4 hours of sleep each night this week and then working all day- I was feeling slightly overwhelmed.
It's nearly 11am Friday morning and I'm sitting at the Golden Road Brewery in LAX.
With my 6am flight cancelled, unable to board any other flights (my sister was able to snag the last 7am seat) till 11:55am, I was determined to stay hopeful.
What helps?

Two years ago I ran Beacon Rock 50k as my first 50k race and instantly fell in love with not just the race but the weekend and its entirety.
I looked forward to being able to return to Portland the following June to run it again.
Unfortunately last year I was hospitalized during the race weekend.
Experiencing the beautifully HOT weekend and race merely from photos and videos my friends sent me from the comfort of the hospital bed.
The FOMO was real.
(Fear of Missing Out)
I couldn't wait to go back this year.
Determined that nothing would stop me I found myself at the airport thinking...

Taking the last sip of my second Wolf Among Weeds IPA as I let it wash away the remnants of my vegan breakfast burrito.
I say farewell to the new friends I made at the table who were all shocked at the idea of traveling to run 31 miles in the mountains all while they party in Cabo San Lucas.
With tired eyes, a full belly and slightly intoxicated Sawna, I bored my flight.
I'd like to say everything went smoothly after that, however, that is not factual.
We then sat on the plane for over an hour, technical issues they said.
With my sister Nicole, Andrew, Rhea and Joel all already in Portland my hopefulness was quickly disappearing.
A slight pang of jealousy that everyone was already there and here I was spending hours in the Airport.
But I made it- landed a little after 3pm.
I did a little happy dance as the gang pulled up to pick me up from the airport.
With a happy heart and a very overpacked car, we headed to our next destination.

Unlike last years heat, this weekends weather predictions all had red lightning bolts.
As a heat lover, Ic cringed at the idea of getting poured on the entire day.
I'm a California girl, running in the heat is my jam.

How to pack a car- throw it all in.

We arrived at Beacon Rock State park and instantly set up camp before the inevitable storm hit.
With temps in the low 60's, the rain didn't seem to bother anyone- not even this Cali girl.
The evening was spent over a BBQ while other runners brought their favorite homemade side dish.
Vegan cookies, cupcakes, hummus, pies, dips, salads galore!
And that doesn't even include the amazing sausages the amazing  folks were grilling.
(Vegan and non vegan)
Seeing all my friends and making new friends made the mornings events quickly disappear.
The weekend is going to be grand.

Gangs all here

3am: It's pouring rain
4am: It's pouring rain
5am: It's pouring rain
6am: It's pouring rain.
6:30 am the rain has stopped.

I wake before our alarm feeling completely rested and ready for the days adventure.
A few weeks ago I had thought today would be an all out effort but after rolling my ankle and having to take over a week off of it- I knew I wanted to make the day a fun adventure.
A rainy, wet and muddy adventure.

My race day gear included:
My favorite colorful Boa shorts
Injini tall socks
New Balance Vazzee Summits 2 (Which may or may not have caused my left toe nail to fall off from Gorge 100k)
Territory Run Co Hat and Singlet
Run Like a girl Buff
Nathan Handheld
OR Hellium 2 Rain shell (That I immediately removed and then forgot at the race!)

As 8 am approached James quickly gave his announcement.
"Be Safe"
"Go!" the energy from every runner was nothing short of a  locomotive beginning it's first turns of a long haul, slow and steady and building with time.
To summarize the course is that it is a 25k loop around the state park.
50k runners run two loops and the 25k run one.
It's an extremely fun course other than you run to the finish line and have to go back and complete another loop.
You kick start the course on pavement but it's a short and sweet decent into the park.
The majority of the course is on the best trails that Beacon Rock has to offer (at least form what I've been told).
You run over Hardy Ridge, Hardy Creek and Hamilton Mountain.
ON Hardy Ridge their is options to go off the trail a bit to check out the views along the Gorge.
IF it was a crustal clear day you get the see the views of the Cascades and the snow on Mt Hood.
One complete loop offers about 3700 ft in gain with two fairly big climbs following a pretty sweet decent after.

I found myself maintaining the same stride as Andrew and we began catching up on life's events.
I don't even remember our conversations but we couldn't stop.
We continued running and chatting as if this was just a normal training run on our local trails.
With every new turned we both gawked at how beautiful the trails were, opening up our arms as if to hug the landscape.
I prefer the air quality next to the I-5 Freeway. Thank you.

We continued forward along the course feeling happy and strong as we whisked through the shrubs and over the rocks with hands lightly grazing the bright moss covered trees.
The trees all wore a vibrant green coat that sang soft sweet melodies as we ran by.

Photo by Andrew mid race

Everything looked different since my run here two years ago.
With the course receiving an immense amount of rain than it had the last two years, the change was welcomed as the footing on the trail was in my favor.
Soft and accepting within each step.
My focus strayed away from my still slightly swollen ankle and shifted to the conversation I was maintaining with Andrew.
Time stood still as I rejoiced in the moment.

It wasn't until almost the turn around the I realized, oh we are almost half way done.
I hadn't focused so much on our mileage but more in the amount of fun we were having.
My stomached ached and I knew the sweet oatmeal I had for breakfast was making a run for it.

Things got serious real fast.

And not in the way I want it to.

Did I mention the Wyest Wolfpacks aid station and their incredible cycling outfits.
Top notch volunteers made for a swift and incredibly fun time with every water bottle fill and stop for some oreos(and pickles).
Leaving the aidstation gifts you with a pretty sweet descent and added bonus of adrenaline from the cycling groups dance moves.
It really set the tone for a fun pace as we flew the next few miles to the turn around.
We embraced it, both Andrew and I matched each others paces as we laugh welcomed the featherlight footing that came along with our controlled, runnable descent.

We confirmed with each other that we wanted to stay and a maintainable pace- saving our legs for the end of the race and to honestly continue to enjoy our day without destroying our bodies.
It was such a wonderful experience to be at each other's exact same level, have the same approach toward the race and really just laugh along the way.
Before we knew it we passed the half way point and begun our first climb on the second loop.

We chatted with two local girls from Oregon, getting to know each other as the miles clicked by.
Andrew and I ended up passing them as we approached the aidstation.

I felt great.
My face did not.
My stomach did not.
My face hurt from smiling too much, my stomach hurt from laughing to hard.
I can not recall a race where I enjoyed myself this much.
Getting to run side by side with my best friend pretty much made the entire trip worth it.
We sang Bohemian Rhapsody and many other songs at the tops of our lungs as the weather changed with each turn we made.
Rain, sunshine, fog, rain- the weather may have been fluctuating but our attitude and mood never altered.

Mid race photo shoot

We continued, step by step motivating each other and just embracing the days event.
Stopping to take only a few photos- can you blame us!?!
The day, despite the rain, was GORGeous.

Before we knew it we were on the descent to the finish, already passing my sister who was having a rough time physically but her spirits were high- she was glowing with happiness to be in the beautiful scenery.
Just as we started together, Andrew and I crossed the finish line together- beaming with the utmost excitement of the days miles flying by.

We both gave James a high five and Rich passed us our Beacon Rock 50k camping mug (THEY'RE AWESOME)
At the same time I was gifted the 3rd place female growler.
My first and definitely my most prized possession.

The stoke was high.
We were then congratulated by Joel who also had a stellar race and finished 6 minutes before us.
We warmed up, grabbed a beer and several pieces of pizza and waited for Rhea and Nicole who finished shortly after us.
Rhea, who despite got a bit lost, still had PR of over an hour from last years race!
Everyone was a rockstar!

The weather gods decided to approve of our celebration and gift us with a beautiful blue sky and decently warm weather.
Couldn't have asked for a better day!
The evening continued with endless pizza and beer and perhaps too much whiskey for the lightweight that is me.
Sorry everyone

I couldn't be happier by all of our performance.
And the adventure was not over yet!

Sunday we rose early, packed the car, said our goodbyes and departed for some much needed breakfast.
Feeling the beers from the night before we all deserved an extra side of (Cheeselss please)potatoes and a bloody mary, thank you!
We visited Joel's friend Taras house/farm/land.
ERMYGOD when can I move in?

Then we walked across the Bridge of Gods.

The Bridge of the Gods is a steel truss cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, Oregon, and Washington state near North Bonneville.
The Pacific Crest trail Crosses the Colombia River on the Bridge of the Gods, and the lowest elevation of the trail is on this bridge. 
This is my super happy face but if you don't feed me soon the hanger will be real. 

Sketchy AF. Don't look down, the steel holes are big enough for you feet to fall through... well not really but sure felt like it

The only thing I could think about as we walked across(and back) on the bridge was that Lani will be doing the same trek in just a month or two on her PCT adventure.
It's a pretty scary trek with the wind roaring by pushing you either toward the moving cars or into the railing toward the water.

Afterward we stopped at Thunder Island brewery for a local brew and to purchase some for future PCT hikers.

Look Lani! I bought you a beer! Well we all did- but I think you only get one!

With this visit being my sister Nicole's first time in both Washington and Oregon, we had to take a pit stop for a nice hike to the Horsetail falls.
I had never been to any of the waterfalls without it actually being apart of the Gorge Waterfalls 100k.

Afterward we eat, hung out at the coolest food truck center, pet every puppy around and packed up to leave for the airport.
Portland definitely has its fair share of cute puppies.
And can proudly say we physically pulled the car over to pet a puppy.
No joke.  

THIS WAS THE PUPPY... well not exactly but identical. You'd pull over and ask the owners if you could pet the puppy like a creep too!

Till next time all!

Peace, love and happiness!

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama (Support you race photographer!)

I've missed this angel face! One day I'll drive her to Beacon Rock so she can experience it herself!

Joel Ballezza who handles my hanger/drunkeness like a champ, picked each of us up from the airport, drove us everywhere and brought all the campsite necessities. (We will make you a coffee snob, don't you worry).
Rich Lorton at Vision For Enrichment for having magical sports massages and constantly moves his schedule around to help me when I'm constantly injuring myself.
 Coach JP at Crossfit Ganbatte for helping me get strong and stay strong! The endurance program is incredible and every single coach/member is supportive and encouraging beyond words!
Chris Vargo for creating a training schedule that was maintainable and held me accountable!
And my roommate Derek Sepe who let me use his computer to write this because my 2005 laptop is FRIED and who also watched Juniper for me!

And of course to the amazing staff and volunteers of Rainshadow Running for the countless hours and hard work they put in for the entire weekend.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow, Ice, Rain and Orcas 50k Round 2

I'm going to be very honest, I've been dreading this blog post.
Lack of inspiration to write I would assume.
To be frank, lack of motivation to do anything and writing is at the top of the list.
But here I am, on my fourth version of this blog post and still not very satisfied with any form of sentence I string together.
It's okay, I tell myself.
Not all things can be all sunshine and butterflies, but within every experience there is a lesson to be learned. Lately I've gotten a lot of those- lessons.
Life waving its finger at me saying “Sawna, you should know better”.
But Alas!
I do what I want, 
don't listen to my body, 
don't let myself recover and inevitably end up with a lingering injury for over a month that I just can't shake.
There is no one to blame but myself.
Several lessons to be learned.
Thus, do not do as I do.
If anything... learn from what I do and do better.

Alright, so where are we?
My second time! (Read my first racereport HERE).
Let me begin this series of lessons with a bing of pain I felt in my calf early December- a strain in my soleus.\ I attempted to rest but my source of income demands me to be on my feet... all day long.
Instead of running, I filled my time with yoga; stretching, hiking and a bunch of pity parties that I've gotten pretty good at throwing.
It lingered, it got better, it got worse, it got better again but it never stuck.
The week leading up to the race it seemed to feel fine, I was able to run- albeit very slowly, but run nonetheless.
I told myself that I would go thru with Orcas, but it wouldn't be a “race” like I intended on initially when I signed up.
If I woke up Saturday morning and didn't feel 100% I would volunteer or walk the entire course... at least that's what I told myself.

The Thursday before the race I found myself chatting up a storm with Rich founder of VFE while receiving a sports massage. 
I was shocked at how good my body felt as I walked out and felt a bit more confident going into the weekend.
Flying into Seattle I knew I would be in for a treat.
We began Friday with a mini tour for Tony, for his first time visiting Seattle. 
It included some touristy places like Pikes market, the gum wall as well as some hot apple cider, cinnamon rolls and cookies- galore!
When you're EXTREMELY late for the ferry yet you somehow still make it as one of the last cars- YOU CHEER!

Smile guys ;)

Unlike last years race, this weekend's weather was to be a stormy one; snow, rain you name it!
Being a SoCal girl, I welcomed it with opened arms.
As we drove to Anacortes, the window down, my head and arms flaring out trying to catch the snowflakes graciously floating from the sky.
"The adventure begins", I tell myself.

Look guys.... SNOW!
Saturday morning we awoke to a bunk house full of eager faces.
It was slightly raining outside and we all began preparing for the days adventure.
Coffee in hand I couldn't bare to drink it, overwhelmed with doubt about today's quest.
I am no stranger to doubt, lately she visits quite often but doesn't linger too long.
I pushed her to the side and let the excitement of being outdoors control my morning instead of the negativity of doubt.

Slightly creepy photo by Tony Hart ;)
Checking in was a breeze and the minutes before the race started was used to say hi to all the friends I've made in the PNW these last few years of running Rainshadow races.
James pre race details "it's raining... be careful... possible ice... be careful"

So many friendly faces to greet, to hug, to catch up with that time flew by and suddenly we were all outside listening to the clock tick down.
It was still raining as we set off and Orcas 50K began.

I am trying to find the right words to describe how I felt the first few miles of the race.
I wish I looked this good.... 
The way I picture it is one of those waving inflatable arm-flailing tubes you'd find at promotional stores.
I know how to run, but somehow couldn't seem to connect my brain to my flailing body parts and heavy breathing.
It was painfully difficult to stay slow, catch my breathing and not speed up like my brain wanted to do.
It helped that the road was filled with ice and snow, demanding my attention with every foot strike.
See flailing arms... and Joel makes the photo a winner. Photo by the amazing Glenn
Still, once past the first climb on the road, I was unable to get a hold of my breathing nor my wacky arm movements and posture.
Feeling the extra 10 pounds I'd gained from my lack of activity this last month- each leg was it's own wooden log I had to drag across the trail. (It happens, I know)

The first half of the race, to be quite honest, was not fun.
I didn't enjoy how my I felt, how slow I was going and I was really letting myself get upset over it.
Arguments formulated in my mind as I quickly gave in to them.
Have you had one sided arguments with yourself?
It's not fun nor is it productive but still, I continued on.
I had regretted my extra jacket I wore and had to pull to the side to remove it- it was cold but not that cold.
Once I felt I had a good groove going back on the trail, I had quickly remembered setting my phone on the ground when removing said jacket and had to turn around to retrieve it.
Ohhhh my phone, the least of my worries.
Back in the right direction I found with my persistent attempt to keep my pace down, my breathing light and my mind clear- I began to feel the motion of running becoming easier and easier.
With that I let myself gain speed.
Mind you, this is around 16-17 miles.

The negative Nancy that had been occupying my thoughts the first half of the race finally disappeared.
HELLLOOOOO Positive Polly! What took so long?
My breathing began to normalize as I stayed present on the trail.
Although I found most of the sections leading up to the Powerline trail to be very runnable, with the snow and ice it began extremely dangerous and slippery.

I was most thankful for wearing tights when I found myself face planted on the trail. 
My knees caked in mud while adrenaline shoots through my very core.
I arrived at the third aid station, North Arch mile 20.3 of the race feeling warmed up and pretty excited for the Powerline trail.
I grabbed a pickle and a corner of a PB&J and quickly set off. 
(Apparently that's the only thing that I wanted- I eat 3 sets of those and that was it)
"Take it easy Sawna", I told myself.

Although I may have felt great, 
may have felt as though I could push it, 
I had to tell myself that to keep it slow.
Nothing is worth injuring myself further.
So I paced myself alongside a guy from Seattle.
Seth I believe is his name.
I stuck next to him and we conversed the first half the trail.
I ran every moderately flat or downhill section in order to break up the arduous climb that is Powerline trail.
I knew I was going slower than last year and I was ok with it.
Hand on knees, pushing each foot forward- the slight rain began to change to snow.
I couldn't help my smile and be thankful for the beautiful sight.
Despite the slippery trail, running while it snows is a magical experience and I was giggly from it.
I felt great!
What an opposite feeling from this morning.
Every ounce of my body was awake and moving forward with such ease.
Oh yeah... maybe if I trained it would.
I fell into a nice rhythm as I climbed Mt. Constitution, the final big climb before the last aid station and long descent to the finish.
The trail was packed with snow and I found it difficult to grasp the trail with each step, slipping slightly backward with each step forward.

Nothing at this point bothered me, my thoughts were filled with the scenery that surrounded me.
Light puffy balls of snow floating down from the sky, finally resting on its new home along the trail.
The time went by in slow motion, feeling as though I was merely a guest of the moment and thanking mother nature for this glimpse of beauty.
The climb barely phased me as I watched the dark green mossy trees slowly get covered by a blanket of snow.
What a view!
It's not something I get to experience too often and its these moments I cherish so deeply.
I jogged up to Mt. Constitution, where the aid station was supposed to be (it was moved due to icy roads) and was quickly greeted by Joel who was petting a dog and chatting up some locals.
We were able to enjoy some of the trail together, like we did last year.
From Mt. Consitution the views were stunning from what you could see between the clouds and snowflakes. I waved to Glenn as I ran by him in what was the perferct photo opt! 
(I can not imagine how LONG he spent cold up there taking pictures of the entire run... support his work by buying his photos!!!)

With the knowledge of the last decent before me and with no more major climbs to come I was feeling a rush of excitement.
This section was purely magical, letting myself give in to gravity and run the final descent.
The trees glistened as I breezed by, passing a few runners just as excited as I was to welcome the food and drink at our final end where James would be giving out high fives.

At this point I felt great.

No aches or pains or discomfort- just happiness.
For a moment I wished it didn't have to end, the reason why I enjoy longer races is because I normally have a second wind at the end of a 50k and can push for a stronger second part of a race if it were, say, double the distance.
But I digress.

I am welcomed to a solid congrats from James and a high five as I pass the finish line and I couldn't be happier with the days event.
Despite my initial doubt, I overcame my disbelief in myself and got it done.
The race may not have went the way I intended on it to, but I'll take what I can get. 

Congrats Tony!!! Orcas was his first Ultra distance!
Joels "This is how I really feel" photo

Post race is the reason I race at all!
Pizza, beer, and endless happy smiles and conversation with amazing like minded folk.
It was great to catch up with so many friendly faces and talk about each amazing race experience.
With the conditions the way that they were, each of us handled the monstrous weather and came out alive to tell our tales.

Our bunkhouse was filled with some strong runners and overall amazing people.
One of my favorite conversations was with a couple from Montana and it was about, shockingly, AVOCADOS.
Don't get me started.
I can talk about avocados... all.... day... long.
Also my avocado may have exploded hence why I had to share it with my new friends...
Bacon avocados guys.... drool

It was a pretty stellar weekend to say the least.
Back in Seattle, I was able to catch up with some friends and get stuck in an insane snow storm.
Always an adventure.

Wine tasting with our friend Mandy while planning our Rim to Rim to Rim trip in May!

Snowstorm+flight changed to next day= Night snowshoeing

Sawna+ snow= KID

Over 8 inches of snow over night. This happens regularlry in Issaquah right?
I don't remember the last time I made a snow angel.

I'm sorry I'm not sorry
I'm definitely very happy to be back home after a weekend of constant stimuli.
Still, with lingering pains as I write this post. 
This week, with zero dog runs on my agenda, I've decided to take a break from running and focus on recovery.
This is new for me.
I'll let you know how it goes...
All this blog writting makes for a ruff time for Juniper. I'm paw-sitive she needs attention

Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness.  

I know... love for all the memes! But seriously, I have Gorge 100k in 8 weeks.. yikes!