Sunday, April 10, 2016
I tilt my head back to face the sky.
I can feel drops of rain gently kissing my face, and the bone chattering ocld taking ove rmy body.
This is Pacific North Western weather and I embrace every moment of it!
Munra Point, when I suddenly ask myself,
"How did I get here?"
A mere two days ago I was running Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and now I'm way up here with a face that's more sore than my legs from all the hours of laughter and smiles had througout the weekend.
This is runcation!
The days leading up to this race were filled with anxiety because of the year I'd had.
My training had not gone to plan, and my confidence was low.
The Gorge Waterfalls 100k (GW100k) was my goal race for the year, yet nothing had gone right.
I never felt healthy enough to train consistently due to various sicknesses taking me out one after another.
If it's not one excuse it's the other- right?
Thankfully my side job running Dollie (the cutest little dog ever) kept me accountable, and added enough base training to hopefully keep the wheels from falling off.
I wasn't necessarily nervous about the race, or distance.
My big worry was if I could obtain my A goal of getting the 12 hour finish that I'd set for myself many months ago.
I knew I'd have to push myself the entire time.
Being severely undertrained made that idea unfathomable.
With a history of injury I decided that I wouldn't willingly put my body through that intensity at this point of the year.
Roll the windows down, lean the seat back and enjoy the ride that makes up the Gorge Waterfalls 100k.
New goal: just go out and have fun.
The day had finally arrived.
It was 3:45 am.
I was preparing my coffee when the alarm sounded.
It was a relaxing morning, and I had already set out my race kit the night before to make sure I had everything I'd be needing for the day:
my favorite Runners of the Wild tank, complimenting ROTW hat, my new Boa bright parrot shorts, Stance socks and my amazing Brooks PureGrit 3s.
I checked my drop bags to make sure I had everything I needed:
a handful of dates, avocado halves, trail butter and a couple Picky Bars in each bag for good measure.
I've learned from past races that I need to always be prepared with fuel that I not only love, but that also works well for me.
Normally on trail runs back home I run with a whole avocado and a jar of pecan butter but in light of being, well, light- I left those at home.
With all the essentials packed up, I was now ready to race!
Joel came down from Seattle to be my crew chief extraordinaire.
We left the farm heading towards what we thought was the start line, but soon realized that our destination was wrong. We ended up at Multnomah Falls. Thank you iphone maps!
We parked there along with a few other runners who had made the same mistake.
Funny thing though, I could not stop thinking about how I forgot my new California Bear Buff back at the farm.
The idea of not having any buff(for the excess nose drip) was more frightening to me than not being at the actual start time.
Ugh, WHAT WAS I THINKING?
We pulled around and found James, the head honcho of this race, getting set up.
He said he would show us a short cut to the starting line. Woo!
Back on track. Or should it be Trail?
The way James showed us was, and there is absolutely no exaggeration here folks, just crazy!
He had us go down some sketchy road, over a few logs, across a stream, through a tree, make a quick stop at grandmothers, and lastly over a few mountains for good measure.
A quick - nonchalant - shortcut to the starting line.
Again, not exaggerating one bit. Thanks, James! ;)
We arrived at the start line area with about 10 minutes left before race start.
I put my drop bags down, threw my Race bib on, took a quick bathroom break, said hello to a few friends and, before I knew it, there was only a minute left before the scheduled start of the race.
Vince and Tim joined me, and we listened quietly as James gave us a short speech.
We all looked like deer caught in headlights of a semi truck, but sadly, we were only runners, and this was an ultra trail course, not a semi truck.
"Go!" The energy from every runner was nothing short of a locomotive beginning it's first turns of a long haul cross country - slow and steady, building with time.
I started the run with my long sleeve on because COLD.
I figured it's Portland, and it's always cold.
Am I right?
Good weather one, Sawna zero.
I could still feel the terrible decisions of yesterday rumbling in my belly insulated by the warmth of my long sleeve. Nightmares of French fries and tater tots haunted my footsteps as I began to dance with distance.
The race started with about 30 minutes of darkness before the sun broke the skyline.
We'd begun to ascend our first climb when I recognized Lisa and her unforgettable blond pony tail.
We had run together during Orcas Island 50k a few months prior.
I said hello, and realized how much I love the community RainShadow Races creates.
He went flying down the one of many tricky descents served cold courtesy of the GW100K course.
As I went down into the cold and damp canyon, so did my stomach.
The beginning of an all too familiar problem I sometimes face in ultra running.
I did what I could do to manage my stomach and hoped it would get better as the miles clicked by.
I fell into a solid and reliable groove with a girl from Canada.
Sadly, I can't remember her name.
We chatted about our home trails, running communities, and yes, even the weather. We hit the two mile road section that leads to the mile 13 aid station.
"13 down, 50 to go." Easy.
I saw Joel as I approached the aid station, and asked for an avocado.
I told myself to use the restroom, but quickly left the aid area without even realizing the mistake.
For the next three miles, I found myself looking for the ladies room.
Flashbacks of this same situation from last year fill my memory.
The struggle is real trying to find privacy during a race with 300 participants.
With a much needed stop out of the way(or a few), I could finally turn my focus back to the race.
I gasped loudly.
The immense beauty held in this landscape is nothing short of GORGEous.
Everything looked different since my run here exactly one year ago.
The course hadn't seen rain like it did the year before, and the change was welcomed as the footing on trail was in my favor.
I exclaimed to myself as I scarfed down my pulverized avocado that I had wisely stored in my handheld.
A nice gentleman whom I'd been leap frogging with for the last mile or so commented on the messy situation I was in (if only he knew).
I didn't mind at all and kept on keeping on with my delicious avocado.
Before I knew it, I was coming into the Cascade Locks GRATEFUL DEAD aid station at mile 22.
Let me tell you, there was an energy emanating from it that even my beloved avocado couldn't rival.
The smiling faces and loaded table were more than enough to make me forget about the pounds of potatoes that were attempting to slaughter my race.
Yassine and Willie from Wy'east Wolfpack were manning the aid station along with Territory Run CO and Trail butter.
They're ALL AMAZING PEOPLE, and super talented both on the trails and in the office.
I may have spent too much time saying hello to all my friends and hugging people.
I didn't care.
Time stood still, and I rejoiced in the splendor of that moment.
I'm so grateful for Joel being there to pull me back into reality, and for kicking me out of there before I could ask for a beer and just volunteer for the rest of the race.
Javelina Jundred late last year.
She was volunteering, and I left there with my heart filled with love as I recalled the amazing memories we created with each other out there under the hot Arizona sun.
I was approaching the turn around point when I spotted Vince who was happy as can be.
We hugged before we both went on in our separate ways.
I could tell that we were both enjoying the stunning trails of Cascade Locks.
I remember being at this point last year, and really being able to pick up some speed as I headed towards the halfway point.
This year was no different.
I caught up to Tim at that aid station.
He was already tired and worn from the day.
Understandably, who wouldn't be tired with the minimal training we'd both put in?
I mean, it was the half way point of the race, and we'd already put 50k in the bank.
I, however, felt as though I was just getting started.
I quickly left that aid station with a shot of coke down the hatch, and a fresh avocado to match.
Leaving this aid station is my favorite.
The climbs are moderate, and you get the added bonus of adrenaline from the aid station.
It really sets the tone for a fun pace.
I embraced it - welcoming the featherlight footing that comes along with a controlled, runnable ascent.
The miles were clicking by, and soon I was heading back towards the Cascade Locks aid station.
This part is awesome because you are now running towards all the runners who are heading to Wyeth for their own turn around.
I enjoyed greeting each runner and seeing their (most) happy faces as I cruise by each other.
Running into a few Los Angelino friends made my smile go from happy to grand!
Everything looks different after the turnaround.
The moss covered trees have now changed tint as the sun illuminates their natural lime green beauty in subtle yet noticeable ways.
Tree branches point in every direction from these tall and abundant trees.
Moss hangs long from the many branches like drapes in an old hotel.
They seem to be stuck in a permanent dance pose as if only to pause for the brief moment while we ran by.
The trails were soft and dry delicately commanding my attention as the technicality rewards those with short attention spans a hefty mouthful of rich, life giving soil.
I took a moment to thank my body for this amazing gift of endurance.
My body felt fresh and my mind was sharp.
I was able to come into the aid station strong and confident in my ability to finish the race - unlike last year.
This particular section of trail which came after the aid station was so tough for me last year.
I had mentally struggled for so long, and walked so much of it.
I didn't want that to repeated.
I was happy to find myself having a much better experience this time around.
Keeping a conservative pace, I happily greet the local hikers as I passed by.
I remember walking this section last year with a girl and her pacer. I recall feeling so sorry for myself.
I gave myself a pat on the back for staying positive, and for being consistent with my race throughout the day.
As I quickly remind myself the mantra from Javelina.
YOU ARE A MACHINE!
From head to toe, every molecule of my being is working toward this greater whole to move forward almost effortlessly.
A fu***** machine!
The Yeon aid station came and went .
I grabbing nothing more than some water.
The encouraging cheer gave me so much energy for this next section.
I flew down the two mile paved road section that I'd walked last year.
What a relief it was to let my legs stretch out from all the jarring technical terrain.
After the road section there's only a handful of climbs left.
I romanticizing about this moment for months, maybe longer.
These trails had left a mark on me I couldn't shake off and I found myself with a deep hunger to be get back to them.
Last year I was able to make friends with a local trail runner, Josh and we had ran this very section with ease.
The last few months I would think of this moment and how I would mentally and physically feel.
Then suddenly boom, here I was, at the point were I visualized myself being countless times before.
I continued through this section, and came into No name aid station with great energy.
I said to myself, "you're almost done."
I was greeted by such happy and eager faces who quickly got me what I needed, and then got me back out on the trail.
I truly can't be more appreciative for the AMAZING volunteers at all the aid stations.
They took time out of their day to make sure I could have the best day possible, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. From the bottom of my heart to anyone that helped me out there, thank you so much!
I left No Name aid feeling amazing!
With only six miles left, I could nearly smell the fresh pizza(s) with my name on them.
The climb following No Name Aid is long and arduous.
I found a comfortable rhythm during the climbing portion to save the legs for the finish.
Before I knew it, the sun was sinking with it's light poking through the trees providing a few last moments of warmth and comfort.
There was a deep longing to stay in that moment forever.
I slowed my speed down and hike the final climb, enjoying what was the last of this beautiful course.
The hard work was almost over, and I could feel the ground changing degrees hinting at the beginning of the last descent leading to the finish.
My shoes were soaked at this point.
My feet slid forward in them as I ran downhill giving my toes one last thrashing to cap off the day.
The final miles flew by as I made my way towards the last part of the course - the train tracks leading to the finish. You can hear the crowd roaring with cheer at the finish line.
It's so inspiring.
I crossed the finish line, and before I knew it, the day was over.
I was happy to find myself in 12th place - again. Ha!
I crossed the line in 13 hours and 12 minutes for a solid 4 minute PR from last year.
No, no, no!
I spent Sunday doing a brew and donut tour with friends that either ran, volunteered or just came up to visit.
It was just the recovery I needed after 13 hours on the trails the day before.
Joel, Vince and I spent the rest of the evening on the farm (yes! Our AirBnB was a farm) drinking wine and relaxing in the spa.
Such a perfect ending to a great day with friends.
On Monday we went up to Munra point to explore, and get in some recovery movements before heading back home.
You would've never known that both Vince and I had run 100k just two days prior from the way we were running.
Warning: perhaps not the safest when went due to several steep rock climbs.
May cause shakingness and thoughts that you may possibly fall off a mountain during your vacation.
After the hike/run, we finished off the day with some cold beers, donuts, burgers, pizza (for Vince) and some fries!
Portland, you are incredible, and I look forward to returning in June for the Beacon Rock 50k(For the second year!).
A huge thank you to RAINSHADOW RUNNING for another epic race filled race journey through beautiful trails.
Your incredible volunteers and aid stations created such an overwhelmingly positive experience for me, and I gotta say, you guys know how to put on a race! Thank you for all your hard work!
'Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness!
Thank you Vince for editing this post and filling my phone up with selfies ;)
Also, for getting onto an airplane for an adventure after 20+ years of staying firmly on ground and entering an airport. BOOM! I'm going to be nice and not post those selfies ;)
Thursday, February 11, 2016
(If on a desktop- some music to enjoy)
I can't help but to think about why I choose to run,
what motivates me to go the distance?
Not something distinct nor an answer I can fully grasp.
Not because I don't know- it's not so simple to put into words.
Memories of my first ultra distance and joining Team in Trainings "Ultra Team" holds the biggest weight in my reason. It is where it all started.
It's where my passion for the outdoors was merely a small match lit flame, well that flame has now become a wild fire with embers that only get hotter with each passing day.
During that time I've met some of the most incredible people that would inspire me to not only be the best version of Sawna that I could be, but also to live life in this present moment and when the going gets tough...
to never give up, never surrender.
Both on the trails and in our day to day life.
This past weekend was a reminder of why I continue to sign up for these "races". Not to race but to be apart of this wonderful community.
Without this community I would've never known about Orcas Island or the San Juan region. I would've never traveled to Portland, the Colombia Rover Gorge area, Yachats beach on Oregon's Coast, or Squamish and Arizona's Fountain Hills. I've been to all these places because of my passion for the trails and the like minded souls that I've been so lucky to meet.
The community has open my eyes and my heart to natures beauty and for that I am forever thankful.
Now, lets get to it.
Clouds, mist, darkness fill my vision and all of sudden I'm in front of Gelsons.
It's 11am, Saturday February 5th and it's 80 degrees out.
A normal Saturday as I pick up coffee at the Oaks on Franklin right by my house on the cusp of Griffith Park.
It's just a normal Saturday, but wait a second- it isn't.
I went to bed last night, mind you, yes I had a couple beers during dinner but how the hell did I get from Orcas Island to Los Angeles?
I'm silently freaking out as my heart is nearly breaking through my chest.
I'm supposed to be running Orcas Island 50k at this very second.
Sweat drips down my face.
I feel my cheeks get bright red.
A drip of sweat dribbles down my back that gives me goosebumps.
I would've had to catch a ride to the ferry, taken the ferry, then have gotten a 2 hour ride to the airport AND THEN to fly from Seattle airport to LAX all within the night.
This isn't realistic!
I log onto Facebook and sure enough Carlos is posting photos of the beautiful trails and all the pre race ordeal and how I just- POOF disappeared.
A week later Melissa and Carlos are standing in my parents kitchen telling me how much fun Orcas was, how beautiful the trails were and how weird it was that I decided to go home.
At that point I was nearing a breaking point, I was so frustrated that they didn't believe me that I had just appeared at home and that I don't remember any of my travels.
Was this some kind of intervention?
Two beers doesn't necessarily make me an alcoholic but how would I have gotten home and not remembered. I get the look from Melissa.
She asks me if she needs to take me to the hospital.
I'm dripping with sweat.
"We think you're going insane".
It's dark. I'm soaked in my sweat.
My hair is completely drenched.
Where am I? It's pitch black.
I'm pretty sure I've fallen asleep in some sort of Sauna.
I locate my phone.
I can barely make out the cabin room I had fallen asleep in just a mere couple hours ago.
But it feels like it's been weeks.
I crawl out of my sweat soaked sleeping bag and stumble outside to the brisk cool moist air that is Orcas Island.
A let out a loud sigh.
It was a dream, Sawna.
It was only a dream.
Friday, February 4th.
Wake up time: 4:30am
A car ride to the airport.
An airplane LAX->SEA.
A car ride to the ferry.
The ferry to the Island.
A car ride to Camp Moran.
Travel time: 6am-5:30pm
Beer me please.
Saturday, February 5th.
The wood outside our bunkhouse was moist from the wetness in the air.
The grass shiny from the morning dew while the light slowly peaked through the trees and the sun rises.
It's almost start time and everyone gathers outside on a incline waiting for James to countdown.
It's surprisingly warm.
Most of us packed for the worst weather, but Mother Nature delighted us with one of the most beautiful days Orcas seen in weeks.
I jokingly tell a few PNW friends that I brought the good weather from Los Angeles.
It wasn't a joke- I really did! ;)
It's difficult to describe the day properly.
The first 15.23 miles felt as though I could catch my breath.
I told myself that I signed up for this race purposely not as a race but to truly understand why everyone says this is the most beautiful place- to enjoy it fully.
Since my body wasn't completely agreeing with what I was doing, rather than stress about it, I took advantage of the situation and slowed down, stopped a few times to take photos and really grasped my surroundings.
I was running through a fairytale.
Moss covered logs in the distance almost teasingly resembling a person in a bright green jacket, tall trunks of cognac colored bark mixed with fluorescent green high above me as the light peaks through as though taping me on the shoulder just to say hi.
Ray jumps into my memory.
Never give up, never surrender.
Memories of his inspiring words at our previous years send off dinners fill my eyes with tears.
You would've loved this.
At no point did my body hurt.
Something I'm not too familiar with seeing that a majority of 2015 races and training runs were spent injured.
It took 15 miles for my breathing to regulate and for my body to feel good and warm.
A majority of the run I spent talking to fellow runners, friends I've met at previous races or had met merely on social media.
(Glenn surprised me. I didn't see him. Support photographers)
I've seen a plethora of photos and both films from Project Talaria (2013) and (2014) and The Ginger Runner and although well portrayed, Orcas Island needs to be experienced first hand.
It's a constant eyegasm.
In every direction.
Up to mile 20 aid station you have nothing but beautiful lush fluorescent green everywhere but a runnable single track that you were on. One foot in front of the other.
A few root filled sections making it pretty technical. Darn you roots- I'm busy staring around me can't you see how incredible you're home is!
Sections I forced myself to hike just to spend a little extra time taking deep breaths of this magical air.
Pure, wonderful, exhilarating oxygen filling me lungs.
Expecting to see a hobbit run by me or a fairy to land on my shoulder to whisper magical tales to me as a giggle at how tiny she is.
(Ok so I am slightly insane).
"This is the life" I thought.
I caught myself whistling from pure happiness.
Something I do occasionally.
(Habits of the slightly crazed).
After aid station 20 you have the "Powerline" trail that climbs over 2k-ish in feet in a matter of 2 miles.
This section has always been described as something you should be afraid of. A story one would tell around the campfire to scare all the little scout members before bed to give them nightmares.
Never give up, never surrender... I repeated to myself and continued forward.
My jacket already safely tucked into my pack, beads of sweat dripping off my face, my side braid soaked, both hands on my quads as I continued upward.
Constant deceiving points where you think the climbing has ceased- that you've reached the top.
I begin running in what I believe is a runnable section but soon, gravity getting the best of me inevitably forced to slow down back to a hike. I soon realize I've entered he next stage of the climb and look straight up in amazement that this thing- this "trail" continues unapologetically.
My hands back on my quads as I begin my power hike once again,
keeping my speed consistent with a reminder that it doesn't feel much different than Joan's Peak back home.
This isn't so bad.
Sweat stings my eyes.
One foot in front of the other.
I reach the top of the Powerline and smile in amazement.
That was awesome!
I reach into my pack for a bite of the heavenly trailbutter packed tortilla I've saved from the aid station. I may or may not have dropped a few times and picked it right back up.
From Powerline, you have a nice descent before entering the net climb up to Mt. Constitution and inevitably the final aidstation.
This wide open downhill aided me in catching my breath and essentially filled my lungs with love.
Love for this beautiful island and the opportunity to run here.
At that point I had found a rythym in speed and was surprised at how regulated I was able to keep my breathing.
I didn't want to push myself too hard knowing there was still some climbing left.
Onward and upward to Mt Constitution.
Not as steep as the Powerline trail but grueling just the same.
Hands back on my quads as I felt myself ease back into the climb.
Pizza and beer.
Whoa- massive calves man.
Pizza and beer.
Pizza and beer.
The idea of endless drink and food with the best company at the finish line somewhat took power over my thoughts.
I continued to think of only that for the next mile.
My thought may have been out loud too considering there was some gasping agreements for some local brewskies.
Eventually I passed the man with massive quads, a low gaspy good job escaped my mouth.
I can see blue skies through the tree and in the distance I can hear cheering.
The excitment one feels on Christmas eve, or celebrating a birthday- pure, magical, unaltered happiness.
I would've gave myself a pat on the back for surviving if I wasn't focused on actually getting to the aid station.
Im almost there.
I fee like I'm sprinting, but in reality I'm probably crawling.
The finally aid station!
At that point I ran back into Joel, whom I spent a majority of the race with until he mountain goat'd up Powerline.
I kid you not my face was full of snot the second I realized Glenn was off the side of the trail snapping photos.
Well, it's reality.
I battle we may all lose whilst running in somewhat cold temperatures.
At some point you get tired of consistently blowing snot rockets to the side in fear that you'll hit someone.
Lets be frank, we all do it. (Right?)
This is a real fear of mine.
That's the truth.
I grab my tortilla goodness.
Being pretty winded at the time, I found it rather difficult to run and chew simultaneously.
It was the first time, prior mile 15, that I was gasping for air.
However, mid gasp, the view from Mt. Constitution stole any thought process available.
It's stunning. Every shade a blue in the distance.
The water sparkled and shimmered in raw beauty.
Never give up, never surrender I remember.
At the point Joel politely passes me, Gazelle like, flying down the descent out of sight.
I slowly found my rythym, enjoying what was left of natures gift for the day.
Easing in to what was to be the last mile my left quad suddenly seized up into a cramp.
My left leg catapolting outward- I immediately put pressure on the cramp area to easy the pain.
I continue to jog, it hurt more to walk at that point as I self massaged the area.
A couple of deep breaths and sips of water later it simply disappeared.
At the point I would've been completely happy with walking whatever distance I had left.
I was in paradise.
I was high off life and nothing could bring me down.
As I continued to run, I no longer had to hold my inner tight and was able to ease back into a normal pace when I could hear he cheering in the distance.
It's over already?
I'm almost done?
"No, that's not right" I tell myself.
But sure enough I was one climb away from giving Jame a nice high five and having a beer in hand.
What has a beginning always has an end and to me this race ended to quickly.
I felt myself wanting to hug a nearby tree and not continue forward to stay in this moment a bit longer.
No I'm not signing up for Orcas 100 any time in the near future if that's what you're thinking.
One high five and several hugs from friends later I was beer in hand and on the sidelines cheering.
You bet I had a big fat grin on my face.
That was incredible.
Rainshadow Races are known for not only their epic landscaped trails, but also their after parties.
Finishers get freshly made pizza and snacks galore as well as kegs normally line the door with local beers.
Once both Melissa and Carlos finished along with JC joining us- it was almost picture perfect.
I just ran one of the most beautiful trails and I'm here at a table joined with my friends from LA along with friends from Seattle and Portland that I've met at other races.
You look around and despite the dirty covered clothes, the sweat stained faces, everyone face was accessorized with the biggest smile.
The rest of the weekend was icing on the cake.
The following morning we packed everything up, ate breakfast at a local diner, and headed to the ferry.
Little did we know, half the race participants would be leaving at the same time.
Parked behind one friend, next to another- it was another social event.
Back in Seattle we stayed another day to, you know, do tourist things.
Play arcade games.
Eat french fries.
Play endless basketball until your arms hurt.
Eat more potatoes.
See wonderful friends.
Eat a cinnamon roll... probably made of potatoes.
Needles to say it was a wonderful adventure of a weekend.
I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be apart of this wonderful community- I have made countless friends to which I don't know how my life would be now if not for them and their constant motivation.
Memories flood back to Ultra Season 2013.
Each season of Team in Training, whether you are training for a Marathon, a Century ride, a Ironman; etc, your team honored teammate.
An honored teammate may not be someone who is participating in the actual event but an individual who you are training in honor of, essentially someone who has had cancer and is either currently battling it or has overcome it.
For Ultra Team 2013 and on it was Ray.
He was THE MAN.
His humor, his constant positivity and encouragement- you never would've thought he was ever sick.
He would tell us how he continued to go the distance, continue to run even though no one thought he could- and HE DID.
Cancer is not a joke, no matter what form.
I can't help but to get tearied eyed on this plane as I write this, but you never really know how fragile time is until it is gone.
This weekend I promised to celebrate a life.
One that was passionate, inspiring,and articulated life so flawlessly with always a little kick of humor.
With every sunlight that peaked through the trees I thought of you.
With the sparkling of the lake shinning back as to say good job- I thought of you.
When powerline seemed endless but I was nearing the top- I thought of you.
Never give up, never surrender.
Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness.
** I should probably edit this... but I'm not.
It's too hot. My skin is melting.