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!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I drank the kool-aid from the Devils Punchbowl

I can feel the heaviness in my eyes as I tiptoe into my apartment.
My body begs for a good night's rest yet it's nearly 2 a.m. on Monday and I've just gotten off work.
Crawling into bed, trying not to make any movement that would wake Juniper.
And I'm out before my head hits the pillow.

Suddenly, and far from graciously, I'm startled awake.
Petrified at the feeling of something hitting my legs.





And then quickly it stops.

I've been asleep maybe 5 minutes and I notice Junipers tail is smacking my legs yet she is not awake.
I can hear her low grunting noises.

"Is she panting?" I think to myself.

Her legs twitch and begin to move amongst the sheets.
Her tail begins to wag again.
She's dreaming, as she does often, that she's running.
Looking down at Juniper I think of the days events-it was all worth it.

It's 4:55 Sunday morning.


I'm completely shocked that I've woken up before my alarm clock.
I feel energized and excited for the adventure that is planned for the day.
Today Lani, Juniper and I will be running a loop in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Some of the trails I frequent often but more than half I have yet to experience.

The Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area is a Los Angeles County Park, also within the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest. It is located South of the Pearblossom highway, about an hour and a half northeast of Los Angeles depending on how fast you drive.

Some background information if interested:
The most conspicuous features of the park are geological. 
The Punchbowl is a deep canyon cut by the runoff of large quantities of water from the higher San Gabriel Mountains occurring over a long period of time. 
These mountain peaks above the park are 8,000 feet in elevation while the Nature Center is located at 4,740 feet. 
The peculiar uptilted rock formations to be seen in the entire area are layers of sedimentary rocks that were formed long ago by the depositing of loose material in horizontal layers by water. 
Later they were squeezed into their present steeply-tilted form by continuing action of uplift along the punchbowl and Pinyon Faults and pressures along the the San Anderas Fault. 

Well you learn something new every day!

My goal was to leave my apartment by 6am, however when you are packing for two, time slips away far too quickly.

With the car packed and both Lani and Juniper ready to go, we left closer to 7am and began our drive to South Fork Campground.

South Forth Campground is just a few miles past the Devils punchbowl and is a major trail head for exploring the north-facing desert slopes of the San Gabriel Mountain.

From the campground we will take a 5 mile trial to Islip Saddle. 
This, my friends, is all new to me!
I've ran in the San Gabriels religiously these last few years and it still amazes me that there are trails I have yet to experience still. 

The trail up to Islip Saddle is a 5 mile and change climb with 2100 in elevation gain. 
It started off pretty chilly as we entered the canyon but the sun slowly crept over the mountains blessing us with its warmth. Both Lani and I removed our jackets as we drooled over the view. The immense beauty of this landscape is nothing short of incredible. 

The tint of the trees changed as night left the sky. When illuminated, the leaves exposed their natural lime green beauty, simple but striking

You could see the change in color throughout the ridge lines as we headed toward Islip Saddle.  
The trees dazzling in their spotlight and pine-scented air. 

"I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees" Thoreau

"I LOVE this smell" Exclaimed Lani, throwing up her hands, as we pass a carpet of snow.
"Oh I just farted" I quickly responded. 
We giggle and proceed forward. 
The one thing you learn when you run with us is our nonattendance of any kind of filter. 
Diarrhea of the mouth.
Word vomit. 
It is what it is- and we like it like that. 
A mile and a half in, with the sun comes warmth and the removal of my jacket.

Closer to Islip- lots of snow.

Lani, who I met through Instagram two years ago, has been my partner in crime since. 
We connected through similar photos that were captured on the same trails.

"Who is this girl?" I always thought. 

And one day (January 9th 2015 around 10 am... but who remembers exactly) we finally went on a run together (Vasquez rocks)- after chatting for months. 

Finding out we were:
1. Both vegan
2, Both ultra-runners
3. Trail enthusiasts
4. Crazy in all the right ways. 

It was ultralove at first trail run.
Backpacking Baden Powell for the Meteor Shower

Lake Tahoe shake out run (hobble for me with my sprained ankle)

Broken Arrow Sky Race June 2016. Both our booties captured

San Jacinto Cactus to Clouds- from the desert to 10,834 feet. Nov 2015

Vasquez Rocks+ PCT Fun run October 2015 (Week before JJ100)

Mt. Baden Powell twinning with our Boreas Pack

And here we are almost two years and countless adventures later.
Still bantering over who can burp the loudest and longest (ahem- no contest there). 
And who can drink the most beer whilst eating vegan pizza (Attempt made the night prior).
We reach Islip Saddle after several pit stops and hundreds of photos later. 
Nervous that the time has been passing too quickly, I convince Lani that we should skip Mt. 
Williamson and take the road to the PCT connection. 

With a little hesitation, Lani agreed.

We have a "Go Big or Go Home" policy but unfortunately I am scheduled to work at 7:30 pm and time isn't necessarily on my side today.

Overwhelmed with the idea of working till 2 am I try to brush it off, reminding myself that working late shifts allows me to adventure during the day.

We jog the road, cutting about a mile and some change from our loop.

We continued on the PCT and then hit the road again for 2.5 miles and change to Buckhorn (BUCK-HORN) Campground.

There was snow.

There was ice.

There were pee stops. 

There were gas leaks in high pitch sounds with absolutely no guilty looks given to possibly predict their visit. 
How many times can you hug a tree in one run? I lost count. 

Picnic table before the Buckart Trail begins

Dear Avocado... oh how I love thee.

We continued slowly, taking precaution on the rolling ice covered road. 
Finding a spot with sun, we stopped for some snacks. 
I packed Juniper some steamed sweet potatoes and myself some avocados and almond butter.

Tasty goodness!

From Buckhorn campground (lets take note that I am spelling it BUCKhorn and not BUTThorn). 
you proceed to buckhart trailhead, and then descend 1.5 miles to join the PCT.

Continue right toward the combined PCT/Burkhart trail, we passed the agreeably scenic Cooper Canyon Falls that were overflowing with snow melt. 

Legs for days

Lani and I won the #bestrunningbud contest from Ultra running mag
and got some awesome swag. The beanies are one of them <3

The gate into gnarnia must be broken.

We pass the time by telling stories, joking and making very inappropriate comments. 
Crossing Cooper Canyon stream we continue left on the Burkhart trail (PCT goes right).
As we continue to climb, as does the temperature. The trail begins to dry out in the exposed sun as we try to roll our sleeves up.
Lani truly enjoing the fart musical 
Such a babe here in the San Gabes

From here you commence a long climb toward Burkhart Saddle, reminding me of Trailapocolypse last April. The saddle is a gap on the high crest of Pleasant View Ridge, the desert-boardering ridge of the San Gabes.

From the Saddle it's as if you enter a door to another area completely, one less exposed to sun. 
The North side offers a welcoming descent carpeted with fresh snow rather than dry trail and warm sun. 
The trail was slightly visible, soft snow mixed with ice demanding one's complete attention.

SNOW on the Northface

Happy pup, hesistant Lani

Super sketchy spot. Lani was smart and put her spikes on- entire section was solid ice.

Lani put her spikes on as I stubbornly continued forward without mine- slowly, but safely as some parts were completely iced over. 
Juniper returning to us with glee, beckoning us to follow her. 
Her face portrays a look of "I know the way- follow me!" as we keep our grasps on the side of the mountain and balance on the icy section. 
Juniper's excitement and happiness was contagious as our fear slowly began to dissipate.
Oh 30+ miles... no big deal. 

We take the descent slowly and carefully until the snow disappears. 
From there we have a few miles of rolling hills to the intersection of the Punchbowl. 
The view now leading away from the Snow covered mountains and only of the Mojave desert with hints of the Punchbowl.

Here the clean, dry air bears the melded exudations of both pines and desert sage, a dramatic difference from just a few miles before.

Devils Punchbowl

Have I mentioned how much I love my new injini snow socks? 
I'm not here to necessarily give you a play by play of the trail
But an adventure of some girls in the mountains with only one main goal. 
To have fun. 

Doing what we do best- twinning.

No, we didn't get to go to the Devils Punchbowl Natural area but from the looks of it from the trail- it's beautiful and very different from just mountain views.

We weren't worried about pushing ourself or challenging each other. Instead we enjoyed eachothers' company as we were enjoying an activity we both are passionate about. 

We stopped, we enjoyed the views, we took photos- we basked in the gift of what surrounded us. 

On our descent toward the car, we were gifted with a goodbye worth a million smiles. 
I had to take a moment to pick my jaw up from off the ground. I was awestruck by the beauty that could be witnessed in every direction..

With it's snow covered trails, todays climb to eight thousand feet above the monotonous, flat grid of the San Gabe Streets to Mt Islip was a spectacle as the sun rose. And now- the sun sets as we bask in the cooler, drier, pine-scented air.

We celebrated with cold beers, chips and salsa at the car. 
Treats we had been dreaming of and singing about all day. 

After the 1.5 hr drive home, going into work I was still walking on clouds. 
The night passed by quickly despite my utter fatigue and body's demand to sleep. 
And yet, I was beaming!

The following week Juniper and I attempted the loop once again. 
This time I was nervous about heading out on a 30+ run alone in a secluded area. 
I told a few friends where I was going, gave them a time to start worrying if they hadn't heard back from me yet.

Despite my nervousness, I was also excited to spend another day on an adventure with my baby girl, Juniper. To my surprise a lot of the snow had melted over the past seven days, allowing my stride to open up and my legs to fly through the miles.

Juniper and I started at Islip Saddle this time, a forgiving hour car drive with plenty of views along HWY 2. We also included the Mt. Williamson climb which added the extra mile to our loop.
It never seemed to phase Juniper.

I baked sweet potatoes, had packets of almond butter and also a Super Burrito to snack on.
We shared it all, just not the avocados.

Those are just for me. 

The miles flew by, and this time the conversation was one sided.

Only when I hold a sweet potato or half the burrito will Juniper chime in.
Gosh. The things I do for you and you can only converse with me on your terms.

Once we arrived at the intersection that veers off to the Punchbowl, I turned on my phone and was surprised to get reception.

I notified some friends that I had arrived at mile 20 of 31. (At this time Juniper's GPS watch said she had ran 22 miles).

Seeing that this will be Junipers longest run, I vetoed the notion of going to the Punchbowl.

My knuckles turn pink, I've never gripped my hands so tightly.
I'm running with my fists up as we entered South Fork Campground.

Juniper and I headed toward the trailhead that leads to Islip, which coincidentally is next to the red truck that had once contained 15 guys in orange jumpsuits. Community service I guess?

The truck reads a prison's name I'm not very familiar with and care far less to stop and ask.
The hairs on my arms strike up instantly and shivers shoot straight down my spine.

The one time I want Juniper to growl or bark- she doesn't.
She tried approaching the pack of jail-free-for-the-day men and I yell at her to return to my side.
I was scarred shitless as I hear men call from the group to come over.


We run. 
Fist clenched.
Full sprint engaged.

I notice two of the men walking toward my direction and I grab Junipers extendable leash and we bolt for the mountains.

Oh Great. Heading straight into a canyonscenes of a low-budget serial killer movie.  

Fuck that. I try to remember when I was 8 and my brother taught me how to box.

Juniper and I continue running deeper into the canyon and as I put some distance between us, the strangers easily lost interest.

But with my blood boiling with adrenaline, Juniper continue toward Islip on high alert.
The five mile climb consisted of me trying to lecture Juniper that not all people on the trails are our friends but she was too busy chasing squirrels.

Time clicks by as miles pass.

As the sun shifts locations, the shades of light through the trees were all it took to lift my fears.
What a different view from just a few days ago!

Jogging up to Mt Islip, Juniper and I hit maybe one patch of snow and that was it. Most of the snow already melted from the weeks heat. The comforts of my car and my last avocado awaited me as well as some stew I had made for Juniper.

Exactly 3:30pm and we arrive at my car.

I look back at Juniper, still playing in the snow while I prepare her food.
I took a moment to thank the universe for her gift of endurance.
I don't know where she came from, what exact breed she is but she is a mountain running machine.

That I know for sure.

Current situation:

Till next time,
Peace, love and dog/kittie snuggles