Ultra running

Don't believe everything you think: Cascade Crest 100

When I think about racing these ultra distances I don’t actually think about the event itself but how I arrived to toe that starting line. I reflect on the miles of training, the highs of some runs, the lows of recovery days, the early morning wake up calls, the adapting to lingering injuries, re-assessing and addressing weekly goals and the constant motivation and support of loved ones. Without that support those miles would be inconceivable. Exploring the curiosity of running 50 miles, 100k, 100 miles is a strong driving force for me but the physical limits of the human body can override this desire all too easily. This summer I experienced something new; my body and mind continuously telling me I couldn’t achieve this race distance the weeks leading up to this endeavor yet there I was, standing at the start line, bib pinned on.

Cascade Crest 100 has been one of the races at the top of my list when first being introduced to the Central Cascade Mountains just outside of Seattle, Washington. It's no secret that most of my races revolve around the Pacific North West because of the beautiful terrain and even more incredible people; Cascade Crest was no different. 

This summer started off with a bang. My training felt solid, my body strong and my mind focused on my summer goals. I had several long training weeks and felt as though I'd recover and bounce back eager for more miles and quality time spent in the mountains. The best part was I never felt as though running was ever training but just an activity I was passionate about and was stoked to do every day. Unfortunately all of that was put on pause when I began feeling pain in my posterior tibial tendon that would increase anytime I'd run downhill and on flat hard surfaces. I was in the middle of a three week running trip in Colorado when I decided to come home early.

If not a mountain runner? Than what am I?

Rich from VFE, hes a miracle worker, fights all the knots and tightness my body has been creating!

Rich from VFE, hes a miracle worker, fights all the knots and tightness my body has been creating!

A question that surfaced all too frequently those weeks during summer that were spent not in the mountains and most importantly, not running. I vest so much of my identity in ultra running and just mountain running in general, that once it’s taken away, even momentarily, I often asked myself “Who am I if I’m not running?”. It took awhile to gain momentum again once I accepted the fact that I needed to take time away from running to regain full health. I live, breath and dream about my next running adventure, be it local mountains, the Sierra or my annual trip to Colorado, I’ve always believed that I should work hard but play harder. Spending the rest of July and August far from those mountain peaks was devastating but I still had Cascade Crest 100 at the end of August on my Calendar. Everyday I questioned whether or not I should drop from the race, if my body would be recovered from my injury by then and if I should even run it recovered without even a mile ran in the last month. I took the process day by day, found my love of cycling and swimming again and was able to spend some time outdoors climbing with my boyfriend and some friends. Although I was still active almost everyday, I felt as though a part of me was missing, I was overwhelmingly sad I wasn’t doing the thing I was most passionate about and learned to mask those feelings in hopes that I can stay positive and focus on recovering. I gave up alcohol, all forms of gluten, and only consumed whole foods that were anti-inflammatory as well as incorporated a weekly strength training as well as sport massage with Rich and Julio at VFE in hopes for a quicker recovery. I dreamed of rugged trails, alpine vistas, mountain peaks, sore muscles, and crossing the finish line in Easton, WA.

Despite my gut feeling and well, my body telling me otherwise, we bought our plane tickets, booked an airbnb and the decision was finally made with a mere week left until race day.

On August 25th at 10am, I began the trek of 100 miles across the Cascade Mountains. Now, a couple months later, I shake my head at myself. I knew at the start line that I shouldn’t have been there and I continued to question my decision every step of the way. Not only was I still not healed- still hadn’t ran, but I was dealing with recovering from a cold, the wheezing in my breathing was a constant reminder of poor decision making.

The race normally known for its unbearable heat, was cold and rainy this year. The weeks leading up to the race, Washington and most of the PNW were dealing with fires and an overwhelming amount of smoke so the rain was welcomed with open arms.

I’d like to tell you that the entire thing was a mistake, running 100 miles when your body is not ready is pretty stupid. However, despite feeling pretty terrible most of the time, I was able to see an incredible amount of friends out on the course and even got to run half the race with Hilary and Ely. Those miles shared were pretty rough but shared with those two, made it an experience to remember- definitely would say it was type 2 fun! We supported each other, cheered on the grunts and howls and lifted each other up when times were low. Not only was I able to share those miles with two friends, I also picked up Eamon at Hyak Aid, mile 55, being my crew and pacer, this was a great test to our relationship! We continued off with Hilary and her pacer but not even a mile out of the aidstation, my posterior tibial tendon pain resurfaced and left me walking, tears flowing down my face. I waved goodbye to Hilary as she continued to run and debated whether I should just end this quest now, giving it a good 55 miles of trying. Eamon encouraged me to continue, despite my meltdown, and we continued forward.

The miles passed slowly, as my moods went from one extreme to the other as Eamon, the incredible partner that he is, continued with his positive pep talks and occasional embraces when my mood was at an all time low and perhaps a bit snappy. As the miles krept by, my eyes demanding sleep, I felt empty of all sources of energy and I couldn’t imagine the finish line. I’ve never experienced feeling this low during any ultra and didn’t know how to manage all the negativity that were surfacing. This person had taken over my body- this negative and sad person kept repeating the word can’t.

Thank you Eamon for letting me borrow your socks and I’m sorry I put a hole in them :( Fantastic photo by Glenn!

Thank you Eamon for letting me borrow your socks and I’m sorry I put a hole in them :( Fantastic photo by Glenn!

Genuinely happy to see Glenn again toward the top of Thorp. This climb seemed never ending. Before the 6 mile descent of my bodies destruction and unwillingness to move faster than a crawl.

Genuinely happy to see Glenn again toward the top of Thorp. This climb seemed never ending. Before the 6 mile descent of my bodies destruction and unwillingness to move faster than a crawl.

I can’t do this, I kept repeating to myself. Not only was I vocal about this belief but in my my mind believed what I was saying. I can’t do this, I repeated. My body was in a whirl of hurt, at this point it wasn’t just my shin but my right hip and my overall posture was slumped over trying to find a running position that wasn’t painful. In past races, I’d have a second, third, fourth wind, however, here there was no second chances- I was giving it my all.

Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that- thoughts.
After a month of not drinking, I enjoyed a few sips of beer at the finish line… until the dehydration and headache hit me.

After a month of not drinking, I enjoyed a few sips of beer at the finish line… until the dehydration and headache hit me.

I crossed the finish line after 27 hours and 3 minutes of running. After years of envisioning running this race, I had never pictured the day to end like this. I wanted so badly to perform in such a way that when I couldn’t physically achieve that goal, I barely held on for dear life, exhausting all resources and crying a shit ton. I was disappointed in myself as an athlete, not just because I felt as though I could do better, but because I risked my health and my body to get to this point. Was it worth it? The belt buckle, the Hardrock qualifier, adding another month of not running? The race itself, was incredible! The volunteers, the runners, the supporters, the course (even in the cold) were all what I dreamed of, but was it worth injuring myself further? I can’t honestly answer that question. Despite being left with another injury that left me hobbling around for a month after the race, everything that happened during those 27 hours was an experience I wouldn’t trade, a hard lesson learn. It’s amazing the things we can train our minds to believe, for the best or for the worst.

It was then, weeks later, when I stopped focusing on how long it would take me to hobble to work, or worry about getting Juniper proper exercise, when I stopped stressing at the idea of getting back to my normal self and just let myself be, that I was able to heal. I remember the moment I took notice, I ran up my parents stairs to say hi and stopped at the top- light switch just flipped, realizing that I had just RAN up the stairs with zero pain and without effort. I realized I hadn’t been late to work lately and that I was able to cross the street before the hand started blinking and without hobbling. My body was feeling good and most importantly, I was happy!

With two weeks of transitioning the miles back into my routine and then three solid weeks of running in the mountains under my belt, I’m finally feeling back to myself. Injuries are no joke and the time it takes to heal and recover should be taken seriously, an idea I’m learning to grasp. Despite being injured, I look back at my summer and am amazed at how positive my reaction toward it is. Yes, perhaps I couldn’t run most of the summer but that time wasn’t wasted. I was able to build a healthy and loving relationship with an incredible human being, do other activities other than running that I’ve sidelined in the past, and I got to watch my best friend Rhea finish her first 100 mile race (also Cascade Crest), among many other things. I’ve always defined myself as a runner but it’s not what makes me, me. These last few months helped me realized that this one sport doesn’t define me as a person, but it’s the choices I make in the end that controls my happiness and overall well being.

Since Cascade Crest, I’ve been able enjoy time away from running, spending a few week in Peru as well climbing in the Sierra and just spending quality time with my family, friends and boyfriend. As much as I tried to write about my trip to Peru with Run Like A Girl, I felt as though I needed to get this specific experience off my chest (don’t worry, more adventure posts to come!). The negative feelings clouded my overall experience and writing about it helped me grasp all the good things and all the great memories I had made during that journey. As I embark on my next adventure, packing my bags for Mexico, I feel as though all that stress and negativity is behind me and the happy go lucky Sawna has returned and is ready for the next Chapter to begin.

Till next time!

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Lake Sonoma: When "Going Big" isn't smart and "Going Home" is not an option.

If you know me, I'm a big fan of the motto "Go big or go home". I do love my home because obviously that's were my bed is and the best place for sleep. But when I think of that motto I think of the opposite of everything in moderation. In ultrarunning, there is no real moderation. Everything is extreme, as is everything I do in my life. 

Buy a bag of cookies, eat it all. Buy a bag of chips, eat all the chips. Resting is doing long hiking miles instead of "runnning". Watching Stranger Things is watching the entire season in one sitting. I have no self control- give me all the Thai food, please. So when I found out I got into Lake Sonoma exactly 30 days before the race I was hesitant on how I would perform with limited amount of running since The Coastal Challenge. 

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Well those 30 days turned into an incredible learning experience; a huge practice in self control, acceptance and learning the act of rest. The days leading up to Lake Sonoma were spent, no not in the mountains where I yearned to be, but in bed with the flu and then with laryngitis. Sawna's caught the plague yet again. 

I spent days in a drunken slumber, unable to work because of my lack of voice, unable to eat because I was too tired to do anything. My darling Juniper stuck by me as my little spoon as we slept the day away. She never begged for food or to be let outside- she rest her head on my chest and we just slept in unison. It would've broke my heart if I thought of how I was dismissing her needs, but I was too tired to realize anything. I watched as friends trained, ran, climbed, and posted their incredible feats unable to even fathom walking down the stairs. My body ached, my breathing weezed, my cough rumbled deep in my soul, demanding more rest. It was completely impossible to work, I was off work for 12 days and still my voice lingered to fully return. 

The idea of racing Lake Sonoma wasn't a question, it was out of the picture. Let's be honest, was I really going to run hard anyways? Probably not, but there was no doubt that I'd still go and experience the weekend. Lake Sonoma 50 miler has always been a prestigious race that drew some of the elite of elite athletes, not only a high profile race among the entry list but the course itself is just one for the books. This book was not one I could put down. Now, lets turn the page. 

I was lucky enough to have the support of Gu Energy when it came to the race, lodging and all the logistics. I was a lost puppy that they cared for and it was nice to know that I would have friends there. The airbnb was located on a beautiful winery just 20 minutes from the start line, shared with Rebecca, Gabi, Elan, and a couple from San Francisco. After work Thursday I was frantically trying to pack, clean my apartment and prepare Juniper for her stay with her grandparents before I set off early Friday morning at 6am. 

One would normally know where the race they signed up for would be located. Well, that person was not me. I had no idea where Lake Sonoma was until I plugged it into the map Friday morning. Let the adventure begin as the 8 hour quest lays ahead. 

The city of Healdsburg is a small, tight knit community right along the cusp of Lake Sonoma in Sonoma County, about an hour and a half from San Francisco, given no traffic. I arrived right around 1pm to the Healdsburg Running Store where packet pick up is held. Don't let the small location fool you, its not only filled with some awesome running product, but even more incredibly nice and welcoming people. My normal nervous and hesitant emotions were quickly pushed aside when I realized how welcoming this community is. I spent a few hours getting to know Rebecca and hanging at the Gu tent while runners trickled in for packet pick up. Fellow Coyotes and socal badass babes Vanessa and Brianna came and said hello as we chatted with excitement about the next days adventure. The evening was spent packing race gear, catching up with Elan, Rebecca and Gabi and just enjoying the idea of spending a nice long day on an unknown beautiful course. 

I'm not going to lie, I was nervous. I had butterflies in my stomach as I hung around the start line, butterflies or it was the several Trail butter banana toast I ate for breakfast. It's funny, I've worked with several high profiled celebrities over the last few years and never did I get nervous around them like runners I respect and look up to. LS50 has several of them, so at any given point I could've just hurled my breakfast from those butterflies. Other than that, I had no doubt today would go smoothly. With zero expectation on time and my goal to only have fun and take it easy, other than pet all the dogs, I didn't have the anxiety that I had to perform, leaving only room for enjoyment. What a concept. To have fun! 

I don't know how to put into words the next few chapters of this book. My feelings were just constantly in awe, my emotions were relatively of joy with minor disappointment in my lack of fitness, my feet continued forward as the lush singletrack opened up to meadows of wildflowers and views of the lake in the distance. I found myself, sitting on my thrown in Lala land, a place I rule over when I'm running, located off in my head and far from the actual place I'm running when I finally come back to reality and notice I was head of a kongo line of a few runners.  "Let me know when you want to pass" was the first thing I said but when the girl refrained, we began to chat. She quickly offers up a game of Lake Sonoma Trivia. This rad girl, whom I later learned is named Zuzu and her friend Justin and I played trivia, then we played guess our birth city/profession from just mere little hints. A few miles into it, Sarah, a nurse by profession who born in Maine joined in the game. Those 11 miles flew by without a hint that we were in the beginning of a race and not a fun trail run with friends. I learned all about these three, their birth city, their profession, where they lived and yet I never knew what they looked like. Not waiting too long at the next aid station I continued forward, now with new opportunity to mingle with other runners and make more new friends.

The miles came easy but slow, I couldn't help but feel disappointed on my bodies lack of ability to run faster at an effortless pace. feeling as though there was no ink in my pen, the gas on empty in my car, I was running on fumes. I could feel the tightness in my hips and hamstrings reminding me that these last few weeks were spent horizontal on a bed instead of putting in hard efforts on the trails. With Cascade Crest 100 being my A race this summer and Squamish, Hardrock, and Sierra running adventures before that- I didn't want to risk the possibility of injury. "No way Jose", I tell my fiesta shorts wearing legs to simmer down. "Have fun, Sawna" I tell myself. "Use this as a training run, see how your body reacts and gage your next few weeks of training from what you learn today" I continue telling myself. 

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At mile 31 aid station, I lingered longer, casually chatting to friends volunteering and fully enjoying the wide selection of snacks. I chugged my last cup of coke and prepared to run off when I noticed Bri was running into the aid station. As I cheered her in, the look of despair covered her entire face, she didn't look like she was having fun. She quickly explained how terrible she felt, the idea of DNFing and asked if I would wait for her. A sudden flashback of Fatdog 120 reminded me of how I felt running into a majority of the aid stations, hoping to see someone I knew, feeling awful to the point of meltdown given my body were hydrated enough to produce tears and wishing I had a friend. I, without hesitation, told her of course and reassured her that we had all day if she needed to walk the next 20 miles. We stayed at the aid station long enough for her to snack and drink plenty of fluid before heading back on the course. The next few miles we chatted about the beginning of her race, how she felt, what she ate while switching between walking and running. As we continued forward, she pressed that I could run ahead of her if I wanted to. Honestly, a phrase I use a plethora of times to other runners but when I say it I really mean "please don't leave me". I had no intention on running faster, heck! It was nice to have a running partner in general. If you don't know Bri, she is a fire cracker, fierce and fast runner, even at this low moment she was having we were still cruising the miles. Knowing she'd run the downhills, I attempted to see how far I could push her on the accents, jogging the uphills as much as possible and giving her target points to run to before inevitably hiking. Slowly but surely she was coming back around, I could tell in her voice and our conversation that she was feeling a bit better. The moaning and grunts were becoming less of a background noise as we chatted the miles by all while our pace grew faster. Bri and I have ran together maybe once or twice during Coyotes but this would be our longest run together and longest time in general hanging out. We talked about both our 100 mile races coming up, how we got into running, future goals and just life. As our pace continued to get faster, her excitement seemed to grow and she finally admitted she was confident in finishing, not just finishing, but with a 50 mile PR. 

With the pressure off the race and performing, I realized how good my body felt. The miles were effortless and my body was using the Gu fuel beautifully, definitely feeling better at this point than I did during Fatdog. The way I felt, I could've continued running, and that right there proves that the day was successful. With zero aches and pains I could continue running this week and hopefully start building the miles once I fully recover. I was excited, but the race wasn't over. Bri and I continued to push forward and with only two miles left, I cheered her on every ascent, motivating her to run it in. We crossed the finish line with the time of 10:04, giving her a 20 minute PR! 

The rest of the evening flew by. Once I crossed the finish line I was made aware that finishers received a jacket, mind blown right there. Before making my way over to the swag bag table, I made sure to say hi to the plethora of dogs hanging around the finish line. Was this heaven? This is this fiesta I was looking for! Endless food, beer and all the cute dogs to say hi to. I only had to run 50 miles to get here- shoot sign me up every weekend! After retrieving my incredible swag bag, I made my way over to the array of food booths, ordered a personal cheese-less pizza and a veggie tamale. All food in hand, beer in the other, dogs surrounding me, and tired legs- life was good. 

My race goal: Pet all the dogs was a success! Thanks for the pawsitively lovely photo Howie Stern!

My race goal: Pet all the dogs was a success! Thanks for the pawsitively lovely photo Howie Stern!

The next day runners and friends gathered at a local winery for some wine tasting and celebration. In the morning the sky gave a spectacular array of bright clouds that once the wine tasting started was dark and gifted us with a light shower. I don't think anyone really cared. The entire weekend was spectacularly well put together, the race organizers are professional in their kindness and charm (they even donate all proceeds to children scholarships). When I initially signed up I didn't realized how incredible this community was going to be, how well put together the race is, how many insanely talented and wonderful human beings it attracts and just how gosh darn nice everyone from the athletes to the organizers to the volunteers are! What else can I say to praise this race a bit more? Um, the signs along the course were awesome, and did I mention the tamales? 

So, this pretty much sums it up: Everything was great, I felt great, the people were great, the course was great, the food was great, the weather was great and the dogs... they were great. 

Before going back to the hectic long hours of running around work like a stressed out mad woman begins again, I was able to spend some quality time out on the trails with Juniper, giving me the opportunity to test the body for any kinks or pain. Each day was successful except maybe my body going with the flow a bit too much on top of Baden Powell, oh the perks of being female. Get it? Get it? Flow! Either way I'm taking it easy, recovering and indulging in some treats and beer before I stop drinking for another month or so... who knows. What's next? Gosh, opportunities change daily. Seattle in a few weeks for Orcas 50 miler? Squamish in June, Colorado in July, Cascade in August... the summer will be full of adventure and the stoke is HIGH and preferably I will be high as well- high on mountain tops that is. 

Till next time! 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Flu, hello trails!

With the new year came a sickness that sidelined any prospective training that I hoped to achieve this month. I ran less and focused more on rest and the occasional hot yoga to stretch and sweat the tightness away. This last week, however, was heavenly. All of a sudden when Monday rolled around- POOF! My sickness had disappeared, I had finally two solid nights without the cough of death and I couldn't be more ecstatic! On Monday I thought it was merely a test from my body and had went for another hot yoga class and to work without even considering running. I thought to myself, maybe I can run this week. Perhaps this plague is finally gone and I can spend some quality time outdoors. The thought sent shivers down my spine, oh the outdoors! I look over to Juniper who was laying on her bed looking bored. We are going on some adventures! I stated as I picked her up, fumbled a bit, and hugged her so tight she started to lick me face to stop.

GRIFFITH PARK, HOLLYWOOD

Tuesday I woke up with excitement, another night of peaceful sleep. WHAT A JOY! Juniper and I managed to do a tempo run up to the Hollywood sign that left me smiling from cheek to cheek. I live about a mile from Bronson Canyon and the batcaves- you know, where the filmed batman, and it's normally my go to entry point for the Griffith Park trails. In Griffith Park it's a choose your own adventures trails, with immediate scrambles that take you straight to the Hollywood sign or pristine fire road that, although take a handful of miles, will also lead you to the Hollywood Sign and Observatory. There is also great opportunities to skip the fire road and head straight to lush single track, but today we stuck to fire road and were able to let Juniper off leash as we managed to keep a faster pace than normal.

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Afterward I recovered with a walk to the climbing gym to work on a few problems. As I sat in the Sauna afterward I pondered the rest of my week, I had some free time to devote to "time on feet" in the mountains and I wanted to choose it wisely with my Costa Rica trip approaching soon and with a nice little wind storm blowing our way Friday and Saturday. I giggle with excitement- the opportunities are endless.

BACKBONE TRAILS, MALIBU

Initially for Wednesday I figured I'd do a long run on Mt Baldy but with the current snow conditions I didn't think it would be quality training for the heat in CR, although, what in January would be? Instead I figured a good 'ol run on the Backbone trail in Malibu would suffice. This trail offers single track, fire road and ocean vistas in a 22 mile lolipop loop that is part of the Sean O'Brien 50 mile and 100k course. I have some fantastic memories with friends on this trail and one not so very fantastic memory of the actual race four years ago. Overall it's a great loop if you're looking for something that consist of more running and rays of sunshine.

We parked at the trail head and were ready to go by 8:30am. At first I had Juniper off leash but with a distance like this I quickly grabbed her raddog leash (that looks like just a collar) and kept her close- I didn't want her to get too tired too quickly. The first part of the trail is single track for about 3 miles and opens up to Zuma Ridge fire road for a small climb up to Buzzards Roost where you get a beautiful view of Malibu and sometimes, if weather permits, Channel Islands. Following the fire road down, it's hard not to focus on the ocean, a view I'm not accustomed to seeing on my normal long runs. Once we got to the parking lot at the bottom of the fire road, I was able to give Juniper lots of water and a few treats before heading back onto a single track to Canyon View trail- back up we go. At this point it was getting very warm and without having to hold onto Junipers leash she stayed right infront of me. She's pretty good at staying close to the person that will give her treats and water! I could feel my shoulders getting sun kissed as we continued to climb up the trail as my friend Phil commented that we'd be in polar opposite conditions on Mt Baldy. I didn't realize how hot it was going to get, both Phil and I were drenched as we hiked and jogged up the single track. During the climb I had picked a few ticks off that I notice had jumped on Junipers fur and I was instantly disgusted. Ticks give me the hibeegeebees. Blah. Excuse me while I go shower from disgust.

I kept Juniper on her leash closer to me, thinking that the farther away from the brush we were- the less likely she'd get ticked. Once we got the the fire road to run down I stopped to give Juniper water and there may have been 12 new ticks on her fur. Poor Juniper waited ever so patiently as I aggressively shook them off her in sheer frustration. About a few feet later she had 5 more jump on her. If there was a way to say "Hey trail, I'm done!" I wouldn't stopped running right there and then. The idea of having to constantly brush Junipers fur of ticks made me not want to continue- but what needed to be done, I realized, was to run faster. After 15 minutes thoroughly checking her back, neck and chest we started to run down the fire road. I found that if we didn't stop, the ticks would have the least amount of time to jump on her.

We ran down to the creek and as I sprayed some water on my neck, Juniper was able to cool her body in the cold water. I stared at the water, her fur and continued to stare at her fur the duration of the loop. I couldn't tell you how many ticks I flicked off despite having her close to me on lead.

We ran, when I say ran I mean jogged very slowly, back up to Buzzards Roost. With Juniper on leash and my water getting low, we flew down the fire road and jogged back to Kanan were the safety of the car and a coca cola waited. I then proceeded to pick more ticks off Juniper- OH THE JOY. This area isn't normally infested with ticks but we did just get our first rain storm last week and they are everywhere, not just on the Backbone trail. The best part was after all the time brushing the off Juniper I felt as though they were crawling all over me. A hair tickle- omg it's a tick, my backpack strap touched my arm- omg it's a tick, my shoe lace on my ankle- oh wait no, that's a tick crawling up my leg. I shivered with disgust as I flicked it off me. Giving my body another check of possible crawling monsters before I said farewell to the BB trail, it'll be a while before I return. Cue tick nightmares for the next week. 

WESTRIDGE TRAILS, SANTA MONICA

On Thursday I had initially planned to run with the Socal Coyotes at 6am in Santa Monica but ALAS! I had woke up at 6 am realizing I had forgotten to set me alarm. Whoops. I had an appointment to renew my passport and the office is located in Westwood. What a breeze that was- signed, sealed, delivered and I'm off to CR soon! Since I was already on the Westside I figured it was a great opportunity to run one of the trails in Santa Monica- Westridge trail being the closest. Technically the trail would be considered Los Angeles, with countless connectors it can take you to Topanga Canyon, The Valley, Brentwood, Santa Monica and if you want a really long run, Malibu. The best thing about these trails are that you choose your own adventure; single track scrambles, long fire roads, nice climbs or all flat- you choose. I stuck to the flat fire road and was able to lose track of time as I shook my heavy legs through Westride and to Topanga Canyon and back for a nice unplanned 16 mile. Once I arrived back at my car I realized it was 75 degrees out which made the exposed fireroad even more heated- not a bad heat training day! Pretty stoked with the days event I was able to chill for a few hours with Juniper and head back to the West Side for some recovery hours at the climbing gym with fellow coyote Pedro. Productive day indeed!

STRAWBERRY PEAK, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

I woke up feeling a bit depleted. I knew I hadn't drank enough water- big NO NO, Sawna. I slept poorly as the wind roared against the window beside me. Juniper and I haphazardly collected ourselves and set out for another run, this time meeting in the San Gabriel Mountains. as I prepared to leave, ominous dark clouds blanketed the sky as the roaring wind whipped the palm trees from side to side, leaving me thinking that today may not be all that sunshine I was hoping for. As I exited the freeway and started up highway 2 my fears quickly disappeared as I drove out of the dark clouds and into a cobalt blue sky. Feeling like I just entered a Disney movie as birds began to sing, butterflies landing on my mirror, squirrels talking on nearby trees all welcoming me to paradise- you know, the whole shebang. Shockingly at 8am in Los Angeles, I cruised on the freeway and along HWY 2 and was parked at the trail head 30 minutes later- this must be a personal record. Andrew, Rhea and their paw-sitively energized furkid, Lola, showed up just a few minutes later. We ensured we had all the necessary gear as Juniper and Lola chased each other and then we were off on the trail that led us up Colby Canyon, one of the trails that connects to both Josephine peak and Strawberry Peak.

Our destination today was not Strawberry Peak itself but around it. With the winds being over 25 mph at the peak we figured we'd avoid the extra mile to the top and continued on, making a big loop. We began running on the trail, fur kids chasing each other up and down the trail as we crossed a few stream beds that led us to up the canyon. As we hiked up the switch backs to the saddle, we couldn't help but admire being above the marshmallow clouds. It had been a couple of weeks since last seeing Andrew and Rhea, we had spent those first few miles catching up, but at this point we couldn't help but talk about how beautiful the day was. As we approached the saddle we couldn't help but feel giddy for the day. There were two other guys who had just left the saddle and began hiking up the neighboring peak as we set out on the single track to Strawberry meadow. The single track runs along the canyon side as we loop around to the back of Strawberry peak and then proceed to go down to the Meadow before shooting back up to the Strawberry Peak saddle. Before we turned the corner I stopped to take a few photos of Andrew and Rhea together and noticed the two guys that had set out before us were standing on top of the peak looking over the blanket of clouds- it was a beautiful sight.  

As we turned to the backside of the mountain and began to run down into the meadow we couldn't help but admire the soft trail under our feet and beautiful sky full of cumulus clouds above us. Both Lola and Juniper continued to chase each other, back and forth, as we all stabilized ourselves trying to not get knocked over. Their happiness shown from the smiles on their faces to their tails wagging so deeply that their bodies moved along with it. 

Once we reached the Strawberry saddle we finally got a taste of the 25 mph winds, sending any warmth from the sun away. Both Rhea and I instantly put our windbreakers on as we stopped to take a few photos. We continued running along the single track toward Red box when I spotted a tick on Juniper. Not again! I thought. I brushed it off and we scanned both Juniper and Lola for any others. 'Tis the season. As we passed Red Box and continued down to Switzer Falls we began running into the clouds. The air moist and the blue sky quickly disappearing into the dense fog it was refreshing to be running in such a different range of weather. We finished the run with a jog down highway 2 to our cars and some quality time searching for my ticks, you know, my favorite. 

The day didn't end there. We left the San Gabes, back to the city, for some quality fuel at Vin Loh, a Vietnamese vegan joint that is located in an unassuming strip mall deep in the heart of Reseda. Kevin Tran, the owner, is know for his athleticism and good judgement, will suggest something better than what's on the menu. Tell him what flavors, textures you're in the mood for and he'll bring you the best dish in the house- the food is that good.  We picked up a few different dishes and headed to Andrew and Rheas house. As we sat in their backyard enjoying the food, both Juniper and Lola continued to play, unphased of the 14 miles ran earlier.

Afterward we hung around the climbing gym until our hands and arms too sore. It was a multi sport kind-of day!

MT WILSON, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

I wake to hear the strong winds roaring outside. From my window in the loft I see the palm trees that line my neighborhood swaying side to side, looking as if they'll snap any minute. I look down from my pillow and spot Juniper passed out on her dog bed, unaware of me starring as I begin to climb down the ladder. I shoot Pedro a text about today's run, maybe altering our original course to something less exposed to the wind, he quickly agreed. I take Juniper for a quick jaunt before packing my things to leave. This week has been great for her, lots of time with friends and hours on the trails that deserve a nice day off to get some quality rest. She sits by the door as I continue to pack, her eyes begging me to let her join the party. Rest, Juniper, you need rest. She continues to plead with her eyes as I try to leave. I motion her to go to her bed as I quickly make my exit. 

I'm sitting in my car, as I turn the ignition to start Junipers eyes burn my mind. "Well, we have adjusted the miles today, so it's not too long", I think to myself. I've convinced myself. I turn my car off, run upstairs and grab a bag of her favorite Zukes treats and call her over- "JUNIPER, LETS GOOOOO!". Her face gleaming and her body shaking from not being able to contain the excitement. She wisps by me and almost slides into the hallway wall as she flies down the stairs and sits by the car door as if to say "Come on Mom, you're moving too slow- ADVENTURE AWAITS!"

We park about a mile from Chantry Flats trail head as the main parking area was completely full. Cars lined the side of the road in every which way possible in order to park as close to the main trail as possible. We jog our way up and begin running past Chantry parking lot up toward the winter creek trail to upper winter creek. I keep Juniper on leash the entire climb in hopes that she saves any energy she would normally use running circles around us instead of staying beside us. The weather was perfect, tucked inside the trees we could feel a slight cold breeze, but nothing of the 30 mph winds predicted. I kept my long sleeve on knowing that the peak was only going to get colder. We continued climbing, settling into a nice comfortable hike. We both agreed that we wanted to take the run moderately easy in order to have sufficient energy to spend at the climbing gym afterward. 

Our route led us to the Mt Wilson observatory. The peak was 32 degrees and windy. My hands and face frozen as Pedro and I began running, more like shuffling, trying not to step on any of the ice covering section on the ground. Of all the dozens of times I've ran around Wilson, I have never been to it's lookout. Shocked. Amazed. Baffled. Crazed. I don't know what I was thinking. Pedro showed me where it was and my mind was blown. 

The look out was shockingly warm and we embraced it's heat as we defrosted a bit before heading down the trail. I have to admit, I was uncomfortably cold. With gloves and a long sleeve, I could've definitely found comfort in one more layer. But ALAS! We focused on just moving to maintain heat.

 Both Pedro and I have yet to run Mt Wilson's rim trail and today seemed like a fitting day to both experience it's wonders. And boy was it wonderful. The air crisp, the ground soft and gentle yet offering a very thin single track that demanded attention. I lead the way as Juniper, now off leash, stayed between Pedro and me. Pockets of frigid air gave way to the warmth of the sun as we cruised down in a single line, passing several green patches of tall trees with leaves of orange, yellow and some bearing no leaves at all. As we approached Newcombs saddle we stopped to savor the moments passed, a trail I had failed to experience for years welcoming us with its beauty and minimal technicality. I take a glance at Juniper, happy as can be, ready for more miles as she smiles eagerly at me. "I can't believe you almost didn't experience this" I think to myself. Juniper, off leash still, leads the way. The excited pup begins to prance, soaking in the sun as her tongue flops to the side of her face, offering the trail a wide open smile as she gracefully glides down. 

As we continue running down, we pass several streams. With each stream passing, the water fueling Junipers energy as she speeds up and runs harder and faster through the canyon. This girl is unstoppable. After a long week outdoors I truly thought she would be tired, but her stamina and strength continues to surprise me. As we climb the road back to the Chantry parking lot we pass several dozen people and their dogs. Juniper, by my side, looks up at me with each passing dog- knowing full well she'll get a treat if she stays by my side instead of bolting to say hi to the dog. Not only is she fast and strong, she's one smart pup.

IMG_1835.JPG

Another day of adventuring in the mountains and then a few hours of bouldering at the gym is pretty much my favorite kind of day. I ended the night at a friends house in the hills for a get together with some fellow Team In Training teammates. Still to this day, I can't believe how far I've come. Training for my first marathon almost 6 years ago and then entering the Ultra community. How my life has shaped ever so differently than I expected, and how I'm so thankful for what I have and the beautiful people that surround me. 

Since this week of adventuring, Juniper and I have enjoyed several more outings with friends as I prepare to take off to Costa Rica. That's another story in itself. 

Alright, time for me to shower these stinky feet and head to the airport. Headed to Costa Rica for 6 weeks. 

Till next time,

Peace, love and happiness

Avalon 50 mile Recap Catalina Island

I KNOW.
I KNOW.
I KNOW.

Maybe it's just me very disappointed that it's taken me nearly a month to write this.
Here I am, right now, sitting and prepared.
That's what counts right?

I think back on Avalon 50 mile benefit run, and there's this overwhelming sense of happiness.
And hatred- but that has nothing to do with the race itself but my body.

It seemed as though everything was too good. Going too well. Lets start at the beginning.

I knew two people running the race and both started earlier. Standing at the starting line with my dad was fantastic.
In the midst of a race, we are sharing stories with other runners and feeling quite comfortable rather than nervous.
I, ofcourse, rocked my TNT head wrap (what the heck are those called?) and ULTRA team arm sleeves.
The gear striked up conversation with a fellow runner and we ended up having a ton of mutual friends.
What a great way to start a race.
That's not even the best part!

During Leona Divide 50 miler, I went out too fast and that resulted in extreme amounts of pain later in the race.
This time, I ensured that I kept a slow and steady pace- with the ultimate goal of being able to run most of the race and not overwhelm my body.
Considering the race began at 5am, it was pitch black.
The trails where lit by the breath and headlamps of other runners, what a view!
I ended up finally turning mine on around mile 4 and it resulted in a conversation started with a man running next to me.

We chatted for another three miles. Three miles is a pretty significant number to run and talk to a complete stranger.
We got to know eachother.
He was my highschool substitute teacher.
Who could forget a name like Mr. Rogers!
What a small world!

I met quite a few runners, chatted and then departed.
I FELT GREAT!
That's how it went.

Plain and simple.
Up until mile 42.

Once my feet hit a downhill pavement, my right knee did not agree with the pounding.
In retrospect- I took that section far too hard.

The next 8 miles were difficult to say the least.
Attempting to stay positive, hydrated and moving... forward.

The last few miles were a bit of a struggle. At that point I told myself to man up and keep going.
Run hop Run hop Run hop
all.
the.
way.
to.
the.
end.

I look back and ask myself- Was it worth it?

I haven't ran since that day, because of what took place.
I have no regrets.


Everyday my knee gets stronger and hurts less! I have a physical therapy apt. tomorrow and look forward to hearing positive results!



Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness!



*Move, nourish, believe...daily*

Leona Divide Course Preview


I can honestly say that was one of my favorite runs.
Although I completely regretted my choice in wearing pants- I fully enjoyed every second of our official SECOND ULTRA team practice.

This year, due to the fires in Leona Valley, Leona Divide 50k/50mile will go back to the original course that treks more on the Pacific Crest Trail.

On Saturday,December 14th 2013. We jumped into our carpoolers car; blasted the seat warmers; drank our coffees as we set out for Leona Valley.
We had no idea where we were going! On our quest for a bathroom, thinking we've driven too far, we ran into our teams group of cars! SCORE!

Our run consisted of an out and back that was a complete 12 mile run. When I say run, I mean R U N. The section of the PCT was completely runnable and it was extremely refreshing to do just that- run.

I look forward to future training runs, longer training runs, on the course!!!

Below are some fun pictures captured during practice :)


COOL BEANS.

14 days left of 2013- have you done your good deed and donated yet??

Finish the year out with a bang- donate 5,10, 20 bucks... ANYTHING toward the fight to end blood cancer!
http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/leonadiv14/sawna

Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness