Washington

Sun Mountain 50 miler

Photo By Glen Tachiyama

Photo By Glen Tachiyama

It’s been years since I’ve last ran a Rainshadow running race. They are known for putting on incredible events in some of the most beautiful areas of the Pacific Northwest like Beacon Rock State Park: waterfall central that is along the Colombia River Gorge, Oregons Coast town of Yachatas, Orcas Island among just a few. When the opportunity arose to travel back to the PNW to run a race of theirs I had yet to experience, needless to say I couldn’t wait to sign up.

The race is located on the Eastern and very sunny side of the North Cascades right outside a small town called Winthrop. The course offers great mountain trail running early in the year with endless fields of beautiful wildflowers, snow-capped peaks of the Cascades in the distance and a mix of stunning single-track and some fire roads to make up almost 8,000ft of climbing within those 50+ miles.

After running UTX 90k in Guatemala the transition to running, well, running consistently was a bit difficult. Focusing on less mileage and more vertical gain every week to now the complete opposite took some getting used to. I’d like to think my training and build for this race was pretty consistent and my body felt great, for the most part. Just a few weeks before the race I strained my left foot and despite feeling as though I could still run on it, I decided to give it a rest in order for it to properly heal before the big dance. I felt as though being healthy going forward was more important than solidifying my training for what was supposed to be my training race for an upcoming 100 miler this summer.

Race morning began like you would normally imagine: wake up way too early thinking you’ve missed your alarm to only find out you still have another hour or so and repeat until you finally just get out of bed and make coffee.

Hilary, Eamon, Me, Rhea, and Andrew looking super fresh right before the race. Can my socks be brighter? :)

Hilary, Eamon, Me, Rhea, and Andrew looking super fresh right before the race. Can my socks be brighter? :)

In Washington right now the sun rises around 5:30 making a 6am start time pretty fabulous. The sun lit the trails while the wildflowers sparkled under its rays. It was going to be a beautiful day.

The race began with a slight downhill before a turn on a single track that took you up a trail and over some of the neighboring hills. The conga line quickly started once the single track showed the slightest sign of climbing. Eamon and I giggled at the thought of walking this section when this seemed like anthills compared to the climbing in Guatemala. But we trekked on.

Mile 2, maybe? Still very happy!

Mile 2, maybe? Still very happy!

Photo by Hilary

Photo by Hilary

When I think of my day in its entirety, I find that its slightly blurred between being extremely thankful to be running in such a beautiful area and upset that I was running at all. It only took a few miles before my foot began to hurt as I went through the motion of bending it. I decided to slow my speed with the idea that it would mitigate any more pain, but unfortunately it just got worse. I continued forward, talking to whomever I was able to run with for a few minutes or just using my Jaybirds to listen to music in one ear (Jaybirds pro FOR THE WIN-lasted the entire race+had extra battery life). I have never listened to music during races, but I knew that I would just dwell on the pain if not distracted.

In previous races I have had issues with my electrolyte intake. It’s either I’m not taking enough or I’m taking far too much and both result in cramping. Today was no different. I wanted to use this race to find some sort of balance, but what I eventually found was myself on the side of the trail holding onto my left quad as the entire leg seized up in a orchestra of cramps-the finale being my foot. I focused on my breathing and slowed my run to a mere jog after that. Any time I felt as though I could start running at a faster speed my quad sang a little melody of cramps as a reminder of what it could do.

I found myself spiraling down a dark tunnel, upset that I couldn’t run the way I had trained nor felt happy. Why did I sign up? Why am I putting myself through this suffer fest? I continued on my cruise control effort while other runners passing me and trying to stay positive. During this time I decided to hit rock bottom-the ground I mean and give it a good hug as my body completely seized up. I laid there for a few minutes focusing on breathing and slowly moving everything in order to get up. My foot decided it would stay stiff and not bend-it definitely hurt. Ba-humbug as I think of the excess of electrolytes I’ve taken that resulted in my body screaming now-definitely a learning lesson.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Churchill

I continued in my dark thoughts of why running might not be for me, why am I even excited to run 100 milers, what was I thinking? All questions you ask yourself while in the suffer fest. As I pass the water only station and begin the next climb, I think of all my past efforts this year and how terrible I’ve felt in each of them, yet here I am! As I near the top of the climb and continue over the ridge, a carpet of wildflowers cover the entire mountain side while the snow capped cascades dance in the distance, I think of all the other things I could be doing at this moment. I quickly snap back into reality. Yes, there is a plethora of different things I could be doing at this moment yet there is only one thing I want to be doing: running right here, right now. I find myself smiling despite the pain and laugh at myself; days like today help me appreciate the better days of tomorrow. So I slapped the negative attitude right out of me while singing "Don’t stop me now” by Queen while embracing my cruise control speed to the next aid station. I apologize for anyone who had to deal with my high pitch screeching I call singing.

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama. It’s a shame there wasn’t any flowers around ;)

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama. It’s a shame there wasn’t any flowers around ;)

Continuing forward, I focus on one step at a time and begin to enjoy the process. Yes, maybe I was in discomfort but it was bearable. I knew I’d have ample time to recover and get back to training but having these experiences and adapting is such an incredible thing. I had pretty much the worst cramps, I missed a turn and added a good mile and some to my day, my foot stopped functioning properly but I still consider this a win of a day. My god was the landscape just breathtaking, the volunteers incredible, and the day just beautiful, but everything in between was the best part of the journey.

No flowers here either

No flowers here either

Every mile of this race was an experience of the greatest growth. A reminder that not all goals end the way we hope but they most certainly shape us into a better, more powerful version of ourselves. It takes time, but learning not to fear the end result, rather choose to be courageous in every aspect of the journey and still going for it-the goal. Maybe I didn’t get the day I wanted, rather I had the day I needed. A reminder that even after 5 years of running I, too, am constantly learning. A day filled with exploration, searching, finding and achieving new ideas that will make me a better athlete in the future. A lot of things that are the most rewarding I find are very type two fun, right? They’re not necessarily fun when you’re doing them, but I feel a lot more growth and fulfillment from it afterward and I think those lessons play well into being able to continue to push and grow in future endeavors.

The past can hurt, but... you can either run from it, or learn from it.
— Rafiki, The Lion King

Thank you Rainshadow Running crew for yet another memorable day. Either way, it was a beautiful day to experience some trails I wouldn’t have seen otherwise! Thankful everyday for a body that lets me travel and see this world with the people I love. So many friends ran Sun Mountain and had different days, congratulations to each and every one of you for even just toeing the start line. You are all incredible!

Who’s serving the margaritas- I’ve got plenty of salt to go around!

Who’s serving the margaritas- I’ve got plenty of salt to go around!

Upon crossing the finish- all I wanted was a dip in the lake!

Upon crossing the finish- all I wanted was a dip in the lake!

Somehow still snagged 10th in a very stacked race.

Somehow still snagged 10th in a very stacked race.

Mis Amigos! Congrats to Andrew and Rhea for a stellar race!

Mis Amigos! Congrats to Andrew and Rhea for a stellar race!

As I sit here resting post epic sports massage(Thank you JULIO) and recovering while listening to the rhythm of the sound of rain outside, yes it does rain in LA, I’m filled with gratitude toward the weekend. Perhaps I’m not out running as I’d like to be but this time allows me a reflection process of what lessons I learned and the moments I gained from this past weekend. Experiences I hope to use as a tool to better myself for the upcoming months.

The countdown begins, 5th on the wait list for Angeles Crest 100 and after 5 years I’m pretty stoked to get to race on that course again.

OK. Question for you:

What is your go to songs that pump you up in a race?

What do you find works for you to balance electrolyte issues. (When it’s really hot out).

Favorite mantra?

Help a sista out and leave a comment :)

Till next time!

Ultrarunningmemes FOR THE WIN- @andrewisadrummer understands

Ultrarunningmemes FOR THE WIN- @andrewisadrummer understands

Ultrarunningmemes! @Anotherultrarunner after canyons 100k

Ultrarunningmemes! @Anotherultrarunner after canyons 100k









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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