choose mountains

Finding my groove

Photo by Andrew Tyler. On a snowy Strawberry Peak

Photo by Andrew Tyler. On a snowy Strawberry Peak

When I think about running I tend to think about rainbows, butterflies and cute puppies but it’s rarely the case. Although, I have experienced those things during both incredibly effortless runs and some amazingly dark painful ones too. Lately those runs have been of the latter. What I found out though, is that if I can smile through it, when times feel dark and difficult, I feel as though I gain a sense of invincibility through it all and become better for it. As I wobble, hobble and shuffle my way back into healthy running, I am overwhelmed by the sense of gratitude and appreciation toward my body for helping me do what I love. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right?!

I began running again toward the end of October, the main injury healed, however, because I hadn’t ran consistently in months, I had a few lingering pains. Being injury free I dreamed I’d jump right into where I had left off but of course, that was far from reality. I found that my once ‘easy’ runs around Griffith Park were slow with heavy legs and a pretty negative attitude. What I realize now is that as runners we all go through bad times, it’s inevitable. And as a runner, if you don’t experience that full range of human emotions, you never truly appreciate the happy moments. It may have taken a few weeks of lousy running to have a few incredible runs mixed in. What I needed to except is that these emotions are transient and I won’t always feel a certain way. Think less self loathing and more self acceptance, something I’m slowly grasping.

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
— Napoleon Hill

What truly lead me in the direction of ‘How Sawna got her groove back’ was when I decided to join the Salomon Run Streak that began on Thanksgiving and ended on New Years. When I think of run streaks I cringe, I’m a firm believer of rest and accepting what the body needs. However, this Run Streak seemed like something that called to me, a sense of motivation I didn’t have before but appeared suddenly and I took hold and I ran with it; literally and figuratively. The way it worked was you had to run at least one mile a day until New Years eve, 40 consecutive days. That’s more that I have run all summer and fall put together. Rarely did I ever run just one mile. What eventually occurred was that I would force myself out the door for that one mile and feel pretty terrible at first, a rickety machine barely able to function properly. But after a little wiggle, a little wobble and some happiness fuel to my bones, a majority of the time past one mile felt great and would opt to make those runs longer by, sometimes, hours. After the first week or so I found that the idea of running sparked excitement and joy and less force was made. I planned out new routes and longer days without even realizing the transition that was happening. I woke before my alarm clock with more pep in my step, if I had a tail I’d be wagging it till I was out the door on the trail in unison with Juniper. Tongue out, excitement running in my veins, slobber running down my face, the stoke was high. As much as I tried to stay present in the moment and in the run, I often found myself overwhelmed with gratitude, remember how terrible I felt a mere few weeks prior, a couldn’t help but run with a stupid grin across my face.

My partner in crime, Juniper. She didn’t partake in most of my training runs but she was so stoked nonetheless. My number one fan.

My partner in crime, Juniper. She didn’t partake in most of my training runs but she was so stoked nonetheless. My number one fan.

I may not have been the fastest or strongest but I appreciated where I was that moment in the runners spectrum and that in itself made me happy. What this Run Streak did for me was motivate me to get outside and move despite the emotions and mental barriers I had built. It slowly gave me the tools to break those walls down and be happy with where I was in the moment. Even if that present moment was a dirt road in Utah at 10pm in 20 degree weather running my one mile, it felt gosh darn good.

Fast forward to right here and now. Waving to you through the internet, HELLO! Currently packing my bags for a new adventure and race in Guatemala, UTX 90k this coming Saturday. It’s mind boggling how fast time flies. I don’t feel as though I had amble time to prepare, not for the distance, nay, but for the amount of vertical gain this race packs. With just over 25,200ft /7,682 meters in about 58 miles, this race called for quad busting training runs in preparation for what is to come.

4X Steep’n’cheap. Bahumbug.

4X Steep’n’cheap. Bahumbug.

After the Salomon Run Streak, I felt as though I had my base training solidified and could transition into more specific training for this race. This is all new to me, the idea of training for a specific race feels very foreign. Normally I’d just go out for fun runs, keep my distance relatively high and cross my fingers. Although I’ll definitely be crossing my fingers and toes for this one, I knew I’d have to incorporate some steep climbs into my runs if I wanted to survive this course. And that’s exactly what I did. It helped that on weekends my boyfriend Eamon would be doing these runs with me, keeping me accountable and motivated when I knew I wasn’t on my own.

Normal training runs consisted of Steep’n’cheap repeats which is the ridge west of Echo Mountain, 1 mile with 1,500 in gain, a ‘trail’ with almost 30% grade, the second incorporated Mt Wilson’s Jones Peak which is 1 mile with 1,781ft. Both trails are washed out deer trail that I wouldn’t normally suggest to run up and down. Mind you I DID NOT run down Jones, with its current trail conditions I do not have a death wish. Steep’n’cheap is runable, but safe? well that’s questionable. Incorporating both these trails into my weekly training was far from what I wanted to do. Back in October I had gone out for my first trail run since fully recovering and ended with a few somersaults onto a terribly rocky section of Mt Wilson. That day left me not only physically wounded but mentally scarred. I never wanted to return to that gosh darn trail. Unfortunately Mt Wilson is a connector to some pretty incredible trails in the San Gabriels and I couldn’t stay away too long. I used this race as a way to force myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and not letting my fears get in the way. After a few runs, and an incredible amount of patience and support from Eamon, I found that I was finally able to relax from all the stress I had built and enjoyed the trails again. I’m still not able to keep up with Eamon but let me tell you, trail running is so much more fulfilling and enjoyable when fear is not apart of the equation. With my fears finally dissolving I was able to spend more time in the front range, building my training intensity all while enjoying the process. With a handful of 20k vert weeks, mixed in with hot yoga and recovery days incorporating the most painful but necessary sports massages with VFE Julio I feel as though I did what I could. Yeah, I know I could’ve been doing more but with the limited time I had to prepare I’m quite happy with how far I have come.

Julio from is an angel! He deals with my squirming around the table during massages and gives me great tips to workout these tight muscles.

Julio from is an angel! He deals with my squirming around the table during massages and gives me great tips to workout these tight muscles.

It hurts so good!

It hurts so good!

So they say the hay is in the barn, right? All I can do is trust my training and my bodies ability to accomplish this goal and more importantly… have fun. I don’t believe this is a race that I am prepared to race but what I am prepared to do is give it my all, try my best to get the miles done and to have a little fun every step of the way. Results are this fleeting element of this long day I’ve signed up for, what I strive to focus on is enjoying the experience of this 90k rather than push too hard and struggle both mentally and physically just for a little faster result. I don’t know what to expect, nor do I know how my body will handle the terrain, weather, elevation but I am quite confident in my ability to adapt and roll with the punches. Weather forecasts predict a wet and probable thunderstorm during the weekend… I’m not crying, your’e crying.

I’m not ready, please don’t bring it.

I’m not ready, please don’t bring it.

Cross your fingers for me, Eamon and Len as we embark on this quest and send us all the good vibes because we are sure in for a long day!

A big fist pump and virtual hug to my peeps at Salomon, Suunto and GU Energy for being my biggest cheer leaders throughout this entire process. Social Media is definitely a highlight reel of peoples lives but with constant communication with these groups of insanely amazing people let me truly feel their love and presence throughout all the good times and not picturesque times! One day I’ll meet you all IRL but until then thank you all!

Procrastinating…

Procrastinating…

Ok, I guess I’ll start packing!

If you have a sec, send me your mantra, a positive note or some advice to keep with me during the race!














'Tis the season: Gift Ideas!

How did it get so late? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn! How did it get so late so soon?
— Dr. Seuss
IMG_2370.jpg

Where has the month go?

The real question I ask myself: Where has the year go? I’m not going to start talking about this past year, this post is far from a year in review. However, this month so far I can’t help but feel overwhelmed about what’s going to happen in 2019. Where will I travel? What races will I run? Will I even get into certain lotteries? Will I ever get myself some uphill skis? But before I go in full panic mode about whats in store for 2019, I need to wrap up this year first and with that comes the Howl’iday season!

If you’re like me, time flies too quickly to plan on gifts to allow for a stress free holiday. I like to make situations a bit more difficult than necessary and if there is a way to procrastinate- you bet I’ll find it! If you find yourself agreeing with me, or just need a few last minute gift ideas, this list is a mixture of things that are on my personal holiday list and things that I would recommend from personal experience as well as gifts for (a majority) trail runners, dog owners and maybe even non running related. Keep in mind I’m not a gear specialist, nor do I do any product testing for any of these listed here!

160f8fb9-8181-46ba-9f44-d5efebe83a84.jpeg
  1. My experience from the spot device is getting nightly emails from my trail wife Lani as she was hiking the PCT, even when cell coverage was spotty or non existent- those nightly emails gave me piece of mind that she was ok and even sent her GPS coordination in order to track(stalk) her PCT trekking.

    As someone who tends to travel beyond the beaten path and do long adventures where cell coverage is non existent, this spot device when turned on will send an “OK” message to set number of people (dad, husband, bf, dogs personal mobile phone, whomever you want). Not only that but the “SOS” button would signal search and rescue if something lie-threatening should occur.

    I DO NOT HAVE THIS yet… (cough, cough) and I know I should have something like this for future adventures. It’s not cheap- you can purchase it from REI with a 50% rebate going on through December 31st. You do have to activate it and purchase a subscription but in the end, this could be a life-saving investment.

Did you know CORAL is the color of 2019… need I say more? ITS THE BEST COLOR

Did you know CORAL is the color of 2019… need I say more? ITS THE BEST COLOR

See both neckgaitors wrapped around my wrist… I tend to fall rather easily and have a lot of snot drip no matter the weather.

See both neckgaitors wrapped around my wrist… I tend to fall rather easily and have a lot of snot drip no matter the weather.

Because this beautiful color looks great on anybody and why wouldn’t you want to choose mountains! Right?

Because this beautiful color looks great on anybody and why wouldn’t you want to choose mountains! Right?

2. Neckgaitors are a great gift for any trail runner. These bad boys work as a drippy nose wiper, a hand protector, ear warmers, headband, face protector, and even feet warmers when you have a layover for a few hours and are wearing sandals in 30 degree temps… I speak from experience. Buy one, buy two- they WILL be used. I confess I have dozens, but the new Choose Mountain colors have me swooning.

thumbnail_sloth.jpg
il_570xN.1746759267_514q.jpg
il_570xN.1716461942_96bn.jpg

3. Last October I met Val as we were all traveling to Mexico City for UTMX. Val is amazing. Right there in the airport she gifted me a DOGDANA she made for Juniper. You read correctly, a dogdana! She is exceptionally creative and her items on her etsey store prove it. The dogdanas fit on your fur-childrens collars and will only add to the already cuteness. She even has small ones that fit purrrfectly for cats. This is a fantastic gift for any friend with a pup and if you visit her store on etsy she has other fun printed great gifts for baby and even flannel kid/adult pjs. Really, you need to get matching prints for the dog, the kids and the parents… if you ask me that would make any Holiday card paw-some!

IMG_7513.JPG
Get your/family/friends pup a myraddog retractable leash and make them just as happy as Juniper frolicking in the snow!

Get your/family/friends pup a myraddog retractable leash and make them just as happy as Juniper frolicking in the snow!

4. Another great gift idea for pet owners is this awesome collar by My Rad Dog! It’s designed for the mostly off-leash dog! The Release N Run is a collar with a built-in 4ft leash which automatically retracts into the collar when you let go of the handle. Juniper has been using the collar for years! It’s perfect for hiking, biking, camping, backpacking, mountain running- it’s the ultimate in gear for you adventure dog and it pairs PERFECTLY with the dogdana as pictured above with Juniper. I constantly get asked what collar she wears when trail running and this is it!


jogger-women_800x.jpg
Gorge-Cap-web_800x.jpg


5. An obsession I’ve had for the last few years is my Territory Run Co “Gorge” hat! The design of this hat has been like no other and is my go to for any adventure run! They have a plethora of beautiful hats but this one takes the cake. Territory Run Co also has a collection of mountain inspired clothing and running apparel for everyone. These jogger pants had be swooning with first touch. They’re fleece lined and fit to be snug, the perfect pre and post run pant and really the perfect winter warm pant! You gotta feel it to believe it! I’m a naturally cold person, so when I found out they designed a fleece line jogger, I jumped with joy! If I lived closer to Portland I’d give these guys a high five on product design. Check out their other product, they have a new beanie, cool socks and a backpack that’s on my personal XMAS list!

I love all these designs with all my heart

I love all these designs with all my heart

il_fullxfull.1541472312_bwpg.jpg
If I didn’t buy this mug I’d get arrested for TREE-son

If I didn’t buy this mug I’d get arrested for TREE-son

6. Treet your friends to some tree mugs or tumblers that I love with all my heart. Another etsy shop that I absolutely love is 2232 Handmade Ceramics! These make great gifts! Perfect for the coffee or tea drinker, or even the succulent lover with her beautifully crafted succulent planters! I’m a huge believer in supporting small business and craftsmanship and my friend Brooke Martinez is one crafty lady! My only problem is that I don’t want to buy these for anyone else, I selfishly want them all to myself!

18.08_CCM_wrapped_550.jpg
71z-29iavpL._SX679_.jpg
Side_448c16ca-7459-4ead-843e-03ad9fb99a97_1000x.jpg
201809061825385b917122db8eb.png
GU-Roctane-Gel-Single---Strawberry-Kiwi_large.jpg
51g+owvzt1L._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

STOCKING STUFFERS:

Need some last minute stocking stuffers, or just smaller gifts?

  1. Picky bars! You can never go wrong with nutrition, especially date bars. It’s only a plus that Juniper and I are pictured on them but they DO have other flavors. This one is just the best, if you ask me…

  2. BEER! I do love a good beer, running or not! So stuff a good beer in the stocking or a good kombucha! I do enjoy a good Sufferfest beer because 1. obviously the name is appealing 2. It is born out of the needs of athletes and adventures. 3. The gluten is removed so most gluten free-ist can also enjoy!

  3. I’m a huge Gu gel fan! It’s easy on the stomach and easier to just grab and go run.

  4. The amount of plastic that end up in our landfill is absurd. Straws are made in 10 minutes and are used in about 20 minutes and remain on earth forever since they are not biodegradable. I ask for no straws when ever the opportunity arises but help promote the ban on plastic straws with giving the gift of reusable straws! Amazon has a plethora to choose from!

  5. Give the gift of a good book! Happy Runner by David and Megan Roche. They point out the mental and emotional factors that will help you learn exactly how to become a happy runner and achieve your personal best. This book is on MY Christmas list but you don’t have to purchase a running related book. There are some pretty fantastic books out there- check out goodreads.com for some reccomendations. You can normally find some great books at the goodwill and used bookstores for a few dollars!

  6. SUNGLASSES! Goodr shades are not only FUN with their colors and perfect fitted shades, but they’re all polarized for only $25 bucks a pair. What a steal! These ones are my ultimate favorite!

  7. A great calendar! If you’re like me, a good calendar goes a long way. I like daily reminders and I look at my calendar every morning as it is on my way into the kitchen. My favorite calendar so far is of Howie Sterns two dogs Joey and Micki! I just bought mine! Message Howie and you give the gift of some cute dogs with beautiful mountainous backdrops too!

With that said, the most important gift of all in my opinion?

YOUR TIME.

The best gift in the world are not in the material objects one can buy from the store or online, but in the memories we make with the people we love. This Holiday hug harder, laugh louder, kiss deeper, smile bigger, shine brighter and love longer- be the reason other people smile more!

Be happy!

Happy Howl’idays!

From Juniper and me!

IMG_6709.JPG





















Expect the unexpected

We sit in the parked car as Tam, Andrew and Rhea all begin to layer up I stuff another chip in my mouth delaying the inevitable- going outside. See, I convinced Tam to visit from the UK, hardly convinced but used the beautiful weather we've been having as an incentive to spend a few days in town. I eat another chip covered in hummus as my gaze continues forward, looking at what? I couldn't tell you. We were in the clouds, a dense white fog left us with zero visibility and a light shower to remind us of the current freezing temperature. It was 32 degrees parked at Vincent Gap. "At first I was afraid, I was petrified" Gloria Gaynor belts out in the background. No, girlfriend, I don't think I will survive, not this weather. Sawna is a sun child. 

The day we departed from Drakes Bay. 6 Days and 146 miles later...

The day we departed from Drakes Bay. 6 Days and 146 miles later...

Tam arrived from London the night before. We had spent 6 beautifully hard days in Costa Rica running the Coastal Challenge, what now seems like another lifetime ago and not just a mere 3 months. She had messaged me about visiting San Diego and had mentioned possibly hanging out. We quickly decided on her visiting for two days, some sunshine and warmth would do her good. What we didn't know was that the 80 degree weather we have been having would immediately disappear once she arrived, she didn't realize she had packed the fog with her. Thank you for that, Tam.

I was determined to make these two days incredible. If not for Tam, for my two days off from the stress of work. The last few weeks of working long hours at a bar has not been ideal, most evening spent coming home and melting into the couch unable to function. I had messaged Andrew, Rhea and Tony and we made fast plans on camping no matter the weather. We considered Horse Shoe Meadows but the weather nixed that immediately, the San Gabes seem to be the only place we'd be able to go. 

We all sit in the car, shivering, questioning our decisions. Tony decided to head back to Buckhorn and set up camp, it would be too difficult for Lou, his 14 year old dalmatian in this sort of weather. Thankfully I packed extra warm clothing for this unexpected temperatures. Tam had no idea what I was putting her through as we glance at each other with forced smiles, this will be fun, we reassure each other in a very unconvincing way. I stay positive and say things like "I'd rather be here than sitting at home" "better than working", but at the same time I was questioning my own choices. It was never the question of whether it was safe or not, it wasn't a huge storm we were walking into, but just an uncomfortable situation. After putting on what felt like a million layers we begin our trek up Baden Powell only to stop a few switch backs up and remove 999,999,999 of those layers. Although temps were in the 30's, the air was still and the more we hiked up, the warmer it got, and the more genuine our smiles became. We were deep in the clouds, unable to see around the switchbacks due to the thick fog. Despite the poor visibility and freezing temps we were having a great time! The dogs, Juniper and Lola, were running around, tongues out and chasing each other up and down the mountain as we all talked and enjoyed each others company. About three miles up we noticed the snow and icicles hanging from the trees. A round of a-paws for to the San Gabes for the ins-paw-rational snowy mountain views. Boy was this polar opposite of the 80 degree day I had on this mountain just last week, that day I could've definitely gone for a pupsicle. Get it, get it? Woof. 

We made our way to the peak of Baden Powell along with 10 or so PCT hikers. The hikers, hiking from the boarder of Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail, were carrying large packs to get them through the 2,650 mile quest, while we were carrying mere small vests. Reaching Baden Powell at 9,399 ft on clear days often grants you a 360 view of the San Gabriel Mountains, however, on a day like today we were lucky to see 5 feet in front of us. Despite the lack of view, I tried to illustrate the views as best as I could to Tam. We all took photos and hung around at the top long enough for some cloud breaks. There were definitely some screams of joy coming from our group. 

Our run down the mountain was exciting. Oh the joys of running in tights and it inevitably sagging off my hips. Saggy crotch syndrome I like to call running tights. We had spurts of heat and cold as we began our descent, running through flurries of snow, icycles dangling from above, spurts of open views of the desert below and soft moist dirt below our feet. I couldn't help but giggle from happiness. Today was a good day. 

Our drive to camp was a mixture of defrosting and delayering from the days adventure. We packed our packs as best we could and headed to post up our campsite. It was a surprise to stumble upon three PCT hikers with a fire going in the big pit, I immediately said hi, attracted to the heat they were creating, and offered the wood I brought as a donation if we could hang out by their fire. They quickly accepted. After setting up our tents, we grabbed our snacks and made friends with Captain America, Butcher, and Jukebox. 

The evening was spent making new friends and hanging with old friends. The pups were pooped out and hung by the fire while we enjoyed some beers and eat lots of food. Well I ate a lot of food. After what seemed like hours of talking, we snuggled up into our tents around a whooping 9:30pm. I woke around 3 am, trying to convince myself that I should go back to sleep and that the need to pee wasn't dire, but my bladder rejected my argument. I crawled out of my tent to a soft white carpet, a few inches of snow while snow floated around me. If the need to pee wasn't necessary at that moment I would've spent more time enjoying just being still. It's not everyday in the San Gabes that you get to camp while its snowing. Full of excitement I almost woke Tam to tell her it was snowing, then remembered, she lives in the UK- she see's fog, snow, and rain all the time. She was actually trying to get a vacation from that sorta weather. Surprise, surprise, here we are in sub 30 degree temps in what was supposed to be sunny Southern California. 

The morning was spent trying to keep our hands warm all whilst not getting falling snow into our coffee. Our coffee didn't stay very warm too long. That was our cue to pack up and head out. 

IMG_4031.JPG

I wanted to show Tam one last thing before she headed off to what will be sunny San Diego, Strawberry Peak. Oh the beautiful Strawberry Peak, views of the San Gabes and Los Angeles in the distance, but today, barely the trail infront of us was visible. Alas! I made my attempt but mother nature was not in our favor. We climbed and ran back to the car with a rumble in our stomach. We were in need of a hearty lunch, our last stop being my favorite, Cafe Gratitude. 

Since her visit, it's been nearly 80 degrees everyday while I've been enjoying it in the discomfort of work. I've surprised myself by waking each day by 6 and going for run in Griffith Park in order for Juniper, and myself, to get some exercise in before a long work day. 

T-minus 3 days till I'm on a flight to Seattle and reunited with some of my favorite people while running around ORCAS ISLAND. 

I've never been to Orcas when it wasn't in Feb for Rainshadows 50k... the STOKE IS HIGH. Will be in Seattle Sunday evening till Monday night if anyone wants to hang out. Literally, lets go climbing. 

Till next time. 

Thank you Tam for visiting <3

I have several similar photos and each one Junipers smiles is HUGE. &lt;3

I have several similar photos and each one Junipers smiles is HUGE. <3

Can we all admire how cool Andrew is with Lola who weights WAY less than Juniper.

Can we all admire how cool Andrew is with Lola who weights WAY less than Juniper.

My unsuccessful attempt to be cool like Andrew:

Ok, Ok, last thing.

Just wanted to wish Tony a happy 30th Birthday. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BDAY!

Our adventures wouldn't be the same without him. He somehow knows how to make you smile a bit wider, laugh a bit harder and love way way more. We are all thankful to have you and your pups in our lives! I know Juniper loves me but lets be honest, she'd join your pack in a heartbeat! 

 

 

 

Home sweet Los Angeles

IMG_9508.JPG

You don't truly understand how much you love and appreciate where you live until you are gone from home for an extended amount of time. Its pretty obvious now that I travel frequently, "caught the travel bug" some may say. The question of "where are you from?" is something that is asked frequently. Los Angeles has always been my home sweet home. 

"You're from Los Angeles!? Why? There isn't any mountains there" "Why would you want to live in such a terrible city" These are responses I constantly see myself battling. I take a shot of ginger, grab my $5 dollar coffee and light saber and attempt to battle my feelings for my home city. The moment I say I'm from LA I can see their facial expression go from curiosity to a child tasting a new vegetable as to say "EWWWW MOMMY THAT'S YUCKY". 

I find myself constantly defending the city. Don't get me wrong, I have a strong distaste for traffic, overpopulation, car honking, sirens, loud music, some people (errr most people) oh the list could go on. However, Los Angeles isn't just hustle and bustle, sky rises and traffic jams like everyone thinks. Well, yes, there are traffic jams technically all the time but far from the traffic jams, the people ordering their Vegan, gluten free, paleo, keto cupcake(like myself)- there are beautiful mountains that surround the city filled with endless trails. To the east you have the San Gabriel Mountains and to the west you have the Santa Monica Mountains which both offer a wide range of terrain to play on year round. And if you are up for a little more of a drive you have San Gorgonio, San Jacinto south and north east you have the Sierra Nevada. Not only are the mountains spectacular so close to home but the food is pretty awesome. As a vegan athlete I thrive off local produce and in Los Angeles you could find a farmers market any day of the week and sometimes a lemon or avocado tree nearby. Vegetables grow in abundance year round here and I like to say my diet is full of very radiant colors and from a nearby farm. 

Despite my super healthy daily green juice, I do indulge in the occasional vegan treat. Occasional, meaning daily right? The option for vegan fast food, junk food, or just you're optional fake processed meats are endless. As much as I love to cook and create new recipes and stray far far away from those processed fake "meats", it's nice to try a nearby vegan joint for something I normally wouldn't make myself. Some of my favorites consist of:

  • Cafe Gratitude (Chilaquilles for Breakfast, Whole Bowl/Humble bowl or Gracious Wrap)
  • Donut friend (try the Cinnamineral and have them add ice cream or almond butter, or the xray speculoos or create your own donut)
  • Mohawk Bend (I get their buffalo cauliflower and kale pizza- EVERYTIME. Also great local beers)
  • Cinnaholic (Across the street from Mohawk Bend- Any Cinnamon roll you can dream of)
  • Doomies (Junk food dream come true, any fake meat you would dream of- I normally go for their chocolate/peanut butter brownie).
  • Shojin Sushi (Probably my favorite restaurant that I don't go to very often- Try the Pirates of the Crunchy. The best)
  • Golden Road Brewery (One of the best post San Gabe long run, Wold Among Weeds beer paired with their Vegan Burger and fries)
  • Vinh Loh Tofu (Really great Vietnamese vegan join. The owner Kevin will order for you after asking a few questions. Great after long runs but beware of the inevitable gas bombs).

Spending nearly two months in Costa Rica truly opened my eyes on how I took my LA lifestyle for granted. I complained about all the terrible things and never was truly grateful for all that it offered. Since being home, despite being plagued with a sickness that left me basically vertical for two weeks, I was so happy to be in my bed and home. 

When I wasn't sick (still kind of sick) I tried running a different trail each day and using my vitamix and made a solid effort to try to cook new vegetable dishes. Each trail offered views I've seen a handful or more times but this time with a different set of eyes, a new perspective. At times I wanted to stand on top of the mountain and declare my love. Something I've never truly felt for another person, other than Juniper, but for these mountains I can honestly say they've stolen my heart.

Not just the mountains but LA has several fantastic climbing gyms that I found I truly enjoy going to. There are also several nearby bouldering and climbing areas outdoors that are incredible! Places like Stoney Point, Malibu Creek, Horse Flats, and where I was a few weeks ago Bishop and Alabama Hills which is located at the cusp of the Easter Sierra. The variety of outdoor activity year round is endless. 

While in Costa Rica my schedule was constantly on the run, physically and mentally. With working back to back retreats and the Coastal Challenge 147 mile race mixed in the middle,  despite the amount of fun I was having I was unable to eat and train the way my body was used to. There wasn't always a kitchen at my disposal to cook the fuel my body craved nor the time to go to the grocery store to purchase the necessary ingredients for such a meal. Thus eating out became regular. Beans and rice became a daily staple- literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner staple. I felt bad for Hailey when we were in a car together, gas bombs were dropped on a regular basis as my body fought to digest this food it wasn't accustomed to breaking down regularly. Costa Rica was an incredible experience, filled with endless adventure, the best company and the funniest collection of boomerang videos but I yearned for the nutritious meals I cooked myself daily when I was home. When the opportunity does arise to return to the beautiful country, I hope I plan my own nutrition a bit better before hand. Other than my eating habits, I had a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). Watching my friends on their runs on the local mountains I grew envious of their experiences. Trails that I have been on probably a few dozen times, if not more, I was still jealous. I missed my home dirt, and most of all my homegirl, Juniper. Any given day in LA you have an opportunity to run a mountain within any 30 minute drive. Want to get up to 6,000ft- 10,000ft? You can within a 30-60 min drive from LA basically all year round. When I travel, not just in Costa Rica, I am constantly in search of a great trail that doesn't take too long to get to, doesn't require permits that you need to apply for beforehand and I can still get done with most of the day left. In Los Angeles, the trail options are endless and at your finger tips. Not only is there a plethora of trail options, but the running community in LA is so grand that you could have a running partner any day of the week. Not just a "partner" but one of your best friends! Work schedules fluctuate and offer companionship on trails not just on weekends but on weekdays as well. This gives me the opportunity to catch up with my best of friends without having to deal with the normal hustle of the trails on the weekend. If you know me, I want all the adventures all the time no matter what day it is! GIMME GIMME GIMME! 

Los Angeles is home to some pretty intense mountains, people, traffic accidents, food and incredible weather. That's right, the weather is quite beautiful 99% of the time. And even when its raining, it's mighty fun to run in. Oh I love Colorado and the PNW and I hope I do live there at some point in my life but at this point in time I'm enjoying the sunshine far too much to see how white my skin can get in colder climate. The sun is glorious, vitamin D is amazing. Really though, vitamin D is extremely essential in ones life. I was dangerously lacking the important vitamin during a time I was injured and I never realized how important it is to ones daily activities and functions. With beautiful weather it's incredibly easy to wake up early and eager to get outside and be active. 

My home is full of things that I love and if I ever find myself needing to adventure outside the limits of the city, it is also a great launching point to so many other locations. Only a 3 hour drive to the Eastern Sierra, 5 hours to the Grand Canyon, 6 hours to Tahoe and LAX offers great flight deals when planned in advanced- say to Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Peru, and all the other amazing places to see and explore. 

I'm forever grateful to call Los Angeles my home, to have the San Gabriel mountains as my playground and to have so many incredible friends because of this city. It also helps that my wonderful parents, sisters, brother and the rest of my family all live here :) Still, I'll continue to travel, adventure and explore new cities, towns, trails and lands. 

But for now, damn it feels good to be home.

IMG_5739 (1).JPG

Don't believe me? Come visit and I'll show you!

Some of my favorite trails:

Mt Wilson:

Mt Wilson: Starting from the base at Lizzie's trail Inn or you can opt to start at Chantry Flats. It's a choose your own adventure as the many little trails connect to the main trail. Some favorites are Joan's Peak, Hastings Ridge, Rim Trail). 

IMG_0638 (1).jpg

Strawberry Peak:

You can start from Red Box and take the main trail or Rubio Canyon and cut the run in half for a sweet 3rd class climb-Junipers not too stoked about that, Thanks Vince. Also a great loop if you go down to Strawberry Meadow, around Strawberry Peak to Redbox and down to Switzer Falls. 

IMG_9017.JPG

Mt Baldy:

1.Bear Canyon, Peak, 3T's, Cucamonga. 2.Manker Flats, Register Ridge, Peak, North Backbone, Pine & Dawson & the PCT & back 3. Register Ridge, Peak & down Ski Hut or Devils backbone & down the ski lifts from the Notch. 

IMG_0210.JPG

Islip Saddle:

Parking at Islip Saddle and climb Mt Williamson to the peak and continue onto the ridge to Burkhart trail and down to Devils Punch bowl to the campground and back up to Islip. OR Start from Vincent Gap to Mt Baden Powell and follow the PCT (And AC100 course) down to Islip saddle and down to the campground to manzanita trail back up to Vincent Gap. 

IMG_3089 (1).jpg

Mt Lowe:

Start from Lake and take Steep and Cheap to Lowe toll road and follow the main trail to inspiration point and continue on to Mt Lowe Trail followed by Markam and San Gabe Peak. A great trail if you want to just run or do intervals. 

IMG_5750.JPG

Griffith Park: 

Ah a mile from my doorstep, GP is home to the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, and the Batcaves that were filmed in the first batman movie. My favorite begins in Bronson Canyon and up over the batcaves to the main road till you hit the single track that leads you to the road to the Hollywood Sign, there you can run down from the main trail or hit the single track that will give you a 1000ft descent in a mile back to your starting point. 

Need any trail, food or just fun recommendations... Just ask! 

Till next time ya'll! I'm running Lake Sonoma 50 miler this weekend despite my lack of training at all since I got sick. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Costa Rica

LRG_DSC08955.JPG

I sit in a hammock, unable to read, starring off into the distance. The scene so very different than that I’m accustomed to in Los Angeles. Where the city is full of cars and bodies of people hoping to make it big. Here, it couldn’t be so far down the opposite direction. Chakra Eco lodge, in Costa Rica, collects about 15 people from all over the world for a retreat or treat to a closer look at a more natural state of being. To be far from where phone signals exists and to be closer to nature and what occupies its lands.

I sit in my hammock, completely at peace. Most of the day we spent hiking through the rain forest to the high mountains that rest beside our lodge. A hike full of crystal clear waterfalls, roots, endless vegetation and rays of sunshine. I can’t help but be tranced by the clouds rolling through the valley. Cows of all colors and sizes graze along the ridge line adding some color to the vibrant green landscape they call home. Bursts of cobalt blue peak through the floating clouds as flocks of birds glide across toward the mountains. I can’t help but imagine where I will be this time next week. Shivers shoot down my body as the hair on my arm stand tall. I’ll be in the midst of running the Coastal Challenge, a six day stage race that runs through both heavy tropical forest and beach terrain. Six days, 147 miles and 31,304 ft of elevation gained.

The course is set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline but weaves at times into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of the country. You’ll finish near the border of Panama in a serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat. 

I’m both excited and terrifying of this experience. Being vulnerable to the terrain, the heat and to all the new people. I feel as though I am entering a new school with a different language. I don’t know what to expect. My training plan was very limited this season. After Zion Traverse and Ray miller 50 miler 3 days apart in early December, my days were filled with working hard and playing very little. With the Holidays in full force, I opted to spend more time with my family rather than skipping it to be in the mountains. January was filled with more work and quality time in bed plagued with first the flu, then bronchitis. With being sick and training very minimal, I promised myself I'd have a dry January and maybe even not drink till after the race, I needed to be healthy. Training didn't exist in my book and my only priority was to be well enough to board my flight to Costa Rica. 

 Life requires balance and most of all, patience. Patience was my focus for these last two months. There are those should've, could've, would've moments but it's something I try not to dwell on with training for these kinds of events. You must overcome the obstacles that is the course of life and in the end it may not be what you expected or hoped but the fact that I’m here despite the minor pebbles in my path is what the journey is truly about. No one's journey is always perfect and that is what I’m trying to grasp. "It’s OK, Sawna" I keep telling myself. "You’re in Cost Rica, if you end up walking the entire course- so be it!". As much as continue to push that belief onto myself, I'm not fooled. I'm rather disappointed in my choices and efforts coming into this race but in the end grateful for the opportunity to toe the start line.

Photo by Hilary Ann

Photo by Hilary Ann

As I finish my time here at Chakra , I begin to shift my focus to our final days in Dominical beach. Being here, in the environment already has been an incredible experience and I thank the universe and Run Like A Girl for the opportunity to call this "work". I begin to shift my thoughts away from work and more toward the Coastal Challenge as the days pass quickly. My thoughts about the race and my abilities are initially negative, but with a good support team here from the RLAG community, those thoughts have faded into only positive thoughts. I must keep focus on what's important.

Enjoy the process, the journey, terrain and most importantly HAVE FUN.  My one and only goal, to have fun. Yes, I’m a competitive person, however with a race like this how does one accomplish being competitive? It’s a whole new world to me(cue Aladdin song). Not only is the terrain different but the overall challenge ahead is unknown. What I do know is that I will be learning new things about myself through trials, pain, and adversity. I will be finding strength by ignoring the negative and surrounding myself with only positive thoughts and energy.

We each have our own individual reasons we do what we do, and my reason, whatever that may be this week, will drive me beyond my limits. I will seek it, I will find it and I will push farther. 

Coastal Challenge HERE I COME!

LRG_DSC09031.JPG

Packing List:

  • Boa Shorts(ALL THE FUN PRINTS)
  •  Stance socks
  • Ridge Supple Socks
  • Rlag Visor/buffs
  • Territory Run CO Hat/bisor/socks
  • Salomon 12L Vest
  • LifeStraw
  • Suunto watch
  • Inov8 TrailRoc 285 X2
  • Salomon Sense Pro's 2
  • Goodr Shades X2
  • Trail Butter
  • Dates stuffed with pecans + sea salt
  • Gu gels/electrolytes/chews
  • Vega Protein
  • Super Green Mix
  • Roll Recovery R8
  • Black Diamond Hiking poles
  • Choose Mountains Buff/Bandanna(My colar bone chafes)
  • AND a photo of my main gal so I can channel her energy and happiness during the race ;)

Lettuce taco 'bout Junipers Birthday

IMG_6727.JPG

As I sit here at a coffee shop at the airport in Mexico City, I look down and all I can see is Junipers hair. Its everywhere! On my tights, on my purse, on my sweater, my nose starts to tingle and my eyes begin to water, it's been less than 8 hours and I miss her with my entire heart. 

Yesterday myself and a few friends met at early at the dirt Mulholland trailhead for a sunrise run. Who cares about saying bye to me, really, they came to wish Juniper a happy birthday. On February 4th, Juniper turns 4. It's not her exact birthday, a date known only by who left her on the side of the highway at a few months old, but what the vet estimated would be her birthday. 

Someday's I catch myself staring at her, most of the time it's during a run, other times it's when she's curled up in a tiny ball sleeping. I think to myself "How did I get so lucky? What did I do to deserve you? Why do you love me so much?". There are days when she'll go out for a 30 mile run, no problem, stick by my side, and radiate with happiness the entire time. Other days she perfectly content sitting on my lap on my living room chair, just being cuddled like a puppy. 

4 years old.

Time does fly when you're having fun. She's my partner in crime, my baby girl and most of all, the love of my life. Despite not being there for her actual birthday, I celebrate her birth everyday. I thank the universe for the person who abandoned the sweet puppy, because it led her to me.

Here's to many many MANY MANY MANY MORE years of extreme amounts of epic adventures and endless cuddles. 

Here's some(lots) of my favorite moments shared with my lovebug!

 

White Mountain Windy Wonderland

LRG_DSC05633 (1).jpg

I push forward with all my strength. In any other circumstance I'd completely fall over, however, with 35 mph winds- I can barely stand. I need to eat something, yet my hands are too frozen to open anything. I need to pee, but again, my hands are too frozen and the wind too strong to squat for a quick pee break. I don't think I've ever truly considered pee-ing my pants until this very moment. Lani, who's just ahead of me, is struggling to stay up straight against the wind. Juniper, who's behind Lani has her tongue out and tail wagging, icicles on her fur shimmering in the light, turns her head around each corner of the mountain, making sure I was still behind them. The thought of turning back never crossed my mind, but I questioned my sanity the entire time. Not just mine, but Lani's and Juniper's. This is something we chose; to be nearly frozen, to have all articles of clothing on and yet not warm, and to nearly be blown off a mountain- all for fun. I need to look up the definition of fun, because I think its somehow gotten lost in translation these last few years of adventuring. 

TYPE 1 FUN: Enjoyable while it's happening. Just simply fun! Good food, good company, good weather. When everything just works out. 

TYPE 2 FUN: Begins with the best intention but normally things get carried away. Miserable while it's happening, something to laugh about in retrospect. You can say it was "fun" once time has passed and your far from the moment. 

TYPE 3 FUN: "What the hell was I thinking?" actions. Not fun at all. Not even in retrospect. Wanting to cry but too scared and stirred up to actually muster the tears.

I don't really know where I would rate this particular event on this specific mountain. But I can honestly say it WAS NOT TYPE ONE FUN. 

Just two weeks before Lani returned home. She had spent 5 months on a very long walk along the Pacific Crest Trail. That's 5 months too long away if you ask me and I truly missed my friend. Since then I made a solid effort to spend quality time with her, if it wasn't on a mountain top, it was at home with our fur babies as we ate immense amounts of food while burping beautiful melodies and making the air around us smell like roses. Since then we ran along the streets of Hollywood, climbed one of our local mountains, Mt Luekens, conquered the C2C2C (Cactus to Clouds to Cactus) and now we were off to the Sierra for my two days off from work. What a weird feeling to drive somewhere that, just a few months ago, she had walked across. My mind still can't seem to grasp all that she had to endure. 

With the sun setting completely by 6pm, we were off to a dark start. We burped, she farted- it was all so wonderful and pretty smelly if you ask me. After some debate on where to camp we settled on a little hideaway spot in Alabama Hills. It was a little past 10pm and I was laying on the ground, fur baby in my sleeping bag, trail wife in the tent next to me, tons of cookies/beer in my belly, and a big on cheesy smile smacked on my face as my head it the... ground (at the time I didn't have a camping pillow). The moon was bright and lit the boulders surrounding our little nook as we slept our LA worries away. And boy did I sleep wonderfully. My eyes opened right at 6am, just about the same time my arm started tingling from loosing blood circulation from snuggling with Juniper too hard. As if that would really be an issue. We rose quickly in hopes to watch the sunlight give Mt Whitney a good morning kiss. I grabbed my camera, Junipers ruffwear jacket and we were off on a little hike.

Later that morning, after Lani got up, we packed up, made coffee and did an outfit change from the dramatic 30 degree weather shift... she showed me more of Alabama hills that I've never truly explored. See, Alabama Hills is the gateway to the Sierra, its what you have to pass to get up to the Whitney Portal and very close to Horseshoe Meadow as well, and it's a nice pit stop along the scenic 395. I never really stopped when I knew that mountains where OH SO CLOSE. 

After running around Alabama Hills we then headed off to our next destination, White Mountain. White Mountain Peak is located northeast of Bishop and is the third highest peak in California and is the highest outside of the Sierra Nevada. Part of the Inyo-White Mountains which have some of the oldest sedimentary rocks in CA with fossils nearly 600 million years old. The White and Inyo Mountains have a desert-like appearance and the perfect conditions for the world's oldest living trees, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. Some trees are over 4,700 years old! While en route to White Mountain peak, you can see the trees off the road. The most important part of this wasn't that it was another California 14er to climb or that we would be seeing the Bristlecone Pines but it allows dogs. That right there was why I was motivated to go. But sitting in the car an hour and a half later, still not there and on the verge of a heart attack- I was rethinking my motivation. You see, the drive to the trail head can actually take longer than the run itself. Neither Lani, nor I (and certainley not Juniper) did any research before saying, 'Yes!' to this trip. All we knew was this was a California 14er that needed to be crushed. She put the information into google maps and we were off- never really taking into account the estimated duration of time. The last 16 miles to the trail head is on a dirt road that normally you would want to have 4wd.  

Picture this: Sawna driving her non 4wd Ford Escape up a very steep one car at a time only road with a steep drop off on one side and VERY large rocks to go over while almost in tears, heavy breathing and about to scream while Lani eats popcorn asking to pull over because she has to pee all while Junipers head is out the window, tongue out, giving zero shits, probably wondering when we were going to adventure already. Finally, after a few miles of panic attack mode, the road widens and levels out for me to stop and let Lani pee while I just get out of my car and lay on the ground nearly in tears. The idea that just a few months ago my friends who drove on this road with their new Subaru and got a flat tire floating in my memory. 

We finally arrive at the trail head and I open the door only to get it immediately shut again. I attempt to open it again this time with more muscle and pushed it open while the wind made its best attempt to smack it right back closed. I run around the car and check every tire, just in case and proceeded to get back into the car. It's windy AF, both Lani and I give each other the "This is going to be fun" look as we realize our shorts and tanks were going to blow right off with this 35 mph freezing winds and we are not here to re-inact girls gone wild even though we are girls and lets be honest we are pretty wild... but ya'll know what I mean. 

About 20 minutes later we were dressed to impress and ready to rumble our way up White Mountain. 

Smile is completely forced. Articles of clothing included tank, long sleeve, puffy underneath the windbreaker, shorts, pants, beanie and gloves.

Smile is completely forced. Articles of clothing included tank, long sleeve, puffy underneath the windbreaker, shorts, pants, beanie and gloves.

Not only did Lani and I not really check how long the drive would take, we didn't really look at what the trail looked like. I had heard that it would be the easiest 14er you could climb considering the trail head spits you out at 12k. The area is essentially an exposed desert mountain, with no water or shade along the way to the mountain. This also means there are no trees or other natural barriers to block the wind as you follow the dirt road all the way to the summit. I would imagine this is what Mars would look like.

I think without the 35mph winds it would've been easy, but considering we had to struggle to stay up right it was pretty difficult. The sun was warm but the wind swept away any heat we may have enjoyed but we continued forward on the dirt road. I tried to run the first section of trail and quickly gave into a hike that planted my feet firmly on the ground, less likely to blow over. I brought my Sony A6000 to take photos but found that most of the time my hands were too frozen to bare the thought of taking off my gloves. I'd run a section of the trail to snap photos of the scenery and ofcourse of Lani and Juniper but that was the jist of it. I stopped a few times to give Juniper water and realized that any water that landed on her fur turned into icycles that shimmered as she ran along the trail. She was loving our time outside while Lani and I were enjoying our type 2 maybe type 3 adventure. 

The last mile of the trail was the most difficult as it was nearing the peak. Completely exposed to the force of the wind I push forward with all my strength. In any other circumstance I'd completely fall over, however, with the winds- I can barely stand. I need to eat something, I haven't managed to eat anything since the beginning, yet my hands are too frozen to open anything. I need to pee, but again, my hands are too frozen and the wind to strong to pause for a quick pee break. I don't think I've ever truly considered pee-ing my pants until this very moment. Considering that the pants had been borrowed from my friend Mike, I settled on holding my bladder until the appropriate time. Lani, who's just ahead of me, is struggling to stay up straight against the wind. Juniper, who's behind Lani has her tongue out and tail wagging, icicles on her fur shimmering in the light, turns her head around each corner of the mountain, making sure I was still behind them. Trying to capture the moment, I struggle to put the lens cap on my camera and fall behind yet again. The thought of turning back never crossed my mind, but I questioned my sanity the entire time. Not just mine, but Lanis and Junipers. This is something we chose; to be nearly frozen, to have all articles of clothing on, and to nearly be blown off a mountain- all for fun.

We stood at the top- attempted to snap a photo but with frozen hands barely managed. We quickly turned around- without any words I can see Lani's eyes and received the "Lets get off this mountain" look while Juniper was happy AF, it's as if she has her head out the car window, she couldn't be happier. 

IMG_6545.jpg

We run as fast as the wind, snow and ice would let us back to the car. The idea that all my tires are flat was constantly going through my head, but at this point, if I could survive that frigid wind, I could survive any sort of car issue. I felt unstoppable. We jumped into the car, took some layers off and just laughed. But we really didn't laugh, it was more of a moan because our faces were frozen, but the laugh was there, merely masked by frozen skin. I sat there for a few minutes trying to warm my hands, my frozen fingers unable to have the strength to turn the ignition to start and once I did we had the heater on full force and we were off- back to warmth and civilization and beer. The big old bad rocks that nearly gave me a panic attack on our way up seemed like mere pebbles now as I sped down the once frightening road. Remembering the last couple hours of torture we call fun as we drooled over the sunset.

IMG_9838.jpg

THE SUNSET WAS INCREDIBLE. 

(I somehow have only purchased Taylor Swift albums- so that will be the soundtrack to all my videos)

The sun quickly set as we drove passed the ancient Bristlecone pines and straight to Bishop Brewery were we met up with my friends Dave and Shauna visiting from Squamish, BC. They had just climbed Mt Whitney for the first time in the same weather conditions and we all sat there looking pretty beat up by Mother Nature. That night we decided to camp at the Buttermilks, we quickly set up camp and without a word everyone passed out. Well at least Lani and I set our tents right up against each other and giggled and munched on snacks before finally going to sleep. 

IMG_9946.JPG

The next day we took our time to pack up camp, eat breakfast in Bishop and explore Big Pines. We managed to wonder around Big Pines lake and North Fork Loop trail and we were glad we did, it was gorgeous. 

After parting ways with our Canadian friends we mustered the strength to drive back to LA. Back to our jobs, traffic and the sounds of constant sirens.

When I first started writing this post in November, I would've quickly exclaimed my feelings toward not attempting White Mountain again. Not because of the trail but because of the drive. Now that I've decided to finish this post, two months later, I've had time to simmer on my thoughts, our experience and my feelings about the entire trip and I think I definitely would go back. Preferably not being the one to drive, but I'd like to make more of a day out of it, visit the ancient Bristlecone forest and actually run all the way to White Mountain Peak. I feel as though it is definitely the easiest of any 14er I've done and would like to have the opportunity to enjoy it sans wind. 

Till next time.

Peace love and all the happiness,

Sawna 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild in Alaska

With recent fire devastation all throughout the west; LA, NorCal, Oregon, Washington and Montana. I can't help but feel a sense of guilt, guilt that I didn't appreciate the land as much as I should. Guilt that I didn't explore as much as I could have. Guilt that I may never get a chance to run, wander, see or just appreciate some of this gorgeous land again due to these horrific fires! It hurts my heart to see what beauty is now engulfed in flames. The trouble is- I thought I had time. This is a reminder that time is fleeting, our land- its beauty is fragile and constantly changing, mostly for the worst. I have a magnetic pull, stronger now more so than ever, to get out and explore deeper and deeper into our beautiful lands. I want to know more, I need to see more and touch what's out there! Now it's not about having time, but rather making time. I want to work hard but play harder. We do not have unlimited chances in life to have the things nor do the things that we want. I want to seize that opportunity when it knocks and be spontaneous when I can. Now is a pretty good time to start...

Photo: Kate Arnold

Photo: Kate Arnold

Sometime in September...

I'm sitting on the plane, two dark chocolate wrappers in hand- empty. 

Thinking about how I was brutally attacked in the airport and forced to buy these chocolate bars. When I say brutally attacked? I mean, my attacker was also female and her weapon- the cash register that stood behind the counter at the magazine stand. But same thing, right? How could she do this to me?

Really, I'm thinking about the last five days. Was it just a mere dream? A sick fantasy that seemed all too true? 

It was in fact, reality. I was alive- I truly lived the last five days... A thought I was still trying to grasp. 

How did this happen? How did I end up in Alaska? A place forever on my bucket list but so far from fruition, I never actually expected to visit. 

Let me tell you a story... I promise I'll give you the cliff notes version. 

It was a cold, dark and stormy evening here in Hollywood, CA. Last December I was drinking a few local beers keeping myself warm and toasty by my little space heater (pretty sure I was in a tank top and shorts). Skimming though social media, I come across a post by Run Like A Girl. It stated they were looking for ambassadors for the following year; 2017. They're a group of girls that inspire, motivate, encourage and give back to the community. After religiously loving all of Hailey's(one of the three awesome RLAG girls) posts, I eagerly filled out the application. 

I thank those couple I.P.A's I drank that evening because a few short weeks later, I was notified that I was one of a handful that were chosen to represent the RLAG brand. Cue "I've got the golden ticket" song from Willie Wonka!

One month later I was asked to help lead one of their Costa Rica retreats alongside Hailey, awesome right? Yes, yes and yes. I instantly fell in love with this group of girls, what they stood for and their community. I couldn't get enough! Along with the majority of quazi local ambassadors, we flew to Canada to participate in the Be Fearless Race held in Squamish, B.C.. A race in which the ladies of RLAG organize on the beautiful Squamish trails to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. I ran the Trail Marathon with two other Ambassadors, Magen from Texas and Kate from Alaska. Although there were a slew of other runners, we stuck by each others side the entire time, we supported each other, got to know each other, took tons of photos and giggled our way to the finish! It was more a trail run together than an actual "race". I had met Magen in Costa Rica but that weekend the three of us connected on another level. It was a dream weekend spent with some incredible women, not just with Magen and and Kate but with all the girls. The community the RLAG girls have built is nothing short of inspiring. Their supporters, both men and women, radiate love for life; each other and their communities. I had planned to write about it but have yet to- it was an experience that truly touched my heart. I felt supported and loved by this group instantly despite my bad jokes, terrible boomerang dance moves, lack of showering and endless pit of a stomach.

Throughout the summer I kept in touch with the girls from RLAG along with both Magen and Kate through text messages and social media. Since then I had returned to Squamish to help on another adventure retreat with RLAG, but I'd still droll over Kates photos of her life in Alaska- it looked unreal. I had playfully asked about visiting and possible dates and shared the idea with Magen. A possible reunion? It wasn't reality until Magen booked her ticket for those exact dates... instantly my playful idea was coming to life. We're going to Alaska. 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th.

IMG_9745 (1).JPG

I ran out of the airplane in excitement. I'M IN ALASKA, I would've yelled it out but of course I didn't because I'm shy and instead preached it in my mind. I spot Magen near the exit and we give each other a grand hug and proceed to catch up on all the latest as we dance outside waiting for Kate to pick us up. We flew into Anchorage, which was only a three hour flight from Seattle, my layover. Kate lives in Palmer, a 45 minute drive away. During the drive we all talk feverishly. Its been three months since Squamish and there was so much to discuss. Kate talks about her life here in Alaska, and her latest adventures. I have to remind myself to wipe the drool off my chin as she describes the adventures her and her husband embark on.

Pick up jaw off ground, wipe drool from chin and repeat.

As we drive, I can't help but gawk at the local mountains as she names and describes each one out to us. Kate glows with happiness, her excitement over her home is contagious and I can't help but fell giddy to explore it with her and Magen these next few days. 

Our adventure begins with a local race Kate and her company put on every Thursday evening in September. We have been so lucky to arrive on the first Thursday of it to occur. It has a kids 1 mile race, 5 mile option as well as a double loop for a 10 mile option.  Starting the race my intention was to run the 10 mile route, however, my hunger got the best of me and Magen and I opted for the 5 miler instead in order to make in back in time for some fresh butternut squash soup before it disappeared.

We sat by a fire, beer in hand, soup in the other, overlooking the lake and the beautiful hues that engulfed our vision.

I sigh, this is the life. 

FRIDAY,  SEPTEMBER 8th

Eklutna Traverse

The next morning we wake to fresh brewed coffee, a heavenly scent. As we all pack our packs for the days adventure, Kate wins over my heart by making vegan pancakes. 

After packing for both worst and best scenarios, we shuffle in the car as Lance, Kate's incredible husband, drops us off at the Pioneer Ridge Austin Helmers Trail head. 

This trail begins with a 4 mile climb with over 1k ft gain per mile till we hit the ridge, and with heavy packs, we begin our crawl up. There aren't many people on the trail but whoever we did pump into during the day were friends of Kate. Despite it being a bit over 30 degrees out in the beginning of the morning, we begin to delayer as the climb begins to get tough. The sun was warm and our excitement for the days adventure was pouring out of our sweat glands. Mmmmhhh yummy.

I don't really know how to describe the moment. The moment we mustered our strength and climbed these ridge lines that made up our days quest. Deep breaths stung as the cold air hit my lungs yet I'm wildly invigorated by the freshness that surrounds me. I'm not in LA anymore and I couldn't be happier.

I trust my legs will walk properly around the technical terrain as my eyes shift all around me. These sights are incredible. I can't help but to stop and take photos; capture this moment I'd like to savor for forever. We continue along the ridgeline, over rock fields, down fields of grass and flowers toward another ridge to climb. Technical terrain to say the least as we all continue forward, smiles plastered on our face, eyes shimmering, hearts happy. We begin climbing another ridge that turned into a loose, rocky, razor blade thin "trail" to our next peak. I try to control my bodies will to shake, fear of the undeniably steep and slippery terrain that shot straight down on both sides. "Kate, what did you bring us on?" I whispered as I lead the group to the top, trying not to show how afraid I was and knowing the faster I climbed, the quicker I would be done. Magen, who lives in a place where there aren't any local mountains, climbed fearlessly. Conquering the mountain with each step and looked as though she's been climbing her entire life. These girls are something alright.  In Los Angeles I have a couple girls that I run with, but a majority of friends I've made in the mountains have been male. Because of RLAG, my strong women friends have doubled, nay tripled in just a matter of months. These girls breed mountain rockstars! As our climbs seemed endless, we approached the final climb of the day with tired legs and happy hearts. Each step up was made with intention as we knew our day was coming to a close. I ran ahead to snap a few photos as Kate and Magen mustered strength for the final push. What a view! Magens hands were on her quads as she pushes the finals steps to the peak. She stops. She looks around and lets out a deep scream that both Kate and I could feel deep in our heart and left me with goosebumps down my arms. We all conquered something within ourselves that day. And with tears falling from our faces we hug each other and take a look at what we accomplished. We, now, only have to run down. Magen bursting with happiness led the way down, in a direction that looked like we were heading right off the cliff. "Ay caramba," I say to myself as we descend. The cliffs edge was just a mirage and was really a technical scramble down to a quazi normal "trail" that lead us straight to the vast yellow and orange colored trees, endless blue berry bushes and finally a soft leveled trail. 

The entire day was filled with steep ridgelines, razor blade climbs, big horn sheep galore, terrible singing, endless pictures, sore bellys from laughing too much, and a little bit of running. We conquered fears, pushed our limits and came out stronger than we were a mere 10 hours and 18 miles before. 

Our day ended with Lance cooking us a feast as we sat around a big campfire surrounded by friends, drinking beer and liquor Kate brought back from Italy. Our bodies tired but our hearts were happy. 

Saturday September 9th

MATANUSKA GLACIER 

IMG_0714.jpg

Glacier isn't normally part of my vocabulary. Living in Los Angeles my vocabulary revolves around heat so when Kate and Lance said we'd be going to a Glacier; I was trying to contain my immense excitement. This is definitely my version of Disneyland! 

The drive to Matanuska Glacier is about two hours from Palmer however time is irrelevant when you're completely engulfed in fall colored trees and endless views of of white carpeted mountain tops. Alaska, you are INCREDIBLE. The idea that I'm actually sitting in this car, at this very moment, viewing these sights was completely mind boggling. Mind. Blown.

7D0DA6F8-0514-4D66-8709-164514A9F840.jpg

We pass the Glacier entrance for a quick 1 mile hike that was basically straight up and back down. It was filled with roots, thick mud and rocks galore but once you reach the top, the entire glacier was in sight. The hike down was an adventure in itself, as Kate and Magen let me lead the way... I don't know why. Follow with precaution, folks. At one point I slipped and held onto two tree branches and was hanging- that's how steep it was. Shocked I didn't pull my arms out of the sockets, we all laughed it off, wishing one of us caught it on camera. 

LRG_DSC00603.jpeg