salomon

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!














Welcome to Costa Rica

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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!

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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 ;)

White Mountain Windy Wonderland

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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