suunto

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!














Goodbye Flu, hello trails!

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

GRIFFITH PARK, HOLLYWOOD

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

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

BACKBONE TRAILS, MALIBU

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

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

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

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

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

WESTRIDGE TRAILS, SANTA MONICA

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

STRAWBERRY PEAK, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

MT WILSON, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time,

Peace, love and happiness

New Year, same me!

Hello 2018! It's meeeee Sawna. 

Grand Canyon before R2R2R in October (first time visiting the Grand Canyon=Mind Blown)

Grand Canyon before R2R2R in October (first time visiting the Grand Canyon=Mind Blown)

Naturally I say that in the most annoying voice I could possibly muster. For some reason the last couple of years I have rang in the new year with NyQuil by my side or at least some kind of cold remedy. This year was no different. Despite having a race in about a month I've seemed to be taking a very long pause in training, and you know what, that's ok. 

With the holidays comes longer work hours and days spent with the family, things I can't really change and wouldn't even if I wanted to. Precious moments I'd never be able to get back and memories that will last me a lifetime have been made but also my good friend, the cold, was going around like the plague. Hello cold, it's good to see you again.  

During a less than 24 hour visit to Joshua Tree in December

During a less than 24 hour visit to Joshua Tree in December

Either way, its 2018 and I'm still here. I've never been huge on New Years resolution or trying to do something I'm not really motivated to do or inspired to achieve because if I was I wouldn't wait for January to do it. Looking back at the last 365 days, heck- even the last 90 days, I've snagged any opportunity available, sought out adventure, experienced life way outside my comfort level, and pushed my limits until my muscles and my tear ducts cried. This last 12 months have been one for the books, jam packed full of memories and experiences I'd like to remember to the fullest. In saying that, my goal for this coming year is to make a conscious effort to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard- however you'd like to see it. I want to use the thousands of photos I've taken of countless states I've driven through, nation parks I've visited and every possible facial expression Juniper may have that I've documented.  

Angels Landing, Zion NP in late November. The day after running Zion Traverse

Angels Landing, Zion NP in late November. The day after running Zion Traverse

I'm ending 2017 with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, truly excited to see what is to come. 365 opportunities to be the best version of myself possible, to seek out opportunity for growth and overall any kind of experience that will make me happy. I don't know about you but I'm excited for 2018 and the opportunities and adventure that will come with it. 

With my mane girl Juniper. I'd be lion if I didn't say she's the love of my life! 

With my mane girl Juniper. I'd be lion if I didn't say she's the love of my life! 

Lets do this!