Grand Teton and Yellowstone Half Marathon (Grizzly Double) Race Reports

What’s the Grizzly Double? Great question! It’s a pair of half marathons held by Vacation Races within a week of each other – Grand Teton Half Marathon and Yellowstone Half Marathon. I heard about these races from some of my friends in the High Heel Running Group (a fantastic trail running group for women in the Seattle area.) Anyway, Adam and I signed up for these races to use them as an excuse to get out to the two national parks for an early summer vacation. I’d never been to either park and was psyched for the opportunity! These races plus our Zion run-cation make it the year of National Park exploration. ūüôā

Additionally, Adam’s parents decided to join us for the first part of our trip, and his mom also ran the Grand Teton half marathon (her third race in three weeks, mind you!) It was really great to have them with us for this fun adventure.

Grand Teton Half Marathon

This race was much bigger than the races I normally run – about 2000 runners! It was also the first race I’ve done in ages without a hydration pack – what a luxury! Just a handheld with a few Glutinos in the pocket for mid-race sustenance. Despite it being June, it was quite a chilly start, but thankfully we warmed right up once the sun came over the mountains.

Just having run a 100K two weeks ago, this race felt wonderfully short in comparison! A half marathon is a very respectable distance, of course, but it’s all about perspective. Two hours running versus fifteen was fantastic. The only downside was that¬†I’d forgotten how running on the pavement feels… it’s definitely a little rougher on the skeleton.

Adam and I at the start!

The course itself wasn’t too remarkable in the beginning. We began outside of Jackson, and ran along the main highway for a bit until getting on a paved bike path. Despite the multi-wave start, it didn’t thin out until nearly three miles in, and then everyone had settled into their sustainable race pace.

After crossing over the very high Snake River, we saw one of my High Heeler friends, Ellen! It’s been awhile since I saw her, so it was great to catch up and discuss past and future running adventures. All of us sea level folks were feeling the elevation (~6,200 feet), but the race generally still felt good.

After six miles we turned down a new road and was treated to this very fine view…

The view alone is a reason to do the race!

As we ran along this road for the next six miles, the view of the Tetons continued to get better and better. If it weren’t for the mountains, it could have been a bit of a drag since you could see all the runners for miles ahead of you (that always seems to remind you how far you have to go.) Really, though, I couldn’t stop staring at the mountains!

After crossing a bridge over the Gros Ventre River, we crossed the finish line, which was at a golf course. Which also had an amazing view of the mountains.

Proud finishers with a stunning view!

After receiving our sizable and beautiful medals, we were handed a snack box…

Post race snack box

Pretty good treats!

Even though this was a “fun run” for us, and with an additional challenge of elevation, I was very pleased with our time: 2:08:33. After the race, we had a week of exploring ahead of us…

A Brief Hiking Interlude

We had a week between races, and so much to explore! The snow level at Grand Teton National Park was quite low, so it limited our hiking choices. However, we still managed to hike and explore all day everyday for four days!

One of my favorite shots from Grand Teton National Park

We also had our very first bear experience on the trail. Thankfully, he didn’t get pissed, and we didn’t get mauled. A win all around.

My we-didn’t-get-eaten-by-a-bear smile!

Then we spent three days at Yellowstone National Park, and what a unique landscape. I’ve never seen geothermal areas like that, and with such a uniform forest surrounding it. (Fun fact: 80% of Yellowstone’s forest is lodgepole pine.)

The Artist Paint Pots – one of my favorite spots in Yellowstone!

Yellowstone  Half Marathon

After all of our hiking in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, it was time for another half marathon! It wasn’t a road race like Grand Teton, but mostly trail. The course began in West Yellowstone and was mainly on a forest road in Gallatin National Forest. Some of it was fairly rocky, but no singletrack. A decent trail for road runners looking to make the switch to trails.

We didn’t get to the race start as early this time, mostly because it was¬†hailing when we left the hotel. (Again, it was June, lol.)¬†A very chilly start, with a bit of rain to start us off! However, since we’re Seattleites, it was really quite normal for us. ūüôā

I felt pretty good for the first few miles, despite the slightly higher elevation (6,700 feet.) I had intended on actually racing (versus “just running”) this half, and was feeling proud of how well I was handling the altitude. Annnnnd then at mile five we hit a hill. It wasn’t a huge hill (only 300 feet of gain), and it was stretched over a mile, so it was gradual. However, even little hills at elevation kill me. Where was all the oxygen? Who was holding a pillow over my face?? Oi. I started to feel a bit light-headed, so I walked a bit. Nothing like high altitude to keep your ego in check!

Eventually we began to go down, which was a welcome relief, but I had lost my racing groove. The trail got a bit rougher, and I was grateful for all of my previous trail experience. There wasn’t much for scenery, just endless lodgepole pine. Quite the opposite of the Grand Teton race, with the exception of this lovely river spot.

A pleasant scene for a brief stop

After mile 11 I started doing the race math in my head and figured I could still beat my Teton time, but only if I pushed. So… I pushed. Or tried. I dug in for what felt like a strong finish (and thankfully, no stomach pyrotechnics as a consequence!)

My finishing time on this race was 2:06:14. Only two minutes faster than at Grand Teton, but it was a more challenging race, so I earned every second!

At the end, we received the now familiar snack box, medal, and then an even bigger medal for doing both races. It is, hands down, the most impressive piece of hardware I’ve ever earned! (We guessed it could also be used as a bottle opener…or in a pinch, a weapon against marauding moose. It is¬†heavy.)

My High Heeler ladies and a few of our favorite men – all Grizzly Double finishers! ūüôā

The hardware!

These two races were very different, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to run both of them. Both were well organized with good swag (and the most detailed race guide I’ve ever seen.) Of the two, the Grand Teton race had better scenery, no question. (I’m a sucker for a good mountain vista.) But the parking and logistics of Yellowstone was a bit easier. Regardless, it was a¬†fantastic vacation with races bookending our enjoyment of some truly incredible national parks. I may have to check out more of these races in the future…

Sun Mountain 100K Race Report

Running from sunrise to sunset –¬†Rainshadow Running’s Sun Mountain 100K was quite an experience! This was a new distance for me, so I had a few…¬†okay…¬†A LOT of anxieties about it. Due to the very fine coaching of Jess Mullen, I knew intellectually that my body was ready. I really was feeling stronger than ever. But anyone who has run¬†ultras will tell you that the longer the race, the more your mind plays into your success (or failure.)¬†What if my hip pain flares up? What if¬†I can’t keep any food down in the heat? What if I can’t handle the extra mileage? What if a Sasquatch clubs me over the head and drags me away to its lair a la Wampa style in Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back?¬†Spoiler alert – none of that happened and it was a successful day. ūüôā

I ran the Sun Mountain 50 miler two years ago, so I was at least somewhat familiar with parts of the course. I knew to expect beautiful balsamroot, heat on the exposed sections, stunning mountain views, and a challenging out-and-back on Patterson Mountain. The 100K was two loops of the 50K course (which Adam was running that day), so at least I’d know what to expect for the second half of the race.

Sun Mtn 100K map

Course map from Rainshadow Running

First Loop

On race day, after a quick briefing by Race Director James Varner, we were off into the early morning light. Running in the mountains at 5:30am is a rare treat, truly. The beautiful scenery seems to be all your own, unspoiled, and the day is filled with possibility. The beginning of the course is very runnable in the woods and alongside Patterson Lake. The runners around me were¬†focused and moving along at a good clip (for an ultra!), and there wasn’t too much chatter (yet). Due to my nerves, it took me about an hour to calm my mind and really settle into the race. At about that time we began to get some beautiful peekaboo mountain views with the balsamroot facing the morning sun.

So much balsamroot!

I was moving along nicely, and doing my best to eat every 30 minutes in an attempt to get ahead of the inevitable calorie deficit. All was well so far! I whizzed through the Thompson Ridge aid station (mile 8.6) without needing to stop.

Then we hit some trails that were being heavily worked on… for mountain biking. I’m certain that¬†if I was a mountain biker, I would have appreciated the “upgrades”, but…eh, not so much. LOTS of bumps, banks, steep descents, some jumps and extra twists and turns. I’m sure it’s a blast on a bike, but as it was, it really broke up the groove for us runners. At this point, however, I was near a few folks, and everyone had settled and we began¬†to exchange names and race histories. Here I met Anne, Rebecca, and Kate, all from Portland. We had approximately 13 more hours left to go, so might as well get to know your neighbors! ūüôā

Next up was the Homestead aid station (mile 17). I stopped here to visit my drop bag to pick up a few things (and slather on some sunscreen on my pasty Seattle skin.) So far, I was feeling pretty good! I knew the next 14 miles would be the most scenic, but also the toughest in terms of elevation gain. After a pleasant and very runnable section we got to the Sun Mountain Lodge out and back. It was steep, and the trail was kind of a light obstacle course because the center of the trail was a bit washed out by runoff, and we also had to move aside for faster runners bombing down the singletrack.

I promise it was much steeper in person!

At the top of the hill, we continued on past the very comfortable looking Sun Mountain Lodge on to more singletrack for quite awhile until we found the “Runners Turn Around Here” sign. Anticlimactic, but a welcome sign nonetheless. On the way back, I encountered a grouse on the trail. Thankfully, it was not aggressive like the one from the Baker Lake 50K, but just trying to find some peace and quiet!

On the way back down, a quick stop at a drinking fountain by the lodge provided some exquisitely cold water to splash on my hat and arms and it was fantastic. I love how little things become extravagant luxuries during an ultra! The way down into the Patterson Lake aid station was very runnable and somewhat shaded. Another quick stop at my drop bag and I was on my way to another climb. This section has lots of bushes nearly overgrown on the trail, yet hardly any trees, so it’s a hot, steep, and scratchy section. Then we came to the out and back up Patterson Mountain! By this time I was with Stacy from Seattle and Brandon from Spokane. Lots of chatting kept our spirits up on this climb.

View from Patterson

Back down and I knew we weren’t far from the Start/Finish. Just about halfway done, so I¬†slapped on a grin for photographer extraordinaire Glenn Tachiyama!

Sun Mountain 100K

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

There were loads of people at the Start/Finish, all cheering and clanging cowbells. It was the best, so thank you, spectators!¬†It was additionally awesome¬†because I actually PR’d the first 50K loop with a time of about 6:57! I was really psyched for that as I hadn’t felt like I was pushing very hard, but clearly had made good progress on the fairly runnable course. An hour ahead of the cutoff for halfway – yay!

Second Loop

After a quick stop, and some delicious ginger ale, I went back out with a smile on my face. I was feeling good!

That lasted for about a mile or two, lol. Then it got hot, and it sort of dawned on me that I still had¬†a marathon or so left to go. Again, intellectually I knew that, but my mind was yelling at me, “Wait! Where are you going?? You already got to the finish! Wtf?!” I got to the mountain biking section, which seemed like a great excuse for some walking. This was when my legs began to feel that deep muscle ache while walking or stopped that happens to me only during really long runs. I was a bit surprised (and pleased) that it took so long to kick in, but there it was. <waves> Hi there, old friend! I eventually got running again, which thankfully (and oddly) dulls the pain.

In true Rainshadow fashion, we went the “hard” route, lol.

I got to¬†the Thompson Ridge aid station, but this time instead of whizzing through, I stopped for a snack, some sunscreen, and a brief sit down and cheerful chat with the fabulous volunteers. Then… onward! From Thompson Ridge (mile 39.6) to Homestead Aid Station (mile 48), I was completely by myself. It was a lonely, lonely section. ¬†I thought about putting on a podcast, but really wanted to save that for truly dire circumstances (so not yet.) Just relentless forward progress would have to do!¬†I began to feel a¬†massive, knife-in-the-foot blister on the outside of my big toe. Considering the distance run, who’s surprised?¬†I was unsure of how to deal with it. I had no new socks, but I did have some slightly-too-big backup shoes for me at my Homestead aid station drop bag. Hmmm… However, when I reached¬†the aid station, I noticed that my toe no longer hurt, and that could only mean one thing. Pop goes the weasel, eh? ūüôā

Service berry, I believe?

It was wonderful to come into Homestead Aid Station to see a friend volunteering! Tamara and her husband filled my water, and gave me a cup of the most delicious ramen I’ve ever had. After some encouraging words, I shuffled on out. (I may also have used the porta-potty, not out of desperate bodily need, but merely so I could have an excuse to sit down for a minute, lol.)

This next bit became my toughest section. It was hot, but thanks to a well-placed cloud, not unbearable. Food was having less and less appeal because I was feeling nauseous, so I could only eat in small bites. Oddly, my Glutinos were not working for me this race, and boiled potato with salt was the big winner of the day. Typically Glutinos are my savior when my stomach gets wonky, but this is just more proof that every race is different!

I saw some (now) familiar faces going up the Sun Mountain Lodge out and back, but it felt very painful, lonely, and pointless. I tried focusing on the beautiful scenery… nope, not helping. I tried remembering my injury last summer, and how lucky and grateful I was to be running ultras again… and that helped a teeny bit. I tried giving myself a pep talk aloud, “Legs,¬†we’ve got this.¬†You’ve trained for this. It’s all fine.”¬†Then this cartoon popped into my head and made me giggle:

This is Fine.jpeg

Okay, so the wheels¬†weren’t¬†really coming off, so I had no need to be so melodramatic. But I was exhausted (shocker, I know), everything hurt (no way, Ana, after 50 miles???), and I just wanted it to be over. I’ve always struggled about 75-80% into a¬†race, and this time was no different. At one point I sat down at a fortuitously placed¬†bench, and another runner I’d met earlier, Stacy, sat down with me. I’d reached my typical low point where I’m a hairsbreadth away from bursting into tears¬†because of being so tired and sore, and I wonder why the hell I run crazy distances. It was Stacy’s first 100K as well, and she was feeling it too. After allowing ourselves the brief luxury of a sit down, and acknowledging our bodily pain, we agreed that it would absolutely¬†suck to be so close to the end (still 11 miles to go) and not finish. “I’d feel like garbage if that happened, wouldn’t you?” she said. “Yes, you’re right. I absolutely would. Okay… let’s do this.”

At the Patterson Lake aid station (mile 56) we sat down for a few minutes and I had as much of a snack as I could stomach. We were also treated to a wonderful distraction in the form of Riddick, the dog. He was very polite, cute as could be, and just wanted to play fetch! How could we say no to that little face?

Rainshadow always has the best aid station volunteers!

We were only 6 miles from the end! We had left the aid station 30 minutes before the cutoff, so knew we had it. We just had to endure one more big climb. We weren’t going fast (at ALL), but it all seemed to go a little quicker since we had each other for company. In every 50+ mile race I’ve done, I’ve always connected with someone in the last 15 or so miles, and the camaraderie between us has gotten us to the finish line together every time.¬†That’s one of the many¬†things I absolutely love about these races, and Stacy was “my person” for this race.

Climbing a ladder on tired legs is always an entertaining feat.

When we started up Patterson Mountain, I thought we needed some serious jams to get us up the climb – cue my running playlist that contains Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Adele, and Aretha Franklin (to name a few.) It got us up to the top. “I’m on the EDGE… of GLORY, and I’m hangin’ on a moment with you…”¬†

The view was amazing – alpenglow on the mountains on one side, with rays of light shooting into the valley on the other. STUNNING.

This view took my breath away. That, or the previous 59 miles. Stunning view, though, right??

3 miles to go! Down, down, down we went, trying to shuffle as fast as our battered feet would take us. We crossed the road, and then we were in the woods, with the daylight gone. We popped on our headlamps, and headed to the finish, listening for any sign of people.

“I see some lights!” We heard the announcer say. “What are your numbers??”

“45!” I yelled back, whooping. “And 22!”

We ran across the line, high-fiving Race Director James Varner as we went. Stacy had the¬†best response to finishing, “Oh, I’m going to have emotions.” ūüôā

All in all, it really was a great day. I had no catastrophes, and only the standard ultra challenges of light nausea, blisters, and tiredness. The course was exceedingly runnable, with very little in the way of technical trails. As always, the volunteers were fantastic, my fellow runners were great, and the views were amazing. What more could I ask for?

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 15:39:10

Elevation gain: ~10,000 feet

Calories consumed: ~1,500 (5 Glutino Oreos, 1 pouch sweet potato/apple baby food, 2 boiled red potatoes, 1 ham and cheese tortilla, 1/2 navel orange, handful of oyster crackers, cup of ramen, cup of ginger ale)

Zion National Park Runcation – Part 2

Last week we were lucky enough to be in Zion National Park for two days! (Read about our first day of adventures here.) Our first day included¬†a 20 mile run that was great, but took up a large portion of the day. Elevation, heat, and lots of photo-taking were all contributors to our slowness. I have absolutely no regrets about our run, however, it didn’t really allow us time to explore any of the other smaller trails or more “tourist-y” spots in the park.

Since we only had one more day, we decided to divide and conquer in the morning, and meet up later for other hiking. Admittedly, I may have “broken the boy” with that 20 mile run, so ever the man of moderation, Adam opted for a more relaxed second day. He¬†decided to explore the Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock, and Hidden Canyon while I ran on the West Rim Trail for a rough total of 12 miles. We chose a time to meet back at the Visitor Center, and off I went on my solo run!

The morning light in the canyon was magical, but also incredibly hard to capture.

The West Rim Trail begins at the Grottos Trailhead, and is the way up to Angel’s Landing. I didn’t go up to Angel’s Landing¬†because of my time constraint, and because we already got a great view of the canyon from Observation Point the day before. However, because of the popularity of Angel’s Landing, the trail was busier than I would have expected at 8:20am. I wasn’t able to run much of it because of the inherent steepness, but I pushed hard when I could. I got some remarks of, “You go girl!” and “Get after it!” Always nice to have encouragement on the way! This section of the trail is basically two main sections of switchbacks that go up, and up, and UP.

After less than 40 minutes, I was at Scout¬†Lookout where the Angel’s Landing trail continues on a very narrow fin of rock and the West Rim Trail splits off in the opposite direction. One group inadvertently followed me (they turned around after asking how to get to Angel’s Landing), but beyond that, no one was headed the my¬†way. Later I encountered a few backpackers on the way back out, and a trio of trailrunners (possibly doing the full Zion Traverse?)¬†I was looking forward to recapturing some of the solitude we had experienced the day before. Just me and nature, you know?

At this point, the trail still wasn’t terribly runnable, but I enjoyed¬†the super blue sky and early morning light on the unique rock formations.

No cairns today, but helpful signage instead!

Here the trail became slightly more runnable in sections as I went back down into a canyon. It also was roughly paved, not unlike the Observation Point trail from the day before. I looked this up later and it turns out that the trails are “paved” to prevent erosion. Kudos to those folks for the effort! (More information on how this was done can be found in this FAQ.)¬†The views at this point were fantastic. It was very quiet, but the beauty of the canyon walls and rock formations was simply¬†stunning.

 

This was probably my favorite moment and view of the day. ‚̧

 

The weather was sunny and in the 70s, yet look what I found in the shade…snow! And, sadly, no human targets for snowballs in the immediate vicinity (it does look odd to throw one at your own face, I suppose.)

Did not think I’d find snow in the desert.

After a few switchbacks in the shadow of the canyon, I realized that I was headed up onto the very beautiful canyon wall I had noted earlier. In all honesty, the trail really wasn’t too narrow, but with a sheer dropoff on one side, it FELT¬†narrow. (Yes, I do feel a bit wobbly with heights.) I may have started cheering myself on at this point: “You can do this. Just focus on the trail, and don’t look down.¬†Just look at the trail.

Totally confident. Yup.

After a few more of these hair-raising switchbacks, I finally made it to the flatter, runnable part! I was very excited about this, and was bummed that I would have to turn around soon. As the time ticked down to my self-chosen turnaround spot, I came upon another fantastic view. There was nobody here but me and the view. LOVE IT.

This picture does NOT do it justice, of course!

After a snack and reapplication of sunscreen, I got to enjoy running down all of those inclines I worked so hard getting up. I still stopped now and then to snap a photo of some of the lovely flora amongst all the rock.

I absolutely loved all the desert phlox I saw on the trails!

Once past Angel’s Landing, it was an absolute zoo of people. I already missed the solitude I found earlier on the trail! I hustled to the shuttle, and got swept up in the wave of tourist-y humanity heading back to the Visitor Center.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 9.30.57 PM

It appears the GPS got a little confused on the trail, it’s still fun to see my running route!

I met Adam in the Visitor Center parking lot, and we shared lunch and quick synopses of our adventures. Now that we had planned on this time to hike together, what should we do?? The Narrows weren’t an option as it was closed, so we settled on starting with the Canyon Overlook Trail. It was a short trail outside of the main canyon, but gave some great views with fewer¬†crowds. It’s just east of the mile-long tunnel, and basically above the Great Arch. It was an interesting little trail, and one I’d definitely recommend.

Another tenacious tree, living on the edge of an amazing view!

After that, we learned from a ranger that you can hike off-trail, if you’re comfortable with it. It was an interesting option for us¬†as there weren’t any more established trails nearby. Adam became intrigued by an area down a ravine from the parking lot. I wasn’t too keen on the steepness of this non-trail, and it didn’t look that interesting to me, so I opted to stay in the car while he took 10 minutes to explore. After a few minutes he was back. “You’ve got to see this.” I thought he was joking, but he showed me photos of a little slot canyon that piqued my curiosity. So down we went! (I later learned this place is called Pine Creek Slot Canyon.)

Right before I decided my legs weren’t long enough and I had to wade in…

There were all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies that were fun to photograph (while ignoring the traffic noise from directly above, lol.) We didn’t get too far because after wading through the first pool, we came to an area where it became clear you’d need climbing gear to go further due to the belay points in the rock. (Okay, I had to wade through the first pool, but Adam’s long legs served him well and he stayed dry.)

Photography in action!

After this, our day was complete, and we drove back to Kanab full of sunshine and gratitude for our adventures.

Our second and final day in Zion National Park was FANTASTIC. Overall, we had an absolutely¬†wonderful¬†runcation, and this just reminded me how much I enjoy the unique beauty of the national parks in southern Utah. There’s so much more I want to explore there! It is definitely on¬†our to-do list for the future. So, if you have the opportunity, go there and run! (Or hike, whatever is your jam.) Enjoy it!

Zion National Park Runcation – Part 1

I realize¬†Seattle is notorious for rain, but it’s been far rainier¬†than normal this year. Even the born-and-raised Seattleites were being affected by the¬†gloom. From October to March, we only had three sunny days.¬†Three. To say that Adam and I were desperate for some sun and warmth is a gross understatement. Our remedy? A quick trip to Zion National Park!

We’d never been there before, but have previously enjoyed three other National Parks in Utah: Arches, Capitol Reef, and Bryce. We decided to make a runcation out of it. Okay, to be fair,¬†I¬†decided and Adam went along with it. ūüėČ ¬†My coach had recently run on the trails there, and gave us some great suggestions of routes to enjoy some miles and scenery.

A sneak peek of the scenery!

On our first day, we got up very early, and drove from Kanab to the East Rim Trailhead. It was a perfectly clear morning Рa little chilly in the shadows of the canyons, but the sun was rapidly rising to warm us up. Since we live at about 400 feet above sea level in Seattle, we felt the altitude (5,700 feet) as soon as we started running. Altitude training for the win!

The first bit of the trail was partially in the woods, and it was wonderfully quiet. For the next few hours, we only saw a handful of backpackers and no one else but a single mule deer, a few hummingbirds, and a multitude of lizards. Perfect solitude. After nearly an hour, we came to a small waterfall that dropped into a canyon. It was the first canyon view of many on this trail.

At this point, the trail leveled out¬†and we were¬†in what looked like a meadow, of a sort. (There was even a bit of actual grass!) Very runnable and pleasant. We took a short detour (okay, a wrong turn) and found a wildlife trail camera. I’m sure we’re not the only dopes that show up on their camera, but we made sure to wave at the rangers!

Waving to the rangers!

I checked the map, and realized we took the wrong trail. Back we went, and no harm done (or extreme extra mileage). We were up on the rim of the canyons, and after about two hours of running the trail began to go steeply downhill. More rocks, and less vegetation, which also meant a bit more sunshine.

Adam for scale in the awesome scenery.

After about three hours, we came to a place where the trail seemed to disappear and we had to hunt for cairns to find our way. Sort of like a scavenger hunt for the trail.

You see the trail, right?

At this point the stillness was broken with the sounds of people, and we came to a trail intersection. While enjoying a brief snack in the shade, I heard a loud drone sound. I looked up to see a hummingbird not two feet from my face, also enjoying a snack of his own. (From an Indian Paintbrush flower and not a Glutino cookie, though.) ¬†ūüėČ

At this intersection,¬†the East Rim Trail continues down into the main Zion Canyon that everyone knows and visits. However, we chose to join the tourists and took the other trail, which goes up to Observation Point. There is about a mile of switchbacks up to¬†Observation Point, and it was noteworthy because it was sort of paved. Judging by some of the signatures¬†in the broken concrete, it was “paved” with cement¬†around 1975. It was an interesting juxtaposition to have a paved trail and a cairn-marked trail less than a mile apart. Once you get up those paved switchbacks, there’s nearly a mile of flat before you get to the main viewpoint.

Observation Point is north end of the canyon and, as the name suggests, gives an absolutely stunning view of the canyon.

Wow. Just…wow.

After enjoying the view, taking a lot of photos, and having a snack, it was time to head back down.

Action shot with a view!

Due to beautiful views, the altitude, and the heat, our run ended up taking substantially longer than we had intended (hoped?) We brought two liters of water each, and knew we were going to run out before the end. Luckily, we brought our water filter with us, and even more luckily, Stave Spring was flowing. Hooray!

Yay for available water sources, no matter how small!

After filling up, we had just over an hour left to run, and most of it was a gentle downhill. Just what we needed! We finished at the trailhead with 20 miles on our feet. What a great day!

When you think you got a tan, but it’s really just trail dirt, lol.

The East Rim Trail is a great introduction to Zion’s charms without the crazy number of tourists that you encounter in Zion Canyon. I’m so glad this was our first trail in the park!

While the trail was mostly well-marked, I utilized the Trail Run Project app for a GPS map of this trail, and it worked beautifully! It provides a map of the trail, an elevation chart, and a blue dot of your location (most helpful when you get off course by a wildlife trail camera, for example.) I kept my phone in airplane mode until I needed to reference the map, and it was easy to turn it on to see where we were on the trail. Below is an example of a screenshot when we were on our way back.

A screenshot while using the Trail Run Project app.

I know not to rely on technology while out on the trails, but I’ll admit a¬†huge fan of apps like this. (I have no orienteering skills, so what good is a map if you don’t know where you are on it?) I’ve used the Green Trails app in Washington, but I’m glad to find the Trail Run Project is nationwide (and even international, I think). I’d REALLY recommend it!

Another action shot from the day!

Our route – East Rim Trail to Observation Point (bottom right to upper left):

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 5.23.14 PM

Day 1 of 2 of our adventures in Zion National Park was really fun and absolutely beautiful! Stay tuned for the Day 2 post when I go on a solo run before joining Adam for some fun hiking in the park…

 

Chuckanut 50K Race Report – 2017

This year’s Chuckanut 50K was quite the experience and a real contrast to last year’s race! This year heavily featured mud, rain, and a dash of hail. While that may sound pretty miserable, I still had a lot of fun! Unfortunately, due to the (rather incessant) rain, I wasn’t able to take many photos. The weather gods did not wish it, so you’ll have to use your imagination instead. ūüôā

Before I get into the report itself, I just¬†want to say how amazing all of the volunteers were! Volunteers are a huge part of any race, but I was even more impressed on this particular day because of the awful conditions. It’s one thing for the runners to be cold and wet, but at least we’re¬†moving, and not having to huddle under a tent and focus on muddy, addle-brained runners coming through an aid station looking for food, drink, and encouragement. So, THANK YOU¬†Chuckanut volunteers!! My sweaty, rain-soaked running hat is tipped to you and your awesomeness!

This year they changed things up a bit in the park, so we had to park elsewhere and take a shuttle to the start/finish. It was well-organized and easy to manage, and they allowed us to bring a drop bag for post-race change of clothes, etc. That was thoughtful and ended up being key since the weather was, um, rather damp.

The course was slightly different than last year, but still¬†very¬†distinct sections, so I’ll utilize the colors on the map to indicate which bit I’m talking about.

Chuckanut 50K Course 2017

From the Chuckanut website…

Interurban Trail (orange on the map):
The start was slightly different this year in that ran a bit around Fairhaven Park before getting onto the Interurban Trail. There was definitely a bottleneck, and a little jostling to avoid some huge puddles (no point in getting soaked less than 100 yards in.) After a mile or so, we spread out a bit and settled in to this straightforward part of the course. It’s¬†mostly flat, and a nice warmup for the challenges ahead. Not much for scenery, especially in the foggy rain (Chuckanut Bay was hidden from view.) However, it’s mostly gravel, so¬†I enjoyed the mostly mud-free miles.

Fragrance Lake Trail (pink):
After the aid station (which moved due to the course change), we began our first ascent. These switchbacks aren’t the most fun when it’s dry, but certainly less so in the rain and mud. My feet were sliding out from beneath me (sort of like a roller-blading motion, but without the 1999 nostalgic fun), but I knew this was just the beginning of the mud – so I had to get used to it! There were some nice¬†views of all of the very green moss, ferns, and trees – pretty classic Pacific Northwest. We ran around Fragrance Lake (I honestly don’t know what the ‘fragrance’ is referring to, but I do wonder…) and then onto…

Two Dollar Trail (pink, part II):
I remember liking the Two Dollar Trail¬†last year as it’s a nice place to pick up the pace because of the runnability of the trail. However, the first part was quite muddy, so it wasn’t as quick as I had hoped. Roots and rocks were hiding in the mud, and you didn’t know until your foot was already on it. It turned out to be an exercise in quick and light feet (not a bad skill to acquire in trail running!) The very end was a bit drier, and the shouts of encouragement from the aid station was very heartening!

Cleator Road and the Trudge of the Ultrarunners

Cleator Road (green):
Normally, I thoroughly dislike this part of the course. An unlovely 3 miles of annoyingly pitched road. Ugh. However, due to the weather, I was looking¬†forward to it! Why, do you ask? Because I knew it’d be mud-free. ūüôā I’ve recently been doing some tough but awesome long hill repeats¬†on an equally unlovely forest road (thanks, Jess!), so I was mentally prepared for it. I was determined to not let the pitch get to me, so I challenged myself to run as much as possible (it seemed like many folks walked most of it.) In the end, I don’t know if I did better than last year, but I was pleased with my progress nonetheless.

Ridge Trail (purple):
When I reached the¬†top of Cleator, I smiled at the aid station’s 60’s peace & love theme, complete with a kissing booth. (I wonder how many runners partook?)

Hula hooping in the rain!

Peace and Love before the Ridge Trail

I had just blown through the other aid stations since I was fine with my own food and water, but I paused at this one for a refill, some oranges, and a moment to mentally brace for the Ridge Trail.¬†Last year I had fallen twice on this part (luckily, no injuries), and with the very wet and muddy conditions, I was certain it would be treacherous. Well, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared. Granted, I got passed the most in this section, but I know technical trails are my weakness (I just value my limbs and joints whole and undamaged, okay??)

However, by expecting the worst, it ended up not being so bad. There were some runnable bits near the end of the Ridge Trail, and it all went by much faster than I remembered. My only real tragedy was losing a precious handwarmer in the cleanup after a poorly executed ‘farmer blow.’

Pretty sure I took this exact photo last year, but it caught my eye again!

North Lost Lake Trail (purple, part II):
Even though it wasn’t as bad as I expected, I was grateful to get off the Ridge. I remember feeling pretty drained last year at this point, but this year I was just thankful that I had already gotten through some of these tough sections. That gave me some energy to get moving and try to tick off some miles before we found the¬†real mudholes a little further down the trail. At this point, the rain had continued in earnest, so I didn’t get any great photos of some of the slop we ended up going through. What I did find interesting was all of the different colors of mud that we ran through: yellow, gray, and red-brown.¬†As I’m not a soil expert, I couldn’t identify why it was so different in just a span of a mile, but it was sort of interesting anyway. OKAY, maybe¬†not so interesting, but 16 miles into a 31 mile race, I’ll take just about any external distraction.

My shoes USED to be fuschia…

I also decided that the sound my shoes made while running through the very wet mud was¬†slorp slorp slorp slorp. I mentioned this to another runner, and her response was, “ohhh, now I want a milkshake. But not a chocolate one.” Ha!

Chinscraper (blue):
There was a full aid station at the bottom of Chinscraper, and I paused for a snack and a mental break. At this point, I was tired and sore (duh), but my bigger problem was how cold I was becoming. I was completely soaked through – honestly, I would be drier stepping out of the shower – and the wind was starting to pick up. I was a bit worried since my hands were already numb and not working, but there wasn’t anything to be done except get moving. Chinscraper wasn’t going to climb itself, so off I went.

I remember last year being focused on distracting Adam with lots of chatter because he was struggling a bit mentally. Without the need to create a diversion for someone else, I became more aware of this vertical beast, and it ended up being longer (but not steeper) than I remembered, ha! Turns out the amazing photographer Glenn Tachiyama isn’t at the top like I thought, but only halfway up. Oops. Also, remember how I said I was soaked through and the wind was picking up? To add to it, it starting¬†HAILING.¬†I employed some colorful language at this point, and then just started to find it funny. At least with hail I wasn’t getting any wetter? Type two fun all the way.

Fragrance Lake Road (blue, part II):
Once I reached the top of Chinscraper, I was happy that all the vertical was behind me! It was all downhill or flat from here on out. Last year we had headed back down the Fragrance Lake Trail, but this year the course went down the Fragrance Lake Road¬†instead. Turns out, it’s¬†much nicer to run on! A gradual descent on a gravel road. Just what the legs needed – some non-technical, easy miles.

Random waterfall sighting!

I was starting to feel a bit tired (huh, wonder why?), so I decided it was time to blast some music to keep my energy up. I had brought headphones, but with the rain¬†that was a no-go. Fellow runners, I hope you didn’t mind my music choices!

Interurban Trail (red):
Once I hit the final aid station and knew that I only had 6 miles to go, I was hopeful I could beat last year’s time by a little bit. This became my sole focus. Legs were tired and sore, of course, but luckily, it hurt less to run than to walk. This section, being mostly straight and flat, is nice¬†in the beginning of the race, but is a soul-sucker at the end. It seems never-ending…but it’s not. This too shall pass.

Also, this is when the rain stopped, and we started to see patches of blue sky. Ah, well, better late than never, I suppose??

Some clear skies on the way… how nice.

I passed a fair number of people in this last section, and was happy I still had some energy left. Some kind strangers told me when I had less than a few minutes to the finish, so I was able to even give a bit of a kick at the end (I’m sure it still looked like a jog, but whatever.) Yay – DONE!

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 7:26:09

Elevation gain: ~5,500 feet

Calories consumed: ~800 (6 Glutino Oreos, 2 pouches sweet potato/apple baby food, 2 homemade almond cookies, bite of potato, 1 orange)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to food to eat and some shoes to wash… ūüôā

Seattle Whisky Jewbilee 2017

I’ve been mostly focusing on my training so far this year, so I haven’t done much whisky exploration lately. It was about time for some drams! On March 2, some friends, my husband, and I attended the second annual¬†Seattle Whisky Jewbilee. It’s an event for whisky lovers that included a kosher buffet, a tasting glass, and a selection of roughly 250 whiskies to¬†enjoy.¬†It was the perfect activity for a particularly dreary Seattle night!

Being the nerd that I am, I looked over the pour list ahead of time, and compared it¬†with my whisky tasting log. I noted the whiskies I hadn’t sampled before and then any that caught my interest. (Yes, I did research before an event with copious amounts of liquor. You can’t be any cooler than me, really, lol.)¬†As an enthusiast and not a drunkard, I wanted to be strategic about the whiskies I sampled. I’m glad I did this as it would have been easy to be¬†overwhelmed by the many offerings.

When heading into the venue, WithinSodo, our IDs and tickets were checked, and we were given a wristband and our wee tasting glass. The venue itself had an interesting minimalist/industrial/rustic look. There were three rooms with tables of distillery representatives, and another room for the buffet. The food offerings were very tasty! Various meats on sticks, sushi rolls, small pasties and savory pies, and a table with sweets: cookies, hamantaschen, lemon bars, and strawberries. All of the food was very good and I was pleased that none of it had an overpowering flavor Рperfect for whisky tasting! The only thing I found slightly odd was that after about an hour, the food was completely taken away. So if you went straight for the whisky or got hungry later, you were out of luck.

It was quite a crush of people in the beginning and near impossible to get to the tables to get a sample (or even see which distilleries were represented.) I really wished for a small “program” with perhaps a map of where distilleries were in the space –¬†it would have been really helpful. (Particularly when our friends were specifically looking for one distillery that was supposed to be there but it turned out they weren’t.) Anyway, a bit later, it calmed down somewhat and became a easier to move around and chat with the distillery reps.

I had intended on taking more photographs, but I was a bit more focused on enjoying the whisky than visually documenting the experience. Oops. ūüėČ

Sl√°inte!

So, without further ado, here are the drams I tasted!

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 43%ABV

Nose: Fruit and sweet bread

Palate: Tastes exactly like it smells – fruity, sweet, with baking spices. Easy to drink and nicely rounded.

Notes: Our friends adore this¬†distillery, and I can see why! They are a family-owned distillery,¬†and have classic¬†Speyside offerings. (Still kicking myself that we didn’t go there last May.) You always know their drams will be well-balanced and fruity.

Brenne 10 Year Old

Single Malt (French) 48%ABV

Nose: Fruity, and VERY sweet. Like cotton candy or bubblegum.

Palate: Doesn’t taste like it smells. Kind of sweet, burnt sugar, with an odd grapefruit note. Not as candy-like as the original Brenne.

Notes: I’ve had the ‘original’ Brenne before, and it blew my mind with how much it smelled and tasted like bubblegum. (Which, honestly, is a weird flavor to get from whisky.) This particular expression¬†is matured in ex-cognac casks as well as new French oak, which definitely gives it a unique flavor.

Cutty Sark Prohibition

Blended Scotch 50%ABV

Nose: CARAMEL

Palate: Very velvety for the ABV. Creamy, and not fruity at all. Lots of caramel.

Notes: This was at the Highland Park table, and I had been hoping to try a different whisky. I can’t say I was disappointed, though, it was a delightful dram! Very easy on the palate, particularly given the ABV.

Mortlach 1995 – 17 Year Old (Exclusive Malts)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 53.3%ABV

Nose: Oaky, and caramel

Palate: Exactly like it smells – more oak and hints of caramel

Notes: This was the only one I didn’t finish. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, but… meh. I wanted to ‘save room’ for ones that I truly enjoyed!

Hibiki Japanese Harmony Masters Select

Blended (Japan) 43%ABV

Nose: Dark fruit, brown sugar

Palate: Balanced. Sweet, fruity, bit of brine on the finish

Notes: The whiskies are drawn from 5 different types of casks, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks. Like other blended whiskies, this one was easy to drink.

Laphroaig LORE

Single Malt Scotch (Islay) 48%ABV

Nose: Sweet SMOKE

Palate: PEAT, but more brine than a typical Laphroaig. It lacked the classic Laphroaig medicinal notes (which is a-okay by me.) Sweeter than their standard drams.

Notes: Adam really liked this one, and I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t. I had a pretty strong¬†reaction to the nose, but it was early on in the evening and I hadn’t sampled any other smoke bombs. However, it¬†wasn’t like licking a burnt band-aid, which is how they normally taste to me.¬†ūüôā

Glenmorangie Bacalta

Single Malt Scotch (Highland) 46%ABV

Nose: Very sweet honeyed fruits, but not in a cloying way.

Palate: Sweet, smooth, with some drying oak and hints of spice. Like drinking sunshine.

Notes: Matured for 2.5-3 years in a Madeira cask. This was my favorite of the night! I’m always a fan of Glenmorangie’s offerings (the Nectar d’Or specifically), but this one was pure ambrosia. I’d love to get a bottle of this on my shelf!

The Macallan 32 Year Old (privately-owned cask)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) Unknown %ABV

Nose: Balanced juicy fruits, grains and nuttiness.

Palate: Perfectly sweet, with hints of brine. A very well-balanced dram!

Notes: There was a gentleman who had a bottle ‘under the table’ that supposedly was from a friend of his who owned a cask and gave him a bottle of it. It was in a very old Laphroaig bottle, but we were told it was a Macallan 32 year old. I only have his word to go on, but a fun offering nonetheless!

Glen Moray 12 Year Old Madeira Cask (Single Cask Nation)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 54.7%ABV

Nose: Fruity sweetness with buttery undertones.

Palate: Tastes like it smells – fruity and buttery, with the addition of some spices.

Notes: It spent 6 years maturing in a first fill bourbon barrel before maturing for an additional 6 years in ex-madeira cask. Another fine example of what a madeira cask can accomplish! Very easy to drink, especially considering the ABV.

Ben Nevis 20 Year Old (Single Cask Nation)

Single Malt Scotch (Highland) 55.6%ABV

Nose: Caramel with fruit, hint of nuttiness with brown sugar

Palate: Rich and sweet with dark fruits, nuts, and brown sugar

Notes: A great whisky to finish out the evening.

 

The whiskies offered ranged from single malts to blends to bourbons, but I leaned heavily towards single malts as they’re my preferred whisky (if you hadn’t gathered that already!) This event gave us the opportunity to try quite a few whiskies that would be difficult to sample otherwise, and that alone made it worth it.¬†Overall, it was a very fun event that we enjoyed with our friends, and I would happily go again next year!

Fort Ebey Kettles Trail Marathon Race Report

While I’ve been to Whidbey Island before to hike, this was my first time running up there and it was great. It was a well organized race with a very well-marked trail (always important in the maze of state park trails). It had a low-key, minimalist vibe that is one of the many reasons I love trail races!

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-8-29-24-pm

Course map from Northwest Trail Runs website

While I ran the marathon, Adam ran the half. We both had a good day and it was fun to compare notes post-race (in between the¬†grunts and groans of discomfort that comes with moving about after a marathon, lol.) The marathon course was just two loops of the half marathon course. Normally loops are not my favorite, but it was nice to know what I was getting into for the second loop, and I could run a bit more strategically that way. I remember this bit is flat for awhile – push it now and save the cookie break for that upcoming hill. ūüėČ

 

Spotted in the beginning of my second loop – a couple enjoying the beautiful view!

 

The website says the total elevation gain is 5500 feet, which is quite a bit for a race of this distance. It was advertised as lots of little rollers versus any really big climbs. I can tell you now that a lot of those rollers are¬†in the first 4 miles. I’d say that overall, while the scenery was charming, those miles were my least favorite. Lots of tiny twists and turns, while going up and down. It forced¬†me to focus intensely on the trail so I wouldn’t totally faceplant (and hey, I didn’t, success!)

Some sunshine on the moss – looked idyllic!

While I didn’t particularly enjoy that section, the entire course had very smooth trails which just some roots now and then and hardly any rocks. I enjoyed the lack of technicality on this race (even though it’s something I know I need to¬†work on for future races *cough* Chuckanut *cough*.)

So much green in here!

During the first loop, I was basically alone after the first aid station at mile 4. There were less than 50 marathoners, so this didn’t surprise¬†me as I often run a pace that doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s pace. At about mile 6 or 7, I was in a very enclosed part of the trail – surrounded by green underbrush and small trees. It was dead quiet, and I was deep in thought (maybe about burgers?)¬†when I heard a shout behind me, “Runner up!” I nearly jumped out of my shoes. The half marathoners (who started the race 40 minutes after the marathoners) had caught up with me. As thin guys in singlets and short shorts whizzed by me, I had to remind myself that I had three quarters of the race to go, while they were already halfway done. It shouldn’t have been discouraging at all, but I mean, who likes to be passed?

Much to my relief, there were a lot more runnable sections after that first aid station. I made a mental note of that¬†so I could push more on the second loop. Something else I will say for this state park – it has some pretty entertaining trail names. I didn’t catch them all, but I had to grab a picture of this signpost.

Humpty-Dump and Whipper-Snapper Trails

At about mile 10.5, we suddenly popped out of the trees onto the bluff. Now THIS was what we run for – these great views! I was not the only one that stopped to take a photo.

 

A remarkable view at the top of the bluff!

After running along the bluffs for awhile, we ran a¬†loop tortuously close to the start/finish and headed back into the woods. During this part I ran and chatted with a woman named Kalee who was fun and cheerful. Not too long after, we came back to the start/finish. The crowds were cheering and the chute beckoned! Alas, the celebration was for the half marathoners. Kalee dropped here due to a nasty cold, but encouraged me, “Go get it!”I followed some signage, and turned away to continue on to my second loop.

By this point, the sun was out, and I was cheered by being halfway done. The second loop felt faster (it wasn’t), but I was happy to still be moving pretty well. My coach had given me the goal of trying to pace the two loops evenly, so I had to push hard on this second loop to try and make that happen. I’m glad I had that focus, though, otherwise I definitely would have dawdled and possibly gotten bummed out by how far I still had to go. Such good mental practice for longer races!

Not to say that my legs didn’t hurt. They did! As it’s been about 10 months since I ran this kind of distance, I needed to get used to that feeling of running on sore legs again as it’ll be happening more times this year! ūüôā During the first loop, my right hip flexor was irritated and sore, but on the second loop, everything was sore so I didn’t notice if it still hurt! A silver lining, lol.

After the mile 17 aid station, I treated myself to blasting some music to give myself a lift. It was pretty perfect when my favorite Brandi Carlile song “Raise Hell” came on to bring me across the finish line! Despite running alone for the majority of the race, I was happy to learn that I wasn’t DFL, but 26 of the 41 marathon finishers. Nice to know there were plenty of other crazies out there too. ūüôā

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 5:59:18

Elevation gain: ~5,500 feet

Calories consumed: ~600 (5 Glutino Oreos, half an orange, 2 pouches sweet potato/apple baby food, handful of pretzel M&Ms)

ūüôā

 

My Better Half Virtual Run 2017

Last year we ran the My Better Half Marathon Virtual run and it was really fun! I’m a bit of a sucker for self-run races and being able to sleep in on ‘race day’ to run it whenever it works best for you. We decided to do the virtual run again this year!¬†Also, Orca Running races always have great swag, and who doesn’t love that? ūüôā

 

Obligatory pre-race photo

When we run together, we have a tendency to stay on the same sides always (like choosing a side of the bed to sleep on.) Adam had personalized his bib so it said “My Better Half is —>” Awww! So cute. So I wanted to do that too. I MAY have accidentally pointed the arrows the wrong way, lol, but nothing that a little creativity couldn’t fix. ūüôā

Our route was the same as last year – on the Burke Gilman Trail. Nothing remarkable about it except that it’s flat and we know it really well. It was a great day for a run – warmer than it’s been lately, and dry. It was a reminder that winter won’t last forever!

In the neighborhood I saw signs of spring!
We ended a bit differently this year, though, by going to Gas Works Park. The sky was beautifully moody, so we had to grab a finishing photo there.

Our finishing time was a very comfortable 2:16! Just a minute slower than year, and we were deliberately taking our time.

We tried to take some cute post-run photos, but then we ended up looking creepy (our selfie game is not on point.) We finally got this one with the light-up medals.

Bonus: Kaylee loves red laser pointers, and she was enjoying staring at the medal as it flashed. Pretty cute. ūüôā

Another fun race in the books!

Capitol Peak Mega Fatass 26K Race(ish) Report

Training has been going well, and I’m getting challenged in new ways, which is awesome! I’m very excited to see where training will take me this year. Part of my training today was to run a local fatass race – the Capitol Peak Mega Fatass.

The start/finish

Besides the fantastic name, fatass races are great because they’re sort of like an enhanced group run rather a regular race. Very basic amenities maybe (this one had portapotties, water, coursemarking, and great volunteers), but no high fee, t-shirts, swag, food, or whining. (Sooo… a bunch of crazy yet harmless people running in the woods for basically no payoff except the joy of running long distances for fun.) This was my first time doing one and it was a great experience.

The course from the Olytrailrunners website.

The weather at the start was typical winter PNW – brisk 38 degrees and damp. Perfect running weather, and the course was super runnable! Some forest road, some little-used singletrack, and most of it was well-used and worn trails. Basically no technical stuff except for a little sticky yet slippery mud and some muddy ice at a high point. It’s seems¬†rare to find a trail race with decent mileage that is so runnable. (And since I tend to run technical trails like a cautious grandmother, these trails were¬†great.)

Can’t resist a curvy trail!

Not too many views today, but the runnable trail made up for it!

PNW magic

One thing I found interesting is that this was the first solo race for me in quite a while. Adam has done all of the others with me in the past 14 months, and I got used to his calm presence and humorous quips¬†being there during a race. (He really is a nice fella to have around, and that day he was off running a half marathon with a buddy.) I’ve done many races solo before he started racing with me, so it’s not a big deal, but I didn’t expect to feel a pang of loneliness without him there. (Sorry for the marital emotion – whew.)¬†However, when we both got home from our respective races, it was fun to share our different race day experiences.

One thing I kept thinking about during the race, though, was alllll of the amazing women marching ¬†around the world for equality! I “marched” in my own way today with this race with this great pin a friend made and gave to me. ‚̧ This is not the end, but just the beginning of our activism.

Women’s rights are human rights. That is all.

As always, to finish up, here are some quick numbers from today:

Finishing time: 3:18:01

Elevation gain: ~1,700 feet

Calories consumed: ~500 (5 Glutino Oreos, 1/4 roasted sweet potato, pouch of apple/sweet potato/carrot baby food (it worked great, no judging!)

How do you know if it was a good day on the trails? The more dirt, the better. ūüôā

2016 in Review – 2017 in Preview

It has been quite a year! To give some perspective, here are my numbers for 2016:

-1,100 miles run
-One 50 miler completed (Highland Fling race report)
-One 50K completed (Chuckanut race report)
-One 25K completed (Deception Pass race report)
-One half marathon completed (My Better Half race report)
and…
-74 whiskies tasted (Online log here)

This year has been a mix of things for me, running-wise, although it may not seem that way at first glance. It wasn’t quite the year I’d planned, BUT there were some really fantastic highlights. Quantity of everything was a bit lower than 2015, but the quality was excellent!

img_0516

Looking back at a beautiful view this year.

It started off very well in the spring – my training with Alison Naney of Cascade Endurance was really great with our focus on the Highland Fling at the end of April. Adam and I ran that together and it was hard, fun, and incredible all at once. Racing internationally was a whole new challenge (now with more logistics and new foods!), but a welcome one. Amazing views were seen (top of Conic Hill) and lessons learned (bring Dramamine for post-race bus trip!) Traveling around Scotland after that was also an amazing experience and probably my absolute favorite vacation to date! I learned so much from all of the distillery tours that we went on, and it just increased my fascination with whisky and the whisky-making process.

After returning home, I started running again and quickly developed some intense and mysterious pain in my right leg, stemming from my hip. This put a huge damper on my summer, and it took many many months to rehab to where I could run/hike again – five months. I’m so lucky and grateful it wasn’t more serious, but I’ve never dealt with such a long-term injury like that before, and it was a very humbling experience. I like to think that I learned from it in a number of ways. Mostly patience with myself and gratitude for my body being (generally) willing and able to do what I ask of it. (I also learned that I’m as cheerful as a sleep-deprived cat if I can’t run, and very unhappy when I lose hold of my identity as a runner.)

Even with some lingering niggles, at the end of the year I was able to get running again and even run a 25K. That was very heartening, and was a good way to lead up to “real” training again, starting now in January!

Looking forward into 2017, I’m aiming for bigger challenges this year. I wouldn’t say I’ve “mastered” the 50 miler by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always wanted to try longer races (100K & 100 miler) and let’s be honest, I’m not getting any younger. (Right?) What better time than now? So bring it on! What races exactly will I be doing? I’ll keep you in suspense…(they’re not open for registration yet, so I’ll let you know when I’m actually signed up – I don’t want to jinx it!)

2017 will be about new mental challenges with these longer distances, and I’m really excited about the journey. There will be growth opportunities galore! I mean, if you don’t have some personal epiphanies after 60+ miles in the mountains or in the middle of the night during a 100, I think you’re doing it wrong or not paying attention. OR…you’re very well balanced. Good for you. Anyway, I’m really excited (and nervous… but mostly excited) about the physical and mental challenges of these longer distances.

I’ll also be working with a new coach, Jess Mullen of FitFirst! She’s a very accomplished ultramarathoner, and I’m psyched (and slightly in awe) to be working with her. She specializes in 100s, which suits my goals nicely, and I can’t wait to learn from her. My first day of training with her was a day at the track. As a slow ultrarunner, going fast seems as foreign as a giraffe on the moon, but it was refreshing and hard. Yay!

A beautiful (but brisk) day to start training!

So… let 2017 begin!