Lake Tahoe Sprint Triathlon 2018

 

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Mone’ & Cortney at the swim start. Photo courtesy of Spike Wimmer

2018 marked the second year in a row that Cortney (aka Thing 2) and I have participated together in the Lake Tahoe Sprint Triathlon put on by Big Blue Adventure. In the week leading up to race day, our respective families expressed that they would rather sleep in and have a leisurely morning, than cheer us on at the race. Once we got over the devastation and heart break of having been abandoned by our husbands and kids [sarcasm] we realized we would have THE ENTIRE MORNING TO OURSELVES!  What? Yes – again for a second year in a row, we would have 5:00am to about noon entirely free of managing anyone or anything other than ourselves.  Oh these precious moments!LTT01

5:30AM on race day, Cortney emerged from her front door with gear and bike in hand and hoodie on into the VERY cold temperatures of a late-August, Truckee morning. When I say cold, I’m not exaggerating – we’re talking mid 30s. So as we climb into the car and exit the neighborhood that’s exactly where the conversation goes. Mid 30s? That’s nothing – we’re Truckee tough – right? We can handle this!  It’ll warm up before the race starts!  Yeah – that’s it – it’ll warm up!

40ish minutes later, we pulled into the Sugar Pine Point parking lot, flashed our California Poppy Pass(which enabled us to avoid the $10 parking fee) and proceeded to the nearest open spot.

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Sugar Pine Pt State Park, pc: Spike Wimmer

Sugar Pine Point is absolutely beautiful and is a gorgeous spot for spectators and race participants alike. So, after taking in a bit of the scenery, we made our way to packet pick up where we joked and chit-chatted with Misty and Bryan of Big Blue before racking our bikes in transition. Guess what… it was still cold.

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Sugar Pine Pt State Park, pc: Spike Wimmer

I usually wear a puffy and Uggs to the start of a triathlon in the Sierras, but for some reason, I didn’t this time.  I can honestly say that I really wish I had worn them both – it was really cold. As the sun came up though, little patches of warmth formed on the grass and we were able to soak up the rays as we put our wet suits on.

LTT03On that note, and from a gear standpoint, I highly recommend neoprene booties for this race.  While the water temperature was a toasty 70ish degrees, your feet will thank you while you await the swim start on cold sand and then once you exit the water to run back up the hill for about a quarter-mile. Without the booties, it honestly feels like you’re running on shards of glass.

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pc: Spike Wimmer

Similar to last year, the water was right up to the edge of the wall that was built as part of the mansion grounds where the race begins. There was no beach for all of us to wait on so we largely awaited the start in water up to our ankles while talking to Big Blue’s expert medic, Spike Wimmer. The water temperature felt like bath water compared to the still very cold air temperature (about 40 degrees)! Regardless of the air temp, we were able to take in the sunrise and scenery.  This is one of the most beautiful views of Lake Tahoe around.

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Spike Wimmer (amazing medic and all around great guy)!

As a couple of the waves started ahead of us, we noticed that almost every single swimmer ended up at least 25 yards to the north of the first buoy and tried to figure out if it was a sighting issue (swimming to the east, the sun is right in your eyes) or if it was a current/chop issue.  It turned out that there was some wind and chop which was pushing swimmers a bit to the north.  No worries there – we just aimed to the south of the first buoy to compensate. Note – remember to watch the swimmers in the waves ahead of you – you can gather quite a bit of course/conditions intel by doing so.

Anyway, our age group was called to start and we were off to tackle the course. Without further ado, here’s a recap of the course itself…

SWIM: The 550 yard swim is a rough “U” shape starting at the “North Boat House” of the mansion grounds. Upon starting, we swam east for about 100 yards to the first buoy and then south for another hundred(ish) yards to the second buoy which proved to be a guide around the small pier at the property.  From there it was a straight(ish) line in to the golden finish arch.

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Swim Course

As I mentioned before, I highly recommend neoprene booties for this race. You can get them on Amazon for about $15. While the water temperature is fantastic, waiting for the swim start as well as running back up to transition via the roughly quarter-mile combination of asphalt and dirt covered with pine needles, pine cones and rocks is made much more pleasant (and speedy) with booties to protect the feet.

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Bike Course

 

BIKE: The 10 mile bike ride travels out of the transition area and south along Highway 89.  The course is comprised of rolling hills with a total of about 500 feet in elevation gain.  It is open to vehicular traffic, but still provides plenty of opportunity to take in views of the area including Meeks Bay.  As an out and back course, the turn around point is about 5 miles from the transition area.  Don’t forget to thank the volunteers and Highway Patrol as you slow down to make the turn around and head home.

RUN:  Be still my beating heart!  Oh how I love this part!  It’s a two mile loop with about 100 feet of elevation gain, on a tiny bit of pavement, a lot of trail and a bit of sand.  As you run out of transition and on to course, there’s a steep(ish) descent on pavement which will make those legs feel a bit more rubbery than normal. Once you’re past that, there’s a bit of trail, a bit of sand and then before you know it, you’re running back up that steep hill into the finish.  While you’re out there though, ignore the fact that your heart feels like it’s going to beat right out of your chest and look east out over the lake for more of those beautiful views.

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Run Course

Running into this finish is so fun and exciting. The crowds are awesome, and the race staff and volunteers are wonderful! The post-race goodies are plentiful and range from fruit and bagels to a full BBQ and beer!

After Cortney and I finished our race, we gathered our gear and made our way over to check preliminary times.  We were both surprised to see that our times were slower than last year, but still very happy with the results.  We later learned that there was indeed some wind and chop with the swim (it wasn’t in our heads), which resulted in the additional time. It added roughly 5 minutes to each of our swim legs and overall times.  I would never have guessed that what I thought was a tiny breeze could have impacted our times so much. Nevertheless, we felt fantastic and had so much fun!

Super S6xy at RTO 2018

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Back row (LtoR): Jayson, Bryce, Abe, Nick, Jadd, Jeff, Chelsea, Drew and Mike Front row (LtoR): Cortney, Mone’ Gina, Angie, Dru, Trevor, Dave, Jackie and Heather photo credit: Nick and Angie’s next-door neighbor who had to listen to us prepping on the morning of the race for a couple of hours before departure

“The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Relay Run Adventure (RTO) is a relay from Reno to Lake Tahoe and back to Reno mRTO-map-1aking a large 178 mile loop around the Reno-Tahoe region.

The course is divided into 36 legs or segments, with each leg averaging about 5 miles.

The maximum number of runners that you may have on an RTO team is twelve (12). The relay is ideally suited for 12 person teams with each person running 3 legs. Ultra teams of six (6) or less persons are allowed.” – renotahoeodyssey.com

 

As you may be able to tell from the photo above, we had three Ultra teams of six people each named as follows:  Wakeup S6x, Breakup S6x and Makeup S6x.  Interpret those names how you will… The brain child behind these team names and the man responsible for herding all of us together was our ever organized, sarcastic and enthusiastic team captain, Nick.

There’s a long history to this group of people running this race going all the way back to 2012.  Some have been consistent participants from the get go, while some of us have participated in a few, but not all and lastly, some of us who were brand new to the crew this year. Regardless of our s6xy status, one thing was for sure – we all had a blast!

Nick took care to evenly distribute our runners (based on 10K pace times) across the three teams so that we would have the maximum potential to leap-frog the teams and the vans as well as the runners within each team.  Although he could have compiled a team of 6 ridiculously fast people to actually try to win the race, this event for this group, is more about having fun with and entertaining each other.

The chain of emails containing 10% logistics and 90% smack-talking, began nearly a year before the race itself and continued in varying degrees of frequency and content right up until the day of.  There were references to Tiny Tim in a too small reflective vest,  guys in short shorts (see photo of our amazing Toucan Boa shorts), down onesie running thermals, baked goods and a whole host of references to s6x.  While we all range in age from 30 to 40 (and a lot of us have kids of our own), our maturity level and sense of humor never progressed past junior high school.

I struggle to put into words how amazing this race was with these phenomenal people. Even with sleep deprivation, sour stomachs, heat during the day and freezing cold at night, we all had a blast and sported the endorphin glow for days, ok at least a week, after. Each time we got to relive it through pictures or videos the glow brightened back up a bit.

On that note, Dave put a highlight reel together which does a much better job of summarizing the experience than I could ever do through words.  Thank you to Dave Weisgerber for the video and to the entire team for photos and the good times!

CLICK HERE FOR HIGHLIGHT REEL

 

Chanoko 50K

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Back in November, right around the time I started my taper leading into CIM (California International Marathon), I was all sorts of fired up about running.  My body felt great and I had a ton of energy due to the taper, so what better time to register for a bunch of races? Well, that’s what I did.  I registered for the Carlsbad Marathon, the Salmon Falls 50K and Chanoko 50K.  Somehow, I managed to talk Cortney (aka Thing 2) into registering for Chanoko as well – as her first 50K no less!  Please note that she is clearly the more intelligent and level headed of the two of us as she didn’t think it would be a great idea to register for all three races.

You can read all about my CIM experience, but let’s just say that I spent most of December and January doing absolutely nothing, but recovering from a terrible virus and watching my early season race ambitions implode.  I have since come to the realization that registering for races during the taper phase of any training plan is the equivalent of online shopping while inebriated – it seems like a great idea at the time, but then the alcohol wears off and rational thought sets in along with buyer’s remorse.

Fast forward to January – I was forced (doctor’s orders) to cancel on Carlsbad.  Fast forward to February and my attitude toward running became less “fired up, let’s do this” and more “f&#k that, I’m skiing!”, so I bailed on Salmon Falls too.

It’s a damn good thing that Cortney had signed up for Chanoko, and I felt mildly guilty for talking her into it, otherwise I probably would have bailed on that as well. So, fast forward to March and our daily conversations went something like this:

Cortney: “Are we even going to be able to finish this thing? We’re SO under-trained.”

Mone’: “Sure, just think of it as a long hike.  We could hike 30 miles right now, no problem right?”  (note – I was trying to convince myself as much as I was trying to convince Cortney)

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Just before the start. Yes, we color coordinated on purpose.

Come race day, we followed our normal routine at 5:00am and started the drive to Auburn Overlook Park. We arrived in plenty of time to park, poop and pick up packets (in that order, thank you very much).

There was a brief moment of confusion in which I didn’t seem to be registered for the race.  I’ll take this opportunity to confess that my first thought was “Oh well, I’ll see you at the finish Cortney. I’m going to go hang out at a coffee shop and take a nap in the car.” Alas, I was registered for the race after all!  Equal parts ‘whew’ and ‘dammit’!!!   After pinning numbers and last minute gear checks, we commenced snapping pictures and cracking jokes to pass the time until the start.

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Start line just below Auburn Overlook Park.

The weather was absolutely perfect – it was overcast, but not raining; cool but not cold. Perfect running weather!  Moments later Mark, from TBF Racing, literally wheelied in to the start on his mountain bike, dismounted and briefed us on the course before signally to GO!

MapThe course runs along the North Fork of the American River and Folsom Lake to finish at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area – Granite Bay.  While it starts at an elevation of about 1,300 feet and finishes at about 475 feet, for a net descent of about 825 feet, there are plenty of rolling hills throughout the course.  In fact, over the course of 31 miles, we climbed about 2,700 feet.

The timing of this race is absolutely perfect from a scenery standpoint.  While this area can get a bit dry and dusty in the summer months, we had a lush, green backdrop for race day.  A week before St. Patrick’s Day, we half expected little leprechauns to jump out at us while we gabbed away on course. Instead, we encountered deer, butterflies and wildflowers.  The scenery was stunning!

 

 

The first 15 or so miles or so flew by as we were catching up on all of our various topics of conversation: kids, family, kid drama, family drama, appetites, bodily functions – you know all of the important stuff.  At one point, we realized that the flags marking the course were bright pink and matched our shirts.  From that point on, and to the annoyance of anyone around us, we began shouting “PINK RIBBON!” any time we came upon a flag.  It was as much entertainment as self-reassurance that we were still on course.

At the 17ish mile mark, the course began to meander through a part of the Folsom Lake shoreline that is sometimes underwater. For whatever reason, I didn’t think to stop for pictures, but it was oddly creepy.  The topography went from lush green forest to swampy, eerie, driftwood covered badlands. Don’t get me wrong, it was still really pretty, just weird-pretty.

IMG_8835We emerged from this section at about 23 miles into the course, at which point we could look to our east and see the finish line.  I’ve run a few races like this where you run past the finish line, when you really just want to be done, only to have to keep going for another 5-10 miles.  Oh, how sadistic race directors can be! All kidding aside, the race directors did a great job on this inaugural 50K.  The aid stations were well stocked and manned by extremely friendly volunteers!

I’m not going to lie – the last 8 miles… how should I say this… sucked! The course diverted away from single track trails and onto fire-roads, gravel and the paved American River Bike Trail. The fire-roads weren’t so bad, but we had to cross two different levies out to Beal’s Point where we turned around and then back across those two levies to finish up.  The gravel, combined with the daunting visual made this a bit hellish.  Sadistic race directors [sarcasm]!  It didn’t help that both of us had entered the pain cave at this point.  Cortney’s lungs were acting up a bit and my right knee was locked up and becoming very painful. In reality, these last 8 miles would have made for a fun and fast finish had we been adequately trained.

Nonetheless, we pushed through, fueled by piss and vinegar, to cross the finish line in seven hours and ten minutes. Cortney finished first in her age group – not bad for her first 50K!

Thus far, I’ve only signed up for a handful of races since Chanoko.  “Recovery Phase Race Signup Syndrome” is totally different than “Taper Phase Race Sign Up Syndrome”, right?

 

 

CIM 2017 – That Hurt…

As I sit here the day after finishing CIM, I still find myself struggling to figure out exactly how I feel about the 26.2 miles I ran.  Without a doubt, it was the perfectly conflicted ending to a perfectly conflicted season.

My 2017 summer running season came to a screeching halt in early August when I pulled my right calf.  For the following two months I basically shifted the bulk of my physical activity to cycling and swimming and attempted to run here and there until my calf would threaten re-injury.  I accomplished some pretty exciting things in that time including a 3 1/2 hour swim around the perimeter of Donner Lake, which I’m still pretty ecstatic about.   Then in mid-September, my back decided to join the party pooping which eliminated my cycling option and made pretty much everything painful.  Emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement.

I finally threw in the towel the first week of October and resolved to let my body heal rather than try to train through the pain.  Knowing full well that there would be little to no chance of achieving my time goals for CIM this year, I informed my coach that I was going to abandon training rather than try to force my body into adhering to a schedule.  I stopped running altogether and started going to yoga again on a regular basis.  Luckily, a few of my favorite local yoga instructors opened Truckee Yoga Collective this same week.

Two weeks of taking it easy, lots of yoga, swimming and a few easy “test runs” and my back and calf issues were fully resolved – by mid October I was able to pick up running again without fear of injury. From there I was able to gradually increase my mileage culminating with a couple of 45-mile weeks.  Having come back from injury I found myself really looking forward to race day!

Then on Monday, November 27th, FIVE days before CIM, I felt the itch.  You know – the itch in the ears and throat that foretells the onset of a cold.  Commence denial – I AM NOT GETTING SICK!  By Wednesday, I was laid out on my couch surrounded by the carnage of a cold – so many tissues.  I was doing everything I could to get through this cold in time to run CIM.  I drank tea and electrolytes. I took Zicam.  I used Flonase.  I went to our local “hippie dippie” grocery store and loaded up on herbal stuff to reduce congestion and increase immunity.  For the record, I usually don’t buy into holistic stuff but at this point I was willing to try anything – even just for the placebo effect.  By Friday I had lost my voice from coughing as a result of post-nasal drip (sorry TMI).  By Saturday afternoon, I was in my car driving to Sacramento to pick up my bib at the CIM Expo – I still felt like crap, but I’m stubborn.

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CIM Expo 2017

 

Sunday morning at 3:30am I woke up feeling pretty good – still a bit congested but my energy levels were decent and I felt up for running.  Fast forward a few hours to the race start at 7:00am – OK yeah – I feel pretty good!  Caffeine – check, poop – check (again sorry TMI, but this is SO important!), still coughing but not much – check.  Let’s do this!  Go time!

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CIM Start Line 6:55 am

 

The race starts out on a gradual downhill and it’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline and excitement.  I started out in the 9 min mile pace range which proved to be really comfortable, but I resolved to stay there and not push too hard given my health status.  I actually felt really really good and started thinking that I may be able to hold on to maintain a finish time consistent with the prior year of (3:58). This feeling lasted all the way through the half marathon point of the race.

At that point, my knees and hip-flexors started to get a bit cranky almost as if to remind me that I was indeed undertrained for this event.  I’ve always encountered discomfort during races and it typically takes the form of migrating pain that never lasts in one area for very long, so I figured that’s what this was.  “Run through it, it won’t last” is what I kept telling myself.  At mile 15 it became clear that the pain was not going away and not migrating.  It was staying put and now my right shin was starting to hurt as well.  “WTF?  I’ve never had shin splits! Run through it, embrace the pain cave.”

I watched as the 3:57 pace group passed me and realized I couldn’t hold on to them which was more emotionally and mentally painful than any physical pain I was experiencing at the time.  It was becoming abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to be able to pull some miracle out of my ass and hold on to my time from 2016. By mile 17 my legs were screaming at me and I began contemplating dropping at the next aid station.  I started to walk if for no other reason than to stretch out my stride and hopefully loosen up the tension creating the pain throughout my lower extremities. To top things off, my cough was back and every once in a while, I’d be racked with a hacking fit. I watched, completely discouraged, as the 4:00 pace group passed by.

At this point, my pace had dropped to roughly an 11 min mile alternating between walking and jogging.  As I continued to contemplate dropping out of the race, a text message came through on my watch from my friend, Jenelle.  “Yeah Mone’!!! Keep it up you’re running strong!!!!” She had looked at the live tracking which showed my results up until the halfway point when I was still feeling good.  I actually started to tear up – I felt completely emotionally and physically drained and discouraged, but I kept going. I knew how much she had endured during her last TRT 100 miler and I figured what I was going through was nothing in comparison.

I’m not going to lie – every single step for the next nine miles hurt.  Every single aid station was a temptation to quit.  Every ounce of my body wanted to stop.  I have no idea how I kept moving. The 4:17 pace group passed me, but I was so close to being finished.  “Let’s just get this over with” kept repeating in my brain.  The last two miles seemed to take FOREVER, but I finally crossed the finish line at 4:23:19, or an average pace of 9:58/mi.  For the record, the course has an extra .2 miles tacked on at the end, at least according to my Garmin. Regardless, this was over 25 minutes slower than my CIM 2016 time.

There was no rush of excitement, or surge of a runner’s high.  I gathered my drop bag, made my way to the post-race brunch, found a bathroom and hid in a stall to cry.  I don’t cry.  I’m not a crier, but for some reason this was a very emotional finish and it ended accordingly. With snot streaming out of my nose and tears running down my cheeks, I changed out of my wet clothes and into dry garb that I had packed in my drop bag. A few minutes later, I emerged out of the stall with tears wiped away and a finisher’s medal around my neck.

The race organizers for CIM have a brilliant tactic to lock runners in year after year.  It goes like this…  You run the race and then you get an email a day later offering the “Re-Run Special”. It is perfectly timed because the pain and discomfort from having just finished a marathon has largely started to dissipate and already begun to fade from memory with nostalgia taking its place.  The special is a significantly discounted rate that is only available to 500 returning runners (over 8,000 runners participated this year) and only available for a very limited time after the race you’ve just run.  This tactic has sucked me in every year since I started running this race in 2014 – the thought being “well, it’s so inexpensive to sign up now that I may as well and if I don’t end up running it, no biggie”. I just got that email and I just registered for CIM 2018.

**Thank you to Jenelle Potvin for sending the perfect text at the perfect time.  I don’t think I would have finished otherwise.

The Great Trail Race – 2017

In its second year, the Great Trail Race took place this past Sunday, October 8th. It’s another great, local race put on by Big Blue Adventure and is a fundraiser for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue. The event offers participants the ability to run or ride one of two point-to-point courses:  the Classic and Elite Courses.  The Classic Course which is comprised of roads, fire roads and trails through the Tahoe National Forest and totals about 17.9 miles with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  The Elite Course follows a portion of the Classic Course, but diverts onto technical segments of the Tahoe Rim, Tevis and Sawtooth Trails to increase the mileage to about 21.5 miles with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

Leading into the race, I had been battling a couple of injuries that had really put a damper on my running since early August. First, I had pulled my calf which pretty much eliminated any running ability whatsoever until the first week of September when I was able to pick it up and run a couple of races, including the Truckee Half Marathon.  Shortly after the half, my lower back freaked out and put a stop to pretty much any physical activity whatsoever.   It was bad and I suffered from muscle spasms that would make me convulse as though I was wearing a shock collar.  Great!  Just in time for Halloween!  I could be one of the zombies in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.  Lucky for me, my back decided to calm down two days before the Great Trail Race. Sweet!

The afternoon before the race, Cortney (aka Thing 2) and I went for a three-mile shake out run in our neighborhood and continued our current debate of “Costumes or No Costumes”. When we were about a quarter-mile from home, my calf started cramping up and becoming quite painful. Are you f#$%ing kidding me? The calf heals up then the back goes out.  The back heals up then the calf starts acting up.  WTF?  The “Costume or No Costume” debate was over.  We decided against costumes as my mood really wasn’t going to be conducive to Thing 1 & Thing 2 antics. I was discouraged and Cortney could tell.

Just then, my very fast former collegiate runner friend, Tiffany, sent me a text to let me know she had decided to sign up last minute and run it with us. “OK, but I’m going to be slow – my calf started cramping and I’m going to take it easy.”  Tiffany insisted she was ok with that and promised to leave me as carrion for the crows if she wanted to bolt. I went home and spent some quality time with my foam roller, compression socks, Arnica and topical magnesium.  Just in case all of my muscle spasm and cramping issues were due to a potassium deficiency, I had a couple of bananas as a snack.

By some minor miracle, I woke up the morning of the race and my calf was markedly improved – enough to give it a go and at least start the race. Cortney’s Front Door Race Shuttle Service picked me up at 7:55 and we then drove the mile or so to get Tiffany. All three of us were adorned in bright pink shirts and black bottoms of some sort.  Not costumes but we pulled off matchie-matchie just for fun.

Just after checking in and getting our bibs, we ran into Steve Buelna and his friend/neighbor, Raeleigh Harris. Steve proceeded to chide us for not wearing costumes and as soon as Raeleigh spoke, Cortney shouted “You are adorable!!!!!”.  Raeleigh, you see, has the loveliest accent and clearly Cortney was perfectly caffeinated. Turns out Raeleigh is also incredibly fast and was the first female to cross the finish line of the classic course wow!  But that’s her story to tell.

start1Fast-forward to the race start; Bryan Rickards of Big Blue Adventure, sent us all out in waves about a minute or two apart.  First the cyclists doing the elite course followed by classic and then runners in the same order.  The three of us started out at a very conservative jog to allow my calf and back to warm up and for me to take inventory of my aches and pains.  All systems were a go so we jogged and chatted our way through the first 3.5 miles of rolling hills on fire road.  The incline increased just after the 3.5-mile mark which forced me to back off and power hike for fear of straining or injuring my calf.  The amazing friends that they are, Tiffany and Cortney hung back with me instead of ditching me and running for the hills [literally].

moss on treesThe views were stunning and the morning couldn’t have been more perfect from a weather standpoint. As we climbed the sun warmed our faces and made us grateful for the hats and sunglasses we were wearing. The crisp fall air, had clearly worked it’s magic and fall color began to greet us along the way.  Green moss clung to shady sides of pine tree trunks and branches.  It was beautiful! If there’s a silver lining to being injured and being forced to slow down, it’s that you can actually take in the scenery rather than focus on running fast.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself right now.

viewWell, we had plenty of time to get in all of the therapy, bitching, joking, goofing around and picture taking we wanted since we were climbing (and alternating between a slow jog and power-hiking) pretty much until the 10.2 mile mark, as you can see from the elevation profile below.

GTR Elevation

Once we crested the summit, we were greeted by yet another smimeadow at summitling, friendly volunteer manning an aid station with fuel and hydration.  “It’s all downhill from here ladies – you’ve reached the summit!”  That was music to our ears!

The views from the summit were beautiful with fairy-tale meadows of granite, squaw carpet and towering pine trees lining our path.

My calf had no problems with the downhills so we didn’t have to hold back. It’s a good thing too, because at this point we were getting hungry and we knew there was beer and a BBQ waiting for us – FEED OUR LEGS!

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Photo courtesy of Lefrak Photography & Big Blue Adventure

We continued down the paved road from the summit for about 3 miles where we diverted off of the pavement and onto the single track trail known as “Woop-dee-doo” which we wooped dee dooped all the way through Burton Creek State Park for the last 4ish miles of the race. Cortney and I couldn’t help ourselves so we jumped over the finish to an awaiting Tiffany.

You’d think we would be a little fatigued and moving a little slowly, but heck no, not when there’s food involved! Get out of our way – we bee-lined it to the BBQ to collect our grub to refuel and beer to numb our legs.

Thank you once again to Big Blue Adventure, Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue and all of the volunteers for another great event in our Truckee/Tahoe playground!

Emerald Bay Trail Run 2017 – Families that Race Together….

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In August 2016, I decided to reward myself with a shorter distance race. I had been struggling with my health for over 2 years and finally got a diagnosis, treatment and was on the mend. Being a newbie to Truckee, I had (and still have) a big giant bucket list of races and adventures I’d like to experience. Not knowing it was a slightly challenging course, I signed up for the Emerald Bay Trail Run as my back-in-the-saddle race. I was super excited to do this 7-miler, and knew I wasn’t in great running shape but enjoyed it anyway. My then 6-year-old son Jack cried angrily the entire hour leading up to the start of the race. He had just weeks before done a fundraiser at school and completed six miles at the school “track” so he was desperate to convince me he could race with me. When I completed the race last year, he was so angry with me that I promised him he could do it next year. Thankfully, he changed his mood and we moved on. Or so I thought.

As soon as summer 2017 approached us, my now 7-year-old son began to randomly ask when the “trail race” will be. I was initially shocked that he remembered, but even more surprised that he still wanted to run 7 miles! I continued to appease him by telling him it’s in September and that we’ll sign up as it gets closer. The summer progressed quickly (insert sad face here) and before we knew it, we were in the week before the race. After a family pow-wow, my husband and Jack both decided to do the race with me. I was so excited! I knew my 10 year old daughter was going to regret not doing the race but I didn’t want to force or push my love for running on her so I left it alone.

The night before the race, favorite son and I made our overnight oats, set out our outfits and he chose his flavor of gel (why do kids think they’re delicious?) He charged up my old Garmin Forerunner and laid out his clothes and his “fastest” shoes. Husband, of course, waited until 13 minutes until we needed to leave to get all of his gear ready.

Driving to the start at Eagle Point was mostly me excitedly chattering and my husband and son patiently listening. Once we parked, walked down to the starting line at the campground and had a last potty stop, Jack kindly asked me to stop talking to him. I realized he was getting pretty nervous and it reminded me when I couldn’t even think of talking minutes before the start of the Donner Lake Triathlon. Okay son, I get it.

We lined up at the start, the horn blew and we were off! Dozens of fellow runners joined us as we made our first half mile, climbing almost 250 feet in just a matter of minutes. Husband and I agreed that we’d have Jack walk the uphills and let him run the flat and downhills. I was stoked to teach him about fueling, listening to your body, keeping a steady pace, and of course how amazing it feels to charge through the finish line.

We cruised through the first several miles without a hiccup, shocked that Jack was holding a 9:30 pace! I had a tiny bit of race envy about others (ahem, Mone’) that were truly racing this course. Then I gave myself a little pinch of reality…I was running a trail race with my two most favorite boys of all time!

I looked at my watch and saw we were just at 2.5 miles as we began our trek around the gorgeous Emerald Bay. Jack got to experience his first aid station and I was just excited to get some amazing pictures. We ran through Sugar Pine Pine Campground (where Jack and I conspired to make Husband camp next year),  and began several more moderate climbs throughout DL Bliss State Park. Although the trail was mostly single track, there were some pretty awesome rock-steps, log bridges and we even ran over AND under a waterfall! Yes, we’re still dealing with snow melt in our mountains! Words don’t do these views justice, they are absolutely breathtaking.

It wasn’t until mile 5 that Jack began to lose steam. We all took a good 15 minutes to walk the course, take some big gulps of water and jack enjoyed (huh?) his caramel Gu. We didn’t want him to spontaneously combust but we were also confident that he could complete and even thrive on this run. There were two specific times when Jack asked if he could just sit on “that log over there” or just rest for a minute. I knew if we let him stop, it would be even more difficult to get him going again. One of my favorite part of racing is the little boost of confidence and morale a runner gets when he’s cheered during a race. Almost every person we passed on the trail or runner that passed us gave Jack a cheer, high 5 or was just plain in awe of his tiny little body doing something so amazing. Once his gel kicked in, we were back to an easy pace and I couldn’t wait to show him what was to come. I remembered from last year that the photographer was camped out at the top of a pretty steep cliff, and beyond that was the coolest section of the trail…

We approached the photographer as expected and all three ran past him. I quickly shouted “WAIT! Let’s jump!” And so we did!

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Photo courtesy of Lefrak Photography

Yep, I was totally geeked out. And the coolest part of the race was upon us. We reached the single track, in the most literal sense of the word, and snaked through the last mile of the course. The cliff has such a vertical drop that there is a chain “railing” to keep people from falling off the edge! Through rocks, wedging under enormous boulders and jumping off large granite steps, Jack finished his race in true parkour (sp?) fashion. Up one final climb out of DL Bliss, we saw that the dirt trail quickly turned to sand, which meant we were just feet away from the finish line! And so our own cheering-on for our little guy began. He continued to melt and ask when we were “there.” We reached the parking lot to Lester Beach and I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of emotion. I told Jack to look up, there’s the finish! Little Man turned on his turbo jets, Husband and I looked at each other and did all we could to hold back the waterworks. As we crossed the finish line as a team, Jack beamed. More than his ability to run, his desire to race, we were most proud of this amazing opportunity to do this run TOGETHER. My cup was full.

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Jack on the podium!

We hung out at the finish on Lester Beach with our friends and family for drinks (hello, Lagunitas), snacks and the awards ceremony. You guessed it, Jack won second place in his age group and was the youngest runner to race. We missed our girl and told her so when we got home, which convinced her to join us next year. We are so in for 2018.

The Truckee [Half] Marathon

By:  Thing 1 & Thing 2

FullSizeRender3We’re neighbors.  We’re friends.  We run together, bike together, walk our kids to and from the bus together.  We help each other with our respective children.  We’re like sister-wives without the shared husband.  We each have our own –  thankfully, because we’re also competitive and competitive wife-ing could get ugly.

Not surprisingly, we also have done a lot of races together this summer.  When we both decided to run the Truckee Half Marathon, we decided to run it in costume… together, as Thing 1 and Thing 2: because why not!?!?!?! So, the following race report has, of course, been written by the two of us, yep you guessed it… together.

Thing 2: In true pre-race preparation, Thing 1 one and I readied our costumes on the eve of the race. Complete with blue fur headband, striped socks and red tutu, we excitedly laid out our costumes and began texting each other with ramblings of what tomorrow may hold. The plan was for Thing 1 to pick me up (just two doors down) at 6:55 am to be down to the race headquarters by 7:05. I know, big commute. I’m not sure how we managed to get any sleep that night, we were as giddy as two school girls the night before Prom.

The morning of the race, I hurried and dressed in my perfectly Seussical costume, ate my standard pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and bananas, drank ALL the coffee and kissed my family goodbye while snuggly in their beds. In true Thing 1 fashion, she pulled up to my house at 6:52 and raced up to my doorstep. I opened the door, we looked each other over and immediately began jumping up and down in excitement. Yep, two grown-ass women, dressed in stripes and tutus, pig tails and blue fur headbands, jumping up and down at 6:52 in the morning. Great way to start a Sunday!

When we arrived at the race start and check-in, we carried a buzz of infectious excitement and made our way to packet pickup. Everyone of course recognized Thing 1 because of her deep love for Big Blue races, but as a fairly new Big Blue racer, I was welcomed with laughs from fellow racers. We picked up our bibs, rushed back to the car to pin them to our tutus and get a break from the 28-degree weather. Before we knew it, it was time to race! It may have been the distraction of the costumes or that this was a training race for us, but we felt an odd absence of pre-race jitters and were just ready to run and have fun.

Thing 1: As we made our way to the start line, we got in to full character –  giddy, silly, jokesters who weren’t taking ourselves or anything else, for that matter, seriously at all. It’s amazing how a simple costume can do that.  Todd Jackson, the race director, gave the race briefing and then we were off.  Thing 2 and I started toward the back of the pack because, clearly, we were in this thing to go all out and win it (#sarcasm). Running through historic old town Truckee, we waved to both of our respective workplaces which happen to be a few doors down from each other and that’s truly when the antics began.  We started laughing – a lot.  We waved, and yelled ‘hello’ and ‘good morning!’ to pretty much anyone or anything that passed us or that we passed.  Yes, we may have been a wee bit obnoxious.  So, for those on course who were in the zone: we apologize or you’re welcome if we distracted you from your game day focus.

At about a 1/4 mile in, we veered away from Donner Pass road and began the climb up the dirt road to the community college and encountered our first race photographer.  GAME ON!  We started jumping, bouncing squeaking and squealing.  Yes, like two school girls.  Clearly, we entertained (and possibly annoyed) the other runners around us.  As we descended the road down to the intersection of Deerfield Drive and Highway 89, we began planning what we would do for the next photographer.  Would we jump?  Curtsy? Fake a fall?  Somersault?  The possibilities were endless.  At the stop light, we encountered Steve Buelna who was running his first marathon and struck up a short conversation while Steve tried to keep a straight face.  As we all crossed 89, we wished him good luck and most importantly fun! Based on his race report it sounds like he had a wonderful time and a very successful first marathon. Congrats Steve!

Just as Todd had warned us in the race briefing, at about the two-mile mark, there was a section of single track and a plank bridge over a stream requiring all of us to run single file.  No passing allowed.  From there, we crossed the road headicropped-21949730_1611309412273880_2402948014586523968_o1.jpgng into Coldstream Canyon and met up with the second and third race photographers!!!!!  SHOW TIME!  We ran, we jumped, we squeaked – and apparently, we made some funny faces too.

Thing 2: As we made our way into the Donner Lake Campground and picnic area, Thing 1, in all her deep Truckee history knowledge, began to play tour guide and point out certain rocks and landmarks where the Donner Party camped out and snacked upon one another during the infamous winter of 1846/47. After running through the park and past what we call “the lagoon”, we began our climb up South Shore drive. During the Donner Lake Tri, I was convinced that this particular hill would be the cause of my untimely death – maybe Thing 1 needs a snack? Today was another story. We walked up the steepest section to help protect Thing 1’s pending calf recovery and enjoyed (really?) our mid-race nutrition (no cannibalism necessary). Once we hit the top of South Shore Drive, we resumed our comfortable run/chatting-pace and made our way FullSizeRender1around Donner Lake. This lake holds a special place in our hearts and we were surprised to see how low the water level was compared to a month prior. As we began running east along the north shore of Donner, we energetically waved at cars and passersby as we ran. I checked my watch and was surprised to see that we had hit mile 8. Only 5 more miles to go! I couldn’t believe how quickly this run was moving, but then realized that Thing 1 was my audio book/music/entertainment and our consistent chattering caused me to forget we were even running.

When we reached the overpass to continue onto Donner Pass, we decided to kick it up a notch – in the entertainment department that is.  The Truckee Police Department had detoured the traffic and gave us a giant smile and a happy wave as we passed by. Thank you, Truckee PD, for keeping all of us runners safe!  We waved at EVERY car and cheered when they gave us a wave, a smile or a honk in return. “Good morning!” “Hiiii!!” We had made it our objective to turn running into a performance art. Awesome.

Thing 1: Continuing east on Donner Pass Rd., there really wasn’t much in the way of scenery to distract us from entertaining ourselves or oncoming traffic.  We got more animated, waving with hands in the air, smiling, jumping, whatever.  Turning left at mile 11ish we encountered the dreaded Northwoods climb.  Again, walking at a brisk pace to avoid reinjuring my calf, we continued our mobile comedy show. Traffic was moving slow enough that we could easily see people’s reactions.  On the rare occasion that someone didn’t laugh or wave back, we just got more ridiculous until they couldn’t help but crack a smile.  Would we have done this had we not been in costume, hell no!  Costumes are the best!

We topped out at mile 12, turned right and proceeded onto the bike path heading back to the finish.  What?  No more audience in cars to perform for?  Oh well – the giggles and silliness continued all the way.  Who cares if no one else was entertained.  We certainly were! This section of path is also quite pretty as well – bonus!

Our families were waiting for us about a tenth of a mile from the finish.  The kids were cheering and screaming for us.  Our husbands were mildly embarrassed but laughing and cheering as well.  The kids joined us and we literally held hands and skipped across the finish line.  It wasn’t either of our fastest half-marathon times – we finished in 2:25:37, but it was definitely the most fun either of us have ever had running a race!

Thanks Big Blue, Truckee PD and of course all of the volunteers for such a fun day!

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Truckee Swim Classic – 2.4 Humbling & Inspiring Miles of Donner Lake

This past Sunday, September 10th, 2017 was the inaugural Truckee Swim Classic hosted by Big Blue Adventure as part of the Sierra Open Water Swim Series.  The series boasts four distinct events throughout the summer months in addition to this event:  the Sand Harbor Swim, Alpine Fresh Water Swim and the Lake Tahoe Swim.

Individual swimmers can opt to race in a 2.4 mile, 1.2 mile or 500 meter race. The race also includes a 4×100 meter relay option for teams as well as Kids’ Races.  This was going to be my first open water swim race so naturally I decided to swim the 2.4.  Go big or go home – right?

That was kinda, sorta the case with me. I had been swimming a lot leading up to the race – not necessarily to train for the event, but because I was coping with a calf injury that tabled all of my running for about a month. In an effort to stave off endorphin withdrawals, I turned all of my attention to swimming and cycling. Endorphins make me happy.  Exercise produces endorphins therefore exercise makes me happy. Really really happy.  You know what I’m talking about! Besides, there’s no better way to see the beauty that surrounds us – you don’t get that in a gym!

Anyway, I had a few long swims under my swim cap leading into the race including a three-mile East to West Donner Lake swim and a six-mile Donner Lake circumnavigation. The result: ego inflated.  So yeah – 2.4 miles?  No problem – I got this [I think]!

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The race takes place at West End Beach, which offers an incredible vantage point for some spectacular sunrises. The morning of the race didn’t disappoint.  As the sun came up during check-in, the sky lit up in a spectrum of color, steam rose off of the lake in white ribbons and the moon was perfectly positioned above the peaks that hover over the beach.

As for the course itself, the 1.2 and 2.4 mile options consisted of laps around three buoys in a triangular shape (see the orange triangle below). The blue triangle depicts the 500-meter course.

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1.2 mile swimmers completed two laps while the 2.4 mile swimmers completed four laps after a swim start in the canal that you can see leading into the lake. If you don’t know Donner, this canal is the inlet into the lake and is full of water coming from runoff at higher elevations.  In other words, it’s snowmelt and it’s cold.  Thankfully, the start is the coldest part of the course and it only got warmer from there.

Swimming out of the canal, into the more shallow depths gives swimmers the ability to see the floor of Donner Lake, which is actually quite interesting if you can relax enough to pay attention to it. There’s a lot to see – fallen trees, little white shells and the shelf of the lake, which drops dramatically.  You can actually see it in the picture above.  Notice where the brighter green turns to darker green – right about that spot, swimmers transition from easily being able to see the bottom of the lake to swimming in an abyss of dark green water.  With 2.4 miles of swimming to go, it gave me plenty of time to take in all of the scenery both above the water and below.

Mentally, I initially found the first two laps to be a bit daunting and not as interesting as a point to point would have been. With that said, I found that I enjoyed being able to tackle different parts of the course with more efficiency with each lap.  For example, with the first lap I found that I kept getting pushed out to the right of the first buoy.  Now this could have been a fault in my navigating as we were sighting into the sun, but physically, I’m almost convinced that there was a slight current created by the water flowing into the lake from the channel.  With the subsequent laps, I was able to compensate and maintain a more direct line out to the first buoy.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, I could hear the announcement of swimmers coming in to the finish line from the various distances. I got to hear a lot of them – I had started the race in the back of the pack and stayed there the entire time.   Rounding the last buoy and making my way into the finish I was surprised with a fresh-water kelp forest that was beautiful, but at the same time, a bit creepy to swim through.  As I crawled on to the shore and made my way through the finish arch, I was met with a wildly opposing set of realizations.  First, the time clock read 1:12:44.  I finished almost 18 minutes faster than I had anticipated.  I was elated!  Second, and completely in contradiction to my first reaction, I realized that I may be the last person out of the water.  I actually asked Bryan Rickards (Big Blue’s Director of Ops) at the finish arch if I was “DFL” – Dead ____ Last.  No, but very close. I was completely humbled.

DFL isn’t a dig; it’s not an insult. DFL is a badge of honor to be worn proudly. It means that you had the guts to take on a challenge, and the tenacity and grit to finish regardless of how you might place.  It means you didn’t give up and drop, or ask for a tow in to shore.

Humbled by the talent and speed of the field and inspired to train harder and with more focus, I will be back next year to see if and how I can improve my performance.

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Breaking Up with Running

On Wednesday, August 2nd at precisely 6:07AM, I pulled my right calf. Yes, I know the exact date and time because I was running with my friend, Cortney and we were heading up a hill just outside of the Donner Picnic Site to meet more friends, Audrey, Tiffany and JP, for a run on Drunken Deer. My calf had been tight since the night before and suddenly, I felt a pop followed by pain and an inability to run or even walk without a limp. #@&^!! Damnit!   #@&^!! #@&^!! #@&^!!. #@&^!! All the bad words!

I had literally just signed up for the Sierra Crest 30K two days before this happened and planned to run the race in three days’ time. #@&^!! Damnit!   #@&^!! #@&^!! #@&^!!. All the bad words!

Needless to say I was in a very bad mood for the rest of the day, but then managed to convince myself that it really wasn’t that bad and I just needed to stay off of it for a day and it’d be fine. Fine! It will be fine damnit! Wear a compression sleeve, ice it, ignore the limp, ignore the pain – mind over matter right? It. Will. Be. FINE! Yeah, not so much.

Three days later, Abe (my husband) and I headed to the Alder Creek Adventure Center for the start of Sierra Crest. Our plan had been for him to run the 50K which starts an hour ahead of the 30K, catch up with me on the 30K course and then we’d run together for whatever portion remained of the race. The 50K started and I sent him off with a kiss, a pat on the behind and a “see you in a little bit”.

An hour later, the 30K started and I was limping from the first step – this was not going to end well. A little running guardian angel (eh hem – Carol Lindsay) called out to me “Mone’ you’re limping”. Yes, yes I know, but maybe it’ll loosen up. It’ll be fine. FINE! I swear – it’ll be fine! Nope.

It did loosen up for a bit, but was never pain free. Then the pain started to get worse and three miles in, I decided to throw in the towel and accept my first DNF. It wasn’t worth a long term injury. Discouraged, defeated and depressed, I turned around and started my hike back to the Adventure Center. I crossed paths with Abe about a mile and a quarter on the way back. This was not how we had planned this. Nonetheless, I could tell he was having a great race thus far and was so excited for him. Another quick kiss and he was on his way. I proceeded down “The Path of Defeat” [read with an ominous, gruff voice]. No swear words, no feisty defiance – just depressed resignation.

Abe at the Sierra Crest 50K finish

I decided that I would allow myself to wallow for a few hours and then buck up in time to go watch Abe finish. He called me about an hour away from finishing so that I could be there in time. Of course Abe finished a lot faster than he expected and I managed to miss it by about five seconds. Abe had a great race and was pretty happy as a result. I’d like to say that it was contagious but I’ll be honest in that although I was happy for him, I was still depressed about what I was coming to terms with as a legitimate injury that wasn’t going to miraculously vanish any time soon.

The day after Sierra Crest, I rebelled against my calf and broke up with Running. “F@#^ you, calf! F@#^ you, Running! If I can’t run, I’ll date Biking and Swimming and whatever! I don’t need Running – yeah that’s it. I’ll find endorphin fueled happiness again without you, Running!” Anyway, I decided I was done wallowing and that I was just going to focus on other things until my calf decided to cooperate. That morning I took my mountain bike out on the Animal. What on earth made me think I could ride Animal? I suck at mountain biking. I’m not exaggerating and I’m not being humble. I’m being factual – I suck at mountain biking, but since I was in a defiant, rebound from Running mood – F@#^ that! I went out and pedaled away on freshly rained on dirt. It was GLORIOUS! Angels singing, sun light emerging from behind clouds – GLORIOUS! When I got home and told Abe how much fun it was, he beamed. He has been trying to get me to mountain bike for years. Later that day we went to visit friends at Palisades Lake and when they wanted to swim across, I happily joined in. Same thing – angels singing, sun light emerging, all that jazz – it was awesome! “See – told you so Running, I don’t need you! I have these other sports that want me! Ha – take that!”

So for the next three weeks, I did my best not to drunk dial Running and just be happy dating Road Biking, Mountain Biking and Swimming. Yes, occasionally I would succumb to my feelings for Running and give a reconciliation a chance. Each time, Running and I would work well together for a little bit but then old wounds would reopen and I’d feel hurt and depressed again.   “F@#^ you, calf! F@#^ you, Running! We are never ever everrrrrr getting baaaaaaack together [thank you Taylor Swift]”

Before swimming Donner East to West

I managed to talk Cortney into swimming Donner Lake with me from East to West. I love that Cortney and I can talk each other into almost anything. Everyone needs a friend like that – especially when you’re going through a break up. So yeah – we did that on Wednesday, August 16th bright and early in the morning. It took us about an hour and a half to swim the three miles from the TD Beach to West End. Queue singing angels…..

Looking West before walking in

I got to thinking that if swimming East to West was that awesome, what about swimming AROUND Donner? Searching online for a swim around Donner turned up absolutely nothing. I remembered that Rich Molsby had circumnavigated Donner a couple of years ago so I reached out to him to get some insight. Turns out he had done it solo and not as part of an organized event or race. He recommended swimming it after Labor Day and early in the morning.   Alrighty then. Hold that thought.

On August 26th, Cortney and I raced in the Lake Tahoe Sprint Triathlon. Cortney had a great race! I had a great race! My calf was fine throughout the race and even on the two-mile run leg. Maybe Running and I would be getting back together after all. I was signed up to race in the Olympic Triathlon the next day, but in typical fashion, Running hurt me again and my calf started to tighten up that evening. I wouldn’t be racing in the Olympic. “F@#^ you, calf! F@#^ you, Running! We are never ever everrrrrr getting baaaaaaack together [thank you again Taylor Swift]”

Well, as fate would have it, my father in law was going to visit that Monday through Wednesday and Abe and I would have childcare if we wanted to get out for an adventure together. Having run Waldo 100K on August 19th, I was able to convince Abe to stand on a paddle board for up to three and a half hours to pace me while I attempted to circumnavigate Donner. So, ready or not, I was going to make the attempt on Tuesday, August 29th.

Abe prepping the paddleboard

Abe and I headed out to Donner at 5:30 on the morning of the 29th. Abe unloaded the paddleboard and I put my wetsuit on. We entered the water at 6:09AM – while it was still pretty dark. Swimming the perimeter of Donner gave me an entirely different vantage point of the homes and area surrounding the lake than what I had experienced while running around the lake. The contrast was remarkable. Above the water, I got a tour of the homes, piers and landscape surrounding the lake. Below the surface, there is a whole otherworldly landscape. Huge granite boulders, tiny white shells, fallen trees, crawfish traps and the occasional human artifact suspended in the depths. I even saw what I think is an aquatic moth. Once the sun came up, the rays of light illuminated the deeper sections of my route and even proved to be a navigation tool. I found that I could tell if I was headed in the right direction depending on the angle of the rays. My mind didn’t wander once. I had anticipated that the swim would almost be entirely devoid of sensory stimuli, but it was completely the opposite. I was hyper aware of the visual and auditory surroundings as well as the temperature changes in the water and even changes in how the water smelled in different areas of the lake. Having Abe pace me on the paddleboard provided me with a sense of safety and security that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I knew he was watching for ski boats so I didn’t have to. Seeing him when I turned my head to breathe allowed me to relax and enjoy the entire experience.

Swimming with a buoy for safety. (pc: Abe Haen)
Even with a swim buoy, I’m difficult to see, so I was very grateful to have Abe scouting for ski boats. (pc: Abe Haen)

Three hours after entering the water, I drunkenly stumbled out of the water. Holy crap – I actually did it – I swam 6 miles around Donner Lake. As soon as I stopped moving I started to shake and shiver uncontrollably. Abe had to help me out of my wetsuit, and my neoprene booties. He wrapped me in a blanket and poured me a hot cup of coffee. I could go on and on and gush about how amazing and wonderful he is, but it makes him uncomfortable so I’ll just say he’s amazing and wonderful and leave it at that (sorry honey – I had to say something).

So, as much as I really really really hope that Running and I will get back together one day soon, I’ve fallen in love with Swimming and Biking as well.

Lake Tahoe [Sprint] Triathlon

Ahhh the Lake Tahoe Sprint Triathlon: yet another one of my favorite local races!  How could it not be a favorite?  The entire course showcases North America’s largest and most pristine alpine lake – Lake Tahoe of course!  The race starts and finishes at Sugar Pine Point State Park, which is home to the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion; a historic estate built in 1903.

This year I was all signed up and ready to race the Sprint on Saturday the 26th and the Olympic on Sunday the 27th.  Having tackled the Donner Lake Sprint and Olympic in similar fashion and having loved every second of both races, I was determined to repeat the process here in search of the epic, week-long endorphin high I had after Donner.

The morning of the race arrived, I jumped out of bed, piled all of my triaFullSizeRender 3thlon accoutrements into my car and drove the fifty feet to pick up my friend/neighbor, Cortney who was also racing.  It was 5:45AM and we were off to the race start at Sugar Pine Point.

Arriving on scene, there are three main stops to make. 1) Parking & Potty:  The parking lot at Sugar Pine Point is easy to access and has plenty of clean, well-maintained restrooms and of course the event provides even more porta-johns for those pre-race potty preparations.  2) Packet Pick Up: As usual, Misty (Big Blue’s Volunteer Coordinator) and her crew of volunteers ran a smooth operation and we had race packets in no time.  3) Transition & Body Marking:  Here comes that Sharpie again!  Bib number on left arm, age on calf then rack the bike and lay out all the gear.

FullSizeRender 2After our typical transition area antics, Cortney and I made our way down the roughly quarter-mile path to the water’s edge ahead of the race start.  The water level was SO HIGH this year!  I expected it to be higher than it had been in previous years, but not quite this high.  There was no beach.  Literally!  The water was right up to the edge of the wall that was built as part of the mansion grounds. While receiving prerace instructions and waiting for the waves to start we were able to take in the sunrise and scenery.  This is one of the most beautiful views of Lake Tahoe around.

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Waiting on the shore to start. Photo courtesy of Big Blue Adventure & Lefrak Photography

Once the first couple of waves launched, I overheard a group of fellow women pointing out that some of the swimmers in an earlier wave were cutting inside of the first buoy and that if those swimmers were going to cut the corner, they were going to follow suit.  Not cool for a couple of reasons:  1) I watched what these ladies were talking about and I actually think it was an optical illusion based on the angle of our vantage point.  I don’t think anyone was actually cutting the corner and I doubted that the course marshals on paddleboards would let anyone do so.  2) Even if some swimmers were cutting the corner, IT’S POOR FORM!  Who does this?  Why would anyone do this?  It’s CHEATING!  Forget for a moment that you’re cheating your peers and fellow athletes, and loudly announcing that you’re about to do so.  Why on earth would anyone cheat themselves the pride of knowing they completed an event in its entirety? Wouldn’t you have a nagging little voice in the back of your head every time someone congratulated you on your race saying [in a squeaky little Gollum voice] “oh but you didn’t really do the race, now did you sweetie?”  Rant over, back to the event…

SWIM: The 550 yard swim is a rough “U” shape starting at the “Nswimmaporth Boat House” of the mansion grounds. Upon starting, we swam east for about 100 yards to the first buoy and then south for another hundred(ish) yards to the second buoy which proved to be a guide around the small pier at the property.  From there it was a straight(ish) line in to the golden finish arch.

Beyond the usual triathlon gear, one piece of equipment I would highly recommend for this event would be neoprene booties. While the water temperature is fantastic, waiting for the swim start as well as running back up to transition via the roughly quarter-mile combination of asphalt and dirt covered with pine needles, pine cones and rocks is made much more pleasant (and speedy) with booties to protect the feet.

bikemapBIKE: The 10 mile bike ride travels out of the transition area and south along Highway 89.  The course is comprised of rolling hills with a total of about 500 feet in elevation gain.  It is open to vehicular traffic, but still provides plenty of opportunity to take in views of the area including Meeks Bay.  As an out and back course, the turn around point is about 5 miles from the transition area.  Don’t forget to thank the volunteers and Highway Patrol as you slow down to make the turn around and head home.

RUN:  Be still my beating heart!  Oh how I love this part.  It’s two miles and as John Mellencamp would say, it Hurts so Good!  Although the course has a mere 100 feet of elevation gain over the entire 2 miles, for whatever reason, it sure feels like a lot more.  As you run out of transition and on to course, there’s a steep(ish) descent on pavement which will make those legs feel a bit more rubbery than normal. Once you’re past that, there’s a bit of trail, a bit of sand and then before you know it, you’re running back up that steep hill into the finish.  While you’re out there though, ignore the fact that your heart feels like it’s going to beat right out of your chest and look east out over the lake for more of those beautiful views.runmap

Running into this finish is so fun and exciting. The crowds are awesome, the announcer is hilarious and the race staff and volunteers are ready to trade you your timing chip for a finishers medal.  The post race goodies are plentiful and range from fruit and bagels to a full BBQ and beer!

Cortney and I both had great races and have yet another fun day of racing memories to share. We wore our finisher’s medals along with our Sharpied body markings for the rest of the day!!!!

Two Days, Two Tris

The Donner Triathlon Events take place over two days in July with a Sprint distance triathlon, Open Water Swims and Kids triathlons taking place on Saturday; and the Olympic and Half Ironman distance triathlons and Aquabike events taking place on Sunday.   This year, I had the pleasure of competing in two of those events – the Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

While I’ve competed in the Sprint every year since 2014, 2017 was my first time participating in the Olympic distance as well.   How did this come about?  Well, in the midst of Snowmageddon 2016/2017, when we had 10 foot snow berms in front of our house, no power and a house full of kids who hadn’t been to school in about a month, my friend Cortney and I got to drinking some wine.

Shocking, truly shocking – I know.

Long story, short, I peer pressured her and her husband, Jeff into signing up for the Donner Lake Tri. I either didn’t specify which distance, or she decided to raise my peer pressure bet; thus she signed up for the Olympic Distance. I am a sucker for peer pressure so upon hearing that she signed up for the Olympic, I decided to followed suit.

The prolonged winter made training interesting to say the least. Running in snow and ice turned into running in slush and mud turned into running on dirt.  Throw in a few “real” road rides, lots of towing my daughter on our tandem attachment, a decent amount of swimming at the Truckee Rec Center and a few open water swim sessions at West End Beach and voila -Tri Training Truckee Mom style.

Fast forward to event days…

Sprint Triathlon – Saturday July 22, 2017

The Donner Lake Sprint course is comprised of a ¼ mile swim, followed by a 6 mile ride and a 2 mile run. This race has become one of my “benchmark” races.  By that, I mean that I participate in the race every year and try to improve upon my performance from the year before.  I love this race, because it’s short, but challenging and it’s in my back yard, figuratively speaking.

Arriving on the scene the morning of the race, with my gear and bike in tow, I was greeted by lovely volunteers ready to adorn me with a Sharpie. Although the body marking really isn’t necessary anymore due to timing chips, I love that this tradition carries on – my bib number on my arm and my age on my calf somehow makes it feel all the more fun and exciting.  The body-marking ritual complete, I proceeded into the transition area and began the process of racking my bike and laying out my gear.

The energy and excitement was palpable from the athletes and spectators and I found that adrenaline was starting to pump through my veins in anticipation. It was only 6:30am and my wave wasn’t going to start for over an hour.  In order to calm nerves and stop my adrenaline from wearing off before the race even started, I put my hoodie on, put my earbuds in and tuned out of the surrounding activity.

Under cloak and headphone, I walked over to the water’s edge to get a bit of quiet and take in the scenery. I’m a Truckee local so I’m spoiled in that I enjoy these views on a regular basis, but I’m still in awe each and every time I swim, ride or run in or around Donner Lake. The scenery couldn’t be more beautiful.  The lake is surrounded by granite and pine, and this time of morning, the water was glassy.

Just before the 7:30am race start, the transition area was cleared and we all made our way to the shoreline in anticipation of the race start. Right on time, men 49 & under were sent into the water.  Ten minutes later, my race began amongst fellow women in wetsuits and pink swim caps.

The water temperature is right around the same as the air temperature, if not a little warmer, at this time of day, so the swim is really pleasant and it’s not a shock to the system. In a quarter mile, it’s not really possible to “settle in”, but unlike previous years, I found my groove in the water right away and swam the course in 7:48.

Exiting the water, I hustled into the transition area, peeled off my wetsuit and cap and cleaned the pine needles and sand off my feet as best as I could. Bike shoes – check, helmet – check, sunglasses- check (for me this isn’t a luxury – they’re prescription)…..  go.  I never run out of this transition area to the bike course.  It’s too far on loose sand and I’d rather conserve the energy for the ride, so I trot out of the transition area and mount my bike on Old 40 aka Donner Pass Road.

Upon starting the bike course, there’s a very short runway before the climbing starts – about a tenth of a mile. Then it starts – the long climb up to Rainbow Bridge.  The course description sounds easy – a 6 mile bike ride?  Piece of cake!  Nope.  It’s an out and back and there’s a thousand feet of elevation gain, so yes – that’s a thousand feet of climbing in less than 3 miles.  Pedaling up the roughly 7% grade at about 6-8 miles per hour allowed me to look around at the beautiful scenery surrounding Old 40.  There were towering granite cliffs in all directions and old retired train tunnels to southwest.  The climb is rewarded once again at the turnaround at Rainbow Bridge with early morning views of Donner Lake below.

The climb over, I turned my focus entirely to the descent down Old 40. I’m a chicken on the downhills and going 30+ miles per hour (note that some athletes achieve speeds well in excess of 40-45 miles per hour) is pretty intimidating to me, not to mention that the visual basically gives the optical illusion of riding off a cliff at times. Nonetheless, I got into my drops with a light touch on my brakes and started silently chanting my own little mantra of “stay off the brakes, trust the bike, go fast”.  Well, that worked great and I was feeling pretty confident until I hit a small pot hole about a third of the way down.  It was really nothing, but it scared the shit out of me and I slowed my pace a bit after that.  All in all, the climb up took me about 25 minutes and the descent took me about 7 minutes.  So yeah, I got a 7 minute “rest” before the foot-down stop at the bottom of Old 40 followed by the dismount and run into transition.

After a quick change of shoes I ran out of transition and headed out on South Shore Drive. The run course is a 2 mile out and back and is largely flat, but has a bit of a climb (about 80 feet total) between the half mile mark and the turnaround. The road is flanked by adorable, old family cabins and crosses two quaint bridges with rushing water beneath.  Having run the course before and knowing what was in store, I knew it was time to push hard and use the legs I conserved on the climb up Old 40.  I ended up running the 2 miles in just under 16 minutes for a final time of 59:58 and a 2nd place age group finish.  It was over my goal time of 57 minutes, but 4 minutes faster than I had completed the Sprint before – a new benchmark set.

While my endorphins started pumping as soon as I got in the water at the start of the race, they really surged after crossing the finish line. I was ecstatic.  It had absolutely nothing to do with my time or where I placed amongst my peers, it was simply a chemical reaction to the physical exertion and the energy surrounding the event.

To top it all off, I got to watch my six year old daughter, Sawyer participate in the kids race. There is nothing cuter than a bunch of tiny humans racing around a tri course.  Sawyer ended up winning her race and having a blast every second of the way.

Olympic Triathlon – Sunday July 23, 2017

The Donner Lake Olympic course is comprised of a 1500 meter swim, followed by a 24.8 mile ride and a 6.5 mile run.  While I’ve completed this distance before, this was my first year racing on this course.  Still, I pretty much knew what to expect from my experiences with the Sprint and having the area as my training ground.

The morning of the race, at about 2:00am, I woke up with my stomach in knots. I’m not sure if it was a touch of food poisoning or what, but let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep after that.  If I hadn’t committed to doing to race with my friend, Cortney, I would have thrown in the towel and gone back to bed.  I couldn’t flake on her though so I forced down some oatmeal, drank a lot of water, pulled my big girl tri shorts on and headed out to West End Beach.

Given my digestive “issues”, I was actually concerned that I wouldn’t even be able to start the race much less finish it. I resolved to just give it a go and see how it went.  Gradually my body started to settle down and by some minor miracle; I actually started to feel pretty good. In spite of that I knew the stomach issues and lack of sleep had taken a toll on my energy level so at that point I just resolved to take it easy and cruise for whatever portion of the race I could.  Ironically, having this mindset resulted in an unbelievably calm start to the race.  No race jitters, no adrenaline, no expectations.  It was oddly Zen.

My wave started at 7:55AM and I literally walked, very calmly into the water. No running or diving in.  I walked in, and slowing started swimming out to the first buoy.  I grew up swimming competitively from the age of 7 to 16 so my form isn’t terrible.  I knew I swam more efficiently when I was relaxed but I had no idea how efficiently until this point.  I somehow managed to get out of the school of swimmers and find my own little pocket of water. The swim was literally blissful.  My breathing and nerves were calm, my body was at ease and I was enjoying the swim more than I thought possible.  Rounding the second buoy and heading back to the shore, I picked up pace a bit but not much.  I still maintained a calm and relaxed stroke.  I ended up finishing the swim at an average pace of 1:51/100yd.  By way of comparison, my swim time for the Sprint was an average pace of 1:42/yd and I was gunning for it on that course.  So, lesson learned – RELAX.

I’ve participated in endurance sports long enough to know that my body can revolt if I don’t listen to it. So although I felt amazing after the swim, I walked into transition and calmly got ready for the bike.  No rushing, no adrenaline, just calm focus.  I walked out of transition and mounted my bike to begin the same climb up Old 40 that I had completed as part of the Sprint the day before.

I ascended Old 40 at a conservative pace and kept my heart rate hovering around 120-130 bpm, still not wanting to risk a bodily revolt. The same granite cliffs were no less inspiring and breathtaking (or maybe that was just the climb).  Anyway, I caught up with Cortney at the summit and we proceeded to ride and gab and ride and gab and sing until we happened upon another rider who had clearly collided with something.  There were plenty of people already at her aide and we didn’t have any means of providing assistance or evening calling for help so we resolved to get out of the way.  We later found out that she had hit a deer going about 45 miles per hour.  I have often had to avoid hitting a squirrel or a chipmunk while riding, but never thought of the possibility of hitting a deer.

A bit sobered from seeing the aftermath of a bike/deer collision, we proceeded to the turn around and then made our way back up to the summit. Happily, we discovered that the injured cyclist was being attended to by the Fire Department when we passed back by her and she appeared to be sitting unaided.

As we approached the summit, I pulled a bit ahead of Cortney , but then as we began the descent down Old 40, she blew past me like I was standing still. This was the same woman that was terrified of riding Old 40 a mere 3 days before.  After that, I didn’t even see her until the transition area!!!

After my extremely focused descent, I took a head to toe assessment of how I was feeling. Shockingly, I felt great.  Really great!  I remember thinking “How the hell is this happening? Well, whatever, go with it.”  I got into transition, re-racked my bike and got my running shoes on.  At this point I decided to push it.  I felt good and had a ton of energy from taking the first two legs of the tri easy.  If I blew up, oh well.

Running out of transition and onto course, I got giddy – endorphin high, slightly spazzy – giddy. I still have absolutely no explanation for any of it and it still doesn’t make sense that my body somehow managed to recover from the wrenching stomach issues I had, but I ran with it.  Pun intended.

I’ll admit it; it’s immensely satisfying to pick off runners one by one that passed me on the ride. I kept a fairly fast pace (for me anyway) all the way around the lake and was encouraged and fueled with each successful passing of a mile.  The giddiness only increased as I got closer to the finish and when I hit the one mile to finish mark I was ecstatic!

I rounded the corner into the West End parking lot and heard my daughter, husband and friends cheering as I ran onto the lawn approaching the finish. I heard my daughter yell “ENGAGE TURBO BOOSTERS!” and turned the wheels on for a sprint finish.  It was good enough for a 3rd place age group finish.

I had zero expectations going into the day and ended up having one of the most incredible and satisfying racing experiences of my life.

**Thanks to Todd, Bryan, Misty and all of the wonderful volunteers at Big Blue Adventure for putting on a phenomenal weekend long triathlon festival!**

Waddle Ranch Half Marathon Course Recap

The Waddle Rach Half Marathon took place on June 4th, 2017 and is part of the Truckee Running Festival and the Tahoe Trail Running Series put on by Big Blue Adventure.

If you’re a local Truckee runner, you have likely “explo-run-ed” Waddle Ranch. If you haven’t, you should as it’s one of the many local trail running/hiking treasures that the area has to offer. The half marathon starts and finishes at Riverview Sports Park in a mini “race village” amongst very high-energy event staff, volunteers, announcer (can I please have whatever coffee he drinks in the morning) and participants. Besides the fact that there are 5K and 10K options for family and friends to run, the Park is a great place for spectators and family to hang out as there’s plenty to keep them busy along the lines of a playground, bocce court, the Truckee Bike Park, etc.

Once the Big Blue crew gives the pre-race speech, and the very enthusiastic GO signal is given, you’re off. The first 1.6 miles of the course is very flat (not Tahoe flat) and is comprised of getting out of the park itself, running a short distance on pavement (Joeger Drive) and then on fire road. Here you pass behind the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Bus Dispatch Center. If you’ve ever been late to pick up your kid from the bus, you’ve likely been here to collect him/her (not that I would know anything about that). Anywhooooooo……   It’s a pretty meadow with scenic views to the east.

At 1.6 miles you begin a short climb on pavement which takes you up to Martis Creek Road. The climb itself is only about a quarter of a mile, but you then stay on pavement for about a mile. I know pavement – ew, but the views of Martis Valley, Martis Creek Lake and Waddle Ranch (where you’ll be running) are very pretty, so consider it an opportunity to look around before you have to pay attention to not tripping on rocks.

After you cross the dam (at about 2.2 miles into the race), you finally hit dirt via Matt’s Trail in the Waddle Rach Preserve. It’s relatively flat for about three-quarters of a mile and then you start to climb – for a solid mile. You’ll gain about 450 feet in elevation in this mile. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will put your legs and your lungs to the test. The trail here is mostly single track with some wider sections that look like they used to be fire roads. Run as much as you can – it’s only a mile. You peak out where Matt’s Trail intersects with Sawmill Road (don’t let the term fool you – it’s a fire road) and then you descend.

The descent is fast since Sawmill Road is fairly “groomed” and doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear from runoff or loose rock. After about 1.2 miles, you divert off of Sawmill Road and back onto single track for a bit more technical running. This section lasts for just about a mile and then you re-connect with Sawmill Road and run just under a half-mile to the turnaround.

Now begins your second ascent. The whole half marathon course has about 1,200 feet in total elevation gain, so that 450 feet you descended down before, you now have to climb back up. This section spreads the climb out over two miles so while it’s a bit gentler than your first climb, it seems like it lasts FOREVER. At 7.9 miles into the course you veer off of Sawmill Road and back onto single track via Erika’s Trail. You climb for about a half mile here and then begin a pretty technical (read rocky) decent. I constantly have to remind myself here to watch my ankles, stay on my toes and don’t let the feet get sloppy. That steep, technical descent lasts for about 3/4 of a mile and then it opens up onto less technical ground. At 9.5 miles the course flattens back out, albeit at a very gradual climb out to the pavement. Once you’re on the pavement, it’s a fast and flat return into the park where family, friends and spectators will be awaiting your arrival along with beer and a BBQ!

Elevation Profile:

Map: