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!

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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!

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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