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?

 

 

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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.

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!

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Father’s Day at the Burton Creek Half Marathon

The Burton Creek Trail Runs are part of the Tahoe Trail Running Series put on by Big Blue Adventure and include three distances which appeal to all abilities on the running spectrum – 6K, 12K and a Half Marathon.

This year, Burton Creek took place on Father’s Day. I had signed up to run the half marathon about two weeks prior to the event, completely forgetting that it was indeed Father’s Day (minus 10 points for me on the good wife scorecard). Luckily for me, it doesn’t take much arm-twisting to make these sorts of things family affairs and my husband (Abe), father-in-law (Jim) and six year old daughter (Sawyer) all decided to participate as well by running the 6K.

My morning started bright and early at 5:00AM for the usual pre-race necessities – food, caffeine and bathroom visits being the three primary keys to a good day. Considering that the 6K didn’t start until 8:30am whereas the half started at 7:30, I had arranged to carpool to the start with my friend, Tiffany, so my husband and daughter could sleep in a bit more. This proved entirely unnecessary as Sawyer woke up at about 5:30 rearing to go. It worked out well though since it gave Tiffany and I a chance to catch up on the drive from Truckee to Tahoe City and allowed Abe and Sawyer to have a daddy-daughter morning on Father’s Day.

Tiffany and I arrived at the start of the race in the beautiful Burton Creek State Park just in time to check in and ditch bags before the start. Tiffany is a former collegiate runner and is a lot faster than I am. I had a feeling I wouldn’t see her once the starting “gun” went off so we got our last little chit chatting in and settled in at the start for the race briefing. As we quieted down, I caught glimpse of Carol Lindsay who is my primary care physician as well as a friend. Carol is a wealth of knowledge and the best diagnostician I have ever been to, so I take her input very seriously. She immediately looked at my shoes with a somewhat skeptical look as if to say “You’re wearing Altras huh? Weren’t you having Achilles issues last summer?” I preemptively and enthusiastically declared: “My ankles, Achilles and hips are all good! No issues!”

Right at 7:30 the go signal was given and we were off. Tiffany and I ran together for all of sixty seconds, during which she declared that she was going to see how she felt at mile 8 and then decide to take off or not. Once sixty seconds hit, she took off and I knew there was no way I could keep pace with her for the duration of the race so I resolved to settle in and find my own pace instead.

The first half-mile of the course is a climb at about a 5% grade – nothing crazy, but enough to get my heart pumping especially with race jitters fueling a faster than normal start pace. From there, we descended for about a half-mile and then started a solid one-mile climb. This is where the crowd started to spread out a bit and the dust settled underfoot.

I was immediately surprised about the condition of the trails. A lot of the trails in our area took a beating this past winter, also known to locals as SNOWMAGEDDON, but not these trails. This course is run primarily on what, during the winter, are cross-country skiing trails. I’m not sure if they just suffered less abuse or if trail maintenance fairies (read very hard working trail maintenance crews) worked their magic to clear trees, remove obstacles and clear rocks and ruts. Either way, I was very excited to worry a bit less about rolling an ankle than I have been on other courses throughout the spring and enabled me to take in a bit more of the scenery.

Along those lines, the middle six miles of the race were made up of gentle rolling hills, all on either single track or buffed out x-country skiing trails. These miles flew by and showcased towering pines, massive granite boulders, an assortment of wildflowers and the occasional, filtered view of beautiful Lake Tahoe. There was even about a half-mile of the course that still had some snow (all runnable) covering the single track.

Right at 8:30AM or when I was about 5.8 miles into the race, I knew the rest of my family would be starting theirs. I couldn’t wait to hear Sawyer tell me all about her race. We didn’t quite know how long it would take her and guessed about an hour and a half. I had mom-visions of hitting the timing just right and we could finish our respective races at the same time.

At about 7.8 miles into the race, there was a short out-and-back resulting in very muddy three-quarters of a mile. I’m guessing this was added to the course to ensure that 13.1 miles was indeed the length of the course, but at the end of the day, I’d venture to say this wasn’t needed. Nonetheless, I actually like out-and-back segments – it’s fun to see who’s ahead of me and by how far as well as to give props and shout outs to fellow runners on course (even if they don’t acknowledge you because they’re too engrossed in whatever distraction their headphones are providing – note to self: resist the temptation to shout “BEAR” just to see if they’ll remove headphones for that).

Alrighty then – having the “easy, cruiser” miles done, it was time to pay attention to my feet again. At 8.2 miles in to the race, I started a nice descent that lasted for about 2.5 miles and provided an opportunity to pick up the pace and just let gravity take me. I was cruising and feeling pretty comfortable here still checking out the beauty that surrounds these trails. Then BAM – I reached the bottom of the hill on what I now know is Burton Creek Sate Park Road and was faced with a hill wall in front of me. The first half-mile of this hill ranges from a 6% grade to a 15.5% grade: in writing this report and looking at the map, this section of trail is aptly named “Judge Judy”. Yeah well, Judge Judy was tough but I actually found it to be really fun at this point in the race. The hill continued for about another one and a half miles, albeit at a more “gentle” grade ranging from 2%-8%ish.

Finally, I crested the hill at mile 11.5 and started the final descent into the finish. Sawyer smoked our expectations and she finished her first 6K, at 6 years old in 59:12. It turns out she was also the youngest participant overall. More importantly, she ran the whole race and crossed the finish line with her daddy and grandpa on Father’s Day.

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