29 June 2015

Ragnar Wasatch Back Recap

Ragnar Wasatch Back is now one of my favorite relay experiences ever. The views along the course were gorgeous, and it was very challenging. Between being at altitude, the hills, and the 90+ degree weather, it was definitely the hardest relay I've run so far. And I loved every minute of it!

I arrived in Salt Lake City on Thursday morning, where a few of my teammates met me at my gate because they'd arrived earlier. We greeted two more teammates, grabbed the vans, and headed over to our hotel to start the weekend. After a trip to Target for the essentials (you know, sunscreen, Cheez Its, Pop Tarts...) we relaxed for a while and then went to dinner downtown at Squatters Pub to try some Utah beer. It was great to stay at one hotel with the whole team and to have time with the van one ladies, who we wouldn't see much during the race itself.

I was in van two, so we were able to sleep in on Friday morning. And boy, sleep in we did! We didn't wake up until about 9 am, at which point we got dressed and went to Perkins for breakfast. We had plenty of time before we met van one to start running, so we hung out at the hotel until we had to check out at noon and then decorated the vans. We had lunch at a good deli near Ogden, took photos along the pretty road to exchange 6, and hung out for a while after we arrived. It was unbelievably hot, so we basically spent as much time in the van A/C as possible before going to wait at the exchange.

Stopping for the view while driving.

Exchange 6 in Liberty, Utah.

The handoff to Robyn. And off we went.

I was runner 8, and my first distance was 7.2 miles. It was still very hot, hot enough that I ran in a sports bra (highly unusual for me!) My route had nice views but was along a really busy road for a while. Overall I ran well for the heat and was happy with how it went. I handed off to Farron, who then got to climb a big hill up to the pass. 

 Loving the mountain views.

 Almost done!

And...done. Farron taking it away.

Our van headed to the next exchange, which was at the top of Snowbasin ski area. Farron had a 7.8 mile climb to get there, but the view from the top was awesome and she rocked it. 

Farron coming into the exchange.

From here Jess took on an 8 mile run back down from Snowbasin, but the darkness prevented any photos. Marilyn and Kate followed Jess, at which point it was finally time for food. FINALLY.

Thank goodness for the pizza being sold at exchange 12.

I couldn't believe our first round of running didn't end until midnight, but that's how it worked out. We drove to exchange 18 and had a rather luxurious sleeping arrangement for a Ragnar event; we were escorted into a classroom with carpet and had our own little corner and desks to keep important things (like glasses...) safe. It was fantastic.  We slept for about 3 hours before getting back up to start the next run. 

Our next set of legs was pretty short and it passed much faster than the first. I ran 2.9 miles just as the sun was rising, and I felt great. Again, the mountain views were making me a happy girl while running and even while driving.

 Jess coming into the exchange.

Matching hoodies by the van. 

Before we knew it, we were back on runner 12 and almost done with round 2. We met up with van one again at the exchange, and when they headed out we went to find a place to rest. 

Wendy, Marilyn, Jess, Farron, Robyn, Leana, and me at the exchange.

Kate bring it in for van two.

During our second break, we enjoyed the cheap breakfast of pancakes and eggs at exchange 25 and rested there for a couple of hours. By the time we arrived at exchange 30, it was a complete zoo. Exchange 30 was at Park City HS, and the runner coming in had some single track trail on their route. You could say I was a little...or insanely...jealous. As it turns out, a few people on van one had trails! Even though I enjoyed the overall course, my routes themselves were pretty darn boring in comparison.

Luisa arriving at exchange 30, teammates pointing. One of my fave photos.

From here, Robyn took off on the 10.7 mile 'Ragnar Hill' climb up to the pass. Driving up to the next exchange made me wish I'd run that leg despite how hard I'm sure it was - it was gorgeous and I would much rather climb than run the downhill that came next for me. Robyn did an awesome job and then handed off to me to take it back down.

One of the views up to the exchange.

My next leg was 4.2 miles all downhill, and it was miserable. It was way too steep and it was relentless; by the time I finished my body felt terrible. Even worse, the exchange where I started the run was a mess and I almost got backed over by a van when I was trying to run the stated route. Yikes! This was part of the change to this year's course, and I hope they do a better job with it next year. At least I had a couple of fun photos from the Ragnar photographer on this one.

Farron picked up where I left off and continued the steep downhill for a while. While waiting for her, I was on the ground with the Tiger Tail desperately trying to loosen the muscle in the front/side of my left shin because it was seriously cramped. I was actually angry at Ragnar for the dumb downhill at that point in time. Jess and Marilyn ran next, and then it was time for Kate to bring us into the finish line. 

Marilyn finishing her last leg.

After Kate started her run we headed straight to the finish line, but traffic was really tough. I honestly didn't think we'd make it before she finished (somehow we did!) In a frenzy, we met up with van one and managed to get to the arch with a few minutes to spare and were able to finish as a team. Our finish time was 32 hours, 52 minutes, 25 seconds. It's slower than any other relay I've done due to the difficulty, but that was true for all teams.

Team Bird Machine! (Left to right: Farron, Jess, Robyn, me, Marilyn, Wendy, Emily, Luisa, Jess, Leana, Kate, and Emma.)

At the finish, they gave us free Little Caesar's pizzas which van two happily ate. Van one had already showered and eaten before they came back to the finish area. We hung out for a little while, although not too long because it was once again very hot. 

Van two, they told us to flex.

The finish was at the cross country ski resort that held the Olympic Winter Games.

Following the race, all 12 of us stayed in a condo together at the Canyons Resort. I've never done this after a relay before, and I'm so glad we did; we had more time to spend with the other van and time to celebrate as a team. I hope to do this again in the future.

Hanging out at the condo for beer post-race.

Together, the medals make a design.

Overall, I loved the weekend with these ladies and the location of the relay. That said, the new course for Wasatch Back doesn't sound as good as the old one based on what I've heard. It had a lot of changes between the time we signed up and started, the final course not being set until 7 pm on Thursday. That was the day before the race! My total mileage dropped by about 3 miles which I didn't love either. The exchange after the new Ragnar Hill had serious traffic delays and no parking, and the traffic delays at the finish almost made us miss our team finish. Hopefully Ragnar will take feedback from the survey to improve these new elements before next year.

Now for the best part: we finished 7th overall for Women and 3rd out of 35 teams in Women's Open. That was completely unexpected and I'm pumped about it. I can't wait for the Ragnar prize relay batons to arrive!

16 June 2015

Trailquake Half Marathon Race Recap

The Trailquake half was on June 6, and it's a race I've had my eye on since moving to the Bay Area. The race is held at Sanborn County Park, only about a 20 minute drive from our house, so it was very easy to get there in the morning. It's run by a Bay Area race company called Brazen Racing and they always do a fantastic job.

I knew before signing up that this race would involve 3000 feet of climbing and that it's known for being a very hard half; that's part of why I wanted to do it! Ok, that and because the name is Trailquake, it runs on the San Andreas trail, and I have a weird fear/obsession with earthquakes. The course didn't disappoint. As soon as we crossed the start line we began the uphill climb that lasted about 3 miles and was notably steep. The elevation profile looks like it flattens out on top, but don't let it fool you - there are ups and downs the entire way to keep you on on top of your game.

Elevation profile from the Brazen Racing site.

Race start. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

One of the best aspects of this race is the park itself. The trails are almost all covered by Redwoods and other tall trees, making it picturesque and keeping the sun from frying you during the run. Most of the trail was single track too. This is definitely a park I need to run in more often.

A short downhill. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

Running in the trees. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

The course makes a T shape so you get to pass people on out-and-back sections; it's perfect for cheering on friends! There were a few Go Far group runners, plus Sophia and Kevin, to cheer for along the way. Sophia's fiancĂ©, Charlie, ran the 5K (and won!) but I didn't get to see him on the course. There were also a ton of aid stations for a trail race, every 3 miles or so. 

The downhill section of the course at the end is actually far from an easy downhill. There are a number of sharp switchbacks that slow you down, plus rocks and roots. It was fun but not as fast as I hoped (at least for my current downhill trail skills.) 

Concentrating during the final downhill. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

Another one that I like. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

Knowing the total climb involved in this one, my target time was to be under 3 hours and I met that goal without any trouble. I finished in 2:56:12 and I'm pleased with my splits in general. I'll keep working on faster climbing and faster downhills, however I felt strong the whole time and that's what is most important to me right now.

After we finished, we enjoyed the many food items provided (including things like pie, brownies, goldfish crackers, M&Ms, potato chips...I could go on and on) and hung out with Sophia, Charlie, and our Go Far friend Andrew. We enjoyed chatting and relaxing at the picnic tables in the park for quite a while.

Post-race. (Photo from Sophia)

All in all, I loved this race. I was ridiculously happy to be racing trail again for the first time in over a year, and even when it was really hard I felt...incredibly HAPPY. Lucky to be out there running and climbing my little heart out. Fingers crossed my hip plays nice and I get to keep my 50K goal for this fall, unlike last year when I had to call it off.

The last items to note are the fun swag and the free photos. I love that Brazen volunteers take photos and share them via Google Plus so you can download whatever you'd like. I've most likely used too many photos of myself in this post, but I'm so happy to have them I felt the need to use them! The shirts and medals had banana slugs on them, so what's not to like there? I have a feeling I'll be running this race again in the future!

Swag! I really like the fit of the shirts too.

Happy running!

10 June 2015

The Title Nine Bra Fit Fest & Giveaway

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Title Nine event and provided with a fitting and bra. All opinions below are my own. 

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the Title Nine Fit Fest, an event targeted to fitting women with the best bra - sports or everyday - for their body type. I love this idea because bras can be a real challenge. Although I generally don't have issues in the bounce department, I have a big rib cage and long torso (read: long shoulder to under bust) that both give me sports bra fit headaches.

Part of the Title Nine Berkeley Bra Wall.

Title Nine stores carry a wide range of bras, and each person attending the event will have a chance to try them out alongside a fit expert. There is even a 'bounce test' station to see how good a sports bra will work for you. I highly recommend attending an event at your local store; check out this page to find the one closest to you and make sure to RSVP.

A few upcoming events in the Bay Area include:
Los Gatos on June 17-18
Palo Alto on June 24-25
Walnut Creek on July 15-16

After being measured, I tried on quite a few bras and discovered a new everyday bra by Lula Lu that fits me better than any bra I can recall in my past. I also loved the Date Lace bra by Natori and am likely to buy one in the near future. Before this, I didn't realize just how many different bra options they carry at Title Nine and I'm impressed.

Even better, Title Nine is providing one lucky reader with a Bra Fit Fest package - a bra fitting of your own (either at an event or separately) and a free bra!

The giveaway is open to anyone in the US. If the winner lives in driving distance to a Title Nine store, they'll have them visit in person for the fitting and bra. If not, they can help the winner out over the phone and will provide a certificate to redeem the free bra. This means anyone, anywhere can participate.

Enter the giveaway below, and make sure to use the hashtag #t9fitfest to share the news. You can enter until June 17 at midnight, and I'll choose the winner later that day.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

03 June 2015

Happy National Running Day!

It seems like there is a 'day' for everything now - beer, ice cream, donuts - and running. But hey, I'm always up for an excuse to celebrate something I love. This morning the Go Far Run Group had an early morning run party at Athletic Performance in Willow Glen and the store owners were fabulous hosts.

The group. (Photo from Go Far leader, Meghan)

We met up a little before 6 am and headed out for a fun 5K distance run in Willow Glen and on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. We ran, we talked, we celebrated, and we enjoyed coffee and bagels after the run. It was a solid start to the day and I'm lucky to have found such a great run group.

 Stop light selfie. (Photo from Meghan)

Lori's perfect ponytail swing amidst Go Far shirts.

I'm running so fast I'm a blur. (Photo from Meghan)

Becca from the Competitor Group came to talk to us about the San Jose Rock n Roll events and to let us know about the $20 discount on all RnR events (today only) for National Running Day. She also gave us some pretty sweet San Jose RnR t-shirts! I've been debating if I want to run that race this year and I'm now leaning toward yes; the logistics are so easy because we live nearby and it's well-organized. That said, I have to get my past two rough San Jose races (2012, 2013) out of my head if I'm going to run it again. Perhaps it's time for redemption on that course.

The men's and women's version of our snazzy new shirts.

After work, we continued the Running Day fun at our usual Wednesday track workout with a few 800s. I took it easy and only ran 4 reps partly because I ran this morning and partly because I have a trail half coming up this weekend. It's been at least a year since I've run 800s, so I took the opportunity to have someone time me and to see where my paces were.

I hope you all had a great National Running Day too - how did you celebrate?

18 May 2015

Eugene Half Marathon 2015 Race Recap

Once again, the Eugene Half Marathon was wonderful! I love traveling to Oregon and the PNW and truly enjoyed my long weekend in Eugene. I headed up on Friday morning, flying to Portland and then driving the 2 hours to Eugene. Although I was running the half, my reason for this trip was more to visit friends and to partake in great beer than to run it as a goal race.

The obligatory PDX carpet photo.

I went straight to the expo to see Laurel (who was working the event) and to grab my race packet. I like the Eugene expo because they have fun booths but it's still small and inviting. After that, I drove over to the newest Eugene running store, Run Hub Northwest, to meet the owner and to plan for the Oiselle shakeout run that was the following day. The store was great and it was their very first day open! In the afternoon, I began my quest to have great beer by going to Oakshire and Hop Valley; Hop Valley has awesome food by the way.

On Saturday morning, we had the Oiselle and Run Hub sponsored shake out run on Pre's trail. Run Hub opened its doors earlier than usual for us that day, and Oiselle sent a few items to win during trivia. I'd never run on Pre's trail before, so that was definitely a treat. We ran 3 miles and then headed to the 5th Avenue Market for coffee and breakfast.

 The group!

Pre's Trail.

The rest of the day was very low key; Cafe Yumm (my fave!) for lunch, a trip to the Bier Stein bottle shop for take home beer, and dinner at Elk Horn Brewery. The race start was at 7 am so we went to bed pretty early on Saturday night.

Our random photo booth fun at the expo. Matt, Joy, Laurel, and me. 

I woke up feeling excited to run on Sunday morning, so despite this being a 'non-goal race' I figured I might as well give it what I had. My newfound confidence that I can run a half in under 2 hours stayed in the back of my mind and I thought hey, let's do it again! I met up with a few of the Oiselle ladies to say hello and good luck before the race. Chatting and walking to the start line with them was a nice distraction from any race nerves that existed.

 Morning meeting.

Stopping for a quick Hayward Field photo op - Ali, Marilyn, Sarah, and me.

 Corral A went off at 7 am, and I started with Corral B a couple of minutes later. I stuck to the 2 hour pacer for the first mile or so because I figured they knew the course and could help me get out of the crowd a bit. I ended up passing them soon after mile one and staying just a little ahead of them for the rest of the race. It's very comforting to start next to the pacer and to know that you'll meet the goal as long as you don't let them pass you back. It's a helpful way to gauge time even if you aren't running beside them the whole race.

Because this was my second time running Eugene, I knew what was coming along the course and when. I remembered miles 4 to 7 being mentally challenging last time and prepared myself for that. It's a long slow climb, but even more I think the mental issue is that it's fairly boring and residential. Once we came back into the downtown and University area I was much happier. I stayed strong on the climb in mile 8 and let myself take the following downhill hard. We hit the paved riverside path around mile 9, a part of the course I love.

By this point I knew I had another sub-2 hour half in the bag as long as I held at my current pace. I also knew I was going to be close to my PR if I could pick it up, and I gave the last couple of miles what I could but didn't quite make it.

Race splits.

Finishing on the Hayward Field track is a real treat and I loved hearing my name announced as I crossed the finish line! My final time was 1:58:45, not too far off my PR of 1:57:51. I'm very happy with that time, especially because I improved on my recent time from the SLO Half and ran under 2 hours again. It's funny how in SLO I didn't think I could make it, but in Eugene I had faith the whole time. I'll get that half PR again someday - I finally believe I can do it.

Laurel greeted me at the finish. (Photo from Long Run, a friend of Laurel's)

The finish! (Photo from Laurel)

After I finished, I ran my cool down out to mile 24 to cheer for friends running the marathon. I stayed there for about 2.5 hours and then ran back to meet people and to finally have my finish pancakes. Yum. Note: the finish line pancakes are a big bonus to the Eugene events!

 Jess pushing it up the incline at mile 24.

Marilyn and Molly hitting mile 24.

As you may guess, the post-race festivities included beer! We went on a brewery tour of Ninkasi and had drinks with everyone. It was a great end to the day and I'm ready to go back to visit Oregon again already. 

 Touring Ninkasi.

 The beautiful Ninkasi gate.

Tanks in the new brewhouse.

Overall, I highly recommend the Eugene Marathon and Half events and hope to return again in the near future. I'll leave you with one last important photo, the race swag. Happy running!