Sep 08

Trans-Rockies: An Epic Six Day Trail Running Adventure

Day 5 Summit View

“Wow!”  “Stunning!”  “Insane!”  Probably the three most common words to come out of my mouth last month at Trans-Rockies.  So how do I recap such an amazing adventure?  Let me start by saying the organizers of Trans-Rockies did a fabulous job!!!  From setting up start lines only to tear them down immediately following the start, packing it up and then re-setting it back up as the finish line (and all before the first finishers arrived)–wow! Then there was the crew which daily tore down our tents every morning and had them set up at the new location every afternoon–over 350 of them ready for our arrival.  On top of that there was breakfast which was ready each morning by 6am and dinner by 4:30 pm, the massage therapists and their tents, the first aid and taping team, the shower truck guy, the three aid stations at each stage, the transport crew when we needed to be shuttled to a different location, the station to charge hundreds of phones, ipods and garmins and the nightly awards and preview of the next days race.  These guys had their details down and were simply amazing!  As for the race itself, here is a daily recap with the best pics from the day.

Day 1: Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge, 21 miles, 2500 ft of climbing

This is was the warmest day by far and the day of the lowest elevation.  I believe we stayed below 9,000 ft. all day.  It would be the only day we would run so “low”.  Yikes!  While this day did not have alpine terrain it was still beautiful with quite a few rolling hills and a mix of jeep trail, single track and at the end, a nasty little 4 miles false flat on an exposed fire road…no bueno!  Those last 4 miles were hard and hot.  My friend Amber and I were running this event as a team and competing against other women’s teams of two whose combined ages were over 80.  This would be the one and only day of the week we would podium, taking third place in our division and each winning a new hydration pack.  Pretty cool!

Day 1

 

Day 1 Rock Formation

The pic below is from the nasty 4 mile road at the end of the race…the false flat!  At the beginning of this section there were a couple of tunnels which were cool.  I wish there had been more of them.  At least there was a river of icy water at the finish where we could soak. :-)

Day 1 tunnels

 Day 2: Vicksburg to Twin Lakes, 13.4 miles, 3200 ft of climbing

This day started at over 9600 ft. of elevation and went to over 12,500 ft.!  Yep, folks, imagine starting a race near the summit of Baldy and then climbing higher.  There was a lot of walking involved!  The start line was on a fire road and after about a mile we turned on to a single track which began an amazing climb through a grove of Aspen…it made you want to bust out in a melody of old John Denver tunes.  Except of course I couldn’t breath, hike and sing at the same time.

Day 2 Aspens

If you look close on the pic below you can see little tiny people making their pilgrimage to the top.  I later asked a few of the elites if they had actually run up this monster.  They assured me that they too had walked.  While that made me feel better I am sure their walk was probably faster than my run.  But to be honest I really didn’t care as the scenery was becoming incredibly beautiful.

Day 2 View Up Hope Pass

 

Day 2 Hope Pass View

Almost to the top of Hope Pass at 12,500 feet!

Day 2 Hope Pass Trail

Panoramic view of Hope Pass (one of my favorite pics).

Day 2 Hope Pass Panorama

We made it to the top and would get to run down a screaming fast and technical downhill.  About 3 miles down I started getting a blister under my heel so we did the smart thing and stopped to tape it up.  The last few miles were all flat as we ran alongside Twin Lakes which we were able to soak in after finishing.

Day 2 Top of Hope Pass

Day 2 Flat

 

Day 2 Twin Lakes

Day 3: Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale, 24.3 miles, 2700 ft of climbing

After finishing the race the day before we were bussed into Leadville where we camped on a field at the high school.  Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the lower 48 at over 10,500 feet in elevation.  This days race would be the longest (over 24 miles) and almost all of it (20 miles) would be over 10,000 feet.  We started on the highway and ran a couple of miles to a truck trail where we began yet another long climb.

Day 3 Climbing Up

After a while we found ourselves running on the actual Continental Divide which I thought was cool.  Remember the Continental Divide from your high school days?  If I remember right, all the rain which falls east of it flows to the Mississippi and drains in the Gulf and the rain that falls to the west drains in the Pacific.

Day 3 Continental Divide Sign

We ran along the divide for a while and…

Day 3 Continental Divide

…eventually went through a beautiful meadow.  There was rain in the distance.  This would be the one day we would be rained on before we finished.

Day 3 Meadow

Day 4: Nova Guides at Camp Hale to Red Cliff, 14.2 miles, 2800 ft of climbing

The morning of day 4 was beautiful with a fog rising off the lake where we were camped.

Day 4 Camp Hale Sunrise

Day 4 Camp Hale Sunrise 2

In the next pic you can see how close our sleeping quarters were.  A little too close for my liking as you could hear a chorus of snoring throughout the night.

Day 4 Tent City

I had not been sleeping well (and neither had Amber) so we decided to take a phone and credit card with us and if we could get reception up at 11,000 feet (which is where we were going that day!) we would try to book a hotel for the following night in Vail.  The start of the race had us running back up the section we had finished on the afternoon before and then we turned left for once again another climb.

Day 3 View from Top

 

Day 4 Fire Road View

This was an absolutely beautiful day with stunning views.  At this point in the race we had decided to just enjoy ourselves and not push real hard.  We hung out in the back half and met some of the most fun, nice, cool, interesting people.  It was incredibly enjoyable, and to make matters even better we got reception and booked a hotel in Vail for night number 5!!!  It was actually a humorous sight.  You know how when you get reception in a difficult area you freeze not wanting to lose your bars?  Imagine me frozen with phone in hand just like that in the middle of the wilderness calling 411 and booking a hotel.  Everyone around us thought it was awesome and many others followed suit.  We were all tired of tent living while racing (especially since it rained almost every night).

Day 4 Panorama

As I wrote earlier, it was stunning so we took some fun pics…  :-)

Day 4 Amber Summit Pose

 

Day 4 Summit Lookout Dawn

This is what we were looking at from the top of the rock…

Day 4 Summit View 2

Day 4 Stream Trail

Toward the end of this stage there was a half mile where the trail turned into a stream.  We had no choice but to run through it and it was awesome…like being 6 years old again and splashing through puddles!

Day 4 Stream RunDay 4 Finish

The finish (above pic) was next door to a small restaurant called Mango’s which is known for their fish taco’s and margarita’s.  I don’t drink so I settled for fish tacos and ice water and we hung out for a while before catching our shuttle back to Camp Hale where we would have one more night in the tents.  That afternoon while in my tent we got hit with a crazy thunder and lightning hail storm.  Yep, I was going to enjoy having a hotel room the next day!

Day 5: Red Cliff to Vail, 23.6 miles, 4100 ft of climbing

The next morning we were bussed back to Red Cliff to start where we had finished the day before…right next to Mango’s.  Day 5 was super stunning in scenery…after all we were running into Vail!  At the beginning it was primarily fire road with incredible views.  In fact, my favorite scenery pic is in this grouping.

Day 4 Trees 2

Day 4 Trek on Top

 

Day 5 View

Fun panoramic below…

Day 5 Panorama

Below is my favorite scenery pic.  I will be printing this as a canvas and including it in my adventure wall which I wall write about another time.  (Thanks for the idea, Alice Bell-Gaines!).  :-)

Day 5 Summit View 2

Some sections were single track and there were wildflowers everywhere.  The pics do not do the flowers justice.

Day 5 Trek Up to the Ridgeline

 

Day 5 Trail Across Ridge

Eventually we headed down to the ski resort for a downhill finish which was somewhat painful as a blister had wrapped around the side and bottom of my foot.

Day 5 Vail Lodge

It felt good to finish.  It felt even better to go to the hotel.  We decided to not go back to the camp for dinner and ordered room service, doctored our own feet and went to bed.

Day 6: Vail to Beaver Creek, 21.8 miles, 4900 ft of climbing

The final day!  And the day with the most elevation gain.  It began with a run through Vail on streets and then we found ourselves climbing through another grove of aspen.  We picked our pace up on this particular day (probably because we could smell the finish!) and I did not take too many pics.  There was lots of climbing but it did not feel that hard.  Perhaps we were finally acclimatizing!

Day 6 Aspens

After the second aid station we entered a narrow canyon for a super steep and technical downhill which seemed to last for a long time.  The pic below is simply the beginning of that section.   The trail  takes you off the edge and down to that tiny valley you see below.  There were roots and rocks everywhere so you really had to watch your feet.

Day 6 Drop to Avon

The bottom portion was more jungle like.

Day 6 Bottom of Canyon

At the bottom of the canyon we came out in the city of Avon and the route became street running.  We had not attended the briefing the night before so we had no idea how long this section was.  In hindsight we were probably better off not knowing as it was long and hot.  Eventually we made it to the third and final aid station which had some very fun and creative snacks for us.

Day 6 Aid Station 2

And then it was back on the trail for a very warm climb of about 3 miles and a 1 mile downhill to the finish at Beaver Creek!

Day 6 Medal

We did it!  We ran 120 miles across the Rocky Mountains in 6 days!  It was good to be done.  And what was really cool was our hotel was literally steps from the finish line.

Overall it was an incredible six days.  It was hard, my feet were torn up, my knee swollen from an old injury and I ended up with cankles (is that how you spell it???) for a couple of days afterwards, but I am SO GLAD I did it.  I am also extremely GRATEFUL to Amber for finding and suggesting the race…thank you!  I had an incredible time!  Now that I have re-lived it by writing this post I realize I have already forgotten the pain and really miss my days in the Rockies  It was a great way to finish an epic spring and summer of trail running  I highly recommend this event!  Trans-Rockies is amazing!

Aug 04

What’s Next? 120 Miles Across the Rocky Mountains!

Kelly's pic

The work is done and the training is in the books!  All that remains now is to get a lot of rest over the next seven days.  Recently I have had quite a few people asking me, “What’s next?”  What’s “next” is something I am super excited about.  On Sunday I will be flying to Colorado to run the Trans-Rockies Run, a six-day stage race across 120 miles of the Rocky Mountains.  The event is known as “summer camp for trail runners” and I am really looking forward to it!

Here is how the race works.  I am participating in the six-day team event (there is also a three-day option) which means that I will run with my running partner and race against other teams of two.  Team mates cannot be separated by more than two minutes when checking in at aid stations or finishing, otherwise they will be penalized.  I will be running this race with my friend Amber.  Since our combined ages are over 80 years (well over 80…yikes!) we are in the Women’s 80 Division.  Each day is its own race with awards given out to top finishers that evening.  At the end of the week the times of all six days are combined with grand prizes going to the overall winners.  Not that we are planning on winning anything.  Our goal is finishing and enjoying the experience.  The race organizers set up and tear down camp for us each night, cook breakfast and dinner and provide a shower truck.  The mileage each day varies from about 14 miles to 24 miles but the entire week is at high elevation–8,000 to 12,500 feet!  Over the course of the six days we will climb about 20,000 feet.  Here is a look at a screen shot of the organizers website of the daily elevation chart:

Daily Elevation

We begin the race in Buena Vista on Tuesday, August 12 and finish in Beaver Creek on Sunday, August 17.  The scenery is going to be fantastic!  Special thanks to Kelly and Carrie DuPee who sent me the picture at the top of this post.  They vacationed in Colorado last week and the pic is close to the area we will be running through–so beautiful!

I have never done a race like this before so training for it has been interesting.  Since returning from Boston in April I have spent almost every weekend running (ok, some walking too) at elevation.  While I have not run a lot of miles I have logged a lot of elevation gain.  I recently went through my Garmin and added up my elevation gain over the fifteen weeks leading up to the Boston marathon and it came out to just under 17,000 feet.  That would be an average of just over 1,000 feet a week which is good for running a road marathon.  Last Saturday I completed week fifteen leading up to Trans-Rockies and the elevation gain was 90,000 feet!  That is an average of 6,000 feet a week and my legs are feeling every one of those feet. Of course that elevation gain includes Cactus to the Clouds and Mt Whitney which were epic training adventures you can read about by clicking these links:

http://www.trailrunningpastor.com/2014/05/27/cactus-to-the-clouds-downtown-palm-springs-to-mt-san-jacinto-summit/

http://www.trailrunningpastor.com/2014/07/04/mt-whitney/

The last five weeks have included three-day in a row trail runs which were an entirely new experience as I usually only run three days a week with cycling and swimming on the in-between days to recover.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how well my body has adapted to running multiple days in a row, however three days at lower mileage does not really simulate six days at higher mileage.  Here is the website for the event if anyone would like to read more about it.  I will definitely post about the race in my blog.  For now I am off for an easy Bonelli ride.  Happy Monday!

http://transrockies-run.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 04

Mt Whitney

Permit Mt Whitney!  The highest point in the lower 48!  As part of our training for the Trans-Rockies Run Amber and I had decided to take on some of the higher peaks in SoCal.  Since Mt Whitney is not that far away, it made our list.  Neither one of us had been higher than 10,800 feet (San Jacinto) so we were fairly concerned about altitude sickness.  Ideally when attempting Whitney, you spend time getting acclimatized by sleeping at altitude one or two nights prior to making the ascent but our calendar did not allow for that.  Altitude sickness is nothing to mess around with so we did just about everything we could do to try to ward it off.  We trained at altitude almost every weekend since coming home from Boston, took supplements (Aangamik) recommended by Vitamin City, drank a sports drink Amber had found called Acli-Mate which is an altitude and energy aid and committed to staying fueled and hydrated while keeping our heart rates down.  Dehydration and a high heart rate are common triggers for altitude sickness.  I had read that the summit of Whitney has 30 percent less oxygen than what we are accustomed to so when Amber pulled out a can of oxygen (see pic below) I laughed but I made sure she knew I was not laughing at her as I was certain I would want some of it at some point.  Was it a placebo effect or would it really work?  We didn’t know but why take chances if you have it?  It was amazing how light weight it was.

Oxygen

We stayed the night in Lone Pine and set the alarm for 1:30 am.  We packed up our gear and drove up to Whitney Portal we were on the trail by 2:50 am.  There was sliver of a moon and the stars amazing!  In front of us and behind we could see headlamps of other groups making their way to the summit.  We kept a slow and steady pace which meant we were initially passed by some of these groups.  But we had committed to keeping our heart rate down and with the hike beginning at 8400 feet of elevation that meant keeping it slow.  Half way up we passed all the people who had passed us with some of them not looking so good since they had started way too fast.  As the sun came up the scenery was amazing…

Sunrise at lake

Soon we were up above the tree line with the remnants of the snow pack melting into cold rushing streams.

From snow to water 2

As we came into trail camp (12,000 ft) we got our first close up view of the rugged ascent we would be making to access the traverse which would take us to the summit.

Trail camp 2

In the pic below you can see the summit.  Look to the far right of the back ridge line.  See that pointy piece that is a little higher than everything else?  That is the summit.  But to get there the trail takes you up the left side of this section of steep terrain…

Whitney from trail

…and to get there you must go up ninety-nine switchbacks!  Yes, ninety-nine!  Since coming back people have asked if I counted them. No, I didn’t count them!  I would have found that so discouraging!.  About a quarter of the way up the switchbacks we came to the infamous cable section.  Thanks to it being a drought year much of the snow had melted and we were able to traverse this section on solid rock and did not need microspikes.  We still held on to the cable as we passed through as that is not an area where you want to take a chance with a fall.

Cables 2

Along the way beautiful flowers grew out of crevices in the rock, which was nice since at this high of elevation everything is virtually a moonscape.

Flowers

When we finally reached the top of the switchbacks (about 13,800 ft in elevation) we were treated with this view of the other side.  It was amazing as it looked out over the John Muir Trail which begins in Yosemite–200 miles away.

View west from trail crest

This is Guitar Lake which is also on the John Muir.

guitar lake

The entire trek to the top of Whitney is 11 miles one way, so once at the top of the switchbacks we had 1.9 miles to go.

Sign for traverse

The trail follows the backside of the ridgeline which I pointed out in the picture of Whitney.  You definitely want to stay on trail as there are some steep drops.

Traverse

As you look across the backside, Whitney comes into view.  In the pic below it is the farthest point.

Traverse to Whitney

In this pic you can make out the summit hut which taunts you as you crawl across the traverse.  It seems so much closer than it is!

Summit house from distance

Along the way we had views of the valley we had climbed out of through the “windows”.

Window

A little before 10 am (7 hours into the hike) we summitted and the panoramic below was our view!

Pan 2

Looking down we could see the Whitney Portal Road which comes out of Lone Pine and connects to Hwy 395.

Looking down from summit 2

We signed the summit book at the hut…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…took the customary summit pics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Summit Dawn

…ate some food and headed back down.  The pic below is the top of the switchbacks.  The hike up to the top was not as hard as I thought it would be, but the hike down was far more difficult than I anticipated.  I was so DONE with the ninety-nine switchbacks on the way down!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eventually we crossed through trail camp and by lakes which had been hidden in the early morning shadows when we had come through that morning.

Lake

Soon we were by streams…

Stream

and back into trees.  For those reading this blog who do eventually take on this trail be really careful when coming down the section heading to Mirror Lake (see pic below).  This part of the trail passes over granite and it is easy to lose the trail.  After coming home I have read up on this section and others have said the same thing.  I had to really watch closely and sometimes stop to check out other possibilities.  A week before we our trip a man had been separated from his group (probably due to slowing down with altitude sickness) and went missing.  They found his body two days before our trip.  He had gotten off trail and, not feeling well, had fallen down a chute to his death.  I don’t mean to be depressing but it is important to remember this is very rugged territory and combined with altitude can be very dangerous.

Mirror lake

Soon we were covering area we had not previously seen as we had passed thought in the dark.  We hiked alongside streams…

Trail along stream

…traversed lush meadows…

Trail

…had incredible views of where we had been…

Meadow and mountain

and passed nearby waterfalls which we had only heard rumbling in the dark that morning.

Waterfall 2

Eventually we crossed this cool wooden bridge…

Log bridge

…and finished looking back over incredible scenery.

Final Descent

We walked into Whiney Portal at 4pm.  The entire hike had taken us 13 hours (including our time at the summit and stopping to filter water twice).  On the way up neither one of us had any altitude sickness (Yay!!!).  Amber had a headache on the way down which began to go away once we stopped for water our second time.  I think we approached this hike in a smart and strategic way with our altitude training, supplements, commitment to staying hydrated and fueled and keeping our pace down and thus keeping our heart rate down.  We ended up finishing hours before all the people who had passed us early on.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping the heart rate down.  Oh, and did we use the oxygen?  Yep, we sure did!

For those who are interested the Garmin details are below with the mile splits below that.  Happy hiking!

garmin

garmin mile splits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27

Cactus to the Clouds…Downtown Palm Springs to Mt. San Jacinto Summit

Pan 1

With Boston behind me I have changed up my training to focus on a two-person team event I will be doing in August called the Trans-Rockies Run.  Trans-Rockies is a 6 day stage race covering 120 miles in the Rockies Mountains at elevations between 8,000 and 12,000 feet.  Here is the link for any readers who would like to check it out: http://transrockies-run.com/.  Since I will be running it with my friend Amber we put together a training schedule for the summer which we hope will prepare us for those six days.  The focus for the month of May has been to regain our climbing legs (we had been running flat for the marathon) and begin adapting to elevation.  The last four weekends have been spent doing Mt Islip, Mt Baldy, Mt Wilson and Cucamonga Peak and Bighorn Peak.  And then once a month we committed to take on one epic hike/run.  For the month of May the big one was “Cactus to the Clouds”.  I first heard about C2C last year from my neighbor.  After reading up on it I quickly put it on my “Must Do” list.  So last Friday we joined up with our friends Xander and Sergio and drove to Palm Springs.  C2C starts in downtown Palm Springs behind the museum at an elevation of around 400 feet and climbs to the summit of Mt San Jacinto at over 10,800 feet.  That is an insane amount of climbing in one day but perfect for our training.

We were on the trail in the dark by 4:30 am and were blessed to have a fairly cool temp–only 62 degrees.  There is no water on the first 10 miles of the trail and it is notorious for being very hot (thus our early start) and very steep.  The trail climbs to 8400 feet of elevation by mile 10 which is where the Palm Springs Aerial tram is located. We carried 130 ounces of water plus food, emergency blanket, first aid kit, Spot, warm clothes for the summit and trekking poles for the steep sections.  The weight of my bag made me very happy we were hiking and not running.  The first mile wasted no time in getting serious–over 900 ft in elevation gain.  We used our headlamps to find the white dots painted on rocks along the trail to guide us along.  We got off trail a couple of times but as long as we kept going up and stayed a little to the right we were able to regain it a few minutes later.  After 3/4 of a mile or so we passed the picnic tables which are well-known as the turn around point for day hikers.  I did not take any pics at the start since it was dark but before long the sky began to lighten and we watched the sun rise over the desert.

Sunrise 4

One of the cool things about this trail is watching the topography change as you gain elevation.  The journey begins in the desert with lots of rocks.

First Light

Before long cactus began to appear, many of which were in bloom and were quite beautiful.

Cactus bloom

At about 2500 feet of elevation we came across Rescue 1.  Rescue 2 is located at about 5000 feet.

rescue 1

Soon we were hiking through yucca and small shrubs…

Skyline lower 2

…and eventually we crested a hill and had our first look at the ridge where the aerial tram station is located.  If you enlarge the pic below you might be able to make out the station in the center right.  While we could see the station we still had a long way to go (and climb!).  The elevation of the station is 8400 feet.

Skyline top 1

The final two miles to the top of the ridge are very steep with a gain of about 2300 feet of elevation between the two.  We pulled out our trekking poles and kept climbing, keeping our pace moderate as we were now hiking at high altitude and wanted to keep our heart rate down to help ward off altitude sickness.

Steep

The last two miles to the ridge passes by a huge rock (see pic below).  Once there we veered to the left to access the ridgeline.  Notice also that by this point we were in pine trees!

The Rock

As we crested the top of the ridge (fyi, it took us 5 hours and 15 minutes to get here) we had an incredible view of Palm Springs and the desert below.

Skyline looking down

From here we followed a service road to the ranger station to pick up our permit for going to the summit.  The permits are free and are required for all hiking past the ranger station.  It was a short hike to the station and along the way we passed through a beautiful mountain meadow with a light dusting of snow from the day before.

Meadow 1

We also located a sign with a map of the trails.  Our route would take us from Long Valley to Wellman’s Divide and then up to the San Jacinto Peak.

Map 1

The distance to the summit is 5 1/2 miles with an additional 2400 feet of climbing.  This section was beautiful and not very steep–especially compared to where we had just come from.  The elevation was noticeable in our breathing and we kept to our original plan of hiking and not running.  After crunching through snow and slush we came to a beautiful clearing looking out over Idyllwild and snapped a pic.  What a beautiful day!

Group view 2

We lost our trail in the snow a couple of times but were able to pick it back up and eventually came across the sign announcing we were .3 of a mile from the peak.

Peak sign

Just below the summit we came across the summit house which is often used by hikers to get out of the cold.  We signed the summit registry and then scrambled over some boulders to the peak.

Summit House 2

The opening pic of this post and the pic below are two panoramic shots I took while standing on a boulder.  This summit is far more dramatic than Baldy, with an incredible 180 degree unobstructed view.  Surprisingly there was no wind and it was quite comfortable so we sat up there and ate Xander’s chocolate orange while taking in the sights.

Pan 2

We truly had come from the “Cactus to the Clouds”!

summit cloud

We took a summit group shot…

Peak 1

…and were amazed at how far we had come from the desert floor below…

Desert to the Peak

…and then we started back.

high country trail 1

Of course now it was much easier as we were going downhill and I was able to pick my head up a little and enjoy the snow-covered mountain.

high country 1

When we arrived at the aerial tram we purchased our one-way ticket down for $12 and then went into the restaurant to grab some food.  I rewarded myself with an amazing BBQ burger!  :-)

burger

After eating we rode the tram down to a car we had waiting in the parking lot below.  The tram was quite scenic!

tram view down

tram 7

What had taken us 5 hours and 15 minutes to climb took only about 15 minutes to descend  by tram.  The entire trip took 9 hours of moving time and with all of our stops 11 hours overall.  Our total mileage was close to 21 miles.  It was an incredible day with perfect weather, good friends and truly an epic experience.  So what is the big epic hike for June?  My Whitney!  I am looking forward to that!

For those who would like to see the elevation gain per mile check out the pic below from my Garmin.

Garmin

 

 

May 17

Mt Islip Via Big Cienega and Windy Gap

tall tree with snow

As I am writing this post I am thinking cool thoughts (while sweltering in 100 degree heat).  It is hard to believe the pics from this hike are from only three weeks ago.  What happened to our spring?!!

After completing Boston and with another big event on the horizon it was time to get back up to the mountains and start training at elevation.  My next adventure is called the Trans-Rockies Run.  I will post more details on it later but basically it is a six-day stage race in the Rockies in which you compete as a two person team.  The total distance is about 120 miles with the entire race at elevations between 8,000 and 12,000 feet.  I will be running Trans-Rockies with my friend Amber.  Since we had both just completed Boston five days before, we targeted a fairly easy hike (we were not ready to run) from Crystal Lake to Mt Islip.  It had rained the night before however the last thing we were expecting was snow–after all it was the end of April.  Driving up Azusa Canyon at daybreak the ever-increasing light gradually revealed we were going to be hiking in powder.  It’s a good thing we had packed warm clothes!

We parked at Crystal Lake and picked up the Windy Gap Trail.  Our route for the day was a loop.  We took the Windy Gap Trail for about a mile and then picked up Big Cienega Trail which we took to the summit.  The junction of Windy Gap and Big Cienega was not marked but the trail is easy to see if you watch for it on the left.  The climb to the summit of Mt Islip on Big Cienega is a little farther than taking the Windy Gap Trail but not as steep.

sign from bottom

As we climbed we quickly found ourselves hiking across small canyons with a fresh dusting of snow…

canyon

…through new growth in forests burned over ten years ago…

tree

snow on burned trees

…and with incredible views across the San Gabriel’s to the Pacific.

view to ocean

view 1

As we neared the summit of Mt Islip the snow became deeper and it looked like a winter wonderland.

snow covered trail

Alongside the hut at the top we found the summit register buried in the rocks and took the time to sign in.  The view from up here was incredible however clouds had come in from the west so we could no longer see the ocean or LA.

hut 3

view williamson

incoming clouds

snow tree

Coming down from the summit we followed the trail east and came out at Windy Gap.

sign 5

From Windy Gap we could see the switchbacks of the Windy Gap Trail which would take us back to Crystal Lake.  It was stunning!  But it was also cold so we quickly made our way down.

windy gap trail

It was a beautiful and wonderful day.  The distance was only 8 miles and total climbing was only 2350 feet.  Not a bad start five days out from Boston!  Below is the data from my Garmin.

Garmin

 

And for those who like to see the elevation gain or loss per mile here is a pic of my mile splits.

Elevation

 

 

 

Apr 29

Boston Marathon Race Report

map

I have found it a bit challenging to string together words which would do justice to running in such an epic race as the Boston Marathon in such a special year—a year after the bombings.  Previously I had run ten road marathons including the New York Marathon and the Athens, Greece Marathon.  Both of these were amazing experiences.  But Boston?  Boston is special!  There is nothing like it.  And to have the honor of running it this year was a once in a life time experience.  So first I want to give a shout out to Pastor Jim and Pastor Dan for excusing me from Easter weekend (what pastor misses Easter weekend?!!).  Truth be told, I had no idea when I first qualified that this year’s race would be the day after Easter.  Had I known I would have never tried to qualify for this particular year.  I am very grateful for the understanding of my church family!  Also, I ran this race on behalf of A21, raising awareness and funds for the fight against human trafficking.  Thank you to all who supported Boston for A21.  At last count over $23,000 had been raised!  And while this post primarily deals with the details of the race I just want to say that I loved the city of Boston and thoroughly enjoyed my time while there.

sign

Allow me to set the context with the logistics of this race—especially for my non-runner friends.  The field this year was made up of 36,000 people (much larger than a regular year).  The race is a point-to-point race which meant the organizers had to bus all of us out to Hopkinton prior to the start and then we ran the 26.2 miles back to Boston.  The 36,000 people were divided into four waves and each wave had nine corrals.  The first three waves were made up of Boston qualifiers. (For those of you reading who are not familiar with the world of running…you have to earn your right to run Boston by running a previous marathon at a qualifying pace. That pace is determined by gender and age.)  The fourth wave had people running for charities, those who were connected to race sponsors and those who had been stopped from finishing last year’s race due to the bombings.  We were assigned to a wave and corral based on the time we ran to qualify for Boston with the fastest people in the front.  I had qualified 18 months previous with a time of 3:50 and was placed in wave three, corral five—yep, I was in the back of the qualifiers and just happy to be there.  I had trained with and was running the race with my friend Amber who was a couple of corrals ahead of me.  The waves were separated by 30 minute start times with the first wave going off at 10am.  A huge athlete village was set up to accommodate us as we waited for our turn to line up.  Security was a priority with the local police, state police and the National Guard present and active.  I saw the National Guard in positions on roof tops scanning the horizon with binoculars.  Hopkinton to Boston was probably the safest place to be in the entire country on race day. :-)

It was a ¾ mile walk to the start line from the village.  Along the way residents of Hopkinton had decorated their homes with posters saying “Boston Strong”, “No More Hurting People”, etc. and they came out to cheer us on to the start line.  Three women danced to the song “Happy” on a porch as they waved at us.  Across the street a group of men who had already had a few too many drinks offered beer, donuts and cigarettes to any runner who wanted it as we passed by.  It was a pretty funny scene.

The race went off without a hitch.  The course has a significant downhill start and since many people were in bright-colored jerseys it looked like someone had spilled a huge bag of skittles which gently moved down the rolling hills as we meandered through New England.  It was beautiful.  When I crossed the start line I actually felt a little emotional which had never happened to me before in a race.  All that kept going through my mind was, “I’m actually running Boston!”  I am not naturally fast.  I did not run cross-country or track in school.  But with the support of great friends and my running club (shout out to the Glendora Ridge Runners!!!) I had finally dropped my time down enough to qualify.  It took years!

The first portion of the race winds through small New England towns on a two lane highway.  Heeding advice from many friends I refrained from pounding out the opening downhill portion since that shreds the quads leaving nothing left for the infamous Newton Hills at mile 20.  I ran the first 10k at the pace I wanted (8:44) and about a mile after that felt my hamstring tighten up.  I had pulled my hamstring 6 weeks before the race and had missed significant training in the final weeks leading up to Boston.  Originally I had wanted to run a PR shooting for a 3:45.  While I did my best to recover prior to the race I knew I probably would not be able to hold my pace (hamstrings take a long time to heal) so I had made a personal commitment to pull back if and when I began to feel my hamstring.  While I wanted to run Boston well I did not want to be re-injured.  Around mile 8 I could feel my hamstring and two miles later I began having problems with blisters so I pulled back and actually went to a med tent for the first time ever to get the hot spots on my feet taped.  I lost about 9 minutes in the med tent but I knew now it would just be about enjoying the race and not worrying about my time.  In fact, I readjusted my goals for the day.  Goal 1: Enjoy the experience.  Goal 2: Run all of Heartbreak Hill.  Goal 3: Pick up the pace for at least one mile toward the finish.

The crowd support was absolutely amazing the entire way.  Since I was now focused on enjoying the race I took some time to run the side of the street and participate in the high-five gauntlet with spectators.  I had worn a hat from the Athens marathon I had run a few years ago but as the temperature began to rise I found myself overheating.  I found a little girl cheering people along the course and surprised her by giving her my souvenir.  After passing Wellesley College where the college girls come out to offer kisses to the guys as they run by I caught up with Team Hoyt.  How cool was this!  The Hoyt’s are legends and everyone around was going crazy cheering them on.  This would be their final Boston.  At mile 17 my foot was aching from the tape job I had received at the med tent so I stopped and removed the tape from my foot before pressing on.

As we entered Newton I knew the hills were coming near and while I had been allowing myself some walk breaks I was reminded of my second goal—run all of Heartbreak.  So I walked/ran over the smaller hills and just as I downed a caffeinated gel (love these!) I saw a much steeper hill appear down the road.  I caught the eye of a spectator and asked him if that was Heartbreak.  He quickly told me yes and I grinned and muttered to myself, “Let’s do this.”  The guy saw me start to grin and gave me a shout out, “Go get it girl!”  Such cool spectators! It wasn’t stellar but I ran all of Heartbreak.  Then it was back to walking and running as I came into Boston and passed the infamous Citgo sign.  Around this point I decided to fulfill goal number 3 of picking up my pace for at least one more mile so I ran mile 23 and 25 at a pace that was not great but was 30 – 45 seconds faster than what I had been doing.  The crowds here were incredibly deep which was amazing considering the elites had finished a couple of hours before me.  There is a huge difference between east coast spectators and west coast.  I love Cali but I would much rather race on the east coast.  Making the turn onto Boylston was awesome and what a joy to cross the finish line.  While I was 40 minutes off my PR with a 4:30 I had not made my hamstring any worse and I had enjoyed the experience—goal #1.  Oh, and I also had a really nasty blood blister the size of an extra toe on the side of my foot but I will spare the readers the details of that.  Here is a look at the medal and race shirt:

Medal

shirt1

So here are some final thoughts as look back on the experience.  I completely believe in setting goals but sometimes conditions demand that goals be re-evaluated and adjusted.  Pastor Jim talked last week about enjoying the journey.  I have worked hard the last ten years on doing just that.  As a goal oriented person I can get so caught up in hitting the goal that I don’t look around to see what is taking place around me.  I would have loved a PR at Boston but not at the expense of re-injury and not at the expense of missing the experience.  Each day is a gift from God filled with people to engage with, things to see, experiences to live through, opportunities to grab hold of, etc.  The joy truly is in the journey.   I want to live life fully engaged—the life God intended for me.  Which leads me to my final thought which is a passage of scripture that kept going through my head prior to the race start:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12:1

I am not called to run anyone else’s race, just the one marked out for me.  In other words I do not need to compare myself with others or base my value on which goals were or were not attained.  Rather I am going to run light, letting baggage from the past go, staying on course, persevering and remaining focused on Jesus.  And all along the way I am going to enjoy this race, fully engaged in each day’s experience.

Below are some pics from Boston.

The elevation chart of the race:

Elevation chart of the race

Elevation chart of the race

The day before the race we visited the shoe memorial.  After most tragedies teddy bears and flowers are left at the scene.  But in Boston people left shoes–600 pairs of them.

memorial

Boylson Street the day before the race (I borrowed this pic from the BAA twitter).

boylson

And if you are wondering what is next…the Trans-Rockies Race in August!  That is going to be epic! :-)

 

 

 

Apr 08

Boston for A21: Injury Update and 14 Days Till Boston

Yes!  A 20 mile training run for Boston completed today!!!  It was not stellar but it is done!

Those of you who have been following my blog know my last post from 3 weeks ago was a “stepping out of denial and acknowledging that I was injured” post.  I had pulled my hamstring and hamstrings take a while to heal.  So in the last few weeks I have dialed my training way back and developed a strong love/hate relationship with my foam roller.  How could something that looks so tame hurt so bad!  I have also increased my swimming, kept my cycling steady, stretched and iced regularly, had two deep tissue massages, worn compression shorts under my work clothes, slept more and increased my intake of water.  Most of these items were things I was not doing consistently which led me to being out of balance and a target for injury.  I also took six days off from running and gently increased mileage and pace when I started back.

So how do I feel after running 20 miles?  To be completely honest I feel the way I always feel after running 20 miles on asphalt…stiff, sore and wiped out.  (In some ways I feel more like I do after running an entire marathon!)  Now if you were to see my training log you would notice that I was much faster five weeks ago when I ran the same course prior to my injury.  And that is true.  And what is also true is focusing on that fact is depressing.  Instead, I choose to compare where I am today to where I was three weeks ago when I left my house intent on running a 20 miler and I had to pull out and quit.  In fact the first few miles of that run were agony.  Three weeks ago I was broken.  Today was not stellar but it is improvement.  So here is a funny thing that probably only other runners will get…we (my friend who I run with has been injured too) are getting healthy just in time to taper!  Oh well!

Of course, all this preaches and applies to situations far more important than running.  We get knocked down by situations in life either through our own poor decisions, the poor decisions of others or the fact we live in a fallen world.  Loss of a job, illness, injury, broken relationship, loss of a loved one, etc., nobody is exempt.  Living our life focused on how things used to be and wondering “what if” steals our joy and aborts our future.  The reality is the situations that have happened in the past happened and we cannot change that fact.  Life may look different but different does not mean bad.  True champions get up and move forward. As the Apostle Paul’s wrote:

But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14 NIV

So back to running.  Boston is in 14 days and I am looking forward to enjoying the journey!

 

Mar 15

Boston for A21: Injured :-(

I am five weeks and two days out from Boston and I have to accept the fact that I am injured.  My training had been going really well with good times at both the track and on my tempo runs.  I had completed quite a few pretty long runs and I was excited about the potential of setting a new p.r. at Boston while raising funds to restore the smiles of the girls living in the A21 shelter for victims of trafficking in Bulgaria.  But a week ago Tuesday I over did it at the track and have been in denial regarding an over-use injury to my hamstring ever since.  To be fair, it wasn’t just one workout that caused the injury.  I have been able to identify a few smaller contributing factors which would probably bore the readers of this post if I wrote about them.  The track workout was simply the final trigger.  So for the last week and a half I have been operating out of denial.  But you can only live in denial for so long when you see your tempo pace increase by 90 seconds a mile and you have to pull out of a track workout because you have no power or speed and the ache in your leg continues to increase.  This morning my friend Amber and I were scheduled to run a 20 mile street run (I was so dreading it!).  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Amber has also been nursing a sore hamstring so we agreed the pace would be kept slow.  At least we didn’t have to suffer alone.  But as we ran toward San Dimas Canyon common sense began to overrule denial.  What was I doing?  At this point I was simply dealing with an overuse injury that with proper care I should be able to overcome in a reasonable amount of time.  But if I kept pushing things I was risking a far more serious injury which could take me out of commission for months.  That kind of injury would not only have the potential to knock me completely out of Boston but also take me out of some other fun events I have planned for the summer.  We talked as we ran out Route 66 and agreed that neither of us should be running 20 miles today.  So we turned north and headed up to the trails above my house (I love trails!).  We spent the next hour and a half jogging/hiking/walking and it was awesome!  We still ended up with over 11 miles.  When I got home I pulled out the donut (ok, donuts) from Donut Man I had bought last night thinking I would eat them as my reward for running 20 today.  Instead they became my pity party food.  The pity party is now over.

I will still be running Boston (even if I have to crawl), but I have refocused my goal.  Rather than training to run it fast I will be training to run it healthy.  I am not posting my running drama to gather sympathy.  Let’s be real.  God has blessed my life in so many ways and a running injury is nothing compared to many of the challenges so many people face on a regular basis.  I am writing this because the content of this blog over the next few weeks will probably change to overcoming the injury challenge and this post serves to set the context.  I hope you as a reader will continue to join me on this journey and I really hope you will consider supporting A21 regardless of what time I run on April 21.  Here is the link if you are interested: http://www.crowdrise.com/BostonforA21/fundraiser/dawnjackson

So no more whining over my sore hammy (and glute).  It’s time to get healthy!

Mar 09

Boston for A21: How I Survived My First Marathon

In honor of today’s LA Marathon I thought I would write-up a quick post about how I survived my first marathon.  People who have only known me the last 5 – 7 years assume I have always been a runner, but that is not the case.  I have always been athletic–growing up playing softball and basketball and being very active, but I never ran track or cross-country.  In fact, I was completely clueless when it came to training for a marathon.  Here is what happened and how it all got started.

Back in 2006 friends from church had asked me to help them train to hike Half Dome in Yosemite.  I had hiked Half Dome before and thought, “What the heck!  This would be fun!”  So we did some practice hikes and headed off to Yosemite in July where we had a great time!  Below is a pic of Half Dome and one of the infamous cables you cling to while ascending the final portion.  So fun!

Half Dome

Cables

 

Within a few days of completing Half Dome my friends asked me what was next.  So I responded, “I guess we could do a marathon.”  I had no idea how to train for a marathon yet within a couple of weeks I had 14 friends committed to the 2007 LA Marathon and I was their leader/coach–I do not know what they were thinking trusting me like this!  Nobody in our group had ever run track or cross-country, nor were any of us avid 5k participants.  So I bought a book called Marathon, You Can Do It by Jeff Galloway and we began 6 months of training.

For a beginner with no running experience Galloway’s training was probably a good approach for all of us to take.  He advocates a run walk approach where you set your own ratio of running and walking based on time.  For example, my friends Patia, Evelyn and I did a 5:1 ratio.  We would run for 5 minutes and walk for 1 and repeat that over and over and over.  I bought a watch where I could set an alarm to beep according to my ratio.  After 5 minutes it would beep and then after 1 minute it would beep and then repeat.  All we had to do was obey the beep.  This approach was easier on our bodies as we became accustomed to running long distances.

We also followed Galloway’s advice for our training plan.  Every Saturday we did a long run.  The first Saturday was 3 miles and each week we added a mile until we reached 12 miles.  After that we ran half that mileage (so 6) then the following week we added 2 more miles to the big number and ran 14.  We continued this build up until it was time to taper three weeks prior to the race.  I used an online service called Map My Run to map out our route and each Saturday my friends had a love/hate relationship with me as I took them up and down streets and hills and across Glendora, San Dimas and Claremont.  During the week we each ran 2 “maintenance” runs which were 30 – 45 minutes each.  I knew nothing about speed work or tempo runs.  We were basically doing the minimum training you could do to finish a marathon without being completely beat up.

As new runners most of us had some type of injury along the way and our local chiropractor became our best friend.  I had serious IT band challenges and learned to run through the pain.  In March of 2007 we all ran, walked, crawled, cried and finished the LA Marathon.  I was hoping to beat 5 hours and literally finished in 4:59:54 with 6 seconds to spare.  I look back now and shake my head at our training (no speed work, no tempos, hardly any stretching, little diet change and freezing ice baths).  I train so differently now.  But here is the point–we were green and had no idea what we were doing but we did it.  I fully believe that if you wait until you know enough or are perfectly prepared you will never do it.  Sometimes you just have to commit and then learn along the way.  I have learned a lot in the last 7 years and I will post this week about how I currently train, but I have fond memories of those early days, that crazy beeping watch and a bunch of friends who were so trusting of me.  What started as a bucket list item (I use to tell people I was only doing one marathon) has now become a lifestyle.  I have now run 10 road marathons and while I am still not fast I did qualify to run Boston next month.  If you had told me 7 years ago that I would be running Boston (as well as all the other adventures I have had along the way–running the Grand Canyon, ultra-running, ironman, etc.) I would have laughed and thought it impossible.  But it is amazing the opportunities which come your way when you step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to be a little uncomfortable and learn new skills.  So here is what I wonder for all that are reading this as well as for me who is writing this “What opportunities and adventures will we living in the next 7 years because of decisions we make today?”  Just a thought!  Happy Sunday and good luck to everyone running LA today!

Feb 11

Boston for A21: Restoring Their Smile

This morning as I scrolled through twitter I came across this picture from A21:

photo

These are the decorations put up by the girls rescued from trafficking and living in the Bulgarian shelter.  I thought to myself, “Those are our girls!”  Perhaps you are wondering what I mean by “our girls”.  I have never met them personally and I do not know their names, but they are very special to me.  Here is why.  These girls (five of them at this time) endured such abuse from their traffickers that their teeth were destroyed.  When I connected with A21 to see what project they might like us to help with (us being those participating in Boston for A21/Santa Anita 5k for A21) they asked if we would raise the funds for the dental work to have not only the girls lives and dignity restored but also their smiles.  Of course my response was “YES”!

What I love about the picture above is the hope that it expresses.  These are just young girls who have gone through hell.  But now that they have been rescued and are living in a safe house their lives are being restored.  They can dream again!  I wonder what dreams those hearts in the window represent.  After enduring such abuse it is a wonder to me that they can celebrate Valentines Day.  But isn’t that how God works?  As I quoted a couple of days go in my post, “Let the ruins come to life…rising up from the ashes…”  HOPE!

This project will cost about $10,000 plus the cost of sending an oral surgeon over to do the work.  Will you join me in this adventure?  Every little bit helps.  Or perhaps you would like to join our team and do an event (like the Santa Anita 5k) for A21, raising awareness to fight human trafficking and funds to restore the smiles of these beautiful girls.  To set up your own fund-raising page follow the direction on this post: http://www.trailrunningpastor.com/2013/11/08/boston-for-a21-step-2-supporting-a21/

If you would like to support me or one of the members of our team by making a donation please follow this link: http://www.crowdrise.com/BostonforA21/fundraiser/dawnjackson

In case you are not familiar with A21 here are a few stats and details about what they do.  A21 exists to abolish injustice in the 21 century.  They have only been in existence for about seven years, yet in that amount of time have been extremely effective.  They focus on prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.  Since their inception they have successfully prosecuted 24 traffickers resulting in 353 years in prison and over $2,000,000 in fines.  Recently on twitter they highlighted what their shelters help to do:

– Rebuild identity.

– Re-establish skill sets, self-esteem and personal interest.

– Work towards social and familial reintegration.

– Provide culturally sensitive mental recovery.

– Go beyond meeting basic needs.

– Empower survivors to make their own decisions again.

– Treat any illnesses or ailments obtained during enslavement.

Which bring us back to the girls living in the shelter in Bulgaria.  I hope you will join us in restoring their smiles.

If you would like to read more about A21 please follow this link: http://www.thea21campaign.org/index.php#.Uvo1GPDTmtU