Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First Tracks

Last week my running miles took a big hit. But I had a good excuse. A huge, 3 day Sierra blizzard, dumping up to 10 feet of fresh snow in what I like to call "my backyard". I just had to take advantage of it.

My first exploration took place near White Cloud along Hwy 20 with Yuba. It was fun to travel on the Pioneer trail that I usually run or bike on. When I snowshoe, I usually go higher in elevation because of the views and wide open spaces. But sometimes traveling through the forest when it's entombed with fresh snow can have a great effect.
Storm damage on the trail
Along the way, Yuba took off straight downhill from the trail. He does this sometimes when we're running and usually catches back up. This time I continued on and after another 20 minutes or so, he was a no-show. So I started backtracking and found no new prints from him. So I got to the point where he descended down off the trail, sighed, and careened down after him. I followed his prints until they suddenly went in about 10 different directions. What to do. I called his name and low and behold, he suddenly appeared from out of the trees. I have no idea what he was doing, why he didn't come back up to the trail to find me, or what he would have done if I'd just gone back to the truck, assuming he had done the same. Oh well, I'm just glad to have my buddy back.
A few days later after some more fresh snow fell, Pat, Yuba, and I parked at the Loch Leven trailhead and discovered to our delight that we were the first visitors to this very popular spot. There was so much snow along the road that we had to use the snow shovel to build steps so we could start our snowshoe hike.
Building steps just to start our hike
Our destination were the railroad tracks about a mile away. It was slow going but very enjoyable. It was probably the hardest mile I've ever travelled as well. We repeatedly sank up to our knees and sometimes mid-thigh. Yuba would venture out on his own only to realize the best route was to travel right behind us.
After 1 hour 18 min we finally got to the tracks and had a little picnic. We were hoping a train would go by but no luck. We started back but of course had to make a little circle because we couldn't follow in our own footprints, that would be too easy. We actually followed the real trail on the way back. It was fun to see the bridge that crosses the creek just before the last climb up to the RR tracks.
These tracks haven't been used in years! (Inside joke)
Bridge just before RR tracks
By the time we got back we were pretty tuckered. A well earned 2 miles.
Pooped pup
Our next adventure took us to the Castle Peak area. This was a lot different because it was a Monday after an absolutely gorgeous weekend. Needless to say, there were trails everywhere! But even still, we were able to find plenty of untracked powder to test our weary legs in.
Castle Peak in background
We made it almost to the ridgeline that separates Castle Peak and Basin Peak. On our way up we noticed some tracks descending from the base of Castle Peak (was that you Gretchen?) It was a beautiful day, lots of sun and little wind.
Lunch stop with Basin Peak in background
Leg burner
We had a lot of fun "running" down the slopes back into the trees on our way back. Just the perfect amount of powder and we floated. The only thing missing was my dad. In years past, we spent a lot of time together on these slopes in both summer and winter and I miss those days. He now lives on the central coast and doesn't get up to this area enough.
Taking the plunge
What a view
So the running miles took a hit but the cross training certainly took off. I think I can equate the workouts to a tempo run (Loch Leven) and intervals (Castle peak). No wonder I've been exhausted this week. And yesterday my 14 mile long run took over 3 hours (but that's another story).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bringing in the New Year in Missouri

My husband comes from a large mid-western family and they are big college football fans. So last year we decided it would be fun to plan a trip back east that would incorporate New Year's Day and "Bowl Mania". So two days after Christmas I found myself doing something I swore I would never do: travel by airplane during the holidays with 2 small children. I saw nightmare written all over it. Luckily, I had 2 things going for me: 1) my parents would be joining us, there-by the adults would out-number the kids 2:1, and 2) I found a non-stop flight from Sacramento to Kansas City. We flew out just ahead of an incoming storm and the flight was incident-free.
The girls showing off their Christmas dresses from Nana (my mom)
Pat is one of 7 kids and we all were able to get together on the Saturday after our arrival (except for 1 brother). We spent the day visiting, showing off our girls (no one had met Sara yet), watching football, and "noshing". I had never heard the term "nosh" before joining Pat's family but it means to eat, eat, eat. I am amazed that Pat's dad, all the brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends were able to come together during the holidays to see us during our visit. It was really special.
Pat enjoying a laugh with his siblings
Of course the highlight of the day was the "white elephant" gift exchange. The two top gifts were animals: a blow up head of a moose and a singing, dancing gopher from the movie Caddyshack (my daughter got that). There was some stealing involved but over-all it was tamer than in years past (too bad :) )
Clarifying instructions for the gift exchange
Pat's brother got this and I think it goes with his singing fish
Caitlyn enjoying her new Caddyshack gopher
About the running: I was able to get some runs in and it was cold. An ice storm had moved through the area a week of so before leaving clear, cold weather. I would get up early before the others and dress in 3-4 layers and hit the streets exploring. My brother and sister-in-law live in a small, rural town about an hour from Kansas City. My parents stayed at a darling Bed and Breakfast called the Mulberry Inn about 1.5 miles away so I made it part of each run to go by and write "hi" in the ice on their windshield. My last run was the coldest: 8 degrees with a windchill of minus 8. I know some people would scoff at that, they run in sub-freezing weather all winter but I'm not used to it. However, I must say it was quite enjoyable.
Strolling downtown KC
Pat and Sara
Another highlight of the trip was a surprise planned for Pat and I and the girls: an evening horse drawn carriage ride in downtown Kansas City to see all the beautiful lights. Our carriage was a "Cinderella" carriage, pumpkin shaped and quite beautiful (Caitlyn loves Cinderella). We got a wonderful tour of the downtown buildings all lit up for Christmas. It was very special.
Enjoying the carriage ride
This was one of those trips where we didn't have a lot of things planned. We could just be lazy, visit an antique store, relax and enjoy ourselves. On New Years Day we even got to see the University of Missouri win their bowl game. Unfortunately, Kansas won their game a few days later (it's a big rivalry). We flew back to Sacramento one day before the "big storm" hit California and shut down various airports. Perfect timing.
I thought I'd get tomboys...............

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Winter Wonderland

White-out. Blizzard. Treacherous. Stranded. Life-threatening conditions. 165mph winds. 10 feet of snow. Flooding. Millions of people without power. Big rigs getting blown over on the freeway. These are just a few of the descriptions of the storm pounding Northern California right now. You may have heard a little about it on the news. After getting home from Missouri on Thursday night, I made it to work in Reno Friday morning just ahead of the storm. Now I'm stuck here. I got off work at 8:00 this morning but I-80 going over Donner Summit is closed. Nothing to do but shop I guess. Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Costco, a running's been nice shopping at a leisurely pace with no children :)

We had a bit of a break this morning but it is dumping snow again. My husband is home on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains with the girls. It's so tough to be away from them. They were without power for almost 2 days but it came back on this afternoon. However, now I just heard they're out again.

I also have family down in San Diego county who were affected by the Witch Fire this fall. Sounds like they're getting quite a bit of rain and can only hope they're faring well.

Since I'm on my work computer, I can't post any pictures. Maybe I'll be able to get some up if I ever make it home again!

Stay warm everyone.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 Recap

I'm still in Missouri but noticed I got "tagged" by Gretchen so I guess I'll do some reminiscing about my first year in ultra-running. It's been a lot of fun. I did a sprint triathlon, 3 5k's, 1/2 marathon, 2 25k's, 1 marathon, the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Relay with my fire department, 1 50k, and 1 50m. Since I don't have my own computer, I don't have access to any pictures. Maybe I'll get some up after I get home.

1) Most memorable moment on the trail: That would have to be back in April during the Prison Hill 1/2 marathon. It was a beautiful day and I really wanted to push myself and see what I could do. I felt great right from the start, the trail was an exciting roller coaster of ups and downs and I just had a lot of fun. And the best part was having my family there to cheer me on. I also have to add running my first 50 miler at Helen Klein. I was sure I could do the distance, I just didn't know if I could finish it in the alloted time. Having my husband along on his bike leap-frogging me between aid stations was so nice. Having his support really helped me get through.

2) Best new trail discovered in 2007: The Marin Headlands without a doubt (I know, that's not just one trail but a whole area of trails). I did a couple of training runs and 1 race there this summer and they kicked my butt but I had a smile on my face the whole time. A great event for couples with kids is Envirosports relays. We did the Marin Crossing, my husband biked 51 miles to the top of Mt. Tam while I watched the kids then I handed them off to him and I ran to the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm finding that any run in that area is challenging, beautiful, and fun.

3) Best performance in 2007: The Cascade Shores sprint triathlon (for women only). Due to my poor ability to swim fast, I never expected a top 10 finish in my home town tri. I was also happy to win my age group in the Run Through The Colors 5K to get one of the coveted Sierra Club calendars and set a 5k PR.

4) I don't know how I survived without.......gaiters. They're great. Nothing worse than to run these beautiful, rocky trails and get small, annoying pebbles in your shoes. Dirty girls puts out some wild gaiters. Something else I can't imagine being without is similar to Gretchen's answer, and that would be my best trail running buddy, Yuba. He just goes and goes and goes.

5) Person I most want to meet on the trails: That would have to be my new "blog buddies". It's been so much fun following other ultrarunners on their blog sites then actually meeting them in person at the races.

6) Race most excited about in 2008: I was hoping that would be WS100 but alas, it was not to be. So I would have to say Rucky Chucky 50k. I'm really looking forward to running part of the WS trail and seeing "the crossing". Another race is the 12 Hours of Cool night run. Gretchen and Peter really raved about this one and I've never run through the night before.

Tomorrow we head back to California for what I hear is a series of some potent snow storms coming in this weekend. It's been sunny but very cold here. I did 6 miles this morning and it was 8 degrees with -8 wind chill. A bit nippy but fun.

Hope everyone is having a good start to the New Year.