Friday, October 24, 2014

Trails: East Bay Madness!

By: Maggie

I *love* running in the East Bay. The network of trails is incredible - and offer an endless combination of long or short runs. During my training, I find it fun, but challenging, to string together long trail runs that have a good variety of terrain and available water refills. I've started running with a hydration pack, so the water is less critical, but it's still good (on a 3 or 4 hour run), to know you can refill if needed!

Anyway, that's a long introduction to a simple post. Here is my favorite long-run loop in the East Bay.  It strings together runs through Redwood Regional Park and Anthony Chabot Regional Park. Both full maps are available online:

This loop is 20 miles. I can't remember the elevation gain - I'm guessing around 4500'. 

I have annotated them here with mileage:

MILES 1 - 5.62

Click map for larger image.
  • I like starting at Skyline Gate. There are restrooms, water fountains, and benches. 
  • Head south on the West Ridge trail. It's a gradual uphill to the Moon Gate, at mile 1.2
  • Take a hard left to stay on the West Ridge trail. There is one significant climb as you enter the Chabot Space Center property. 
  • Cross the road after the climb and enjoy rolling hills down to the Redwood Bowl at mile 1.96.
  • Lots of trails peel out of the Redwood Bowl, so pay attention here. Veer left and follow signs to stay on West Ridge - it will be the left-most trail and a slight uphill climb out of the bowl. 
  • West Ridge opens up here, and it's a beautiful stretch with great views - or mist blowing over the ridge. The eucalyptus trees smell amazing - great spot!
  • Several trails split off of this stretch of West Ridge. The Baccharus trail is a variation of West Ridge. It is a nice mixup and connects right back to the West Ridge trail. A couple trails peel off to the left and take you down to the bottom of the canyon and will return you to Skyline. A couple peel off to the right - take the third one, Toyon Trail, at mile 4.5.
  • Toyon is a rutted, skinny single track trail that careens down the side of the hill. It's fun to run and has beautiful views. I've never seen anyone on this trail, so it seems like a hidden gem!
  • At the bottom of the hill, take a left on Golden Spike at 5.32 miles. Golden Spike skirts the bottom of the ridge, along the road. It will take you to a road crossing at 5.62 miles. There's a small bridge. Watch for the steps and for traffic!

MILES 5.62 - 15.5

Click map for larger image.
  • Across the road, you enter the Big Bear Staging Center and Anthony Chabot Regional Park.
  • It starts with a steady climb up the MacDonald Trail. There are trail signs and only a couple loop offshoots.
  • Once you reach the ridge, the trail rolls along for a couple miles and then drops into a steady decline to Bort Meadow Group Camp at 8.15 miles.
  • The trail has a few horse gates, and it will pop onto a paved road/driveway. Run down and to the right on this paved road. It leads to dirt parking lot that trails split from.
  • I like to take the Brandon Trail on my way out - it's on the south side of the creek (Grass Valley Creek). It's always been chilly on this trail because it's tucked in the shade near water. 
  • There is a really pretty Stone Bridge at mile 9.5. Head up to the right (south) on Jackson Grade. At the top of this grade is WATER at 9.8 miles! It's a spigot near some parking. 
  • The Goldenrod Trail continues south from The Woolridge Staging Area (where the water was), and will hit a turnaround point at about 10.5 miles and the Columbine Trail
  • The Columbine connects to the Cascade Trail, which will bring you back to the Stone Bridge. From here, take the Grass Valley trail (instead of Brandon), to get a view from the other side of the creek.
  • At mile 12.7, you'll be back in the Bort Meadow parking area, climb back up the paved driveway, and climb gradually up the MacDonald Trail. Follow this back to the Big Bear staging area, where you first popped into Chabot Park. This should be about 15.5 miles.

MILES 15.5 - 20

Click map for larger image.
  • Back in Redwood Park, get back onto Golden Spike, and head south (do not retrace back to Toyon). Golden Spike will follow the road and curve around into the canyon. 
  • At 16.3 miles, Golden Spike connects back with West Ridge. West Ridge quickly turns into Stream Trail, which is the main canyon-bed trail. 
  • Stay on Stream Trail the rest of the way. At 17.14, there is a WATER spigot in a picnic area (to the right).
  • At 18 miles, Stream Trail crosses to the right over a bridge. Another trail continues straight and is BRUTAL climbing out (and it adds a couple miles). 
  • Once you've crossed the bridge, take a left and follow Steam Trail for 2 more miles to Skyline Gate! The last .5 mile is a decent climb - I usually hike a lot of it. But it's good to end on a tough note ;)

I hope this helps you enjoy Redwood and Chabot Parks as much as I do! And if you do, please consider making a donation or becoming a member of the Regional Parks Foundation at

Happy running!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hummin' in the rain

Moving to Marin has been quite a change, but our new neighbors have really taken to us! With today being my day off, and since I'm still recovering from this past weekend's 50k, I had a lot of time to kill. So, naturally, I spent my morning observing the hummingbirds that have been frequenting our new feeder (thanks Bridgett!) and used the opportunity to fiddle with my neglected camera. From what I learned through my Google search, this is a common species known as Anna's Hummingbird. They are characterized as being mostly green and grey, and the males are covered in reddish-pink feathers that appear dull without direct light. The lighting here doesn't accentuate its iridescence as well as it could have, but I'll post more once I hone my hummy-capturing skills!

Source: All About Birds

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Overlook 50 Miler - Race Report!

By Maggie

I almost titled this "Overlook: Like a Tolstoy novel, minus the snow" because there were some dark moments, some beautiful moments, and I was occasionally confused - but I think I actually enjoyed it. The more I think about it, it was really spiritual and moving. And I really wished there had been snow. But despite the similarities, I figured the title was overkill.

Anyway, last weekend I completed the Overlook 50 miler. Since my first "ultramarathon" last December, I've fallen in love with trail running, trails, and the incredible community surrounding these events. I was eyeing this race after my second 50km this past May. The Overlook 50 mile event had 13,000' feet of climbing and traveled along miles and miles of Western States trails in beautiful "hill" country. Plus Ann Trason was the RD! What a treat to run the inaugural race put on by an epic ultrarunning legend. When Jack, who mentored me through Silver State, offered to run the whole 50 miles with me, I was in.

An overview of Overlook!
The lessons continue!
Jack kept his word and ran the whole race with me. I kept joking that it was like 2 polar bears in the heat - miserable! See above image for depiction of heat (orange line) and altitude (white line). It hit 100F multiple times and hit a high temp of 103.6F! At the cutoff (mile 35) we picked up the heat-loving cheetah, aka Stephen. With such great company and beautiful scenery, the race was really a joy (despite being somewhat physically uncomfortable the whole time). Plus I got a whole new load of Jack wisdom dropped on me!

Jedi-master Jack!
No window shopping.
Even if the going gets tough, the tough must make cut-off. Which means walk with a purpose if you've gotta walk!

This race was a great lesson in being prepared for the distance AND weather conditions - it felt like a battle to make cut-off, a pressure which I haven't really felt before. And while I don't want to experience that again, thanks to Jack's coaching I know how to keep going when the heat is on!

We made the cutoff with time to spare!

Stop doubting.
I can withstand a lot more than I ever thought possible. I remember registering for my first half marathon and thinking it would be a miracle if I could drag my butt 13 miles. I remember registering for my first marathon and thinking it would be the farthest I could ever run in my life- that I would be peaking in my lifetime running at a mere 25 years old. But I did run 13 miles, and I did complete a marathon, and I've kept running since then. And every time I've finished a race, I've rationalized that it must not have been THAT far, THAT difficult... During this past 50 miler, I heard myself say, "I'm not good at this." Well shit, at this point it doesn't matter if I'm good at it - I'm doing it anyway, and I'm having fun! It's easy to self-doubt and to be self-critical. But running (and life) is much more enjoyable "on the windy side of care."

Starting to smell the barn on No Hands Bridge!
Start training.
I have been SO BAD at being consistent lately. Between job-searching, apartment-hunting, half-assed training and school starting, I have been a poor excuse of an athlete. I'm ready to be disciplined and really put it on the line! I know that I respond well to routine and am excited to have a plan (and stick to it) for my next race. Thankfully my RRCA-certified boyfriend can whip me up something fancy ;) I am feeling really good about prioritizing my health instead of just fitting it in. RAH-RAH-BOOM-BANG GO TEAM.

Puke happens. It's not all bad. 
First off, let me start this by saying I *had* a major, major no-puke streak. It might not be 14 years like Jerry Seinfeld, but it was a long time. I pride myself on my ability to withstand stomach viruses, hangovers, and other tummy traumas.

Well, thank you Ann Trason, for ruining my no-vom-streak. I held it in until around mile 25 when Jack told me to "get it out!" I emptied my stomach all over the trails until about Rucky Chucky at mile 36. Thankfully this lesson was accompanied by Jack's "no pity party" rule. And actually, puking felt pretty good and I was able to run intermittently along the Cal Loop. Apparently this is some sort of ritual: other runners on the trail shouted out "great job, kid!" and "now you're a real ultrarunner!" as puke dripped from my nose. I'd brag about being in the top 10 women finishers, but there were only 9 of us (eep!) A total of 30 people total finished the 50 miler: 21 men, 9 women. All results here!

All in all, another great day!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Skyline 50k race report

By: Stephen

It's been a while since I've raced a 50k. As far as ultra races are concerned, it's a distance that still intimidates me, mostly because of the speed. My last 50k, Way Too Cool, ended in complete carnage because of my lack of pacing. By mile 18 my legs were busted, and I could barely walk without cramping. This year has taught me a lot about running and racing, and it was at the Skyline 50k where I felt that I implemented most of what I've learned. It's worth mentioning that this was one of the most well organized, friendliest, competitive, yet low-key ultras I've done, as well as the 33rd running of the historic race (who knew!). I'm already looking forward to next year.

Photo credit: Noé Castañón
My goal for the race was pretty simple: beat my predicted time on Ultrasignup (which was something like 4:17). We toed the line around 6:55am, and by 7 we were off. I settled in behind a few Exelsior guys who were moving pretty well, and after the first mile clicked off -- a 6:35 -- I knew I'd be pushing hard all morning. A few miles in, the leader slowly started to pull away, while I kept my sights on second place, who was putting in a solid effort, but also beginning to fade. The three of us blew through the first aid station at mile 4.3 and pushed to Bort Meadow at mile 6.3, where I snuck into second place.

After a quick refill, I started the gradual MacDonald climb out of Chabot, and feeling strong, I hammered the descent to Big Bear. The climb to the Skyline Gate a/s (mile 14.4) had been in the back of my mind all morning, and I knew I could gain some time, so I put my head down and chugged along. I managed to put some distance in YiOu, Jean, and Karl who were close behind and could see the leader, Evan, a few hundred feet ahead. He kept an even effort over the rolling East Ridge trail, growing his lead. As I rolled into Skyline, I glanced behind and saw YiOu and Jean in my peripherals. (click the link for Jean's race report)

Photo credit: Joe McCladdie
Technical descents have played to my strengths in the past, and with the French Trail coming up, I knew this is where I could make a move. Bounding down the rooted, rocky single track, it wasn't long before I passed the leader. It was short lived, however, and after about a mile, he caught me on the small, but ass-kicker of a climb up Star Flower.

My legs were beginning to feel flat, but after popping a Huma gel (which I'm going to review later...seriously these things are little pouches of gooey Chia seed heaven) they started to come back. After miles and miles of flowing single track that snake in and out of powerful redwoods, I popped onto West Ridge and began the beautiful descent down Toyon: a steep, and fairly technical single track system, that delivers the runners back to Big Bear.

The mile climb out of Big Bear was a real grind by this point, but I was still moving well. I crested the top and began to open up the legs on the MacDonald descent back to Bort Meadow. Everyone few steps, I could hear YiOu not too far behind, and in a panic, I took a wrong turn back onto Grass Valley. I realized my mistake after about a minute of running; nothing too serious, but frustrating nonetheless. Back on the correct trail, I pushed the pace to make up for lost time, but it wouldn't be long before YiOu caught me. She put in a hard surge on the rolling single track, but I couldn't counter. I ran within sight of her for the next couple of miles, until she floated away on the final climb to Honker Bay.

Some of the Quicksilver family
The races finishes on the same rolling paved bike path where the Firetrails 50 miler starts, so I was familiar with how fast the final miles would be. I gave everything I had, but my quads were beginning to cramp. Every step was a struggle, and to make it worse, I heard a runner hustling from behind. About a quarter mile later Karl passed me, not too long after that Jean flew by too. He offered encouragement, but I just couldn't hang. He moved from 5th to 2nd place in the final two miles; just another testament to his mental and physical strength. I crossed the line 2.5 minutes later for a 5th place finish in 3:54:04. We had a strong all-around Quicksilver showing, with Jeremy and John (just a few weeks removed from Hardrock!!!) also breaking into the top 10.

Gettin' that post-race grub on
It's been a while since I've gone sub-4 hours in a 50k, so I'm really pleased with my performance, especially considering the course profile. The elevation gain is almost identical to Way Too Cool, which means that if I just pace myself better, then maybe I'll actually do well there one year. ;) For now, I'm just going to focus on consistent weekly mileage and staying healthy for the next few endeavors.


Injinji RUN 2.0 Original Weight no-show
Nike 2" Raceday shorts
Nathan SpeedDraw Plus
Suunto Ambit2
Huma Chia Energy Gel

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Things I love: Handful bras!

By: Maggie

Thank goodness I don't have a lot going on in the bazoonga department, because I HATE shopping for bras. They never fit right! How is it possible that we've sent a man to the moon, but physicists and humanitarians around the world can't figure out how to create a bra that doesn't chafe around your chest / leave a gap to peek down / look pointy a la Madonna ?? This will be my first executive order when I'm President.

I usually just get a cheap $10 bra because if I'm going to hate and complain about a worthless, ill-fitting bra, I'd rather not spend a wad of dough on it. HOWEVER, I heard about this awesome company up in Portland, Oregon, where women were actually designing and making REAL bras for REAL women. 

So, for example, this bra has adjustable straps that can be cross-back or straight over the shoulders. It has removable pads, so I wear it to work as a "real" bra with shaped cups, and then I remove the cups for my runs at lunch or after work. yes... Yes... YES! 

But wait, there's more! Not only is each bra basically a 4-in-1 kinda deal (2 strap styles, with/without cups), but they come in great colors. I like wearing these to yoga, to lunch, to work, and most of all - on runs! The colors are great. I've got the Purple Mountains Majesty and Freshly Squeezed Orange, but I'm eyeing the No Headlights White next... And they aren't just pretty, they are actually functional. I haven't chaffed in any of my normal hot-spots (sternum/middle of the chest strap, under my arms or mid-back with a hydration pack on). I'm not sure if the pad pockets were meant to carry a phone/ Gu packets/ keys, but they work great for that too!

They have 6 different sizes, based mostly on chest circumference. I don't think that there are underwires in any of them, so for my well-endowed sistas, you may still need your velcro straps and metal clasps... But for my fellow members of the itty-bitty titty committee, welcome to a new era of sports bras!

Things I love: Handheld bottles!

By: Maggie

I love running with water! I know I don't drink enough water every day (FYI - we should all drink half our body weight in ounces per day, not accounting for exercise. Ex: I am about 120 pounds = 60 ounces per day, and more if I exercise.) I like to use my runs as a chance to really hydrate. And I get hot and having cool water is really refreshing. 

Nathan Quickdraw Plus
My first handheld bottle was a Nathan. I copied Stephen's since I was/am an ultra noob. It was a great starter-bottle. Mouthpiece stays open, so you can really chug. Plastic is durable, but squishy. The pockets were totally rip-stop. There's a little "thumb hole" at the top of the hand strap, so you can adjust hand position. Minor complaints: mouthpiece stays open, so I would find myself forgetting to shut it and dripping water all over myself or pissed that I'd lost water on a hot, long run. I carry my phone when I run (I love being disconnected but I worry about safety and like taking photos of flowers). When I can feel my phone vibrate in the handheld, I have to unzip it to see what's up because the pocket is completely opaque. Also, the handband is kind of wide, and on my small hands I'd get some numbness in my fingers or soreness in my hand and wrist, but only on longer runs (2+ hours). I still use this bottle, but I've kind of transitioned into....

Ultimate Direction Handy 20
At first I was annoyed by the pocket and mouthpiece because I was used to the Nathan. However, now I really like both of those features. The mouthpiece (a "kicker valve," I guess) is always closed. To drink, pop it out and bend/chew it. I like it for two reasons 1) I don't spill Scratch water down my legs anymore 2) I can't chug, so I end up sipping smaller drinks over my run - which actually feels better on my stomach! The pocket is mesh, so I can see if that phone notification is important (like my new Hokas have arrived) or if I'd prefer to ignore it (oops, was I supposed to be in class?) I also really like that I can see through the plastic bottle. I get a little loopy on long runs and sometimes think I have more water in my handheld than in reality. 

I'll definitely keep both of these bottles in my rotation. On long runs lately I've been running with a hydration pack (yay, hands-free!) But for shorter training runs it's nice to just grab a bottle and go.

Trail: Get Ye to the Headlands!

By: Maggie

Sometimes, heaven peeks through the little every day moments.

And it happens a lot in the Marin headlands.

Maybe if more people got outside and explored the natural beauty around us, it would be a better world. You can't stay sad, mad, or an asshole if you get outside regularly. It's an incredibly humbling and connecting experience to crawl up a mountainside and bonsai down switchbacks. And, ENDORPHINS! 

Climbing up this hill, I found a little mole-creature that appeared to have been dropped in the middle of the trail (maybe from a predator-bird?) It was tiny, covered in very soft, grey, baby fur, with little pink paws and a pink nose, and it was writhing on the hot dirt. It was a really hot day. I often get sidetracked on runs, but this was a really special side-adventure. Anyway, the poor little creature was baking on the trail, so I rinsed it off with my water bottle, popped it in some soft shady grass, and built a little grass tepee on the side of the trail. On my next lap around (about an hour later), the little mole was gone. I'm not sure if I couldn't find the same spot, if the little critter had burrowed into cooler ground, or if it had been eaten. I don't know what happened, but it made me happy and sad at the same time. Things like that seem to happen a lot on trails.

Trail: Toyon, Redwood Regional

By: Maggie

Heading south on West Ridge
I've been slacking on my running lately. Working full-time over the summer had kept me busy, and I have officially confirmed that I am a morning runner, NOT an evening runner. If it doesn't happen before noon, chances are that it won't happen at all. Anyway, I've been full of excuses and need to get my butt in gear.

Looking back up Toyon
I'm getting ramped up for fall's (hopefully) cooler weather and nice morning trainings. In that spirit, I've been thinking about my favorite trails. One of my top picks is the Toyon Trail in Redwood Regional Park. It's an offshoot from the West Ridge trail and is relatively short. But it's never busy, it's really rutted out, and it's got beautiful views.

There are so many options for out-and-backs, loops, or lollipop routes in Redwood. For a 9-ish mile loop, head from Skyline gate to the right onto West Ridge. You'll start out running West, but eventually you will be running south along the park's west ridge (hence the name). Stay on that trail past Chabot Space center, through the Redwood bowl (you went the wrong way if you hit Roberts Rec Area). Eventually you'll pop out of the Eucalyptus trees onto a wide sunny trail. Several trails split off- to the left down to Stream trail and to the right, which eventually link back up with West Ridge. Toyon is the third trail that splits to the right. It hits Golden Spike, which loops back north up Stream Trail and to Skyline gate.

The loop is a nice variety of shady/sunny and wet redwoods/dry scrub. It's also got about 1300' of climbing. If you want to add on more, Big Bear trail splits from Golden Spike across from Redwood Road, which is a relatively busy and paved road. Take Golden Bear to MacDonald (your only option, I think). That will climb over the next low ridge and then decend into Chabot.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The "High Country" - Running a bit of Western States

By: Maggie

I am blessed. I have been reminded of this repeatedly over the last month or so, which (not surprisingly) correlates with a lot of beautiful weather and great running.
Suunto didn't feel like connecting the dots, but you get the point.
I was lucky enough to be invited to run with a group of INCREDIBLE individuals on a STUNNING course. I made a new friend, Jack, during the Silver State 50km race in May, and he graciously included me in a run this past weekend. He (kindly) said that it feels like we're old friends - I reminded him that it's because I run so slowly and he's stuck with me for hours ;)

Dawn and me at Watson's Monument.

While most everyone else was training for much longer distances, I was just along for the ride (read: trying to keep up). We started at Squaw and climbed up to Watson's monument, and then we ran along a ridge, down a canyon and back out. Describing it to Stephen afterwards, I sounded like Buddy the Elf, "I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel."

It was insanely beautiful and also a great learning experience. Being relatively new to trail running (did my first real trail race less than 6 months ago) I'll be the first to tell you I have no idea what I'm doing. I had never run on trails as rocky as these. I had never run on creek-y trails. And I'm pretty sure I had never "bonked" or been calorie deficient. So needless to say, it was NOT a boring day.

Fearless leaders!
So I made a list of things that I need to do for future runs: 1) Eat. Eat the night before. Eat the morning before. Eat during. Eat when you're not hungry. Eat when you are hungry. Eat. 2) Buy a hydration pack. Stephen's was wonderful, and now that I've experienced what it must be like to be a camel, I want one of my own. 3) Try new things - like salt tablets!

But even though I totally blew it with my preparation, I pieced it together like a noob and survived on the generosity of others (Rachel, thank you for the Gu-s. Jack, thank you for the pack, the salt tablets, and the PayDay!)

It was the longest I've ever run - over 8 hours! And I actually enjoyed it a lot. I saw a bear track, and I got to see a beautiful portion of the Sierras that I had never experienced (despite growing up in Reno!) I met some wonderful people that I hope to see many more times. I drank from a river, stuffed my face with Oreos, and laughed A LOT at everyone's great stories.

29.98 miles / 8 hours, 15 minutes / happiness
I'll be hitting the local trails for a while, but I'll be dreaming of the high country :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Silver State 50 mile - Mother Peavine is HARD

To say that I underestimated this course would be a gross understatement. On paper it looks challenging, but manageable, climbing a total of 9,100 feet over 50 miles. Not bad, I thought; after all, Miwok 100k, which I finished in 10:06, has 12,500 feet of gain. This will be a breeze...not! It was, however, fantastically well managed and had a bounty of course markings.

I drove to Reno late Friday morning to stay with Mags and her mom, who lives 15 minutes from the start. After a relaxing lunch of veggie burgers and fruit, we left for packet pickup, where we met up with the Quicksilver gang. By this point, the nerves were getting to me. That was only compounded after Mike Holmes described to me, in detail, the 50 mile course. Wow, I thought. This is going to be a long ass day on the trails.

After a few bowls of warm dijon lentils, Mags and I went to bed, tossing and turning until our alarm chimed at 4am. We washed down some peanut butter toast and bananas with coffee and made our way to the start at Rancho San Rafael. The air was warm, surprisingly so for 5am, which could only mean that the afternoon would be uncomfortably hot. As with every race, we began milling about the start line 10 minutes before the starting time of 6am. I sized up the competition, knowing full well that I couldn't take the win, but trying to at least see where I'd fit in. Bob Shebest, Jean Pommier, Marc Laveson, Nikki Kimball, Chikara Omine, Gerard Dean, and Erik Skaden, to name a few, toed the line. Holy crap, there's some impressive talent here! The amazing RD, John Trent, counted us down, and we took off.

The pace was easyish for the first minute, but quickly picked up as we hit the singletrack. Chikara and Marc were pushing hard, and I knew better than to try to keep their pace this early on. A small group formed of about 5 runners (including Chikara, Marc, Bob and a couple others I couldn't identify), as I settled into my own pace, watching them disappear over the rolling hills. Jean quickly caught up with me, and I pushed comfortably hard up a semi-technical climb and to the first aid station at Radio Towers. He offered some words of encouragement as he passed me. I upped my pace, but it was pointless to try and stay with him; this would be the last I saw of Jean.

It wasn't long before I climbed my way to the second a/s at The Pond, but it would still be another 4 miles or so until I reached the Peavine summit. Finally, after two hours of mostly climbing (3,200 feet in about 12.5 miles) I rolled through the summit a/s and onto the 5 mile descent to Long Valley. This is where my race got exciting. I don't know how many times John Trent told us at the pre-race meeting, but it had to have been at least 4 or 5. THE 50K RUNNERS WILL TAKE A LEFT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE DESCENT AND THE 50 MILE RUNNERS WILL TAKE A RIGHT. The course was insanely well marked, complete with massive arrows that guided runners onto their respective courses at the fork in the trail. Somehow I had talked myself into following the blue ribbons, thinking that I was supposed to follow my favorite color (Wrong! I was supposed to follow the yellow brick road!). After close to 1.5 miles on the wrong trail, and seeing no runners in front of me for 10 minutes, the realization hit me. My heart sank. All I could do now was cuss away my frustration and try to make up lost time. I doubled back to the correct course, but had lost 6 or 7 places in the process. Oh well. My mistake.

I hustled enough to catch a few runners at Long Valley (mile 20ish), one of whom was Erik Skaden. "Hey! Is Anton Krupicka your idol?" he shouted. "You just need to run shirtless! He never runs with a shirt." The humor was a brief respite and definitely appreciated at this point. After a more formal introduction, we leapfrogged for the next 5 miles until Dog Valley. This was my favorite stretch of the race and one of the most beautiful trails I've run on. Towering pine trees flanked the course on both sides, broken only by the occasional meadow. It was a stark contrast to the dusty rock-strewn trail I had been on a few miles earlier.

It wasn't until the stupidly steep climb out of the a/s that we settled into a rhythm with one another. Well, to be more precise, he pulled my ass up the rocky, rutted climb and pushed me through the next a/s at Ranch Creek. Along the way, he offered nuggets of running wisdom that he had picked up from his top-10 finishes at States and a myriad of other phenomenal wins and personal bests. I opened up my legs on the 3 mile singletrack descent into Boomtown, where we could fill the tanks at the River Bend a/s (mile 31). The volunteers down here were AWESOME. To be fair, the volunteers at every a/s were great, but they offered extra encouragement at River Bend.

After my buddy, Austin, doused my head with ice water, I began the slow ascent to the Peavine summit. My legs were dead, and I couldn't manage anything faster than a trot without cramping. The altitude combined with the wind and heat had dehydrated me more than expected. I remained focused, putting one foot in front of the other. Finally, I hit the aptly named Sandy Hill a/s, which meant I had about 3 more miles until the summit. This section was truly soul-crushing. There were instances in which I actually went backwards because the grade was so steep. I gained a lot of respect for the course and the other runners here.

Crossing the finish line
It must have taken me 50-60 minutes to finish the 3 mile climb to the summit, but once I did the feeling of relief was immeasurable. I took my time at the Peavine a/s before starting the 11 mile descent to the finish. Contrary to what the course profile shows, the final descent has a few kickers that knock the steam out of your legs. By this time I was cramping bad enough that I walked the uphills and couldn't really manage to stride out on the downhills. I took my time and enjoyed the final views before returning to the base of the mountain. Thankfully, Maggie and her mom were waiting for me, making for an emotional finish. I was 2 hours slower than my goal, finishing in 9:23, 14th overall and 2nd in age, but as always I'm grateful for the experience.

Maggie crushed the 50k course, finishing in 7:12 and 2nd in her age group, but still managed to greet me with such enthusiasm! It's been so much fun training with her and sharing these experiences. I can't wait to do it all again!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Are you there Silver State? It's me, Margaret.

By: Maggie

So I ran another 50km this weekend. I guess that makes this a race report.

I was so, so, so pumped after the Woodside 50km in December - I couldn't wait to sign up for my next race in 2014. Then BAM, the first week of spring semester, I got clotheslined off my roadbike commuting home from school. I had a bad concussion. There was no bleeding in my brain after 4 weeks, but running (and reading and staying awake) was really challenging. Oh yeah, and there was law school. I learned a lot (mostly about lawyers). It was a rough semester. To lose the familiarity of your own mind is disconcerting - every day felt like a battle to re-find myself.

Saint Jack!
Unlike my first 50km, this weekend at the Silver State 50/50 I felt only apprehension and anxiety before the race. It felt like going into a piano recital, thinking I hadn't practiced enough, unfamiliar with the music. Stephen's race started an hour earlier, so I had 60 minutes to sit and think about how unprepared I was and how difficult the course would be. I thought about just driving home.

I pushed the lump in my throat down to my feet. I jogged across the start line- thinking, 'well this is going to be a shit show.' I started into a trot and after a couple miles was leapfrogging with a few other runners.

Three generations of family!
Then, I was surprised. I was surprised again 10 miles later, and then for over 7 hours throughout the sage-covered, desert course. I met an ULTRA ultra-runner: Jack Meyer. I'm not sure if it was my lame Girlscout joke (on my honor, I won't get us lost out here!) or if I was looking especially forlorn, but Jack saw me up the first Peavine summit, then down, back around Dog Valley... then back up (when I was feeling yuck - as a native Nevadan, I'd never admit altitude sickness) and back down another 11 miles to the finish. He had great stories, great advice, a great outlook, and was a great friend for 31 miles. There was no judgment that I hadn't trained enough or was too slow or was too snotty-nosed because of all of the rabbitbrush pollen. I finished with a smile on my face.

Made it to the finish!

My legs physically carried me 31 miles. But Silver State happened because of heart. I had nearly lost my heart - I was feeling discouraged, disillusioned. Silver State brought together people from my past, my friends and family, and brought new friends into my life. It restarted my heart.

Driving home on Sunday, looking into the sunset, I was overcome with emotion.

Find the flame inside your heart, and keep it lit.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Miwok 100k - Pacing; it really works!

After a DNF at mile 25 of last year's abbreviated Miwok 60k, this year's race was all about redemption. Before last Saturday I had not raced a 100k, so the pacing concerned me a bit; I knew it'd be slower than my 50 mile pace and faster than 100 mile pace, but was unsure on where I'd settle between those two. Looking at past results, I set an arbitrary goal of finishing in under 10 hours with the intent of running a relaxed, sustainable race. I've struggled with pacing since my first ultra four years ago, which ruined my race at the Way Too Cool 50k last March. Granted, I know I'm not fast enough to have competed for top 3 at WTC, or even top 5, but I thought I could have at least cracked top 10. Oh well. Live and learn to run another day!

My girlfriend (who also happens to be the best crew I could hope for) and I left San Jose around 7:15pm Friday night for our hotel in Corte Madera, about 30 minutes outside of Stinson Beach. I slammed down a burrito in the car, and we arrived just before 9pm...plenty of time to sleep before our 3am alarm would go off. Ha! Apparently, I was more tired than I thought and fell asleep quickly, but awoke feeling surprisingly refreshed. We toasted a few waffles, downed some fresh beet juice, and made our way along the winding coast to Stinson Beach.

With still an hour to spare, I checked in and beelined for the bathrooms, which would soon have a ridiculously long wait. The atmosphere before the start of Miwok is one of my favorites: 400 excited runners packed into a small community center at 4:30am makes for exhilarating pre-race jitters. I had forgotten my socks and handheld in the car, but thankfully Mags got them for me. She even brought me 3 different pairs of socks to choose from...yes, she's that thoughtful! Around 4:40am everyone began milling about the starting line. Tia, the race director, counted us down from 20, and we were off!

The course funnels straight onto singletrack, so I shot off with the top 15 runners. I settled into a reasonable pace with unfamiliar faces, and, slowly, we plodded away. I managed to run most of the first climb, resorting to power hiking only when the grade kicked up significantly. This would be the plan for the rest of the day. We eventually turned onto the Coastal Trail: a rutted, cambered, overgrown section of singletrack that was frustratingly difficult to find a rhythm on. I did my best to keep the speedy Mark Richtman in sight, and just in front of him I spotted Jonathan Gunderson. The three of us eventually came together and made our way along Bolinas Ridge. Jean Pommier caught us on the ridge and rocketed down the descent to Randall aid station (mile 12.9). I knew better than to try to hang with him this early on, so I took my time and enjoyed the canopied fireroad. Maggie had a fresh bottle of water mixed with Skratch waiting for me, and with that, I turned around and began the 6 mile climb back to Bolinas.

Power stance at Randall
Although still early in the race, my legs were feeling chipper with only a slight tightness in my right groin. It was most noticeable on the climbs, but after ~20 miles I never heard from it again. I was climbing stronger than expected but knew that I needed to keep my pace easyish in order to be fresh for the 9,000+ feet of climbing still ahead. Before long I returned to the Bolinas Ridge a/s for the second time, and after a quick bathroom break, I hurriedly jumped back on the trails. To my surprise, I had not been passed during my stop and had only given a marginal gap to the runner in front of me. Sweet! Retracing our steps to the third a/s at Cardiac required that we once again pick our way through the Coastal Trail. The views are truly outstanding, but, letting my mood get the best of me, I cussed out most of the pot holes beneath me.

My legs finally started to cooperate heading into the Pan Toll Ranger Station (just before Cardiac), which is where I caught Mark. We ran together for most of the Deer Park descent, but he pulled away on the road just before Muir Beach. Shortly after, two other runners closed in on me, and eventual gapped me. I decided not to react, hoping that they would blow up on the next climb (one of the runners finished 5th overall, while the other took a wrong turn, costing him a top 10 finish). I coasted in to Muir Beach excited to see Maggie. The volunteers and spectators really get you fired up! My legs felt fresh, and I flew out of there ready for the climb that separated me from Tennessee Valley. That climb, as it turns out, was a grind and left me feeling less excited for what lay ahead. I crested the top and hooked right to descend a super fun section of Miwok.

Yuuum, Coke
Again, Maggie was there, bottles in hand, making for an efficient and expeditious pitstop. From here, the race climbs Marincello and rewards you with jaw-dropping view of the city and surrounding terrain. I've done this climb before in races but have always had to walk a good portion of it, so it was exciting and reassuring to find myself running 2/3 of it! Regardless, I was caught by another runner, Kevin Rumon, just before hitting the top. This turned to my favor since the course wasn't clearly marked at the top, and Kevin just happens to be from the area. He assured me that we needed to stay to the left on the SCA trail, which would eventually dump us near Rodeo Beach. I hadn't known my placing until the Bridge View a/s (mile 41.3) where they told me I was 9th! I couldn't believe it. Initially, my goal had only been to finish strong and hopefully run under 10 hours. Now I was looking at a possible top 10 finish! This gave me the push that I needed as I descended Coastal fire road and climbed Rodeo Valley back to Tennessee. Serendipitously, I found myself running with Kevin at the Marincello/Rodeo intersection, where, again, he graciously guided me back to Tennessee Valley. I should have studied the course description better, but clearer course markings would have been appreciated. 

I pulled away from Kevin on Old Springs and cruised into Tennessee Valley (mile 48.6) where I picked up my trusted pacer, Anthony. He's run with me before at two other races (DRTE 100 and Firetrails 50), so I knew I could count on him to push me to the finish. After chugging some Coke and receiving some teasing from Stan (whom I had the pleasure to meet two weeks prior at Ruth Anderson 50) I was off! Kevin had caught me, and we kept a consistent pace towards Muir Beach, but I managed to pull away on the Pirates Cove climb. My legs still had some pop, and with another runner closing in, I pushed the rollers hard into Muir Beach. A few Cokes and some hummus wraps later, and we were hustling along the road to the final climb to Cardiac.

Coming out of Pirates Cove
This is where I pretty much hit a wall. It might have been the mental aspect of knowing that this climb was looming in the distance, or the fact that I was really tired. Either way, not bad for close to 55 miles in the legs! We power hiked most of the ~3 mile climb, where I was passed for the final time by Gregory Benson. He looked strong, and I knew I couldn't counter it, so I wished him luck and kept pushing. Finally, we arrived at Cardiac and were greeted by Jorge of San Fransisco Running Co. and Alex Varner, two studs in the ultra world. They gave Anthony and me a few words of encouragement which set off something in me that I've yet to experience in a race. By this point I was 58.4 miles in, but my legs felt alive. I hurried to the Dipsea trail and ran hard; harder than I thought possible. I knew that I was close and wanted to leave everything I had on the trails. (My GPS data showed that I had dipped under 6 min/mile pace for more than one of those last 2.8 miles. A huge feat for me this late in a race!) I rounded the last corner crossed the line in 10:06, good enough for 8th place overall and 3rd in my age group.

Chillin' in my Oofos
I couldn't be happier with how everything played out. From the beginning, I stuck to my plan and ran my own race. I nailed my nutrition and fluid intake and pulled off a top 10 finish at one of the most badass races in NorCal. For me, this Miwok has proven that I've learned from my mistakes, and that I am beginning to grow in my running. Hopefully, these lessons will roll over to the Silver State 50 mile this weekend!

Gear: Nike Run Rev top, Pearl Izumi Fly Split short, Saucony Peregrine, Ultimate Direction handhelds

Nutrition: 120 oz. water (with Osmo), 8 Gu's, 6-7 cans of Coke, 4 servings of Skratch, 4 hummus wraps
We're hawt

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Food, Nutrition, and Staying Healthy

By: Maggie

My mom is training for her first 5km race with a friend (go mom!) She took a class through the local college targeted at beginners. Unfortunately, the instructor sounds like he is used to more advanced clientele, and was largely dismissive and uber-technical in his training advice. The students are adult professionals with varying levels of fitness. Several dropped out because of the teaching style (hint-hint, buddy, if professional adults are dropping your "beginner" class, you're doing something wrong). The students were told not to worry about drinking water during exercise since they are "only walking a 5km." Grrrrr.....

While I feel terrible about the students' experiences in this class, it has been a great opportunity for me to talk to my mom about things that I love - RUNNING AND EATING! My mom and I got into a discussion about nutrition (apparently the instructor gave them "body types" and a restrictive diet based on those). I couldn't disagree more, and I sent my mom the following information. I realized it might be helpful for others to see, too.

*Note: These are just my opinions, based on my physical education & nutrition classes and my  exercise sciences classes in college and based on my personal experience in training and eating.

Portabello panini with sprouts, mustard, and veganaise.


There are two main aspects to diet:
     1. Quantity of Calories: How MUCH should you eat?
     2. Quality of Calories: Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats

These calculations are based on a "lightly active," what I would consider "average" day.

[655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)] x 1.3

[66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)] x 1.3

ADD 100 calories for every mile you run or walk 
*Note: This is roughly what the body burns per mile. Larger people will burn more, smaller people will burn less. Running burns more per mile than walking. I prefer just to use 100 to keep it simple.

Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces every day.  
During exercise, I try to drink about 20 ounces per hour.

My mom's daily calories = 1580 calories
4 mile walk = 400 calories
TOTAL = 1980
Total water = 63 ounces + 20-30 ounces during exercise

*Note: If you want to LOSE weight, 1 pound of fat = 3500 calories. So you would need to cut out 500 calories per day in order to lose 1 pound of fat in a week (because 7 days x 500 calories = 1 pound of fat).

I combined my nutrition class knowledge with info from this website: (

The makings of vegan mac'n'cheeze


When you eat calories every day, you will be eating carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These are all different TYPES of fuel. Carbohydrates burn fairly quickly, proteins repair muscles, and fat fuels your joints, brain, and other organs. It's important to eat the right ratio of these different fuels.

For example, think of if you ate ALL fat calories for a day - it would be like eating butter for every meal. Your body would not feel good! Also, you might think it's very challenging to only eat 1900 calories in a day - but what that means is that you have to eat SMART. A soda is a total waste of calories. Instead, you could eat a gigantic salad and feel full (and receive rich nutrients!) 

Here is what I recommend:
60% carbohydrates
20% protein
20% fat

*Note: This is my opinion. Some people prefer 70 / 10 / 20 or 55 / 25 / 20. Find your happy ratio.

(Here is a good article about calorie proportions:

Fruit, vegetables, and grains contain all of these types of fuel. My advice is to only eat whole foods (straight from the earth!) Or processed foods with less than 10 ingredients. If you can't spell it, don't eat it. Stick with quality food, and these proportions will fill themselves.

You will probably not need to worry about "getting" calories from fat or protein. They are in pretty much everything - spinach, kale, whole grain bread, beans. I'm vegan, and I easily meet all of these goals. 

BUT, if you want to really geek out on this (which I have, and I really enjoy), you can plan your meals to hit this proportion - so you would look at what you're eating and calculate.

On a day when she runs 4 miles, my mom needs to eat:
1980 x 60% = 1188 calories of carbohydrates
1980 x 20% = 396 calories of protein
1980 x 20% = 396 calories of fat

Useful website in calculating calories:
*Note: 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories; 1 gram of protein = 4 calories; 1 gram of fat = 9 calories

1 apple = 116 calories
     Carbs: 116 calories
     Fat: 0 calories
     Protein: 0 calories

1 cup of brussels sprouts = 47 calories
     Carbs: 32 calories
     Protein: 12 calories
     Fat: 3 calories

1 cup pinto beans = 251 calories
     Carbs: 180 calories
     Protein: 62 calories
     Fat: 9 calories

3 cups spinach = 28 calories
     Carbs: 13 calories
     Protein: 12 calories
     Fat: 3 calories

Roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and brussels sprouts: a standby!

I hope that information is useful! Again, this is what works well for me. 
Do what makes you feel good!