I was invited by Nuun Hydration to participate in the Ragnar Trail Relay located in Tahoe, California. I was told to come ready to be an awesome teammate and Nuun would provide everything needed for this event. Of course, this was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Not only did this work well with my trail running training program, but it gave me the opportunity to represent Nuun while connecting with a new group of athletes.
If you aren’t familiar with a Ragnar relay race, the objective is for each team to run a specific amount of miles within a time frame. Ragnar offers road races, which take teams from point to point, or a trail races where runners are staged in one location and take turns running trails near the campsite. This race in Tahoe was a trail relay where a team of 8 ran a total of just under 130 miles. This meant each runner had 16.20 miles to run, divided into 3 legs. Once a runner was done with their 1st leg, they would end in the transition area and hand off to the next runner. The team would work through each runner on the team, then start over again with all runners headed out for their next leg, and so on. Ragnar color codes the courses for each leg: green 3.1 miles has the easiest difficulty, yellow at 5.8 miles was moderate although more technical and red was the hardest at 7.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1026 feet.
On Thursday I arrived in Sacramento to meet up with my Nuun team and drive out to the race site to set up camp. Someone in the group suggested we stop in Auburn to view the finish line of the Western States 100-mile race. It just so happens that I was obsessed with this race that took place in the Tahoe area earlier this month, and was even listening to a Running on Om podcast with Sally Mcrae on the flight out. Needless to say, at that very moment I knew this would be an awesome group to spend the weekend with.
Once we arrived at the camp site we began setting up tents and our Nuun headquarters for the weekend. Thank God there were plenty of experienced campers in the group, because setting up the tent could have been a disaster for this city gal. We then headed to a local brewpub for dinner. Over dinner and a few beers, the team got to know a bit about each other. We were two teams made of runners from all over the country, West Coast, East Coast and places in between. We were all different shapes, sizes, bring our own running experiences to the race. Some were trail vets, some were rookies but we all had one thing in common…the desire to inspire and be inspired by the running community.
Day one arrived bright and early, and I mean early. The sun came up around 5:30am, and since we were sleeping in tents, that meant a sunny wake up call. Our race time wasn’t scheduled to start until 3:30pm so we had a few hours to kill. We headed out to explore Tahoe courtesy of one of our teammates who used to live in the area. After breakfast at a local hotspot with omelets as big as your head we drove to Lake Tahoe to dip our toes in the crystal clear water. I was in total awe of the beauty. The water was so clear; the trees were so green…it was magical. We were all so taken with the beauty there, that we only made it a few miles down the road to another river before we had to stop again for more photos and more time in the water. Once we left there, we stopped in Squaw at the old Olympic Village which is also the start location for the Western States 100 miler..and of course so many more photo opportunities.
As luck would have it, one of our other teammates who works for Ragnar worked his magic and got us bumped up to an earlier start time, if our team was willing. There was no discussion needed as we were all antsy to get the running party started.
By the time our team took off, the Ragnar runners village was buzzing with excitement. There were various vendors set up including Nathan Hydration, Kleen Kanteen, Rei, Salomon, and of course Nuun Hydration. Ragnar provided runners with tons of amenities, such as hammocks to rest in, overnight movies and bonfire, pasta dinner, breakfast options, filtered water, s’mores, and so much more. There were also fun activities for those not running throughout the day to keep the energy going.
I was runner number six, which meant my first leg began around 7pm. For this leg I had to run the red course which was considered the most difficult. I studied the course map and knew I had to run the hills with a pretty serious incline until about 3.5 miles. The climb those first couple of miles was definitely a challenge. The course was pretty rocky and steep which meant a lot of power hiking. I incorporated the techniques my coach had shared about using small steps and conserving energy. But once I got to the ridge I was completely blown away by the view. At 7,600 ft above sea level, the view was breathtaking with trees, rock formations, and the bluest sky. Pictures really didn’t do it justice. The only thing about going up that high, is then you must come down. The downhill was steep and since I was still getting acclimated the higher elevation I had to pull myself back to conserve energy and prevent myself from running to fast. Going too fast over rocks and sandy patches can set you up for a fall or rolling an ankle, especially when you are a bit woozy from being in a higher altitude. I have to say, I loved this leg. The challenge was the perfect level and the views were stuff dreams are made of. It made me realize why so many ultra-runners strive to run the Western States 100 because there is magic on the trails here.
Another bonus of this trip, some of my friends, Cass and Kristen from Chicago put together a team and were running this race. During my downtime I got to sit with them, hang out and catch up. It was so great to cheer them on throughout the day.
My second leg was an overnight one which I didn’t start until around 2am. While waiting for my leg to start, we cheered the runners in and sent the next runner on their way. There was a movie in race village that I watched for a bit while eating PB&J sandwiches and staying warm at the bonfire. Once it was time to run my next leg I was pumped and ready to go. Running in dark has its challenges, but running in pitch black darkness when the stars and moon are incredibly clear is magical. I used a headlamp to guide my way as I headed out to the mountain. This time I was doing the yellow leg which was pretty technical, but very well marked with reflective signs. It required that I stay extremely focused on my run in certain areas so that I was clear on which direction I needed to go and where my footing landed. A big stretch took us through a forest area in a bit of a canyon and that was a cool relief from running through the hills. This leg was definitely hard and a bit nerve racking in the dark, but it was also a little exhilarating. When you run in the dark you must be focused on what is directly ahead, and that doesn’t leave you time to dread what is to come.
My last leg, the green one, was a 3-mile loop through a forest area with a small incline. I began this leg around 10am after I had taken a short nap. However, by that time it was really hot. Thank god I had Nuun in my hydration bottle, as it was really needed for this leg. My legs were pretty tired, but overall I was feeling good on this run. Staying hydrated was really key for this type of relay and that got me through a toasty run.
As our team’s final runners neared the finish line, we all ran on the course through the finish line with them. Post-race pictures followed and we received a very cool medal. Ragnar provides trail race runners with a medal that is an outdoor tool; definitely one I will be keeping.
I would absolutely run a Ragnar trail relay again. Trail running can be harder, but I think the overall experience is better than a road relay race. There are less logistics to handle and Rangar puts on an amazing event, thinking of everything you need to get you through the night. Best swag of any race I have ever ran.
Here is the secret that no one tells you about running a relay. It’s not about racing, but about building and supporting your team. If you like to run alone, focus on pushing yourself ahead of everyone else in the pack, or don’t know how to use a cowbell, then a relay probably isn’t for you. But, if you want to cheer until you lose your voice, enjoy making PB&J sandwiches for your teammate that just completed a 2am seven mile run, and most importantly are a pro and at the finish line tunnel then sign up now!
I’m grateful to be part of the Nuun team. Yes, this weekend I had the opportunity to run some wicked trail miles, but more importantly I found a new circle of friends to connect with, share stories with, receive guidance and support from. That is what it is to live the nuunlife. Thanks to Nuun who facilitates a community that gives me ideas, motivation, encouragement, without judgement, and shares the of motto of living life to the fullest. Make your water count, make your life count. Give your body the water it needs and fill it with the proper hydration, but get out there, live a life full of experiences and make your life count.
To say this week was amazing, would be an understatement.
Right now I am in a good place. Honestly, life is really great. Taking a step back and not thinking I have to do “all the things” and letting go of things in my life that were not serving me properly has given me time to really enjoy what I choose to participate in. I have spent a lot of time in the past few weeks learning more about trail runners, cool places to hike, and digging into this new running community.
My week began with a pleasant surprise, that I am so pumped about. One of the challenges to moving to a new city is to make friends and create a community for yourself. A big part of my social life in Chicago, was being immersed in the running community and to be honest, I miss that. For that reason, I have used every opportunity I can here in LA to test the waters of various run clubs and neighborhood workouts to find the place that connects with me. One of the biggest connections I have made is with the Oiselle flock in SoCal. For those of you that don’t know, Oiselle is a women’s running brand of clothing. What some may not realize is the incredible community of runners this brand facilitates which is actually more like a sisterhood, called the Oiselle volee. I have had the opportunity to attend a few of the area meet-ups and have made friendships with so many from this group of women in the Southern California area. I was excited when earlier this week I was asked to be a team leader for the Oiselle in the LA area. With this responsibility I coordinate meet ups for our runners, in an effort create a support system and empower our LA women. I am very grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to dig in next weekend for our first meet up!
Last week I mentioned I was going on another running adventure with Nuun Hydration, and this one couldn’t have come at a better time. Thursday, I headed to Tahoe, California with a group of 15 other runners to participate in the Ragnar trail relay race. At this event, our two teams of 8 runners ran approx. 130 miles in 24 hours, with each person having 3 legs of running (a total of 16.20 miles). There are way to many details of the trip to include in this blog post, but I will share my experience on my event recap later this week. Check back for the scoop on how we explored, camped, bonded and trail ran our way through some pretty cool trails in Tahoe.
This week’s workout included:
Random thoughts from this week's training:
-During my cross training I need to focus on building strength and stability in lower body. When running downhill or on a technical path (where there are obstacles such as sandy dirt, large rocks, branches, etc) strength in the core, quads and glutes are so important to prevent falling or rolling an ankle. My coach has given me intervals to include in my training, which include weighted squats & lunges (multiple varieties), bridges, and deadlifts. Strength training and agility drills will make me stronger and hopefully give me more confident on running the more technical trails. Running the relay this weekend, I could tell how much I will benefit once I have a bit more strength under my belt. I was surprised with how well I recovered from all the running this weekend, but I know I need to train smart in order to keep that going and get faster.
-I completely forgot how amazing running at night is. Not only are the temperatures cooler, but it requires a more focused running. I think this need stay focused on the few steps ahead of you (because you can’t see any further than your headlamp will allow), actually takes away a bit of the dread of the hard run. For me this can make the run more enjoyable.
I know this sounds a bit cliché , but try something you are afraid of. You might come out of it a lot stronger, and with an awesome experience.
Getting out to meet new people, especially runners can be intimidating. It’s amazing though how finding the right running community for you, can make a difference in your life and your attitude toward running.
When I signed up for the trail relay, I knew I wanted to experience another event with Nuun Hydration, but I also had some fear that I wouldn’t be quite ready to handle 16 miles of trail running in 24 hours. (especially at high altitude). I didn’t want to be the runner that dragged my team down, or get so exhausted that it would affect my training the following week. I am so happy I didn’t listen to that little voice it my head, because this week of running was one that has reset my tone, and ignited my love of the running community.
Stay tuned, later this week for my trail relay race recap. I absolutely loved everything about it and was so inspired by the magic of Tahoe, I hope it entices you to get out and explore the trails in your area.
Here in Southern California there are mountains everywhere, and that means most trails include running up the hill and then running down, actually quite a few streets include a decent incline. Even though I was used to running the flatlands of Chicago streets, I thought my fitness level should be able to handle running with elevation gains, but wow I was naïve. Seriously, some days it is soooo challenging. When you look at my photos of the beautiful inspiration points, you don’t realize the struggle bus I rode to get to the top of the hill. With that being said, the reality is my base fitness level, starting this training cycle isn’t exactly where it should be. I was last in “training mode” 5 months ago, and since that time I have lost a little muscle, and gained a couple pounds. I have been convincing myself I was working to maintain my fitness and endurance level, but that is not the reality. Now that I am in my 40’s I have to maintain a bit harder because unfortunately, the body doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it used to. This is my starting point, I have work to do both physically and mentally to prepare for race day, but that is what a training cycle is for, right? Ready or not, here I go..
Before I move along I want to give a few specifics on how I plan to share my story. Each week (ideally on Mondays) I will post a new blog. Each blog will contain my training recap for the week, followed by a segment on what I took away from that week of training. This could include sharing technique tips, gear I tried, or even my random thoughts. My hope is this process can be a bit interactive. If you have a question, want more detail or are inspired by a discussion, please let me know. Now, let’s dig in and see what this week’s adventures included.
October, 29th, that’s my race day. On that day I will run Whoos in El Moro 25k, and I couldn’t be more excited about a race. This course runs through Crystal Cove State Park in Lauguna, and ends on the beach. The course came highly recommended, not only for the beautiful views but the amazing race director who works tirelessly to insure the event is well executed. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have hired a coach, to help me with training for this trail race. When speaking with my coach Lauren to develop a training plan, she took my requests and training availibity into consideration. The few months I have been running the trails here, I have realized in order to conquer the climb I must have strength, endurance and proper fuel which is why I asked her to make all three elements priorities in my training, while taking my everyday schedule into consideration. The constants in my weekly workout will include the following
d This was week one of my 16 week training program and it went pretty well.
Yes, I realize early in the game everything feels awesome and fun, but I was able to hit all my scheduled runs, strength training and some recovery.
This week’s workouts included:
Speed, Tempo and Long Run.
1 yoga class for active recovery
1 cross training workout
1 strength training session
Sunday, in lue of a long run, I had the opportunity to run a trail race. I ran Griffith Park trail marathon relay with a group of teammates from Nuun Hydration. I am an athlete ambassador for Nuun Hydration and on occasion I have the opportunity to participate in cool events with other team mates. This event took place at Griffith Park which is a huge park at the base of a mountain in the middle of Los Angeles. This park is known for numerous hiking and trail running paths, including the famous hike to the Hollywood sign. The marathon relay begins from the Old LA Zoo park area and each runner in the relay must do a 5.25 mile loop. Since I am not yet a strong trail runner, I had to power hike some of the inclines on the first couple of miles course, (which were at a 600ft elevation gain) but I made up some time running back downhill. However, the downhill was quite steep, so this made for a much faster downhill. I really had to take notice and slow down to prevent myself from loosing my footing on the turns. This was very well run event, and I had a blast hanging out with my team mates and cheering other runners on. Pro tip: In trail running you will actually find walking and or powerhiking is a normal part of a long run/race.
Random thoughts from Week 1:
Working out in a group environment like November Project , is much better and more efficient then by myself. Speed run went well this week, but then again it was the smallest workout of my training cycle. I forgot how much tempo runs, suck but I will force myself to learn to like them…ok I will probably never “like” them, but the only way to get faster is to run fast.
Balance is one of the keys to a successful training season. I have a tendency to dive head first into a project and give it my all. That can be a new training cycle, a new project at work, or even this blog. However, that makes it easy to fall into a trap of not creating balance between all of my worlds. When it comes to my professional life I have learned to create boundaries and establish a way to balance work life and personal life. By doing this, I come to work ready to produce. Truth be told, I am not always the best at balancing my personal life. It is so easy to want to “do all of the running things”, especially with this new trail running challenge which I am super excited for. However, after a few deep breaths, I know I must slow it down as this is only the beginning. If I am going to succeed I must set a precedent of balance and stick to my training plan, don’t overdo it so that I come to each run ready to give it my best. Rest is important. Balancing life is important. Creating a separate space for work, running and my personal life is my key to success.
This week I have a very exciting adventure. I am heading to Tahoe for the weekend, to run a Ragnar Relay trail race with Nuun Hydration. Follow me on instagram for all the FOMO pictures and check back next week for my recap.
If others were to describe me, I am sure one of the first words used would be runner. Funny though, I didn’t start running until my 30’s. Living in Chicago, I was surrounded by so many people running on the lakefront path; both socially and for training. Wanting to be one of the “cool kids” I decided to take advantage of this free option of exercise and try out this running thing. I’m not going to lie, those early weeks, months, years weren’t very pretty. I had no concept of form, and sometimes it wasn’t exactly fun. I kept at it, heck I even ran a few 5k’s and a half marathon. But that all changed when I broke my foot, not by running, but by walking down the street. Being in a cast and crutches for over 4 months, made me realize how much I running had become a part of my life. I missed the lakefront path and I still had dreams…running dreams.
Since then I’ve run 12 marathons, 14 half marathons and over 50 smaller scale running events. I love everything about distance running. This love for the run, grew largely in part to the amazing running community in Chicago. Over the years I have been blessed to be included in so many amazing opportunities, helped lead a women’s run crew, and participated and coordinated some killer running events. However, in the past year or so, something was missing.
As I ran the LA marathon in 2016, it just didn’t feel the same. Halfway through the race, I began to tell myself it was my lack of dedication to this training cycle especially considering I had moved across the country to Los Angeles during the height of my training. As I got closer to the finish line, I still couldn’t find that runners high, or the thrill I had experienced with so many other races. This wasn’t burnout, or anything to do with this race (for the record the LA marathon was one of the best marathon courses I have run) the magic was just gone. I was grasping to find my love the of run that I always could find during the marathon.
After a short recovery break from the LA marathon, I set out to attempt another “cool kids” adventure. Yes, LA has beautiful beachfront, but there are also mountains. Everywhere I turned, people were talking about going for a hike, and being an urban gal I honestly was a bit leery. Much to my surprise, it didn’t take me long to understand the hype. Being in nature, working your butt off hiking some pretty steep inclines (especially for someone from the flatlands of Chicago) is really hard yet incredibly exhilarating. It was there I realized what my struggle with running was. There was a common thread to my running journey…it always involved road races. Boring, road races. Yes, it was time I admit it, road running was boring to me. Yes, there are so many energetic road racing events, and I could work to get faster, set a new PR, etc but the appeal for that challenge was gone. It only took one step on a trail path for me to realize this is where my new adventure awaits.
And so my trail running journey begins. The one thing I know for sure, it’s not going to be easy. Learning how to run on trails with a lot of incline, it seriously like learning to run all over again. I am up for the challenge, the education, the new techniques, building new strength, and immersing myself in a new running community with the best views of nature’s magic as a reward. I’ve hired a coach, committed to a plan and am ready to begin this new adventure.
My hope is that I can share my insight, with truth and honesty as I commit to Run Fierce and Live Fit.