Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ski to Sea 2015: The Year of No Snow

For those of you who are unfamiliar with "America's original adventure race," Ski to Sea is a seven sport relay race that covers 93.5 miles from Mt Baker to Bellingham Bay. The seven race legs in order are: cross country ski; downhill ski/snowboard; downhill road run; road bike; canoe; mountain bike; kayak. The first Ski to Sea was run in 1973 with roots stemming all the way back to 1911. Ever since, the event holds high prestige and attracts athletes from all over the world. It is known to the locals as the Bellingham Olympics.

Due to the unusual low snow pack (read: no snow pack), the cross country and downhill ski would not be possible this year. Ski to Sea race organizers were forced to come up with a solution which resulted in an alpine run as the first leg and another mountain bike leg as the last leg. See the new 2015 course here. As you can imagine this change of events caused quite the stir. It also gave me an opportunity to race in one of the most celebrated events in Bellingham. (Bellingham Herald article: Dalzot to make the most of rare Ski to Sea opportunity.)

I was gasping for air the entire 3.3 miles.
Lucky for me, Alyson, a.k.a. Cap'n Klein, asked me to lead the way for her team, the SHEroes. I was thrilled to be a part of a team full of talented, genuine and fun women.

Tad and I went up to Baker a week before to check out the course. I was so happy to see that, with the exception of the road section, the course was a true mountain run complete with steep scrambles, log jumps, water run-offs, brambles and mud. My excitement grew.

Kikkan Randall kickin' it in.

As I stood on the starting line waiting for the canon to explode at 7:30 am, I had no idea that Olympian and World Champion Nordic skier Kikkan Randall was running this leg. I'm glad I didn't as she is an intimidating athlete. Check out this video of her training and working out in the gym. It is stunning!

Alyson taking off and me doubling over.
After the shock of the boom subsided, runners took off, starting way too fast for a mountain race. Climbing is my strength and I was able to take the women's lead shortly after we started up Honkers Cat Track. This race distance (3.3 miles) is much shorter than what I typically run so it felt like an all-out sprint from start to finish, both physically and mentally.

As I came up and over the last short steep climb to the road loop where the downhill runners were anxiously awaiting the exchange, there was a huge roar of cheers from the crowd. This is something I have never experienced before; it was exhilarating. Long distance running is known as a lonely sport, but trail running is the loneliest of the lonely. Usually I am lucky if there are 10 people at the finish line and I rarely see spectators on the course because races are in remote locations on mountain tops with no access. Sometimes I don't even see my competitors for miles and miles. I have watched videos of the European races and this is exactly how they treat their trail runners. It was a huge adrenaline rush. The experience was extra special because most of the people in the crowd were part of the Bellingham community; good friends and supporters of mine. I moved to Bellingham for the trails, but have stayed for the great people. Ski to Sea is just another example of how cool Bellingham is.

I handed off to Alyson in first place, 14th overall (24:37) who then took off for the blistering 8 miles down the mountain to meet Aly with her road bike, who then handed off to world-class canoeists Daphne and Barb, who met Jenna on her mountain bike who handed off to Amelia in her kayak who hammered her way to Selva for the last leg on her mountain bike. We all met at the finish line at the ceremonial bell ringing. It was awesome. The SHEroes came in 3rd in the competitive women's division.

I don't know if I will have another opportunity to compete in Ski to Sea, but I am so thankful for the SHEroes, for race director Curtis Anson, for all the volunteers and for the community for the chance to experience an amazing event tied to so much culture and history. If there does happen to be another no snow year, you bet I will be there to help continue the legacy.

Team SHEroes! From left: Aly, Jenna, Maria, Amelia, Selva, Alyson

The Bellingham Herald race recap, Ski to Sea Succeeds without Snow.
Aly's beautiful blog report.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hurtin' in Helena

Race Start.
Photo Credit: Gary Marshall Photos, Blackfoot Media Group
I'm lying on my La Quinta bed the morning after Don't Fence Me In and I can't move. My calves are sore. My hips are sore. My butt is sore. The beautiful trails of Helena put the hurt on me. This year was the Prickly Pear Land Trust's 15th running of the race and the 5th race in this year's La Sportiva Mountain Cup. After the positive experience we had last year, we were excited to return.

Race preview by Jimmy Grant, Montana Trail Crew:

Weaving through the switchbacks.

I'm in better shape this year so I was hoping to take 3 minutes off of my time from last year. I started out pretty aggressive from the gun and around the 5 mile mark I was 1:20 under last year's time. There was a course change that eliminated a one mile stretch of road and replaced it with an undulating single track that added some distance. Still, at 11 miles I was 2 minutes under my time. I started to feel the pace at the bottom of the climb up to Helena Ridge Trail, about 12.5 miles. I started to trip over rocks and swerve off the trail. I squeezed my GU too hard and it drooped all over my gloves and got all over my shorts when I went hands to knees to climb up the mountain. At 16.5 miles I was less than a minute under my time, but I was catching and passing many of the men. I didn't realize I was settling in and not pushing as much as before.

My feet are burning!!
The last climb up to the top of Mount Helena was hard. There was a lady walking up the trail who had started the race an hour earlier. She pulled over to the side to let me pass and said some words of encouragement. Then she pulled out her phone and started taking pictures of me so I really had to get moving! At this point I started to lose it. Close to the peak, a man's voice yelled down that I was almost there. When I reached him he said to go down this trail and then go to your left. Once I figured out which was my left, I started a mantra that was "go to your left, go to your left." Now was not the time to go off course; I just wanted to be done. The last mile is so steep and rocky, my feet were burning inside my Helios.

I ended up running 6 seconds slower than last year, but there is no question that I ran harder. It's difficult to tell how much the new course change affected splits, but given the way I feel today, I know I ran a strong race and how aggressively I can run without blowing up completely.

Full results here

Thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva, Terrain Gym, Align Chiropractic, Prime Massage & Trail Butter. Thanks to Kelli and Martin and all the folks at Prickly Pair Land Trust. Thank you Tad, BDP and all my friends and family from Washington to West Virginia.

Thoughtful note on my race packet bag.

Next up is the Rothrock Trail Challenge on June 6th at the Tussey Ski Area in Boalsburg, PA. Hello, heat and humidity!

iRunFar's "This Week in Running".

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Orcas Island Marathon Debut

The Orcas Island Marathon is a new addition to the Bellingham Trail Running Series (BTRS) this year. It takes place in Moran State Park on beautiful Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands. Many people asked me why I picked this race to be my debut marathon with almost 6,000 feet of elevation gain and loss when I have never run a step over 20 miles. I was asking myself the same thing after a reconnaissance of the course!

Two weeks prior to the race, Tad and I spent the weekend on Orcas studying the course so that there would be no surprises come race day. We ran the first half on Friday and the second half on Saturday. After the preview I was pretty intimidated of the time it took us to run, the terrain and the idea of having to do both runs in one day.

There are three major climbs: a 2.4 mile climb up to Mount Pickett, a 2.4 mile climb up Coldwater Trail and a 1.1 mile climb up to Mount Constitution which stands at 2,409 feet.

Orcas Island Marathon Course Profile

My goals for this race were to gain experience with racing a longer distance, to learn how my body would respond to the demanding course and to evaluate success of my nutrition, gear and preparations.

It's a sign!
I was as prepared as I could be. I made dinner reservations and ferry reservations two weeks in advance and packed for every weather condition. Funny enough my race bib number was my birthday date which happened to be the prior Wednesday. 

As planned, I started out easy in the middle of the pack and slowly worked my way up. At about mile 4 or so I was in a nice little group with Maggie Harkins from Oregon and Alex Giebelhaus from Bellingham. We chatted about occupations and how important it is to find a job before you move to Bellingham. I started to pull away on the long climb up to Mount Pickett. At the top I was alone and the rain had started to pick up. A mile into the descent–7-8 miles into the race – a hail storm came through. How fitting is it that I had packed my new La Sportiva Hail Jacket. I stopped to put it on not knowing what the weather had in store for us the rest of the day just as I approached a couple doing the same thing. Thank you to the kind woman who saved me time and pulled it out of my pack for me.

Maggie and me hailing the Hail jacket in the hail.
Because I stopped, our running pack was able to regroup with the addition of Maggie's boyfriend, Dan Kraft, from the Nike Trail Running Team. I enjoyed their company for the next 7 miles to the later part of the Coldwater Trail climb.

With about 9 miles to go, the terrain became more rolling and I changed gears into half-marathon mode (my usual race distance). After so much climbing and technical footing it felt really good to stride out and just run. I was prepared to push it up and over Mount Constitution, back down the switchbacks and around the lake to the finish. Even after 13 miles tacked on the front, I was really pleased that I felt strong.  

Less than 2 miles to go!
I had no idea I was in second overall with only local runner and friend Casey Schwenk 4 minutes up on me. Up the last climb I closed 8 minutes on him, but ran out of climbs to close any more as he maintained the gap into the finish. We both wore the La Sportiva Helios. Coincidence? No, because it's the perfect shoe for any distance and terrain!

Full results here.

Me and Casey.
I gained confidence from this race moving forward. A quote that stuck in my head the week of the race was, Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears,” by Rudyard Kipling. I have a really bad habit of thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong, but the reality is that rarely do those fears come to pass. And, if they do, we are able to rise to the occasion, respond to adversity and learn from the experience.

I want to give a big thank you to Candice Burt and Garrett Froelich for all of the work they put into making this race happen. It is no easy task marking a course and they went above and beyond with ribbons, arrows and signs. For more "Destination Trail Running Events for the Adventurous," check out Destination Trail.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped with check in, aid stations and who pre-ran the course at 5:30am. Congratulations to all the members of the BTRS who raced; I am so proud of our Bellingham community.

Tad was amazing as usual. He spends so much time studying the course and figuring out where he can see me. He showed up in 8 different locations during the race.

Thank you La Sportiva for the shoes and gear that make racing on any terrain and through any weather possible.

I feel like my work at TerrainGym really kicked in for this race in particular. I can't imagine finishing so strong after climbing 5,000+ feet without the strength training behind it.  

Chris Lockwood and KerryGustafson are very special people in my life that allow me to show up to the starting line healthy and help me recover faster. I can't thank them enough for the time they invest in me.

My prerace energy was Trail Butter. The slow-burning fuel is really beneficial for longer races as it postpones the use of so many sweet gels and chomps.

The Bellingham Distance Project is full of amazing friends and teammates who are so supportive and encouraging in every aspect of running and life. A special thanks to Lydia and Kyle Carrick who came out to the island to cheer me on. How fun to see you guys out there!

Time to rest and recover and start planning the next adventure which is back to the La Sportiva Mountain Cup, Don't Fence Me In 30k in Helena, Montana on May 9th.

Support Glenn Tachiyama!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Return to Hillbilly

The 2015 La Sportiva Mountain Cup kicked off this weekend with the Hillbilly Half Marathon in Olympia, Washington. I was familiar with the course because I ran this race last year. It is an out and back route that features some steep climbs, fast singletrack and feet deep pools of mud.

Me and Quinn
I started the early morning with some Expedition Espresso Trail Butter on a wrap. I was surprised and bummed to find some mold on the wrap when I pulled it out of the bag. I decided to just tear off the bluish green circles until it looked more like a slice of Swiss cheese, then squeezed on the TB and wrapped up a banana. Messy, but good. As sound dietetic practice I encourage people to throw out moldy and/or contaminated foods, but in the instance of race preparation, this is an exception to the rule.

Pre-race lovin' with Sarah.
The weather felt and smelled of cross country as we walked out of the hotel; crisp, clear and clean with sunny blue skies. Not at all your typical PNW March weather, but a welcome change to last year's monsoon. Once at the course, we chatted briefly with Quinn, the La Sportiva Field Marketing Coordinator and my La Sportiva teammates that flew in from Wyoming, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Utah.

Wishing I had my sunglasses.

Leading up to the race I had some knee pain that forced me to take a day off and adjust the plan.  And, dead legs at the beginning of the week caused me to cut my Wednesday workout. With all of that it wasn't too surprising when I felt prematurely labored and heavy as we started the immediate climb up to Capitol Peak. I followed the heels of the woman in front of me until she started to pull away at 3 miles. At about 3.5 miles there was a large road block of logs that had flagging to go around them to the right. The man in front of me started to go to the left and I yelled ahead to him that I thought we were to go right. To make sure I was correct, I changed the view on my Suunto to show the map of the course. We were headed the right direction.

Feelin' the hurt.
I caught up to the man ahead of me and worked with him to push to the top of the turn-around. Shortly after I turned to head back down the mountain I saw the woman who was previously ahead now less than 2 minutes behind. I knew she must have taken a wrong turn and was trying to make up ground. Just like last year, I ran scared the last 6.5 miles to hold the lead. 

I pulled off the win and despite not feeling 100%, ran 1:37:00, which is 33 seconds under Megan Kimmel's course record, and 2 minutes and 32 seconds faster than last year. For full race results click here. This race was a good reminder of how important it is to keep your head in the game despite how you feel. You never know how the race will unfold, what is happening ahead or behind you and sometimes you are capable of giving a lot more than you think you can.

Ryan Woods (1st place male), me, Bret Ferrier (3rd place male). Go Sportiva!
Sweet race swag.

A big thank you to Seven HillsRunning Shop for the $100 gift certificate, to Pope Press Olympia for the unique and beautiful print to commemorate this year's run and to all the folks at Guerilla Running, congratulations on another successful year.

For more information on the La Sportiva Mountain Cup visit:

iRunFar's This Week in Running.

Q & A with Trail Runner Magazine.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Season Opener: Fragrance Lake Half Marathon

After a couple days off in December I got in a solid 6 week push of training. I ran consistent 80 mile weeks (a first for me) with 3 days in the gym and 20 mile long runs. My work in the gym has been predominately strength focused. Though it's not important to dwell on gym numbers (Tonia always says it's what you do outside of the gym that counts), it is really exciting to see my loading get heavier compared to just 6 months ago. Tonia teaches me something new every day that improves my technique and increases my confidence.

Josh leading the way up Two Dollar.
I've had great company for my long runs. Dubbed the "We Don't Run for Fun" group, we wound and hammered through the Chuckanuts every weekend. Members include Josh Vander Wiele, Ben Scherrer, Brian Shasserre, Mark Harding, Kevin Douglas, Allan Carbert, and Tad Davis. Yes, I felt like a queen with them putting up with my idiosyncrasies as I dictated the course, the pace, and the distance. Sometimes they even did laps around the parking lot with me to make sure my Suunto read 20.0. They push me and motivate me and I am so thankful for their camaraderie.

Most of our long runs were wet and sloppy making the La Sportiva Crossovers my shoe of choice, but due to the recent warm, sunny and dry weather the trails were in great shape so I raced in my Helios. They are really comfortable and responsive across all terrain (on the Interurban, up Cleator, through the mud of North Lost Lake and skipping across Chuckanut Ridge.) I am very lucky to have a shoe sponsor which specializes in making trail shoes that pay close attention to every detail and that serve a specific function to make moving on the trails faster and more efficient.

I was told this was the view at the aid station.
The Fragrance Lake Half Marathon was a perfect season opener. I started out with a relaxed 6:35 mile out on the Interuban Trail and then started pulling the men in while climbing up Cleator. The top men were flying and already out of sight. At Fragrance Lake (mile ~4.5) positions were pretty much set and I tried to keep the guy in front of me in sight while climbing up Rock Trail. At the top of Chinscraper he stopped to tie his shoes so I was able to get a head start on the Ridge. He soon passed me, but I was able to keep him in sight with some fancy footwork. Many are aware of my disdain for the Ridge. It is two miles of very technical, winding single track that takes 100% concentration and a positive attitude. Luckily I was determined and in a good mood so I made it across the ridge in about 19 minutes and 23 seconds. At that point, it's the final push to the top of Fragrance Lake Trail and then bombing down it without taking any hikers and their children/pets with you. I was 1st female and 6th overall with a time of 1:54:10. Full results here. (The Ultra Signup times are two minutes fast.)

The Homestretch.
It was really encouraging to have my Bellingham Distance Project (BDP) teammates cheering for me at the start of Two Dollar, at Fragrance Lake, at the top of Rock Trail, at the bottom of Dan's Traverse and at the finish. They probably ran more than I did.

I was also greeted at the finish with a big hug from Kerry Gustafson, massage therapist-athletic trainer extraordinaire. Kerry and weekly treatments with Dr. Chris Lockwood have been instrumental in keeping me healthy. I can't express how elated I am to be able to run without any pain or tightness or discomfort.

Thanks to race director Candice Burt for putting on a great race. For more of her epic race events check out Destination Trail and join me on April 11th for the first Orcas Island Marathon and Trail Running Festival.

Me and Candice.

After the race Tad and I drove down to Tukwila for the Annual USATF Pacific Northwest Awards Banquet. I was one of three female athletes nominated for the Athlete of the Year. I didn't find out until we arrived that the other two nominees were track phenoms and Brooks Beasts Angela Bizzarri (4:32.57 mile) and Katie Mackey (15:04.74 5k). What an honor to be recognized amongst these two accomplished women. Katie was announced the winner given her awesome 2014 season – ranked in the United States 6th in the mile and 4th in the 5,000 meters. Amazing!

While at the banquet we listened to the history of the Pacific Northwest Track & Field Association and what makes it stand apart from other associations. I am really proud to be a part of a group of individuals who have been so passionate about the sport all the way back to 1984 when they hosted the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in Olympia.

In two weeks I will run the Hillbilly Half Marathon down in Olympia, WA. This is the first race in the 2015 La Sportiva Mountain Cup. I'm hoping for a more positive experience than last year.

Thanks to all of your support, encouragement and motivation 2015 is off to a great start.


 Check out this video of the Rock Trail, 2nd through 6th place all within a minute of each other.

Shout out from iRunFar's 'This Week in Running.'