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.

video

 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.'



Monday, January 19, 2015

Prancing Through Puddles in the PNW: Gear Review


La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX®



As anyone who has come into contact with me lately can attest, I am really excited about this shoe. The La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX is a Gore-Tex® trail running shoe with an integrated gaiter, designed with winter running in mind. Perfect for sloppy trails, snowshoeing or even an après-ski boot.

Though it looks like a big substantial shoe, it is lightweight–only 10.5 ounces–and is made on a responsive last. The Crossover fits right between the more minimalist Bushidos and the more substantial Wildcats and Ultra Raptors so I find myself wearing them for a wide range of surfaces and distances. The gaiter is a stretchy mesh with nylon reinforcing the rear cuff for durability. The interior lining is Gore-Tex® Extendend Comfort/Gore-FLEX® which is a special type of Gore-Tex® with more flexibility than standard Gore-Tex®. There is also a band to adjust how snug you want the gaiter around your ankle. I have never had any rubbing and do not even notice the gaiter is there.

The outsole is perfect for wet Pacific Northwest trails or snow and ice if you head up into the mountains with deep lugs and sticky Frixion material.  I was able to run up our local steep "Rock Trail" when it was iced over with no problem while my companions had to use their hands to get up and over the snowy climb.

At $175 retail they are a pricey shoe, but like all La Sportiva products made in Italy, the quality is unsurpassed.

The Crossover is so comfortable don't be surprised if you see me wearing them straight through the summer. However, the newly released Mutant appears to be very similar (minus the gaiter) so I am looking forward to testing them out on the trails.



Warm & dry = Happy Runner
Every adventure needs a solid go-to rain jacket to stay protected on the trails and up in the mountains.

The Storm Fighter is a women-specific, fully waterproof, windproof and breathable jacket that has an extremely light GORE-TEX® shell. This lightweight, stretchy and highly breathable jacket was created with the goal of providing the best combination of weather protection, minimal weight and small compression size. The material is nothing like I've ever seen before in a fully waterproof jacket. It is amazingly soft to the touch and it is quiet; no swish swishing sounds as you are running. It also compresses tightly and easily so that you can pack it away into a small pack. 

Reflective shoulder strip.
The hood is adjustable - you can keep it up but cinch it back so that you can hear well and it doesn't block your peripheral vision (no surprise cougar attacks from the left or right). The hood also has a built in visor. You can unzip the jacket up from the bottom for better ventilation and the chin is lined with micro-fleece so that it is soft and comfortable around your face. The cuffs are half elastic for a nice tight but comfortable fit around the wrists.  The reflective shoulder strip is the same tone (none of those ugly silver strips) as the jacket so it blends in during daylight but stands out at night.
Soft, flexible cuffs.

The Storm Fighter retails for $379 but, again, the quality is superb and if you are looking for a jacket that you'll wear for many different activities, that looks great and that will last–this is it!



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rest


The past 6 weeks I have indulged in many a cookie, cake and gelato washed down with hot sake and Malbec. I have stayed up way past 10p.m. watching movies, laughing with friends and reading every article in my Twitter feed. I took a planned week off of running (okay, 4 days) and have been keeping relatively low mileage with minimal effort workouts. The lax in focus on my training has been refreshing, relaxing and simply fun. However this wild and crazy lifestyle is starting to make me feel out of control and I'm itching to get back to normal.

Peanut butter on top of dark chocolate in a chocolate dipped waffle cone.
Come January 1st, it's back to serious business. I have an exciting 2015 race schedule planned and it's time to focus. So if anyone wants to have a gelato throw-down, pick a time and I'll meet you at Chocolate Necessities. You have 5 days left!




Exactly!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

That's a Wrap!


Cross country training started late in the game this year as I was focusing on preparing for the National Trail Half Marathon until mid-October.  The following week I switched over to shorter mileage, fast workouts and barely long runs. While I am in some of the greatest fitness of my running career, I wasn't able to fully showcase my potential in cross country this year given the short season we had.

The Bellingham Distance Project (BDP) débuted our new black and green jerseys at the Pacific Northwest Association Championship meet at Lower Woodland Park in Seattle on November 2nd. It's quite a shock to the body to go from racing for 2+ hours to just over 20 minutes. There is no time to lick your lips let alone have a life-changing experience. I was third overall on a hilly course. A solid performance for me and BDP placed second to Club Northwest. Full results here.

BDP Backsides.
The second race of the season was the USATF Pacific Northwest Region Championship at Lincoln Park in West Seattle on November 23rd.  Most people chose to wear racing flats on this course, fooled by the packed gravel along the perimeter of the course. The innards, however, were booby-trapped with slick as snot mud pits from the recent downpours. Spikes were advantageous and I was able to close the gap between me and 3rd place and open the gap between me and 5th place at all of these spots. I am most happy about my epic finish. Very rarely am I able to chase someone down in the finishing chute, but I dug deep to the line and beat a girl literally by a nose to keep my 4th place in 21:43. It wasn't pretty. Once again, BDP placed second to Club Northwest. Lauren Fleshman took the win and greeted all the finishers with good jobs as they came through the chute. She is as nice and down-to-earth in person as her online persona. Full results here.

Top Americans.
Our last race together was at the Canadian National Cross Country Championship at Jericho Beach in Vancouver, B.C. This is always a fun race for me because it is longer than women's cross races in the U.S. (8Km versus 6Km) and it almost always promises a ridiculously muddy course. I was really looking forward to seeing my WVU coach, Sean Cleary and three of my Canadian ex-Mountaineer teammates (Jessica O'Connell, Sarah-Anne Brault and Stephanie Aldea) who have been rocking it post-collegiately on the international scene. The temperature was in the 20's with a numbing wind chill. We put in 5/8'' spikes to help claw through the mud and wood chips. The course was 4 x 2Km loops. The field went out screaming fast, flinging mud up in our faces. I started in the back and began to pick my way through the field. Every time I ran past Sean and he lovingly yelled out, "Dalzot!" I got a feeling of nostalgia and my spirits lifted. At the 1Km a frozen clump of snow/mud collected and stuck to my shoe causing me to limp awkwardly for a good 3 minutes until I could dissolve it in a puddle. By lap two I couldn't feel my upper body and kept checking to see if my hands were still attached. By lap 4 the cold filtered into my hamstrings and I felt like one of those fire ants that had smoke blown on them to put them in a dormant state. I crossed the line and sharp pain immediately seized my hands. Have you ever had frozen hands and then when they start to thaw it feels like a knife is splitting each finger open? Yeah, that's what was happening. I stood there like a helpless whimpering puppy until Tad could come and put two shirts and big mittens on me.

'Flynn' dressed appropriately.
I placed 26th which isn't bad in such a competitive field, but I know that I could have offered more had I dressed appropriately. The course ran long and my splits were pretty consistent, averaging 6 flat pace or 30 minutes for 5 miles. Lesson learned: wearing less doesn't make you tough on a day like that. It makes you stupid. And cold. Full results here.

With that, my 2014 racing season is over. The (only) downside of not getting injured this year is having the opportunity to race every month. I have been training and on the go from Moab's Red Hot 33k in February all the way until the Canadian Cross Country Championship yesterday. Admittedly, I'm tired.

I will be taking a break next week from all forms of training while attending the annual USATF conference in Anaheim, California as a Pacific Northwest athlete delegate. I am excited to be a small part of the movers and shakers of the running world and to share my thoughts and opinions on a sport that I care so deeply about.

And when I return, it's back to work. Because February will be here before you know it and I have big plans for 2015. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

USATF Trail Half Marathon National Championships

I have been training a lifetime for a day like today. For such a big win to come together in front of my home crowd is truly special and worth every moment of pain, disappointment, injury and loss that have sabotaged my running many times throughout my career.

Photo Credit: Takao Suzuki
It is cliché to say that I was not expecting to win, but that is really the case. The women (and even more so the men) had a stacked field that included some fast road runners that could really give the trail runners a run for their money on this particularly “fast” course. Come race day I was ready for a top five finish. Ten days out from the race I had a breakthrough workout around the loop at Lake Padden. Having never run sub 16 minutes around the 2.6 mile loop in a workout before, I was able to do it twice in one workout by myself. We were excited.

The Nano Hobbs and myself.
My excitement was heightened by the fact that some of my favorite trail runners were coming to Bellingham for the National Championships at Lake Padden. Nancy Hobbs, Richard Bolt, Chris Lundy, Andrew Benford and Caitlin Smith… all of these people (whether they know it or not) have played an integral role in shaping me into the runner that I am today.

In 2006, Andrew Benford, fellow West Virginian, was selected for the US Junior Mountain Running Team. I read his blog report from his trip to Turkey and knew instantly that this event is what I wanted to do, too. Based on my high school track and cross country performances, I was chosen to be on the 2007 US Junior Team that competed in Switzerland for the World Mountain Running Championship. It was on this trip that I met Nancy and Rich and Chris who was on the women’s gold medal winning team. I really looked up to Chris and remember wanting to sit next to her at the opening ceremony so that I could ask her questions. This whole experience is when I fell in love with the mountains and trails and have pursued a spot on the women’s team ever since.

In 2013, I was learning how to race longer distances and ran a 27K in California. I knew Caitlin Smith, course record holder and 2:41 marathoner, was going to be there. The course started with a steep climb (my strength) and I dropped her easily. "Wow, that was easy," I naively thought, until she came blowing by me at mile 6 and I never saw her again. Caitlin taught me a huge lesson that day and I was very humbled. I think about that race often when I am racing. It is funny how life has come full circle and all of these pivotal people were here at the race with me today. 

Under control at 6.5 miles.
Photo Credit: Takao Suzuki
Race directors Tad Davis and Al Coyle worked together tirelessly over the past 6 months, fretting over every detail from laminated VIP parking passes to what kind of flowers were to be presented at the awards. The night before the race Tad emceed a panel press conference with some of the elite athletes that came in from Utah, Idaho, California, Arizona and other parts of Washington. I made an early appearance at the expo around 4pm before the excitement picked up and quietly slipped out for a relaxing dinner by myself at home watching Netflix and making sure my bib numbers were on straight.

I knew the course very well because I do interval and tempo sessions at Lake Padden almost every week. I also knew that the last 4 miles are a lot tougher than they seem, with many short and medium steep climbs. The advantage of knowing the course was huge. You don’t realize how much energy you spend trying to find the course or stay on course until you don’t have to do it. I didn’t have to think or worry or hesitate about which direction I was going and could just run.

Not-so-under-control at a half mile to the finish.
Photo Credit: Takao Suzuki
I anticipated a very fast start and figured that this would probably be a mistake. I hung back in 9th place, hitting a comfortable 6:10 for the first mile. When we hit the first climb, I started racing and moved into 4th. From here my strategy was to slowly close on the leaders saving as much energy as possible for the last 4 miles. I battled for first place with Andrija Barker and Tori Tyler between miles 4.5 and mile 9 when the later climbs started to take effect. Once I couldn’t sense anyone there, I ran scared the final 4 miles, desperately trying to reach the finish line before I was caught.

Tad and I always talk about the day training comes together and the magic happens. Racing feels effortless and you can push yourself in a way that you were never able before. As I was racing I was thinking to myself, “The magic is happening. Today is my day.” I felt so confident. Even when I was getting passed around the lake loop mid-way, I knew I had it. When Al handed me the American flag to carry into the finish, I felt so much joy that I am unable to put into words.

Bear with me while I express my gratitude to the team of people who made today possible.

Thank you to Tad, my boyfriend, coach, best friend, photographer, therapist, chauffeur and wardrobe stylist. We did it!!!

Photo Credit: Aly Howisey

Thank you to Al Coyle, head race director and adopted family member. I can’t begin to tell you how many ways you have touched my life. There are so many great people, places and trails that I would not know if not for you.

Happy Birthday, Al!
Thank you to La Sportiva, who have furnished me with shoes all year and have given me the opportunity to travel to some of the best trail races in the country.

Thank you to Jeff and the Trail Butter team.  It is an honor to be a part of such a genuine, lovely group of people. I am so proud of Trail Butter.
 
Jeff giving me a pre-race squeeze.
Thank you to Tonia Boze from Terrain Gym. You have transformed my body and made me into an elite athlete. I am so very grateful.

Face of joy, disbelief & relief.
Thank you to Dr. Chris Lockwood from Align Chiropractic. I can’t thank you enough for all of the time you have dedicated to taking care of my body over the past two years. You mean so much to me.

Thank you to Kerry Gustafson from Prime Massage & Sports Medicine. I am so lucky to be in the hands of someone so knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Thank you for understanding what it takes to be a competitive athlete and for helping me reach my goals.

Thank you to my dear BDP teammates: Amber, Alyson, Courtney & Aly (and Lydia, too!). I am so blessed to have you as friends and teammates. Your never-ending encouragement, enthusiasm and work ethic motivates and inspires me every day.

Aly, Amber, Maria, Alyson, Courtney=BDP
Thank you to my posse, Nichole Braun, Mark Harding and the Bellingham Trail Running Club. You guys make running the trails that much more fun.

Thank you to everyone who liked and/or left a comment on my Facebook page, emailed, called or texted. The support I have received from the Bellingham and trail running community nationwide is overwhelming and brings me to tears.

Women's Podium
Photo Credit: Takao Suzuki

I haven’t slept in 3 days because of all the adrenaline pumping through my body. I will continue to savor this moment as I start training for a short cross country season that begins with the Pacific Northwest Championships in Seattle on November 2nd, followed by the Regional Championship on the 23rd and ends with the Canadian Cross Country Championships in Vancouver, BC on the 29th. 

Complete results of the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships can be found here
Article from The Bellingham Herald here.
Article from The Western Front here.
USATF Press Release here.
Examiner.com Press Release here.