Saturday, June 15, 2013

Kicking off the Cobwebs at Echo Valley

How do you like them apples?

After running consistently for a couple weeks, it was time to start thinking about racing. Evergreen Trail Runs hosts a series of trail runs showcasing some of Washington's finest landscapes. As my 2013 racing debut, we chose to sign up for the Echo Valley 10K in Chelan. Echo Valley is the "wine country of Washington" and Chelan (pronounced like the "she" in "shepherd" and "lan" as in "oh my land!") is a top vacation spot for Washingtonians due to its endless sunshine.

Tad and I took the beautiful drive through North Cascades National Park a couple weekends ago to check out the course. Once on the other side of the mountains, the climate changed drastically from wet, moss-covered rainforest to dry, sunny and desert. All around are vineyards, apple and cherry trees.

Warming up in the Inov-8 Terroc 308
The trail system at Echo Ridge has over 20 miles of smooth dusty trails with views of Lake Chelan, the Enchantments, Pyramid Peak and the Okanogan Highlands. The 10K course totaled 900 feet of elevation gain and the trails were very runnable. You could really get moving on them unlike the trails in western Washington that are gnarled with roots, rocks and mud. This was going to be a perfect race for dusting off the cobwebs after 4 months off with an Achilles injury.

Echo Valley was sponsored by Vindu Lac of Chelan, one of the top Wineries in the region, and was named “Winery of the Year” in 2010. Race participants were treated to special deals and discounts at Vin du Lac’s tasting room and restaurant, including 20% off all wine, and 10% off all food and merchandise. Naturally, we took advantage of this and bought 2 bottles of wine - a white and a red.

Top of the 900ft climb
We camped out the night before - something I have never done, but it worked out just as well as staying in a hotel. The early rising sun had us up at 5am and after hanging out at Starbucks with coffee and a bagel, we headed to the course. The 50 mile race was already going on when we arrived and the 50K was to start at 8:30am, followed by the half-marathon and the 10K at 9:30am. I decided to race in the Inov-8 F-lite 240's and they turned out to be perfect for this particular hard-packed terrain. The 240's are unisex, but their performance fit was very comfortable. I stayed conservative at the start and then at a mile I passed the first man to take the overall lead. The rest of the race I ran solo, following the extremely well marked ribbons and arrows. When I came through the finish, I was treated with a bottle of wine and congratulatory hugs and handshakes. My time of 44:02 breaks the previous women's record by over 6 minutes. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect debut after being off for so long. The effort was perfect for my current fitness level and the distance stressed my body enough, but not too much. This was my first race since December and it feels so good. Today I am so full of joy and gratitude.

First Finish in 6 months!!!

This calls for celebration!
 A big thank you to Roger Michel and Jerry Gamez for organizing and directing such a great event. I look forward to participating in more Evergreen Trail Runs in the future for the fun, the camaraderie, the challenge and hopefully, more wine.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Girls on the Run

Pre-run butterfly stretch.

On Saturday, I ran with a participant in the Girls on the Run Program during their celebratory, non-competitive 5K. According to their website, Girls on the Run “encourages positive emotional, social, mental and physical development. Participants explore and discuss their own beliefs around experiences and challenges girls face at this age. Designed to allow every girl to recognize her inner strength, the Girls on the Run curriculum inspires girls to define their lives on their own terms.”

Mehar & me
Before the run, the girls were full of energy running around in pink capes and race numbers that were all “#1.” My running buddy was Mehar, a sweet and spirited soon-to-be 6th grader who, in addition to running, plays the piano and dances hip-hop. She really impressed me with her mature attitude and bold goals of one day running the Boston Marathon. Most of the girls around us would alternate walking and sprinting, but my buddy was smooth and steady for the entire 3 mile run. Even when she felt like walking, she kept on going. As we ran we cheered on the other girls ahead of us and behind us, we received high fives and encouragement in return. Mehar told me that she could never imagine running in long braids and a pink cape if not for the confidence and self-esteem that this program instilled in her.
Coming into the finish

My brief experience with Girls on the Run really touched me and inspired me to be a part of it next season. This is yet another example of the power of running. Go, Mehar!

*Tad Davis photos

Review: Inov-8 Roclite 275 GTX

I had the opportunity to test out the Inov-8 Roclite 275 GTX a couple months before they became available for public purchase (you can now find them on the Inov-8 website under Products, Off Road). These are an updated version of the popular female specific shoe. The first thing you'll notice is that the previous mesh upper has been replaced with a much stronger mesh material. This should significantly decrease the likelihood of an upper blowout due to extended use as well as trail hazard (rocks, sticks, etc.) cuts and tears. The heel was designed to be narrower to match the shape of the female foot. It has good cushioning with a lower than average differential. This is a great training shoe and perfect for long runs in wet slippery conditions. The sole of the shoe was developed using rock climbing rubber technology to optimize grip in wet conditions. The GORE-TEX lining keeps my feet warm and dry running the wet Pacific Northwest Chuckanut trails as well as hiking high elevations on the North Cascade trails still covered in 5 feet of snow. This has been one of my favorite pair of Inov-8s because it is so versatile, comfortable and reliable.