In which I find my perfect winter sport

I’ve talked before about my love-hate relationship with skiing. (Basically I love the whole skiing ‘thing’. I just hate the actual skiing.) This weekend we headed up to Tahoe to ski Homewood, a smaller resort on the west shore. It looked perfect for us – lots of greens and blues, ideal for a family trip. I knew I could do greens and I was up for trying some blues!

I won’t go into details but suffice to say that I hated skiing on Saturday. Hated it. NONE of this is due to Homewood which is a great little resort which we all really liked. I was just a crap skier having a crap day. I was done with skiing.



On the Sunday, NONE of us wanted to ski. This has NEVER happened before. Neither the Husband nor the Dude were particularly healthy this weekend,  so they decided they’d rather go sledding at Granlibakken and I was determined to have a go at cross-country skiing.

I’ve wanted to try cross-country (aka nordic) skiing for a long time now….it’s on my Bay Area Bucket List. I’ve long been secretly convinced that it’s my perfect snow sport. All the things I love about ‘skiing’…being active, being outside, snow, mountains, cake…and none of the things I hate…fear, broken bones.  I did try it once when I was unknowingly pregnant, in France with my lovely friend Debs. We skied for about a mile before finding a chalet with deck chairs in the sunshine selling hot schnapps. (I said UNKNOWINGLY PREGNANT). But I hadn’t done it since. However I know that a lot of Europe’s best trail runners (including my heroine Emelie Forsberg) do it as a winter activity because it complements running so well. The action is similar, it builds cardiovascular fitness in a similar way. So I cashed in some Christmas money from my in-laws and booked a group lesson at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Center.

My lesson was at 10.30, my boys dropped me off and headed off to sledge. I felt at home instantly. A lot of the people there clearly did this regularly and they looked like runners. They wore different clothes to us newbies wearing our downhill ski clothes. The regulars wore much less bulky clothes, almost like running clothes. The shop was full of stuff that I could imagine myself running in…I wanted to buy most of the stuff too. This was my place. My heart beat faster.

The place was RAMMED. This was their busiest weekend of the year and the queue was long. (So get there early if you’re planning to go). However it moved fast and before long I was kitted out. The minute I put on the ski-boots, I knew this was the sport for me. Cross-country boots are not the torture devices of downhill skiing. They’re soft and pliable and comfortable, and you stand NO chance of snapping your tibia over the rim. (Yep). I was in love. Also the skis are much thinner and much lighter than downhill skis – no heavy schlepping around here. I basically skipped onto the snow.


So comfy…


So light…

My group lesson was with a sprightly older gentleman named Rick. It was a big group – maybe 13 people. I’m sure this is abnormal due to the holiday weekend. We were all total beginners and all a little nervous. Rick showed us how to step into the skis and over the next hour he showed us how to move forward, how to move forward faster, how to glide, how to go downhill and most importantly how to stop. I was a little nervous on the downhills but there was none of the terror I feel in downhill skiing. Most of all, I was having fun.


My lesson

Cross-country skiing does feel a lot like running. The movement is similar and my running fitness really made a difference, I noticed I was faster than others in my group. Normally I’m the slowest and the last in my ski-classes so this was nice. As I skied, I could feel my heart working similarly to how it does when I run easily.


At the end of the lesson, I had about an hour and a half before my boys would pick me up so I set to work. I spent much of that time simply going up and down the very gentle slope near the lodge practising climbing and practising descending. Each time I descended, I got a little less tense and a little less clumsy. I was elated with myself.

For the last half hour, I headed up the easy yellow trail to the flat meadow area where a network of trails spread out. Trails are graded in difficulty from yellow to green to blue to black. I stuck with greens but felt really comfortable on them. I really loved exploring the new trails. It was so peaceful and pretty. I swooshed along happily and just relished being on skis without being scared.



As my time ran out, I skied down back to the lodge to find the Husband waiting for me. He saw my massive grin and knew instantly that this was much more ‘me’.


My enthusiasm was so great that I persuaded my (previously reluctant) boys to try it on Monday morning before we headed home…but the weather had other ideas. A massive snow storm blew in and we decided to head over the Donner Pass before it got too bad or anyone got too hungry. Sensible decision but it just left me itching to do more. I sense a return trip coming up in the weeks we have left.


But all in all…flipping excellent!


Lunch-date with my favourite gap-toothed cutie

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Review: This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey

On her blog, The Runner Beans, Charlie Watson has started a monthly book club and I thought it would be fun to join in and read the books if they appealed.  This month’s book was the autobiography of British elite runner Jo Pavey. I’m not sure how familiar she is to my Bay Area running friends but she’s a big UK heroine.


Jo’s been running at elite level for nearly 30 years if you include junior level athletics. She was plagued by injury for years and missed the podium in many championship races, often coming 4th or 5th behind runners we now have good reason to believe were doping – indeed she’s still awaiting a bronze medal from the 10k at the 2007 world championships, having finished fourth behind an athlete who has since tested positive to performance enhancing drugs.

Because of these reasons, she kind of flew under the radar for many years despite competing in 4 Olympic Games for Team GB. However in 2014 she sprang to immediate fame when she won a gold medal at the European Championships in the 10,000m. This was particularly notable because she was 40 when she won that first gold medal and was just 10 months postpartum from her second child! This made her a heroine to all the middle-aged mother runners in the UK. I mean this with NO disrespect as she was hugely inspiring to THIS middle-aged mother runner as well.  So I was looking forward to reading her book.

On the whole it’s a good sports autobiography. It starts with her club running years in her teens and charts her years off with injury, her university days studying to become a physiotherapist, getting back into competition right the way through to four Olympic games. Alongside the professional story, she talks of her marriage to Gav who becomes her coach, and the birth of her two children and how their arrival immediately changes her attitude to training.

I liked her quiet, wry recognition of how much older she is compared to most of her competitors – how her club vest was older than some of the women she raced against and how, when she won gold, the press always mentioned her age after her name so she was always referred to as ‘Jo Pavey, 40…’.

The bits that most resonated with me were about her  approach to training.  In this busy life we all lead, it’s easy to identify with someone juggling many different commitments and fitting training in where possible. She talks about how her second run of the day is often at 9pm on the treadmill in what’s basically a large cupboard. No glamour, no flashiness…just that daily commitment to grinding it out and putting the miles in. That really did challenge me to commit harder to getting my run in, when I’d usually just decide it wasn’t going to happen and open the zin.

So…a few things that this middle-aged runner is taking out of the book.

  • Get the run done. No matter when it gets done and where it gets done…if it’s on your plan, get it done.
  • At the same time…I liked how she was able to recognize that sometimes you can only do what you CAN do, not necessarily what you ‘should’ be doing. There’s a lovely realism in her approach.
  • Elite sport isn’t necessarily glamorous – nor does it need to be. Jo and her family live in rural Devon, at least 4 hours from the bright lights of London. The nearest track is 12 miles away and she’s not exactly living in the hub of an elite athlete world. I loved that contrast – the quiet, understated, dedicated way she just gets on with her training. It’s that inner drive and I respect it so much.
  • The love of running and racing. Jo speaks with so much love of running and her desire to be running her whole life. And I love her gritty approach to racing and her love of pushing herself hard. I was finishing her book when I ran Kaiser a few Sundays ago and it definitely motivated me to race harder.

My only complaint is that it was written with a ghost-writer,  which I understand but I feel that doing so hides the true voice of the athlete. In real-life interviews, Jo comes across as very even-tempered, very humble, understated and down-to earth and that definitely comes across in the book. However I couldn’t help but wonder what Jo is like in real life. Is she funnier? Is she feistier or sarkier? The ghost-writer made the book feel oddly impersonal – more like a biography told in the first person than a true autobiography. I think that’s a shame.

I admire Jo greatly – her dedication, her realistic commitment to running and training and her down-to-earth personality. So I enjoyed this opportunity to find out more about her story. Recommended.

Thanks to my friend Liz who helped me source this book on the interwebs for much less than the price!

Also, I won’t be bringing this heavy book back to the UK with me so if you’re a Bay Area local and you fancy reading it, let me know and it’s all yours!


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Running Mission Peak

One of my Bay Area Bucket List items was to run Mission Peak. We’d hiked there three years ago when the Dude was small and cute and had never forgotten the views from the top. I wanted to run it, so Jen, Debbie and I found an afternoon that suited and the plan was on.

I dropped my boys at the Stanford Avenue trailhead – they would hike the 3 miles from there,  it would be a race – and then drove a little further to pick up an alternative trail starting at Ohlone College. It’s a steep climb up Mission Peak and this route would take us up in 4 miles, as opposed to the 3 miles from Stanford Avenue. We hoped it would be slightly more runnable. Parking was plentiful and free on Sundays, there were portaloos at the bottom…we posed for the obligatory starting selfie and we were off.



Make no mistake, it was a tough climb and there was a fair amount of hiking that took place but we managed to run more than I’d expected. The climb was steady but fairly do-able and also surprisingly shady – the climb from Stanford Ave is fully exposed to the sun and brutal on hot days, so this is definitely the better summer option. There were plenty of cows on the hills including one ambling up the trail – we had to pass her which freaked me out a little but we survived the giant cow attack!  careful slow passing of a medium-sized bovine.



Soon enough we came to the loo in the middle of nowhere which marks the final mile up to the peak. It gets very steep from here onwards and we hiked the vast majority, including the scramble up rocks for the final push. As we hiked upwards, I glanced back and saw my boys behind me and the desire to win galvanized me to push to the top. It was very windy at the top and rather chilly but we found a sheltered spot in the sun and waited for the boys to arrive.



Thanks for the photo Jen…and the very precise German who took it


My boys arrived, they conceded the race,  we ate snacks, we posed for photos including a recreation of a shot we took three years ago 🙂


mission peak me dude

Me and the Dude in 2013 when he was small and cute


Me and the Dude in 2017 when he is almost as big as me


The run down was delightful. Easy running on smooth trails, chatting all the way. The weather was perfect today – it can be very hot on Mission Peak or bitterly cold and windy, but we’d struck gold. The fields were a luminous emerald green due to all the rain, the views were gorgeous, the company was top notch.



Our potentially dodgy parenting trick to encourage hiking is to reward with ice-cream. THIS one was surprisingly enormous and covered with candy floss! Ooops…


Mission Peak…done!


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Skyline Trail

Back in January, when I had completely lost my desire to run, one of the things that I knew would bring joy back was running more trails. This year, I made a vow to run at least 250 miles on the trails and to make it a regular event. It was something I decided to prioritise, and to do so, I changed the way I approached it.

In the past, I’ve managed to run trails maybe once every month or two months. I’d get the morning off parenting, I’d meet a bunch of girls, we’d run 12 miles and then go for brunch. It was a big, exciting, fun morning. But when you have a child, that’s not sustainable as a regular event. So instead of those BIG events, I started to plan shorter runs with friends. I’d meet them at the trailhead at 7am, we’d run for maybe an hour and then I’d be home by 8.30 or 9. I’d still have the endorphin glow of time on the trails but I’d also be there with my boys! Perfect.

January is traditionally quiet for us so I’ve managed to run trails every single week in 2017 and it has been a delight. I’ve run with 7 different friends and I’ve run alone a few times where I feel safe. I’ve run in 6 different places. My trail shoes have been permanently filthy and my stoke-ometer has been off the scale.

I feel obliged to point out that I’m still relatively new to trail running. I’m not GOOD at it. I love it SO much but I don’t want to portray myself as some badass trail queen who scampers up hills and screams down the descents. No, I slog up hills (often hiking) and if you’ve ever run with me, you’ll know that I take the descents slower than my late grandma. I’m not tough. But I AM enthusiastic.

This weekend, I got to run trails twice (I know) and both runs were so much fun I wanted to blog about them both. I took loads of photos and basically I want to share them 🙂


The first run was on Saturday when I ran an out-and-back on Skyline Trail with Lety. Lety is a new friend – our kids go to the same Kids Club at church and we discovered we were both runners so it was really fun to finally get to run with her. We were at the trail-head on Kings Moutnain road at 7am. The sky was getting light but the trails in the redwood forest were dark and gloomy. I would NOT have run there alone so I was grateful for the company.

Skyline is a lovely trail. It’s relatively flat. There are ups and downs of course, but it basically follows the ridge-line and runs parallel to Skyline Boulevard. Every now and again you see the road and hear a car but for most of the time you’re deep in the forest. It was the first time Lety had run trails like these and seeing her excitement was so lovely. We ran into the forest and round a corner and she basically ground to a halt and started exclaiming at how gorgeous it was. It was like a whole new world had opened up to her. Her enthusiasm was exactly how I feel every time!




We ran south for about 45 minutes. There were trees to clamber over due to the recent storms. There were muddy puddles to climb around. And bit by bit, it got lighter.




Just before we turned around to come back, we got to a bend in the trail and the lights were just incredible.


I know that this light effect has a scientific name (crepuscular rays) but it never fails to move me. Lety and I are both christians and we just stopped and stared for a while at what looked like shafts of light from heaven.


There’s a quote from  ‘Room with a View’ that I always think of when I see them.

‘One might have compared the curtains to sluice-gates, lowered against the intolerable tides of heaven. Without was poured a sea of radiance; within, the glory, though visible, was tempered to the capacities of man.


We turned around shortly afterwards and headed back to the car. Running is a great way to get to know someone better…somehow people seem more willing to open up when running than in normal life, so it was great to get to know Lety better. We got back to the car buzzing and happy and feeling triumphant. It was a good morning.

trails skyline


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Race Recap: Kaiser 5k

You know how sometimes your read other bloggers’ race recaps and they’re all ‘Oh I PR’d and I did no training and I totally wasn’t expecting it’ and you’re all ‘Bugger, why doesn’t that happen to me?’

Reader, it happened to me.

Let’s recap. A few months ago, I was really chuffed to become a race ambassador for the Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon and 5k. Having done the half marathon twice, I decided to run the 5k because of the sweet downhill and I was determined to absolutely crush it. It felt like the opportunity to set what was likely to be a lifetime best PR because a) downhill b) getting old.

And then Winter happened. I got sick, I got better, I got sick, I got better, I got my period, I got sick…I was unable to string together more than one solid week of training, I felt rough and I had absolutely no desire to run. So I stopped ‘training’. I abandoned all thoughts of a PR and focused on getting healthy, rediscovering the joy of running and getting some happy, easy miles in my legs. So race weekend came with no pressure. On Saturday night I had dinner at a friend’s. I drank a lot of wine, I ate a lot of food. And I woke up on Sunday morning ready to run as hard as I could on the day and just be grateful to be healthy, decently fit and able to race with my boys on the day before my 42nd birthday.

Race morning was fairly straight forward. We found spectacular parking right next to the portaloos by the windmill at the finish line. We used the aforementioned portaloos and got the schoolbus shuttle from the ocean to the start-line. We found Jen to hand over her bib which I’d collected the day before and then headed over to the 5k start.


The magic schoolbus


Pre-race Ramsdens




The 5k started 10 minutes before the half-marathon. I left my boys to run together and I shuffled forward a bit. I wasn’t bothered about self-seeding as I had no expectations. We listened to the National Anthem and I got a bit emotional about the beautiful singing and then we were off.

I should have self-seeded better.

It quickly became apparent that very few people around me wanted to race. We crossed the start line and I immediately had to stop and we minced along for a bit…it was ridiculously slow, I just had to laugh. Definitely wasn’t PR-ing today. Even less pressure. But I did still want to run hard so I started weaving my way around people and after about quarter of a mile I was able to run pretty much freely.

The course was hiller than I expected. It started with a very slight hill, then we turned through the museums and up MLK. As we turned up past Stow Lake, the hill was definitely noticeable. I was relishing the chance to run hard but I definitely worked up the hill using my new hills mantra of ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ to channel my dark fury into race fuel! It worked.

From Stow Lake there was a lovely downhill back to JFK, a very slight uphill on Transverse and then a long steady downhill on Overlook and Middle Road West.  ‘Let it go’ came on my headphones which (oh the shame) never fails to make me run harder and this time made me think of two of my preschoolers who belt this out regularly, totally off-key. So much gratitude. I never once glanced at my watch. I was surprised at how tough running hard was – by Mile 2.5 I was totally ready to be done but I kept pushing on, trying to pick people off one by one. Soon enough, we turned onto MLK, I saw the M3 sign and then the finish line in the distance and gave it all I had. As I approached the finish line, I could see the clock was counting up from 25:30 and I was really thrilled – I was expecting 26:something so 25:something was brilliant, especially as I thought I could take several seconds off the gun time. I crossed the line, stopped my watch and took some time to catch my breath and recover as I was pretty much cooked.

I took my medal (FLIPPING ENORMOUS), took some water and positioned myself by the finish chute to be able to see my boys coming in. It was several minutes before I glanced down to see my time and my heart leapt to see 24.53! Just 3 seconds over my PR. Amazed.



My boys came in a few minutes later having had a solid run. Lots of hugs and some red-cheeked photos.


Leaving his dad for dead



We wandered down through the expo, ate all the free samples, got all the freebies and stopped at the results tent to check our times and somehow my actual time was 24.45, a 5-second PR, and I was 6th in my age-group. I was totally thrilled! I got a bit emotional. I really hadn’t expected this. I didn’t deserve it but somehow I’d wangled a birthday 5k PR.

We had a brunch reservation at the Beach Chalet at 10.30 so we skyped our family in the UK and stood cheering the half-marathon runners seeing my friend Lety come through and then Jen! We got to see them come back up the other side, seeing Sesa too and then headed to the Beach Chalet where Jen met us and we ate a lot of french toast, drank a lot of coffee and one of us snuck in a cheeky kir royale.


Next time, I’ll remind the husband not to chew mid-photo


Hydrate, caffeinate, celebrate



Someone wanted to sit by Jen

Notes on the race

In the interests of full disclosure, I was a social media ambassador for this race. Thank you to everyone who used my code – I earned a free entry plus several other prizes including free running shoes and a fitbit so I’m really grateful. My thoughts on the race are below – I’ve paid for my own entry twice and would have done this race again even if I wasn’t an ambassador so hopefully my opinions are trustworthy.

  • Once again, this was an excellently organised race. There were plentiful schoolbus shuttles from Ocean Beach to the race start, we didn’t have to wait at all. There were plenty of portaloos at the start and plentiful safety pins also for those of us who discovered they didn’t have any at home at 6.15 on race day morning.
  • The volunteers deserve a special mention. There were seemingly thousands of lovely teenage volunteers the whole day. They stood in lines as we walked to the shuttle buses saying a cheery ‘good morning’. There were volunteers at the start with signs saying ‘Ask me anything’ and they were able to answer our questions. They were plentiful at the end, giving out medals, water, food and space blankets – one entertainer had drawn a Nike swoosh on one and was shouting out ‘Get your Nike Space Blanket here, only $30’ which was very very funny. They were just a lovely bunch of teenagers, I hope the Dude turns out so nicely.
  • I heard that some people didn’t get their race bibs through the post and this caused some race-day stress but ours arrived well in time so I can only speak of that.
  • The 5k course is a PR-magnet (even if you’re overweight and unfit, apparently). Be sure to start very near the front if you want to race and be prepared for the uphill sections but it’s lovely!
  • The 5k medal is ENORMOUS but it doubles as a coaster which is genius. When we move back to the UK, we’ll be rehoming most of our medals but this one will be coming with me for that very reason!

Thin Mints provided to add scale

  • Finishers also got a cotton, long-sleeved top. I was dubious about the colour but once I put it on, I really liked it. The small is quite fitted on me  (I’m a US4). One of my Ambassador perks was a long-sleeved tech top which I flipping adore and I’m saving it to wear until we move back to the UK. I also got a free race jacket which I also LOVE! So if this is a goal race for you, I’d definitely recommend upgrading to the tech-shirt at least!
  • I wish there was a 10k which basically covers the first 6 miles of the Half course…I’d fly back from the UK to run that!

In recent weeks, I have been starting to reconcile myself to the strong possibility that my PR days are behind me. Today, I realised that’s not true.

The fire is burning again, people!

(Thanks again to everyone who used my discount code.) 

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My Bay Area bucket list

We’re moving back to the UK this summer, probably leaving the Bay Area at the start of June (although plans change daily, let’s be honest). I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to do before we leave and have pulled together my Bay Area bucket list – all the things I’d like to do before we leave. Thought it might be fun to share here and to see if you guys had anything to add or any thoughts about where to do some of the things on the list.

So with no further ado…

Run lots of trails – who’s in for these adventures?

  • Forest of Nisene Marks
  • Sanborn Park
  • Mission Peak
  • Coastal Trail on Tam
  • Up Tam one last time
mt tam me jen kate

My last/only Tam summit



SUP and kayak somewhere fun – any bright ideas? Must be easy!

Do a bit more bouldering

Do archery one more time

me archery

Training, in case I am the Mockingjay


Do a fancy spin class – Soul Cycle or Flywheel

Do a  Camper Van weekend – anyone got one I can borrow?

Camp on Angel Island – who’s in?

Angel Island



Go Nordic Skiing

Go snow-shoeing


Cycle tour along the 1 in Marin

Go to Truckee twice!


My favourite town in the whole of California


Wilderness Backpacking overnight – anyone fancy this?

Go to Shane Company and see if I really do have a friend in the diamond business!

Stay overnight at the West Point Inn on Tam – ladies?

Take a Zumba class – please come and laugh with at me!


What have I missed? Who’s in? 


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Ninja looping

On Saturday, my lovely husband gave me a day-pass to go and run some trails with some girls! Layla organised it and planned a run on the so-called Ninja Loop in the Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF. I have no idea why it’s called the Ninja Loop (anyone?). The planned route was 12 miles with just under 3,000 ft elevation. This worried me because my running has been far from strong lately but everyone who RSVP’d said that they were injured/unfit/running for fun and wanted to hike the hills. Also there’s a potential short cut which would take it down to 10 miles after the second hill, so I knew I could cut it short if necessary. I know the trails there well enough that I was confident I could find my way back to the car and there are enough hikers and runners at the weekend that I would be comfortable running back alone.

It was a small but perfectly formed group that met at Conzelman Road car park at 8am. It was COLD – about 7 deg C but with a biting wind that chilled us to the bone. That wind was so chilly that I wore my Kaiser Half jacket to run in and didn’t regret that decision. Layla was there, as was Kristen who I haven’t seen for ages and also Karin, who I’d never met.


Karin, Layla, me and Kristen. Photo- Layla

We started with a solid climb up SCA trail to where it met Coastal. I was relieved to see that the girls did intend to hike it so we hiked our way up, chatting. At the top, we turned left onto Coastal Trail and the trail leveled out before a long steady downhill. This was gorgeous…Kristen and I ran along together, catching up, talking Ironman (she did one, I married one), cycling with kids and other lovely stuff. We were somewhat sheltered from the wind, the sky was blue, the trails were lush and damp from the rain…it was pretty gorgeous.

At the bottom, we started up the beast that is Miwok, being passed by the large group of amazon runners from the San Francisco Running Company as we did. I felt very much like a hobby jogger as they ran effortlessly off into the distance and we hiked our way up. The wind was getting to us now and there were a couple of strong blasts that chilled us to the bone. The views were gorgeous though.


Bottoms up. Photo – Kristen

At the junction with Old Springs Trail, we stopped to decide on our route. The Ninja Loop heads down Old Springs to Tennessee Valley and then up Marincello but we could continue up Miwok and cut three miles off. I knew that that was what I wanted to do and it turns out everyone else did too, so we continued up Miwok until the blessed top where we were able to start running again.


The views over Sausalito Harbor were gorgeous.


The Eucaluptus grove on Alta was beautiful and smelt great.


Photo – Layla

And then we turned onto SCA for the final push back. SCA is a beautiful trail – single track that winds round the hills, with the Golden Gate Bridge always before you. There was much squealing with glee on this stretch – we all felt we could run forever. It feels like the prize that we earned from the big Miwok climb. It was a delicious section of the run.



One of my favourite photos – thanks Kristen

Just before the final stretch to the car, we diverted up the road to the look-out point for the bridge. I’ve lived here 6 1/2 years but somehow have never been to this particular lookout point. My jaw literally dropped…what a view. What a city!



We finished our run with 10.5 miles in the bank. No speed records but happy hearts, happy legs and hungry bellies, which we filled with brunch at the Dipsea Cafe. This was a lovely morning. I don’t know if I’ll run these particular trails again before we move away so I am very grateful to have run them today in such gorgeous weather.


Happy Birthday, Kristen!

Thanks Layla for getting us up out of bed and onto the trails this morning!

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Hiking Windy Hill

How do we talk about running in the current climate? It pales into insignificance against the backdrop of Park Rangers leading the Resistance, scientists marching , climate change being deleted, affordable healthcare for the most vulnerable being dismantled and funding being cut from international aid programmes. I’m struggling with the human desire to talk about the everyday stuff we love against such a background. But life goes on whilst we figure this out, and because the world is still beautiful and we all need some light relief, here goes. 

For the past week or so, it has been raining bigly in the Bay Area. Days and days of solid rain. Thunder. Muddy puddles. Preschoolers in rain boots and waterproof coats. Skipping wet runs for sweaty sessions on the bike in front of Gilmore Girls. So when, on Saturday, we had a break in the rain for a few hours, I grabbed the opportunity and dragged my boys out to hike.

We hiked at Windy Hill, an open space preserve slightly south along Skyline. We started at the car park off Portola Road and set off up Betsy Crowder trail to join up with Spring Ridge trail. The first few miles were solidly uphill in grey, cool weather – we needed warm clothes and hats – but the views were increasingly lovely despite the cloud. And climbing warmed us up!


At the top, we turned left along the gorgeous Anniversary Trail. It skirted two little hillocks (which look a bit like boobs) with a couple of perfectly positioned benches for snacks. We sat at the top, drank hot tea and ate snacks and were grateful.



Further along Anniversary Trail, we hit Lost Trail and things got beautiful. We entered woodland – gorgeous live oaks covered in lush green moss. Recent storms had scattered broken branches on the trails so the whole world was green and lush. Lost Trail turned into Hamm Gulch which dropped steeply in hairpin bends through green trees.


The Dude turned into a mini Kilian Jornet and hurtled down the trail, pretending to be a racing car. I know I’m biased as his mother but seriously, that kid is an amazing downhill runner. He has such sharp eye-brain-foot coordination, he flew down rocky, roots trails like crazy. I shudder to think what would happen if he tripped but as he plummeted like a stone, his middle-aged parents plodded along behind him.


At the bottom, we turned left along Spring Ridge Trail. The little stream had turned into a raging torrent, so the gentle stream crossing looked actually a little treacherous. The Husband turned into Gallant Gentleman mode and helped us all across before helping a woman and her dog across too. Sexy 🙂

We got lost at the end (be very wary at the junction where it looks like you should go right, you should go left) and ended up wandering along a residential road for a bit, but we got back to the car park with 8.5 miles under our belts. This was the Dude’s longest ever hike, we were super proud of him especially as he’s been ill this week. It was a little humbling for us to have our arses handed to us on the uphills…but that’s life, eh?

This was a lovely hike – hugely recommended as both a hike and a run. If you run it, I’d suggest doing it clockwise instead of anti clockwise as we did it – the hills are more runnable in the other direction. There’s good coffee and snacks afterwards at Robert’s Market at the junction of Alpine and Portola!

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This week in my running shoes

What a week! In every sense, eh? But before I start ranting about the world generally, let’s  talk about running, given that this is a running blog.

Following last week’s confession of my total lack of desire to run and my deep-felt desire to WANT to run again, my plan for this week was just to run for fun. I wanted to get in about 20 miles at whatever speed happened, and to stay healthy. Seriously, one week of heath would be a gift right now.

It started well enough with a nice little 6 mile plod round town one dark morning on Tuesday and I was hopeful about the rest of the week. And then the Dude got sick. He’s had a nasty cold and cough for a few days now (I actually think I gave it to him). On Wednesday morning he got notably worse so i took him to the doctor and it turns out he poor child had Walking Pneumonia. From what I could learn online, Walking Pneumonia is a very mild case of the disease – many people have it and don’t even know. I actually wonder if I have had this, as my cough has sounded very much like the Dude’s. It would explain a lot. Anyway, Pneumonia Dude got some antibiotics and was notably better within 12 hours. But given my childcare duties and the torrential rain we’ve had ALL week, I didn’t get to run for the rest of the working week. Instead I spent time on my bike trainer in the living room. It wasn’t too dreadful.


Sick child, multiple Hotwheels, Margarita, knee, Gilmore Girls on a laptop

One trainer session involved watching a new film called Run Forever about British fell runner Nicky Spinks who ran the double Bob Graham Round. The BGR is a 66 mile loop across 27,000 ft worth of climbing in the beautiful, wild  Lake District in the NW of the UK. Nicky Spinks ran it twice, front to back then back to front. It’s a wonderful film – I really enjoyed it. The scenery is spectacular (I’m dying to run there again when we move back) and Nicky’s story of facing cancer and then turning that fight into running energy is really moving. It’s about 50 minutes long and I’d really recommend it.

At the weekend, I managed to get some running in. I met Jen at 7am in the dark at Lake Chabot for a 6 mile run before she headed off to the Women’s March in Oakland. The run was lovely – the water levels on the lake were visibly much higher than last time we were here. The waterfalls gushed, the streams gurgled. The trails were runnable but muddy – we got delightfully splashed. I thought we saw a bear but no, it was just a dog. But I got to run beautiful green trails with the lovely Jen and my heart was really happy.


Mud, mud, glorious mud

Later that day, we went hiking. I didn’t go to the Women’s March for several reasons (although I fully admit I now regret not going)  so instead I took my boys hiking at Windy Hill. I’ll blog more about it later in the week but we did 8.5 miles of muddy, green gorgeousness and it was wonderful.


Live Oak alleyways


Trail shoes love getting muddy

Then on Sunday, I got out for seven miles in the last hour before the rain started again. I had a podcast on and I wondered if part of the reason I’ve not been into running is that I don’t listen to podcasts or music when I’m running alone in the dark…and I nearly always run alone in the dark at the moment. No matter what, I finished the run 7.6 miles down and I escaped the rain by second.

I feel good about the week. I ran  19.6 miles, I got plenty of trail time.  I cycled, I hiked, I took the Dude bouldering. I stayed healthy. I feel like something may have shifted in my outlook a little. I’ll take that!

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Sparkles and unicorns

I’m generally a cheerful person. By disposition, I’m perky and enthusiastic about most things and I’m nearly always perky and enthusiastic about running. So the past month or two has been a bit of a shock…because I have been very unenthusiastic about running lately. VERY unenthusiastic.

I feel the need to chip in before I say any more and make a disclaimer. I’m aware that this is such a ridiculously first world problem that I’m a little uncomfy even talking about it. I’m not in Syria. My family and I are healthy, housed, happy, fed…I have nothing at all to complain about. But sometimes running bloggers can make it seem as if running is always sparkles and unicorns. Sometimes I do that. But sometimes running is just not fun and it would be disingenuous to pretend that it is.

I haven’t loved running since Healdsburg. I loved training for Healdsburg, I loved the race weekend. But the race itself took some wind out of my sails. I missed my goal, I didn’t race well and I was disappointed. And since then, the running stars haven’t quite aligned.

I’ve been poorly pretty much all the time since then. Nothing serious at ALL, just cold after cough after cold after cough.I’ve had two stinking coughs that have lingered and lingered. I blame my adorable but germ-infested preschoolers. But I’ve not been able to stay healthy for more than a week or two at the most since mid October.  And on those healthy weeks, I’ve had my period so I’ve been swollen, sore and uncomfortable. Because of this, I’ve been unable to string together any weeks of solid training. I’d have a great week and I’d run all the miles and then the next week I’d be wiped out by some preschool germs and I’d be doing 10 slow miles as my weekly total, feeling rough!

On top of that, I’ve been eating too much so I’m several pounds above my happy weight. When you’re 5’1, that’s quite a big deal. So I’ve been feeling fat and ugly on top of unhealthy.

blerch 4


Because of the lack of consistent training and the extra pounds, running has never been comfortable. It’s always hard work and a long slog. I’ve been using RunCoach which I’ve been really enjoying for the structure and the variety of workouts…but I’ve failed to hit all my goal paces. And that, time after time, is depressing.

It came to a crunch last week. My most recent cough and cold wiped me out for three days, it was brutal and I did no running at all. On Thursday, I headed out for an hour.  I had been running for about three minutes when I just ground to a halt and stood there on the Bay Trail. I literally just stood there for three or four minutes, debating internally what to do. I didn’t want to run. I wanted to go and sit on the sofa.   I pulled myself together and started running again…and then just stopped again. NO desire to run. In the end, I ran three miles and I’m ridiculously proud of those miles because every inch was mind over matter.

I got home and discussed this with my running ladies. Jen suggested I take a break from running for a while, which is great advice. But as I reflected on it further, I realized I don’t want to take a break from running…I want to LOVE running again. I love riding my bike but no other form of exercise thrills me like running and no other exercise fits into my life as easily as running. I just want to love it again.

Me trails headlands

So I’m on a mission to fall in love with running again. And these are the things I’ve implemented to make that happen.

  1. Remove all the pressure.

The first thing I did was put my RunCoach membership on hold. I’ve been impressed so far  and I want to use it to train hard but I’m not consistently healthy enough to do that. So I froze my membership. Immediately I felt relieved, like the pressure was off. I love goal paces and goal workouts but that’s not helping me at the moment.

I have also have scrapped any expectation for the Kaiser 5k. A PR is hugely unlikely now. So I’ll concentrate on getting healthy and getting three weeks of consistent running under my belt and then I’ll race it as hard as I can on the day and be grateful for the fun.

Get healthy

This week, I spent a small fortune on vitamins. A good multivitamin, some iron tablets and omega tablets. I find the whole vitamin thing confusing but clearly my immune system isn’t the best right now and I want to build it up.

I’ve addressed my diet, cut out some (not all) of the cake and  I’ve started losing those Christmas pounds. Two pounds down.

Chase endorphins 

The trails are the easiest way to add joy to running and I’ve managed to run trails twice in the past two weeks. The first time, I ran Edgewood one afternoon and then this past Saturday I dragged Lisa and Eden to Wunderlich for some dawn running. The trails were wet both times from the recent storms. Trees were down, the trails had rivulets of water running down them, there was plentiful mud. Both times, the hills humbled me and reminded me of the extra weight, the lack of training, the germiness…but the endorphins made it totally worthwhile. I have a goal of 250 miles on trails this year and it’s lovely working towards it!


Wunderlich wunderland


Lisa and Eden on the blessed downhill


Edgewood looking lovely

So that’s where I am right now. I’m hoping to string together three or four weeks of solid easy running, 25-odd miles a week, no speed work and hopefully four weeks of better health. Not much to ask, eh?

Running isn’t always sparkles and unicorns…but hopefully I can find a little glitter again.

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