Race Report: The Leeds 10k

We got back from the UK on Thursday evening, tired but happy. We’ve had a fab three weeks with our family and friends, and I’ll post some of the best bits in the next few days…but whilst we were there, I got to run the Leeds 10k and wanted to post a race report before I forgot all about it.

As background, we used to live in Leeds in West Yorkshire. We were there for six years and whilst I never liked the city very much (unlike everyone else, who raves about it), I did love our wonderful friends very much. So we were thrilled to sneak in a weekend during this trip and I was even more thrilled to be able to run the Leeds 10k. I was never a runner when I lived in Leeds, those were my obsessive-cyclist years so I think this was the first race I’d ever done in Leeds apart from parkrun. I planned to run it with my dear friend Debs, and then our other mate Andy signed up too. In the preceding weeks, I had a few emails from Debs basically telling me she hadn’t done as much training as she’d planned so I shouldn’t run it with her. I decided to run it hard and it turned out that Andy was willing to run it with me, so a plan was hatched.

The Leeds 10k is a big local race, with about 5,000 participants. It’s organized by the Jane Tomlinson’s Run For All organisation. Jane Tomlinson was a Leeds lady with an incredible, warm smile, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2000 and given a year to live. However she lived for another 7 years, and completed numerous challenges like Ironman, long-distance bike rides and marathons before succumbing to disease. She’d raised nearly 2m GBP for  She had been a tremendous inspiration during my Leeds years, and I was gutted at her death, so I was so excited to run ‘her’ race. It’s a pretty flat race, out and back along Kirkstall Road with a couple of diversions to make the distance. Kirkstall Road is not pretty so it’s not a scenic race, but it’s a great PR race. I was gutted to not have trained for it (i.e. speedwork, tempo runs etc) as I think I could have PR’d there otherwise.

My goal was simple. To run hard and see what I could do on the day. I hoped to run it at 8.30 pace but wasn’t really sure what I could do after a week of basically eating bread, cheese and Devonshire cream teas. I find these days that the emotional aspect of racing is mattering more and more to me, rather than the final result, lovely though PRs definitely are. I want to finish a race knackered and exhausted, feeling like I did everything I could out there. Mental strength is becoming more important to me than physical strength. My goal these days is to keep pushing right to the end, to not give up, to keep pushing even when there’s nothing left. No matter what the clock says, if you know you kept pushing then it’s hard to be disappointed.

In the end, Andy and his lovely wife Rachel basically sherpa’d me for the entire race. They picked me up (Debs would drive our cheering squad), found excellent parking and delivered me to Millennium Square to get my number. Millennium Square was abuzz with excitement, including a coffee/champagne garden (we fancy in Leeds, now) with deckchairs. Having posed for photos, Andy and I headed off to our corrals.

leeds andy

Relaxing before the race

leeds andy rachel

With Andy and Rachel before the race

It’s a long time since I’d run a race this big but it was pretty smooth. We found our corral (i.e. our stretch of road), found some portaloos (clean) and lined up. I’d apparently put my goal time down as 49.59 as we were with much faster-looking runners than I liked, but whatever. There was no national anthem (oh Britain!) but we heard the countdown and a few minutes we were off. We were very close to the 50-minute pacer and I was initially feeling awesome so I told Andy we’d try to stick with the pacer as long as we could.

I felt good for the first mile and solid for most of the second but by about a mile and a half, I realized I was working hard and I might not be able to hold that pace forever. The 50-minute pacer was drifting further and further ahead.  I wasn’t disheartened about this, bearing in mind my goal. I just wanted to give everything I had out there. Andy was in full Sherpa mode…lolloping along next to me effortlessly, pointing out new buildings that had gone up since I moved away, showing me where he worked. I grunted every now and again, we were an awesome team. At the water tables, I’d keep running hard, he would lope over the side, take water for both of us, scamper up and hand me water and then even carry it for me after I was finished. I was incredibly grateful, I just didn’t have the breath to tell him.

Eventually we got to the half-way point and I felt really good. Tired, but strong and decent. There were some lovely gentle downhills that I tried to push down and before long, we were nearing the city centre. It was fairly warm that day and quite humid, but nothing compared to California, so I was very surprised to see a giant hosepipe chucking out gallons of water for runners to run through. Everything in me was horrified at this ‘waste’ of water but then Andy pointed out that the UK is not exactly suffering from the same drought as California so I should just get wet and enjoy it. So I did.

The final half-mile was brutal. Up an off-ramp/slip-road which felt like a giant hill at this point, and then up the Headrow. What’s usually is a gentle uphill felt like a death march but I pushed as hard as I could. I saw our friends (and the Dude) cheering at the railings and finally we were done. We’d done it in 51.47 at an 8.21 pace and I was very happy with that result.

leeds me

Andy and me not dying at the finish line

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After the race

We got our medal (lovely) and our t-shirt (disappointing), plus two chocolate bars (ate them immediately) and some other gubbins in our goody bag. We found Debs, who ran a solid run and then our cheering squad arrived! Lots of sweaty hugs.

We were all getting chilly now so I walked with Andy and Rachel back to their car via the coffee/champagne garden. Neither was up for champagne (boo) but we got excellent coffee and that was nearly as good.

All in all, it was a fab morning’s work. I LOVED running my first Leeds race and thoroughly enjoyed this 10k. Great organization, a very PR-able course (although not pretty) and a wonderful community feel. It made me feel much warmer towards Leeds than I usually feel about the place! I’m super-glad I got run it.

Also, especially thank you to Andy and Rachel of Thompson Race Services (jk) for driving me, Sherpa-ing me and making my morning awesome. Rachel took all these photos too!! They’re coming to the Bay Area in the spring so I’ll be returning the favour then!

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Running The World: Iceland

I am really excited to publish this latest edition of Running The World as it’s from the wonderful country of Iceland, which is one of the places at the top of my bucket list. I’m speaking to the lovely Halla who I found when I simply googled ‘Running in Iceland’ and found this website. I emailed them asking if they knew anyone I could interview and Halla replied, offering to be interviewed herself. I’m super-grateful to her and really excited to share her stories…and her pictures!

(This is the first time an interviewee has included graphs! Graphs, people!)

Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do when you’re not running. 

My name is Halla Björg Þórhallsdóttir and I am a 41 year old Icelander. I have a master’s degree in Finance and work in financial advisory for an international firm in Iceland. Besides running I like to do some hiking, and in our spare time my boyfriend and I manage a website which is called Running in Iceland.

Halla and her boyfriend after the Reykjavik marathon

Halla and her boyfriend after the Reykjavik marathon

How did you get into running?

I have always been an active person and played tennis for many years when I was younger. I had been doing some running on my own but in 2008 I decided to join the running club at my local fitness center. That was one of my best decisions ever! I really enjoy going outside to exercise after sitting in the office all day, breathing the fresh air instead of going inside a sweaty gym to work out. The social side of the running club is a big bonus.

In 2010 I ran my first marathon in Budapest and since then I have run a marathon in Munich and in Lima. I have not run a full marathon in Iceland yet but that is definitely on my to-do list. I have also participated in the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon in Iceland twice which is an amazing 55km trail race. That is my favourite race and my most memorable running moments. I have run numerous half marathons and I like to participate in the local races during the year.

How popular is running in Iceland? Is it growing in popularity or has it always been popular? Or does no-one really run?

Running in Iceland has increased immensely in popularity for the past ten years. The number of running events and races has grown and new races emerge every year. Participation in the races is also on the rise. Almost every neighbourhood in Reykjavik has a running club and the same applies to the many towns outside of Reykjavik.

In 2015 the number of participants in the Reykjavik Marathon was 8,587 compared to 4,491 to in 2007.

Participation in RM iceland

How popular is it amongst women? Is that a new phenomenon or have women always been keen on running? Are the genders fairly well balanced?

Running is gaining popularity with women year by year.  Women have outnumbered men in the 10K race at the Reykjavik Marathon but men still outnumber women in the longer distances. I think that women’s participation will continue to increase in the coming years, especially in the longer distances.

As can be seen from the graph below, the development of women’s participation has been very positive as number of women has increased enormously or from 50 women in 1984 to 4,957 in 2014. Even though I have only been running since 2008, I have noticed a positive change in women’s participation in the races, especially in to the longer distances.

RM Women

What are the biggest or most important races? What kind of distances are popular?

Racing is quite popular in Iceland and during the year over 100 running events take place. Because of the weather and light the racing season is short, most of the races are held from May – September.

The Reykjavik Marathon is Iceland’s biggest running event by far and a great celebration for all Icelandic runners – from the ones completing their first race up to the professionals aiming for medals. The most popular distance is the 10K but the race has also 21.1km and a full marathon. This is my favorite day of the year but Reykjavik Culture Night, the biggest party of the year, takes place on the same day. After the race you can see runners all through the day in the restaurants and cafes.

Halla with her siblings and boyfriend after Reykjavik Marathon

Halla with her siblings and boyfriend after Reykjavik Marathon

The Midnight Sun Run is the second biggest race in the Iceland. It is held around summer solstice when the nights never get dark What makes the race unique is that it starts very late in the evening, in the bright summer night. The atmosphere in this event is therefore very special and different from other races – it’s very much a midsummer celebration!

The Laugavegur Ultra Marathon is clearly the best known ultra trail race in Iceland. It is a 55 km trail run along one of the most beautiful and popular hiking trail in Iceland. The Lauavegur trail race has been chosen by National Geographic as one of the top ten trail in the world. This is my favourite race in Iceland!

Halla at the xxxx

Halla at the Lauavegur Ultra Marathon

Tell us about trail running in Iceland? What are the trails like? 

Trail running is gaining more and more in popularity over the world and the same applies to Iceland. Iceland is great for trail running with beautiful places and constantly changing landscape. Good trails are always just around the corner – even if you are in the middle of the city centre in Reykjavik.

Mountains, hot springs, snow, ice, sand, grass, rivers and forest are all part of the Icelandic multi-terrain trails that can be found in Iceland. The number of trail races is also increasing year by year.

Trails on Mt Esja. Yep. I know.

Trails on Mt Esja. Yep. I know.

As a woman, how safe do you feel when you run? Are there any particular issues facing women runners?

I feel very safe when running in Iceland. I usually go for a run after work on weekdays and on Saturday mornings and I never feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I can’t think of any issues facing women runners in Iceland and I think that the outlook is very bright for Icelandic women.

What do female runners wear in Iceland? What kind of brands are big there? 

Our clothing mostly depends on the weather. In the summer months we wear shorts or capris and t-shirts but in the coldest months we were layers and winter jackets. The good thing about running in Iceland is that it is never too hot here and never too cold. The average temperature during winter months is a little below zero and the temperature during the summer seldom goes above 20 degrees Celsius. So there is just plenty of fresh air!

There are no Icelandic sporting brands available so the most popular brands are the usual suspects: Asics, Nike, Adidas, and Saucony.

What do Icelandic runners use to fuel and to hydrate? 

Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are the most popular sport drinks in Iceland. For longer runs it is very common for people to have gels from e.g. High5 or GU while some use natural energy bites like dates. Icelandic chocolate milk is a very popular post-run drink!

Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in Iceland? 

The weather in the winter months can, of course, cause some challenges to us runners, e.g. snow blizzards or storms. However, there are very few days a year when running is impossible – given that you have the right clothing! The weather here though is very unpredictable so you have to be prepared for everything.

The conditions of the running paths are often challenging during the winter months. Many runners use yaktraks (spikes) or put screws under their shoes for safety.

Very few people go out for a trail run during the coldest months (November to March). The conditions are hard, the trails can be covered in snow or ice. These months are also very dark as the sun only comes out for three hours in December.

Who are the well-known Icelandic runners or running heroes?

The population of Iceland is only 330,000 people. The running community here is therefore fairly small and it is not uncommon to see the top runners running on the same paths and competing in the same races as the average runner.

The best long distance runner is Kári Steinn Karlsson. He owns the national record in 10K, half marathon and in full marathon. He came 17th in the London Olympics 2012.

Our rising star is the 20 year old Anita Hinriksdottir who is an 800 meters runner and will be competing in the Olympics in Rio 2016. Anita will be Iceland’s only runner in the Olympics in Rio.

How big is social media within the running community in Iceland? Which are the best known blogs? Any good Twitter users we should follow? Which are the most important magazines and podcasts?

Social media overall is very big in Iceland. The most popular running site is hlaup.is which has all information regarding races, registration, results, etc. in Iceland. The running clubs have their own Facebook pages. Our website, Running in Iceland, is in English and has information about races and routes in Iceland. Being a small country, Iceland does not have any Icelandic running magazines or podcasts.

iceland halla

The Laugavegur Ultra Marathon

If I landed in Reykjavik where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs or races there?

The best place to start is to browse our website Running in Iceland, to get some ideas about the running scene in Iceland. The website has a race calendar, running routes and information about all the running clubs in Iceland.

If you are coming to Iceland for the first time we recommend that you to go for a run and follow the “Sightseeing route” that takes you past many of the most well known sights in Reykjavik. The route goes past Harpa Concert Hall, the City Hall, the parliament (Althingi) and Hallgrimskirkja church.

My favorite routine is to go for a run, relax in a hot tub afterwards and then to a nice coffee house. Here is an article that includes three short running routes, a swimming pool and a cafe.

If I was going to do any race in Iceland, which would you recommend ?

The races I mention above, the Reykjavik Marathon, the Midnight Sun Run and the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon, are all great races with beautiful routes and great experience. Other alternative races that I recommend are:

Road races:

Ármannshlaupið:
This is a 10K race on a flat and fast course that takes you along the seaside of Reykjavik with beautiful views.

Fossvogur Race (Fossvogshlaupið):
Great organization in a 5K and 10K race that is held in the Fossvogur valley in the middle of Reykjavik. The race has beautiful running paths and has been chosen one of the best running event in Iceland.

Trail races:

Dettifoss trail run
The Dettifoss Trail Run in northeast Iceland is probably the most beautiful and scenic trail race in Iceland. An absolute must do once in your life! The race is held in Jökulsárglúfur in Vatnajökull National Park and the route takes you along the magnificent Jökulsá (Glacier River) canyon and ends in Ásbyrgi canyon.

Pentecost Trail Race (Hvítasunnuhlaup Hauka)
Very well organized trail race with a homely feel of a small local race. The course is on trails around a lake and up and down various hills on the outskirt of Hafnarfjordur.

Four Forest Run (Fjögurra skóga hlaupið):
This is one of my favorite trail races. It is a really cozy and friendly race in a beautiful surrounding. The trail takes you through 4 forests or 1-4 depending the distance. The race is half an hour drive from Akureyri in north Iceland.

What are the best and worst thing about running in Iceland?

There are so many advantages of running in Iceland. Fresh air is one of the best thing along with these favourites of mine:

  • Reykjavik and the surrounding areas have an extensive amount of running and biking paths. Wherever you live you can be guaranteed that great running paths are just outside the door, and the paths are very well connected. Most of the best and most scenic paths can be found near the coastline with a beautiful sea and mountain view.
  • Icelanders love their swimming pools! Many running clubs and individuals start their run from the local pool and soaking in the hot tub after a run is a long standing tradition for Icelandic runners. Recently, many swimming pools have set up cold tubs as well which are gaining popularity among runners who believe that going into ice cold water helps sore muscles and improves recovery. Many swimming pools also have maps that show running routes from the pool.
  • Reykjavik has the charm of being close to nature. Even though you are in the city center you do not have to run far to get away from the city and enjoy the nature. Reykjavik has many green valleys to run through, e.g. Fossvogur, Elliðaárdalur, Kopavogsdalur. Mt. Esja is only 15 minutes outside of the city with great hiking trails and even closer is Heiðmörk, the dreamland of Reykjavik trail runners.

The worst thing about running in Iceland is how short the prime running season is.

Halla, thank you for the wonderful interview! Please thank her by checking out her wonderful website, following them on Twitter here or liking their FB page here

For more Running The World interviews, click here and if you’re an international runner (or you know someone), please drop me an email!! 

 

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Quarter Three Goals

I’m currently in the UK, hanging out with my lovely parents and soon to be heading Up North to see my friends, run a 10k and spend time with my in-laws! But as July is a few days old now, it’s time to set my goals for Quarter Three.

  1. Run four times a week for July and the first half of August

Between July 1st and August 17th, we’re on the move constantly. The Dude and I are in the UK for a few weeks, then we go home for a week (with some friends as guests) and then all of TeamRamsden go to Guerneville for Ironman before heading up to Oregon for a few weeks’ road-trip. So my goal for this period is just to keep running steadily, to explore the lovely places I find myself and to flipping love it.

portland

Can’t wait to run in Portland again!

2. Cycle round Lake Tahoe 

I’m super-excited to cycle Tour de Tahoe in mid September with the Husband. It’s 72 miles at altitude with a lot of climbing, including two pretty significant climbs. I have to say upfront that I will not be  adequately trained, although I’m hoping to get a solid number of 50 and 60 milers in, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages so I’m just going to do what I can, be prepared to suffer at the end but to love every mile.

tahoe

Coming for you soon. Hopefully you’ll be a bit warmer.

 

3.  Start training for a kick-arse half-marathon PR

I’ve signed up for the Healdsburg Half Marathon in October, along with Jen and a bunch of other friends. Healdsburg holds a very special place in my heart – it’s where I finally went sub-two and, looking back, it was still the best race experience I’ve ever had. I’m hoping the old Healdsburg magic will strike again!!

Healdsburg is about 13 weeks away so I’ll start building up my distance and will choose a training plan in the next week or so and then boom, we’re on!

4. Learn Spanish

Another long-term resolution that I’ve put off and put off. I’ve actually started this, using the Michel Thomas app which has been brilliant but I want to keep working at it and be able to have some kind of conversation by the end of September. Planning to use my copious amounts of time in airplanes and cars over the summer to do this!

5. Start my next ECE course

‘Teaching in a diverse society’ is my next course. I’m not thrilled about this, it sounds a bit PC and dull, but you never know.

6. Take two swimming lessons

I’ve had this as a goal for ages now and have never done it, but I’m starting to actually want to do it. I may need you guys to hassle me into it.

swimming

Saw this at the SF MOMA. Think it might be aimed at me.

And that’s it!! Q3 goals. Yippee!

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My Q2 goals reviewed!

By the time you read this, we will be in the UK! I’m so excited to see my family and my friends but a little curious about what kind of nation I’ll find, after these rough weeks. However, somehow we’re at the end of Quarter Two and it’s time to look at how I did at my Q2 goals.

  1. Get a sub-50 10k

Technically this is a fail. I trained and raced for this at Danville but recognised a few weeks out that sub-50 was unlikely. With a little help from Angela, I eked out a PR of 50.14! So it’s kind of a fail, kind of a success. I don’t mind having goals that take longer than 3 months to achieve, so I’m happy to have chipped away a little.

Every racer needs a pacer!

Every racer needs a pacer!

2. Core 3 x weekly.

No. Didn’t even try. Despite the fact that a tight core would make me super-happy, clearly this is never happening.

3. One good bike ride every month

YES!! I didn’t actually ride in April but I cycled once in May and twice in June, even managing a 50-miler without too much trouble. More importantly, I REALLY loved it.

me cycling

Last week’s ride with a friend included stone-fruit tasting at a farmer’s market!

4. Finish my Early Childhood Education course and get an A.

Yep. Done. Got an A. I have two more courses to do before I get my coveted certificate but this one’s done.

5. Come up with one table-top activity every week for preschool.

You don’t need the details, but basically I nailed this.

6.Set some healthy limits…

Kind of…

  • Wine, 4 x weekly max – yep, easy. 4 was a little ‘generous’ to be honest.
  • Cake/sweet treats, 2 x weekly max – yes and no. I really struggled with this, so ended up cutting sweets out entirely as of mid-May, and I have to say, I felt so much better. I find it very hard to eat sugar in moderation. I shall keep striving.
  • Social media only after 6pm Monday – Friday (eek!) – nope, didn’t even try.
wine smores

Wine and sugar!

7. Read 3 books per month

Technically no – I read two books per month but I’m going to take it as a win because it got me back in the habit of reading, which was the goal of this particular objective. I read some wonderful books, a few of which took a few weeks to read but were worth lingering over (‘Home’ by Marilynne Robinson, I’m looking at you) so I count this a success.

8. Listen to classical music – April, Bach. May, Chopin, June, Vivaldi.

So Bach. In my distant, piano-playing youth, I had mixed views on Bach. I found him ploddy and stolid, but there was something about the mathematical precision of his music that was deeply satisfying to my soul. It was the closest I ever got to loving maths. But when it comes to listening to him, it just didn’t translate. I loved the Brandenburg Concerto and the Concerto for 2 violins in D minor , they’re wonderful. I found a few others I liked but I struggled to really love poor Johann.

And then, like a sip of red wine as you sink into a hot bubble bath came Chopin and I fell utterly in love. I have yet to find a piece of Chopin music that I don’t love. He’s like the smell of freshly cut grass, like the moment you see redwood trees for the first time and like the sigh my cat gives when he finally snuggles into my arms at bedtime. My favourite pieces were numerous – all his best known works are best-known because they’re utterly magical, but I really loved this (the music of a summer’s morning sat in the garden with a cup of tea before the heat of the day begins) and this (the song of middle-aged heartache for the boy you loved when you were 16).  You should also try listening to this – it’s utterly incredible because of the left-hand. I spent my teens trying to persuade my stiff, unyielding left hand to relax and fly…when I first heard this, my jaw literally dropped. For more fireworks, listen to this. As you can tell, I LOVED Chopin. No words.

And then came Vivaldi. I put him on spotify and set out for a 6 mile run. He lasted 5 miles. I cannot handle him. Yes, the Four Seasons are splendid but every other piece is like being poked with a hot poke on a sore spot on your shoulder. I gave up and sank back into Chopin. Life is too short for aggravating music.

So there you go.

Goals achieved: 4

Goals somewhat achieved: 3

Goals totally failed: 1

Once again, I loved having quarterly goals. 8 was probably too many, so I’ll cut it down for Q3 but that format works really well for me!!! July, here we come.

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Spectating Western States

This may be a bit long and a bit gushy. Just warning you. Because this weekend, a total dream came true. We finally got to watch Western States.  I’ve been fascinated by what is arguably the best known 100-mile race for several years but haven’t made it up to Squaw so far to watch it, so this was a real thrill. It came at the right time too, it made me put down my computer and the misery of social media after Brexit and head to the mountains, which lifted my heart like nothing else.

Our original plan was to rent a camper van for this trip but it proved so ridiculously expensive that we admitted defeat and booked a hotel in Squaw and a cabin in Auburn. We booked about 6 weeks beforehand and Auburn was pretty much fully booked. Airbnb – booked. Campsites – books. Hotels and motels – booked. So our cabin was about 10 miles away in Pilot Hill, which wasn’t ideal but that’s our fault! If you go to spectate, book accommodation well in advance.

There were two factors that affected our spectating. One was the Husband. Ironman is 5 weeks away and so he had to train this weekend. His original plan was to cycle between Squaw and Auburn, but that proved problematic so I mapped him a 68 mile route with enough elevation gain and loss that he’d get a solid workout. The second was the Dude. If I was a young, childless hottie, I would have done what Paulette did and volunteer at the race,working an aid station.I would have loved to have done that. I don’t know if her blog post is up yet, but check it out here if so. Or I would have done what Jess did last year and actually paced a runner. But I’m not a young, childless hottie so my WS spectating also included a lot of planned fun for our 6 year old!

Friday

We drove up on Friday morning and stopped in my favourite Californian town, Truckee, for pizza at Big Pie Pizza. Apparently my Euro-angst can be cured by carbs! Then  we went on to Squaw to go and see the finish line. There were some people milling around – some runners, pacers, crew, filming people…I was pretty thrilled to be there, I have to admit. Just seeing the start line brought me out in goosebumps.

Goosebumps!

Goosebumps!

We spent the afternoon at our hotel, which was much swankier than hotels we usually stay in, so that was an utter delight.

ws

I could live here for more than one night

Saturday

The alarm went off at 4am and by 4.15 we were driving towards Squaw. I had MASSIVE parenting guilt as the Dude blearily trudged through the car-park to watch total strangers start a race. The starting area buzzed with energy, I was so flipping excited to be there. It was cold though. My weather app had told me that it would be 16 deg C at 4am (which given the heat of the day, was plausible) but no, it was 9C and I didn’t have the right clothes. If you go to spectate, be aware that the start-line will be cold. Wear TNF or Patagonia, not a hoodie from Target.

I checked with a volunteer where spectators (as opposed to runners or crew) should go and she told me there was space inside with coffee and pastries. ‘Even for us spectators?’ I asked and she nodded. So we edged our way into the packed, warm room where runners were hanging out. Gunhild Swanson (the 70-year old who squeaked in last year at 29.59.54) was hanging out, all smiles. My eyes were on stalks.

ws

Warm people

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That’ll be Queen Gunhild sat down in the chair

Eventually we all went outside for the start. I saw Lauren Fleshman hanging out with Devon Yanko but it was way too early to fangirl! So we trudged slightly up the slope for the start – the crowds lined the trail like Tour de France spectators,  the clock counted down and they were off. The leaders shot off up the pretty steep slope at a ridiculously fast pace. We cheered and cowbelled and screamed encouragement. The mid-packers ran at a more sensible pace and the back of the packers saved their energy and hiked. We cheered them all, then went back to our hotel room, piled back into bed and slept until 8am.

ws

Leaders

ws

Heading up the trail

After an awesome breakfast at Smokey’s Kitchen in Tahoe, we drove south towards Auburn. We dropped the Husband at Yuba Gap for his long bike-ride in the heat and the Dude and I drove to Auburn to give the Dude some well-deserved fun, in the form of swimming in the American River. The water was perfect and we had an awesome hour or so swimming and splashing.

dude ws swimming

It’s actually quite hard to spectate WS if you’re not crewing – the trails are (obviously) in some fairly inaccessible spots so our next viewing was at Foresthill at Mile 62. The course leader was expected through any time from 2pm so we got there about 2.05pm only to find out that the lead guy, Jim Walmsley, had already come through. Apparently he was absolutely flying and was a good 30 minutes ahead of course record. We settled down in some shade (it was brutally hot) and watched the top guys come through. Initially they were very spread out, then they started to come in quicker succession. Sage Canaday was in second, looking good (in every way), Andrew Miller in third and Salomon’s Philip Reiter paced a rough-looking Tofol Castagner in 6th.

ws sage

Sage (with the chest)

me dude ws

Cowbellers

ws andrew miller

Andrew Miller in the red hat

philip reiter tofol castanyer ws

Philip Reiter pacing Tofol Castanyer

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Calling out runner numbers from afar with the help of his trusty binoculars

My favourite was Jesse Haynes. Ladies, you’re welcome.

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I was really there to see the women though – I was super-excited about the women’s race. Last year’s winner, Madga Boulet, had dropped at M16 so my favourite, Kaci Lickteig, was in the lead. I think this girl is awesome, mainly because she’s absolutely tiny and looks about 12! Eventually she came running through with her pacer. We cowbelled and screamed like crazy people. I shouted for her to ‘go and win it for the short girls’. She looked a bit bemused.

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Kaci Lickteig, crushing it for short girls everywhere!

Shortly afterwards, we had to go and pick up Ironballz from his bike-ride so I missed the other women. Ideally we would have stayed there until the 24-hour people started coming through, about 7pm, but we had plans.

Our plans were a reunion with the wonderful Bean, who we haven’t seen for two years, which is too long, and finally meeting her husband D. We ate at the excellent Little Belgium Deli and Beer Bar and then sloped off to Placer High School track to watch the winners come in.

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I love this girl

We got there early, assuming Walmsley would beat the record, only to find some drama had gone down. Firstly he’d been pulled downriver by the current during the river crossing and had lost some time but then he’d missed a turn and gone off course by 2 miles, before being found ‘like a stray dog’ as he later put it and having to get back to the trail. There was some confusion about where he actually was. So when the lead male finally ran into the stadium and the crowd went wild, we were kind of amazed to see it wasn’t Walmsley but rather Andrew Miller who determinedly ran round the track and won the world’s biggest 100-mile ultra at the age of 20.

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20, people!!

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Post-race interview!

The evening was now perfect and warm, so we stayed to watch more of the lead men come in, including second-place Didrik Hermansen who was so obviously delighted by his race that I had to blink back tears.

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My goal had been to stay until Kaci came in and won it for the short girls. But it became obvious she wouldn’t come in until gone 10.30 and my patient, long-suffering little co-spectator was pretty much done so very sadly we had to slope off to our airbnb just outside Auburn. As we drove through the dark, No-Hands Bridge was lit up, it looked like an ultra-running fairytale.

Sunday

We had a lazy Sunday morning – relaxing, getting breakfast and treating our little man to a few more hours swimming in the river, which we all flipping adored. It was scorching this weekend, so the cold water was perfect. And then we headed back to Placer High to see the prize presentation. A big marquee was set out on the grass and people were all sat underneath. It was VERY low-key and chilled.We’ve never been to a big-deal ultra before and we were really taken aback at how low-key it was. Everywhere, you could see top ultra stars hanging round, chatting. I spotted Lauren Fleshman again, and Sage Canaday, whose race had gone downhill after we’d seen him.

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Sage Canaday

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I spotted Jesse Haynes with clothes on (yep, still dishy) and then, as we stood under the marquee in a patch of shade, Kaci Lickteig came and chatted to some people next to us and then sat down next to Ironballz and started checking her phone. The Husband stood there, frozen, as I made frantic faces at him. The Dude was all big eyes. The lack of pretentiousness in her and all the other runners was just incredible.

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Just the husband standing next to Kaci Lickteig

Eventually the ceremony started, the winners got their big trophies and then the top 10 women came up. I snuck some pictures and then we felt that the Dude had been patient enough all weekend so we sloped off home back to the Bay Area.

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Women’s Top 10. So much inspiration.

I have to say, it was a pretty amazing weekend. I am so incredibly glad we went to see this phenomenal event. I was so very humbled and inspired by the runners, both elite and non-elite at my first Big Deal Ultra. I am of the opinion that, if you run, if you love running, then you are a Runner. But I have to say I felt like a running fraud this weekend, surrounded by people who can run a hundred miles. I know I’m NOT a fraud, I’m just saying that I was very humbled by the courage of these people. I was especially struck by how many middle-aged women ran WS – ladies in their 50s and 60s were running, or crewing, or pacing. They kind of blew me away.

I was also struck by the friendliness of the ultra community. People were chatty, friendly and open, even though we were just there to watch and we clearly weren’t ultra-runners. The way that the stars (some of them are super-stars in this running niche) were just chilling out on the grass with the rest of us, it totally threw me for a loop.

I would love to be part of this ultra-running community. I cannot imagine running a hundred miles but I could imagine running 50k? I mentioned this to the Husband who promptly banned me from doing so, on account of my heart. I know he’s right, but I was a bit sad. So instead I shall just start running some more trail races, braiding my hair like all the cool ultra girls and soaking up the inspiration from Instagram.

Western States, you were wonderful. Thank you for an amazing weekend.

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Running the World: Bolivia

As ever, I’m hugely excited to present the latest Running The World interview – this time with two wonderful ladies from Bolivia.

In case you’re about to frantically google Bolivia…it’s a land-locked country in South America, which borders Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. It’s a country with enormous geographical variation, from the Andes mountains to tropical rainforest. Elevation is anything from 21,000 ft to 230 ft above sea-level. With that geographical variation comes dramatic climate variation as well. Its capital city is Sucre but the government sits in La Paz. It’s a developing country still, with a growing tourist industry.

Source

Source

I found today’s interviewees, Corina and Fabiola, via a wonderful FB page for expats in Bolivia. Some expats on the FB page knew the ladies, they were willing to be interviewed and the rest is history. Here we go.

Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do when you’re not running. 

Corina – My name is Corina Rea Mendez. I’m 55  and am married. I’ve played sports since I was 12. I started with athletics and then I played volleyball for almost thirty years, even getting to represent Bolivia abroad to play volleyball. Part of my training was a long distance race and that was how I started to like running. When I’m not running, I go to the gym and I teach fitness through cycling. I also teach basic techniques for starting running, especially for people who work in offices and have a sedentary lifestyle, little by little,  they acquire a bit of physical fitness.

Corina looking speedy

Corina looking speedy

Fabiola – My name is Fabiola, I’m 43 years old,Brazilian by birth and Bolivian by heart. I am a strong advocate for the arts as a tool for social change, so my work is to connect people and build bridges of understanding through culture and education. I am a mother of two little girls (9 and 7). I like to dance, I practice yoga, and I have many plans for the future (sometimes I wish the days were longer!).

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Fabiola

How did you get into running? 

Corina – While I was playing volleyball , I incorporated running and racing into my training, but the maximum distance at that time was 5km. When I turned 40, I stopped playing volleyball so I decided to try an individual sport and thus I started to run more often, running longer distances.

Fabiola – I come from the lowlands in Bolivia and moved to La Paz for work 14 years ago. This wonderful city is located in the middle of the mountains at 13,000 feet above sea level! Until five years ago, I always thought that I couldn’t run or do any hard-core exercising here in La Paz because of the altitude. However, one day I asked myself “why not?” And that was the day my running journey began. A friend at work inspired me to run my first 10K race and gave me tips and cheered me along the way. This process included a lot of wonderful and unforgettable moments. Since then, a lot of things have happened in my running life and my life in general, I have learned a lot and I have grown so much as a person.

How popular is running in your country? Is it growing in popularity or has it always been popular? Or does no-one really run? 

Corina – In Bolivia, 10 years or so ago, only a few people ran, because there were also very few organized races. For example, the city where I live,  Santa Cruz de la Sierra is in the Bolivian Amazon and has a temperature of 37 to 38 degrees in summer. So there were only about 4 races of differing distances.But gradually people began to realize that physical activity, especially running is very good for health and also keeps you active and alert, so the number of runners increased. Now in Bolivia, there are very important races with many participants. In my city, we have about 30 different races a year, with different distances. They are for different reasons, some are for charities (which I like to do) and others run by companies.

Photo: Corina

Corina and her running friends

Fabiola  – Running is now very popular in Bolivia, but it wasn’t like this in the past. In the last five years 10K and 5K races have grown in popularity in different cities, especially in the city of Santa Cruz, where nowadays there are races almost every weekend.

How popular is it amongst women? Is that a new phenomenon or have women always been keen on running? Are the genders fairly well-balanced?

Corina – In the past, very few women have participated in races, but the number of women has increased gradually. Today there’s a big increase but men still outnumber us.

Fabiola – Gender is fairly well-balanced, running is very popular among women, it is also a new trend in fitness and a great way to spend time with your female friends.

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Fabiola and her friends running the 50k at Lake Titicaca this February!

How popular is racing in your country? What are the biggest or most important races? What kind of distances are popular?

Corina – Runners are able to find out about the races available – some have the luxury of choosing which race to participate in, because there can be a race every week! The most popular distance is the 5K and 10K

There are few races that are repeated every year –  we have the following races that are already established on an annual calendar:

* 4 Seasons (10K and 5K)

* Mitsuba Race (21K and 8K)

* Solidarity Night Race for Street Children (4k and 8k)

* Race Journalists (13k and 5k)

* Middle East MARATHON Cotoca (21K)

* The Adidas Marathon (42k, 21k, 10k)

Racing in Boliva Photo: Corina

Corina and her friends racing 

Fabiola – The most popular distance is 10K, there are several 10k races in most cities of all over the country, including a race promoted by the President of the country on the anniversary of the capital city. Here in La Paz, where I live, the most popular races are 13K El Diario (30,000 people) and 10K CAF (10,000 people).

Is trail running popular in your country? What are the trails like?

Fabiola – Bolivia is a perfect place for trail running, there are lots of paths and we keep discovering new ones. La Paz offers many trail paths for training surrounded by beautiful mountains. The most important trail race is the Skyrace Bolivia, a 28K trail uphill in the Yungas area. It takes place every year in August and this year it will be its fifth edition. In the past there have been races in the ancient archaeological site Tiwanaku, in the Uyuni Salt Flats, in the scenery of Lake Titicaca. I personally love trail running and this year I was fortunate to run my first ultra-marathon in Lake Titicaca, which it was very challenging but I enjoyed it so much.

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Fabiola and friends at the Tiwanaku 42k

As a woman, how safe do you feel when you run? Are there any particular issues facing women runners? 

Corina – Normally we run in the parks, which are safer and when we train longer distances, we try to go in groups. Although my country is not very unsafe, it is best to run in a group and if you go alone, it’s best to run in the parks.

Corina on the trails!

Corina on the trails!

When we participate in races we don’t have any problems, but sometimes, when there are cash prizes, the men get more money. That doesn’t always happen but it does sometimes.

Fabiola – Most of the time I run in a group, so I feel safe. However, even when I am by myself, La Paz is a pretty safe city. Nonetheless I had an episode when a guy attacked me on a Sunday morning during my run! However, that is not something that happens frequently. Fortunately, it was nothing more and I’ve been safe after that. It also didn’t stop me from running. You just need to be cautious, as you would pretty much anywhere.

What do female runners wear in your country? What kind of brands are big there? 

Corina – To run comfortably, we always run in leggings or shorts in dry-fit materials, which are the most comfortable to run in as they are light and absorb perspiration.The most common brands here in Bolivia are Nike and Adidas – Under Armor is up-and-coming as well.

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Fabiola at the Uyuni Flat Salts Marathon

What do runners in your country use to fuel and to hydrate?

Corina – Normally, we use well-known products like Gatorade and Powerade. Other people use alcohol-free Malt (a barley drink) and of course, lots of water.

Fabiola – Water and isotonic beverages, mostly. Some people like to use chia seeds or other products, but in general, people drink the popular isotonic beverages. To fuel, most runners use energy bars, gels, and there are also cookies made locally with quinoa and other local organic products that are excellent .

Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in your country?

Corina – In the region where I live, it is tropical and for 9 months of the year, we have temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. In those months, when the days are very hot, we usually go running at night or we run very early in the morning, like 5am, when the sun is still not very hot. The other three months are milder with cold cloudy, rainy days. When that happens, we go to the gym and use the treadmill and do some body-weight strength-training.

Fabiola – The main challenge in La Paz is the altitude. The rainy season is from December to March, but that doesn’t stop us from running. I personally love running in the rain!

Who are the best known running heroes in Bolivia?

Corina – At a national level, there are good long-distance runners. One of the most renowned is Policarpio Calizaya, and also Eduardo Aruquipa, Vianca Pereira and Franklin Aduviri. All these runners are from the west of our country, the Andean region.

Fabiola – Eduardo Aruquipa and Rosmery Quispe are well-known athletes that have represented our country in several international competitions. I personally think that all runners are heroes for ourselves, our families, our friends. If we inspire one person to change to a more active and healthy lifestyle, we become inspirational heroes!

How big is social media within the Bolivian running community? Who should we follow?

Corina – There are some running blogs and there are some FB pages. There are some running clubs like Run Fit, David Cortez and the Club de Lorena Calvo. There is a page where you can find all the information you need on races.

Fabiola – Social media is very popular, especially Facebook. Twitter has a limited audience in Bolivia. Social media is very big in the running community, especially for promotion of races and for building a sense of community among running friends.

If I landed in your country/city, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs or races there?

Corina – If you come to Bolivia, I would recommend going to run the parks at night as Cambodromo, the Parque Los Mangales and Urban park. There you will meet street-racers participating in the different competitions.

Fabiola – There is a group RunnerZ Inc that is very active on Facebook, you can definitely find their weekend training sessions and information on running in general. There is another page, Run Bolivia, and Bolivia Tambien Corre.

If I was going to do any race in your country, which would you recommend, and why?

Corina – If you come to our country there are three important races. One is organized by sports journalists of our region that takes place in October, it’s called INTERNATIONAL RUN EAST and is 13k. The other is a run that has 80 % rise and takes place in the tropical area of La Paz called Coroico. It starts in Yolosa and finishes in Chuspipata. It’s 28 km and is  called  the SKY RACE. The other takes place in the city of La Paz  at 3,560m. It goes up from the city of La Paz to the city of El Alto and has two distances of 42K and 21K – it’s called the MARATHON FOR PEACE.

Fabiola – I would definitely recommend doing the Skyrace Bolivia. It is a 28K race all uphill, it goes up from 1200 m to 3000 m in a beautiful trail road that is also named “The Death Road” because there have been lots of car accidents there. The road is narrow and is next to a cliff, you run in the mist and the energy you feel there is just amazing.

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Fabiola and friends training for the Skyrace

What are the best and worst things about running in Bolivia?

Corina – I think the best thing is that people have realized that running brings so many benefits to your life and that we have public spaces to enjoy running in.The worst thing is that the great runners of our country aren’t helped to participate in events abroad.

Fabiola – The best things about running in La Paz are the beautiful landscapes and the challenges of running in altitude, which make you feel stronger! Of course it is harder than running in the lowlands, but at the same time, being able to finish a race or a long training surrounded by mountains, gives you a greater sense of accomplishment. The worst things include pollution and careless drivers.

Thank you both so much for all your help pulling this post together. For more Running the World interviews, click here. And if you are an international runner, or you know someone who is, PLEASE drop me a line!! 

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Why I’ll never be a streaker!

I ran my Q2 goal race at the end of May, eking out a PR! (Yay, baby!). I treated myself to a week of very easy running and a week off healthy eating, which, for a 10k, was probably a little excessive! Whatever! The problem was what to do next. Whilst I still have plenty to do for my other Q2 goals, my running Q2 goal had been achieved. However there was still a month left of Q2 and  I found myself floundering for a running goal for Q2. Because it turns out that if I don’t have a goal, I don’t run.

Me without a goal

Me without a goal

With the Husband’s Ironman at the end of July, my running is taking a backseat for a few months. We discussed me doing a parkrun at the end of June, but seriously, life is all about Ironman now and that’s fine! I’m definitely going to keep running but it’s more for fun and for exploration until life gets slightly more back to normal! I’m excited about this change of focus, but I know myself and I need some kind of structure or goal to work towards.  So I cast my mind around for a more process-oriented goal to keep me focussed until we start our travels in July. And I came up with…the streak.

No. Not that!

My goal was to run at least 3 miles every day in June.  Every day…a lazy, happy, easy three miler. Or a short, fast, crazy three miler. Or more miles if I have time. But surely even on the busiest of days I could fit in three miles!

Running and exploring in Pacific Grove last year

I decided this at bedtime on June 1st so I had already failed by missing Day One. I’d just do a double on another day and catch up. No problems.

For a week, it was wonderful. I suddenly relished each day’s run. I loved running without pressure, I loved having a solid reason to get out there and run! I loved the reminder that I can run five or six days a week without taxing myself, if I take it easily. It really gave me some focus again when I was a bit aimless.

I had some ‘concerns’. Not ‘concerns’ as much as ‘wonderings’. My legs never felt fresh without any rest days and I wondered if the fitness gains offset the lack of freshness. I wondered if daily, easy three milers actually do anything for fitness once you’ve been running as long as I’ve been running. Some days I ran further, 5 or 6 miles, but I didn’t do any speedwork and I wasn’t sure if I was achieving anything. But still I was enjoying my daily plods looking at the egrets and the ice-flowers.

(BTW… running for pleasure is totally worthwhile! I do not mean to denigrate this at ALL.)

But then… I missed a day. It was a busy day and I just didn’t fit my half hour in. No worries, I’d catch up another day.

But then…on Saturday, the Husband did his century ride. We were up at 5.30 on a weekend morning. We got home at about 7pm. I told the Husband I would get my run in when I got home. We got home…and I realised I was knackered and just wanted to sit down and watch ‘Friends’ reruns with a glass of zinfandel. I wondered if I should cut my daily run down to a minimum of one mile…but seriously, what good does one mile do a girl?

And it dawned on me that my heart wasn’t in streaking. I’d rather run four days a week and get some solid training in than run seven days a week, just coasting.  There’s definitely a time and a place for streaking. It was streaking brilliant for getting me out of my post-Danville rut (and I may do it again after another goal race) but I’m not cut out to be a streaker!

So I uncorked the zin, I sat down on the sofa with the cat and I declared this streak officially over!

wine

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Spectating the Incarnation 100 century ride

At the weekend, the Husband cycled the Incarnation 100 – a century bike ride – as part of Ironman training. I’m posting about it for a couple of reasons. 1) It may be useful for people looking to do the ride in future years. 2) Also, we discovered a new part of California at the weekend and I love showing how beautiful our adopted state is!

The Ride!

The Incarnation 100 is a cycling event run by the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, raising money for homeless projects in the area. Santa Rosa has a pretty significant homeless population. Someone told us on the day that, because it’s the first city of any size as you head south out of Northern California, it attracts homeless people because there is some infrastructure to help them, unlike more rural areas. In any case, the problem is visible but in this case, people working towards a solution are also visible. The volunteers at this cycling event are involved in the non-profits working in Santa Rosa and they thanked us continually for supporting their work by doing the ride. It was pretty humbling.

The event itself includes three rides of 45 miles, 100km and 100 miles. It started at 7am although you could start any time that suited you until 9am. There was an official blessing of the bikes at 7am but there was no pressure to join in, if that wasn’t your thing. The Husband rode the 100 miler (as an early Father’s Day ‘gift’, hahaha) and he had a good ride, with our friend Kat who is training for IM Canada a week before IM Vineman.

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The Husband and Kat looking clean and keen!

  • The course was rolling pretty much the entire way. There was a beast of a hill at about mile 30 which hit a 19% gradient, it was pretty brutal.
  • Some of the road surfacing was poor quality, with bad potholes but the scenery was, in the Husband’s words, amazing.(He doesn’t usually rave about scenery so you know it was pretty.)
  • Aid stations were plentiful and well-stocked except the penultimate one, which could have been both earlier and better-stocked with water – we gave that feedback to the organising team, who actively asked what they could do to improve the ride next time! That was impressive.
incarnation cycling aid station

The Armstrong Wood Aid Station

  • It got hot – up to 97 deg F- so start early, hydrate and be sensible.
  • The volunteers were some of the friendliest and kindest that either of us have ever met at running or cycling events – the whole thing had a really lovely feel to it. They even invited the Dude and I to share the cyclists’ snacks at aid stations. Usually aid stations are (rightfully) only for participants so we really appreciated the offer. I left the food for the riders, but my son helped himself to cookies and gatorade:)
  • Cyclists got a nice cotton t-shirt at check in. The ride’s jersey was for sale – we didn’t buy it but it looked much nicer than many I’ve seen.
  • At the end of the ride, there was a hearty meal for the riders (chicken, salad, bread, beans etc) plus beer or wine and a guy on a guitar. Lots of the volunteers hung out with riders, chatting! The people on the beer/wine stand were super ‘generous’.
husband Kat cycling incarnation

Ironpeople!

I have to say, I had pangs of FOMO, I really wanted to cycle this with the Husband and Kat. I have no complaints about my own first century ride last September but this one had SUCH a nice feel to it. We both remarked that the food, drinks and hanging-out at the end was a really nice way to mark everyone’s achievements. My own century’s end point was a balloon arch in a car-park and some leftover pizza, which left me feeling a little deflated.

husband Kat incarnation

Post-ride!

What it’s like to spectate

From a spectator/cheerleader’s point of view, this was an awesome ride to send your other half on. The whole Russian River area is totally beautiful – everything was lush and green. Vineyards lined the fields, thick forest covered the hills…we loved it immediately. Guerneville is the host ‘city’ for Ironman Vineman, which the Husband is doing in about 6 weeks, so I was really excited to see the place as we haven’t yet been. It’s tiny but has a really cool hippie, chilled vibe.

  • Try eating at Big Bottom Market. Apart from having the best name ever, it serves good coffee and a flipping delicious granola bowl. It’s all hipster/kinfolk-y but also friendly…I kind of loved it.
guerneville

Yeah, this tickled my large-arsed British sense of humour!

  • If you’re there in the summer, rent kayaks on the Russian River from Johnson’s Beach (Nic!!) where the Ironman swim will start from. The river was beautiful but pretty low – apparently they dam it in a few weeks time to make it deep enough for triathlon season. The current was surprisingly strong, this lightweight got blisters on her poor, lily-white hands! (Oh the mortification). We slogged upstream, turned round and floated effortlessly back to the start. We liked that bit the most.

kayaking dude guerneville

  • The Armstrong Redwoods are a few miles north of Guerneville. I hadn’t expected the flipping spectacularness of the redwoods there. I seriously squealed with glee when we walked in!! We didn’t have too long there this time, but we did a quick mile hike to the biggest tree. I cannot wait to run there in July!
redwoods armstrong guerneville

Big trees.

dude me redwoods armstrong guerneville

  • The Ramsden holiday favourite, mini golf, is just over the bridge. It opens at 11am. It’s old-fashioned but it has a juke-box that plays on a speaker over the mini-golf area!! Our fellow-golfers got to rock out to the Dude’s current obsession ‘Karma Chameleon’. Also there’s a ginger cat called Pumba who lives there and you know how I feel about ginger cats!
dude mini golf guerneville

He may (MAY) have kicked my arse.

  • Blended Choice in Guerneville does the most amazing smoothies!!! We had free samples on the street and we both immediately decided to have a liquid lunch!!! Cannot wait to go back and drink more smoothies in July.
  • There are also plenty of wineries. Our plan was to go to a winery in the afternoon…but my son fell asleep as we got in the car and I had to drive sadly past the wineries, dreaming of the glass of rosé I’d been looking forward to all day.
  • Nearby Sebastopol looked like it would be a lot of fun to mooch around…but the Dude was still sleeping. Sob.
guerneville russian river

Not exactly reluctant to go back to Guerneville in July

In summary, the Husband and I would totally recommend this ride if you’re looking for a century (metric or imperial) in June. It was a beautiful, challenging course for the riders with wonderful options for spectating families. The thing that really struck me was the hearts of the volunteers. They were all involved either in the homeless ministries themselves or in the churches that support those ministries, and you could really tell that they had a passion for what they did. They were so kind and warm, they made the event really special.

Incarnation 100 2017, I’m coming for you!!!

 

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Microadventure!

There’s this amazing British guy called Alastair Humphreys. He originally came to my attention when he cycled around the world and I read his book about it. The Husband and I then went to see him talk and came away inspired to do something crazy. (We had a baby and moved to the States, which wasn’t quite the point of the talk, but whatever). He’s become quite the adventurer but in between spectacular expeditions, he’s become an advocate of the ‘micro-adventure’. The kind of adventure that you fit in on a Thursday evening between finishing work and getting back to your desk the next morning. These kind of adventures are much more realistic for us at the moment.

The Husband was away with work for a few nights, so I decided to plan a micro adventure for me and the Dude. The plan was that I’d turn up a school on Monday to pick him up, but instead of coming home, the car would be packed and we’d do a quick overnight camping trip to Half Moon Bay. We’d wake up next to the ocean, have a cup of tea, collapse the tent and drive back home in time for school drop-off and preschool summer school in the morning. Clearly not ground-breaking stuff, but hopefully an epic micro adventure for me and the Dude!

It would be epic for me in particular because this would be the first time I’d taken the Dude camping by myself. I’m about to say something very un-PC and un-feministy, but I can’t deny I felt a bit nervous about sleeping in a tent without my own personal Gregor Clegane by my side.

I picked the Dude up from school. He was bemused at all the stuff in the car and then he worked out what was happening.

dude

We camped at the campsite off Kelly Avenue in HMB. It’s not a pretty campsite by any stretch and it was jam-packed full of RVs. We had this funny little site (18) near the loos (good) and in full visibility which made me feel safer. (If you ever camp there, go for pitches 17 or 19…they’re slap by the ocean, their views were wonderful).

camping HMB cocoon

The cocoon, surrounded by GIANT RVs

We put up the tent and then hit the beach for half an hour of digging and playing. It was actually quite chilly by the ocean, but we had fun and we saw a seal swimming very close to us, which thrilled us both. Then we went back to the campsite, had a picnic of bread and cheese, I took a shower (50 cents for 2 minutes of hot water, bring quarters) and then we hunkered down in the cocoon for the night. Once inside, we were snug as bugs and both conked out pretty quickly.

HMB beach ocean

Like a British summer!

seal

Seal!

camping me dude

One of us is sleepier than the other

I woke several times in the night, which I think is testament to my unease camping alone, but I have to say it was MUCH less scary than I’d expected! I woke up in the morning feeling pretty triumphant. I’m a bit of a chicken really, so it was good to push my boundaries a bit.

My dreams of a glorious ocean sunrise were dashed – it was grey, misty, cold and even drizzling a little so we quickly got dressed, collapsed the tent and drove away in search of coffee, bagels and sandwiches for the Dude’s lunch. We arrived back at school in time for kindergarten drop off,  just over 12 hours after pick-up. It was a fab little micro adventure – the Dude has already asked to do it again!

Sunrise. Huh.

Sunrise. Huh.

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Camping and fishing at Lake Chabot!

We spent Memorial Weekend camping. I have been hankering to go camping for weeks, it had been eating away at me so I was super-excited to go.  I booked pretty much the last available pitch at Lake Chabot campground, a state park about 45 minutes away in the East Bay. It was the perfect reminder that you don’t need to spend hours on the motorway each weekend to camp somewhere beautiful. About half an hour from home, we drove up a road and all of a sudden it was rural and beautiful and amazing. The campsite was large and, although full, it didn’t seem too crowded and our pitch, space 45, was isolated at the edge of a eucalyptus grove. It smelt heavenly.

lake chabot sunset

We had a new tent. Now, we HAVE a tent…but it’s a beast of a thing. It’ so big I can’t put it up alone, I can barely help as I’m not tall enough. It sleeps 7. We are 3. I’ve never loved it and when I popped into Big 5 to pick up some gas, I spotted a 4-man dome-tent for $50. Somehow I bought it. The Husband was uncertain about how ‘small’ it was but when we put it up within 5 minutes, he was sold. It’s a little snug inside (mainly due to our enormous air mattress) but once we were all hunkered down inside, we all kind of loved it. We named it The Cocoon.

camping tent cocoon

The weekend was so much fun. We spent so much time outside and it was bliss. The Dude had asked to go fishing, his first ever time fishing, and we’d borrowed a pole. On Saturday, after Danville, we went to the extremely crowded Lake Chabot and bought some foul-smelling play-dough style bait. We fished for a couple of hours, helped by the nice guy fishing next to us who took pity on us clueless Brits. We caught nothing but the heron nearby caught 10. It has to be said…fishing is dull.

dude husband fishing

Yawn…

Sunday morning started early. The Husband set off on his training run, the Dude and I hiked down to the lake ‘to fish’. We found a beautiful spot next to the lake and ‘fished’. We caught nothing. Fishing was STILL very boring and so I was more than bitter when we refound the Husband and he told us about his BOBCAT SIGHTING from his run. I died of jealousy. The mother turkey and her six adorable babies didn’t quite measure up.

dude fishing

I really love this photo

chabot trail lake chabot

me fishing chabot

I lasted three minutes

Not a super-cute cat with tufty ears and a short tail!

Not a super-cute cat with tufty ears and a short tail!

Fishing did get better that afternoon . We went back to Lake Chabot and rented a motorboat for a few hours…and it was bliss. The boys drove the boat (which proved much more exciting than fishing) around the lake and I sat there and read my book. The only blot on the horizon was that the play-dough bait was switched for live worms. There’s nothing quite as foul as watching a worm squirming with a hook through his body. Stomach-churning. But apart from the Game of Thrones-style worm torture, it was a perfectly wonderful afternoon!

fishing

Worms. Bait. So ethically dubious.

dude fishing boat

Someone totally forgot about fishing once he gained control of the boat

me reading boat chabot

So it turns out that whilst fishing is lethally boring, camping is a delight. We really loved the campground and its wildlife opportunities. We loved snuggling up in the Cocoon. We loved eating s’mores. I loved waking up in the early morning when people were still asleep, boiling water and making tea as the beautiful morning light streamed through the eucalyptus trees I loved spotting two coyotes as we drove home early on Monday morning.

Camping, I love you…can’t wait to go camping again!

camping eucalyptus trees sunrise

Look at the light through the trees!

smores camping

I should be a food photographer

Fishing…not so much.

husband sleeping

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