Spectating the California International Marathon

Last Sunday, the Husband (aka Ironballz) ran CIM – the California International Marathon – up in Sacramento. So FINALLY I got to go and watch it. CIM is one of the biggest marathons for my Bay Area running friends but because I am retired from marathoning, I’ve never been part of it. I was really glad I finally got to see the CIM magic in action.

Ironballz’s training was…interesting. He asked me to do him a training plan in the summer.  I was very touched and humbled to be asked, so I pulled together a splendid 16-week training plan. He nailed his first few weeks. He nailed the first week of speedwork when I had him running on the track. He loved track…until he pulled his hamstring on the second track session. And that was more or less the end of his adherence to my beautiful spreadsheet. Ironballz has a very different view of training plans than I do. I draw them up and basically stick to them (with a few minor amendments, like switching round the days of different workouts). The Husband looks at his plan, decides what he wants to do and does that. This caused some marital disharmony, so I quietly withdrew from coaching duties about 2 months ago. Unfortunately, my client didn’t notice.

Last week, Taper Week, the Husband gamely said ‘So coach, what’s on the plan this week?’ I gently informed him that, with great respect, I hadn’t been his coach for several weeks. He was surprised. He enquired as to why. ‘Because’, I told him, ‘You’re uncoachable’. A little smile hovered at his mouth. He was clearly delighted. He asked for an example of his uncoachability. I pointed out that, for several weeks now, I’d been advising him to do a long run of at least 17 or 18 miles at a steady, slow pace. For each of those weeks, he’d thought about it and then done about 13 miles with a couple at a faster pace. There was (honestly) much hilarity about him being #uncoachable. He sees it as being a great character strength. I just smiled and kissed him.

We drove up to Sacramento on the Saturday for the expo. I kind of got race envy. It was so much fun, there was so much energy. Everyone looked like an awesome runner. I wished I had a proper heart so I could run marathons. The Husband picked up his number and the Dude spun wheels at the stands and won cheap crap I’ll throw away next week.

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Ready to rock it

We then drove around Sac to find a store where the Husband could buy some new running shorts as he’d noticed (the day before) that his running shorts all had giant holes in them (#uncoachable). We bought some shorts. We checked into the wonderful Sacramento Youth Hostel, the Dude ran circles around our giant bedroom and then we went to meet our running friends for dinner at Hook & Ladder. Jen and Angela were both running CIM, along with Jen’s friend K who became a new friend for us. Dinner was awesome. Hook & Ladder was a hipster dream but the food was excellent, the wine (for spectators) was good and there was much laughter.

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Our enormous hostel bedroom

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Fooooood

The Husband headed off to get the shuttle bus to the start in Folsom at 4.45am on Sunday morning. The Dude and I slept a little later, had breakfast, played pool in the Games Room and then headed off to see our runners at roughly Mile 13. It was a cold but beautiful morning. The day before, we’d purchased a massive helium balloon of three penguins and had sent a photo round all our running friends so they could look out for us. It worked an absolute treat! Everyone found us due to the penguins!

penguins balloons

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‘Look out for the people with the penguins’

We got there as the incredible sub-three-ers were flying past. We saw several blind runners with their guides (which made me weepy at their courage). One of the guides looked suspiciously like Scott Jurek and actually turned out to BE Scott Jurek! That was exciting. Then we saw Caitlin amble past at some incredible pace to her 3.13 finish. I’d written down the times when we expected to see our friends pass, and Angela was the first to come, pretty much on schedule! She looked super-comfy at that point. K was next – she spotted us with our penguins and handed me a scarf to look after. Jen was a little later. She handed me a truly revolting sweaty buff to keep for her. Then L, a friend from church ran up, hugged me and handed me a long-sleeved top to keep. And THEN a total stranger ran up, took of his long-sleeved top and introduced himself as a colleague of the Husband’s. Ironballz had told him to look out for the penguins. We shook his hand, took his top and off he ran. Then finally, Ironballz ran up looked very comfy. He handed me his arm-sleeves and ran off, leaving me, the Dude and the Penguins to carry our sweaty pile of new clothes back to the car. Everyone at M13 was looking awesome. My Marathon Envy was worse than ever.

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K and the gift of a sweaty scarf

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Jen and the gift of a revoltingly sweaty buff

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The Husband and the gift of some not-too-bad arm warmers

Our next stop was about M20. We just missed K and never saw L but sooner or later, Jen ran past. She’d looked so comfy at M13 but now she was well off her goal pace and clearly in the pain cave. We screamed, cheered and cowbell, she gamely waved at us. I then cried for a bit for her. I was so gutted she wasn’t having the race she’d worked for. Ironballz ran up eventually. He was starting to struggle (due maybe to the lack of 17 or 18 milers his coach had suggested?) but still very positive and smiley. I know I’m biased but that guy has such incredible mental strength. If he sets an endurance goal, he will just hit it every time because of that mental fortitude. Tell you what though, from the faces of the runners at M20, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to run a marathon after all.

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Still smiling

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Super focussed

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Pavement Pokemon Playing

We then drove as quickly as we could to the finish line. Road closures thwarted our plans but we managed to park about 8 blocks away and we walked down to the finish line at the Capitol building. I got texts from friends that Angela had literally crushed her race – finally getting a marathon time that reflects her abilities. (See her recap HERE.) I cried again. (I was very weepy).I got Jen’s final time and I cried again. (See her recap HERE).  So proud of her for gutting it out and continuing to fight to the end. Now it was just Ironballz on the course. We positioned ourselves near the finish line. This was both wonderful (watching people so delighted to finish) and heart-breaking (the despair in the faces of those runners who have clearly not had the race they trained hard for). We used Find My iPhone to track him. Our Penguins got a bit blown about in the breeze so, when we found the Husband was a mile away, I warned the lady next to me that my penguins might be a bit uncontrolled for a few minutes. She offered to take them, so I handed my penguins to her and we screamed our heads off as Mr Uncoachable ran up the finishing straight, kissed us and crossed the line. We were so proud.

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Finisher

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He finished in about 5.08 which is 7 minutes faster than his last marathon (London, 13 years ago). We bumped into his work colleague, who was thrilled with himself. It was all rather gorgeous.

The Husband's colleague was literally sky high on endorphins

The Husband’s colleague was literally sky-high on endorphins

We assumed that we were too late to go to the brunch that Angela (or Jen?) had reserved for us on the Delta King, a paddle boat on the river in Old Sacramento. But after we walked slowly back to the car, we decided to drive over there so I could return some of the various sweaty clothes I’d been given at M13. It turns out that we weren’t that late, so we ended up all having brunch together, along with Sesa and her gentleman. The food was good, it was lovely to catch up with everyone and to give out some well-earned hugs.

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Fancy boat, grubby child

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Brunch group photo taken by a kid.

It was a really good day. It’s a cliché I know but there’s something very moving and humbling about watching people run a marathon. I was very inspired and humbled the whole day. I don’t want to do another marathon any more though, it looks brutal.

From a spectator’s point of view, here are a few learnings we made.

  • The race manual, which is given out at the expo, has great advice about where to spectate. We spectated at M13 (the relay exchange) and at ‘The Wall’ and both places worked really well. There were shops nearby for hot drinks and snacks.
  • Do get a helium balloon in a notable shape so that your runners can spot you. Our penguins worked incredibly well and they’re also an excellent reward for little people who gave up their day to cheer on grown-ups.
  • People who drive Hummers should be more careful not to nearly crush Honda Fit drivers.
  • Use Find My iPhone (or similar) to track your friends.
  • Get a cowbell that doesn’t cause your knuckles to bleed.
  • Don’t coach your husband.
  • Take tissues and wear waterproof mascara.

Well done to Angela, Jen, Ironballz, K, L, Sesa and Ironballz’ Colleague…and all the other brave wonderful runners who made our day on Sunday!

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Trails in Motion 2016

(All photos in this post were taken by photographers at Trails in Motion and made available for download on the internet. Thanks for this great service, guys!)

On Thursday, the Husband and I had a hot date. Actually I lured him there under false presences.

The Trails in Motion film festival is an annual outing for me – I went in 2014 and 2015! It’s an evening of short trail-running films, it’s always a good night out. This year however, when I saw it mentioned on social media, the organizer talked about ‘big name Salomon guests’. Bearing in mind that the TNF trail races were happening in Marin this weekend and that I’d heard my running heroine Emelie Forsberg saying she was hoping to run TNF, I jumped to the conclusion that Emelie would be coming and bought tickets immediately. I then persuaded the Husband that if Emelie was coming, her boyfriend Kilian Jornet (one of Ironballz’s heroes) would also be coming. So before we knew it, we were excited to meet Kilian and Emelie and persuade them that we should all be friends.

Two days before, it emerged that Emelie wasn’t running TNF after all and thus wouldn’t be coming, and obviously Kilian wouldn’t be there either. Which left Ironballz less than thrilled at the prospect of an evening watching films about trail running.

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But off we went. The evening was held at Sports Basement in the Presidio -it’s always slightly chilly, so we wrapped up. The Big Name Guests were Ricky Gates and Kasie Enman, so that was still pretty exciting! The films were excellent…here are a few of our favourites.

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Ricky Gates and Kasie Enman before the films start

Kroger’s Canteen is a Salomon short film about one of the aid stations at Hardrock. It was lovely and the footage of the San Juan mountains was staggering.

Shandi Kano’s Be Bold  is a very short, three-minute film about a girl whose obsession with running turned unhealthy, and who, after escaping the Boston bombs, turned off her gadgetry and turned to the trails. The footage is beautiful, the girl is ridiculously pretty and I found the whole thing quite inspiring. ‘If we can prioritize what our soul really needs, everything can change’.

Spot us!

Spot us!

The Last Time I Heard True Silence was very moving indeed. It’s 22 minutes long and it’s the tale of a young marine who returns from Iraq struggling to adjust back into ‘normal’ life, his ears constantly ringing with the sounds of explosions. Running trails and ultras helped him deal with his anxiety and calm his soul. This is worth watching both for his slightly bonkers approach to running in the forest at night (!) and the cutest ever clip of a kid running that made everyone go ‘ahhh’. Really worth sitting down and watching with a glass of wine.

I'm there somewhere

I’m there somewhere

This Is Your Day was cracking. It’s the tale of the 2015 Western States, focussing on Rob Krar, Caroline Boller and Karl Hoagland. It’s 50 minutes long and covers their preparations and their race day happenings. I think everyone in the room loved this, because Western States is dear to the heart of Bay Area runners. I was intrigued by the marital and familial dynamics of the runners, of their levels of preparation, of the determination that gets them through suffering on the day. For example, Rob Krar’s preparation included practicing pouring ice into his arm-sleeves. They practiced different ways of doing it to find the most efficient method. In contrast, Caroline Boller’s team packed a headtorch with a dead battery, leaving them scrambling round to find another head torch that worked. Interesting stuff. I did warm to Caroline Boller though, being in her 40s. At one point, she said ‘Running has shown me that this body still has a lot left in it‘. As another old girl, I rather liked that.

Ironically, the highlight of this film comes at the end as 70-year-old Gunhild Swanson races the clock to be the oldest woman to finish Western States. I’d bet that 90% of people in the audience, if not all, knew the story already – we knew the happy ending – but everyone was leaning forward, willing her on as the clock ticked and the tension rose. I was not the only one who wiped away a sneaky tear at the end.

trails in motion

See Ironballz?

Trails in Motion 2016 has nearly come to an end – there are only a few showings left, but we did see a trailer for Trails in Motion 2017 and the films look jaw-dropping, so I shall start working on Ironballz for another date night!

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Hiking in Bend

We spent Thanksgiving in Bend, in Oregon. It was cold, hovering a few degrees above freezing but thankfully with no rain. We wanted to get as much outdoors time as possible (whilst still getting plenty of family-snuggling-in-bed time) so we hiked every day.  We stayed local because one of the best things we’ve discovered about Bend is that beauty is really easy to find.

All of the hikes below are very family friendly and also very dog-friendly. Every Bend resident we saw had a dog (barely exaggerating) so I spent a lot of time deciding what dog I’d have if we moved to Bend!* So bring your child and bring your dog.

Deschutes River Trail

This 4.5 mile loop starts at the Flag Bridge in the Old Mill district (plenty of parking, bathrooms, restaurants, cafés, shops etc). We headed south past some nice houses to Farewell Bend Park, where the Dude enjoyed the playground and the little climbing wall. Just south of Reed Market Bridge, the path changes from tarmac to actual trail and it gets very beautiful – hard to believe you’re still basically in downtown Bend. There’s a little boardwalk over water, there are little waterfalls to enjoy, trees to hike through, it’s lovely. After about a mile and a half, you cross the little wooden bridge and head back north towards Bend. Keep walking north until you see the Flag Bridge, and then you’re back for lunch!

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Bridge sculpture

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River Trail views

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The turnaround bridge

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This is a really easy little hike – it’s flat, it’s accessible all year round, it’s popular with locals so there are always people around. There are bathrooms at Farewell Bend Park and Riverbend Park.

Pilot Butte

Pilot Butte is a cinder cone just outside downtown Bend. We hiked it on Thanksgiving to make a bit of space for our dinner. There’s plenty of parking at the bottom, with bathrooms and a playground and water fountains (which were all turned off for winter). There are a few trails up the butte and the distance up and down is one mile each way (thus 2 miles round-trip). We took Nature Trail up and it was lovely – a fairly steep but very do-able climb up through juniper trees. It winds round the butte and protects you from the wind. We took a short-cut at one point and ended up hiking the path next to the little road, so we’d recommend sticking to the trail which is much prettier! At the top, the views are amazing across the high desert, you can see the Cascades mountains in the distance. Well, you could if it was a bit brighter and clearer than the day we came. All in all though, this is a lovely little leg-stretch!

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Pilot Butte

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Heading up

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Pointing out all the mountains in the distance

bend hiking pilot butte me dude

Shevlin Park

Our last walk was in Shevlin Park, a few miles out of downtown Bend. My book told me that these trails are accessible even when most of the other local hikes are under snow, so this is good year round hiking. There are bathrooms at the start of the trail. We followed the Shevlin Loop Trail for the first 2.5 miles – it’s very well sign-posted and follows the ridge along one side of the canyon. After crossing the little bridge at the end of the trail, we took Tumalo Creek Trail back, which was really lovely – we liked it more. Lots of trees, lots of gurgling stream views and a lovely covered bridge. Plenty of hikers and trail-runners throughout the park. We finished with some scrambling around, finding geocaches. Roughly 5 miles out-and-back and very pretty.

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Shevlin Loop Trail

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Hard to get lost here.

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Tumalo Creek Trail

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Tumalo Falls

We’d heard a lot about Tumalo Falls so our original plan for Day 3 was to hike there, but only a few miles out of Bend we basically hit Narnia. The road out to the falls was still open (if a little snowy) and there were plenty of people at the trailhead admiring the views of the falls. However we weren’t equipped for snow-hiking so we chose to come back out the wardrobe!

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Yeah, not hiking here today.

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Tumalo Falls!

So there you are – three lovely easy family and dog-friendly hikes pretty much within downtown Bend.

(If you haven’t hiked Smith Rock State Park, which we did in the summer, we would definitely recommend hiking there as your first priority!).

  • Springer spaniel for definites!
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Race Recap: The Bend Thanksgiving Classic Turkey Trot

We’re spending Thanksgiving up in Bend, in Oregon. We adored it when we were here in the summer, so we decided to take advantage of a 5 day holiday and go back. That decision was nearly fatal.

Not actually exaggerating.

The drive up took 12 hours so the final stretch up to Bend was at 1.30am on pitch-black, near-empty roads in the freezing cold. I was driving and at one point decided to overtake a big lorry (18-wheeler semi). As we started passing, the car slid out from under me and started flying around the icy road. My scream woke the Husband, who opened his eyes to find himself horribly close to a giant lorry. He was amazing – calmly he told me to take my hands off the wheel so he could steer (it appears I don’t like to steer into the skid). We veered towards the ditch on the other side of the road, then skidded back towards the lorry and then back to the ditch. The car bumped the lorry and I waited to spin but somehow the Husband and I managed to bring the car to a halt on the other side of the road. It was the most terrifying moment of my life and I can only put our survival down to God’s protection.  Even crazier – the next day, the only damage to the car was a scratch on the wing mirror.

So we had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

On a lighter note…

…on Thanksgiving morning we ran a Turkey Trot in Bend. To be clear, there are two Trots. One is called I Like Pie and it’s held at the running store. The other is the Bend Boys & Girls Club race and it takes place at the Old Mill. We were staying close to the Old Mill so we picked that one. I suspect it’s less ‘competitive’ than the I Like Pie one. Ours was also a Girls on the Run race, which made it rather lovely.

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Me and my turkeys

It was cold at the start but there was free coffee, hot chocolate and bagels. The Dude filled his face. We snuggled into the crowd at the start line and then we were off.

bend turkey

Our plan was for the Husband to run it at his own pace and for me and the Dude to run it together. The Dude PR’d at a 5k last week with his first experience of Race Magic (more on this coming soon) so he was kind of expecting to cruise around effortlessly but Bend is at 3,000 ft and so that didn’t happen. I put no pressure on him at all so we walked and shuffled and ran our way round chatting and having fun. The race went up the river as far as the whitewater kayaking area, then we crossed over and headed south down the river for a mile or so.

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‘Daddy and I went down that this summer, Mummy!’

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We closed in on Daddy as we got back to the Old Mill and the two of them basically nuked it out in the finishing chute. The Husband tried to hold the Dude’s hand over the finish line, the Dude thought his Dad was obstructing him so stuck out his own arm to stop his Dad and then, having beaten the Husband by a whisker, collapsed at the finish line close to tears. I felt obliged to tell onlookers that he was fine and he’d really enjoyed the whole thing.

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Closing in on Daddy (in the black calf sleeves)

He was fine as soon as he learned he’d successfully beaten his daddy. He was better after more hot chocolate and better still once he had a print-out of his results and he realised it was his ‘altitude PR’.

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Not the most awesome of family photos but there you go!

A few details on the race – it’s a really nice event.  It’s $35 to enter. Packet pick-up can be done on the day or the day before at Pine Mountain, a sports store. You get vouchers for free coffee and smoothies, you get lip balm and $10 off at Pine Mountain so it’s pretty awesome. Being Oregon, you also get free kombucha. At the race there was free coffee, hot chocolate, biscotti, bagels and bananas.  No race medals and shirts are $10 extra. (We opted out of the shirts and then I decided I wanted one so I bought one, don’t tell the Husband). There’s a really nice community feel, some speedy people to inspire, lots of kids running…it was a really fun event.

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Running The World: Austria

Austria has to be one of my favorite countries in the world. I’ve cycled there several times – in fact my first ever cycle tour was in Austria. It’s a country criss-crossed with cycle routes, making it a safe, gorgeous place to tour. It’s a country of great beauty – from its historical capital city Vienna to the lakes and mountains of the Salzkammergut region. I love how its people often wear traditional Austrian dress in the streets. I love the geranium-bedecked chalets in villages. But I’ve never run there – I’ve not been a runner any time I’ve visited, so I was really interested to find out more about the running community there.

I found today’s interviewee, Johanna, via Instagram. Her photos are beautiful, as you’ll see in the post below. A bit of online stalking and I asked her if she’d be up for an interview. She was currently in San Francisco, on holiday, so maybe that swung it…because she said yes and this is what I found out.

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

Hello, my name is Johanna. I’m 27 years old, born and living in Innsbruck, a small town in the middle of the mountains in Tyrol in Austria. I’m a physical therapist working partly with patients who suffer from neurological diseases and partly with orthopedic/ patients with sport-injuries. I try to spend most of my free time outside, mostly doing all different kinds of sports. I started running about 2 years ago and I’ve since finished 7 half-marathons and a couple of shorter races (5 to 15K) and a trail & obstacle run. When I’m not running I love to go skiing, snowboarding, ski-touring, mountaineering and cross-country skiing. I also play the drums in a band called SO KLAR.

austria innsbruck johanna

How did you get into running?

To be honest – I didn’t really like running at first. I always thought it was boring and way more exhausting than any other sports I did. What got me into running at the end was my boyfriend, who made a bet about whether he could finish a half-marathon or not. He wanted me to join and at first I wasn’t convinced that I would make it, but then we actually started running at a regular basis and made progress quite quickly, so I started to really like it.

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

Running is actually about to be on the up in Austria. It was never really popular, since we’re more of a winter sports nation and it’s still not as popular as other sports (on a professional level), but it’s currently getting really popular among ‘normal people’. Since we’re living in the middle of the Alps,  trail running especially is gaining more and more fans with a lot of smaller races (from shorter beginner races to ultra-trails).

austria johanna

Trail envy? Me too.

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?

I wouldn’t say that running is more popular amongst women or amongst men. I think it’s quite well-balanced. There are usually more male participants when it comes to races, but you see as many female runners as male runners when you go out on the streets.

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

Races become more and more popular here in Austria. The biggest race is probably the Vienna City marathon, with a race over the whole marathon distance, a marathon relay, a half-marathon and a 10K race, all taking place on the same day. It’s hard to say what kind of distance is the most popular one – I would say the shorter ones (from 5K to half-marathon distance) because also non-professional runners who don’t train on a regular basis can participate. It’s often more about the ‘social event’ than about results.

johanna austria

You said trail running is increasingly popular in Austria? What are the trails like?

The trails are mostly pretty rocky, steep and therefore quite challenging.

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

I feel pretty safe most of the time when I’m running. Of course there are some parts of the city I try to avoid when I’m running alone or in the dark, but all in all I must say that I (thank god) hadn’t had any bad experience so far.

Are you a member of a running club or crew?

I’m not. Unfortunately there are just a few running clubs in Innsbruck and they’re more on a professional level so that’s not really suitable for ‘beginners’ like me. I usually go running with my boyfriend or friends. I think running clubs and crews are growing in popularity but more in the bigger Austrian cities like Vienna.

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

During the summer we usually wear running shorts and a functional t-shirt or a tanktop. During the winter season we definitely need to switch to running tights, long-sleeve shirts, a jacket, running gloves and a headband.

The most popular brands around here are probably the big ones like Nike and Adidas. But there are also a few smaller or local brands that are on the up right now (g.e. Skinfit or Willpower Running).

austria johanna

What do Austrian runners use to fuel and to hydrate?

The common pre-run snack is a banana, a slice of bread (with marmalade or ham) or a bowl of cereal. There isn’t anything typical we eat as a post-run meal. I would say it depends on the distance, but pasta is kind of popular after longer distances.

When it comes to hydration we normally just drink water (on shorter distances). On longer distances we prefer water mixed with electrolyte powder. What’s also really popular in Austria is non-alcoholic beer after a run/workout, `cause it’s isotonic and hydrates you quite well.

Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in Austria?

Weather can be quite challenging during the winter season `cause the roads can be pretty icy and slippery, but it isn’t a challenge the rest of he year.

austria johanna

This photo!!!

Who are Austria’s well-known runners/running heroes?

That’s a good question. Since we’re more of a winter sports nation track and field isn’t that popular, so there are (unfortunately) no real running heroes in or from Austria.

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

Social media sure has a huge impact on the rise of popularity of running. I would say Instagram is the no. 1 platform for runners in Austria, with a lot of smaller accounts that focus on running.

I think more and more younger people are getting into running, mainly through Instagram and other social media platforms, although running covers every age group and that’s  – in my opinion – a pretty cool thing.

The most important running magazine is probably the German edition of ‘Runner’s World’ and ‘Running’ (both published in Germany). Unfortunately we don’t have a real popular running magazine in Austria.

austria johanna

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

If you would visit Tyrol I would take you on a quick run on our ‘home track’, which offers you a nice view over my hometown Innsbruck or on a quick trail run in the woods above the city.

If you wanted more information before you arrived, I would probably recommend to you www.innsbrucklaeuft.com They’re in charge of most of the races in Innsbruck – all really well-organized and really fun.

austria johanna

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

I would either recommend the Vienna City Marathon because it’s a nice route through the city and you’re running by some of the famous sight in Vienna or a trail run in Tyrol, because the landscape and the view can be really breathtaking.

What are the best and worst things about running in your country?

To be honest, I can’t really think about a bad thing about running in Austria.

The best thing about running in Austria is that it never gets boring `cause our country and its surroundings offer endless possibilities whether you prefer street- or trail-running – it never gets boring.

austria johanna

Johanna, thanks so much for your time. You can  (and you really should) follow Johanna on Instagram HERE.

If you’re an international runner from a country we haven’t yet covered, I would love to hear from you. Please drop me an email using the address on my ‘Contact’ page.

For more Running The World interviews, click HERE.

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Product Review: GoVivo Reflective Vest

Lots of bloggers regularly get sent all kinds of awesome cool stuff to test. Not me. I’ve never been sent anything cool to test. I was once offered a car for the weekend but that felt so preposterous that (to the Husband’s dismay) I had to turn it down. You all know how much I love my Honda Fit. Me saying ‘yes, I loved that free Mercedes’ might be slightly disingenuous.

(It definitely wasn’t a Merc BTW and if it had been a Ford Thunderbird my ethics would have been out the window in a heartbeat!)

But a few weeks ago, I was invited to choose from a range of products produced by GoVivo and review them. There were some products that looked decent, they were the kind of thing I would buy at the price I would pay for them, so I said yes thank you and a few weeks ago, my chosen product arrived.

All of the above to say that I was given this product free of charge to test. Before accepting the product, I clarified I wouldn’t publish a rave review if I didn’t like the product and I definitely  haven’t been paid for this post. 

The product I chose was the reflective safety vest because it was something I’d been considering buying for a while. I run a lot in the darkness of the early mornings. I have some flashing lights that I love but more reflectiveness is always better than less reflectiveness. I’ve worn a reflective vest in the past, I own one by Nathan, but I really hate it. It’s loose and flappy, hard to put on and awkward to wear… so I just don’t wear it. Therefore my criteria to judge this vest was:

  • is it easy to put on and take off?
  • does it sit snugly whilst I run?
  • does it make me shine like a star in headlights?
  • does it fit a 5’1 woman, a 6’4 man and (ideally) a 4’3 child?
  • would it also work on the bike?
  • do I like it enough to wear every dark run?
  • is it good value?
  • do I like it enough that I would actually buy it?

The good news is YES to all the above!

Unlike my Nathan vest which you have to wiggle into and that I hate, this one is very easy to get into. The straps can be tightened to sit snugly and when I’ve run in it, it hasn’t bounced or chafed at all.

It also definitely makes me shine like a star in headlights.
img_4317

MOST impressively, it does fit the Husband, the Dude AND me! Seriously. We cover the entire height spectrum and we can all wear it…and have all worn it.

reflective us family

Does it work on the bike? Yes. Unlike my old one, this one can be adjusted very easily so it fits over your cycling clothes, no matter how many layers you wear. My son/stoker modeled it on our cycling weekend.

Do I like it enough to wear it on every dark run? Yes. Yes I do. It’s easy, comfy and I feel safer wearing it.

Is it good value? Yes. It’s $12.99 – feels like a solid price to me.

Do I like it enough to actually pay for it? Yes. Definitely. I’m actually buying it for someone for their Christmas present…it may be YOU!!!!

GoVivo take better photos than I do. Source

GoVivo take better photos than I do.
Source

So that’s the truth. There are many reflective vests out there, but if you’re in the market for one, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this one.

Thanks to GoVivo for sending me this product. I really liked it!

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Race Report: Mt Tam Half Marathon

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a trail race – my first since February. I was without a running goal and feeling ‘meh’ and the idea of this race totally reinvigorated me. I roped Lisa into running with me. We’d run it totally for joy and not for time. It was just going to be a day of gorgeous running in gorgeous countryside.

It would however be tough – 13 miles and 3,000 ft climbing split into two massive climbs. The race (held by Inside Trail and held alongside a 50k, 30k and 10k) started in Stinson Beach and ran up some iconic Bay Area trails – Steep Ravine, Ben Johnson, Dipsea. I was so very excited about it. For the first week I did some solid hill training. Then, on the second week, life got busy and I eked out some flat miles. This last week, I got a stinking cold, I was really quite rough and didn’t run at all until Thursday and Friday, where I managed three shuffley slow miles both days. I knew this race was never going to be about time, but I was a little dubious about how much suffering would be involved given my 70% health and my lack of training.

Then Lisa had to drop out the night before for family reasons. I made some calls and Eden took her bib. Eden is an amazing runner, but, with 3 kids, she hasn’t run more than 10 miles for many years. It would be a challenge for both of us.

We drove up that morning and arrived at Stinson Beach at about 8.30 – our race started at 9am. The longer distances started at 8.30, we’d start with the 10k. Packet-pick-up was easy and before very long, we were running under the arch and heading up the mountain.

me eden tam

So clean at the start

tam

Probably just as well we couldn’t see Mt Tam looming above us

The climb started immediately but was fairly steady – it was crowded and there were a few bottlenecks but we were in no rush. If anything, I was grateful as the crowd held us back from going out too hard. Before too long, we turned onto Steep Ravine trail and it all got super serious. Steep Ravine is without doubt one of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on. Green mossy trees made it look like an enchanted forest. We ran under fallen trees, we crossed babbling brooks on wet wooden bridges, we climbed up steps made of rocks. It was cool and beautiful and utterly brutal. I was dripping sweat. At about 2.5 miles, we all ground to a halt at a 10 foot wooden ladder – we were all secretly grateful for the break. After the ladder, it eased off a little and before too much more pain, we were spat out at Pantoll Ranger Station. A little further down Old Mine trail and we were at the aid station, at the aptly named Cardiac Hill. I got some food and some drink – we were about 3.5 miles in and my legs were already shaking. This boded badly.

steep ravine trails

Eden starts up the steps

steep ravine ladder

Yep. A ladder. On a trail.

redwoods steep ravine

REDWOODS!!!!

The second part of the run was a 6 mile loop which would bring us back to the Cardiac aid station. It started with a beautiful descent down Ben Johnson trail. There were some steeper bits, but on the whole it was very runnable and we got to chat and relax a little. However by the time we got to the bottom, the descent had beaten our legs in the other direction. We started up Bootjack trail onto Camp Eastwood. On the whole, this second climb (which would be about 4 miles in total) was much more runnable than the first climb – on fresh legs it would have been very runnable but I was fading fast and soon settled into this slow, ugly shuffle. Eden was bouncing ahead of me. It was quite an isolated loop – without her I would have felt a little alone and, as the suffering increased, I know I would have struggled mentally without her, so I was very grateful for her cheerfulness. As my garmin buzzed 7 miles, Eden asked how long we’d been running…it was just under two hours! The trails were all beautiful, covered with fallen leaves in gorgeous colours. I was very VERY grateful to get back to the aid station but it was at the top of a very  short but ridiculously steep climb and I realised that I was completely empty. My legs had literally nothing in them.

autumn trails tam

Autumn colours

tam autumn trails

TCC trail

The aid station revived me somewhat – they had coke and I drowned it like a junk-food addict! All that was left now was the three miles down Dipsea Trail down to Stinson Beach again. As we’d discussed, Eden set off to run alone. She was still very fresh and my slow, granny-like descent would be more painful for her than flying down. I actually really enjoyed the solitude – the descent made the running easier and the trails were lovely. We had some lovely views of the ocean glittering in the sunshine and then we plunged into redwood forest which made my beaten heart soar.

tam dipsea trails

Lots of trees to duck

And then we hit the stairs. There must have been over half a mile of steep stairs built into the trail. I didn’t trust my battered quads to hold me up on the stairs so I was very clumsy and awkward and slow on the descent. But slowly, slowly I made my way down the trail back into the sunshine and finally I was slowly jogging under the finish line.

dipsea

Stinson Beach in the distance

I’d vaguely thought I might run it in 3 hours. My final time was 3.35…basically my BQ time but I’d only managed half the distance. I am honestly not bothered about my time, but I was a little taken aback. I was 8th out of the 15 women in my age-group which isn’t exactly sparkling…but to be honest, just finishing felt like a massive achievement. It was without doubt the hardest race I’ve ever done.

shoes trail

The trails were pretty clean but the staging area was a quagmire

me trails tam

In retrospect, I probably should have downgraded to the 10k. My nasty cold and lack of training didn’t set me up for a big challenge like this and I think I would have enjoyed it more. I think I bit off more than I could chew. I don’t think I’ll sign up for a race with this much elevation gain again. Or maybe I’ll just train a bit more.

me eden race tam

Despite the brutality of it, it was a gorgeous race. Beautifully organised and flawlessly signposted, the volunteers were friendly, the aid-station plentifully stocked and the medal was really nicely designed. There was plenty of free car-parking, enough portaloos and nice shirts.

My quads the next day though…pain unlike any other.

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A week in my running shoes

It was a busy week. I had three days at preschool where I was Totally In Charge. It was terrifying and exhilarating but all children were returned unbroken to their parents at the end of each day and they might even have learned something! In order to make this week a success, I worked extra hours and so my running took a back seat. But I still had some fun!

On Tuesday, I enjoyed six happy miles around my town watching the sunset. I rarely run at sunset due to timing/logistics but this was such a treat.

Sunset in the FC is pretty lovely

Sunset in the FC is pretty lovely

On Thursday night, I went to my second barre class. I really enjoyed it again – I love how I can feel it targeting those muscles I need to be a good runner. I think it would be a great strength-training thing for running. It’s expensive but most weeks there are free classes at my studio so I’ll just target those! I was sore for the next day or so but nowhere near as sore as I was after my first class, so that’s encouraging.

On Saturday morning, I met up with Lisa super-early. We’re both running the Mt Tam Half next weekend so wanted to do some hills. We ran up Ralston in the pitch dark, and then finally tested out the Crystal Springs Cross Country Grounds.

This place is interesting. It’s a big patch of land at the top of the world overlooking Crystal Springs Reservoir and the forested hills of Skyline. It’s used for High School Cross Country meets. There’s a 5k loop carved out, with smooth wide trails that undulate around the hills. There is no shade, so in the summer it must be grim, but on a chilly November morning as the sun came up, it was bliss. I’ve never really explored it before as it’s quite isolated and there have been some big cat sightings, so I was excited to finally have a run there.

lisa sunrise

The loop was lovely. Not overly murderous (although I’m sure actually racing those ups and downs would be very painful) but beautiful views of the sunrise over the hills. We loved it so much we turned round and ran it in the opposite direction before ending under the finishing arch!

crys crystal springs cross country me

On Saturday afternoon, my boys and I hiked the 3.5 mile round-trip easy trail to Tenessee Valley Beach. Lovely easy leg-stretching and some incredible waves when we got there.

tenessee beach waves ocean

On Sunday, the Dude got a bit poorly so my run didn’t happen but the Husband and I did 10 full minutes of stretching. I subscribed to Jasyoga which is all the rage with the cool kids. It seems to offer plenty of short videos (5 mins max) of stretches for runners. 5 minutes is about our attention span with stretching. We did some hip stretching (ow) and some hamstring stretches (squeal). Jasyoga Lady suggested we use a prop if necessary. I found a prop.

me yoga stretching charlie

I’m getting very excited about Saturday’s trail half. I’m not as fit as I should be, it’ll be murderous but I am VERY excited none the less! Bring it on.

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In which we prove we’re still British

This weekend was our wedding anniversary, so I planned us a cycling trip round Wine Country. What could be more romantic?

A cycling weekend round Wine Country… with a small child? The Dude was desperate to come and he’s cute, so we relented but it posed a problem. He can easily cycle 20 miles but we wanted to go a little further and I don’t quite trust him on roads by himself. So with a lot of googling, we found a tandem to rent that would fit us and the trip was on. What could be more romantic?

A cycling weekend round Wine Country with a small child…in the rain? Yep, the forecast was for gallons of rain and that was what we got. So basically we celebrated our wedding anniversary by cycling 60 miles round Wine Country in the pouring rain with a small child on a tandem. We have lived in California long enough that our British attitude to rain has pretty much melted away – we wondered if we were still British enough to press on with our plans in a downpour!

We drove up on Friday night and stayed in a wonderful, very reasonable Airbnb where the lady left us chocolate cupcakes.

Saturday

We woke on Saturday morning to POURING rain. Chucking it down. Misery. At 8am, Geoffrey from BikePartners.net arrived in a van with our tandem. It was a flipping long beast but kind of awesome. It’s a Bike Friday which means it collapses into two sections which can be fitted into two suitcases and put on airplanes. I’d thought for a long time that it would work well for me and the Dude. So once there was a break in the rain, we got ourselves ready, the Husband assembled his own touring bike and off we went.

We had a slightly shaky intro ride around the neighborhood…

Someone likes the tandem...

Someone likes the tandem…

….and then we were off. Our first mile was solidly uphill which was a disaster. We were still very shaky together. The bike was heavy. My little stoker wasn’t stoking very well. So we walked up the hill. In the rain. We walked up a lot of hills in the rain that day. But on the whole, we did pretty well. We got better at starting off. We got better at balancing together. We got a little better at going up hills. We got a lot better at having fun. It was SO much fun to ride a tandem with the Dude. He talked non-stop, we sang a bit, we discussed roadkill, it was just awesome.

tandem cycling

The rain was intermittent and eventually dried off for the remainder of the day. We cycling a section of the Husband’s Ironman course including Chalk Hill which was tough on a tandem with a child but we made it to the top and loved the swoop down. We finished with 10 miles or so along Highway 128 which was fairly flat. The clouds lifted slightly and the vineyards were absolutely gorgeous in their Autumn colours. We stopped for lunch at the Jimtown Store and then cruised into Geyserville at about 4pm. We stayed in the same Airbnb that we stayed in the Healdsburg Half so we showered, hunkered down, went out for food and then went to bed.

TeamRamsden at the top of Chalk Hill

TeamRamsden at the top of Chalk Hill

vines autumn

Sunday

We woke to more rain than I’ve seen for a long time. It was chucking it down, water was streaming down the driveway to our Airbnb. My heart sank and when our host offered to drive us back to Santa Rosa, I was very VERY tempted. But the Dude wasn’t complaining and the Husband was determined that we should cycle as planned. So at 10am, when the rain stopped, we braved it and set off.

Delightful weather for cycling?

Delightful weather for cycling?

Two miles in, the Husband remarked joyfully that we weren’t getting wet aaaand the heavens opened. We got soaked. We flew into Healdsburg where I’d planned we should stop for drinks and snacks and decided to press on and get this ride done asap. We cycled along the happy stretch of the Healdsburg Half and then continued on Westside Road. The rain eased off and eventually stopped and we had a wonderful hour or so cruising along Westside Road past all the wineries. I took very few photos as we didn’t stop much and I didn’t dare cycle and take photos at the same time on wet roads on a tandem but it was really beautiful. Autumn vines rolling across the hills, clouds scudding across the skies, lovely barns dotting the fields, it was really blissful.

vines autumn

The Dude and I were notably stronger today – we cycled up all the hills, we felt safer and better-balanced, we were a right little team! The Husband was working hard – he was carrying our panniers and I suspect his bike was even heavier than the tandem!

tandem cycling

Our final stretch was a delicious few miles of smooth tarmac’d bike-path heading into Santa Rosa. The rain had stopped and it was flat and gorgeous. We cruised into Santa Rosa at about 2pm and dropped our tandem off at the bike rental shop, before getting a lift back to where we’d left the car. Then we ate all the food we could get our hands on.

Cycling a tandem with the Dude was a delight. I think I loved him more on this trip than I have on any trip! It was just so much fun. We talked, we sang, we worked as a team. I knew he was safe behind me. We managed more miles, we went faster, we went on roads which would otherwise have been unsafe for us. It was a delight. We cycled 60 miles over the weekend, which isn’t bad for a Nearly-Seven-Year-Old.

tandem cycling

The only unexpected downside to tandem riding was that the Husband felt a bit isolated, he couldn’t hear us talking and was a bit lonely. I do think that on a sunnier weekend, where we stopped more and took it more slowly, this would have been less the case, but it’s worth bearing in mind. Also it’s a bit rough for our Wedding Anniversary weekend!

A few details on the trip (in case anyone’s found this post actually looking for info).

Route

  • Route Day 1, Santa Rosa to Geyserville. 29 miles and 1,560 ft elevation gain. Route HERE.
  • Route Day 2. Geyserville to Santa Rosa. 31 miles and 1,192 ft elevation gain. Route HERE.

Bike Rental

  • We rented a bike from BikePartners.net and I cannot recommend them enough. They were super helpful throughout the booking process, had reasonable prices, delivered the bike to our Airbnb (for a small fee) and even gave us a lift back to our car. Hugely recommended.
  • We rented the Bike Friday Family Tandem and we basically loved it. It’s not light and it only has 8 gears but it did beautifully for us. The Dude and I want to buy it! For information, I’m 5’1 and the Dude is 4’4 with long legs. Geoffrey from BikePartners put shorter cranks on his pedals and it worked perfectly.

Airbnbs

Food

  • Village Bakery in Santa Rosa was delicious for coffee and pastries.
  • Diavola’in Geyserville does amazing pizza but doesn’t take reservations and had a 1 hr 30 wait on a random Saturday night.
  • Catelli’s in Geyserville is delicious but had a 2 hour wait as we hadn’t made reservations.
  • Jimtown Store does delicious sandwiches and salads and baked goods. It’s super-cute.
  • Omlette Express in Santa Rosa does good eggs!
  • Shuffle’s Magical Ice-Cream Shop in Santa Rosa is wonderful! Like wonderful!!!
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What goes up…

So a few posts ago, I declared my intention to run a 5k in November and a 10k in December. Those were my racing goals for the rest of the year and I was genuinely excited about them.

Until I wasn’t.

I drew up a training plan, based on the free Hal Higdon ones you get online. Usually a new training spreadie fills me with joy and excitement. This time I just stared at the spreadsheet with no desire to start training hard again. And I realized I wasn’t there yet.

It turns out that what I really wanted to do was run trails. Just to run through the forest, to tackle the long climbs that make me feel like dying and to fly endlessly downhill. So with a little more searching, I found my next race. It’s the Mt Tam Half Marathon on November 12th.

Mt Tam last year

Mt Tam last year

3,000 feet of climbing in 13 miles. New trails – and not just any trails but trails that I’ve wanted to run for years now but have never got round to doing. Ladders. Stairs. Ocean views. Forests. I am honestly beside myself, especially because I persuaded Lisa that she should do it with me. My goal is totally to have fun. I’m thinking it would take me about 3 hours but I am honestly not bothered if it’s 2 hrs 30 or 3 hrs 30. I’m doing this for joy!

How I feel.

How I feel.

But joy can only get a girl so far. A girl also needs to do some hill training! So this week, I’ve been running hills.

On Monday, my legs were STILL sore and stiff from Friday night’s Barre class, so I just ran three easy flat miles and STILL suffered.

On Tuesday, I headed to Seal Point and ran five repeats of the west-side slope and then 5 times up the 80-odd stairs there. It nearly killed me but I kind of loved the brutality.

On Wednesday, I had a real treat and got to run trails. The Dude had plans all afternoon so I met up with a new friend who has just moved to my church from Alaska. She’s moved from a place where she could run 40 miles on trails from her front door to a place where there’s basically just concrete for 40 miles from her front door. I took her to Huddart Park and introduced her to the delights of the Bay Area trails. I got to watch her look up her first redwood, we clambered over fallen trees over the trail, we listened to our feet crunching on leaves and padding silently on dropped pine needles. We talked non-stop, discovered our very similar approach to parenting (lots of outdoors stuff with ice-cream as bribery) and just had this wonderful hour of running together.

eden huddart

Well she told me she also likes obstacle races…

Trails Huddart

On Friday, I met Lisa at 6am in the dark and in the rain to run hill repeats. We only managed two repeats up the half-mile climb due to lack of time, but it was enough to get the heart pounding and the quads burning. Love it.

There will be plenty more hill-climbing over the next few weeks! I’m not particularly good up hills but I really relish the challenge,  so I’m really excited to run up Mt Tam in a few weeks’ time.

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