*Ten tips for growing your running tribe*

Running has provided me with so many amazing opportunities over the past few years… I’ve qualified for, and ran, the Boston Marathon, I’ve been an ambassador for a few races including the Vancouver USA Marathon and the Portland Marathon, and products such as Nuun Hydration and Left Coast Raw, I’ve been able to travel to Las Vegas and Utah to run Ragnar relays, and most of all, I’ve met so many incredible people and athletes through various running groups and affiliations which has quenched my thirst for connecting with kindred spirits who love running as much as I do.

I remember several months ago, before my family moved to Los Angeles, researching running groups and clubs in the area with hopes that I’d find a place to connect with other runners. At the time, it seemed a little sparse and I worried that there weren’t the same kind of numbers of runners here as there is in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m pleased to report that my assumption was absolutely false. And thank goodness! Not only is there a thriving running community here but several trail and ultra running groups too. Given the size of the region, everything is pretty spread out here but it is still reassuring to know that they’re out there.

Because I am more introverted than extroverted (surprising but true!), making these connections is still, and will continue to be, a work in progress. I haven’t made much effort either, aside from going to the November Project somewhat consistently, since I’ve been settling into our digs, getting acclimated to the neighborhood, and adjusting to a new job.

That all said, I’ve begun strategizing a plan to expand my circle and thought it would be worth sharing. (Not to mention hold me accountable!)

  • Find a running club or group. (Or several!) This might take some research but they’re out there. Most of them have a Facebook group page. I’ve been joining every group that I find within about 20 miles.
  • Join a membership-based group. Honestly, I slightly struggle with the ethics of this. There are a few brands that I absolutely adore (Oiselle, Territory Run Co.) but in order to join, you have to pay a fee. They benefit by free marketing when you blast your social media accounts with pictures of you racing in their singlet while you maybe get a 10% discount on orders. Regardless, I’ve seen the impact of the community that Oiselle has created and I SO WANT IN!
  • The best place to start is with a local specialty running store. Most of them offer some form of a weekly group run. There is a Road Runner Sports store a little over two miles away that meets weekly and I swear, one of these evenings I’ll actually go!
  • Running stores aren’t the only hosts of group runs! There is a pizza franchise that hosts weekly meetups. I believe a bar down the road too. Do some homework (aka Google) and see what you come up with.
  • Start your own group. I have yet to find something closer to my own neighborhood and have considered starting my own. As a co-founder of a running group back in Oregon, I’ll say that it has crossed my mind more than a few times and it’s really not that difficult.
  • Look beyond “running” clubs. I’ve mentioned several times recently that I’ve been attending the November Project. It’s chock-full of runners! How about your local gym? Or yoga studio? There are runners there too!
  • The number of virtual running friends I have, by far, exceeds the number of running friends I have in real life. Thanks to social media, I can connect to runners across the globe. But, I can also connect to runners in my own neck of the woods (er, city) using the same practices.
  • Use your affiliations to find your tribe. I owe so, so much to Nuun Hydration for a number of friendships that I have thanks to their vision that is Team Nuun. I am so fortunate to know so many incredible athletes that, like me, are members of the team. True story: I think it was my second time attending the November Project and in the crowd, I spotted a woman wearing a hoodie with the Nuun logo embossed on the back. I approached her and struck up a conversation. Boom! Another team member and recent transplant to LA, like myself. We are now friends on Facebook, follow each other on Instagram, and are planning to run the same 8k next month so the commonality creates an opportunity to connect.
  • Volunteer at an event. I have yet to do this but I will. If you’re not racing, the next best thing is to support the runners that are and who knows, perhaps you’ll befriend the person you’re manning the aid station with.
  • Just show up. It’s the November Project motto (by way of hashtag) and it’s true. I can talk, and/or plan, until I’m blue in the face but unless I actually show up, I’m on my own and that translates to not meeting people.

BONUS TIP: Don’t forget that the best running partner might be your life partner!

Without a doubt, I know that I’ve overlooked an idea or two so please feel free to comment and share your ideas on how to meet like-minded runners obsessed with the sport as much as you are!

*Running Your First Ultra*

Last month I stumbled across a new book just hitting the shelves. Running Your First Ultra was written by Krissy Moehl. As you might suspect, she is an ultra trail runner.

running your first ultra

I’ve mentioned several times recently that I’d like to turn my focus to trail races this year. What I haven’t talked much about is that I think I’d like to do an ultra race too. It has taken me several years to work up the courage to consider running an ultra and now, as the sport becomes increasingly popular, there are more and more resources available to help me navigate through this foreign idea that I could run beyond 26.2.

Before I go any further, let me state that I’m not considering a 100-miler or anything super ambitious. Not yet at least. Mainly out of fear because of my last night trail running experience. It was nearly two years ago at Ragnar Zion. The year of the epic snow storm that forced the cancellation of the event two-thirds of the way through. It was not very pleasant and I’ve sworn off running trail during the middle of the night. At any rate, something in the 30-ish mile range would probably be a good place to start.

I don’t have a copy of the book yet but am planning to pick up a copy soon. Even cooler is that she is currently on tour promoting it and will be visiting Portland in about two weeks! Two events are planned: one hosted by Powell’s Books on January 20th and the second hosted by one of her sponsors, Patagonia, the following evening of January 21st.

There are a lot of unknowns for me this year so it is making it hard to plan ahead. Fortunately, I’ve got 51 more weeks to get something on my racing calendar! I can’t wait to read the book and begin planning my first ultra!

*Feeling lucky?*

May the luck of the Irish be upon you!

Speaking of luck… you Portland-area peeps are in for a treat! If you are heading to the Portland Shamrock Run race expo/fitness fair, I’ll be working the event tomorrow representing another Portland-area race tradition. You can find me in the Portland Marathon booth from noon to 4 PM. In fact, I’ll be wearing my 2013 finishers shirt, seen below.

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Rockin’ my Portland Marathon finishers shirt at Ragnar Las Vegas.

The expo/fitness fair is open to the public so even if you’re not registered to run the Shamrock Run, anyone and everyone is invited to attend. No doubt, you’ll get in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit!

Be sure to come say hi and learn more about one of my favorite events, the Portland Marathon! It is a fantastic race for first-time marathoner’s, boasts scenic views of Portland, Mt. Hood, and the Willamette River, offers more swag to participants than any other marathon around, and is a fun, fast course with more than 85 entertainments groups along the course! The Portland Marathon will be held on October 4, 2015.

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*Relay survival guide*

One week from today my Hood to Coast adventure will begin! I feel particularly lucky that the Mother of all Relays is right in my backyard. Almost literally. Runners will be passing near my home by less than two blocks away! However, my journey will first take me to Seattle to meet the rest of my Nuun teammates! (And you can meet them HERE too!)

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to run HTC several times over the years. Most often, I’ve filled in last-minute for someone who had to drop out due to an injury or conflict. And with what seems to be an explosion in popularity of relay type races, I’ve had the privilege of running two Ragnar relays too. You can check out what I wrote about these events by following these links: Ragnar Las Vegas part 1 and part 2, and Raganr Trail Zion.

I would nowhere near consider myself an expert on running relays but I’ve learned a few useful things over the years. This is just the tip of the iceberg though because truly, one must experience it themselves to understand how crazy and fun running a relay is. There will be moments when you question your sanity and moments that you feel elated. Hopefully my Relay Survival Guide will help get you off on the right foot!

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Relay Survival Guide

*Two weeks ’till HTC*

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a fantastic week and have lots of great adventures and runs planned for this weekend!

It has been a busy couple of weeks. I hate using that excuse but truly, I feel like it has been go. Go. GO! nonstop lately. What’s worse is that it is just going to keep getting busier in the coming weeks and I find myself already looking forward to November. ; )

Busy also brings fun though and the big countdown to Hood to Coast is on! TWO weeks!! I’m so excited to experience HTC with my fellow Nuun Ambassadors and can’t wait to meet my teammates. I had the privilege of meeting a couple of them when I went to Utah in April to run Ragnar Trail Zion, but the whole gang, whom I’ve gotten to know a little via the cyber world, seem like such a great group of people!!

My situation is a little unique. I actually live in one of the communities along the HTC route. I regularly run some of the same roads that make up the legs leading to the third major van exchange. In fact, I noticed recently that the mile markers have been freshened up.

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Mile 4 of leg 18.

I still have a lot of work to do to get ready (physically and logistically) but I’m so excited, and so grateful, to be a part of such a fantastic team!

*Zaniness at Zion*

The laughs generated by the awesome comments I received after yesterday’s post were much-needed. I wasn’t soliciting an outpouring of support but you guys sure know how to make a girl feel loved!! Thank you!!

Onward!

I’ve been eager to share what went down at Ragnar Trail Zion! I was really blessed to be able to travel down early, get acclimated to the higher elevation, enjoy some sunshine and dry weather, and spend time with my dear friend and her sister. St. George, Utah, is really beautiful and I was so grateful to have a fantastic place to stay so close to the relay site. I was very well cared for!!

On Friday morning I drove from St. George to the Zion Ponderosa Ranch. The drive forces you to literally drive 11 miles through Zion. I was really bummed about that. NOT! It is unbelievably gorgeous!! I took my time and made sure to stop for a few pics en route.

Driving through Zion to Ragnar.

The drive through Zion.

The drive through Zion to Ragnar.

Such a gorgeous trip!

Just after you exit the park, you turn off the highway and travel about 6 or so miles up into the hills basically overlooking Zion. My original plan was to pull into the off-site parking and just take my bags with me on the shuttle to the site but I missed the turn and drove right to the ranch. They were asking people to unload and then drive 4 miles back down to park for the weekend.

When I parked to unload, I realized I had no idea where to look for my team… how would I find a group of 7 people I’d never met before among approximately 3000 people and what seemed like about 3000 campsites too? To compound that, I had no cell service where I was at.  I had no choice but to get out, leave the car, and wander around until I *hopefully* found my team.

As far as the eye can see...

Camp at Ragnar Trail Zion!

I started down the road and got maybe 20 feet when I noticed a group of people unloading a car. One of the guys caught my eye. Now I’ve spent weeks interacting with my fellow Nuun Ambassador, George, but I’d never met him in person. From the pictures I’d seen on-line, the guy unloading camping gear seemed to fit George’s likeness. I asked “you’re not George, are you”? To which he replied yes!! What are the odds that we’d arrive at the same time and park within just a few short feet of each other?!?

After introductions, we carried the gear to where another team member had already set up camp complete with two tents, a canopy, a heater to stay warm when temps dropped overnight, chairs, coolers, you name it! But it gets better! Shortly after we arrived, a couple drove up on a golf cart. Another team member and her husband. As it turns out, they had rented a cabin on-site so that her husband could stay there with their 6-year-old grandson, whose dad was also on the team.

Immediately, they offered to allow us to park our cars at the cabin so that we wouldn’t have to bother with the shuttle. Sweet! They also then offered to allow us to use the cabin to shower, sleep, cook/eat or do laundry. What??? Here I was thinking I’d be “roughing it” all weekend. When we got there, which was maybe a quarter of a mile from our campsite, I realized the “cabin” is actually a log house with 3.5 baths, 3 bedrooms and sleeps 11. We were hooked up!!!!

Our first runner started at 2 PM. The camp “village” was buzzing with people and energy. Teams gathered there to send off their runners or hang out while waiting until a runner returned and it was time to switch. That is one of the unique things I really loved about the event. All team members start and finish at the same spot and run loops. It is very different from a traditional relay where you are in a van and drive point-to-point to exchange runners. It was fun to be able to hang out with all members of the team as opposed to just the teammates in your van.

The trail map.

The trail map.

This pattern would continue through the night and wrap up sometime early afternoon on Saturday. At least a week before the event, I started hearing reports that the weather forecast was not looking favorable for the weekend. On Friday afternoon, while it was overcast with some sun breaks, there was a nasty wind and a threat of thunder and lightning. The wind gusts were wicked! Since it is essentially a desert-like climate, it is very dry. Every time the wind would pick up you’d have to turn your back and bury your head in your shirt to avoid getting a mouthful of dirt. Had that been the worst of it, the event would have carried on flawlessly.

I ran my first leg in the early evening and it was a lot of fun! Very treacherous terrain though. The trails are mainly used by equestrians although some were wider to accommodate ATV’s. Either way, a little tricky to navigate. I was sucking air and felt parched but was overall pleased with my time on the 3.1 mile loop which was rated easy. Our estimated pace, as a team, was 11 minute miles. I ran the “green” loop in 30:22, averaging a 9:48 pace.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

Running aside, what was most concerning was the 100% chance of rain forecasted to reach us around 2 AM. Right around the time I’d be on the trail again. Good times. I believe I started running around 1:45 AM on the “red” loop. This loop, rated the hardest of all three, is 8.6 miles with steep hilly sections and what I heard where fantastic views… none of which I got to enjoy because it was pitch black!

As I was waiting for the runner ahead of me to return, the sprinkles started. Over the course of the hour and 43 minutes I was on the course, the rain steadily increased until it was pretty much dumping buckets. Just before mile four I rolled my ankle. Another mile or two later I fell. A mile after that I fell again. It was brutal out there!!! Despite using the headlamp and a small flashlight, my depth perception was way off. I felt like I was drunk. Not the greatest run ever. Bruised and sore, I got back before the weather took another turn for the worse finishing with a 12:20 average pace.

I was freezing the minute I finished, as was the teammate who finished before me, so we hightailed it over to the cabin to shower, get warm, eat, and hopefully catch a nap before we’d be up for round three. We were absolutely soaked, muddy, and miserable and SUPER grateful that we had solution. My heart truly felt for the thousands of people stuck with no option but to wait it out inside a tent!

Around 5 AM we laid down to grab a couple of hours of sleep. When we awoke just a few short hours later, we couldn’t believe the news we were hearing!!! While I was laying there half awake, I decided to check out updates on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. What I discovered was quite a shock. The ambassador rep from Nuun Hydration was at the event and had just posted a group picture of her team in big puffy winter jackets surrounded by SNOW! Lots and lots of it!! I jumped up out of bed and sure enough, a good two inches had fallen in the 2.5 hours I had been asleep. Her caption with the picture read: “SNOW just canceled Ragnar Trail Zion!”

This was NOT in the forecast!

This was NOT in the forecast!

Not sure what was happening back at camp, we didn’t know what to think! Finally our team members began to filter back over to the cabin to relayed the news that indeed, the event had been called due to the snow.

Canceled. Over. Done.

Our final runner on the course was on the same loop I had finished a few hours earlier. While it was light outside, the snow made it nearly impossible to see the trail or the markers meant to help guide us. The poor girl was out there for about 2.5 hours and frozen when she got back!! While it was disappointing that we couldn’t finish what we set off to do, I think the Ragnar team made a good call in cancelling the remainder of the race.

Before and after.

Before and after.

My plan all along was to stay the night after the event was over and camp out with my team. I was a little concerned about traveling back if the conditions worsened but I really wanted to stay. Plus, we had a toasty warm and cozy cabin to stay in complete with a few bottles of wine. I’m a sucker for wine, you know? ; )

And a sucker for the front porch!

And a sucker for the front porch!

I’m so glad I waited it out. The snow melted off later in the afternoon with some mild flurries off and on all evening. I had such a fantastic time bonding with my team while sitting around a propane heater watching it snow. We made the very best of the situation and I think that memory will stay with me longer than the one of the cancelled event.

Team bonding post-relay.

Team bonding post-relay.

Sunday morning we woke to blue sky! I began making my way back to St. George but took my time, again stopping several times for pictures and little walks along the Virgin River.

The Virgin River in Zion.

The Virgin River in Zion.

That view is awe inspiring!

That view is awe-inspiring!

I fell in love with the sweet little town at the entrance to the park, Sringdale, Utah. It’s a quaint tourist town with lots of cute shops, restaurants, and kindred nature-loving spirits. I had to stop for a snack and took a short walk around town before the final stretch of the drive back.

Such a great group of people!!

Such a great group of people!!

Team Captain George and I before departing.

Team Captain George and I before departing.

I would not change a single thing about my journey, the race, or my time there. Everything happens for a reason and I feel so very blessed to have been extended the invite and the opportunity to actually go. I met some fantastic people whom I hope to cross paths with again in the future. I got to spend time with a my friend and I got to experience the vast beauty of Zion. It was such a wonderful trip!!!

Rumor has it that the cabin has already been reserved for next year…

*Heal lock lacing technique*

They say that you learn something new every day. I learned a neat little trick yesterday that made me think that if it is beneficial to me, it might be to you too.

As my trip to Utah to run Ragnar Zion approaches, I’m working to get my gear in order. That means I got to go pick up my very first trail running specific shoes yesterday! I’m so excited to hit the trail tomorrow to begin breaking them in!!

Anyway, I tried out a few different brands and styles. I love Brooks and have been running in the PureFlow line for the past few years. However, I wasn’t super crazy about the fit of either of the styles I tried so on a whim, (okay, I was attracted to the color) I decided to give Saucony a try.

I immediately liked the way they felt… not too heavy but stable and supportive. And, the sole has great grip for traction! The only problem with them is that because my right foot is slightly smaller than my left, my heal was slipping a little during my test run in the store. The left shoe fit perfect with no slippage so I didn’t want to go down a half-size but I was concerned about how loose the right one was.

While I’ve seen a few sources provide information on alternate ways of lacing shoes, I never paid much attention to them. When the sales rep re-laced my shoes to created a more snug fit, my mind was blown by its effectiveness! No slipping! I rarely even use the upper two eyelets on shoes. Most often because the laces are never long enough. (Another problem that can be solved by an alternate lacing pattern.) Essentially, he threaded the laces out through the second from last (at the top) eyelet and then back in the top one before crossing it over to the other side. It makes a little loop like this:

It's like I'm learning to tie shoes all over again!

I’m learning to tie shoes all over again!

The laces are then threaded through the loop. Once they are pulled taut they stay put really well. Brilliant I say!

Snug and secure!

Snug and secure!

It is amazing how much of a difference it can make in the fit and feel. Out of curiosity, I went looking for a little more information and came across this site which explains what I learned is the Heal lock lacing technique.

There you have it! Pretty cool, right? I’m off to enjoy a quiet Saturday night. My first night home in about a week! I dressed up for the occasion too. Have a great evening! ; )

Hoppy Easter!

Hoppy Easter!