Archive | March 2013

First Trail Race

Even though I had planned to run this race, it took me until earlier this week to actually commit to running in the Knickerbocker Canyon Trail Race.  This was my first race of the season and my first trail race since I decided to become a trail runner this year.   I’ve only run two 5k trail races in the past and high school cross country races, many, many moons ago.  So, I was feeling very nervous going into the race.  I was nervous because I didn’t know the course, I didn’t know how to pace myself on the terrain, I didn’t know my competition (turns out I did know my competitor), and I knew there was one heck of a climb (I like challenges)!  Even with all that doubt, I chose to run this.

2013-03-24 Knickebocker Trail Race

I arrived with enough time to warm up and empty my bladder about 20 times (I was really nervous!)  It was pretty cold with a slight breeze.  I wasn’t sure if I should wear leggings or shorts.  I opted for shorts and was glad.  I arrived with 3 layers on top and could only peel off 1 layer before the race started.  It usually takes me a mile or 2 to warm up and I don’t like being cold so I chose to keep the long sleeves on and then tie them around my waist.  I know, not the best, but it worked.

I spoke with another gal and quickly figured out that I still had the competitive edge that I was hoping to tame this year.  I don’t think there’s a chance of taming it!  Anyway, she was recovering from an injury and was out there to have, “fun.”  She admitted that this was a hard concept for her.  Yep, I completely understood.  I thought about it and decided the truth is that I love running.  I have fun during my training runs.  But, something changes when I sign up for a race.  I don’t race for, “fun.”  That entry bib is my ticket to the pain train.  I am going to leave it all out on the course.  And chances are, it’s not going to feel good.  I work hard and that’s how I race.

We started and I was shocked at the pace. I looked at my watch and we were flying at a 7ish pace.  Ok, I can hang with this, but it’s fast.  I knew that we were going to go fast the first 3.5 miles and then basically jike (jog/hike) the climb for a mile and then work hard the last 2+ miles to the end.  What I didn’t know is how fast we were going to descend.  I was pleasantly surprised at how fast my legs could maneuver the trail.  We were quickly hopping over rocks, avoiding ditches, crossing low streams, staying clear of horse poop, and more.  I was amazed at the pace we kept while doing all of this.

2013-03-24 Knickebocker Trail Race 3

The one aid station for the 10k was at the bottom of the descent right before we started to climb.  I quickly grabbed a cup of water and I was on my way.  I had been the second woman up until that point.  However, I finished drinking and left first.  For about 5 minutes I was in the lead.  When we hit the start of the steep, steep climb, my competitor passed me.  I tried to catch her, but she was fast on the hills.  These hills were almost unwalkable.  During the ascent of “Training Hill” also known as K2, we climbed 1000 feet in a mile…….no joke!  This is definitely the steepest hill I have ever attempted to run.  We were all walking (shuffling, jogging) it the fastest we could, trying to get a few running steps in on each of the 5 little plateaus. Just in case you don’t believe me, here is an elevation map.

2013-03-24 Knickebocker Trail Race 2

By the time I reached the top, my legs felt like jello.  I knew I needed to stay strong for the last 2+ miles, but I needed to watch my step even more closely.  My legs were not responding to the rocks, roots, etc. as quickly as before.  I didn’t want to trip.

I rounded a corner and realized we were close to the finish line.  I could see the gal in front of me, but I couldn’t catch her.  She finished about 1 minute in front of me.   I feel like I gave it my all and I had fun while working my butt off!

Here are the results:

top 10

2013-03-24 Knickebocker Trail Race 4

full results:

The course was very well marked and I was able to find my way out!  I was impressed with the after race food spread they provided us with.  I will definitely race another event organized by Inside Trail Racing.  It just happens that their next race is in Folsom next month.  I look forward to it!

Happy Spring!

Today is the first day of spring.  Here in the Sacramento area, we awoke to spring showers.  I’m hoping that we get some nice sunshine in the next few days to dry out the trails.  I have a trail race on Sunday and I don’t own a pair of trail running shoes (yet).  I’d rather not slip and slide all over the place.

Spring can mean several things to people.  For me, I think of spring as a time with lots of sunshine and pretty blossoms.  I think many people will agree that spring also means MORE outdoor time since the days get longer.  It also means that it’s time to start racing for the 2013 season……yippee!


Out on the trails, I love seeing the green grass on the hills and the plants coming awake after a cold winter.  But lately, there has been one plant I’ve been avoiding…….the dreaded poison oak.  For some, poison oak is just another plant.  For many, like me, it’s a plant to stay clear of whenever possible.  I am extremely allergic to it.  Not only do I get a rash, but it blisters and itches, keeping me up at night.  It makes me miserable.


During yesterday’s run, I felt like the trail was leading me through a sea of poison oak.  It was everywhere! Since I am out and around the dreaded PO so much, I thought it was time to learn what it looked like, how to avoid coming in contact with it and what to do if I do touch it.

First, I need to recognize it.  I have decided that any sticks that grow straight out of the ground are poison oak.  However, it can also be a vine.   If I can avoid these two types of plants, it will help my chances of staying PO free.


I’m pretty sure these are poison oak bushes (pic from 2 weeks ago)

Also, the saying, “Leaves of 3, let it be,” can help me identify it.  Bushes with 3 shiny leaves are sure to be poison oak.  As the season progresses, the color of the leaves can change, making it look similar to a blackberry bush.  There is 1 big difference……..blackberry bushes have thorns, poison oak bushes do not.


“Leaves of 3, let it be”

Once I could recognize it, I began to see it everywhere.  Maybe it was better when I didn’t realize how much there was around here.

Second, stay on the trails.  I know that it can be hard to share the trail (especially single track trails) with on coming users, but I won’t step off the trail into a bush before looking (sorry).

Third, when I’m out and among poison oak, I shower and wash my clothes as soon as I return home.  I ask that my husband and son also do this after mountain biking and before they sit on the couch.  I don’t want the oil on the furniture or anywhere in the house.  And, of course I follow the same rule!

If you have come in contact with poison oak, you should wash with cold water and soap or cold water and a product called Tecnu (Tecnu also makes a preventative cream).  This will help wash away the oils.

This year I have been lucky (knock on wood).  I have logged over 40 trail runs and I have managed to stay clear of that dreaded PO.  I will cross my fingers that I continue to stay far from it.  Here are some other tips and products for treatment:

More info on how to prevent getting poison oak:

Do you know of any tricks or tips to add?  Please comment.

I hope we all avoid poison oak and continue to enjoy the trails!  Happy Spring and Happy Running.

Got Pre-race Jitters?

I’m 2 weeks away from my first race of the season (3/24) and I’m already starting to feel nervous.  In fact, it hit me last week.  I wasn’t expecting to feel so nervous so I started to ask myself why am I nervous?  I’m neither a new runner nor a new racer.   So, why do I have the jitters?

2013 nervous

I tend to analyze things (yeah, maybe I over think them) to try to calm my anxiety.  I started to think about all the positives:

  • I am well trained.  (I compared this year’s first 10 weeks of training to last year’s training.  The mileage is almost the same).
  • I can definitely run a 10k distance.
  • I love running.
  • I have been running lots of hills.  (Many more hills this year than last).
  • I have no time expectations since I don’t have much experience with trail running.
  • I am strong.
  • I love challenges!!!

Then, I was negative Nellie and listed all the fears and negative thoughts:

  • I don’t know the course.
  • This race has a tough climb.
  • I don’t know how to pace myself for a trail race.
  • What if I come in last?
  • Maybe I’m just too damn competitive.

I try to remember that I chose trail running this season to have fun and not place any pressure on myself (trying to set PR’s etc).

Comments like this one help me put things into perspective…………

“A race is simply a 100 percent effort. And a good race is one in which we find our correct effort level for that day and then maintain it from start to finish.”

If you’d like to read more about the mental side of racing, here are some great articles:

Do you get nervous before racing?  How do you calm your fears? 

It’s not all about running……..

Even though I wish I could run every day, I know I can’t.  Cross training is a simple solution for me as well as many other runners.  My body simply can’t handle the high impact of running on a daily basis.  Cross training helps prevent injury.

I have also learned that there are several advantages to cross training.  In fact, the year and a half that I trained as a triathlete, I was a very strong runner even though it seemed like I didn’t run very much.

These days, I choose to cycle on my cross training days.  I’m still surprised at how much I enjoy cycling!  It wasn’t until four years ago that I learned to cycle.  Sure, I knew how to ride a bike.  But, there’s a big difference between riding my cruiser around the block to the park with the kids and riding 50 miles at 16mph.  I started with very short rides, and I mean short.  A few months later, I had built up the courage to ride a little farther.  And, even though I had been a runner for years, I needed to build up some muscles for cycling that I didn’t have from running.  I still remember the day that I decided I was going to cycle 2 times around the lake (~24 miles).  I stopped half way and ate a snack to make sure I didn’t run out of energy.  It was only a year later that I was riding 96 miles!  Wow!  Now if I didn’t enjoy this sport, there’s no way I would have made it to that point.

2012 ADA ride snip it

It’s all a balance.  Each week I run 4 times, cycle 2 times and take a rest day.  In addition, I fit in core exercises, yoga, and stretching.  I still would like to add some strength training, but I’m struggling with this goal.  My run workouts tend to have a definite purpose while my cycling workouts are more low key workouts.  My friend and I belong to a great cycling club.  We usually make our rides very social.

There are lots of benefits to cross training.  Cycling 2 times a week allows me to maintain my cardio fitness while giving my joints a rest from the pounding of running.  It also builds different leg muscles that should help with overall strength.  In addition, I notice that I burn so many calories when I ride.  I guess my body is accustomed to running and I don’t burn as much when I run anymore (remember, I have LOTS of years of running under my belt!).  But, when I cycle, I need food!

Since it’s been pretty cold in the mornings, I have opted to hook my bike up to the trainer and watch a show or two while cycling.

20130227 bike on trainer

However, I am looking forward to getting outside and riding in the sunshine.  I’m also looking forward to increasing my ride time.  As of now, my cycling workouts have been quick 45 minute spins.  My favorite is getting out for 2 – 3 hour rides.  Last year, my husband and I got to ride together a few times.  This was a definite highlight for me!


Do you want to read more about the benefits of cross training for runners?

Do you cross train?  Which sport do you choose for your cross training sport?


TGIF!…..Another Friday and another great weekend to get outside and play.  The weather has been great lately.  It’s sure feeling like an early spring.

Each week, I’d like to share an outdoor activity with everyone.   I’m going to be sharing pictures of the trails in this area for the first few weeks (maybe months).  I’m having so much fun running and learning the trails around here that I just need to share my experiences with you!!!    I decided to rename it Friday’s Favorite Find since I’ve been exploring new (to me) areas.

20130228 sweet water

Two fellow FTR runners joined me to explore the Sweet Water Trail.  None of us had ever run this trail, but we thought we could figure it out.  I had been to the Sweet Water area once before, but this was of no help. We started off and right away made a wrong choice.  I guided us down to the lower trail closer to the water.  The water is like a magnet.  I’m continuously attracted to it.

20130228 sweet water 2

It wasn’t all bad.  Look at the view we had!

 We were able to continue along for awhile before it became unrunnable (is this a word?) and I knew that we should be up higher.  I looked around and found a place where we could cut through the bushes (someone else must have needed a cut through, too).  We found the trail and were off.

20130228 sweet water 7

I took this picture of the lower trail on our way back  from the high trail.  The trails were not very far away from each other at this point.

I was surprised to reach the end of the trail so quickly.  It was only 2.6 miles from our car to the end of the trail.  Hmmmm, we needed to add on some more mileage and we were unsure how to continue on trail.  We opted to take the road for a short bit and then start a different trail that all 3 of us were familiar with.

20130228 sweet water 5

The trail that we chose goes along the American River.  It is a bit rocky at the beginning.

It was time to turn around even though I would have loved to continue running.  On our way back, I had to stop and take this picture…….It was so beautiful.  I feel so fortunate to live here and be able to get out and enjoy the area.

20130228 sweet water 6


We were hoping to stay on the right trail the whole way back.  We were successful up until the end of the run where there was a fork in the trail.  Of course, we chose the wrong way.  Fortunately, Alisyn spoke up and said it didn’t seem right before we had gone very far.   Fortunately, it all worked out and we had a good run.

After spending the last few weeks exploring this side of the lake and river, I now know how to connect several different runs and cover a lot of distance on just one trail!

2013-02-28 Garmin map sweet water trail

Here is the map of the out and back run.  Yeah, it wasn’t exactly out and back.