Archive | June 2013

Burton Creek Trail 1/2 Marathon

I was ready for a new challenge when I signed up for this race.  Not only was this was my first half marathon on the trails, but it was in Tahoe which meant the altitude would be an additional challenge.  I live at about 800 ft and the race would be at 6300-6900 ft.  Even though the altitude would be a factor, the hill at mile 10 would be the biggest challenge.  In fact, it seems that trail running is challenging for me with all the hills.  Here’s a peek at the climbing we did in this race.

2013 burton creek trail elevation

The week before the race, the weather’s forecast was isolated thunder storms for race day.  Fortunately, as the week went on, predictions changed.  The day before the race was a bit chilly and I was worried about race morning’s temperature.  However, I awoke to a beautiful day, sunny and in the 50’s.  By the time the race started, it must have been in the low 60’s, just about perfect.

Right before the start of the race, I managed to make my way up close to the front.  The half marathoners and the 50k runners all started together.  There were about 170 runners in a pretty small area.  I was a bit nervous to get too close to the front, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t get trapped at a slower pace than I wanted to go.  The first mile was crowded and dusty as we spread out and found our own paces.

I saw the fastest group of runners take off and gain quite a bit of distance by the end of the first mile.  I had to remind myself that this was my race and not to worry about other runners.

At the end of mile 2 I felt an unexpected fatigue.  I was worried that I had gone out too fast and was paying for it already or that the altitude was affecting my breathing.  I slowed my pace and tried to figure out what was going on.  It turned out that I had just climbed a hill without realizing it.  Sounds strange to not be aware of a hill, but my friend had a similar experience.  Perhaps the beautiful trails distracted us.

2013 burton creek trail miles 0-2

I continued running while enjoying the scenery.  The ½ marathon course was a loop which meant that I got to see more of this state park than if it had only been an out and back.  The trail was wide in parts but there were also portions of single track.  We ran through pine trees, crossed wooden bridges, climbed hills (especially at mile 10!) and ran through meadows of seasonal flowers.  It’s hard to beat Tahoe’s scenery.

2013 burton creek trail pic

I’m used to being surrounded by other runners during road races and I’m finding that I can be on my own for portions of a trail race.  During this particular race, I caught myself enjoying the views instead of paying attention to where I was running.  Because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was running, I was both impressed with and appreciated the well marked course.  The course was marked with flour, ribbons and there were volunteers to assure you chose the correct trail.  I definitely didn’t have to worry about getting lost on this course.

I caught up to two runners around mile 4 and I worked hard to pass them.  Once again I was on my own for a few miles.  Around mile 6 I was thinking that I was only half way through the run and was 13.1 miles the right distance for me.  It was then that I saw the next runner that I wanted to catch.

2013 burton creek trail run pic

It took a while, but by mile 7 I caught up to her and we started to push each other.  This is where the race began for me.  We ran and passed another gal.  The two of us started our descent and were going at a good pace (~7 min mile).  I could feel my ankles working hard as I ran over the uneven terrain trying to dodge the rocks.  My legs and my lungs were strong and I enjoyed the feeling of running effortlessly down the hill.

Before I knew it, we were at the base of the hill for mile 10.  I had planned on walking the first bit of the hill and I stuck to the plan.  I used the time for a gel and water.  For the next half mile I walked and jogged and walked some more.  My competitor took off and quickly climbed out of sight.  It was a steep climb and my legs were tired.  At the top I had to use all my energy to get my legs to move again.  They were done, but I still had two miles to go.  I kept my mind strong and pushed hard.  Another runner tried to pass, but I ran faster to avoid being passed.  Finally, I reached another gentle descent and I let my body run as fast as it could to the finish.

2013 burton creek trail miles 9-11

Each bar is 100 feet in elevation

My husband, kids and a friend were close to the finish line.  I ran by my kids and gave them a hive five.  I didn’t realize until I was right about to cross the finish line that my daughter had joined me for the last few feet of the race.

2013 burton creek trail pic w Nat

My first trail half marathon was a success!  The weather was perfect, the trail was wonderful and I was pleased with the results.  I came in 6th woman overall and 3rd in my age group.  I can’t wait to run another half marathon on the trails.

2013 burton creek trail age group results

Top 20 runners

2013 burton creek trail top 20


What Do You Like About Trail Running?

I’m 6 months into my season and I was thinking about all of the changes I’ve made.  The biggest change being that I temporarily gave up road racing to become a trail runner.  When I started trail running, I thought that I would love it because it was running and it would be less damaging to my body.  Little did I know that there is a whole other part of me that craves trail running.

I love the trails around this area.  There are so many trails around here that I haven’t been able to explore all of them.  What is it that makes me love trail running so much?  Is it the fact that I’m surrounded by nature?  Even though the snakes get my blood pumping, I know they’re not the reason that I love trail running.

2013-04-22 snake pic

And, I’m pretty sure it’s not the coyotes either.  I definitely know it’s not the poison oak that attracts me to trail running.

2013-03-07 poison oak

  Perhaps it’s the deer and wild turkeys that make me enjoy it so much.

2013-05-02 wild turkeys

Seeing all the lupines bloom earlier this spring would make anyone want to run the trails.

2013-04-18 spring pic 1

The sounds of the trails are much different than running on the roads, too.  Sometimes it’s so quiet and other times the birds are very talkative.  I appreciate all the things I see and hear while trail running, but there’s something more that keeps calling me out there.

Maybe it’s the fact that I know how to find challenging trails with lots of hills? When was the last time you climbed 1000 feet in a mile?  Well, I know where we can go do that if you’d like to.  My weekly hill repeat workout is a tough workout and one of my favorites.  Even with this challenge, there’s something else.

Recently, I’ve gone on two new trails that have made me realize what I really enjoy about trail running.  The first trail was along the bluffs above the American River Bike Trail.  This made an impression on me because there is a huge maze of trails that  I had no idea existed.  I’ve run along the paved trail noticing the dirt trails that go towards and behind the brush.  Never having explored them, I had no idea that there’s a whole secret world out there.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel safe running trails by myself.  I’ll have to wait to go with a friend to do some more exploring.

Over the weekend I ran on a different trail that helped me realize that it’s not just the running that I enjoy.  We started out on a familiar trail and decided to try to get to a known area via trail.  During this adventure we ran through thistle, squeezed through a gate, ignored a “do not enter” sign, and were forced to climb a fence when we found ourselves close to the trail, but separated by the fence .  Even though we didn’t make it to where we wanted to go, the run was fun and it’s outings like these that can’t even compare to a road run.  I normally carry my camera with me, but didn’t this day.  Looking back, it’s probably a good thing that there’s no evidence of this run.

Along with being surrounded by nature, I definitely enjoy the ADVENTURE of trail running as much as I enjoy the actual running.


What do you like about trail running?

It’s Heating up Out There!

Here in the Sacramento area, it’s starting to heat up.  The last two weekends have been pretty warm.  This past Saturday, it was a scorching 106 degrees!  However, just because it’s warm it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to run.  It just means I need to be smart about it.

As a road runner, I’m used to planning my route around water sources if need be.  And, I usually don’t even carry water for anything fewer than 8 miles.  I’m not sure I’d recommend this, but I’ve just gotten used to it.  Unfortunately, trail running doesn’t always offer the luxury of water fountains.  Now as a trail runner, I will have to change my thinking and really plan for the heat.

The other weekend I went for a 12 mile run with my running group.  I was carrying 20 oz of water on my waist belt and I thought this was going to be enough for the whole run.  Ha!  Half way into the run I was almost through all of my water.  I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t prepared for the change in the temperature.  Up until then, the temperature hadn’t been too warm when I ran, somewhere in the 70’s, maybe low 80’s by the time I finished.  But, on this day, it was in the 80’s when we started.


We ended up being ok.  Thankfully, we were on some trails by the familiar American River Bike Trail and so we knew where we could replenish our water supply.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous out on the trail with the sun beating down on us and all of us out of water.  It wasn’t a good feeling and I definitely learned a lesson from that run.

The next weekend was going to be even warmer.  I wanted to be prepared for the run this time.  I knew that my waist belt would not allow me to carry enough water.  So, I decided that I needed to carry my water in a backpack.  I’ve never worn one of these on a run.  This would be a first.  The run was only a 10 mile run so I decided to carry 40 oz of water.  I figured if I didn’t like the backpack, I could survive 10 miles.


After the previous weekend, I wanted to make sure I was well hydrated.  On the way to the run, I drank about 8 oz.  It was already in the high 70’s when we started.  During the run, I continued to take small sips.  I’m used to seeing how much water I have left.  However, with the backpack, I had to use the sloshing and weight of the pack to determine how much water I had drank.  It was a hot run!  By the time we finished, it was already in the 90’s.

I was glad I had packed a cooler with additional water in it for after the run.

When I got home, I measured how much water I had left in the pack.  Guesses?????  I had very little left, ~4 oz.  For now, this pack will do.  But, I’m thinking I will need a bigger pack for longer runs in the future.  This pack also lacks front pockets to hold gels.  I ended up wearing my SPIBELT in addition to the backpack.

Don’t let the heat stop you.  Just make sure you are prepared for it!

Do you run with a backpack?  Which one do you use?

Here are some articles about proper hydration:

“Drink at least 8 oz. of water every one to two hours on your run. Wear a hydration pack or fuel belt that allows you to carry water. Plan your routes around water fountains or stores where you can refill your water mid-run,” and more.

This was taken from the article, “8 Tips for Running in Hot Weather.”


Additional sites:

A New Challenge……….

2013-06 running-challengeA new month is here and I’m ready for a new challenge.  I’m ready to take the next step in trail running (remember that I started trail running in January).  I’ll be increasing from the 10k distance to the half marathon distance.  My first race will be up in beautiful Tahoe in just 3 weeks!  Wanna join me?  I signed up for the Burton Creek ½ Marathon:

Stepping it up to the half marathon distance has been the plan all along.  I just wasn’t sure if I’d be ready.  I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to increase my mileage up to just about 30 miles a week.  I’ll still increase it a bit more before the next half, but for now it’s a decent start.  I’m also comfortable running 10 – 12 miles on the trail.  These were two goals I wanted to accomplish before the first half marathon.  So, I think I’m ready!

Because this first ½ marathon is at altitude, I’ll need to approach it a bit differently.  I’ll be going with a different attitude than my usual competitive one (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself).  I’d like the experience of running a trail half marathon on a supported course (snacks and water provided!) without putting pressure on myself.  In other words, I’d like to go out there and have fun.  Yep, I said it…..”fun.”    Don’t get me wrong, I plan on running it hard, but I won’t expect miracles since I haven’t done any altitude training.  Fortunately, this is only the first out of 3 or 4 half marathons.  There’s still a lot of time to improve.

2013-06 challenge

This entry was posted on June 3, 2013. 2 Comments