Sunday, March 31, 2013


Official Signs of Spring:

  • Birds chirping on the morning dog walk
  • Sunny skies at Way Too Cool 50K
  • Neighbors seen raking pine needles in their yards
  • Shorts instead of tights, tanks instead of long sleeves
  • Sundays in the Canyons

Post-run glow at Michigan Bluff

Every year between late March and the end of May, I join Jamie for Sunday long runs in the canyons of the Western States Trail. This year marks the fourth in a row, and it already has the feel of tradition. Familiarity. 

If you've only ever experienced the canyons on race day, you're missing out on their best season. Absent the stifling heat of June, fresh from beneath winter snow and spring melt, the canyons come alive in April. Lush grasses, lupine, poppies, butterflies, singletrack, steep climbs, long descents, shade, sun.

The truth is, I'm supposed to be training for a road marathon - Eugene Marathon at the end of April. But really, who wants to pound out 20 fast miles on the roads when you could take all day to do 30 on the trails in the canyons? I can give up some speed on race day for a little spiritual balm from the trail.

I often find comfort in routine. The familiar can be soothing to the soul. While the Sierra high country will always be my favorite, this time of year in the canyons holds a special place in my heart. A long run stretches the mind as much as the legs, and emerging into the canyons from the snows of Tahoe is a welcome springtime awakening. 

Just another Sunday in March

What's your favorite spiritual training run?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Way Too Cool 50K

It has become something of a tradition for me to kick off the racing season at the beautiful, crowded, and fast Way Too Cook 50K. This year was much the same, except that I wasn't racing. I opted to forgo the start of last week's race, and instead spent my day cheering friends and pouring water at the Highway 49 Aid Station. 

It was perhaps even more abundant with inspiration that my years spent there as a runner.

As usual, I greeted many friends in the morning chill. Without exception, everyone wore a smile of pre-race excitement. 

Jenelle, Jamie, and Sarah ready for the fast trails of Cool.

Jill and John Trent heading to the start.

After the start, I found a beautiful spot in the trail about a half mile before the first aid station. I planted myself there, took photos, and cheered for the runners. They still looked fresh and smiley.

Women's winner Meghan Arbogast, cruising comfortably in second place at this point.

Angela enjoys the dirt and sunshine of the foothills.

By the time the last runner came through, it was time for me to head to the aid station at Highway 49 to help. This is the last aid station on the course, and I usually think of it as kind of unnecessary when I'm racing. With only 1.4 miles to go in the race, there never seems to be much reason to stop.

It was gratifying, however, to see that many people did not feel that same way. So many runners were grateful for the chance to pause, slam a coke, and grab a gel on their way through. As the day progressed and got warmer, more and more runners needed their bottles filled. Our aid station was open from 11:00 to 4:00, and I spent most of that time filling water bottles and hydration packs.

Not only did this give me a chance to greet every runner, but I got to see all my friends come through. The best part about working this aid station is that when you tell people they only have 1.4 miles left, they are incredibly happy. I received two different declarations of love from runners upon hearing this news. 

Ready for aid station hospitality!

Max King rounds the bend on his way to a new course record.

Without a doubt, a day well spent. Next year I hope to be joining my friends on the starting line, but I am pretty stoked about just being part of the action at Cool this year. I love this race.

The master of good mojo, Greg spreads the love all over the course.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Snowshoe Racing, Downton Abby, and the Iditarod

Snowshoe running: Neither for the faint of heart, nor the out of shape runner. In January, I made my second finish at the Tahoe Rim Tour Snowshoe Race. Somehow, I remember it being so much easier the last time I ran it. But then again, I suppose I was in better shape that time.

In fact, I think it was the ease and joy of the 2011 race that had me eager to return, and of course I had Jamie in tow this time as well.  What’s the fun in tromping through powder with tennis rackets on your feet if you can’t do it with your best friend? Unfortunately, for this year’s edition, we’d both run long just the day before, but I thought it would be a good way to get my winter ass back into shape. Ha! Well, it was. Depending on what you mean by “good.”

This is what it looked like at the start. Do you see anyone without skis on their feet? Yeah, me neither!

Ready for a long day on beautiful trails!

Here's Helen, getting ready to ski away from us at the sound of the gun.

Fortunately, the conditions were pretty firm, and we set a conservative pace early. This was a good move, since we certainly didn’t feel like it was easy at any point. Snowshoe running for me isn’t so much about going fast as it is about focused coordination: Don’t step on your own shoes (or your friends), don’t kick your ankles (Ouch!), and don't forget to point your toes on the downhills. 

The course, starting in Tahoe City and finishing at Northstar Resort, has a solid climb over a mountain pass. Not easy. We enjoyed incredible scenery and were happy to find some downhill running in the later miles.

Jamie, tearing up the downhill.

We finished exhausted and happy in the bright Tahoe sunshine. Thirty minutes slower than in 2011 and with our snowshoe craving sated for the year.


In February I joined many of the wonderful women of my family for the second annual Snowshoe Jamboree (aka “SnowJam”) in Arnold, CA. It’s ladies’ weekend at the cabin, and we always have so much fun.

More snowshoeing? Okay, count me in!

This year, my sister and I spent the first morning skate skiing at Bear Valley.

View from the summit!

Skate skiing is hard work!

I also learned about the quaint little town of Murphys, which was just a short drive from our cabin. If you like wine tasting, you will appreciate Murphys. The whole main street was packed with tasting rooms, and we had a grand time exploring. Perfect for ladies weekend!

A lovely afternoon in the tasting room at the Frog's Leap Winery.

See why it's perfect for Ladies' Weekend?

They sort of have this thing about frogs in these parts, especially the jumping kind. These two were just hanging out though.

On day two we went snowshoeing around Lake Alpine. The weather could not have been better!

Yosemite Gals at Lake Alpine.

With Mom and Sister.

I'm already looking forward to next year's SnowJam!


This weekend will see one of my favorite races take place: Way Too Cool 50K. I’m signed up for it, but I’m not sure I’ll be at the starting line this year. The prospect of not running it makes me mighty sad, but I still have some lingering health questions to answer for myself. I’d like to get those things figured out before embarking on any serious races.  Part of the reason I haven’t committed to the DNS is because I just can’t face it. I love this race!
We’ll see how the next week plays out, but either way, I will certainly be there. If I don’t race, I’ll be volunteering at the Highway 49 aid station, cheering you all that final 1.4 miles to the finish. My advice if you’re running Cool? Make friends and have fun. It’s a big race, and the upside of that is that you’ll get to meet a lot of great people. Ultrarunners are pretty cool folks (no pun intended).


And in extremely important non-running-related news, I burned through the entire second season of Downton Abby in three days last week. Based on the spoiler-y comments on Facebook, I have decided that I will not be watching season three. This is where it ends for me. As far as I’m concerned, there is no season three. Aside from the fate of poor Mr. Bates, (who, let’s face it, as the story’s martyr, is pretty much doomed), everything seems to be resolved quite nicely, thank you very much. The End.

And it occurs to me that this must be a particular challenge of writing for a television series – you never know just exactly when your story is going to end. If Downton Abby were a book or a movie, the end of season two would be a pretty solid ending. I mean, (Spoiler Alert!) the war is over, Sybil’s made her break, Edith has had some growing experiences and is more mature (less of a bitch), Anna and Mr. Bates are together (okay, sort of), and Mary and Matthew … Well that took long enough, didn’t it? It was very Pride and Prejudice. But nonetheless, resolved.

When you’re writing a book, you know exactly when it’s going to end, and you create your story arc to arrive there at the right time. Even in a series, if you were writing, say, seven books. You know that it’s at the end of book seven where either Harry or Voldemort is killed by the other. You wouldn't write that part into book five.

In TV, it seems that it’s more like, “Okay, we might get cancelled so maybe we’ll resolve this storyline, but leave these others hanging in case we do run next season.” But then if things are too resolved and the show does run for another season, they have to reopen old storylines, or invent some new ones, and eventually it all starts to feel rather ridiculous and contrived. I mean, how much drama can one family really go through?

So, anyway. Downton Abby. Only two seasons. End of story. (Unless there’s a season four, and it really rocks. Then, someone call me.)


And lastly, the 41st Iditarod started this week! Once again, my 5th –grade students and I are following the race, learning about the history, and each choosing a musher to track online. Many of my students’ mushers are already in the top ten, so they’re pretty excited.

Last year, I chose to follow Dallas Seavy. Despite the fact that there were six past champions in the race that year, Dallas pulled out his first win as the youngest person ever to be Iditarod Champion. Of course I spent the last 3 months of school bragging to my students about how my musher kicked all their mushers' butts. 

I always give the students first choice of which musher they want to follow. This year, even though no one chose to follow Dallas, (I need to teach them better research skills!) I picked Aliy Zirkle. I still kind of think Dallas is the one to beat, but there are a lot of strong dogs and experienced mushers out there. Aliy is smart, has a strong kennel, and could definitely pull out the win! (I try to tell my students that it's not about choosing the winner, but it's hard not to want to see your musher first to Nome!)

If you’re interested in a silly thing like long distance foot races, you can check out the updates on The Iditarod Trail Committee also has a Facebook page, but I have found the best updates so far on Dallas Seavy’s Facebook page.

Happy running, doggies (and everyone else out there)!

Zoya DeNure's team at the 2011 Iditarod (Photo by Dana Orlosky)