Saturday, December 31, 2011

When There's no Snow in a Ski Town

It’s a glum aura hangs around this mountain town. December has come and gone (okay, almost) with nary a bit of the white stuff. We did not have a white Christmas. Already minimal operations at ski resorts are shrinking even further, kindling a firestorm of layoffs. No one is stoked.

Except for the trail runners.

In stark contrast to last year’s winter where I’d already had two months of backcountry powder glory on my skis by this point, we’re still running high country trails. It does a bit to make up for the fact that many trails didn’t open up until August last summer.

Is this what it’s like to live somewhere where it doesn’t snow? I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in for December.

And what do the ski bums do (besides shed a tear in their whiskey over their state of unemployment) when there’s no snow? Well, mountain biking is the obvious choice, and there’s plenty of that going on. Ice climbing conditions are better than they’ve been in a decade, but that only appeals to a select group of nut cases. I gave that up when I left Minnesota! You know what’s really all the rage in the Sierra right now?

Ice skating.

Frozen Echo Lake

Usually by the time it’s cold enough for anything to freeze, it’s all buried under 20 feet of snow. But people have been making the best of an unusual winter, and the skating is off the hook. I mean, have you seen any of those pictures of people skating on Tenaya Lake in Yosemite? How can you not want to skate across that glassy expanse surrounded by massive granite domes? I am not much of a skater, but to glide across the ice in an empty, beautiful, wilderness is pretty special.

There are four or five good lakes to skate in Truckee right now, but those Yosemite pictures I saw online really captured me. I wanted to skate the backcountry.

And who could I get to join me on a trail running/ice skating Desolation Wilderness adventure in late December? I knew before I asked that Jamie would come along for the ride – that girl is addicted to those trails.

She and Anthony joined me on Friday for a 12 mile run out to Lake Aloha, although I was the only goofball with ice skates strapped to my hydration pack.

Dear GoLite pack, you have passed the test. You're going to Hardrock, baby!

We all agreed that there was less snow than there had been out on that trail in July, and the amount of running we were able to do was wonderful.

There was still a bit of ice on the trail in places though.

We did hit some snow within about a mile of Aloha, but it was still incredibly reasonable running.

The skating on Aloha wasn’t quite the Tenaya Lake glory that I had envisioned. (There is WAY less water up there this time of year.) Although the actual skating in Truckee is better, the novelty of being out there sliding around on the ice was totally worth bringing the skates. So much fun!

Demonstrating exceptional skating technique.

This entire winter break has been somewhat of a novelty for me. My mileage has been fueled a bit by some anxiety over this 100 mile race I’ll be doing in July, but mostly it’s just been a matter of opportunity. When I think about the places I’ve run in the last four days, I can’t help but smile. Four completely different runs, in different weather and conditions. I’m blown away by the running available right now, and I’m taking advantage of every single bit.

Tuesday: Donner Lake, 10 miles on road, starry skies, 11 degrees F

Wednesday: Peavine, 14 miles on dirt, 4,000' vert, partly cloudy, 60 degrees F

Thursday: Desolation Wilderness, 12 miles on technical trail and snow, partly cloudy, 37 degrees F

Friday: Michigan Bluff to the swinging bridge and back, 21 miles on trail, light rain, 46 degrees F

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peavine Mountain - Verdi Trailhead

Trail: Dirt roads and singletrack, often rocky and loose

Distance: Approximately 14 miles, depending on route, with about 4,000' elevation gain

Difficulty: Challenging

Trailhead: From north Tahoe, take I-80 east. Exit Verdi, and take the main road (hwy 40) for several miles through the town of Verdi. You'll see Peavine on your left. As the road curves back toward the freeway, look for a dirt pull-out on your left.

Season: Year round, with some snow in the winter months

Water: Bring plenty, because once the snow melts, the slopes of Peavine are dry. With no tree cover on much of the mountain, temperatures can be devastatingly hot in the summer and water will be important.

Trail Description: I was looking for some solid vertical gain and descent for my run, and I knew I would find it at Peavine. Jenelle joined in my plan to simply climb up to the summit at 8,200 feet and turn around. There are plenty of options for trails or roads to climb. Since there are no trees and the views are vast, it's easy to stay well-oriented. We weren't sure exactly what route we needed to take to reach the summit, but we weren't too worried about getting lost.

We began climbing immediately, and after a mile or so, our run melted into a well-paced hike. We were both thankful for a last minute decision to run in shorts instead of tights since the temperature felt unseasonably warm.

Depending on your trail choices, the climbs can be quite steep.

Summit shot with the dogs.

Most of the trails are unmarked, so depending how far you plan to go, it's a good idea to pay attention to your surroundings. You may also encounter mountain bikers and other trail users on dirt bikes or quads. Everyone is typically quite polite and will slow down to pass. 

The mountain was quiet for us and the views peaceful on the long haul up. We followed a similar route that is part of the Silver State 50 course, and I can tell you that it's much easier without 35 miles already on the legs! Still, it's early season, and this run was a solid workout for me for December. 

 The run back to the car was more pleasant than I had expected. It's a quad-pounder for sure, and some of the terrain is steep and loose. Somehow though, I felt great. Just wonderful.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Starting 2012 with 31 Days of Adventure

Author's note: Thanks to everyone who participated in fundraising for Heifer International by commenting on my blog. I took a cue from Nathan and doubled my pledge to $2 per comment and am rounding up to an even $40. It's going to "where most needed" for Heifer. Hooray!

I'm always on the lookout for adventure, as you know. So, when Katie over at Adventure-Inspired posted about 31 Days of Adventure, I didn't even have to finish reading her post before I knew I was on-board.

31 Days of Adventure is a project taking place this January, put on by Amy of Expand Outdoors and Lydia of Wander Lydia. The concept is simple: Each day during the month of January, they'll email you a daily adventure meant to challenge you and make your day just a bit more interesting. I have no idea what these adventures will be, but I can't wait to find out!

I explained the idea behind my blog's title in this post. The concept is essentially exactly what Amy and Lydia have laid out for 31 Days of Adventure. Adventures don't have to be huge in order to enrich our lives. Most of the time, in fact, adventure is all about perspective. Overcoming an unexpected challenge doesn't have to be an aggravating experience if you simply look at it as an adventure.

Here's an example: Last Friday was my last day of teaching school before the winter break. Believe me, it was painful keeping the kids focused that close to Christmas, but vacation was so close I could taste it! (Plus, I kept them busy by giving two tests on Friday. Yes, I am that teacher.) I'm fortunate to have a carpool partner who lives in Truckee and teaches at my same school in Reno. When we got on the freeway Friday morning, the road information sign immediately told us the highway was closed and we should take the next exit. Crap!

I steered us down surface streets toward the far end of town hoping we could take the last freeway entrance and get past the closure while Katie researched the situation on her iPhone. Turned out we wouldn't be able to bypass the closure and a hazmat clean up would keep us trapped in Truckee for several hours. Who would give my students their tests!?

We called a couple friends to discuss our re-route options and decided to take Dog Valley Road - a dirt road that would reunite us with the freeway in the hills west of Reno. It's a summer-only route that neither of us had ever taken, but with the lack of snow and my trusty Subaru, we decided to go for it! It turned our 40 minute drive into a 90 minute adventure through the mountains. Kind of an exciting start to the work day, and definitely a daily adventure. Our principal, who is apparently familiar with Dog Valley Rd., couldn't believe we made it in to work, (but we're dedicated teachers that way).

If you want to get involved with daily adventures in January, just head on over to the website and sign up to get the emails. If you have a website or blog, you can also add it to the list of participating sites.

Happy adventuring!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Memory Tree and Giving Cows

In my household, I get accused of being a pack rat. My husband gets accused of being wasteful. It's all a matter of perspective I suppose, but one thing is true for both of us: We each have a shoebox full of various items that hold memories - things that don't really seem to have a place to live, but definitely warrant keeping.

Many of my items look something like this:

See anything familiar in that stash?

Andrew's box is mostly full of ski passes, which, when 11 years worth are laid out in order, show the beautiful passage of time. Like school pictures for grownups. 

Last year, in an unusual fit of Christmasy nostalgia, we crafted all our items into ornaments for our tree. A tree full of memories. A new holiday tradition!

For race medals, I cut the ribbons off or tied them into decorative bows, and then added a hook for hanging. Voila:

Marathon PR from a loooooong time ago!

Andrew and I won this race together. And if you don't think canoe races in Northern Minnesota are competative, you haven't spent much time Up North. Apparently winning with a girl on your team was previously unheard of.

Some people like to make funny faces for their ski pass pictures.

Some medals don't require additional ribbons or adornments.

The Memory Tree

Something else we did last year, which officially qualifies as a tradition since this is now year number two, was join Nathan Bransford's Heifer International fundraiser.

Heifer is a great organization! In their own words, Heifer International is a global nonprofit with a proven solution to ending hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Heifer helps empower millions of families to lift them out of poverty and hunger to self-reliance through gifts of livestock, seeds, and trees and extensive training, which provide a multiplying source of food and income.

Last year, we raised enough at Daily Adventures to donate two flocks of chicks!

Here's how it will work: For every comment on this post between now and midnight on Christmas Eve, I'll donate $1 to Heifer International. You can tweet and share to help get more comments. I'd also encourage you to visit Nathan's post and comment over there (His deadline is 6:00 PM Friday.), as well as check out the link list of other writers involved in the fundraiser. (And while you're over at Nathan's, read this post from Monday on "How Art Changes With Us" because it's completely awesome.)

In your comment here, tell me your name, where you're from, and your wish for 2011.

That's it! Thanks for helping to support a great organization. Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Non-Jogging and the Hardrock 100

Andrew and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend this year in Portland in the company of good friends, and excessive amounts of excellent food. I made it a point to get out on a few solid runs and was blessed with some great weather. (If it's not raining, Portlanders always walk out the door and declare it to be a beautiful day, even if it's overcast and gloomy. A beautiful perspective requiring many rainy days to cultivate, I'm sure.)

A beautiful day for running in the Columbia River Gorge

I also had the pleasure of joining Russ, Gary, and Carl for a guest stint on their podcast, 3 Non Joggers. I have to admit, it was pretty fun. 

If you're interested in listening to some running talk and quite a bit of goofing around, you can take a listen to episode #51 here in iTunes

And lastly: the Hardrock 100 lottery was today. Oh wow.


It's still kind of sinking in because truthfully, I never expected to get in. I actually had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to take things a bit easier this year after all the intense training for Western States last year. 

During my experience pacing Betsy at Hardrock, I kept telling myself the race was insane (And it is!) because even in the midst of it all I could feel my hidden desires to run it. It's like being attracted to the bad boy at school - you know he's trouble, but you just can't stop thinking about him!

I hesitated quite a bit over entering the lottery because I wasn't sure if I was really ready for this race. Then I realized that adventure is about doing things that hold a bit of uncertainty, and let's face it, Hardrock for me is more of an adventure than a race.

Besides, if I waited until I thought I was ready, I'd probably never sign up.

One of my most powerful motivators is fear, and I think it's safe to say that I will have no shortage of motivation for training this winter. The excitement is slowly growing already, and I am certain this will turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Colorado, here I come! 

With Olga and Meghan in Silverton last summer.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Planning Ahead

I have to confess, I have some mixed emotions about all this race planning going on right now. My race planning, that is. I find it almost as exhausting as, you know ... racing!

I actually have a couple of spring races that I've already ponied up the cash for, so I started putting together a training calendar. Part of that process entails penciling in other race possibilities. But you know what's really crowding my calendar space?

Opening registration dates!

With races selling out so quickly these days, runners have to choose races well in advance of their registrations opening, then be sure to sign up right away.

And it's not even just those dates. It's also opening (and closing) lottery dates, plus the dates of the actual lotteries. It's simply way too much to keep track of for a girl who operates strictly on Tahoe Time. It's slightly anxiety-inducing.

Although I still haven't decided about lotteries and races, (Scott has a nice list of upcoming lotteries, if you're wondering what races I'm talking about.) I've discovered that two races I do want to enter open their registration on the exact same day. At the exact same minute. Both races will sell out fairly quickly, although exactly how fast is anyone's guess, and both open their registration at midnight on New Year's Eve. 

Really? Is that what most ultrarunners do on New Years? Stay home and hover over their computers at midnight? Or perhaps you all have smart phones, and you just sign up for races while doing shots on the dance floor with the crowd. I don't know. But I'm a little concerned about this situation.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Pocatello and TRT!

On the other hand, I do enjoy dreaming, and planning is part of that process. Scheduling all these things brings some of the same discipline and order to my life that running itself does. It tames just a bit of the chaos.

Seeing a race on the calendar, even if it's still just a possibility, inspires my training. When I'm crawling, cross country, up some steep mountainside, I think about exactly which races that training will benefit. I get excited. I have purpose. I run faster.

I grin with wicked delight.

"Good Things on the Horizon" - A scene from today's long run.

What races and lotteries are on your wish list this year?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Drama and Sport: How High School Football is Like a Good Book.

I was rolling down Donner Pass Rd. last weekend, just finishing up some errands, when I had cause to reach out and turn up the volume on the car radio. Our local station, as is typical for a Saturday in the fall, was broadcasting the high school football game. (Yes, my town really is that small.) What piqued my interest was the tone of voice of the announcers, informing the listeners that the Wolverines had been shut out at halftime. They seemed surprised. Almost worried.

I knew the team held a huge winning streak, the largest in the state, at 34 games. Since this was the playoffs, it had the makings of a good game, and when I pulled in the driveway I asked my husband if he wanted to run down to Truckee High to catch the second half. What we witnessed was one of the best sporting events I’ve seen in years.

I’ve long declared that my favorite movie genre is what my husband calls the “feel good sports movie.” I love the drama of sports. Movies like Miracle, Invincible, and Remember the Titans (all based on true stories). Nothing makes me cry like a good Cinderella-Story sports movie.

In thinking about this fact after the high school football game, I realized the real draw of sports like this to me – they have all the makings of a perfect plot. They’re a story just waiting to unfold. Drama in real life. Watching a good football game, or any sporting event, is like reading a gripping novel where you really can’t tell what kind of ending it’s going to have.

You couldn’t have created better plot structure for a story than the events that took place on the field at Truckee High that day.

You had conflict: Not only do you have one team against another, but Truckee football had the added pressure of a 34-game winning streak spanning 3 years. KCRA TV in Sacramento called them The King of California Football. More than once, the Fallon High School fans in the visitor’s bleachers took up the chant “Break That Streak!” Not to mention, of course, the winner of this game would advance to the state championship game.

There was plenty of rising action: Truckee didn’t get on the board at all in the first half, starting the 3rd quarter down by a field goal. Tension already. Then, in the second half, the lead changed hands three times. Neither team was ever more than a touchdown away from losing their lead. Andrew and I stood at the fence behind the end-zone with other late arrivals, cheering and wailing with every play. We were in solidarity with strangers with whom we had one thing in common – we wanted our team to win! With every second lost on the clock in that 4th quarter, the tension grew.

We even had an excellent false climax: Fallon scored and was up by 3 points with 4 minutes left to play. Truckee took almost that entire 4 minutes to get the ball back to our end of the field. With less than 30 seconds left, they were fourth and goal. A field goal would have tied it up, but they chose to go for it. (Well, we’re a ski town: Go big or go home!) They squeaked into the end zone with 8 seconds left on the clock. The crowd went absolutely NUTS! I mean, I didn’t even know we had enough people in our town to make that kind of noise. We picked up a 15 yard penalty for “excessive celebrating.” I didn’t really think it was excessive, considering.

And of course, the climax: “Well, game’s over, let’s get out of here.” We walked about ten yards before changing our minds. May as well watch the last 8 seconds play out. A Fallon player caught the kick-off and somehow found a hole. He was running. Flying. Streaking for that end zone. Oh. My. God.

I could imagine the radio announcers: “He’s  at the 30! The 20! The 10!”

“”No! No! No!” We all screamed. They were at the far end of the field, so I couldn’t see what happened, but the crowd’s reaction told all: The Truckee side roared in triumph, while Fallon’s fans let loose with painful moans. SO CLOSE!

But guess what? That wasn’t the climax. It was just another false climax! That is what you call some good rising action. It’s a page-turner of a story.

There was a penalty called on the play. “A late hit,” another fan told me. I looked at the scoreboard. No time left on the clock. So … did we win?

I don’t know the rules that well, but apparently the penalty called for one more play, even though no time remained. You have got to be kidding me!

The players lined up again as we all held our breaths. The Fallon players couldn’t make it happen, and once again Truckee fans roared –now with equal parts relief and triumph.
And that, really, was the resolution: Relief, triumph, and looking to the State game this weekend. All the most exciting stories end with the climax, the resolution only a footnote: The End.

 Thanks for the drama, Truckee boys. Good luck at State tomorrow!

Final Score

Do you have any favorite sports dramas?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Thy Eternal Summer, Part II

Winter has arrived. Absolutely and without question. She made her presence abruptly known when, from one weekend to the next, we traded our shorts and tanks on long runs for tights and gloves.

The photographic evidence from Saturday's long run on the Emigrant Trail in Truckee, where it was a speed-inspiring 17 degrees Fahrenheit:

Pre-run Smiles.

The Perfect Amount of Snow

Mid-run Frosty Hair

Sunshine peeks through.

Post-run Happy Glow

I enjoyed last year's summer tribute so much, that I thought I'd make it a tradition. Here's a look back, photo-style, at some beautiful moments of summer:

The Miwok 100K. This was my best race of the season. One of my best races ever. I had fun, felt strong and relaxed, paced myself perfectly, and finished faster than I thought I could. Bliss.

Me and my 5-year-old nephew, as photographed by his 7-year-old brother, during our family gathering in Yosemite. To me, this shot captures a lot of the awesomeness of this annual summertime reunion.

Western States finishline at about 9:30 A.M. Sunday morning, June 26. Eating breakfast and watching runners finish was easily the best part of the race.

Post-Western States high-fives with Brett Rivers before the awards ceremony. The Placer High School track was just a good place to be that Sunday. Good feelings all around, good friends, good community.

Betsy leads me down the trail from Virginus Pass in the last five miles of my crazy-but-awesome experience pacing her at the Hardrock 100.

At the finishline of the TRT 100 with Donald after an awesome 50 miles of pacing.

Andrew and I canoed the Carson River in July. Two days, no portaging, camping at hot springs. Wilderness whitewater love!

Silver-buckle bluegrass boogie with the Dead Winter Carpenters.

Desolation Wilderness. Any photo tour of summer would be incomplete without a shot of our favorite running terrain.

For now, I'm snuggled up by the wood stove looking forward to some snowy backcountry adventures for the next few months. It's a good time to be dreaming and planning races for next spring and summer, and remembering the best of this one.

What were your favorite races and adventures of this summer?