Friday, November 8, 2013

Ragnar Relay McDowell Mountain Trail Ultra Recap

A long time ago (for the blogging world) in October, I ran the Ragnar Relay McDowell Mountain Trail Race (Ultra Style, of course). I was hoping to run a ultra team, because a challenge is always fun! ;)
But I asked around and no one wanted to run it. They all said I was crazy. So, I bravely posted on the Facebook page for the event and got way more responses than I thought! Two guys were interested right away, Rick and Charles, and they seemed like pretty cool guys so I thought, "why not?". A few other people were interested, but they all seemed to come in two's and there was only one spot left. I then decided to post on my own page and see who would reply. Thankfully, my good Ragnar buddy Brett wanted to run it! We had a team!

When I told people that I was running on a team with two strangers, I always got the strangest looks. But people don't realize that the people that run Ragnar are always the coolest. :)  And these two were Ragnar fanatics.

I picked up Brett from the airport and then got Charles and Rick from a hotel in Phoenix. We drove to Target and picked up some much needed food supplies. Then, we drove to Fountain Hills for some breakfast before we headed over to Tent City to set up our space.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley Ultra Recap - Legs 2 and 3 + Some Fun in San Francisco

Okay, now on to my last 2 legs! Since I was a terrible photographer at night (awful photos because of all the reflective gear we have to wear and we are all grumpy and tired; no one wants someone taking photos with bright flashes at 2AM), I will combine the two legs and hopefully it will not turn out to be a super long post. :)

I forgot to post this photo on my last entry. I took it near the end of my 1st leg. It's a photo of a guy and a cat taking an evening stroll. As I ran up next to them, I had to ask him if it was his cat, because that would be super cute. He said he didn't know who's cat it was; they just meet on the path every evening and walk together. EVEN CUTER. 

A guy and his cat friend. 

 Anyway, back to my running adventures in Napa Valley! 

I remember getting in the car and driving to the next checkpoint to meet Brian. This is the only photo I got of my team passing off. No good. So I put them camera away for the night. 

I can't even tell who's passing off to who...
Oh, but there's this gem. I guess I took this while I was about to pass out, which is why I hardly remember taking it...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley Ultra Recap - Leg 1

This past weekend, I was rewarded with an amazing runcation (running vacation) adventure in Northern California. I got to run on an ultra team in the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley! It was such as amazing experience!!!
This was the first time that I really traveled for a running event. Traveling to Phoenix for races doesn't count, it's too close and in no way a vacation. So, I was especially excited to get on a plane and travel to a part of the world I have never been to before. :) I packed my bags and I packed light!! I was so impressed with myself. I should write a section on How to Pack for A Ragnar. Definitely on my to-do list.

I actually packed light!
I took the day off on Thursday and Friday so I could fly in early to San Francisco. And also, my planes always get delayed so I try to get on early flights so it won't affect me. This flight was only delayed by 30 minutes (so short!) so it definitely wasn't a problem.

Flying into San Francisco.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mt. Wrightson Ascent with TTR

I've been a little behind in updating. But I want to make sure I don't get too far behind. So much has happened in the last month! Hopefully, I will get a few posts out this week so that I can catch up. :)


A few Sundays back, I ran up and down Mt. Wrightson once again. I fell in love with the mountain when I ran it for the first time in May. It's so beautiful and very few runners show up for the the runs down there. It's too far away or something (versus the Sabino Canyon runs when everyone and their mother shows up). I love being alone when I run trails and this time was no different.

The morning of the run, it was a little drizzly outside. It made for a PERFECT run. It was so beautiful on the trail. It was peaceful with the sound of rain falling gently on the trees around me. What an amazing experience.

The forest was more alive during this visit. The rain from the monsoons had created a lush, green environment for us trail runners. And for the bears as well...there were berries everywhere! They covered the bushes and the floors And not soon after I discovered this, I also discovered there was a lot of bear poop on the trail! And I mean A LOT. I saved those photos for the end.

I felt as if running to the Josephine Saddle, about 2 miles up, went a lot faster this time. I guess I already know the trail and I had a general idea of the twists and turns. It also helped that I was "cheating". I brought my iPod with me! I know, what a terrible thing for a trail runner to do!
You're supposed to be listening to the outdoors on the trail (and possibly animals and other humans).
But music helps me think about other things instead of the pain in my lungs/legs at the time.

Josephine Saddle...and a memorial for the boy scouts
that died here in the 50's. 
The trek after Josephine Saddle was a lot slower and a little more difficult for me. After getting passed by some late-comers just before Josephine Saddle, my hopes for not finishing last were dashed. I am not the greatest uphill runner of all time, let's face it. This is something I need to work on. But I was determined to catch up with my insane downhill speed that I will bust out later on. :)

The rain had stopped and I knew where my next checkpoint was. I tuned into my music and trudged along. The uphill was getting a lot steeper and a lot harder to run. I power walked a good portion of it.

The trails were quiet and beautiful. :)


I love this part in the trail. It breaks away to show this side of the
mountain. It feels so mysterious and quiet here. 


By the time I got to this point in the trail, past the second saddle, I started to run into a lot more TTR people. They were speeding by! I was starting to get worried that I would not be able to catch up with them!

I also noticed a funny thing. Whenever I said hi to any of the runners, they looked very surprised. Like...too surprised.
I was starting to get a little annoyed. I would say "Hi! You're doing great!" and then get this look like, I don't know you...who are you? Why are you speaking to me??
They either don't remember me from the group or don't speak to people much. JK.

But no worries here! I am stepping up my game. I think I just need to be more involved. I have been going to more runs (first step) and next I will either try to RD a run or get a position within the group. Recently, an opportunity came up in which I was ALMOST able to do the latter. I just got to it a few seconds too late and unfortunately, it was snatched away quickly by someone else. :(

There is always next year. But it is hard being the youngest in this group. And it doesn't help that I look like I'm 18. I am truly trying my best and I may never be the fastest, but I will get points for having the most energy and spunk. That will get you far. Trust me. :)

Back to the trail!! I get so off topic sometimes. 
At this point, I have made it past the second saddle and I am on my way to the top!
All of the TTR runners have passed me, and I am trying to get myself to run faster so that I have an opportunity to catch up with them later on.

And finally...I make it.

Looking towards Mexico. 

I made it to the top! Again!
In one piece! Yay!

Looking towards Tucson.
You can see the remains of the fire lookout building to the right. 
It is so incredibly peaceful at the top. There is no one else with me, so I was grateful.
I stood up there, watching the rain clouds in the distance, and trying not to think about the run down.
I looked towards Mexico, and imagined running there one day. Maybe to the border? Maybe in the actual country? Oh, I would love to do that. One of my many running dreams. :)

I take a few more minutes for myself until a hiker arrives. It is time to go.
I start a little slow (it is very rocky at the top and the cliffs are high, I don't want to slide off!).
I really take off running when I hit the solid, dirt ground.
I want to catch up, so this is my time.


I decided to take the Super Trail down this time. Stupid idea. 


 I had this fantastic idea of catching up by taking the Super Trail, which I was told was a little longer than the other one. I thought it was great because the Old Badly Trail was shorter, yes, but much steeper than the Super Trail. I figured I could gain more ground if I wasn't tripping over rocks every few seconds. And I was never told the mileage on the Super Trail. When I was told that it was a little longer, I was thinking a few minutes longer. NOPE.

I was about a mile and a half longer. Yes, it was smoother, but I think that made it worse.
At point I looked at my watch and thought I should be done by now, but I was still halfway up the trail.
And then I got lost. For only a few minutes. I didn't stray TOO far off trail, but I was definitely being led in the wrong direction. That dampened my spirit.

Some bear poop for your
enjoyment. There was a TON
of this on the trail. 

Almost to the bottom of the trail!
Thankfully, I was only a minute away from the finish! I came running into the parking lot, with my hands up and some guy clapped. It was nice. I spoke to Gene (the RD) and ate some strawberries, a cookie and lots of pickle juice! I'm not much for schmoozing (especially when I don't hit my time goal) so I bid farewell and I was off.

 Time - 4:10
Distance - 12.17 miles

Overall, it was a beautiful run! I don't think I can say that enough!
I love running in those mountains. It is always so peaceful for me.
Next time, I will check out the trails AND the mileage before I decide to run them. I need to mentally prepare myself. Because if I don't (like this time) I get annoyed and upset at the end.

I wholeheartedly recommend Mt. Wrightson for everyone! Get out there and enjoy your trails!!!
Happy running! :)

Bondi Bands vs. Sweaty Bands

I have recently got into the debate about which is better: Bondi Band or Sweaty Band? 

I had such a problem, before I bought either of them, with keeping my hair out of my face and generally keeping a headband on at all. I guess I have a weird shaped head because whenever I tried a "regular" sport headband, it would always slip out. No bueno. 

Sweaty Bands/Razzy Roo Headbands

I had heard so much about Sweaty Bands that I had to give it a try. Having headbands slip out all of the time was getting old. So, one day, on my way to work, I stopped by Fleet Feet just to buy one (very hard to just buy one because of all of the designs!). Later, I tried it out on a trail run and I was impressed that it didn't slip out but still skeptical because it was just too good to be true!

Thankfully, it held up! My mom had heard me talking about them so much (our family has a problem with headbands slipping out, must be the head shape) that she bought me 4 more for Christmas! Yay!

There are some thicker ones and thinner ones. I wear whichever depending on my mood. :)

Then, I went to the RNR Arizona Marathon Expo with a desire to buy another one. I had been looking into the Disney runs so I wanted to start on my Tinkerbell costume. I was searching for the Sweaty Band booth when I found the perfect color all of a sudden at the Razzy Roo Headbands booth. 
Now, I had never heard of Razzy Roo Headbands before but all of their bands were the exact same idea (both have a velvet lining which makes them stay in place!) AND they were $2 cheaper, at the time. Now, it looks like they both are around $15. 

So, I bought a Razzy Roo Headband and gave that a try as well.
Same concept, same result. It did not slip!

Both headbands have
 a velvet lining. 

 And then I started to hear about Bondi Band....

Bondi Bands

A Bondi Band is a little different. It covers more of your head (but you can fold it back to look smaller) AND it captures some of your sweat. I was finding that on some of my long, evening runs during the summer I was constantly wiping sweat from my face and out of my eyes, while I was wearing a Sweaty Band/Razzy Roo Headband. I looked at the website (again, it's hard to just buy one, they have so many different styles!) and picked the blue and white one below. 

Magnificently, the sweat stayed out of my face...for most of the run. Since I bought the fashion Lycra instead of the Heavy Sweat Wicking band, the sweat did not get collected like it should. *face palm* 
I should have read the website a little more closely before I bought one.
But that's okay! Because I LOVE this one. And, with buying one, I received a coupon for a free one after buying 3 bands. Okay, Bondi Band, you got me. I will buy more!
Bondi Bands are priced from $5-$8. 

Final Decision

Right now, I am in love with my new Bondi Band. I love the way it looks and the way it feels! Also, it collects sweat AND keeps my hair out of my face. And the price is better than Sweaty Bands ($8 vs. $15). What could be better?
For me, the Bondi Band definitely wins this debate. I can't wait to buy more!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

30 Day Plank Challenge

I have decided that I need to make working out (not just running) a daily occurrence. I need to stop doing it willy-nilly and actually stick to it! I found this great 30 day plank challenge that I am going to commit to. 

That's right: COMMIT. 

I'm not just trying it out. This. is. going. to. happen. 

30 Day Plank Workout Challenge

Does anyone else want to try this with me? Keep me updated with how you are doing. Let me know here, on my Instagram (or username runningroundthecampfire), or on my Twitter (or username tucsnheatrunner). 


Let's go!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bear Canyon Loop (The 2nd Time Around)

Last Saturday, Kathryn invited me to run the BCL trail with her. This is one of my favorite trails in Tucson. I'm not sure why exactly, but it's a great loop.
I remember every mile of it: 5 miles is right above 7 Falls; 7 miles is above Thimble Peak and the worst hills have past, 8 miles starts the fastest downhill I have ever run; 13 miles is near the end of the trail before the road and 17 miles is the end!
I guess knowing each milestone along the trail helps to make the miles fly by. And every time I run it, I remember more. 
We started at 5:30am in the SCVC parking lot. The high was going to be in the 90's so we wanted to start out early. It would take us about 4 hours to finish and that would put us ending at around 9:30am.
  We took the trail towards 7 Falls and would come back down the main road.

5:30am - Running down the road to
7 Falls.

Kathryn, almost to the trail head.
On the 7 Falls trail, about to cross a
water crossing. So beautiful!
  The trail was so beautiful at this time in the morning. I need to get out here more often at 5:30am!

We continued down the 7 Falls trail. I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with Kathryn (running with other people stresses me out; I never know if I am slowing them down or not! Does anyone else ever get that feeling?). But then we reached the first switchbacks heading up the trail. I didn't see her again after that. She was so fast! I admit, I was taking my time and taking pictures along the way. Also, my weakness is running uphill so I need to work on that. ;)

A view of Tucson from back in the canyon. 

The canyon walls. So beautiful with the rising sun!
Looking back on the switchbacks. 

Running above 7 Falls. 
As the trail curves around, just above 7 Falls, there is a whole new canyon. I love running deeper and deeper into this canyon. You feel so alone! I usually never see hikers out this far.

The switchbacks from another view. 

Before running around the bend,
I came across this downed saguaro! Poor thing. 

A cute, little waterfall. Next time, I'd like to jump in that water!
It was hot and humid on this run! 
At the top of the trail, the highest point on the BCL,
I found someone's water stash.
You can see Thimble Peak in the background. 

The area above Sabino Canyon. So beautiful! 
 I didn't get to take any photos on the way down ( I was running too fast!). The downhill, just after this point, is such a relief after climbing for so long! When I reached the road, I jumped in the stream at every. single. crossing (it's about 5-7 water crossings). I swear, people thought I was crazy!

Definitely one of my favorite runs! I ended up finishing in exactly 4 hours. Just like the last time I ran it. I can't wait to get a PR on this trail. I am making some plans to include Sabino Canyon in some more of my training runs. I need to work on hills. :)

This run gave me some fantastic looking toenails (2 black toenails) so that tells me that I may need some bigger shoes (maybe a half size larger). I will share those photos with you later. ;)

This weekend, I am running Mt. Wrightson. It's supposed to rain and get pretty cold so I'm looking forward to an exciting run! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Surviving the Treadmill

I'm training for an ultra so the most important thing for me...

are the LONG RUNS

However, I live in the Southwest and long runs either happen at 4AM in the morning,
after 6PM, 
in the mountains, 
on a treadmill,
or not at all. 

In fact, many runners that live here tend to take their off season
during the the summer months. 
It's just too darn hot. 

A typical summer morning. 

But I don't have that option. 
I'm running my first ultra in a month. 
(Oh boy)

Anyway, I had this plan.
I was going to wake up early on a Sunday morning and go for a 10 mile run. 
But then Sunday morning came around
and I just happened to hit the snooze button....
6 times. 

I woke up, angry with myself for not being a morning person
and realized that I cannot get out of this. 
I have to do my long run! 

I decided I would go to the gym and give the treadmill another try. 

I Hate the treadmill. 
I am sorry to all those treadmill loving runners out there. 
I do not mean to offend you. 

But. I. Can't. 

I can't. 
I just can't do it. 
It makes me crazy. 
Super crazy. 
Running in one spot. 

The longest I have ever run on a treadmill is 6 miles. 
That's it. 
And I just about went insane. 

So knowing I had to give it another try = whelp. 

I got to the gym, put on a smiley face
put positive thoughts in my head 
and got on the treadmill. 

Positive thoughts. I can do this!
 Thank goodness the gym has treadmills with TVs in them. 
I think that is the most important thing for keeping your sanity on a treadmill:


This kept me sane.
Don't mind the woman in the cowboy hat,
I was watching the travel channel. 
Distraction is key when running on the treadmill. 
You have to get your mind focused on something else. 

TVs are great because there is something to look at. 
Treadmills without TVs are another story. 
I would recommend you listen to music 
or hope that your treadmill has a nice view out of a window. 

Some people I know hang a photo up
of their goal or of people that are nice to look at. 

I only got about 2.5 miles into my run when the treadmill read, "Cool Down". 
Excuse me?
Don't tell me when I need to cool down. 
I'm running here. 

Apparently, the treadmill (and I assume the gym) doesn't want you running for more than 25 minutes. 
I had to take a long walking break to start it back up again. 
And then it did it again, 0.3 miles later. 


Skip to the end of the story....I said screw this, and went to the weight room.
I got in about 3.2 miles total. 

So, no long run for me. Sad? Eh. Frustrated with the treadmill. As usual. 

Moral of the story: I will use a treadmill again...if I have to. Otherwise, I'll just stick to the roads and trails.  Oh, and I'll learn to wake up on time and forget about that snooze button. :)


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