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Sunflower Marathon Race Report

Last weekend Cascade Endurance athlete Laura Larson ran the Sunflower Marathon, in her hometown of Mazama. She's an editor by trade, so you're in for a treat with this awesome write-up: grab a cup of joe, and enjoy.

As I zipped down Highway 20 toward Twisp, on my way to drop a car at the Sunflower Marathon finish, I was treated to a spectacular early-morning view of Gardner. Rising above a cleft in the green hills, the snowy peak was practically glowing in the low sun, the shadow of a nearby ridge slicing a dark line across its wide alpine mass. Closer, I could make out the familiar bright bursts of yellow dotting the hillsides—the clusters of arrowleaf balsamroot that gild the slopes of the Methow Valley in spring. I’d be running through this golden profusion of sunflowers in just a few hours.

I parked among the cow pies in the grassy finish field and caught the shuttle, a Methow Valley school bus, back to the race start in my hometown of Mazama.

Put on by Methow Trails (formerly the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association), a local nonprofit dedicated to maintaining around 120 miles of winter cross-country ski and summer trails in the valley, the Sunflower Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay has grown over its 37-year history. This year saw over 700 participants—more than three times the size of the official population of Mazama. When I first joined in the fun, in 2010, the event was small enough for the post-race ceremony to take place at a local pub, and you were almost guaranteed a raffle prize. Now the post-race ceremony is over loudspeaker in the finish-area pasture, and you probably won’t win any swag. But the easygoing small-community vibe persists.

Most run the Sunflower as a relay, with team members taking on one to four of the five legs. The first time I ever participated was as part of a team of four. I took the fourth leg, which starts with a stout climb up to the lower Sun Mountain trails before heading toward the Pine Forest neighborhood. I thought my legs and lungs were going to explode as I neared the exchange, and it was with immense relief that I slapped our anchor runner’s hand. Then I saw my husband, Kyle, giggling. He pointed behind me, and I turned to see a dad flanked by two little girls, all holding hands and skipping and smiling their way to the same aid station. I’d barely finished the leg ahead of this trail running family von Trapp; I couldn’t fathom surviving the full marathon.

The next three years I ran the second half—the final two legs—as part of a team of two, with a different partner each year. As the course became more familiar, the notion of running both halves started to seem less audacious. And when I crossed the finish line in 2014 after 26.5 miles and in just under four and a half hours, so much more seemed possible.

I skipped the Sunflower in 2015 in favor of the Sun Mountain 50K, but decided to sign up for the full again in 2016. On race day that year it spiked to an unforgiving 90 degrees after weeks of mid-60s pleasantness. Having made the mistake of carrying only a small hand bottle, I quickly became dehydrated and overheated and couldn’t get enough calories in. Every slight incline on the exposed final leg hit me like the final meters up some Himalayan behemoth; I was over it before it was over, but I forced myself to finish. It wasn’t pretty.

This year, with the gifts of significantly cooler temps and a firm tailwind, I hoped to set a new PR and maybe break 4 hours. Four months of Cascade Endurance coaching with Alison fueled my confidence, making the goal seem less shoot-for-the-moon-y than it had in previous years. My plan going in was to do the first half in 1:50, leaving 2:10 for the more challenging second half. The toughest part would be not going out too fast—a hard sell for the ego on the first 2.2-mile leg, where small children inevitably stream past, huffing and puffing their way toward their team members at the first exchange.

Just before 8 a.m., I wove to the middle of the starting pack with my neighbor Julie, who was running the full race for the first time—and her first marathon period. The race kicked off, and I settled into a quick-yet-relaxed pace along the wide trail (part of the winter cross-country ski system). As expected, kids bounded by, ping-ponging unpredictably across the path, stopping abruptly to tie a shoe or wait for a lagging friend and then sprinting off again just as suddenly. This swarm of gangly youngsters thinned after the first crazy exchange by Goat Creek Sno-Park, and my only hiccup during the 5.6-mile second leg involved accidentally dropping my pack when I awkwardly tried to remove my jacket and stow it while still running. Inefficiency at its best.

Due to a long, heavier-snow winter and an impressive thunderstorm just a few days before the race, the course was much wetter than usual. I encountered this for the first time as I neared the second exchange, where race organizers had to install temporary bridges over a couple particularly aggressive new streams. I did my best to dance over and around the muddier sections here, but it was a losing battle.

The first hilly stretch, along bike and ski trails hugging the foot of Virginia Ridge, arrived at mile 7.8, right at the start of the 5.4-mile third leg. My legs, having settled into the mindless rhythm of flatter running, took about a half mile to warm to these new ups and downs. There’s nothing sustained in this section, but a few steeper inclines tax the calves and quads. Whenever fresh-looking runners flew by me, I had to remind myself (and my ego) that they most likely weren’t in it for the long haul. This wasn’t always true, but I wasn’t going to start chasing anyone just yet.

Toward the end of the third leg, you come out of the treed trails and cruise down a Forest Service road to the halfway exchange. I felt good here and took the opportunity to fuel up before the coming climbing. I hit halfway at 1:59, nine minutes slower than my goal pace. Four hours was looking less realistic, but a PR wasn’t out of the question.

To begin the next 6.7-mile leg, I ran/hiked up a short, steep grade to Sun Mountain’s Black Bear Trail, then maintained a consistent pace for the next view-laden mile to the junction with the Winthrop Trail, just before the Patterson Lake Road crossing. It helped that four runners had settled in behind me, conga style, but didn’t want to pass; the pressure of their footfalls along the balsamroot-lined singletrack kept me motoring. We merged onto the wider Winthrop Trail, where they thanked me for pulling them along and then slingshot around me, charging off toward the Patterson Lake Trail.

(the lake trail is on the far side of this pic. photo courtesy of Jen Schumaker)

(the lake trail is on the far side of this pic. photo courtesy of Jen Schumaker)

I continued at my own pace along Patterson Lake, uncommonly frothy on this windy day, and then onto more dirt roads, feeling stronger and stronger as I neared the Frost Road hill. This hill is arguably the mental and physical crux of the whole course. It’s not long—maybe a half mile—but it’s steep, and you can see runners inching up it from a ways off, allowing it to intimidate from afar. At about 20 miles and just over three hours, I cruised past the aid station/exchange at the base of the climb and headed up, not walking but not exactly running either, instead doing my best “rest-step” shuffle (which on my short legs is often faster than a power hike). I was now on the final 6.5-mile leg.

 At the top I encountered the second crazy-muddy section of trail of the day—a massive swampy area, basically one giant puddle, that was impossible to skirt. So I plunged sloppily through, then pressed forward, feet squelching, along the dirt road leading to what I thought was the final aid station. There, I zigged sharply back left onto a private road for the final 4.5 miles, which alternate through open, flower-filled grassland (boggy this year) and charred forest. Unlike the previous year, my legs didn’t protest at the slightest uphill and my mind didn’t mutiny, fried by the uninterrupted sun.

A fun surprise came around mile 25, when an unexpected aid station crewed by hyper-enthusiastic students from Seattle’s The Bush School appeared around a bend in a blaze of blue and a blare of cheers and clapping. “Yeah, 73!” cried out a lanky teenage boy who ran alongside me for a couple meters toward his friends. Their excitement gave me an added boost, though I mentally willed them to stop telling runners it was “all downhill from here,” because I knew it was not.

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But soon the downhill did come, and I charged as best I could without skidding out on the sandy tread. One mile later, after a short, unsteady stretch along what felt like a cobblestone street to my taxed muscles, I crested the final uphill into the grassy finish chute. I stopped my watch when I crossed the line, where Alison was handing out finishers’ medals. She grabbed my wrist to look. “4:05! Awesome!” Not quite my goal time, but also not too far off—and 19 minutes better than my 2014 time, 22 minutes better than 2016. I melted quickly from go-go-go race mode into post-race elation, hugged my husband who was waiting at the end of the chute (he’d finished the half marathon an hour before), and eagerly recapped the morning for him. Julie, our neighbor, came in not long after, exhausted but thrilled with her achievement and expanded by that new sense of the possible.

Looking back over the race, there isn’t much I would do differently. Sure, I could always be stronger and more assertive on the hills and speedier on the flats, but that’s a matter of additional training and preparation. When it came to using what I had on tap, I feel like I gave it my all; next year I’ll return with extra reserves. Thanks to the cooler weather, I was able to stay properly fueled, and having my hydration vest encouraged me to drink early and often. But no advantage beats that tailwind at my back, which carried me more swiftly to the finish than I ever thought possible.

 A note on distances: I’ve given the leg distances here as Methow Trails provides them, but according to my Garmin watch these are slightly off. My watch gave the total distance as 26.7 miles, which is 0.3 mile longer than what the Methow Trails distances add up to.

Great job, Laura! You can find her at the Sun Mountain 50k this coming weekend-good luck!

 

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Gorge Waterfalls 50k Report

Below is Jaime Clark's experience at this year's Gorge Waterfall 50k, where she placed fourth in a competitive field.

Connection
Compassion
Vitality
Peace
Play

    Thanks to a session with Amy, my friend and trained Life Coach, I’ve discovered my essence words. Words that represent me, not because I strive for them or consciously work on being a certain way, but those words are me. I show up with them. They are a part of me. As a part of the exercise, I had to ask my friends “what shows up when I do?” (a terribly, embarrassing and amazing experience). Feeling little high after their positive words while on a walk, I thought “wait...why try so hard then? Why so afraid? Why desperate for approval?” I CAN DO ANYTHING!”
    That brings me to Gorge Waterfalls. For me, races are all about the journey it took to get there. My training was going really well, and thanks to my amazing, creative coach and friend, Alison, I was increasing my training load a bit. I had several good 20 mile runs, started do some heavy lifting again, and even did a killer 6x1 mile repeats on the track. Then came cascade of illness, job insecurity, and low motivation. I tend to have one of those fucked up runner’s mentalities that if I haven’t run in a week or GOD FORBID 2, life is over/pointness/runner status is gone forever. Without running and feeling sick/low energy, I took long baths, ate a lot of Pho, and re-discovered Buffy (just in time before Netflix banished it). Looking back, I just rested a lot, and my body needed it. At the time, I was kinda miserable.
    The week of the race I was feeling even more exhausted and my self doubt level was very high. I would go out for a short run and after a few miles I was basically crawling home. I can’t fully express how shitty I felt. It reminded me of when I was trying to run in 4th grade while stocky and fully asthmatic (a word I still can’t spell). The Friday before the race I had a slow, easy run with Shelley, who is basically another life coach and always makes me feel better. Then Alison gave me a pep talk, and I started to suspect that a lot of my fatigue was mental and that come race day everything would just come together.
    It will all come together.
    My mantra worked, and 6 miles in I realized my legs felt strong enough and my breathing was a-ok. So I stuck with a pack of runners that seemed to be relaxed but strong. I’m always worried that if I push too hard in the beginning then I’ll experience the dreaded “wall” and then I’ll collapse, fail, and be left on the trail forever. But over the winter I read “How bad do you want it?” by Matt Fitzgerald, and my new goal was to push a bit harder and see what happens.
    So for the first 10 miles I hung with a woman who was setting a great pace, maybe a bit more aggressive than I would normally go. The only trouble I was having at that point was that every time rocks appeared on the trail, I ran over them like a drunk person, and turned my right ankle like 5 times. Thankfully, I’ve got weird ass ankles, and with all the turning I’ve done, I’ve never sprained ‘em. The another problem was it was warm, sunny and beautiful and I needed to lose my rain layer...which I ended up regrettably giving to a lovely, attractive volunteer, and it ended up somewhere in trail heaven. RIP expensive/well designed/patagucci jacket: we had a good two months together.
    Around mile 15 I ran into my friend George, who is a badass mountain runner who inspires me always, and he told me I was 5th. Which was my secret goal, to get top 5.
    At around 18/19, we were running on the road, which reminded me that my ankles and hip (hips?) were a bit stiff. The woman I was following slowed quite a bit, and I was running with a few guys, one who made a lovely comment about the brilliance of Beyonce while eating (slurping?) the new GU flavor LEMONADE. Started thinking about her music video "Sorry," and was reminded of my favorite part where she sings “NANA HELL NO.”  NANA HELL NO. Another good mantra.
    Then around mile 25 at the last aid station, I felt good, like really good. I was going a bit harder, and then the last climb hit, and I had to hike up a bit. But I still was able to pull away from the guys I was with and passed a few more up the hill and down. Some of the down hill was paved, and I felt like a boulder smashing pavement with every step. Which was an scaring image that I literally woke up to post-race.

Great job, Jaime! Next up for her is the Sun Mountain 50k in a few weeks-good luck!

 

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Vertfest 2017

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Vertfest 2017

Our athlete Holly Davis runs in the summer, and skis in the winter. She won our Loup Loup race (pictured above), and went on to two more victories. I'll let her take it from here.

The nervous anticipation for Alpental Vertfest was a little unbearable this year. Probably because I have been training with Alison (Cascade Endurance) since like last July, right after I plunked down way too much money for a full skimo racing set up. It was meant to be- skis, boots and bindings all in my size on steep and cheap for 50% off - I couldn’t not afford them! Vertfest would be the true test to see if I really was in better shape, because I have raced the same exact course several times before and would have something to compare to. I trained and ran all Fall, including my first 25K. This training regime of running very slowly, with no intervals until right before a race, had me quite skeptical that I was truly improving my fitness by any noticeable margins. I had meltdowns over feeling guilty for training too much and not spending enough time with my six year old son, Eli. Was this worth it? The week before the race I bought skimo race pants, new gloves, and a water bottle with a straw. If I was into it this far, might as well go all the way.

I did a pre-run of the course the day before the race. The Alpental course is made up of two climbs and two descents, with a combined total vertical gain of about 4,100 feet over 5 miles. It is primarily in-bounds, and includes International, the infamous double-black diamond that can be quite heinous at times (which is favorable for me). You would think that skimo racing is all about the vertical and who can climb the fastest with the biggest lungs, but transitions from climb-to-ski and vice versa, as well as your ability to descend (fast) while your legs are fried after a climb, plus descending on flimsy, lightweight race gear, can be the difference between 1st and 2nd. I have always had the ability to descend fast, but have needed some improvement in aerobic capacity on the climbs, as well as more efficient transitions. Lightweight race gear also makes a big difference. I don’t know how much time it shaves off, but I estimate my new gear is 3-4 lbs lighter than the set up I used in the past. Then there’s the transitions. This is the switch from climbing to skiing, and vice versa. My routine from climb to ski goes something like this: about 30 seconds before I reach the spot where I will transition, I pull both hands out of my pole straps and put both poles in my left hand. Get to my spot, bend down, and after placing poles on ground, switch both my boots to ski mode. While still in crouched position, switch right binding to ski mode, then left binding. Then, very careful to not let either of my boots lock down into my bindings yet, grab left skin from tip of ski and rip off (preferably in one fell swoop). Lock left heel into binding. Stuff left skin into jacket. Bend back down and rip right skin off, throw into jacket. Grab poles, put goggles down (which are on the helmet, to prevent fogging on the climb up). Take off down the mountain. The pros can do all this in about 10 seconds, but I am closer to 30-40 seconds.

I get to the day of the race and lined up at the start with some of my closest friends and best skimo pals - Heather, Anne Marie and Andrea. Tim from Snow Troopers was out with his video camera doing interviews. People talking to me….eek!……I’m nervous! Gun goes off, I start running up the hill. As we get up to the first steep pitch under the chair, I wait for myself to blow up, as always happens because I start off too fast. Waiting. Breathing hard. Get to the front of the pack, first 10 to 15 folks out of 150 or so. Still waiting for the anaerobic blow up. Made it to the top of the first pitch, holding strong. There are a few strong guys around me in heavy gear, who I would eventually pass for good by 15 minutes in. Still feeling good. I notice there is one girl ahead of me - Katarina Kuba from the Canadian National Skimo team. If I can just keep her in my sights, treat her as my carrot. Make it to the first bootpack, still have her in my sights. Get past the second bootpack and see that she is 1 to 2 minutes ahead of me and close to the top of the first climb at the top of chair 2 (International). I get to the top and have a smooth transition. Pete one of the ski patrol tells me that Seth (my husband) is just a couple minutes ahead of me. That’s my man! I take off. Dive into International and go for the middle line like I had pre-skiied the day before. Hop into Snake Dance, fly through the cat track, then can see Katarina making her way down through the icy gut just above the old Poma lift. I blow by her. Yes!! Then fly down the groomer on chair 3 to the bottom for the next transition, hearing Anne Marie’s kids yelling for me. Then I see Tim, who videos my ski to climb transition, also smooth (see video). No time for water, must get a bigger gap on Katarina. Skins are on, boots in bindings, and I take off. Now up through the trees for the 2nd and final climb. At one point I try to take a sip of my Perpetuem water and just about pass out from gasping for air (I set a new heart rate threshold during this race - average 177, max 186). I look back every couple minutes, and by half way up this final climb I do not see her at all. Get 3/4 of the way up and pass four Patrol - they are so amazing in their cheers and keep my spirits high for the last 15 minutes of climbing. Get close to the Knoll 1 turn around (top of the final climb) and can hear tons of women yelling for me from the checkpoint gate. I am grinning ear to ear, knowing I’ve got this barring any major mechanicals. A 3rd and final great transition, then I’m off to ski through some powder, back into International and then Snake Dance, down chair 3 groomer, and across the finish line. Seth is there to greet me. I am elated. My time was 1 hour 43 minutes, a full 11 minutes faster than my previous best time in 2014 of 1 hour 54 minutes. OMG!!!  3 years older and 11 minutes faster. This was exactly the proof I needed that all that training really was worth it, along with the investment in my racing gear. Looking forward to help grow this sport in the Pacific Northwest! Here is a link to Tim’s video from the race:

Thanks for the write up, Holly, and congrats on a great race!

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Forcing Spring/La Sportiva Task Hybrid Jacket Review

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Forcing Spring/La Sportiva Task Hybrid Jacket Review

Enjoying the moody sky, on a warm-ish afternoon. Look ma, no hat!

Enjoying the moody sky, on a warm-ish afternoon. Look ma, no hat!

Spring has sprung, in some parts of the world. Here in Mazama, it's dumping snow as I write this, but we've had some warmer afternoons that have inspired me to find some dirt to run on. I've been doing much more skiing this year than running, which has been fun, but I do miss the simplicity of running. When March hits, I get spring fever; or maybe I like doing a sport I'm better at...

In any case, the sun was out, dogs and I were hankering for a run, and I knew some roads had melted out. Melted out, yes. Dry? Not by any means: mud season has begun.

About 2 minutes into our run.

About 2 minutes into our run.

What happened to the sun?! Hood to the rescue.

What happened to the sun?! Hood to the rescue.

It felt pretty warm as I got out of the truck, but not warm enough to go without a hat and jacket. Since I didn't have a hat, I was glad to have the hooded La Sportiva Task Hybrid jacket, but figured I'd get too hot, since it has a light primaloft layer in the front. Instead, I forgot I had it on, in the best way possible: it's light enough that I didn't feel it at all; the fit is perfect ensuring no weird rubbing or bunching, even with the hood on and it zipped all the way up (creating a balaclava); and it's noiseless, something my sensitive ears really appreciated. Then, when the weather turned as it almost certainly does this time of year, I was perfectly comfortable, despite the wind and cold.

Happiness is a husky or two sliding around in the snow; just ask these two.

Happiness is a husky or two sliding around in the snow; just ask these two.

A new mainstay in my running pack-perfect for long adventures when the weather turns awry.

A new mainstay in my running pack-perfect for long adventures when the weather turns awry.

Other features I dug:

  • Fuzzy, fleece-lined pockets
  • The jacket stuffs into said pocket
  • Long zipper pull, with a tab. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but I hate futzing around trying to find where to pull the zipper, especially with gloves.
  • Long enough in the torso and arms. I am often between a small and medium, but with the European sizing (read small), the medium fit perfectly, even with longer appendages, without being loose. This is the first jacket that I haven't wished had some other fit in at least one part of my body.
Changing skies.

Changing skies.

Technically this is a skimo jacket, and I can see how it would be awesome if you're getting after it at a race or a hard workout. I should know better than to try to force anything, especially when it comes to nature so with all the new snow, I'll likely submit to skiing again and try it in that capacity. The climb I did in the middle of the run certainly will be more fun to ski than run, and it's looking like a backyard powder day is coming soon.

Looking out my living room window right now.

Looking out my living room window right now.

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Loup Loup Ski Ski Mo Mo Race

Whew! We had a blast at our first ever Randonee race at the Loup Loup Skibowl. When we came up with the idea to have a race at the Loup, we hoped to have a low-key event with fun vendors and participants, and we got exactly that. The folks at the Loup were really helpful and seemed as invested in a successful event as we were, offering their help leading up to and on race day, and also giving us some good ideas for the future. Our friends at Pinnacle Sales NW, Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies, and Black Diamond, all were there to share their enthusiasm, offer demos, and provide support and prizes. Finally, all the racers were friendly and got after it. A few guys warmed up with the three-lap race, then went on to do five more, giving us some good ideas for next year...

Thanks to everyone for making it better than we could have hoped. We'll see you next year! Results are here.

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Mazama Strength Classes

The time has come...strength classes in Mazama! We're working with the Mazama Country Inn to bring you mountain strength classes at the Mazama Athletic Club, behind the Inn. Starting February 1st, we'll have specifically designed classes to make you stronger for your days outside, and mix things up so you're not bored from your current routine. Plus, sweating is always more fun with others!

Options abound:

Mondays and Wednesdays: 6:30-7:30pm

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10-11am

Mondays and Fridays: 7:30-8:30am

More info here. See you soon!

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Back to Winter

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Back to Winter

Winter is my least favorite season of the year. Curiously I chose partners in both the human and canine variety who live for snow. Having Sam and Nikki help, but after six years of running through sub-zero temps, moving back to Seattle meant excitement for snow-free trails and capris (my favorite running attire) all season long. But after we moved, a strange thing happened: I missed winter almost more than anything else. There I was smugly minding my own business in the days leading up to the typical snow time, looking forward to week after week of trail runs, when Mazama got the winter's first dump.  I couldn't believe how much not having to shovel snow, wear a million layers, and be perpetually cold, affected my sense of time and overall enjoyment of the season; my snow-loving family rubbed off on me more than I knew. I can compartmentalize with the best of them, so the next year was better, but now that we're back, can't wait for the white stuff: just like the rest of my family.

There's a small loop that some wonderful people are keeping prepped for Nordic skiing, but there are only so many times I can ski the same one kilometer lollipop loop (never mind the fact that I am VASTLY out of ski shape), so after a quick skate today, Nikki and I took off to check out the adjacent meadow. Despite no views, we got a good taste of the winter ahead.

Heading into the fog.

Heading into the fog.

My four-legged partner in crime. Check out those paws!

My four-legged partner in crime. Check out those paws!

This actually was a pool of water that was gurgling away, but of course the picture didn't quite turn out as I was hoping.

This actually was a pool of water that was gurgling away, but of course the picture didn't quite turn out as I was hoping.

Meandering through the meadow.

Meandering through the meadow.

Heading back, following my favorite husky (for a little while longer...).

Heading back, following my favorite husky (for a little while longer...).

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Running and Art

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Running and Art

I first met Perri virtually through the wonderful community of women runners, the High Heel Running Group when we both lived in Seattle. I later heard that she was the artist in residence for the Confluence Gallery, and was secretly a little envious that she was able to be in Twisp. I then saw her art, and was blown away. Now here we are at least a year later, and we both are living in the Methow. I couldn't wait to connect with her to see how we could combine our interests of art and running. Lately running has been a creative outlet for me, and while I used to take art lessens growing up, I haven't picked up a sketchbook in over a decade. After returning to the Methow, I've been eager to use the medium of art to connect movement and place, and Perri is the perfect teacher for that.


Our landscape for inspiration.

Our landscape for inspiration.

Join us for an exploration of movement and creativity, combining trail running and drawing. We'll meet at Velocity Made Good (VMG), Perri Howard's art studio at Twisp Works, then head outside to move our bodies through the landscape where Alison will share her favorite trail running tips.. This will be followed by journaling and landscape drawing, inspired by our local terrain.  The run is a mix of running and hiking (think movement-this is not about seeing how far or fast you can go). Moving helps creative juices flow and adds a different perspective than stillness. A healthy, delicious lunch is included, and will be provided after the run back at the studio. All supplies are included. Sketch kits to take home with you will be available to purchase for an additional $30.

Fall Field Day

Who: Anyone wanting a new perspective on how they see the world and the beautiful landscape we inhabit. Limited to 12, so sign up to save your spot!

What: Fall Field Day: Running and Art with Alison Naney and Perri Howard

When: Saturday November 19, 2016 9-4 (coffee and goodies available at 8:30 and lunch provided from 12-1)

Where: Velocity Made Good (VMG) at the Tree Cooler at Twisp Works

How: Register here. Then, pay with a card using the link below, or save $5 by sending a check to Cascade Endurance, PO Box 196, Winthrop, WA, 98862.

Includes running and drawing instruction, lunch, and all sketching materials.

More info here.

 

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Winter Self-Care: Tips From a Yogi

We are thrilled to introduce you to our newest partner Bree Dillon, of Bree Dillon Yoga. She will be our yoga instructor for our retreats and clinics, as well as a collaborator here. As winter draws near, she talks about how yoga can play a part in your overall routine. She took some time out of her busy life to help us get to know her better. You can find Bree at her studio in Fremont where she does private and small group yoga instruction, or on the web at breedillon.com.


I'm always interested in how people get into the activities they love; how did you come to yoga?

I was a three-sport athlete in high school and recruited to go to college on an athletic scholarship. After I declined, I fell off the wagon. For so long my identity had been wrapped up in sports that I didn’t know what to do without a team. I found yoga while searching for a new sense of self and it proved to be just that: my “team” became my body and mind working together. It was really the only place I’d been encouraged to use the two in collaboration. In fact, I’d become quite skilled at learning to ignore my pain and push harder to force my way toward goals, which took a toll on my body and mentally stressed me out. I became an “over-competer” – the kind of person that competes even when completely unnecessary—but as I continued to practice yoga I noticed these things shift. My ability to perform as an athlete vastly improved as I learned to listen to what my body was signaling and I became so much less tense from all the stress I’d created with my need to win. Rather than strong-arming my way towards an objective I eased my way there with discernment about how to stay balanced while building strength and skill.

Photo by Bree Dillon.

Photo by Bree Dillon.

That sounds really powerful.  Has your yoga practice changed over the years?

After I discovered yoga 14 years ago, my relationship with it has ebbed and flowed. There have been times my commitment to yoga may have appeared non-existent but the practice of yoga is more than what we do on our mats. Underneath all the down dogs there’s a discipline of mindfulness that can be applied to anything we do and that's what has remained consistent for me.

That sounds so similar to how running has evolved for me--as more a practice than a goal, which I think can be really freeing for people in our goal-driven society. As an athlete yourself and someone who works with athletes, what is the most helpful aspect of yoga?

I find the most powerful benefit of yoga is that it trains us to listen. When we listen to what our bodies are signaling and what they need, we find that health and high performance are more readily available to us.  When we listen to the constant stream of thoughts playing in our heads we can sift helpful from harmful and gain clarity and focus. When we listen, we discover that we are constantly evolving and what may have worked for us at one point isn’t relevant anymore and we can adjust to make the very best use of our faculties for our goals today!

Photo by Bree Dillon.

Photo by Bree Dillon.

I love that. I’ve  been working on that myself and it can be unsettling to re-frame our routines and try to figure out what is relevant. Taking time to listen is a great way to think of it, especially this time of year that spurs reflection and setting intentions for the coming year. As we get into the colder months, how can yoga help?

If you’re like me and you spend a lot of time outdoors, you take your cues from nature. In the winter, things slow down and our kinetic energy follows suit. Rather than fighting against this pattern yoga can help us through this season with a practice that compliments this cycle. Two things I do during this time of year: challenge myself to deliberately move slower and hold poses longer; (I am always amazed at how potent my practice becomes when I do!); and discipline myself to meditate regularly. Did you know that meditation has been proven to:

  • reduce pain and inflammation

  • improve focus and memory

  • decrease heart rate and blood pressure.

  • stimulate immune system function.

  • instill a sense of peaceful calm.

  • improve sleep.

  • lower stress hormones.

  • lessen depression and anxiety.

  • support the feeling of connectedness.

Who doesn’t need ALL of that in the winter months!?!

Those are great reasons to take advantage of the shorter days and cozy up next to a fire and sit! Speaking of meditation, you have a free meditation class, correct?

Yes! Every Wednesday from 7:30-8am I offer a free guided meditation in my Fremont studio.  Details are on my website!

Thanks, Bree, for taking some time out of your day to reflect.


Photo by Bree Dillon.

Photo by Bree Dillon.


Bree is a yogi, athlete, anatomy geek and an unapologetic problem-solver motivated by creating a world full healthy, mindful people. After 14 years of combined practice and teaching Bree Dillon Yoga LLC became a brick and mortar business with her private Seattle-based studio in 2016. BDYoga focuses on providing accessible and targeted yoga to people of all levels.  Outside of her studio Bree runs local and international yoga-based programs that integrate education and recreation.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ft. Ebey Half Training Group

Need some motivation to get out the door this winter? We're gearing up for another great trail running group, training for a half-marathon in February: NW Trail Run's Ft. Ebey Half. The wonderful Jaime Clark will lead weekly trail runs to accompany your 14-week training plan. New this go round, we have the training plan on our online training platform, Training Peaks. The software has a desktop and mobile app, with features like email notifications for the workouts, to hold you accountable, and let you track your progress. We're excited to share this format with you and for you to see your improvements in a different way.

The first group run will be Sunday November 20, with the first week of the program starting Monday the 13. Come join us! More info here. Photo below by Rock N Trail Photography.

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Beginner Trail Running Group

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Beginner Trail Running Group

Trail running is FUN!

Trail running is FUN!

Starting November 6

Learn how to transition to running on trails, or simply hone your skills with this four-week training group. You'll focus on a different aspect of trail running each week to build confidence and launch your trail running career. We have a hunch you might never go back.

What's included? A coached weekly trail run and a booklet with information on recovery, foam rolling, running form tips, and very basic nutrition and training concepts. Sign up below!

Week 1-Overall Technique

Week 2-Hills

Week 3-Technical Trails

Week 4-Put it all together

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Ski-mo Racing Comes to the Methow!

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Ski-mo Racing Comes to the Methow!

Thanks largely to the Euros, we've inherited a lot of cool ways to challenge ourselves on mountains, in all seasons of the year. My personal preferences (obviously) have steered toward winter sports and I spent the majority of my life to this point totally immersed in Nordic ski competition. But running somewhat parallel to that sport is another one which has really captured my interest of late: ski-mountaineering. Ski-mo, or randonee racing is a form of skiing which involves using climbing skins to ascend a steep run or mountain bowl, then taking them off to enjoy the descent. Repeat as needed.

And of course as soon as a means of travel is invented, someone has to try and do it faster, thus the ski-mo race scene was born. The Europeans and more recently North Americans have been inventing new and increasingly epic courses for these events in all sorts of mountain ranges, from the Alps to the Pyrenees to the Rockies. The "mountaineering" component will vary; sometimes the ascent requires competitors to remove the skis and hand-over-hand it using a rope, even ice axes and crampons!

The core component though, and the one which draws so many different athletes, is the challenge: how fast can you climb up a steep slope before quickly turning around and speeding down an alpine run, sometimes multiple times? 

We decided to bring this great tradition to the Methow Valley, and are proud to introduce the Cascade Endurance "______" Ski Mountaineering Race (we're still searching out that perfect name), hosted at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. On January 28, 2017 athletes of all ages and abilities will line up for a chance to tackle 2000'+ of vertical terrain for the inaugural titles. Food, rock music, costumes and equipment demos will round out what is sure to be a stellar day on the mountain.

Yesterday I got up to the Loup with area manager CP Grosenick and scouted our courses, and I'm totally psyched. While we might not share some of the more rugged terrain offerings (at least in our permit area) which Colorado races boast, the ample gain (~1300' per lap) at the Loup will give even the strongest athletes a run for their money.

Over the next several weeks we'll be launching more publicity about this awesome event, and get you all fired up for what is sure to be a fantastically-fresh and lively way to spend some snowtime!

Some teaser shots of our course (sans snow, but you can use your imagination...):

An old roadbed paralleling the eastern ridge will serve as much of our uptrack

An old roadbed paralleling the eastern ridge will serve as much of our uptrack

Views to the north and into the Pasayten Wilderness will draw the eye from the top of the uptrack. Starvation Mountain is snow-covered in the distance.

Views to the north and into the Pasayten Wilderness will draw the eye from the top of the uptrack. Starvation Mountain is snow-covered in the distance.

Imagine skinning up this route this with 8' of snow on either side! 

Imagine skinning up this route this with 8' of snow on either side! 

Launching into the downhill off the top of The Devil's Dip...

Launching into the downhill off the top of The Devil's Dip...

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Ski Season Cometh...

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Ski Season Cometh...

I simply can’t put into words how excited I am to be back in the Methow for the upcoming winter. Some people anxiously await the first songbird of spring, a harbinger of warmer and longer days, blooming flowers and short sleeves. Me? I do backflips when Mt. Gardner gets its first dusting of snow in October, and obsessively begin waxing my skis well before tracks are cut into the season’s first snowfall on the Valley floor. And I’m not alone – you know who you are!

Following the snow down from the mountains - early-season tracks at Klipchuck Campground off highway 20

Following the snow down from the mountains - early-season tracks at Klipchuck Campground off highway 20

While getting back on skis for the first team each season may feel as familiar as riding a bike, sometimes it’s, well, not. Nordic skiing is a technique-based sport and stepping away from it for 6-8 months each year means those ski-specific muscles and movement patterns go into hibernation. But fear not! There is a cure to the early-season awkwardness, and it comes in two parts:

1.     (Re)develop your Core Strength: For anyone who has ever lamented the lower back pain that comes after the first several classic ski sessions each season, this is for you. Skiing, like other upright open-chain movements, requires a hefty amount of core strength to stabilize your trunk while the extremities dance and play on skis and poles. Without that core strength, your back takes the load and boy, those muscles do not appreciate that additional burden.

Take a gander at the following article I wrote earlier this year for Outdoor Research, and work to incorporate some of the exercises into a routine preceding the winter. Your back will thank you, and ski technique will come quicker and easier than ever before!

Core Strength For Mountain Athletes

2.     Take a Ski Lesson: Unless you’ve been on rollerskis all summer (and even if you have), chances are your muscle memory is a bit fuzzy on how to V2 efficiently. Spending an hour to re-hone your abilities and even learn a few new skills will make the season a winner from start to finish. We all develop quirky movement patterns that can be tweaked and improved with an expert eye; the resulting energy savings can be re-distributed right into that 30km ski you were determined to do on your second day out at Silver Star or West Yellowstone!

This season, we’re offering regular ski lessons from the Mazama Corral for individuals and small groups. You can read more about them on our website, where you can also schedule a lesson in advance to be sure you get your chosen date.

A little bit of preparation, and you’ll be set to make the most of what is sure to be another fantastic winter on the snow! Now go wax your skis – it’s never too early.

Striding out some early-season speedwork at Sovereign Lakes Nordic Center, Silver Star Mountain, B.C. 

Striding out some early-season speedwork at Sovereign Lakes Nordic Center, Silver Star Mountain, B.C. 

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No Mazama Mine

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No Mazama Mine

Before fall completely ends, I want to share some pics of a great day we had a few weeks back, up in an area I'd been only once before. It's not right on the main highway, so it's not as well known as some other spots, and in the spirit of keeping some magic in finding new places, pouring over maps, and creating adventure, I won't say exactly where we went. I will say, however, that we were in the headwaters of the Methow river: a large swath of land that provides the Methow drainage, including our little towns, clean water for wildlife and fish habitat, agriculture, recreation, and living, that is threatened by a proposed copper mine. 

Map of headwaters area, used with permission by Methow Headwaters.

Map of headwaters area, used with permission by Methow Headwaters.

Sam and I first heard of the Canadian company's desires before our move in 2014. I studied the Mining Act of 1872 in college and knew the ability to file for a permit, but naively thoughtthat it would never be allowed in our modern climate, and didn't think much of it. Over the next year, plans continued and Methow Headwaters was born to protect our watershed from exploratory mining, "the first step to developing a large-scale, likely open-pit mine in Mazama (Methow Headwaters, 2016)." If you've ever driven through Butte, Montana, you've seen what an open-pit mine looks like. Worse than looks, of course, is the environmental devastation left in its wake: the Berkeley Pit remains a huge superfund site that threatens area ground water.

My environmental activist self laid dormant for many years post college, but imagining a similar fate here is just too much. I don't pretend to believe that I have the impact to stop this, but I do want to do everything I can to get the word out, and help Methow Headwaters in their fantastic efforts. Their proposal "secure(s) a “mineral withdrawal” for the federal lands that compose the headwaters of the Methow watershed, approximately 340,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land (Methow Headwaters, 2016)". In May, US Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray introduced legislation, the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, to do just that. Since then, the Forest Serviced announced, around the same time as our little adventure (coincidence?) that they plan to protect the area from mining. While this is promising news, there is still work to ensure that the Forest Service follows through, especially as administrations change. What can we do? First of all, write a letter. The more the agency hears that action needs to be taken, the sooner the two-year planning period begins. Secondly, spread the love of the Methow. If you're on Instagram, use the following tags: @methowheadwaters, #nomazamamine, #worthprotecting, #ourmethow. Finally, support our friends at Methow Headwaters by signing their petition, join their mailing list, and if you feel inclined, donate to the cause.

This matters to us because we live here, but ultimately, we are all affected. If it's not here, it's somewhere else, and these areas are necessary: for a clean watershed for wildlife, salmon and other fish, and us, but also for our mental health. We might be training for a race, or excited to see a new, beautiful place, but these wild places change us. As society becomes more connected and bound by technology (which I'm a fan of, don't get me wrong), having places to go where we can truly unplug-places where the only sounds are of the birds above, and our lungs' effort become increasingly important.

The day's objective.

The day's objective.

Nikki of the wild.

Nikki of the wild.

Going up...

Going up...

An alright view.

An alright view.

Nikki is in there somewhere. We were on the wrong ridge. Oops!

Nikki is in there somewhere. We were on the wrong ridge. Oops!

Heading over to where we want to be.

Heading over to where we want to be.

Checking out the sights.

Checking out the sights.

Looking northwest.

Looking northwest.

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Personal Training

We hear a lot about strength training, but what exactly are the best things to do? More importantly, how can you do strength training in a way that won't cause injury? If you're new to strength training, form is incredibly important. Even if you've done strength training in the past, having someone mix things up and design a thoughtful program specific to your needs and goals can be helpful and motivating. Fall is the perfect time to get strong for ski season!

I'm partnering with Winthrop Fitness and offering personal training through their awesome gym. You can always grab a friend and get a discount: win-win! Email me directly at alison (at) cascadeendurance (dot) com to schedule.

Starting in November I'll be teaching a strength class at 6:30am. It will be limited to 12, so call the gym to register: 509-996-8234.

Photo used with permission from North Cascades Mountain Guides

Photo used with permission from North Cascades Mountain Guides

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Ski Training, or Hiking with (Kid) Weight

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Ski Training, or Hiking with (Kid) Weight

This slope is a classic spot for skiing in the winter: bring it!

This slope is a classic spot for skiing in the winter: bring it!

It doesn't take much time from the sight of the first yellow tree to start dreaming of waist deep powdery snow. I love skiing, but with my fall excitement comes a healthy dose of apprehension because, well, skiing is hard.  When I first tried Nordic skiing, I thought I could jump right in with my running fitness and float down the trail. In reality, that couldn't be further from the truth. Since I backcountry skied in college, I thought I would do that instead. Unfortunately, that was also hard. College included backpacking nearly every weekend, so while I moved slower than running, I was used to carrying extra weight. Later focusing all my efforts onto running made me a better runner, but a worse skier.

After that taste of cross country skiing my first winter here, I decided to stick with running. Sometime during the years of dating and marrying a professional skier, I decided I should learn to ski. Finally, I took the time one winter to stick with it enough to improve so that by the end of the season,  I could skate or classic ski for at least an hour without feeling like my arms would fall off. The following winters included one being pregnant, and then moving back to Seattle where I could run all winter again, which did not include much skiing.

All of that is to say that as I start seeing snow in the mountains, I know what's coming: tired arms and burning legs. To mitigate the damage, I'm back to weight training in our garage, but honestly, strength workouts bore me and I don't like being inside.

I do however, like a certain specific strength workout held outside: hiking with Fiona. Truth be told, I don't do it often. Sam happily takes her when we go as a family, which slows him down enough to only be a few minutes ahead of me at any given point. But when a friend wanted to find larches and was heading to Maple Pass, I took the opportunity to get some vert with some weight (i.e. Fiona) while catching up.  Carrying ten to twenty percent of one's body weight is a good general rule of thumb for this workout, but since she weighs about 35 pounds, I was over. Oh well-ha! Maple pass is a great seven mile loop in which you either go up a gradual trail and down a steep one, or vice versa. We opted for going up the steep way, which I much prefer. HELLO GLUTES!

It was fantastic, if tiring, training, on par with doing box steps-ups for an hour and a half. Whew-a ski pack will be nothing in comparison (which I guess is the point)! And until Fiona stops growing (yeah, right), I'll get more benefit each time I taker her! Once again, the larches were out in full force, contrasting against red leaves and evergreens. If you haven't gotten out to see some larches yet, GO!

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La Sportiva Demo Day

Join us at the Goat's Beard on October 10th for a free shoe demo from La Sportiva and a run and mini technique clinic. We'll have the Akasha and the Helios available from 9-11am, and do a group run at 9:30. Email us at info@cascadeendurance.com with any questions.

The La Sporitva Akasha.

The La Sporitva Akasha.

The La Sportiva Helios.

The La Sportiva Helios.

Where: Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies

When: October 10, 9-11am

Updates will be on the Facebook event page.

 

 

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Goat Peak

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Goat Peak

Since my first hike to one in high school, I've been drawn to fire lookouts. As an introvert, it's easy to imagine a parallel universe in which I live by myself each summer, scoping fires. I see Goat Peak looming above Mazama daily, but rarely head up the road, favoring more exotic locations. A friend was in town Friday evening, so we took the chance to make a quick trip. Nikki decided to take an extended trip and made her way home in the middle of the night, giving me a sleepless taste of what a certain teenager may do in a dozen years, but that's another blog post. The larches were incredible and I hope you're able to get out to see some.

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The Core of the Matter

We all know (or maybe have heard) that core strength is important. But what is the core and how does one gain said strength? Sam wrote his latest blog post for Outdoor Research on the very topic. Check it out to learn how you can get strong for the mountains and thereby decrease your chance of injury and increase your performance and fun. If you missed his other one, it's on the importance of aerobic training.

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