A Quick Thought on Trail Running

This morning I ran the Horseshoe Lake Trail Half Marathon near Palo Alto, CA. More on the race later, but I wanted to do a separate post about an often debated issue: wearing headphones during trail races.

As we came up a hill around mile 3, there was a quick right off of the fire road onto single track trail. Coastal Trail Runs did a great job marking the course with pink flags leading up to, and through the turn, and blue wrong way flags for a while on the continuation of the fire road that was the wrong way. Since it was early in the race, there were also a number of people around, so following the last runner was fairly easy. I’m not sure if this girl was super in the zone, perhaps from battling it out with me for the last mile up the hill, but she cruised on down the wrong-way road. Another runner and I stopped for a moment to yell after her. We tried all sort of things “Hey You!” “Wrong Turn” “The Run is this Way” Hey Runner in White” but despite yelling at the top of our lungs, her pumped up headphones, which I could hear most of the way up the hill, prevented her from hearing us. The other runner and I gave up, there was a biker at that intersection as well who was going to see about catching her, and I continued on my race.

I think this brings up a good issue. On trail races, where the trails are narrow and people want to pass, and there can be sharp and unobvious turns despite heavy course marking, should headphones be allowed? I do love running to music around my house, but I find on trails the beauty of the forest helps me more than music. When I do want music, I often only do one headphone so I can hear people coming up behind me, or yelling after me if a I make a wrong turn. I hope this woman realized she had gone the wrong way and found her way back to the race!

What do you guys think? Headphones or no headphones for racing?

Runner with headphones, thank you Runners World.

Ragnar Trail Relay Zion

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being part of Team Nuun Hydration at the Ragnar Trail Relay just outside of Zion National Park in Utah. Before I dive into the race, I wanted to start this post by saying that even though race conditions were less then ideal, the Ragnar Trail staff did an amazing job keeping all of the runners informed and having staff out on the course when times got rough. Because of them I am looking forward to another Trail Relay with full confidence that they are looking out for all of our safety.

Trail map from the Ragnar Relay page

Trail map from the Ragnar Relay page

Charlie and I committed to running this race a few months ago, because we took a road trip to Zion shortly after we first started dating, and could not wait to go back. We had no idea that in between committing to the race and running the race that we would be engaged, and that I would be living in San Francisco, and he would still be in Truckee, throwing a small wrench in how we were getting to the race. Our friend Johnny was also arriving from London that day and wanted to join us for the crazy adventure. We headed out of the Bay Area Thursday after I got off a crazy day at work, and stayed the night in beautiful Barstow California in a $50 motel. We had not anticipated a time change crossing into Utah (silly us!) and ended up arriving at the race only a half hour before our team start at 3:30. It was super windy out and the forecast was for 100% rain around midnight, but everyone was in great spirits at the start. Because we were last to arrive, we were runner 7 and 8, which gave us plenty of time to set up our tent and get situated before our first legs, which were bound to be in the dark. We met all of our wonderful teammates: Rira, Catey, Bry, Megan, Sean, and Holly, and shared fun facts about ourselves.

Everyone waiting to see their team pop up on the screen indicating their runner is 1/4 mile away

Everyone waiting to see their team pop up on the screen indicating their runner is 1/4 mile away

After the first runners came in for our team we had some idea of what we were in for: rocky single track, sandy trails, good climbs, and potential views. We were also at about 6000 ft, so the elevation was a factor for almost everyone. I was starting to get excited because it sounded like excellent trails! I spent most of the evening hanging at the Nuun tent talking to people about how awesome Nuun is and swapping trail running stories. Before I knew it was my turn to head out on the 3.1mi green loop which descended into Jones Gulch and back up the other side. It was pitch black, but luckily I just replaced the batteries in my Spot headlamp so the 90 lumens were at full blast!

IMG_5202The initial green loop trails were smooth and wove between trees. I passed a few people on this section before we started descending. The trail very quickly got rocky, and there was a ditch/drainage in the middle of the path that I kept jumping around. There was one guy hanging off my shoulder, undoubtably watching my footwork, because he was doing the same moves. Normally I don’t mind people behind me, their headlights usually help. But this guy had a handheld light and it kept swinging in crazy directions. I tried to pick up my pace, but the amount I could see ahead vs the rocks on the trail were a slightly limiting factor. Before I knew it we were reascending up to camp. I’m kind of glad that it was dark because I could not see the amount of uphill, so I just kept running. All three loops meet up 0.75 mi from the finish and go up a bitch of a climb. It was a number of switchbacks that almost everyone walked some piece of before heading back into camp. The whole loop took me about 32 minutes, but I’m not sure because my Garmin died part way through. After I finished I chowed down some dinner, waited for Charlie to finish the yellow loop, then we snuggled up in the tent for a few hours of sleep.IMG_5207

The rain started around midnight, and I had a 3:30am alarm since I had estimated I would start running my second leg around 4:30. I woke up to pounding rain on my tent, and once I found my teammates realized that our runner 5, Bry, had just left and Holly, runner 6 had yet to leave. So I waited with Holly, warming by the fire, and wished her good luck as she left at 4:40. Bry and everyone else coming through the finish told me that the trails were like ice skating rinks. The nice trails I had run on a mere hours before, were clay. Which means that when it rains they cannot absorb much water and they turn into slides. I figured that the 4.2mi loop would take Holly an hour, so I hung by the warm fire until 5:45, then found a place in the transition tent to await my turn.

Team Nuun Hydration

Team Nuun Hydration

It was right around then that the snow started. Yes, SNOW. Apparently highly unusual for this time of year in Zion. I figured once it got light in an hour the snow might turn to rain, but it kept coming down. Runners were coming in with snow build up on their hats and shoulders, shivering from the cold. Everyone was being advised to run with a buddy if possible, or begin doubling up the runners so that you were not out alone.

Huddling by the fire for warmth

Huddling by the fire for warmth

This is where the Ragnar staff began doing an amazing job. They deployed more staff to all the trails to help runners, and began looking at revising the red loop (the 8.1 that I was supposed to do next). They were trying to keep the race as safe as possible despite the weather conditions. They also did a great job keeping everyone in the transition tent informed. They were allowing teams to turn in their bibs essentially putting their time on hold, in order to wait out the weather or find their next runner. Once I overheard this and heard how unsafe the trails conditions were I made a decision for myself that I was going to wait until daylight to run, and hopefully convince one of my teammates who had to run red to run with me.

The snow did not relent. By the time 6:30 rolled around and it was starting to get light out, Holly was still out on the course. I texted Megan asking if we could have a team meeting. In my head I was thinking there was no way I wanted to go out and tun 8mi, much less then run 4.2 a few miles later. When Holly came in, the first thing she said is there was no way she was going back out there and no way she would let our two pregnant teammates go out there. She walked almost the entire loop, like many other runners out there. As we headed to the team meeting by the fire, with snow still coming down, all I could think was, maybe we can just DNF. This is the first race I’ve actually wanted to DNF. Fortunately my team was in unanimous agreement and we decided to DNF. Lo and behold a half hour later the whole race is called off, and no more runners are allowed to head out on the course.

Snow on the prius. Luckily the concrete roads were clear

Snow on the prius. Luckily the concrete roads were clear

I found this was my hardcore limit. I’ve never really reached a time when running that I absolutely could not be convinced to continue. I’ve run 18 miles in the pouring rain, trail run in the snow, been hailed on, and every time I finished my run. So what I realized is that my limit is when I have no hot shower or warm bed and unlimited amounts of clothes t put on after my freezing adventures. I knew that if I headed out on my red loop and came back freezing and wet, my best bet to get warm again was to sit by the fire and put on the few remaining warm clothes I had, or go sit in my car with the heat on. Then I would still have another leg. So I’ve determined that I love running in harsh conditions, it gives me some thrill, but I love it as long as I have a warm shower and a warm place to return to.

Our awesome brunch spot in Vegas had a cool ceiling

Our awesome brunch spot in Vegas had a cool ceiling

As we packed up the car, we saw many exhausted runners coming in, and I was relieved that my team was in agreement about our decision to DNF. Since Johnny, Charlie and I headed out of Zion by 8am, we decided to make the long drive back to the Bay Area in one go rather then sleep halfway. We figured 2hr rotations would leave each of us enough time to nap. We stopped in Vegas for a breakfast buffet that kept us pretty full all day. We finally made it back home at 9:30 after hitting traffic in Gilroy. We made some salad (I was seriously lacking veggies the last few days) and mac’n’cheese, drank a delicious beer and headed to bed. I slept for an astounding 12 hours, more then I’ve slept at once in a while.

Despite all the difficult weather and the long drive, I am already plotting my next Ragnar Trail race, potentially Vail Lake since it is the closest one to me. I also really want to do Zion next year, but this time take off a day or two on each side of the race so we can go hike in Zion and Bryce.

Beautiful clouds and rays of sunshine on the way home

Beautiful clouds and rays of sunshine on the way home

Life Update : Controlled Changing Chaos

I’ll try to keep this short, the last few weeks have been crazy. But here is a quick rundown of the happenings in my life, which may explain my lack of blogging for the past month…

1) San Francisco.
I just accepted an amazing new job there, at an architecture firm I have loved for many years, so I’ll be making the move from Tahoe throughout April. Lets just say this firm does amazing net-zero energy and sustainability related non-residential projects in California and the US, more on them later. I am very sad to be leaving Kelly and Stone, and everyone in Tahoe. Its been an emotional few weeks, as all of this has been happening really fast.

2) Nuun Hood to Coast team.
I’m a new Nuun ambassador, and one of the perks, is there is are two Nuun Ambassador HTC teams. I did have to apply between all the other ambassadors, and I magically was chosen. I’ve been wanting to run this race ever since my first Mt. Si Relay back in 2008, and I have been part of the lottery a number of times, only to never have my team be picked. Needless to say, I jumped at this opportunity. I’m runner number 8 (so legs 8, 20, and 32) in van 2, and I have no idea what to expect other than an amazing few days in a van with other crazy/passionate runners.

3) Washington D.C.
This may not seem that exciting, but someone neither my parents nor my brother or I have been to D.C. so we are taking a family trip! I will also be visiting one of my best friends from graduate school, which will make the trip all the more fun! I’m excited to visit the other coast, I haven’t been in a few years, and see some awesome museums!

4) Ragnar Trail Zion
Ever since Charlie and I took our first road trip ever, a mere months after we started dating, to Zion and the Grand Canyon, I’ve been dying to go back. So we are heading together on another Southwest road trip, meeting up with some Nuunies to traverse miles in Zion. It should be epic fun, like Ragnar Trail Tahoe or McDowell Mountain, and I can’t wait to Run, Camp, and Sleep under the stars with other crazy runners!

5) Architect Registration Exams (ARE)
These lovely 7, 3-4hour long tests tests required for architecture licensure are a bear to tackle. I just took #2, planning on taking #3 at the start of May, so more studying ahead of me! I’m hoping to have them all done before next July (27th birthday) or even better, depending on summer plans, by Christmas of this year! That would be a lovely Christmas present to myself.

So that’s the short of it, stay tuned for more blog posts on each of these, they are all happening in April, so it will be a busy month, exciting and action packed, but busy!

 

 

Trip to Guatemala: The Tamahu Project

It has taken me a few days since returning form my trip to Guatemala to digest everything that I saw and everything I did. Needless to say, it was a packed trip, but not full of the usual activities. So here goes the story, I hope you all enjoy reading about a whole different part of my life.

Aerial Map of Tamahu

Aerial Map of Tamahu

We were heading to Tamahu, Guatemala, to visit our Grandfather, who runs the Tamahu Project, a non-profit with a three branches. Tamahu is located about 3 hours by car from Guatemala City, and has a population of about 4,000 including a few of the surrounding hill villages. To access it, you drive on a windy one lane highway for the first 2.5-3hrs, then on a dirt road with a few paved sections or a half hour. The dirt road continues for another 7hrs to the Gulf of Mexico passing through other towns. Like I said, it is pretty rural. Our grandfather met us in San Julian, the junction to the dirt road after we took the Monja Blanca (greyhound equivalent) form Guatemala City. I had never been to Central America, much less to Guatemala, but my brother and cousin had each been a few times, so I trusted their navigation skills.

All the kids were surprisingly happy given all their situations

All the kids were surprisingly happy given all their situations

First let me explain, the Tamahu Project as I mentioned before, is a non-profit with three branches: an elementary school, a kids nutritional clinic, and a number of building projects. The school was the first piece, opened in 2005 quickly followed by the clinic which rehabilitates infants and children from malnutrition, a common problem in the area. The third piece, the building projects range in scope from new dwelling for people who live in metal shacks with dirt floors to brining running water to houses in hillside villages.

Tomas asking them to hold up their hearts

Tomas asking them to hold up their hearts

Since our first full day there was a Friday, we spent the most time at the school with the cute kids. It was “La Dia del Cariño” (Valentine’s Day) so we helped them decorate hearts and, helped the teachers with activities and lunch. I should mention that this region of Guatemala has two dialects, Q’eqchi and Pocom which are based on Mayan, and most of the kids speak one of these two at home, and then learn Spanish throughout their schooling. Needless to say none of them spoke a lick of English, although the teachers all spoke Spanish and the dialects fluently.

She was showing us where her heart is

She was showing us where her heart is

It was definitely a test of my Spanish ability since that was my only method of communication. I was surprised at how happy all the kids are despite most of them traveling for more than an hour to school, many of them from hillside villages that they walk a ways down to the road from. It worked out great though, and I loved spending time at the school. We spent the afternoon reading and walking around the town, I wanted to get familiar with as much of the surroundings as I could.

The town of Tamahu, Guatemala

The town of Tamahu, Guatemala

Fr. Ricardo's property in the hills above San Cristobal

Fr. Ricardo’s property in the hills above San Cristobal

Saturday was a bit of an unusual day for us. We went to run errands with my grandfather, stopping to purchase things for the school and clinic and then meet his friend, Father Ricardo, in San Cristobal. We had a great lunch with a few weird Guatemalan foods I wish I had taken pictures of, and then he wanted to show us a property he bought from a friend who owns a few fincas (agricultural estate, usually to grow coffee) in the area. His property was beautiful, and we got to hear stories about all his walks and adventures to the hillside towns that are part of his parish. Next time I go to Guatemala I would like to join him on some of his visits to see what even smaller/more rural towns in the area look like. After we went to his property, we went to meet his friends, Tono and Irma, and they were very nice. Again, a test of my Spanish, but I managed. It was really interesting to see the coffee beam process before they get roasted. In case anyone was curious, unroasted coffee beans taste like any other bean – pretty bland.

The town square and welcome sign

The town square and welcome sign

Sunday was another day of adventure. First we went to a few minutes of the mass in Pocom, because I heard the music was an experience, and boy did it not let me down! I’m not even sure I can describe it, so maybe next time I will record a clip for you all to hear. After the music, we sat on the steps of the church in the main square of town to just watch life go by. Being three tall outsiders, people tended to stare at us, but sitting on those steps, after a few minutes people forgot or stopped caring we were there and it was really nice to see life go on.

DSC_3944

Local taxi driver stopping to read the paper

Local taxi driver stopping to read the paper

Tortilla making

Tortilla making

We spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon exploring the area. We stopped to see an awesome waterfall on the way to seeing a few of the completed housing projects that my Grandfather worked on. They are a simple design, designed to not require many tools, no saws, and be easily assembled by the owners, with a concrete floor and real doors and windows.

One of the completed Casitas

One of the completed Casitas

Dwelling before the Casita

Dwelling before the Casita

For me, it was really interesting to talk to the people who owned the houses and hear their stories about how they heard of the Tamahu Project, and what their conditions were like before their new home. It was similar with the water projects, seeing how grateful everyone was for something so simple as running water, not plumbing, just running drinking water.

The main road in Tamahu, where the market takes place

The main road in Tamahu, where the market takes place

Overall, this trip was very eye opening. It was hard coming back and going to work to design 4000sf and larger second/third homes for people when there are clearly so many people without proper homes. I know my work in Tahoe is interesting, but I guess I’m beginning to question the importance. Designing cool mountain houses is, well, cool and great experience, but what if I could do more for humanity and actually have a real impact on people’s lives who would truly appreciate it. These Casitas that are being built in Guatemala cost only $800 each and make a huge difference in the lives of the owners.  Many of us spend more than that on just the plumbing fixtures or a couch in our homes. To send a child to the private school, including food, transportation, and school supplies, is less then $600 per year. We have found that the kids who attend this school are far less likely to drop out of their subsequent levels of education. At the school, they are given love and attention that is sometimes lacking at home. They are told they can do things and travel, and are allowed to dream. For many of the kids in this area, it is the bright part of their day before they have to return home and do labor.

Meeting the people and seeing Tamahu, the town I have heard about for more then a decade, was an amazing experience, one I will not soon forget. I love that my grandfather wants the grandchildren to continue his work. Part of us going to visit this time was to meet all the people who run each piece of the Tamahu Project so that in ten years when my grandfather cannot live in Guatemala full time, we can continue the work that he began. I love that I have been presented the opportunity to help make such a difference in the lives of people. Hopefully I will be making a return trip in June to again work in the school and travel to the Aldeas (hill villages) and meet even more people in the town whose lives have been changed with the Tamahu Project.

Do you ever wonder if you could do more for humanity?

The school in Tamahu

The school in Tamahu

The dirt road through the mountains coming into Tamahu

The dirt road through the mountains coming into Tamahu

Tamahu from across the river

Tamahu from across the river

Martis Camp – The New Mountain Home Style?

I’ve been working in North Lake Tahoe for a while now, for Kelly and Stone Architects, and one thing that strikes me about living here is the progressive direction mountain home design is heading. When you imagine a Mountain home (ie a ski cabin or lake house) what do you think of? Does it look like one of these…

Traditional Log home

traditional mountain cabin – Ryan Group Architects

Traditional Lake House – Smith and Vansant Architects

Here in Martis Camp however, where most of the projects I am working on are located, they are pushing a more modern aesthetic. Many of the homes here, which are predominately second homes, are mixing in more materials, typically combining steel panel, mixed color barn wood, clear cedar siding, stone, and board formed concrete. My first time in Martis Camp, I was surprised at the modern aesthetic of most of the houses. I have to say, if this is where the “mountain home style” is headed, I’m excited to see what else is in store.

Curved roofs are becoming popular Martis Camp Lot 371 by Kelly and Stone Architects

The developers who are running Martis Camp right now, the DMB/Highlands Group, are doing a great job with the review process. Each project in Martis goes through a preliminary and final design submittal, where each project is examined by the development team to ensure the desired quality and aesthetics are being carried out. Martis Camp is also not for the faint of heart – lots are typically in the million dollar range, and the most of the components are custom – no Home Depot parts here!

Flat roofs on Martis Camp Lot 82 – Sandbox Studios

Corten Steel panels and traditional stone on Martis Camp Lot 97 – Ward Young Architecture and Planning

One thing that has impressed me in Martis Camp is the level of detail put into every single project. Many houses have exposed steel and wood structure with interesting connections, really showing the viewer how the house is being held up. In traditional mountain homes there is often exposed structure, but it is refreshing to see exposed steel and glulam wood beams.

Modern interiors with floor to ceiling glass and steel accents Martis Camp Lot 236 – Sagemodern

Multiple materials on the same facade Martis Camp Lot 219 – Sagemodern

Mixed material use, and exposed steel structure Martis Camp lot 197 – Ward Young Architecture and Planning

Statement entries with timber detailing Martis Camp lot 236 – Kelly and Stone Architects

The San Francisco Marathon – Our Secret

As some of you know I am a San Francisco Marathon ambassador! One of the huge benefits of being an ambassador is being able to share a discount code with all of YOU!

Code : DSC10TSFM2014A73

So if you are still looking for that perfect summer marathon, come join me and a few thousand of your closet running friends in a jaunt through the best of San Francisco. July weather in SF is perfect for running, and although there are a few uphills, it does mean there are a number of downhills to look forward to! And if a marathon seems a bit to long there are TWO half marathons. That’s right, you can pick to run either the first half (across the golden gate bridge) or the second half starting in golden gate park.

SF Marathon Map

A few highlights from past races:

The Marina Start

Start line in the Marina

The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Park

Haight-Ashbury

Giants Stadium at AT&T Park

 

Who doesn’t want a medal with the Golden Gate Bridge on it??

Winter in Tahoe

After living for a few months in Lake Tahoe, and have to decide IMG_4180how to keep up my running in winter, in particular with snow, I thought I would share with you all a few lessons I have learned. Keep in mind, I almost exclusively run trails here in Tahoe, mostly out of a lack of adequate/safe roads to run on. Perhaps this can help all of you push through those long snowy winter runs.

1) Bring Sunglasses – even though it snows here, which would imply clouds, it is surprisingly sunny and there is nothing more blinding then sun reflecting off the snow. I normally survive with a hat to block the sun, but I have found here I really need sunglasses.

Sunny days in the snow require sunglasses

Sunny days in the snow require sunglasses

2) Runches (Running Lunches) are my new best friend. Living in a place with only a handful of streetlights and sidewalks, running at night is nearly impossibly, mostly out of safety. The snow here blocks the bike lanes I ran in after work in summer, there are no sidewalks or streetlights except in downtown, and dark snowy footing is iffy at best. So if running before or after work in the dark is not an option, running at lunch is the solution! I hit the trails when my schedule allows, putting in a few miles and returning to work a happy camper.

3) Microspikes make all the difference. I use the Kahtoola Microspikes which easily pull onto my shoes, effectively turning any pair of shoes into ice and snow worthy. When it first started snowing I didn’t realize how essential these would be, but now I don’t hit the trails without them, no matter how sunny I think it has been to melt the ice. I forgot my spikes last week, and ran the same route this week and my pace was almost 2 min/mi faster because of the additional traction and no fear of slipping on the ice.

Kahtoola Microspikes, I never leave home without them. The silicon frame is super easy to slide on and off my shoes

Kahtoola Microspikes, I never leave home without them. The silicon frame is super easy to slide on and off my shoes

4) Wear gaiters. Almost every time I run I wish I had real gators rather then tall socks to span that gap between my shoes and tights. Socks keep the skin warm, but do not stop the snow from getting in my shoe.

5) Wear layers. I find with the sun here, even when it is under 32 degrees, I warm up fairly quickly, especially when hills are involved. I usually layer up in my Oiselle tights, Flyte tank, Lux longsleeve, Brooks Gloves, and Smartwool Socks. This way, I can switch up the layers based on the warmth. By the end of my runs I’m usually in my tank top and gloves.

Charlie chooses shorts when I often choose tights

Charlie chooses shorts when I often choose tights

6) Hydrate. Winter is deceiving, but the air here is as dry in winter as it is in summer. I find I have to run with my handheld, and that it luckily doesn’t freeze thanks to the warmth of my hand.

7) Slow down. I feel like I’m (mostly) accustomed to the elevation, but the cold has a huge effect on my lungs. All the cold air I breathe doing speedwork and trying to set QOMs on Strava causes me to cough for a few hours after running. So in my running I have to pick and choose my “hard” days so that I am not always hacking up a lung.

I hope these help all of you with winter running woes, I would love to hear how you are all dealing with the cold, particularly the snow and ice, and if you have any tips for staying in shape for the winter.