Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trail Running Races - What Do They Mean To You?

What do you most look forward to when doing a trail race? Is it the goal of having a race? An excuse to connect with nature? The new people you meet? The familiar faces along the way? If you had to summarize in just one sentence, what would it be?

I have a super-secret project going on where I need a few quotes from folks saying what they most appreciate about trail run races. If you could sum it up in one thankful sentence to a Race Director, what would you say? I appreciate any suggestions you can throw my way (if you don't want to leave a comment, you can e-mail me at scottdunlap [at] yahoo.com).

My first thought was "Nothing fills my soul with optimism like a guided tour with friends through the magic of Mother Nature, and I am thankful that tapping into this is as simple as entering and completing a race".

Thanks for your help, and have a great New Year!

- SD

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

John Muir Would Be Proud (The Muir Beach 50k)

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining 450 trail runners for the Muir Beach 12k/17k/30k/50k in the Bay Area headlands near San Francisco, CA. It was an epic adventure of staggering climbs, windy peaks, and a storm that chased us into the hills. All in all, a great way to end the season.

I think John Muir would be proud of us trail runners. Muir, the great 20th century adventurer and environmentalist for whom Muir Beach is named, was always one to engage with Nature in all of her extremes. Exploration was a necessity for feeding his relentless curiosity, and through adventure he found peace and connection to the world. “The clearest way to the Universe is through a forest wilderness”, he wrote. Hallelujah, brother. I bet if he were alive today, he would be at the starting line with his trail shoes, jacket, camera, and pencil and paper ready to live an epic day, then capture it in pictures and prose to entice the world to follow.

I took thoughts of John Muir to the starting area which was alive with runners jumping in place and filling the cold air with sharp exhales of steamy breath. Race Directors Wendell, Sarah, and Aaron Doman let us know what lie ahead – 7,100+ feet of mountainy goodness, a storm moving in, but plenty of friendly volunteers to help us out. I recognized many faces in the crowd as I shed my layers and got ready to race. Ryan Commons, the current leader of the Pacific Coast Trail Runs Ultra Series, was braving his recent Achilles injury to fend off a fast-gaining Will Gotthardt, just a few points behind thanks to his recent top finishes at the Woodside 50k and Stinson Beach 50k. Both Ryan and Will had run amazing races all year, taking their bodies to their limits. Whomever was to win, it would be well-earned. It was no gimmie though – Max Shchemelinin was here, and he got 2nd here last year in his first ultra ever before proving to everyone it was no fluke with his 4th place finish the Dick Collins 50-miler in October. Jason Reed was also here, running his 89th race of the year and showing no signs of slowing. Bev Anderson-Abbs had come down from Red Bluff, CA, joined by her training partner Joe Palubeski. Anyone who has run with Bev knows she will be in the running for an overall top place, and Joe would certainly be right there with her. At 8:30am, we were off!

(RD's Aaron, Sarah, and Wendell Doman)

(Bev and Joe head up into the sun)

(Winding down the coastal trail)

(Ocean views at every turn)

The course pitched up right away, and we were soon a giant snake of runners winding down the coastal trails. The pace was fast and furious up front, with Ryan, Will, and Max mixing it up with the 12k and 17k runners. Many of us ran a more comfortable pace, absorbing the sunlight and enjoying the views. The climb up Pirates Cove quickly separated the trained from the untrained, leaving many to walk the steep stairs and spreading out the field. The reward was some pleasant downhill and a paved road to the first aid station at Tennessee Valley (mile 6).

I refilled the water bottles and paced with Stephen Wheeler (17k) up the next climb. Stephen pulled me along at a great pace, with a short break to take a picture. I accidentally had it set to “movie” which produced a funny little snippet – gives you an idea of little time I spend taking a picture! We reached the peak together and gave each other our best as Stephen took the 17k loop and I headed out the 33k loop.

I took a quick bio break and caught up to the next runner. The back of his head looked very familiar – it was Jason Reed again! This makes the fourth time this year I ended up racing right behind this guy. He knew the course well, so I just hung on and made conversation while he steered the way. We were soon joined by Henrike Siemen who was leading the Women in the 33k race, and the three of us raced along the ridge of the Bobcat and SCA Trails towards Rodeo Beach.

(Jason Reed cuts down the Bobcat Trail)

Jason made good use of the downhill, and put some distance on us as we headed into the Bonita Cove aid station (mile 11). The volunteers let us know that there had been some course vandalism that lost some runners, but Will Gotthardt had remarked much of it from memory. Thanks, Will! We certainly managed to get through it without any issues. That sure was nice of him to add a few minutes to his time for our benefit.

(San Francisco in the distance)

(Henrike zooms down the ridge)

You couldn’t turn your head without catching a breathtaking view of oceans, hills, and gulls gliding along the breeze. Something about cold air makes everything a little more crisp. I could hear John Muir whispering in my ear – “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”. I think that goes the same for a nature run!

(A slice of heaven)

I could spot Jason a minute ahead of me, charging into the headwind as we crossed Rodeo Beach and taking on the big climb. He was running everything like a man possessed, even the steep stuff. I took a walk break to get my tunes rolling, and was soon passed by Henrike who also was charging the hills. Within a few minutes I was left alone to work my way up the single track, short of a few sightings of trail runner elites like Lon Freeman and Victor Ballesteros out having a hike or joy run. Get a number, you guys! ;-)

(Climb, climb, climb!)

I meandered back to Tennessee Valley (mile 17), where volunteers Jim Winne, Rocky Shone, and Marcy Shone braved the wind to keep me fed and hydrated. It was inspiring to hear their laughs and smiles rise over the challenging weather. They are the real endurance athletes for sure.

(Jim, Marcy, and Rocky keep us fed and hydrated)

I tackled what is surely the toughest climb of the day just to remember I’ll get to see it one more time on the second loop! The wind at the top was enough to cut right to the bone –my hat, sleeves and gloves weren’t quite enough to match the coastal wind. I headed back to Muir Beach (mile 21), just in time to see Jason Reed, Bev Abbs, Joe Palubeski, and Rachel Baker heading back out. They were all within a minute of each other, about 15 minutes ahead of me. Jason was really pouring it on!

(The big climb of the day - takes your breath away at the bottom and top!)

I got the turnaround and changed into my Sugoi Speedster2 hoody to step up the warmth (nothing quite like a hoody to lock in the heat). Will Gotthardt was there and unfortunately had to drop due to back pain. But he cheered us on as we headed back into the mountains again for the second loop. He thought I was somewhere around 6th place and sent me on my way.
This loop felt like a solo run. Just me, the howling wind, and crashing ocean waves. This was a sacred place for sure, and John Muir would agree. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” He said that when he founded the Sierra Club. Talk about cool.

(Gary Leavitt stays ahead of the rain)

As noon rolled around, I was looking forward to both the beauty AND the bread. I caught a limping Ryan Commons on the final stretch to Tennessee Valley, saying that his quads were shot. But he wasn’t going to give in that easily, and was doing the math to figure out if he could squeeze out a few more points in the Series by hanging on for another eight miles. Hanging on for eight miles? That’s one tough hombre!

(The storm moves in)

The dark clouds moved in on both of us as I made a quick stop at Tennessee Valley (mile 22) and charged up the hill. Within a half mile, the cold rain came showering down. A quarter mile after that and the wind pulled the rain sideways and sent the bushes dancing. The hawks and gulls landed and trotted into the brush for cover, just as the rain turned into snowflakes and a streak of sun lit up the sky with a rainbow. A crescendo of nature! Bravo! Bravo! The concert ended as fast as it started, leaving a glistening trail of fresh mud at the top of the hill. I proudly set the first tracks, my head still spinning from Nature’s show.

(Climb the mountains and get their good tidings)

Santa Claus (aka Fred Ecks) was coming into the aid station (mile 28) just as I was leaving, spreading his holiday joy. How he does the whole 50k run in a Santa outfit is beyond me, let alone in this crazy weather.

(Santa rocks the 50k!)

I slapped a few other high fives with 50k runners as I turned towards Muir Beach and tackled the big climb one more time. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings”, John Muir was repeating. It was a tough stretch, but I ran into Theresa Hatch who was smiling her way to the top as she finished the 33k. We power-hiked to the top, and I glided down into the finish in 5:20:18, good enough for 6th place. Ryan Commons did hold on and finished just 8 minutes behind me, enough to put a few more points on the board and seal the Series win.

(Theresa Hatch masters the climb with ease)

As I changed into warmer clothes (ie, everything I could get my hands on), I learned that Jason Reed had powered past everyone to win the event in 4:41:20, just five minutes ahead of Max Shchemelinin. Bev and Joe finished in 4:49:01 (that gave Bev the 1st female), with Rachel Baker finishing 5th in 5:14:06. Santa Claus finished in just over 6 hours. ;-)

I stopped at the Pelican Inn to warm my toes and get a beer, and reveled in the closure of the last race of the year. Time to toss the shoes, let my toenails grow back, put a few comfort pounds on, and spend some quality time with the family. I raised my glass to the RD’s and volunteers who have been there all year long, especially on the challenging days like today. You are my heroes! Until next year…


Monday, December 15, 2008

2009 Way Too Cool 50k Fills In Less Than 9 Minutes

The 2009 Way Too Cool 50k opened for registration yesterday, and filled over 400 slots in 8 minutes and 55 seconds. In case that wasn't enough proof that ultrarunning continues to gain in popularity, the wait list also filled in the next 20 minutes!

Personally, I wasn't able to get my slot thanks to some connectivity snafus caused by a storm. Race Director Julie Fingar let me know that being on the wait list isn't so bad - thanks to injuries and changes of plan, most of the wait list gets flushed out by race day. I'll have my fingers crossed!

- SD

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ultrarunner David Goggins to Be Featured on NBC Ironman Coverage This Saturday

Ultrarunner David Goggins, the Navy SEAL and "100 Mile Man", will be featured on the NBC coverage of the Ford Ironman World Championship this Saturday, Dec 13th, 2:30EST (check your local listings for times). Here's what the press kit said:

"David Goggins, a member of the NavySEALS, as well as an endurance athlete who has completed several ultramarathons. He races to raises money in honor of 11 military personnel who were killed in Afghanistan in 2005 - Goggins attended training school with four of them. He has raised nearly $300,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which pays the college tuition for children of special-operations personnel killed in the line of duty."
I've heard that David is a nice guy, so I suspect he will do us ultrarunners proud. But his new Web site ups the ante of self-promotion to near-Karnazes levels, and I can't help but wonder if that's the best way to bring attention to his endurance achievements (which, to be honest, pale in comparison to his services to our country and need no promotion whatsoever). The Web site claims to that he "ranks him one of the Top 20 ultrarunners in the world", and his video starts by saying he is the "SICKEST endurance athlete in the world" complete with how many pull ups and sit ups he can do. Oh, my! It is impressive, but do you think this level of self-promotion is the best possible means?

I don't mean to nitpick or judge, since I don't really know the guy. I will say that one thing does sort of get my goose as an ultrarunner - it appears he doesn't like the sports he is participating in. According to the site, he got 2nd in the Ultraman (2x Ironman distance) on a rented bike with little training, and didn't really enjoy it. Completing the Ultraman is impressive, but is a lack of preperation really the horn you want to toot? Isn't that like me saying I did the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in flip-flops? Perhaps highlighting that this isn't out of desire for the sport itself is to emphasize his drive for his chosen charity, which is admirable. But I couldn't help but think it was a lost opportunity to connect deeply with an audience of passionate people that could carry his message forward.

I'm doing some armchair critiquing here, but I don't mean to judge. I suspect there is a story here that I don't know, and there may be good reasons to make his claims in the manner he does. If David is able to get a few more folks to check out this ultrarunning thing, I'm sure the sport will be better for it. Certainly the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will too. I'm just curious what others think, so I will blog away. Honestly, it's a bit unfair to even raise the question without meeting him first. I'm hoping one of you has and can shed some light on the subject.

Regardless, I wish David the best in his pursuits and hope to have a chance to meet him in the future. If you would like to donate to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, just click through on the link. I'll give Mr. Goggins this much - he's brought to my attention a very worthy cause. NBC will do this for millions more.

- SD

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How bad can a foot blister get? YIKES! (video)

Holy cow...if you haven't seen this video, be sure to prepare yourself before clicking PLAY. It is easily the craziest toe blister I have ever seen!

Thanks to Craig Thornley for the footage, captured at the 2007 Javelina Jundred. I will have nightmares tonight for sure. ;-)

- SD

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Matt Carpenter, Kami Semick, Max King, and Cynthia Anderson Get P-A-I-D!

Matt Carpenter and Kami Semick brought home the $10,000 paycheck on Saturday for their respective wins at The North Face 50 Championship. Carpenter clocked a 6:49:33 on this challenging course, five minutes ahead of last years champion, Uli Stedl. Semick showed no signs of fatigue from her silver medal finish at the IAU 100k World Championship on her way to a 7:58:43, five minutes ahead of Oregon's Suzanna Beck. All results here.

(Ben Bruce and Max King take on the Hawaii course, photo courtesy of Nils Nilsen)

In Hawaii, it was Team USA Cross Country star Max King and Hawaiian local Cynthia Anderson who won the 2008 XTERRA Trail Running World Championship half marathon. Bend, OR's King led from start to finish in 1:18:23, beating Ben Bruce, of Eugene, who finished second in 1:21:55, and Thomas Taylor, of Phoenix, AZ, who finished third in 1:29:33. In the women’s race Anderson, a former cross country and track stand-out at the University of Rhode Island, was in a tight duel with Canadian Danelle Kabush the entire way. Kabush, the race favorite, had the lead until about mile seven when Anderson passed on a steep uphill. Kabush stayed close the rest of the way and was right on Anderson’s heel for much of the final six miles but ultimately finished 32 seconds back with a time of 1:40:10. Anderson’s winning time was 1:39:38. King and Anderson each received $2,000 for their win. Photos here and story/results here.

A big payday weekend for trail running!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Great Fall Run at the Woodside 50k

On Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 350 trail runners for the Woodside 50k/35k/17k/10k in my hometown of Woodside, CA. We had a perfect day of sun and 55 degree weather, which was more than enough to put smiles on faces all around as we enjoyed the romp in the redwoods. Another fantastic race put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs!

(Leor Pantilat is ready at the sunny start)

(The 50k runners are ready to roll!)

I was pleased just to make it to the starting line thanks to a nasty cold bug that Sophie brought home from school a week ago. I’ve been hacking up enough green oysters over the last week to stock a fishbowl. But I was on the final stretch of my recovery, so I just loaded up on cold medicine, planned to drink plenty of fluids, and lined up at the start of the 50k with no intentions other than enjoying the Fall colors and crisp air. The weather was unusually clear at the starting line, and we squinted into the sun as RD’s Wendell and Sarah (and Aaron) Doman gave us last minute instructions. At 8:30am, we were off!

(Sarah and Wendell give us the low down)

The front runners set a brutal pace from the beginning, with speed demon Leor Pantilat, collegiate track star (28:50 for the 10k) and Stanford graduate student Keith Bechtol, perennial top finisher and PC Trail Runs Series top contender Will Gotthardt, and Redding, CA’s Trevor Nelson taking off like they were being chased. I was impressed that Leor and Will had any legs at all, since both of them had run the Quad Dipsea last weekend. Given the perfect conditions and newly groomed trails, the 3:52 course record was definitely going to get some pressure. I paced along with Jason Reed and Jamie Olsen as we launched into the big climb to the top of Huddart Park.

I recognized the back of Jason’s head and his efficient stride, and we quickly figured out that I had run along with him at a couple of races this year. He was tackling the full 50k this time which was, and I’m dead serious, his 87th race this year. Yowza! He also did the Quad Dipsea last weekend, but you would never know from his effortless climbing and friendly banter.

Jamie, a swimming and wrestling coach from Sacramento, CA, was a road racer (marathon and ultra) who was giving this “trail thing” a try. He and Jason really hit it off, talking about the best marathons and races in Northern California and their various experiences. Jason and I were familiar with this course, so we had plenty of tips to share. My big one for this race was “don’t go anaerobic until you hit the first aid station, then make up ground by charging the downhills on the way to Wunderlich”. I had figured this out at the Woodside 50k earlier this year, where I clocked my best 4:14.

(Jason Reed and Jamie Olsen take on the newly-groomed Crystal Springs trail)

The trails were fast, much in thanks to most of the Crystal Springs Trail being smoothed and paved with some base asphalt. I missed the roots and rocks, but this was definitely faster. We made the first aid station (5 miles) in 50 minutes, with a chorus of coyotes bringing us in. The awesome aid station volunteers said we were already 10 minutes behind the leaders. Wow! One of the volunteers handed me a note from Christi and Sophie which they left on their way out a few minutes earlier (the aid station is next to our driveway). Go, Daddy, Go!

Jason, Jamie and I kept a comfortable pace on the Skyline Trail towards Wunderlich. I kept telling them what was ahead and when to sprint, and Jamie asked, “how many times have you run on these trails?”. I shocked myself when I did the math – it was nearly 1000 times! Guess I don’t have to pre-run this course. ;-)

(Cruising along the lush hills of the Skyline Trail)

About halfway in, I took the lead to show the other guys how to bomb the little downhill stretches. My feet found the right footing like only a local could, and I quickly gapped them by two minutes before reaching the second aid station (mile 11). The crisp Fall air cleared up my throat and sinuses, allowing my lungs to soak in the oxygen. It felt great! I made a quick stop for refills and headed down into Wunderlich.

The next stretch of downhill was just gorgeous, and the trees were full of birds singing the praises of a beautiful Fall day. I couldn’t see a soul in front or behind me, and for a moment it felt like I was just out on my weekly long run. There was no need to turn on the iPod – my senses were alive with the sights and sounds of the lush and leafy canyons. Is there any better place to be on a nice sunny Fall day? My heart filled with joy knowing hundreds of people were out today enjoying the trails I am so lucky to frequent.

(The ever-smiling Luis Velasquez and Janet Thomson charge down into Wunderlich)

(Tom O'Connell from Conifer, CO leads a pack down the fire road)

(No PC Trail Run race would be complete without the smiling Fred Ecks)

About half way down, I caught a glimpse of Will and Trevor about a ½ mile ahead. Maybe I wasn’t that far back! I did my best to pick up the speed but went miles without seeing them again. I reached the climb back up and knew that Will was probably mountain goating up and trying to break Trevor. Ten minutes later, I caught up to Trevor walking and regrouping with some tunes. I should have warned him about Will and those climbs!

(Trevor takes a breather on the climb up Wunderlich)

The climb back became an out-and-back, and the smiles of other runners powered me up to the top. I reached the aid station (mile 18) and Will had definitely put 7-8 additional minutes on me. Even scarier, Keith and Leor were 30 MINUTES ahead of me. And we’re only half way! The course record would fall for sure. I chugged a Vespa, grabbed some jelly beans for the road, and joined the 35k runners to head back home. Trevor entered the aid station as I left, so he was rallying!

(Scott Laberge and Clare Abram do a running hug)

(John McKiernan charges the downhill)

(Hollister, CA's Brian Harvey keeps a solid pace)

I ran the whole stretch back, chatting with runners along the way. All of them were smiling ear to ear and enjoying how the sun was breaking through the redwood canopy. The temperature remained ideal – mid-50’s with a slight breeze, just enough that you couldn’t overheat if you tried. I came into the last aid station (mile 26) and got one last refill before taking on the final downhill descent. They mentioned that Bechtol and Pantilat were well on course record pace, with Bechtol a few minutes in the lead.

My pace was good down the last hill, but not good enough to hold off Harry Walter who was having a PR kind of day. He looked great! He quickly put 30 seconds on me, so I picked up the pace to keep him in sight. I knew some fire roads were up ahead, and suspected I had the leg speed to catch him again. I hit the roads and turned up the pace to 5:45 min/miles, and caught him with a mile to go. I offered to run in together with him, but he said, “nope, we should race to the end”. You gotta respect that! So I turned up the speed and charged and Harry stuck right on me. The last 800 meters were flat out, and I crossed the finish in 4:22:30, narrowly beating Harry by less than a second. We both staggered to the rest area and held off dry heaves, patting each other on the back for a well-earned finish. Harry did PR by a large margin, and was quite pleased. I was so proud of him!

Keith Bechtol did bring home the win in a smokin’ 3:35:15, taking nearly 20 minutes off the course record. Leor Pantilat was second, just three minutes behind and also well below the course record. Look out Krupicka and Skaggs – we got some new California young guns to give you a run for your money! Will Gotthardt finished third in a respectable 4:08, bringing him within a few points to win the PC Trail Run Series. Heather Burcar from Golden, CO, won the Women’s division in 4:53:19.

(Keith Bechtol, Leor Pantilat, and Will Gotthardt finish 1, 2, 3)

(Heather Burcar looking great at the finish)

In the short course races, Elliot Wright (2:45:37) and Jennifer Dolson (2:58:28) won the 35k, Gary Gellin (1:10:39, new course record) and Bonnie Niesen (1:28:32) won the 17k, and Michael Skaff (48:36) and Christy Haddad (53:37) brought home gold in the 10k. (All results here)


(Birthday girl Sarah Doman and her son, Aaron)

As we ate chili and snacks in the sun, more smiling runners came flying down the home stretch. Sarah Doman was surprised with a birthday cake, and hopefully got a slice before the hungry trail runners devoured what was left. I smiled into the sun, listening to the laughter and camaraderie around me as friends new and old wished each other a happy holiday. Another epic day in the mountains!

- SD

Friday, December 05, 2008

Trail Running's Big $$$ Weekend - North Face 50, XTerra Worlds

The biggest prize purses in trail running are on the line this weekend at The North Face Endurance Challenge (San Francisco, CA) on Sat, Dec 6, and the XTerra Trail Running World Championships (Kualoa Ranch, HI) on Sun, Dec 7. Over $40k in cash up for grabs to the fastest runners!

The North Face Endurance Challenge, a 50-miler championship race in the Headlands that cumulates the US Series, is stacked with serious competition eyeing the $10k grand prize that both the male and female winner will receive (2nd place gets $4k, 3rd gets $1k). Defending champion Uli Stedl will have to fend off top runners such as Phil Kochik, 50k/100k USATF champion Michael Wardian, Joe Kulak, Adam Lint, east coast star Leigh Schmitt, Guillermo Medina, and rumored late entries of Matt Carpenter (2nd last year) and Dave Mackey (who smoked the course record at the Miwok 100k this year). For the women, defending champion Lizzy Hawker will be up against Nikki Kimball, 100k champion and Miwok specialist Kami Semick, and Colorado star Anita Ortiz. Yowza! That's a fast crew. To add to the difficulty, a 5am start with required 3-4am shuttle will guarantee that everyone will be sleep deprived and starting with a few hours of headlight running. If you want the big $$$, it's gonna take all you have.

The XTerra Trail Running World Championship is a 21k run in the country mountains of Oahu, HI, that caps off XTerra's first national championship Series. $10k in prize money is at stake ($2k for winners, going down to $200 for 7th), and the event will be filmed for the nationally syndicated XTerra show. This has enabled XTerra to draw some fast runners including Max King (the current XTERRA Trail Run National Champion, USA World Cross Country Team Member, and Olympic Trial Steeplechase runner) and Ben Bruce (the runner-up at Nationals, also an Olympic Trial Steeplechase runner) from Oregon, professional triathlete Logan Wealing from Colorado, Florida A1A marathon winner Danelle Kabush, and Xterra Professional Marion Summerer from Germany. It's going to be a speedy race for sure.

Both of these races also have open registration, so there is a good chance that some unknown road racer will come out to cash in. It's really neat to see this sport progress to this level, where prize purse money can help bring out the best competition. Best of luck to everyone this weekend!

- SD

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Santa Barbara Turkey Trot 4-miler

Last Thursday I joined a couple hundred eager runners for the Santa Barbara Thanksgiving 4-miler (aka, the Turkey Trot). It was a great way to get outdoors and get the blood flowing before spending the rest of the afternoon eating and drinking until we burst. Somehow in my head, a 4-miler makes it okay to have seconds on pecan pie. I don't bother with the calorie math. ;-)

I met up with Kristin Armstrong and her friend Jamie Allison (the original Mom in Motion), and was pleased to find out that their 7-year-old daughters Bella and Kate would be joining us this year. How cool! Kristin and Jamie beamed with delight to have their young ones at their side. Four miles is pretty impressive for anyone, let alone a 7-year-old! Our good friend Dan McCammon also met up with us.

(Kate and Bella are ready to rock the F-7 category)

(Our crew, 3-year-old Sammi, jumps in a photo with Kate, Jamie, Bella, and Kristin)

Despite the torrential rain of the last few days (which followed a very scary fire in the hills), Santa Barbara managed to cook up another sunny day for the Turkey Trot. The volunteers cranked through a hundred last minute sign-ups, and we all lined up on Hollister Ave to get started. The cops delayed us a bit...hey, are they writing a ticket for the Race Director? Maybe he forgot the permit...

(Bummer for the RD)

(The Turkey Trotters take over Hollister Ave)

(Kik paces along with Bella and Kate)

Kate and Bella took off like it was a 100-meter dash, despite the pacing warnings of their marathon- and ultra-training Moms. Soon enough the two speed demons had slowed down to a crawl. As we hit the first turn, Kate paced with Jamie while Bella grabbed a "lost dog" sign and multi-tasked by scouting for the lost mutt. Never a dull moment with Bella around. ;-)

(Mothers and daughters)

I caught up to Kate and Jamie, and learned that young Kate was no stranger to these long runs with a few 5k's under her belt already. Jamie was tapering down for the CIM marathon next weekend after a long retreat from distance running, and was excited to shoot for a Boston-qualifying time should all go well. I started to tell her all about the virtues of trail running, right about the time Bella and Kik came up on the trail behind us. Kik must be getting in a few more trail miles before her ultramarathon debut at Sunmart next weekend. So much race anticipation all around! It was good to have 4 miles to just goof off.

(Bella and Kik take on the trails)

We took a walk break as we hit the halfway point and drank all the water we could grab. I thought for sure we would be walking from here on out, but Kate and Bella took off again and we were soon in hot pursuit.

(Flying Bella and Kate hit the second half with gusto)

It was so much fun to run with the girls and their Moms. I could pace with the girls and feed off their energy and constant laughing, then ease back with the Moms and savor the silent smiles they would share with each other as they watched their little ones grow up in front of them. I was looking forward to the day that Sophie might join in. Let's just hope I'm fast enough to keep up when she does!

(The Santa Barbara mountains hold back the clouds as we hit the final stretch)

The sun hit our faces as we rounded the last corner and headed back to the finish. After a quick break to meet some dogs and exchange some cool foliage with Sammi and Michael (Jamie's husband), we poured into the home stretch in just over 56 minutes. Not bad at all! We had some powdered donuts, donned our super-cool Turkey t-shirts, and headed back home to prepare for the big day.

(Kik and Bella cross the finish line)

(Sammi finds the best part of the race - powdered donuts!)

The sun and sand beckoned me from the drive home, so I pulled over and put in a few more miles chasing the pelicans down the beach. I thanked the birds for the impromptu race, the sun and ocean for the inspiration, and my lucky stars for having a beautiful morning like this. Perhaps the best way to give thanks is to be in the moment and share your appreciation.

Or maybe I'm just making room for thirds of pecan pie. ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

- SD

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