Category Archives: running

Oyster run – birthday miles


2:00pm Saturday afternoon, September 9, 2017, Lucas and I sat at the Bread and Butter Bakery in San Anselmo, looking at gaia maps on his phone and figuring out our running route for my birthday run- matching miles for years, to celebrate my upcoming bday on 9/12.

The goal was 39 miles. We’d both heard about Devon Yanko’s (an elite ultrarunner) bakery, and Lucas’s idea was to have brunch here then run to the beach and back.

We ordered a Tam Fog drink (lapsang souchang tea, steamed milk, golden syrup, and lemon twist), a beer (St. Bonita Rustic Lager), a fried egg sandwich (with 2 yr. cheddar, bacon, avocado, and roasted tomato basil aioli), and creamy polenta (salsa verde, poached eggs, sheep feta, and cilantro). The food was INCREDIBLE, and the sandwich was so big I got to take half of it to go, for what we thought might be a “midnight snack” later in the run.



We parked a couple blocks from the bakery to avoid the 2-hour parking issue, and headed up towards Oak Avenue.

As we passed a seminary, hauntingly beautiful piano music drifted out the open windows. The sign on the lawn said “no dogs on grass” but the bark coming from inside as we ran by the door indicated dogs WERE allowed in the church.

After climbing Oak Avenue, the residential street turned into a fire road, which then led to the series of trails and fire roads in the Bald Hill Open Space Preserve that we meandered through to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

Bald Hill Open Space Preserve

The trails and fire roads were well-marked and this combined with Lucas’s route-finding on Gaia left little room for error. It was the hottest part of the day, and the heat radiated off the dry earth.

We met a couple at an impeccably clean porta-pottie 5 miles in, near the Rocky Ridge Fire rd and chatted for a bit. Lucas asked how we should get to Bolinas, and the guy responded “start about 6 hours earlier”. He laughed and gave us some suggested trails to hit along the way.

From mile 6 on, I thought about significant events that occurred during each matching mile-year of my life, sharing stories with Lucas, and asked for his memories from each year as well.

After winding around the beautiful lakes/reservoirs, the trail started climbing into beautiful redwoods along the Cataract Trail. We found a gorgeous little waterfall and pool to stop and cool off in.


After climbing out of the redwoods, we came to a road (Ridgecrest Blvd) that we followed for a couple of miles, taking little trail detours here and there.

Coastal trail near Ridgecrest Blvd
first glimpse of the ocean, looking down towards Stinson Beach and Bolinas, our destination for dinner
me heading down the Coastal trail, high on a ridge above the ocean
Lucas on the Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail

I pulled something in my piriformis area (recurring issue lately) around mile 14, which made mile 15 the hardest of the run, which corresponded darkly with year 15 of my life. I silently pushed through, keeping the despair to myself. I seriously doubted that I would be able to continue on for another 24 miles with this.

We hit mile 16 and Lucas commented that I’d missed some years – I told him what was going on and how glad I was to be over that horrible year and mile. My leg loosened up and miles 16-23 brought us closer to the beach and I happily recalled some of the best years of my life.

We reached the bike path leading to Bolinas, a beautiful little seaside community, as the sun began to set.




We ran through the funky and artsy little town, noting our dinner options, and decided that oysters would be amazing after we went down to the water and back.

On the way to the water, we again heard gorgeous piano music, this time coming from a sweet house built on stilts over the bay.


fisherman with a dog that wasn’t his
Bolinas, looking towards Stinson Beach
Lucas at the beach
fog moving in brought a nice reprieve from the heat


We made our way back to the little town center, and chose Eleven Wine Bar Bistro as our dinner spot.

We were 23.5 miles in and it was just after 8pm. 3743′ of elevation gain so far.

to the beach

Eleven Wine Bar Bistro
so hungry

We ordered a half dozen oysters, a couple beers, and a pepperoni pizza. There were no leftovers; it was phenomenal. The best oysters ever; we both agreed.

bathroom at Eleven
looking slightly haggard as we packed up for the return trip

Lucas studied Gaia and found us a return route that would cut some miles off – the goal was 39 miles but we’d be going over a bit.

On the way out of town, we found a 24-hour self-serve farmer’s market with the freshest, most beautiful produce. We purchased a melon for dessert.


love this


We followed a paved road, dodging cars, until we reached the Martin Griffin Preserve, where we went around the fence and crept passed the employee houses with our headlamps off. A deer (we think) bounded across the trail in front of us and scared the crap out of me.

After a bit of stumbling around, we found the Bourne trail that would take us back up towards the ridge between the ocean and Mt. Tam watershed. The further we got from the ocean, the temps rose, and it became quite hot again.

We took our time, as Lucas’s stomach seemed to be rebelling against the oysters/pizza/beer we had for dinner. We stopped for a short nap on a picnic table once we got down again from the ridge.

I had the 2nd half of my delicious egg sandwich from 10 hours earlier, around midnight in the middle of the woods. Lucas had stopped for a break, and as I stood eating my sandwich, a chorus of coyotes howled loudly in the darkness. I love being out at night.

We made it back to the streets of San Anselmo around 2am.

glad to see I’m reflective at night

The return trip brought our total to just under 41 miles with 6500′ of climbing. We were out for 12 hours, which included many breaks and about an hour for dinner.

beach to car
from Bolinas back to San Anselmo. 17.3 miles


It was my favorite birthday run to date.


Isle Royale Part 6 – 21 mile run on the big island

It was day 4 at Isle Royale National Park, a trail running mecca spread over 400 islands with over 165 miles of trails and 99% designated wilderness, and my sister Lynette (the Ecologist for the Park) and I had plans for a 21 mile loop on the main island.

Monday morning, August 14, 2017, Lynette and I set out in her boat, the Universal Special, to head from Mott Island to the big island, for our “big” run of the trip.

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Captain Net

We discovered that the Universal Special was capable of going faster than 7 miles per hour when not loaded down with 5 people! We easily skimmed across the channel towards Daisy Farm, our start/finish for the run.

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Rock Harbor Lighthouse
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a few of the 400 islands that make up Isle Royale

From Daisy Farm, we took the Mt. Ojibway trail up 1.8 miles to the fire lookout. It was a surprisingly good climb to start the run.

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Lynette heading up towards Mt. Ojibway

Just after reaching the Greenstone Ridge Trail, we heard a terrible racket from some sandhill cranes:

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Lynette climbing up to the top,
Mt. Ojibway fire lookout. She pointed out a nearby radio tower that she and her colleague Leah had built by themselves, which meant they hiked in all the building materials from the boat. 
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One of many inland lakes as viewed from the fire lookout on Mt. Ojibway
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Lynette heading back down

From Mt. Ojibway, we headed west on the Greenstone Ridge, the trail that bisects the entire island, about 44 miles across (that Lynette and I plan to run next summer).

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Crossing many boardwalks

We followed the Greenstone Ridge Trail for about 6 miles to the East Chickenbone Trail, which we would follow down and around Chickenbone Lake.

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Me running towards Chickenbone Lake
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Lynette on a slightly overgrown section
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Lynette stopping for Thimbleberries

Around mile 9.5, our halfway point, we turned left on the Indian Portage Trail, which led us back down towards Chickenbone Lake again.

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A perfect spot for moose, but we didn’t see any on this run.
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so many fun things to look at
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The sun came out as we neared Chickenbone Lake again

The Indian Portage Trail led us along two more lakes, Lake Livermore around mile 11.8 (as we crossed the Greenstone Ridge Trail), and then LeSage Lake at 12.5, before reaching Lake Ritchie (where we would filter our water), at mile 14.3.

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so many lakes

Before Lake Ritchie, each time we passed water, I asked Lynette if we should stop, but she insisted on Lake Ritchie (there is now an algae bloom at Lake Ritchie so the water is no longer safe to drink).

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so much green
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Taking a break at Lake Ritchie

At mile 15.3 we left the Indian Portage Trail for the Lake Ritchie Trail, which would lead us back down to Daisy Farm, our starting point.

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making our way back down to the boat

We completed our 21 mile loop, which had about 2600′ of climbing, and some fairly technical (rocky and/or overgrown) trails, in 5 hours.

21 mile run

elevation profile- 21 mile run

No speed records were broken, but we took our time, running casually and stopping frequently to enjoy berries and scenery.

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Daisy Farm dock after the run

We had a celebratory beer with our sandwiches on the dock just as the raindrops began and the glassy lake became covered in perfect little ringlets.

After returning to Mott Island, my mom and I went out for a hike, and saw our friend the bull moose. I chased him down the trail for quite a ways but couldn’t get any clear photos. Lynette and my dad went fishing, after making ice cream with Avian and her friends. Avian said “thanks, I’m out” and didn’t come back until after 10pm.

my mom on the Mott Island loop
Mott Island trail along Lake Superior
little island off Mott Island

It was a beautiful end to an incredible day on Isle Royale.

Next up, Part 7-  Edisen Fishery, Bangsund Cabin, and Rock Harbor.

(for more stories on my visit to Isle Royale, see parts 1234, and 5)

Isle Royale Part 3 – where are the moose?

After Net and I returned from our Paddle-Run-Paddle adventure, we found Avian playing with her island friends at the dock.






Clearly, she hadn’t missed us.

We regrouped with my parents and decided to head out for a Mott Island Loop in search of moose.

It was great fun; however, no moose. After dinner, I decided to try another loop. This time, heading out solo, I focused on treading as lightly as possible, and just listening to the sounds… Isle Royale is so peaceful and quiet, you can distinctly hear my favorite sound: the call of the loon.

About 1.5 miles into the run, I heard a soft crunching noise down a ravine – I stopped, and crept to the ledge – to my absolute delight, there was a moose, standing about 20 feet back from the water, snacking on some brush.

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moose down by the logs

The trail would lead me down near the moose. I contemplated this, and decided it was still best to continue, but as I went down the steep embankment, I saw that the moose was not alone… there was another one, much smaller, but still quite huge. Lynette had told me there was a mother moose and her twins on the island… and yes, there was the other kid! I crept down the trail towards them.

The sweet little (huge) family seemed to realize I was there, and ran off through the woods.


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twins following their mama

It was then I realized that moose, despite their enormous size, can run pretty fast. I looked it up – moose can run 35 miles per hour. They can also swim 6 miles per hour for two hours at a time.

I was feeling pretty high on adrenaline-  I saw not one, but three moose!

I continued on my way and soon after came across a huge bull moose, standing right in the middle of the trail.

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Whoa. Ok, so the mama and twins didn’t scare me too much, but after seeing how fast they could run, I started wondering what kind of damage this Big Guy could do. Lynette had told me moose don’t usually charge people until Sept-Oct, and she had mentioned climbing trees as a way to safety. I was surrounded by trees, but none looked very climbable.

I decided my only option was to keep going, so I talked to the moose and walked towards him, hoping he would move over. He eventually did.

The run back to Lynette’s was accompanied by a gorgeous sunset, and I couldn’t wait to tell my family what I’d just experienced.

Next up: Part 4: Isle Royale – Raspberry Island


Isle Royale Part 2 – Paddle-Run-Paddle

(also see part 1 – Getting to Isle Royale)

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Coffee on Lynette’s deck before our day

After the best night of sleep in a LONG time, followed by coffee and a quick breakfast, Lynette and I packed our running gear in dry bags, and walked from her place across the island to set out on our adventure.

Net introducing me to kayaking. Ours would be a short paddle each direction, but she has done multi-day trips with this thing.
Lynette totally catered to me; carried the kayak into the water, stood over it so I wouldn’t capsize while trying to get in and out; and she completely eased any hesitation I had.
Following Lynette away from our island towards the big one

Our goal was to beat the Ranger III before it came back from Rock Harbor to Mott, so as to avoid the wake. It worked, and we were treated to glass-calm waters.

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Once on the big island, we stashed the boats and transitioned into running gear.

boat shoes to running shoes

As Lynette had warned me, nearly every backpacker we met looked stunned to see us running- they thought we were studs, and told us as much. What they didn’t realize, was how easy running was compared to what they were doing; we were carrying minimal gear- just water and a few calories, not to mention the fact that we were sleeping in real beds at night with indoor plumbing, electricity, a kitchen, and so on. But, we enjoyed the praise and didn’t correct them.

Lynette crossing a marsh

It was pretty special to have a running tour of the island with The Island Ecologist as my guide. Lynette pointed out flowers, plants, and my favorite, raspberries and thimbleberries, which we gobbled up along the way.


She also introduced me to some of the island’s carnivorous plants.


Insects beware

From the boat, we followed the trail along the lake about 3 miles to Daisy Farm campground (a walk-in or boat-in rustic campground), then continued up to Mt. Ojibway (1143′ above sea level), which has a fire lookout to climb (and guess who had a key?)

Lynette looking for moose
so many lakes

From Mt. Ojibway, we followed the Greenstone trail to Mt. Franklin. Along the Greenstone Trail (the 42-mile trail that crosses the entire island), Lynette pointed out a plant that is endemic to Isle Royale- it only grows in one, 8-foot long section, on this one part of the island.

the trail was slightly overgrown in places
Mt. Franklin, photo taken by backpackers, who thought we were pretty cool
Looking out towards Canada from Mt. Franklin
Lynette running down trail from Mt. Franklin

From Mt. Franklin, we went down to the Three Mile Trail which eventually led us to the water.

The trails, although faint or overgrown at times, were very well marked at intersections.


a perfect spot for moose to hang out, but we didn’t see any here
back down along the lake, headed towards our boats

We reached the boats in about 3 hours- our loop was 12.2 miles with 1,234′ of gain, and lots of stopping and exploring along the way.

After the run, the water felt so good

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Lynette leaving the big island
that’s me

We put the boats away and headed back to find our family.

trail map
We took Siskowit Mine to Daisy Farm to Mt. Ojibway to Mt Franklin to Three Mile and back down to complete the loop.


Next up – Isle Royale Part 3 – where are the moose?

TRT 100 – a glimpse of heaven, more than a taste of hell

“Whoa, look, you don’t want to end up like that guy!”

      “wait, is it a guy or a girl?”

   “I can’t tell…”

How had I become “that guy“, an example of “what not to do” in this race?  Lying in an indiscernible pile on the ground, mile 65, 10:00 pm or so, at the psychedelic Alice and Wonderland -themed Red House Aid Station, I listened as an intermittent stream of runners entered, refueled, and then continued on their way.  The sting of being passed had faded over the past 6 hours, after being reduced to a jog-walk-stop-poop rotation for the past 20 miles, until I could go no more. I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

No stranger to GI issues during 100 milers, this time was different: sharp, stabbing stomach cramps left me frozen in place, doubled-over with pain. I’d entered mile 50 in tears, not wanting to continue, pleading, “I can’t finish this if I can’t take any calories in!” to which Chaz replied, “use some from here!” as he pinched my waist, “or here!” – my arm.  My friends kicked me out and sent me off with Lucas, my boyfriend and pacer who’d been sentenced to pace me the last 50 miles.

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running until I couldn’t. Photo: Lucas

My legs felt strong, but running didn’t last more than 5-10 minutes before I had to stop and hold my stomach, or hide behind a bush. I wanted to stop at Hobart, mile 56, but my friends just laughed and pushed me on.  We came across Jim Buckley about halfway to Tunnel Creek, and I laid down in the snow as we discussed our various ailments – I enjoyed hearing his story; misery loves company. Jim shared a few ginger chews, which would become my primary fuel source for the next several hours.

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Lucas and Jim from my point of view

I was negative. It was ugly. Lucas never told me, “you can’t stop”, but he made suggestions like, “think about why you wanted to do this” and “think about why you love it out here”. I couldn’t come up with any reasons. I was a disaster.

I’d been dreading the Tunnel Creek Aid Station (which we loop past 6 times total during the race), as I knew that Jill Anderson, Kaycee Green, John Trent, JoAnn Ellero, Michelle Edmonson and countless other happy, encouraging volunteers would be there, with their relentlessly cheerful “never give up” attitude. They would be a tough crowd to convince that I was dropping. Sure enough, they smiled and joked and pushed me on towards the dreaded Red House Loop.

Annie and Jill at sunset, Tunnel Creek Aid Station, before Red House Loop

We watched the last, glorious light of day fade as we descended into the Red House Loop, which is the “Taste of Hell” referenced in the TRT race slogan.  We trudged down 1,000 feet to the bottom of the 6.2 mile loop and began to climb back up towards the aid station, as I convinced myself “enough is enough”. I was certain that if I kept going, I’d end up with serious stomach problems that would land me in the ER, and being sick for days was not an option. This was DUMB. I run 100s because they are fun and I love the experience – this was not fun and I was a mess. I wanted out.

I thought about Lucas, and how miserable he must be, plodding along with me, at a pace of 1-2 miles per hour (and slowing), listening to me whine and complain nearly the entire time. Comforting me when I’d sit on the side of the trail, holding me as I cried. I’d completely failed – I went into the race feeling so good, so confident… and now it was over. I told Lucas I needed to lay down, so we did, right on the trail. Headlamps would approach, runners would ask if they could help, (they couldn’t) and move on. Laying down was less difficult then walking, but I was still gripped with pain each time my stomach seized up. There was no relief, so I got up and trudged along.

The Red House Aid Station would not be an easy place to drop – we couldn’t get out until the aid station closed, many hours later, so one of the volunteers brought me a sleeping pad from their own tent, and covered me in a quilt. I pulled it up over my head and laid there, bracing myself as the waves of stomach cramps continued. I thought about friends who’d had miserable stomach ailments but didn’t give up – Carrie did it twice here and survived. Chris just gutted out major issues at Western States and finished. I thought about Michelle who had given EVERYTHING she had, to be timed out by the clock at mile 85. My friend Sharon, who had pushed herself to mile 92 last year, with a completely messed up back. None of them gave up. I wanted to call each of them. HOW did you keep going? WHY did you keep going??

Perhaps an hour passed (time was no longer of consequence), when I decided to attempt the 3 mile climb back up to the Tunnel Creek Aid Station to officially drop. I just couldn’t do this anymore. Based on how long it took us to get down here, I thought it might take 3 hours to get out. Lucas and I headed into the darkness. By some small miracle, I started jogging. The stomach cramps came less often.  I thought about the friends who were injured and would have given anything to be in my place, diarrhea fest and all, for the opportunity to run. I thought about my kids, who would be so disappointed if I quit. I thought about my friends Sharon and Sean who were still out on course. I thought about Lindsay, who I ran the first hour with, who didn’t give up despite major foot and stomach issues.

Maybe I could do it. We got back to the Tunnel Creek Aid Station (in way less than 3 hours), with my favorite volunteers cheering us in, and I told Lucas, “I’d like to try and make it to Diamond Peak”. But first, I needed to rest. JoAnn and Mike helped me to a cot.

Tunnel Creek Aid Station, post – Red House Loop. Photo: JoAnn Ellero

Shortly after laying down, I felt a baby kicking around in my stomach. I pulled back my shirt and watched as something protruded out and around – I asked Mike Holmes, aid station captain, if this was normal. “Am I pregnant?”

“No, that is just an alien”, he reassured me.

Mike gave me a little cup of noodles with broth- the most calories I’d had in over 8 hours. It was delicious. Coming back to life, Lucas and I headed out towards Diamond Peak, and I concentrated on the good things, like: my legs still felt great, the bathroom breaks were less frequent, and we’d see Spike soon to care for my feet. This was now my longest run without ibuprofen.

Coming into mile 80, I felt like I was almost home. One aid station at a time. If I wanted to survive, I’d need to fuel up and rest a little before the climb- even though my legs felt good, I was weakened from so many hours without food. More broth and noodles, foot care by Spike, and it was time for a nap.

foil blanket burrito at mile 80. Photo: Elke

30-40 minutes of rest and it was time to get moving. I’d been on course for nearly 25 hours- last year I was already finished by now, packing up to head home. Let that thought come and go…

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watching the sun rise from the Diamond Peak climb. Day 2 of the TRT100

This was my 4th Tahoe Rim Trail 100. I’d gone into the race with high hopes.  I trained harder than ever, with the guidance of my coach, Meghan Arbogast. Physically, I was ready to run a PR. As it turned out, this race was all about the mental game, and I wasn’t ready for that.

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incredible views from the top of the Diamond Peak climb

Work and family obligations had ruled the week leading up to the race, and I didn’t allow myself to even think about the race until the night before- at which point I ended up completely panicked, hyperventilating and crying on the floor in the shower.  I could already taste my fate.

During the race, when things turned sour, and the cramping became intense, I’d let myself think, “there’s no way I’m going to finish this”. And once I told myself “there is no way”, it took about 8 hours to overcome that nonsense, and pull myself together. I couldn’t have done that alone. There are too many people to thank, but you know who you are (some of you weren’t even there, so maybe you don’t know who you are. But I know, and I’m forever indebted to you).

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TRT course, mile 83

Miles 80-95 were the some of the most glorious and triumphant of my life. I cried tears of joy when I reached the Tunnel Creek Aid Station for the 6th and final time, and my Silver State Strider friends gave me the loudest standing ovation I’ve ever had. JoAnn and everyone hugged me, Mike yelled “Still got the squirts?!” and Lucas and I pushed onward- I was definitely going to finish this thing.

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JoAnn and I at Tunnel Creek aid station, mile 85, my final time through
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Hobart Aid Station, mile 90, Photo: Scott Rokis

Miles 95-100 were the hardest of my life. Everything hurt. But I was doing it. I was finishing what I started. Before the race, Lucas had sent me some advice, including, “a laugh or a cry is 100x more potent than ibuprofen”. These words carried me through the pain. And I finally allowed myself to truly feel a hundred miler  – nothing to numb it. I was alive, my senses were heightened.

My friend Betsy met us about 2.5 miles from the finish – Betsy had coached and crewed me through my first TRT100 in 2011, and now she was back, yelling and screaming and cheering us in. She pushed us to the finish line, where I was greeted by my beautiful friends, who had all played a part in getting me through this day. More happy tears. It was over.

Mike, Chaz, and my crew, Spike, fixing up my feet, while they fed me beer, chocolate milk, and coconut water. Photo: Betsy
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I quickly surrendered to the best nap of my life.

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31 hours, 09 minutes, 05 seconds


A week in the life… TRT100 training

I’m falling in love all over again, every run, as favorite trails dry out and wildflowers come alive. After the winter that wouldn’t end, I just can’t get enough of this place in the summer (never mind that it snowed this morning).

Snowplants on the Perimeter Trail

I’m now 32 days out from my 4th Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race,  and last week, I was fortunate enough to get in over 18 hours of running, almost all of it on trails.

Northstar Trails facing Martis Camp

To make this possible, each night for the first 3-4 hours of sleep, I wore Recovery Pump Boots (aka “the pants”), which drastically reduce the amount of rest time needed between runs. I also spent some time in the hot tub, used a foam roller, and ate a LOT of food.

Three Bridges Trail

I loved every mile of those 18 hours. Some went easier than others (that’s an understatement), but I’m not afraid to slow to a walk (or stop and take pictures) when either conditions require it or my body deems it necessary.

the only time my feet look small: next to Sugar Pine pinecones

My week started off spectacularly on Monday by seeing a beautiful bear on the Sawtooth Trail, on a hike after work.


Two of my favorite runs were on Tuesday and Wednesday after work –  the only way I’d hit my week’s mileage goal was to run long a couple times after working 8 hours each day.

trails at Northstar-at-Tahoe
Three Bridges Trail (bridges are in tact, trail is not, there are tons of downed trees still)

I headed out the front door with my Camelbak, some homemade beef jerky (thanks to my brother), and a headlamp and ventured out onto the neighborhood trails – The Sawtooth, the 06, Martis Camp Trails, and Northstar trails.

Views from Northstar looking towards Truckee

Each of these nights I put in over 4 hours of running, made near-perfect decisions at every trail intersection, creating near-perfect loops, and was pleased to have not been eaten by a mountain lion or a bear, as I finished after dark each night (and there are so many night-time mountain lion and bear attacks on runners in our area – not exactly – but I don’t want to be the first). I did see one bear cub around 8pm the first night, and heard something like an elephant hollering at me from a rocky outcrop (Mountain Lion perhaps?) after dark the first night.

Magnificent trees at Northstar

My 6 day total after that 2nd long run was well over 100 miles, but for the current week (Monday-Sunday), I was only at 44 miles. I still had a lot of work to do.

more Snowplants on the Martis Camp Trails

Thursday and Friday I plugged away, running when I could, careful not to overdue it here as I’d need to put in a big day on Saturday.

Sawtooth Trail

Saturday morning, I was up an hour before my alarm went off and out the door before 6am, to get in 15 miles of the neighborhood trails, before spending most of the morning with my kids.

Perimeter Trail

Saturday afternoon, Avian and Stephen had a birthday party at Donner Lake, so I dropped them off and headed out for 15 more miles, this time on the beautiful Donner Lake Rim Trail.

Patches of snow left on Donner Lake Rim Trail – Johnson Canyon
Donner Lake Rim Trail – near the Drifter Hut

Sunday morning, between two shorter runs (when I could squeeze them in) I managed to round out the weekly total with 91.6 miles and 12,297′ of climbing.

view from the Creekside Trail on Sunday morning. It looks deceptively warm here
Group run at Donner Lake. Photo by my son, Stephen Borden

And now it’s Monday, and I’m starting all over again. I really love this time of year.

with miles to go before I sleep

Silver State 50 Mile Race Report

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training run on the course last week. Photo: Naomi Plasterer

This past weekend I ran my third consecutive Silver State 50 in Reno, Nevada. This race is a favorite of mine – due to the gorgeous scenery (a mix of high-desert, alpine, wildflowers, and views for miles), incredible volunteers, and an amazing Race Director (John Trent).

We kicked off race weekend with a bear sighting on a run with Linn (her first bear encounter, which appeared while I was telling her my crazy bear v. car story), followed by dinner and drinks with Linn and Lucas at Moody’s Bistro and Beats. I stayed up a little too late, drank a little too much, and hardly slept as a result. But the band was really good and I kept telling myself it was going to help me with the race somehow. I think it did.

Last year at Silver State, in his first ultramarathon, Lucas finished DFL (Dead F#$%-ing Last), in 14 hours, 16 minutes. He loved the experience and went on to race in 12 more ultras over the year (six 50ks, two 50 milers, and two 100ks (including one in Italy)), a 100 miler, AND a 360-mile solo circumnavigation of the Bay Area 3 weeks ago (in 8 days and 2 hours). Running a 50 miler so soon after would be a challenge, but he likes those.

Linn would be running the 50k at Silver State, in preparation for the TRT50 miler in July. Lucas and I did our best to encourage her to upgrade to the TRT100… hope that was effective…

Race morning, I woke up a little hungover and a little grumpy, but Lucas cheerfully got us out the door and down to Reno in the Westy.

The race began at 6:00am, and surrounded by happy, familiar faces, we headed out from Rancho San Rafael Park and began the 12-mile gradual climb up to Peavine Mountain.

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Heading up towards the N in the morning glow

Lucas and I both pushed the pace harder than last year, and as we headed up the service road near the summit I pulled ahead. I spent the rest of the race wondering when I’d see him again, hoping he was having fun (he always has fun, so I figured that wasn’t an issue).

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snow near Peavine Aid Station, which is around 8,000′ elevation

After summiting Peavine, the course provides miles of downhill running into beautiful Dog Valley, which is more Alpine than the somewhat barren hills around Peavine. The trails were pretty chewed up from the insane winter we had, with massive ruts and crevasses that you did NOT want to fall into.

coming down from Peavine
Heading down from Peavine I. Photo: Jesse Ellis
running down from Peavine
Running towards Dog Valley. Photo: Jesse Ellis

One of my favorite stops was coming up, the Dog Valley Aid Station at Mile 23. The first year I ran this race, the theme was “Bachelorette Party” and they had male dancers to entertain the runners. This year, the theme was “Blazing Saddles”… and they really outdid themselves.

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Runners Jen and Eric with the enthusiastic volunteers at Dog Valley Aid Station
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One of many reasons to run a 50 miler in the high desert

Pacers could join runners from River Bend Aid Station (mile 32) to the finish, and one of my best friends/heroes, Kathy D’onofrio, agreed to meet me there. Throughout the race, I focused on staying hydrated (it was hot and fairly dry and exposed), taking salt pills and gels each hour; with the goal of reaching Kathy in prime condition for her to get me to the finish. All of this played out well and by the time I met Kathy I was on pace to beat last-year’s time of 9:27. The River Bend Aid Station was a happy meeting spot, thanks to the volunteers from DPMR and the Canyons (Sharon, Abby, Chaz, Chris, Dan, and everyone).

The climb back up to Peavine was rutted out, technical, muddy in places, and in some spots, the trail was gone altogether and we had to climb up an animal trail. As I realized it would be near impossible to make my time goal due to the course changes/conditions, Kathy made it equally impossible for me to get down about it. Her encouragement was unending and contagious, she kept my spirits high, calling out things like “oh, you love this kind of stuff!” when we’d hit a terrible muddy section or “yay, now it’s sandy, like the beach!”

me and Kathy
Going up! Photo: Jesse Ellis

When we reached Peavine the second time, I sat down to empty the rocks and sand out of my shoes that had been building up for 39 miles.  Thanks to George, JP, Joel, Lesley, and the other awesome volunteers, we made a quick turnaround and headed out to my favorite part of the race- 11 miles of mostly downhill, mostly single-track, glorious, fast running to the finish.

All was going well until mile 45, just after the Ridgeview Aid Station, when I took off particularly fast down the single-track, because another runner had caught us. I raced down the trail and clipped a root with my toe, which sent me flying into the dirt and rocks, hitting both knees, legs, arm first and then bouncing over and landing me on my back. I could taste the dirt in my mouth, could feel the whiplash, and my knees and arm and shoulder all burned. F@#$. I was covered in dirt and speckled with blood. I seriously questioned my ability to continue.

Kathy, ever cheerful, gleefully exclaimed, “That’s great, you rolled, you’re ok, it’s ok!” and to the runner behind us: “She’s ok, just step right over her!”. The runner attempted to help me up, but I needed a moment to lay there and assess the situation. Kathy helped me up “Up you go! Shake it off!” and I slowly jogged down the trail, audibly crying and gasping. Telling myself “I really blew it this time!”

But, no. I did NOT want that runner to remember seeing me go down, and then later, sympathetically watch me limp through the finish line. I decided I wanted him to remember the crash, and then remember me fly past him and not be able to catch me. A sudden rush of adrenaline, and I was off. (I realize this line of thinking is slightly evil and narcissistic, but hey, it got me to stop crying and RUN)

I crossed the line in 9:39:47 (I worked HARD to break that 9:40 mark in the last mile!), as 3rd female behind Amy Sproston in 9:08 and Angela Shartel in 9:26. It was my 3rd 50 mile finish in 3 months, 3rd year running this race, and 3rd time placing in the top 3 at Silver State (it’s a small race; this doesn’t happen too often for me 🙂)

Linn, Helen (3F in the 50k!), and other friends who ran the 50k met us at the finish, and we cheered the other runners in – sadly, my favorite nemesis, Paul, took a wrong turn after racing the first 40 miles or so near each other- I had really hoped for a rematch after he crushed me at Lake Sonoma last month.

Lucas finished in 10:43 – about 3.5 hours faster than last year – a truly remarkable race, considering his 360 only 3 weeks before, and that he stopped and sat down at most aid stations (and earned a sheriff’s badge for sitting on the saddle and taking a shot in Dog Valley).

It was a good day.

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Kathy and I at the finish

MUC 50 Mile Race Report

It started innocently enough…

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How could I say no to a free entry? I got Coach Meghan’s blessing (a 50 mile training run in prep for Lake Sonoma 50 next month was not really on the schedule), and tried not to worry about the race, as it was just a “fun training run” with Lucas.

Six days before the race (Marin Ultra Challenge 50 mile), I ran just over 20 miles on snow-covered, icy roads, and wondered how my training (or lack thereof) was going to translate to the unforgiving climbs of the Marin headlands. I’d been getting a decent base of 50-60 miles for the past few weeks, but mostly on pavement covered in snow and ice, with little elevation gain.

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scenes from a typical training run lately

I drove to Emeryville Friday night after work, and stayed with Lucas on his boat. After 3-4 hours of sleep, we left the marina at 4:30am and drove to Rodeo Beach for the 6am start.


The race began with a climb, and we quickly rose above the fog and witnessed a spectacular sunrise.

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Our initial time goal was to finish in 12 hours, but as the miles clicked by, I started to think we would finish in closer to 10 hours, if we could keep pace.

Many friends were on course, as the 50m and the 50k started at the same time, and since I was wearing my hideous gold old-school DPMR shirt, several people recognized me (or the club) and it was fun to talk with friends, old and new, along the way.

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our friend Stacie leading a group of runners up the single-track
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The city, the fog, the sun, the bridge

By mile 7, we had already climbed over 2,100 feet. I clearly remember this was the total climbing I had done in my “long” run Sunday of 20.5 miles. That was a daunting thought.

During a glorious downhill section before Tennessee Valley (mile 10-ish) my knee started hurting. Then it started throbbing. Within a few minutes the pain was almost unbearable- I told Lucas I might have to drop at the aid station. We looked for KT tape but no one had any. Too soon to take drugs? yes.

Only option was to trudge along and see if I could work it out. I found that the pain went away on flat sections or whenever we were climbing. Fortunately, there was a lot (10,500′) of climbing in this race.  I also discovered I could run downhill on steps without pain, so I tried to mimic the motion of running down steps.

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We heard talk (during the run) of a big climb out of Stinson Beach around mile 23. I was glad to hear others discussing it because I felt prepared when it came. We marched up the 2-mile climb, and enjoyed the views.

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Coming down from the climb into a very mellow, very runnable downhill section, the knee begged for relief. I took a celebrex and hoped for the best.

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that’s me in the gold shirt and pink shorts. (Lucas took this picture – so maybe he could have ran the race a lot faster considering he had no problem sprinting to catch me after this prime photo op)

The celebrex kicked in within 20 minutes and I was happy for the next few hours (but feeling guilty for cheating, and wondering what the cost would be for masking the pain instead of fixing the problem).

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steps on the Dipsea trail. Photo by Lucas

Lucas and I hit the halfway mark around 5 hours 10 min. The prospects of going sub-10 (our new unspoken goal) were looking slim considering we would still have to do a significant amount of climbing and pull off a negative split (and the course detour this year added about 3/4 of a mile to the race). I tried not to think about time and instead focus on catching and (eventually) passing runners for entertainment.

It became a game of chasing red shirts, as nearly every guy in front of us was wearing one. When we finally saw a woman in front of us, around mile 40, I got so excited that I didn’t look where I was going and crashed hard on the trail. Lots of dirt and some bruising but nothing serious. Lesson learned. (we still passed her)

No more time for photos during our race – “It’s a race all the way to the finish, Jenelle” as my wise pacer Audrey once said). I should mention here the course support – aid stations, volunteers at road crossings, intersections – was top notch – incredible volunteers and perfect trail markings (and we tend to get lost often).

The last woman we had a chance to catch was at mile 47 – she saw us moving in on her and turned it into a 3 mile all-out sprint (as much as you can sprint 47 miles in that is). We actually ran up the last climb (not sure how) and as I caught her on the pavement, running down at a 6:50 pace, I smiled and said “Great Race!” and she laughed and said “I fold”. It was at this point I looked at my watch and saw we could break 10 hours. Lucas and I pushed hard to the finish line and crossed together in 9 hours, 56 minutes; as 22nd and 23rd overall (and 7th female for me). A kiss and a beer and our perfect running date was complete.

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photo from the drive out – sitting in traffic for EVER – but great views from the car

Meanwhile, our friends Julia and Naomi had an adventurous time watching my dog, Beverly, who they brought for a 20 mile run while we were racing. We all met at Marin Brewing Company for dinner afterwards and shared war stories. I’ll spare the gory details but they didn’t have an easy day of it.

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Naomi, me, and Julia at Marin Brewing Company

The next day, on a last-minute whim (should we walk into town, drive to the dog park, or ?) Lucas and I set out in his little zodiac to Treasure Island, across the bay. I used to be terrified at the thought of the little boat on the open water, but weather was on our side and we had a fantastic time exploring the island and found a great recovery spot – Wood’s Island Club, which had a cheesy but awesome fake beach with a brewery and empanadas. Treasure Island could be greatly improved with less fences and restrictions to access but we still managed to find our way around some cool spots.

Now, it’s back to the grind until Lake Sonoma 50 next month, and trying to figure out how to fix this knee problem. Any and all suggestions appreciated.

Running in an Endless Winter – Truckee

Despite the biggest snow year in my 18 years of living in Truckee, I’ve managed to put together a pretty ridiculous racing schedule – three 50 milers and one 100 miler over the next four and a half months. The only way I’ll survive that is to run no matter what winter brings. Sometimes it’s beautiful and fun and I love it, and other times it’s more… challenging. But the challenge brings a sense of adventure, and I’m hoping the combination of shoveling and slogging through miles of snow and ice is making me stronger.

Saturday morning, I chilled in a snowbank watching the clouds whiz by overhead, while Avian and our Airbnb guests sledded and the dogs played.

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I knew the window of clear weather wasn’t going to last, but my only opportunity for a long run would be Sunday, right in the middle of the next big Winter Storm.

The forecast called for 1-2 feet above 7,000 feet by Sunday afternoon (with 10-18″ at lake-level, where we live), but consistent with the weather-forecasting lately, this turned out to be grossly underestimated.

Sunday morning, I rushed to clean the house after my guests checked out, watching the snow pile up outside the windows and thinking “maybe it will lighten up a little if I wait”.

It didn’t, and when it was time to either go for it or chicken out, I went to the garage and gave the treadmill a long, hard look… maybe I should stay inside?  Nope, this was my only chance to get out so I was going to have to make the most of it.

I set out on the un-plowed roads, heading up Palisades towards Schaffers Mill. Almost immediately, the gusting winds and blowing snow made it a challenge to breathe. I had to stop several times during the first climb to cover my face and catch my breath. There is a short connection between my neighborhood (Ponderosa Palisades) and the streets of Schaffers Mill. I was happy to see a backcountry skier and 3 dogs had already broken trail.

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Schaffers Mill and Martis Camp (where I was headed) are both gated communities, and their streets are usually better maintained (with less traffic) than the ones in my neighborhood.

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One lane had been plowed on the streets in Schaffers Mill, but at the rate it was snowing, it was quickly filling in.

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I continued on to Martis Camp, and enjoyed checking out the beautiful homes buried in snow.

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About an hour in, the snow stopped and the sun almost came out. I thought the worst of it had passed.

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buried stop signs and street signs almost gone
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Finally seeing my shadow. gear: Altra waterproof trail shoes, Kahtoola Microspikes, insulated running tights from Athleta, and mis-matched gaiters. Kept my feet warm and dry the entire 4.5 hours.
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The Family Barn at Martis Camp. FYI – there are no animals in the barn.

The sun disappeared, the snow was back, the winds picked up, and white-out conditions resumed.

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One of the great things about running in areas with lots of home construction taking place is the abundance of outhouses. It was time to find one, but I was faced with a recurring problem –

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They were all buried.

At long last, I found shelter in a porta-potty that had been shoveled out.

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My feet were starting to cramp up badly from the microspikes, so I had to remove them for a mile, march along the super icy roads until I couldn’t take it anymore, put the spikes back on, and do my best to make up the time. After 3 breaks from the spikes, they stopped hurting, and running with traction became fun again.

I’d only seen 3-4 cars during the first 3 hours (one of the other reasons I like running in gated communities), and most of the houses looked to be snowed-in. I pictured the Martis Camp residents cozy in their mansions drinking hot chocolate and watching it snow.

Turns out, they were skiing. After not seeing anyone outside since the skier in Schaffers Mill, I came across a very crowded ski lift line that takes residents from their neighborhood directly to Northstar. It made me feel better to see other people braving the elements.

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During the run from the lift down to the gatehouse, I saw more cars (as in, 10 total), and even a snowplow here and there. It was a bit unnerving to not hear the cars coming behind me, due to the snow and winds (and my hat and hood) muffling all sounds.  A kind woman actually stopped her car and called out to me as I was running “Are you OK??” It was hard not to laugh when I said “yes, I’m fine”.

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Just after the gatehouse, I saw a warning sign about the Icy Roads – they were not joking.

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It was time to head back to my neighborhood. All evidence that I had been through these parts earlier was now buried under the fresh powder.

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The connector path back to my neighborhood was filled back in, and the sign marking the spot seemed appropriate:

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It was comical to be trudging through this stuff, but at the same time scary, realizing that if I stepped off the somewhat beaten path (that still had 1-2 feet of fresh snow on top of it), I could easily fall in three or more feet of snow, and get stuck. Alone. In a blizzard.

Alas, I survived, and after 20.5 miles with 2200′ of climbing on snow-covered, icy roads, I rewarded myself with a beer in the hottub.

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my yard. the tub is actually on a 6″ platform. The snow is DEEP. And we work very hard to keep this baby shoveled.

That evening, the snow continued, the Winter Storm Warning was extended overnight, the freeway closed, and the next day it was a snow day. Shocking, right?

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Baker, the neighbor, and Avian and Stephen playing in what’s become of the yard.
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Stephen trying out my backcountry skis and skins in the yard. He was able to ski right over the tops of the fence and into the neighbors’ yards.

After working from home all day Monday, I took a break to go for a shake-out run into town, to see how it looked after the latest hammering of snow.


The snow stopped by Tuesday morning, and I was greeted to spectacular sites on my early-morning run.

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Lamp posts covered in sparkling snow in Lahonton
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Lahonton drive sunrise
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Northstar, as seen from Lahonton
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Schaffers Mill

I hear we are in for a dry spell soon… I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’m confident we will survive. And I’m definitely not letting a little snow get in the way of my running.

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ps… shout out to the mail carriers – thanks for digging out my poor mailbox (again)

A Day in the Life… Truckee

It’s Wednesday of “Ski/Skate Week” in Truckee, CA – this is normally a week-long break from school for families to take advantage of winter recreation, but since the kids have already had 12 snow days since January 3, the school district decided to schedule some make-up time Wed-Fri. In true Truckee fashion, a massive, 3-day storm system came through and wrecked havoc on the district’s good intentions.

Moving snow on Brockway Road, downtown Truckee

The freeway has been closed intermittently for the past couple of days, many neighborhoods are without power, most of the schools had a 2-hour delayed start this morning, and one of the schools is closed due to power outage. Not many people got to ski/skate yet this week, as the mountains were closed off and on due to insane winds (Squaw clocked wind speeds over 190 mph Monday night!)

This morning we woke up to another 9″ of fresh powder since last night, which brings our 3 day total to about 3′ at the house. I went for a run this morning to check out the scenes around town, and make sure the office had power before going into work- it did, temporarily anyways.

Despite the inconveniences, we’ve been graced with the most spectacular bluebird day… and the power’s out (again!), so it’s time to head outside and play.

Ponderosa drive, which was closed last night due to downed power lines
“Where the streets have no names”
this vacant lot is so much prettier when it’s buried
looking South towards Cottonwood Restaurant from Brockway Road
Truckee River
Truckee River
Commercial Row
mural on the Post Office building, Bridge Street
The Truckee Hotel, with a massive pile of snow on Bridge Street
Snowy Totally Board on Bridge Street
Jibboom Street
corner of Spring and Jibboom
Flower sculptures near the New Rec Center
my neighborhood, Ponderosa Palisades
JP’s house up the street
Ponderosa Drive (the snow this morning was the perfect depth for running fyi)
Home Sweet Home (and  I’m happy to find the mailbox again)