running group

Weekends with Friends, 2 ways

Hanging out on a giant pencil before the run

This past weekend, I rented a gigantic house in Arnold California to pre-celebrate Nathan's upcoming 30th birthday. I invited up some ninjas, many fresh off their North Face 50 mile races, to come up, hang out by the fire, eat great food, play endless word games and do a little running. When I planned the weekend, it was possible that there would be snow in Bear Valley and that we would get to go snowshoeing or cross country skiing. However, it was very pleasant chilly weather and though we ran, it was not a running centric workout. It was more about the getting away from the city and hanging out together than getting in miles. While I did manage to get out on Sunday morning and hammer out a 2 hr run with 11 miles at 6 min pace, I really was only running that fast to get back for the waffles that Nathan was making. Delicious. It was a fantastic weekend through and through. There really is nothing like getting together with a group of friends away from home to do the things you love.

Which brings me to an exciting announcement! I am joining Ian Sharman, Geoff Roes and Bad to the Bone Events for their All Star Running RetreatsFor 3-days/4-nights, based in Las Vegas in January (26-29th) and February (16-19th), we will be running some of the great trails outside of Vegas including Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire, hanging out in luxury accommodation and even enjoying a cooking demo/lesson from yours truly. Much like the weekend I just enjoyed with friends, I look forward greatly to hanging out and running with some incredible individuals in a fun location! 

Want to learn more or sign up? Check out the website: here! I really hope some of my readers will be able to join us, it will be an experience to remember!

From the press release, which is also at this link:

December 9, 2011, Charlottesville, VA— From the folks who brought you UROC 100K, the groundbreaking, rule-changing Ultra Race of Champions, Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports founders J. Russell Gill and Dr. Francesca Conte are excited to announce a new concept in running camps for 2012. Not a grueling boot camp for runners, or a dense, pack'em in (runners and miles) seminar, All-Star Running Retreats allows runners to combine the fun of a weekend getaway at a unique destination with running and learning from some of the fastest and knowledgeable elite ultra runners competing today. The January and February retreats will take place over three days and four nights in Las Vegas, NV. They will feature Ian Sharman (USA Trail 100 Mile Record Holder), Geoff Roes (Western States 100 Miler Record Holder) and Devon Crosby-Helms (50 Mile & 100K US National Champion and world class chef).

The dates for the 2012 Las Vegas winter retreats will be: January 26 through January 29 and February 16 through February 19. All training runs will take place on the most scenic trails in and around Las Vegas, including Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire. Each retreat includes all meals and accommodations, two daily training runs focusing on different aspects of running and training, roundtable discussions with the All-Star staff and social activities, including the "must see" Blue Man Group on the strip. 

"The concept of a running camp is not new, but the combination of an All-Star staff with different strengths and knowledge bases, plus a unique destination like Las Vegas certainly is. The retreats will focus not just on the mental and physical aspects of running, but will also include the social aspect of running--Vegas baby!" says Gill. Retreat Leader Ian Sharman adds: "I am very excited about running and spending three days on the trails around Las Vegas. I have been to Las Vegas many times, and I know how much it has to offer."  Lead Runner Geoff Roes, who spends much of his time in Alaska, echoes that sentiment with enthusiasm: "I can't wait to run in Vegas in the winter!" The retreats will also showcase other qualities of the All-Star athletes, including the culinary knowledge of Devon Crosby-Helms who focuses her cooking on the perfect foods for endurance training. Crosby-Helms will offer a cooking masterclass for all the participants. 

Maintaining their "best of the best" motto, Bad to the Bone All-Star Running Retreats will house participants at the Vegas retreat in a luxury mansion, which they will share with the All-Star staff and other participants. "This will foster the close culture already present in the sport of ultra running," says Conte  "while taking advantage of the best that Las Vegas has to offer." While the philosophy of the All-Star Running Retreats is to offer participants an exceptional opportunity to interact with the All-Star staff in a unique environment, the winter retreats in Vegas also represent one of the best, early training opportunities for runners to get ready for any spring or summer race. 

To learn more about Bad to the Bone All-Star Running Retreats and to register for the January or February dates, visit

About Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports
By directing premiere endurance events, Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports strives to motivate athletes of all backgrounds to challenge themselves. For almost 10 years, Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports events have reflected owners' Gill and Francesca's decades-long knowledge and passion for running.  

About Ian Sharman
Ian is a Brit and started running 6 years ago after seeing a TV documentary about a race across the Sahara. He kind of got addicted and started running races most weekends around the world, mainly in Europe. Then he moved to the US in 2009 to get married and found the ultra culture to be even more fun this side of the pond and makes it his mission to race the most interesting courses and most competitive fields he can find globally. Ian is also a coach. 

About Geoff Roes
Geoff grew up running cross country and track in school and then after nearly 10 years without running much at all he found his way back to running because of his desire to get out into the mountains and explore his surroundings. He considers ultra running to be the perfect blend of mountain exploration, high level competition with some of the best athletes in the world, and plenty of time for personal introspection. He can't think of anything he'd rather be doing with his life right now.

About Devon Crosby-Helms
Devon is a certified personal chef specializing in organic, natural cooking as well as special diets. She runs her own personal chef company, Fast Foodie, in San Francisco. Also, she absolutely loves to run and enjoys trails, roads, and every surface in between from distances of a marathon up to 100 miles.

Goldilocks and the Three Runs

This past weekend, including Friday, I had the pleasure of getting some serious trail time in with Nathan and enjoying some of the best the Bay area has to offer in terms of trail running. These runs couldn't have been more different for me: one was pretty good, one was horrible and one was just right (aka awesome! aka a Devon Day!)


Friday trail tempo run with Nathan.
Nathan and I got up super early and headed up to Mountain Home Inn to do a nice 11 mile loop. Nathan wanted to run hard, so out of the gate I was killing myself to lead us at a good pace. The first 27 minutes we ran at a low 6 minute pace, I could handle it but it definitely didn't feel easy. We backed off a bit as we continued to climb up and around the top of Mt. Tam. Clearly my favorite part was popping out above the clouds at West Point Inn and then getting to dive bomb down Nora trail to Matt Davis. Once we were on Matt Davis, I got a bit possessed and started hammering away at a low 5 minute pace for a nice stretch of groomed double track. We covered 11 miles in 1:25 with 1660 feet of climbing. My glute/back felt good, my energy was decent. I was definitely enthused by the run. It helped diminish my trepidation about Saturday's run: The Rapture on Mt. Diablo.


Nathan ready to go with his new Black Diamond poles

Friday was decent, I felt pretty good the rest of the day and got busy on my one weekday non-cooking day. I was hoping Saturday would go well. We planned to run on Mt. Diablo and the last time I ran there, I was worthless. I was pretty good last week about listen to my body, fueling and recovering and generally giving myself a break after flying back from Australia (was that really just a week ago? I actually had to check my calendar!) and all of the craziness of the April and May. I have been feeling off and on worn out pretty constantly for two months and I am well aware that I need to be forgiving and take good care of myself after such a stretch, especially as I begin to think about actual training again. I told myself that I would just see what the run had in store for me on Diablo and respond accordingly and appropriately.
Sad face. But awesome new Rudy Project sunglasses.

The run definitely had something special in store for me but I can't say I handled it with grace or style. It was an absolutely beautiful day out, not to warm yet and Brett, Nathan and I headed up Burma Road to do a 20-ish mile loop Nathan had mapped out. From the car we immediately went up a super steep grade and my calves cramped up horribly and my achilles felt ouchie. And we were less than 1/4 mile into the run. I felt absolutely drained on top of that and as I continued to power hike, Brett and Nathan became smaller and smaller specks on the never ending climb to the top. I wanted to keep up, I wanted to feel good and I couldn't even make a feeble effort from the beginning. I got really down on myself, felt sorry for myself and started to mentally talk down to myself a lot. So much for forgiving and taking care of myself. As I continued to climb, my stomach started to act up and it felt like I had a bowling ball flopping around in there- uncomfortable to say the least. Brett and Nathan patiently waited for me at a turn and I apologized for holding them up. I contemplated what to do but was being stubborn and said I would continue on the planned route (despite not "needing" the miles). The route now took us downhill steeply, which inevitably would lead to another very stout climb up to Eagle Peak. 

As I ran downhill, my energy left me, my stomach was flopping around and I couldn't even keep pace running downhill which is my specialty. Brett and Nathan were pulling away and I stopped, yelled, "I am turning around" and did an about face to go back up the hill. I was a big falling apart mess and not my proudest moment. I couldn't handle my emotions well for some reason and I really appreciated that Nathan was so comforting and Brett was so understanding. We all have bad runs, I just need to not fall apart when they happen. I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to keep up or run well when I am with others. Having a crap run by yourself is one thing, no one is effected by it, but when you are with others, its harder not to be hard on yourself. At least for me. I am working on it. This was a lesson that I am not quite there yet. I am not sure where along the line I picked up this response (it never happens in a race or when I run by myself) but I am certainly not enthused by it. But like I said, I am working on it.

After splitting up with the boys, I kept climbing up to the summit of Mt. Diablo, cashed in 3500 feet and then got to descend for what seemed like eternity. When I got back to the car I was completely wiped out. I drank a half serving of Ultragen with coconut water, changed my clothes and pretty much passed out in the back seat. Or at least I wished I was. When the guys got back, I was bonking pretty bad and spent the majority of the car ride back loopy to do much more than stare out the window. Yes, I pretty much had a very winning day all around. At least, the day passed and I was still alive (it was after all the rapture) and could try again in the morning.

I still had managed to cover 15+ miles with 3500 feet of climbing in what seemed to be a very long time. And I ran into lots and lots of snakes.


Happy face. And another sweet new pair of Rudy Projects.

I was a bit nervous for my run on Sunday but decided to be more resolute about accepting whatever I felt and whatever came up. I knew Nathan was going to do about 20 miles, so I aimed for a 15 mile loop out of Mountain Home Inn where we parked the car. It was a cool morning as we set off up Mt. Tam. I pretty much said, "see ya, have a good run" to Nathan before we left the parking lot, thinking he might want to take it out hard. Instead he said he'd like to run together for a while, so I figured I would just settle into whatever pace felt good and say goodbye whenever he was ready to take off. Since we had run counter-clockwise on Tam on Friday, we headed clockwise up Matt Davis which is very runnable and only a slight uphill. 

I felt like a completely different person. I had energy, I had spring in my step, I had speed and no soreness. I glided along the trail and threw down a pretty fast start. We made it to the climb that goes 1 mile up to Rock Springs. Before we had started running, I had set a goal to run up this trail from bottom to top. I usually don't make it all the way up. But I did it. I got to the top and exclaimed, "yeah I made my goal". I was feeling good and Nathan suggested I continue on a bit farther with him instead of taking my turn onto Ben Stein. I figured I was feeling good and a few extra miles would be fun. I knew I would NOT be going the full distance with him since I had no desire to drop down cataract only to turn right around and do the steep climb back up to Northside. We jammed along and finally I took my turn up High Marsh trail which I had only been on once before and started flying along, really feeling good. 
 Goldilocks and the good view.
I really liked High Marsh trail and I managed to find my way back over to the Northside trail which is one of my absolute favorites on Mt. Tam. No mountainbikes are allowed and it is not near any parking or close trailhead, so it tends to be pretty empty. I zoomed along, rocking out to my music and picked up speed with the sun shining down on me. I had a geeky smile on my face I am sure. I hit popped onto the fireroads and flew back to the car, passing other runners and taking the time to make huge two foot leaping jumps into puddles along the way. It was refreshing. I just played and laughed and had fun. I let go of the previous day and remembered that this kind of moment was what I do what I do for. Its not about how fast or far its about how fun and beautiful. I definitely was having fun. I just kept picking up speed and came squealing in on two wheels back into the parking lot; 18.5 miles in 2:30 with 2,000 feet of ascent. It was awesome.

Speed on the High Marsh Trail

Since the craziness of races, work and sleeping at altitude began at the beginning of April, I have been doing my best to navigate all the things that have come up. Some days I am outrageously successful, some days there is much room for improvement. I am feeling, ultimately, that I have come out the other side in one piece and with the wheels still on. I am looking now towards the beginnings of training (transitioning back to real structured training-slowly!), a fun month of pacing gigs and many more great days out on the trails doing what I love to do.


"People are people through other people/ I am what I am because of who we all are"
- meaning of the Bantu word, Ubuntu

In high school, I was a hardcore basketball player. I played on my high school team, I played on a year round "select" team, I worked out 8 hours a day. When I think back on that time of my life, I don't think about the endless hours of drills, practice or even games. I can't remember which important shots I made or missed. I can only vaguely recall any of the details I felt were so incredibly important then. I don't miss basketball at all and I am a completely different person now then I was then (though who I am is hugely informed by who I was). What I look back to, reflect on and miss about that period of time is my teammates.

My teammates from my select team and I were a community of like minded individuals, working for a common goal. We pushed each other to be better, we lifted each other up and supported one another. Even though we each were trying to develop our own careers, we were partners in each others success. We raised each other up, knowing that we could all succeed and helping one another did not change that. In my entire life it is those bonds that we shared that define for me what it means to be a part of a community. I was who I was because of who we all were.

Those girls and I unconditionally, and sometimes blindly, supported one another. To this day, I still consider some of them my closest friends. Britt, Natalie, EP, AB- all of those ladies and I have weathered more than just well played hoops and basketball dreams. We share a bond that goes far beyond time and distance. It goes beyond powerful individual friendship to a space of power group conscious. That community is something I long mourned. It was such a powerful thing to be a part of- people working together for the betterment of one another, depending on one another, supporting one another completely, unconditionally and selflessly. In my adult life, I searched for that kind of community but found it lacking. I started to wonder if being disconnected was the way of modern adulthood and that I would never experience a community such as I did then.

This year I feel the tides of change. I suddenly feel like the tipping point has been reached and I tumble, laughing head over heels, into the depths of an amazing, special community. I know that this community that I am wading deeper and deeper into is something that all of us have been cultivating for a long time. I feel connected and I feel inspired. Waking up at 4:30 am or psyching up for a 30 mile run is easier when you know that you will have 10 friends in the trenches with you. But it goes beyond having running buddies. I have been a part of the "ninjas" for almost two years and for a while it was a rag-tag bunch of runners who wanted to sneak in a trail run before work or have company on the trails on the weekends. In recent months, I feel like it has transcended that. We have grown in size but I think things have changed. Our lives, both off and on the trails, are becoming intertwined in a way that has all of us partnering in each others success.

I have long felt that the word "network" and "networking" were dirty words that described that act of trying to cultivate something strict for yourself. That someone how knowing the right person might be your ticket. I have long refrained from actively "networking" for my business or for my brand or for myself. As I see this community develop, I realize that I have a new definition of "networking". That is - "community building". Every day my community is expanding in the most brilliant and unexpected ways.

Our running community is built out of  a huge spiderweb of 1st and 2nd degree connections. I invite someone who invites someone who invites someone else and each one of those individual is folded in to the community and loses that tag "you are so and so's friend". The group expands exponentially in every direction and there is room enough for everyone. This community that we have built absolutely inspires me. Instead of being afraid to "network", I am learning to put myself out there and connect with others for no other reason than to meet inspiring rad individuals and in an incredibly short amount of time, I went from feeling lost and confused to daily inspired and motivated. And motivated not just for myself, but for the betterment of all of us. It is not even a conscious move for any of us. We are pushing each other to be better, in life not just running, we are partnering in each others success and supporting one another. We are sharing our skills with one another and infusing each other with passion. It has been an incredible thing to watch- someone says "I want to do this" and the group responds by saying, "here's how I can help", "I have someone who you should meet", "I have some experience with that", "I think that is a fantastic idea, I am fully supportive".

As I watch the community that I am a part of grow and change and build momentum and I am reminded of my time in South Africa. A community philosophy I learned  there is known as Ubuntu- "People are people through other people/ I am what I am because of who we all are". I always believed it was a beautiful idea and something that I wanted to have again (after basketball), but I honestly had not felt it. Until now. And I am deeply, truly grateful for that. Human connection and community is one of the foundations of all of life's joy and happiness. It costs nothing and only exponentially enhances our lives. Share, love, build, connect and be happy.