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UTMB week is here!

It's that time of the year again when mountain athletes and trail running enthusiasts from the world over gather in the snowcapped mountains of the Alps to tackle the some of the hardest and most scenic races of all--the TDS, PTL, OCC, CCC, and UTMB--part of the renowned Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc week!

These events are considered some of the most difficult foot races in the world.  Many ultra runners aspire to the 100+ mile distance of the UTMB, which traverses through France, Italy and Switzerland, coming full circle to end back in Chamonix.  It takes a seriously dedicated runner to qualify and train for any of these arduous mountain events, so we want to congratulate three of our team who have put in the work and made it there this year!

Good luck runners!

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Yassine Diboun

Wy’east Wolfpack co-founder, beloved coach, birthday boy of the week and renowned ultra runner, Yassine is heading off to take part in his first UTMB.  He's put in the work to prepare, training up and down the Columbia Gorge and Mt Hood the whole season through. Yassine said, “One of the things I’ve learned about 100-milers is that the only thing you can expect is… the unexpected! So, training for this requires you to run all types of terrain and being comfortable--and ready--dealing with all sorts of variables, some you can control, some you can't.”

The full UTMB 100+ mile race begins at 6 pm, Friday Sept. 1st!  Follow along and watch Yassine's progress here!

Also, check out "What It Feels Like to Be a UTMB First-Timer" by Yassine on the Inov-8 blog!

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Erik Weeman –

Wy’east Wolfpack since 2014, Erik is taking part in his first UTMB event, the 119k TDS. “The time has come once again to challenge myself like never before. On August 30th, I will run the TDS race (Sur le Trace de Ducs des Savoie).  Thousands of runners from all over the world have trained, qualified and THEN won the lottery to take part, and I just happen to be one of them. It's been three years in the making. Crazy.”  

As the first event in the week of UTMB races, the TDS is already wrapped up!  Erik had an epic experience ("crazy hard and more beautiful" to use his words), crossing the finish line in a very respectable 27:30.  Near perfect weather during the day and a cool night gave Erik the energy reserves he needed to run the final five miles hard and finish super strong, passing dozens of runners in the process.  

Way to go Erik, we can't wait to hear more of the gory details when you get home!

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Addie Thompson –

Wy’east Wolfpack since 2014, Addie is taking part in her first CCC, a 100k distance race of the UTMB event series. “Words really can't describe how it feels to be living out a dream I've had for years. I am indebted to each one of my training partners for a summer of laughs and exhaustion, and to many more of you who didn't look at me like I was insane when I said I was going to Europe in September to run a 60 mile race in the Alps. That unquestioning support means more than you know. Three countries. 100 kilometers. One day. Here we go.”

CCC starts at 9 am Friday, Sept. 1st...  Go Addie, Go!  Watch the race unfold here!

 

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Unforeseen Challenges

by Emily Estrada

I recently got laid off.

While only somewhat unexpected, my relatively ordered life was thrown into immediate disarray. Unsure of what to do with my newfound time and ready for adventure, I decided to drive down to California for a two-week road trip. Due to the time constraints of my many hosts, my plan was to hustle down to San Diego and then meander north. In hindsight, driving 16 hours in one day wasn’t the best idea. Moreover, it was tortuous to pass so many renowned national parks and forests without stopping to explore. The competitive, adventurous side of me longed to stop and try my hand at running up and down one of California’s famous fourteeners. On the other hand, my friends and their new baby awaited in San Diego. Any time spent in the mountains detracted from time with them. Little did I know that an opportunity for adventure would present itself the very next day.

When my friend went to a doctor’s appointment the following afternoon, I decided to explore a nearby park. The website had drawn me in with its description of over sixty miles of California-style trails, with plenty of views of the surrounding area. I walked into the visitor center and my eyes lit up at a sign exclaiming “Take on the 5-Peak Challenge!” As I looked more closely at the map, my head filled with possibilities.

I approached the ranger behind the front desk with trepidatious excitement.

“Can you tell me a little more about the 5-Peak Challenge?” I asked.

“Oh sure,” he replied, handing me a map.

“Is there a way to do them all in one day? Do you have to drive to each trailhead?” I pressed.

“Well, you COULD do it all in one day, and you COULD drive to each trailhead” - and here he lowered his voice confidentially - “but some people complete it as one loop.” 

“And SOME crazy people even run it.”

That settled it. I could be one of those crazy people. I could run the loop.

At that moment, I was ready to grab the map out of his hand, hurry to the nearest trailhead and start running. However, I did a quick mental check. I didn’t have enough water or food and my friends were expecting me for dinner. And, it wouldn’t be wise to start running at 2:30pm in a desert environment; the next morning would be better, I would do it then I declared.

As I walked back to the car, further doubts starting surfacing. I didn’t know how long the loop was. I was unfamiliar with the terrain. My pack couldn’t fit more than a couple liters of water. I didn’t have much food. I was already sunburnt and didn’t know if my skin could take additional prolonged exposure. My body was still recovering from a 30 mile run two days prior. There was no place to bail if I got tired or injured. Most importantly, I was alone.

I sat calmly in the front seat of my car, turning over the pros and cons in my mind. After a few minutes of quiet reflection, I came to a realization. All of my doubts boiled to one thing: fear. Specifically, the fear that I would fail. I thought, “You were looking for an adventure, Emily. Now you’ve found one.” I told myself it was okay to be afraid, so long as I didn’t let fear run my life. I didn’t have to run fast, I just had to try.

After deciding to go through with it, I felt like a weight had been lifted. Though the hardest part was still to come - i.e. the run itself - part of the mental battle had already been won. That evening, I perused route beta, located water stops, prepped food, and told my friends where I’d be in case something went wrong. I slept soundly, dreaming of my footsteps on the rocky ground.

The next morning, I drove to the trailhead, shouldered my pack, and laced up my shoes. Alright,” I whispered. “Here goes.”

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My Daughter Is A Badass

By Sarah Foote

“I’m proud of my body,” I told her, “I grew two humans, that’s pretty remarkable.”

My daughter Nora is four years old and she loves to ask questions. It’s my job to give all the honest answers, in an age appropriate fashion. Last week, when Nora asked me why I grew babies in my belly and daddy didn’t, I gave a short anatomy lesson. One question led to another and I soon found myself looking my daughter in the eye and telling her that I'm proud of my body.

I’m proud of my body; I was shocked to hear myself say it.  At 34 years old, I believe that’s the first time I’ve said those words aloud. I’ve always struggled with my body image -- no matter what condition I’m in, I seem to find a way to feel bad about it. I don't like feeling this way about my body and it’s not how I want Nora to feel about hers.

Telling Nora I’m proud of my body felt empowering and honest. When I think logically about it, I’m blown away by what my body has allowed me to do during my life. I’ve run thousands of miles, climbed mountains, swam in oceans, chased snakes, and thrown snowballs. I’ve rafted rivers, jumped off boulders, given piggyback rides, and cartwheeled at countless parks. And I’ve grown two humans -- my kids. Hell yes I'm proud.

Lewis, age 6 - Sarah, age 33 - Nora, age 4; Capture: Justin/Husband/Dad

Right now, Nora is young enough to simply want to physically be able to keep up with her brother and do things independently -- climb trees, balance on rocks to cross a creek, pull herself onto a rope swing. She doesn’t seem concerned with how her body looks yet, but I fear that will change.

It’s no secret, young girls are inundated with messages from a body-image obsessed culture; unreasonable demands come from all angles. Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are as parents, we can’t shelter our kids from the existence of these societal expectations. Movies emphasize female subordinate roles, dolls are made with impossible measurements, relatives make offhand comments about dieting or trying to lose weight, and strangers at the grocery store never miss an opportunity to tell a little girl she’s “so cute.” The message is clear: you are supposed to look and act a certain way.

It’s too much. Of course, the messages sent to my daughter are different from those sent to my son. There is an expectation that Nora is sweet and quiet.  People don’t often offer her high fives or fist bumps and no one dares her to jump from high places or challenges her to complete an obstacle course. Those interactions are saved for Lewis, my son.

Both of my kids have noticed. Nora, at the age of four, has confronted a dad at the park: “I can balance on that log, too.” And Lewis, age six, has sadly turned to me at the grocery store and asked, “Do I look cute in my clothes, mama?”

I run five or six days a week and to my kids that’s a normal routine. At home, we talk a lot about food and fueling our bodies. Nora asks what foods will make her muscles stronger, what will make her taller. Three days before her fourth birthday, I beamed when Nora said to me, “When I’m four I will probably be big enough to run a marathon with you, Mama.” My goal is to show both my kids that I can do hard things and they can do hard things too.

I want to say this to all young girls: you have permission to be unabashedly proud of your body. Don’t worry about what you should look like, instead focus on what you want to do and who you wish to be.

Nora, you are a badass.

Love, Mom

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Angel's To Alpine

Angels to Alpine is Oregon's new, and premier, long distance hiking and running route from Angel's Rest in the Columbia Gorge to the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of the great Wy'east, Mt. Hood.

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Epic Fail

By Sarah Foote

Last Saturday I set off for 25 miles, my final long run two weeks out from my first race of the season. The plan was to start easy and finish hard, putting the finishing touches on four months of well-rounded training for the Tillamook Burn 50k.

But, of course, nothing goes according to plan. I do not crush this last long run; rather, it crushes me. My feet weigh a ton and my quads scream. My heart aches and I want to be at home with my kids. Tears slide down my face and are lapped up by the mud. And then… I quit.

I have a son in kindergarten and a daughter in preschool. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I am a mom.

Parenting doesn’t come with a how-to guide. No one provides a semi-annual review and there’s no coaches telling you what to do. Kids are ever-changing, and so parenting has to evolve constantly in an effort to keep up. There’s no master checklist to work through and no task ever seems complete. Parenting is the hardest, yet most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

One of the things I like most about running is that it fulfills my need to accomplish something finite. I love ticking off my runs on the training plan: 25 mile adventure, check! 5 miles fast, check! 45 minutes of stairs, check! When life happens I adjust my plan accordingly; missing a run to take care of a sick kid or breaking up a workout in two segments to go on a field trip with my son.

Fifteen days before my race, I quit halfway through my run. What should have been 25 miles of glory ends as 14 miles of self-doubt and pity. I walk away from the trail defeated. I wonder if I am ready for the upcoming race: will the course get the best of me? Will I be able to go the distance? Can I handle the vertical gain? I question my perception of myself as a trail runner and judge my ability to balance my life’s priorities: “you’re a bad mom,” I think, “what are you doing out here running for hours, leaving your family behind? You can’t even finish your run.”

My head hangs. More tears.

I decide to drive home to be with my kids. I tell myself that I should be at home with them and that they need me. As I drive I imagine them running to greet me at the door, devastated that I was gone, desperate to melt into my arms.

I see them waiting on the porch as I arrive and I brace myself for an emotional explosion.  As I approach though, reality sets in: my kids are just fine, happy and having fun. Everything is under control.  They certainly are thrilled to have me home and missed me while I was gone, but not in the desperate way I imagined on the trail. Today is just another Saturday, it’s sunny, and life is good.

Now the failed run is especially real. No one needed rescuing back home.  The simple story was I set out to run 25 miles and didn’t get it done. I decided to quit and have to own that decision. Luckily though, this is just one moment and the truth of the matter is, nothing is lost. Each failure I experience presents a lesson and an opportunity for growth. Failing teaches me how to stay humble and adjust and align myself for future success. Without failure, I wouldn’t recognize or appreciate the victories along the way.

After time to reflect, I know three things for sure:

First, I am capable runner and I AM ready for my upcoming 50k. I have worked hard these past four months and one terrible run can’t undo all of the great ones.

Second, I love my kids more than anything and want to be the best, most loving and supportive mom I can be.  Trail running and training makes me happy and allows me to rise to the challenges of motherhood.

Third, I am a work in progress. As I strive for success I also acknowledge the possibility of failure along the way. I expect myself to be strong, smart, and reasonable but when the wheels fall off, I will use the opportunity to grow.

Onward!

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