The Calm Before the Storm


So there I was, sitting in the Seattle airport, watching a news reporter state that there was a large storm brewing along the west coast. Simultaneously I received my second email stating that if the race was going to be canceled we would be notified by 7am the day of. This race? Well, no other than the USA Trail Half Marathon Championships. Dun, dun, dun!


         My odd way of accepting the rain: ninja rain dance.

         My odd way of accepting the rain: ninja rain dance.

I mean I am not one to run away when conditions get tough, but I can’t say I am used to the rain either. Coming from Santa Barbara, the city who has beach weather 350 days out of the year, rain, let alone seeing more than two or three colors on a tree, is an experience for me. This isn’t to say I haven’t run in the rain before, I definitely have back in my younger years when California was on a normal weather pattern. However, rain, or in this case thunderstorms, are seldom and not something I have had the pleasure of dealing with very often. So considering the logical assumption that dirt+rain+mountains=slippery slopes, I was very aware that the cards would not be in my favor. But, as per usual, my slightly idiotic mindset that I can do anything I believe I can took control of my mental reins and I befriended the weather deciding that the race, if anything, would be super majestic-like similar to the slow-mo montage at the end of a glorious sports movie.


See, the trail half was something I had been looking forward to because, despite my lack of building a true base this year, it is a distance I have come to enjoy. I had run my first trail half in 1:23 earlier in the year (Valley Crest Trail Half) off a month of consistent training and so knowing that I garnered a supple amount of confidence to commit to the idea that I could potentially podium at this race (meaning I could place in the top 5).


The race would take place at Lake Padden in Bellingham Washington. It would begin with a flat first mile before gradually becoming a series of climbs that would last miles 2-5ish. After climbing these rolling hills we would then descend down for about a mile before evening out on the flat part once again thus taking us into that same loop for the second time. The competition was noted as “the deepest trail half field this year” as it featured road and trail studs alike. This was very exciting to me because I mean what is a National Championship without quality talent! You have to race the best to be the best! So let’s summarize all of this. I was going to have to face unfavorable weather conditions, run a tough course, and face some steep competition. Wooo, weeee, I don’t know about you but these are the types of circumstances that keep me loving this sport! I was stoked.


On the flip side, I am not going to lie, the listed field was a bit intimidating, but I knew that if I could focus on my strengths I could potentially have a finish that would bring momentum into my sophomore year of trail running. What were these strengths you may ask? Well, to simplify it there were two. 1) I am sort of a racing addict and 2) I love running technical downhill.



Dun, dun, dun!


The morning of the race I was up relatively early, not normal for me as I typically sleep until the last minute possible. Haha, I can talk about this some other time, I am sort of notorious for sleeping until the very last minute of everything. Anyways, this time I was up early and the reason being, was that if the race was cancelled we were supposed to be notified by that morning, but lucky for us it was not! After an easy breakfast, I headed to the course.


I warmed up, etc. (Let’s fast-forward to the good stuff, the actual race.)


So the gun goes off and the horses take off. Taking into account the talent level of the women that were in the race I had a feeling that we would go out a good steady pace, but man was I wrong, we took off flying.  I got our first mile at about 5:42, which you may think “Dani, that’s not that bad”, but take into account this was the FIRST mile of THIRTEEN, and we had a good chunk of climbing ahead of us. Learning from previous races once you let somebody go on a trail it is very hard to catch them especially when the race features single track. So going with my gut I hung with the lead pack for as long as I could. The lead pack had about 8 women in it, all very strong and funny enough most were even talking to each other. I had one gal, Ladia, who was asking me if I had run the race before and we had almost a full conversation on the matter. I wasn’t dying but I definitely wasn’t able to talk with the same ease as her. (Which side note she’s super badass). Nevertheless, as the race continued at its fast pace ( we were averaging 6-6:20 on the first hilly miles)  things soon began to change as the entire front pack began to spread out.


As we went up, down, and all around I was unsure what place I was in but it didn't keep me from pushing. Luckily I passed some cheering groups and heard them call out that I was indeed in 6th place, in which case I was like “heck yes!” But at the same time, “I had some work to do!” The hills were tough and continued to get tougher, but I was determined to get to the end of the first loop so I could begin my descent. (Side note: In order to be a major threat as a trail racer, you need to be killer at climbing, as most championship women are beasts on hills. This is something I've realized will take more experience but as for now, I manage.) Eventually, I got to the last hill which included some very painful switchbacks and it was just then that I thought that maybe my watch wasn’t getting the mileage right with all the trees. But then before I knew it, grace was bestowed upon me as we finally hit the best part... the downhill.


Now this was no ordinary downhill, no this was a muddy, rocky, tree roots everywhere type of downhill.  With no hesitation, I leaned forward and let my feet and mind do all the work. I am not scared to say it,  but I am pretty sure I was flying ;) . Within the first mile, I caught about 4 men and soon enough I eyed and passed the 5th place girl. Then just right before I hit the flat mile again there was a HUGE tree that had fallen over during the storm. Although unexpected, it was probably the best surprise ever. I side jumped the trunk and continued to play catch up as much as possible. The problem, however, is that I had gone so fast on the downhill that when I hit the flat my legs were burnt. I continued to roll just trying to keep consistent but the girl I had just passed was definitely making up ground. I knew she was a strong uphill runner as that was where she had caught me before, but I was determined to keep my lead as long as possible as I knew that the longer I could keep a distance from her the better position I would be in for the last part of the race.  

                                                Rolling after the long downhill. Those group of bees were super fun!

                                                Rolling after the long downhill. Those group of bees were super fun!

We continued to climb until she eventually caught up with me again around miles 8-9. With muddy hills lurking ahead both of us were pushing. She even gapped me a little but I was determined to stay in range. I was just about gassed when we finally hit the switchbacks, which I knew was the last part of the hilly section. I pushed and pushed until finally I crested and just used about everything left in the tank to catch her. She knew I was behind her as she was flying much quicker than before but then I cranked into another gear allowing me to navigate the technical rocky parts and gain momentum in some open downward stretches. I caught 2 guys who I think were just as surprised as I was to be passing them coming into the last part of the race but made me even happier as it gave me a euphoric second wind to keep charging! Finally, around mile 12 I passed her (Camelia and eventual 5th place finisher #sweetheart) and continued hard into the finish. I crossed the finish gleaming that I was able to pull off a 4th place finish! I was stoked.


               Me coming into the last stretch, I could see the finish line and I was hungry!

               Me coming into the last stretch, I could see the finish line and I was hungry!

After the race, I cooled down most of the top 10 girls who were all stoked as well. I think because we all knew what we had just been through, from the weather to the conditions of the course, there was a mutual understanding that we are all pretty rad.


Overall I was pretty happy with the race. Considering the talent of the field I was happy to come away with a 4th place finish. This year has been the epitome of a freshman pro-year as I really felt like a guppy who had no idea which way to swim. But this race has fueled me of the promise the future holds and has helped me to create goals that are even bigger than they were before!


So "The Calm Before the Storm", yes this title is in regards to the weather of this race, but it is also in reference to the powerful storm that is calmly raging inside of me that I can’t wait to release onto the trails next year!


Until next time, ¡Viva la correr!


Thanks to Run in Rabbit, Hoka One One,  and Coach Terry you guys are awesome ! :)

                  4th place at the USA Trail Half-Marathon Championships!

                  4th place at the USA Trail Half-Marathon Championships!

My Solo Trip to Boulder, Colorado

My Solo Trip to Boulder, Colorado

This Monday I returned from a week long trip I took to good ole’ Boulder, Colorado. Initially the trip was planned with the anticipation of getting a job and never returning back to California. However,  as the time approached to leave for the mountain state new and exciting opportunities had presented themselves allowing me to live in Santa Barbara while also being provided the freedom to travel to Colorado somewhat frequently.


See life post college has been... exciting, invigorating, stupendous... haha, let’s be real...unique. I would say it wasn't up until this last week that certain parts of my life really started coming together. You see it’s hard to explain but it’s one of those era’s in your life that you can’t really understand until you get there, despite everyone who has already done it trying to explain it to you numerous of times. It’s quite humorous if you ask me. One day you can be like a pioneer 49er who has just found gold... “Eureka! I have found it! Motha, Fatha, no need to worry I have found a way to live a stable life and never go hungry! The thousands of my dollars spent on my piece of paper claiming I know stuff was worth every penny! Yipeeee!” And then the next day can sound the complete opposite as if a Dementor just soaked your soul despite your excellent Patronus charm and sent you into a soap opera playing on daytime Television, “Mom, Dad, *dramatic pause* my life is over.  *slow piano prelude* How am I going to do everything I want to do, there isn’t a way. * picks up rose and smells it* I have checked every job site and nothing is enjoyable and pays enough to live a normal life.” *fade scene* Needless to say I am happy enough to say the former has definitely been happening more than the latter, but being the passionate person I am I can honestly say the soap operas still occur, especially when I am Pms-ing.


Nevertheless, my trip to Boulder, yes the title of this post,  was done with the intent of getting in some good quality training and being outside while organizing these “ideas” of how I want to live my life. Easy enough right? Actually it was. See what I came to figure out (or that I secretly knew what I wanted all along) was that I want a life where I am in control to make it however I want, which is pursuing outdoor projects that can garner support with the intent of inspiring young women to be what they think is badass and educate kids, and their parents, about the outdoors. Lucky me there’s been a few a things that have led me to be consumed by this mentality. The first was, and any person who overthinks would probably agree with me, were some quotes ( I strongly believe this because it's able to simplify what we are thinking). The main one that has been the center of my mojo is , “First say who you will be, then do what you have to do.” Great, right? I know it’s fabulous. The other one has been the people who I am surrounded with. There’s a couple in particular who are just doing what they want and are successful because it’s like they aren’t even working! I mean if work feels like play then you’re just having fun the whole time, so rad! So when I was in Boulder every moment I had downtime I was constructing a business that is in an area of work that I am personally very passionate about and excited to pursue (more details to be revealed later).


But, I wasn’t just doing that, of course, I was also having a tons of fun on my own and with a friend of mine, named Dave, and his friends and pup. All of whom I had the pleasure of staying with during my trip. See the story of Dave is quite funny. (short side story) Him and his friend John were in Santa Barbara about four years ago during the summer when one of my teammates and best friends in the entire world ( and former gaucho/ inspirational role-model runner/ sub 16min 5k PR) AMANDA BABINEAUX met John in a grocery store, noticing that he was wearing a cross country shirt. Being the friendly person she was she mentioned she was on the UCSB Cross Country team and BOOM the summer of John and Dave commenced and one of my favorite memories from college was born. So this time around roles were switched as I was living on his couch. :)


During the week I got to run some unreal trails! I ran Mt. Sanitas, Green Mountain, Bear Peak, Mesa Trail and all of its surrounding trails. My favorite run by far though was the in Walker Ranch where I got to meet up and officially meet up with badass runner Ashley Erba. Such a highlight of my trip as I knew we’d get along the moment she dropped an f bomb. This isn’t to say we aren’t classy ladies but sometimes it’s just easy to figure out who you’re you going to get along with based on how they talk about running. On this run we did a 9-ish mile run in walker and added on a little to this canyon I can’t remember the name of, but it was absolutely gorgeous. I love water, it’s my favorite element by far, and this entire run we were crossing this majestic and very powerful river, very suiting for the conversations me and Ashley were having. Needless to say I walked away from this run and meeting with ideas and goals, for myself and with Ashley which we are both excited about.


Aside from running I got to venture out in the town and do some bouldering, and mountain biking! Both of which were super duper fun. However, one of my most favorite memories from the entire trip was the moment I was dropping my friend Dave off at College of the Mines in Golden, and take into consideration he said I could use his car for the day, he turned around as he was getting out of the car and said, “ ... you know how to drive stick, right?” To which I quickly responded , “ No. *gulp*” He then said , “ well, you know how to ride a motorcycle, don’t worry my car is forgiving.” Needless to say that day will forever be known as the day I learned how to somewhat drive stick, despite stalling numerous times at stoplights. I would say the day after was the day I learned how to actually drive stick. Haha.


Well this is my first post and it is super convoluted but I thought I’d put something up to give you an insight to my mind. Future posts will be a little more organized. I will do a race posts following each competition to give you some insight to what was going on in my noodle, and also regarding awesome things like other stuff I do about running. So yeah until then. D-Mo out.