First Half Marathon! … And Maybe My Last!

My last installment was speaking to my love for trail running, how it helps me on so many levels, and that I was curious how I would do in a half marathon I was considering to run in February. Two months later I’ve made time to write about that run, and what I learned from it.

I purposefully didn’t sign up for the half marathon ahead of time because I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it. I also have issues with commitment, and prefer my weekends to be open for adventures. The Saturday morning of the race I woke up early and decided it was worth a $50 last-minute sign up fee to at least try it, even if just to say I did. It wasn’t raining, and I was familiar with the course at Soaring Eagle Park. What the hell?

I pulled up and started walking towards the sign up booth. I notice a man that also noticed me, and we stared at each other for a moment trying to figure out how we knew each other. Quickly we realize it was from a local run group and we start up typical runner chit chat. I shared that this is my first half marathon, and I figured it would be good for me since there wasn’t much elevation gain or loss. I felt like I was slapped upside the head when he said “Yeah, that’s why these are hardest! You have to work the whole time! No downhill reprieve!” I laughed it off, but certainly had an “oh crap!” moment on the inside… I really should have thought of that aspect!

I started off strong, even with the dozens of runners passing me right off the bat. Quickly I realized I needed to focus on “slow and steady” or I would bonk out too quickly. By mile 3 most everyone had spread out along the trail, and I only had the occational runner passing me. By mile 6.5, and the first of two loops on the course, I was super proud of myself. All I could think was “Ok! Let’s just do that one more time!” Mile 8 I was wondering what the hell I was thinking… then I had a little rebound on mile 10 and was able to keep up a good pace. Miles 11 and 12 hurt… my knees hurt, and I had to walk up a few of the little hills. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see a few other people walking as well. By this point everyone was so spread out, I felt like I must be last, or close to it! I really had no clue what a “good” time was for a half marathon on that terrain, but I was just happy that I hadn’t quit. I think I recall actually saying out loud “Oh thank God!” when I came around that last corner and saw the finish line! I crossed at 2 hours 28 minutes, and turns out I wasn’t even last!! Almost smack dab in the middle of my age group and gender.

I think I waited so long to write about this experience because I have been reflecting on it for some time. What did I learn? Will I want to complete more runs like this?

I learned that I am stronger than I thought, and I am very proud of myself for accomplishing a run like this. I only really started to trail run over distances more than a few miles this past summer. When I’m running, often people will ask me what I’m training for, and I never have an answer. I just love to run, and want to be active, healthy, and explore!

I learned that I really don’t care about free swag. After the run, there were booths set up, people talking on microphones, and raffles to enter in. Everyone was crowded around the booths trying to see, and I glanced over with no peaked interest at all… I felt that took away from the beautiful trail I was just on for the past 2.5 hours.

I learned that I love to run distances, but I don’t care if I win or lose in a race. I prefer to race against myself and break personal records. I’d rather go run with friends and explore new places without worrying about time, sharing the trail, or having time to pee. 🙂

Will I run a race again? Probably. If it’s to support a good cause or be social with friends. Do I feel the need to run a race every month and make a wall covered with race bibs? Nah… I’ll fill that space with photos of the amazing scenery from my adventure runs!

Cheers to adventures in 2016!



Nascent: just beginning, budding, developing, growing, embryonic, incipient, young, fledgling, evolving, emergent, dawning, burgeoning.

This is the perfect word for me this past year. Yesterday’s run made me realize more than ever how far I’ve grown, developed, evolved, etc… etc… Not only physically, but as a human being overall.

Sunday morning I was wondering… curious about how far I could run now. I’ve traveled some miles this past year (the most being 21 miles in one day), but typically the long hauls have been more of a run/hike/trek/run/climb/break type of day. There’s a five mile loop I like to run up on Cougar Mountain near my home. The last few times I ran it I realized I felt good afterwards. REALLY good. Then I asked myself why I didn’t try for more? A half marathon is coming up that I’m interested in… could I handle continuous running for 13.1 miles so soon after diving in to this whole trail running thing?

So I reviewed my map and gave myself some options… I really dislike running the same course twice in the same trip, so I found some loops that I could run that would either keep me at 5 miles, extend to 7 miles, or even shoot for 10 miles if I was feeling up to it. By mile 7 I was grinning like a kid in a  candy store, passing people on the trail and only slowing long enough to check the signs at trail crossings and snap a few photos:


Who wouldn’t just keep running and smiling with these trails ahead of them?

Trail running is my therapy. It has helped me through so many challenging aspects of my life, helping me focus, reflect, learn, grow, and strengthen not only my body but my mind and soul. Every run is an adventure with a story and a lesson learned. With every run I feel like I can accomplish more in life, and I become more excited for this life that I have.

I can’t wait to discover what trail is next, where it will take me, and the adventure to be had along the way!

2015’s Traverse [Part 3]

So maybe I pushed myself a little hard on those 37 miles on the Eastern Loop. I felt great at the time, and other than a missing toenail (don’t kick rocks when running) I didn’t think any damage had been done. Annette Lake and Lake Caroline proved that yes, a little damage had been done. But I kept trying!

Next on the list was Lake Lillian and a little exploration along Rampart Ridge. The ridge took my breath away, and was worth [literally] crawling up some of the steep trail behind the lake to see it. It’s certainly on my list of places to return to, and after looking at the  map closer I think we found a fun little loop that will also include going up and over Mt Margaret.


Running up hills was fine. Flat ground was ok, but as soon as the grade became any level of a downhill slope, I would get shooting pains on the outside of my knee. Anything after three miles was excruciating, but as soon as I stopped, the pain stopped. No swelling, no soreness after a run, and no heat. The views kept coming, so I kept going…

Ruckel Ridge and Ruckel Creek were next, taunting us from down in Oregon. The first 4 miles of this trail was so steep, it made Mt Si look like a cakewalk. It could only be summed up by this treasure we found at the “summit”:


About half way up the ridge we had a nice view of the Columbia River!


My knee still hurt, but stopping wasn’t an option, so luckily I was referred to an amazing Physical Therapist. I knew I wanted to continue, and tapping out wasn’t an option until I had tried all of my options. Three visits later I was able to run/hike the Cascade Head trail near Tillamook, OR with no pain. Zero. I almost cried.


The next day we ran point to point through Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach, OR, starting in Seaside, and ending in Cannon Beach. Still no pain.


I had some vacation to burn, so we took a little trip to San Francisco. I had never been to the city, and here was where I had my first all-day urban run experience. If you’re going to explore a new city, I highly recommend running through it, and stopping only for coffee, lunch, and beer. Lots of beer.


The next day we detoured south to the Big Sur area, and hiked the Cone Peak marathon lollipop loop in two days. Just over 26 miles of 30% grade trails, 21 of them hiked/ran on day two. This was the most miles I’d ever done in a day, not to mention the steepest (consistently) trail I had been on. Once again, the views didn’t disappoint!


The final big trip for the year was up to Vancouver BC where we did some trail running in rain, sleet, and snow, as well as my first attempt at Skate Skiing. The trails were super fun with lots of roots in some places (I love technical trails) and many bridges as well. Where there are bridges, there are usually waterfalls!


Then we found snow!

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2015 was unquestionably an amazing year for me. Not only did I travel some amazing miles on the trail, I traversed and grew personally and professionally. But we’ll stick with the trail mileage for now… in 2015 I backpacked/hiked/fastpacked/trailran 432 miles. To realize that I only started any mileage in June, and have broken my personal records monthly, I have a feeling that hitting 1,000 miles in 2016 will be a doable goal. 🙂

Now that I have 2015 summed up, I can start sharing my current adventures, goals, and accomplishments. I’m hopeful my posts will have a little more detail for each adventure, that might help a fellow explorer in their adventure. The previous three posts were more of a quick overview of my year, and to give you a taste of what you might see here in 2016. It’s going to be a good year!


2015’s Traverse [Part 2]

After gimping down the last miles of the high divide loop along the Sol Duc River, I realized a lot of things: My knee hurt like hell and I could barely walk 100 feet without stopping. I still had a sinus infection. I just backpacked 19 miles in two days with a really heavy pack on my back. This was one of the best weekends of my life and I wanted more… so much more!

I already had a permit for two to backpack the Northern Loop on Mt Rainier two weeks later. I always bought two permits… who knows… maybe someday I’d meet my Mountain Man. My best friend (well, ex boyfriend but still my best friend – no it’s not weird… it’s pretty amazing actually!) knew I was planning this 34 mile trek solo. He also knew I had permits for two. This trip was making me nervous… the more I looked at the map, the more I saw this was one hell of a ride. I gave myself two nights and three full days. Sure, that’s only a little over 11 miles a day, but some of those days were steep. Beyond steep for me, at least.

The day before my adventure, my friend called me at work. “I’ve been thinking about this for a few days; I’m going with you. I’ll be a your place tonight to pack up….” or something to that effect. I was speechless… I couldn’t decide if I was happy, excited, ticked off that he was just bombing my adventure, or just plain thankful. I looked at my map again and settled on thankful, and then the excitement started to build. 12 hours later my alarm was going off and we were packing up the car.

Day one alone was breathtaking… just a few steps away from Sunrise brought us to this viewpoint:


Day two was a little rough, but I must say that the Windy Gap area and the Natural Bridge were probably my favorite places on the loop:


No, I did’t walk across the bridge like others had boasted about. James Lake (left) was what we still had to get to before our day could end. We made it to the incredible mosquito haven with some daylight to spare. The final day was a 12 mile trek out through Burkley Park, Grand Park, and back out to Sunrise. This trip was the most incredible of my life, and there are so many photos and little stories to tell about it, I feel like I need a separate blog just to expand on this adventure alone.


The Northern Loop taught me a lot of things… bridges can be built, sometimes it’s ok to ask for help, you can do more than you ever thought possible, and we are so, so small in this amazing planet we call home.

My next little adventure was just a little loop along the PCT from Mirror Lake, up to Silver Peak and back, and back out for about 12 miles total. Another dear friend who had never backpacked joined me on this trip, and it was fun to pretend I knew what I was doing for a little  bit. 🙂 The view from Silver Peak was amazing, and certainly worth the scramble up!


Soon after that was Gothic Basin, thanks to an amazing new friend in my life that now is so much more…. If you ever want amazing views with a 10 mile out and back trip that is straight up and straight down, I highly recommend this!


Very little of this trail is actually runnable. But once you get to the Basin, it won’t matter!


The 10 mile Thorp Mountain Loop seemed like the logical next adventure. 2.5 miles of UP, and then the rest was a nice rolling down, not counting the bushwhacking. But that’s another story..


By mid-August the fires in Washington had taken over much of our treasured wilderness. A safe area was Noble Knob, another 3 mile “UP” trek with some fun rolling trials back down. The smoke was still there, but we were safe from any flames.


Next up was the Eastern Loop on Mt Rainier. Not to be confused with the Northern Loop that I already completed. This loop was 37 miles in two days. My first actual “fastpack” experience with my newly befriended Mountain Man was certainly a traverse to remember! Waterfalls, bridges, amazing views, and splendid trails for running were just a few of the perks of this adventure.


The weather was cold and rainy, and there was even snow already up along the Panhandle Gap.


There was a lot of fog so the views weren’t what they could have been, but I could’t have been happier!


I may have pushed myself a little hard on the Eastern Loop… but that’s what Mt Rainier does to you. She just makes you so dang happy, you don’t realize how hard you’re pushing yourself

Now my left knee was ticked off at me, and I had to pull back a little with some shorter day runs/hikes. A fun little out and back to Annette Lake was a good check on how my knee was.  It (my knee) still was’t good, but 7.5 miles was a good tester, and had a few nice views, even with the low water levels!


My next adventure was simply a day hike in and out to Lake Caroline, helping to see friends get from one trailhead to another. They had an amazing trip planned, but I my knee couldn’t take it, so I just tagged along for part of the trek and then left them to their adventure. I could’t complain – it was cold, windy and starting to rain, but once again… these views!


Only five more adventures to report on from 2015! I’d just keep going, but I feel like this is getting more lengthy than I anticipated. Much like many of my adventures! 🙂 Apparently I need three installments to sum up my amazing year.

Stay tuned for more amazing views, some physical therapy to get back at it, and as always, enjoying adventures in this beautiful place we call the Pacific Northwest!


2015’s Traverse [Part One]

My last post was boasting about how amazing 2015 was, so I figured I should write a little recap of some of my accomplishments. Though running, backpacking, and fast packing weren’t my only proud moments in 2015, they certainly were high on the list.

I grew up in the mountains. And by mountains, I mean literally, on top of a mountain with no running water. I’ll expand more on that scenario in later writings. To sum up, the mountains are my happy place, and I grew up running up hills and along deer trails.

My previous partners were never as passionate about the outdoors as I was, so I compromised. Instead of me saying “I need this, and you don’t have to participate” I simply followed suit with their interests. Then I felt like I had to have someone with me to do what I wanted… who does stuff alone, right? Well, I started to. I decided I was my own best partner!

In May I decided I was going to explore in 2015. Instead of spending $2000 on one vacation, I thought money would be better spend on something that I could explore with again and again. I’ll be getting a great dividend check from REI this year! I started doing research on gear and planned some backpacking trips. The Pacific Northwest is so incredible, “traveling” within my own back yard seemed certainly adventurous enough!

My first trip was life changing. It was only three miles up to Olallie Lake, but it was a safe place to try out all my gear for the first time. I would have time to set up, try everything, and if something failed I could easily get back out before dark. I may be comfortable in the wilderness and confident of my abilities, but I was well aware that I was by myself and I wasn’t going to be stupid about it. Thinking back I laugh at myself, but I remember tearing up that first mile towards the lake. I did this all by myself. I had enough gear with me to survive well beyond my overnight plans. I was proud.

When I got to the lake, I spent the day trying my gear, reading, exploring the area, and smiling. Lots of smiling.


I was hooked. My next trip was up to Ridge Lake via Kendall Katwalk. This was only 7.5 miles in. Trail runners were blasting past me in both directions and I thought they were amazing. Back in March I was excited when I could run 3 miles on a trail without stopping. I wanted to be like them. But this day I was just plodding along, taking pictures every 1/2 mile because… well… this:


Next was Gem lake. Cliche, like my first two, but it was still early June and it wouldn’t be too busy.  Gem lake won my heart, and I will be going back this June, but probably as a day run. Who would’t want to see this again?


Next was my first two-nighter. Upper and Lower Lena Lakes. Lower Lena was only 3 miles in or so, but it was a long drive there, so I figured that would be good. Upper Lena was another 5 miles up. Up. UP! I had the most weight on my back ever, and the trail was so steep. There were a few times I was wondering what the hell I was doing out there by myself with this silly pack on. But then….


And then…


Worth every step. This was just prep for my next big adventure. I planned on doing the high divide loop over 4th of July weekend. My permit was for two nights – the loop was 19 miles… I needed three days, right? Work called and I had to shorten my trip to one night. I’d never gone this distance before. I had a sinus infection. My knee was screaming at me from Lena Lakes. I decided I’d rather be sick and in pain on a mountain than at home in my apartment, so I went.


This has been my favorite trail to date. It was worth every step, and I plan to run this trail in 2016. This was by far the best “Independence Day” of my life.

My year kept getting better, but since this brings us to July, I will save the remainder of my 2015 adventures for my next installment.



Well, here I go again. I used to write a blog… about 10 years ago. I loved it, had lots of followers, and was even featured in some blogging community site that boosted my views by 1000 fold. Then life happened. Responsibility, commitments, change, turmoil, learning, growth, and well…. here I am.

This past year has been an amazing one for me. I think I can honestly say the best year of my life. I discovered myself. I learned I don’t need anyone in my life to define who I am. I learned that taking care of myself isn’t selfish. I’m the only one I have to live with forever, so I might as well be happy, right? Like the Chickadee!

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” ~Tom Brown

This has been my goal these past years. Sing in the rain. Laugh at the wind. Smile through the clouds. Live this amazing life I have been given with passion and respect. Take a chance. Love. Be thankful for my mistakes as I have learned from them. Set goals. Break personal records. Be indomitable.

I am a trail runner. I am an explorer. I am a photographer. I am a chef and a baker. I am a connoisseur of food, beer, and wine. I am a student of life. I am a friend and a lover. I am Sierra.

Keep following my blog and I promise I’ll write sentences that have more than four words in them. Oh yeah… did I mention I’m a little facetious also? What you will find in my blog:

  • Adventure
  • Goals
  • Health
  • Life Lessons

Stay tuned… more to come, with some amazing views! 🙂