Team USA: Olympic Trials – The Marathon

I’m waaaay far behind on my recaps so I’ll keep this relatively short but I will say, going to the Olympic Trials for the Marathon was absolutely amazing.

A little back story, taking it way back…I’ve been a huge fan of the Olympics since I was a little kid.  It’s summer 1988, South Bend, IN, my parents are throwing a party downstairs and so they let me have a TV in my room (This is back when kids didn’t have TVs in their rooms lol or at least we didn’t) so we could watch the opening ceremonies of the Seoul, South Korea games.  I was in heaven and stayed up way past my bedtime watching all the countries walk in – the US is at the end so I couldn’t miss them.

Fast forward a few years and my sisters are lucky enough to go to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, my brother-in-law’s sister played for the US Olympic Softball Team so they went to cheer her on.  I admit, I was super jealous at the time because I would love to go to the Olympics and one day (hopefully LA2024) I’ll get there.

So that being said, when it was announced that the marathon Olympic Trials were being held in LA the day before the LA Marathon I was all over it and couldn’t wait.

Sean & I drove up to LA the morning of the trials super early.  I didn’t want to miss any of the action and there was hardly any traffic so win-win!  We got there so early we had time to go get our packets and look around the expo before heading out to find our spot.

The map that was on-line wasn’t super clear as to where the best spots to watch were.  There was a short 2.2 mile loop to start the race and then the runners would do 4 – 6 mile loops.

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We set up in front of the convention center and watched the runners warm up.  It was fascinating to see them all do their warm-ups and see what they do.  We were lucky enough to have a front row seat to my favorite, Kara Goucher for her entire warm-up.  Unfortunately we were on the side where the sun was coming down so my photos aren’t perfect but you get the idea.

Kara Goucher, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016

The race didn’t start until 10am when the men would take off, it was a warm day and you’ve probably heard and read a lot of the stories about how it was the hottest Trials on record, etc. etc. But I have to imagine that Rio is going to be incredibly warm and humid so while it wasn’t ideal, it did give the runners a taste of what’s to come.

From where we were, we couldn’t really see the start (we were on the opposite side of the street) so we waited about 10-12 minutes for the guys to come around after the first short loop, the women would start not long after the guys came through.

Meb, Galen Rupp, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016

The first 1/2 hour or so was kind of a wait until the guys came through on their 2nd loop and then things started to pick up as the runners started to separate.

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We had an amazing spot right next the Staples Center as the runners made the turn towards the start/finish so close that if I had my arm out I could have touched some of the runners.

It was most exciting when it came down to the finish.  First up, Galen Rupp, who won his marathon debut – he was in the zone, but as he was finishing you could hear the crowd roaring for the 2nd finisher.

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Meb had grabbed a flag as he finished the last 800 meters and was putting on a show for the specators.  At 40 years old, he had made the Olympic Team, the first to do so at his age.  Lastly in 3rd place came Matt Ward.

Meb, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016

About a 1/2 hour after the men finished, it was time for the ladies.  The whole race, until the last lap, Amy Cragg & Shalane Flanagan had been running side by side, in fact from other photos (not ours) there were times when you could barely tell that there were two runners.  They were matched stride for stride and then the heat got to Shalane.

Amy Cragg, Hasty Hastings, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016
We were hearing that Amy kept looking back to check on her, to make sure she was still there, but then came a point when she had to run her own race.  In first place, by a decent margin, was Amy Cragg (@hastyhastings)- who incidentally I had seen in the lead at mile 3 at the Chicago Marathon in 2014.

Next up was Desi, who like Meb was putting on a show for the crowd.  She was waving her arms and asking us to all cheer!  It was pretty cool.

Desi, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016

And in the final spot was Shalane, she was super focused and we would later find out because she was pretty much hanging on for dear life to finish.

Shalane Flanagan, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016

A few moments later, in a heart-breaking 4th place was Kara.  I know she was incredibly disappointed, who wouldn’t be, but I have to say I’m so proud of her.  With all the injuries and ups and downs she’s had in the last 4 years I think she ran an amazing race.

Kara Goucher, Olympic Trials, Marathon, LA2016

There were so many others who ran this race, men & women who wouldn’t make it to the podium, but gave it their all.  I’m super proud of each and every one of them that crossed that finish line.  Just to have the opportunity to be there had to be amazing! And for us to be there in person, totally made my weekend!  I was so inspired and I can’t wait to see the Olympics in August!

Where I’ve Run Wednesday: Cowles Mountain

The first time Sean took me to Cowles Mountain was on Labor Day 2014.  We had just run the 6 mile out and back at Lake Murray and then climbed up so we could see the city.

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Since then we’ve gone to Cowles Mountain quite a few times, it’s a moderately challenging climb up and then a nice run down. The whole up and down is about 2.75 miles – I’ve done it 3x in a row and it’s definitely a work-out.

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Cowles is a popular spot in San Diego for all levels.  It can get very warm though so definitely make sure to bring water and if you bring a dog, definitely have water for them.  There are signs as you start the hike talking about how hot it can get and being safe.

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At the bottom there are restrooms, a water fountain and a soda machine.  Parking can be tricky since it is so busy – most  of the time the small lot is full which means parking on the street.  If you park on the street make sure to cramp your wheels in the proper direction or you will get a ticket.  There are signs everywhere and I’ve seen cars with tickets on the windshield.

The views are the reason why everyone visits Cowles, in my opinon :).F8AD4061-0536-4524-B6B8-48921C3C4772

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Where I’ve Run Wednesday: Mount Woodson Trail

It’s time for the 2nd edition of my Where I’ve Run Wednesday series and this month I’m going to continue on with some of our favorite spots here in San Diego.  Today I’m talking about Mount Woodson Trail at Lake Poway.

Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson Trail, San Diego, Altra Running, Procompression, orange mud, running4thosewhocant, lululemon, #thegibblers

On Christmas Eve, Sean & I were looking for some new trails to run and we decided to head over to Lake Poway and head up Mount Woodson Trail to Potato Chip Rock.

Be prepared to pay a $5 entry fee to get in. We got an early Christmas gift on Christmas Eve because there was no one at the gate, but the next time we went they did charge us $5. We asked and you can pay with credit card if you don’t have cash.

The trail starts out nice and relatively level with some small uphils and nice downhill before you make a turn to head up the Mount Woodson Trail. And here is where you start heading up, according to my Garmin there is about 1,300 ft of climbing in mile 2 – 3. While Sean can run up the whole thing, I typically hike up this area because I’m huffing & puffing a lot.

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There are a lot of really cool huge boulders that you will pass and some of the areas are a bit narrow. Once you get to the top, you’ll see Potato Chip Rock. I have to say, I was expecting something a bit different the first time I went up. I really thought it was going to be a lot bigger.

Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson Trail, San Diego, Altra Running, Procompression, orange mud, running4thosewhocant, lululemon

On Christmas Eve, there were only a few people waiting to take photos so we didn’t have to wait long to get our photos taken. I started up and then got a bit nervous to jump over to the rock but I eventually made it and Sean got a few cool photos. The sky was kind of ominous but was pretty.

Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson Trail, San Diego, Altra Running, Procompression, Orange Mud

Side note: The second time we went up, it was a Saturday and we got up only to see a long line of people waiting for their photo op. I’d estimate it was at least an hour wait if not longer and it was already after 3:00pm and the park closed at 5pm so definitely allow enough time to get down if you are going for a photo.

Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson Trail, San Diego, Altra Running

The way down was amazing though, after running through the boulders and by a lone tree, there is an amazing view of Lake Poway as you fly down the trail. This is where Sean took one of my all time favorite photos.

Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson Trail, San Diego, Altra Running, Procompression, orange mud, running4thosewhocant, lululemon

About 45 minutes from downtown San Diego, Mount Woodson Trail is a must see. Just make sure to bring lots of water as it can get really hot and dry.

Where I’ve Run Wednesday: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

A few weeks ago the awesome peeps at Altra asked us ambassadors to tell them about some of the amazing places that we get to run.  So that got me thinking Sean & I have had the opportunity to run in some really amazing places, both on trail and on the road and I’d love to share those places with you.  So here goes…the inaugural Where I’ve Run Wednesday (WIRW for short) and I’m starting with one of our favorite spots near San Diego – this was posted to the Altra blog about 2 weeks ago but it wasn’t super clear that it was my post 🙂 oops so I’m sharing it here as well.

The very first time I came to visit Sean in San Diego (for our 2nd date) we went out to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in Descanso, CA near Julian. I’m not sure what we were thinking because it was a super hot August day with temps reaching 100 degrees. But that day we would run/walk/hike 10 miles, giving me a small taste of what the mountains near San Diego would offer, like seeing the golden fields that California is known for the first time.Jenny Nakamura photo 1
Since that day in August 2014, Sean and I have spent a lot of time out on the trails in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, the neighboring Cleveland National Forest, and on the PCT. These trails play host to a number of events, including the San Diego 100, Cuyamaca 100k, Mount Laguna Marathon, and Noble Canyon 50k.Sean has run all of these races so he has been a good guide, and we’ve explored a lot of the trails that are a part of these races. Some of our favorite spots include the third loop of the Cuyamaca 100k, which is approximately 18 miles of trail that takes you from Camp Cuyamaca into the northern section of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park before entering into Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and a short section the PCT before returning to the camp.

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The views once you hit the PCT are absolutely spectacular, and I tend to pinch myself because it’s hard to believe that I live so close to such a beautiful place.  I really love this photo too because it shows how vast the area really is.  It’s hard to believe it’s just 45 minutes from the beach.

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Another area that we like to visit often is in the Cleveland National Forest. There is a great spot off the Sunrise Highway—the Meadows Aid Station at San Diego 100—that we’ve spent a lot of time at lately, mostly because it’s a little flatter and more runnable. The single track in this area isn’t too technical and is well cleared. This area is a part of the Noble Canyon Trail and this winter we encountered a lot of snow, which was super cool.

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There is so much to explore in this area. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has over 100 miles of trail. Cleveland National Forest has over 920 square miles of trail, including over 100 miles of the PCT. And the Anza Borrego Desert State Park has over 916 square miles. The landscape is so diverse, from desert to fields to mountains to forest.

And the views? Well you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

What are some of your favorite places to run?