Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Week of Laughs

Seven days without laughter makes one weak.

Thanks to all for your kind words of support and encouragement -- each of you is right! I really am okay, I promise. In light of all the sad news I was receiving, I simply needed to remind myself that I can endure. Life goes on...and so do I.

After I made my last post, I skimmied away up to Colfax where I ran Stevens Trail sans blackberry bush dives. I didn't come across a single soul, and only heard a few critters (newts, squirrels, birds). The sun was setting warmly on my descent, and when I reached the river and waded in, it was so quiet that I could actually hear the wind breezing through the canyon. The solitude and peaceful tranquility of nature warmed my soul. As I climbed back out, the near full moon rising, I felt like a new girl -- strong, positive and ready to fight back.

Tomorrow is always another day.

Laugh lots. Love more. Live life.

Alikona :)

(Pics: top - nearing the bottom of the American River Canyon, Stevens Trail; bottom - me under a kauai waterfall, december 2005).


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How to Say Good-bye

I received some sad news this week and fighting to stay strong has been as hard, if not harder, than any race I've ever run. When grieving, mourning, stumbling, healing, moving on...I find myself always coming back to a certain poem. My biggest sister, Christy, gave it to me when she was in college and I was just a naive freshman in high school, struggling with those parting words, good-bye. From family and friends gone, to broken hearts and shattered dreams, I have come to find strength, courage and solace in these sad good-byes.

Comes the Dawn
After awhile you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a Soul.
And you learn that Love doesn't mean Leaning
And company doesn't mean Security.
And you begin to learn that Kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises.
And you begin to accept defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of a person, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on Today
Because Tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans,
And Futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After awhile you learn that even the Sunshine burns,
If you get too much.
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and you learn....
With every good-bye, you learn.

I'm learning still. I just wish it didn't hurt so darn much.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy, Happy Birthday, Stevie G!

Those who know me well, know that I’m an uber-dorky history geek. From World Wars and the antebellum South; to the great Roosevelts and surviving war veterans; to ancient churches and old plantations; I just like old things. Old, ancient, historic – they simply capture me. I’m usually not too keen on remembering specific dates; I could tell you the exact number of Confederates and Union Army soldiers who died on the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg, but I couldn’t tell you what date that actually was (though I think it was sometime in late May 1863).

But one date in history that does stand out in my mind, and which happens to be one of my favorite dates, is August 20. Why? Because on this great date in history, one of my dear friends, Stevie G., was born.

At times, Steve and I are like two peas in a pod; other times, polar opposites. Regardless, he is one of my favorite trail “dads” – having taught me so much more about life than simple trail/ultra running. It’s generally a challenge to make Steve chuckle (he’s a little rough along the edges). But when I can, it’s almost better than scoring the winning run. When life was rough at the agency, the one thing I looked forward to each week was our early morning breakfasts together. No matter how endlessly busy I seemed to be, Steve would find a way for us to meet up at the River’s Edge – one of the remaining few restaurants here in Sactown that opens before 7 to serve a good, hot breakfast of double-stacked blueberry pancakes.

Steve and I have had countless many fun adventures. From CIM bagel pick-ups and Run to Feed the Hungry set-ups, to fine dining in Tahoe, running Silver State on a whim and running up on that cat who had just made a fresh kill (deer)! (yeah...remember seeing that carcass along the side of the trail around Buzzard’s Cove for like 4 months?? Um yeah, Steve and I were there right after it happened!)

(Pic: Steve and I after the 2006 Silver State 50/50...he had talked me into running the night before the race And it was my first in over a year!) But one adventure that always comes to mind is the 2004 American River 50 Mile run. This race (his 3rd 50) was my first foray into this endurance sport which I have come to love so much – and Steve (and Luis) is a key factor why. Steve was determined each step of the way, always moving forward (even when he might have missed the cutoff at Rattlesnake), relentless in his pursuit to earn that prized finishers’ jacket. He was out on that course just about longer than anyone else (near 13 hours versus the winners who won in about 6-7 hours). It absolutely blew my mind to see someone so perseverant and ironically happy to be taxing his body so much. To see that a person could actually push his body that much was indescribable, jaw-dropping and simply remarkable.

I had the privilege of running with Steve for about the last 1.5 miles. I remember pacing in our other friend Luis (the last 25 miles) into the finish line, and then immediately turning around and running back down the hill to find Steve. I knew from Cheri that he had been having some “issues” - as we so call them in running – and I wanted to be his cheerleader, to help get him to the top. I ran down as fast as my tired legs would carry me, and I came around a bend and there he was - just chugging along, plugging his way up the hill. He yelled out to me, “Girl, am I glad to see you!” But he didn’t need my help – he was going to make it to the top whether I was there or not. He says I helped pull him through that last mile, but I didn’t do a darn thing. If anything, he pulled me up – because seeing him out there running that last 50th mile was the definition of inspiration.

So, thanks Stevie G. – you are one of the inspirations for why I run…and run long. You make me proud!

And because I like to be playful with Steve (to make him feel like a kid again), I chalked his driveway this morning with big “Happy Birthdays.”

Happy Birthday, Steve! And may all your dreams about little blonde cheerleaders come true. ;0)



PS – BTW, I am not in any way implying by my intro that Steve is old…he is simply older than me. I just tend to naturally like anything/person/place that is older than my 27 young years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Don't Get the Best of Everything...Make the Best of Everything You Get

As early as 8 or 9 years of age, I can recall my dad telling me on the chairlift at NorthStar "Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And take whatever you get."

Well,'re right. And these are indeed excellent words to live by.

But I'm going to one up you...because what are middle children for if not only to give you a head of gray hair?

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And make the best of whatever you get!

JT probably meant something very much to this effect, but he's not quite the same optimist as I am. He's much more of a pragmatist or realist (e.g., If you don't get your hopes up, then they can't be brought down, right?) . And that's fine -- truly, it is. For him.

For me, I need something a little more... to add a positive spin to it, much like a newspaper editorial needs to spin a scandal. Don't just take the situation you get...take what you get and then make the most of it!

Because although I have seen only a fraction of a minutia of this great world, I have seen and learned that the happiest people are not those who have the best of everything...but rather those who make the best of everything they have.

I couldn't have arrived at this conclusion without JT's direction and his gentle nudges to go out into the world and "make us proud." So thanks, dad. As always, you are my numero uno. And someday...I will make you proud.


Your AllySunny

(Above: The Girls of Danskin...all 4 Thomas girls...and MOM...competing in the 2004 All Women's Triathlon. Wahoo!!! Even Thomas Girls are TOUGH!)

An "Unofficial" Pattern?

In part because I was still upset for being a chicken on the downhill part of my Auburn ride, and because I simply wanted to explore new wilderness and be alone in thought for a few hours, I somehow managed to do another unofficial marathon this past Saturday. And I stipulate the term managed because: I was duly untrained, the event unplanned, and the course completely unknown. (Ever the girl scout, I was, however, completely prepared when I set out for the day.) To be sure, it was a defining example of my blossoming spontaneity. Or, I suppose it could have been the coupling of high altitude with some recently sustained brain damage that have me not thinking with a clear head.

Setting: the Tahoe Rim Trail between Tahoe Meadows and Twin Lakes (aka the new, unofficial TRT marathon)

After a hearty breakfast of English muffins (my family’s brand, of course), pancakes, fruit and potatoes (note all the carbs!), and like 10 cups of coffee, I had my good family friends, B&A, drop me off at the trailhead just off the Mt. Rose Highway. This part was intentional, because I wanted to be forced to make it back to the cabin on my own. No rescue calls, no possibility of truncating an out-and-back. Just me, the trail and an endpoint – to which I would have to return to no later than 7 p.m. for family dinner.

Some might find a couple of “issues” with this quasi-“plan.” For one, I had never explored this section of the trail. Two, I wasn’t exactly sure of the distance. Based on a hiking guide book I read a long time ago, I gauged it to be somewhere between 12-16 miles. And third, as it turns out, there are actually many different trails and routes – most leading ultimately to the same location – but still many different paths to take; and thus, exponentially increasing the odds of getting lost.

These were not issues for me. The north side of the lake has been my backyard for over 20 years. Though I may not have explored all of it yet, I feel like I know it like a treasure hunter knows his treasure.

It was just about high noon, a little breezy but highs expected in the mid-80s. B&A walked with me for about 10 minutes before turning back and leaving me to find my way back to Incline. In truth, I thought I might do about 15 miles – about a 4-hour hike. Finding a trail sign that indicated two routes – one to the TRT and a second to the Ophir Creek Trail – I decided to explore Ophir Creek first. I decided I would travel this for awhile and then turn back and hop back on the TRT. As luck would have it, I ended up on a 7-mile loop (no back-tracking!) through meadows and cascading creeks tucked just behind the Mt. Rose Ski Resort. The wildflowers filled the meadows, rejuvenating my soul with that sweet, intoxicating mountain air. I came upon at least 12 different people picking wildflowers, picnicking by the creek, or hiking with their pups. Interestingly, 10 of these were female “couples.” Hmmmm….a convention?

Upon completing the 7-mile loop in about 90 minutes (I fastwalked/climbed/jogged), I returned to the TRT where I soon came upon another sign indicating that it was 10 miles to the top of Tunnel Creek road – now that is a place I know!

I sipped on my Gatorade, adjusted my head bandana and found a good tune to hum along in my head (I think it was Ray Charles’ “It’s a beautiful morning!”) I soon discovered that this section of the TRT traverses back and forth between the mountains and splitting views of Carson City (and whatever lake/water reservoir is back there) and the actual lake, Lake Tahoe. The terrain was mostly rolling with sand, dirt and rocks – apparently a classic mountain bike course, from what I could tell by all the tire tracks. The trail was fairly wide for the most part, some sections more narrow, but the drop-offs not anywhere near as steep as other TRT sections (e.g. Flume Trail).

(Top: view of carson city/reservoir; Bottom; view of Lake Tahoe)
About 3:00 pm, I found myself glaring at chipmunk-- a cute little chipmunk! NOTE to any who run with me: crankiness is a tell-tale sign that my blood sugar has dropped lower than Death Valley. And indeed I hadn’t eaten anything in over 4 hours. Oops! So I pulled out an Apricot Clif bar and munched on it for the next half-mile. Given the wider trail, eating and walking was not much of a problem (though it can still be a chore when you’re a blonde like me!). I thought it would take me about 3 hours to complete this 10-mile stretch, so I was pleasantly surprised when the trail spit me out at the top of Tunnel Creek after only 2 ½ hours.

At this point, I knew exactly how to make my way back home – and if I took the most direct route, I could be home after a 3-mile downhill and a two-mile flat section (less than one hour!). But up high on that mountaintop, staring out over blue expanses of sparkling waters, I was feeling so gooood…and soooo not ready to call it a day. Instead, I found another series of trails – one indicating the Upper TRT, another the Lower TRT (to the Flume Trail), a third to Twin Lakes and a fourth to Redhouse. Seeing as how I had never been to Redhouse, I set out on the latter, thinking that maybe I’d travel it for 10 minutes before turning around and heading home.
But 10 minutes turned into 15. And then 15 turned into 20 and before long I was nearly 2 miles DOWN the backside of the mountain on a trail that looked like it hadn’t been traveled since last summer. Pretty darn cool! Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that whatever I went down, I would have to climb back up. So I turned around – and what a climb back out that was. Ironically, I ended up having to run a lot of it because it was so steep that it was easier to run at that incline than to hike it.

(Below: Amazing! This tree was wind-blown into this sideways position.)After what seemed like forever of oxygen deprivation, I summited the Tunnel Creek mountaintop once again and caught my breath. Phew! I still had not seen another hiker/biker/human being in more than 3 hours. Where was everyone?

Now, one of my favorite classic downhill runs to the bottom – passing through meadows, jumping boulders and flying around scenic trail corners that jut out into the blue mountain lake. I would imagine that this is what a kite would feel on a breezy spring day...if kites could feel.

As I flew down, I started adding up the miles and realized that if I took the direct route to my cabin, I would end up at about 24-25 miles. It seemed lame to stop there, I thought – thinking of how close 24 is to that magical number: 26.2. What’s 2 more miles? And with quite a few less brain cells than I had when I had started, I rationalized how great it would feel (mentally) to complete a marathon. I am truly a running dork!

With my “plan” alas in place (it only took me 5 hours to concoct a plan!), I mentally configured a route that would bring me to be about 26.5 miles – definitely a legitimate marathon. And the finish on this route would take me along one of my more favorite, serene sections of Lake Tahoe, near Hidden Beach, where I could pay homage to my favorite, lonely pine tree – which sits so perfectly on its own little island, apart from the rocky shoreline. I lovingly call it “my Christmas tree.” (PIC: My Charley Brown Christmas Tree!)
When I alas got down to the lake, I called home to let them know I was on my way (TG I did…mom was worrying!). I saluted my Christmas tree (its needles waved back, as it was very windy), ran along the shoreline, gawked at the giant mansions on Lakeshore Drive, and waved at the people driving past me, probably just leaving the beach after a playful day in the sun. As I passed mile “marker” 24.5, I started lusting for a cold beer and, still running, sent out an SMS to the crew at home to please put one in the freezer for me – I like my Downtown Brown COLD!

At mile 26, that nostalgic wave of knowing you’re soon going to cross a finish line and be able to say “Wow – I just did a marathon” rushed over me. The last half-mile is a climb up from the lake to our cabin near the golf course, so I would have to work for it. And I did – sort of. For I wasn’t racing against a clock or a person or even a cause. I wasn’t even racing. After an 8-week injury and a slow but gradual build-up period, I was simply recalling what it feels like to be able to run. And run. And run. And wow…does it feel good.

One happy runner,

PS – I have now done 4 unofficial marathons and only 2 official ones….and I have to say that those unofficial ones have been a lot more enjoyable. A lot less stress and prep work in a spontaneously run marathon. Not to mention it’s a whole lot cheaper! :) (I’ve also run more than double unofficial ultras than official ones…notice the pattern?!?!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's going to be a good one...

I believe we are here for a reason. As each day unfolds, we see less of the shadow... and more of the sun.

The meteor showers this morning set a fantastic stage for a gorgeous's going to be a good day, I know.

Make it a fabulous one!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Thorn, Two Thorns, Three Thorns...Stop! No More!

(Pic: Runners' leg or a riders' leg? Right now, just one, big, sore leg!)

This past Friday, I parlayed a ride up to Tahoe with an R&R (ride 'n run) in Auburn and Colfax. I had been wanting to ride the Clementine Loop for over a month, but the rocky singletrack and steep drop-offs down to the river have had me terrified. With the hope of working on obstacle #1 (the fear -- My First 50K...Riding), I geared up in full padding (helmets, arms/elbows and knees and shins) and set out on the 6.5-mile loop. I surprisingly managed the flat, technical singletrack and steady climbs for the first 3.5 miles. But then I got to the backside - steep downhills on singletrack with some pretty gnarly terrain at parts. I was alone and panicked. :( No, literally, I freaked -- staring down the rocky hillside no more than 3 feet wide. Feeling short of breath, lightheaded and heart racing, I turned back. Obstacle #1 just became a little bigger.
(Left: rocky drop-offs are no friend of mine!)

I feel like such a pansy ass, as I think now on how I turned my back on that opportunity to overcome some of my fears. I rode back down, the same route from which I had just come. Such a wuss! As I flew back down the curvy road, I was already pissed at myself and knew that this was going to be a big thorn in my side for the rest of the day -- I had walked (rode) away and I shouldn't have. What happened to "stare down the fear, Kona?!?!" Once I got back down, I double-backed and re-did and triple-did all of the hills, climbs and some of the really technical singletracks with steep dropoffs on one side (for a total of about 10 miles) -- and I felt a teensy bit better at having conquered those again. But even now, I'm still pissed at myself for turning back on the downhill. I know that if someone else had been there with me, I likely would have given it a go because I don't give up in front of people. But seeing as how I was alone, I just couldn't see risking crashing big time and not having anyone to help me. And I could really use some good pointers on how to tackle some of the rocky downhills. I'm a good, fast learner -- but I'd rather not do it on my own. Oh well...excuses, excuses. All lame excuses. I have to get this thorn out of my side and fast!
Try, try, I must.
After my ride (R1), I made a pit stop at my favorite Auburn eatery, Ikedas, and fueled up on an ice cold orange freeze. Yum! When down and out, always good to rely on food/beer/drinks to pick you up again. Refreshed and no doubt on a major sugar high, I continued up the hill, stopping at 2500' in the quaint town of Colfax. Stevens Trail is one of my favorite trail runs as it drops 4.5 miles into one of the most gorgeous, secluded canyons along the middle fork of the American River. Then, it's a 4.5 mile climb out for a grand total of over 5400' of elevation change -- not too shabby for 9 miles!

In the past I've always run it holding two big water bottles (28oz. each), but I inevitably run out of fluid with about 2 miles to the top. Given my back issues, I don't like to run with a hydration pack because I get nervous about the weight on my back and my left leg usually goes numb on climbs. But seeing as how I've recently upped the ante on my core strengthening program, I thought this would be a good time to try out my “new & improved” back and see how it would fare. So I filled up the Salomon pack and set out down the trail.
The trail was pretty overgrown and there were many sections on the lower half where it was difficult to even see the trail. It required A LOT of focus on footwork to navigate the windy singletrack, especially with the 100-foot dropoffs into the river canyon below me. Still, as I am prone to do when running in such serene settings, I found myself lost in thoughts of nothingness. I might as well have been running blindfolded for I simply let my feet carry me down the trail. This often works, but not always. As I oh so painfully learned today. An extemely overgrown and curvy section caught me stumbling over a few rocks and before I could stop, I found myself making a graceful volleyball dive into some brambling bushes. But ouch -- Wait! These were thorny blackberry bushes and just when I thought I would crash down and hit the hard ground, I found myself falling still deeper into the bushes, off the trail, and down the steep slope. Uh-oh! Eventually, the weight of the branches stopped my fall (though they did NOT soften it!) and I found myself about 8 ft below the trailhead, feet digging into the mountainside (around a 5.2 pitch, I'd guess) and wondering how the hell I was going to climb back up with nothing to grab onto but thorny branches. My left arm was throbbing with thickers and thorns sticking out of my once smooth skin. What a thorny mess!

I still don't know how I did it. Probably the endorphins and adrenaline from the the fall enabled me to quickly assess the situation, figure out a safe route, and climb out without sliding further down the side or suffering more bodily damage. As soon as I got out, I sprinted (yes, even though I had just carelessly taken a nosedive into a blackberry bush, I still ran as fast I could down steep terrain) to the river where I jumped into the cold water to stop the bleeding and get all of those stinging thorns out of my body. They friggin' hurt! I wondered, "is this what it feels like to get struck by a porcupine's quills?" Probably not, but it definitely felt like a hundred stinging paper cuts and that’s not a very nice feeling. :(

I sat on a rock in the middle of the river (the river is very, very low) for about 5 minutes and did my best to clean out my wounds using my Survivor buff and remove all of the tiny white thickers. What a clumsy dork I am! Here I go out on a ride, fully padded up as if I were the Michelin mascot and I come back completely scotch-free. And then I wear nothing for a casual, easy run that I've done a dozen times, and I get beat up by a blackberry bush! Murphy's Law? Probably. But seeing as how I wasn't seriously injured and hadn't fallen off a steeper drop-off, I sat in that refreshingly cold river, counted my blessings and laughed. Laughed loud and good, I did. What an ironically marvelous day! A ride, a freeze, a run, a fall, a thorn and more. Does it get any better than this? Bloodied and bruised, I knew it could have been better…but for the time being, I was content. Playing in nature, I found myself alive. And truly, I did feel alive!

With my left arm and leg (which suffered most of the impact) still stinging, I looked to those pain endorphins to me help me climb out of the depths of that canyon and forget all those nagging thorns in my side, real and metaphorical. Amazingly, I managed the 4.5 mile uphill trek faster than I have ever done, injured no less. (Thoughts of good cold beer waiting for me up in Tahoe also helped!) While I certainly don't advocate injury for the sake of a PR, you just gotta make the most of it when the situation presents itself.

And as I climbed out of that river canyon, I sarcastically chuckled about how I was too afraid to fly downhill on a bike (fully padded) for fear of shattering my "cracked eggshell back" into a thousand pieces. And yet I don't blink to fly downhill (no pads) on terrain even more rocky and steep when I run. Humble life lesson #9,026. Just learning as I go.

Later that night, after a rewarding meal of Hacienda tacos and ice cold Corona, I sat in a steaming shower and removed all of the remaining blackberry thorns from my body. I think there may still be a few more festering inside, but they’ll heal naturally soon enough – and they make for some great battle wounds to show off in the office this week (yes, I will still wear my skirts and dresses!).

As for that other thorn in my side, I shall see about removing that one in very short order.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Kona Grrrrr-I’m going to learn how to ride downhill even if it breaks me!-Girl

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My First 50K...Riding

Lately I've found myself logging more miles than ever before, which is significant not because I have only recently come back from an 8-week injury, but because these miles are logged on my long-time nemesis, the bicycle. Yup, Kona has branched out into the compulsive world of cycling. And damn, it's an expensive sport. What's that ad...$2,000 bicycle, $400 bike rack, $200 for shoes and clips, $60 helmet...and a plethora of banged up and bloodied body parts, all in the name of fun? Hmmm...I must be getting soft in my old age.

Though I may be beginning to dig this sport, I am in no way falling in love with it. In fact, I'm not doing it because I think it's one of the funnest things I've done ('cause it's not); and I'm definitely not doing it because I am any good at it. Au contraire, I stink! For me, it's so much tougher than running -- physically and mentally!

But, and you're probably going to think I'm nuttier than squirrel poo, I ride because:

  1. It absolutely scares the bajeezus out of me.
  2. It's not easy for me.
  3. I'm tired of sucking at it. I don't want to be the best, I just don't want to finish DFL.

Finally, and these are really secondary's excellent cross-training. And, if millions of other people enjoy it, then perhaps I can come to find some fun in it too. (And my older running friends say that I can hang out with peeps my own age for once. ;)

After many months spent toying with this sport, I finally experienced a breakthrough today -- and luckily it didn't involve any literal "breaks." In all fairness, I have been tremendously enjoying the time I spend joyriding on my stealth black cruiser. It truly is fun. Casually pedaling along in short skirts, wind breezing through my hair, and Sunday drivers slowing down to wave hello, I ride to friends' houses, my local grocery store (where I put a 6-pack of beer in my front wicker basket), and my absolute favorite, Peet's coffee shop, early in the morning, where all of the suited businessmen stop to gawk at my "studly" "bitchin'" "killer" cruiser. It's too much fun! And a perfect way to start my day -- or unwind in the evening.

But serious riding -- like on a road or mountain bike -- is a whole different story. I am terrified of everything -- from bombing downhill at speeds that make the RoadRunner look slow; to other bikers whizzing by me and distracted drivers and squirrely bikes that wobble and shake with the slightest of touch. All of it feels so un-natural to me. I am most in my element when I am in my running shoes (i.e., no other equipment necessary like sweaty helmets or a cold hard seat riding up my bony ass), setting my own pace (i.e., no bike to pull me downhill faster or gears to get my uphill more easily), running along a quiet trail (i.e., no cars to run over me) and not exceeding speeds over 10mph. That is just me -- in control and in the zone.

With all that in mind, I decided mountain biking would be an easier step to take upon entry into the cycling world. The bikes are more stable and sturdy, the speeds typically less than road bikes (unless downhill), and the scenery much more to my liking. I figure I have 3 obstacles to overcome: 1) the fear, 2) the difficulty (I really do suck at it!), and 3) the lack of fun factor (probably related to the's hard to have fun when you're peeing inyour pants.)

So this past October, after a handful of trial "rides" in Tahoe and Moab, I visited the best bike shop around, Mad Cat Bicycles, which also happens to be where I found the aforementioned most awesome cruiser. The Mad Cat boys (namely Chris -- muchas gracias, chico!) once again hooked me up with a phenomenal bike -- a beauty of a Giant known as the Trance 2. I call it T2 (similar to my last name, not that Arnold film). For most of this summer, we have been getting to know each other. At first, I don't think it liked me much, trying to find ways to buck me off or slip out under me on steep climbs. Its chains have clawed my calves and the seat has provided some nice internal bruising, while the monstrous frame has done much to show me who's in charge. And one time when I was unloading it, I swear it took a cheap shot at my left cheek. In short, T2 has put me in my place. But never a quitter, I have resolved to seriously muscle up. No more will it get the best of me; like a Jedi master I will gain control over it. See....even with bikes, I must resort to see these silly games.

And this week, T2 and I finally hit it off. I can see it starting to grow on me. On Thursday we tackled some trails and climbs in Auburn. We had done them before but T2 had mocked me when I had tried to pedal up climbs in a low gear, and forced me to resort to hike-a-bike. It mocked me more when it came time to ride back down those hills (which it had previously made me walk) and I was too scared and resorted to drag-a-bike down. But not this week! No way! I showed T2 who was boss and this time we bounced our way up every single hill and flew down 'em all, to boot (well...we didn't exactly fly seeing as how I was giving the brakes a good test). It was pretty awesome. And as we came back to my car all good and dirtied up, I smiled at T2. Just maybe, this could be a fun sport. Checkmark: Obstacle #3!

Easy? Well, the jury's still out.

After giving T2 a few days rest (bikes, like running shoes, also need rest), I decided to take T2 out again today. Rather than lots of hills or climbs, I thought I'd test out his distance. I mean, I'm an endurance girl...I can go for hours! So if T2 is really my bike, I need to know if he can hang with me for that long. So I threw on my ancient tri bike shorts (to provide a little padding), filled up my Salomon hydration pack, packed some clif shot blocks and a fig bar, and set out for what I hoped would be a 2-hour ride. In all actuality, this was as much a test for me as it was for T2. My back injury makes it hard to sit for long periods and bouts of numbness down my leg are nothing new or unusual. I needed to know if I could hang!

About one hour into it, my left foot was numb but all in all, I felt pretty darn good. I had my ipod shuffle playing in one ear (similar to how I run, so I can still hear my surroundings) and I realized that unlike running, I could actually sing along while riding. "Shook me all night long, yeah you, shook me all night long!" Damn, this is pretty cool -- I can multi-task -- sing and ride and nobody can do a darn thing about it except sing a long or ride right on past me. Sweet deal!

It was also about this time that I started calculating how many miles I would be riding (I seriously hadn't thought about it at all...I was just going for time). And then it hit me like a tree branch just struck by lightning. On this day last year, I had run a PR at the Skyline 50K. I had wanted to run it again this year to defend my division title and score another PR, but it was seemingly not in the cards for this season. But...I rationalized, who says I can't ride a 50K and set another kind of PR? Heck, why not?!

As I made up my mind to ride 31 miles, another thought dawned on me...had I ever ridden this far? I thought and thought and thought...I had ridden about 25 miles once but that was on a stationary bike in the gym and I was watching Lance win his 6th Tour. I had ridden 15 miles once on the bike trail, in prep for a 12-mile ride in a sprint triathlon; and I had probably ridden at most 15 miles in one day in Moab. But that was it. I had never gone very long on a bike. And certainly not on T2. WTF was I thinking this morning? Oh well. Too late to change my mind now. I re-focused, geared up, and set out to finish my own 50K today, and if I bonked, crashed or burned...well, then I would simply bonk, crash or burn. So what?

But you know what? I didn't crash or burn. And a little bonk during an intense headwind (winds were strong all day at about 15-20mph) was quickly remedied with clif shot bloks and a mental pep talk of "This will only make you stronger and tougher! Think WS!" And when I crossed that imaginary finish line tape after 2 hours and 20 minutes of sitting on my bony ass, I felt pretty darn good for having just doubled my longest ride to 31.5 miles. Or maybe that was just the quasi-runners' high endorphins (???).

[Sidebar: okay, so i really do have a big fat runners' ass, but trust me... it's all bone when I'm in the saddle!).

I know a 50K ride is nothing to toot my horn about, and believe me, I ain't tooting! And it wasn't quite as exhilarating as "My First Un-Boston." But it is a teensy big deal for me given my 3 BIG obstacles, one of which I seemed to overcome today. And as I sit here typing, rejuved by a good burger, cold beer and ice cream, I relish in the fact that my questions were alas answered. Yes, I could hang. And T2 could hang as well. And so maybe, just maybe, I've met my match.
Kona & T2

Pic: Me riding in Moab...just hours before the infamous storm broke!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Standing Outside the Fire

But you’ve got to be tough
When consumed by desire
‘Cause it’s not enough
To stand outside the fire.
I recently met a person, surprisingly close to my age, whom I can see standing at a junction and contemplating various paths. Which one to take? The safe bet, the easy route, the unknown course or the dream? While our conversations have been casual and positive, I can sense his deep reflections. And as I am seemingly prone to do, I wonder: Is there anything I can do to help?

Why is it that I always feel the need to “rescue” people, even those who really don’t need rescuing or perhaps aren’t ready to be rescued. He has his wits about him, indeed, and even if he may be a tad confused and possibly struggling with his search, he's not sending out an SOS, least of which to some seemingly naive girl he's only recently met. Yet still I want to try. And why is that gosh darnit?

Perhaps it’s because I know and understand. I can empathize with those confusing feelings because I’ve been there many, many times: Where am I going? What am I doing? And why? How do I get there? Is this really me?
I was at those crossroads just two years ago. And while leaving the agency was one of the hardest decisions to make, it ended up being the right one. I had nothing lined up -- nothing at all. I didn't even know which other path I was going to take. I only knew that the path I was on was leading me to misery and something more, which I did not want. So I veered off, jumped the curb and somehow, with grace and dignity, landed soundly on a different path. It's a fun path, to be sure. Even still, I sometimes find myself in pensive states wondering Is this what I really want?

I sense his strong passion to want to help people – and it is a huge passion to bear. It is similar to my own purpose of wanting to make people happy and to give children a better future. How do you translate these passions into your dreams? How do you make your dreams take flight?

It’s often easy to “settle” for something we think is what we want, only to find out years later that the void is still there.
Been there. Done that. Life lesson #8,322.

It’s easy to believe that standing outside the fire is safer and can be just as fantastically fulfilling as dancing within the flames. And for some people that is the case. For those of us who feel the need for something more, who have that burning desire, it’s simply not enough to stand back and watch.

Yet still, jumping into that circle of dancing flames, risking it all, laying it on the line, wearing your heart on your sleeve…or which ever way you want to put it…is not painless and it’s certainly not without any bit of extra ordinary effort. To be sure, it is that extra bit of attitude, work, heart and desire that makes the dance inside all the more rewarding.

If you don’t risk anything, you risk so much more…

I know I cannot save a life. That is not my responsibility. And, thankfully, this is not a case where someone needs to be saved. I am finally learning that I cannot be everything to all people. But I can do other things – good things, I hope. I can support, I can encourage and above all, I can believe. I do believe.

I believe every dream deserves a chance to take flight.

And dreams can happen, if we make them happen.

So go out there and dance…dream…love…live.


I cannot abide by
standing outside the fire.

Pics (top to bottom) #1: Fire pit in Lake Tahoe, April 2007. #2: Fiery sunset on 13-hour nite run, April 2007. #3 Fiery Tahoe sunset on post-Thanksgiving run, 2006. #4 Getting ready to dance, NC, June 2007.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dirt Diva + Kona Grrrrl = T-R-O-U-B-L-E

Yesterday I played a little hookie (shhhh!) and drove up to Sierra City to meet Dirt Diva at mile 1,200+ of her journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. It had been over 2 months since we've seen each other and that was like 69 days too long! ;)

Setting: 3 minutes after I find her at the General Store among a dozen other PCTers and locals

DD: OMG! Love that skirt.
KG: Thx. I know...I loooove it too! Look...
(pull up skirt to show off cute, short spandex with a white flower on the corner seam)
DD: No way! Look at mine.
(DD: pulls up her skirt to show off cute hot pink spandex)
DD: And I love it too because it doesn't ride up the A**)
Hiker Dude #1: I'm in heaven!
Local Boy: No shit...are they always this much fun!?!

Setting: just hopped in my car to drive to Truckee (so DD can fuel up on re-supplies)

DD: do you know how to get there?
KG: Nope. Thought we'd wing it...there's signs right?
DD: I guess. Just like being back on the PCT
KG: Do you know how far?
DD: Uh...
KG: Hope we have enough gas or else we'll be back on PCT hiking to Truckee!

Setting: local Truckee thrift shop in coed dressing rooms
DD: How those low rise pants fit, Kona?

KG: Fit great but I think I'm over the whole low-rise, show my A** and butt crack off to the world thing.

DD: yeah, but it's a cute butt

KG: Plus I don't always like to wear panties anymore...

(cough, cough -- old man outside room turns beet red)
Setting: Five minutes later upon exiting dressing room and passing old man

KG: Have a wonderful day!
Old man: Oh, indeed I will.

Two tough girls. One gorgeous Tahoe day. Countless fun, priceless times and a wallet full of happy memories.

Rock on, Dirt Diva! See you up in Canada. ;)


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yes, I Can

I've been AWOL...stumbling this past month through injury, insult and that thing called life. But not anymore. Today I looked up at my fridge and re-discovered my personal motto that I had posted there more than two years ago:

All my life I am told the things I cannot do.
All my life they say I'm not good enough.
Or strong enough.
Or talented enough.

They say I'm the wrong height
Or the wrong weight
Or the wrong type
To play this
Or be this
Or achieve this.

They tell me NO,
A thousand times NO,
Until all the NO's become meaningless.
All my life they will tell me NO,
Quite firmly and very quickly.

But I will tell them YES!

And yes... I really can. So I'm on my way now to go be a trail runner and wanna-be mountain biker in Sierra City!

Live. Love. Smile. Play.



(Pic below: Me running the Skyline 50K last August...almost exactly 2 years after a doctor told me I would never be able to run more than a few miles...yeah right! ;)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Life's little bruises

The best thing to do is just keep on smiling and pretend you're okay...even if you're not.

I'd like to take credit for this one...I've probably said something very much along these lines at least once a year for most of my adolescent/adult life. But, it was the 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis who gets the credit (even if he doesn't get official credit...yet...for winning the Tour in '06).

Smiling is simply my style - Alikona style. And it is something I have embraced ever since I can remember...or my family can remember.

I was 2 years old and had haphazardly tumbled while sliding down the banister railing of our stairwell (something my sisters and I were notorious for doing!). I hit my head/eye on one of the sharp edges of the wooden steps on the way down. My mom says they (of course) made a big fuss and rushed to my aid, where I cried for 2 seconds, and then proceeded to giggle and smile and act like any happy-go-lucky towhead who's just had the thrill of rushing down a SUPER GIANT slide. I was put down for a "nap" and an hour later my eye was swollen black and glued shut down to my lower cheek. The infamous black eye stuck around for nearly a year, and while I'm sure my parents received countless numbers of dirty looks, my smile never faded and assured others of my well-being.

Bruises happen. They're ugly and they can hurt. Sometimes a lot. But you know what? They also heal. I've had more ugly bruises in my life than an NBA star's one-night stands. I even had a 24-year anniversary black eye last summer when I took a spill and hit my head on the sharp edge of a coffee table (what is it with me and sharp corners?). That was a real beauty! Internal bruising - the mind, the body, the heart - can almost be worse. It's an internal fight and we don't have the benefit of physically seeing the battle wounds fade away. My ego's been bruised; and definitely, my tender heart's been beat up a time or two (or a dozen). Yet each time those bruises have healed. And the secret I discovered in healing was simple: smile.

Smiling just feels better. And somehow...miraculously makes the pain of not being "okay" - of experiencing life's little bruises - feel that much less painful.

Bruised but beaming,
Alikona ;)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

When Nothing is Certain...

When nothing is certain,
Everything is Possible!

(Overlooking Vail backcountry...endless possibilities. Vail 2006/07.)

Looking in my mailbox is something to which I often look forward, but ultimately dread as I receive junk upon bills upon ads upon random letters addressed to old homeowners who haven't lived here in over 5 years! Today was different. A hand-addressed envelope caught my eye and as I tossed the junk properly in its bin, I grabbed my letter-opener to tear open the card. I felt like a little kid at Christmas! It was from my dear and happy Uncle Steve -- and on the cover was a beautiful painted cowgirl with this quote, "When nothing is certain, everything is possible."

There are moments in life when timing is impeccable. And this was certainly one of them.

Unc, as he humorously refers to himself, must know me better than I thought, and I will embrace his timely words of encouragement.

There are always uncertainties in this world. And sometimes there are periods when nothing seems certain - much like my life in its present form. But rather than dwell or wallow in the uncertainty of not knowing, not controlling, or not doing, I will embrace these "uncertain periods" as periods of "unlimited opportunities."

The world is my stage. And ever the torantist, I will find a way to dance.

Thanks, Unc!!

Alikona aka Allysunny

(Above: On top of the world in Vail backcountry, 13,000'. New Year's Eve 2006.)

Top: Geez...why is it so much fun to dance on bartops?!?! New Year's Eve 2006. (Chris, my dancing partner, is almost 6'3"!)
Bottom: Many choices...which one to choose?!?!?! The Teacup Bowl was definitely no tea party!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

AT & JT Conquer The TRT

"Every day you can run is a good day." - JT

As part of my b-day celebration, I had planned to run a 50K race up in Tahoe along some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in western Nevada. But as I am seemingly prone to do, I over-trained, rested little and wound up with a minor hip/low back injury that prevented me from starting the race. It was a tough decision to not start the race, but I think it was a sound one that will save me many, many months of pain and rehab.

The good news is that I caught it EARLY (like within the first two weeks)…whereas before I would have run through it for at least a month, and in this case, probably through the race. ;) Maybe I am getting wiser with old age! The even better news is that, after less than two weeks of NO running and intense physical therapy (or what I lovingly refer to as “pain therapy”), I am already running again. It’s very slow…think snail pace…and only a mile or two at a time....but it's running and as my dad (aka JT) always says, "Every day you can run is a good day." What a smart man!

With my speedy rehab, JT and I set out to do a hike in lieu of my bday ultra run. We naturally chose one of my favorite sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). (NOTE: JT is a PT – physical therapist – but does not treat me. And my real PT, whose initials are also AT, was none too thrilled that both JT and I thought it was a “good idea” for me to do a 17-mile mountain hike while still “injured”…puh-leaze!) While only half the 50K distance, it would still be challenging…especially for me, as I prefer to run not hike. In fact, I had done this 17-mile section multiple times before, but almost always as an out-and-back 34-miler RUN from our house in Incline Village. So to HIKE it, in reverse, one-way only, was way beyond anything I’ve ever done. I do like a good challenge.
(ABOVE: JT and I at the "starting line" at Spooner Lake.)

So after a hearty breakfast of mochas, bear claws and danishes (I did mention it was my bday weekend…so b-day calories don’t count, right?), my mom drove us to our starting point at Spooner Lake (elevation about 6500’). With Salomon daypacks brimming with slushy Gatorade, Power Bars and trail mix, we bid adieu to a mother who couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t have a “survival pack” handy on us. (First aid kits apparently weren't enough for her.)

One of the reasons I love this 17-mile section is that you get to see and do it ALL. The first 5-6 miles are a good climb up to about 9200’ where the trail literally drops you off on a peak overlooking Marlette Lake – a true blue alpine lake nestled along the backside of the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. I had run this section last year in the first week of June and there was 3-4 miles of snowpack. But this year (3 weeks earlier), there was only about 15 feet of patchy snow -- a foreboding sign of impending drought in NorCal? Time will tell. But, as my mom would say, man a living, was it gorgeous at Marlette!

(Left: Coming over peak with Marlette Lake in front of us.)

(Below: While JT tried to find a “safe” and sturdy way around a patch of trail that was no more, I climbed above like Spiderman and practiced my bouldering skills (which was also a good way for me to gauge my right hip pain/weakness).

After a mile walk around Marlette, the trail spits you out at the top of the Flume Trail – recently rated as one of the nation’s top ten mountain bike trails. For the next 4.5 miles, the single-track trail follows right along the mountainside facing Lake Tahoe. On average, the trail is about 3 feet wide and there's quite a STEEP drop-off should you carelessly miss a step. These 4.5 miles are all flat, so JT and I decided to do a little casual running, just to see how we felt running at 8,000' and to again gauge my hip pain. Um, excuse me JT, but I’m running along a ridgeline at 300 feet above one of the most beautiful pieces of mountain lake scenery known to mankind, not to mention I'm feeling light and loopy from the high altitude. So yeah, I’m going to feel great! I'm on TOP of the world!!

(Left: On top of the world above Sand Harbor.)
(Below: Me on a rock jetting out over a cliff.)

Along the Flume Trail, we chatted about everything from the upcoming presidential elections to the egregious selfishness of pro basketball players and the resilient patience of NBA coaches for putting up with the such immature players. I'd walk out as close to the edge on the cliffside, and JT would hug the mountainside; he said he'd promise Mom that not only would we return, but we'd return with all body parts still attached. A Thomas always keeps his promise.

Overlooking the crystal blue waters of Sand Harbor, I really did feel like I was standing on top of the world. That was, until we reached mile 11.5 at the top of the TRT known as Tunnel Creek (just below Twin Lakes, which were already dry this early in the season -- double yikes!). That's when I stupidly looked down at my watch and saw that we were almost 3 hours into our trek. Growing tired and cranky, I thought to myself, I would be done by now if I was running! In long runs/hikes, sometimes you just reach a point where you want to be done - finis! And I had definitely reached that point. It was going to be a good 90 minutes to do the last 5+ miles and so I had to find a way to suck it up and forget about running.

The next 3 miles were downhill and hiking this can be more difficult than hiking up because gravity wants to pull you down faster than your legs can walk (and running downhill was painful on my hip). With the gorgeous views of the lake it wasn't too hard to lose myself in thoughts of how lucky I am to be able to go out and do this type of activity, especially in such beautiful places -- and with one of my heroes, JT. Days like these, I revel in the saying, "It doesn't get much better than this!"

(Left: JT walking downhill faster than moi! Not bad for an old guy!)

We reached the famous Ponderosa Ranch, threw around ideas about what they should do with the land and bantered about the excessive over-development of this pristine national forest (I being the ever conservative environmentalist, while JT wanting to "Keep Tahoe Blue" but still happy about the Starbucks that appeared in Incline about two summers ago.) Just 2 miles to go now and we were finally on the homestretch - literally our homestretch - a 2-mile route that we run countless times during the year - rain, sun, snow and ice. The route runs one mile along Lakeshore Drive (right along the Lake Tahoe shore, duh) and past the extravagant yet gorgeous multi-million dollar mansions, past the restored Old Tahoe style Hyatt (the one real hotel in Incline Village) and then uphill 1 mile, along the golf course, to our cabin -- where we were greeted enthusiastically by Mom, Arlo and Teddy.

AT & JT conquered this section of the TRT. But never ones to get too excited about our feats, AT is already planning to conquer yet another section of this famed 165-mile trail on our next Tahoe adventure. 10% of the way there and excited about the remaining 90% - whether running or hiking! It's going to be an awesome Tahoe summer for sure. And truly, it doesn't get much better than that!

Challenge yourself today!


(View from above flume trail. Note the picturesque clouds.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gandhi was a smart man.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
- M. Gandhi

What changes do you wish to see in the world? What changes do you wish to see in your world? Have you thought about making any changes lately? What's stopping you? Are your changes a positive or negative reflection of the world?Are they self-fulfilling or self-gratifying? Or will your changes be the changes you wish to see in this world - your world?

Sometimes, even small changes we make for ourselves can have deep impacts on those around us.

I know what changes I'd like to see in this world. Getting kids to eat better and be more active may be two of them, but they are not tops on my list. I could share my laundry list of changes, but one needn't look farther than who I am, what I am, and what I do to see the changes I wish for in this world.

Make one change today. Be that change. And at the end of the day, take stock of how that change affected you, those around you and the world.
HINT: Even SMALL changes can have BIG impacts! For example, smiling at a stranger can make their day. And eating a healthy meal in place of an unhealthy one can make you feel better and help improve your health. :)

Me looking up at the MOUNTAIN of changes I wish to see in my world and gauging the best plan of attack. :)

(Nah, seriously...planning my attack up this massive RED ROCK WALL in Moab, Utah. It was my first attempt at rock climbing. It took 3 tries but I made it to the top!!!)

Go out and get 'em tigers!


I'm retiring...

My 27th birthday this past week was monumental for many reasons, but none of which had anything to do with my birthday. On this 16th day of May, 2007, I retired and officially abdicated my crown as 5 a Day Queen. In its place, I will don a new title, which I have been secretly working with the state to develop over the course of the past year. With the 2005 USDA dietary guidelines nearly doubling the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables from 5 servings to up to 9-13 servings, 5 a Day and my crown naturally became obsolete.

(Pic: Me having way too much fun peddling fruits & veggies! Haha!)

From this point forward, I – along with millions of other Californians – will be Champions for Change. We have 3 simple rules:
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
2. Be more active.
3. Speak up for healthy changes.
This new social marketing campaign empowers all people to make simple, yet important changes in their lifestyles to improve their health, their family’s health and their communities. We are using real-life “Champion Moms” as spokespeople – moms who are there in the trenches fighting childhood obesity. Down the road, we will expand to Champion Dads, Doctors, Teachers, etc.

For the past three months, I have been charged with developing the communication pieces to launch this new brand and to educate Californians about Champions for Change. (A statewide advertising campaign also launched (on my birthday!) and includes TV, radio and outdoor billboards, lunch trucks and transit lines.) With the extensive reach of the Internet, the WWW seemed the natural choice for communicating to mass audiences. And last week, I unveiled my latest project to California and the world via (and en espanol,

I am quite critical of it in its early stages – but it is live (set many speed records to complete it in time), it is simple and it has enormous potential to grow, expand and (I think) ultimately become THE resource that people turn to for information about healthy lifestyles. Check it out and let me know your thoughts (constructive criticism, please). And keep in mind: while this is designed to reach everyone, it is targeted to serve the needs of low-income audiences (thus, lower reading levels, less technical components, photos featuring our target audience, not skinny Paris runway models). I welcome and appreciate your feedback.

Say good-bye to Queen 5 a Day. And give your regards to Miss Champion for Change.
Eat MORE fruits & veggies. Be MORE active. Live healthy. Live happy. And live long.

PS – Oh, and given my workload over the past few months, I will take a brief “retirement.”

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Post from The Big Apple

I found this in an old bookshop today...

Fall in love or fall in hate.

Get inspired or be depressed.

Ace a test or flunk a class.

Make babies or make art.

Speak the truth or lie and cheat.

Dance on tables or sit in the corner.

Life is divine chaos. Embrace it.

Forgive yourself.


And enjoy the ride...

- Solbeam

I will enjoy the rest of my ride here in this BIG city. Although it brings about such intense reflection, both good and bad, I will embrace it all.

May you embrace yours too!

(Pic: lunchtime in central park)