Top 7 Tips for Hiking Races

Endurance races can be killer, they push you far outside your comfort zone taking you to the edge both physically and mentally. I’ve raced plenty of 5 Ks, half marathons and completed the NY Marathon. Now, I’m thrilled to say I completed a hiking marathon — with actually couple miles more too!  The Trailblaze Challenge is one of many hiking races I’ve seen pop up over the past year or two and I’m thrilled about this new opportunity to push my limits. I had an incredible time training for and racing this 26+ mile race and I couldn’t recommend taking on a hiking marathon more!

Be sure to follow the below tips for successful preparation and race-day fun, and keep me posted on how your training and race go. You can do it!

Top 7 Tips for Hiking Races

1.) Build endurance and be prepared for different types of terrain

Train with hikes that build endurance through increased distance, similar to training plans for marathons. Start small and each week add a couple of miles to your long hike. You’ll also want to make sure that you are covering different types of terrain on your training hikes so you’re ready for anything on race day.  Over your training months, seek out different trails that include steep climbs, long steady inclines, muddy and gravel paths to practice uneven ground and even scrambling. The increasing lengths and varied terrain will only help you on race day.

2.) Train in your race day gear 

This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice: be sure to train in your race day gear, and don’t bring gear or tool you aren’t familiar with. You should feel very comfortable using your gear so that on race day, you can focus on the trail and keeping one foot in front of the other. This could mean breaking in trail runners; practicing with hiking poles;  knowing how to quickly refill your Camelbak bladder and liking the feel of your athletic wear. I really fell in love with a lightweight sweat wiking long sleeve quarter zip and knew it would be on my body or in my pack on race day.

3.) Be Safe

Hiking races can contain large stints of time without cell phone service and possibly without interaction from other hikers or event staff.  Given the remoteness, it’s very important to stay safe and alert.  Be sure to remain on trail, use tracking apps (my favorites are Map my Run and Halfmile’s PCT, both free and work in airplane mode) and keep a paper copy of the trail with any trail notes.

4.) Stay hydrated and pack snacks with quick burning energy

Unlike half or full marathons where racers generally drink water and Gatorade or have a quick chew or goo to push you through, hiking races require lots more water and fuel. Be sure to hydrate and try to stay away from alcohol the two days prior to race day. Then on race day, keep your bladder full and have a side water bottle or thermos for coffee in the morning and if you want to use a hydration tablet later in the day (they never go in your bladder pack!). Snacks I loved were crunchy pb & banana sandwiches, apples, dried mango, jerkey and Honey Stinger organic energy chews.

5.) Keep a small first aid kit, hand sanitizer and zip loc baggies in your pack

Hiking races take hours. If you get stuck in between aid stations, or your race doesn’t feature them, you’ll want to be prepared with a small first aid kit. Addressing injuries isn’t the only thing you’ll do in the woods…be sure to pack out anything you bring and put trash and tissues in zip loc baggies to throw away at the end. Taking the motto of “leave no trace” to a whole new meaning, right?

6.) Have a mantra and a mission

People talk about hitting a wall or being in the pain cave… these are real problems on race day. We train and build mileage, but race day we push ourselves farther physically than we’ve ever been.  Key techniques to overcoming a mental block are repeating an uplifting phrase or mantra and having a mission statement. It’s proven that mantras and uplifting phrases repeated to yourself during strenuous activity (and really all of life!) keep you positive, calm and focused. This is no different than on race day and is the perfect place to practice.  A couple of my go-to’s are: One foot in front of the other! // This is what you came for! // PCT ain’t got nothing on me (this last one was especially helpful to me recently ;)).

Mission statements can also be hugely motivating. Are you raising money and awareness for charity? Taking on a new challenge? Proving to yourself you can keep going at 40? Find the why behind the race and keep your mind there. The mind often breaks before the body, and don’t let you stand in your way. You got this!  

7.) Share your journey!

Bring a camera or Go-Pro and take as much footage as you can! Trust me, you’ll want to capture the awe-inspiring views, crazy tough terrain you push through and your grinning face at the finish line. Plus, you never know who you could motivate when you share your story.

Good luck, hikers!

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Trailblaze Challenge Finisher!!!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! On May 20th I was the 3rd to cross the finish line at San Diego’s inaugural TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE, a one-day, 26+ mile hike to raise awareness and funds for Make-A-Wish San Diego.  It was an incredible journey following the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ending at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.

Mission Accomplished! 3rd to the Finish Line // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

I had so much fun with my girlfriends and loved meeting the other participants; we really created a little family, encouraging each other and drawing from each other’s strength and positive energy.  It was inspiring to hear the participants’ pasts and stories. Hikers varied in age and hiking experience — 21 to 75 and Mt Whitney veterans to brand new hikers, and most special of all was meeting fellow hikers who were parents to Wish-kids and learning how the organization has brought such happiness to their lives.

Get all the race day feel-goods with this video captured by the event’s photographer and see my race-day recap below. Stay tuned later this week for my Top 7 Tips for a Hiking Race if you’re ready to sign up for this challenge or a similar one soon.

San Diego Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge from Travis Rieth on Vimeo   (catch me at 40 seconds and 1:30 🙂 )

RACE RECAP: TEAM ADVENTURE APPEAL TAKES ON THE TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE

We started this long but glorious day at 3:15am when the 80 hikers, event staff and medics met for roll call and breakfast. We were soon out the door for the starting line with our headlamps on. My girlfriends and I started in wave 7 at 4:15am, and in the pitch black night it was so much fun to see the string of lights below and above us on the trail. Before long, the light was breaking and we watched the sun rise over Big Bear Lake, a truly beautiful sight.

Starting at 4:15am, 80 Hikers took on San Diego’s first Trailblaze Challenge // May 20th 2017
Team Adventure Appeal ready to start this epic journey! // Big Bear California, May 20th 2017

The race course included 3 aid stations and they were the perfect markers for recapping later with our fellow hikers and friends. Before the 1st aid station we acclimated to elevation, navigated the trail in the dark and were moving quickly, high on coffee and race-day adrenaline. Next, we hit our stride for a 7-8 miles, going long stretches of slight incline and steady downhill. These provided gorgeous viewpoints of the valley and lots of Mojave yucca spotting.

Mojave yucca and valley views // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th, 2017

At the 2nd aid station there were Make-a-Wish cheerleaders, friends and family with signs and cowbells and a feast of snacks. Everyone partook in some much needed restoration here and I shed a lot of layers as the sun become stronger.

The next stretch was long and solo. I hit my stride and saw few race-day or PCT through hikers for the next 9 miles. Following the race map, PCT markers and taking countless pictures and funny videos I kept on track and in high spirits. The terrain was a mix of narrow dirt paths and wide loose rocks with seemingly endless views of the Johnson Valley.

All about that view from above // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

Clocking in at the 3rd aid station, I was mindful not to spend as long as I did at the 2nd, since there were just 5 miles left of the race. These 5 miles were the toughest yet, a steady climb uphill precisely when your body and mind start to break down. I kept repeating positive mantras in my head and seeing the friendly face of a fellow race-day hiker at mile 27 really motivated me to keep going.

5 Miles left, repeating my silly, playful mantra “PCT ain’t got nothing on me” 😉 // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

1 mile from the finish line, the extra adrenaline and excitement of finishing was taking over and views of Onyx Summit were starting to form. We even passed the famous couch rest stop (next time ;)). Because this was a hiking race, the finish line wasn’t as clear, and myself and a fellow hiker wound up passing it, increasing our mileage and our excuses for lots of delicious treats later.

Fancy a seat or a snack? PCT Trail Angels fill this dumpster with water, snacks and inspiration for through hikers // Onyx Summit, May 20, 2017

Happy, hungry and in awe of the process, I ended the race at 10 hours and 15 minutes, clocking in 29.15 miles and finishing 3rd. It was exhilarating, humbling and altogether such a push mentally and physically. Thank  you for this incredible opportunity, Make-A-Wish and to all those that provided encouragement and support!

29.15 miles later, happy sweaty and ready for to celebrate // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

 

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Trailblaze Challenge: Climb for a Cause

I’ve been training and fundraising all spring and race weekend is finally HERE!!! On May 20th I’m taking on San Diego’s first TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE.

Team Adventure Appeal is hiking 26 miles in one day to raise money for Make-a-Wish San Diego

The TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE is a one-day, 26 mile hike to raise awareness and much needed funds for Make-a-Wish San Diego. The route follows the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ends at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.

I’m so excited to tackle this hike and raise money for such a worthy cause. Make-A-Wish San Diego grants the wishes of children in San Diego and Imperial counties with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. This non-profit organization has a special place in my heart because I love to travel and experience life, and it breaks my heart that some kids won’t have the time /  years to do the same. Learn more about the hike and make a donation here.

peace, love and hiking

Huge thanks to my friends and family for all their encouragement and donations over the past few months, and special thanks to Yoga Six and wash. for their donation based events in support of my campaign — y’all are the best. ♥

Hoping to post lots from the trail, so be sure to follow along on Instagram: @adventureappeal. Let’s do this, Team Adventure Appeal!

 

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Humpback Rocks Trail & Icy Treats at Moo Thru

Two weeks ago, I flew back to the east coast for a fun filled gals weekend. Before the bachelorette festivities and family gatherings began, I met up with my college roommate for a little adventure.  We took a half (or really, two-thirds) day excursion out to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike Humpback Rocks, and added a brewery lunch with a view and ice cream treat on the way back into town. It was a great way to catchup with one of my best friends and keep up with my Trailblaze Challenge training while traveling.

Taking things to the top // Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia // May 2017

The Blue Ridge Parkway covers 469 miles along the southern Appalachians through Virginia and North Carolina and contains 360+ miles of hiking trails. From where we accessed the National Park, is about a 2-2.5 hour drive from DC. Google knows best, but we recommend taking I-66 W to US-29 S, then taking I-64 W to State Rte 610 in South River. We took a quick stop right outside the park at the Rockfish Gap Tourist Center to gear up with handfuls of maps, advice and bathrooms (helpful!). From there, you quickly enter the Blue Ridge Parkway and head to the Humpback Rocks parking lot in between mileposts 6 and 7.

Be prepared! Bring this trail map or get it at the Visitor Center // Map from NPS.gov
Insider tip: take the loop! It is full of switchbacks for a subtle climb

The trailhead is conveniently right there. Once you’re on the trail (be sure to take the first trailhead entrance) the climb is full of shady steady switchbacks, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Cell service is spotty, so bring those old fashioned trail maps, a dowloaded version on your phone and follow the markings along the trees. The hike is definitely all levels, and good for experienced hikers and novices alike. A little more than 3/4 of the way through the loop, you’ll find yourself at a sign for Humpback Rocks. Take this scramble up and be prepared for the epic view. We thought we hit the jackpot of a view…

The fake out view // Humpback Rocks, Blue Ridge Parkway // Spring 2017

And it only got better!

View of the valley from Humpback Rocks // Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia // Spring 2017

From there, hang out and enjoy the view and take the path down. At first, it feels more like stairs and then widens to be more of a path versus a trail feel. If you’re pressed for time and just want to soak in the view, you can just go up and back from the parking lot, by using the second trailhead entrance. This will quickly present you with a “staircase” style hike up to Humpback Rocks and you’ll take the same path down.

Ta-Da! View from the Top of Humpback Rocks // Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia // Spring 2017

Afterwards reward yourself with a gorgeous view, a burger and beer at Blue Mountain Brewery. We sat on the patio, looked at pictures from the hike and checked the traffic for our way back into the city.  The last stop we made was at my all time favorite ice cream spot, Moo Thru! Well deserved after that hike, right?!

 

Visiting DC soon? Add this half day excursion for your fill of hiking, brews, views and handmade ice cream! And, as always, my quick and dirty review is below…

 

 


HUMPBACK ROCKS TRAIL ALONG THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

Location: Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia

Best Time of Year To Go: spring through fall (best foliage peeping is in October)

Hiking Distance: 4.2 miles (loop)

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Insider tips:

  • Permits are not required and it was free to park.
  • This loop offers tons of shade and is dog friendly.
  • Pack a snack and picnic with friends — tables located at the start of the trailhead — or hit up a Charlottesville brewery or winery for lunch.
  • Plan on losing  (or at least dropping) cell service on the way to and during the hike. Bringing paper maps and pre-downloading maps on your phone are the way to go.
  • From the parking lot there are two trailheads, one for the loop and one straight up. The .8 miles straight up path gets much more crowded and can be quite slippery after recent rain.
  • Is there a sign preventing you from entering the parking lot / trail? That means a bear was spotted! Good thing there are lots of other trails nearby.
  • See someone that looks and smells like they’ve been hiking a long time? They’re probably hiking the AT, and be sure to let them pass you. #trailetiquette.

Rating: Gorgeous view but tough following the trail at times (4 /5 stars)

Maps & additional reviews: NPS (with map), Hiking Upward (with recent reviews and calorie count!), All Trails (with lots of pictures)


Let’s connect! What was your experience like at Humpback Rocks? Any favorite hikes near DC that I should add to my hiking wish list?

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Exploring Secret Supper Clubs in San Diego

This weekend was all about local eats and treats, ending with a bang on Sunday night.  Friday, we snacked on Phil’s BBQ at the Padres Game. Saturday, we ate our way through the Junior League of San Diego’s Food & Wine Festival in La Jolla. Wrapping up our feast of a weekend, on Sunday we joined Cellar Door’s supper club for their Cinco De Mayo dinner series.

Table set for ten at Cellar Door’s exclusive supper club // Picture from Cellar Door’s FB page before all the guests arrived

Cellar Door is a supper club in Normal Heights, San Diego that hosts exclusive dinner parties about once a month.  The duo behind the club, Logan and Gary, create a unique theme for each event that inspires the menu and drink pairings. Themes, times and location are announced via their email lists, and you must sign up in advance. Typically the meal is 4-6 courses and is posted via Facebook a few hours before meal service. Competitive to say the least, this dinner club sells out lightening fast, and I was beyond pumped to snag spots for me and my husband.

This experience did not disappoint! Located in a funky hip dining room, with treats for the eyes everywhere you look (polar bear head, funny book titles, picture frames and more), we were two of ten guests at the last of four dinners occurring over the weekend. From this Cinco de Mayo themed dinner, our favorite courses were the pozole verde, a tangy spicy soup with chicken and hominy and the juiciest prawn taco I’ve ever had for the third course. We also loved their refreshing paloma and the dessert cocktail, Oporto Real, a blend of Mezcal, Tawny Port and Amaro Montenegro topped with a Luxardo Cherry.

Spicy fruit salad paired with tequila and sangrita, such a light and fun way to start the meal // Picture from Cellar Door’s FB page
Juicy prawn tacos featured on Cellar Door’s Cinco de Mayo supper club menu // May, 2017
Cellar Door’s Dessert Cocktail, a mix of Mezcal, Amaro Montenegro and Tawny Port // this pic is from Cellar Door’s FB Page, as mine was sipped away too soon!

We’ll definitely be back and are looking forward to more dinners this summer! Join Cellar Door’s email list here to be in the know — just promise not to take our spots! 🙂

Here are some insider tips for the best experience:

CELLAR DOOR SUPPER CLUB: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Cellar Door is hip, tasty and in demand; so spots at the table go fast! Be sure to respond ASAP after receiving their newsletter in order to secure your spot.
  • Bring your appetite and take a ride sharing service if you plan on drinking — our menu was 5 courses, each with a drink pairing.
  • This is a donation based dinner club, and $$ cash is king $$.
  • Chat with your fellow dinner guests! Meeting new people and chatting about food, travel and unique experiences is part of the fun.
  • Come with an open mind. Cellar Door often uses unique ingredients. Goat meat was featured this weekend and a friend mentioned she tried an exotic meat pâté in the past.
  • At this time, gluten free and vegetarian options don’t exist. But, if you have allergies notify them ASAP!
  • Couldn’t make the dinner? Check their Facebook page to drool over all the deliciousness from afar.

WANT MORE BUT DON’T LIVE IN SAN DIEGO?

Supper clubs range in menu focus, format and price. Google and Yelp will be your best resource in finding a supper club near you, otherwise you can try joining a Foodie group on Facebook or Meetup and ask around, because everyone knows foodies loooooove giving recommendations. 😉

Hope your weekend was just as delectable! Be sure to comment below if you love Cellar Door or have any other dinner club recommendations, as this is only our second in San Diego (we’ve been to Cow by Bear a few times for steak and shenanigans).

*Note: I was too busy enjoying myself to be on my phone taking pictures during the meal! Given that, some of the pictures in this post are from Cellar Door’s Facebook Page and have been marked accordingly in the captions.

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