January 24, 2012

Embrace Running

We have spent almost three years blogging about our outdoor adventures, including hiking, camping, running and biking. We are embarking on a new project - podcasting. We have created a podcast called Embrace Running. As you guessed the podcast will be dedicated to everything running, including marathons, 5k's, training, gear, etc. So if you are interested in running then give the podcast a listen and communicate with us on Facebook. The podcast is available on iTunes or go directly to the website. Nothing is changing here on Embrace the Outdoors. We will still be blogging about all our hiking, camping, running, and biking adventures here.

Embrace Running Website
Embrace Running Facebook Page
Embrace Running on iTunes

January 21, 2012

Trails Challenge 2012

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is back with their Trails Challenge for 2012.  The self guided hiking program is to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy their regional parks. The program is free for Alameda and Contra Costa County residents. It is also free for Kaiser Permanente employees who reside in Northern California. Upon registration you will be able to download the guidebook and pick up your free t-shirt at select park visitor centers. There will also be iphone and android apps coming soon that will have the guidebook. To complete the challenge you either travel five of the trails or travel 26.2 miles of the featured trails from the guidebook. Upon completion you submit a trail log and will receive a commemorative pin. Remember t-shirts and pins are available while supplies last. So get out there and embrace the outdoors in the East Bay.

EBRPD Trails Challenge

January 16, 2012

Montezuma Castle National Monument

While in Arizona for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon we took a detour to see Montezuma Castle National Monument. Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. The 1000 year old 20 room dwelling built along a limestone cliff gives a glympse into the lives of the Sinagua people who lived there.
To reach the monument we drove north on 17 from Phoenix for 1.5 hours. We took exit 289 towards Montezuma Castle and after half a mile turned left onto Montezuma Castle Road. We drove another 2 miles to reach the monument. We parked in the lot in front of the visitor center. Upon entering the visitor center we paid the $5 per person entrance fee. We proceeded to the doors on the opposite side of the center and onto the 1/3 mile loop. The loop is completely paved and is handicap accessible. The path loops around a beautiful sycamore grove. On our right there was a great view of the incredible five story cliff dwelling. Along the self guided walk there are several benches allowing people to sit and imagine what life there must have been like 1000 years ago. At the end of the loop trail we got a great up close view of the Springfield Beaver Creek, one of only a few perennial streams in Arizona. We finished our loop by checking out the exhibits at the visitor center before leaving. Ranger programs are offered daily. Montezuma Castle is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. A great place to stop if like us you're traveling from the Phoenix area to Sedona. Also note the Tuzigoot National Monument is also in the area although we didn't get a chance to go there on this particular trip.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
Tuzigoot National Monument

January 1, 2012

New Years Races

On New Years weekend I spent my mornings at Lake Chabot Regional Park for back to back new years races. I participated in the New Years Day race at the park on January 2, 2011 (See New Years Race for 2011 post) and was planning on doing the race again on 2012 but in the months leading up to the race I saw that the race organizer (Brazen Racing) was also going to have a New Years Eve race. It was a perfect year to do this since New Years Eve fell on a Saturday and New Years Day on a Sunday. What better days to do back to back races. I was intrigued but wasn't completely convinced about doing back to back races, both at Lake Chabot. Then Brazen announced a special double medal for those participating in both races. At first I thought it would only be for those competing in the half marathon distances both days but like their other race medals they announced that the double medal would go to all who participated in both races, regardless of the distance. This really interested me so now it was just deciding which distance to run. I have really only done a couple of trail races and haven't done much trail running (although it is one of my goals for 2012) so I knew I didn't want to do the half marathons. I decided to do the 10k for New Years Eve and the 5k for New Years Day and managed to convince one of my family members to do the same. Actually I think it was the double medal that convinced him. As with other Brazen races the entry fee depends on how early you register and varies by distance. I registered a few weeks before the races and paid $34 for the 10k and $29 for the 5k. If I had chosen to get race shirts then I would have paid $5 more for each race. Brazen gives the option of deducting $5 from the race fee if you select to not have a t-shirt or paying an additional $6 to get a technical fabric race shirt. Another nice thing about the back to back races is that those competing in the the half marathons on both days ran the same course but in opposite directions. So they ran it counterclockwise on New Years Eve and clockwise on New Years Day. The 5k and 10k courses were the same on both days. Start times were a bit later than usual, which I don't think people minded since it was the holiday weekend. The half marathon started at 8:30am, the 10k at 8:55am and the 5k at 9:05am. Parking fee for Lake Chabot is $5 for the main paved lot and a dirt lot. There is also plenty of street parking just outside of the park on Lake Chabot Road. We got there early enough on both days to park in the paved lot. From the paved lot it was a short walk to the race but some of those who parked on the street had quite a walk. Bib pick-up was easy and was organized into race distances and alphabetical order. They also had course maps to take with you that also reflected the course distances. With it being trail races the distance was not exact, for example the 10k distance was 6.48 miles and the 5k was 3.3 miles. Next stop was to pick up the timing chip, then goodie bag, then race shirt if you ordered one. There were park bathrooms available for use just as last year but this year there were also additional porta potties available. The additional porta potties was a good idea since there were a lot of people, especially for the sold out New Years Eve races.
The races started on time and were on a grassy area of the park. Even though it did not rain much in the days before the race the grass was muddy. All three courses started on the grass and then headed onto the paved East Shore Trail along the lake. The 5k course stayed on this trail the entire time with the turnaround at 1.65 miles, right after an aid station. The paved part of the course consisted of rolling hills. The 10k continued on the dirt trail past the aid station. It continued on the East Shore Trail crossing a narrow bridge to Live Oak Trail and then quickly climbing. This steep trail is well known to mountain bikers in the area who usually bike down it-we were going to run up and then down it. We climbed for about a mile and most people walked in this section. I tried to run for as long as I could but had to walk in two different areas. Finally after about 500 feet of climbing we hit another aid station and our turnaround point. I was so glad to be going downhill but it was fairly steep so I really had to focus my energy into staying controlled and not tumbling down the trail. I made it down without any mishap and after crossing the bridge again and then the aid station I was back on the paved East Shore Trail. The rolling hills didn't seem as bad now, after surviving Live Oak Trail. The 10k course had a total elevation change of about 658 feet while the 5k had about 165 feet. Back across another short bridge and then it was back on the grass to cross the finish line. Once across I got my finishers medal, gave up my timing chip and got water. On New Years Day there was also a separate booth to pick up the special double medal that would combine with the two separate race medals to form one mega medal. There were 271 people who participated in both races. As always there was plenty of post race snacks such as fruit, bagels, coffee, hot chocolate, water, cookies, candy, ice cream, etc. Age group medals could be picked up from the awards table once results were posted. The course was good, weather was great for this time of the year and the mega medal was awesome. I have enjoyed all of the Brazen races I have done so far and am hoping to do more trail running this year so I am sure I will be participating in more. Maybe I'll even do a trail half marathon by the end of the year

New Years Eve Race Results
New Years Day Race Results
New Years Race Photos
Brazen Racing Website

January Events

Here are a few things going on in January:

1/16 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
1/21 Kickstart Duathlon in Folsom
1/21 St. Josephs Fun Run 5K
1/26 Bicycle Dreams on the big screen in Oakland
1/28 Coyote Hills 5k, 10k and Half

REI Free Clinics (all at 7pm)
  Discover Lassen in Winter
    1/11 Concord
    1/12 Mountain View
    1/18 San Francisco
    1/19 Dublin
  Snowshoeing Basics
    1/10 Fremont
    1/10 Santa Rosa
    1/11 San Carlos
    1/11 San Francisco
    1/19 Mountain View
    1/26 Brentwood
  Avalanche Awareness: Tips for Safe Winter Backcountry Travel
    1/18 San Carlos
    1/19 Berkeley
    1/25 San Francisco
    1/26 Mountain View

REI Used Gear Sales (all at 10am)
  1/14 Berkeley
  1/28 Santa Rosa