Today was one of those beautiful Tahoe days where being outdoors was a given. I decided to hike one of my favorite trails that I was first introduced to in x-country running in high school. We fondly referred to it as the “death hill,” for there was one area in particular where our coaches used to make us do hill repeats, over, and over, and over. I can’t run it the same way I used to in high school, but even a hike up it will still make you suck some serious wind. So, why would you do this for fun you ask? Because the views are amazing and you might just find a monkey in the woods.

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Monkey Rock enjoying the view of Lake Tahoe.

Tunnel Creek Trail

Getting there: park by the Tunnel Creek Café, located on the East end of Incline Village. Walk behind the Café and follow the paved road behind it that goes up and heads South. The paved road ends in a few hundred yards and gives way to a Forest Service gate. You will see the sign for the trailhead and a new sign saying that access is going to be $1 for hikers and $2 for mountain bikers starting Summer 2015. What is the Forest Service coming to? Charging for people to access Tunnel Creek? I don’t agree with this, but oh well. Moving on.

From there, you are on a trail that will be flat … for a little bit. After a mile or so, you will come to the new post where you are supposed to self-pay and another Forest Service gate. Walk around it and after a few hundred yards, you will pass the single track trail on the left that is the “death hill.” If you take the single track, it will meet back up with the main trail in a few more hundred yards, it is basically a really steep shortcut. If that’s your thing, go for it. At the top of the single track, go to the left and up to some rocks and you might just stumble upon Monkey Rock.

If you don’t take the shortcut, you will continue to go up until you reach a couple of wooden posts on the left side of the trail (a little over a quarter of a mile or so). This is also where the single track meets up with the main trail. Follow the trail up and to the left. There you will find Mr. Monkey.

Over the years, an ear and some nostrils have been carved in him. Rumor has it that an Incline Village local was going through a really tough divorce and his outlet was hiking up to Monkey Rock. I guess he wanted to make a friend in the monkey by giving him a more distinct face. Who knows.

If you want to continue on the main trail, you can continue to go for miles and miles. Although the trail starts at lake level, by the time you get to about 2.5 miles the road is covered with snow and ice. With the ridiculously weak winter Lake Tahoe has been getting, who knows how long the trail will be covered, but that is where we decided to turn around today. In the summer, you can take the trail all the way to Marlette Lake, which is one of my absolute favorite spots around Tahoe. Maybe after things have thawed a bit…

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View of Lake Tahoe from 1.5 miles up Tunnel Creek Trail.

That’s one of my favorite trails to enjoy, whether it is for hiking, running, or mountain biking. What is one of your favorite trails to get out on? Leave a comment or share on Twitter.

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We found a snow cover trail about 2.5 miles up and decided to turn back down.

Flexible Discipline?

shutterstock_228543910 (2)I am currently a little over 14-weeks out from the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey and I am starting to feel like I bit off a little more than I can chew. When I committed to running this race (and being team captain), I was having one of those moments where I felt like I could take on the world. As runners, I think this is something that just about everyone has struggled with at one point or another. This can especially be a problem for runners coming off a hiatus. Our mind is eager to go places, but our body might not be ready to come along for the ride just yet.

Fully committed with just over 14-weeks to go, what do you do to make it to the finish line in one piece? Two words. Flexible discipline. Discipline, in that it is important to flex your willpower muscle when you would rather skip a run after a hard day of work. Flexible, in that it is essential that you listen to your body and know your realistic limits. So, how can one remain disciplined while also being flexible to achieve your goals?

Don’t be a slave to your training plan. I am probably the most guilty of this. Typically, I will plan out 3-6 months of runs and when I miss one, I feel like my whole training plan is thrown off track. This can be mentally defeating and is a sure way to get sidetracked from your goals. Sure it is great to have the structure of a schedule, but it is also important that you rest when you need to. If your training plan calls for a 10 mile run, but after 3 miles you feel a pain in your knee. Stop. Walk back to your car, call a friend to pick you up, or get off the treadmill. There is no reason for you to put your body at risk of injury if it is signaling for you to stop. Take it easy for a few days and ice that baby as much as you can.

Find a cross-training activity you enjoy. As much as we love running, let’s be honest, it can really take a toll on our joints and tendons. By finding a low-impact cross-training activity you can substitute for one or two runs a week, you will still increase your fitness without all the wear and tear from pounding the pavement. Also, if you find yourself in a scenario like the above, you will still be able to do something without feeling like you are completely taking the time off. Some of the best activities include swimming, riding a bike, or even the elliptical (yawn).

Do you have any other tips that you can share to make sure that I make it to the finish line? I would love to hear from you in the comments section.

Conquering the Dreadmill

shutterstock_229972081 (2)[3]There will come a time for every runner where for one reason or another, they need to step on the dreadmill (ahem, I mean treadmill). I have never been a fan of this tortuous device. After all, one of the reasons I feel in love with running in the first place was to get outside and closer to nature. However, when you are snowed in or travel to an area that you don’t know (or might not be the safest place to run), the treadmill is sometimes the only option.

This past week I found myself in this situation. I was staying at a hotel near UC Davis Medical Center, where my mom was undergoing surgery. If you know the area around UC Davis, you know it is not advisable for a 30-something-year-old-girl (or anyone for that matter) to go for a solo run. Knowing that I have the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey coming up in a few months, I had to find a way to get my miles in. This left me with one option, that awful, never-ending, conveyor belt, torture machine. (Fun fact: Did you know that treadmills were invented as a way to torture prisoners?)

So, what does one do to spice up those dreaded treadmill workouts? Below are some of the workouts I have found to both be effective and help the time pass.

TV Commercial Fartlek 

The word that make most people giggle and my personal favorite. If you are watching a TV show with commercials while on the treadmill, this is a fun way to mix it up in an unpredictable way. Warm up first for 10 minutes and then set into an easy jog. Every time a commercial break comes on, increase the pace by 1.0 – 2.0 mph. When the commercial break is over, resume to your normal pace.

Intervals 

These can either be run-walk intervals or run-jog intervals depending on your fitness level. Warm up and then pick a distance or a time for your hardest effort and about half of that for your recovery. For example, I will run at 6.0 mph for .25 miles and then jog at 4.5 mph for .15 miles. I will repeat this as many times as necessary to get my target miles. Note: this is also easily adaptable to hill workouts. Instead of increasing speed, you would increase the incline of the treadmill.

Pyramid

Also similar to intervals, in a pyramid workout you would gradually increase the duration or intensity of your hard effort during each interval. Once you are halfway to your target miles, you would decrease the duration or intensity gradually until complete. Think of your intervals becoming longer to the top of the pyramid and then getting shorter coming back down the other side.

By adding some regular variety to the otherwise mundane treadmill run, you will find that time goes by much more quickly and it is a great way to increase fitness. If you have other good treadmill workout ideas, please share in the comments below.

shutterstock_222191515 (2)No matter if you are an experienced runner who has taken an extended hiatus or a spring chicken looking to start a healthy routine, the first step out the door (or on the treadmill) is always the hardest. As someone who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with running for most of my life, I understand this more than I care to. Over the years, there have been times when for one reason or another, I ditched my running shoes in favor of focusing on other things. This last time I had to take the hard first step, was this past November after an 18-month breakup with running.

In the Spring of 2013, I found myself in a good routine. I was training for the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, I had lots of energy, and life was good. Then May came around. I started studying for the GMAT in hopes of being accepted into the MBA program at UNR (which I did), I realized my 3-year relationship was going nowhere, and my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. Life got complicated really quick. In between studying, stressing about my relationship, and worrying about my mom, running disappeared. It happens. Life happens.

A few months ago – with a dead-end boyfriend in the rearview mirror, a mom who is responding to treatment well, and an inspiring MBA class on Change Management – I decided it was time for running and I to go steady again. Overflowing with motivation and desire, there was only one thing standing in my way, my out-of-shape physical-self. For anyone that has experienced taking time off and then trying to start where you left off, you know just how hard it can be…especially that first step.

So, what are some tactics you can employ to get on the path to health again? For me, it is about embracing the small victories. Here are some things I do to help get me motivated:

  1. Commit to just ten minutes. That’s all. By the time I get to ten, I always want to go further.
  2. Set out running gear the night before in an unavoidable spot, like your bathroom. When I get up in the morning or home from work in the afternoon, it’s in my face and screams, ‘Go!’
  3. Plan a super-healthy breakfast everyday. It tends to set a positive tone and keeps me eating healthy all day.
  4. Keep a running log. Documenting miles everyday in a journal is rewarding and helps visualize small (and big) victories.
  5. Think of life in six months. Will I regret going for that run? No. Will I regret not going? Probably.

Those are some of the things that have helped me take the first step over and over again. Do you have any tricks you would like to share?