Introducing the Donner Party Mountain Runners

Introducing the Donner Party Mountain Runners

Ultrarunners have passion and grit. I am comfortable with that as a statement of fact. Apply those same traits to the creation of a non-profit running organization, and wow…

An early morning run at Martis Creek

Finishing an early morning run at Martis Creek

Just over two months ago, some 15 runners gathered to discuss the creation of a new club. The meeting was somewhere between hectic and chaotic. Amazingly, we quickly settled on a concise mission, “to inform and inspire mountain runners in Truckee-Tahoe.” A name would not come for weeks later.

We were all coming from different places and several of us met only for the first time that night. Mike Tebbutt tells the story of how the ball got rolling on his end. Peter Fain brought his vision for a signature 100k race. Others came on different paths.

On my end, I wasn’t looking for new running buddies. I was motivated by the idea of an organization that could provide credible representation for runners in the Truckee-Tahoe area. I’d like to see more ultras produced here. I want to share my passion and to help others find joy running on our beautiful mountain trails.

After the meeting, the difficult club name discussion continued over email. Peter put a stake in the ground and I took it seriously: let’s have this thing up-and-running by May 1. We finally came to consensus on Donner Party Mountain Runners, so things could start to move forward. In the meanwhile, our new Facebook group attracted hundreds of runners in the first week, providing a place for runners to find new friends, new places, and new times of day to run.

Hours and days were spent researching the legal process for incorporating a public non-profit, creating bylaws, appointing an initial Board of Directors. And then lots of techie work needed to happen… the Donner Party Mountain Runners website, a signup process, calendar, email and tools for the volunteer Board of Directors.

Now here we are on April 21… ten days ahead of schedule. Donner Party Mountain Runners is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a member of the Road Runners Club of America. We are now accepting members and have some great programs in the works. Please help us by becoming a FOUNDING member today, for as little as $35.

As for me, I found something much more than new running buddies. I rediscovered the excitement of creating something persistent with the most amazing, dedicated, responsive, passionate, and down-right gritty group of people I’ve ever met!


Race Report – Wildflowers 50k

Race Report – Wildflowers 50k

Nothing like a small backyard race, even if it’s in someone else’s backyard! Yesterday I returned for my second run at the Tehama Wildflowers 50k in Red Bluff, California.

The 50k Course

The course is mostly single track, with some dirt roads, through open meadows with minimal shade. The trail is relatively flat with a few rollers and gradual climbs. The only things to slow you down (besides the heat) are some sections with volcanic rocks under foot.

The 50k runners go on a modified out-and-back course. Some areas you back-track and others you diverge to take a different trail back. Race Directors Bev and Alan Abbs smartly changed the direction of the looping parts this year so that runners can enjoy the one lovely shady section later in the heat of the day.

Aid stations are frequent, with stops at 3 times at fully-stocked stations and 4 times at mini (water and GU) stations. They had GU brand gels and Chomps. Yum!

The Tehama Wildflowers 50k course wanders through open meadows of glorious wildflowers.

The Tehama Wildflowers 50k course wanders through open meadows of glorious wildflowers.

The Vibe

This is a great laid-back local race produced by experienced runners. Free camping is available at the start/finish Friday night and the post-race picnic (included) is a pleasant time to sit around in the shade and cheer finishers as they loop around the picnic area. Bring your own chair.

My Race

I came back to this course partly because I wanted to redeem myself after completely melting last year. I also think it’s great for us mountain folk to get down to sea level to move the legs a little faster and to get some heat acclimation. I had a horrible time dealing with the heat last year, but I think I’ve learned a lot since then.

Everything went wrong the day before the race. My period stated. I had an allergic reaction to something I ate. And, most concerning, I was still limping around with a tendon issue on the top of my left foot. I arrived to Red Bluff late Friday and wondered if I was even going to start the race.

After a short briefing, the race started and my foot hurt pretty bad for the first two miles. Then it warmed up and the pain faded to the background. I was running with the wrong crowd (that is, going too fast) so I took the opportunity to pop into a restroom for a minute and when I came back out I settled in with a crowd more my pace.

I prioritized pace and heat management with the goal of not imploding and finishing strong. There is a little creek crossing and I completely submerged myself there on the way back. It was 60 seconds well-invested, as it enabled me to cruise past a handful of runners in the next couple of miles.

It got pretty lonely during the last 10 miles until I started catching more runners during the final 3 miles. I had been relying on my tunes to keep me going… having my own private dance party and sometimes “singing” aloud. My apologies to the wildlife.

I finished in 5:35, a solid 30 minutes faster than last year’s abysmal 6:09. Mostly I’m pleased that I kept running the whole time and practiced my heat management and aid station maneuvering skills.

Next up: Canyons 50k. I need that to be a “C” race where I will try to hang out and just enjoy the company on the trail.

Five Fabulous Tahoe Events

Five Fabulous Tahoe Events

The race calendar is (over)full and training schedule loosely set, but be sure to save space on your calendar for some of these unique and wonderful non-running events happening in the Truckee-Tahoe area. These are five of my favorites, many of which have been on my calendar longer than I’ve called myself a runner.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Enjoy a professional Shakespeare play in the most exceptional of settings – the outdoor stage at Sand Harbor State Park. Purchase tickets online for this year’s production of “As You Like It,” running July 11-August 24, 2014. We have been to several shows and each year is more spectacular than the last! This non-profit seems to be one organization that really values feedback from their participants – they are always making improvements to the system and I can’t imagine what they could do better at this point. This year we will take the kids for the first time (they are 7- and 9-years old.) I’m sure that all will be delighted.

Sand Harbor - home to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival - as seen from The Marlette Flume Trail.

Sand Harbor – home to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival – as seen from The Marlette Flume Trail.


Trails & Vistas Art Hike

I recommend that all runners slow down and enjoy one of their favorite trails in this completely beautiful and unexpected manner. Each year this unique, guided art hike is produced on a trail in the Truckee-Tahoe area. Art along the trail usually includes dance, sculpture, music, poetry, storytelling, and more. Mark your calendar for this special event September 6-7, 2014.

I have enjoyed volunteering as a trail guide for several years and am so excited that this year the hike returns to my favorite venue, Spooner Lake. Trails & Vistas Art Hike tickets will be sold online starting April 22, 2014. If you’d like to bring the kids, be sure to purchase tickets to one of the “Family” hikes (and I just might be your guide!) Kids should be able to appreciate a 2-hour performance while hiking.

Spooner Lake Sunset

The Trails and Vistas Art Hike returns to Spooner Lake for 2014


Haunted Historic Tour

After a year off, it’s back and I can’t be more thrilled! Adults only on this sometimes-naughty evening Historical Tour through Downtown Truckee. Buy tickets online starting July 1 and don’t delay, because they will sell out. Expect the unexpected at this guided walking tour on October 16-17, 2014. You will learn about Truckee’s seedy past in a most fun & lively manner!

Donner Party Historical Hikes

Finally, keep your eyes open for the Donner Party History Hikes, also in October. I have yet to fit this into my schedule, but really hope to this year. This is not for lack of trying… we actually had tickets to a hike our very first weekend in Truckee in 2000. We woke up very cold on the floor of our new home that morning, and promptly decided that we needed to spend the day purchasing beds instead. In any case, I imagine these hikes are another great way to slow down and appreciate some of our favorite running destinations.

Truckee Day

Truckee Day is a street clean-up party followed by a town-wide picnic at Truckee Regional Park. It takes place on the first Saturday in June, so this year on June 7, 2014. Go to the Truckee Day website to locate the check-in station for your neighborhood. You will get to pick your street assignment – go early if you want your own street or another specific location. Volunteers at the station will give you tickets for the picnic and free t-shirts. Our station at SnowTech also has great raffle prizes every year. Truckee Day is a very family-friendly event which we have been doing since our kids were babies.

Truckee Day 2008

Truckee Day 2008