This past weekend we had the opportunity to head to the Bay Area for some fun in a little warmer weather. Leslie raced the TNF Endurance Challenge Championship 50 mile race (more on that in a bit). They also had a team element to it so Altra had 9 athletes competing and we had an athlete house out there. A great weekend with lots to do and see and some great time with good friends.

Leslie had her final clinical day on Thursday at the hospital so we booked her a flight that night into Oakland. I planned to drive out with the children that day. We all ended up leaving the house at just after 6 am to drop Les off at the downtown tracks station so that she could ride up the VA Hospital. The remaining five of us ventured out west on I-80 to take the journey across the Salt Flats and the long stretch through Nevada. As we rolled through the Salt Flats we enjoyed the sunrise behind us, stopped in Wendover for breakfast and onward across Nevada. I have never been much of a fan of the desolate state of Nevada, but you put clear skies, sun and some snow on the mountains out there and it isn’t too bad to view.

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We made it across the state and into Reno around 2pm. As we approached Reno it was getting really windy and there were a few clouds up towards Donner Pass. I had hoped to have a clear pass all along, but it looked like that would be unlikely. The wind continued to pick up as we made the ascent up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. We ran into a couple of dust storms, but nothing too bad. In Truckee rain had started and continued lightly through Donner Pass. Well, just after the pass that rain turned into snow, then into thicker snow. On the way down towards Sacramento we were right in the midst of whiteout conditions. I took it slow, but there was a guy in a pickup that wasn’t as smart and decided to pass me on the right. As he got in front in me he merged over into my line. Luckily I slowed just enough because just as he had gotten into my line he caught a slick spot and swerved. He then swerved to be perpendicular to me and I had to really be easy on the brakes to not slam into him. He then slid into the concrete embankment crunching his truck and then back in front of me to finally slow to a stop on the side of the road. Luckily all the kids slept through this and I was able to keep the van in control and not run into him. That was a bit nerve racking though. We made it safely off the mountain and into the rains of Sacramento. We finally rolled into the Bay Area around 5pm.

That night was spent getting settled into the house, some grocery shopping and picking Les up from the airport at 11pm that night.

IMG_3198Friday was a fun day. We got out after a great breakfast and picked up race packets then off to some fun. We took the kids up to Mt Tamalpais to take in the views of the Bay. We got to see the lush greenery around the mountain and then the views of the Pacific Ocean. After Tam we took the kids to the long awaited beach. The weather was pretty nice, but we knew that the water would be really cold so we didn’t put on swim suits because at best it would be just a foot soak (yeah right!). Well, as you can guess with kids that is not possible. They didn’t care about the water temperatures. They were running out in it, chasing waves, building sandcastles and just having a great time. They all ended up pretty sandy and soaked. At one point Ella got the brunt of it. She was bent down building a sandcastle and the tide came in to its high point and washed her whole castle away and buried her in the water. She was drenched. At least she got out and laughed about it. It was a lot of fun!

Saturday was race day. After a decent night’s sleep we got up at to leave at 4am. We drove towards the headlands to the race start. Everyone lined up for a 5am start and they were off.

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Marin county is one of my favorite areas to run. They have some of the best trails, terrain and scenery for being a non-mountainous area. The climate is excellent as well. I was pretty jealous of those racing that they got to cruise around on those trails. I cruised around to various spots on the course to see Leslie as best I could. After watching them take off at the start I jumped in the car and headed over to mile 10 at Tennessee Valley. It is amazing to watch these really fast elites race. They cruise through the aid stations like it is a half marathon. There is little filling up of bottles, no food stops and just burning through as fast as they can.

After seeing Leslie come through Tennessee Valley in a pack of elite gals, but still taking it a little easy at the beginning, I headed back to the house to pack up the kids. There was a little disputing to get them out to go see mom race, but finally I was successful. I really wanted to see Les come through Pantoll up near Mt Tam, but we did not get back out in time so we headed straight for Stinson Beach. There was not a lot of parking at the aid station so we headed up to the top of the steps. Les was a little disappointed when she didn’t see us at Stinson, but it was a great surprise to see us up at the top of the steps. At that point in the race she was about 25th. Once we saw her Talmage was down a little lower looking for her and he ran up the hill to us with her then she hugged Ella and took back off. Kaitlyn didn’t want to miss this opportunity to run with mom, so she took off down the hill with her. That little girl loves to run with her mom. She had so much fun for the 300 yards or so that she ran with Les.

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After we saw mom we knew we wouldn’t be able to see her next until mile 42 or so at Tennessee Valley so we headed back to Stinson Beach. The kids had a great time playing in the sand again. Luckily no one got into the water this time.

After some fun at the beach we headed over to Tennessee Valley to see mom one final time before the finish line. There we got word on some of the successes and struggles of the team. We found out that Jason Schlarb had gotten lost and dropped as well as Sondre Amdahl had pulled out of the race. Rivers Puzey was running strong with the 2nd pack of men and Josh Arthur wasn’t too far behind them. I was there when Jake Puzey came through and he did not look good, but we encouraged him to push on and finish strong. Todd Falker was just ahead of Les coming into Tennessee Valley. He looked a lot better than when I saw him coming up out of Stinson Beach. Leslie came through looking really strong. She was having fun and cruising along. Talmage and I helped get her prepped and ready with some more water, but she was game on and focused so she was in and out super fast. Off she went and we loaded up to chase her to the finish line.

Once we got to the finish line we unloaded from the car and headed over to the finish area. There I saw Nicole Studer and found out that she had pulled out of the race early on to prevent injury. This meant that our lady’s team would not score unfortunately. We only had three competing and you needed three to score. This race is a tough one every year. It is always a stacked field of elite racers, but sits at the end of the year and really after the meat of the season is over for everyone. I am amazed at how long these athletes continue to go at the level that they go. Always amazed! Great to see Rivers was 12th man and Josh finished in the top 20 as well.

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Leslie came cruising in happy as ever. She finished strong with a 21st place. She finished right behind Rory Bosio and a bit in front of other elite gals. I love watching her play in this field. She continues to get stronger every race. With only 3 years into this ultra racing she is doing excellent! A great race for her 3rd ever 50 mile race. This year has been a 100 mile focus with a sub 20 hour Buffalo 100 and a 2nd place finish at the Wasatch 100, but great to see her come in strong for a 50 in a very stacked field. She was super happy with how she finished and we were all so proud of her!

After hanging out at the race finish line for a while, chatting with friends, we headed out for a brief tour of the Muir Woods. I am amazed that just north of this large metro area sits one of the lush gems of our country. As water flows down through the canyons off of Mt Tamalpais it pools down into one area that creates a lush, rich environment that produces some of the largest trees in the United States. Here, 20 minutes north of the Golden Gate bridge lies a collection of Sequoia trees that hundreds of years old. We took the kids around this and are amazed by the size and age of these magnificent creations. Such an excellent place to visit.

Saturday night was relax, go out to dinner as a team and then rest.

We got packed up Sunday morning and put the house in order to check out. After packing up we headed out to Oakland to go to church and see the temple. The Oakland Temple is one of the unique temples of the church with its gold spires and amazing views. Unfortunately we were unable to get much of a view because of the cloud cover and rain on Sunday. We toured the visitor’s center then headed over to church. Church was held in a big Interstake center that is about the size of 3 typical church buildings. It seems that every ward and language branch from Oakland attends there. Because of the size it took us some time to finally find the right chapel. It was fast and testimony meeting and it was fantastic. It is great to see how well wards and branches come together like family. They rely on each other so much. They have such a great commitment to the Savior, charity and each other. They all come from different backgrounds, many are converts themselves, but they are there for each other 100%. We certainly felt this by the way that we were greeted and by the words that were shared from the pulpit. My faith in Christ grew because of what was shared. The Church of Jesus Christ is truly on the earth and it bears his name and is here to bring us closer to him.

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After church we headed over across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. We had booked a hotel to stay at Union Square in the city. After getting settled in our room we went to Union Square to see the giant Christmas Tree and take in the Christmas feeling a little. It was pretty chaotic over there, but it was also the 2nd day of Chanukah so there was a Jewish meeting there which was pretty cool. The rest of the night was spent relaxing in our hotel room, watching the LDS Christmas Devotional and enjoying the Concierge Lounge.

Monday was our big day of city touristing. We had one day to get in the city sights and sounds since we were spending the night at a friend’s house in Petaluma. With our limited time we went to it. View our visit to the city of San Francisco in the pictures below.

The kids kept asking to go over the Golden Gate Bridge. We kept avoiding it until today. As we left the city to head up to Petaluma we finally gave them the pleasure of traveling across this magnificent beauty.

After spending some time in Petaluma we headed home Tuesday morning. Thankfully no snow storms to deal with on the way home. We also decided to go home through South Lake Tahoe. It was a gorgeous drive. I would love to spend some time at Tahoe. I don’t believe that I have ever been out there.

We had a great time and were able to fit a lot into one brief trip. We really enjoy road tripping. It affords us the opportunity to see a lot that this country has to offer.

I footnotes