… and Running in -17

I planned to run inside on the treadmill all trip. I’d made amends with my old foe and was actually enjoying my rehab runs on it – I even stopped calling it the “dreadmill.” (for now at least) and packed a few pairs of shorts preparing for indoor sweatin’ time.

But after a few days chained to the driver’s seat while visiting the Ohio Oiselle dealers, I didn’t care where or in what climate or on what revolving or not surface it was, I just wanted to run. And when little sister says she wants to run with you, you lace up, pile on every layer you packed (and a few more you found leftover in your old dresser), and hit the pavement.

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p.s. the new Flow Tights are prettttty awesome. They’re 3/4 length but hit me pretty low – if you’re a shorty they’d probably be a great full-length for you.

After the record lows and brutal windchill from the past few days, Friday’s 28 degrees felt damn near balmy, and I have to say I kind of enjoyed it.

So much we did it again on Saturday.

snow run

And Sunday.

findley snow run

findley summer winter

Findley State Park Two Ways – same dock, August vs February. That 18 miler with Emily stands as my last “good” long run. Not my last handstand, though.

Granted we didn’t spend more than 30 minutes out each time since I’m still slowly creeping up my mileage per the hamstring tendinosis recovery plan – I’m sure if I had to be long-running or everyday running or solo running it would get old pretty freaking quickly, but it was a fun change of scenery. Not saying I’d willingly trade in my sunny beachside runs for snow-banked side roads and below-freezing temps, and I’m sure the novelty would wear off pretty quickly, but… Actually I don’t have anywhere to go from this. I guess I’m just saying Ohio’s not all that bad.

(but I’m really glad I get to go back home to shorts and t-shirt running weather tonight.)

((still love you, Ohio))

Sarah OUaL

Club XC Nationals with Oiselle (another adventure in Fan Girl’ing)

look! see? I told you I wasn’t gone forever. Well I didn’t really say that out loud, but I was telepathically trying to assure all of you who were sitting at home worried I’d silently retired from blogging that I’d be back someday. I’m sure there were tons of you.

And per usual, I’m breaking my silence with a recap of something that happened 2+ weeks ago. Oops. The oual offices took a last-minute vacay for the holidays, I guess.

Enjoy, whoever’s still out there following!

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If you found running later in life like I did, “cross country” might have a fuzzy stigma in your head. Or it doesn’t have any place in your head because you immediately forgot it existed after high school.

But it’s still out there! Similar to the discovery that track & field events actually occur in the space between school and the Olympics, cross country exists in a little post-scholastic corner of the running world, too. SHOCKER, I know.

Much like my first trip to the oval for track spectating, I went into Club XC Nationals week like, “duh, I’m a runner, they’re going to run. I get it.” I knew Oiselle had four teams of Volee runners (Masters, Washington, Oregon, Colorado) and it was my job to get profile-worthy action shots of all of them. I knew the course was 6 kilometers, recognized a few of the professional names on the start list, and even did my due diligence of researching whether cowbells were allowed on the course and if coffee would be served. Top notch fan girl race prep.

(coffee AND beer were both available, for the record)

Yet somehow, as we strolled up to the race Saturday morning I felt like I was entering this underground ring of running – like Fight Club with fewer black eyes and more female six packs. And no secret soap coverup.

Wandering around the athlete staging area there was this buzz in the atmosphere. Before a road race there’s a collective anxiousness and excitement, like a thousand little pennies all being thrown into a wish fountain. Club Cross felt like taking those pennies to a Coinstar machine and putting the green on the table like, “yeah man I’m all in, let’s go” and strutting around with an “I’m here to fuck shit up” attitude to match it.

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photo cred instagram.com/sarahoual

It was awesome in a half inspiring, half intimidating sort of way. One second I was wishing for a bib and spikes to join the fun, the next I was praising my safety from the high-powered pain train about to rip up the course.

Aside from the all-around badass-ness there were a few things from Club Cross Country Nationals that really stood out as major perks of the sport. I mean, there’s got to be some tradeoff for the grit and gore, right?

1) The cheering, excitement, and mid-race spectator sprints

At “Club Nats” there were four separate races – Masters Women, Masters Men, Open Women, Open Men. Like a football game with time to get more beer and pee between quarters, the ebb and flow of extreme energy to excited anticipation was palpable. Runners cheering along the course during their warm up, spectators racing from point to point of the multi-loop course to cowbell and yell their faces off, and a mad dash for the finish area to catch the epic over-the-hills-and-through-the-woods final sprint. I got a mad runners high just being on the sidelines (not to mention logged nearly two miles of unorthodox interval work.)

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Mac ‘belling and the pirate flag that proved very beneficial for faraway teammate spotting

2) What Time?

In the running world most of us know, race day means a race against the clock. Except that one really tiny 5k I ran in Ohio last summer and got to battle the other five women for overall placing, my race success will always be measured by minutes and seconds. Faster than goal, faster than last time, faster than personal best, etc.

In cross country, you run as a team, and are scored by place, not time. I went on the course preview run and all I could think was, “Good god this is tough! These hills! Holy crap I’m so glad I’m not running…” because in my time-based head, running a murderously tough course like that is recipe for clock disappointment.

But the XC seasoned vets were discussing race tactics and course conditions at dinner, and I realized that no one was worried about finish time. They talked about when to pass, how to keep targets in sight, and an “eat em all up” kick through the line.

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Oiselle Team manager KMet kicking

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LF = Lauren Fleshman back from baby, kicking ass

3) Road Hazards

Oh, you run on a flat, paved road for miles and miles? Me too. I thought it was badass until I watched women in buns and bras run through snow, up steep hills, over hay bales (what the?! how’d those get there?!), and down root, rock, and mud pit terrain at max effort. A running world where the term “spike up” is commonplace and the race director gets kudos based on course difficulty is one that I bow down to with the utmost respect.

I took good notes so maybe someday I’ll be able to hop a curb on my pavement run without looking like a flailing primadona…

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4) Box Starts

Alright, imagine you’re in the corral for a road race. Got it? Yes, that is somebody’s armpit on your shoulder and OW! the chick in front of you totally just heeled you in the crotch with her last-minute quad stretch. The gun goes off and the herd slowly creeps forward like a cattle train until you cross the bottlenecked start line and finally get to stretch your awkward power walk into a run. Errrr right after a quick dodge of the walker ladies who lined up toes to the line.

Now, imagine that long-and-narrow corral is turned on its side and opened up from the side. Now tuck a group of 1-8 teammates together in a “box” (spray painted lines on the grass) and smush nearly 60 of those boxes across the line. Shoot off a gun and let the massive mad dash and jockeying for position begin.

Fun, right?? Like a horse race, without the big hats.

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5) Team Love

More than anything else though, witnessing the bond between teammates was the best part of the weekend. Not only with the Oiselle teams, most of whom had never met before this weekend, but with all the other clubs represented as well. You could see teammates running together, working off each other. Men cheering and feeding race intel to their female counterparts. Joyous finish line celebrations. And so. many. hugs.!

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As a late-in-life convert, running has always been very individual, and slightly one-dimensional to me. These adventures in XC, the track, and even a few undocumented forays into the trail/ultra world have really opened my eyes to the wide, WIDE world of the sport. I encourage everyone to look outside their normal routine, their regular path, their comfort zone – there might be something out there that grabs at that big strong runner heart of yours even harder than you thought possible.

If you need me in the meantime I’ll be at my local run shop trying on spikes and looking for haybales to borrow.

Sarah OUaL

  • postscript: It goes without saying, but many a 10 Barrel, Crux, Silvermoon, and various other delicious Bend brews were consumed during the making of this trip. Brian is now demanding Oregon as our next vacation destination, so my secret agenda for the past two years of PNW traveling has been accomplished.

The Running Event–But Really This is Real Life

* The winner of the Moleskine is Ashley from The Broccoli Blog! Hooray! *

I was pretty MIA last week and I’m going to be pretty MIA again. It’s fine – y’all are plenty busy with holiday shopping and decorating and cookie baking, and if that’s not enough there should be some killer race reports coming out from everyone who just absolutely laid the smackdown at CIM and Rehoboth. High five, all you ass-kickers!

But while I have you, may as well tell you what I was up to.

In case you don’t follow me on social media (@sarahoual on twitter + instagram + fb), I was down in Austin for TRE, aka The Running Event, aka Runnerd paradise with Oiselle for my new sales rep gig. Here’s a quick breakdown of the trip, because bullets and photos are easy and make me happy.

Tuesday – [Travel forever.] Speedier-than-expected 6 mile jaunt along the water immediately upon arrival with my favorite toe sock people. Dinner with KJ at Austin Ale House, recommended from my favorite “salad + craft beer” Yelp search query.


sure no running water = no washing hands, but it also = no coffee on board

austin ale house

beets… mmm… IPA… mmmmm….

Wednesday Morning – Group run hosted by the North Face and Luke’s Locker after an awful night of sleep (nerves? time zone change?). Fight to balance the run-fast-but-still-be-able-to-talk line for 5 miles. Breakfast at Mellow Johnny’s while trying to act chill around Timothy Olson. I only said like, two things that made the table do that awkward ‘I don’t know how to respond to that” silences. I’m so cool it hurts.

north face trail run

credit blurriness to “trying not to get dropped at fun run”

lukes locker board

somebody PUH-LEASE bring this to OC


pan left for nervous/intimidated oual (credit @SFRunCo)

Wednesday Midday – Show prep and seeing Fall14 for the first time at the super cute rental condo. [moment of silence for the future awesomeness that I’m sworn to secrecy from you] Few hours at the tradeshow showing the new line to current and prospective dealers. Hit the freshman Rep role on the head, eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations to osmosis all their veteran knowledge and get a grip on “professionally” selling rather than “dude these are my effing favorite shorts, you should totes buy them” like I’ve been spitting the last two years.


airbnb >>> hotel

oiselle hangers

Freshman hard at work

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touchy-feely is totally encouraged

Wednesday Evening – Party here, party there, parties everywhere. Modcraft hosted the Oiselle, Nuun, and Soleus crew at Moonshine and it was nice to kick back with some old pals, meet new ones, and spy on the elite invites. Quote of the night:

Shanna: “Sarah, do you know Leo?”

Sarah: “Yeah, like I just KNOW silver medal Olympian Leo Manzano. We’re old pals. So much in common… har har har”

(Shanna IS old pals with Leo.)

… Which is probably why I didn’t get introduced to Meb later on. Ugh who invited this girl?!

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spying on Leo from a safe distance

Thursday too-effing-early Morning – Rolling on about 12 hours of sleep over the last three days, two hard days of running, and a pretty significant hangover, I somehow made the 6am busses for the Indie 5k. Audibly chattered my teeth and seizure-like shivered in the sub50 temps (socal weenie, official) until the gun and took off with about 200 other runners on the super hilly course. Ran with fellow Ois rep Cindi who was great company, incoherently yelled at Bart Yasso at mile two (“it’s me! sarahoual!”), and managed to cross the finish line without dropping dead or puking in 25ish minutes. Lobbying to change it in my training log to a “successful 3.1 mile run” instead of “race” to save the PW humility.

Fuelstrip was at the finish testing runners’ sweat for glycogen depletion which was cool but all my sweat drops had already turned to sweat ice cubes so I didn’t do it. Womp.

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here’s Sara and Bourbon Chase teammate Kevin from Modcraft because they look much better in spandex than I do

indie 5k

#proof I ran, too

Thursday All Day – Brag about Sally, Oiselle, and Fall14 to anyone and everyone who will listen. Graduate to second semester Sophomore rep status. Pinch myself that this is real life.

Browse around the other booths, find some cool discoveries:

  • The new Brooks Launch colorway looks much better in person than online. Nuun Energy – three flavors (cherry limeade, lemon lime, wild berry) with caffeine and B vitamins coming soon! Localeikki app makes being active while traveling or exploring a new area easy. Addaday makes the most inappropriate-looking but most effective massage roller for knotty calf people. 4iiii is like the Google Glass for enduro-junkies and super iRobot-ish. Sandy from BIC Bands is still one of my favorite people ever.

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new Launch (far right blue/orange) get. on. my. feet!

nuun energy

and you, get in my bottle.

Thursday Evening – Dinner with the birds at Polvos. Debate the differences between East coast, Texas, and West coast mexican cuisine. Seek out vaccination for Baby Fever.


Mama Bird Sally with baby Ryker

Friday – Quiet day at the show, sad farewells to the people, Austin, and beautiful Fall 14 samples. Until we meet again, polyester meshy antimicrobial logo’d compression knit lovelies…


Bonus Itinerary Item – Sprint through Bush International terminal A –> E, count it as a speed workout.

Don’t feel bad for my separation depression though (note sarcasm), because tomorrow I’m going up to Seattle to reacquaint myself with everyone for our annual sales meeting. And just because I need to earn some cold-weather stripes back, I’m heading to Bend, OR for the weekend (seriously, ___-teen degrees?) to super cheer the Oiselle Team at Club Cross Country Nationals! Oh yes, official Fan Girl Correspondent, reporting for duty. Stay tuned for that *freezing* coverage.

Sarah OUaL