A Conversational Pace – Caryn Sandoval on Treasure Hunts (sorta), Fist Bumps, and Staring Into the Void

It’s sorta nuts how people come into your life. Some just seem to have been there all along, while others hold a truly unique “first-time” moment in your cranium, immediately setting the tone for how they will forever be a part of your personal realm. My friend, Eric, is one of these moments. We met in high school. He hated me initially because I had the same Guttermouth shirt as him. (Rightfully so.) Now? Best friends and probably haven’t listened to Guttermouth since. 

Another person that comes to mind is Caryn Sandoval. I first met Caryn when I interviewed her for a job at an agency in San Diego. Of all the applicants, she was the only one that had the guts to tell me she enjoyed smoking weed from time to time. Professional credentials aside (because those were sterling), it was this honesty and seeming lack of care for what I thought that made me tell HR, “Extend the damn offer letter now.” 

As time and jobs go, we both left that agency, I moved to Portland, and we sorta just drifted apart. 

Fast forward ~5 years, and Caryn and I have reconnected over a love of running and the concept of creating something out of nothing. 

Leggggs: Okay, Caryn. Let’s get into it. Who are ya, and what do you do?

Caryn Sandoval: I’m Caryn: @notcaryn on IG, caryn sandoval on Strava, carynsandoval.com if you need something to do that isn’t social media.

I run, stare into the void, then lie on the floor. 

I also run a boutique video production company in San Diego. I also do freelance copywriting, SEO & content consulting, and serve on the board of SURF.

Leggggs: Kinda bummed I left SD before I knew about SURF. Wonder if there’s a Portland equivalent…. if only there was a way to search that online… ANYWAY – I like to also get this in at the front to help set the tone: What’s your personal mission? If you had to sum yourself up in one sentence, what is it?

CS: Everything in moderation, even moderation.

Leggggs: Dig that. When did you first get into running? Why?

CS: I ran track my freshman year of HS but gave up to be a goofball with the theater kids. Little did I know that, years later, I’d find the “theater kids” of running in the trail ultra scene.

I got into trail running in 2012 to cope with the trauma of my early 20s, and then got into ultras after my Dad died in 2020. What started as a way to numb the pain turned into a way to embrace it. 

Leggggs: Theater kids of running… Can’t say I know that from experience, but that also sounds accurate. Alright, I might know the answer to this, but what type of running gets you going most?

CS: Two types: Long, slow, soulful runs, and shorter runs where I have no goal but end up bombing downhills like there’s treasure at the bottom.

Everything in moderation, even moderation.

Leggggs: Tell me about your favortie run ever? What, why, where, how, who, when…. all that good stuff.

CS: In February this year, I was invited to run a 30 mile section of the PCT section C from Whitewater preserve up to where highway 38 curves up towards Big Bear. Me and 5 more seasoned friends set out into the wilderness together. As a trail runner who typically stays local, I had never gone that far from civilization. We drank water from streams, climbed over fallen trees, got lost a few times, and went up 9000 feet (look, power hiking is running too according to Strava’s grade-adjusted pace metric). There were moments I suddenly felt waves of fear and intense emotion out of nowhere (literally, out of the nowhere around us). I just let myself cry in front of these new friends, who accepted me regardless. 50 fist-bumps later, we made it.

Leggggs: That sounds insanely amazing, tbh. I only just did the “water from streams” thing, and I’ve never tasted anything so pure. So, conversely, the worst run of your life? What made it terrible and how did you push through (if you did)?

CS: It seems like every other week has the worst run of my life. Some days are just hard. But if I had to pinpoint a specific bad run (and I do, because you’ve asked me to), I think it’s the time I supermanned on the world’s flattest, easiest trail while rocking out to Run The Jewels and busted my knee so badly that I needed stitches. It was an innocuous physical injury, but the mental tricks the fall played on me for runs to come was disheartening.

Leggggs: Silver lining… you were listening to RTJ, but that still sounds awful. What’s some running gear you cannot live without?

CS: ALWAYS BRING A TOWEL (in the car). No but, really, an ice bandana is the winner. Saves me from frying.

Leggggs: In the same line of gear questioning, what are your fave shoes for road/trail/recovery/short runs/long runs?

CS: I am not the greatest when it comes to shoe reports. But I do like pretty much anything Hoka makes. The Merrell Antora 2 is pretty good for training, too.

Leggggs: Fair enough! Do you have a quote you repeat to yourself mid-run when shit is getting real?

CS: I literally say “it’s ok it’s ok it’s ok” out loud to myself like I’m an infant.

Leggggs: I like that. Sometimes something as easy as reminding ourselves that it’s ok is all we need. Okay time for the dividing question: Headphones or no headphones when running?

CS: Both, and it depends on where my focus/attention is at that day. If I need to knock out a long slow training run and my head is just not in it, I could use a good podcast to help get me through. I often find that, by mile 5-6, I’m pausing it to enjoy nothing. During races, I don’t bring headphones.

Leggggs: Again, fair enough, and wildly valid. The racing callout is too true. Stoked for PDX this year and hearing all the race noises. That said, though,  What is your pump up music for running? What’s your perfect song?

CS: Real answer: Automatic by Big Data feat. Jenn Wasner

Pendulum – Propane Nightmares

Most realest answer: Anything 2000s Nu Metal

Leggggs: If I could have guessed, I think 2000s nu metal would have been last on my list, but it also makes some sense. So maybe not last, last. Anyway, good on ya!
Channeling your inner SOAD, how do you convince yourself to run when you really dont feel like it?

CS: I read good advice from ultrarunner Lucy Bartholomew once that stuck with me: just go out and run 10 minutes. If you still feel like shit, turn around and go home. Out of all of the times I gave myself that advice, I only turned around once.

Just go out and run 10 minutes. If you still feel like shit, turn around and go home.

Lucy Bartholomew

Leggggs: What races are you eyeing in the near or not-near future?

CS: My first 100 miler in October at the Javelina Jundred. If that goes well, then Black Canyon 100k and Cuyamaca 100k next year. 

Leggggs: Hell fucking yes. Ambitious and inspirational. And on that note, what are some of your bucket list places to run?

CS: This year I crossed Norway and Croatia off my list, so the new goal is the Italian Alps, Japan, and New Zealand.

Leggggs: Japan seems so cool for some reason. Enough about me, though. As we get close to the end of this little back-and-forth, what is some no-bullshit advice would you say to inspire a person to start running?

CS: Time goes by whether you’re moving or not. Why not move a little?

Leggggs: And who do you have to thank for where in your running journey?

CS: The list is so freaking long. Short list: My Mom for crewing me at Javelina last year, and my Dad for instilling a belief I can do anything. The empathetic and literally tireless running community here in San Diego. And whoever invented huevos rancheros because it’s my primary source of fuel.

Editor’s note: Whoever does the SEO for El Pollo Norteno deserves a raise bc they own the #1 result for “who invented huevos rancheros.”

Leggggs: Any parting shots for the Leggggs community?

CS: You may have two legs but run like they can get you to 4 Gs.

Thank you, Caryn, for sharing your time, thoughts, and plans with the Leggggs community.

Make sure to give her a follow here:

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