In case you missed it, it's been a banner year for snowfall in the Sierra Nevada range this season. One fateful day in the not-too-long-ago, we stumbled across Mammoth Lakes resident Sarah Attar's breathtaking Instagram - packed with snowscapes, windy roads, and other FOMO-inducing visuals. Our curiosity about the human behind this social media account (who happens to be a seasoned Olympian) morphed into a brand new project we're launching starting with this week's roast ("Kira"). Stay tuned for more Q&As with outdoor leaders, craftspeople, musicians, photographers, and a range of other highly motivated folks who happen to share our love for coffee + the outdoors.
Thank you Sarah for being so rad throughout this process, and for helping us kick off an exciting new chapter. (All photography below is property of Sarah Attar - be nice and don't steal!)
Social media is wild. We're chatting because of an Instagram connection. How much impact has it made on your life?
"At this time it was still never even a consideration that I'd go to the Olympics, let alone in two years time. Up until the London Olympics, Saudi Arabia had never sent female athletes to compete."
Where are you now - and how did you get there?
I currently train full time with the Mammoth Track Club in Mammoth Lakes, California. It's pretty much a dream scenario; running through incredible landscapes, training with world-class runners, weekly massages, time to devote to rest and recovery. I grew up playing sports but never imagined that I'd be a professional athlete, let alone compete in the Olympics twice by the age of 24.
Sophomore year of high school one of my best friends that I played soccer with was joining the track team and encouraged me to tag along. I did, and instantly felt this connection to running. There was this natural inclination and I ended up joining the cross country team that fall as well. I didn't have times to be recruited onto a college team, but I got in touch with the coaches at the schools I was applying to and asked about joining the team. I knew that I was going to keep running regardless, and still wanted that team atmosphere. Come fall of 2010, I was starting college at Pepperdine University and on the cross country and track teams. At this time it was still never even a consideration that I'd go to the Olympics, let alone in two years time. Up until the London Olympics, Saudi Arabia had never sent female athletes to compete. Leading up the the Games they started looking for potential female athletes to send and somehow my name got in the mix. I have dual citizenship, and had some experience in competitions, so just a month and a half prior to the Opening Ceremony, I was notified that I'd be competing in the 800m. Myself and Wojdan Shaherkani were sent through the wild-card system, which allows athletes who have not hit qualification standards to participate.
As you can imagine, this had a wildly huge impact on my life. After returning from London I finished my last two years at Pepperdine and then analyzed how I wanted to pursue running. I knew the Rio Olympics was a possibility, and I wanted to work at the marathon distance (I did my first marathon, Big Sur International Marathon, just months prior to the London Olympics) so I started to look for coaches. Andrew Kastor, coach of the Mammoth Track Club, came across my radar and I got in touch. Next thing you know I'm moving to Mammoth Lakes to train full time. It's been truly amazing. Then in 2016 I was invited again as a wild-card to compete in the Rio Olympics, this time in the marathon, and what would be my 10th marathon. It's still so wild to me that I've had these opportunities, and I'm excited for what's to come. If you need me in the next three and a half years you can find me in the small mountain town of Mammoth Lakes, putting in the miles, with the goal of qualifying for the next Olympics, aka hitting that marathon standard for Tokyo 2020.
How did you get started in photography? What do you shoot with?
From Mile #1 of Sarah's Big Sur Marathon (other portable exposures available via She Explores)
What has it been like moving from SoCal to the Eastern Sierras?
"There's a special magic to this area, and I think being surrounded by these grand, beautiful mountains truly feeds into our training, imbuing us with the same inspiring power of the landscapes"
Your connection to Latigo (the place)?
I fell in love with the canyon roads of Malibu while at Pepperdine University. They provide some of my favorite view points and memories from living in the area. Sometimes we would take these longer canyon roads just to take in the extra views. For Campus Recreation we even led some full-moon night hikes on Backbone Trail, explored Escondido Falls, and would go stargazing all from Latigo Canyon. It's definitely one of those favorite spots that brings back so many good memories, and I was so stoked to see a coffee company named after this place.
Standard snowbank for this season. Can you find Waldo?
How does coffee play into your daily routine?
I'm still fairly new to coffee actually. I was a tea person up until last summer, and now I think I've struck a nice balance. I'm sure working in a coffee shop had something to do with that. Now I'm a big fan of having coffee in the morning before practice, and I've definitely taken a liking to the slower process and ritual of brewing. I think I really fell in love with the process of it all when I was on a road trip with two friends. We had some high quality pour over every morning, and that was a really neat learning process. It also became this really special social aspect and I have really fond memories associated with brewing coffee now. It brings me back to sipping on some good coffee with good friends in the misty mornings in the Redwoods and on the Oregon Coast, hard to beat that.
Now at home for brewing I use an AeroPress. I happened upon an AeroPress before I even knew what it was and now I use that along with a hand-grinder most every morning. Working in the coffee shop also enhances my love of the coffeeshop culture and social environment surrounding coffee. I still have a lot to learn and am figuring out what I like, but I think that's part of why I love it.
How else do you fill your days (when not running)?
Summertime vs. Wintertime in the Eastern Sierra?
Follow Sarah's journey on her Instagram.
Read about her journey at the Rio 2016 Olympics via Runner's World.
Visiting Mammoth soon? Buy one of her prints at Stellar Brew.