** next roast 10/29 **

Sarah in the Wild

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?

Instagram has had a wildly huge impact in such a positive way! It's incredible and kinda blows my mind when I really think about it. I've met so many awesome people through this platform and it's been a great global connector for both my running and art. I've been featured in numerous publications including @wilderness, @likethewindmag, and @letsexploremag, got to be in an art show in Saatchi Gallery in London, was in a photoshoot for Stance, on the cover of Women's Running, and have had various other opportunities arise that can all be traced back to a connection made through social media. Not only has it been a way to connect with people but it's also allowed me to share my story, and develop my style / brand which is pretty awesome. I think that goes to show when you invest time in something and are intentional about it, you see results. I'm also now a contributor for @she-explores and @fieldmag because of initial connections through Instagram. It's such an exciting way to connect and share with the world. 

"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?

 
I've always been pretty creative growing up. I was an art major at Pepperdine, and my roommate / close friend had a DSLR camera. She let me use it a bit and I think that really sparked an initial interest in photography and I ended up investing in a DSLR of my own. It's a Canon Rebel t2i, and I still use that one. It wasn't until moving to Mammoth that I really started working on my photography, editing style, and being dedicated with Instagram. It all evolved as I found so much inspiration in this area. And I think using Instagram as a platform really has helped me be more consistent at constantly creating. I was using solely my iPhone for a while. I think it's incredible that we have such a great camera in our pockets at all times.

I also recently got a drone which is probably one of my favorite tools for photography. I'm super obsessed with lines of landscapes (I think this stems from the connection to running trails) and the drone just provides such an intriguing and captivating perspective. You can also find me playing around with my dad's old film camera, or taking a disposable camera along for the ride. I actually took one with me to document my first marathon, 26 exposures for the 26 miles, along the Big Sur coastline. I never stopped the run for the photo (which gives it some nice blurred charm), and this might be one of my favorite photo collections I have. 
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?

I grew up in Southern California (North County San Diego to be specific), and then went to College in Malibu, so I've always been in sunny weather year round and near the coast. And it was in Malibu where I really started to pursue marathon running and fell in love with that process there. Now being in the Eastern Sierra is very different but I love it so much. I really have loved getting to see all of the seasons, especially through running. There's a special magic to this area, and I think being surrounded be these grand, beautiful mountains truly feeds into our training, imbuing us with the same inspiring power of the landscapes. 

"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)? 

 
Last summer I started working at a favorite local coffee shop, so once or twice a week I'll be in there in the afternoons, and I love it. Three times a week we're in the gym in the afternoons, and you can often find me foam-rolling or stretching in the evening. I also get a massage once a week and occasionally see a chiropractor. I've really put myself into the the lifestyle of a professional runner, dedicating myself to training and recovery. That said, I just wouldn't be myself if I wasn't also doing something creative. And as I've mentioned I am crazy inspired by this area, so you'll also find me out exploring with my camera. I'm also continually connecting with people and brands and have recently done quite a bit of writing and photo stories, sharing my love of running and photography and where those two intersect. 



Summertime vs. Wintertime in the Eastern Sierra?

 
Oh man every season in the Eastern Sierra is pure magic. Summer here is so beautiful, and we get to run around the upper lakes basin, which is just absolute bliss. Everything is so bright and simple and there are so many areas of the backcountry to explore. Winter is equally stunning in its own way. I think I'm even more amazed by it since I am still new to living in a winter landscape. I'm continuously blown away by the winter scenes, and am obsessed with watching the storms move in and out. Here's a little piece for The Field I did on winter 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.

 New to this whole Latigo thing? Not to worry: