Nothing Like Joining the Polar Bear Club at Mile 18 – Way Too Cool Race Report

Well, it was definitely an adventure.  Unfortunately, not the fun one I was hoping for, but an adventure nonetheless, and I still finished, so I’ll take it.  Let’s start at the beginning….

Getting to the race was easier than it’s been in past years, well, maybe just easier than it was that first year.  Hopefully, I’ll never have that part of the adventure again.  But, there was traffic, but not that bad of traffic.  We were at Auburn Ale House and eating just after 5.  Delicious and I highly recommend it.  Delicious Mac & Cheese, though, this may have been one of those times that the Dairy allergy reared its ugly head.  Ugh…but, better now than in the morning.

Packet pick-up was moved to Folsom…not sure why, but definitely didnt seem like it was going to be as close to the hotel and food, so we opted for morning pick-up.  Which meant an early morning, but not that early of a morning.  Get up at 4:15 to go to the gym…get up at 4:15 to go to a race.  Kind of the same, right?

So, we get to the start line, and similar to two years ago, we get epic parking.  Go early…get a space in the lot.  Perfect.  Also similar to two years ago, I had brought rain boots purely for the walk from the car to packet pick-up that morning.  Of course I didnt need them.  Maybe it was foreshadowing good things to come?  I got my stuff…bib, t-shirt (really nice shirts this year!), bag (great replacement for the instacart bag of gross), and went back to the car for a pre-race nap.

With an hour to go until start time, it was time to start getting ready.  I made my way over to the row of porta-potties, glad it was still early enough that they werent crowded.  Of course I have a run in with some random dude….moral of the story – lock your porta-potty door.  That’s how the rest of us know you’re in there.  Once I found a new one, I unfortunately realized that the previous nights stomach issues had carried over into the morning.  I walked back to the car hoping I had pepto in my pack….and that if I did, it would be enough.

Luckily, planning from previous years did me well, and there was some in the pack.  But, alas, only one.  Hopefully one tablet of pink-chalk gold would do me well.  I choked that down and proceeded to layer up….tank, fleece running jacket, gloves, hat, headband, hand warmers, and due to some last minute drops on the windshield, a rain jacket.

Brian and I made our way over to the start line only to notice that there were people playing in snow.  Where did they get the snow from?!

001 Apparently, it came from the back of someone’s pick-up truck.  Whether they’d filled it up on purpose, or lived somewhere that it was snowing, we’re not sure.  What we do know, is that the weather later added to their load.  haha.

Since I waited until the last possible second to get out of the car, there wasn’t much time before it was time to line up.  In the ten minutes or so before the race, I met a lady from Boston, who was loving the warmer-than-Boston temperatures, and a local lady running her first Way Too Cool.  Somewhere in there, I also ran into Brazen Mike, who I’ve seen at all three of the WTC’s I’ve run.  The weather held off long enough for us to start, and we were off.

Miles 1-8

The first mile or so passed in a blur….I think I was pretty much jogging until I got to the trail entrance (maybe a mile or so), then had to wait for 30 seconds-ish to get on the trail.  Maybe it was like that in previous years too, but it did seem like there was a lot of congestion in the first eight miles.

Once on the trail, I was off again.  The first loop weaves along a rolling trail, where you’re really at the liberty of the rest of the runners….if they’re running, you’re running.  If they’re walking up the hill, you’re walking up the hill.  As I ran down to the first descent, I heard the ‘OMG, we’re going to get wet’ shrieks, and briefly remembered the last time I ran down this hill in the 100+ degree weather this summer.  Definitely no water then.  Different story today.  Not as deep as year’s passed, but definitely knee deep or so.  But, it’s early and everyone still wants to avoid getting wet, so, there’s a line to cross the river.  Really people?  It’s raining.  And there’s more river crossings than I can count.  You’re going to get wet.  Just cross the river.

Across the river and up the next hill I went, continuing to follow the pack of runners on the winding trails.  Of course, I found some mud to slip in somewhere around mile 5…gotta get that first fall in early.  But, I bounce and was back up in no time….not even really enough time for the runners behind me to pass me.  Through the rivers and through the mud, back through the finish line we were heading.  I started singing the ‘I Love Mud’ song from when I was about five in my head.  At some point, it started raining, and a guy behind me was joking that it was ‘dry rain’ since when it’s 100+ degrees there over the summer, it’s dry heat.  A couple more river crossings and a lot of mud later, we were back to the start/finish line.

I saw Brian, who stuffed more hand warmers in my coat pocket, even though I was sure I didnt need them.  At some point on the first loop, I’d realized hand warmers and gloves were too warm and had taken both off, before putting just gloves back on.  I grabbed a quarter of a pb&j and a cup of Sprite at the aid station….based on the earlier stomach issues, I was afraid to take anything else, but also afraid to under fuel myself.  Ugh…it’s such a game some days.  A quick kiss, and I was off…Eight miles down.  22(ish) to go.

Miles 8 – 13

I was feeling good, so began the jog out of the park.  Hiked up the hill, jogged down….then ran into a junction where there appeared to be two sets of course markings.  Maybe the chalk washed away in the pouring rain?  Anyway, the guy in front of me and the guy behind me were both confused.  ‘Do you know where to go’? I really didnt, but I could see other runners heading down the path to the right, so we guessed and took that path.  Luckily, we were right and down to the quarry we went.

The quarry is….flat.  It has that going for it.  But, other than that, it’s about three miles of boring that feel like 35.  So, we played tag.  I jogged along, then took a short break to walk…a guy came up behind me said, ‘tag, you’re it’, and jogged by. He took a walk break further down, and as I jogged past, tagged him. This continued for several miles, I learned that he was a local guy, running his first WTC. It was a great way to make a friend and pass some miles until we hit the luau themed aid station around mile 12 or 13.

Miles 13 – 21

I had forgotten how much of a no-man’s land the 7.5 mile slog between 13 miles and 21 miles is.  It seems to get me every time.  Even that first year, when I LOVED the race and ran really well, I started to mentally lose it somewhere around mile 19.  Last year, I made the rookie mistake of not refilling my pack at mile 13, and was out of water by mile 19.  This year, while I was determined not to make rookie mistakes, I underestimated that slog between aid stations and the mental toughness it takes to get through it.

Somewhere in there, I had three people come up behind me, so I moved to the side so they could pass.  They told me not to worry, that they were sweepers.  What?!  Sweepers already??  I asked if I was last, but they were quick to assure me that I was mid-pack, maybe the start of the back, and they were mid-pack sweepers.  Just making sure everyone was ok.  Insert sigh of relief….

Somewhere between mile 17 and 18, there was another river crossing.  No problem, I’ve been through several of these.  Except this one was deeper….and I slid on a rock.  But, I recovered.  Maybe over recovered….cause before I knew what was happening, I was swimming.  In freezing cold water.  Nothing like joining the Polar Bear club 18 miles in.  Two thoughts ran through my head…..first, I’m done for (I ended up hypothermic with a medic when it was 50 degrees, no way I can come back from a dip in ice cold water), and second…where was this terrible ice bath in August, I would have appreciated it then.

Even thought I was pretty sure I was done, I didnt really have a choice other than to continue the three-ish miles to the next aid station.  Thankfully, I wasnt hurt, and I’ve gone more miles in worse shape.  Then, this happened….


I’m honestly not sure if it was hail or snow, or a combination of both.  But seriously??  As if the surprise ice bath wasnt enough, now I’m soaked and it’s snowing.

I made it down to the mile 21 aid station in one piece, which was more than can be said for the guy in front of me (the aid station volunteer’s words, not mine), apparently he’d rolled down the bottom of the hill. Which isn’t all that surprising, the switchbacks down to that aid station are pretty steep and really slick in the rain and mud.

Similar to two years ago, the warm broth at this aid station saved me. That, in addition to an amazing volunteer. Once I had some broth, he wrang (I don’t even know if that’s a word) out my clothes and helped me get my wet gloves back on. Despite being wet, having them on would still generate body heat. And my hands were cold…I can only imagine what they must have felt like. But, the sun had come out, I’d had some broth, and I still had hand warmers. So, I was off…the goal now was to finish the race I thought I wouldn’t.

Miles 21 – 26

The miles passed in a blur coming out of the aid station. I remember hiking on trails that I’d run down before and counting down the miles to Goat hill….and trying to remember where ‘mini goat hill’ was. Looking back, it seemed like the time passed quickly. At the time, it felt anything but.

Luckily enough, this year the course had returned to normal, and ‘mini goat hill’ had disappeared. I made the left turn toward Goat hill with a couple of other runners. One let the rest of us pass, and I followed another up the hill. I hadn’t really thought about goals for this race, and based on the rest of the day, I wouldn’t have achieved them if I had. However, I always have two goals with this race…..finish, and don’t stop on Goat hill. So, up I went. Passed a couple of people who had stopped to take a break…I’m pretty sure I was really slow, but I didn’t stop.

Hearing the aid station at the top was a relief. Relief that I was at the top of the hill or a mere five miles from the end, I’m not sure. I got some more broth, some soda, a quarter of a pb&j, and talked with some other runners. I saw Brazen Mike again, we caught up, wished each other luck, and were on our way.

Miles 26 – 31

The last five miles probably passed the fastest….thank god.  However, I did forget how treacherous they are in the rain and mud.  It was a lot of scrambling, climbing down, climbing up, and taking care not to slide.  The good news is, I can still hike as fast as some people can jog…sometimes faster.  I counted the miles down in my head, and looking back, it seems like I was at the final aid station before I knew it.  This year, that aid station was fluid only, which is fine…really, it’s a mile from the end.  But, I grabbed another cup of coke and was on my way.

And, oh the last mile…really, the first half of that mile…it’s very much like the Dipsea stairs minus the stairs.  There’s roots and trees and steep and mud…I think the only thing missing is another creek crossing.  But, the end was near, so it was all good.  Somewhere in there, I passed a lady walking up the trail who told me I only had half a mile to go.  I was somewhat surprised, as I thought it was twice that.  I told her she was my favorite…she laughed and said she’d gotten that a lot.

Just before the finish, another runner came up behind me.  We chatted briefly about how we were almost there.  He mentioned something about the cut-off and how he hoped we’d make it.  I’d forgotten all about the cut-off….I asked what time it was, and he said 4:30.  Ah…we’re good.  That’s ten minutes from now and we can see the finish (maybe .25 miles away).


I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race.  Well, I guess that’s not completely true….there was Lake Sonoma, and a couple of marathons where being done was pretty great.  But, I digress.  Brian met me at the finish line, and got a great photo of me running like a ninja (cause when all else fails, at least you still look cool….haha)…


He had my coat (the one I took to Everest Base Camp), that I probably did need, but all I wanted was a hug, my frog cupcake, and to be in the car.  So, that’s what we did.  I even ended up with a new Solomon beer glass for my post-race beer a day later.


If you need a laugh….this photo was taken right before I ate both of the frog’s eyes.  In about five seconds.

Journey to Lake Sonoma

So, what now?   First, I left all of the negative energy from the race on the course once I crossed the finish line.  It was a crazy, crazy day, and all things said and done, I’m glad I finished (I don’t know that I’ve ever been closer to a cutoff and still made it).  It really is about beating that voice in your head that says you can’t.

Now, it’s all about Lake Sonoma.  Even without the surprise swim, I did realize that I need more long runs between now and then.  My legs feel better than they did after this race last year, but not nearly as good as they did the year before that.  Looking at what’s different, it’s the mid-week miles.  In 2016, I had a 24 Hour Fitness membership, and a trail behind my office, in addition to OrangeTheory.  But, the good thing is that there’s still time to fix that before Lake Sonoma.  And I have a better base (thanks, OTF!) now than I did then.

And, potentially a big learning about mid-race fueling.  I only drank soda at the aid stations.  Well, that and the broth starting at mile 21.  And I never felt sick.  Not once after I started the race.  Perhaps it’s electrolyte drinks and running that don’t mix for me.  Regardless, definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.

So, here’s to lessons and good things to come.  I’d love to finish Lake Sonoma in the light.  But, as I learned this past weekend, goals can change mid-race due to slips, trips, and even a dip rivaling the polar bear club at mile 18.  If I can add a second Lake Sonoma finish to my race resume, I’ll consider that a win :).

Until next time….

Building a Snowman…AKA, this Weekend’s Race Plan

So…its been awhile. Almost a year. But, it’s race season, so…I’m back. Just in time for Way Too Cool. Two years ago, it poured. Buckets. Like therapy, a shower, and cardio, all at once. I’ve never been so wet and muddy. And, I ran the best 50k I’ve ever run. How, I’m not sure. Well, yeah, I am. Pretty sure it was some grit, determination, and a gym called Orange Theory.

Last year, it was wet. And cold. But no rain. And I…well, it wasn’t fun. Fighting off injury, recovering from a different injury, cold, under trained, and just not feeling it. I didn’t have a good run….was out of it, made rookie mistakes, and just needed a break.

Over the summer, when I returned to the same place for an attempt at a 50 miler, it was hot.  Well over 100 hot.  I made it to mile 20…I guess that’s saying something.

This year, I was determined to be ready. I trained, with a plan that worked for me. Mileage goals…mixed with long runs. Enough wiggle room for life. Lots of back to back OrangeTheory classes.  And it was good. I ran more miles in January 2018 than either January 2017 or 2016.  And, the miles came easy, other than a few tough days (we all have them ;)), I didn’t have to fight for them. I just ran. A lot. Smarter than I had in the past. Stronger. Maybe faster.

And then I started tracking the weather. First it was maybe wet and cold. Then most likely wet and cold. Followed by definitely. Shortly followed by colder…colder enough to snow. Then definitely cold and snow. 500 feet higher, and I’d be looking at a run through a blizzard.  I’m pretty sure there’s a few thunderstorms thrown in there too.  Awesome.  Exactly what I was hoping for.  Or, more like everything I wasn’t.

So…what now?

I’ve come this far…and spent too many mornings training before the sun came up to walk away now.  So, I’ll take the advice from 2016 to heart.  Staring down 2016’s rain-pocolypse, the best advice I got was to plan for it.  Expect it to pour…expect traffic to be bad…expect to get in late and wake up early.  Take the waterproof camera.  Have fun with it.  And I did.  Made the three turned five hour drive. Enjoyed Carl’s Jr. instead of my typical pre-race pasta. It was a wet, muddy, slog through the forest…I got soaked, got dirty, took pictures, made friends…and somewhere in there ran my fastest 50k ever.

So, for 2018’s race-pocolypse (cause what else do you call a race where you’ll freeze, it will probably rain, it might snow, and it might thunder), I’ll bundle up, bring the waterproof camera…plan to laugh, hopefully make some friends.  Maybe enjoy some more Carl’s Jr. And who knows, maybe I need terrible weather to have a good race.

Life is either a daring adventure….or nothing at all.  And, I suppose if all else fails, I do miss thunder storms, and I can always stop and build a few snowmen along the way.

Well, Sometimes Stuff Happens…

So, this isn’t the race report I wanted it to be.  In fact, it’s not a race report at all.  What did I want it to be?  A story about learning from last year…getting the nutrition right…having fun, and rocking this thing.  And getting my swag.  What did happen?

My right hip tightened….a lot. And somewhere between the double days at Orange Theory and the double digit miles on the trails, it tightened to the point I could no longer ignore it…or run on it.  Or walk.  Yeah…good times. It all started, well, I guess I don’t really know when.  Post Giants 10k, my hamstring was tight…not the end of the world.  I had a massage, and he found something in my glute…the minute that released….I knew. Ahhh…..relief.  But, then the tightness moved.  From the back of my leg to the front, and it was worse in the front.  For awhile, I was able to push through it.  I mean, what Ultrarunner doesn’t?  If you run that much, something always hurts.  

But, it didn’t go away.  Massages, doctors, days off between runs…nothing seemed to work. I tried all the stretches I learned last year when I strained all the muscles in my hip. Nothing worked.  I finally went to g-sports, the PT place Brian went to fix his hip, and…progress. Actually, a lot of progress. If you’re hurting, go there. They are amazing. The leg IS healing and WILL get better.  Unfortunately, not in time for this race, but making this difficult decision hopefully set me up for a future race.  And, of course it’s sad…remembering my post race stumble home – exhausted, chafed, sick, but with, holy crap, I finished, on my tongue…that feeling. Accomplishment. Surprise. Finally being clean enough to pull what I thought was all of my swag out of a bag I use with every run (I found the mousepad and a wine opener a day later…yeah out of it…).  But, eh…if I don’t think about it, it’s cool. 

My family’s here, and I love seeing my family, so instead of spending more than half the day running, I spent it with them.  We spent most of the day playing tourist in the city…well, I guess I was playing tourist. They don’t live here.  Anyway, we spent the day at the wharf…lunch at the rainforest cafe, museum at boudin, ice cream at ghiradelli….and I’m pretty sure more food than any human should ever eat. Haha. If you’re not going to run 50 miles, you should at least eat like you did, right?!  I love my family and am thankful I got to spend the day with them. Without a race. For over a week :). 

Where do I go from here?  The same place I feel like I always do…forward.  There will be other races…there are other races.  I think I’ve already found one to work towards.  Cool Moon in Cool in August.  I’m pretty sure my leg is just about back to normal, and August will give me time to finish healing and train back up for the race.  It’s also a new race, a new adventure, and maybe just what I need. 

So, here’s a farewell to my spring race season, here’s to coming back and getting even with Lake Sonoma next year, and here’s to something new…a summer race, more time to train, and maybe even a new PR.  

T-Minus 3 Weeks & Counting…

When did it become the end of March?  When did Lake Sonoma become three weeks away?  Why do I not feel more ready?

Since I hadn’t seen the course since last year’s race, I decided to head out to Lake Sonoma for my first long training run post-Way Too Cool.  While I didn’t remember the exact exit, I did remember how to get there once I got off the exit.  Once I got there (exit 505, by the way), it was like an old friend welcoming me back.  I passed the spot just before 101 south that we pulled over last year so Brian could dig out some sprite for me…also the place I puked at mile 61, but minor detail ;).

I got to the rec area and found Liberty Glen without a problem.  I passed by the familiar sites of no-name flat and the marina along the way (the turn-around and the start/finish).  I was even able to confirm with a ranger that I could park there for the day while I ran.  It was surprisingly sunny, so I smeared on some sunscreen, through on my ankle braces and shoes, and I was off. Shortly before I left, I realized the car key I’ve been unable to find was in my running pack….great!  Of course, that meant the pocket wasn’t full of food…not so great.  Oh well, I had two Gu packets….should be fine for the ten miles I’d plan to run before I stopped back at my car.

I made one small detour before I got on the course….the trails are rarely used and not marked in too many places.  It didn’t take me long to find some pink and black ribbons, indicating the course, most likely left from last weekend’s training run.  Once I was on the course, it was a simple out and back to the turn around, which should’ve been about five miles.

Except, it wasn’t…or I overran it.  Really, I overran it.  I thought I saw it, but thought it was too quick or something.  Looking at the map now, it actually wasn’t.  Of course, I didn’t know that…so I kept going.  Decided if I didn’t see the turn around by seven miles, I’d turn then.  Would mean I was more than halfway to the twenty I’d planned when I got back to my aid station/car.  I ate my last gu shortly before I turned around.  Seven miles back to the car, I could make that….usually, I can do about ten miles before I NEED food.  And, I had plenty of water….

So, back I went…or so I thought.  I kept watch on the mileage, and knew I’d be back at my car somewhere between mile 13 and 15, depending on how long my early detour was….somewhere around mile 11, the water was gone.  Well, I’d survived three miles straight up Mt. Diablo in August sans water, I could do three or four of rolling hills at 60 degrees (30-40 degrees cooler than Diablo).  But, mile 14 came and went, so did 15….and as much as everything looked the same, this part of the trail didn’t necessarily, but was still oddly familiar.

I was lost.  For those of you playing the at home game, I’m now out of food, out of water, and lost.  Add to that a really tight right leg.  This wasn’t good.  But of course I continued down the hill.  And down some more.  And then more.  And then I knew this wasn’t right.

I wasn’t sure that the outcrop trail was the right way to go, but at least it looked like it led to the road.  So, I start d making my way back up.  I ran into a couple of hikers, and asked them if they knew which trail would lead up to Liberty Glen….they said there was a campground, but they didn’t think it was Liberty Glen.  However, they did confirm I could get up to the road.

So, now up, up, and up some more I went.  What I wouldn’t give for some water.  Luckily, there’s plenty of water all over since the lake has been flooded all spring.  Of course, stream water was really a last resort.  I was so glad to see the outcrop trail about half a mile up the trail.  Looking back on my day at that point, I realized outcrop trail is probably the name for the trail heading up to the road, rather than a trail itself.  Anyway, I headed up that trail, which was up a rather steep hill, but there were campers at the top, and Liberty Glen is the only campground you can drive into.  So, I was hopeful.  Worst case, maybe someone would be able to give me directions and spare some water.

I got to the top of the hill and saw Slimer.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see my car.  And water.  And food.  Ended up with 16 miles…short of the 20 I wanted, but hopefully the mental training pays off…at least that’s what I tell myself.

Today brought a ten mile turned 10k shakeout run.  Ugh is my right leg tight.  Which of course just adds to the pre-race stress.  For as many times as I remind myself that I’ve done this before and can do it again, there are just as many thoughts about how few ‘good runs’ I’ve had, how WTC went so much better last year, how tight my right leg is, etc., etc….which makes me wonder if I can actually do it again.  I mean, I’d like to think it can’t get worse than last year, but….famous last words….Sigh…I can do this, right?

Until next time….

Well, it was better than North Face – WTC Race Report

After more training runs in the rain than I can count, race number one of spring race season was here.  I felt…unprepared…not as unprepared as North Face, but not nearly as ready as I was last year.  I’m not even really sure why…probably that hip injury and the four months I took off from running had something to do with it.  But, that’s life…

Getting to the race was way easier than last year.  I have the ability to work from home a couple of days a month, so we left just after noon and I worked on the way to Auburn.  Wayyyyy less traffic.  Took just over three hours compared to the five plus it took last year.  Of course,  last year the world would’ve ended if I worked remotely, so couldn’t leave the South Bay until 3:30, but that’s a story for another day ;).

We got to Auburn and headed right to Auburn Running Company so I could pick up my bib.  Number 600, that’s fun.  Then we quickly checked into the hotel, the same Super 8 as last year and I’m pretty sure the same room.  We grabbed dinner at Auburn Brewing Company (much better than the highway side Carl’s Jr.).  It was delicious – nothing like pre-race mac and cheese and some good beer to match.  Wendell, Leng and the kids joined us later on, so it became a nice dinner with friends. Fun way to chill out and relax away the pre-race nerves.

Since we already had our bibs, Leng and I were less concerned with getting to the start super early.  Brian was also with me this year, so I wasn’t as worried about a long hike to the car post-race  either.  This meant we didn’t need to leave until 6:30, we could get up at 6.  A delicacy on a race morning.

Getting to the race was easy…easier than I remember.  And, parking wasn’t too crazy either.  We had about an hour before the race started, but stayed in the car as long as possible – it was freezing out!  No rain this year, but way colder than I remember.

A quick stop at the porta-potty and it was time to start.  I said quick hello’s to Brazen Mike from last year and Leng and I took a fun photo with Penny and her chicken.  The first mile and a half passed pretty quickly, though not as quickly as last year, I later learned.

Miles 1-8

The first eight miles are all pretty much on single track, winding in a circle back to the fire station.  I remember this part last year, and how it forced me to keep running (not necessarily a bad thing).  This year, there was some running, but for some reason, I remember it being more congested than before…there were certain points traffic just stopped.  Somewhere around mile three, I noticed the shirtless kamikaze descender man from last year.  Good news – he was in front of me.  If there’s someone that’s going to fly down the hill and possibly take people down, the best place for them is in front of you.  But, I ended up passing him and didn’t see him again.

The trails were very much like I remembered them, the knee (now thigh) deep water was still there, it was overall pretty runable, and before I knew it, I was back at the start getting high-fives from Brian, Wendell and the kids.  I grabbed some food and electrolytes from the aid station, chatted with Brian a bit, and I was off.  The music playing as I ran reverse through the finish line got me going again, and I was on my way to the quarry.

Miles 8 – 13.1

The path down to the quarry was also much like I remembered it, but far less treacherous than it seemed last year.  I also felt like I was in no man’s land for most of the three miles, which was odd considering there were over 900 runners.  I got to the highway crossing and down into the quarry, and found a bunch of other runners.

I made it a point to run more through the quarry this year, which resulted in slower mile splits.  I was still about a mile and a half ahead of where I’d planned to be, so whatever, I’ll take it.  After what seemed like forever, I saw ‘aloha’ signs and around the corner was the next aid station.  I grabbed some electrolytes (who knew they had tea flavored and that it would taste good?), Sprite, and snacks, thanked the volunteers, and I was off.  Before I left one of the ladies asked if I wanted my pack refilled.  I told her I thought I was good…a decision that became a rookie mistake and impacted the rest of my day.

Miles 13.1 – 21

Two-ish miles after the aid station, you start the climb out of the quarry.  Last year, I remember feeling like I was done somewhere around mile 19.  This year, I wanted to be done around mile 17 and was out of water by mile 18.  Not good…not good at all.  I also started to feel the acid reflux fun I’d experienced during Lake Sonoma come back.  And I thought I might break Coach Lindsay’s no puking in the gym rule, but, it was three miles to the aid station.  Three miles, three miles, I can do this….then, two miles…two miles, I’ve got this….so on and so forth, until I was making my way down the steep hill to the mile 21 aid station.  I felt my knee hyperextend just before I got to the bottom…luckily, no damage done, and the guys behind me gave me a friendly warning to be careful.

I was so glad to be at an aid station.  They helped me refill my pack (even though I couldn’t get it open), gave me some broth, and hooked me up with Vaseline (damn chaffing).  I didn’t stay too long before I bit the forest oasis goodbye and headed towards the infamous Goat Hill.

Miles 21 – 26

The next few miles passed as a blur…nothing too noteworthy about them, and I remember being frustrated I wasn’t at Goat Hill yet.  And then I hit what I thought was Goat Hill…except it was some random course reroute.  Up a mini Goat Hill in preparation for the bigger one.  Finally getting to Goat Hill, it was definitely tougher than I remembered it being.  I still didn’t stop going up it, but definitely slower than last year.

I hit the aid station, no Larry this year, but I did get some more broth and a salted potato, along with some liquids and Vaseline, before I was on my way.  So ready to be done….

Miles 26 – Finish

Leaving mile 26, I was able to run more than last year, I think…but still overall slower.  I met a couple of ladies who asked me if this was the hardest 50k I’d done….unfortunately no.  It just didn’t seem like it was my day.

More trails, a few creeks, and a lot of mud later, I hit the last aid station.  Not sure why there’s one so close to the end, but I didn’t stop there this year and just jogged through with a wave.

Coming out of that aid station is about a mile of trail that rivals the dipsea, but without the stairs.  Just what you want at mile 30…short, steep, climbs.  That part ends with about a half mile that winds to the finish line.  30.5 miles, just over eight hours (40 minutes slower than last year :(), and a lot of ‘am I there yet’ moments, I’d finished my second Way Too Cool.

So, with one finish under my belt, I look towards Lake Sonoma.  Where last year, Cool was the vote of confidence heading into my first successful 50 miler, this year, I think it was a wake-up call.  I need more long runs…probably more double days at the gym.  I’m not even sure I care about getting faster at the moment (let’s be honest, if I mearly run after mile 32 at Lake Sonoma, I’ll be in better shape), but I do want to do as much prep as I can so it’s a good experience for as long as possible.  Here’s to an extra week of training runs, more long runs, and hopefully a good race at Sonoma.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring….It Must be Spring Race Season….

So, here we are…a year after this post and nearly a year after this one.  I’d love to say that I’m in a better place, that I’m a stronger runner, that I came back from the hip injury and the North Face and got it together and got trained…I guess to some extent, I did.

While my overall mileage leaves something to be desired, I did get my workouts in as planned.  Who knew it would be so difficult to get in 40 miles without a trail behind the office?  And having only one day to run most weekends.  And the rain…who could forget the rain.

I do have two 16 milers under my belt…last year, I only had one.  And, I have a handful of back to back Orange Theory workouts in too.  The team at Mission Bay has been great with helping me train – double classes, class and a half, extra tread work.  Last year, the thought of more than an hour would have been enough to do me in.  This year, 5am and 6:15….or 6:15 and 7:30…BRING IT.  A Tornado workout with a double treadmill block (rather than the knee-breaking rower)…I’m all over that.  At least until we hit the 6% incline.  Hopefully the early mornings (ass kickings) and double workouts payoff where the overall mileage is lacking.

But, I’m still nervous.  After the hip injury and the holidays and the plague and more plague, I was more out of shape than I realized.  I hadn’t gotten on a scale in…I don’t know how long.  When I did, it wasn’t good.  I’m still running slower than I was last year.  But, I’m running…so I have that going for me.

Overall, I’d like to be faster than I was last year.  Early weather predictions don’t show any rain, so I have that going for me too (or maybe not…I’m not sure I know what to do with myself if it doesn’t pour).  While my overall pieces of the race might not be faster than last year, there are places on the course that I didn’t run very much last year and I’d like to change that this year (read, the really flat portion between miles 12 and 18).   And, the last six or so were so muddy last year, they were pretty much un-runable by the time I got there.  If both of those change, but the rest holds constant, I should be fine.  Right?

Once I get there and get going, I’m sure I’ll be fine.  Anyone who has been to one of these Ultra/Ironman-ish things with me knows how much fun I am on race morning.  Ugh..race morning on a long day.  I don’t think there’s anything worse…well…there’s lots worse, but I digress.  Leng is running this year, so I’ll have a friend at the start line…that will be fun.

So, here we go…spring race season.  May this year be better than the last.  May they both be fun…well, as fun as a 50k and 50 mile race can be.  I’m as ready as I’m going to be…after three more Orange Theories and some weekend miles….I’ve got this….

But, is it wrong that I’m already looking forward to my post-race cupcake and Sufferfest Beer?


First non-running centric blog in awhile…haha. But, if we’re not getting up at four am to run a race, we might as well get up at four to get in line for beer.  

We’d both heard a lot about Russian River Brewing Company and their limited release beer, Pliney the Younger.  So, for Brian’s birthday, we decided to take a day and go out for the first day of the release.  He did a bunch of research…found out what time we needed to be there, where to go, etc.  Turned out, we’d need to leave the house at 4:30…also turned out it was going to rain.  Awesome…totally like a race day.  

Traffic wasn’t bad (imagine that at 4:30 am), but the rain proved to be a slight challenge.  Since we didn’t know what parking would be like, we decided to take my car…though his probably would’ve been better in the rain.  It wasn’t terrible, and once we got past Novato, it had pretty much stopped raining.  

The brewery was easy to find once we got to Santa Rosa.  Right in the middle of downtown…for some reason, I was expecting it to be in a farm field, why I’m not sure.  At first, we thought the line wasn’t that long, but quickly realized it spanned several blocks as we kept driving.  We found parking in a lot right behind the brewery (though we didn’t realize it at the time).  Wandered around for a bit, and then finally found the line.

We made ourselves comfortable – opened up our chairs, pulled out the coffee, etc.  of course it had started to rain again, but luckily, Gortex is our friend.  We weren’t cold (thank you Everest clothes) or wet…well, eventually I was…not sure what the deal with my water proof pants was…Brian even got interviewed by the morning news.  

As he was getting interviewed, more people fell in line behind us.  That’s when we met Richard and Sean, two guys from Fresno, who’d decided to come up while enjoying a growler from Russian River the night before. 

The rain came and went, and came and went again.  A very smart Girl Scout made her way down the line selling cookies before she went to school.  I’m pretty sure everyone bought some – genius idea.  At some point the security guards started counting people and we were maybe 78(ish) in line. They came back shortly after to stamp our hands, and at that point, we were in the 100’s.  Then they started condensing the line.  It was kind of exciting, even though we knew we still had 90 minutes to wait.  But, since we’d been waiting three hours already, it felt like the end was in site.

With maybe an hour to go, the owners (two cousins, I believe), made their way down the line, thanking everyone for being there…listening to everyone’s stories…offering us breakfast and coffee. After that, one of the owners brought his mother out to meet everyone and say hello.  I was really amazed how nice everyone was, from the people standing in line to the owners, to the employees.  Even as we got close to going in, an employee asked us if we needed anything – water, coffee, etc.  At that point, we were ready for beer.  

As they started taking people in, we decided with the guys behind us that we were either a group of two or four. Whatever made sense. And, it turned out to be a good decision. Not only did we get the last table available for the first seating, but also, we got to enjoy the rest of the day with friends. 

Once you’re inside, you get three Pliny the Younger’s, and three hours inside. We enjoyed our beers, tried some of the other ones, and decided what to take home (along with the merchandise).  Interestingly enough, the guy at the table next to us was from Buffalo and sporting Bills gear…lives out here now, but, small world. 

Overall, it was a great experience. Pliny the Younger was delicious. Was it worth five hours in a rainy line…I’m not sure. What was worth the wait was the hospitality – meeting people in line that morning that became friends by the end of the day, meeting the owners of the bar who took the time to greet everyone (despite the rain), hearing and being part of the toast the owners did with the first group of diners, and being able to cheer as more people were able to come in and have their tastes. 

Such a fun day and definitely something I’d do again.  We’d leave earlier (or stay out there), apparently the rain kept a lot of people away and the line was shorter than it’s been in the past. 

In other news, I’m one month out from Way Too Cool.  Yikes!  Hopefully I can get in shape before then.  Big mileage weeks coming up these next few weeks…I see several double OTF workouts in my future…

Lightning Strikes, Maybe Once, Maybe Twice…

Oh 2016…what a year you’ve been.

It seems like there’s so much I could say…or should say.  Or maybe shouldn’t.  As I’ve learned, a lot of things are better left unsaid.

On one hand, it seemed like it flew by, but on the other hand, looking back on the whole year, some of it seems light years away at this point.  Overall, 2016 was really my chance to hit the re-set button.  To figure out and focus on what’s really important, decide where I want to go, and how to get there.  It’s kind of an amazing feeling when you let go of the past and embrace the future.  It all happens for a reason.

Much like last year, it started with a race…I spent most of NYE and a good chunk of New Year’s Day at Coastal’s 24 hour race.  I learned a lot about the races I’d be running in the spring from one of the volunteers…saw old friends and made some new ones.  As always, it was a great time.

My racing fun continued, both with Coastal and with my own races.  March brought my first official race finish in over a year at Way Too Cool.  It was fun (mostly), and wet and muddy and everything I could have wanted in a race.  And finishing was….spectacular. I wasn’t too sure what to do with myself, other than ask a volunteer to take my picture at the finish line.  But, it was the confidence booster I needed heading into Lake Sonoma.  And really, who doesn’t love some Sufferfest and a frog cupcake at the finish line :).  I’m excited for it to be my first race in 2017…here’s to (hopefully) a PR.

Then there was Lake Sonoma.  It was…terrifying.  A terrifying amount of elevation…a distance I didn’t have a good track record with…a course I wasn’t familiar with, but somehow I made it.  I trained better than I ever have….ran more miles In preparation….hydrated, and then hydrated some more.  I spent 25 miles thinking about how I was NEVER going to run 50 miles again.  It took me less than 24 hours to figure out exactly what I would do differently next time and prepare to enter the lottery again.  While fighting the plague of 2016 before Christmas, I found out I’d get a rematch in April 2017.  Here’s to lessons learned…another PR…and a new coat….

2016 also brought me OrangeTheory…seriously the best workout I’ve ever gotten and probably the reason had two successful races and survived the third.  It started as a way to train and stay sane while I was working in Redwood City, and followed me to my new role in the city.  Along the way, I made some new friends and got into the best running shape I’ve ever been in.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to getting my butt kicked so much.

And, most exciting of all, 2016 brought me a new job.  I started at Charlotte Russe in July, and it has been amazing.  It’s gotten me back into retail and it’s been everything I thought it would be and more.  It’s small, but not too small, and a super flat organization – which is great…I feel like I can make a big impact.  My team is great, as is the larger Ops team.  They motivate me to be a stronger leader, teammate, and employee.  I survived retail holiday and had fun doing so.  No more Sunday blues, or Monday blues, or…well, you get the idea.  After several nightmare years – including my own Devil Wears Prada experience, I appreciate this amazing opportunity that much more.  I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

Again, much like last year, it ended with a race.  I closed out the year and spent the first moments of 2017 at Coastal’s 24 hour race.  I got to see a lot of familiar faces as well as some new ones.  It was the first time I spent the night at Crissy Field…what an experience that was…haha.  So fun to cheer on the runners that braved the chilly night and kept moving.

So, here we go…here’s another year.  Here’s to 2017 being as good of a personal year as 2016 was…here’s to a couple of PR races and the lottery of pain part 2…here’s to the world still being standing at the end of it…here’s to one more trip around the sun…

Follow the Blue and Beware the Seams on Your Pants – North Face 50k Race Report

So, final race of an interesting year. A year that brought me a 50k PR, a 50 mile finish (after two years of trying), and 10k PR. Of course there was that hip thing that kept me out of running for several months at the end of the year too. Great set-up for my last race…
Anyway. Before I even get into things, I knew I was under-trained (my longest run was 27 miles…split up over two days). I knew this was North Face, and it had given me issues for the past two years. But, I also knew the trails…and I’d been really good about getting my butt kicked at the gym at least four days a week. Still, I didn’t think I’d be in for anything easy.

The start was pretty typical of an ultra. Well, one like Way Too Cool rather than Lake Sonoma. Lots of people gathering…heat lamps…fire pits. Unlike every other year we’ve run this race, it wasn’t freezing. It wasn’t raining. It wasn’t wet. It was…actually quite nice out. Weird for this race. No rain, no mud, no cold. What was going on?

As it got close to start time, the announcer started getting everyone lined up. Lots of people still checking bags…tip – make sure to check your bag early. I ran into one of the guys from Coastal Trails…he’d started the 50, but decided not to continue. He was hanging out, waiting for the line to clear so he could get his bag.

The announcer had us introduce ourselves to the person next to us, which was interesting since half the field had their headphones in already. After that, we were pretty much off. The first few miles passed as I expected…rolling a bit at the beginning, but quickly climbing up Miwok. Forever. Since they changed the course this year, there was some additional climbing beyond what I knew as typical. We didn’t make the quick left down Old Springs, but continued on up Miwok and down Marincello. Thanks Miwok stables…loved the additional climbing.

Honestly, it wasn’t that bad…I’ve done it before and met a couple of fellow runners along the way. And then we were headed down Marincello. A hill I’m familiar climbing up, but not so much running down. But, I quickly found that I really liked running down this hill as much as I love hiking up it. It’s a gentle slope…it’s a fire road. It was mile 4ish. Perfect for my untrained, skittish, descender self. And, much to my surprise, I passed a bunch of people on the way down. Being so skittish, this never happens. If I pass anyone, it’s on the way up and I usually get passed again on the way down. Unfortunately, I didn’t see many of them again. Not sure if they never passed me again or if we missed each other at aid stations…hopefully everyone finished.

I got to the bottom of the hill feeling good and Brian was waiting for me. I grabbed a cup of tailwind, which I hadn’t had before, but was actually pretty good, some water, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I pulled over for a bit to chat and realized I’d somehow picked up the one sandwich made with the heel of the bread….only me.

After that, it was off to Muir Beach. The climb up Coastal wasn’t too bad, but I anticipated it being easier not going into Pirate’s Cove. However, I was unpleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. We actually got to climb some of Coyote Ridge and a back part of Fox Trail on our way to the trail that would finally take us down into Muir Beach. Then, down we went…I wish I wasn’t so skittish….and of course the whole time going down, all I could think was…at some point I have to go back up….

I quickly passed through the Muir Beach aid station…grabbed a Mt. Dew (not a bad race drink, but other than that, the Dew can stay in my college years ;)), some tailwind, and another sandwich. Then I comfortably jogged my way to Redwood Creek Trail. Well….I looked down and I was comfortably jogging at an 8:50 pace. Thanks, Orange Theory. Of course my aid station stop is included in that time, so it didn’t do much for me overall. Haha.

As I hit Heather Cut-off, I ran into the 50 mile sweepers….I’m pretty sure one of them has been the same guy for the past three years. Anyway, shortly after that, I passed the last 50 miler, a man from Iowa, I think he said. In him, I could see myself a few years ago. As I left Cardiac, he still hadn’t made it up there. I also passed a woman who’d been stung on the ankle by a bee…so not fun, and another place I saw myself. She assured me she was fine, and she did pass me later, so luckily, she was good to go.

My slog up to Cardiac wasn’t too bad, I remembered slogging up there last year…feeling like crap and running into Liz and Van, and listening to Becca chat about NYC to make the miles go faster. On the other hand, I guess it wasn’t that great either…somewhere along there, I realized the seams on my pants were starting to tear into the skin on the back of my legs. And…what bothers you at mile 12 is going to be unbearable come mile 32….

At the Cardiac aid station, I asked three different people for Vaseline, but finally got some. Ahhh….relief. I’m sure I looked silly, but…there are no rules in the woods. I grabbed a pb&j, tailwind, and Mt. Dew, but knew I was needed some salt (thank you acid reflux fun…). Luckily, they had salt…unfortunately, no potatoes to dip in it. Awesome….and the 50 milers were just hitting their second pass. Bad time to be out of that. But, we’re in the woods, so we make do with what we have. I ripped my sandwich in half and dipped it in the salt. Salty pb&j, interesting vessel to get salt in, but it seemed to work.

Then it was down into Muir Woods, my least favorite part of the course. The part with not only steep, rocky, twiggy, descents, but also a place where if you fall, you can get gored by tree stumps and whatever else is on the ground. Perfect if you’re already a skittish descender. I think the marathon may be my race of choice next year solely because I wouldn’t have to run through Muir Woods.

The Old Inn Aid Station greeted us at the end of Muir Woods. Shortly before we hit the aid station, we hit some stairs on the famed dipsea trail. This guy let me and another lady pass him, before tearing down the stairs past us like he was going to win. Really dude? First, not going to win. Pretty sure they finished hours ago. And second, we would’ve let you go. You were ahead of us to begin with…

Just before the aid station, there was a pack of 50 milers coming up the hill at me…I was…confused. On either course, no one should be running up this hill. Did I miss a turn? If I went farther than I needed to without Vaseline, I was going to be sad. They told me I was fine, so I kept heading down. No idea what they were doing.

Anyway…as I jogged to the aid station, I passed the medic and thought…haha, I’m not hanging out with you this year. I asked them for Vaseline and they had to find my old friend who drove me to Tennessee Valley last year to find it. She seemed far less crazy this year, but no less busy. She handed me Vaseline and walked away. Another volunteer watched me take gobs of it with my hand and rub it all over where my pants were eating my skin. I’m not sure what the look on her face was saying…shock…disdain…really? You’re at an aid station for an ultra. If me sticking Vaseline down my pants is the worst thing you’ve seen all day, consider yourself lucky.

I headed off, joking with another volunteer…something about a second pass, and me not wanting to come back. There was no second pass, and I didn’t need to. I began the flat jog back to Muir Beach…alternating between a walk to catch my breath and my new 9ish (some times under, sometimes over) comfortable pace. Aside from my chafed up body, I was getting pretty sore. Yup, should’ve gotten in more training.

Where the road to Muir Beach was easy, the road out of Muir Beach was anything but. Even if we didn’t have to climb all the way up Coyote Ridge, it was still brutal. I made friends with a couple of other runners as we made our way out…they were chatting about the big marathons (Boston, NYC, Berlin, London, Tokyo and one other I don’t remember) and wondered how many hills we had left, I said two…one of the guys said, in addition to this one (he was local too)? I said no, this one and another…it counts until it’s over.

The top of the hill brought the steep descent of Fox trail into Tennessee Valley. At this point, muscles I’d forgotten I had were hurting. And I really needed another dose of Vaseline to handle the chaffing. But, I made it down. Oh, Vaseline was insight. And then Brian came jogging down Tennessee Valley road towards me. Hooray for a surprise! He figured he wouldn’t be able to drive between TV and the finish, but he definitely could run it, especially if he knew the short cuts.

And there wasn’t any Vaseline. Ugh….I had body glide in my pack, so I pulled over and tried to use that. Not the end of the world, I guess, but certainly not ideal. The good news was that I got to see Shannon, the aid station captain that took care of me last year…yeah hypothermic and taking over the shuttle. Haha. Great to see her and I wasn’t blue this year, so I had that going for me.

Then it was time for the final slog up Marincello. Which usually I don’t mind, but I was just done with this race at that point. One of the other runners asked if it was straight uphill to the next aid station. Right…Alta. I’d forgotten about that aid station.

The rest of the race was pretty much a blur of me wishing it was over and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. There were places I thought, hey, maybe I should run here. And then telling myself walking hurt slightly less, and I was so far behind, did I really care? Nope, I did not.

One foot in front of the other, one aid station, and one seemingly never ending stretch to the finish line later, it was over. I’d finished North Face. I may have been walking like a cowboy and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be wearing jeans for day (confirmed), but I finished. Brian brought my Vaseline, so I coated some of that on before we walked to the car. Of course as I did, two of the runners I’d met on the course walked by and stopped to say congratulations….one of them apologized for catching me mid-Vaseline application. I laughed and said…it’s all good, there are no rules in the woods….

So…on to the spring. Here’s to luck with the race lotteries and if not, enjoying two ‘b’ races. Here’s to a year of being injury free and able to train like I should…it’s much more fun when it happens that way.

When did it become November??

More than that, how is Black Friday only a week away?  Haha…can you tell I’m back in retail?  But seriously…where did the year go?  Where did these past four months go?  I started the new job in July…it’s now November…that’s only four months.  But, it feels like much longer than that.  In a good way.  I’m still really liking it.  I’m excited to be part of the holiday craziness once again.  And, I’m not afraid that I’ll be awake for 29 hours straight over Black Friday, so there’s that.  Also a good thing.

And as it suddenly became November, it suddenly became fall.  I LOVE fall and all the holidays.  Halloween and bad horror movies…and The Nightmare Before Christmas, our kick-off to the holiday season movie.  Then Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and most likely some tree decorating, before it’s back to New York to spend Christmas with our families.

And holiday means December, and December means North Face.  Oh North Face.  Currently, I’m signed up for the 50 mile…I need to figure out how to officially change that.  I’m nowhere near trained for 50 miles…and I really, really want to do Lake Sonoma again and with my track record, I’d never recover from a December 50 miler in time to run a spring one.  So, I’m looking at the 50k.  Hoping for the 50k.  But we’ll see how this weekend’s training goes.  As always, I’m behind and feeling under-trained.  And my hamstring is sore and tight.  Ugh.  But I still have one week of heavy training left.  That counts for something, right?  I suppose there’s always the marathon if this weekend doesn’t pan out…since it’s supposed to pour both Saturday and Sunday.  But, what’s a little rain and mud, right?  It will give me a chance to make sure my warm running clothes are still warm since I haven’t worn them since Way 2 Cool….and I’ll most likely need them for North Face.

While my weekend runs have been lackluster due to sickness, the hole I seem to keep tearing in the back of my right heel, a busted up hip, and whatever else seems to come up, I have been steady at the gym.  Hopefully four or five days each week at Orange Theory can help make up for the mileage gaps.  Hopefully.  I mean, those classes still kick my butt, especially as I’ve gotten back into running.  But, I’ve gotten my push pace up to where it was before my hip injury.  And my base is almost there…sometimes it is, depending on the length of the block.  It takes me a little longer to warm up, so the endurance days work well for me.

Only time will tell, I suppose.  The good news, these are my trails and my hills, and I’ve maintained some level of base fitness.  The bad news, the mileage, that got me through Cool and Sonoma…just isn’t there.  And this is North Face…which has tried to take me down on more than one occasion.  Can I survive on Orange Theory alone?  Only time will tell.  Hopefully in two weeks I’ll be able to say – nemesis conquered.  Or, bad things come in threes, and this race will finally take me down.

Until next time….