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?

Pliney!

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….

Viva Las Vegas

Since Brian had a conference in Las Vegas this past week and we’re heading straight to Bizz Johnson after my conference next week, we decided to sneak in a quick weekend getaway after his conference.

Getting there wasn’t too crazy, until I got in a cab to head to the hotel.  Of course the driver asks me if I want to take the freeway or the strip.  I KNOW one of them is a rip off…I  just couldn’t remember which one.  I ask what’s faster….he says the freeway.  As I watch the meter tick past $20, I knew I made the wrong choice.  But hey, I got to drive past the Delano, which will be my home away from home for my conference next week.

We stayed at Harrah’s…for some reason, something about music, I think, everything in Vegas was super expensive last weekend.  Even Luxor, which is usually our go-to for a decent priced hotel with a decent pool was more than I’ve ever seen it.  Anyway, we stayed at Harrah’s since we could stay there and see a show for the same price as staying at any of the other hotels.  It was…

Well, it was clean, safe, and the door locked.  And was pretty centrally located.  It also had Toby Keith’s bar, which we love.  Other than that, not too much going on.  Overall, it felt pretty dated compared to the other hotels and seemed to have a cult following, I’m guessing those who like to gamble there.  People don’t go there for the pool….it was small and barely in the sun.  But, we were able to rent a cabana of sorts to ensure us some sunshine and a way to hide from it when it got too hot.  It was pretty cheap too….I think only $30 if you met a food and beverage minimum, which was also pretty low.  The room had been recently re-done, but came with feather pillows and sliding bathroom door.  Great, unless you’re us and prefer normal pillows and an actual bathroom door.  The shower was also only covered with half of a glass door….just odd.  All that was missing was the cut-out between the bathroom and the bedroom and I could’ve been in Beijing again….

Bottom line…if you’re going for the gambling, and you like to gamble at Harrah’s, it’s probably a great option for you.  If you’re looking for a pool and to see shows, probably not the best choice.

We saw two shows – Mystere and Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club.  Mystere was Saturday night and Brad Garrett’s was Sunday.

First, Mystere, which is one of the Cirque shows…apparently, it’s the first one, if I remember correctly.  Last time we were there, we saw Ka, which put just about everything else I’ve seen to shame, so that may have influenced my reaction.  There wasn’t much of a story tying the performances together, and I found that I missed that.  However, the performances, when they were happening were very good.  During those times, there was always so much going on, it kept my attention.  But, there were those times that the performances weren’t going on…and the fact that the story tying everything together was pretty loose.  There were two sets of…I don’t even know what to call them…interludes?  Probably the wrong word.  Interruptions?  I like that better.  But two characters engaging with the audience differently at points throughout the show and it just, to me, fell flat.  It interrupted the performances, which almost made them feel like America’s Got Talent instead of Cirque and both of the characters got old….real fast.  It was almost like, ok, this was funny once….Overall….go see Ka.

Sunday, we returned to Brad Garrett’s.  We went there in May, finding ourselves with a free night and no plans and it was in our hotel and cheap.  So we went and enjoyed it.  When we were choosing shows for this trip, Brian saw that Brad Garrett was going to be there, so we thought it would be cool to go again.  Hilarious.  Definitely recommend.  Especially if he’ll be there….he started the show and performed between the other comedians and was just….hilarious.  Didn’t miss a beat and the audience loved him for it.

I also took the opportunity to sport not one, but two Charlotte Russe dresses.  They were actually pretty fun and looked great.  I wish I had remembered my curling iron, but that’s another story.  I mean, you can’t go wrong in Vegas in a cute red dress and heels you can barely walk in.

Day three was pretty low key.  Having learned our lesson with the Harrah’s buffet, we once again ventured over to Denny’s.  During breakfast we talked about when we might come back and where we’d want to stay, which turned into us exploring the nearby casinos and pools to decide.  Cesar’s, Flamingo, and MGM top the list.  With the looming thought of the airport madness ahead of us, we looked up how long it would take to drive and thought that might be an option next time.  We ended the day with a drink at Cesar’s…first time we’ve done that…and for some reason, it took way too long to find a bar….maybe because the place was so big.  haha…

So, since we pretty much decided that we’d try driving for our next trip, avoiding both the airport and the cabs to get to the airport, the great beyond decided that we needed to have a ride to the airport to remember.  Since my adventure from the airport wasn’t enough, apparently….

We get in the cab just fine, guy isn’t very social, but whatever, it’s fine.  We’re just lounging in the back, dreading the thought of dealing with TSA and airports and everything else, as we head down an access road between two of the casinos.  And I noticed we kind of, sort of, maybe roll through a stop sign.  And maybe we’re going kind of fast.  And then I hear sirens.  No easy feat over the bad 80’s music Mr.Cabbie is blaring.

He pulls over, and I think we were all hoping that the police just needed to get through.  No such luck…he’s pulling us over.  Of course, turning down the music is out of the question, so we can barely hear Mr. Cabbie fight with the officer about how he didn’t run the stop sign before handing over his credentials.  And then we sat…..and sat some more….in awkward silence.  Mr. Cabbie never said a word.  No, I’m so sorry, I’m sure we’ll be on our way in a minute….nothing.  Nor does he turn the music down.  I start thinking about calling Uber from the side of the road…is that a thing?  Can we do that here?  Half an hour later, he has his ticket and his court date, and we’re on our way.  Such fun.  Only when we get to the airport and we’re unloading does he say anything….’you’re not leaving a tip?!’.  Really, dude?  Really?

Oh Vegas…until next time….Viva Las Vegas!

First, Forget All the Rules

Well, what a difference a year makes, in so many ways….

First, Labor Day Weekend wasn’t that long ago, and instead of stressing over a smashed car and how I was going to get to Redwood City, and trying to get a hold of the insurance company, I enjoyed my weekend.  I spent Saturday working at Coastal’s Point Pinole race directing runners – now that was an adventure.  Saturday night, Brian and I tried a new restaurant on 24th St. – Novi….well, the restaurant was new, we just hadn’t been there before.  I’m not sure why, creatures of habit, I guess.  It was delicious.  Great food with a Mediterranean flair, and our waiter was fabulous.  Then, we hit our new favorite wine bar…also not new, but we’ve only been there a couple of times.  Sunday, we did a whole lot of nothing….but we love bad movie Sunday and doing nothing.  Monday we went out to Mt. Tam to get in a run for the holiday.  First trail run for me since….April, I think.  Regardless, first trail run since my hip has actually been allowed to heal.  It was great until I tore open the back of my foot…damn blister.  Oh well….at least that’s easily heal-able.

Next, I’m six(ish) weeks into the new job.  And…and I just love it.  I love the work, the people, my boss, my team, the industry in general.  I’m excited to go to work for the first time in a very long time…no more Monday blues….or Tuesday blues…or Wednesday blues…or, well, you get the idea.  Its been great learning a new brand and a new team, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

And, then there was the race.  My first since April.  Not that I had a ton planned, but I did have to sit that one in August out (look at me learning how healing works ;)).  I’d signed up for the Giants Race 10k with a friend several months ago, and since I was allowed to start running again, it wasn’t that far (I’ve hiked nearly twice that distance several times in the recent past), and the miles I’d done at the gym had gone well, I figured – why not?  And actually, it ended up being a good time.

Packet pick-up was far easier than the emails made it out to seem – even though I was there at a supposedly key time.  Got my bib, t-shirt, a bunch of pins, and a creepy bobble head.  I almost offered it to the gym when I popped in there…I totally should have.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with it….

Anyway…race morning was pretty seamless too.  I was super early, which I guess was good, since I’d done minimal planning the night before (read – I threw my entire bag from packet pickup into my running bag).  So, luckily, I was early and had time to sort the bib and pins and breakfast and whatever else I had going on.  With 45 minutes or so to start, I headed over toward the start line.  Not a far walk, but you never know what the port-a-potty situation is going to be.  It wasn’t awful, and soon I was making my way towards my corral.  Before I got there, I heard my name…one of my friends/former co-workers from Old Navy was there volunteering.  So great to see her and catch up for a bit.

I found my corral with several thousand of my closest friends…a far cry from the Fro-yo run back in April.  And, somehow managed to find Leng just as we started the race.  So, just as I suspected, I chased her for the first three miles….which actually passed pretty quickly, and seemingly before I knew it, we were passing signs that said half marathon – straight, 10k – left.  Granted, we passed these signs for at least half a mile.  I’d say they made it impossible to over-run the turn-around, but I know better.  There’s always one.  But, again, pretty quickly, I was giving Leng a hug, wishing her luck and heading back towards the finish.

My last three miles were for the most part, slower than my first three.  I did manage to pick it up for the last mile and point two.  Overall, three minutes slower than my 10k in April, but not bad for not having been able to run much since then.  It was on pavement too….way harder than the trail I ran on last weekend.  Apparently all my Orange Theory power walking paid off.  And there’s always that 10k in October to get even….once I’m even more healthy.

So, Giants Race…definitely a fun experience.  Well organized event…other than for the poor souls leading the 10k who had to run like salmon for their last three miles, but overall, fun and I’d do it again.

And well, another month has gone by.  I feel like I say this a lot, but where did August go?  When did it become September?  I have got to get better about updating this, but I guess that’s what happens…life happens.  It’s already September….here’s to continuing to love the new gig, here’s to North Face (50K this year!), and everything in between.  But, until then…over and out.