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.

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.

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.

Third Time’s the Charm – Lake Sonoma 50 Race Report

“It’s impossible”, said Pride. “It’s risky”, said Experience. “It’s pointless”, said Reason. “Give it a try”, whispered the Heart. – unknown

Wow…where to even begin.  I could begin with the North Face DNF’s, which led me to try a different race….I could start with the race weather, rain rain and more rain….I could start with the irony of finding out I got into the race on a day I had the flu and was struggling to keep gatorade down.  But, I think I’ll start with a quote I saw online from running club coach, Mike Fanelli.

“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.”

Well, before we go there, I will forewarn everyone that parts of this might be TMI.  But, that’s ultra running and I might as well be honest.

A couple of other miscellaneous logistical details for anyone reading this and doing the race/considering the race.  We stayed at the Wine Country Inn & Suites in Cloverdale.  Great hotel, seemed like it may have been recently remodeled.  When I checked in, they were very nice and gave us a complimentary upgrade to a suite.  We had dinner at Piacere Ristorante Italiano…one of the only restaurants in Cloverdale, but it was amazing.  Quaint, family run, restaurant, and everyone was so friendly…and the food was delicious.  As I ate all of my garlic bread, fettuccine alfredo, and chicken, I was glad I had 50 miles to burn it off the next day.  Haha!

Anyway, on to the race….

“Divide the race into thirds”

Over the past week I did a lot of thinking about the quote and my race plan and how I would divide the race.  Somehow, I knew even thirds wouldn’t work for me.  If I was going to get through 50 miles and 11,000+ feet of elevation solo, I had to do it differently.

My first third was really a half – the first 25 miles.  The next third was about 13 miles, and would take me to the cursed mile 38.  The last third was the 12 miles from there to the finish.  I figured if I could get through the cut-off at mile 38, I would make it to the finish.

“Run the first part with your head” 

Checking in, dropping my drop bags, and getting ready were pretty uneventful.  As the time for the race to start drew closer, everyone was just kind of milling about, waiting for Tropical John to get us going.  He directed everyone up to the road, and pretty quickly after that – we were off.

The first 2.3 miles were on the paved road.  Not my favorite…well, not my knee’s favorite, but it did allow the field to spread out.  I jogged the downhills and hiked the uphills.  At one point, another runner commented on how he was having to jog to keep up with my hike.  haha…here we go again.  I can be known in the ultra community as the fast hiker.  I like it.

Jumping onto the trail was a nice relief from the pavement, and while the field had thinned out, there were still plenty of people around.  Some passed me….some I passed.  I recognized some of them from Way Too Cool in March.  Kind of fun to see the same people and get to know them.  One of the ladies I met there, recognized me as the ‘fast hiker’ from Way Too Cool.  I got her started again at that Cool and later on in evening when Brian was waiting for me to finish before the cut-off, she (after running 50 miles) was ready to back track on the trails and make sure I got in before the cut-off.

The first 18 miles passed in a blur…there were the water only aid stations at Island View and Wulfow, I was 20 minutes early to meet Brian at Warm Springs where we uneventfully swapped out my pack, and there was at least one river crossing.  Oh the river crossings….if we weren’t old friends yet, we definitely are now.  And I’ve learned to handle them like a bull in a china shop….tear right through.  No time to skip from rock to rock.  And it’s raining….we’re wet anyway.

I hit the Madrone aid station and spent a little more time there than I should have.  I didn’t realize that the crews were at the top of the hill and the aid station was at the bottom, and I thought maybe I’d gotten ahead of Brian or something.  So I had the volunteers fill my bag, I had some coke and a sandwich, and was on my way up the hill.

And good god, the hills.  I had trained on all of them at least once and they weren’t that bad.  But in the race….wow.  Rough.  And the weird acid-like-puke-whatever it is that I get sometimes chose that moment to come to life.  Awesome.  I stopped to see Brian at the top of the hill…yay for Brian and the top of the hill.  But, I was pretty much good to go since I’d refilled at the aid station below.  So, off I went, acid issue in tow.

The trail between Madrone and the turn around continued to roll, though the ups and downs were longer.  There were only three large hills on elevation profile, but I feel like I only remember two of them.  The climb out of Madrone was definitely the worst, and I’m glad it wasn’t the warm, sunny day I had been wishing for.  The faster runners had also started their journey back from the turn around at this point, so watching for them and cheering them on kept me occupied while I continued to climb and attempt to keep the acid at bay.

By the time I got to the turn around, I was ready for something….I wasn’t sure what, but definitely something.  Brian was there and he refilled my pack and electrolyte bottle.  Asked if I wanted to sit for a minute, but I decided not to.  I was pretty sure if I sat down, I wasn’t getting back up.  At some point, one of the volunteers handed me my drop bag.  I didn’t need it, but one less thing to try to collect later.  Since the broth was so amazing during Way Too Cool, I asked if there was any broth.  Sadly, there wasn’t.  No salted potatoes either.  So I had a couple of potato chips and headed back out.

“Run the middle part with your personality”

Despite feeling awful, I decided I was going to try to have fun on the way back.  While I knew I was currently moving fast enough to finish, I knew that the worse I felt, the slower I was going to move…hopefully some fun would keep me moving faster.

I chatted with another runner climbing out of the aid station – she had a rough first half, but was feeling better and was on her way shortly.  I could only hope that I’d start feeling better soon.  Coming out of the larger rollers, I was back to a swamp like piece of trail full of wet mud.  It had tried to take my shoe on the way out, but luckily, I won.  I tried to be careful crossing it the second time, but apparently my luck had run out.  The mud tried to take my shoe again, which thankfully, it didn’t.  It did however, make sure to hold tight to one shoe so when my other foot slid, there was nowhere to go but down.  Awesome.  I love falling in the mud at mile 27…28?  I’m not sure.  Well, nothing to do but get up, try to shake out my shoes and wipe off my hands (turns out clothing makes a great towel….).

A short while later, another runner came up behind me.  She told me that I was awfully muddy.  Yup, sure am…that’s what happens when you fall in the mud….we chatted about making the cut-offs (we thought we’d be ok if we made the 4:30 at Warm Springs), how fast I was walking, and how she was hoping there were still quesadillas at the next aid station.

I was welcomed back into Madrone by Brian holding a cup of warm broth.  Amazing….so thankful there was a crew with some to spare.  As I took the cup, I looked at him and said, ‘I fell in the mud’….he told me it looked like it and asked if I wanted different shoes.  I didn’t want to stop, so took one last sip of the broth and headed down the giant hill I’d climbed up a few miles ago.

I don’t really remember the miles between Madrone and Warm Springs….I remember the guys at Wulfow telling me and the lady I’d met shortly before Madrone that we had plenty of time to make the 4:30 cut-off.  I remember getting so sick of the acid that I finally decided to stop and see what would happen if I gave in and threw it up.  It worked…sort of.  It at least went away for a few minutes after that.  And so began my last 18 miles.  Hike the uphills, jog the downhills, throw up….rinse, repeat….and is it really all that surprising that my lottery of pain ends similar in fashion to how it started?

I jogged down to the Warm Spring aid station with plenty of time before the cut-off.  Brian welcomed me with an open can of Sprite (come on Sprite…save the day) and my headlamp.  I took the Sprite while he secured the headlamp in my bag.  After that, I was quickly on my way.  I was still nervous about finishing on time, but everyone assured me I could do it.  That put some spring back in my step and I jogged out of the aid station, down a hill and across a creek.

“Run the last part with your heart”

The last twelve were definitely the toughest.  Which they should be, but the acid puking continued…it might have even gotten worse, I don’t really know.  At some point I tried Pepto and that didn’t really help.  I just know I was ready to be done.  I was hoping for local wildlife to eat me….or a boar hunter (or anyone) to shoot me.  I desperately wanted to quit, but somehow, kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I thought of everything I’ve done in the past that was tougher or hurt more….I thought of the times I wasn’t able to finish and how this time, I was going to…I thought of all the training; the early mornings, the late nights…but most of all, I just thought about being done.  I thought that the description of the course – relentlessly rolling, was more than accurate….and while it was trying to get the best of me, guess what course…I’m relentless too.  So, I pressed on, climbing over downed trees….ducking under them….why did it seem like there were more going back than there were on the way out?

Soon after leaving Warm Springs, I realized that the wet clothes had taken their toll on my skin.  My stomach was chafed….the back of my legs were chafed.  Just ouch.  And of course I had ten or eleven miles left to go and no more drop bags or crew to pass.  Well, my choices were limited, since I’m pretty sure running without clothes is frowned upon…and cold, so on I went.  I did stop at one point to reapply body glide right there on the trail.  I think it was past the point of being helped though.  Luckily, I wouldn’t find out how bad it was until I was home.  Not good…

Sometime shortly after discovering the chafing, I was hiking along and stepped on some muddy rocks.  I was fine, but they seemed to be stuck in my shoe…awesome.  And of course I couldn’t get whatever it was off.  So I had to stop.  And try to pull whatever out of my shoe. Except there wasn’t anything stuck there.  It was rubber from the bottom of my shoe.  Apparently two wet, muddy, river crossing – filed, races were too much for it and it broke.  Well, great.   I can’t have rubber hanging off my shoe, that seems like the fast track to tripping.  So, here I am in the woods, trying to use one foot to step on the rubber and tear it off the other.  How I managed to rip it off and not fall, I don’t know.  Only me.  Not wanting to litter, I shoved the muddy piece of shoe in my pack with the gu.  At that point, I wasn’t eating much anyway.  Stupid shoe…stupid timing.  Again, no more drop bags or crew to pass, where I had extra shoes.  Of course….

After far too long, I made it down to the Island View aid station.  Down another hill that of course I’d have to come back up.  I got down and checked in with a guy who could’ve been Alan Alda’s brother.  He let me know I was going to finish and congratulated me.  Only 4.7 to go from here.  Asked me if my stomach was ok….I let him know it hadn’t been since mile 30.  He asked if I was puking….I let him know only since mile 32.  He gave me some coke and let me know that it happens sometimes.  He asked if I was #297….I told him that sounded right.  I was #279…..yeah running delirium….

On my way in and out of Island View, I did see some other runners.  It was nice to remember I wasn’t out there alone after being in no man’s land for so long.  Though, they were all ahead of me…I was pretty sure I was DFL.  Except I wasn’t.  Close, but not quite haha…

Somewhere between Island View and the finish, I fished out my headlamp.  I think it was right around the 48 mile mark.  I also passed a spectator around the same time who congratulated me, cheered me on, and let me know how far I had to go.  The trail to the finish line felt pretty treacherous in the dark, even with a headlamp.  I ran this trail on the first training run I did at Lake Sonoma, and it was a lot of zigging and zagging around rocks in the light, much more of an adventure in the dark.  I reminded myself that I’d swept Dipsea in the dark…and if I did that, I could handle the mile or so that was left of this.  I’d done 49 already.  What was one more.

I saw the finish line in the distance, and then heard it before I got there.  I wanted to run it in, but didn’t want to start too early….I didn’t want to add the finish line to the list of places I’d puked.  The finish was a little confusing, and I’m sure I was delirious, so that didn’t help…but I came out of the woods, unsure of which way to go. It was only around some bushes, so not a huge deal….but, it was late, I was tired, and literally 200m away.  I tiredly asked a volunteer for help, and she directed me around the bushes (there was a small flag there, which up until then had meant don’t go this way….) and to the red light that was the finish.  The one time you want to go towards the light.  So around I went and over to the finish.  I remember someone telling me to watch out for a concrete barrier a few seconds before I actually saw it…thank you headlamp.

Then, it was on to the finish line flags.  And, despite my late finish, there was a decent sized crowd to cheer me in.  I heard Brian cheering for me and saw Tropical John standing by clock, but for some reason I didn’t know where to stop.  Where do I stop?  I asked.  Brian told me to keep going and Tropical John (and his wife?) held up their hands to high-five me as I came in.  Holy shit….I did it.  After so many times where I thought I wouldn’t….or couldn’t and an entire day of not being sure I’d actually make it in.  After two failed North Face attempts, I finished a race with more elevation and without a pacer.  A fall, a lot of puking, a broken shoe, and 13:51:55 later, I had actually done it.  I was pretty sure there would be tears…either tears of joy if I actually finished or tears of sorrow if I didn’t.  But, there weren’t.  I was really just thankful to finally stop moving.  I got my awesome swag (Marissa was right….this race really does have the best stuff), turned down the food, and headed for the car.  It was time for the wet, chaffing clothes to go away….and really time to go home.

All throughout the race, all I could think about was how I was never doing this again.  The 50k was fun.  Nothing about this was fun after mile….20 or so.  But, today is a new day, and despite a couple of issues, I still finished.  My legs actually felt fine…so I was trained…I was ready.  I was ahead of where I wanted to be until mile 25.  Had I not had the acid issues, maybe I would have stayed there.  I feel way better today than I did after my first marathon….than after the Honolulu Marathon.  At those times, who knew I’d ever want to go twice that distance.  So, let’s not rule doing it again out.  I mean, it will be awhile…maybe a year.  But Lake Sonoma happens every spring….

Thanks to Tropical John and the volunteers for putting on a great race.  Huge thanks to Brian for crewing and spending hours in the rain to cheer me on.  Being able to count on a friendly face at five different points on the course was amazing.  Thank you to my friends who spent time over the past few weeks talking me off the race ledge and assuring me that I could, in fact, do this.  And to the team at Orange Theory for kicking my butt and helping me get strong enough to finish, despite some race craziness.

“Impossible is Nothing” – Muhammad Ali

A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone…Except the Wicked Witch of the West. WTC 50k Race Report

First, big thank you to my Aunt Mary for the blog title idea.  Second…I’m not even sure where to begin with this one.  What an epic day – Way Too Cool 50k, my first race since North Face, hopefully the first one I’d finish in over a year, and the first in my lottery of pain this spring.

I could start with the weather predictions I’d been tracking all week, but to make a long story short, it was rain.  All rain, all the time.  I could start with the hellacious drive up here, but again…long story short, it should have taken me three hours.  It took five.  Not fun, and not worth dwelling on.

So, on to the race.  As instructed, I got there early….really early.  The running joke is that I’m always early for the Coastal races (or course marking…and then I get lost, but I digress).  I took this to a new level.  Packet pick-up opened at 6.  I drove in at 5:30, right into some rockstar parking.  I was glad I had the hiking socks, rain boots, and rain jacket with me for the walk to check-in.  It was short, but wet.  They let me check in early and soon I was back in my car for a short nap.  Thank you rain for lulling me back to sleep for a bit.

I woke up an hour later, and to my surprise, it had stopped raining.  And…wait…is that the sun trying to come out?
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In the non-rain, I made my pre-race pit stop….again, being early is key.  No waiting at 7:15.  Then, it was back to my car to figure out what to wear.  I was so afraid of getting too cold and having another issue like North Face, so at first I took my black Marmot jacket and tied it into my pack.  Then, I thought long and hard…it wasn’t raining.  It was pretty warm.  I might need that space to strip off some layers.  So, I left it.  Good decision.  While I didn’t strip off any layers, I definitely didn’t need it.  I headed to the start in my SF Run Company tank, SF Run Company quilted long-sleeved thing that’s usually too hot to run in, a Nike vest (maybe down?), an a white windbreaker (no idea who made that).  Vest and windbreaker were new….so much for the nothing new on race day….staying warm is more important.

So many people at the start line, but I guess that’s what happens when 850+ people run a race.  And, I recognized a lot of them.  But, I guess that’s what happens when you’ve spent weekends working at trail races for a year.  It was great to have several familiar faces to chat with (as well as some new ones) to calm my pre-race nerves.

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Epic Parking.  I was equally close to the finish.

 

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Pre-race….layered up and nervous!

I was so glad it wasn’t raining at the start…I think that would have made it pretty tough to get going.  Once I started running, my nerves turned into energy and I ran the entire way down the pavement (knee, please forgive me) to the trail. The first four or so miles were really congested – single track and lots of people.  Had to go slower than I wanted in some places, but more often, I found myself forced to keep running when in the past I would have walked.  I briefly wondered if this would cause me a problem later in the race, but also thought it might be just what I needed.

While I was glad it wasn’t raining at the start, apparently staying dry wasn’t in the cards.  As I approached mile 2, I could hear people cheering and the entire pack seemed to slow down.  Up ahead was the first of many creek crossings.  Knee deep water.  At mile 2.

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I saw another guy pulling out his phone and decided he has the right idea.  I pulled over to the side and pulled out my water-proof camera.  I mean, if you’re going swimming at mile 2, might as well have some fun with it.  He looked at me and said, “we’re not going to qualify for Boston today, might as well have fun with it”.

The remaining miles of the 8-mile loop passed in a blur and before I knew it, I was back at the start/finish.  I was glad to see an aid station and grabbed some electrolytes and a rice krispie treat (not my favorite race food).  I had been thinking about stripping off a layer, but in the end, decided to keep them all on.  Of course, by now, it had started to rain.

Next aid was only 3ish miles away and mostly downhill.  I was shooting to maintain a 4 mph pace for the entire race, and a quick check on time told me I was about two miles ahead of that.  I decided to worry about the end of the race later and go with it.  So, off I went.  After a little more uphill….down we went.  It was a little sketchy, but I found myself far less skittish than I’ve been in the past.  I hooked on to another runner and followed him down the hill.

I also met a runner who I’ll call Brazen Mike (he had a Brazen Racing hat on, so that’s how I was identifying him before he introduced himself).  We traded places off and on through about mile 15, I think.  Miles 11-15 were probably my least favorite part of the race.  Trail was pretty flat, and they were some of my fastest miles of the day, but I really liked the single track, especially once the crowd had thinned out.  It was also almost completely exposed and it had started to rain harder.  But, the other runners were friendly and we got each other through.

I felt like I spent a lot of time hiking between 11 and 21.  It was rolling and I ran a lot of the downhills and hiked the slight uphills.  At some point, I decided I needed to hike it out for a bit and surprised myself at how fast I could hike.  I kept asking people if they wanted to pass me….and generally, they didn’t.  One guy told me he was going to follow me the rest of the race and let me hike him in at a PR.

Somewhere between 18 or 19 and before the aid station at 21, I started to lose it.  I was tired…and sick of slogging through the mud.  And the creek crossings.  Oh the creek crossings.  Was there ever going to be an end.  I think somewhere in there is where I almost went swimming…thankfully, another runner grabbed my shoulders from behind and kept me upright.  The journey to the aid station seemed very long and I was desperate for some electrolytes.  Or something.  I wasn’t really sure.  Maybe just the desire to be 10 miles from the finish.  But, in typical ultra fashion, the five or six of us grouped together got each other through.  Kudos to the guy who helped me down the very, very steep switch backs to the aid station.  My legs were tired.  I was hurting.  It was slick, steep, and had I been closer to the end, I may have just tried to slide down on my butt.

I thought I might be in trouble, but that aid station was like magic.  First, I realized a two things: one, I was going to blow my previous 50k time out of the water (2014 Tamalpa 50K…8:45).  I was still two miles ahead of my goal pace.  And two, I might actually come in ahead of my goal time.  Then the volunteers gave me chicken broth.  AMAZING.  I shook out my legs, chatted with a couple of the other runners I’d run down there with….one of them told me that if I was an hour ahead of where I’d been before, of course my legs hurt.  Then he reminded me not to waste my hour.

So, off I went.  And that chicken broth….I think it actually was magic.  I got Mathew Wilder’s Break My Stride song stuck in my head, and I just went for it.  Jogged along, barely noticed the pouring rain, passed people (me?!), and felt really good.

Then just before mile 26, I hear, ‘Great job, San Francisco’!  It was one of the ladies from LA that I’d met before the race.  We started the slog up to the infamous Goat Hill together before I lost her.  And Goat Hill…it was surprisingly inconspicuous.  I was expecting a sign…or something.  But it wasn’t until I confirmed with one of the local runners that it was in fact Goat Hill.  And, it was steep.  It was muddy.  It was….surprisingly not that bad.  Thank you Fox Trail repeats.  My goal was to get up the hill without stopping.  And I did…I didn’t even really think about stopping.

I got to the top and was greeted by a bunch of volunteers.  They were great – refilled my water, gave me some electrolytes, and some more broth.  And…was that, Larry?!  It was!  There was Larry, who works some of the Coastal races making soup.  He gave me some tips  on the rest of the course and I was off.  Even though I was soaked, I didn’t give my drop there a second look.

I wish I could say the next three miles were super easy and I kept up the great (for me) pace I had going.  But, they were some of the muddiest, slipperiest, miles all day.  So I walked a lot.  Many times slower than I wanted to be…and I had the energy to run.  That was a first.  But, I knew I was going to come in with a good for me time.  A better for me time wasn’t worth the risk of injury.

I slipped and sloshed my way to the next aid station – hiking where I had to, forcing myself to run where I could.  I could hear trainer Tom’s voice in the back of my head, ’empty the tank!  this is the last of your run today’. I’m not sure why there was another aid station with only 1.4 miles to go, but it was nice to see.  The crossing guards were surprised at how fast I was walking, which made me smile.  Once I was out of the mud, I was able to jog over to the aid station for some electrolytes and soup.  One of the guys was like, that’s amazing, isn’t it?  I said it was, and he said great…now get out of here…1.4 and you’re done.

And, what a 1.4 it was.  Some short, steep, climbs up….rocks….more mud.  More walking than I wanted, but I was going to get in by 7:30.  I could hear the finish before I saw it and due to the mud, didn’t get to run in as much as I wanted.  But, I did run the last piece along the road, made a right turn….decided to roll my ankle.  Awesome.  Only me.  Thank you ankle brace for saving it, even if it is a little sore now.  The nearby spectators all cheered and yelled, ‘nice save’ as I righted myself and jogged through the finish line.

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I wasn’t really sure what to do once I finished.  It’s been so long since that’s happened it was a little emotional.  I got a medal and someone handed me a cliff bar maybe.  Not sure, I tucked it into my pack.  I got one of the volunteers to take a photo….you can’t get that muddy and not document it.  Even if I am the queen of layered running tops.  haha…I dried off, changed clothes, and enjoyed the finish line celebration.  Got the frog cupcake I’ve been thinking about for months along with a post-race beer.

So, where does that leave me?  Other than pretty sore at the moment?  Haha.  It leaves me with a vote of confidence for Lake Sonoma.  It leaves me knowing that despite having more work to do, my training plan is working.  It leaves me hoping that my second race in the lottery of pain will go as well as my first.

Big thanks to all of the volunteers – being out in the rain and cold is no small feat, but you all did it with smiles on your faces and were just what I needed to see at every aid station.  Thank you to trainers Robin, Tom, and the rest of Orange Theory for teaching me that I can push a lot harder than I thought I could both in class and out.  And to Dr. Hal, for putting me back together again and talking me off the race ledge this week.

Until next time Way Too Cool, until next time.  When hopefully it’s not raining.  I’d love to see what I can do if I can actually run the last six miles.

Life Doesn’t Require that We Be the Best, Only that We Try Our Best…..North Face 50 Race Report

Ahh…the start line of the North Face 50.  After a year plagued by ankle and knee injuries, it was one place I didn’t think I’d be.  But, after a few injections, and lot of PT, somehow I’d gotten it together enough to be there.  I was nervous about the time cutoffs, but based on my 30 mile training run, I’d be fine.  Especially since I was picking up Ksenya around mile 30.

We got to the start line in plenty of time, checked our drop bags, and then it was 5am and we were off.  The first few miles were fine…it was just me and the mountain and a few hundred of my closest friends.  As I made it up bobcat, I realized that my new watch had somehow reverted from miles back to kilometers.  Awesome….so I had no idea where I was.  Well, I knew where I was….I knew the trails, and I knew the two cutoff times, so I was good.

As I jogged down Rodeo, I met Becca, a woman from New York City who would stick with me until approximately mile 20.  She was great….friendly….and we had a ton to talk about.  She said hello to just about everyone, and listening to their conversation made the miles up Miwok and Coastal pass like nothing.  At one point, we were talking about how I’d never been stung before and it would be really bad to find out I was allergic on the trail.  She assured me she’d chase down the lady we met earlier with the bee sting meds.  We shared the journey through Pirate’s Cove, and she celebrated with me when I realized I had made through Pirate’s cove and Muir Beach and had yet to see a sweeper.

I jogged from Muir Beach to Cardiac, before beginning the slog up the hill.  At this point, two things happened – first, we were joined by a lot of 50k runners, so I wondered if I’d see any of my friends that were running that distance, and second, I had some weird acid-refluxy thing going on.  Apparently the potatoes and Mt. Dew I’d had at Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach hadn’t solved that problem as I had hoped.  Ugh…well….onward and upward, I suppose.

Thanks to Becca, Heather Cutoff passed pretty quickly (and there wasn’t any out and back traffic like last year).  We got to Coastal, and while there were places I had planned on running, I realized it wasn’t going to happen with the acid issues going on.  Oh well….I was still right where I wanted to be pace-wise, so I wasn’t worried.  Just sick of climbing.  Thankfully Becca was still on my heels and chatting with everyone….then, it happened, I recognized a voice.  Yay!  A friendly face at just the right time.

My friend, Liz, had come up behind us.  She was looking great running up the hill, and had I felt better, I would have tried to tag on and run up the hill with her.  She mentioned her boyfriend wasn’t too far behind, so I kept an eye out for him and that took my mind off the horrible feeling for awhile. He passed by shortly after, I mentioned I was worried about being slow, and he told me to just keep moving.  So, that’s what I did….one foot in front of the other, with Becca behind me, we made it up the hill.

I paused at the aid station to try to cure the acid problem along with the nausea that had started to pop up.  One of the volunteers suggested Coke, but I already was working on some Mountain Dew.  Then I heard my name being called, and behind me was my friend and fellow AIDS Marathon Coach, Toby.  So many friendly faces at just the right time.  I told him I was nauseous, and he told me to keep at it, and that it would pass.

And it did, as I made my way up to Matt Davis, I started to feel a lot better.  Becca and I jogged the out and back where we could (lots of jumping out of the way of oncoming traffic), making our way to McKinnon Gulch – the first hard time cutoff….and I was still ahead of the sweepers.  Then…ouch!  Sharp, stabbing, pain in the back of my thigh….if had been an inch higher, it would have been my ass.  Who gets stung by something in their ass?  Me.  Of course.  Guess. I can cross getting stung by a bee off my bucket list.  Great….hopefully this doesn’t cause too much of an issue.  But at least I can concentrate on that pain rather than my hip flexor that had started to ache way too early.  I paused for a moment to pull whatever sharp object had impaled me out of my leg.  Becca asked if my hamstring was ok.  I told it was, but something had stung me.  Could have been her opportunity to chase down our friend from earlier. Somewhere between getting stung and the aid station, I lost Becca.  The people at the aid station there were great.  Handed me a cup of hot broth, a welcome change from the PB&J I had been eating.

As I made my way back, I was surprised that there were people behind me.  I wished them all good luck as I jogged by.  I ran a bit with another guy who had run the race the past two years, but hadn’t been able to finish.  He, like me, was very excited to ahead of the sweepers and on pace to finish with time to spare.  We jogged together for a bit before he took off.  Unfortunately, I came up on him with the sweeper….he’d fallen and split his knee on a rock.  He desperately wanted to continue, but the sweeper seemed to think otherwise.

After that, I made my way down the longest descent ever into Stinson Beach.  It was technical, I was skittish, but I was feeling good.  It felt like hours, but I got down to a flat section and my friend Mark was running up to meet me.  Some volunteers greeted me by what I think was the fire station and sent me along my way to the aid station where Ksenya was waiting to run with me.  She helped me refill my pack and I grabbed a sandwich (it was only peanut butter and hard to eat, so I dumped the rest of that quickly….).

We made our way up Dipsea to Cardiac, a mere 2.3 miles, but 2.3 tough climbing miles.  But, I actually ran some of it.  Big change from Brian dragging me up that hill during my first 50k.  I don’t remember a ton of it, but I’m pretty sure I was crying at some point and then there was a ladder on Steep Ravine.  It wasn’t good.  But yesterday, yesterday was great.  According to Strava, I even had a PR going up that hill.

And, then I got to the second pass at Cardiac and it all fell apart.  The acid-refluxy crap was back, along with some nausea and dizziness.  Going down in to Muir Woods was ok, but climbing out, not so much.  I did ok until I got to Fern Trail?  Lost trail?  I think it was lost.  Wherever I started to climb again….and then there were the stairs at Canopy View.  I passed two ladies with kids in back packs, and all I could think was, please don’t let me puke now…..

Once we got to Panoramic and Sun, it really went down hill.  I was looking forward to not climbing anymore, as the nausea seemed to dissipate if I stopped climbing.  But, since it was my lucky day, that’s when the dizziness took over and the trail started moving.  Good times.  At that point, I realized that running wasn’t going to happen, the last thing I needed was to crash and end up with some sort of lasting injury.  I slowly made my way down the trail, wishing the aid station was a lot closer than it was…..everything just felt fuzzy.  Ksenya told me if I was going to fall over, to make sure I fell towards the mountain rather than off the cliff….thankfully, it didn’t come to that.

Somehow, Ksenya got me down to the aid station at what we thought was mile 35, and found the medic.  They got me in a chair pretty quick and before I knew it I had a bag of chips, a cup of electrolytes, and a cup of water.  I choked down a couple of chips while someone wrapped me in a space blanket and Ksenya loosened the ankle braces on my legs.  Eventually they came all the way off and they ended up in a trash bag with all of the rest of the stuff I discarded…pack, braces…maybe gloves….I don’t know.  The medics took my blood pressure, which was high…and a little scary since I’ve never had high blood pressure….ever.  She continued to keep me talking and put a hot pack on the back of my neck.  I started shivering and ended up with another space blanket to wrap around my legs while we waited for transportation.  I’m pretty sure I was the abominable space blanket woman….one wrapped on my shoulders and another tied around my waist like a towel.

The aid station captain lived near Tennessee Valley and offered to take a couple of us there.  Since she brought me to the aid station where they took care of me, I will forgive the fact that she made a big production out of making people sit on trash bags and made sure I had a barf bag….

I don’t think I realized how much trouble I was in until we got to Tennessee Valley and I was wandering around trying to find my drop bag and then wandering around with it, but didn’t really know why.  Ksenya had mentioned grabbing some food, but I really just wanted to get in the car….never mind we still had to hunt down the key.  Ksenya got the key from Shannon, who I think was the aid station captain at TV.

Shannon took one look at me and in a matter of seconds had me on a bench with a cup of warm broth.  I just wanted to hold it, she seemed more concerned that I drank it though.  She started digging through my bag to find my warm clothes….asked me if I had warm pants….what warm shirts I had, etc.  While asking one of the other volunteers to grab an extra space blanket.  I asked her if I should just suck up the cold and change everything – new t-shirt, new hoodie, etc.  She seemed to like that idea just as the shuttle showed up.  So, she decided we were taking over the bus.  She grabbed two volunteers and we headed on to the bus.  Once we were there, she helped me pull off my wet t-shirts and swap them for the dry clothes I had in my drop bag.  Yay wool hoodie.  Best purchase ever.

Once that was done, she asked me what I wanted to eat.  I told her I wasn’t hungry, but she wasn’t having that.  Just proceeded to tell me the aid station menu; ‘We have oranges, bananas, peanut butter & jelly….’.  At that point, I realized I wasn’t going to get out of eating something, so I went for the PB&J.  She sent one of the volunteers she brought with her to get some PB&J and the other to get some more hot broth.  I ate a couple of PB&J squares while I continued to warm up…..then she sent the volunteers for more broth and M&M’s.  Of course I had to eat a bunch of those too.  At some point Ksenya brought my down jacket in (so glad I left that in my car after the Turkey Trot last week).  Shannon handed me another cup of broth and told me I could leave once I wasn’t blue anymore and asked me if I wanted to sit down.  I think I went through three, maybe four cups of broth and was handed one for the road before she let me off the bus.  I had on a running t-shirt, a wool hoodie, the down jacket I took to Mt. Everest last year, a wool headband, and two hoods.  And the moment I stepped off the bus, I was freezing again.  Luckily, it was a short walk to my car, which Ksenya had already warmed up.

We drove back over to the visitor’s center and somehow convinced them to let us park in the lot there.  I think Ksenya told them we were picking stuff up and I needed to get my bag and I couldn’t walk very far.  Anyway, worked in our favor, and we parked next to the flush toilets and didn’t have to walk too far.  I grabbed my stuff and headed over to the finish to wait for Brian to come in.  And, despite being sick all day, he did finish :).  After that, we crashed in the grass and split a beer.  I was still shivering, despite adding another layer of pants to my wardrobe, so Mark gave me his down jacket to put on top of my own.  And at some point, I had another space blanket added to the mix….I think that might have been Ann – thanks Ann!

In the end, I had actually gotten to mile 37, not 35….and I would have been fine with the time limits, and I did better than last year, but, just not my day.  Luckily, I will be able to finish another 50 miler another day.  Big thanks to Ksenya for running with me and taking care of me at the end; Mark for crewing; Dr. Hal, Dr. Wardwell, and Megan, for putting me back together so I could even get out there; and the amazing aid station volunteers.

Until next year, North Face, until next year….

Grizzly Peak Half

Another weekend, another race with Coastal Trails.  It was early, but I was excited for the race – whether I’m volunteering or running, Coastal always puts on a good race.  My knee still wasn’t where I wanted it to be and life, well, life continues to be assessed one day at a time. Based on that, it was safe to say I wasn’t in the physical or mental shape to complete a 50k.  But, I forced myself to get up and go to the race….I always have fun and I didn’t really care what distance I did, it was all about getting out there.

I managed to get to the start with minimal issues. I’m pretty sure the gps was confused with all of the highway over passes, but I made it.  I parked and checked in with no problem.  I picked up my 50k bib and changed it to the 30k.  While I hadn’t been specifically told not to run, I figured 30+ miles on a knee that was MRI’d last night wasn’t the best decision. It was colder than I had anticipated, so I took my shirt and bib and hunkered down in the car for a bit.  Got my shoes and ankle brace on, and all of my stuff out – gloves, headphones, phone, etc. and packed up my pack.  Didn’t grab any food….that would have been far too easy.
I decided to swing by the bathroom and then come back to my car, grab my stuff, and head out for the run.  I had twenty minutes….should be fine, right.  The line did move quickly, and I was back at my car with about three minutes to spare. However, either my gps clock was off or the race started early….I was maybe thirty seconds from the start and I heard Wendell’s telltale count down ending at ‘1’.  The race had begun!  Luckily, I was close and not too far behind. I also knew with the knee injury, I’d be walking a lot.
I had come out to preview the course twice, but I really didn’t recognize the first few miles.  I think I was still settling in from being late and mentally preparing myself to run. It was a lot of gentile up, if I recall correctly….but, I made it to the golf course before I knew it and was able to grab some electrolyte drink.  Of course I was feeling like my sugar was low on the day I forgot to bring gu.  But, the electrolytes did the trick and I was off….I jogged a lot more than I thought I would, down Selby, to Redwood, to Tower…..how quickly I had learned the names of new trails and gotten used to the rolling hills. I jogged most of redwood and walked up tower pretty easily.  I was in a groove and feeling alright. Knee was a little sore, so I had 95% decided I would stop at the half – probably a good idea to stick to that distance until my knee and life are resolved.
I got to the top of tower and turned down grizzly peak….at some point, I started passing people. I never pass anyone….but it was fun to be with other runners – say hello, or good morning, or nice job.  I was also surprised that I knew where I was going, after only a few trips to these trails. After grizzly peak, it was more rolling hills and a really steep, rocky descent.  There were so many times I was sure I was going to tumble to the bottom, but I made it. I had a guy pass me and say, ‘these stones suck’, why yes they do, my friend. Then there was a guy coming up the hill towards me…all I could think was, please let this man be looking for the quickest way back – don’t tell me I have to climb up this too. No such luck…..the closer I got to the bottom, the more people that were coming up.
Just before I got to the bottom, I had a guy tell me I was at the bottom – thank god….my knee did not enjoy that. I stopped at the aid station to grab some more electrolytes and was off up the hill, and down the hill, and up, and down.  Lots of rolling….it almost felt like I couldn’t settle in and I thought I preferred the somewhat more predictable, longer hills of the headlands, but looking at Strava later, I ran pretty well, so, I’ll take them.
The rollers ended on the fire road I ran with Ksenya and Arielle last weekend, so I felt good about that and was able to run most of it. Walk the uphill, jog down, became my mantra. The views were amazing and it was a nice ride for the most part. Close to the aid station I came up on another runner who had fallen.  A lot of people had stopped to check on her and help her up….trail running is such a community. It seemed like she was more starteled than hurt, and I was happy for her when I saw her blow by the finish line later to start her second lap.
I got back to the aid station and grabbed a hammer gel – yay, they had vanilla!  I didn’t eat all of it, but I definitely felt like I had ingested a bunch of frosting…..perhaps the caffeine in gu mellows that piece out. Haha. Either way, I began making my way up the steep stone hill….I was glad for two thing – one, the other runners I was with and two, the fact that I didn’t have to climb up this again. And I guess three, this was the last big climb in the race.
I got to the top, and from that point, it was pretty much down hill to the finish – maybe four miles or so…..a bit of rolling, but then, I decided if i was doing the half, this course was mine.  From there, I was able to run down most of grizzly peak, other than jumping out of the way of some horses, until I got to the golf course aid station.  Stopped to grab some more electrolytes and off I went. Past the golf course, past the bench I had lunch on last weekend, across a street…..passed a guy, back into the woods. At that point, it had to be about a mile back I and I went for it….one of my fastest trail miles to date….other than that moment where I thought I would bite it. Haha. Only funny because I didnt.  Around the corner, and to the finish.
I got my medal and found someone to change my distance from the 30k to the half, chatted with some of the other finishers, and grabbed a recovery beer while I waited for the sausages that had just started grilling.  While I waited, I met a guy who’d done this as his first half (doozy course for the first time) and was waiting for his wife to finish hers.  It seemed as though he has caught the bug and will do more races in the future.
I enjoyed the sun and got my sausage – it was delicious.  Great time, great race, kudos Coastal Trails, Wendell, and volunteers, for such a great race.
Until next time!

Montara Mountain Race Report

I know I promised a new year’s update, and at some point it’s coming….really.  But, in the interim, a race report from my most recent trail adventure.

Awhile ago, I decided to get back into volunteering at races, something I’d really missed since AIDS Marathon closed and I’d gone back to school.  After helping out at the Steep Ravine race a few weeks ago, I received a coupon for a race entry and decided the Montara Mountain 50k would be a perfect training ground for my 50 miler at the end of March.

What I didn’t count on was life getting in the way, a lagging injury, and a cough I couldn’t shake. My knee had been healing since my 50 miler during the 24 hour race on New Years, and I’d come down with something at the start of February, and to say that life has been crazy lately would be a huge understatement. Based on all of that, I had already decided to scale my planned 100 in March down to a 50, if anything at all. But, I’d already singed up for the race – might as well get myself out there and see what I could do. After all, the physical therapist told me I should try some longer distances.

I arrived at the race about 30 minutes prior to the start, plenty of time to get ready to get out there….much of the reason I love these races so much, so low key and easy. I got my bib and shirt, and then of course realized that I’d left my ankle brace in the car. Of course I did….luckily, it was just a short walk back to grab it and I was good to go. I made a short attempt at hitting the bathroom, but alas, the line was too long. Oh well, I knew I’d be passing through that area in a few short miles.

The race started out with a climb up the North Peak.  Much of the course was new to me, but I had run a piece of this section a few weeks prior to get a feel for it, but had to stop when it started pouring. The first four or so miles were an uphill climb to the peak.  It was tough…even with the headlands, that are anything but flat, being my main training ground.  Not only was it tough from an athletic standpoint, it was a single track with lots of people….traffic jam!  Luckily, everyone was in good spirits and very courteous to one another.

I knew I’d be walking all of the uphill and potentially some of the downhill.  My longest run since the 50 mile had been 11 miles….really, all bets were off. I started the race with one of my coworkers and we walked the uphill to the peak where we picked up our rubber bands to prove we were there. We walked part of it with a couple who told us about a friend of theirs running across the country a marathon at a time – I can’t imagine. We ran most of the way down, which was good for me.  Legs felt pretty good….knees were a little sore with the downhill and the rest of me was feeling it, but nothing out of the question. However, I had realized I’d probably be settling for the half that day.

I came through the finish line/aid station area feeling pretty good….said hello to one of the guys I’d volunteered with who was working the aid station, grabbed some electrolytes and was on my way.

The second hill wasn’t too bad, maybe a mile or so up and a mile or so down.  But, by that point, things were hurting, I was definitely not in the same shape I was at the end of December.  As I began the third climb, I was glad I had decided to tackle only 13.1 that day. It had also gotten warm, so I stopped at some point to pull off the long sleeved shirt and attach it to my pack, careful to rope it in so it didn’t meet the same fate as my shirt last weekend and slip out.

Climbing the third and final hill, I realized I really needed some sugar.  I ate a gu and continued making my way up, up,up….feeling muscles hurting that I’d forgotten I had for the past month or so. By the time I got to the top, I was definitely feeling it and walked most of the way down.  I jogged across a bridge and around a corner, and there it was….the finish!  The volunteer directing runners noticed my bib and tried to direct me to the 50k course.  As sad as it made me, I thanked him and told him I was just going to do the half that day.

I finished the race and enjoyed some time just hanging out at the finish line. It was a nice change to be there for the beginning of the grilling and the good beer rather than roll in at 4….haha. I asked the volunteers about changing my race distance and Wendell took down my bib number and asked about my 24 hour race based on the t-shirt I was wearing.  Asked if I had received my coaster, which I had, along with my third place award…fun package to get in the mail.

Happy with my efforts, I enjoyed a grilled sausage and a beer while chatting with some other runners.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

As usual, Wendell and Coastal Trails put on a wonderful event – looking forward to next time!  Until then, over and out.

New Year’s One Day – Race Report

So, I was writing this in my head as I made multiple laps around Crissy Field – of course, now that I sit down to write it, I can’t really remember what I wanted to say…

Let’s start with the race itself and how I got there.  After the stomach issues at North Face, I needed to find another race to get in 50 miles prior to the Umstead 100 in March.  Googling local races, I found out that coastal trails had a twenty four hour race from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day – laps around Crissy field….not my idea thought on how to spend New Year’s, but it seemed easy enough.

The race was set up like your typical ultra….show up, get your bib and t-shirt, run the race.  This was a little different, since it consisted of one mile laps, there was a kind of camp set-up….start/finish, aid station, and tents….a bunch of the people brought tents for resting/hanging out.  There were others who brought chairs and coolers, and were set up for an all day group event. I set my bags down and made the decision to leave my pack with them, why carry it if I would literally pass by it every lap.

We ran in some serious wind for the first three hours….it wasn’t too bad on the stretch by the street, but the stretch by the bay was brutal.  However, the other runners were nice, sharing stories of races past and advice.  I decided to pick up my shuffle around lap three…I had twelve hours of serial podcasts that would keep me busy….unfortunately, they didn’t download for some reason.  So, I had a two hour loop of music that I hadnt listened to in ages…a close second, I guess.

Sometime around lap three or four, I heard someone calling my name.  I looked up to see my friend, Zena, from bootcamp.  She was there to do a few laps with her friend doing the six hour.  It was great to see her at the start for a couple of laps, and then out on the course at one point.

I easily made my way through the first fifteen or so miles, felt good and made sure to stop and eat every five miles or so.  The course had two paths by the aid station, and the veer right to the aid station was called ‘pit’.  I thought that was cool.  I had a good plan going thanks to some strategically placed cone markers….run parts of the pavement stretch (though, this stopped at mile 15 due to the tough terrain), run the first curve to the first cone marker, walk to the next cone, then run the next two….repeat to the aid station.

I stopped at some point to find out why my toe was hurting…turns out there was no reason for it, but I did find a blister on a different toe to wrap. Hopefully I dont lose a toenail in the near future.  By the time I hit 25, I was ready for some fresh clothes….I had dressed warmly for the morning chill, but was now sweaty and not warming up.

By the time I hit mile 30, I was far more sore than I wanted to be for only being at 30 miles.  I was also bored and getting tired of laps.  It was pretty bleak until about mile 35, where I think the Advil kicked in. However, my friend Joseph came down to say hello and do a couple of laps with me.  It was great to catch up and have some company to pass the time.  He also said something about the messages people had sent via email.  I hadn’t gotten any, so I assumed I didn’t have any yet.  He said that he had sent one…and that people on Facebook had mentioned they were sending them too.  I was surprised no one from the race had mentioned where to find them, but after stopping and asking, I was directed to a filing box holding messages.  And I had a bunch – very thankful for all of the hellos from friends and family.  A friend and some nice messages, great way to get through some tough miles.

Once I hit 35, I started to feel pretty good again.  Still sore, but I was able to take up my running plan again on the trail pieces of the course.  Loved getting the sudden burst of energy….it really made miles 35 to about 42 pretty bearable.  I checked my messages again and had a bunch more…many thanks – those made my run :).  I talked to the guy about the 100 miler I had planned and he asked why I wasn’t doing coastal’s….haha…maybe next year.  It might be fun to volunteer at this year though or get in another 50.  Somewhere in there the aid station had pizza…nothing like walking a mile and munching on a slice of cheese and pepperoni.  haha…

At 42, I was pretty much done…I hit 12 hours right around that point, despite having been shooting to get the full 50 in 12.  Stupid miles 30-35 or whatever they were.  I had been ahead of pace until then, but good learnings for next time.  Hopefully that will still be ok for the 100 miler.  I was also getting cold, despite having on one of my everest wool tops and hood.  It was warm when I was walking, but the clothes underneath not so much after sweating.  I told myself I needed to get to 50 before I stopped again….it would be a great reward in a couple of laps….clean clothes, bathroom stop, aid station break.

A lot of people seemed to disappear at this point…either to tents or cars or where ever to rest.  But, I was going to get my 50.  I ran into a guy dressed in flame print shorts and a shirt, who told me he was facing his feet forward, because one day, they would all be pointing towards the sky….well, that was one way to look at it.  haha.  I did various parts of 47-49 with a guy visiting from Dallas, specifically for the New Year’s race.  He had accepted the fact that he was going to walk the rest of the night, and had changed into hiking boots.  My right knee had been pretty sore since about 45, so hiking boots seemed like they would have been a good call at that point.  I was thankful for the company, as I was also really bored….give me the hills in the headlands any day…..  

I finally got to my last lap, and I had originally planned on changing some, eating some, maybe having some soup, maybe a rest in the car, and coming back out for some more laps.  But, I think on some level, I knew I was done.  I bid farewell to the pavement that was destroying my shins, to the slight hill on the first curve, the deep sand right before the first curve, and the sharp turn to the timing mat.  I stopped to snap a photo of my garmin once it hit 50….on the back straight-away that had been insanely windy during the early part of the race.

I crossed the lap mat post-50 miles and hobbled over to the aid station, desperate for some soup.  Somehow, I managed to hit it just as they ran out and they were making more.  Ugh…how do you run out of soup?  I wanted to stop and get any additional messages that had been sent, but I was so cold and sore and desperate for a few minutes of warmth and dry clothes, so I hobbled over to my stuff, grabbed it, and began a treacherous walk through the grass to my car.  In reality, it was probably 100 feet, but it was grass and not flat, and wow did my knee hurt.  I did notice multiple people sleeping in their cars as I passed by….I apologize for the headlamp I probably flashed directly at them….

Once I got in the car, I realized how cold I was and how sore my knee really was.  I wasnt sure what was worse, trying to stop shaking or having to push the seat in my car back and pull my leg in with hands because my knee wouldnt bend.  Once I got a better look at it, I realized it was swollen, and there was a weird swelling just above my knee on the side of my quad.  Gross….did I break my leg and miss it?  #ultrarunnerproblems.  At that point, I realized two things: one, I really didnt feel good and two, I was done for the night.  I opened the car door to get some air….to think a few minutes ago all I wanted was some heat.  Once I felt a little better, I pulled off my timing chip, put my headlamp back on and hobbled over to camp.  I asked the race director if I should give it to him and he pointed me in the direction of the check-in tent.  He asked if I was done, and I told him I got to the 50 I wanted and my knee was shot, he congratulated me on the 50 and wished me a happy new year.

I hobbled over to the check-in tent where she took my chip and gave me a medal.  It would have been fun to make it to midnight, to share champagne with my fellow 24 hour runners, and to walk through the night with the people I’d me throughout the day.  However, there is something to say for  knowing when it’s time to be done.

After turning everything in, I hobbled back over to the car where I proceeded to wait until I stopped shaking and was able to drive home.  Luckily, traffic was minimal and I got home pretty quickly.  It took me at least ten minutes to gather the strength to get out of my car….of course in that time, I found the slug that hitched a ride to the car on my bag.  Awesome.

Somehow, I got up the stairs to my apartment – perhaps the adrenaline was still flowing.  Once Brian greeted me at the door with some wine and I sat down at the kitchen table, trying to get up was a different story.  Literally hanging on to walls to get to the stairs and then using the railing to climb up the stairs…..I have no idea how I managed to shower and get back downstairs without falling and breaking something.  Super thankful for grubhub and their ability to let me order Sparky’s on my phone and have it delivered to my house.

After a brief New Year’s celebration and my Sparky’s dinner, I was ready to call it a night.  Another race in the books.  50 mile distance achieved.  Kudos to Wendell and Coastal Trails for putting on another great race.  And, what did I learn?  There are a lot of long runs in my future….double days are one thing, but I really need to work on staying stronger longer….pushing that wall out from now mile 30.  And, while this race was an experience, the ultras in the headlands were much more fun….so I see more of those in my future too :).

so, thats it for now….over and out for now.  hopefully a new years/2015 entry coming soon :).