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.  

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

It’s race week – Let the stress…I mean final prep begin…

I think I like taper/pre-race weekends.  So much going on the past week and weekend, but it was all fun.  Not that running isn’t fun, but you know what I mean.  I took my last three Orange Theory classes for two weeks and got in my final pre-race run last week.  I wish I could say it was all sunshine and rainbows, but in reality, it was tight calves and hips and an eight mile run that became a three mile hike.  Thankfully, several friends were there to talk me off the race ledge.

I spent yesterday at Grizzly Peak with Coastal Trails doing everything and anything: a little bit of unloading, a little bit of check-in, a little bit of aid stations…..some driving of a large van (and I didn’t get lost….well, not really ;)).  But it was a beautiful day and I had fun working at a race I had tried to run last year (nothing like registering for a 50k, changing to 30k, and then finishing with the half).  I also saw Marissa for the first time in forever (really since January).  Good news!  She’s still running Lake Sonoma next weekend, so I’ll have some company out there.

Last night, we had our second book club dinner at Garcon in the Mission.  It was delicious!  French food to go along with our French book, All the Light We Cannot See.  And, well, I tried to read this one.  I ordered what I thought was the book on Amazon.  Except it wasn’t….it was janky cliff notes….not even real cliff notes.  Haha…but, they did give me all the main points so I could understand the discussion.  And, like high school, I’m sure if I had to write a paper on it, I could have done reasonably well.  Unfortunately, not like high school, I actually wanted the details (it sounded like a really good book).  I ordered the next book today, so there’s plenty of time for it to get here, be wrong, be corrected, and for me to still read it over the next month and a half.

Today, I’ve done nothing at all….I mean, I guess I did dishes and will probably hang up some clothes, and ran to the store, but other than that – nothing.  Should probably stretch or foam roll or something.

Which brings us to race week.  Goals for this week: stay healthy, stay injury free (the elliptical seems like a safe bet, but I’m sure I could find a way…), and, try not to panic.  I seem to be reminding myself of the third one on a regular basis…I’m either nervously excited, cautiously optimistic, or completely terrified, depending on when you ask me.

Friday, I checked the race weather.  Rain.  Awesome…thankfully, it was a 40% percent chance and I was headed right into the gym so couldn’t stress too much about it (then).  Last night, I checked it again…up to a 70% chance.  Really?  But, as several friends pointed out, the rain seems to be my thing.  Way Too Cool went really well.  Maybe it’s my good luck charm and I’ll finally finish a 50.

This morning, I made my list of race stuff for the grocery store: eight small bottles of Gatorade, two large bottles of Gatorade, eight small cans of Sprite, Benadryl…..a list that would have made my hyper-active, ten year-old self very happy.  I swear, races are just really an excuse to eat and drink everything I never would/should at any other time.

I made lists for each drop bag, the bags I’ll give Brian, and everything else I need to bring.  I started thinking through what needs to be in my pack – benadryl will now be a necessity, thank you, North Face for that lesson.  Of course, that may just make me drowsy and instead of dizzy and hypothermic, I can be sleepy and hypothermic.  Though, the rain should keep the bees away, right?

I’ve also spent time this past week thinking about (read, stressing about) pace.  I should be fine with the cut-offs, but once you run into problems with cut-offs, it’s always in the back of your mind.  But, I have to have some sort of a plan….if anything to let Brian know approximately when to find me where….and so I know when and where the cut-offs are.     But, nothing too crazy, just food for thought for the back of my mind.  I’m pretty sure anything more than that will unnecessarily stress me out this week and missing a self-imposed time during a tough mile in the race will be the last thing I need.  I have ideas and goals, but really just want to finish.

And, I think that’s pretty much the prep for the things I can control.  There’s the weather and the wildlife and my previous injuries and other people, but none of those are things I can do much about.  Other than plan for the worst, hope for the best, and know that I’ve trained for this and am more ready than I’ve ever been.  I’ve trained in the rain, in the heat, through the sick, when I didn’t want to, when I did want to….all with this goal in mind.  T-minus one week and counting….


It’s Raining, it’s Pouring, it’s the Perfect Time to Break in New Running Shoes

So, it’s recovery week.  Sort of.  I had planned to take the first half of the week off from working out and try to relax after the race.  But, by Tuesday I was a little (ok, a lot) stir crazy and decided taking an Orange Theory class a few days early wouldn’t hurt me.  And then I took three this week…yup….that’s my sort of recovery.  Well, my sort of recovery when I have five weeks until a 50-mile race.  I love that the only thing I can remember winning is my lottery of pain…

Anyway, after my three Orange Theory’s (for the record, I made it until halfway through the last one before I REALLY started feeling it and was pretty sure my body was all sorts of revolting), I headed out for my weekly run.  Taking it easy this week, I only planned 10 miles.  I mean, it’s been pouring off and on, but what would a rainy day be without me running in it.  And, what could be a better time to break in some new shoes.

I went and got a long overdue haircut (recovery week = time to do all the things I never have time to do), and headed out to Montara Mountain/San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica. I ran the second loop of the Coastal race I worked last month. I ran the steep, hilly, first part in early Feb, and it’s recovery week, so I opted to skip that piece. 

Despite the rain, it was pretty fun. Nepali flat….a little bit up, a little bit down – in this case, a mile up, mile down…two miles up, two miles down. Aside from some minimal soreness, I felt good. Almost like I could have gone further than the 10k I finished with…but it’s recovery week, and I was done for the day. I had enjoyed my six miles in the rain, and…yeah. Me and the rain. It was real, it was fun, it wasn’t real fun. I mean, like last weekend, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I didn’t really notice, but I’m good with running in the rain now.  I did have a chuckle at the hiker that stopped me to ask where the clearing/shelter was….dude, you’re on the side of a mountain in the windy rain, what did you expect?

I spent the rest of the weekend doing fun things…Brian and I went to Wicked on Saturday night (so good!). And had a mimosa infused brunch on Sunday while we watched it rain. 

But, like all good things, recovery week must come to an end.  Now that it’s officially over, it’s time to set my sights high…on the beast that is Lake Sonoma.  

Current plan:

  • Hit it hard the next two weeks (60-70) miles, back off slightly for a week, and then all out taper for a week before the race.
  • Maintain my current training plan of shorter runs on back to back days, since that seems to be working well for me.  But, increase the distance of the runs.  Something like 25/15 miles rather than 15/10.
  • Continue kicking my butt in Orange Theory classes.  But, increase from two or three each week to three or four.

Hopefully, that gets me to a place I can finish the race.  All other things aside, that’s what I’m looking for.  And, while Way Too Cool was a (huge) vote of confidence, truthfully, I’m terrified.  I don’t have the best track record with the 50 mile distance…or, really any track record at all.  There was the first time….all sorts of sick.  There was the second time…yup, knee the size of a watermelon (but I did get my 50 miles).  There was the third time…hypothermic with the medic at mile 37.

Could this be the first time I’m trained like I should be, and finish the distance?  I hope so.  I feel like I’ve put in so much more than I have in the past.  Almost to the point that I’m not really sure what I was thinking even starting the previous races.  This time…this time I want to finish.  And not be hypothermic with the medic….or hypothermic or in need of a medic (cause, let’s be honest…if you’re hypothermic, you probably need a medic…and with as much as I like breaking myself, there are dozens of other reasons I could be in need of a medic) but, I digress.  First, finishing.  And, if I’m really thinking crazy, maybe I can maintain my 4mph goal pace and finish while it’s still light outside.

Onward and upward….recovery is over….Orange Theory bright and early tomorrow. 



Hanging Out Like Normal People

Since I am in taper mode, I had what I would consider a normal weekend.  Saw friends…hung out with my husband…did nothing involving a three or four hour workout.  It was a nice change.  After sleeping in on Saturday morning, I spent the afternoon hiking with my friend, Meg.  Well, after I found her…who knew there were three or four entrances to Windy Hill?  And two roads in close proximity to each other with the same name.  Once we found each other, we had a great time exploring some new trails on a beautiful day.

Saturday night, I went to dinner with Meg and some other friends.  She started a book club, which is great – I love to read and don’t do it nearly enough anymore.  However, time got away from me and I haven’t even gotten the book we were supposed to read, much less read any of it.  As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who had gotten behind due to life, and we decided to meet for dinner anyway.

Since the book was about Peru, we decided to have dinner at a Peruvian restaurant down on the Embarcadero, La Mar.  Dinner was delicious, I has some sort of steak dish with fries and other stuff.  I also had several bites of Meg’s food, since that’s what was put in front of me first.  Oops.  What happens when you don’t really understand the food you’re ordering.  Luckily, they brought her a brand new food and all was well.  We enjoyed the food and wine, and chose our next book.  Really looking forward to getting back into reading, especially with friends.

Then it was on to my Uber adventure home.  I’m the first to admit I have a horrible sense of direction, but this guy…this guy was in a league of his own.  As he’s picking me up, another couple hops out of the car…the lady says to me, ‘he picked up the wrong people….’.  That should have been my first clue, as we then proceeded to drive all over the city before we got to the Tavern in Noe Valley.  After my tour of San Francisco – Pac Heights, North Beach, USF, the Castro….and finally to the Tavern where I had planned to meet Brian a half hour earlier.  But, I got there, we got to watch the amazing end of the Warrior’s game, and have a few drinks….all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

And, today, rather than go exercise for four hours, we hung out like normal people.  Haha. We tried a new (to me) place for brunch on the edge of Noe Valley.  Delicious French Toast and mimosas and breakfast potatoes.  Then we went shoe shopping….yay for new running shoes.  Even though I had to order them since they didn’t have my size, but they’re on their way and should be here by the end of the week.  Then we went to get food for the snake….so close to being normal….haha.

And, now on to the countdowns….

Days ’til Way Too Cool – 6

Number of Orange Theory Classes before Way Too Cool – 1

Number of Days at 24-Hour Fitness before Way Too Cool – 2

Weeks ’til Lake Sonoma – 6

Where has the time gone?  On one hand, it feels like this has been the longest month ever…it was still less than one month ago that we bought the new dinning room table.  But, I really can’t believe it’s going to be March next week.  And, with March comes Way Too Cool….a race I’m way more nervous for than I should be….

I’m worried about getting there since I can’t plan to leave work early to miss traffic….hopefully all of the reports that day come in early.  But, regardless, if I end up leaving late, I can pick up dinner from Amici’s and eat before I leave, and just worry about getting to Auburn, rather than finding food along the way or once I get there.  Or, hold out hope that I can leave early enough to pick-up my bib before pick-up closes Friday night and get an extra half hour of sleep the next morning.

I’m worried about the race itself since I didn’t finish any of the races I started in 2015.  Looking at the course and my previous times, I should be fine…but, I’ll feel much better after I actually run it.  And, at this time next week, it will be over.

I keep telling myself it will all work out in the end.  I’ll have an amazing race – feel great, have fun, and get a frog cupcake at the end.  Then sleep ’til noon the next day.  Rest for a week and start gearing up for my next adventure…..

Because, after all of that…there’s still the beast that is Lake Sonoma….


What a Wednesday

“Don’t worry about the future, Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum.  The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday,” Baz Luhrmann

The day began like any other Wednesday, or similar to it.  I was taking my quarterly half day to get another long run in before Way Too Cool, so I had a bunch of extra stuff with me….and one side of my throat had started to hurt, so I made some tea for my drive to try to help it.  But, other than that, pretty ordinary.

Traffic was traffic….maybe not as bad as usual, maybe just as bad.  I don’t really remember.  Typical backed up places, typical nightmare 280/380 interchange, but since I do it everyday, I’ve learned to handle it.  Then came the interchange on to 101….

At first glance, it looked like things were moving, which isn’t always the case.  Great, we like that.  As I drove down the on ramp, I noticed something that looked like a cloud of dust or smoke or something.  However, as I saw other cars swerving to get out of the way and about ten of them pull over, I realized it wasn’t smoke or dust or anything other than an SUV rolling across the freeway.

It came to rest in the median between my on ramp and 101 just before I passed by.  It seemed like for a moment, maybe more, everything just stopped.  The cars on the on ramp came to a standstill, people poured out of the cars that had pulled over, running to help.  A great showing of human kindness amidst the chaos.  I remember thinking I should call 911 and digging out my phone, but just as quickly tossing it away when the line was busy.  There were several people on phones on the median – I would assume doing the same thing I was.

Before the traffic on the on ramp began to move again, I watched a woman climb out of the SUV.  Her look of terror, relief, and confusion, is not one I will soon forget.  Hopefully she escaped with minor injuries and was the only one in the car.

As I proceeded down the road, I saw the emergency vehicles coming from the opposite direction.  And, then life moved on.  Cars kept moving…..cars merged on to the freeway from further south none the wiser to what occurred only a few miles behind them.  Me, it just got me thinking.

Who knows where anyone involved was heading this morning…..work, school, picking someone up at the airport.  But, I can pretty much guess that this wasn’t anything that they planned on.  Then life changed…..in the blink of an eye.  Scary.

For only a short while ago, I was headed out of work early for a holiday weekend.  I stopped for gas and was heading to join the gym.  And a truck tried to drive straight through the back of my car.  Thankfully, this was a far lower speed (compared to the freeway….I still maintain the guy never slowed down), but nothing I was expecting.  I was excited for the long weekend – a race on Saturday, something fun on Sunday and Monday, maybe a couple of runs in there somewhere.  And in the blink of an eye….I’m dealing with insurance and driving a rental car for six weeks.

“I really regret that run,” said no one….ever. 

After spending half the day at work, I continued with my plan to get out on the trails.  I was hoping for 16-20 miles, and I know a great 18 mile course at Horseshoe Lake (conveniently located near the office), so the clock hit 12, and I was off.  I should have known it wasn’t going to be my day when I got parked and tried to set up my watch.  Of course it’s locked…..and of course, no matter what I press, I can’t get it to unlock.  Not annoying at all.  Luckily, I had my phone and my Strava app, so I could still track my run.

Things started off just fine, I planned to run the half marathon and five mile portions of the Horseshoe Lake race course, both of which I had done before and I had a map, so I knew where I was going.  Kind of.  Sort of.  Basically follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  Some climbing, some rolling, good training.  But, for some reason….not sure if it was my morning or because it was the middle of my work day or because my watch didn’t work or because I was already sore and tired, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I ran along the half marathon course, quickly finding my way through the Christmas Tree Farm and on to the trail, up to the point where Ksenya and I turned around a mont ago (back when I started to get sick….who knew I’d still have remnants of it a month later).  I paused there to admire the beauty of it all….the trail, the sunshine, the fact that I’m able to get out there.


Shortly after that, I hit my stride…at least for a little while.  Music was good.  Trail was run-able.  I was in it.  Until this happened….


Now, it says the trail is open for hikers….if that’s the case, why are both the gates locked? It’s bright and sunny…it can’t be that muddy.  And, I’m little, I could always fit through the gate, right?  After some brief contemplation, I decided that fence jumping onto a closed trail was probably a bad idea and there were just as many trails back towards the car, so why not head that way.

I was able to run most of the way back to the car.  Hopefully that means I’m getting stronger and Orange Theory and the back to back shorter days are paying off.  Once I got back to the car, I headed up the five mile route, but at this point, I really wasn’t feeling it. Again, maybe it just wasn’t my day.

But, not to be outdone by the beauty of the first lap, the second lap was just as nice and included some friends.


These two came flying down the trail and off to my left quick enough to scare me a bit.  They get close here too!  I feel like the deer in NY would run away if you so much as walked by the window, but here they come right up and walk on by.

I turned around shortly after seeing the deer and headed back down to the car.  I ended up with eight miles…not the greatest, but eight miles more than I would have gotten had I not hit the trails.  The shorter day today combined with the sick I’ve been fighting forever, has me a little worried for Way Too Cool.  And, really more than that, Lake Sonoma.  I can probably pull 30 miles out of somewhere….I did in late October/early November, but 50, as I’ve learned is a whole different ball game.  But, Way Too Cool first…let’s focus on that.  I’ve still got this weekend before I need to taper and the back to back training day thing is new for me.  Hopefully it gets me there.

So, after giving myself a pep talk during the car ride home and a nap once I got there, I leave Wednesday with two thoughts.  One, a day in the sunshine on the trails, no matter how tough, beats the office any day.  Two, I need to stop stressing about this race.  Life is too short, 2016 is a new year, and it’s supposed to be fun.  And I’m a stronger runner than I’ve ever been….I’ll get through it.

Until next time….

Who Knew Getting Lost Could be So Much Fun…

Since I’ve spent most of January sick (maybe that’s why it feels like it’s been such a long month…), I’m a little behind on long runs, so I knew the 30 miler I had previously planned for today was not going to happen.  So, I decided I would head to Lake Sonoma and see what happened.  I was more comfortable doing a shorter run if I’d get to see more of the race course.  And, I’d already planned a run for Sunday as well, which was a good way to make up the distance and get a double day in.  Anyway, on to the adventure that was Lake Sonoma.

I made a plan over a hot toddy last night.  I’d park at Lone Rock, just beyond No Name Flat where I parked for my last adventure.  From there, I could access a portion of the course I had yet to see, run a few miles out, then back to the car, and then head out towards No Name.  I’d seen those trails before, but there’s only so far I’m willing to limp back to the car if I break myself.  Not that its happened before or anything….

Before stopping at Lone Rock, I drove the extra few miles to Liberty Glen to see if there was any day use parking – it’s another good place to access the course, but all I had read about was camping parking.  Good news!  There was day use parking.  But, I already had a plan, so I headed back to Lone Rock.

I got ready, paid the parking fee, grabbed a map and headed across the road to the trail.  After that, it took approximately three miles for my plan to fall apart.  I found the first trail I was looking for, Outcrop, pretty quickly.  And then what I thought was Madrone.  So, down I went.  The whole time thinking, it’s really going to suck to come back up this.

And, then it ended.  Just got down by the lake and stopped.  There was a short, steep, downhill that I thought might lead to a trail….nope just goes right into the lake. So…now what.  I decided to make my way back up the trail and see what I could find.  If all else failed, I just needed a trail to run on.  Rolling hills look like rolling hills, and at the end of the day, I just needed to get a run in.  Oh, what’s this…Cove Trail.  Not on the map.  Oh well.  That works.

So, off I went….and really, so much fun.  Since I didn’t really know where I was, I focused more on time (run out on a trail for a half hour, run back), rather than how many miles I had run or how fast I was going.  So, I splashed through creeks and slogged through mud without too much of a care in the world (I mean, it is still hog hunting season)…and I actually felt really good (Orange Theory is going to be worth every penny if it’s already making me feel great after two weeks), when I wasn’t hacking up my lungs.  That part wasn’t too much fun.

After about four miles, I decided to turn around and see what else I could find.  Didn’t want to get too much further from the car.  I got back to the service road and hiked back up to Outcrop where I had come down.  At this point, my lungs were pretty sore (stupid sick), so I briefly thought about heading back then, but curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see what happened if I continued to head up the fire road.

That led to Liberty Glen, which I knew was part of the race course.  That took me to Serpentine, which according to the map, would take me to Rancheria.  I enjoyed the trip down a rocky descent and arrived at a junction…..Rancheria….’hey there trail…I’ve been looking for you all day’.  I pulled out my map again to see which way I should go, and that was when I flipped it over.  And realized there was a detailed layout of the Rockpile Road trails on the back….I’m an idiot.  haha….oops.

I made a right and planned to follow Rancheria out until about 2:30.  That would give me a half hour to get back to the fire road and I’d be on my way back to the car by 3.  I ran more than I thought I would….it reminded me a lot of Matt Davis and my run out to McKennan….until I came across a recently downed tree.  Apparently that was my cue to turn around.  Since one side was a cliff down to the lake and the other side was a hill up, there wasn’t a safe way to get around it.

So I turned and headed back toward the Wulflow shortcut….once I got there, I decided I’d try to take the long way back up.  Since I now had the map and all.  And the more of the course I saw, the better.  After about a half of a mile, I thought better of it and turned to head back the way I came.  I didn’t know how far it was that way, I didn’t have a good track record with not getting lost, and my lungs were just about done.  So, up I went.  It was actually a lot further than I remembered, and at some point I realized I didn’t really know exactly how to get back to the car.  I mean, there was always the road, so I wasn’t completely lost.

And that’s where the adventure began.  At one point, I thought I was at the fire road that brought me down to the trails (conveniently named fire road….as was the other one), so up I went….of course it wasn’t the right road and I just ended up in someone’s campsite.  So, back down I went.  Lots of time with the map…..of course not all the trails are on the map, so lots of potential for some brief wrong turns.  Finally, I got back to where there were some markings and an exit to the road….and other runners.  Of course, rather than ask them if they knew where Lone Rock was, I just picked a direction and started jogging down the road.  After spending the last two miles trying to get off the trails, I was all set with guessing games for now.

So, down the hill I went.  Past a closed parking lot/event site…I think I remember passing that on the way in….around several more corners, I kept thinking I would see the lot, to no avail.  Until…..there was…..

No Name Flat.

Really?!  Seriously?!  I had only run about a mile in the wrong direction.  Ugh.  Poor lungs.  Across the road and back I went….a couple of cars went by…for a fleeting moment, I thought about flagging someone down for a ride.  Let’s not pretend it would be the first time.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too terribly long to get back to where I was and then literally around the corner was Lone Rock.  Steps from where I’d come off the trail.  Awesome.  Only me.  Despite being desperate to be back at the car, I looked down to see that I was at 13.8 miles.  Can’t have that, so I took a couple of laps around the parking lot to make 14.  And of course as I was doing so, I thought about what a great day I’d had on the trails.  How much fun it was being caked in mud.  And how I couldn’t wait for next time.  All of this now that I was back in sight of the car of course.

The best part, once I got home and looked at Strava, I was actually on the race course, if not all day, close to it.  So that’s good.  The giant hill I ran down – definitely Madrone.  The Cove trail….it’s actually Rancheria.  Apparently Strava decided to call it something else.  Or the course map did….or something.  Oh well….was a fun adventure and I’m glad I saw a lot of the course.

I also came home to an email from the race director – there’s the potential for a training run that will let me see all of the course.  Hopefully it works out…..not too close to Way Too Cool, not too early since it’s two hours away, etc., etc.  He’s also planted some water on the course for people training and let us know what local water is potable.  It also looks like one of the creeks is 18 inches deep….good times.  Sounds like I’ll be running in shorts.  I never wear shorts.  Hopefully it’s warm.

Now, I’m hungry….where is my pizza.  And that hot toddy I’ve been thinking about since about mile six.

Next up – three hill repeats on fox trail tomorrow…because I hate myself or I need to get ready for goat hill.  Or maybe both.  And, barring any madness, I should hit 100+ miles for January.  Not bad for the sick girl ;).

Lake Sonoma Adventures

Since I am the proud winner of not one, but two spring race lotteries, referenced before as the lottery of pain, I decided I needed to get my act together. Mainly for Lake Sonoma, the 50 miler, but 30 miles on uncharted terrain is no joke either.

Let me back up…why was I even in two race lotteries to begin with?  Well, back when I thought I’d conquer North Face and I realized I didn’t really want to swim a half ironman distance again (let alone a full), and realized how much I loved the trails, I entered the lottery for Lake Sonoma. It’s worth noting that I thought I had to be in before North Face.  Post North Face debacle, I thought that maybe I’d need some time before another 50, and that I’d enter the lottery for the Way Too Cool 50k and pull out of Lake Sonoma.  Great idea in thought, not so much in practice. Turns out, entering Cool was no problem….however, there wasn’t a way to get out of Lake Sonoma. It won’t be a problem, I thought….I never win anything, I thought….

Cue the Monday I have the flu and try to work anyway.  After a scary drive home from Redwood City, the realization that I can’t keep anything down, and an overwhelming desire to sleep forever, I check my email.  Two Ultra Sign-Up confirmations book-ending an email from the Lake Sonoma Race Director…..I had won the lottery….two lotteries, to be exact. Yup….time to get it together.

Since the 50 mile scares me way more, I decided to focus on that. Thought process being, I have to run a couple 30+ days to train for that anyway….might as well use Cool as a training ground. And people seem to really like that race….and it’s on part of the Western States course….and I saw something about frog cupcakes. I’m slow, but I better get a cupcake….haha.

Anyway, I digress. I emailed with a friend who has run Sonoma three times and planning for a fourth.    She gave me the lowdown on the course….rolling hills for approximately twenty miles, headlands
like hills for ten, back on the rollers for another twenty. Throw in some (12) creek crossings and some really good swag at the end, and you have the most fun 50 miles ever.  Well…I just had to check it out for myself.

I took a trip up to Lake Sonoma right before Christmas….I mean, I had to pick up wine anyway, why not?  I think I only missed one turn on my way to the park, and really, I was already in the park.  Pretty good for me. Haha. As I pulled in, I passed several signs about drowning and not being next…thankfully (I think), there’s only been one. There were also several signs about paying at the marina….ok, sure. If I’m going to pay for something, it might as well be a park or a trail, etc. I drove down into the marina to pay, but no one was around…very Deliverance or something.  I guess that’s what happens in the off season. I wandered for a bit…looking for a map or a person or something. Didn’t really seem like there were trails or anything near there. Luckily someone (marina worker, maybe) found me and was able to provide some directions and give me change for the parking fee.

I headed up to what I thought was the parking lot for the trail, but turned out to be a field of soft mud and gravel. Well, it’s supposed to be rugged, so I thought I was in a parking lot. Turns out the lot was the next turn off the main road, but, no one cared. Haha. I put on my awesome ankle braces, loaded up my pack, and headed towards a trail. There was only one, so I assumed it was the race course my thoughts were semi-confirmed by a few stray course markers I found (strava would later confirm that I was correct….and don’t get me started on races that can’t seem to clean up after themselves).

The trail was….excellent. I quickly understood why people like this race and why it’s fast and rugged. The trail was overall runable.  Very rolling….nothing like the walk up, jog down I was used to in the headlands. Sad, because I’ve become a great hiker, but good, because maybe I can learn to run more. At some points, it almost felt like an obstacle course….lots (ok, two, maybe three) downed trees to climb over.  And then there was the man with the crossbow. Really??  Where am I and what did I sign up for?

Unfortunately, I was tired. My body had been through a lot in early December – North Face debacle, the flu, life….and my thoughts of 15 miles quickly became 13 and then 10 before ending at 9.  But, I’d gotten a good preview of what 4/5 or so of the course would be like. And had an adventure. Tough to beat that.

Shortly after the holidays, I decided to head back out to Lake Sonoma. I didn’t feel the greatest and couldn’t decide if it was tired or sick. But, I figured, might as well go explore something new if I’m going to be slow anyway. After a quick stop at SF Run Company (fewer things burn a hole in your pocket faster than a gift card from there…), I was on my way.

Once I arrived, I headed back towards the marina, where I thought I was supposed to pay. Not before passing a sign about boar hunting until March 23rd and sharing the trails. Now, are the hunters supposed to share with me or me with them?  At least that explains the crossbow from my last adventure.  I become thankful that I just bought a bright orange running shirt with my gift card. At least I wont be mistaken for a boar. I drive down to the marina to pay and unfortunately no one is there….oh well. I remember where the envelopes are. But, before I can get out of the car, a giant truck pulls in right next to me….almost close enough that I can’t get the door open. And they have a confederate flag license plate. Awesome….sometimes I make great friends…..

I jump out and quickly pay the fee. I wasn’t planning on staying, so hopefully my new friends have plans that involve the marina. Just as quickly as I paid the fee and dropped the envelope, I got back in the car and was off to my destination – the turn around point for the race. Of course the scary truck decided they needed to leave then too….followed me halfway up before stopping and I never saw them again. Maybe they decided to stay at the marina….maybe they decided they should pay to use the park. Who knows. I was just glad they were gone.

After crossing a bridge, I found my destination pretty fast – no name flat parking area. After my previous run in, I was pleased to see several cars in the parking lot. I got ready (que awesome ankle braces) and was on my way. I didn’t have a ton of water, but it was chilly and only ten miles….ugh….bad idea. Someday, I will learn.

The first piece of trail was similar to my earlier adventure.  Rolling hills and pretty runable. I did a loop and a half or so, then realized I was doing the same thing twice. Strava later confirmed that I’d also gone in the wrong direction on the loop – how else would I get a course record ;). Oops…at least I found it. There are no names on the map and the trail markings leave much to be desired. Part of why I love it, but not conducive to easily figuring things out. Haha.

Once on the fire road out and back (appropriately titled fire road on strava), I definitely found the hills. I turned just before the Madrone fire road, but I think I saw the worst of them. Good news, with some training, they didn’t seem that bad. Bad news, I understand why Marissa suggested Fox trail repeats as part of training.

I started my journey back, and in no time rolled my left ankle. Ouch…I was walking. Grrrr….hiss.  Luckily, I was able to walk it out, but it still hurts now and it’s a little puffy. Hopefully I can get some healing or strengthening suggestions from the doctor next week. It seemed like forever – running when I didn’t feel too hot was not one of my better ideas, but eventually I saw the car from afar. Not before another runner passed by and wished me a happy new year and some hiker failed at peeing in the woods. Really….we were maybe 200 yards from the parking lot. With a porta poty. Try that. Or learn to actually hide….

Oh what an adventure I’ve gotten myself into. Until next time…over and out….

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….

30 Miles + a Coyote = Typical Saturday

Good news!  Despite the injuries and being sick all week, I can still bang out 30 miles.  Bad news…I have to find 20 more in six weeks.  Yikes!!  North Face.

I had somewhat planned out my day….park in Tennessee Valley and do a loop towards Rodeo Valley and then a loop in Pirates Cove and some junk miles in TV before, during, and after.  And of course, hit my car as an aid station each time I passed.  I will say, Slimer makes a great aid station.

I started with a loop out and back to the beach, pretty uneventful, but probably should have put on the ankle braces.  Oh well…gotta get stronger somehow.  I returned to my aid station to restock before heading up Marincello.  And to the lady who felt the need to stalk me for my parking spot.  First, I gave zero indication I was leaving….Second, you can always ask….and Third, try the one in front of me..or behind me…or on the other side of the road.  There’s plenty, I promise.  But, I do hope you enjoyed watching me get ready to run.    
Anyway….so I headed up Marincello, took that over to SCA, past the steps I tripped down, down Coastal, and out to Bunker Dr.  I really like Coastal….nice, gentle, down hill, very little to trip on.  Then I spent about a mile trying to get on Rodeo….due to trail construction, all the entrances had changed.  I never found the right way to get on the trail, but I did find the trail blazed by all of those before me who must have gotten annoyed trying to figure out the routing.  One jump around a fence and I was on my way.  Going up Rodeo was tougher than I remember, but not too bad.  I was well within the pace I’d like to main for the race, even though today was all about getting the miles in.  
Once I got to the top of Rodeo, I decided to explore a bit….kind of tough now since I know the headlands pretty well.  But, regardless, I decided to take Oakwood…or maybe it was Oak Valley, back down to TV.  I didn’t think I had been on that trail before, but quickly learned that I had.  Except, I had climbed up it, rather than run down.  The first part of it wasn’t too bad – nice, easy jog down.  Similar to running down Coastal.  Then I got to the rocks and the steep and the gravel.  Good times….well….not really.  I went down once and then gave up and crab walked down the next part.  I’m done taking chances.  
Got down, got back to slimer…..mile 16.  More than halfway.  Re-stocked, refueled, swapped the sweaty tank for a dry t-shirt, and I was off to Pirates Cove.  
Now, Pirates Cove was more treacherous than I remember it.  Maybe it never recovered from North Face last year, maybe I’m just afraid of falling.  I’m pretty sure I was crawling through parts where Kenya and I used to jog last year….somehow, I will have to find a way to get over this trail fear.  As I made my way down to the scary stairs, I did have to stop and pause, and admire the beauty of where I was running.  I was also really looking forward to getting on the far less steep single track you can see in the distance.  
I followed the single track past the bridge I crashed out on during this run, and noticed the edge where my foot slipped had been patched.  The single track leads up a bit and then out to a fire road and down into Muir Beach.  The descent into Muir Beach wasn’t as bad as I remember (now if I could just get over my fear of every other descent….), though I did have to navigate around a group of four and a dog that managed to somehow take up the entire fire road.  Really, people?!
I got down into Muir Beach and could smell people grilling….mmmm….grilling.  At mile 22ish, I was really wishing I was coming up on the BBQ and beer that was at the finish line last weekend.  But, no such luck.  I stopped at the picnic table to grab a snack – afraid for a minute all I had to eat was the Margherita Pizza Cliff/food/whatever it is, but found a cookie and some GU I didn’t realize I had.  The Margherita Pizza thing will live to save me another day…..
After a brief snack break, I headed up Middle Green Gulch – North Face goes all the way up Coyote Ridge, which is steeper, but Middle Green Gulch is longer, and I was really looking for the miles.  Going up that was….a challenge.  I was tired, but I guess I’m supposed to be at mile 24, 25, etc.  It was long, but looking back on it, not that long and soon I was at Coyote Ridge.  Just had to clear the top part of that, and I’d be in for a nice descent into Tennessee Valley.  
The last push up Coyote Ridge wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, so I guess that’s a good thing.  The descent is another story.  The first part was fine, easy fire roads….but Miwok cut-off, that I used to love, terrified me for some reason.  Again, I used to run down most of this….why am I so afraid??  I’ve really only taken two noteworthy falls, despite running out there how many times?
On the up side, the sun was starting to set, making for some really nice colors in the sky.  On the downside, I turned off my watch and forgot to turn it back on.  Ooops.  Definitely ran more than 30 miles….

I briefly contemplated stopping at my car after getting back down from Coyote Ridge, but decided against it.  I had just about four miles to go…silly to stop now.  And I knew I didn’t really need to take off my super cool ankle braces.  So, I continued down Rhubarb Trail and back for an additional mile and then headed on a three mile out and back to the beach.  I was surprised at how much I was able to run.  It was flat, but still….

And, just when I thought I’d been on the most uninteresting, uneventful run, I met mile 28.5.  I was on my way back to my car from a three mile out and back to the beach.  Really junk miles, but at that point, who’s counting.  Anyway, I decided I should jog a bit, because, well, I felt like I could, so why not?  So, I’m jogging along, excited I’m only a mile and a half from the car and what do I see down the trail…Mr. Coyote.  He’s hard to see in the photo, but if you look down the trail on the left, he’s there.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the phone to magnify and take the photo before he started RUNNING AT ME.  Yes, your typically skittish coyote decided to run at me, rather than in the bushes.  I was caught somewhere between….’I am at mile 28.5 of a 30 mile run and you are between me and the finish line’ and ‘holy crap, what do I do if he gets to me.  I don’t have it in me to fight a coyote at mile 28.5’.  Luckily, after charging a few feet down the trail, he jumped off into the surrounding brush.  

 After my coyote sighting, the rest of my run was uneventful.  I passed by a man I had passed on my way out, and he said, ‘you did it’….I looked at him and said, ’30 miles…damn right, I did’.  I’m sure he thought I had just run out to the beach and back (4 miles) or something.  The look on his face was priceless.  He was like, really??  You ran 30 miles today?  Yup…yup, I did.

Now to find those other 20……