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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles 1-8

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

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

Miles 8 – 13.1

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

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

Miles 13.1 – 21

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

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

Miles 21 – 26

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

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

Miles 26 – Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

You can take the girl out of retail…but Apparently, you can’t take retail out of the girl…

When did it become July?  Really, when did it become the middle of July?  And what happened to June…as I look back, the last time I blogged was May.  I guess life happened….and for awhile, it felt like there was nothing going on that was blog-worthy, when it turns out, I guess everything was going on.

And…where to begin.  I guess with the big news…after more than a year away, I’m finally back in retail.  Last week was amazing – it was great to be back in an industry that I’m passionate about and at a great company.  Everyone I met LOVES working there.  It was just refreshing….and I’m so excited to be part of the team and to see what the future brings.

As excited as I was to get back into retail…and as much as I needed a change, leaving Redwood City was difficult…more so than I thought it might be.  I learned and grew so much there, as a leader and as a person.  I’d made some good friends, and while I know I’ll still talk to them, leaving wasn’t easy.  But, I knew it was the right decision for me and what I want to do in the future, both personally and professionally.  At the end of the day, an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ conversation is far more difficult than, ‘it’s not me, it’s you’.

Moving on from Redwood Shores also meant saying goodbye to the gym and the friends that I’d met there.  Really, the place and people that kept me sane for six months.  From the first day I walked in, to cheering me on for two races, to the day I left,  they were never anything but warm and friendly….and I could always count on a good workout.  Even if I was injured and taking it easy (read: not running), I still left looking like I’d just finished a Bikram class.  The day I left, they put my name on their member spotlight board and my photo on their instagram, wishing me luck in San Francisco.  The good news – I’m not that far away and can go back and visit.  The better news – there’s an Orange Theory in the city that’s only ten minutes from my new office.  Not as convenient as right downstairs, but it will work.  I’ve gotten so much stronger…(over 300 watts on the rower last week, what?!), I’m excited to see how far I can go.

And, then there’s my hip.  Since I’m working in the city again, and the doctors in San Carlos seemed to be at a loss after the ART got me to 80%….(other than the one that seemed to think it was torn cartilage without ever doing an exam), I decided to go back and see the doctor that fixed my knee.  He took a look last week and then injected it this week. It was similar to the first two knee injections I had last year, but the good news is that he thinks one set of injections and some PT should clear things up.  As much fun as six injections on a Friday afternoon were….and sitting around all weekend.  As much as I needed the rest, I’m really not good at doing nothing.

The bad news….I think I have to call it on the 50K I had planned for the end of August.  Everything should be healed by then, but I definitely won’t be ready.  And, rather than push it, have a miserable time, and risk another injury, I suppose I’ll just shift my focus to North Face and my 2017 races…whatever they end up being.  That race will come around again next August….

So, here’s to new beginnings and healing quickly, here’s to a great end of summer, and to an even better end to 2016 than the fabulous beginning.

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.

At Least I Won’t Get Sunburned…and Other Positive Thoughts Amongst Pre-Race Jitters

Well, at least I won’t get sunburned.  I like to play in the mud.  And I’ve had earlier race start times.  And I’ve dealt with rain.  And survived Dipsea in the rain and the dark.  I can handle this….at least that’s what I keep telling myself, as I seem to have gotten the pre-race jitters pretty early with this one.

I mean, I didn’t finish any of the races I started in 2015.  And there was that bout with near-hypothermia.  And the busted knee.  And the busted ankles.  So, I get where the jitters are coming from.

And, they seem to increase every time I check the weather.  Not looking at it seems like it would be the obvious choice, but I do actually need to be prepared for whatever is heading my way. Last I checked, it’s looking like a temperature between 40 and 60 degrees.  Not too bad.  Oh wait…there’s also that inch of rain.  And the 20-30 mph winds in the afternoon.  It sounds like the rain-pocolypse I volunteered in at last year’s Golden Gate race.  Except there I could wear Gore-Tex…and water-proof hiking boots.  Here I can wear….running clothes.  And whatever rain gear Brian brings home from Sports Basement tonight.  All joking aside, hopefully I can find something that will at least keep me warm.  After the North Face debacle, I am concerned about hypothermia.

All of that being said, I’m still holding out some hope that this will be fun.  Because, while there’s been (and it looks like will continue to be) a lot of crazy, there’s been a lot of work too.  There’s been Orange Theory, faster training runs, more miles each week, and several rainy sweeps.  I mean, after Steep Ravine and Crystal Springs, I should be an old pro at getting soaked in the rain and mud.  And race induced hypothermia…that’s gotta be like lightening.  It won’t strike twice.  Who knows, maybe the rain will make me run faster.  I’ve got this.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

I had a final tune up with the chiropractor and PT yesterday.  Good news, I’ve graduated PT.  Yay!  And my back is all nice and lose and ready.  And, Dr. Hal had some good advice around the race and what I could and could not control.  Not much I can do about the time I leave work, the traffic, or the rain.  Just how I handle it.  He’s also run the race before, so he gave me the lowdown on the course….very similar to what I’ve read about and was anticipating.  And thankfully, no more technical than the terrain in the headlands.  In many places, much less.

So, here’s to an adventure on the trails (and hopefully not in traffic).  Here’s to all the work I’ve put in paying off.  And just keeping one foot in front of the other…or maybe in this case, just keep swimming will be the better mantra.  And, most importantly, here’s to finally finishing a race.

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….

 

And, on to the taper…

So, I am officially in taper mode.  Well, sort of…I do have three Orange Theory classes this week, and nothing about that says taper.  But, I am dropping my weekly mileage from nearly 50 miles this week to 30 next week.

I had quite the final big week of training: two Orange Theory classes and four days of running equalling 47.3 total miles for the week. The Orange Theory classes were a great workout…well, one more so than the other.  Yay for coach Tom and some uncensored DNCE.  I still can’t wait for publishing to be over so I can get back to coach Robin’s classes too.  And, speaking of Orange Theory….I can’t say enough about how great it has been for my running.  I’m running longer (without walking) and faster, after only four weeks.

Wednesday and Friday, I ran at Edgewood before work and got in 13 miles between the two days.  I actually enjoyed running the trail in the morning and then heading to work more than I thought I would.  And, it was fast (for me)…all of the miles under 13 minutes per mile.

After Friday, I ran my way through the weekend.  First, a course marker check on the north peak of Montara Mountain during the race this weekend.  I’d forgotten how steep that part of the course was…the way up was one thing, but the way down….geez.  Hopefully it helped train me on descending.  Of course, something happened between my watch and strava, so that run never uploaded. And, I was so curious as to how I did in comparison to the other times I’ve run that route.  I was hoping I’d continue to see myself getting faster and get some additional confidence going into my race.  But, alas….the file got eaten somewhere.

Today, Brian and I headed back out to Canada Road/Edgewood – he rode and ran, and I just ran.  I set out with the goal of 16 miles.  Based on the rest of my week, that would get me between the 45 and 50 I was looking for.  I started out heading into Edgewood, and it was a good run, but there were a lot of people and I ran there both Wednesday and Friday, so needed a change.  So, I took a trail leading out of the park and back down to Canada Road, followed that over to Crystal Springs Trail, and down into Huddart.  Yay Huddart.

There were only a handful of people there, but it’s big enough that I never really saw them.    With all of the rain, it was a gorgeous run through the redwoods.

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I ran through the remnants of the recent rainstorms – it’s still muddy – probably due to the shade of the redwoods.  But, the rains have done the park well.  In addition to the luscious greens, the wildflowers have begun to bloom, giving off the fresh feeling of a new spring.

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I spent about an hour running through Huddart before beginning the journey back toward the car.  Getting back toward the car, I realized I still had some time (and miles) left to do, so planned to make another trip through Edgewood and take the long way back.  I ran into Brian on my way to Edgewood and made a failed attempt to keep up with him up into the park.

Once I was back in the park, I realized I was out of water.  I thought about heading to the main parking lot to refill, or just turning around and heading for the car to retrieve my Gatorade…then I reminded myself that I swept three miles up Diablo without water.  If I could handle that, there was no reason I couldn’t handle Edgewood when it was 30 degrees cooler.  So, I got through my last three miles.  Enjoyed my Gatorade.  Stretched.  Waited for Brian to get un-lost.  And enjoyed the fact that my hat had a new salt stain.

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So, where does that leave me?  Hopefully ready to bang out 31 miles at Way Too Cool in two weeks.  I mean, I was able to pull 30 out of somewhere the month before North Face…and, I feel stronger now than I think I ever have, so I can do this, right?  I think so.  This new way of training is different than anything I’ve tried before, and not going to lie, the unproven-ness (is that even a word) scares me.  But, as I’ve said before….doing what I’ve always done will continue to get what I’ve always gotten.  And, I want to do better.  And, hopefully it works, because in all reality, I don’t have time to completely adjust my training in the five weeks between Way Too Cool and Lake Sonoma.

In other news, North Face has opened up.  I was really hoping it would wait until after Lake Sonoma to open so I would (hopefully) have a 50-miler under my belt before I had to make a decision on which race to sign up for.  But, I’m afraid it will sell out if I wait too long, and then I won’t be running any race. The good news, is that I can change my distance, so long as I do it before the race.

Weekend of Running

After my Wednesday debacle, I realized two things. One, I needed to run both days this weekend. Two, I was going to find out how complete double day training worked for me. Ideal?  Maybe…maybe not. I don’t know. I’m going to go with, doing what I’ve always done will get me what I’ve always gotten. Meaning, long days of a lot of slow miles would get me through the race, but probably at the slow pace I’m used to. Maybe trying something new is just what I need.  

So, Saturday….I headed to Walnut Creek for coffee with Lisa and the Coastal Trails awards lunch. It was great to catch up with Lisa over some coffee…I miss seeing her more frequently. The awards lunch was a lot of fun too. Got to hand out medals, coasters, and shirts, to the yearly winners. And enjoy some pizza too. Always a good time. Anyway, on to the running. 

Post-lunch, I headed over to Mt. Diablo to tackle Eagle Peak. A route one of my friends runs loops on, but I had never done. Diablo was also somewhere I hadn’t been since the summer. Once I got around the medical emergency…)hopefully everyone is ok, it didn’t look good. Helicopter and everything.) I got going pretty quickly. Brief stop at the ranger station to make sure I wouldn’t get locked in, and I was off. 

Sort of…good god, I’d forgotten how hard running on Diablo was. It was pretty much a slow uphill slog until about mile five….mile four on my watch since I’d forgotten to turn it on after checking on the parking lot situation. It was pretty though. Totally different world in the green before it all turns brown. 

As tough as it was, before I knew it, I was making my left onto Eagle Peak Trail. And, what an adventure that was….between the times I was sure I was going down, I wasn’t sure I was actually on a trail. I was glad I had put on my long sleeved shirt….I was also pretty sure the bushes were trying to tear off the skin on my arms. It was also steep….steep up and if the report is read was correct, even steeper on the other side on the way down. I rather quickly decided I’d turn around and head back the way I came. A steep descent wasn’t worth the injury and going back the way I came would get me more miles. 

As tough as the way up was, the way down was amazing. I ran nearly all of it…other than the moment I stopped to ask a peace officer which trail to take down. Anytime I started thinking I wanted to walk, I asked myself why I was going to walk…did I NEED to?  Generally, the answer was no. The end result, just under a 14 minute per mile pace overall…faster than I’ve ever been on Diablo.  And, just an overall feeling of strong. Thanks Orange Theory…or this multiple/back to back training thing. Or both. 

Which brings us to today.  Brian wanted to do a brick workout (bike/run…really any triathlon sport combo for those not familiar with the term), so we headed toward Canada Road. I wanted to get in more than just flat, so I had him drop me off at Wunderlich Park.  Cause an exercise Valentine’s Day, nothing fits us better. 

Anyway, I don’t think I’d been to Wunderlich since the summer, so had forgotten how hilly it was. You’d think the route I made on Strava last night would have clued me in. Haha. 

It was basically a six mile slog uphill to skyline and then some. But, after about three miles, I started to feel pretty good. At five, the terrain started to roll and I was able to run more than hike, which was great. 

And, once I turned around….amazing. Down, down, down, I went. Again, I ran almost the entire way…stopping only to calculate mileage to the end and determine which trail to take, or to carefully move around downed trees. No matter how good I felt, nothing is worth injury. 

I continued down the trails…some back where I’d come from, some brand new. So much fun. At one point, I looked at my watch and saw I was running an 8:50 mile. I never run that fast….especially on a trail. But, holy crap….I never run that fast, especially on a trail. And I’m 11.5 miles through a 13 mile run. Thanks, Orange Theory…and let’s enjoy this til the end. Or until I run into an entitled horseback rider….

OMG….stop. 

You can’t run towards a horse and there’s four up ahead of you….

Seriously?!  If your horse can’t handle sharing a FIRE ROAD with people, perhaps it doesn’t belong out there. Luckily, I was in a good mood and all of my snarky comments stayed in my head. I’m all about sharing the trails, but really, to tell someone to stop running?  

So, I doubled back and headed down a neighboring trail.  All the while this lady tried to make friendly chit chat. Nope, sorry….not sorry…I have a trail half marathon PR to break and you’ve already interfered enough. 

In the end, 13.1 in 3:04. Faster than I’ve run a half on a trail by 30 minutes or so. Wow, that felt good. 

After this weekend’s runs, I feel cautiously optimistic about Way Too Cool. The stress of getting there not withheld. Lake Sonoma is another story. Hopefully one with a happy ending, but I think I’ll feel better about that one once I get through the 50k and see how I do. Hopefully I’m on to something with the new training plan and Orange Theory. I think, for the first time, I just might be trained properly…or at least trained to the best of my ability. 

Until next time….