T-Minus 3 Weeks & Counting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles 1-8

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

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

Miles 8 – 13.1

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

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

Miles 13.1 – 21

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

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

Miles 21 – 26

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

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

Miles 26 – Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 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. 

 

 

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….

 

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.

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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….

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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.

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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….