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….

Lightning Strikes, Maybe Once, Maybe Twice…

Oh 2016…what a year you’ve been.

It seems like there’s so much I could say…or should say.  Or maybe shouldn’t.  As I’ve learned, a lot of things are better left unsaid.

On one hand, it seemed like it flew by, but on the other hand, looking back on the whole year, some of it seems light years away at this point.  Overall, 2016 was really my chance to hit the re-set button.  To figure out and focus on what’s really important, decide where I want to go, and how to get there.  It’s kind of an amazing feeling when you let go of the past and embrace the future.  It all happens for a reason.

Much like last year, it started with a race…I spent most of NYE and a good chunk of New Year’s Day at Coastal’s 24 hour race.  I learned a lot about the races I’d be running in the spring from one of the volunteers…saw old friends and made some new ones.  As always, it was a great time.

My racing fun continued, both with Coastal and with my own races.  March brought my first official race finish in over a year at Way Too Cool.  It was fun (mostly), and wet and muddy and everything I could have wanted in a race.  And finishing was….spectacular. I wasn’t too sure what to do with myself, other than ask a volunteer to take my picture at the finish line.  But, it was the confidence booster I needed heading into Lake Sonoma.  And really, who doesn’t love some Sufferfest and a frog cupcake at the finish line :).  I’m excited for it to be my first race in 2017…here’s to (hopefully) a PR.

Then there was Lake Sonoma.  It was…terrifying.  A terrifying amount of elevation…a distance I didn’t have a good track record with…a course I wasn’t familiar with, but somehow I made it.  I trained better than I ever have….ran more miles In preparation….hydrated, and then hydrated some more.  I spent 25 miles thinking about how I was NEVER going to run 50 miles again.  It took me less than 24 hours to figure out exactly what I would do differently next time and prepare to enter the lottery again.  While fighting the plague of 2016 before Christmas, I found out I’d get a rematch in April 2017.  Here’s to lessons learned…another PR…and a new coat….

2016 also brought me OrangeTheory…seriously the best workout I’ve ever gotten and probably the reason had two successful races and survived the third.  It started as a way to train and stay sane while I was working in Redwood City, and followed me to my new role in the city.  Along the way, I made some new friends and got into the best running shape I’ve ever been in.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to getting my butt kicked so much.

And, most exciting of all, 2016 brought me a new job.  I started at Charlotte Russe in July, and it has been amazing.  It’s gotten me back into retail and it’s been everything I thought it would be and more.  It’s small, but not too small, and a super flat organization – which is great…I feel like I can make a big impact.  My team is great, as is the larger Ops team.  They motivate me to be a stronger leader, teammate, and employee.  I survived retail holiday and had fun doing so.  No more Sunday blues, or Monday blues, or…well, you get the idea.  After several nightmare years – including my own Devil Wears Prada experience, I appreciate this amazing opportunity that much more.  I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

Again, much like last year, it ended with a race.  I closed out the year and spent the first moments of 2017 at Coastal’s 24 hour race.  I got to see a lot of familiar faces as well as some new ones.  It was the first time I spent the night at Crissy Field…what an experience that was…haha.  So fun to cheer on the runners that braved the chilly night and kept moving.

So, here we go…here’s another year.  Here’s to 2017 being as good of a personal year as 2016 was…here’s to a couple of PR races and the lottery of pain part 2…here’s to the world still being standing at the end of it…here’s to one more trip around the sun…

Trip to Vegas, New Injury, and Catching Up on Life

I realized today that its been over a month since I updated this, over a month since finishing Lake Sonoma, and what a month its been.

Coming out of the 50 mile, I managed to take it easy for a couple of days.  Ok, three days before I was going completely stir crazy, four before I was in my first bikram yoga class in years, and five before I was back at Orange Theory.  I was out running again that weekend, interestingly enough, back at Lake Sonoma for a quick seven miler before I picked up wine.  It was 90 degrees and sunny – quite the change from the previous weekend.  I was a little stiff, but overall felt good.

The next week, I was back to my normal routine…four days at the gym and a 10k road race that weekend.  I was still a little stiff, a little achy (especially my left hip), but again, overall, felt good.  I was slightly nervous about running on a road for the first time in over a year, partly due to the last year I spent healing my right knee, and not knowing how it would hold up…and partly due to the stiffness in my left hip.  However, I was excited to see how I would do running such a short distance.

It was so much fun!  My goal was to come in under an hour, which I didn’t think I had done before.  I spent the first two-ish miles trying to hang with my fast friends, but eventually fell back.  Which was fine, I was still moving fast for me.  Miles three and four felt long and I hadn’t gotten into a rhythm yet. I started feeling great somewhere between four and a half and five, and then it was over.  As it turns out, I did well on the fast and flat course….final time: 56:49.  According to Strava, there was an 8:30ish mile in there (its been years since that happened).  9th in my age group out of 51….I don’t think I’ve ever been top 10.  Unless there were less than 10…haha.

The next weekend, Brian and I headed to Vegas on vacation.  No races, no crazy adventures, no nothing….other than vacation.  We stayed at MGM…floated in the lazy river…enjoyed our fair share of terrible pool beer and good dinner wine.  Saw great shows. For anyone heading to Vegas: Ka is amazing.  Go see it.  I really can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t like this show.  It’s a cirque with a story that’s easy to follow, great stunts, and a super intricate stage.  I feel like it was over before it even began.  Just so, so good.  Maybe skip the large, slushy, adult beverage during the show…you won’t want to get up to find a restroom and nothing makes the last fifteen minutes of a show really, really long like needing one.

The third night we had dinner at Tao – probably my favorite Vegas restaurant and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  Then headed over to Cesar’s for Absinthe.  Somehow we were VIP’s, which meant they gave us champagne to enjoy during the show.  Unless you’re me…then you dump half of it all over your purse and having to get creative in drying it off…..anyway, I digress….the show is hilarious.  Very politically incorrect and full of adult humor, but so much fun.  However, if you’re easily offended, this is not the show for you.  Aside from the humor, it’s a variety show with amazing acts.  Dancers and tightrope walkers and aerialists, etc.  So good.

I anticipated coming back to my leg being 100% after four days of rest.  But, I’m not that lucky.  By the middle of last week, I finally caved and called a doctor’s office close to my office to deal with whatever the situation is in my hip.  I’ve rolled, I’ve rested, I’ve stretched, and it’s not getting any better.  After doing nothing in Vegas for four days (other than those nights in five inch heels ;)), I got to my second day at the gym and the shooting pain was back.  That’s not normal.  The following week, I got through another two days and while it wasn’t shooting pain, it was definitely achy.  Definitely not normal.

So, of course I go home the night before seeing a doctor and do some searching on the internet about what might be wrong.  The first thing I find that sounds plausible is a stress fracture.  Cue stress at the thought of no running for probably three months.  Really?  When am I going to learn to stay off of internet?

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that something was really wrong and I was going to be out of running and working out for the foreseeable future.  My suspicions were close to confirmed as I was talking the doctor through everything that was going on, and the first thing he mentioned was a stress fracture….but, once he started his exam, luck seemed to be on my side.  First, I was much stronger during the resistance tests than he thought I would be….second, he found two knotted, locked up, muscles.  Took him an extra 15 minutes to find, but the two highest muscles in my hip – the pectineus and the adductor brevis, were a sore, painful, tight mess.  Apparently having the adductor tight that high isn’t normal….apparently he hasn’t met me….

Cue some super fun ART that surprisingly didn’t bruise.  Unfortunately, the relief didn’t stick for too long either….hopefully that just means I need more sessions.  As much fun as ART is, I like that and strained muscles far more than I like stress fractures.

Before he left, I made sure to ask him if I was still allowed to exercise and if there were any restrictions.  Surprisingly, he told me I could…just asked that I dial it back to 75%.  If I had a class I liked to take, that was fine….just take it easy.  Yup, I can do that.  So I threw on my gym clothes and headed to class.  I mean, why wouldn’t I….last year I had an MRI on my knee and ran a half marathon the next day….

Since then, I actually have been heeding the doctor’s warnings – 22-year old me ran a half marathon with a broken ankle….32-year old me does not need to learn that lesson twice.  I’ve done a couple of Orange Theory classes, but have taken it easy.  I think I’m going to set the record for the most classes with zero splat points.  But, it’s better than being completely side-lined.  I’ve also gotten back into bikram…that’s been a great way to stretch out and relax, not to mention get in a good workout with little impact.

Today, I had the x-ray done.  No one was there to read it (I’m pretty sure the lady taking it was pretty new, as I could clearly hear someone giving her directions), but they did give me a CD to take back to the doctor.  Of course, I took it home this evening and tried to get it to open to read it myself.  I saw what my ankle looked like…I’d think the same would apply to this situation, right?  Sadly, the files wouldn’t open.  But, really, do I need to be trying to read an x-ray?  Probably not.  Just give me something else to stress about….haha.

So, I wait until Wednesday, when hopefully the doctor has the report…or can read the films.  And cross my fingers and toes (and whatever else I can think of) that it’s strained muscles and some more rounds of ART can fix it.  And I can get back to running healthy soon.

Until then…signing off…

 

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

Who Knew Getting Lost Could be So Much Fun…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Name Flat.

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

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

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

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

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

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