Follow the Blue and Beware the Seams on Your Pants – North Face 50k Race Report

So, final race of an interesting year. A year that brought me a 50k PR, a 50 mile finish (after two years of trying), and 10k PR. Of course there was that hip thing that kept me out of running for several months at the end of the year too. Great set-up for my last race…
Anyway. Before I even get into things, I knew I was under-trained (my longest run was 27 miles…split up over two days). I knew this was North Face, and it had given me issues for the past two years. But, I also knew the trails…and I’d been really good about getting my butt kicked at the gym at least four days a week. Still, I didn’t think I’d be in for anything easy.

The start was pretty typical of an ultra. Well, one like Way Too Cool rather than Lake Sonoma. Lots of people gathering…heat lamps…fire pits. Unlike every other year we’ve run this race, it wasn’t freezing. It wasn’t raining. It wasn’t wet. It was…actually quite nice out. Weird for this race. No rain, no mud, no cold. What was going on?

As it got close to start time, the announcer started getting everyone lined up. Lots of people still checking bags…tip – make sure to check your bag early. I ran into one of the guys from Coastal Trails…he’d started the 50, but decided not to continue. He was hanging out, waiting for the line to clear so he could get his bag.

The announcer had us introduce ourselves to the person next to us, which was interesting since half the field had their headphones in already. After that, we were pretty much off. The first few miles passed as I expected…rolling a bit at the beginning, but quickly climbing up Miwok. Forever. Since they changed the course this year, there was some additional climbing beyond what I knew as typical. We didn’t make the quick left down Old Springs, but continued on up Miwok and down Marincello. Thanks Miwok stables…loved the additional climbing.

Honestly, it wasn’t that bad…I’ve done it before and met a couple of fellow runners along the way. And then we were headed down Marincello. A hill I’m familiar climbing up, but not so much running down. But, I quickly found that I really liked running down this hill as much as I love hiking up it. It’s a gentle slope…it’s a fire road. It was mile 4ish. Perfect for my untrained, skittish, descender self. And, much to my surprise, I passed a bunch of people on the way down. Being so skittish, this never happens. If I pass anyone, it’s on the way up and I usually get passed again on the way down. Unfortunately, I didn’t see many of them again. Not sure if they never passed me again or if we missed each other at aid stations…hopefully everyone finished.

I got to the bottom of the hill feeling good and Brian was waiting for me. I grabbed a cup of tailwind, which I hadn’t had before, but was actually pretty good, some water, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I pulled over for a bit to chat and realized I’d somehow picked up the one sandwich made with the heel of the bread….only me.

After that, it was off to Muir Beach. The climb up Coastal wasn’t too bad, but I anticipated it being easier not going into Pirate’s Cove. However, I was unpleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. We actually got to climb some of Coyote Ridge and a back part of Fox Trail on our way to the trail that would finally take us down into Muir Beach. Then, down we went…I wish I wasn’t so skittish….and of course the whole time going down, all I could think was…at some point I have to go back up….

I quickly passed through the Muir Beach aid station…grabbed a Mt. Dew (not a bad race drink, but other than that, the Dew can stay in my college years ;)), some tailwind, and another sandwich. Then I comfortably jogged my way to Redwood Creek Trail. Well….I looked down and I was comfortably jogging at an 8:50 pace. Thanks, Orange Theory. Of course my aid station stop is included in that time, so it didn’t do much for me overall. Haha.

As I hit Heather Cut-off, I ran into the 50 mile sweepers….I’m pretty sure one of them has been the same guy for the past three years. Anyway, shortly after that, I passed the last 50 miler, a man from Iowa, I think he said. In him, I could see myself a few years ago. As I left Cardiac, he still hadn’t made it up there. I also passed a woman who’d been stung on the ankle by a bee…so not fun, and another place I saw myself. She assured me she was fine, and she did pass me later, so luckily, she was good to go.

My slog up to Cardiac wasn’t too bad, I remembered slogging up there last year…feeling like crap and running into Liz and Van, and listening to Becca chat about NYC to make the miles go faster. On the other hand, I guess it wasn’t that great either…somewhere along there, I realized the seams on my pants were starting to tear into the skin on the back of my legs. And…what bothers you at mile 12 is going to be unbearable come mile 32….

At the Cardiac aid station, I asked three different people for Vaseline, but finally got some. Ahhh….relief. I’m sure I looked silly, but…there are no rules in the woods. I grabbed a pb&j, tailwind, and Mt. Dew, but knew I was needed some salt (thank you acid reflux fun…). Luckily, they had salt…unfortunately, no potatoes to dip in it. Awesome….and the 50 milers were just hitting their second pass. Bad time to be out of that. But, we’re in the woods, so we make do with what we have. I ripped my sandwich in half and dipped it in the salt. Salty pb&j, interesting vessel to get salt in, but it seemed to work.

Then it was down into Muir Woods, my least favorite part of the course. The part with not only steep, rocky, twiggy, descents, but also a place where if you fall, you can get gored by tree stumps and whatever else is on the ground. Perfect if you’re already a skittish descender. I think the marathon may be my race of choice next year solely because I wouldn’t have to run through Muir Woods.

The Old Inn Aid Station greeted us at the end of Muir Woods. Shortly before we hit the aid station, we hit some stairs on the famed dipsea trail. This guy let me and another lady pass him, before tearing down the stairs past us like he was going to win. Really dude? First, not going to win. Pretty sure they finished hours ago. And second, we would’ve let you go. You were ahead of us to begin with…

Just before the aid station, there was a pack of 50 milers coming up the hill at me…I was…confused. On either course, no one should be running up this hill. Did I miss a turn? If I went farther than I needed to without Vaseline, I was going to be sad. They told me I was fine, so I kept heading down. No idea what they were doing.

Anyway…as I jogged to the aid station, I passed the medic and thought…haha, I’m not hanging out with you this year. I asked them for Vaseline and they had to find my old friend who drove me to Tennessee Valley last year to find it. She seemed far less crazy this year, but no less busy. She handed me Vaseline and walked away. Another volunteer watched me take gobs of it with my hand and rub it all over where my pants were eating my skin. I’m not sure what the look on her face was saying…shock…disdain…really? You’re at an aid station for an ultra. If me sticking Vaseline down my pants is the worst thing you’ve seen all day, consider yourself lucky.

I headed off, joking with another volunteer…something about a second pass, and me not wanting to come back. There was no second pass, and I didn’t need to. I began the flat jog back to Muir Beach…alternating between a walk to catch my breath and my new 9ish (some times under, sometimes over) comfortable pace. Aside from my chafed up body, I was getting pretty sore. Yup, should’ve gotten in more training.

Where the road to Muir Beach was easy, the road out of Muir Beach was anything but. Even if we didn’t have to climb all the way up Coyote Ridge, it was still brutal. I made friends with a couple of other runners as we made our way out…they were chatting about the big marathons (Boston, NYC, Berlin, London, Tokyo and one other I don’t remember) and wondered how many hills we had left, I said two…one of the guys said, in addition to this one (he was local too)? I said no, this one and another…it counts until it’s over.

The top of the hill brought the steep descent of Fox trail into Tennessee Valley. At this point, muscles I’d forgotten I had were hurting. And I really needed another dose of Vaseline to handle the chaffing. But, I made it down. Oh, Vaseline was insight. And then Brian came jogging down Tennessee Valley road towards me. Hooray for a surprise! He figured he wouldn’t be able to drive between TV and the finish, but he definitely could run it, especially if he knew the short cuts.

And there wasn’t any Vaseline. Ugh….I had body glide in my pack, so I pulled over and tried to use that. Not the end of the world, I guess, but certainly not ideal. The good news was that I got to see Shannon, the aid station captain that took care of me last year…yeah hypothermic and taking over the shuttle. Haha. Great to see her and I wasn’t blue this year, so I had that going for me.

Then it was time for the final slog up Marincello. Which usually I don’t mind, but I was just done with this race at that point. One of the other runners asked if it was straight uphill to the next aid station. Right…Alta. I’d forgotten about that aid station.

The rest of the race was pretty much a blur of me wishing it was over and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. There were places I thought, hey, maybe I should run here. And then telling myself walking hurt slightly less, and I was so far behind, did I really care? Nope, I did not.

One foot in front of the other, one aid station, and one seemingly never ending stretch to the finish line later, it was over. I’d finished North Face. I may have been walking like a cowboy and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be wearing jeans for day (confirmed), but I finished. Brian brought my Vaseline, so I coated some of that on before we walked to the car. Of course as I did, two of the runners I’d met on the course walked by and stopped to say congratulations….one of them apologized for catching me mid-Vaseline application. I laughed and said…it’s all good, there are no rules in the woods….

So…on to the spring. Here’s to luck with the race lotteries and if not, enjoying two ‘b’ races. Here’s to a year of being injury free and able to train like I should…it’s much more fun when it happens that way.

First, Forget All the Rules

Well, what a difference a year makes, in so many ways….

First, Labor Day Weekend wasn’t that long ago, and instead of stressing over a smashed car and how I was going to get to Redwood City, and trying to get a hold of the insurance company, I enjoyed my weekend.  I spent Saturday working at Coastal’s Point Pinole race directing runners – now that was an adventure.  Saturday night, Brian and I tried a new restaurant on 24th St. – Novi….well, the restaurant was new, we just hadn’t been there before.  I’m not sure why, creatures of habit, I guess.  It was delicious.  Great food with a Mediterranean flair, and our waiter was fabulous.  Then, we hit our new favorite wine bar…also not new, but we’ve only been there a couple of times.  Sunday, we did a whole lot of nothing….but we love bad movie Sunday and doing nothing.  Monday we went out to Mt. Tam to get in a run for the holiday.  First trail run for me since….April, I think.  Regardless, first trail run since my hip has actually been allowed to heal.  It was great until I tore open the back of my foot…damn blister.  Oh well….at least that’s easily heal-able.

Next, I’m six(ish) weeks into the new job.  And…and I just love it.  I love the work, the people, my boss, my team, the industry in general.  I’m excited to go to work for the first time in a very long time…no more Monday blues….or Tuesday blues…or Wednesday blues…or, well, you get the idea.  Its been great learning a new brand and a new team, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

And, then there was the race.  My first since April.  Not that I had a ton planned, but I did have to sit that one in August out (look at me learning how healing works ;)).  I’d signed up for the Giants Race 10k with a friend several months ago, and since I was allowed to start running again, it wasn’t that far (I’ve hiked nearly twice that distance several times in the recent past), and the miles I’d done at the gym had gone well, I figured – why not?  And actually, it ended up being a good time.

Packet pick-up was far easier than the emails made it out to seem – even though I was there at a supposedly key time.  Got my bib, t-shirt, a bunch of pins, and a creepy bobble head.  I almost offered it to the gym when I popped in there…I totally should have.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with it….

Anyway…race morning was pretty seamless too.  I was super early, which I guess was good, since I’d done minimal planning the night before (read – I threw my entire bag from packet pickup into my running bag).  So, luckily, I was early and had time to sort the bib and pins and breakfast and whatever else I had going on.  With 45 minutes or so to start, I headed over toward the start line.  Not a far walk, but you never know what the port-a-potty situation is going to be.  It wasn’t awful, and soon I was making my way towards my corral.  Before I got there, I heard my name…one of my friends/former co-workers from Old Navy was there volunteering.  So great to see her and catch up for a bit.

I found my corral with several thousand of my closest friends…a far cry from the Fro-yo run back in April.  And, somehow managed to find Leng just as we started the race.  So, just as I suspected, I chased her for the first three miles….which actually passed pretty quickly, and seemingly before I knew it, we were passing signs that said half marathon – straight, 10k – left.  Granted, we passed these signs for at least half a mile.  I’d say they made it impossible to over-run the turn-around, but I know better.  There’s always one.  But, again, pretty quickly, I was giving Leng a hug, wishing her luck and heading back towards the finish.

My last three miles were for the most part, slower than my first three.  I did manage to pick it up for the last mile and point two.  Overall, three minutes slower than my 10k in April, but not bad for not having been able to run much since then.  It was on pavement too….way harder than the trail I ran on last weekend.  Apparently all my Orange Theory power walking paid off.  And there’s always that 10k in October to get even….once I’m even more healthy.

So, Giants Race…definitely a fun experience.  Well organized event…other than for the poor souls leading the 10k who had to run like salmon for their last three miles, but overall, fun and I’d do it again.

And well, another month has gone by.  I feel like I say this a lot, but where did August go?  When did it become September?  I have got to get better about updating this, but I guess that’s what happens…life happens.  It’s already September….here’s to continuing to love the new gig, here’s to North Face (50K this year!), and everything in between.  But, until then…over and out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, on to the taper…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

Coyote Ridge – Take Two

It’s my one-year anniversary with Coastal Trails….sort of.  This weekend is the Coyote Ridge race – the first race I did with Coastal last year (read all about it here!).  It was so much fun, I never left.  This year, I spent Saturday marking a good chunk of the course and Sunday working the race and sweeping the course.

Since I’m pretending I’m going to train for the North Face 50, I wanted to get a run in prior to marking.  I made sure to check on sweeping for Sunday before deciding on the additional mileage – I didn’t need a forty plus mile work out over two days….well, I do, but unfortunately I’m not ready for that.  Glad I checked, since the plan was for me to sweep the nearly 15-mile pink loop.  That meant a four mile pre-run, rather than a fourteen mile pre-run.

I got to Tennessee Valley in plenty of time to get in a four miler, but you never know, so I took off up Marincello as quickly as I could.  My trip up Marincello was pretty good…it had been a long time since I’d been up it, so it was like reuniting with an old friend.  I did notice there were random colored ribbons tied to wooden stakes throughout the trail….trail maintenance of some sort, I think.  Nothing I could do about it, but something that I thought could cause confusion, so I took a picture and made a mental note to let Wendell know when I met him a few hours later.

Before I knew it, I was at the top.  Sort of.  I planned to do Marincello – Miwok – Old Springs, coincidentally the yellow loop for the race tomorrow.  And, the top of Marincello, is the top of that hill, but there’s still a little more up before you hit the airport surveillance thing-a-ma-bob and head down to Miwok to Old Springs.  Since I was at the top, I was definitely in the fog or rain or whatever had started.  Luckily, I only tried to fall twice on the way down.  Thankfully, I decided I was going to be the cool girl on the trail with two ankle braces, so I didn’t hurt anything.

Once I hit Miwok, I jogged down until I got to the nastily steep part….and it was wet….lucky me.  After almost slipping a second time, I decided to gently walk down the hill.  Ugh…when did I become so chicken on these hills.

I’m a big fan of Old Springs, so once I hit that trail, I was definitely up for a jog.  It felt great….a little scary, but great.  Again, why am I so chicken….ugh.  I jogged down Old Springs and then wanted to get in four miles, so did a little bit on Rhubarb trail until I hit my four and then walked back to slimer.  At that point, the rain had started (or the fog descended into the valley….never can tell here), so I moved him into the main parking lot (rain starts and everyone takes off, haha – my day had just begun) to wait for Wendell and Lynnard.  As I was hiding from the elements, I made the decision to completely change into my long sleeved shirt – I was wet, sweaty, and cold.  Not a good recipe for marking in the rain.  I decided to risk the heat later on.

Wendell arrived and showed me what I’d be doing….not only marking from Tennessee Valley to Point Bonita, but also taking a second trip to the airport surveillance thing-a-ma-bob and Old Springs to mark the yellow only portion of the course.  And then back up the crazy descent.  What a good time I was in for…..well, I definitely needed the miles.  I let him know about the random markings due to the construction and I was off.

Heading up Marincello a second time was nearly as painless as the first.  For some reason, it’s the one hill in the headlands I can walk up like I own it.  Every time.  It was also nice to be headed uphill in the cold, wet weather that had developed.  It was pretty windy at the top, so I was worried about my pink ‘go straight’ sign and my yellow ‘go right’ signs.  By the time I had finished placing the yellow, the pink one had blown away…, I tied it to the tree branches instead.  A little sooner than I wanted it, but at least it would be there for the runners.

Off I was to mark the yellow, knowing both the trip down and the trip up would be an adventure.  Down because, well, I’m afraid of everything and it was wet.  And up because, well, it’s steep.  I only briefly questioned myself….not sure why…I know these trails and I’ve been up there tons of times.  Around the airport thing I went (different than I went before!), and down to Old Springs.  And then back up…..on my way up, I ran into a couple hiking that asked me if I was taking all the signs down.  Nope…putting them up.  The race is tomorrow.

Getting back to Marincello, I realized that my yellow ‘right’ and yellow ‘straight’ signs had blown over.  So, I had to be creative and find bushes to tie them to.  Not ideal, but at least they’d be there for the runners.  Once that I was done, I buried the yellow ribbons in my bag and headed off to mark the pink to Point Bonita.

Then, the rain stopped…and once it did…the beauty of the headlands came out….nothing like fall in the bay area.

Overall, the pink loop was uneventful…..I mean, it passed through the place on SCA where I busted my good ankle a few weeks ago and the place where I ran out of ribbon while marking Golden Gate, of course, not to be outdone by the turn I missed when I ran Coyote Ridge last year…..but, all that considered, pretty uneventful.  I blew up the turn I missed last year….hopefully no one misses it this year, headed up the road towards Point Bonita, passed the place I ran out of ribbons this summer, and spotted Slimer in the distance.  I made it.  Haha…..11.5 miles later, 15.5 on the day, and I was heading home.  Ready for a shower and some food…..But, I did capture this photo before I headed out….the beauty of a golden gate sunset is second to none…

Since I’ve been dealing with one injury after another (and then my foot turning blue), I’ve been good and followed Dr. Hal’s orders over the past few weeks and run on the flat, predictable trails of Woodside.  I’ve been home for about an hour and a half and I’m definitely feeling the hills from today.  Oh, the cramping that’s threatening.  I hate being out of shape….ugh.  I feel like I ran 30 miles, not 15.  And to think I actually felt fine after 17 miles of flat…..

Sunday brought an early morning – we were up and at Muir Beach before the sun.  Thank God for headlamps, haha.  The day started with me trying, and failing, to open the gate to the parking lot.  Luckily, Brian was with me and knew how to open it…or was strong enough to open it…or something like that.

I helped unload and then set up and worked registration – there were a decent amount of people registering day of, which kept us busy.  Lots of questions about bag checks and parking too.  

After a short stint at the start/finish helping with registration, I headed out to the Point Bonita aid station – of course it would be the one I never made it to…haha.  I got there, and wow….the view was amazing.  It pretty much put the views from Saturday to shame….the city behind the bridge, as the sun came up.  Always gorgeous….always breathtaking….no matter how many times I see it, or from what vantage point.  I mean, really, the picture doesn’t even do it justice.

We were the second aid station and runners were only hitting us once, so my time at the aid station was pretty short lived and passed quickly.  The runners were all in good spirits and many stopped to say hello and let us know how their run was going.  I spent a few minutes talking to one guy about the Umstead 100, a race he had run before and I hope to run someday.  A couple of them had questions about the course, and it was nice to being familiar with the trails and able to answer them.

Once we had wrapped at the aid station, I packed it up in the Xterra and headed out to sweep – the journey of nearly 12 miles begins with a single step.  Haha….I thought the first section would be new to me, as it was the part I missed the year before when I got lost and I don’t really run much on that side of Tennessee Valley.  But, I realized two things….first, I have been on those trails and second, I picked the right part of the course to lose (give me a walk up Miwok any day).  Oh the hills….it goes up and up forever….past the battery….and then up some more.  I vaguely remember running down the same trail during my first 50k….I think going down was just as brutal, with the added threat of falling and busting myself.  To keep the hike entertaining, I stopped to take a photo of a couple with their dog and to smile at a group of hikers who were impressed with how quickly I was hiking up the hill.

Going down the other side of the trail was pretty steep, but really nothing I should have had a problem with – if I wasn’t so afraid of the trails.  Stupid injuries.  But, I survived the descent and made it back to the Miwok junction, right where I found the course when I ran the race last year.  I’m pretty sure there was a moment where I threw my arms over my head, and exclaimed, ‘it’s the course!’.  I’m pretty sure anyone that saw me would have thought I was crazy.

This year I saw two rental mountain bikers looking at an upside-down map (oh Blazing Saddles…).  I stopped and asked where they were headed.  They were trying to find Tennessee Valley Road…at least it was something I could help them find.  And there were two other bikers that came up on us and offered to play tour guide.  I love the nice people I meet on the trails.

After that, I made my way up the steep part of Miwok for the second or third time that weekend.  At that point, I’d lost count.  I paused to cheer on some of the 50k runners who were on their way down.  Somewhere between there and Point Bonita, probably along Coastal, I ran into another rental mountain biker looking for directions….what was with them on Sunday?  But, I’ve been a tourist plenty of times and am happy to try to help.

I came up on the sharp left, the one I missed last year, and was happy to see that my gerry-rigged ‘wrong way’ sign held up.  Because of the wind on Saturday, and the importance of the sign, I created a tripod for it as opposed to the two we usually use.  Unfortunately, I found out later that one of the runners had missed it.  I grabbed all that stuff, headed up the hill, and on to the road.    

After being on the road for a bit, I wasn’t sure I’d ever been so thankful to see our car….well, I feel like I say that ever time I get tired and just want to be done.  But, regardless, I was thrilled to see our car – I was done!  I sent Brian a text to let him know I was on my way and took off.  I should have paused to take off my super cool ankle braces, but I just wanted to get back.  Ouch….bad decision.  As much as the braces had saved my ankles for the past twelve miles, my ankles were done with the braces.  But, I really just wanted to get back down to the finish….I knew I was late and they probably needed help, and selfishly, I was hoping there was a dry race shirt I could put on.  If I had thought I was cold before, I was definitely cold now.

After briefly following someone who felt the need to drive down to Muir Beach at 5 MPH (thankfully they pulled over quickly), I got back to the start/finish to find it mostly cleaned up.  And, yay there were extra shirts.  Hooray for a dry shirt….went a long way with feeling warm in the wind at Muir Beach.  We finished loading up pretty quickly….joked about my ability to load a tent without breaking my leg….and my text about running out of ribbons (just kidding this time ;)).

Ok….after two days on the trails, I am exhausted.  Until next time….

Coyote Ridge 50k(ish) Race Report

So it was a day of the three times I thought about quitting and the one time I didnt…

The first was just before the .9 mile mark, coming through pirate’s cove the wrong way (well, according to me…it’s just different than how I usually do it).  I rolled my ankle, and it was pretty sore.  I spent sometime walking it out, and just decided to get to the aid station in Tennessee Valley, and reassess.  I got there, and it was actually feeling ok.  So, I continued up Marincello, and out towards the Bonita Cove turn around.  Such beautiful views along the way.

The second time was around mile 10, and I was feeling pretty good…I was actually ahead of the pace I wanted, legs felt good, and I was running down a gentle slope towards bunker road.  I got to the road, and didnt see any pink ribbons.  I looked down the road, across the road, and still didnt see anything.  The course had been really well marked, so I couldnt believe that there wouldnt be ribbons here….come to think of it, I couldnt remember the last time I saw a ribbon.  I knew where I was…..I just didnt know where the course went.  And of course it was the one area I didnt know very well.  But, I did know that the trail across the street would meet up with Miwok, which would take me to Old Springs, which is how I was supposed to get back to Tennessee Valley.  I confirmed with a cyclist, and was on my way…kind of like choose your own adventure, except it was choose your own course.  And really, who doesnt love an unnecessary climb up a hill over a mile long….

I got back down to Tennessee Valley and let them know what happened – I didnt really care about the distance, let’s be honest, it’s not like I was in it to win it or I had cut enough of the mileage to impact how I would finish.  But, I was concerned that there was some sort of check-in at the Point Bonita aid station, and they’d send out the emergency crews to find me if I didnt check in.  Of course, they had no idea if anyone was checking…just that they were not checking.  But I could ask when I got back to Muir Beach.

Then came the hot, slow, hike up Fox Trail…really slow.  Ugh…but, at that point, after rolling an ankle and getting lost, I was really just trying to get mileage in.  Hopefully I can work on the pace for the next two months and still be ok for North Face.

After Fox Trail came the long, steep, descent into Muir Beach…..pretty terrifying for some reason.  I’m not sure if I’ve always been afraid of that descent, or if this is a new development.  It got better towards the end, and I was able to run out to the bridge and across it, over to the aid station.  I asked the volunteer who was helping me about checking in at the aid station I missed….she didnt know either, but said I could work with the race director to figure out the distance when I was done.  I told her I wasnt as worried about that (my watch would give me the distance), I was more worried about being reported missing.

Then, began the long climb up and out of Muir Beach, and the reverse trek through Pirate’s Cove….and it was so hot…ugh.  There were three of us, and we all kept stopping and taking breaks.  But, one foot in front of the other does the trick, and I was on my way down into Tennessee Valley again.  The last time I thought about quitting would have been somewhere in Pirate’s Cove, when I realized that was technically another turn-around point.

But, I decided the miles were more important, and after a sandwich and a ton of liquids, began making my way up Marincello, around some random airport thing, and down a steep descent to Old Springs trail.  I felt pretty good on Old Springs and decided to jog….until I tripped down a step, and rolled my ankle again…..ok, maybe no jogging.  And then a second trip up Fox Trail….just as tough since I was tired, but it was far cooler and there was a bit of a breeze.  The trip back down into Muir beach seemed less treacherous the second time around, and I feel like I was able to run more of it.  Before I knew it, I was down and dodging people as I crossed the bridge to the finish line…..the time I didnt quit….

I had some water and animal crackers at the finish line, followed by a beer (amazing…), and hung out with the people there for a bit, before walking the mile and a half back to the car.  I opted for that instead of the shuttle since I lost some distance when I messed up the course.

And, now I’m enjoying a really bad horror movie and my favorite owl beer while my body contemplates exactly what I did to it today.  Though, I was able to enjoy some dinner, so I think I did better with the hydration since the roof of my mouth doesnt feel like sandpaper.  Other than that, I’ll be reevaluating the rest of my training plan….maybe look to spend an equal amount of time getting better at what I’m already good at and trying to get better at the stuff I’m not….and do some more long runs….

Pirate’s Cove!

I returned to the trails in the headlands today, for the first time since since the North Face marathon, I think.  Knowing that I need to get faster for the 50 mile, especially on hills, I chose one of the most challenging parts of the marathon course – pirate’s cove in the Tennessee Valley.  It’s pretty much seven-ish miles of straight up followed by straight down, straight up, straight down (you get the idea), and some scary stairs mixed in.  These are the stairs I slipped down during the race, hence, scary stairs.

I ran pretty slowly, and walked a lot of the hills.  However, it was the strongest I’ve felt on this course in the three times I’ve been on it.  So, hopefully a great start to building a foundation, because I need to learn to run that hill well.  Really well, since I’ll hit the back half of it at mile 40 or something crazy like that. I’m not really going to look too much at training until after Nepal, but hilly runs will help with that training too.  Here’s to practice making perfect….or just the ability to finish and have fun.

In other news, the hike we have planned for tomorrow is in an elk preserve – that should be interesting :). I also have hiking pants….finally. And they fit. Haha. And they’re not black. I’m also trying out bag number three. This one is a way better pack – better ventilation, pockets, fits better, etc.  also, it’s bright blue and not black. Apparently I won’t be the goth chick on the mountain.  Haha.

Until next time….

North Face 50….it’s happening

So, we realized that the North Face Challenge had opened up, and despite everything we have put and need to put into Nepal, the 50 miler is happening in December.  I’m actually really excited about it.  And, I can’t blame it on the wine this time….haha. I celebrated by eating half of a container of gelato. Not a bad idea for someone who slept in….did a little bit of work…and slept some more.  Do nothing all day….sign up for a 50 mile race….consume a container of ice cream.  Haha.

In all seriousness, this is going to take a killer training plan. I’m envisioning a lot of early mornings in the headlands. At least I live close enough that I can train on the crazy hills. I’m pretty sure I’m not currently running fast enough to finish in the allotted time. But, I know I can get there. It’s gonna be an adventure :).

In other news, I think I’m really bad at doing nothing. I’ve been sick or coughing or something and have had no voice all week, so I decided I was just going to rest all day.  So, of course, I was up at 8:30….when was the last time that happened?  After a bit of NyQuil, I was able to get some more sleep.  Then, after dealing with a work issue, I was really restless. Couldn’t I go run or something. No.  I forced myself to rest a little longer, but then got up and started cleaning. Haha…even when I’m sick, I can’t do nothing.

We’re planning a longer hike for tomorrow…maybe a picnic.  I’m excited for that too (see, really bad at sitting still). Hopefully the NyQuil endured haze in which I spent most of today works and I’m close to 100% tomorrow. I have real hiking pants to try for the first time….and I really like my bag. Despite the whole everything is black theme I have going. I’ve decided not to list the gear in the individual posts, but will post a list at the end of my trip, after I post all the trip blogs. While it won’t matter to most, based on how much I’m relying on blogs from previous travelers, if someone googles and finds my blog, I want to be helpful :).

Other than that, it’s been a week of watching the Olympics and nursing the hot, sexy, smoker voice back to normal. Until next time….

Long December

So, this probably be a long post, written over several days, because…well, it’s been a long December.  Apparently, the year decided to go out with a bang.

The month started out normal enough…marathon planned, zero training, first trail marathon.  Typical me.  haha.  and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it was so much fun.  I need to train better, but I do really want to do the 50 mile race next year.

After that, it seems like it all went crazy.  Some good crazy, some not so good crazy.  The following Tuesday, I had my last class ever.  Very surreal, and a stressor ’till the end, but it was over. Brian surprised me with some wine and a poster when I got home. Thursday that week our good friends got married at city hall.  It was a beautiful wedding, city hall is really pretty, especially all decorated for Christmas.  I can’t believe I hadn’t been there before.  Following the wedding, we spent the day in Sonoma and had dinner at Seven Hills here in the city.  The following day, my parents arrived for my graduation, which was later that evening.  Graduation was fun, and I still can’t believe it’s over.  But, I am excited to have more free time.

Throughout all of this, Gordon, our oldest cat, got sick and kept getting sicker.  He had stopped eating his regular food, so we changed him to wet food, and he started eating again. The. He stopped eating that…sometimes, he’d pieces of ham, or chicken, and we started feeding him baby food. And then, force feeding him baby food when he quit eating all together.  We took him to the vet, and they couldn’t find anything wrong, and then took him back to the vet, and for an ultrasound. And, they still didn’t see much wrong…a kidney infection, but his numbers weren’t bad.  Ugh…poor kitty.  They gave him pain pills and antibiotics and different food, and he seemed a little better for about a day.  They were going to give him a feeding tube, which was a little more invasive than I wanted to sign up for, but if for some reason getting him to eat was the key to him getting better, I wanted to give him that chance. But then he started to have trouble breathing. We took him back to the vet, and she let us know that there was something pretty bad going on – brain tumor, advanced heart disease, or both. None of which are good. She offered to send us to a specialist, but, what would come of that?  Torture him a little longer to find something we can’t fix?  No, that’s not right. So, we made the tough decision to let him go.  Which, was awful, but the vet was wonderful.  Seven Hills Vet in diamond heights. Highly recommend. Highly. The vet called later that night to let us know she was thinking about us.  Today, we received a card in the mail with a sweet note from the vet and a paw print from our kitty. Very touching and very nice.

Then we were off for the holidays!  Somehow, we flew first class to buffalo – I’m still not sure how we swung that, but it sure was nice. It was nice to get home and see the family and extended family, really busy though. Lots of people to see, but it was a good time. I did have a bottle of wine crack/burst/something in my suitcase, luckily, it didn’t escape the plastic bag it was in. We also ordered a bunch of stuff – coats, pants, etc. for our trip after consulting with Brian’s uncle. Getting excited about that….other than having to buy a bunch more stuff. Fun, but ugh….

Work wasn’t that crazy, what was it I said….an alert a day keeps the boredom away…haha. A couple of fire drills at odd times, who doesn’t love working at 3am ;).  But, it’s been fun, and I had a really good store visit while I was there. However, I am looking forward to some time to relax.

And, now 2013 is coming to a close.  Where did it go?  It really doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was eagerly awaiting the departure of 2012, and  announcing that 2013 was going to be the best year ever. I had goals, wishes, things I was going to accomplish.  Did it all happen?  No, but…I do feel like I’m in a better place than I have been the past couple of years. It must be all about a positive outlook.

So, what was 2013?  It was a year of a second ironman, which I still didn’t finish….it was the year where one of my neighbors tried to blow up the apartment building, nothing like hanging out in the street all afternoon..the Jetta exploded and now we have another car payment….it was the year my first pet died, and I’m sure the year of plenty of other things I don’t care to revisit.

However, it was also the year I turned 30 and had one hell of a party. It was a year where I presented a paper at not one, but two conferences.  It was a year where I got to visit and find my way in Germany and had so much fun doing so. I visited a lot of places – Colorado, Louisville, Raleigh, Chicago, Arizona, Bremen, Hamburg, and I’m sure there are others.  I met up with a lot of friends, both near and far, and realized I know some pretty amazing people. I heard Hillary Clinton speak and saw Kelly Clarkson sing.  I discovered the headlands, and know I will always have a place to lose myself.  I bought a bright green car because I could and drove it home blaring Katy
Perry’s Roar. It was the year I finally got to walk across the stage at USF, something three and a half years in the making. It was a great year, for these reasons and more. But, I’m ready to turn the page.

So, here’s to 2014 – here’s to new adventures and getting back in shape.  Here’s to Everest basecamp and a Rhone river cruise.  Here’s to more free time and finding something to do with it all.  Here’s to another exciting year that’s better than the last.

North Face Endurance Challenge

So, let me preface this with the fact/thought that I should have done a training run (or six) that were longer than 15 miles.  But, I do what I can.  And, I was able to finish and have a great time doing so.  That being said, race report…

The start line was a pretty cool experience.  It was cold and somewhat windy, but they had heat lamps and fire pits going, which was a nice touch and made the cold bearable. There was also a welcome tent of sorts that had coffee and hot water and snacks (and more heaters).  I thought that was really nice, and not something I’ve seen at a race before.  I was nervous about drinking coffee before running, since I didn’t know how it would affect my stomach. But, one of the volunteers offered me a cup of hot water to hold, which was a great help with the cold.  While we were in the tent, we looked at the course maps and Brian talked me through the flow of the marathon. While we had run or hiked most of the course, we hadn’t done it all at once.  A couple of other runners joined us and we chatted through the course with them too.  The hour or so we spent there went pretty quickly, and was overall low key.  By the time we started the race, the nerves I had about not finishing had been replaced with the thrill of another adventure.

The course was a kind of figure 8 with a couple of loops.  The first loop went from the start line near the visitor’s center at the headlands, up miwok hill, then down the back side into the Tennessee valley, up marincello hill, over to bob cat and altar before dropping back near the start.  The first hill climb was tough, especially on my calves, especially so early in the race.  But the decent into Tennessee valley was fabulous. I ran all of it, despite the run walk I usually do.  The only drawback was the rude runner with the headphones who yelled at me once I started running after a walk break….I’m not sure why.  Maybe she thought I didn’t want her to pass me?  Whatever, wasn’t going to ruin my day.  Coming into the Tennessee valley, I said good morning to a couple of guys tending a stable, had my photo taken, and ran into our friend, Drew.  He said hello, I told him I was feeling good, and he said, ‘great! Now you get to run up the big ass hill’.  Haha….I think I told him I had just come down one.

The next part of the course began like the first, but after going up miwok a second time (ugh), we made a different turn at  Tennessee valley and headed out toward pirate’s cove and muir beach.  This was when I started to get the Fun song, ‘put one foot in front of the other….lalalala’ stuck in my head. It remained there for most of the rest of the day. I met two other runners on the second trip up miwok.  Up until that point, I felt like I was pretty much in no man’s land. They thought they were lost, but since I had talked through the course that morning, I reassured them we were on track.  Pat was from Connecticut and Holly was from LA.  It was nice to have some people to chat with on our trip up the hill.  However, I lost holly on the way up the hill.  But, I did trade off position with Pat until we hit Pirate’s cove.  This was the one part of the course that was on pavement.  It was also where we started to see 50k runners coming back. I looked out for my friend Toby, who was running the 50k, but he was way ahead of me.  This was also a fairly easy portion to run….or run walk in my case.

The next part of the course went through pirate’s cove, out to muir beach, and then back to the Tennessee valley.  That was by far the most difficult part of the course.  I think the hill up to pirate’s cove was pretty rough, but quite honestly, I don’t remember it.  I remember the descent was pretty scary.  At one point, I stopped to dig a stone out of my shoe, mad had my feet fly out from under me. Luckily, they crashed on to the next step, and I was able to remain upright. Thank god for small favors.  The course between pirate’s cove and muir beach was pretty, but also pretty rough. It was a single track up hill, followed by a steep descent to the beach. Of course, it was an out and back, so all I could think was – I can’t wait to run back out if this. There was an aid station at the turn around, for those do us that turned around. If you’re me, you keep going and over run the turn.  Haha…luckily, I noticed the pink ribbon course markers had disappeared and I asked a volunteer, who turned me around, and I was back at the aid station shortly.

My friend Ed was working the aid station and gave me some water and electrolytes, as well as some Mountain Dew, which I hadn’t had since college, but was amazing at mile 15.  He asked how I was feeling, and I’m pretty sure I told him I had muscles I forgot I had hurting.  Then I finished my stretch break, grabbed some pretzels, had another drink, and took off.  I saw Pat on the way back, gave him a high five and told him we were getting it done.  I also saw Holly, she had hurt her knee and was glad the aid station was only half a mile away.  And, that’s where the course got ugly. After climbing the rollers out of muir beach, there was another never ending hill.  It felt like miles. Luckily, at this point there were plenty of people on the course since the 50 mile runners were on the same course. Most said hello as they jogged by me, and it was great to hear some friendly voices – even if they were running twice as far….

Upon returning to the Tennessee valley, I was glad to see the rest stop, and stopped to grab some more Mountain Dew and a pb&j.  I don’t think it’s ever tasted so good. I also overheard a pacer asking where he could meet his 50 mile runner.  So, of course the wheels started turning, and as much pain as I was in, I wanted to train better and do that one next year.  From the rest stop, we headed up marincello for the second time (ugh), but I knew what to expect, and I love the alta and rodeo trails.  And after that, less than a mile to the finish. And my Fun song about one foot in front of the other was back. Going up marincello, I walked by a couple of other runners, and was able to say hello.  It was nice to have some friendly faces through the final miles. Hitting the rest stop at the top of altar was nice too…great to see the friendly volunteers and have another mini sandwich and soda.

Coming out of the flat end of the rodeo trail, a volunteer at the last water stop let me know I had less than a mile to go, and offered me any last minute aid items.  I knew I was close, and didn’t want to stop moving, so I thanked her and told her I was good. Then, despite the finish being just across the
street and up a small hill, I started singing my song from the Honolulu marathon….’this is the race that never ends’. Approaching the finish line, there was a lady cheering, who told me to run like I was Black Friday shopping. Haha….then I entered the finish line chute, and heard Brian and our friend, Drew, cheering for me. The announcer got my name from Brian and said, ‘we’re all cheering for you, Kim’.

And, like that, it was over.  Am I thrilled with my time, not really.  Am I happy I finished, definitely.  It was my first trail marathon, and my first marathon in at least two years, and I didn’t train.  But, wow…so much fun.  As much as I knew I would be sore, and as sore as I am right now, I can’t wait to sign up for the 50 mile next year.  And train for it….that too.

 In other news, I had my last team meeting for school ever today. So exciting and surreal…