Nothing Like Joining the Polar Bear Club at Mile 18 – Way Too Cool Race Report

Well, it was definitely an adventure.  Unfortunately, not the fun one I was hoping for, but an adventure nonetheless, and I still finished, so I’ll take it.  Let’s start at the beginning….

Getting to the race was easier than it’s been in past years, well, maybe just easier than it was that first year.  Hopefully, I’ll never have that part of the adventure again.  But, there was traffic, but not that bad of traffic.  We were at Auburn Ale House and eating just after 5.  Delicious and I highly recommend it.  Delicious Mac & Cheese, though, this may have been one of those times that the Dairy allergy reared its ugly head.  Ugh…but, better now than in the morning.

Packet pick-up was moved to Folsom…not sure why, but definitely didnt seem like it was going to be as close to the hotel and food, so we opted for morning pick-up.  Which meant an early morning, but not that early of a morning.  Get up at 4:15 to go to the gym…get up at 4:15 to go to a race.  Kind of the same, right?

So, we get to the start line, and similar to two years ago, we get epic parking.  Go early…get a space in the lot.  Perfect.  Also similar to two years ago, I had brought rain boots purely for the walk from the car to packet pick-up that morning.  Of course I didnt need them.  Maybe it was foreshadowing good things to come?  I got my stuff…bib, t-shirt (really nice shirts this year!), bag (great replacement for the instacart bag of gross), and went back to the car for a pre-race nap.

With an hour to go until start time, it was time to start getting ready.  I made my way over to the row of porta-potties, glad it was still early enough that they werent crowded.  Of course I have a run in with some random dude….moral of the story – lock your porta-potty door.  That’s how the rest of us know you’re in there.  Once I found a new one, I unfortunately realized that the previous nights stomach issues had carried over into the morning.  I walked back to the car hoping I had pepto in my pack….and that if I did, it would be enough.

Luckily, planning from previous years did me well, and there was some in the pack.  But, alas, only one.  Hopefully one tablet of pink-chalk gold would do me well.  I choked that down and proceeded to layer up….tank, fleece running jacket, gloves, hat, headband, hand warmers, and due to some last minute drops on the windshield, a rain jacket.

Brian and I made our way over to the start line only to notice that there were people playing in snow.  Where did they get the snow from?!

001 Apparently, it came from the back of someone’s pick-up truck.  Whether they’d filled it up on purpose, or lived somewhere that it was snowing, we’re not sure.  What we do know, is that the weather later added to their load.  haha.

Since I waited until the last possible second to get out of the car, there wasn’t much time before it was time to line up.  In the ten minutes or so before the race, I met a lady from Boston, who was loving the warmer-than-Boston temperatures, and a local lady running her first Way Too Cool.  Somewhere in there, I also ran into Brazen Mike, who I’ve seen at all three of the WTC’s I’ve run.  The weather held off long enough for us to start, and we were off.

Miles 1-8

The first mile or so passed in a blur….I think I was pretty much jogging until I got to the trail entrance (maybe a mile or so), then had to wait for 30 seconds-ish to get on the trail.  Maybe it was like that in previous years too, but it did seem like there was a lot of congestion in the first eight miles.

Once on the trail, I was off again.  The first loop weaves along a rolling trail, where you’re really at the liberty of the rest of the runners….if they’re running, you’re running.  If they’re walking up the hill, you’re walking up the hill.  As I ran down to the first descent, I heard the ‘OMG, we’re going to get wet’ shrieks, and briefly remembered the last time I ran down this hill in the 100+ degree weather this summer.  Definitely no water then.  Different story today.  Not as deep as year’s passed, but definitely knee deep or so.  But, it’s early and everyone still wants to avoid getting wet, so, there’s a line to cross the river.  Really people?  It’s raining.  And there’s more river crossings than I can count.  You’re going to get wet.  Just cross the river.

Across the river and up the next hill I went, continuing to follow the pack of runners on the winding trails.  Of course, I found some mud to slip in somewhere around mile 5…gotta get that first fall in early.  But, I bounce and was back up in no time….not even really enough time for the runners behind me to pass me.  Through the rivers and through the mud, back through the finish line we were heading.  I started singing the ‘I Love Mud’ song from when I was about five in my head.  At some point, it started raining, and a guy behind me was joking that it was ‘dry rain’ since when it’s 100+ degrees there over the summer, it’s dry heat.  A couple more river crossings and a lot of mud later, we were back to the start/finish line.

I saw Brian, who stuffed more hand warmers in my coat pocket, even though I was sure I didnt need them.  At some point on the first loop, I’d realized hand warmers and gloves were too warm and had taken both off, before putting just gloves back on.  I grabbed a quarter of a pb&j and a cup of Sprite at the aid station….based on the earlier stomach issues, I was afraid to take anything else, but also afraid to under fuel myself.  Ugh…it’s such a game some days.  A quick kiss, and I was off…Eight miles down.  22(ish) to go.

Miles 8 – 13

I was feeling good, so began the jog out of the park.  Hiked up the hill, jogged down….then ran into a junction where there appeared to be two sets of course markings.  Maybe the chalk washed away in the pouring rain?  Anyway, the guy in front of me and the guy behind me were both confused.  ‘Do you know where to go’? I really didnt, but I could see other runners heading down the path to the right, so we guessed and took that path.  Luckily, we were right and down to the quarry we went.

The quarry is….flat.  It has that going for it.  But, other than that, it’s about three miles of boring that feel like 35.  So, we played tag.  I jogged along, then took a short break to walk…a guy came up behind me said, ‘tag, you’re it’, and jogged by. He took a walk break further down, and as I jogged past, tagged him. This continued for several miles, I learned that he was a local guy, running his first WTC. It was a great way to make a friend and pass some miles until we hit the luau themed aid station around mile 12 or 13.

Miles 13 – 21

I had forgotten how much of a no-man’s land the 7.5 mile slog between 13 miles and 21 miles is.  It seems to get me every time.  Even that first year, when I LOVED the race and ran really well, I started to mentally lose it somewhere around mile 19.  Last year, I made the rookie mistake of not refilling my pack at mile 13, and was out of water by mile 19.  This year, while I was determined not to make rookie mistakes, I underestimated that slog between aid stations and the mental toughness it takes to get through it.

Somewhere in there, I had three people come up behind me, so I moved to the side so they could pass.  They told me not to worry, that they were sweepers.  What?!  Sweepers already??  I asked if I was last, but they were quick to assure me that I was mid-pack, maybe the start of the back, and they were mid-pack sweepers.  Just making sure everyone was ok.  Insert sigh of relief….

Somewhere between mile 17 and 18, there was another river crossing.  No problem, I’ve been through several of these.  Except this one was deeper….and I slid on a rock.  But, I recovered.  Maybe over recovered….cause before I knew what was happening, I was swimming.  In freezing cold water.  Nothing like joining the Polar Bear club 18 miles in.  Two thoughts ran through my head…..first, I’m done for (I ended up hypothermic with a medic when it was 50 degrees, no way I can come back from a dip in ice cold water), and second…where was this terrible ice bath in August, I would have appreciated it then.

Even thought I was pretty sure I was done, I didnt really have a choice other than to continue the three-ish miles to the next aid station.  Thankfully, I wasnt hurt, and I’ve gone more miles in worse shape.  Then, this happened….


I’m honestly not sure if it was hail or snow, or a combination of both.  But seriously??  As if the surprise ice bath wasnt enough, now I’m soaked and it’s snowing.

I made it down to the mile 21 aid station in one piece, which was more than can be said for the guy in front of me (the aid station volunteer’s words, not mine), apparently he’d rolled down the bottom of the hill. Which isn’t all that surprising, the switchbacks down to that aid station are pretty steep and really slick in the rain and mud.

Similar to two years ago, the warm broth at this aid station saved me. That, in addition to an amazing volunteer. Once I had some broth, he wrang (I don’t even know if that’s a word) out my clothes and helped me get my wet gloves back on. Despite being wet, having them on would still generate body heat. And my hands were cold…I can only imagine what they must have felt like. But, the sun had come out, I’d had some broth, and I still had hand warmers. So, I was off…the goal now was to finish the race I thought I wouldn’t.

Miles 21 – 26

The miles passed in a blur coming out of the aid station. I remember hiking on trails that I’d run down before and counting down the miles to Goat hill….and trying to remember where ‘mini goat hill’ was. Looking back, it seemed like the time passed quickly. At the time, it felt anything but.

Luckily enough, this year the course had returned to normal, and ‘mini goat hill’ had disappeared. I made the left turn toward Goat hill with a couple of other runners. One let the rest of us pass, and I followed another up the hill. I hadn’t really thought about goals for this race, and based on the rest of the day, I wouldn’t have achieved them if I had. However, I always have two goals with this race…..finish, and don’t stop on Goat hill. So, up I went. Passed a couple of people who had stopped to take a break…I’m pretty sure I was really slow, but I didn’t stop.

Hearing the aid station at the top was a relief. Relief that I was at the top of the hill or a mere five miles from the end, I’m not sure. I got some more broth, some soda, a quarter of a pb&j, and talked with some other runners. I saw Brazen Mike again, we caught up, wished each other luck, and were on our way.

Miles 26 – 31

The last five miles probably passed the fastest….thank god.  However, I did forget how treacherous they are in the rain and mud.  It was a lot of scrambling, climbing down, climbing up, and taking care not to slide.  The good news is, I can still hike as fast as some people can jog…sometimes faster.  I counted the miles down in my head, and looking back, it seems like I was at the final aid station before I knew it.  This year, that aid station was fluid only, which is fine…really, it’s a mile from the end.  But, I grabbed another cup of coke and was on my way.

And, oh the last mile…really, the first half of that mile…it’s very much like the Dipsea stairs minus the stairs.  There’s roots and trees and steep and mud…I think the only thing missing is another creek crossing.  But, the end was near, so it was all good.  Somewhere in there, I passed a lady walking up the trail who told me I only had half a mile to go.  I was somewhat surprised, as I thought it was twice that.  I told her she was my favorite…she laughed and said she’d gotten that a lot.

Just before the finish, another runner came up behind me.  We chatted briefly about how we were almost there.  He mentioned something about the cut-off and how he hoped we’d make it.  I’d forgotten all about the cut-off….I asked what time it was, and he said 4:30.  Ah…we’re good.  That’s ten minutes from now and we can see the finish (maybe .25 miles away).


I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race.  Well, I guess that’s not completely true….there was Lake Sonoma, and a couple of marathons where being done was pretty great.  But, I digress.  Brian met me at the finish line, and got a great photo of me running like a ninja (cause when all else fails, at least you still look cool….haha)…


He had my coat (the one I took to Everest Base Camp), that I probably did need, but all I wanted was a hug, my frog cupcake, and to be in the car.  So, that’s what we did.  I even ended up with a new Solomon beer glass for my post-race beer a day later.


If you need a laugh….this photo was taken right before I ate both of the frog’s eyes.  In about five seconds.

Journey to Lake Sonoma

So, what now?   First, I left all of the negative energy from the race on the course once I crossed the finish line.  It was a crazy, crazy day, and all things said and done, I’m glad I finished (I don’t know that I’ve ever been closer to a cutoff and still made it).  It really is about beating that voice in your head that says you can’t.

Now, it’s all about Lake Sonoma.  Even without the surprise swim, I did realize that I need more long runs between now and then.  My legs feel better than they did after this race last year, but not nearly as good as they did the year before that.  Looking at what’s different, it’s the mid-week miles.  In 2016, I had a 24 Hour Fitness membership, and a trail behind my office, in addition to OrangeTheory.  But, the good thing is that there’s still time to fix that before Lake Sonoma.  And I have a better base (thanks, OTF!) now than I did then.

And, potentially a big learning about mid-race fueling.  I only drank soda at the aid stations.  Well, that and the broth starting at mile 21.  And I never felt sick.  Not once after I started the race.  Perhaps it’s electrolyte drinks and running that don’t mix for me.  Regardless, definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.

So, here’s to lessons and good things to come.  I’d love to finish Lake Sonoma in the light.  But, as I learned this past weekend, goals can change mid-race due to slips, trips, and even a dip rivaling the polar bear club at mile 18.  If I can add a second Lake Sonoma finish to my race resume, I’ll consider that a win :).

Until next time….

Building a Snowman…AKA, this Weekend’s Race Plan

So…its been awhile. Almost a year. But, it’s race season, so…I’m back. Just in time for Way Too Cool. Two years ago, it poured. Buckets. Like therapy, a shower, and cardio, all at once. I’ve never been so wet and muddy. And, I ran the best 50k I’ve ever run. How, I’m not sure. Well, yeah, I am. Pretty sure it was some grit, determination, and a gym called Orange Theory.

Last year, it was wet. And cold. But no rain. And I…well, it wasn’t fun. Fighting off injury, recovering from a different injury, cold, under trained, and just not feeling it. I didn’t have a good run….was out of it, made rookie mistakes, and just needed a break.

Over the summer, when I returned to the same place for an attempt at a 50 miler, it was hot.  Well over 100 hot.  I made it to mile 20…I guess that’s saying something.

This year, I was determined to be ready. I trained, with a plan that worked for me. Mileage goals…mixed with long runs. Enough wiggle room for life. Lots of back to back OrangeTheory classes.  And it was good. I ran more miles in January 2018 than either January 2017 or 2016.  And, the miles came easy, other than a few tough days (we all have them ;)), I didn’t have to fight for them. I just ran. A lot. Smarter than I had in the past. Stronger. Maybe faster.

And then I started tracking the weather. First it was maybe wet and cold. Then most likely wet and cold. Followed by definitely. Shortly followed by colder…colder enough to snow. Then definitely cold and snow. 500 feet higher, and I’d be looking at a run through a blizzard.  I’m pretty sure there’s a few thunderstorms thrown in there too.  Awesome.  Exactly what I was hoping for.  Or, more like everything I wasn’t.

So…what now?

I’ve come this far…and spent too many mornings training before the sun came up to walk away now.  So, I’ll take the advice from 2016 to heart.  Staring down 2016’s rain-pocolypse, the best advice I got was to plan for it.  Expect it to pour…expect traffic to be bad…expect to get in late and wake up early.  Take the waterproof camera.  Have fun with it.  And I did.  Made the three turned five hour drive. Enjoyed Carl’s Jr. instead of my typical pre-race pasta. It was a wet, muddy, slog through the forest…I got soaked, got dirty, took pictures, made friends…and somewhere in there ran my fastest 50k ever.

So, for 2018’s race-pocolypse (cause what else do you call a race where you’ll freeze, it will probably rain, it might snow, and it might thunder), I’ll bundle up, bring the waterproof camera…plan to laugh, hopefully make some friends.  Maybe enjoy some more Carl’s Jr. And who knows, maybe I need terrible weather to have a good race.

Life is either a daring adventure….or nothing at all.  And, I suppose if all else fails, I do miss thunder storms, and I can always stop and build a few snowmen along the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

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.

When did it become November??

More than that, how is Black Friday only a week away?  Haha…can you tell I’m back in retail?  But seriously…where did the year go?  Where did these past four months go?  I started the new job in July…it’s now November…that’s only four months.  But, it feels like much longer than that.  In a good way.  I’m still really liking it.  I’m excited to be part of the holiday craziness once again.  And, I’m not afraid that I’ll be awake for 29 hours straight over Black Friday, so there’s that.  Also a good thing.

And as it suddenly became November, it suddenly became fall.  I LOVE fall and all the holidays.  Halloween and bad horror movies…and The Nightmare Before Christmas, our kick-off to the holiday season movie.  Then Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and most likely some tree decorating, before it’s back to New York to spend Christmas with our families.

And holiday means December, and December means North Face.  Oh North Face.  Currently, I’m signed up for the 50 mile…I need to figure out how to officially change that.  I’m nowhere near trained for 50 miles…and I really, really want to do Lake Sonoma again and with my track record, I’d never recover from a December 50 miler in time to run a spring one.  So, I’m looking at the 50k.  Hoping for the 50k.  But we’ll see how this weekend’s training goes.  As always, I’m behind and feeling under-trained.  And my hamstring is sore and tight.  Ugh.  But I still have one week of heavy training left.  That counts for something, right?  I suppose there’s always the marathon if this weekend doesn’t pan out…since it’s supposed to pour both Saturday and Sunday.  But, what’s a little rain and mud, right?  It will give me a chance to make sure my warm running clothes are still warm since I haven’t worn them since Way 2 Cool….and I’ll most likely need them for North Face.

While my weekend runs have been lackluster due to sickness, the hole I seem to keep tearing in the back of my right heel, a busted up hip, and whatever else seems to come up, I have been steady at the gym.  Hopefully four or five days each week at Orange Theory can help make up for the mileage gaps.  Hopefully.  I mean, those classes still kick my butt, especially as I’ve gotten back into running.  But, I’ve gotten my push pace up to where it was before my hip injury.  And my base is almost there…sometimes it is, depending on the length of the block.  It takes me a little longer to warm up, so the endurance days work well for me.

Only time will tell, I suppose.  The good news, these are my trails and my hills, and I’ve maintained some level of base fitness.  The bad news, the mileage, that got me through Cool and Sonoma…just isn’t there.  And this is North Face…which has tried to take me down on more than one occasion.  Can I survive on Orange Theory alone?  Only time will tell.  Hopefully in two weeks I’ll be able to say – nemesis conquered.  Or, bad things come in threes, and this race will finally take me down.

Until next time….

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.

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…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current plan:

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

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

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

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