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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles 1-8

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

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

Miles 8 – 13.1

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

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

Miles 13.1 – 21

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

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

Miles 21 – 26

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

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

Miles 26 – Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone…Except the Wicked Witch of the West. WTC 50k Race Report

First, big thank you to my Aunt Mary for the blog title idea.  Second…I’m not even sure where to begin with this one.  What an epic day – Way Too Cool 50k, my first race since North Face, hopefully the first one I’d finish in over a year, and the first in my lottery of pain this spring.

I could start with the weather predictions I’d been tracking all week, but to make a long story short, it was rain.  All rain, all the time.  I could start with the hellacious drive up here, but again…long story short, it should have taken me three hours.  It took five.  Not fun, and not worth dwelling on.

So, on to the race.  As instructed, I got there early….really early.  The running joke is that I’m always early for the Coastal races (or course marking…and then I get lost, but I digress).  I took this to a new level.  Packet pick-up opened at 6.  I drove in at 5:30, right into some rockstar parking.  I was glad I had the hiking socks, rain boots, and rain jacket with me for the walk to check-in.  It was short, but wet.  They let me check in early and soon I was back in my car for a short nap.  Thank you rain for lulling me back to sleep for a bit.

I woke up an hour later, and to my surprise, it had stopped raining.  And…wait…is that the sun trying to come out?
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In the non-rain, I made my pre-race pit stop….again, being early is key.  No waiting at 7:15.  Then, it was back to my car to figure out what to wear.  I was so afraid of getting too cold and having another issue like North Face, so at first I took my black Marmot jacket and tied it into my pack.  Then, I thought long and hard…it wasn’t raining.  It was pretty warm.  I might need that space to strip off some layers.  So, I left it.  Good decision.  While I didn’t strip off any layers, I definitely didn’t need it.  I headed to the start in my SF Run Company tank, SF Run Company quilted long-sleeved thing that’s usually too hot to run in, a Nike vest (maybe down?), an a white windbreaker (no idea who made that).  Vest and windbreaker were new….so much for the nothing new on race day….staying warm is more important.

So many people at the start line, but I guess that’s what happens when 850+ people run a race.  And, I recognized a lot of them.  But, I guess that’s what happens when you’ve spent weekends working at trail races for a year.  It was great to have several familiar faces to chat with (as well as some new ones) to calm my pre-race nerves.

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Epic Parking.  I was equally close to the finish.

 

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Pre-race….layered up and nervous!

I was so glad it wasn’t raining at the start…I think that would have made it pretty tough to get going.  Once I started running, my nerves turned into energy and I ran the entire way down the pavement (knee, please forgive me) to the trail. The first four or so miles were really congested – single track and lots of people.  Had to go slower than I wanted in some places, but more often, I found myself forced to keep running when in the past I would have walked.  I briefly wondered if this would cause me a problem later in the race, but also thought it might be just what I needed.

While I was glad it wasn’t raining at the start, apparently staying dry wasn’t in the cards.  As I approached mile 2, I could hear people cheering and the entire pack seemed to slow down.  Up ahead was the first of many creek crossings.  Knee deep water.  At mile 2.

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I saw another guy pulling out his phone and decided he has the right idea.  I pulled over to the side and pulled out my water-proof camera.  I mean, if you’re going swimming at mile 2, might as well have some fun with it.  He looked at me and said, “we’re not going to qualify for Boston today, might as well have fun with it”.

The remaining miles of the 8-mile loop passed in a blur and before I knew it, I was back at the start/finish.  I was glad to see an aid station and grabbed some electrolytes and a rice krispie treat (not my favorite race food).  I had been thinking about stripping off a layer, but in the end, decided to keep them all on.  Of course, by now, it had started to rain.

Next aid was only 3ish miles away and mostly downhill.  I was shooting to maintain a 4 mph pace for the entire race, and a quick check on time told me I was about two miles ahead of that.  I decided to worry about the end of the race later and go with it.  So, off I went.  After a little more uphill….down we went.  It was a little sketchy, but I found myself far less skittish than I’ve been in the past.  I hooked on to another runner and followed him down the hill.

I also met a runner who I’ll call Brazen Mike (he had a Brazen Racing hat on, so that’s how I was identifying him before he introduced himself).  We traded places off and on through about mile 15, I think.  Miles 11-15 were probably my least favorite part of the race.  Trail was pretty flat, and they were some of my fastest miles of the day, but I really liked the single track, especially once the crowd had thinned out.  It was also almost completely exposed and it had started to rain harder.  But, the other runners were friendly and we got each other through.

I felt like I spent a lot of time hiking between 11 and 21.  It was rolling and I ran a lot of the downhills and hiked the slight uphills.  At some point, I decided I needed to hike it out for a bit and surprised myself at how fast I could hike.  I kept asking people if they wanted to pass me….and generally, they didn’t.  One guy told me he was going to follow me the rest of the race and let me hike him in at a PR.

Somewhere between 18 or 19 and before the aid station at 21, I started to lose it.  I was tired…and sick of slogging through the mud.  And the creek crossings.  Oh the creek crossings.  Was there ever going to be an end.  I think somewhere in there is where I almost went swimming…thankfully, another runner grabbed my shoulders from behind and kept me upright.  The journey to the aid station seemed very long and I was desperate for some electrolytes.  Or something.  I wasn’t really sure.  Maybe just the desire to be 10 miles from the finish.  But, in typical ultra fashion, the five or six of us grouped together got each other through.  Kudos to the guy who helped me down the very, very steep switch backs to the aid station.  My legs were tired.  I was hurting.  It was slick, steep, and had I been closer to the end, I may have just tried to slide down on my butt.

I thought I might be in trouble, but that aid station was like magic.  First, I realized a two things: one, I was going to blow my previous 50k time out of the water (2014 Tamalpa 50K…8:45).  I was still two miles ahead of my goal pace.  And two, I might actually come in ahead of my goal time.  Then the volunteers gave me chicken broth.  AMAZING.  I shook out my legs, chatted with a couple of the other runners I’d run down there with….one of them told me that if I was an hour ahead of where I’d been before, of course my legs hurt.  Then he reminded me not to waste my hour.

So, off I went.  And that chicken broth….I think it actually was magic.  I got Mathew Wilder’s Break My Stride song stuck in my head, and I just went for it.  Jogged along, barely noticed the pouring rain, passed people (me?!), and felt really good.

Then just before mile 26, I hear, ‘Great job, San Francisco’!  It was one of the ladies from LA that I’d met before the race.  We started the slog up to the infamous Goat Hill together before I lost her.  And Goat Hill…it was surprisingly inconspicuous.  I was expecting a sign…or something.  But it wasn’t until I confirmed with one of the local runners that it was in fact Goat Hill.  And, it was steep.  It was muddy.  It was….surprisingly not that bad.  Thank you Fox Trail repeats.  My goal was to get up the hill without stopping.  And I did…I didn’t even really think about stopping.

I got to the top and was greeted by a bunch of volunteers.  They were great – refilled my water, gave me some electrolytes, and some more broth.  And…was that, Larry?!  It was!  There was Larry, who works some of the Coastal races making soup.  He gave me some tips  on the rest of the course and I was off.  Even though I was soaked, I didn’t give my drop there a second look.

I wish I could say the next three miles were super easy and I kept up the great (for me) pace I had going.  But, they were some of the muddiest, slipperiest, miles all day.  So I walked a lot.  Many times slower than I wanted to be…and I had the energy to run.  That was a first.  But, I knew I was going to come in with a good for me time.  A better for me time wasn’t worth the risk of injury.

I slipped and sloshed my way to the next aid station – hiking where I had to, forcing myself to run where I could.  I could hear trainer Tom’s voice in the back of my head, ’empty the tank!  this is the last of your run today’. I’m not sure why there was another aid station with only 1.4 miles to go, but it was nice to see.  The crossing guards were surprised at how fast I was walking, which made me smile.  Once I was out of the mud, I was able to jog over to the aid station for some electrolytes and soup.  One of the guys was like, that’s amazing, isn’t it?  I said it was, and he said great…now get out of here…1.4 and you’re done.

And, what a 1.4 it was.  Some short, steep, climbs up….rocks….more mud.  More walking than I wanted, but I was going to get in by 7:30.  I could hear the finish before I saw it and due to the mud, didn’t get to run in as much as I wanted.  But, I did run the last piece along the road, made a right turn….decided to roll my ankle.  Awesome.  Only me.  Thank you ankle brace for saving it, even if it is a little sore now.  The nearby spectators all cheered and yelled, ‘nice save’ as I righted myself and jogged through the finish line.

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I wasn’t really sure what to do once I finished.  It’s been so long since that’s happened it was a little emotional.  I got a medal and someone handed me a cliff bar maybe.  Not sure, I tucked it into my pack.  I got one of the volunteers to take a photo….you can’t get that muddy and not document it.  Even if I am the queen of layered running tops.  haha…I dried off, changed clothes, and enjoyed the finish line celebration.  Got the frog cupcake I’ve been thinking about for months along with a post-race beer.

So, where does that leave me?  Other than pretty sore at the moment?  Haha.  It leaves me with a vote of confidence for Lake Sonoma.  It leaves me knowing that despite having more work to do, my training plan is working.  It leaves me hoping that my second race in the lottery of pain will go as well as my first.

Big thanks to all of the volunteers – being out in the rain and cold is no small feat, but you all did it with smiles on your faces and were just what I needed to see at every aid station.  Thank you to trainers Robin, Tom, and the rest of Orange Theory for teaching me that I can push a lot harder than I thought I could both in class and out.  And to Dr. Hal, for putting me back together again and talking me off the race ledge this week.

Until next time Way Too Cool, until next time.  When hopefully it’s not raining.  I’d love to see what I can do if I can actually run the last six miles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanging Out Like Normal People

Since I am in taper mode, I had what I would consider a normal weekend.  Saw friends…hung out with my husband…did nothing involving a three or four hour workout.  It was a nice change.  After sleeping in on Saturday morning, I spent the afternoon hiking with my friend, Meg.  Well, after I found her…who knew there were three or four entrances to Windy Hill?  And two roads in close proximity to each other with the same name.  Once we found each other, we had a great time exploring some new trails on a beautiful day.

Saturday night, I went to dinner with Meg and some other friends.  She started a book club, which is great – I love to read and don’t do it nearly enough anymore.  However, time got away from me and I haven’t even gotten the book we were supposed to read, much less read any of it.  As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who had gotten behind due to life, and we decided to meet for dinner anyway.

Since the book was about Peru, we decided to have dinner at a Peruvian restaurant down on the Embarcadero, La Mar.  Dinner was delicious, I has some sort of steak dish with fries and other stuff.  I also had several bites of Meg’s food, since that’s what was put in front of me first.  Oops.  What happens when you don’t really understand the food you’re ordering.  Luckily, they brought her a brand new food and all was well.  We enjoyed the food and wine, and chose our next book.  Really looking forward to getting back into reading, especially with friends.

Then it was on to my Uber adventure home.  I’m the first to admit I have a horrible sense of direction, but this guy…this guy was in a league of his own.  As he’s picking me up, another couple hops out of the car…the lady says to me, ‘he picked up the wrong people….’.  That should have been my first clue, as we then proceeded to drive all over the city before we got to the Tavern in Noe Valley.  After my tour of San Francisco – Pac Heights, North Beach, USF, the Castro….and finally to the Tavern where I had planned to meet Brian a half hour earlier.  But, I got there, we got to watch the amazing end of the Warrior’s game, and have a few drinks….all’s well that ends well, I suppose.

And, today, rather than go exercise for four hours, we hung out like normal people.  Haha. We tried a new (to me) place for brunch on the edge of Noe Valley.  Delicious French Toast and mimosas and breakfast potatoes.  Then we went shoe shopping….yay for new running shoes.  Even though I had to order them since they didn’t have my size, but they’re on their way and should be here by the end of the week.  Then we went to get food for the snake….so close to being normal….haha.

And, now on to the countdowns….

Days ’til Way Too Cool – 6

Number of Orange Theory Classes before Way Too Cool – 1

Number of Days at 24-Hour Fitness before Way Too Cool – 2

Weeks ’til Lake Sonoma – 6

Where has the time gone?  On one hand, it feels like this has been the longest month ever…it was still less than one month ago that we bought the new dinning room table.  But, I really can’t believe it’s going to be March next week.  And, with March comes Way Too Cool….a race I’m way more nervous for than I should be….

I’m worried about getting there since I can’t plan to leave work early to miss traffic….hopefully all of the reports that day come in early.  But, regardless, if I end up leaving late, I can pick up dinner from Amici’s and eat before I leave, and just worry about getting to Auburn, rather than finding food along the way or once I get there.  Or, hold out hope that I can leave early enough to pick-up my bib before pick-up closes Friday night and get an extra half hour of sleep the next morning.

I’m worried about the race itself since I didn’t finish any of the races I started in 2015.  Looking at the course and my previous times, I should be fine…but, I’ll feel much better after I actually run it.  And, at this time next week, it will be over.

I keep telling myself it will all work out in the end.  I’ll have an amazing race – feel great, have fun, and get a frog cupcake at the end.  Then sleep ’til noon the next day.  Rest for a week and start gearing up for my next adventure…..

Because, after all of that…there’s still the beast that is Lake Sonoma….

 

And, on to the taper…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend of Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OMG….stop. 

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…. 

What a Wednesday

“Don’t worry about the future, Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum.  The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday,” Baz Luhrmann

The day began like any other Wednesday, or similar to it.  I was taking my quarterly half day to get another long run in before Way Too Cool, so I had a bunch of extra stuff with me….and one side of my throat had started to hurt, so I made some tea for my drive to try to help it.  But, other than that, pretty ordinary.

Traffic was traffic….maybe not as bad as usual, maybe just as bad.  I don’t really remember.  Typical backed up places, typical nightmare 280/380 interchange, but since I do it everyday, I’ve learned to handle it.  Then came the interchange on to 101….

At first glance, it looked like things were moving, which isn’t always the case.  Great, we like that.  As I drove down the on ramp, I noticed something that looked like a cloud of dust or smoke or something.  However, as I saw other cars swerving to get out of the way and about ten of them pull over, I realized it wasn’t smoke or dust or anything other than an SUV rolling across the freeway.

It came to rest in the median between my on ramp and 101 just before I passed by.  It seemed like for a moment, maybe more, everything just stopped.  The cars on the on ramp came to a standstill, people poured out of the cars that had pulled over, running to help.  A great showing of human kindness amidst the chaos.  I remember thinking I should call 911 and digging out my phone, but just as quickly tossing it away when the line was busy.  There were several people on phones on the median – I would assume doing the same thing I was.

Before the traffic on the on ramp began to move again, I watched a woman climb out of the SUV.  Her look of terror, relief, and confusion, is not one I will soon forget.  Hopefully she escaped with minor injuries and was the only one in the car.

As I proceeded down the road, I saw the emergency vehicles coming from the opposite direction.  And, then life moved on.  Cars kept moving…..cars merged on to the freeway from further south none the wiser to what occurred only a few miles behind them.  Me, it just got me thinking.

Who knows where anyone involved was heading this morning…..work, school, picking someone up at the airport.  But, I can pretty much guess that this wasn’t anything that they planned on.  Then life changed…..in the blink of an eye.  Scary.

For only a short while ago, I was headed out of work early for a holiday weekend.  I stopped for gas and was heading to join the gym.  And a truck tried to drive straight through the back of my car.  Thankfully, this was a far lower speed (compared to the freeway….I still maintain the guy never slowed down), but nothing I was expecting.  I was excited for the long weekend – a race on Saturday, something fun on Sunday and Monday, maybe a couple of runs in there somewhere.  And in the blink of an eye….I’m dealing with insurance and driving a rental car for six weeks.

“I really regret that run,” said no one….ever. 

After spending half the day at work, I continued with my plan to get out on the trails.  I was hoping for 16-20 miles, and I know a great 18 mile course at Horseshoe Lake (conveniently located near the office), so the clock hit 12, and I was off.  I should have known it wasn’t going to be my day when I got parked and tried to set up my watch.  Of course it’s locked…..and of course, no matter what I press, I can’t get it to unlock.  Not annoying at all.  Luckily, I had my phone and my Strava app, so I could still track my run.

Things started off just fine, I planned to run the half marathon and five mile portions of the Horseshoe Lake race course, both of which I had done before and I had a map, so I knew where I was going.  Kind of.  Sort of.  Basically follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  Some climbing, some rolling, good training.  But, for some reason….not sure if it was my morning or because it was the middle of my work day or because my watch didn’t work or because I was already sore and tired, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

I ran along the half marathon course, quickly finding my way through the Christmas Tree Farm and on to the trail, up to the point where Ksenya and I turned around a mont ago (back when I started to get sick….who knew I’d still have remnants of it a month later).  I paused there to admire the beauty of it all….the trail, the sunshine, the fact that I’m able to get out there.

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Shortly after that, I hit my stride…at least for a little while.  Music was good.  Trail was run-able.  I was in it.  Until this happened….

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Now, it says the trail is open for hikers….if that’s the case, why are both the gates locked? It’s bright and sunny…it can’t be that muddy.  And, I’m little, I could always fit through the gate, right?  After some brief contemplation, I decided that fence jumping onto a closed trail was probably a bad idea and there were just as many trails back towards the car, so why not head that way.

I was able to run most of the way back to the car.  Hopefully that means I’m getting stronger and Orange Theory and the back to back shorter days are paying off.  Once I got back to the car, I headed up the five mile route, but at this point, I really wasn’t feeling it. Again, maybe it just wasn’t my day.

But, not to be outdone by the beauty of the first lap, the second lap was just as nice and included some friends.

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These two came flying down the trail and off to my left quick enough to scare me a bit.  They get close here too!  I feel like the deer in NY would run away if you so much as walked by the window, but here they come right up and walk on by.

I turned around shortly after seeing the deer and headed back down to the car.  I ended up with eight miles…not the greatest, but eight miles more than I would have gotten had I not hit the trails.  The shorter day today combined with the sick I’ve been fighting forever, has me a little worried for Way Too Cool.  And, really more than that, Lake Sonoma.  I can probably pull 30 miles out of somewhere….I did in late October/early November, but 50, as I’ve learned is a whole different ball game.  But, Way Too Cool first…let’s focus on that.  I’ve still got this weekend before I need to taper and the back to back training day thing is new for me.  Hopefully it gets me there.

So, after giving myself a pep talk during the car ride home and a nap once I got there, I leave Wednesday with two thoughts.  One, a day in the sunshine on the trails, no matter how tough, beats the office any day.  Two, I need to stop stressing about this race.  Life is too short, 2016 is a new year, and it’s supposed to be fun.  And I’m a stronger runner than I’ve ever been….I’ll get through it.

Until next time….

Lake Sonoma Adventures

Since I am the proud winner of not one, but two spring race lotteries, referenced before as the lottery of pain, I decided I needed to get my act together. Mainly for Lake Sonoma, the 50 miler, but 30 miles on uncharted terrain is no joke either.

Let me back up…why was I even in two race lotteries to begin with?  Well, back when I thought I’d conquer North Face and I realized I didn’t really want to swim a half ironman distance again (let alone a full), and realized how much I loved the trails, I entered the lottery for Lake Sonoma. It’s worth noting that I thought I had to be in before North Face.  Post North Face debacle, I thought that maybe I’d need some time before another 50, and that I’d enter the lottery for the Way Too Cool 50k and pull out of Lake Sonoma.  Great idea in thought, not so much in practice. Turns out, entering Cool was no problem….however, there wasn’t a way to get out of Lake Sonoma. It won’t be a problem, I thought….I never win anything, I thought….

Cue the Monday I have the flu and try to work anyway.  After a scary drive home from Redwood City, the realization that I can’t keep anything down, and an overwhelming desire to sleep forever, I check my email.  Two Ultra Sign-Up confirmations book-ending an email from the Lake Sonoma Race Director…..I had won the lottery….two lotteries, to be exact. Yup….time to get it together.

Since the 50 mile scares me way more, I decided to focus on that. Thought process being, I have to run a couple 30+ days to train for that anyway….might as well use Cool as a training ground. And people seem to really like that race….and it’s on part of the Western States course….and I saw something about frog cupcakes. I’m slow, but I better get a cupcake….haha.

Anyway, I digress. I emailed with a friend who has run Sonoma three times and planning for a fourth.    She gave me the lowdown on the course….rolling hills for approximately twenty miles, headlands
like hills for ten, back on the rollers for another twenty. Throw in some (12) creek crossings and some really good swag at the end, and you have the most fun 50 miles ever.  Well…I just had to check it out for myself.

I took a trip up to Lake Sonoma right before Christmas….I mean, I had to pick up wine anyway, why not?  I think I only missed one turn on my way to the park, and really, I was already in the park.  Pretty good for me. Haha. As I pulled in, I passed several signs about drowning and not being next…thankfully (I think), there’s only been one. There were also several signs about paying at the marina….ok, sure. If I’m going to pay for something, it might as well be a park or a trail, etc. I drove down into the marina to pay, but no one was around…very Deliverance or something.  I guess that’s what happens in the off season. I wandered for a bit…looking for a map or a person or something. Didn’t really seem like there were trails or anything near there. Luckily someone (marina worker, maybe) found me and was able to provide some directions and give me change for the parking fee.

I headed up to what I thought was the parking lot for the trail, but turned out to be a field of soft mud and gravel. Well, it’s supposed to be rugged, so I thought I was in a parking lot. Turns out the lot was the next turn off the main road, but, no one cared. Haha. I put on my awesome ankle braces, loaded up my pack, and headed towards a trail. There was only one, so I assumed it was the race course my thoughts were semi-confirmed by a few stray course markers I found (strava would later confirm that I was correct….and don’t get me started on races that can’t seem to clean up after themselves).

The trail was….excellent. I quickly understood why people like this race and why it’s fast and rugged. The trail was overall runable.  Very rolling….nothing like the walk up, jog down I was used to in the headlands. Sad, because I’ve become a great hiker, but good, because maybe I can learn to run more. At some points, it almost felt like an obstacle course….lots (ok, two, maybe three) downed trees to climb over.  And then there was the man with the crossbow. Really??  Where am I and what did I sign up for?

Unfortunately, I was tired. My body had been through a lot in early December – North Face debacle, the flu, life….and my thoughts of 15 miles quickly became 13 and then 10 before ending at 9.  But, I’d gotten a good preview of what 4/5 or so of the course would be like. And had an adventure. Tough to beat that.

Shortly after the holidays, I decided to head back out to Lake Sonoma. I didn’t feel the greatest and couldn’t decide if it was tired or sick. But, I figured, might as well go explore something new if I’m going to be slow anyway. After a quick stop at SF Run Company (fewer things burn a hole in your pocket faster than a gift card from there…), I was on my way.

Once I arrived, I headed back towards the marina, where I thought I was supposed to pay. Not before passing a sign about boar hunting until March 23rd and sharing the trails. Now, are the hunters supposed to share with me or me with them?  At least that explains the crossbow from my last adventure.  I become thankful that I just bought a bright orange running shirt with my gift card. At least I wont be mistaken for a boar. I drive down to the marina to pay and unfortunately no one is there….oh well. I remember where the envelopes are. But, before I can get out of the car, a giant truck pulls in right next to me….almost close enough that I can’t get the door open. And they have a confederate flag license plate. Awesome….sometimes I make great friends…..

I jump out and quickly pay the fee. I wasn’t planning on staying, so hopefully my new friends have plans that involve the marina. Just as quickly as I paid the fee and dropped the envelope, I got back in the car and was off to my destination – the turn around point for the race. Of course the scary truck decided they needed to leave then too….followed me halfway up before stopping and I never saw them again. Maybe they decided to stay at the marina….maybe they decided they should pay to use the park. Who knows. I was just glad they were gone.

After crossing a bridge, I found my destination pretty fast – no name flat parking area. After my previous run in, I was pleased to see several cars in the parking lot. I got ready (que awesome ankle braces) and was on my way. I didn’t have a ton of water, but it was chilly and only ten miles….ugh….bad idea. Someday, I will learn.

The first piece of trail was similar to my earlier adventure.  Rolling hills and pretty runable. I did a loop and a half or so, then realized I was doing the same thing twice. Strava later confirmed that I’d also gone in the wrong direction on the loop – how else would I get a course record ;). Oops…at least I found it. There are no names on the map and the trail markings leave much to be desired. Part of why I love it, but not conducive to easily figuring things out. Haha.

Once on the fire road out and back (appropriately titled fire road on strava), I definitely found the hills. I turned just before the Madrone fire road, but I think I saw the worst of them. Good news, with some training, they didn’t seem that bad. Bad news, I understand why Marissa suggested Fox trail repeats as part of training.

I started my journey back, and in no time rolled my left ankle. Ouch…I was walking. Grrrr….hiss.  Luckily, I was able to walk it out, but it still hurts now and it’s a little puffy. Hopefully I can get some healing or strengthening suggestions from the doctor next week. It seemed like forever – running when I didn’t feel too hot was not one of my better ideas, but eventually I saw the car from afar. Not before another runner passed by and wished me a happy new year and some hiker failed at peeing in the woods. Really….we were maybe 200 yards from the parking lot. With a porta poty. Try that. Or learn to actually hide….

Oh what an adventure I’ve gotten myself into. Until next time…over and out….