Category Archives: The Great Outdoors

RACE RECAP – Diablo Trail Adventure Half Marathon

Is a trail half marathon with 2,500 feet of climbing an appropriate long run for a road marathon?  Probably not.

Can I resist a trail half marathon with 2,500 feet of climbing?  NOT REALLY, APPARENTLY.

My Happy Place!

My Happy Place!

It was a stepback week and I had a 13 mile long run scheduled.  Why not get some climbing and downhill running practice with my favorite race presenters: Brazen Racing?

My mantra for this race was “Don’t be dumb; it’s a TRAINING RUN!”  After my thrilling and unexpected AG place at Drag N Fly, I could feel a little competitive frisson.  My strategy was the same as last time: hike the hills, run the flats and downhills.  Keep the running pace easy.  Not difficult to do on this course, right?

That's a lot of hiking.

That’s a lot of hiking.

Because I’ve run the 5K event twice, I was familiar with the first hill.  It’s not long but it’s fairly steep and can really zap your energy.  I promised myself that no matter how many people ill-advisedly surged up the hill, I would not.  But I did.  Whoops.  I didn’t run fast but I did run.  Thankfully, it didn’t have any negative impact.  I enjoyed the downhill that followed, accompanied by an UltraRunner Podcast.  Music makes it hard to keep my pace in check, especially so early in a run.

Off I go in my SWEET glasses.

Off I go in my SWEET glasses.

Another climb with some narrow single-track followed.  I love this kind of running!  The trail got a bit backed up but thankfully everyone wanted to hike/run around the same pace.  This was the first of many times I observed people huffing and puffing “running” while I hiked at exactly the same pace.  I appreciate the pride that comes with running an entire trail race but honestly, I’ll take efficiency over pride.  Especially when the PACE IS IDENTICAL.

Careful where you step!

Careful where you step!

The next five miles were pretty uneventful.  Hiking the hills proved to be a great strategy, as usual.  All that Dailey Method thigh work powered me up, with minimal challenge.  Each time the trail leveled, I was happy to begin trotting again.

I knew that after mile 8, it was all downhill.  I love to run downhill but my right IT band was not loving it.  I took it easy and focused on lifting my inner thighs and hamstrings to support my knee.  Thanks again, Dailey Method!

You're never fully dressed without a smile!  And these sunglasses!

You’re never fully dressed without a smile! And these sunglasses!

When I reached the final miles, I was running far faster than I should have been for a long training run but it just felt so good!  It was also awesome because this course has been my nemisis.  Each time I ran the 5k, I would be so zapped by the hill that I would always stop to walk on the way back, even downhill.  Super frustrating.  NOT YESTERDAY.  I smiled each time I ran through a spot that had kicked my ass in previous years.  This time, with ten miles in between!  I’m getting a lot stronger, physically and mentally.

One challenge during this race was fueling.  I decided not to carry my handheld water bottle because it contributes to asymmetry that causes my IT band issue on the right side.  This was not a good choice because the aid stations were at 1.1, 2.7, and 7.8.  I thought there was one more.  I took my time to drink several cups of water at the second and third stations but it wasn’t enough.  I took far less fuel than I planned (since I didn’t have water to drink it with) and a vague headache showed up around mile 8.  After the race, I made a beeline for Ultima and food.  I had a couple oreos and a LOT of electrolyte drink.  My head hurt so much, I squinched my eyes shut trying to get it to release.  I wandered over to the standings to see if my AG places had come in.  1-4 were already in so I headed home, by way of an enormous Diet Coke and some curly fries.  Very happy, in spite of the headache.

So, I finished with a time of 2:39:47.  Cool!

Wait, wasn’t I psyched to break 3 hours before?

Yes.  I took FIFTEEN MINUTES off my trail half marathon PR.

WHAT?!

There were 500 fewer feet than the other courses but fifteen minutes?!  That is a testament to the mindfulness practice I’ve adopted.  I didn’t have any negative thoughts or fears, even when I knew I was under-fueled.  I stayed present in my body and ran the pace that felt right.  Which was my 5k pace at the end.  Woah.

I am thrilled for CIM and even more thrilled for it to be over so I can do some serious goal setting.  Time to level up!

BOOM!

 

 

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Race Recap: Drag N Fly

Well, this may be the most successful and wonderful race I’ve ever run.  BOOM.

No disrespect to my tremendous first marathon experience, but today was also very special.  With the 70.3 off my calendar, I’m free to race whatever the heck I want!  Brazen’s Drag N Fly was right up my alley: challenging elevation with gorgeous views at the top.  Since I’m trained up to half marathon distance, I went for it!  Yesterday, my calves were feeling a little crampy and hips felt slightly achy.  I contemplated dropping back to the 10k this morning and now I’m so glad I didn’t.

Pre-race went smoothly.  Up before dawn, waffle with prosciutto, easy drive, easy parking.  Bib pickup was super quick.  Brazen Racing is just the bomb.  Even the pre-race briefing is funny and fun.  Their organization, food, course marking, and energy are all top notch.  Highly recommended.

So, here’s what we’re dealing with:

My dad told me that the Space Needle is 600 feet.  So, extrapolate...

My dad told me that the Space Needle is 600 feet. So, extrapolate…

My race plan was to hike anything that resembled an incline, run anything that went down, and do my best on the flats (Drag N Fly.  Get it?).  Almost immediately, we faced the first major climb.  The sun was already shining and people were starting to suffer.  I felt really good and pumped, especially when I thought about how satisfying it would be to run back down that sucker at the end!  We were also rewarded with glorious views when we reached the top.

Climbing

View from the top.  Unreal.

View from the top. Unreal.

As we climbed higher and higher, I couldn’t stop looking back behind me.  It still completely blows my mind that I can travel that far and that high ON FOOT.  The novelty of trail running absolutely has not worn off and I was grinning from ear to ear.  Especially once we headed downhill!

Throughout the race, I felt happy and calm.  So weird.  I certainly recognized that the climbs were difficult.  The first three miles were really challenging but I only had a few moments where I was daunted by the distance.  I truly felt happy and overwhelmed with gratitude the entire time.

Brazen is excellent at marking the course with ribbons and flour. In the pre-race briefing, the race director joked that people would still go off course.  Today it was me!  Only for a moment and it was during the first downhill.  I was having so much fun, I missed a weird turn!  It cost me about a minute and made a couple folks laugh.  The race went so well, I wouldn’t change a single thing about it but you better believe I was much more aware of red ribbons for the rest of the run!

It’s hard to give a mile-by-mile report because I was running by feel and not married to hitting specific paces.  Throughout the entire race, I stuck to my strategy of climbing the hills and running the descents.  I was shocked to see 8:50-9:20 consistently on the downhill segments.  I was unconcerned with pace, only vaguely hoping to beat my time from Bear Creek last year.  The only descent that slowed me down was some really technical and steep single track.  I absolutely love that type of running though.  Brain firing, feet finding the perfect place to land.  LOVE IT.

Yes, that's THE TRAIL.

Yes, that’s THE TRAIL.

Before I knew it, it was time to fly down to the finish.  I had fueled well, hydrated well (cold water at the aid stations was heavenly) and had plenty of heart left to get me home.  I had passed many people and hadn’t been passed by anyone.  I also realized that I hadn’t seen any females around my age since the last one I passed.  I had a fleeting thought that maybe the cherry on this delicious sundae would be to place in my AG for the first time.  My trail times are not impressive and it wasn’t my goal so I didn’t take the thought seriously.

Foreshadowing!!!!!

As I cruised into the finish, I tearfully told a volunteer that I was having the best race ever.  It was tough to keep pushing through to the finish but I did with a huge smile.

Happy tears behind those hideous glasses!

Happy tears behind those hideous glasses!  Peace out, hills!!

Came in, walked around and had a delicious IT’S IT.  The true San Francisco treat.  Chatted with some folks and then headed over to see my place.  The results hadn’t been updated but only 1st and 2nd place in my AG had come in.  There was a chance for 3rd!  I didn’t get my hopes up since I’ve been 4th so many times but low and behold……

I FINALLY GOT A MEDAL THAT NOT EVERYONE GOT!  WHAAAAT?!

I FINALLY GOT A MEDAL THAT NOT EVERYONE GOT! WHAAAAT?!

SUPER STOKED.  There are several reasons why this is not an impressive accomplishment but F*CK THAT.  I’m thrilled.  This was a huge goal of mine and it’s both unbelievable and completely perfect that it happened after running this perfectly executed EPIC race.

Celebrated with Chairman Bao, a lovely lengthening Dailey Method class, Ici Ice Cream and then an unexpected salumi date night with my handsome husband at Adesso.

So basically, best day ever.

 

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Eastern Span

Becoming a runner has been extraordinary.  One of the sweetest parts has been exploring and redefining my home turf on my own feet.

Today was the BEST example of that.  8 miles of 14 were across the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.  A bridge I have driven over about two-hundred-million-thousand times.

Before meeting speedy buddy and IRONMAN Jessica, I had 6 miles to take care of.

Gorgeous Bay to the right.  Highway 80 to the left.

Gorgeous Bay to the right. Highway 80 to the left.

I’ve been meaning to run the Emeryville/Berkeley/Albany segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail  for ages.  In fact, over the summer I sat in horrific traffic for over an HOUR on Hwy 80, not moving and wishing I could just abandon my Prius and run home.  It’s a great trail.  Lovely breeze coming off of the bay and packed dirt on the side of the pavement for when you want a softer surface.  Planning to do a longer run here this coming week.

(Since I only have 40 miles to cover in the next 7 days, as Sara reminded me.  Oy. )

I arrived back at our meeting spot and we headed out to the bridge!  There are two paths that lead onto the new span of the bridge.  We took the one that originates near the Emeryville Ikea.  I was so encouraged to see so many groups of women walkers, families, cyclists, and runners out enjoying the path.  As a nearly lifelong Oakland resident, we don’t get much positive press.  It was awesome to see people outside and enthusiastic about the TOWN!

It’s about two miles from Ikea to the actual bridge.  It was such a trip to run along the approach to the toll plaza where I have waited impatiently so many times.  There’s a short but somewhat steep incline up to the bridge and then a little over two miles before the path ends, just shy of Treasure Island.

059

 

057

 

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060

 

061

 

062

 

It’s a great run.  It’s a gentle incline all the way to the turnaround.  The kind where it looks flat but your inner thighs complain.  We were holding a faster pace than my usual long runs (10:15ish vs. 10:45) but chatting and marveling at the scenery made it really fun.  When we turned around, we dropped more than a minute off our pace!  Downhill is the bomb.  I can’t believe I held that pace at the end of 14 miles.  Running with faster friends is intimidating but so, so rewarding.  The last mile and a half was brutal for me.  Our speedy pace caught up to me and the fog had burned off, revealing toasty temperatures.  It was great to have a chance to push through fatigue.  Had I been alone, I may have stopped to walk but I just kept trotting behind Jess until we were done!

A great morning and wonderful confidence boost going into the last big week of marathon training before taper.  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

And now, recovery.

How I do.

How I do.

 

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RACE RECAP – Dirty Half Dozen

Okay, this one was FUN.

DirtyDozenOn Saturday, I got up at the cracka dawn and drove to Point Pinole for Brazen’s Dirty Half Dozen.  The Dirty Dozen and Half Dozen are 12 and 6 hour trail races where participants run as many 3.37 mile loops as they can/want to in their allotted time.  In the last hour of each event, a 0.67 mile loop is available for runners who want to add more laps but don’t want to do the big loop again.

I am nowhere near ultra distance but the event sounded super fun.  In the inclusive spirit of Brazen Racing, anyone who completed even one loop was considered a finisher, getting a rad medal/coaster and a hoodie!  With 10 miles on my training plan for that day, I decided to redeem a volunteer credit I had and get a taste of the ultra environment!  3 loops would give me the exact mileage my Portland plan called for.

The 12 and 6 hour events started at 7 am and it was FREEZING.  Cold and seriously windy.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to bring my lightweight long sleeved top for chilly running.  Major fail.  I was wearing a big cotton sweatshirt at the start and it was just too cold to take it off.

First time running a race in a sweatshirt.  First time running a race with my eyes closed.

First time running a race in a sweatshirt. First time running a race with my eyes closed.

The loop was really fun.  It started along the water with before heading up into the park.  The first half of the loop had some gentle climbing and some short semi-steep climbs.  With 6 and 12 hours of running ahead of them, most people sensibly walked all the hills, even though the race had just begun.  I ran them all (go me!) but was tempted to tell everyone I passed that I only planned to do 3 loops.

Up, up, up...

Up, up, up…

After a few hills, there was a brief section of single track that spit us out at the aid station.  The last section of the course was on trails in the park.  This section was shielded from the wind which was nice but for some reason, it felt hard each time I looped around.The first loop was all about pacing myself and figuring out the course.  I ran without music for the first lap and just observed the scenery and half-listened to other runners chatting with their friends.  Almost immediately, the sweatshirt was annoying and sweaty.  As I ran, I kept thinking how much I ****LOVE***** trail running.  Must do much, much more!

As I headed under the arch for the second loop, I stopped briefly for a cup of water and a quick hamstring stretch.  My left hammy was doing this weird twingy thing that I noticed sporadically when I was training for RnR San Jose.  Nothing major but only 3 miles into 10, I didn’t want it to get any worse.  I wasn’t quite ready to ditch the sweatshirt even though I had the sleeves shoved up to my armpits.This loop was a little mentally challenging, as the middle of runs usually are for me.  I kept cruising.  Kept running up the hills.  Found various people to pace me until they would inevitably walk the hills and I would lose them.  Again, NO JUDGEMENT.  THEY WERE RUNNING ALL DAY.  WALK THOSE HILLS, PEOPLE.  I still hadn’t put in my music, adding a little mental training for Portland.  I’m trying to get into the habit of using music as a little treat to look forward to, in the hopes that it will get me through tough marathon moments.

For loop three, I ditched my sweatshirt and put tunes in.  I felt AMAZING.  It was probably the most enjoyable three miles I have ever run.  I looked forward to each section of the trail.  I let my legs out a bit since I didn’t have to conserve and noticed that I felt great.  In the last mile, I saw Amanda, an absolutely incredible ultra runner (and sister of my close high school friend) who was doing the 12 hour event.  TWELVE.  HOURS.  This lady WON the 6 hour event for the women last year.  Really, really inspiring.  I waved hello and was secretly happy that the only time I saw her on the course was when I was running strong and feeling awesome.  When I told her I had signed up for this race, she warned me that it’s a total “gateway drug” to ultra running and she’s right.  I was SO tempted to add on another loop and then maybe walk another one after that.  I just wanted to keep running but I knew the smart choice was to stop at 10, as planned and pain-free.

Can we just take a moment and talk about how at 10 miles, I was dying to do 3 or even 6 more?!  WHO IS THIS ME?

I came into the finish for the third time feeling fantastic.  I felt a little awkward finding Jasmin, the race director so she could dig my medal out of the box. LOL.  She was super nice about it and congratulated me for finishing 10 miles.  I told her how excited I was to do the race again next year and add more mileage!  After grabbing an oreo, I headed back to the car with a big ‘ole smile on my face.

Seriously Flavor Flav.

Seriously Flavor Flav.

SO, why did I love this race so much?  Why did I have so much fun doing something that on paper is more challenging than many of the other workouts and races I’ve participated in lately?
NO PRESSURE.
It was a “supported training run.”  In my mind, that let me off the hook.  Yet, I had very specific pace goals that I thought were appropriate for this run and I hit them perfectly.  I could have challenged myself less by walking the hills but I ran them!  My competitive spirit was present but not consuming.  This is the mentality I want to bring to every workout because it wasn’t easy but I finished feeling alive and hungry for more.
And hungry for ice cream.
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Total time: 1:45:53 (10:31/avg) 
Alright, ultra runners.  What was your gateway drug?  An inspiring runner?  A particular race?  Tell us all about it!

First Open Water Swim: IT WAS RAD!

Because who likes to be kept in suspense?

If you don’t want to read this epic post, go ahead and just look at me smiling and thumbs-upping post-swim.

That's a happy swimmer, right there!

Yep!  That’s a happy swimmer, right there!  See ya later!

Now I know who my real readers are.  You get candy.

After a fitful and crampy night of sleep, I woke up at 5:50am and hallelujah: there was a bit of daylight!  It’s so much easier to get up for an early workout when there’s light out!  Then it doesn’t feel like you should be going to the airport for an early flight. I packed up all my crap the night before so I could literally pull on my trisuit, brush my teeth (you’re welcome, fellow swimmers) and roll out.

Good morning, Bay Bridge!

As I crossed the  Bay Bridge from Oakland to SF, I was a bit stunned that I’d soon be IN THE WATER…

I didn’t realize that Aquatic Park was essentially in the tourist clusterf*ck of Pier 39/Ghiradelli Square.  Thankfully, it was so dang early that parking wasn’t an issue.   Swims later in the day could be a major challenge for this reason (especially during the summer) but there is In-N-Out a couple blocks away for some post-swimming Protein Style.  #WorthIt #SponsorMe

Good morning, very beautiful place!

Good morning, very beautiful place!

This clinic was put on by the newly-formed Oakland Tri Club.  About ten of us were in attendance, with the full spectrum of experience represented.  Myself and a couple others were swimming in wetsuits for the first time while several were experienced Bay swimmers and veterans of Alcatraz swims!  One even swam sans wetsuit!

My new hero for innumerable reasons.

My new hero for innumerable reasons.

Club Founder and President Chris Van Luen led the clinic.  We discussed major points of open water swimming:

* What happens to your body in a wetsuit, in cold water, when you exit the water after swimming, etc.

What to do if you have anxiety and what that can feel like.

Types of triathlon swim starts and where to position yourself in the start, depending on your experience level.

Sighting.

Chris took his time explaining everything we could expect.  Others shared their experiences and for someone who really likes to have ALL the information when attempting something new, it was very comforting.  Before I knew it, we were suiting up and the non-noobs were heading out for their workout.  My grocery bag feet worked like a charm and I got my suit on much more quickly than ever before.  Having my trisuit underneath helped it to slide right up over my butt and hips.  Even got the crotch up in the right place.  Not being able to get my wetsuit on in front of folks I don’t know was really my only fear for the day so with that conquered, I was ready to go!

Sidebar: Everyone else’s suits slid right up their legs.  When I got home, I noted that my suit was actually an XS, not an S, like I thought.  Based on the room in my torso, I think I’m between sizes and tightness in the legs is preferable to lots of cold water pooling around my skinnier parts.  

At Aquatic Park, there is a line of buoys.  From end to end round-trip, it’s about a third of a mile.  I can’t even tell you how relieved I was when Chris said that us noobies were going to start by simply swimming from the shore to one of the buoys and back to the shore.  About 100 meters total?  As we put on our caps and goggles (and I dropped mine in the sand for the first of two times – BALLS!), we walked ankle-deep into the water.  It was cold but not as shocking as I expected.  I walked a bit further and barely registered cold temperatures on my legs.  Wetsuit for the WIN.

I'm pink.

I’m pink.

We broke into small buddy groups and dove in.  My first thought was:

THIS IS TOTALLY AWESOME.  

It certainly wasn’t warm water but with the protection of the wetsuit, it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.  I did notice that my torso was colder than my legs, as to be expected with more water collecting in the upper half of the suit.  My face was quite cold (obviously) but my overall temperature wasn’t even distracting.

We swam around the buoy and back to shore.  The first words out of my mouth were “that was rad!”  Surprisingly, we got out of the water to warm up.  Exactly the opposite of the uncomfortable cold that you feel getting out of an outdoor pool.

Okay, so here’s the deal.  There are a few common things that seem to bother/hinder/panic people when swimming in open water.  Those things include (but are not limited to):

* Not being able to see in the water and by extension, creepy things being in the water like kelp, bugs, fish, and predators.

The water being really cold.

The wetsuit feeling constricting and chokey.

* Seasickness (hadn’t heard that one but it came up!)

* Difficulty sighting and getting off-course.

Contact with other swimmers.

None of these things bothered me!  The temperature was no biggie.  My wetsuit was comfortable (once I could get it on.)  During our second trip out and back, another swimmer literally swam over my body.  I was unfazed.  SO WEIRD.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a metric ton of fears but oddly, the thing that uniformly inspires anxiety in triathlon doesn’t bug me in the least.

If this sounds braggy, can we just rewind to last week when the anticipation of a Sunday morning bike ride with good friends had me in tears?  No one here is claiming to have triathlon on lock-down.

I did, however, have one major difficulty:

I can’t swim very well.

I’m just not in shape yet.  Each time I looked up to sight, everyone was further and further away from me.  My breathing pattern was fairly consistent with my pool breathing, so that’s good.  My sighting seemed decent, if a bit more frequent than I’d eventually like.  The only time I had a sighting issue was after the other swimmer swam over me – probably because I was off-course!  Basically, I swam like myself, and myself is pretty slow.  I think that on each of our three out and back trips, I was the last one out of the water.  While I wasn’t compromised by some of the usual challenges, I also wasn’t focusing at all on efficient technique.  I’m sure I reverted back to rotating less and didn’t take full advantage of my suit’s buoyancy.  There is still much work to do!

Practicing a Grand Prix start.

Practicing a Grand Prix start.

All of that said, I consider today a huge success.  I’ll take a lack of fitness over crippling anxiety any day.  This experience made me so excited to get in the pool and improve!  If I’d had a panic attack, who knows if I’d even continue in triathlon?  Maybe I will be the last one out of the water next week (!) but after today’s clinic I know it will be a really fun and empowering experience.

Huge thanks to Chris for sharing his knowledge and getting some great photos of us in the water!

Ever swam in cold-ass water?  Tell us all about it!

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Suuuunny Day….

Shakin the. CLOOOOUDS AWAY!

I love the sunshine. I always know this intellectually but once it’s sunny, I’m shocked by how GOOD I feel. How genuinely HAPPY.

(Hang ten while I find the happiest picture in my iPhone photo roll…)

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Happy AND tan!

So, I had a rest day on my schedule but it was 80 degrees and I was done with work at 10:45am. Not run or cycle in this gorgeous weather?! Get real!

I’m truly being careful not to add extra workouts or overdo it. It was easy to shuffle workouts around so I could ride today and take TDM with a good friend and one of our favorite instructors. Tomorrow’s a heavier work day so taking a rest day then was ideal!

I intend to do every scheduled workout of this training cycle unless I have some compelling reason not to.

Don’t make me say the “i” word.

I will be flexible when the weather is amazing. I will not run on consecutive days. I will listen to my body! I will not continue this sequence of sentences any longer.

Do you like sunshine? Do you like absurd questions?

RACE RECAP – Diablo Trail Adventure 5K

Double race weekend?

CHECK.

After leaving for yesterday’s race in pitch black, I was psyched for daylight savings AND a later start time.  Too bad my body didn’t get the memo and woke up me up at 4:30 am.  I managed to doze after about an hour but was wide awake again at 6:30.  So much for the extra sleep!

This morning’s race was held at Mt. Diablo in Walnut Creek.  I’ve long admired pictures of the beautiful fire trails in this area and couldn’t wait to take a crack at them myself.  The 5K had a late start (9:40) and the sun was already blazing by the time I arrived.

Photographic proof of blazage.

The parking was about a half mile from the start so I got a chance to check out the Castle Rock Park area.

Pardon the photo dumping but it’s just so pretty!

This was my second race organized by Brazen Racing.  The 10K I ran this summer was also put on by them and I loved them both.  Super-organized, festive, relatively inexpensive, and sweet bling for all events.  To anyone who thinks that people running a 5K don’t deserve a medal, I say this:  it took a million times more guts to toe the line for my first 5k than any subsequent race.  Recognize.  But I digress…

So I arrived, took in the scene, and stood around like a running buddy-less loser until the race began.  After my close call at placing in my age group yesterday, I have to admit that I was scoping out my competition.  Everyone I saw had a blue bib for the 10K and I began to get my hopes up.  I might place by default!  Before we took off, I managed to get a picture of my sweet Lindsay Lohan tracking device.

It’s pronounced “Ver-saw-chee.”

I seeded myself somewhere in the middle and off we went!  Knowing that the course was straight up and straight back down, my plan was to warm up, cruise up the hill, and fly back down.  Full disclosure:  I checked the times of the last few years and discovered that if I ran anywhere near my current 5k pace, I had a chance of placing in my age group.  I love that that’s so important to me now.  I’m such a tool.

The course warmed me up alright.  We were running uphill right out of the gate.  I should have dialed it back but I was having so much fun dancing over the uneven terrain.  There is something so delightful about navigating rocks and roots.  I would say it reminds me of being a child but I spent my childhood singing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at my parents.  I’m finally getting to be a sweaty kid and it’s fun!

It was all games until I realized that my heart was about to explode out of my mouth.  I kept digging and as I neared the turnaround, I had a chance to see who was coming back down.  I only saw one woman who looked anywhere near my age and I got pretty excited.  Too bad I had totally shot my wad on the way up.

As I headed back down, my heart rate came down a bit but I was struggling.  I can’t remember the last time I stopped to walk during a 3 mile run but without any other ladies around, I figured it could only help to walk.  I took about 10 steps to slow my system down and resumed running.  With about a mile left, I was pretty much out of gas.

Note to self: RUN MORE TRAILS.  YOU WILL LIVE FOREVER.

All of a sudden, a fast-looking woman I had noticed at the start shot past me.  I had passed her going uphill.

Note to self:  PASS PEOPLE GOING DOWNHILL.  TOWARDS THE FINISH LINE.  ONLY IDIOTS PASS PEOPLE GOING UPHILL.

I was averaging about a 9:20 mm at this point and still on pace to place.  I kept pushing when I could and taking 10 second walking breaks when I couldn’t push anymore.  With only a half mile to go, I saw a woman in a green shirt pass me.  She was just about my pace and clearly near my age.  I knew chasing her down was my chance at placing (obviously this felt like getting on the podium at an Ironman to me) but I didn’t have it in me.  I was just hoping to outrun the eight year old boy who was steps ahead of me.  With the finish line in sight, I dropped back to let the kid sprint and then sped up for my finish.

Maybe they were 29?

Nope.

Official time: 29:19 / 9:24 avg – new 5k PR!

4th/21 AG, 53rd/219 Overall

Fun facts:

* I was 30 seconds behind 3rd place and a minute behind 1st and 2nd.

* My time would have been 1st or 2nd in any other adult female AG.  WTF?

If I sound disappointed, I’m totally not.  I find it kind of hilarious that I even have the possibility of any acknowledgement at my current level of running.  That said, I’m TOTALLY HUNGRY FOR A WIN NOW.

This was a really fun and really hard race.  Trail running is no joke.  It feels like what I imagine speedwork is like wearing a kevlar vest.  I really love the way it feels to my legs and feet.  The idea of being able to do it without my lungs exploding is totally worth the work it’s going to take.  Much more to say on this subject but the recap is now longer than the race.  I’m out!

That’s a tarantula. Sweet dreams!

Anyone discover a dormant competitive streak in themselves?  Tell me all about it!

RACE RECAP – Lake Chabot Trail Run

Well, that was fun and HARD!

There was a hill.

Today I completed my first trail race and my first 5 mile race!

BTW, which sounds more impressive?  8K or 5 miles? …. Neither you say?  Pfffft.

It was a great and challenging experience.  The race was at the beautiful Lake Chabot reservoir, about 20 minutes away from my house!  It’s wonderful to have several great race organizers in the Bay Area.  If I could afford it, I would race every weekend!  This event was put on by Coastal Trail Runs and I found it to be very well-organized.

Since it was a small race, there was no advance bib pickup.  My start time was 8:15 but pick-up began at 7.  I am always paranoid about being late (the curse of the Bay Area musician) so I left my house around 6:40.  Since daylight savings is tomorrow, it looked like this:

Good morning, Car.

Pumped some old T-Swift (judge not...) and hit the road.  I arrived there in no time, got my bib and headed back to the car to stay toasty and watch the sun come up.

Daybreak.

About ten minutes before go-time, I walked back to the start line and made some conversation with runners around me.  People were super nice at this race.  Gotta do more of these so I can make some trail running buddies.  We got a brief briefing (couldn’t resist) about the course markings and we were off!

As usual, everyone surged past me.  I wasn’t purposely running conservatively at the start (about a 10mm) but I guess everyone just really loves to tear away at the start.  Fine by me!  I spent the first mile warming up and taking in the scenery.  The number of naturally gorgeous places in the Bay Area never cease to amaze me.  There were some rolling hills in the first mile but I was able to set a nice sustainable pace.

The second mile had the majority of the elevation gain.  As I approached each hill, I slowed down, shortened my stride, and pumped my arms if I was feeling tired.  I was pleased to run the hills when so many were walking but I was humbled by the steepest and longest one.  I made it halfway up, stopped to walk about 10 steps and resumed shuffling.  I know you aren’t supposed to fly downhill but quads be damned.  The descents in the third mile felt so good, I couldn’t help myself.

Most interestingly, I found myself getting a little……competitive.  As I passed a number of women around my age and fitness level, I began to entertain the idea of placing in my age group.  This is obviously only a possibility because it’s a very small race.  Still, I became aware of who was around me and whether or not the ladies I passed were catching up.  For a few miles, I chased a chickadee who looked about my age but she smoked me after that monster hill.  Bye, friend…

Every time I checked my pace, I was pleased.  I was on track to finish under 50 minutes, which was my goal.  I passed another couple potential competitors just before the fourth mile.  I spent the last two miles pacing myself behind one dude and pacing another guy who was practically on my heels for a good mile.  I got the sense that he didn’t want to be “chicked” (hate that term) by me because with half a mile to go, he turned it on and cruised ahead.  Go for it, dude.

Just before the finish, I saw the girl I had been chasing in the first few miles.  She was walking away from the finish line and I thanked her for motivating me early on.  She laughed and I flew past,  kicking  it in for my own strong finish!

[picture forthcoming]

After getting a teensy cup of water, I chatted with a couple ladies.  One told me that I won the award for “cutest outfit.”  I love her.

If I can’t be fast, I can at least be snazzy.

Because I’m a total idiot, I didn’t stick around to find out my official time OR AG placement.  According to RunKeeper, I finished in 46:41 at a 9:27 avg.  According to the last three years of AG results, that time *should* place me in the top 3!    My age group only has about 10 runners but the idea of placing in my first trail race is still SUPER AWESOME.  I’ve been refreshing like a maniac but since there is a 50K event, I imagine the website won’t be updated until tonight.  Whomp.

So, more than this being my first trail race or first 5 miler, it was truly my first race.  I pushed myself and while it was challenging in the moment, as soon as it was over  it felt AWESOME.  Like “when do I get to do this again?” awesome.  Well, the answer to that is tomorrow when I run the Mt. Diablo 5K.  Woot!

Sweaty and HAPPY.

Anyone racing this weekend?  

 

 

Real Life

First, the obligatory (and completely deserved) sympathy for those on the East Coast.  That storm looked really scary and my heart aches for those experiencing loss.

Second, I don’t have an opinion on the decision to hold the NYCM.  Everyone and their mother has expressed a number of valid opinions.  Ad nauseum.  I hope it ends up being an inspiring and restorative event and that everyone has a fantastic experience.  It just occurred to me that instead of supporters along the course, there might be protesters.  I really hope that’s not the case.

In these troubled times, we could all use a bit of cute.  Here’s my cat Merlin perched on my shoulder.  He’s a parrot in a cat costume:

My buddy and me.

Turns out that my fears of waning motivation in the absence of a big race were reasonable.  I don’t lack the desire to run or the motivation to improve.  So that’s good.  Still, this month has been busy and fitting my runs in have been a challenge.  Yet another reason I’m figuring it out now before I start another half marathon training cycle or, gulp, marathon training.

Yeah, I went there.

To be continued.

Base Building Week 2:

Monday: TDM

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: TDM followed immediately by a totally unexpected AWESOME tempo run!  3.0 / 27:09 / 9:04

Thursday: TDM

Friday: 5.0 / 48:03 / 9:38 –  “Great and easy.  Bathroom stop.  Left ITB tight but ok.”*

*poetry courtesy of RunKeeper

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 8.0 / 1:18:15 / 9:47  – “Good. Tough start mentally but fought through. Felt strong!”

It was a great week.  I was totally surprised at how strong I felt during Wednesday’s tempo run.  I’m also pleased that I’m comfortably running faster on mid-length runs.  I don’t think the magical 9:09 (sub-2 half marathon) is out of the realm of possibility.  It might not be my next half but it’s in me.  Due to my busy schedule, I had to combine a couple runs, hence the Friday 5 miler.  I was a bit intimidated by doing a mid-length run during the week but it was great!

Working out has gone head to head with working IN this week.  November is always a busy season for me.  With additional rehearsals, performances and pitch black mornings, I’ve had to reschedule runs or abandon them all together.  Knowing that I have two races on trails this weekend, I headed to a popular and paved running path that I knew had dirt surrounding it.

Squish.

OH MY GAHHHHHH.

So, here’s a question: how does three miles on a soft, muddy trail feel like 0 miles on my legs and 13 miles to my poor heart?!  We had our first rain a couple days ago so the dirt was packed enough to run but muddy enough to cling to my shoes.  I literally had to stop and dig the dirt out halfway through.  My shoes were so heavy, I could barely pick up my feet!  It was a fantastic workout and today, I don’t even feel like I ran yesterday.  Yay for soft ground.

Real life is muddy.  It’s busy.  It’s heavy.  It’s gentle.  It’s surprising.

It’s full.

My First Trail Run!

Today, I bought trail shoes and ran in them on a trail!

Clean, cute new Kinvaras. After about 4 minutes, they were cute Kinvaras.

I went to REI today and had turrrrrible customer service in the shoe department.  The woman knew virtually nothing about shoes.  It was peculiar.  I headed up to Transports on Solano Ave. (for my Bay Area buddies) and had a much better experience.  I tried on a few pairs and felt great in the Kinvara Progrid TR.  In a moment of uncharacteristic retail spontaneity, I bought them on the spot.  No obsessing over reviews or online price comparisons.  I was pleased with them but they’re not the cutest.  All good.  A sign of running maturity, I suppose.  😀

For my first trail run evah, I went to Tilden Regional Park.  It’s ginormous and I hadn’t been there since I was a child.  I drove into the “nature area”, found a parking spot and a trail and ran.

So pretty and a little scary!

Smart Things I Did:

* Chose a trail near a road.  It turned out to be a short loop.  Since I could hear other people nearby, I chose to run it a second time rather than venturing further away.

* Wore trail shoes.  I always felt secure and never worried about slipping on leaves, wooden stairs, or anything unstable.

* Ran without music.  I didn’t want to compromise my awareness of animals or other folks.  Not gonna lie, hearing but not seeing creatures was unnerving.

* Texted my location and anticipated return time to my beloved.  Texted him when I finished the run to confirm that all was well.

Stupid Things I Did:  (This list is considerably longer)

* Didn’t check to make sure that the above text actually went through.  It didn’t.  Had I gone missing, no one would have known where I was.
* Had I gone missing and turned up unconscious, no one would have known who I was.  I RAN WITHOUT ANY ID.
(Road ID ordered.  Then I realized I could have saved $15 and just photocopied my DL and stuck it in with my phone.  D’oh.)
* Wore some stupidly expensive jewelry.  I was wearing it during the day and didn’t want to leave it in the car.  Could you please rob me?  THANKS.
* Didn’t pull my left sock up far enough and got a blister.
* Didn’t bring a map.
* Didn’t bring anything to protect myself from an animal or a human animal.
Full disclosure:  I am a somewhat fearful person who, sadly, has been victimized by crime.  I absolutely LOVED running through the woods.  I felt like a total badass jumping over roots, navigating stairs, and hearing my heart pound out of my chest as I went up and up and up.  It was incredibly freeing to run without music in nature.  I was also a little creeped out.  I really need to prepare myself for the unfortunate so I can truly enjoy this exploration.  Or find a trail running group.  That actually sounds awesome.  Please, blogworld, MAKE ME DO THAT.

Now I understand why they advise beginning trail runners to go for TIME rather than DISTANCE. Hello exhausting 12 minute miles!

Any advice for a noobie trail runner?  How do you stay safe out in the wilderness?