Author: martharunssf

About martharunssf

I love being outside. My favorite past time is running, but I also enjoy hiking, swimming, watching hockey, cooking, traveling and of course, writing. I am also a fervent fan of the NY Rangers and the SF Giants.

Skyline to the Sea

There are times when we know the exact second our lives have changed, when everything truly transforms. There are experiences we all have when afterwards, we know that things will never be as it was. The Skyline to the Sea is one of those times. It was to be my first 50k, but that was not to be. And that’s perfectly fine.

My first 50k was going to be the Skyline to the Sea 50k, a challenging race from Big Basin State park to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a beautiful course and I completely underestimated how difficult it is.

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One of the few flat surfaced trail areas of the race!

The first five miles or so all was good. I maintained a good pace and thought that if things keep up like this, I’ll do great reaching the first cutoff at Gazos Creek Aide Station with plenty of time. If I did not reach the first cutoff in 4 hours, I would not be able to do the 50k and would have to instead run a marathon. But of course, things didn’t go smooth and wonderful, things never do on long races, something will always go differently than what we thought.

And just a couple miles later, there were a few people standing on the trail and in the distance I heard a buzzing sound. Uh oh. A yellow jacket nest! All the pounding runner’s feet stirred it up and they were angry! Lots of runners got bit. We chose to climb up the grade of the hill to the highway and climb back down, away from the nest. That cost a lot of time, but I didn’t want to get bit!

And then I started having GI problems. I had used the half dose amount of Tailwind previously and it worked out find. But not today. I felt nauseous for miles six through 15. It was bad enough that the food I brought with me, gummies and pretzels to get through when there were no aide stations, only made it worse. I was hoping there would be a bathroom at Gazos Creek, because I would have a huge problem if there wasn’t. Thankfully I made it to the park restroom in time and after eating some chips at the aide station, it was better.

But my hopes of my first 50k was gone. At that point I knew I would have never made it to the end even if they had let me through to the extra segment to make the 50k. (The 50k distance has an extra loop, with a very tough, steep hill.)

I accepted it and focused on making the final cutoff. There were a few others who also didn’t make the first cutoff, but, as far as I could tell, they didn’t make it to the end.

So much of this course is difficult. It includes climbing over boulders, crossing treacherous bridges and maneuvering root-laden trails where the roots seem to reach out and grab ankles. But it is spectacularly, magnificently beautiful. So much so I wanted to stop and breathe it all in. But I couldn’t. I had to keep moving, I had to make the finish in 9 hours.

Parts of my body revolted on me. My big toes, who seemed happy during my long training runs were in dire pain. My quads were tired and I stretched my back muscles to make sure I wasn’t slumping over. I was refreshingly surprised though that I had zero paid from my right IT band! Yippee!! All the work I’ve done in the gym did the trick! But other parts of my body hurt and I was tired! So….tired….

I kept going and made it to the end in around 8 hours and 20 minutes, well under the cutoff. But I also would have never made it if I had done the 50k. So, it’s a good thing that I only did the marathon and this race served to help me understand that I have more work to do than I thought.

The sounds of cowbells and cheers greeted me as I crossed the finish line. The wonderful people I knew and new friends I made were there and I was tired and happy. Pacific Coast Trail Runs always do great races. I thank my friend Michael for his support and getting me there.

And I look forward to doing the hard stuff. As long as I keep going, it will work out.

Keep moving forward!

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Two Weeks’ Worth

I was going to write about the fall I took a couple weeks ago. But somehow, I kept putting off. The words wouldn’t come out. It was officially the worst trail run I’ve ever had. I will tell you about it as I catch up on my runs of the last two weeks.

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A trail in Tilden Park

That Sunday, I was supposed to run 22 miles, my second longest run before my first 50k. I have one more long run of 26 miles three weeks before my 50k. I went out to the Headlands early and started running at 7:00am. It was a beautiful morning, nice and cool.

At Mile Seven, I took the Coastal Trail to Tennessee Valley Road. I had never taken this part of the Coastal Trail before. I didn’t realize just how steep it was. I traded carefully, taking my time going down, mostly stepping sideways, all the way down. I was so proud of myself making it all the way down safely that I stopped thinking about watching my footing when it happened.

I didn’t see that little rock jutting out on the trail. THUMP! Down I went! Head first! Into the dirt! The first seconds laying in the dirt, I assessed the damage. Nose broken, nope, any missing, loose teeth, all good, bleeding chin, gotta deal with that, forehead hurts. I lifted myself from the dirt, arms in pain, knees scratched up and was immediately thankful nothing was twisted or broken. At least I was close to the big Tennessee valley Trail. And I had a full bottle of plain water. I was sore and it hurt to walk, but I could walk, because I had a long ways to go to the bus stop. If there had been coverage there, I would have just ordered Lyft, but no signal. So, it was a long six miles.

Walking that far turned out to be a good thing. I started out furious that I fell. Furious that I couldn’t finish my run. Furious that I couldn’t afford a car. Furious that not one single person asked if I was ok. Mad at the world, I was.

By the time I got to the Golden Gate stop, I was tired and not quite as upset as I was. I had a lot of time to think. Falls happen, right? Everyone falls, not just me. And I’m ok. So, I’ll go with that.

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Scratched up legs!

I still needed to get miles in, so this past week, I had two back to back runs, totaling 18 miles. I hope it’s good enough. Saturday, I enjoyed a trail run in Tilden Park in the East Bay. It was warm, which I like, and the trails were hard, but a lot of fun. This is a top-notch park that fills many acres which hundreds of miles of trails. I’m never bored running there. Even without a car, it’s easy to get to as well on public transportation.

On Sunday, I stuck to a road run, going from Downtown to Golden Gate Park, via the Presidio. It was the perfect length. I’d never ran two long runs in a row and I have to saw that it wasn’t easy. My legs and hips were both tired. It was fun though!

In between, I got some good runs around the city, and am enjoying our lovely warm, late summer weather.

Sometimes running is really hard and it hurts. Sometimes, it’s wonderful and glorious and everything I want it to be. My scratches and bruises from my fall are near gone, but just like the old saying, I am stronger and more determined to reach my goals.

Keep Moving Forward!

Hard Weeks, Easy Weeks

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My 50k is October 6th. Leading up to the day of the race, I have two more long training runs alternating with easier weekend runs. A week ago I ran 17 miles in the Headlands. It was a hard, dirty, very hilly run, but I did it.

The hard, long kind of runs are my very favorites, but they take everything out of me. I’m not yet at the point when I can do them week after week, so I take an easy weekend in between. Yesterday, I ran a much shorter trail run with my friend Trish. But just because it was shorter doesn’t mean it was easy! We went to the Peninsular, running in the San Mateo County Park, Huddart Park.

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It’s absolutely stunning there! The scraggly old oaks mix with the redwood trees, the scent of pines and deep woods permeates throughout the parking lot and campsites we passed.  And it’s easy to get there from San Francisco. Located just off the 280 Freeway, the park lies above the quaint town of Woodside. There are a dozen trails within the park. Some of them are short and easy while some lead to other areas farther into the mountains if you’re looking for a really long, epic run.

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Some elevation! 

We ran on single track trails for most of it, then headed up a particularly nasty incline on a fire road before deciding not the push ourselves to the max. Heading back down the way we came up the trail, I knew it was the right choice. This week isn’t about maximum distance and hard runs, it’s about getting a good run in and healing for my hard run next weekend. And even with this “easier” run, we still managed to get over 1400 ft elevation gain.

Huddart Park did not disappoint. We will run there again and I don’t think it will be too long from now either.

Next weekend, back to the high mileage and fun!! That’s what I said, F-U-N!!!

Keep Moving Forward!

 

THREE DOCUMENTARY REVIEWS

Solstice

So, I’m recovered from my race Saturday and putting together my training for my 50k in October. To get in the spirit, I’ve been watching running documentaries, ultra running ones. I thought I’d write about three of them specifically.

I’m a fool for a great ultra running documentary. I’ve seen all the ones on Berkley and the ones about the ultra race in the Himalayas. I’ve watched (I think), every one of the Western States docs, and I include one here in my reviews. So, here’s my thoughts about a few of the different ones you can find on Amazon Prime.

BOUNDLESS

The first is a TV show from Canada called Boundless. It’s a few years old, premiering in 2013, so I hope certain things have changed. I am only going by what I saw in the show. The show is about two Canadian adventure junkies who try some of the most difficult races in the world. They come off as arrogant, egotistical, snobbish and not anything like any trail runner I’ve ever met. In fact, they are the opposite. Simon Donato is so keyed in on winning, that he refuses to help a fellow running who ran out of water on an ultra race in Mongolia. Dude, you freakin help out each other. The other host, Paul Trebilcock (Turbo), seems a bit more likable, although his ego also gets in the way. In fact, the best episodes are when they completely underestimate the race and it bites them in their butts. Check out the SUP Hawaii race. The best episode ever!! And you would think they’d learn from these constant setbacks to stop being such arrogant jerks, but they never do.

Boundless lasted three seasons. In Season 3 they add two more athletes. The only reason I can think of is because the show needed more likability? I’m not sure if the two new hosts add anything, they don’t have much personality.

There are good reasons to watch, if you can tolerate the hosts’ obnoxious behaviors. The scenery is magnificent. The races are terrific. Although I winced at Donato’s claim that The Copper Canyon Ultra is the “Holy Grain” of ultra races. Yeah, I think Barkley has that title.

ULTRA HIGH

A few years ago, a 137-mile race was established in the Himalayan mountains. The first year, only one runner finished. The second year, a couple more completed it. Ultra High (2014) is about the race’s third year. This is a well-done doc about the 60-hour race through the highest mountains on earth. And it’s exciting all the way through. We never know who finishes first, but we feel what they go through; the exhaustion, the disturbance of continually passing traffic on the dusty mountain roads, the constant desire to finish in spite of mountain sickness and sometimes, asthma.

The race has grown since the first year. Now there are fully coordinated support teams and doctors throughout. Every athlete is looked after as much as possible. But, they are still racing at the top of the world and it is incredibly dangerous.

This is a great doc and at 70 minutes, perfectly timed. Definitely worth watching!

SOLSTICE

Out of the three, this is easily my favorite. I really love this doc In fact, it’s my very favorite out of all the ones about Western States. Director Andy Hoffman did a superb job showing how a 100-mile rookie took on the challenge in her own way. She wasn’t a professional athlete and had her own physical limitations. But that’s why I liked it so much. Yes, I am inspired by the pros; they’re dedication to their sport is incredible. But I am even more inspired by people like myself who go out and do amazing things. This is one of those stories. If it doesn’t inspire you to go out and do something great, I’m not sure what will. This is a MUST WATCH!

 

THE RIDGE 37K – WHAT I LEARNED

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The Golden Gate Bridge just before the start of the race

Yesterday I ran the hardest race of my life, The Ridge 37k. It was a wonderful, gritty, hot and intense race, one that I’m very happy I completed. I didn’t take any pictures along the way, I was too busy pushing myself farther and farther. So, I decided to write what this momentous race meant to me and what I learned.

2018 will be the Year I Discovered Trail Races. After this year, I may only do one or two street races a year, but that’s it. Street races no longer interest me, they’re just not as much fun.

I really prefer small races such as The Ridge, that had around 200 people overall. It’s just a friendlier, more welcoming atmosphere, where everyone talks to one another. You don’t just talk to your friends. And if you come by yourself, you’re not alone now, at least not at the start or after race gathering.

It doesn’t matter if you finish first or finish last, you are part of the trail running community! When I finished yesterday, I knew I was at the back of the pack, but I didn’t know if I was the last of the 37k runners or not and I didn’t care. There was support and cheers and cowbells when I finished. I was very pleased with my time and effort.

Support your local trail racing companies! This was a big lesson for me. There are big corporations taking over trail races, like they did road races and unfortunately, they don’t have the same love or care as the local folks.

To tie in with the one just above, I realized as I was following the seemingly never-ending line of orange ribbons, placed carefully all along the 23 miles, I knew that the race director, Greg, and his crew spent an entire day placing these ribbons in the perfect spots so we runners could easily see them. There was only a couple times when I had mini freakouts after not seeing them around a turn, but calmed down the second the orange glowed in the distance. Whew! Thank you PCTR Crew for all the hard work!!

In fact, so much work goes into producing a race that not everything is going to be perfect. For example, the porto-pottys didn’t show up at the start, but the park service opened the public restrooms for us to use. Things happen, life is not perfect.

And because life isn’t perfect, extra preparation is necessary. I wrote a checklist a few days beforehand and kept adding to it. I’m so grateful I did. I didn’t forget a thing and even though I brought a couple things I didn’t need, there were a few things I’m very happy I brought. Like a couple blister band-aides. For some reason, my Calderas started wearing on my right big toe. Maybe because my feet had swelled from the heat, who knows. It had never happened before.

My go-to in the heat is Nuun Lemon Lime and pretzels. I drank Tailwind for the first few miles and that was fine, but when I went through the second aide station at Mile 12, I needed to eat solid food, so I switched to Nuun and ate a couple pretzels. It worked perfect!

You’re on your own out on a trail race. There aren’t any crowds, no booming music, none of that, and I love it. After the initial section of the Barracks to the Bluffs, the crowd thinned as we hit the Golden Gate Bridge and I was on my own for the rest of the run. I’ll take this type of race over being in a group where there’s so many distractions that I can’t think. Or, more than likely, I’ll spend half my time running around endless lines of walkers. There’s a calming effect in spending hours alone on the trail. A realization as I said to myself “OK, here I am, now let’s get into this and keep going.” Keep going, keep going….

At first, I didn’t pass many people on the trail, but after Tennessee Valley, I crossed a few more hikers, mountain bikers and runners. Every one of them was supportive to my effort. And as the trail got closer to My Tamalpais, there were more cyclists and hikers wishing me luck.

The aide stations are like an oasis in the desert. Towards the end of the race, the third and final AS was my saving grace. But they are all wonderful people!! I gulped some flat coke and gobbled a few potato chips, poured some water on my head and was off to the finish.

It may only be three miles, but the finish can feel a long, long ways away. Just remember that when you’re tired and ready to quit, those last few miles are sometimes not as easy as we want them to be.

Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Keep telling yourself that you CAN do it, that you WILL do it! Write down some easy power phrases to repeat to yourself when you’re so tired you can barely think. Make them super easy but forceful. Something like: Keep Moving Forward, or Don’t Stop, or Relentless Progress.

Learn from the experienced trail runners. I have learned so much from those who have been doing this crazy sport of ours. I am forever in their debt. Just remember to pass along the information you learn to those coming after you.

I really love Trail Runner Nation Podcast! Their entertaining, informative and brilliant, yet humorous podcasts are packed with great info! Thank you for keeping me entertained at work and helping me down the trails!

I would be remiss to not add one negative, and it really is a huge pet peeve with me. I dislike the growing trend of people blasting music from their phones on trails. It’s bad enough they do it on the streets, but at least there I listen to my own music and don’t have to put up with their crappy taste in music (and it’s always bad music for some reason). But on trails, I don’t want to hear music. I want to hear birds, and the wind and the foghorns and my feet hitting the dirt and my breathing. I want to hear nature not your top-40 pop! Please, just stop!

For the next couple of days, I’m giving my body some rest and on Wednesday, I’m back at the gym to get ready to ramp up for my October 50k!

Keep Moving Forward!

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Love the wooden medal, shirt and hoo-rag! 

 

Why Am I Doing This Again??

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The beautiful Mt Tamalpais trails!

There are times during a training run when I ask myself “why am I doing this to myself?” It’s painful beyond belief. It can be disheartening and exhausting, lonely and maddening all at once. And I don’t have the answers. All I know is that I want to push myself. I want to go farther than I ever have before. Maybe it’s my ego that drives me to things I probably shouldn’t, or maybe a sense of adventure. It could be insanity, I’m not sure what it is, but here I am, less than two weeks away from what is the hardest race of my life, The Ridge, 37K.

It won’t be the longest race of my life, but it will be the most difficult. 23 miles, 5400 feet elevation gain, I’m frightened. And after my long run this past Sunday, I don’t feel any better. In fact, I feel a little worse about the whole affair. If it were a little farther off, I might defer it, but I don’t want to lose my entry fee.

So, I go forward, fear and all.

This past Sunday I ran a 17-mile trail run that didn’t go as planned. Many things went wrong. I don’t own a car and I wanted to get up to the Mt Tamalpais area where part of my race will be, so I had to take two different bus systems to get there. I didn’t get started running until 9:00am, so much later than I wanted to, so it was getting warm by then. It took two hours of bus rides and waiting for buses. I was impatient to get going.

The first part of the run was great. There were technical trails filled with roots and rocks, so I had to pay attention to every step and take it slow. But I missed the trail I wanted to take and wound up going down another trail. I didn’t think it would matter because according to the map, I could easily switch over to a trail in the next valley. Unfortunately, that trail was inaccessible. I had to double back up a mile and a half a steep trail without much shade.

I thought about quitting and just taking the Dipsea Trail back to San Rafael, but somehow, I kept going, finding the trail I originally wanted and going down that for a few miles. But, by that time, if I had kept going, it would be far more miles than I wanted to go, so I would up climbing through the fence of the closed trail, crossing a creek on slippery thin logs, I did NOT slip (!!) and getting stung by stinging nettles. It was worth it! Better than doing too many miles.

I finished this training run down the endless steps of Dipsea, waiting for the Golden Gate Transit bus #17. The southward route back home took three hours.

I’ve questioned my sanity these last couple of days. Why am I doing this? I don’t have an answer. If I finish this race, I’ll let you know then.

Keep Moving Forward!

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I think I brought home more dirt than I left! 

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESIES

I’m gearing up for The Ridge 37k Trail Race in a little less than three weeks. I ran a 14-mile trail run this past Sunday and I’ll get in an 18 or 19-mile trail run this Sunday. I feel good, I wasn’t too sore afterwards and I got some strength training (lifting) in last night at the gym.

It was another quiet morning in the Marin Headlands Sunday. The weather was cold, windy and foggy, again. I know I should be happy it wasn’t hot like the rest of the country, but I really dislike being cold. The good part about cooler weather is there are less people and the animals come out.

So, the coyote in the below pictures was just standing in the path as I came up to him, relaxed as can be. He was chill. It was as if he was would say “Sup, Dude?”

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I clapped my hands and shouted for him to get away. He sauntered off a few feet, stretched and proceeded to clean himself, without a care in the world. I smiled, took a few pictures; unlike the mountain lion I saw a couple weeks ago, he wasn’t in any hurry to run away; and kept running. That was cool and I loved the rest of my run as well.

As I run these long, relatively quiet runs in the hills, I think of a lot of things. This time I thought about how some people don’t seem to understand how what they think determines who they will act.

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Self-fulfilling prophesies are very real. If I don’t believe I can accomplish a goal, it probably won’t happen, at least not in the way I wish it would. I have a much greater chance of finishing a goal successfully if I positively reinforce myself from beginning to end. Many beginning runners, especially if they start running later in life, don’t have much self-confidence. Perhaps they are overweight, very shy, afraid of looking foolish, afraid they will fail, afraid they won’t fail. There are a lot of reasons we talk down to ourselves, none of them will help us.

Running is a long term, lifelong venture. It takes months to learn and years to become good. Sometimes new runners don’t understand how much work it takes and become discouraged, it happens. But if they stick with it and maintain a positive attitude and an open mind, all the while learning how to be a better runner, they can also find out how magnificent a sport it is.

But this will never happen if the runner thinks starting out that they’ll always be slow, that they’ll always be a terrible runner, blah blah blah blah…..

None of us know what the future will bring. None of us know what our running will be like. Don’t limit your future by closing the doors and windows of your mind. Open them all up! Enjoy the journey, enjoy running!

Keep Moving Forward!

Taking Personal Inventory

One very important tool in my life I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous is the 10th Step of the 12 Steps.

10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admit it.

Nothing will derail my life faster than pride and the anger that follows my disappointment in the way I have acted. Nothing will make me feel worse than the realization I have not followed my way of eating or not done a workout properly and wound up hurt the next day or spent too much money on something I shouldn’t have and so that I have nothing left in my checking account for the rest of the week until payday.

All of these scenarios came into play for me over the last couple of days. They were all because I messed up in one way or another. I blame no one but myself. But, I’m not going to hang my head in shame. I know I made mistakes and I know how to correct them and I know how not to do them again in the future. The grownup thing to do would, of course, not repeat these mistakes. So, time to be a grown up, Martha! Time to rise up and act somewhere around your age!

We have a choice, to wallow in our pity, sorrowful over the life we created, angry at the world, blaming everyone but the one person we should and refusing to correct those errors and move on, because wheres’s the fun in that? Forgiving ourselves would mean no more self pitying! And being stuck in a personal pity party just seems like the thing to do!

At least in the short run it does. But in the long run it isn’t. It’s painful and destructive. I’m done with that. Living, really loving and living life is about shedding that which has caused harm and moving towards the light, where things grow bright and strong.

Keep Moving Forwards!

 

UNTIL WE MEET ON THE TRAIL…

The running community lost a great one yesterday. Kelvin Reid is a well-known fixture in the trail and ultra running world. He logged thousands of miles, all while smiling and sharing his positive radiance. I never met him in person, though I consider him a friend through our Facebook correspondences and love of running. Everyone who knew him, or knew of him, are heartbroken today.

Kelvin suffered from ALS and even through the horrendous suffering, he maintained his trademarked sense of humor and optimism. Like always, his loving wife and running partner Jess was by his side. She is also a running warrior, strong through and through.

This article in Ultrarunner was just released today and I wanted to share it with you. May you always find the trails you so dearly loved, Ultra Cowboy, we miss you, Kelvin.

https://ultrarunning.com/featured/facing-lifes-battles/

 

Keep Moving Forward!

 

 

VACATION GRINDING

June has been a month of extremes. There were amazing peaks and deep valleys. So much of a roller coaster, I’m relieved that tomorrow is July, to be honest and that I’m on vacation until July 9th. I need a break!

The 6-hour endurance run One Day on June 22nd was a big highlight! I loved it. It took everything out of me and was as hard as any race I’ve ever did, but I truly enjoyed it. Rarely have I loved an event as much as that one! I can’t wait to do the 12-hour even New Year’s Eve!!

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Amazing views from the Barracks to the Bluffs Trail

As much as I loved that one, I was crushed when I didn’t get the part-time personal trainer position I wanted at a YMCA here in SF. I had two interviews, so I know I was one of the finalists, but in the end, I wasn’t right for the job. I know there is a reason and that there is something better around the corner, but it is still difficult to continue to look and look and be positive. I’ve spent so long looking for one that It’s difficult to keep my chin up. But I will.

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Sunset on the Pacific

And tomorrow is July. That is the shining light. And I’m on vacation. That light keeps getting brighter. Because I don’t have much money, I’m having fun at home. How do I have fun? Running of course! I have vowed to make every one of my runs a trail run! I can do this being on vacation by going to various places during the day. I started this last night by running from Baker Beach up the Barracks to the Bluffs trail. I then turned around and went down the trail along Lincoln Ave.

I had gone this same way last Sunday on my long run up to the Headlands but I felt stronger last night taking the steep hills and steps on this trail. It’s only two miles, but it’s a really tough two miles. I decided to run this every Friday until my race. It will be good practice for my 37k.

So, here’s to working hard and having fun running through my vacation!

Keep Moving Forward!