Golden Gate Bridge

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! 

 

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San Francisco One Day Endurance Run

It’s taken me a whole week to write this; I’ve been busy, so finally I’m writing about my race last weekend. I ran Pacific Coast Trail Runs San Francisco One Day’s endurance race. They offered three different times: 24 hours, 12 hours, 6 hours. Never having done one of these before, I did the 6 hours. It was tough, but a lot of fun!

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What a view for a run!

The 24-hour race started June 1st at 6:00pm. Mine began on the next day. June 2nd turned out to be one of the warmer days this season. I don’t mind warm weather at all, but it also means running strategies change.

I started my run at 6:00am and finished at noon. The race provided most of the food and liquids I needed, except I did take my Skratch with me, as I like it better than most other electrolyte mixes. I did take a liking to the Gu mixes they had though.

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The start, the end, the all for the run

The course is a 1.05 loop around the Lagoon at Crissy Field. It was a small group of runners, around 80 people combined, which made it a lot of fun. After the first five loops, each runner could change direction, so that meant that each of passed each other on every loop. I loved that! There were lots of waves, high fives, smiles and encouragement. Half the course was on hard-packed dirt while the other half was on a walking trail.

As the day wore on, the paved trail did get a little crowded with tourists, as it always does. But, other than that, for being only a mile loop, it was fun; I was never bored of it.

Developing a strategy for my race kept me running for most of five hours. I stopped at the aide station for refreshments on nearly every loop, taking in Gu electrolytes, or a piece of fruit, cookie and once, a piece of bacon, which was the best piece of bacon I ever tasted! With all the salt lost, it was needed!

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Pretty cool swag!

All the runners were so impressive, especially the 24 hour ones! Tents were set up for runners and crews to get some shut-eye if they wanted to during the race.

And the wonderful folks at Pacific Coast Trail Runs, from Greg the Race Director to the staff to the volunteers, worked so hard and were A-MAZ-ING! The shirt and medal rock! And the medal is wood, it’s one of my favorites!

After I was done, I immediately wanted to sign up for another. There is the New Year’s Eve one that I will sign up for the 12-hour distance and maybe, just maybe, I’ll do the 24 hour time next year.

Keep Moving Forward!

ALL TRAIL WEEKEND

This past weekend, I spent part of each day on trails and it was magnificent.

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Part of my favorite trail in GGP

Right after work Friday, I zipped home, changed and headed out to Golden Gate Park.  The weather was great, sunny, but a bit breezy, so perfect for a trail run. I only get to run the trails in Golden Gate Park half the year. When it’s too dark after work, the park isn’t safe, so I run elsewhere, but when the sun is out, it’s near magical. I dashed through 3.5 miles worth along the north side of the park, from Stanyan Street to Ocean Beach. Afterwards, I watched the wind surfers having fun in those cold waves before heading home.

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Ocean Beach is always active!

Saturday night, I volunteered at a Pacific Coast Trail Runs Night Sweats, featuring a marathon, 15k and an 8k. All distances started and ended at night, meaning the runners had to navigate through steep inclines, declines and single tracks in darkness. It’s a challenging and fun course. My friend Michael and I manned an aide station at a turnaround point near the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Before the Night Sweats races

It was really chilly out when the sun set below the hills, so we huddled in Michael’s SUV watching the prepped tables, waiting for the runners. There were only a few marathoners, so they showed up one by one, with 5 to 10 minutes between each other.

The wait wasn’t boring, though, because the area hosts a number of different wild animals. At first, a racoon came to see what kind of food we had. I chased it away. Then a half-dozen foxes scampered though the area.  You have to figure there’s plenty of rodents to keep them healthy with all the goodies the tourists leave behind in the disposal bins. Then an hour or so after the foxes, the coyotes prowled around, curious over us. There were two of these. One was pretty big and he walked onto the parking lot as if he owned it.

Little flashes of headlights alerted us to upcoming runners on the trail above. They had to run down to us, where they’d get the nutrition they needed and head back up. Ours was the last aide station and then the runners had 6 more miles of trail left to the finish. It’s not an easy course in the day, let alone at night and several runners had fallen, but all seemed to be ok.

We stayed at the station until the sweepers came through, at about 1:30am and then headed back to San Francisco. I got to sleep around 3:00am.

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There are hundreds of trails in the Headlands

Waking up at 10:00am Sunday, I felt rested and ready for the day. It was going to be nice too. I waffled between just getting a run in the city or going back to the Headlands like I had planned. After all, it was late and I wasn’t sure if I could get ready in time to catch the bus. I went for it and got breakfast, coffee and changed, all in time to catch the special weekend MUNI bus that goes into the Headlands.

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View of Rodeo Beach from above

I ran a little over 6 miles and loved it all. It was a spectacular day in an enjoyable weekend. It is times like this that make me love running even more, if that’s possible. There’s no downside to running, at least none that I can think of at the moment.

Keep Moving Forward!

SALOMON SF HALF MARATHON

My legs felt OK just until the last bit of stairs. I was looking forward to getting done with that 10th flight, getting to flat ground finally and all of a sudden, my right quad muscles cramped up on me. I stopped, rubbed the area and drank the last bit of Skratch I had in my bottle. I knew right then and there that drinking water at Baker Beach instead of electrolytes was a mistake.

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View of the GGB from the race (taken on a different day, it was clear during the race)

The day started out under cloudy, dark skies. I took MUNI to Crissy Field a bit too early, but I’m always too nervous to rest much on the morning of a race. It even sprinkled a little, but that was short-lived. The skies cleared up by race time, thanks to a chilly breeze.

Coastal Trail Runs race started out at the east end of the Crissy Field parking lot. There was a 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. The half that I ran covered two loops around the lagoon, then headed up underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, following the path along Lincoln Blvd to Baker Beach, then up through the Seacliff neighborhood, through Land’s End, ending at the Sutro Baths and then heading back to Crissy Fields the same way it came. It’s a difficult course, filled with steep hills and a dozen staircases. But it is a fun course and one I’m very familiar with, so I didn’t mind all those hills and stairs, most of them, anyway.

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The Sutro Baths

It was a small race; only 200 ran the half. I realized I prefer these smaller ones to the big, gigantic races I was used to. The runners are friendlier and I felt more a part of things. In fact, since it was an out and back style race, both the lead runners and those of us in the back were cheering each other on, as well as everyone mid-pack. It was a great feeling.

I walked up the steep hills and stairs and as I expected, was in the back of the race. But that’s fine, I’m not fast at all and as long as I do my best, I’m good with it.

Sometime during the race, I realized that I hadn’t run a race as long as a half in over a year and a half. I prayed that my right leg behaved through the race, and, except for the cramp on the stairs, it did! In fact, I was hardly sore at all the next day. All those hours at the gym went to good use.

After my leg routine to normal from the cramp, I still had one mile more to run, so I pulled myself together and ran as much as I could that last distance.  I was quite happy to finish!

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They produce this race again in September and I want to do it once more and improve my time. I know I can do better, but at least I know that I can still run this far and more! I will be ready.

 

Keep Moving Forward!

 

 

LET THE LONG RUNS BEGIN!

Much has happened since my past post. I do apologize for not writing anything lately, but things have been busy. Good Busy. I finally feel my life is moving forwards…..

For the longest time, my life felt as if I was stuck in quicksand. Bills were piling up, new emergencies, new fires to put out, my weight loss was at a standstill, or even worse, moving the wrong direction and boom! The “Holidays” just mucked things up more, especially after I got one of the worst colds ever.

But I kept going and the pendulum, as it eventually does, swung in a positive direction.

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The path on Lincoln Blvd in the Presidio

I ran 10 miles this morning. The route I chose was tough, but I have a half marathon at the end of March that’s pretty tough. I started at Land’s End and ran through the trail on the backside of the Presidio down through Crissy Field, past the Marina Green, eventually ending at the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero.

The route has lots of uphills and stairs and it was cold and windy. I took a few small detours and ran through some of the World War II batteries that are scattered throughout the coastline. The only little pain I had was around Mile 6 when my right hip felt a bit sore. I stopped, did some squats and leg swings and it felt good the rest of the run. I feared that it was going to start acting up, but I fought through a little fatigue around Mile 8 and the last two miles were energizing. I could have run longer had I wanted.

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This view is only possible if you take a detour from the regular trail and go through the WWII batteries

My birthday is next Friday and I took the day off work. I plan to run in the Marin Headlands, which will be another tough run.

I’m happy, it’s been a good day.

Keep Moving Forward!

 

ALOHA 10K

To say that the past few weeks have been trying would be an understatement. One by one, things have happened in my life and they set my goals back. But that doesn’t mean that my goals are gone.

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Daybreak

No freakin way.

Sometimes things take a little longer than expected, I am impatient, after all. I seldom plan for unseen surprise events, like sickness or emergency bills or very, very, very bad days. But life goes on as does the desires to reach my dreams.

Last week I suffered through an eye infection. My left eye was swollen and hurt and I couldn’t see too well. I stayed home from work and got it checked out. Luckily it wasn’t too terrible and eventually got better. But between being sick and lethargic, my fitness had dropped. I am now working at getting back to where I was and then go far beyond.

I made a pledge with myself to not use my credit cards and I have kept it for nearly two months now. This means, though, that I won’t be signed up for a lot of races or buying the cool gear I want. Electrolyte mixes and energy food will be made at home and the future races I do sign up for will be the ones that really matter.

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Cute Medal!

Sunday was my first Aloha race and I’m very glad I did it. Both the 5k and the 10k course was the same, with the 10k course, being a double loop. It started in front of Sports Basement in the Presidio near Chrissy Field and ended on the field itself.

Weather has been very warm lately, which is typical for Northern California in late September. Hot days and cool nights are lovely. I arrived at the Presidio before the break of dawn and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. Participants started arriving. Many were dressed in Hawaiian grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts. There were dog entries in the 5k, so plenty of pups were on hand as well as kids. It was a very festive, fun atmosphere.

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Can’t beat this view!!

Both the 5k and 10k started promptly at 8:00am. I reside towards the Back of the Pack, so there I was for the whole race. I didn’t PR or have my worst time and I didn’t finish DFL (Dead F**king Last). I maintained a decent pace and enjoyed the course. How could I not with such beautiful surroundings?

The race is so well coordinated and the volunteers were top notch. I will do this one again!

Keep Moving Forward!

PEACE OF MIND

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My view of the ocean from my run

I was listening to some country song during my run this morning, I don’t remember which one and it really doesn’t matter, but the song said that he found peace in a glass, or something similar. As I ran around the Marina Green, enjoying the beautiful sunshine, I thought how wrong the songwriter was.

And it brought me back many, many years…. more people than you think suffer from alcoholism. Believe this. It was my life for a long time.

Never once did I ever find peace in a glass.

For the better part of the remainder of my run, I mulled over this. Peace, drinking myself into oblivion? Yeah, right. Try the opposite. I drank because I hated myself. I drank because I hated my life, how on earth would getting smashed make anything peaceful?

We all have problems we’re dealing with in our lives. But there are better and healthier ways of dealing with them than with destroying ourselves.

For me, running is my outlet. When I couldn’t run because of my injury, it was really frustrating. Our lives are not easy and we cannot get by just working, eating and sleeping and expect to be happy. There has to be more.

Having a healthy hobby won’t cure all of our problems, but it gives us at least a short break away from them. And it gives us something else. It gives us a look a little distance away from them. Once I’m out on the road far from my apartment and my not-so-great neighborhood, what was bothering doesn’t seem so immediate or troublesome.

And if running doesn’t do it for you, then maybe a nice walk or hike will, or a bike ride, or lifting or yoga. The whole point is to give yourself a gift of a healthy hour or even a 30-minute vacation away from all the negativity dragging you down. That is what I call Peace of Mind.

Keep Moving!

Brrrrrrrr!!!

In my old age, I’m not liking the cold weather very much! OK, I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area so the only time I’ve experienced cold weather is traveling to cold weather destinations, which is enough to tell me they are nice places to visit but not for living!

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The Main Square at the Presidio

So now that it’s near winter, these freezing, or near freezing mornings make early Sunday morning runs difficult. I had promised myself I was going to get up early today and go run before 8am! Not a chance! I was out by 9 but that was later than I wanted. Oh well. It was a beautiful morning and still only 45 degrees.

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance

Brrrrrr!!!!

Eventually, I will move to Florida and then my bones won’t ache so much when I get up in December.

Cheers!

 

GOOD FOR THE SOUL RUNS

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Sunrise over the Bay

The first part of the year I spent a lot of time increasing mileage. And it wasn’t always enjoyable either. While I increased my mileage, I had to deal with IT band pain and a constant weight battle.

It’s funny, after my disappointing San Francisco Marathon finish, I felt as if a great weight had lifted. I had put so much pressure on myself to do well (I wanted to do BETTER than at CIM (Calif International), that the closer the race got, the more I knew I would be luck to merely finish. After it was all over, I went back and readjusted my training to try something new for the second half of 2016.

This weekend I prepared to go running in the Marin Headlands. I don’t get up there as often as I would like or as I should. It’s so close to San Francisco, yet it feels as if I’m hundreds of miles away. It’s accessible by bus which makes it the perfect place for me to go. No need to spend tons of money on a rental car or wait for someone to go with me (like that happens).

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One of the many uphill parts of the trail

Friday night I bought myself an early Christmas present. I picked up an Osprey hydration pack. It was on sale and I was going to buy one anyway. Sunday was the perfect time to try it out. I’ll get to the review later.

I woke up at 4am and caught the 7:17am Golden Gate Transit bus. It’s a beautiful ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. I reminded myself that the last time I was there in the Headlands, it was foggy, windy and bitterly cold. This time it was a beautiful day. Breezy but not cold, warming in the sun, but not hot. I couldn’t ask for better running conditions.

The first part of the run is always very hard. It’s one mile straight up the side of the mountain, nearly 1,000 feet gain in elevation. Highway 101 gets smaller as the noise disappears once I reach the top. I decided to go to the right, on the SCA Trail. Then it’s level for a very short time, but mostly uphills and downhills, lots of both. The way I took eventually got me to Rodeo Beach the long way around the mountain with much to see and plenty of energy to use.

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Headlands Panorama

When I’m out on the trail, I love the sound of my feet hitting the dirt. I love the sound of the wind wrestling through the brush and the songs of the birds. I love the rhythm that sets in once I find a good pace and it is then when I’m able to relax my mind and exorcise all those toxins I’ve been carrying with me. What negativity I might have had when I got up that morning are gone by the time I finish this strenuous but very worthwhile run and I am tired and happy.

THIS, this very day (!!!) is why I run!!! Find your trail, exorcise your toxins!

Cheers!

2016 San Francisco Marathon

Yesterday, I finished the 2016 San Francisco Marathon. This was the first time I completed the entire course and it was the most difficult race I’ve ever run. All week, I was stressed out over my IT band. Would it bother me? Would it keep me from finishing?

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Pre-race

Let me start from the beginning….the race start time was 5:30am, but because I’m a slow runner, my corral start time was 6:22am. I woke up at 2:45am, groggy, blurry-eyed; it took me a while to have my sense about me. I’m really glad I woke early though. I had gone to bed at nine Saturday night, so I got plenty of rest. I had everything ready to go, but of course, I had to check everything two and three times, to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

I’ve never understood those non-elite runners who don’t carry anything with them when they run. I have to take so many things with me that I at least have to take a running belt with me.

After waiting and waiting for the MUNI Bus #38 that never showed up when it was supposed to, I walked to the starting line. It’s only about a mile and a half away, so it was actually a nice warm up and probably helped get me ready.

There weren’t enough porto-bathrooms, so I spent a long time waiting for one.

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Water stop at Chrissy Field

As I started running, I felt good. In fact, the whole first half went very well. I would have done great if I had just signed up for a half. It was after 15 miles when my right IT band and hamstring started giving me problems. I had to stop and walk a few times. I was very happy I brought my hand roller and used that a couple times. I also made two visits to Medical tables and iced the area. That helped a lot!

But as I got nearer to the end of the race, I wound up walking for about two miles. I couldn’t help it. The pain on my side was bad and there was NO WAY I was going to stop, but I just couldn’t run the entire way to the finish.

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Packed race on the Golden Gate Bridge

I managed to push myself to run the last half mile and I was even smiling finishing. My time was awful, but I don’t care. I finished and that’s good enough for me.

There were others who finished after me, but not many. By the time I ended the race, most of the cool goodies were gone and the sponsors were folding up their tables. I treated myself to a scoop of Nutella-Banana ice cream from Shoot the Moon in Embarcardero Center. It was delicious!

Since I’m not doing full marathons for a while, I probably won’t do this full course again, at least not for another year anyway. I may do the second half again, but I really don’t want to run on the Golden Gate Bridge anymore. Listen to me: RUNNING ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE IS OVERRATED. I hear people have this on their bucket list all the time. There are far, far better places to run than that bridge around here, trust me.

First, if the weather was like it was yesterday, it’s freezing, windy, wet and VERY cold. Second, there are metal grates in the street to keep the cars slowed down but are hellish for runners. It’s very easy to slip, trip or fall. I saw it happen. It wasn’t pretty. Third and worst of all, there were two lanes, the right going north and the left coming back south. Since I was towards the back of the pack, there were more runners in the South lane and they kept jumping into our lane to get ahead of the runners in their own lane. Because I had to deal with walkers and run/walkers, I tried to stay to the left of them, those lane hoppers were nearly running into me. It was like a video game! It was making me a little cranky. I was very happy to be off the bridge.

I do have a question for race directors. Why are aid/water/food stations always set up at the bottom of hills? The last place I want to take in nourishment is before I tackle a tough hill. I have never understood this. Since I wear a hydration vest I was able to pass up most of these until towards the end, when, unfortunately, many of these were folding up, just my luck.

I do want to give a big THANK YOU to the volunteers and workers. All the station workers, the police officers and the bikers who helped out with traffic and just making us runners smile, even when it hurt to smile. I love all of you!

The Expo the day before was nice. I was able to meet Lupe from one of the Facebook running groups I belong to and my friend Steve, so that was cool.

And, even though it was so difficult to finish, I DID finish. I made it and got my medal. I also had time to think about my future training goals and I will let you know once I get these more cemented.

Cheers!

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My medal with Buster, my running mascot