marathon

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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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!

An Unfortunate Trend

I have a bone to pick with Runner’s World. OK, I have a few to pick with them recently, but I’ll only bring up one. I thought about this on my long run yesterday while preparing for my half coming up in a couple weeks.

The Javalina Jundred is a well-known ultra race in Arizona each year. It’s very popular and unfortunately, due to Runner’s World’s April, 2018 article “What Happens When You Really Show Up”, it’s about to get even more popular. The piece focuses on two female runners who have never run longer than a half marathon, and who can afford to hire a professional running coach to help them. In the end, they DNF. The moral of the RW story, they’re still winners.

How so, Runner’s World? I get the whole trying something new because they’re tired of their lives. I get it that they’re taking a giant leap, going for it, being brave. But they could also do that parachuting out of a plane. Sticking with that comparison, would they still be considered winners if their parachutes on that jump didn’t open? That would be a DNF.

The problem is that the two subjects of the story had never run longer than 13 miles and were going out for a 100k race, more than seven times longer. Those distances are worlds apart and they can’t be learned through a coach or a few months of practice runs. And much of the real learning doesn’t come from the physical act of running. There is so much mentally and emotionally going on in a super long race that these two know nothing about and no one can tell you about, so it’s much easier to give up. They would have had a taste of it had even one of them run a marathon previously. They didn’t know how their bodies would react, they didn’t know how their minds would react, they didn’t know if they were emotionally capable of finishing.

Jumping from shorter races to the longest of ultra races was unheard of a few years ago. Now, I see it more and more. Sometimes they work out great. Some people are born to run long mileage and they shine. Others are not so lucky and the steps they skip wind up hurting them. It happens mostly in novice runners. Newish runners, those who have only been running a year or two, will run a half, or not, and think that they can come back in four or five months and churn out a 50k or even an 100k. And then, bam, a week later, they’re injured. Maybe it’s my age and that I’ve been around running a long time, but I see no reason to rush into ultras; it’s the most difficult for a reason. And the only thing I can think of is it’s fashionable to do so. It’s hip and trendy to run ultras now, and that’s the sad truth that will leave many inexperienced runners injured.

I’m a linear thinker, so I would never, ever think of doing a 100k if I hadn’t done even a marathon before. OK, I could see maybe running a 50k. It’s not that much farther than a marathon. But even five or six more miles can seem like 100 if you’re exhausted from a distance you couldn’t dream of previously. Get used to longer races FIRST. Then get used to trail races and THEN go for the distance. Unless you want to do a one-off and don’t mind being injured for months or getting a DNF and still consider yourself a winner. Then, do what you want and nevermind what I say.

For the rest of us, Keep Moving Forward!

Some of my pictures from my run yesterday:

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Walnut Creek Trail Run

First I want to congratulate everyone who ran the NY Marathon today! What an amazing race it was and always is! Geoffrey Kamworor and Shalane Flanagan winning Men’s and Women’s respectively, were exciting to watch. I teared up watching Flanagan, knowing how many years she’s battled for a first place and imagining what it must be like for her. It teaches us once more, never give up! Never, ever, ever give up!

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Mt Diablo is far in the distance

This morning, I decided to try a new place out for a trail run. 2018 is going to be a year of trail running for me, so I got on BART and headed to Walnut Creek to run on some trails in the My Diablo foothills.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated how far the trails were from BART and I walked a bit farther to the trails than I thought. I also didn’t get to the trail I thought I had, and wound up backtracking a couple miles. The paths I were first at were nice, but they were paved and not great with my trail shoes. But walking miles on the concrete sidewalks wasn’t much fun in my Saucony Peregrines either. By the time I got to the desired trail, I was pretty worn out, so I cut my run short. My feet and legs were getting sore and heavy.

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One of the many trails 

I still enjoyed myself, but it’s too difficult getting out there via public transportation. There are much easier trails to get to in Marin County. That’s the problem with much of the Bay Area, it’s great if you have a car, but if not, it’s not accessible.

Lessons learned of course and I liked the shorter run I did have. It’s been a nice weekend.

Keep going forward!

 

WELCOME FALL AND GEAR REVIEW

If you ask me when the best time to visit San Francisco is, I would say early October. The weather is warm and there’s less chance of high layered fog and wind. The city always gets late summer here and I wait anxiously for it.

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Sun Setting Earlier Over the Bay Bridge

In my older years I’ve grown to not like the cold much. In fact, I plan to move to a warmer climate in a few years. Until I can afford to do this, I’ll enjoy these warmer days we have right now…..

This past weekend, I run a couple great runs in the warmer weather. I’m soaking in the sun as much as I can, as the nights are getting darker faster and soon I won’t have that wonderful Golden Gate Park trail to run Friday evenings any more.

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View of Aquatic Park & the Bay

I also invested in some new running gear. I bring many items with me on my runs. I don’t own a car, so it’s essential I have everything with me when I go out. Must haves for me on a run are: phone, keys, glasses, water, mascots Buster and Alfredo.

I have an Ultimate Direction hydration vest I really like. I’ve owned it for two years and it’s the best pack I’ve ever owned. But it is bulky and sometimes I’d rather not wear a big vest.

Just recently I purchased an Ultimate Direction Access 10 Plus waist pack. I’ve used it for a week now and really like it for the most part. What I appreciate about it is it doesn’t move around, it stays where I want it to stay. The small water bottle is perfect for short runs under 10 miles, which is just when I want to wear it. It has two pockets which is better than the usual one pocket styles I’ve seen. There is another waist pack with a larger bottle, (the Access 20 Plus), but I’m not sure if the pockets are larger.

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Access 10 Plus

The minuses, there’s only one negative about it is that the pockets are small. The first, to hold my phone doesn’t hold my phone if I have headphones plugged in, and I don’t have a giant phone. I have a Galaxy S6 Edge, so it’s not huge, but I have to keep it unzipped a little if I want to listen to music. The second pocket is barely big enough for my glasses and keys. I’m afraid I’ll break my glasses because they have to squish in there sometimes if I need to add fuel for the road.

Ultimate Direction makes great big waist packs, but that’s too much for a shorter run. If they made this one with one of the pockets even a half inch longer, that would make all the difference.

As a company, I highly recommend U.D.’s products. Their customer service and gear are top of the line. The pricing is good and delivery is fast. Just make that pocket a teeny bit bigger and I will recommend the Access 10 Plus 100%. 😉

Cheers!

SETTING GOALS

Inspiration and drive are sometimes in short supply. After this year’s San Francisco Marathon, I didn’t have much of either. It was much, much more difficult than I ever thought it would be; the training for it alone gave me burnout and took all the fun out of running.

So, as I was running last night in preparation for the Giants Race half Marathon race this Sunday, I had to think of ways to get the excitement back into running. After this race, I’m not signed up for anything. It’s not because I don’t want to race, it’s really lack of funds. I need to buy new running shoes this month, so spending more money on an upcoming race won’t happen for at least another paycheck or two.

During the last few weeks of marathon training, I realized that for the first time in a very long while, I had very little motivation. I still ran, but I barely stuck to my way of eating, which resulted in weight gain. I had promised myself that I was going to lose weight this year and here I was, not accomplishing what I wanted. In 2015, I had set out a goal to run 3 marathons this year and that seemed like a galaxy away. Obviously, that was asking too much of myself. But I also started wondering if marathons were for me at all….

I can’t accept that.

So, I took a few days off of thinking about my future in running and just lived my life. I admit that I didn’t workout as much as I should have, I didn’t go to the gym as regularly for a week, but it was the space I needed for a new perspective.

And it was during my run yesterday when I started thinking about my last marathon. I don’t want that memory to be my only memory of this race. I want to create better memories. There’s only one way to do that, to run it again next year, but this time, plan better, do better.

I have a full year it’s time to think about how I’ll do it. The California International Marathon, even though the same distance was nowhere near as difficult or taxing on me. It could be that my IT bands weren’t stressed out as much at the time of my race or maybe I was more prepared, or maybe this race is just harder on them because of those blasted hills. But none of that matters. What matters is if I am serious about doing it a second time, I need to make this time count!

So, I will keep you informed about my ongoing training. Up until next July, there are some shorter races I plan to do, including my half this Sunday. I’m looking forward to it, no stress at all.

Cheers!

DON’T QUIT

The 2016 Rio Olympics finished yesterday with a boom! I loved the Closing Ceremonies, especially the handing out of medals for the Men’s Marathons. I got up at 5:00am just to watch the Men’s Marathon and rooted for all the runners. It was a great race! When it comes to many of the events, I wasn’t USA biased, I just loved watching great athletes performing their craft in ways I could only dream about.

I have enjoyed many of them, including Usain Bolt’s dominance on the track, Tori Bowie’s vivacious spark also on the track, the Brazilian Men’s Beach Volleyball team’s march to Gold Medal and Gwen Jorgensen never say die spirit in the Women’s Triathlon. I even loved watching the weight lifting, handball games and equestrian competitions.

The greatness of these athletes has inspired me and pushed me to do the small accomplishments I set for myself. What is the greatest thing about every competitor and every Olympic event is the will to succeed. They all have a fire burning deep inside that tells them “don’t quit.”

Don’t Quit.

I have been saying these two seemingly small words to myself over and over again these past few days. These words only have eight letters, but they are two of the biggest words in the English language. These words are what lies between us and our goals. Many times in my life I have given up, quit, lost faith in myself and my dreams. But not this time. It may be harder, more painful and take me longer than I ever thought, but I will succeed!

Let’s not forget the Paralympics are coming up in September. That is where some of the most inspirational among us are.

We have it in ourselves to go after what we want…..we need to hone into what exactly that is, figure out a plan to get it and then execute that plan. Let’s do this. And don’t quit.

Cheers!

Running Just for Fun

When I was training for my marathon, the stress of trying to get in my long runs and scheduled weekly running miles took their toll.

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Seen on my run: A wedding party frisbee game 

I took an entire week off running to help my IT band feel better. Because of it, I was forced to re-focus, reset my running brain and attitude towards running.

Knowing that the marathon was done and I do not have another planned, at least for the few months ahead, was a relief.

I do have a race, the Giants Step Half Marathon in September, but there’s no stress, it’s a fairly flat out and back and halfs are a pretty comfortable distance for me. I would like to PR this time around, but more on that in a later post.

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Lots of wild life in SF

The result of no stress and relatively shorter runs? Enjoyment, better times and greater satisfaction. This morning’s long run, a 6-miler is the perfect example. I’m gradually increasing my distance for my half. Today’s run was smooth, painfree and I spent a lot of it with a grin. I have rarely done that in the last months.

My suggestion is if you feel the strain and stress of running marathons, you don’t always have to sign up for them. Take a few months off and run halfs, 10ks, 5ks or even don’t race at all. I will continue to do races, but with costs going up and up, I’ll be extra picky about which ones. And that’s perfectly fine. Remember, no stress.

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.

Marathon stop

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

This Is It!

Sunday is my next race – the San Francisco Marathon. I dare say it’s been really difficult getting there, perhaps even more difficult than the California International Marathon last December. My right IT band has been troubling me and lingering doubts over whether I could even finish have plagued me.

This past week I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve gotten a couple small runs in with lots of stretching and rolling. My leg has felt good and I am mentally in a good place going into race weekend.

The military have a saying “Embrace the suck.” So I’ll be doing that if it gets real bad Sunday, for I do NOT plan on giving up…I WILL finish this race.

But my goals have changed, for the next year anyway. I no longer think I should try to keep going longer. I think after Sunday, I’ll stick to half marathons and shorter and lose about 15-20 pounds, to be in prime shape. I want to run faster before I go farther. If I can kick this IT band thing, then I can run marathons much more efficiently and relatively pain free. RELATIVELY.

So, I’ve been quiet in here, at times frustrated, and trying to stay positive, which isn’t always easy. But it is always necessary. I will write all about my race with lots of pictures after it happens!

Cheers!