Marin County

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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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! 

Life’s Hurdles

One of the very worst nightmares a renter in San Francisco has is of losing their apartment. Even with rent control, we still fear for our lives that someday, we won’t have our coveted living space. San Francisco is a tiny area, surrounded on three sides by water. I won’t get into the politics or history, except to say that because things are what they are, apartment prices are some of the highest in the US, studios renting for around $2500 to $3,000 a month.

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View of SF from the Coastal Trail

There are so many new people moving into the city from all across the globe every year, most being employed in the tech industry, that anyone who isn’t making tons of money, is soon priced out of the housing market.

It hit close to me a couple weeks ago when I found out my landlord is selling the building. My stomach sunk an I felt like getting sick. It was very stressful for a while there, but things have gotten better. I have since learned that being old, I not only have rent control, but I also have protected status, which will help immensely. And I do not think that the new landlord, if he does indeed buy the building, will be able to tear down the building or get rid of us without paying us A LOT first.

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One of my favorite trails, 2 miles of blissful downhill!

OK, so that’s the stress I’ve been dealing with these days. Thank goodness I have running. It doesn’t make everything wonderful, but it gives me a respite for a little while and takes the edge off, and it’s a lot healthier than shots of whiskey.

I have a few races coming up later this month and June, so it’s important to keep up with my training and I have my first 50k in October, so increasing my mileage is vital. I haven’t been very good about my eating, so I’ve gained a few pounds. Losing those will be added, as I get more focused on training.

My runs have been pretty good. I Yesterday, I went for a nice trail run in the Marin Headlands. Even after taking a wrong trail and having to climb up a very steep hillside, past thick groves of poison oak, I enjoyed myself. Few things feel as good as pushing myself as hard as I can on the trails. I came home, tired and hungry, but satisfied.

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Wildflowers

I choose to not allow worry and stress dominate my life. Bad things happen, as do the positive. It is all part of a balanced existence. But it will not affect my health. If I fall, I get back up, again and again and again.

Keep Moving Forward!

47 Hills – Part 8 Mount St. Joseph & More!

The 40th tallest hill took me a while to get around to running it. I wasn’t thrilled about it, to be honest, it’s not the most scenic spot in San Francisco. In fact, if you’ve spent any time in the city, you’ve been here. At 250 feet, it’s the same height as a few other hills but what makes it different is that a shopping mall stands on top of it.

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Even on a foggy day, the view is nice

Yes, there’s a Best Buy and Target on this one. The cross streets are Geary, Presidio and Masonic. It’s an extremely busy intersection. The views of Downtown are pretty nice, if you go to the top of the parking lot. Other than that, it’s not that special.

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On Geary at the base of Mount St Joseph

Because I wasn’t that thrilled with the 40th place, I’m including some pictures from my run this last Sunday at Mt Tamalpais. It was a wonderful 7 mile run from Mt Tam to Stinson Beach. I don’t get up there very often because the bus ride is long and expensive. But I’ll do it again when I can.

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Near the top of My Tamalpais

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Top part of the Matt Davis trail

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The top part of the trail is dry, yet the bottom part is so damp, like a rainforest

Life is good. Things are not perfect, but when is it? My running and workouts are the best part of my day and I can’t ask for more.

Keep Moving Forward!

 

 

 

Marin Headlands

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The best view!

Trail running is near the top of my Running Loves List. I don’t get to go out as much as I would like, without a car it takes a bit more planning and a lot more time. But I managed to get a wonderful day of trail runs in this past Sunday.

As the calendar moves into spring, there is something always going on in San Francisco. That means traffic isn’t going to be easy. The San Francisco Rock & Roll Half Marathon happened on Sunday morning, so there were lots of street closures. I’ve ran that race before and I’m not sure if I’ll do it again. The first four miles are nearly all uphill; it’s one of the most punishing halfs I’ve ever run, so thinking about a second go-through has me wondering if I want to put myself through it again.

It’s not that easy getting to the Marin Headlands on a Sunday via bus. The earliest one doesn’t leave SF until 8am, and the one I wanted, not until 9:30am, so at least I didn’t have to cut my sleep short. The line doesn’t run often either, so when it does it’s usually packed with hikers, nature lovers and out of town visitors. And, the MUNI #76 Marin Headlands line that goes all the way to Roade Beach only runs on Sundays, so it’s not there is a choice of which day to go.

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The Headlands hills are steep but pay off!

As we departed for north of SF, the bus got stuck waiting for runners to pass on Larkin Street. It was towards the tail end of the race and knowing how demanding this race is, I felt for their tired faces.

It wasn’t the warmest day. In fact, later on it became completely overcast and a little windy. But as I took to the trail off Cozelman Rd, the sun was peeking out and helped warm me going up that steep first mile.

Those first two miles are harsh!!! Straight up, up, UP!!!! I ran as much as I could, walking lots, finding myself out of breath even. It’s hard to believe that I can still get out of breath so fast over a silly hill!

But once at the top, few things are as spectacular as that view!

When trail running, it’s the one time it’s guaranteed I won’t be listening to music. The natural sounds around me are so stunning and loud! The birds never stopped singing the entire time I was out there. I forgot how much I love natural sounds. They’ve become so distant to me since living in the city and I miss them terribly.

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Wild Flowers!

It took me longer to maneuver through the trails than I thought. Many of them had become a little overgrown with the recent rains. There was lots of poison oak and I do mean TONS of it. I had to be careful moving through it because new branches stuck out everywhere, looking for places to grow and I am highly susceptible to it.

I made it to Rodeo Beach about 1.5 miles short of my goal, but the #76 was due any moment. I decided to catch it back across the Golden Gate Bridge and finish up my distance in the Presidio where I could easily take another bus back home.

I won’t make it such a long time between runs here again, even with the hassle of getting there and back, it’s well worth it.

And even if it means spending a little money, I vow to go on some good trail runs a little farther away from home this year. It really is a blast and worth the money spent.

Cheers!