Trail running

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!

MILE AFTER MILE…

I finally bought new running shoes, with finances as difficult as they are right now, it takes a couple months to plan out strategically but fortunately, I won’t be training for a marathon for a few months, so these new Brooks Ghost 9s should last a little longer.

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Golden Gate Park trail 

I’ve also set some new and different goals for myself. For a few months anyway, I’ll be focused on get leaner and faster rather than just running longer distances. With the exception of this weekend when I ate a box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Jojos (I know, I know, but they’re delicious!), I have been good about my eating and I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

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GGP trail

It isn’t going well finding work in fitness, so I’ve changed that goal. I don’t know if I’m going to find a paid part-time job in fitness, so I’m going to look for more volunteer work to get more experience until I can afford to get my certificate in Senior fitness. That cert will help me get a job in the area of fitness I desire. I can’t afford to work for minimum wage fulltime at a gym in town, but if I can get the experience and knowledge, maybe I can a position at a senior center.

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Sunset!

I’ve had good runs over the last week, including a terrific trail run Friday night. I was lucky enough to see one of the most beautiful sunsets! Yes, times are not easy right now, but at least I can still enjoy the scenery of my city!

Cheers!

FREEDOM

This was my low mileage Sunday in between two long run Sundays, so I figured to switch it up and get a nice trail run in today. I went up to the Marin Headlands, amidst wind, fog and cold July weather.

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Foggy Downhill

When I got off the Golden Gate Transit bus at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, I almost turned around and walked over the bridge back to San Francisco. The Headlands looked so cold and foggy, especially at the top, I wondered if it was worth even trying to get a run in.

San Francisco weather in the summer is so schizophrenic it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be warm or cold from day to day. This is especially true the nearer to the Pacific Ocean one gets. Inland, it’s mostly hot all summer long. But up where I was going it was blustery cold. The Headlands are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a national open space land that is indeed glorious and has acres and acres to explore. One can hike, bike, run, horseback ride or just drive to various spots and enjoy the views. It’s such a large area that it includes areas in San Francisco as well as the large part just north of SF I was at today.

One good thing about not-so-great weather; it certainly kept the crowds down. I didn’t see a whole lot of others out there on my run.

This was one of the most difficult runs I can remember. I charted out a circular route to take me back to the start, which I figured would be about 10 miles, and at 10.5 miles, I got it just about right. I just forgot how steep some of those hills are! Let’s just say that for about four of those 10.5 miles I wasn’t running at all, but hiking up VERY steep hills, huffing and puffing all the while.

During trail runs I never listen to music. I much prefer the sounds of the hills, the singing birds, the rustling of bunnies scattering into the brush, the hum of the wind through the trees and the laughing of crows. It feels like I am not alone and keeps me company. It also makes me think.

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View of the SF Bay

Today, I thought about Freedom. I thought about how running makes me feel. Running sometimes makes me feel strong, sometimes tired, other times absolutely exhausted, but how it really makes me feel is FREE. I choose to run, I run because I have chosen to work at running. Sure, maybe I can’t at this moment run up every one of those steep hills, but I can train, I can get stronger, get faster, get leaner, that is my choice. That is my FREEDOM.

Our forefathers wanted their freedom from a tyrannical government. They gave up nearly everything to get it. Because one’s own choice in one’s life decisions is that important. I thank and honor them this 4th as I always do. I probably will never know if I have the same courage or strength that they did, but finishing tough runs like today make me feel a teeny bit stronger.

Have a great Fourth of July!

Cheers!

TRIP TO NEW ENGLAND

My father passed away last October, but his desire was to have his ashes buried in his hometown of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Since he lived in Florida for the last few decades of his life, he had planned it out with his second wife. my stepmom, to have a burial ceremony on the birthday after his passing in New England. So I took the time to head Northeast.

Running Trail in NH

Rails to Trails in New Hampshire

It’s been many years since I’ve been in that part of the country. It’s beautiful country; trees everywhere you look, rolling green hills lined with low stone walls and centuries-old churches and history, lots of history.

I stayed with one of my sisters in New Hampshire just south of Manchester. I was struck by how modern and sleek the Manchester Airport. Tons of charging stations and so clean and intelligently planned. Other airports could learn much from Manchester.

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New Hampshire woods

Thursday I went for the one run of my trip. There was so much to do and see I didn’t have another chance to run. But the run I got in was great. They have a series of Rails to Trails and the portion I used was beautiful! It meandered through woods and passed lakes. Few people used the paved path. It was chilly out! Luckily I started to get warm as I ran, for I started to wonder if I should have worn my long Under Armors instead of running shorts.

Later that day, my sisters I went out for dinner – LOBSTER! It was spectacular! We drove to the beach afterwards for dessert and coffee. I am really going to lose weight when I get back home!

Friday was spent with family, many of whom I hadn’t seen in many, many years. These times are not easy, it’s so good to reconnect, but also a bit emotional and draining.

Saturday I planned a day to myself. I drove out to Ipswich to see Castle Hill. A manufacturer or plumbing parts magnate from Chicago built this glorious mansion, no, castle on a huge hill at the ocean there and I needed to see it. I love places like this! I wandered around the grounds and then inside. It was in the 40s and windy, so it was hard to be outside for too long.

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Castle Hill grounds

My plane ride started extra early this morning, so it was nice to be back in SF before noon. Back to training and my regular routine tomorrow, which I don’t mind at all.

Cheers!

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!