Trail running

Canyon Meadow Trail Half Marathon

Canyon Meadow….. such a nice name. It conjures peaceful green fields of wildflowers lilting gently in the spring breeze. It belies the hard race of the same name. Coastal Trail Runs put on this race yesterday, June 16th in the gorgeous Oakland hills and I took part in the half marathon distance. What a hard and fun course it was!

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Beautiful views were to be had throughout the race

My friend picked me up at 6:00am and we rode to the East Bay with hardly any traffic on the road. If only travel was this easy all the time! The start and end was in the Chabot Science Center’s parking lot, right in the Oakland Hills next to Roberts Recreational Area. I’ve lived in the Bay Area all my life and have never been in this part of the East Bay. It just goes to show how much there is to do here. It was a slightly chilly morning that blossomed into a warm day. The morning clouds evaporated, leaving bright sunshine.

The day included a 5K, a Half Marathon, a 30K, a Marathon and a 50K. 400 people signed up in all, which is considered a large crowd for trail racing. There are hundreds of trails here, some easy and some very difficult. This course included all kinds. As you can see by the picture of the half’s terrain, the first part was mostly downhill, then flat, then mostly uphill. That one steep uphill….it was a KILLER!!! About a half mile straight up, that tested all of our lungs, legs and hearts.

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Beast of a hill around Mile 8!!

I am not a fast runner, at all and on the trails, I slow even more, so I brought up the rear. I wasn’t the last of the half runners, but I was in the back for sure. And I don’t mind. I took a few pictures and helped out a gal who brought water and sugary foods instead of electrolyte mix and salty snacks. She was suffering from bad leg cramps due to loss of salt. I gave her most of my Skratch mix and walked with her a little bit. I offered to walk with her to the next aide station, but she told me she would be ok. She finished about 20 minutes after I did. I hugged and congratulated her, very happy she finished strong!

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The start line

When it’s warm out, it’s a much better idea to drink electrolyte mix and eat things like potato chips, salted potatoes, pretzels, mustard, dill pickle juice, etc than chews, Gu or anything sweet. Your body is losing tons of salt, so if you don’t replace it, your body will tell you and it’s no fun.

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These trails cannot be beat!

The course was superbly beautiful, one of the best trails I’ve ever run on. It was challenging and ever changing. It was mostly well-marked, there was only a couple times when I questioned which way to go, but I didn’t get lost, so that’s a plus!

My friend and I finished about a minute apart and enjoyed a great lunch in Berkeley after the race. I’m very proud of my effort, even though I hadn’t really trained for this one, all of my training going for the 6-hour endurance race I did a couple weeks ago. I’d like to do this one again, but this time, get some real work in beforehand.

Enjoy your running, enjoy the outdoors! Keep Moving Forward

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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!

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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NYE 24-HOUR RACE

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Have some carbs and protein!!! 

New Year’s Eve is usually a non-event for me. In fact, I am typically asleep by 10 as I love running early New Year’s Day morning. It helps avoiding the drunken chaos and hassles of what’s known as Amateur Night. The world is so quiet and still on the first morning of the year; it has become a personal favorite. But for 2018, I switched it up and volunteered at a great annual race in San Francisco.

The Coastal Trail Runs 24 Race is a blast! It takes place at Chrissy Field and starts on New Year’s Eve at 9 in the morning. You can run 24 hours, 12 hours or 6 hours on a loop of a little over 1 mile. The aid station where I was working is positioned at the beginning and end of the loop next to the parking lot.

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The start/finish line as well as Aid Station

The night was calm and mild. It remained about 50 degrees all night with very little wind. This was perfect running weather!

The Aid Station area had two tables covered with yummy snacks for the runners including: potato chips, peanut butter filled pretzels, Shot Bloks, Clif bars, peanut M&Ms, Goldfish, as well as piping hot lentil soup (that was very tasty!). We served them up soup, hot chocolate, coffee and whatever else they needed. Later on, pizza was brought and at midnight, champagne and Martinelli’s was handed out.

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Bubbly!!! 

Back behind the aid tents, there was a small city of individual tents for the runners to crash out in. I couldn’t think of a better way to experience this race, if I was a runner, than to camp out.

Music pumped out throughout the race, it was a fun set of classic rock and recent pop.

The runners were so inspirational! It was great fun to cheer them on, boost them and help them reach their goals. Runner great Dean Karnazas ran the 24-hour race and every time he stopped at the aid station, he took time out to talk to us volunteers and thank us. He even wolfed down a piece of cold pizza on one of his trips before he sped away, logging more miles.

I worked for about seven hours, but the time flew by. I promised myself that I would run the 12-hour race next year, because this was something very cool and I didn’t want to miss it. A bit after 12:30am, I walked up towards the MUNI Owl line. Getting home was a pain in the butt, all the more reason to camp out next year.

2018 will be mostly about smaller races. Sure, I’ll do a couple big ones, but it will be the smaller races and trail races that will occupy most of my racing miles. The people are truly the best and I feel blessed to be a part of it. I am even more inspired for make 2018 my best running year yet! May all your runs be amazing!

Keep Moving Forward!

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!

 

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!

 

 

 

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!