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THREE DOCUMENTARY REVIEWS

Solstice

So, I’m recovered from my race Saturday and putting together my training for my 50k in October. To get in the spirit, I’ve been watching running documentaries, ultra running ones. I thought I’d write about three of them specifically.

I’m a fool for a great ultra running documentary. I’ve seen all the ones on Berkley and the ones about the ultra race in the Himalayas. I’ve watched (I think), every one of the Western States docs, and I include one here in my reviews. So, here’s my thoughts about a few of the different ones you can find on Amazon Prime.

BOUNDLESS

The first is a TV show from Canada called Boundless. It’s a few years old, premiering in 2013, so I hope certain things have changed. I am only going by what I saw in the show. The show is about two Canadian adventure junkies who try some of the most difficult races in the world. They come off as arrogant, egotistical, snobbish and not anything like any trail runner I’ve ever met. In fact, they are the opposite. Simon Donato is so keyed in on winning, that he refuses to help a fellow running who ran out of water on an ultra race in Mongolia. Dude, you freakin help out each other. The other host, Paul Trebilcock (Turbo), seems a bit more likable, although his ego also gets in the way. In fact, the best episodes are when they completely underestimate the race and it bites them in their butts. Check out the SUP Hawaii race. The best episode ever!! And you would think they’d learn from these constant setbacks to stop being such arrogant jerks, but they never do.

Boundless lasted three seasons. In Season 3 they add two more athletes. The only reason I can think of is because the show needed more likability? I’m not sure if the two new hosts add anything, they don’t have much personality.

There are good reasons to watch, if you can tolerate the hosts’ obnoxious behaviors. The scenery is magnificent. The races are terrific. Although I winced at Donato’s claim that The Copper Canyon Ultra is the “Holy Grain” of ultra races. Yeah, I think Barkley has that title.

ULTRA HIGH

A few years ago, a 137-mile race was established in the Himalayan mountains. The first year, only one runner finished. The second year, a couple more completed it. Ultra High (2014) is about the race’s third year. This is a well-done doc about the 60-hour race through the highest mountains on earth. And it’s exciting all the way through. We never know who finishes first, but we feel what they go through; the exhaustion, the disturbance of continually passing traffic on the dusty mountain roads, the constant desire to finish in spite of mountain sickness and sometimes, asthma.

The race has grown since the first year. Now there are fully coordinated support teams and doctors throughout. Every athlete is looked after as much as possible. But, they are still racing at the top of the world and it is incredibly dangerous.

This is a great doc and at 70 minutes, perfectly timed. Definitely worth watching!

SOLSTICE

Out of the three, this is easily my favorite. I really love this doc In fact, it’s my very favorite out of all the ones about Western States. Director Andy Hoffman did a superb job showing how a 100-mile rookie took on the challenge in her own way. She wasn’t a professional athlete and had her own physical limitations. But that’s why I liked it so much. Yes, I am inspired by the pros; they’re dedication to their sport is incredible. But I am even more inspired by people like myself who go out and do amazing things. This is one of those stories. If it doesn’t inspire you to go out and do something great, I’m not sure what will. This is a MUST WATCH!

 

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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!

CHINATOWN YMCA NEW YEARS 5K

I rarely participate in 5K runs. I’m not a sprinter, races are too expensive and 5ks get too congested with walkers and those who don’t take the run seriously. It can be frustrating. But, I do this one every year, as it benefits the Chinatown YMCA that I love.

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Waiting for the Start

This is the Year of the Dog and in perfect fashion, there was a Red Dog and White Dog dancing at the starting line while firecrackers popped. Firecrackers scare off demons, so they’re set every Chinese New Year. The dogs made their way, dancing through the crowd. I love it! So bright and colorful! The kids especially liked watching them.

And that’s what this run is all about, the families, the kids, all the people the Y does good things for throughout the year. It was cold out, but once the race started, I hardly felt it.

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Dancing Dogs!

I had a good race. I maintained a 10:56 minute per mile average and out of 83 50 to 59-year old women, I was 23rd. The top woman in my age group finished with a 7:11 minute per mile average! We have so many fast runners in San Francisco that I’m guaranteed to never place no matter how old I am!

Post-race was celebrated with water, banana and orange slices. The sun was out and it was a little warmer than at the start. I walked home feeling pretty good about my time. And I would make myself a nice breakfast, I earned it!

Now to focus on my upcoming half marathon, and farther on in the year, my 50k. This is going to be a lot harder!

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!

Just For Fun

For two months I didn’t run. I attempted to heal or cure or whatever, my IT band issues, but it instead of going away completely, it remains. It is better than it was, this is true, but I had hoped that by stretching and resting it for eight weeks, it would feel better running again.

Nope. It still gets a little sore. Granted, I am going a little slower and shorter distances. I’m taking it easy.

The time off wasn’t in vain, however. I consider it to be a useful time of reflection and it did help me put things into a much healthier perspective.

I do believe I was trying too hard to be better. Self-improvement is a good thing, but when we push ourselves physically too hard, too soon, we’re asking for injuries. I wanted (OK, still want to) to be fast. I’ve had a great desire to be a better running, run faster than I did. And in actuality, I am 30 seconds faster right now than I was a year and a half ago.

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The beginning of the trail in Golden Gate Park

But where I live there are just not many slow runners. Or so it seems. Most people here in San Francisco are speed demons. Someone told me they were slow at 10 minute miles. I would have killed to run that fast at one time! I can do that pace really pushing myself, sprinting, but comfortably? No way.

I’d love to start a group of slow runners and I still may. But I’m no longer going to push myself to injury to fit in to any of the established running groups. Some of them say “all paces”, but how fun is it to be the only one slower than everyone else at every run? Unless you are that one person, you don’t know what that’s like. It’s stressful and not all that enjoyable.

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So green!!!

I ran twice this week. My first run was a simple run from home down to the Bay along Market Street and the Embarcadero. My IT band was sore the first mile, but felt better as I ran. This is progress. I told myself.

Tonight’s run was pure joy. Because of eight non-running weeks, I’m a little out of shape, so my trail running isn’t what it used to be. It will take some time to get back to where it was. Work was slow at the end of the week and the big boss was out, so we were let go after a half day. Who wouldn’t be in a good mood after that? I zipped home, changed clothes and took the bus to Golden Gate Park to run my favorite trail.

I know it well, even though I hadn’t run it since last November. It had been a while. But just starting my run I smiled and everything was okay. The weather was in the high 60s, a cool breeze whistled gently and the sun was bright. The trail was empty, except for a couple hiking. Even the disc golf course I passed was quiet.

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The Redwood Grove

We’ve had so much rain, the park was bright green and lush, with flowers popping up everywhere. My pace was slow, but not terrible. I found myself more out of breath than I would have liked, but that will improve. And my IT band? Not bad at all.

I’ll take it easy and see if combined with strength training it gets better. I have a huge deductible in my medical insurance and no money right now, so it’s not like I could see someone even if I wanted to and taking time off isn’t an option anymore. I’ll just enjoy that I can run, even a little and see what comes.

Keep moving forward!

THE HUNGER AND DESIRE TO WIN, OR AT LEAST NOT STOP

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(The path at the entrance to Golden Gate Park)

I watch a lot of professional sports. My favorites are baseball (Go Giants), hockey (Go Rangers) and football (Go Niners). This time of year, the NHL is in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the best teams are finding ways to win and move, while the weaker ones go home. Baseball is warming up with ball parks filling up as the calendar moves into summer and our thoughts turn towards shorts, BBQs and easy, lazy afternoons.

When I think of sports in relation to my running, I start thinking about what makes some teams, some athletes, or individuals keep going, even when everything is stacked against them.

This morning I ran six miles through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach and then down the Great Highway and back up to Judah Street. It was a good run; I didn’t stop that much, just a couple restroom breaks and then once for the traffic light and a couple more times to drink water or electrolytes. But my runs are getting longer, smoother and a little bit faster.

My biggest problem when I run is to keep running and not stop after a while. To be honest, I want to stop and walk because I get bored running after a while. It’s not a huge problem with six miles, but as I increase mileage, it gets more of a problem when I train for longer races. Like when I trained for my half marathon; running 10 or 12 miles was just dull.

Like the team who has a tough game with an intimidating opponent ahead of them, the mileage can be just as intimidating. Without the right attitude it can be a runner’s downfall. So, like the team who wants to win Sir Stanley’s Cup or the World Championship, to finish even a training run, we have to have a winning attitude. “We CAN run this distance!” We must keep telling ourselves. I was thinking of the comparison to the NHL teams who are hurt and tired and beat up playing in playoff games night after night, as they reach closer to the Stanley Cup Championships. They want nothing more but to end it all, but they have that desire, that longing, that hunger to WIN. And the one who wants it more will get it. So, we CAN run this!

Or course, proper planning and preparation have to go into it. I make sure and not increase my mileage too much, too soon. I’ll be running six miles for my long run two more Sundays. I don’t have another half marathon until September so I don’t mind taking it easier right now, getting my base stronger and maybe a little faster before I start tacking on the miles. And while I’m making my base distance faster, I’m also losing weight.

So, when the times get hard, when we’re tired and all we want to do is get home, take a shower, have our coffee and eat, when all we want to do is STOP we must keep moving….find a mantra that works for you. I choose one like “Keep your feet f**king moving” or “One more step” or “Almost there”. You get the picture. Anything like that will work and don’t stop.

WE CAN RUN THIS!!!