racing

GET THROUGH THE VALLEYS….

Peaks and valleys are part of life. It seems that my life has been a lot more valleys than peaks over the last few months. First the smoke from the horrible wildfires hit us in Bay Area in early November. That pretty much stopped my training for a few weeks.

Not only that, but I developed a sinus infection from all that smoke. So, I was sick over Thanksgiving. I still ran the Turkey Trot, as I always do. But, life sucked for a few days.

Once I got back into, I realized I was about 10 pounds heavier and felt like a fat slug. That didn’t stop my need to train, so I ran and went to the gym.

But then, last Thursday, someone stole my wallet. I was pickpocketed on the bus I always take! ARGH!!!!!!!! More valley pits!!!

I still got a long run of 15 miles in Sunday. My 12 hour race is going to be ugly with lots of walking. I’m hoping with all this nonsense in 2018, that 2019 is going to be great! I’m ready for some peaks!!!

Until then, I keep stepping towards those goals. I will write about my goals in my next post!

Keep Moving Forward!

 

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Down – Temporarily

So, I’ve been sick. Due to the horrendous smoke engulfing most of Northern California up until Thanksgiving, I developed a sinus infection. It knocked me out for a week. I rarely get sick and I even more rarely get secondary infections, and this one was a monster.

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Smoke everywhere

Right at the time when my training should have been revving up, I was reduced to a coughing pile of tissues, or so it felt as if that’s what I was.

I did run the San Francisco Turkey Trot, as I do every year. It was probably the slowest time ever, but I was glad I did it. I love this race and I’ll do it again next year. In fact, it will be my first year in a new age group (60!!!), so I might just train for it.

I’m feeling better now, and even though I’m far from being ready for my January 5th 12-hour endurance race, I’ll run Sunday and return to my training. I know that even if I don’t have the stamina to run for as much of the 12 hours as I’d like, I can always walk part of the time. The important part is to keep moving.

 

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Lowell High School Marching Band at the SF Turkey Trot

I have renewed energy and drive to not only make 2019 a great year, but to end this very disappointing, and yes, sucky 2018 year!

In my next blog, I’ll post my wrap-up of 2018 and my thoughts of the year ahead!

 

Keep Moving Forward!

Changing Goals

This past weekend was the NYC Marathon. It’s one of the biggest and most celebrated road races in the world. At one point, it was a race I wanted to do at least once in my life. At over $350, it’s also one of the most expensive. Add in travel, hotel and food and you get the picture. A lot of people spent thousands to participate.

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The Headlands overlooking Mt Tamalpais

Times change and my idea of what an idea or “bucket list” race has as well. Now, I have no desire to be part of a herd of thousands in a street race. I’m not even sure how many more road races I’ll do in my life. Two or three maybe, maybe less, who knows? I don’t appreciate being crowded into a corral with people I don’t know, waiting in endless line after endless line and spending tons of money to have the pleasure of doing so.

Why would I? I can have a lot more fun and see so much more beauty and natural scenery doing trail races for much less.

So, over 2019, I’ll work towards my big goal of running at least ONE 100-miler, which I’ll do in 2020. Next year, will be a building year, where I work on 50ks on up. I start the year off with a 12-hour endurance race, just like the 6-hour one I did in June, then a 50k in the Mt Shasta area, and I’ll redo the Skyline to the Sea 50k, but this time, make the cutoff and finish it as a 50k, not a marathon.

This year has been a year of figuring how where I need to start with my trail running, next year will be one to see just how far I can take it. I’m ready to push my boundaries.

Keep Moving Forward!

 

 

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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THREE DOCUMENTARY REVIEWS

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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!

 

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! 

 

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!

SALOMON SF HALF MARATHON

My legs felt OK just until the last bit of stairs. I was looking forward to getting done with that 10th flight, getting to flat ground finally and all of a sudden, my right quad muscles cramped up on me. I stopped, rubbed the area and drank the last bit of Skratch I had in my bottle. I knew right then and there that drinking water at Baker Beach instead of electrolytes was a mistake.

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View of the GGB from the race (taken on a different day, it was clear during the race)

The day started out under cloudy, dark skies. I took MUNI to Crissy Field a bit too early, but I’m always too nervous to rest much on the morning of a race. It even sprinkled a little, but that was short-lived. The skies cleared up by race time, thanks to a chilly breeze.

Coastal Trail Runs race started out at the east end of the Crissy Field parking lot. There was a 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. The half that I ran covered two loops around the lagoon, then headed up underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, following the path along Lincoln Blvd to Baker Beach, then up through the Seacliff neighborhood, through Land’s End, ending at the Sutro Baths and then heading back to Crissy Fields the same way it came. It’s a difficult course, filled with steep hills and a dozen staircases. But it is a fun course and one I’m very familiar with, so I didn’t mind all those hills and stairs, most of them, anyway.

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The Sutro Baths

It was a small race; only 200 ran the half. I realized I prefer these smaller ones to the big, gigantic races I was used to. The runners are friendlier and I felt more a part of things. In fact, since it was an out and back style race, both the lead runners and those of us in the back were cheering each other on, as well as everyone mid-pack. It was a great feeling.

I walked up the steep hills and stairs and as I expected, was in the back of the race. But that’s fine, I’m not fast at all and as long as I do my best, I’m good with it.

Sometime during the race, I realized that I hadn’t run a race as long as a half in over a year and a half. I prayed that my right leg behaved through the race, and, except for the cramp on the stairs, it did! In fact, I was hardly sore at all the next day. All those hours at the gym went to good use.

After my leg routine to normal from the cramp, I still had one mile more to run, so I pulled myself together and ran as much as I could that last distance.  I was quite happy to finish!

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They produce this race again in September and I want to do it once more and improve my time. I know I can do better, but at least I know that I can still run this far and more! I will be ready.

 

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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