Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jingling my way to a win

My last race of the year and it was a blast. Gordy Ainsleigh puts on the Cool Yule Jingle Jog 5K & 10K in Meadow Vista, CA on Christmas Day. I don't know how many years it's been going on but it's long enough to have past champions and the young man who shattered the 5K course record last year was there today to defend his title.

My last race was the Helen Klein 50 miler in early November and I've only been doing maintenance miles since then with no speed work so I had no idea what to expect from my performance. My parents, daughters and I (Pat had to work) headed over from Nevada City for the 45 min drive and when we got there it was COLD, about 32 degrees. My older daughter and I were the only ones brave enough to get out of the car (because we had to use the restrooms) and it wasn't too bad in the sun.

My girls enjoying the sun

I only gave myself about 10 minutes to warm up and I forgot to have my routine small snack about 30 min before race time so I felt a little unprepared as about 40-45 of us lined up and listened to Gordy give a very long speech, giving us directions for each race distance (it felt long as I watched shivering runners hopping up and down trying to stay warm, their bells jingling on their shoes; at check in we were all given bells to get us in the holiday spirit).

Gordy giving pre-race directions

I had no idea where we were going so I lined up on the front row and finally we were off. I found myself just behind the lead pack of male runners, I knew I was first female. Before long, the 5K turned right and started up a paved road, up and up and up. I felt strong but slow. Not soon enough we turned onto the canal ditch and it was just like running my ditch at home and I picked up the pace. One guy in front of me and no one behind. Coming off the ditch it was downhill. I thought it would be all downhill but there was one more nasty little climb just to keep us honest.

Smile for the camera!

The guy in front of me was faltering a bit so I picked it up. I had no idea if anyone was in front of him. I was able to pass him on the last downhill about 1/2 mile from the finish and pushed it back to the park. I sprinted across the finish line not knowing my position and was thrilled to find out I was second finisher overall. Wow. I've never done that well in a race. I was checking my watch to see that I finished in 27:42 and that's about the time Gordy announced "oh yeah, it's not really a 5K race, it's actually a 6K".

Finishing strong

Me and Santa, I mean, RD Gordy
The winner was the same young man who won it last year, I believe he finished about 3-4 minutes ahead of me, I didn't get his final time and I think his first name was Shane. Overall winners (and I believe age-group winners as well) received absolutely gorgeous poinsettia plants donated by Eisley nursery.

Me and first place Shane (?) posing for photographer Gordy

A beautiful award
I want to thank Gordy for putting on an enjoyable race and a fun group of people who ventured out on a cold Christmas morning. But especially, I want to thank my parents for braving the cold and watching my girls which made this race possible. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and that Santa was good to you all.

Two of the people who made it possible, my folks

Thursday we're all headed to Missouri to visit family for a week. It will be fun to get some runs in some place new, even if the high is only mid-30's (I know, I'm a wimp). I'll try to post on the blog but no promises. After all, it is vacation :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Week

It's tough to stick to a training schedule during the holidays, especially with family in town. I did my best this week but didn't get the mileage I was shooting for. And that's ok. My 15 mile run today was downgraded to 12 then turned into 6.75 and some quality family time. I headed out earlier than my husband and ran the NID ditch, he was going to leave the girls with my folks and then meet me at one end of the ditch and we would run it together, the second time for me. But as I was finishing my first lap of the ditch, my husband and daughter came running towards me. Turns out Caitlyn wanted to go for a run with her mommy and daddy. So I got my 6.75 miles in but the real quality was the next .75 miles spent sprinting then resting, throwing rocks into the water for the dog, and generally exploring with my hubby and daughter. A perfect afternoon.

Couldn't quite stay awake for Santa

Tonight is Christmas Eve for us since Pat has to work at the fire station on the real Christmas Day. Caitlyn is old enough now to understand about Santa and putting cookies and milk out for him and carrots for the reindeer. Unfortunately, all that running around just did her in. She was asleep in Pat's arms by 5:30pm. As I was tucking her into bed, her eyes opened sleepily and I told her we'd put out the cookies and milk for her, her eyes closed and she drifted off to dream land.

Cookies anyone?

So I better sign off so Santa can come by and drop off the presents meant for my sweet girls. Here's hoping all of you out there are having a wonderful holiday week.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Running The Ditch

There are some cool things left over in the Gold Country from the gold rush days and one of them are the ditches. Miners needed ways to move water so they created flumes, some of which are still in action today. Along some of the ditches are these great running trails that go for miles. I haven't even begun to explore them all. My favorites are Snow Mountain Ditch and Cascade Ditch.
Beautiful trail
I decided to do my long run on Thursday along Cascade which is just over 4 miles one way so I do the whole thing twice for 17 miles. Because I could use my truck as an aid station, I only had to carry 1 water bottle and a couple gels. I had some interviews from The Final Sprint on my MP3 so I was set to go. The temperature wasn't too bad when I was getting ready, I settled on shorts and a long sleeve shirt. One thing about the ditches tho, the water and wooded terrain keep it colder along the trail. The ground was covered in "ice castles" in places where the ground had frozen and pushed the dirt up. These "castles" crunch down under your foot making for some dicey footing.
Ice Castles
My first leg was a little slow due to finding my rhythm and taking some pictures. By the next leg I ditched the camera and got down to business. I ended up having negative splits for each leg. But then I have to remind myself that this is a long, SLOW, run; I'm not going for a PR!
Yuba meets some friends on the trail
but no one is willing to get wet
It turned out to be a beautiful day. Our cold snap has passed but as the day warmed up, those aforementioned "ice castles" melted making for some muddy footing. The mud would collect on my shoes making them feel 10 pounds heavier.
A nice view overlooking Nevada City
A couple of places the trail crosses large gullies where the water travels through pipes and there's a metal walkway that you use to cross. Yuba doesn't like walking on the metal so he takes the long way thru the gully but he doesn't seem to mind.
Yuba taking the long way
I found a great rhythm and just cruised along. My time was about 7 minutes slower then the last time I did this exact same route. It's hard for me to repeat routes because I always want to better my time even tho I'm not in the same phase of my training. Right now I SHOULD be slower, I'm rebuilding my base.
Small bridge
There are a few houses along the trail and some owners have created these small bridges to access the trail. There was also a new bench installed that I hadn't seen before. It's nice to see the trail being used and loved, there's always the risk that these trails will be closed because some property owners don't like strangers walking near their "back yard".

Before I knew it, the run was done and it was time to grab some food, a shower, pick up the girls and call it a day. A great day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Going nowhere

Ever feel like you're getting nowhere fast? That's me these last few days. I've been stuck at work for 72 hours (that's 3 days) so the only opportunity to run is on the treadmill. Some of our fire stations have really nice workout areas that make working out enjoyable. Others aren't so nice. My current station is the latter. It takes a little more motivation to get excited about spending close to an hour going nowhere.

Yesterday I managed a tough 3 miles. I just wasn't feeling it. I could hardly wait for the run to end. Today was the exact opposite. I could sense it even before I got on the treadmill. I was excited again. I planned to do 4 miles but was having so much fun I did 5. I even threw in about 7 strides to get some quick leg turn-over. Felt great.

Tomorrow I will be released into the real world again and will get to enjoy an actual run on the trails. I can't wait.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dancing with the rain

It's the first week of December and it looks like winter finally decided to show up for the end of the year party. But even after a couple of inches of rain in the foothills and a couple feet of snow in the mountains, I managed to not have to run in any really bad weather. I did my first "dark" run Friday morning. I wanted to get it out of the way before the family woke up so I headed out early and had to use my flashlight the whole time. It's amazing how much slower you run in the dark, even on a familiar trail. Takes practice I guess. My legs felt a little heavy and lacked spring. I met a mountainbiker on the trail and he was so excited to see someone else out that early. Funny, it was 6:30 but being December, it was still so dark. It started to drizzle as I was finishing the run but I was warmly tucked in the house when it really started to rain.

Yesterday I had planned a 14 mile long run after I took the girls to daycare. It was a cold, grey morning and still raining pretty good, not very inviting. The forecast called for clearing skies so I changed things around and ran some errands after dropping the girls off and by 11:00 the rain had stopped. I loaded up my hip pack (could have managed with 1 hand-held bottle), grabbed Yuba and hit the soggy trail. The trail was full of BIG puddles and I even hit some snow at the 4100 foot level (I live at 3500 ft). Once again my legs felt heavy and the run out seemed difficult. I know I've been fighting a bit of a cold earlier this week, my resting heart-rate has been 6-10 beats higher than normal. This is also the first week in a while where I've exercised everyday.

BIG puddles

Yes, that's the trail

But enough excuses, it was enjoyable to be out in the post-storm weather. I ran up the Pioneer trail avoiding the puddles as best as possible. My goal was to run to White Cloud but just a half mile short of that I decided to turn back. The run back is mostly a gradual downhill and I felt much better. I averaged a 10:00/mi pace but it felt slower and the miles went by pretty fast. Yuba had finally burned off some energy and stuck right by my side.

Snow line

Today is a rest day and I welcome it. Sometimes it can be tough getting back into a regular routine but it also feels good to be back on track.

This week we also managed to decorate the Christmas tree with the help of a 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year old. Needless to say, lots of ornaments clumped together on the bottom 1/3 of the tree but they had so much fun.

Waiting for Santa under the tree

I've also added one last race to the year. Gordy Ainsleigh's Cool Yule Jingle Jog 5K in Meadow Vista on Christmas Day. Pat works Christmas so we're celebrating on Christmas Eve and with my parents in town, I'll be able to run. Should be fun and it's for a good cause :)

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Monday, December 3, 2007


Ask just about any coach or elite athlete what the #1 key is to running success and they will say "exercise consistency". Actually run 3 (or 4, or 5, or 6) times a week, every week, and you will see improvement. I have a little problem with consistency. Like a lot of people, I start out like a house afire then start to smolder. My work schedule and having 2 little girls doesn't help but that's just an excuse. I read about lots of mothers out there who are able to "git it done". I have recently stumbled upon Sarah's blog up in Oregon and I love reading about her runs and how incredibly consistent she is. She knows what runs need to be done each week and then just does them. And enjoys them. A lot. I'm inspired.

Finally, a month after Helen Klein 50m, I've regained my desire to exercise (now I just have to work on my desire for a healthy diet, that's a whole different story). I didn't get into WS100 but I have other goals for 2008 to work toward. They're pretty ambitious (considering I'm still a relative newbie to this ultrarunning world) but you gotta have goals. I'll talk more about them after the New Year. Until then, it's just about re-building a solid base of miles. And that's where consistency comes in.

I'm off to a pretty good start. Last Thursday I did 5 miles on the treadmill at work, Friday I did 5 miles on the trails with my husband (he's a newbie runner so it's fun to see him excited about running), Sat and Sun I had the girls (it was COLD, COLD, COLD so no dragging them out in the double jogger), and today I did a fun 6 miles on the lower slopes of Peavine Mtn in Reno. I want to start out running 25-30 miles/wk then work it up to 40 mi/wk (which would be a high for me). That will take consistent runs every week. But it's December so I'm not going to worry about track or tempo work. Just enjoy the trails, throw in some hills, and one long run each week. I will also plan 2 hours of weight work each week. And then, if I'm inspired, I may throw in a bike ride or swim for fun. Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Better luck next year

This morning I joined hundreds of other hopeful runners in the Placer High School cafeteria for the 2008 Western States 100 lottery. This was to be my first experience.
Tim Twietmeyer addresses the crowd
Tim Twietmeyer addressed the crowd with the bad news: after adding up all the 2-time losers, top 10 men and women from last year's race, 25 foreign spots, Gordy, Cow-man, and a few others I forget, that only left 189 spots left to draw for. That equated to about a 1 in 6 chance of being drawn, the lowest chance in the history of the run.
The crowd waits anxiously
After a couple of hours of not hearing my name drawn, they were down to the last few names. Greg asked those in the crowd who had their name in the hat but hadn't been drawn yet to raise their hand. About 90% of the people raised their hands. Incredible. So they decided to add 7 spots for those present only. I still wasn't chosen.
Gordy picks out a name
I decided to stick around for the 2009 drawing (2 spots) since I had purchased about 20 tickets. I was happy with my 20 tickets until I saw the guy next to me: he had 184. I didn't get chosen. But then neither did he. The final thing to be done was to draw for the many (and very nice) door prizes. I had 1 ticket. I heard my name called and hurried to the front of the room to receive my gift certificate for a pair of Montrail shoes! Wow, that's pretty cool. So it turned out not to be a wasted trip.
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Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Tree Hunt

Our normal tradition is to go out the day after Thanksgiving armed with turkey sandwiches and thermos' of hot chocolate and apple cider and find the perfect Christmas tree. This year was different because I had to work the holiday (and the 2 days after) and my family all gathered at the family ranch in San Diego county.

Taking a break

Cross this? No problem

So on Wednesday, Pat and I loaded up the girls and headed to Tahoe City to get a permit to get a tree in the Tahoe basin. The girls have been fighting colds all week and the pressure change going over Donner summit really was tough on Sara's ears. Normally we head out to Plumas National Forest near Gold Lakes to get our tree but we decided to do something different this year.

We paid our $10, got our permit and instructions and drove a short distance down the road where it's legal to cut trees. Turns out it was near the start of the Lake of the Sky 50K from October. We walked up a road about 1/4-1/2 mile and set off on a little cross-country. Caitlyn did a great job of hiking for 3 1/2 years old. What a trooper.

Found it!

We found the perfect tree and set about cutting it down. Pat had Sara on his back so I got the honors of cutting the tree down and carrying it back to the truck. The last few years we've gotten really tall trees but this year we decided to limit it to about an 8 footer. Turns out we got a beautiful tree.

Lake Tahoe in the background

It was a tough drive home with Sara crying most of the trip (I think because of her ears). Once we had been home for awhile I think her ears "popped" and all of a sudden she was a happy little girl again. She's also got 3 molars coming in which certainly doesn't help her disposition.

Carrying the tree back to the truck

It was a wonderful family day with perfect weather. Weird to not have any snow yet but I'm sure it's coming.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back in the saddle again

Last week I talked about foregoing a long bike ride in order to run in the rain, hail and wind. Well, on Tuesday I did that bike ride with my husband Pat. We headed down to Beals Pt off of Auburn Folsom Rd and basically rode the Helen Klein 50 course. I have to say, it's a lot faster on a bike then on foot :)
Speeding along the bike path
After running Helen Klein Nov 3, I experience the typical feelings of "blah". I don't have another race on the calendar, it's the end of the season and I just wasn't motivated to work out. I did a few runs but I basically was lazy and I ate. Ate everything I could put my hands on. Now, after gaining a few pounds and (kind of) enjoying the rest, I'm ready to start working out again. Time to cross-train and build a good running base again.
Lunch spot
It was a beautiful day, a bit windy, and we pushed it to Guy West bridge and then just beyond to get 25 miles in at the halfway point. There we stopped, had a snack, and just talked. It's always nice to have time where it's just the two of us and we can get caught up on life.
I was experiencing some pain behind both knees that extended down the calves. I've never had this before and I'm not sure if it's just because I haven't been on the bike in awhile or I was just pushing too big a gear. Because of the pain, and the headwind, we took it easier on the way back and arrived back at the truck after 3 hours of riding. Now it was time to head to Ikeda's in Auburn for a very tasty burger and fries. I'd say we earned it.
Chasing our shadows
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Running in the Rain (and hail, and wind.....)

I was originally going to do a nice long bike ride yesterday but then I got to thinking about how nice the weather has been in the high country and I wanted to do something with my dog so I decided to go for a run in the Grouse Ridge area. However, when I awoke, it was cold with low clouds but I decided to give it a try.
Hitting the trail
There were occasional rain drops on the drive up and the sky looked threatening. As I arrived at the Grouse Ridge trailhead the temperature was 36 degrees, it was extremely windy and the low clouds kept visibility to a minimum.
I quickly added a couple layers, grabbed my fanny pack and started on the trail to Glacier Lake, just under 4 miles away. The trail immediately drops off the ridge and enters the forest which provided shelter from the wind and it warmed up a bit. I even took off my jacket and gloves. The sky would spit hail at me which was better than rain because it kept me drier. Yuba was thrilled about running around in the forest but wasn't too sure about what I was getting him into weather-wise. As we approached the lake we had to cross an exposed granite area and the wind and hail picked up. The hail would sting my neck and face as I tried to keep track of the trail across the rock as the cloud cover lowered providing limited visibility.
None too soon we reached Glacier Lake where we had a quick snack. The clouds were so low you couldn't even see across the lake to the Black Buttes I knew were there and have climbed in the past. I put my jacket back on then we started heading back. Yuba led the way at a run.
Water dog, no matter the weather
Glacier Lake behind us
Crossing the open granite area was tough. We were headed into the wind and the hail really stung any exposed skin. Apparently, I was travelling too slow for Yuba so he sprinted ahead to the shelter of the forest. Once we were in the trees the hail turned to a steady rain and turned the trail into a creek with lots of large puddles. I was soon soaked. But the running was good and I picked it up a bit and the temperature wasn't a factor, I felt warm. Yuba had a system, he would run ahead of me through the open areas and then take shelter in the trees and wait for me.
Wind damage on the trail
The final climb back to the truck put us on an exposed ridge and we became victims of the cold, biting wind again. The windward side of my truck was already accumulating ice on it. Yuba was happy to get in out of the elements. I was too. I put on a dry sweatshirt and hat, cranked the heater on, and the best part, put on the seat heater. Heaven.
Shelter at last
So I ended up picking the one day in the past month that had bad weather. But fair weather runs are a dime a dozen, it's the bad weather runs that create memories.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mini Vacation

Last Wednesday I got a pretty desperate call from my mom. Seems she was having some problems dealing with her 2 granddaughters, a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old, after having them for a week. I don't see what's so difficult, the former is extremely head-strong and the latter is into EVERYTHING. Using my incredible intuition, I asked "Do you need me to come down now?" (instead of Friday with my husband). With no hesitation she replied "yes". So I did a quick pack job, loaded the bikes and headed south to the central coast to rescue my folks.

I love long drives, especially by myself. I'm really into books on CD and I had a whole stack of them to get me down the road. Pat and I recently saw Into The Wild about a 22 year old guy who gets rid of all his possessions and explores the country on foot. Unfortunately, he met with some bad luck in Alaska. We really enjoyed the movie and I mentioned to Pat I would really like to get the book (by Jon Krakauer) in the hopes it would answer some questions that the movie raises. So on the way down I-5 I stop at a gas station and they have a rack with lots of books on CD. I gave it a quick glance and first thing I see is the unabridged reading of Into The Wild. I had to buy it. It's great and the rest of the miles flew by. Before I knew it, I had 2 incredibly excited little girls jumping into my arms.

Pat and Sara enjoying the beach

It's not a bad thing, spending a couple extra days at the beach in gorgeous weather. Playing with the kids, taking them to the park, walks on the beach, bike rides, and exactly ONE run. By Saturday, 7 days after Helen Klein, I felt fat and lazy so I got up in the pre-dawn hours and hit the quiet streets with Yuba for an easy run. I felt great. Ran out to Morro Rock along bike paths and city streets then back to the house along the beach for a 6 mile total.
Anxious birds awaiting a snack
The next day my mom was generous enough to watch the girls again so I could (selfishly) join my dad and husband on a bike ride. Thanks mom. Other days the girls joined me on some easy rides around the neighborhood in the bike trailer.

We're ready to go

Nana and the girls (and Yuba)

First time with both girls in the trailer

One enjoyable day was spent feeding the birds near Morro Rock. Caitlyn loved feeding them bread, Sara just loved eating the bread herself.
In the shadow of Morro Rock
Tasty bread
Finally it was time to head home. The nice thing was that I got to finish listening to Into The Wild. I recommend it.
Too big for me?
I've now been on a couple more runs and it's obvious I haven't recovered from the 50 miler. I ran the Loch Leven trail to Middle Lake (6 mile round trip) with lots of climbing and the heart rate was quite high. Today I ran the Emigrant trail to Prosser Creek (4 miles round trip) and the perceived exertion was just way too high for the speed I was going. So I'll stick to some easy runs and cross-training. The off-season can be a lot of fun.

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