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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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Great Day at Helen Klein

I went into my first 50 mile race not knowing what to expect. I have run 33 miles before but I just couldn't quite get my mind around running an extra 17 miles. I was confident I could do the distance, I just didn't know what it would feel like, how much it would hurt.

I chose the Helen Klein 50 miler, not because it's flat, but because it's the last-chance qualifier for WS100. But by the end, I was glad it was flat :) The course starts in Granite Bay and follows the American River bike path 25 miles to the Guy West Bridge near Sacramento State University. Then you run back.

I arrived at Cavitt Middle School and everything went smooth getting checked in and getting my gear ready for the run. I knew I wanted to carry my phone (because my husband would meet me along the course on his bike), my MP3, electrolytes, and gels but I didn't want to carry my 2 bottle hip pack. With all the aid stations I figured one hand-held bottle would be enough. So the week before the race I ordered a waist pack from Zombie Runner and tried it on for the first time the morning of the race. I know, all the thoughts about never trying something new on race day were flashing through my mind. However, the belt was extremely comfortable and carried everything I needed. I have to admit, I also wore my Western States 100 shorts for motivation and they have little mesh pockets on the sides that carry a few things also. All in all, my gear, clothing, and shoe choices were good and I had no problems.

In the gym I met Gretchen and she gave me a big hug. Amazing, I've met this woman one time and already it's like we're great friends. This ultrarunning community is just wonderful. Norm gave his pre-race speech where he let us know about a short detour on the bike route because of construction which meant the turn-around point for the 50 miler would be at the Guy West bridge instead of just past it. That proved to be very nice. As Norm led us up to the levee for the start, Gretchen and I met up with Peter Lubbers and Scott Dunlap and we had an enjoyable visit during the walk. I had ditched my long sleeve shirt and was just in my short sleeve and it was quite cold. I was regretting my decision. I didn't think about how cold it would be near the river. The sky was just turning pink and runners were silhouetted against the sky on the levee, a beautiful sight. Norm announced 3 minutes to start so I found a bush for a quick pit stop and then we were off. It warmed up quickly and I was glad I left my shirt behind.

We moved out quickly and the group flowed well. We ran across dirt levees and I wondered how I would be feeling hours from now and 48 miles later when I ran across this same levee in the other direction. Scott had warned me about the downhills in the beginning which tend to sneak up on you at the end. I kept that in mind. I had lost Gretchen in the start but we soon reconnected and kept a real similar pace. I laughed because at one point we were even running exactly in step with each other. I thought this was great because I know she's a good runner and the fact that we had the same pace gave me hope that I could do well on this run, that we might even finish close to each other. Ha! Little did I know. Talk about a naive, first-time 50 mile runner.

Me and Gretchen

The day dawned beautiful with sunlight reflecting off the river and soon there were bicyclists and runners and families everywhere. It was great all the support I received from kids riding their bikes asking "are you really running 50 miles?"

Beautiful start

My husband Pat got off work that morning and drove to the start where he got on his bike and tracked me down. He caught me at about 18 miles, just as I was starting to feel down. My legs were tightening up and I was getting tired. That led to feeling demoralized a bit because it seemed too early to be feeling like this. I at least wanted to get to the halfway point feeling good. Pat was there to aid me at the aid stations if needed and above all to offer emotional support. He would leap frog ahead and sometimes I'd see him lying on the grass taking pictures as I ran past. The thought of stopping running and just laying on the grass beside him certainly crossed my mind. But the day was beautiful and I had a job to do.

I kept an eye out for the the leaders to start returning and it didn't take long to see them cruising by. Scott was only a few minutes off the leaders and looking great. Next was Peter who reminded me that the turn-around was sooner than in past years. I had lost track of Gretchen about 18 miles in and was wondering how she was doing. She passed me going the other way looking great and offering the encouraging words "you're almost at the turn-around".

Scott, thoroughly enjoying himself as usual

Peter Lubbers hunting down Scott

I reached the half-way point in 4:25, slower than I wanted but still a reasonable time. My stomach was bugging me a bit, I think I took in too many calories, scared I'd take in too few.

Looking (and feeling) a little haggard at 25 miles

I slowed my solid food and electrolyte intake and things started to improve. When Pat saw me at 28 miles I felt like a new person. My pace had slowed as well and I think that helped. I was really enjoying myself, physically I felt pretty good, and it was fun to see all the families out on the trail celebrating a gorgeous fall day. I was definitely getting tired but I knew it was important to just keep a consistent pace and limit my time at aid stations.

Enjoying the views

Psychologically, it was important for me to get to the Negro Bar aid station. That would mean 6 miles to go. I looked at my watch and realized I had 1 hour 20 min to reach 10 hours. Could I do 6 miles in 1:20? I remembered all those hills we came down at the beginning. I broke it down to 3 miles to the Folsom Dam AS in 40 min then 3 more miles to the finish in another 40 min. I could do it if I just kept running. I even ran most of the uphills which surprised me. My legs felt stronger than I expected. When we reached the dirt levees Pat told me it was all flat from here. I told him the road went uphill after it left the levees. He just looked at me and said it was flat. I insisted it was uphill and he just looked at me but remained silent. Soon he rode off ahead to get the picture at the finish line. I continued across the levees dreading the next uphill to where we started. I rounded the last corner and there was the start line. No uphill. It was dowhill back to the school now. I don't know why I was convinced it was uphill but it was such a relief to find out it was flat. The mind does mysterious things.


Crossing the finish line was amazing. I started out just wanting to qualify for WS with a sub 11 hour finish and ended up finishing in 9:51. Needless to say I was very happy. I quickly searched the gym for Gretchen but didn't see her. I checked the finishers board and was amazed to see her finishing time of 8:39. What a fantastic finish for her. I guess I'll have to get a lot faster if I want to see my new friends at the finish line :) I was thrilled to see that Scott had finally broken 7 hours and Peter was not far behind in 7:35. I got the low-down from Robert Mathis about the dramatic finish to the series. Congratulations to all the winners.

I want to thank Norm and Helen Klein and the many volunteers for putting on a very enjoyable race. The support was wonderful. I had to laugh when I saw the results. Overall I finished 66th out of 128. For females, I finished 14th out of 26. I guess this makes me a bona-fide "mid-packer".

Pat, my wonderful supporter

I'm now in Morro Bay, finally reunited with my wonderful daughters after missing them for a week. It's great to be together as a family again.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Tough Day on the Job

I originally started this blog as a way to keep my family informed of things going on with my running as well as in life. It's like keeping a diary, only it's available to complete strangers as well. And as with a diary, you record fun and exciting things that happen in life as well as the sad or more unpleasant things. This is from the latter. As a firefighter (and paramedic) I see a lot of devastating things. The following may be tough for some people to read so if you're sensitive to bad things that can happen to kids, you may not want to read on. I feel weird writing about this, my husband is also a firefighter/paramedic so I'm lucky enough to be able to open up to him. But sometimes I just have to put my feelings down in words in order to start the healing process. It's similar to what Scott Dunlap experienced a while back. I know some people will understand.

No firefighter likes to run calls that involve kids. Since having my 2 girls (age 3 1/2 and 15 months) I've actually become better at running "kid calls" as we call them. I never use to understand children and I was never comfortable around them. My girls have changed that. I'm much better at getting down on their level, understanding them, comforting them, treating them. But on the emergency call this morning, being able to relate to my own kids made it much more difficult to perform. A 14 month old girl was in her crib next to a window. The window had the kind of shades over them with the long cord that hangs down. The baby got the cord wrapped around her neck and her father found her not breathing. We arrived at the house to find CPR being performed. Dad was holding a 3 year old little boy in his arms, sobbing uncontrollably. For a moment, it was like walking into my own house, 2 little kids, same age as my own, except for one big problem. The baby wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse.

We took over CPR and my first job was to try and establish a good airway using an endotracheal tube. I've never intubated a baby. Training tries to prepare you for this but until you've actually done it in real life, you don't realize how absolutely terrifying it can be. This baby's life was in my hands and my first instinct was to just pick her up and cuddle her in my arms and make her all better, the way any mother wants to. I almost lost it, but my years of training took over and I did my job. I was careful to not look around the house too much because I would see children's toys and stuff and it would make my eyes well up with tears. I had to treat this baby as a patient, keep myself distant, not let it become personal. There would be time for that after we got the baby transported. It didn't help that the parents were right there, watching my every move, crying and saying they just wanted their baby back. I just wanted their baby back too.

The helicopter arrived and we got the baby transported to the local hospital with a pediatric ICU. At the time of transport, she still was not breathing and didn't have a pulse. But kids are resilient and I can only hope they were able to bring her back at the hospital. At this time, I haven't heard from the hospital so I don't know the outcome.

I have a 50 mile race coming up Sat and I feel like Scott did when he ran Mt. Diablo. I can only hope the many miles spent along the American River bike path will prove cathartic. There may be tears. I haven't let myself go yet but I know it's there. Right now I would give anything to hug my own kids. They left this morning with my mom to spend a week with their grandparents on the central coast. I know they are safe and well taken care of and I can't wait to see them again.

Postcript: I just heard from the hospital, the baby didn't make it.