Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dean Told Me To

So I'm not sure how to begin this entry. Should I talk about how we spent a wonderful weekend in Monterey supporting my cousin as she ran her second marathon and save the surprise for the end? Or should I just get it out of the way now? I vote for the latter.

We did spend a wonderful weekend in Monterey supporting my cousin as she ran a wonderful marathon. She started out slow, well within herself, kept a consistent pace and effort and crossed the finish line in 5:06:34. I finished right next to her in 5:06:33. But it's not my fault. Dean Karnazes told me to do it.

We headed down to Monterey on Saturday after I got off shift in Reno. Friday night had been spent moving fire engines and trucks in and out of the station after all the earthquakes hit. The biggest one was 4.9 and I thought someone was shaking my bed in the middle of the night. It's our policy to move the equipment out of the station in case another big one hits for at least a half hour. So it was a busy night.

Our hotel room wasn't quite ready so we met up with my cousin and her family at the Expo. As we were walking in I noticed Dean Karnazes walking by. I immediately said hello and was impressed with how genuine he was. He asked me my name and we spent a few minutes talking. I mentioned I probably wasn't going to run the next day because of my injury and he said that I just needed to go to the start because it's such a beautiful race I would hate to miss it. I could just see how things felt and play it by ear. Now you need to understand my mindset here. In the days leading up to Big Sur I was 85% sure I wasn't going to run. But I packed my running bag anyway, just in case. I guess I came up with another one of those "you know you're a runner when........you take your running bag to an event that you're pretty sure you won't run just because you believe in last minute miracles". Dean's comment shifted that ratio to 85% sure I WAS going to run. By the time I picked up my chip, #, bus pass, and beautiful technical t-shirt, I was hooked.

I told my husband I really wanted to run. We came up with a plan. I would run the first 10K and see how I felt. It usually takes me about an hour to get warmed up and into my stride so that would be a good time. If my leg was really bad, I would go to medical and get a ride to the finish. At least I would be on that start line and try. Problem is, I hadn't run a single step since the AR50 and Daffodil 5K weekend (3 weeks prior) and had no idea if I COULD run. Plus, I had promised a lot of people I wouldn't run and further injure myself so I could see I would owe some people some apologies.

Race morning came early, 3am early. Joey's husband gave us a ride to downtown where we would load onto buses for the hour drive down the coast to Big Sur. It is definitely daunting to drive what you know you will be running. 26.2 miles is a long way. Especially in a school bus at 4:00 in the morning.

Joey and I at the start

We arrived at the starting area by 5:15 with 1 1/2 hours to wait. It was warm, about 50 degrees. We visited the porta potties a couple times, snacked, visited, and people-watched. Then it was time to line up. We found a spot in about the middle of the mass of people and a gentleman sang the national anthem. It was incredible. His voice was deep and strong and it echoed up and down the canyon. When he finished they released a flock of white doves and they flew around the canyon in beautiful circles.

The race started and the first couple miles are downhill. It was agony. My leg hurt a lot more than I expected, especially with that downhill. I was worried. If it continued to hurt this much, I was in trouble. I had taken some Ibuprofen before the race and I had a couple of Tylenol in my pocket for later. Finally the course leveled out and we got into some rollers. I started getting warmed up and it didn't take long to figure out that I did much better on the flats and uphills, less pounding on my leg. Things were improving.

Point Sur Lighthouse

The next 7-8 miles flew by. I couldn't believe how fast the mile markers kept going by. Our pace was slow, we averaged 11:00 min/mi but the effort was perfect for us. Joey has been dealing with some health issues, I've been dealing with my injury so we were perfectly matched. It was great. We talked with folks around us, playing the typical leap-frog with the same people. I really enjoyed reading all the different shirts. There are a ton of runs out there to be explored.

Loved the shirts (says Hills Ahead, Carmel 26.2 miles with a vulture on it)

Occasionally the terrain would open up and we were faced with a pretty strong headwind. I later heard reports that it was up to 30mph. When the road would take us in and out of the coves the wind would die and it would immediately start warming up. Occasionally we would get lucky enough to get an uphill AND a headwind. But the views were incredible. The first 5 miles were run in the trees of Big Sur. Stunning terrain. By mile 6 the ocean became our constant companion. The green hills were full of California Happy Cows munching grass in peace.

Following Joey down the long open road

Up to about mile 12 my leg was doing really well (at least as well as could be expected). But then we started the long descent to Bixby Bridge and that downhill just about killed me. It was the most pain I would experience on the whole run. My stride was short and choppy, I was favoring my leg which put more strain on my right quad, and I was just really hurting. I could hardly wait to get down to the bridge so we could start the 2 mile climb to Hurricane Point.

Bixby Bridge, halfway there

The climb wasn't bad. We just put our heads down and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Before we knew it, we were at the VERY windy top. I was carrying some gu's and shot bloks and was surprised at how quickly I was going thru them, I was hungry. Miles 17-20 were tough for me. The heart/lungs were feeling good but my body was getting really sore. 20 miles on pavement is tough. I was able to get some apple slices and bananas at one aid station and some more gu's at another and that kept me going. Joey and I were so intuned with each other the entire run. Sometimes we'd walk through aid stations and other times we'd just keep running on thru. Our pit stops were well timed and we ran every step of the course except when we'd walk through an aid station. But our bodies were getting tired.

At the beginning of the race it was announced that Jeff Galloway was there and he'd be running a 5 hour pace with a run/walk ratio. Anyone was free to join him. As the race went on we found ourselves playing leap frog with his group even though we were running most of the time. My psychological high point was getting past mile 20. After that point I knew I could finish. My leg was holding up (with the help of 500 mg of Tylenol) and it became my goal to finish in front of Jeff Galloway. Nothing personal, but everyone needs a goal. Joey and I were picking up the pace, continuing to run up all those little nasty hills at the end when at mile 23 my left calf and foot suddenly seized up and I was stopped in my tracks. I quickly took some Endurolytes and started jogging again. We were able to pick up the speed and made our way in front of Jeff again. But we were both on the verge of cramping, our calves, the arches of our feet, even our hamstrings. We were running quickly but carefully. No sudden moves that would send our muscles into spasms making us cry out in pain.

Jeff Galloway, my unsuspecting "rabbit"
We weaved through runners and soon we were along the last stretch of road where the spectators are barricaded behind the fences. The finish line came into sight. We continued to run hard and finally we made it across that wonderful finish line where volunteers were there to place our beautiful medals around our necks. Suddenly a man was calling my name. He was a volunteer and he asked if my husband was here. I said yes, somewhere, and he said that he had heard my husband yelling loudly and wanted to make sure we found each other in the finish line craziness. What a wonderful touch.

And that brings me to the volunteers. What an incredible bunch of people. The ones handing out the medals at the finish line have a wonderful job. But there are thousands more doing the less popular things. I saw many of them at the aid stations, chasing down thousands of cups that had been discarded by runners and were now blowing across the ground by the powerful winds. And if you weren't running, it was cold. They spent hours out there just to support us. These races just wouldn't happen without all those selfless volunteers. My thanks go out to them.

Joey and I with our new medals
We reunited with our families and made our way back to the hotel. We decided to spend some time out at the pool so the kids could swim. Unfortunately, I must have burned up some brain cells in addition to calories because I didn't put sunscreen on. So that night I got to add the pain of a slight sunburn to my already aching legs. After having some pesto brie and baguette by the pool, we showered and headed down to Cannery Row. Dinner was at El Torito which is an excellent mexican restaurant. We walked the streets after dinner and I even found a Toll House cookie shop for some dessert.

My parents and Joey's parents were suppose to join us on this trip but circumstances kept that from happening. They were missed but I must say it was nice for Joey's and my family to spend time together. We haven't done much of that without also having other members of the family there. We are the next generation and it was fun to make some of our own lifetime memories. Joey and I ran our very first marathon together last June at San Diego. This was our second. I wonder where our third will take us. I can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plan B

It's been an interesting 2 1/2 weeks since AR50. I've gone through a range of emotions and my body has gone through a range of repair/rebuild.

The first week after running 50 miles followed by racing a 5K the next day went pretty well, even better than expected. I wasn't overly tired or hungry. I did one easy bike ride, one day on the elliptical and one 6 mile hike with my dog. The overall soreness in my legs dissipated by the Tuesday following the runs and if it wasn't for my injured leg I know I would have been doing easy runs by Wednesday. But not surprisingly the pain in my leg kept me from doing any running. In order to rest my leg I decided to do an easy hike instead which would allow me to spend some quality time with my dog as well. That was on Friday the 11th.

In addition to the leg injury, after the runs I developed pain along the top of my foot. It only hurt when I flexed my foot so I figured it was probably a muscular injury from flexing my foot with every foot swing during the run. However, I was surprised at how much it hurt during my hike. Between the pain in the foot, shin, and calf, I was pretty discouraged. I was able to enjoy the quiet hike through the woods taking in all the sights of spring wildflowers, buzzing insects (gnats can be so annoying this time of year tho,) and the sounds of the river flowing through the narrow canyon a couple hundred feet below me.

Soon I was at the trail junction and I headed down the switchback trail that would ultimately lead me to the waters edge. I had brought my trekking poles for added support and I'm glad I did.

South Yuba River

That canyon is so beautiful. You feel like you're the only person on earth and it's easy to transport yourself back in time to when miners roamed those hills and panned the river bottom hoping for any hint of those beautiful gold flakes.

First thing I did was find a nice flat rock next to the river, took off my shoes and soaked my legs in the ice cold water. In the meantime, Yuba got in the water and proceeded to try to dig up rocks under water. He'll stick his whole head underwater and blow bubbles out his nose. Often he comes up with a huge rock in his mouth. Soon tho, he decided he was more interested in sharing my pop tart.


It didn't take long before my legs were numb from the knees down so I put my shoes and socks back on for the hike back out. My left leg/foot felt better after the soak and I enjoyed a little faster pace back to the car.

Nature's ice bath

By that night I was throwing up everything inside my body and thought I was going to die.

At first I thought it was food poisoning but by Saturday morning I had full body aches, my head pounded, I was completely exhausted and it took all my energy just to stand up. I would alternate between feeling hot and flushed to major chills. Unfortunately, Pat was at work and I had both girls. I explained to them that even though it was beautiful weather, we wouldn't be able to go outside and swing, mommy was really sick. Caitlyn immediately went into "Mom" mode and brought me pillows, medicine, and covered me with blankets. My real mom called to check on me and I immediately felt like I was 12 years old and wanted my mommy. I teared up and must have sounded utterly pathetic as I laid on the couch curled up in the fetal position. That pretty much sums up Saturday.

By Sunday Pat came home to take over kid duties and I spent another day in bed resting. I was feeling better but still exhausted. I think it was the combination of the 24 hour flu and the 50 miler catching up to me. All last week I was tired and lacked motivation to do anything physical. Finally by last Sunday (19th) I woke up thinking about a mountain bike ride. I took that as a good sign that it was time to get back on the wagon.

I signed up for an introduction to Pilates class and have been going 1x/wk for the last few weeks. It's very relaxing and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not a Yoga person, Pilates seems to suit me better but I still find I have to stop myself from laughing during some of the strange moves. But you do them right and it creates quite the "burn".

Pat and I went for a mountain bike ride yesterday and I actually found myself forcing the pace. Nothing over the top but it felt good to get my heart rate above 100 for once :)

So this all leads me to my leg injury. "How's it doing" you may ask. "Not well" I will answer. It almost seems worse. Now I expected it to be worse right after the runs but after 2 1/2 weeks of almost no exercise and absolutely no running, I thought the pain would start to dissipate. It's not. I have big plans of running the Big Sur marathon this Sunday with my cousin. Both families are getting together in Monterey to have a fun-filled weekend. But after a lot of thought (and changing my mind back and forth) I've decided that I just can't do the marathon. It would be stupid. And my physical therapist would kill me. Now I know I've been known to do stupid things before (look at the weekend of April 5-6) but eventually reality settles into my stubborn head (yes, I've been known to be a bit stubborn). I have a summer and fall packed with fun races I want to do and if I don't let my leg heal I won't be doing any running this year. At least not pain free. And that says nothing of the long term damage I could be doing to my leg. I have pin-point tenderness over the front of my shin that I'm convinced is a stress fracture but the x-ray showed nothing but I know they have been known to miss things.

I guess I have reached the point that Sarah and Addy reached long ago with their injuries. I have resigned myself to the fact that I just need to stop running for awhile. I will continue to do road and mountain biking and elliptical because that seemed to do a lot of good in February and March. My original plan on how to deal with this injury was to keep my fitness up with cross-training then just run the races. But I've found that what I miss most are the day-to-day runs, the short runs, the speed work, even the tempo runs, as well as the long slow runs. I want to get better so I can do all that again, not just run the races.

So I will head to Monterey on Saturday with my family to joyfully cheer on my cousin as she runs her second marathon. I will give her all my support and keep a genuine smile on my face even though I know it will be hard. I know I will want to be out there with her, running side by side, enjoying the incredible views along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wow, What A Weekend

Yes, it was quite a weekend. It started out on Friday as I made my way down to Sacramento to pick up my race packet. As a thank you to runners for picking up their packets early, Fleet Feet was giving away another technical AR50 t-shirt, nice touch. My parents were coming into town from the Central Coast and we happened to all be in Roseville at the same time so we were able to have lunch together. Another nice treat.

Returning to Nevada City I made a stop in Penn Valley to pick up my race packet for Sunday's Daffodil 5K not knowing if I'd even be able to make the start. But I may as well keep a positive attitude.
After a restless night of watching the clock slowly pass the hours, it was finally time to get up and make my way to the Auburn Dam Overlook where I caught a bus with other runners to the start in Sacramento. During the ride it was fun to listen to all the different conversations going on, races people have been doing, hopes and fears for the coming day, etc......Surprisingly, I just seemed on autopilot. I wasn't nervous, didn't give much thought to the leg, and was just looking forward to getting started.
Start on Guy West Bridge
We exited the buses (there were 2 full size school buses to transport people) and joined the masses in front of the porta-potties. I then found a single propane heater that folks were gathered around. The weather was clear and cold and the heat felt good. Finally lined up on the bridge and Mark Tanaka buzzed by me rushing to the front of the line. I was lined up in the top 1/4 but it still took me about 20 seconds to cross over the timing mat after the gun went off. The path was narrow and crowded which forced a slow pace which was perfect. After awhile I remembered about my leg and pleasantly realized it felt better than it had in 2 months.
Crossing the American River
Things thinned out a couple miles in and I found an easy stride. To tempt fate I was also wearing a new Nathan hydration pack that I hadn't worn in any training. I know, never try something new on race day but the pack was great, comfortable the whole time with no chafing spots. I was very happy with it and it enabled me to not have to get water at every aid station which shortened my time at them.
Look who I found on the side of the trail, Helen and Norm Klein
I ran the first 30 minutes then got into a 15:2 ratio of run/walk which I kept for the first 27 miles of the race. The miles flew by on the bike path and I stayed on the dirt sides as much as possible to limit the time on pavement and that was helpful. I felt great coming into the Nimbus Dam Overlook at 19 miles, my time was about 3:20. The next section of singletrack up to Negro Bar was a pleasant surprise. I've always taken the bike path but the trail was a lot of fun. Had to make a pit stop along the trail (and try to avoid the masses of poison oak) and about 6 people passed but it was worth the stop.
On the bluffs above the River
Heading up to Beals Point involves some hills that I remember from the Helen Klein 50 last November. I stayed strong and steady but the miles were starting to take a toll. I reached the marathon mark in 4:52. After Beals we got on some rollers and fun singletrack going into Folsom Lake. A group of about 5 of us formed and we motored along the trail. I was keeping my time at the aid stations short and I was quickly making my way back onto the trail. This is when it got really hard for me. The trail became an endless series of ups and downs that made it hard to stay in a rhythm. Mentally, this was a low point for me. I had started to think that a sub 11 hour finish was possible but my slow pace through this section made me start to doubt that.
Crossing Folsom Dam
Finally I reached Rattlesnake Bar aid station and I was wiped out. A volunteer asked if I was ok and I could barely answer him because I was afraid of crying if I tried to speak. He asked if I wanted to sit down and I said "no". Chairs are purgatory at this point in a race. I was able to eat some soup and drink some Pepsi and that helped. I was really worried that the rest of the course was going to be like the last 10 miles and if it was, I knew I was going to have to dig deep. My time at Rattlesnake was about 8:25 so I knew I had 2:30 hours to go 9 more miles if I wanted to qualify for Western States.
I was able to make a couple of calls to my family who were unable to crew for me to let them know how I was doing. My parents were planning on meeting me at the finish with my 2 daughters and I wanted to give them an idea of when to get there. Hearing their voices and their confidence in my ability to finish this race gave me a huge boost.
After Rattlesnake, the trail flattened out and went through some beautiful meadows with outstanding views of the river. The whole course is beautiful and I wanted to take more pictures but I just didn't have the energy and I didn't want to disrupt my rhythm to pull my camera out. My attitude improved and my energy returned as I really started to enjoy the gently rolling trail once again. I was surprised at how good I started to feel again. I hit the bottom of Last Gasp hill and decided to plug into my MP3. I had been carrying it for 46 miles but not listening to it. To my surprise, as I started to walk up the hill my quads tried to cramp up. So far I had had no stomach or cramping issues. If I stayed in a run/shuffle my quads felt ok.
Final miles up Last Gasp
So I ran when I could, shuffled on the steeper sections and before I knew it, I was almost at the top. There was one guy behind me and my goal became to stay ahead of him. I picked up the pace, put a huge smile on my face and raced to the finish line and my waiting family. Stopped the clock at 10:39:18. It was a great day. I finished 293/467 overall and 17/30 in my age group. Results can be found here.
Me, Caitlyn, Sara, and my Dad
Now the goal became how to recover best for a 5K race the next day. I stiffened up considerably on the drive home and even the smallest stair became a huge obstacle. My injured left leg had given me no problems during the long run, it felt better than it had in the last 2 months. But now I was starting to feel it. I got myself into an ice bath and I had my whole family laughing with my pathetic yelps as I lowered myself into the cold water but I knew I had to do it. Had a pretty good night sleep with the help of some Advil PM and I woke up feeling pretty good. Then I tried to stand up. Ouch. I went outside and walked up and down the driveway a couple times then did a slow shuffle and finally a slow jog just to see if I could eventually run. The verdict for the 5K was a go.
Caitlyn waiting for the runners
We got the kids loaded up and headed to Penn Valley about 20 minutes away. Got there early because I knew I would need a long warmup. Saw some friends who were pretty surprised to see me there. I was surprised at how well I was feeling too. Especially how the leg was doing.
Feeling good (for now)
Almost 500 people were signed up for the 5k and 10K so there was quite a crowd. I started towards the front and the first couple hundred yards are downhill and the pace was high, too high. At the first slight uphill I quickly slowed. I was feeling pretty miserable at my inability to summon more speed but there just wasn't anything there. The fact that most of my training during Feb and March was cross-training with ZERO speed work was becoming evident. Oh, and the fact that I ran 50 miles the day before. Started feeling better at the turn-around and I was able to pick it up a bit. I just concentrated on giving it everything I had and tried to not look at my watch. Time didn't matter, effort did. I made the final turn into the park and there was a slight uphill to the finish line. I dug deep and gave it everything. Crossed the line in 25:34, good enough for 4th place in my age group, 44/209 overall. Results are here.
Ahhh, done
Me and my two fans
My friend Jenni who had a great race finishing 2nd in her AG
So now it's been a couple days. I was able to go to work on Monday but it was sure hard climbing into the fire truck. I can now do stairs without holding onto the hand-rail and I have an appt with my PT for my leg this afternoon. I know I didn't do the leg any favors by running on it but I was happy with how it felt at the time. Looking back, I am thrilled I was able to accomplish all my goals. Not only did I finish AR50 but I qualified for WS. Not only was I able to walk the next day but I was able to race a 5K. I don't mean that to sound like I'm tooting my own horn but based on my lack of running these last couple months and dealing with an injury, I just didn't know what to expect. I know what I wanted to happen but that's not always what does happen. I'm thrilled with how things turned out. Next challenge is a 5K race on April 26 and the Big Sur marathon on the 27th.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I was tagged by Sarah to play a little game called "six word memoir".

Here are the rules:

1) Write your own six word memoir

2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want

3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere

4) Tag at least five more blogs with links

5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

It was easy to come up with my 6 word memoir but I think this picture speaks 1,000 words. I'll have the story to go with the picture up soon.

Never Give Up On Your Dreams

I'll tag Addy, Gretchen, Mark, and Chris

Thursday, April 3, 2008

2 Days to AR50

Well, I must say I'm pretty nervous about running 50 miles on Saturday. To say the least, my preparation hasn't been ideal. I've been cross-training around a leg injury since the end of January, I only ran a total of 25 miles in March. The cross training has been really good but there's just no replacement for actually running, especially the long run.

I saw my PT yesterday and we seem to have plateaued in my recovery. The leg is definitely better since starting therapy but now it just seems to stay the same, no better, no worse. I tried doing nothing for 3 days to see if that would make a difference and maybe it did, in a small way. I ran an easy 3 miles yesterday and the pain does lessen as the leg muscles warm up so at least I've got that going for me.

I hate to go into the run with the attitude that I can always quit if it gets too bad. If I'm going to subject myself to all the pain, emotional highs and lows, and chance of further injury, I may as well finish the dang thing and get a jacket for my efforts :) Needless to say, I've had to adjust my original goal of setting a PR from the HK50. I think it's important to have a couple of goals going into an event, a realistic goal you can live with and also a "pie in the sky" goal if everything goes great and you're having a real good day.

#1: Finish in under 13 hours to be considered an official finisher
#2: Finish in under 11 hours to qualify for 2009 WS100
#3: Be able to walk the next day

I have so many concerns that I'm afraid I'm going to forget that this is suppose to be fun! It's going to be a beautiful day, I love the first half of the course and am really looking forward to seeing the trails of the second half for the first time. I need to try and lighten up and enjoy the experience. But I'm a competitive person and like to finish what I start.

Until Saturday.................