Saturday, September 27, 2008

Running Thru the Heat at Rio

Results here
As I sit here on my couch, in the comfort of my home, getting ready to start a movie, I can't help but think of the runners out there on the trails around Auburn and Folsom. They've been there all day and most of them will be there all night and well into tomorrow morning. They're running the Rio del Lago 100 mile Endurance Run and I'm only a little bit jealous that I'm not among them.

So to make myself feel like I'm still part of the ultrarunning community, I loaded up my girls (Pat is at work) and we headed down to No Hands Bridge just outside of Auburn, CA. The first runner I see is Becky Johnson getting ready to head up the steep climb to Cool. I don't know her but we both agreed that we seemed familiar to one another. She was in good spirits and I wished her luck and I'd be checking the results for her name. I hope she's doing well.

Becky (Sabin) Johnson

I was surprised at how hot it was. Easily mid to high 90's and the runners certainly looked a little baked. We headed across the bridge and I gave Caitlyn the history of how it got its name. The sun was baking down on us and we could also feel the heat radiating off the dusty ground. We stopped at the first nice shade tree we could find and cheered on the runners as we ate snacks and wished we were lounging down by the river.

Sara, with No Hands Bridge in background

Nearby, there were 2 horse-people being filmed and we were curious. Turns out the woman is the host of a new program called "Rediscovering the Gold Country" and they were filming a segment on the Tevis Cup trail. It is suppose to air on local television. We enjoyed watching them and they enjoyed having an audience.

Filming for Rediscovering the Gold Country
I saw Ray Sanchez running strong. I said hello and reminded him we had run together a little at 12 Hours of Cool. He seemed to remember me and he was very nice, said he was feeling good, and he headed off down the trail. I'm sure he'll do well in the final results.

Ray looks like he took a bit of a fall but still going strong

We hung out a bit then headed back towards the bridge when we came across Rena Schumann. She remembered me from TRT100 (I was working the finish line) and she was also extremely nice. I just love the ultrarunning community.

Rena Schumann climbing strong

Future ultrarunner Caitlyn sprints across the bridge

Alex Danner happy to have the Cool loop behind him
The A/C of the truck was a welcome treat and it wasn't long before my youngest was sound asleep. Even though I wasn't directly supporting anyone on the trail, I felt it was important to just be there and show my support to all the runners (at least the one's I saw). Plus, it was a nice excuse to get out of the house on a beautiful Saturday. I'll post a link to the results when they're available. In the meantime, good luck to all those runners running through the night.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

Today I found the perfect way to spend the last day of summer. A nice local 5K race put on by the Sierra Trailblazers during the Draft Horse Classic Fair that takes place annually at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

The Draft Horse Classic run offers a 5K or 10K. I had volunteered to take some baked goods to the packet pick up on Saturday and while there I made the decision to sign up for the 5K. Pat was working so I would have to take the girls to a friend's house early Sunday morning.

Sunday dawned beautiful: 50 degrees and sunny. After dropping the girls off in their pajamas to cuddle on the couch with a good friend, I headed over to the fairgrounds to warm up. I'm not sure what to think about what's going on with my legs. I still have the pin-point shin pain occasionally but I also have really tight calves similar to what beginner runners go through but it just keeps going on. It does get better as I warm up.

We all lined up and I saw a lot of familiar faces and I couldn't help but wonder how I would stack up to them with the limited running I've done all summer. The starters horn sounded and we were off. I tried to stay with the women I was racing with last year but I quickly found that I couldn't keep their pace. Bummer.

The course took us through the quiet neighborhoods of Grass Valley and then eventually onto the trails through Condon Park. It was a mildly rolling course but my pace definitely slowed everytime the road went up. I held my own ok until about 1.6 miles into it when some other people starting passing me and I had nothing in return. Finally we hit the final mile which meant mostly downhill and I decided now or never.

One of the things that really motivated me on this run is time. I was short on time. Caitlyn really wanted to do the kids fun run at 9:15. That means I had to finish my run, jump in the truck and drive to Kim's to pick up the girls and get back to the fairgrounds before their race started. I wouldn't have a lot of time to spare. If I could run really fast I would have a few extra minutes on my side.

So knowing this, I tried to kick it into a higher gear for the final push. I was hoping to break 25 minutes but it wasn't to be. 25:27 was the best I could muster. I guess the old saying "what you put into running is what you get out" is so true. What truly amazed me was what I discovered when I downloaded my numbers from my Garmin 305. My average heart rate was 180 with a max of 190. Jeez, I didn't think my heart rate went up that high anymore. I was truly shocked by those numbers. I don't think it's that great of a thing that I had to work that hard to average 8 min/miles.

I managed to get the girls picked up and made it back before their race. Unfortunately, they both freaked out when "Go" was shouted and we all ended up walking the 150 feet to the finish line together. They both got medals which they proudly showed off for "walking" the run.

Caitlyn and Sara (in pink) not looking too sure about the race

Sara, enjoying a post-race snack

We enjoyed some snacks during the awards ceremony and I was pleasantly surprised to find I had finished 3rd in my age group, 23rd over-all. Sorry but I'm out of practice reporting race results so I didn't get a lot of names and times. I know Peter Lubbers won the 10K and is looking great to defend his title up at Lake Tahoe at the end of September for the ultra-run around the lake.

Peter Lubbers collecting his medal

I want to say thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who put on this race. It's not an easy thing to do and this course required quite a few marshalls. But with all the great folks out there on the streets and everything marked so well there was never a problem with finding our way.

The rest of the morning was spent walking around the fairgrounds enjoying the sights and sounds of the Draft Horse fair. We ran into Rocky, a 19.2 hand tall horse that dwarfed the girls. Now I'm not a horse person but I know a big horse when I see one. These guys are beautiful.

Rocky, a huge horse

Caitlyn was thrilled to pet Rocky

After getting a treat at Lazy Dog Confections (the best hand-made ice cream in the area) we headed over to the small engines that pop and smoke and seem to attract men in a way I can't figure out. There was one engine that was powering a small ferris wheel with bears in the chairs that was adorable.

Bob and Debbe's Lazy Dog Confections

There was also a hand pump that actually pumped water and the girls gave it a shot. Brought back memories of my visits to Cumberland City, Tennessee when I was a small girl.

Me in Tennessee, circa 1970's

One final stop at the firehouse to visit Daddy and show off all of our hardware before heading home. The girls immediately fell sound asleep after an eventful morning. It was a great way to say good bye to summer and get ready for fall.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Time To Tri

14 years ago, Barbara Schmidt Millar died of breast cancer. She was 42. A few of her friends decided to put together a little triathlon in her honor. Within a few years it had grown so they opened it up to the public. Now, 14 years later, about 400 women participate in this Celebration of Life Triathlon. Some do it to compete against themselves or others, others do it to honor a loved one lost to cancer.

My set-up, minus the running shoes because I was wearing them
I arrived early to Scott's Flat Lake in order to get a good spot in the transition which also let my family get a little more sleep then join me just before the start. There were already a few people there so I set up my stuff and made my way down to the lake. I'd never seen it so low but it wouldn't affect the swim. The water was calm and the sun was just hitting it making a beautiful sight. As I looked out at the buoys that we would swim around I thought "wow, they don't look too far away". I took that as a good sign because in years past my thoughts have always been "oh my god, are you kidding? We're going to swim that far?".
Beautiful morning for a race
Readying the support boats
I guess this is where I tell you what my goals for the race were and how I was feeling going into it. Last year I finished in 1:24:09 in 10th place over-all. This year I was just hoping to finish in the top 20. I felt over-weight, under-trained, and injured. Ideally, I wanted to do better than last year but I was realistic and knew I just hadn't done the training. I have been concentrating on my swimming (my weakest leg) so I knew my time would be faster there. The run would definitely be slower due to my legs hurting and I had no idea how I would fare on the bike.
The course is 1/2 mile swim, 11 mile bike, and 3 mile run. The kicker is the huge hill coming out of the lake. It's a couple hundred yards long and is STEEP. A lot of people are resigned to walking their bikes up it. It's important when you hit it that you don't let your heart rate red line but it's tough.
It was fun seeing familiar faces before the race. The race is great in how it brings so many women of the community together. Even my girls' pediatrician was there. I ran into 3 ladies from my "Mom's Group" who were competing as a team. It was their first time in a triathlon and welcomed any advice I could give them. After they got body marked I helped them pick out a good transition spot and offered a few words of advice but most important, just have fun.
Fellow "Moms" Erin, Kim, and Crystal
Pat and the girls showed up and we got to visit for a bit before I had to get in the water and "warm up". Actually, the weather was perfect, warmest it's been in the last 4 years. 2005 I competed as the bicyclist as part of a team. 2006 I did the whole thing 8 weeks after giving birth to Sara so I was just happy to finish.
My support crew
I lined up in the front of Wave 3. I don't remember if there was a horn or if they just said go but soon we were all splashing through the water. I tried to go out fast but not too fast so my heart rate would stay in control. I also tried to concentrate on my stroke, keeping it smooth and doing everything I had been practicing these last few months. Gradually I made it around the first buoy but the right turn had us facing directly into the sun for the next long leg. I didn't have many problems with others swimmers, occasionally someone would swim right in front of me heading sideways and I hoped they would look up pretty soon before they got too far off course. Towards the end I know my technique took a back seat to just trying to get back to the boat ramp. I concentrated on really kicking my legs, trying to get them warmed up for what was coming up next.
Does anyone look good coming out of the water? At least I'm smiling
I don't wear a wetsuit so the transition went fairly quickly and I was on the bike heading up the big hill. The bike is my strong suit so it wasn't long before I was passing people. A lot of people. I get a few "wows", "damn", "you go girl". But I also think I freak a few people out when they're not paying attention and aren't expecting me to come by. It's an out and back course with a few rollers. I tried to power up the hills and on the flats but my legs were screaming. I kept thinking I was going so slow compared to last year. Oh well, just do the best you can I kept telling myself.
Coming in from the bike
I got off the bike entering the transition area and tried not to fall on my butt with my shoe cleats. As I switched shoes I heard Pat and the girls cheering me on behind me. 29 seconds later I was headed back out but I forgot to turn around and wave to my family. Dummy.
Headed out for the run, forgot to wave
I started jogging up the hill (did I mention that it's STEEP?). I was quickly passed by 3 women and I had to slow to a walk. Depressing. Once I reached the top I started running again and boy, did my lower legs hurt. They were just so tight, especially my shins making it difficult to lift my toes and not fall flat on my face. I passed the 1 mile mark in 10:50, not good. I was suffering and it wasn't the good kind of suffering from pushing the pace. It was the suffering you experience when you haven't run a 5K in 5 months.
Somehow I managed to slog my way through the next couple miles. My friend Rose caught me and I tried to stay with her. She pulled away a little then another lady passed me. I checked her right calf and it said 38. 38 years old. My age group. Competition. My first thought was "Oh well, there goes another placing". And that pissed me off. Sorry, but it did. What kind of attitude is that? So I started to sprint. I figured if I could pass her quickly I would catch her by surprise and be able to stay in front of her. I did pass her and set my sights on Rose who was just a bit ahead. I caught her and we both cheered each other on. I felt my pace slow and I just knew "38" was right behind me. I dug deep, found another gear and gave it one final push to the finish line, ahead of Rose and "38". I was happy. Then I found out "38" was part of a team so she wasn't my competition. But I was still really happy she came by me because it forced me to dig deep within myself and remember what it's like to race and have the desire to win.
Sprinting in to the finish with my friend Rose
After the race, it was all about cheering each other on and comparing stories. The results were up quickly and to my utter shock, I finished in 1:24:36, 17 seconds slower than last year. Good enough for 11th place over-all, 1st in my age group. Wow. Considering how I felt during the race, I was really surprised. If anyone is interested, here are my splits.
Swim 1/2 mi: 20:38
T1 2:17
Bike 11 mi: 35:44
T2 :29
Run 5k: 25:39
Getting my hug from race founder and director, Cathy Anderson-Meyers
Studying the numbers from last year to this year, I was over a minute faster in the swim but a minute slower in the run. This year's bike was 4 seconds slower. My transitions were about the same. Pretty consistent. Now all I can say is, I can't wait til next year. With a little luck I'll be healthy and get in some consistent training and maybe I can break the top 5. After all, if you're going to dream, dream big.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chocolate Rules!

I'm a chocoholic. So on Friday when my co-worker mentioned that the San Francisco Chocolate Festival was on Saturday, I just knew I had to go. I called Pat and he thought it was a great idea. I got off work at 0800 Sat, raced home, Pat had the girls ready to go and we jumped in the truck and headed to The City. Quite spontaneously.

Crowded Ghirardelli Square

After a few false starts (I got off a little late waiting for my relief, we had to get fuel, we got lunch at a freeway interchange with the mysteriously disappearing on-ramp back to the freeway), we were on our way. The girls have always been great travellers which comes in handy when you're having to deal with Saturday traffic heading into the city. I managed to keep myself calm and just enjoy the trip, even when it felt like a parking lot at times.

After a bit of searching, we got a parking spot near Fort Mason which requires a short walk up and over the hill to the Embarcadero and Ghiradelli Square. Cost Plus World Market sponsors the festival and this is the 13th year. It was quite crowded so I left Pat with the girls and scoped out where to buy the tasting tickets. $20 for 15 tastes. Let the tasting begin!!

Sweet Moment

We started out with a few standards, chocolate toffee and chocolate caramel down on Beach Street. Then we made our way up onto the square where I was able to find small milkshakes for the girls. They loved them. Aztec chocolate and chocolate chocolate chip gelato for me and Pat. Our biggest complaint would have to be that the samples are too small (especially when you're sharing with 2 kids) but I'm sure no matter how big they are, they wouldn't be big enough :) I could easily have gotten another 15 taster ticket but I'm feeling fat and this way I left feeling good about myself. Plus we had room for dinner.

Can you say "YUM"

After filling our card we headed down to the beach at Aquatic Park. The girls quickly took off their shoes and played in the sand. There were quite a few families out enjoying the absolutely perfect weather so it wasn't long before Caitlyn had made a new friend. After letting them burn off the chocolate we wiped them down as best we could and headed to the Embarcadero in search of dinner. The first place we passed had "kid friendly" written on the window so of course we went in. We were early enough that it wasn't crowded either. It was Capurro's and they have great food.

Enjoying the beach at Aquatic Park

Pat and I each ordered our own pizza, thin crust and delicious. The girls had noodles with butter sauce which they enjoyed after drawing on the paper picture mats with the crayons the restaurant provides. Even after no naps, chocolate, and playing in the sand, they were on their best behavior. I knew we were taking a chance on going to a restaurant but I was so impressed with them both. As they get older, it's getting easier and easier to take them places.

Back over the hill to Fort Mason (Caitlyn still running)

The walk back to the truck included going up and over the hill into Fort Mason. Caitlyn ran the whole way. Once we reached the Fort there are huge grassy areas that the girls ran and ran and ran on. It was wonderful family time that we don't appreciate enough sometimes. The freedom to just play, no worries on your mind. Yes, we still had a 2 1/2 hour drive home but that didn't matter. Nothing mattered except watching our girls frolick over the green hills, making friends, and soaking up the beautiful sunshine.

Airplane with Caitlyn

Sara and Pat

Eventually we made our way back to the truck and headed home. The girls were asleep before we hit the Bay Bridge. There wasn't much traffic and it was a quiet, enjoyable drive home. I'm back at work today and I keep thinking of the spontaneous, whirwind, trip to San Francisco to eat some chocolate that became so much more. And I smile.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Family Affair

How I spent my Labor Day weekend......the best way ever: with my family and friends. With a little creative scheduling at work, Pat, the girls and I were able to take off for Morro Bay last Thursday evening at 7pm. We've really come to enjoy driving at night, especially around a holiday weekend. The girls sleep and Pat and I are able to talk and get caught up on things going on in our lives.

After arriving at my parents house about 12:30am, I was up at 7am heading out for an easy run on the beach with my dog. I've been doing a few miles a couple days a week trying to do a careful build up to the Montana de Oro 12KM trail race on Sunday. It was relaxing and beautiful running through the fog, a nice change from the hotter temperatures at home.

Pat, Ken, Vicki, my mom

Our friends Vicki, Ken and their 3 year old son Jacob drove down with their camper and were staying at Pismo Beach. We were all able to spend time at a park near my folks' house and Caitlyn was able to spend a lot of time on her bicycle.

Snack time

The highlight of the trip was Sunday morning. Pat and I were up early for the 20 minute drive to the start line of our first trail race together. My folks would head over a little later after the girls were up. Pacific Coast Trail Runs puts on a beautiful race through the Montana de Oro State Park with options of 8k, 12k, 25k, and 50k. Last March I did the 25k and it was incredibly tough. The first 7.5 mi loop wasn't bad but the second 8.5 mile loop really destroyed my quads. The first loop goes to the top of Valencia Peak and the second loop goes over Hazard Peak. Since I'm still dealing with an injury and Pat is just getting into running, we settled on the 12k with 1670 ft of climbing. Sarah and Wendell put on really nice races with good support.

Walking up to the start we ran into Nevada City local legend mountain biker Jason Moeschler. He said he hadn't gotten in much riding this weekend and felt guilty so he decided to sign up for the 8k race. He doesn't run much but when he does, he's just as successful as he is on the mountain bike. Turns out he won the 8K. Full results here.

Promptly at 8:30, Wendell sent us off. The first couple miles are a great, flat warm up on the Bluff Trail which offers stunning views of the ocean. Due to the fog, I chose not to take my camera which I regretted a bit but my dad was able to get a couple shots of us finishing. Soon enough we started climbing and it became apparent that Pat was stronger then me. I offered him the choice of going ahead but he wanted to run and finish together. I appreciated that. And it wasn't like he was having to wait long for me but it's still frustrating to be so out of shape.

Before we knew it, we were standing on Valencia Peak with a beautiful view of.........fog. Oh well. Last year was hot and clear. After reaching the top, it's literally all downhill to the finish and I was revived. I knew what to expect so I was able to let loose a bit and put a gap on Pat. But as we emerged out of the hills close to the finish he was right behind me and we were able to finish strong and together. We finished in 1:31:13 which is 3 minutes slower than I did the loop last year. Lots of snack food and wonderful hot soup awaited all the finishers. It was very special having my parents and kids there to see us finish. Nothing like family support when you're a runner.

Coming into the finish

That night Vicki and Ken brought their portable fire pit and we set it up in my parents driveway. Set the chairs up around the fire and got out the makings for s'mores. I must say it's the first time I've "camped" around a campfire in a driveway but it was a lot of fun and entertaining for people walking by. At one point we heard the sirens of a fire engine and joked that it would be funny if it were coming to our house. As the sirens got closer we started looking at each other like 'uh oh'. Fortunately for us, the firefighters weren't coming to inspect our 'cooking fire'. Unfortunately, they were going to a medical aid across the street.

Cooking s'mores around the fire

We spent most of Monday relaxing and getting in another bike ride and visit to the park with the girls. I was able to get up early and enjoy another very easy run on the beach. I was a bit sore but not too bad. We hit some pretty bad traffic heading east on Hwy 46 so we backtracked and went north on 101 which was a breeze. Overall the trip took longer but that was to be expected on the last day of the holiday weekend.

Next adventure is the Cascade Shores triathlon. I can't wait.