Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

2009 was suppose to be the year I ran my first 100 mile race. Despite my best efforts, that didn't happen. It started in mid-January when I sent in my registration for the Leadville Trail 100 and everything that followed was geared toward a sub-30 hour finish when the race rolled around in August.

Mid-February found me at a Pacific Coast trail run, the Montana de Oro 25K. It's in a beautiful part of the central California coast and my parents live nearby. Despite extremely windy conditions, I had a great race and it provided a boost to my confidence. A week later I joined quite a few other runners at the Green Gate on the Western States Trail for their annual training run that covers the last 22 miles of the famous WS100 course.

I was lucky enough to get into Way Too Cool 50K in the first 4 minutes after registration opened so I began training on the wonderful trails of Auburn and Cool. I have found that the trails are really well marked in some places, others, not so much. That led to extra miles being run as I "explored" new trails in the area. AKA: got lost :) WTC didn't start out the way I wanted. I was dealing with some calf pain that had me wanting to quit within the first 7 miles. But I persevered and despite a slow start, had a strong, fantastic finish.

Next up was the American River 50M and besides Leadville, it was an "A" effort race. I paced well in the first half before seeing my family at Beals Pt. It was while hugging my 5 year old that I had this sudden urge to just stop running and spend the rest of the day with my family. I spent more time there than I wanted but it was worth it to get the extra hugs. Despite a strong second half I couldn't break the arbitrary 10 hour mark (finished in 10:03) but I know I can one day. The important thing was that I felt great during the entire race and was on track for Leadville. Another special thing about this race is that it was the first time Caitlyn ran across the finish line with me. It wasn't the last.

The next big test came at the WS100 Memorial Day training weekend. I participated in the first 2 days and it was so wonderful to finally be able to run on parts of the trail I had never seen before. Overall, the runs went well but they highlighted a couple of my weaknesses: the canyon descents really worked my quads and the fact that I'm a slow climber was confirmed. Two areas I would need to work on and I did.

My birthday in June found me with my family in SF, more specifically, on Angel Island. I did PCTR's 16 mile race which would allow me to see the entire island but be done early enough to spend time with my family. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. I ran hard and had a blast.

A few days later found me on the road to Leadville for their 3 day training camp. I was able to run a huge chunk of the course and gained a lot of confidence out there. The highlight was definitely the night run on the Colorado Trail. I made a lot of new friends that I would see and support on race day. Leadville is definitely a family event.

Mid-July found me back up at Lake Tahoe attempting the 50M version of the TRT. I just love this race. I had been doing training runs on the course so I had an idea of certain split times and I managed to hit them during the race. It was a long day and I was hoping to beat 12 hours but I missed that goal by 10 minutes. But more importantly, I was learning how to manage my body during ultras. I routinely start out slow and then pick it up and run a strong second half. I also got my nutrition and electrolytes dialed in. I seldom have stomach issues and cramping isn't an issue since I started taking S-Caps.

One of my favorite races is 12 Hours of Cool, a night run. Run on a 9 mile loop course you can run as many or as few laps as you want. I went in thinking I would just run 2-3 loops and call it a night. However, my competitive juices started flowing and I decided to push it and ended up running 45 miles that night. Then I got up the next morning and ran up at Lake Tahoe. That's when I realized there was a problem. I had pushed too hard and aggravated my ITB. 3 weeks before my BIG race and I couldn't run a step without severe pain.

I made the decision to stop running and try to let it heal which got me to the start line. However, my body had "softened" during those 3 weeks and it quickly became apparent that all the descending was really destroying my quads. By mile 50 I was done but my crew wouldn't let me quit. My husband paced me back over Hope Pass but it was no use. I was reduced to a walk due to severe pain and missed the Twin Lakes cut-off time.

At the time, I was pretty depressed with how the summer ended and I considered the year a "failure" since I hadn't reached my final goal. While I'm still a little pissed (and will be until I rectify the situation with a sub-30 hour finish at Leadville), I know it was an incredible year. I had some great races, met some wonderful people and got into pretty good shape. I also had a lot of fun.

After Leadville I took 6 weeks off from running. I took up P90X as a filler and was able to maintain my fitness. In order to finish off 2009 on a high note, I signed up for the Oceanside Turkey Trot 5K with my husband, cousin, and her son. It was so much fun to run really fast, pain-free and be done in less than 23 minutes.

So what does 2010 hold? Not much racing I'm afraid. Last year was special because my husband was actually off work with a shoulder injury which allowed me to run a lot more races than I normally would since we didn't have to juggle his work schedule as well as mine. However, I sacrificed a lot to train for Leadville and I'm not willing to do that again this year. My kids are 3 and 5 years old and I just don't want to miss so much time with them.

One race that will definitely be on my schedule will be TRT 50K. I just love this race. I also want to run a 50M qualifier for WS 2011 and would love that to be AR50 but I would have to do some fancy schedule juggling to do that one. Maybe Helen Klein if AR doesn't work out. Other then that, I'm just going to have to play things by ear. Reno Tahoe Odyssey, the Alcatraz Sharkfest open water swim, and the Jenkinson Lake race are possibilities.

I couldn't have had the year I had without the constant support of my family. I know I will return to Leadville to finish what I started but it won't be in 2010. I look forward to what this year will bring. New challenges, new races, new experiences. Happy New Year everybody. Below is a collection of photos from races this year.

Montana de Oro 25K

Way Too Cool 50K:

American River 50M:

WS100 Training Camp:

Angel Island 25K:

Leadville Training Camp:

TRT 50M:

12 Hours of Cool:

Leadville Trail 100:

Oceanside Turkey Trot 5K:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Family Affair at the Oceanside Turkey Trot

This year it was decided that instead of staying home for Thanksgiving, we would head south to our family's ranch in San Diego county. So, being the kind of person that I am, I immediately got online and started searching for near-by turkey trots. I found the Oceanside Turkey Trot and contacted my cousin (who I've run 2 1/2 marathons with) and asked her if she'd be interested in getting up really early on Thanksgiving morning, driving over an hour on dark, windy roads to the ocean, run 20-30 minutes, drive back to the ranch and then eat everything we wanted to without feeling guilty. She immediately said yes.

It wasn't long before her 8 year old son said he wanted to run it too (it would be his second 5K, not bad) so I asked my hubby if he wanted to run. Just like that, we were a group of 4, ready to have a very fun adventure together.

Pat and I and the girls left home at noon on Tuesday headed for my parents' place on the central coast. Caitlyn had her first performance of kindergarten that morning, a Friendship Feast, where the kids sang 2 songs on the stage then re-enacted the first Thanksgiving meal. I was the typical parent taking lots of video while Pat took the pictures.

Caitlyn (middle) enjoying the feast with friends

After spending the night with my parents we hit the road early and made our way down to So Cal. Traffic wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be on the day before turkey day and we made good time. Hung out with the family and even visited and paid our respects to those who couldn't be with us.

My parents and I paying respect to my grandparents in our family cemetary on the ranch

It was still dark and quiet on the ranch Thursday morning as the 4 of us got ready to make the drive to the ocean for our turkey trot. The time passed quickly as we all gabbed non-stop. I had feelings of guilty about dragging everyone out so early but it seemed like everyone was happy to be there. (Race started at 7am).

After a short unplanned detour (driver error) we found a parking spot halfway between the start and finish lines. We picked up our race packets and I helped Pat figure out how to attach the timing chip. It was fun to realize that this is still pretty new to him. The day before had been incredibly windy on the ranch but things seemed calmer today. Beautiful blue skies and moderate temperatures greeted us.

We had agreed earlier that we would all run our own race. Pat was dealing with some calf pain that flares up during running so he would go his own pace. Joey wanted to run with PJ (her son) so he would dictate their pace. I wanted to run fast. As fast as I possibly could. I wanted to suffer and see how long I could hold that pace without giving in to the pain. And then push it some more.

Pat and I lined up in the first wave of starters and Joey and PJ lined up in the second. I didn't get much of a warm up and that had me worried. I'm notoriously a slow starter and I was afraid I'd red-line early and never recover. The gun sounded and we were off. After about 3/4 mi I started seeing runners coming back and knew the first turn-around was close. I saw Pat as we passed each other going opposite directions but he didn't see me. He looked very focused and I just hoped his calves were doing ok.

I broke the race down like this: mile 1- get into a good, fast rhythm. Mile 2- maintain speed. Mile 3- push hard to the finish. I was a little worried when the first mile was clocked in 7:11. That's pretty fast but I felt ok. However, turns out it was a little fast when my second mile came in at 7:30. This is a fast course and I knew I'd be able to really push the last mile as there's some downhill and then a fun homestretch right next to the ocean.

I used the people right in front of me as motivation to keep pushing just a little harder. 2 ladies who had passed me earlier were right there and I was determined to finish ahead of them (no, I'm not competitive at all). I did pass them and set my sites further ahead. The finish banner was in sight so I hit it hard. Turns out I started my finishing sprint just a tad early, had to back off just a smidge and then hit it again across the line.

So it turns out my pacing needs just a bit of work but I felt really good about this race. I finished in 22:39 (5K PR) and 7th in my age group. I got my medal, some water and goodies and waited for Pat to come across the line. Only a few minutes later I saw him coming. His calves gave him some problems which slowed him down but he still did a great job. I'm so proud of him for getting out there. We hung out a bit longer and then there was Joey and PJ with big smiles on their faces. PJ said this was a 5K PR for him too. We grabbed our goodie bags and shirts and then made our way back to the truck. Time to get back to the ranch and some serious calorie ingesting.

On the drive back I treated everyone to Starbucks as a thank you for joining me on the run. It was nice to see all the big smiles and hear about how much they enjoyed this little adventure.

Back at the ranch showing off our Turkey Trot shirts

Pat, me, Joey, and PJ (front)

The rest of the day was spenting visiting and playing. The ranch is very special because there's 4 generations living there and it really takes you back in time.

Cousins hanging out together

Nothing like a man and his daughter. This is my cousin's husband and little girl.

Caitlyn wanted to visit her special place on the ranch with me so we headed to the horse barn. She loves to just watch the horses and this time she got to feed a couple. I think her older cousins will have her riding one on our next visit.

This is the only picture I got that actually had Sara smiling. Lately she doesn't like her picture taken very often (must be a 3 year old thing). She has her daddy's finishing medal around her neck.

It wasn't soon enough and we had lots of food appearing from various kitchens. Cousin Jim (the almost patriarch of the family, got the honors of carving the turkey. (My dad is now the patriarch but I don't think he's a big fan of the position).

Early Friday morning Pat and I and the girls started the long trip back home. The best part is the beautiful drive up Hwy 395. We always enjoy this drive and we got really lucky with traffic. I think everyone was staying put where they were for the weekend so we had an easy drive. That is until we hit snow in Truckee which made for a slow trip over the summit. But over-all, not a bad trip. And we're so lucky that our girls are such good travellers. 12 hours in a vehicle is tough on anyone but they're real troopers.
It was a real enjoyable trip and always nice to spend time with loved ones. Next up, Christmas!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting Caught Up

Hello again. I thought I better get a new blog entry up before people started to think I dropped off the face of the earth. In a way, I did. I was pretty discouraged after Leadville and I quit running for 6 weeks. Started physical therapy on the ITB with some good results. It's been awhile since I haven't run for that long and I needed something to fill the time usually spent running and to take my mind off not being able to run. So I discovered P90X with Tony Horton.

P90X has become more popular among firefighters lately and that's how I discovered it. Seems firefighters are commited either to Cross-Fit or P90X (ultrarunner Catra Corbett is hooked on Cross-fit). For those who don't know, P90X is a 90 day workout system incorporating a lot of old fashioned exercises like pull ups and push ups, free weights, and cardio. It's made up of 12 DVD's, each lasting about 1 hour and you just follow the plan and do the prescribed workout on the right day and at the end of 90 days you'll be "ripped" (according to Tony).

I'm on Week 9 and although I'll never show "before" and "after" pictures (plus I still have 3 weeks to go), I know I'm getting into better shape. The push ups and pull ups have been great since I've always been weak in my upper body. I use pull up assist bands and I've been able to progressively use thinner bands as I've gotten stronger. You just put the band in a clove hitch around the pull up bar and stick your foot or knee into the band and the elastic helps "assist" you.

In addition to the P90X, I've gotten back on my road and mountain bikes to help keep up my fitness since the San Francisco Nike Womens marathon was looming on the horizon. Every year my cousin and I run a marathon together and this was to be our third year. However, she just had a baby in the spring and is dealing with some slight injuries and with my ITB problems we made the prudent decision to run the half marathon instead.

So my build up to the half marathon consisted of 7 weeks of no running, P90X, and bike riding. I finally decided to test myself before the race by running 2 miles the Friday before the race and 1 mile the day before and I was delighted to be pain free.

The hubby had to work all weekend so it was an all girls weekend in SF (plus my cousin's husband who would be on kid duty while we ran. How cool is that?) We had adjoining rooms at the hotel so we could open the door between them and the girls loved running back and forth. We decided to help them burn off some more energy by walking the mile to the expo to pick up our race packets.
Meeting a new friend who also likes books

Luckily, Joey had run the half the year before so she knew the layout of the expo which helped get us through a little quicker. It had been a long day already of plane rides and driving so we decided to head straight back to the hotel. Plus we're not that thrilled with large crowds (it's a Davis thing).

Kids love small spaces

We had an early dinner then got our stuff ready for the next morning. It was such a relief knowing that it would be an easy walk to the start.

Sara helps Mommy get her stuff ready. Note the creative placement of the bottle tops

The next morning Joey and I headed out on our short walk to the start. As we got close we noticed a few people looking up into the dark sky saying "there's money falling from the sky". Yeah, right. But of course we looked up and holy smoke, there WAS money falling from the sky. Dollar bills floated down with the currents and we each caught one. We quickly decided that we are now elite runners since we got paid to race!

Money from the sky

20,000 women await the start
We found our pace group (at least a rough estimate of what we would be running). I enjoyed looking around at all the other runners, reading t-shirts, and wondering about all of their individual stories and what got them there on this beautiful SF morning. Finally the large group started moving and little did I know that eventual marathon winner Caitlin Smith (also incredible ultrarunner) would be almost 3 miles down the road before I even crossed the start line.

Over 17 minutes would pass before I got to the start line

Joey and I fell into an easy pace and soon we were on the Embarcadero. This is what I had been looking forward to the most. I love early morning runs along this route and into Fort Baker and Crissy Field whenever we visit the city. However, this morning the runners would own the roads and it was great. I was enjoying the sights and smells so much that I didn't take any pictures until we were almost to Ft. Baker.

We kept an easy pace, walked when we needed to, and I even e-mailed and texted my husband and mom on my phone to let them know the race had started and all was going well. My initial instinct is always to push myself as hard as I can but I quickly put those desires on hold and told myself that this isn't the race to do that. Today was about spending time with my cousin and enjoy a beautiful run together. But I was pretty happy with how good I felt. We'd hit an uphill and I literally felt like I was bounding up it effortlessly. I guess 6 weeks off running but good strong cross training can really keep the fitness up.

Descending to the Great Highway

After taking advantage of every aid station and its goodies (oranges, Luna Moons, Luna bars, Ghirardelli chocolate; I think we weighed more after the race then before) we found ourselves running the last couple miles through the forest of Golden Gate park. I was happy to turn right when the half marathon made its split because I had started feeling a little tightness in my ITB since mile 8. Nothing serious, just happy not to be running 26 miles.

We crossed the finish line together in 2:38:09. I could hear the announcer saying they were expecting the marathon winner shortly. Caitlin Smith won in 2:48. So she ran twice as far as we did and it only took her 10 minutes longer!!! Wow.

We made our way through the finishers chute, collecting lots of goodies, shirt, food, chocolate milk (yeah, my favorite) and mylar blanket. It was still sunny but the wind was chilly, especially as we cooled off from running.

3 years, 2.5 marathons (San Diego, Big Sur, SF half)

We caught the bus back to the start line and enjoyed the quick walk back to the hotel. Showers, packing, and we finally went our separate ways, already planning next years marathon. After 3 years on the California coast we may make our way to Utah next fall. I think that's the best part of this sport, always planning the next event. Thanks, Joey, for another great run. And thanks Andy for taking such good care of "all" your girls. You're the best.

And now just a final note about what life is like with a 5 year old. This is a conversation I had with Caitlyn just the other day. I was doing my P90X Kenpo workout while the girls were watching me. Since I can't see myself I'm not always positive I'm doing the moves correctly so I asked Caitlyn:

Me: Caitlyn, do I look like the people on tv?

Caitlyn: You look better than them.

Me: (feeling pretty smug)

Caitlyn: Mommy, you sure work out a lot.

Me: Why yes I do.

Caitlyn: Is that so you can get rid of the fat in your belly?

Me: (ego deflates). Yes, honey.