Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stevens Trail

After 5 days of no exercise I was itching to get out on the trail. I'm not running yet so Pat and I decided to take our dog Yuba to the Stevens Trail in Colfax, about 20 minutes from Nevada City. We got the girls to daycare, made a stop at Starbucks then made the drive to the trailhead.

California poppies

This is the perfect time of year to hike this trail. April and May provide the best time to view the many different types of wildflowers. I don't know all their names but they are definitely plentiful.

Iowa Hill Bridge

The trail was built by Truman Allen Stevens shortly after he arrived in California in 1859. He operated a ranch in Iowa Hill and a livery stable in Colfax so he built the trail and a self-propelled cable car to transport miners and animals across the North Fork of the American River, and charged a toll. (Info courtesy of American River Canyon Hikes by Ferris, Lynch, and Toner, which is a wonderful book for people looking for a thorough guide to the trails in the Auburn State Recreation Area.)

The trail is almost 4 miles down to the river and doesn't have a single switchback in it. It follows the contour lines on a moderate grade and always travels upstream. I don't know of another single trail that does that.

Perfect lunch spot

After enjoying a leisurely lunch beside the river (and watching the antics of a heron on the opposite bank), we started back up the trail. This is a popular trail so I wasn't surprised to see some folks as we started back. Our pace down was quite leisurely but Pat set a stronger pace on the return and we both felt like we got a decent workout.

This was a stop we made at a cute waterfall that I'm sure will be dry by mid-summer. This trail is south-facing and I'm sure very hot in the summer.

So Mom, whaddya think?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Run Through The Daffodils

The best laid plans are always subject to change and this week is a perfect example. I was scheduled to race the Escape From Prison Hill Half Marathon in Carson City this Saturday which I raced a couple years ago and it's a really fun run. However, I have to have surgery on Friday that will put me out of commission (running) for a couple weeks so that race is out.
I wanted to get at least one more race in before surgery so I took the morning off work last Sunday and headed to Penn Valley for the Daffodil Run 5K. Last year I ran this the day after doing the American River 50M and I finished in about 25:35. Considering that this year there were a couple weeks between the races, I definitely wanted to run faster.

The kids started us off quickly but you had to watch out because they have a tendency to sprint for a little bit then stop suddenly in your path. They haven't learned the fine art of pacing yet.

It was a beautiful morning and quickly heating up even by the 8:45am start. I started quickly but in control, it's been a long time since I've raced a 5K and I didn't want to burn myself out in the first mile. Chris B was calling 1 mile split times and I hit it in 7:33, not bad. Everytime I felt myself slowing I just concentrated on a quicker turnover and it worked, the legs felt strong. I watched the runners pass through the turn-around point and I realized I was 3rd female. Cool. Wasn't expecting that.
I managed to stay about 30 yards behind the second female but just couldn't close the gap. As we got closer to the finish I tried to pick up my speed but so did she. I gave it everything but finished just 3 seconds behind her.
So in my first 5K race since last year I managed to finish in 23:37, 3rd female over all and 1st in my age group. I'm pretty happy.
There won't be any running for a couple weeks but it's still early in the season and I know I'll have enough time to rebuild and get myself in top shape for Leadville. Maybe the break will do my body some good, get rid of some of those aches and pains. Until's a few shots from a wonderful morning spent with my family and about 500 other runners.

Larry Defeter finishing strong for second overall.

Me enjoying the finishing kick. At least it looks like I'm enjoying it. And yes, I did pass that kid before the finish :)

Pat and Caitlyn

Enjoying some post-race grub with my girls.

As a special treat at the race, we had Norm and Helen Klein speaking and handing out awards. They even ran the race and looked great doing it. Helen is officially retired but I guess you can't take the runner out of the girl........

During the award ceremony, Norm introduced Darryl Beardall from Dipsea fame. In 1985 Bruce Dern played Darryl in the movie On The Edge about the famous Dipsea race. It was quite a treat having those 3 present at our little country race. Ain't running great?

Darryl Beardall being introduced by Norm Klein. Helen was helping to hand out awards

Thank you to all the many volunteers that came out to help put on this very fun race. It's the first race in the Gold Country Grand Prix series. The next race is Saturday in Nevada City. Maybe I can be a spectator.

Results for Daffodil can be found here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cruising the Trails at AR50

There's nothing better than a day running on the trails near Auburn, CA in beautiful weather with hundreds of other like-minded ultra folks. And with views like this you couldn't have asked for better conditions for this year's American River 50 Miler run from Sacramento to Auburn.

My preparation for this year's race was quite different than last year considering I had a stress fracture in my shin and ran only 25 total miles for the month of March. I did a ton of road biking in and out of the river canyons which enabled me to get a 10:39 AR finish which I was thrilled with.

This year I ran closer to 200 miles in March and am not injured which is great. However, my goal race is in August so I still haven't done much interval/tempo training so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to improve upon my time from last year.

Catching the bus from the finish line to the start at 4:15 AM means an early start to the day but it was definitely made more pleasant since the ride was shared with Scott Dunlap and Gretchen Brugman and the time passed quickly as we got caught up.

The buses arrived at the start and I only had about 20 minutes to get through the porta-pottie line, put on some sunscreen, put my drop bag in the finish line trailer then head to the start. The start line was moved down the levee so I think a few people were caught off guard and had a bit of a late start but since it's chip timed it really didn't matter.

I was surprised when Scott came running up from behind me. He is definitely someone that I usually never see during a race since he's so fast. We chatted a bit then he smoothly pulled away and I never saw him again. Sounds like he had a bit of an adventurous race, you can read about it here.

I settled into a comfortable pace and the miles ticked off. Gretchen caught up to me shortly before the second aid station and we were able to run together for awhile before bio and walk breaks separated us.

Enjoying an early morning buffet

The miles passed quickly along the bike path as I tried to stay on the dirt portion next to the pavement as much as possible. Quite a few people went by me and I wondered if they knew what the second half of the race was like. This is one race that if you burn too many matches in the first half, the second part will eat you up.

Cheerleading chickens along the path

Significant mile mark just before Beals Pt. (26.2)

There's a bit of uphill as you leave Negro Bar and head to Beals Pt. and I was surprised at how tired I started to feel. But I knew my family would be waiting for me at Beals so I just kept plugging along.

Coming into Beals Point

The girls making sure my chip and race number still match

Caitlyn, one of my biggest fans

I got some more S-caps from Pat, visited the restroom, got some food and headed back out. As I rounded the park I noticed that Pat and the girls had crossed the parking lot so I got to give my girls one last hug. Suddenly I found myself very emotional. I didn't want to continue running. What was the point? I was tired, I had just run a marathon, and I was with my family. But I knew I wouldn't stop because I wasn't at the finish line and I'm not a quitter. Plus I wanted to see what this year's finishers jacket looked like!

Hard to say good-bye

As I made my way to Granite Bay I finally started finding my rhythm. I was back on trails and I was feeling strong.

Beautiful trails in Granite Bay

Last year the section from Granite Bay to Rattlesnake Bar destroyed me. Singletrack with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, I could never get comfortable. This year I ran the uphills strong and the downhills on the edge of control. I was having so much fun and passing lots of people which only made me feel stronger after getting passed so much at the beginning. I came into Rattlesnake in 8 hours which is 25 minutes faster than last year.

I hit the bottom of the last 3 mile climb in 9:20 and started doing the math. Could I break 10 hours? On this steep section I was averaging 13-15 min/mi so I knew it would be close. I had spent over 10 minutes back at Beals Point with my family and I started wishing I had about 5 of those minutes back. But I really wanted to try and break 10 so I put my head down and started repeating to myself: never give up, never give up.

The girls watching the finishers

Finally the finish line came into view and I saw Caitlyn run towards me from the side lines. For the first time she ran with me and we crossed the finish line together. It was a wonderful experience. The clock said 10:03:36 but suddenly those lost minutes at Beals didn't matter so much.

Finishing together!

Gretchen and I sporting some nifty finishers jackets

Julie Fingar did a fabulous job putting on this race as Race Director. The volunteers were excellent, filling my hydration pack with ice water and getting me anything else I needed. We couldn't have asked for better weather and I have to applaud all the runners who chose this race to be their first ultra. I hope they all had as good a time as I did. I look forward to taking another 35 minutes off my PR next year! Results can be found here.