Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011: A DNS and a Win

Before I do a write up about yesterday's American River 50, I thought I'd get caught up a little with my winter/spring. This has been quite a winter. I guess it's good for the water supply but it has proved very challenging for me. The crux was the weekend of February 25-27. I was signed up to do the 30K at Robert Mathis' Pony Express in Cameron Park, CA just east of Sacramento. I talked my husband into signing up for his very first 10K and we were both excited. I'd never done a multiple loop course and was curious how I would like it.

My girls were off school that week and were with their grandparents on the central coast. The plan was to do the race Saturday morning then meet my folks at the halfway point (Santa Nella) and get the girls from them. Mother nature has a way of changing plans. I knew there was a big storm coming in but figured we were ok since the race course is at a low elevation. The closer it got, the worse the storm reports were.

I worked Thursday and had to commute home Friday morning over Donner Summit. 10 hours later I finally made it home. I also had a tire that was slowly going flat from picking up a piece of metal, the door handle on my jeep decided to stop working, and I was greeted with the news that a giant oak tree had fallen on my nephew's house, barely missing his daughters' rooms. And despite Pat shoveling snow all day, I could only drive the jeep about 20 feet into my driveway (which is about 100 yards long). It was a storm (and a day) to be remembered.

Needless to say, the race the next day wasn't going to happen because we couldn't get our truck out and instead, spent most of the day shoveling the driveway. I'm happy Robert was able to put on his race despite the weather and low snow and I'm impressed with everyone who showed up. I wish we could have been there. It also gave my girls an extra day with Nana and Papa which they didn't seem to mind. So my 2011 started out the same way my 2010 ended: a DNS. (I never did write about my Firetrails race that didn't happen, maybe some day I'll get a story up).

Fast forward to March 27 and the first annual Batwa 5K Challenge, a new local race. Didn't happen. Another storm moved in with low snow and the race was postponed a week because the course was under a foot of snow. Luckily, my schedule was open the next Sunday and I found myself on the start line of my first race since Lake of the Sky last Sept. It was a nice turn-out, about 65 people for a very hilly race. To break it down, I'd say it was a mile up, a mile down, and a mile up. Nothing flat. So not exactly a PR course.

The gun went off and we surged down the road. I found myself first woman but then 2 teen age girls passed me. I thought, okay, I'm in 3rd. We have a ton of very fast young runners in our county so I really had no idea how good these girls would be. Turns out I was able to pass them within the first mile and was surprised to find myself leading the women. I can usually place in my age group in these local races but not win out right. We ran through the woods and across a beautiful creek and I thought what a great way to spend a Sunday morning. I stayed strong and consistant on the first big hill then let it open up on the downhill to the park. Made my way through my favorite park and started the last mile uphill climb. Just stay strong and no one will pass you. That proved to be the case and I crossed the line, first woman, in 26:30. Way off my PR, but a tough course.

The mens winner was local Austin Violette who was wearing a finishers jacket from 2009 AR50. I asked if he was going to be at AR next week and he said he'd be working the Last Gasp AS, one of the guys sprinting up and down the hill filling water bottles as runners begin the last big climb to Auburn. I told him I'd see him there. And I did. But that's the next post. The 2011 racing season has begun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lots of Smiles at LOTS

I figured it was about time that I did a write up about my last race of the 2010 season before I run my first race of 2011.

For years I've wanted to run's Lake of the Sky out of Tahoe City. I love the TRT 50K and any excuse to do more running on the Tahoe Rim Trail works for me. Ten days before the race I decided to do a scouting run to check out the first 9 miles of the course. The trail is uphill for about the first 4 miles, rocky, and stays pretty much in dense forest. It was real difficult for me to find a good rhythm and needless to say, by the time I got to the "fiberboard freeway" at 9 miles, I wasn't in a good mood and just wanted to get back to the car. I had signed up for the 50K and the first thing I did when I got home was email RD Robert Mathis and downgrade myself to the marathon. To be honest, I really wasn't looking forward to the race.

In the meantime, we had bought a new tent-trailer and we decided the maiden trip would be at Donner Lake the weekend of LOTS and we'd use it as a base camp for my run.

I woke up early Saturday morning (September 11), and drove myself up to Tahoe City. In a move indicative of my early 20's, I grabbed some hot chocolate and a donut for breakfast. It worked back then, would it work at 39 years old? Breakfast of champions before a trail marathon. I had to wonder if I was crazy. I grabbed my number from Linda Mathis then sat in my car until about 20 minutes before start time. It then dawned on me that I might want to get my stuff ready. Man, was I being lackadaisical about this run.

We had perfect weather for the 7am start as a smaller then expected number of people surged across the paved road and hit the first hill which slowed all but the leaders to a walk. I placed myself in the middle of the pack so I could have a reasonable start but not get too log jammed. Being surrounded by other runners on this beautiful morning already improved my mood from how I had felt 10 days ago on my scouting run. Before I knew it we had passed the 4 mile mark and reached the point where the trail opens up and we got our first views of Lake Tahoe. The trail begins to roll and I was leading a large pack of runners so I opened it up and really began to enjoy myself. I steamrolled into the 9 mile AS at fiberboard freeway, downed a couple of GU's and hit the next 4.5 mile section to Lake Watson that I had never been on before.

In the meantime, Pat and the girls toured Truckee for a bit before making their way up to Tahoe City and watch me finish. They came across this great kids museum where they could become one with the animals.

I enjoyed the next section to the turn around point, nice rollers, old roadbed, nice views of Tahoe. The AS volunteers were really nice at Lake Watson but I was eager to head back. I had counted the women ahead of me at 7 or 8 but I didn't know who was continuing on to the 50K and who was relay. Coming into the fiberboard freeway AS I was surprised when I reeled in another woman. I was feeling strong and knew what I had ahead of me and was still feeling strong. This day was turning out so much better then I had expected. Gorgeous weather, friendly runners, and a now familiar trail to run.

To top it off, I knew my family would be waiting to watch me finish. At least I hoped they would. Based on previous runs, I predicted a 6 hour finishing time. However, I soon realized I was ahead of schedule. With 4 miles to go I saw that I could possibly finish in under 5:30. I was getting tired now but with most of the last part of the course downhill, I just put my head down and pushed. It may be downhill, but it's a LONG 4 miles. I came around the final corner and saw Caitlyn at the bottom of the hill waiting for me. We crossed the line together in 5:27. Turns out my family had arrived just minutes before me. Perfect timing.

So my experience at LOTS was everything I had hoped it would be and there were definitely LOTS of smiles going around. Little did I know, it would be my last run of the season. (I had Dick Collins marathon on my schedule but that's another post). Robert and Linda always put on well run races, low key with a family feel. Turns out my first race of 2011 will be another Robert Mathis run, Pony Express on February 26.

Next generation of ultrarunner:

Also, an update on Mittens and Taffy. It's now been just over 5 weeks that we've had them and life couldn't be better. They are already an integral part of the family. I didn't realize how much I missed having a cat in the house and having these 2 has been a total joy. They love playing with each other and the dog. Very entertaining.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Additions

Yesterday I was suppose to go for a run. I got distracted. Instead, I spent the day with Pat and Sara buying cat food and bowls for what would hopefully be new members of our family. Last year my cat, Fishbait, died. I had gotten her as a kitten when I was young and single in my hometown of Nevada City. She went with me to Carson City and then Reno as I began my career as a big-city firefighter. Eventually we ended up back in Nevada City when Pat and I bought a house here. All that time, Fishbait was there as my buddy.

Fishbait certainly had her adventures and I'm sure she used up at least 7 of her 9 lives. She managed to survive 2 dogs and 2 kids before succumbing to illness and age. We eventually got used to life without a cat but then the girls started asking for a cat. 2 cats actually, one for each of them. Made sense to me. But life was busy last year and the timing never seemed right.

But we got through the holidays and life has settled down as we begin the new year. The timing just seems right now so I drove out to our local animal shelter on Wednesday and scoped out the kitties. I immediately fell in love with one young adult and saw the possibilities in a couple others. Seeing those cats made me realize how much I missed not having a cat. I'd had one my whole life and I wanted another one as much as my kids did. Maybe more :)

It didn't take long to convince Pat that we should go kitty shopping. Actually, I wanted a couple of young adults. Kittens are so popular at the shelter that the older cats aren't as popular.

We picked up Caitlyn after school and headed to Sammies Friends at the Animal shelter. The grey was still there, a beautiful, healthy cat about 1-2 years old who had been abandoned by his owner. Caitlyn laid claim to him while Sara picked out a beautiful, healthy looking tabby female about 2-3 years old. Both cats had vaccinations and were spayed/neutered and they happened to be running a 2 for 1 deal.

After filling out the paperwork we loaded them up in carriers and headed home. We also have a dog and wondered how that would go. My plan was to bring both cats home at the same time so they were both strangers and wouldn't have any territorial issues. They spent the first couple hours checking out every room, windowsill, nook, and cranny before turning their attention to the dog. They quickly established that they were in charge. Yuba appears to be cool with that.

Ian (now Mittens) and Empress (now Taffy) quickly made themselves at home. No hiding, hissing, or fighting. They are both love bugs, happy with any lap that makes itself available. It's obvious that Mittens is a little younger due to his playful personality. Taffy is good for Sara because she's very tolerant.

So our family of 5 has become a family of 7 and we're very happy about that. Plus it's nice to know that we've saved the lives of 2 wonderful and loving cats.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas in Arizona

Happy New Year to all. But before I can move into 2011, I feel I have some unfinished business for 2010. I have a race report from Lake of the Sky, a DNS report from Lake Chabot, but most important, I want to do a little write up about our wonderful Christmas.

About 5 years ago when Caitlyn was just a baby, my mom and dad accidentally stumbled into Williams, Arizona, during the Christmas season. There they discovered thousands of children all wearing pajamas and when they asked what the occasion was, learned they were at the jumping off point for the Polar Express. Mom was thrilled and called to tell me that when Caitlyn got a few years older we just had to do this. Well, Sara showed up a couple years later so that pushed our plans back a bit but this was to finally be the year when it would happen.

The girls are 4 and 6 years old which we felt would be perfect. We started making plans and I mentioned it to my cousin who has 3 kids. She mentioned it to the rest of her family and before we knew it, we had 16 relatives all converging on the small town of Williams to ride the Polar Express to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus.

Some of those from the second and third generations:

We all waited anxiously as the Polar Express arrived. We boarded, found our seats, and soon were headed north through the night.

First, cookies and hot chocolate were handed out,

Then the reading of the Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg:

We had our own copy:

After making it to the North Pole and picking up Santa, we started heading home. Soon Santa came to our train car and was handing out bells. And I have to tell you, we must all be believers because we could hear lots of bells ringing.

Everyone wanted a bell, and got one: (even my cousins little girl Izzie)

It was a magical evening spent with wonderful family. It was fun to think that a plan hatched 5 years earlier had finally happened.

The next morning most of the family had to get back to the real world of jobs and obligations which left my parents, Pat and I, and the girls to board another train and make our way up to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. It was about a 2 hour trip which went by quickly as we enjoyed the beautiful views and entertainment.

Once we got to the canyon we had about 3 hours to enjoy the sites and have lunch before the train would return us to Williams. It was sprinkling lightly and chilly so we quickly made our way to the El Tovar hotel to get warm and make a plan. The hotel was splendid in its architecture and Christmas decorations.

We made our way back outside as the sun started peeking through the clouds which created amazing light and colors in the canyon. The views were stunning.

We had lunch at the Bright Angel Cafe and checked out the assorted buildings and history of the canyon. Way too soon it was time to get back on the train for our trip home.

To keep folks entertained, there was a train robbery that was quite fun. Well, for most of us. Caitlyn wasn't sure what to make of it but she tried to remain brave. One of the "robbers" even asked her for a hug. Before she realized what she was doing, she jumped up and hugged him. It was only after she sat back down that she started to have misgivings.

We watched the sun set through the amazing cloud formations as we headed south. Things quieted down and I think everyone was contemplative about what a wonderful few days we had just had. Even the weather cooperated. We awoke the next morning to 6 inches of fresh snow. It made a special place utterly magical.