25 July 2015

It's Time for SFM!

The day is almost here - the SF Marathon is tomorrow! I'm extremely excited now that the weekend has come and I've been to the expo. I didn't make it this far last year and dropped to the half due to injury, so I feel like I've been waiting to run this marathon for way too long.

As you may know, I'm an ambassador for this race and it was my very first half marathon ever in 2009. It was also my first 5K in 2005, before I can even say I was a runner. It's about time I run the main event! I loved picking up the marathon color bib and the marathon color shirt, not to mention my 52.4 club sweatshirt. Now I get to go out there tomorrow to earn it.

Loving the red shirts for the marathon.

All four of the events have sold out this year too, which I'm not sure they have in the past. That's pretty cool.

Kevin and I went to the expo on Friday night and then enjoyed dinner at Off the Grid, the food truck event near Fort Mason. Aside from the crazy parking situation, having the expo co-located with Off the Grid was awesome. We had pork skewers and garlic noodles from An the Go, a Vietnamese Fusion truck, and then I continued to carb load with one of the biggest sprinkle donuts ever.

Johnny Doughnuts is awesome.

Because we went to the expo on Friday, we could relax on Saturday and sleep in. It's been great, we should do it this way more often. Soon we'll be heading to Sophia's wedding to celebrate and then to SF for the night. 

But first, you should see the other awesome swag we picked up at the expo. SF knows how to do it right, yes?

Happy running and racing this weekend to all!

20 July 2015

Pacifica 30K Race Recap

My previous post mentioned running the Golden Gate 30K on July 11, but the weekend took an unexpected turn and I missed that event. We woke up on Saturday to a very sick kitty and made a trip to the vet instead. I'm happy to say after a week of worrying about her, Willow is going to be fine. She had an ulcer and bacterial infection that made her sick; luckily she did not have lymphoma as they thought she might based on early tests. We are so relieved! You could say I'm very attached to that little cat.

Guilty of photographing Willow at the vet with her little bandage. Such a sweetie.

Back to running. I was a sad about missing the 30K and even more sad about leaving poor Willow at the vet alone, so I went looking for other weekend trail runs in the area. The Bay Area has a ton, and we found a Sunday 30K in Pacifica that we were able to sign up for last minute. (A huge thank you to the PCTR race director for replying to me on Saturday afternoon and letting us know they had spots left!)

Although I love running in the headlands, I enjoyed checking out new trails in a new part of the bay. Both 30K courses were similar in total climb at 4000 feet, but I felt the Pacifica course had more extended climbing instead of the up/down/repeat I'm used to in the headlands. We started at San Pedro Valley Park, and the first loop of the course climbed to the top of Montara Mountain.

View from the Montara Mountain climb. 

From the top of Montara Mountain. 

From the top, the other direction. You can see runners coming up.

Quick photo of Kev running back down as we passed.

After descending the mountain we ran back past the start, then headed the other direction on a new loop that we ran two times. The second climb on that loop was particularly tough and resulted in a lot of power hiking.

During the first time on this loop, I was stung by something on the upper inside of my left leg that left a big red welt. Ouch! It was painful for about 20 minutes and then subsided enough that I could ignore it; I was going to be seriously mad if I had to stop the race because of a silly insect. It must have been a sweat bee or something nicer than a real bee, because the pain wasn't as bad as I remember from real bee stings. Thank goodness.

The second time I arrived at the top, I'd done so much hiking uphill that I stood still for a minute to gather my thoughts (legs?) before taking off on the downhill run. Once I started moving, all was well again. The other thought I had at the top of the loop that second time was 'Wow, this is so great. Let's go again!' Even though I was tired, I wanted more. More challenges, more trail running, more distance. Something about the 30K left me hungry for these things in a way I've not felt before. Now I have to reign myself in so I don't sign up for a second 50K before I run the first one and know how it really feels.

I finished the race in 4:18:19, which I admit is slower than I'd hoped. Based on my long trail runs in the headlands and other places, I was thinking I'd be about 15 to 20 minutes faster at the 30K distance. That said, I'm ok with it because it was hot that day and a very tough race. No matter what the time was, I felt strong and successful and that's what really matters.

Technically I was 3rd age group, although there were only 5 of us. Hence the ribbon.

Following the run, PCTR had tons of food including cheeseburgers and beer. It was a laid back event with fun people and easy logistics. I'll definitely do more PCTR races based on this one, and I'm happy this is the same company that organizes the Skyline to the Sea 50K.

 Medal close-up.

Beer me.

Love the soft cotton race shirts!

That's it. Bring on more trail running, please!

10 July 2015

My Fall Goal

It's been ages since I've talked about goals on the blog, but that doesn't mean I don't have a big one in mind. You may remember that I bailed on my main goal last year due to injury, and that's the one I'm chasing again for 2015: my first 50K.

I'm signed up for the Skyline to the Sea 50K on October 10, 2015. I chose this one because it's close to home (I can sleep in my own bed!), it's mostly single track trail through a canopy of Redwood trees, and it's a point-to-point journey. The fact that Kevin can take me to the start and pick me up at the finish helps a ton, and I'll know many people from the Bay Area run community there too. The course is a net downhill as the name suggests, with about 3000 feet of gain and 5000 feet loss. There are definitely rocky parts that make the downhill not so runnable, but I'll see more of what I'm dealing with in the coming weeks. People love and recommend this event so I'm excited!

While building mileage for the SF Marathon in the past few weeks, I've really had the 50K goal on my mind. Almost all of my long runs have been on trail with good climbing challenges, and I'm running a lot of trail for weekday runs as well. The trails are my happy place, so you could say I'm a happier person and runner overall! The SF Marathon on July 26 will be a long run for me but not a goal race; I want to keep the pace comfortable and have no plans to go after a marathon PR. My big hope is that running so far on pavement doesn't kill my recovery time too much. Perhaps I shouldn't be running a road marathon right now, but I love the SFM events and have yet to run the marathon so I want to run it already.

As part of training for the 50K, I'm planning to run the Headlands Marathon on September 12. I'll use that as a supported long training run, thought it could end up being harder than the 50K itself based on the 5000 feet of climbing! I know this going in, and my love of running in the Headlands has always made me want to do one of the long events there; this is one of the only marathon distances in that location that isn't a double loop of a half marathon course.

Tomorrow I'll be running the Golden Gate 30K as my last long run before the marathon, and I've enjoyed many trails in the last few weeks during SFM training. The scenery is nothing short of inspiring and I feel so lucky to live where we do. Here are a few highlights!

 Part of the Western States trail at Squaw Valley.

 Flowers along the trail at Squaw.

Nicole running at Squaw with mountain views.

 Along the Miwok climb during a Headlands long run.

 Catherine in Steven's Creek County Park.

 Kevin and Eddie in Fremont Older.

Kevin and I at the highest point of Fremont Older.

Phoenix Park in San Anselmo with a few Oiselle ladies.

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

29 June 2015

Ragnar Wasatch Back Recap

Ragnar Wasatch Back is now one of my favorite relay experiences ever. The views along the course were gorgeous, and it was very challenging. Between being at altitude, the hills, and the 90+ degree weather, it was definitely the hardest relay I've run so far. And I loved every minute of it!

I arrived in Salt Lake City on Thursday morning, where a few of my teammates met me at my gate because they'd arrived earlier. We greeted two more teammates, grabbed the vans, and headed over to our hotel to start the weekend. After a trip to Target for the essentials (you know, sunscreen, Cheez Its, Pop Tarts...) we relaxed for a while and then went to dinner downtown at Squatters Pub to try some Utah beer. It was great to stay at one hotel with the whole team and to have time with the van one ladies, who we wouldn't see much during the race itself.

I was in van two, so we were able to sleep in on Friday morning. And boy, sleep in we did! We didn't wake up until about 9 am, at which point we got dressed and went to Perkins for breakfast. We had plenty of time before we met van one to start running, so we hung out at the hotel until we had to check out at noon and then decorated the vans. We had lunch at a good deli near Ogden, took photos along the pretty road to exchange 6, and hung out for a while after we arrived. It was unbelievably hot, so we basically spent as much time in the van A/C as possible before going to wait at the exchange.

Stopping for the view while driving.

Exchange 6 in Liberty, Utah.

The handoff to Robyn. And off we went.

I was runner 8, and my first distance was 7.2 miles. It was still very hot, hot enough that I ran in a sports bra (highly unusual for me!) My route had nice views but was along a really busy road for a while. Overall I ran well for the heat and was happy with how it went. I handed off to Farron, who then got to climb a big hill up to the pass. 

 Loving the mountain views.

 Almost done!

And...done. Farron taking it away.

Our van headed to the next exchange, which was at the top of Snowbasin ski area. Farron had a 7.8 mile climb to get there, but the view from the top was awesome and she rocked it. 

Farron coming into the exchange.

From here Jess took on an 8 mile run back down from Snowbasin, but the darkness prevented any photos. Marilyn and Kate followed Jess, at which point it was finally time for food. FINALLY.

Thank goodness for the pizza being sold at exchange 12.

I couldn't believe our first round of running didn't end until midnight, but that's how it worked out. We drove to exchange 18 and had a rather luxurious sleeping arrangement for a Ragnar event; we were escorted into a classroom with carpet and had our own little corner and desks to keep important things (like glasses...) safe. It was fantastic.  We slept for about 3 hours before getting back up to start the next run. 

Our next set of legs was pretty short and it passed much faster than the first. I ran 2.9 miles just as the sun was rising, and I felt great. Again, the mountain views were making me a happy girl while running and even while driving.

 Jess coming into the exchange.

Matching hoodies by the van. 

Before we knew it, we were back on runner 12 and almost done with round 2. We met up with van one again at the exchange, and when they headed out we went to find a place to rest. 

Wendy, Marilyn, Jess, Farron, Robyn, Leana, and me at the exchange.

Kate bring it in for van two.

During our second break, we enjoyed the cheap breakfast of pancakes and eggs at exchange 25 and rested there for a couple of hours. By the time we arrived at exchange 30, it was a complete zoo. Exchange 30 was at Park City HS, and the runner coming in had some single track trail on their route. You could say I was a little...or insanely...jealous. As it turns out, a few people on van one had trails! Even though I enjoyed the overall course, my routes themselves were pretty darn boring in comparison.

Luisa arriving at exchange 30, teammates pointing. One of my fave photos.

From here, Robyn took off on the 10.7 mile 'Ragnar Hill' climb up to the pass. Driving up to the next exchange made me wish I'd run that leg despite how hard I'm sure it was - it was gorgeous and I would much rather climb than run the downhill that came next for me. Robyn did an awesome job and then handed off to me to take it back down.

One of the views up to the exchange.

My next leg was 4.2 miles all downhill, and it was miserable. It was way too steep and it was relentless; by the time I finished my body felt terrible. Even worse, the exchange where I started the run was a mess and I almost got backed over by a van when I was trying to run the stated route. Yikes! This was part of the change to this year's course, and I hope they do a better job with it next year. At least I had a couple of fun photos from the Ragnar photographer on this one.

Farron picked up where I left off and continued the steep downhill for a while. While waiting for her, I was on the ground with the Tiger Tail desperately trying to loosen the muscle in the front/side of my left shin because it was seriously cramped. I was actually angry at Ragnar for the dumb downhill at that point in time. Jess and Marilyn ran next, and then it was time for Kate to bring us into the finish line. 

Marilyn finishing her last leg.

After Kate started her run we headed straight to the finish line, but traffic was really tough. I honestly didn't think we'd make it before she finished (somehow we did!) In a frenzy, we met up with van one and managed to get to the arch with a few minutes to spare and were able to finish as a team. Our finish time was 32 hours, 52 minutes, 25 seconds. It's slower than any other relay I've done due to the difficulty, but that was true for all teams.

Team Bird Machine! (Left to right: Farron, Jess, Robyn, me, Marilyn, Wendy, Emily, Luisa, Jess, Leana, Kate, and Emma.)

At the finish, they gave us free Little Caesar's pizzas which van two happily ate. Van one had already showered and eaten before they came back to the finish area. We hung out for a little while, although not too long because it was once again very hot. 

Van two, they told us to flex.

The finish was at the cross country ski resort that held the Olympic Winter Games.

Following the race, all 12 of us stayed in a condo together at the Canyons Resort. I've never done this after a relay before, and I'm so glad we did; we had more time to spend with the other van and time to celebrate as a team. I hope to do this again in the future.

Hanging out at the condo for beer post-race.

Together, the medals make a design.

Overall, I loved the weekend with these ladies and the location of the relay. That said, the new course for Wasatch Back doesn't sound as good as the old one based on what I've heard. It had a lot of changes between the time we signed up and started, the final course not being set until 7 pm on Thursday. That was the day before the race! My total mileage dropped by about 3 miles which I didn't love either. The exchange after the new Ragnar Hill had serious traffic delays and no parking, and the traffic delays at the finish almost made us miss our team finish. Hopefully Ragnar will take feedback from the survey to improve these new elements before next year.

Now for the best part: we finished 7th overall for Women and 3rd out of 35 teams in Women's Open. That was completely unexpected and I'm pumped about it. I can't wait for the Ragnar prize relay batons to arrive!

16 June 2015

Trailquake Half Marathon Race Recap

The Trailquake half was on June 6, and it's a race I've had my eye on since moving to the Bay Area. The race is held at Sanborn County Park, only about a 20 minute drive from our house, so it was very easy to get there in the morning. It's run by a Bay Area race company called Brazen Racing and they always do a fantastic job.

I knew before signing up that this race would involve 3000 feet of climbing and that it's known for being a very hard half; that's part of why I wanted to do it! Ok, that and because the name is Trailquake, it runs on the San Andreas trail, and I have a weird fear/obsession with earthquakes. The course didn't disappoint. As soon as we crossed the start line we began the uphill climb that lasted about 3 miles and was notably steep. The elevation profile looks like it flattens out on top, but don't let it fool you - there are ups and downs the entire way to keep you on on top of your game.

Elevation profile from the Brazen Racing site.

Race start. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

One of the best aspects of this race is the park itself. The trails are almost all covered by Redwoods and other tall trees, making it picturesque and keeping the sun from frying you during the run. Most of the trail was single track too. This is definitely a park I need to run in more often.

A short downhill. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

Running in the trees. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

The course makes a T shape so you get to pass people on out-and-back sections; it's perfect for cheering on friends! There were a few Go Far group runners, plus Sophia and Kevin, to cheer for along the way. Sophia's fiancĂ©, Charlie, ran the 5K (and won!) but I didn't get to see him on the course. There were also a ton of aid stations for a trail race, every 3 miles or so. 

The downhill section of the course at the end is actually far from an easy downhill. There are a number of sharp switchbacks that slow you down, plus rocks and roots. It was fun but not as fast as I hoped (at least for my current downhill trail skills.) 

Concentrating during the final downhill. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

Another one that I like. (Photo from Brazen Racing)

Knowing the total climb involved in this one, my target time was to be under 3 hours and I met that goal without any trouble. I finished in 2:56:12 and I'm pleased with my splits in general. I'll keep working on faster climbing and faster downhills, however I felt strong the whole time and that's what is most important to me right now.

After we finished, we enjoyed the many food items provided (including things like pie, brownies, goldfish crackers, M&Ms, potato chips...I could go on and on) and hung out with Sophia, Charlie, and our Go Far friend Andrew. We enjoyed chatting and relaxing at the picnic tables in the park for quite a while.

Post-race. (Photo from Sophia)

All in all, I loved this race. I was ridiculously happy to be racing trail again for the first time in over a year, and even when it was really hard I felt...incredibly HAPPY. Lucky to be out there running and climbing my little heart out. Fingers crossed my hip plays nice and I get to keep my 50K goal for this fall, unlike last year when I had to call it off.

The last items to note are the fun swag and the free photos. I love that Brazen volunteers take photos and share them via Google Plus so you can download whatever you'd like. I've most likely used too many photos of myself in this post, but I'm so happy to have them I felt the need to use them! The shirts and medals had banana slugs on them, so what's not to like there? I have a feeling I'll be running this race again in the future!

Swag! I really like the fit of the shirts too.

Happy running!