Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Views from the sidelines

Thanks everyone for all the great words and advice about the calf! Sorry that I've been lax on blogging lately. This whole not running thing (it'll be a week tomorrow since my last run!) has definitely thrown me for a loop. I did finally start going to the gym this week, though, and did two days of an hour of cardio, which was nice. Got the heart rate up, which felt good, though I can't take more than a half hour on any one machine. The second day my calf was hurting towards the end so I took today off to rest. My santa cruz running friend Mimi gave me the number of a local PT that I'll call soon and hopefully get my calf the help it needs to be all better. It's been perfect running weather lately and I'm envious of everyone else out there. I do also want to start swimming but am currently being thwarted by the fact that its November and places aren't having a lot of swimsuits. Or, rather, Target isn't. I wanted to not spend a ton, so Target is usually good for that, but apparently cold weather = no suits. I'll go out in search this weekend. Also, the UCSC pool isn't that big, and there are lots of intimidating swimmer peoples there. So, I'll have to tackle that too.

For now, I'm enjoying the amazingly beautiful world from the sidelines instead of the trails. I took a beautiful weekend in Cambria (a sleepy seaside town about 4 hours down the coast from Santa Cruz) with Ed and enjoyed taking a break from graduate school life!

I took way too many photos (Ed was kind enough to pull over multiple times on the drive down so that I could get my photo fix) but came up with a few nice shots that I thought I'd share. Keep in mind that I took 280, so even though it seems like I posted a lot, I really did use restraint! Hope you enjoy!

Ed at out stop in Monterey Bay for lunch (clam chowder in bread bowls!)

One of the many bridges along the 1. This is part of the big sur marathon course, a marathon that is definitely on my list!
Beautiful water and rocks far below

Looking back on another of the famous bridges

Novice photographer with her obliging boyfriend (seriously, he got a similar experience to anyone who has ever run with me while I have my camera: "Hold on, I have to stop here! I just need to get a picture of this." I think it took us about 20 minutes to cover 5 miles at one point)

Ed taking in the view

This is why I don't think I'll ever be able to leave California!

Going into Cambria we stopped to visit the amazingly cute elephant seals :)This couple had a unique but very cute way of keeping warm

Catching a few minutes (or rather, hours) rest
Yawning or growling, you be the judge!

Sun sets over the seals

Beautiful sunset

Reflection of nature

A happy couple exiting the mission in San Louis Obisbo after their marriage ceremony

The amazing mound in morro bay

Sunset walk along the coast after a rain on the second night, with a Juniper tree sillouetted by the sun

Waves rolling onto the shore

He leans back to make the throw...

And lets go, eyeing his achievement!

Waves breaking on the rocks

A calm sunday morning beach

Looking back towards the coast

Morro Bay from far and away

Central coast winery

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What's Next

I asked this question last week on my mental high from Dick Collins, ready to jump into another 50 miler and excited about the prospect. One problem with that. Despite feeling like superwoman, I don't think my body is really as invincible as I was hoping. I mulled over the idea last week, and mulled, too, over the calf muscle that's been bothering me for the last month, the perpetual cold I can't seem to shake, and the graduate course work that's piling up.

Back in reality, fifty miles is pretty far. I think that I fell for that mentality of, "well, I did it, so it can't be that challenging" and forgot that it was a pretty big deal, and that it's okay if I need time to recover from it.

I've only run three times since the race, in part because I've just been tired and sick, and in part because I've been trying to spend more time on school work since, well, I can. It's sort of nice being able to take a break, to not feel too guilty for missing a run.

But, and this is a big but, not running does NOT feel good. I'm still eating like crazy, which isn't making my body (or my clothes for that matter) happy, and I'm still feeling the achiness that I feel during tapers when I don't run. Added to that, I had a running panic dream last night. I was running a 50 miler that started at 7pm (until 6am, it was a strange race) and somehow got the times mixed up, thinking it was starting at 7:30. So at 6:30 I realized I needed to be leaving NOW, and was frantically trying to pull together all the clothes and stuff I would need for the race, panicking about getting together night gear, and knowing I was going to be late. As I searched for clothes, I just kept finding the dirty clothes from the last 50 miler I had done, which was a few days before. I woke up both certain that I'm not in shape to do another 50 miler right now, and that I really, really, needed to run.

I just did an easy 6 miler around the 1/2 mile track at my school between my classes, which was good, but made my calf hurt. It's not a can't run hurt, but it is still worrisome. Then again, resting doesn't seem to be helping, so I'm thinking maybe I need to make it stronger? I don't know, I've never dealt with injuries. So I'm still torn on whether running more is good or less. But less doesn't feel good, so I think if I do decide to cut back on mileage, I really need to find some other activity so that I can still be active the same amount.

I also need a race to put on the calendar. Without some date as motivation, I find it much harder to get out there every day (well, 5 days a week). I need that outward push! So I'm thinking putting Woodside 50k on there. It should be the easiest 50k I've done (only 4500 ft elevation gain) and it's on the trails of my first trail run/race ever last february. I feel odd not picking something more challenging than my last event to shoot for, as that seems to be what I've always done, but I guess it's okay to give myself a break :)

So, I think, that's what's next!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wildfires in Southern California

[I know this post doesn't really have anything to do with running, besides the fact that the wilderness where trails exist is burning, but I needed a place to put down what I knew, and this is as good a place as any]

A resident of Irvine looking at the Santiago Canyon fire from atop the Quail Hill community.

Talking to my mom last week, she mentioned with slight bemusement the prediction of a heat wave to hit southern california over the weekend, predicted to reach 100 degrees by monday. That prediction of heat and high, hot, santa ana winds held true, but with tragic consequences. As I'm sure many are aware, it seems as though all of Southern California is ablaze right now, with fires spreading from LA to Orange to San Diego. Countless homes have already been burned down, with thousands forced to evacuate as the fires continue to rage. As of this morning, I was only aware of the fires in Malibu from a newspaper I glanced at at a coffee shop. I heard people talk about the San Diego fires as well. When I arrived at class this evening, my classmates from SoCal were talking about how close some of the fires were to their own homes and mentioned that in addition to the LA fires, there are also ones in the other counties as well, including my home county. I assumed that my parents would call if it was a threat, so I wasn't too concerned about their safety, but still a bit worried.

Map of the fires going on in Southern California right now

I've now found out more about the OC fire, which is still a decent distance from my home, but is close to people's homes that I know. What is particularly tragic about this fire is that it seems to have been set deliberately. It's currently a 15,000 acre fire burning near Santiago Canyon. I'm not sure whether houses have begun to catch yet, but it seems like, with all the devleopments down there, it's fairly likely. Seeing pictures of familiar places near home with thick, threatening clouds of black smoke is scary.
A view of the Santiago Fire from Alton and Portola.

Right now I'm feeling very far away from home up here in Santa Cruz. Some of my friends are talking about going down to San Diego county where they're from to be with their families. I know mine is safe and okay, but it's still a bit of a scary thing. I remember the positive associations I have always had of the warm Santa Anas, and the heat waves in late October and Early November. Suddenly these things that had seemed so routine have become extreme and, consequently, threatening.

The winds are supposed to die down soon, and with that, hopefully the fires can become contained in the next few days. There have been fires before, and Southern California has been rebuilt. Lets just hope that the containment happens soon.

All images and captions are taken from the LA Times article and pictures posted here

Friday, October 19, 2007

I am a Runner because...

Coming into Lone Oak, mile 26, at Dick Collins (courtesy of the Dick Collins website)

[I love this prompt because it can be interpreted two ways. Both, the reasons on why you want to be a runner, and also, how running has come to define you. I have both interpretations in my answers]

Running seems to somewho justify who I am and why I feel the way I do about life. I often talk about how I was never an athlete as a child, even though technically, that wasn't true. I played soccer for almost 10 years. Yet, despite really enjoying the sport, I never really felt like I belonged. I enjoyed it, but it never defined who I was. With little regret, I was able to give it up when I started high school, and didn't really look back. When I did play soccer, I chose to be the goalie, which allowed me to be simultaneously part of a team but also alone. That feeling of being loosly connected to a group yet, overall, separate, was one that had always been with me, until I took up running.

Suddenly, even though I wasn't fast, wasn't remarkable in any way, I felt like I was on some common ground with other runners. Our distance, rather than our ability, seemed to define us. Longer distances seemed to provides stronger ties of community. I could be an athlete, just by making a choice to take on that identity. And the more I chose to mold my life around running, the more of a runner I became. It took a long time for that identity to hold. Even after my first marathon, I didn't quite feel comfortable with it. Finally, I stopped trying to be part of those groups where I still felt alone. Running gave me an excuse to turn down parties, clubs, bars, the typical social gatherings of college students, and instead interact and learn from people who inspired me, while experiencing amazing places. I am a runner because I constantly seek out inspiration from people around me to achieve new and exciting things.

So, now having earned and accepted this identity, here's my list of why I am a runner:

I constantly talk about it, to family, friends, acquaintances. I don't know you? I'll probably still talk your ear off about some trail or run I went on. Today one of my first graders saw that I had a water bottle and said, "I know why you have that. You're going for a run!"

It allows me infinite reasons to hold onto my optimistic mentality

Somehow I breathe better when I run. The deep breathes that I just can't seem to take in otherwise are suddenly readily available

it keeps me constant, sane, peaceful, and centered

I feel the most alive after a long trail run

It makes me feel strong [really, it simply makes me strong, which is something I'm not sure I knew I could be before]

I hate, absolutely hate, waking up early, except if it's to go out on a trail. Then, I'm ridiculously happy at 4 in the morning, full of boundless energy

It gives me a confidence I never knew I had

To give it up would mean to give up what I know can make me truly and simply happy

I was tagged by Rick,
and I shall tag....
Jessica, Red, and Twig :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What's Next?

Looking at the DC countdown bar to the right perpetually suck on all zeros, I feel sort of out of sorts. I've always known what the 'next big thing' was, but now I'm without any big plans until AR50 in April. And that, really, is too long. I didn't plan anything purposefully because I wasn't sure if doing a 5o miler would destroy me or make me hate running or something, but it seems to have done neither. In fact, I seem to be recovering better than some of the short distanced races I've run (my first 'hard' marathon attempt comes to mind). I went on my first real post race run today, and did a very nice 6 miles around a 1/2 mile rubberized track with views of the bay. It was actually really nice to just run with music and sort of zone out. Things felt a little sore and stiff, but overall it was a really great run.

So, I've been looking at race calendars to pick out that next event, and I stumbled upon the Helen Klein 50 miler, the first 50 miler recommended to me as a good starting point. Now, this race is in only 3 weeks, but it has a net gain of, wait for it, 350 feet. That's right folks, a good 7,450 ft less elevation gain than Dick Collins. I was a road runner first and while I do love trails, the idea of having a relatively flat, easier, 50 miler sounds sort of appealing. It'd be a very different experience from DC to be sure, but I think could be really fun as well.

However, I need opinions from you seasoned vets out there. Is it a bad idea to do my 2nd 50 miler so soon after my first? I know ultras, almost by definition, aren't sensible, but how insensible is this really?

I'm going to try to do 15 or so this weekend, and we'll see how that goes. I think, even though it was hard, I expected the 50 miler to be harder. I never hit a wall or really wanted to stop (I did want to walk more when I got tired, but I never thought about quitting, at least that I can now remember).

I guess I just am always searching for what's next

Monday, October 15, 2007

Clear Skies for Dick Collins

Mike, Ernesto, Sarah, Me, Norbert, and Rick at the finish line

On February 2nd, 2007, just a little over eight months ago, I ran my first trail (race), the Woodside 17k. I was vaguely aware of the longer distanced runners out there, and felt like I was missing out in not continuing on past the aid station to the 35k loop. After the run, I stayed behind for hours, talking to runners about trail running and 50ks. They were all so nice and encouraging, and I started thinking about maybe doing my first 50k at Woodside in December of 2007. Surely 10 months would be enough time to get up to that distance.

However, I soon learned the addictiveness of trails. I started doing almost every PCTR even on the calendar that I could after that, and, after doing my first 30k at Pirate's Cove, decided to sign up for the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k. When that went well, it seemed like perhaps I could do a 50 miler this year, and so I signed up for one that I thought would be challenging but still doable, the Dick Collins Firetrails 50.

Now, completing a 50k was a huge accomplishment, and something I was (and am) very proud of, but it didn't necessarily feel that different from the marathon. Doing 50 miles seemed like something altogether different, and as the race approached, I started fearing that I wouldn't be able to do it. There were so many unknown variables and I was scared. Added to that, I hurt my calf muscle three weeks before the race on a training run, and even my last run, 2 miles on the Wednesday before the race, the calf was hurting and I walked part of it. If I couldn't do a comfortable 2 miles, how could I do 50? I really had no idea. When I talked about the race to people, I always tried to phrase it that I was going to try to run 5o miles, but I might not finish. I was afraid to get my hopes up.

To add to my worries, rain suddenly arrived the week before. Thursday night and Friday it poured, and, panicked, I sent an email out to the ultra list, asking about what to do in case of rain. I got lots of email from locals telling me that it wasn't going to rain and not to worry, as well as countless suggestions on what to do. One woman, Suzie Listers, made the incredibly generous offer of giving me a Montrail windbreaker she had but didn't use. Others also offered to let me borrow jackets. I'll never cease to be amazed by the generosity of runners.

Ed and I drove up Friday in a torrential downpour that made the freeway river-esque and frightening to drive, and had me doubting the promises of sun the next day. We did some last minute shopping (picked up a flashlight, a calf brace just in case, and some other goodies), got dinner (chipotle burritos) and watched A Race for the Soul to set the mood. I must have seen this movie 8 or 10 times, but its always good, and provided lots of inspiraton. Sarah came home about 9:30 and we went over the plans for tomorrow. Ed would go to Skyline Gate and Lone Oak, then go get Sarah, have lunch, and bring Sarah back to pace for me at mile 37. I was getting really excited (as well as nervous) at this point and didn't want to go to sleep, but my good friends convinced me otherwise. After a night of somewhat fitful sleep, it was soon 4am and time to get ready. I had a small bowl of yogurt with honey for breakfast, planning to eat more but forgetting to bring the pumpkin bread.

By 5 Ed and I were out the door. We needed change for parking, so stopped at Safeway, where we also got Ed some breakfast since I had forgotten to grab the pumpkin bread on the counter. I got a banana, but felt too sick to eat it. I decided to drive, since I knew the area better, and we soon arrived, right at 5:30, at Lake Chabot. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, with amazing stars blazing overhead. In the dark everyone looked the same, and I thought I saw a familiar face. I went up to him. "Mike!" I figured I might as well introduce myself. However, when I said I was Addy, he replied that he was Bsmiz! So I knew him after all :) Walking though the lot, I heard a familiar voice. It was Norbert and Harry! Soon after Mike went by telling me I had far too much energy for this early :) I was so nervous and excited I was talking far too much.
After checking in and making my first bathroom stop, I saw even more familiar faces. E-rod showed up, who I hadn't seen in ages, and we excitedly talked about being nervous for the race. Flora, Ernesto, and Laura were all there, as well as Michelle Barton, who I knew from my time in So Cal over the summer. I found Mike again and gave him a copy of the pacing chart I had made up (laminated and highlighted of course!) This was the most nervous I had I ever felt before a race and I was eager to just get started. I actually thought I was really going to throw up at one point, which was a whole new thing for me, but luckily held it together. I finally saw rick right before we were going to head down, and he gave me a few last minute words of advice. "Think of the first 19 miles as a nice easy training run. Take it slow, walk the hills, keep it relaxed. Then you're just doing a 50k, and you've done those before. But don't think of the 50k first!"

Keeping those words in mind, I said goodbye to Ed and headed down to the start. Suddenly, I was in a panic. I had lost Mike! With hundreds of runners all in the dark, I was freaking out. I called his name to no avail. Wandering around, now quietly, as race instructions were being given, I looked into the faces of runners. Finally in the dim light I saw Flora. We wished each other luck and I asked if she knew where Mike was. She pointed to the side and I went that way, finding him. Thank Goodness! With just a few seconds to start, I quickly retied my shoe, and then we headed off. Immediately I took note that my calf felt okay. Phew! The early morning light was beautiful as the fog settled over the lake, and we started off at a good pace.
Ed's photo of the lake in the morning, once it had gotten light. We saw it up from above, which was beautiful!

It felt like it was pushing a bit for me, and during some of the climbs I fell behind Mike and Laura (who was running with us) but once we reached the first aid station, Mike hung back to stay with me. I was just afraid of pushing too much too soon. We still had a long ways to go.

The sunrise was absolutely spectacular that morning, and I was so happy to be out there. Now that we had started, my stomach felt much better, so I made sure to eat some at the first aid station. We were doing great, about 10 minutes in front of the 11:30 finish time pace, my goal for the outbound section. I met so many runners throughout the whole race. Mike, of course, seems to know almost everyone, and introduced me to all his friends, letting them know it was my first race. I got to meet lots of the people who had responded to either my email about the Firetrails race reports, or to my one about the rain ("are you the rain girl?" was a common question of the day :). Aid station two went by and we were still doing a good pace, though it felt like faster than what I had imagined we'd be doing. "Mike knows what he's doing" I thought to myself, and just made sure to stick with him. Getting to Big Bear aid station (mile 10.5) was exciting because I knew after that we'd be at Skyline, where Ed would be waiting. Running through Redwood park was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of Santa Cruz. There was a bit of climbing in this section, though, and my legs were getting a little tired, which worried me. But, no use thinking about that now!
Getting refueled at Skyline, 15 miles in!

At skyline, I saw Heather, a woman that I spoke with after the Woodside 17k and who was super supportive about me doing an ultra. It was fun to see her here. I also saw Carol Cuminale, who is an amazing runner from Santa Cruz. Ed was such a welcome sight, though I didn't need any of the things I had given him. I told him I'd want to change into my purple tank top at lone oak, as it was warming up, and as quick as I could, we were out again. My stomach had started to act up a little, so I switched to plain water. I also broke out my second hand held, as I had heard the next section was a long one.
Ed enjoyed some gorgeous views of SF while waiting at the aid station

It was beautiful going through Huckleberry, with moss covered bay trees growing over the trail. The downhill was great and very enjoyable, but Eldrith, and amazing woman who were were running with commented "I love this section, going this way" I then started thinking about the fact that we'd have to retrace all our steps. That seemed overwhelming, so I decided to just worry about getting to the turn around before the cutoff, and then I'd worry about the second half later. After crossing a creek, we had some climbing to do, made somewhat challenging by the roots and slippery mud. Mike commented that we'd have to be careful on our way back, as this would be some challenging downhill. Through this section we started seeing the frontrunners from the Marathon, which had started at 9 at lone oak, which was fun. Not a whole while longer, we saw the front runners for our race! amazing.

Arriving at the Siblely was exciting because I realized that I had run our exact route before on a transports evening run. Of course, when I had done it then, I got exhausted after 2 miles out and turned back early. I obviously didn't have that option this time, so I hoped it would seem easier. It was starting to get a little warm, though we still had lots of shade for the first half. However, with that shade came...MUD!!!! thick, goopy, slippery mud that stuck to your shoes and tried to steal your shoes. It made for some slow going, but luckily was only about 3/4 of a mile. After we crossed the road, we started the switchback climbs uphill, which I remembered as being hard. They still were, but didn't go on for that long. And soon enough, we were at the steam trains! I had run most of this section too, both on my own, and at Mike's 50k. We started seeing lots more 50 milers on the way back which was super inspiring. I got to meet, in passing, Mark Tanaka, which was really cool, as well as Donald, and many others. All my friends were looking super strong and doing great, which was exciting. This section seemed like it was taking forever, I think because we were nearing the turn around and I knew we'd have to climb back up out of all of this in the not too distant future.
Coming into Lone Oak, finally, about 20 minutes before the cut-off

Finally, Lone Oak (mile 26) came into view! I had planned to change shoes here, but ended up deciding I was okay. It was here I realized that I should have given Ed more direction in terms of what I wanted. He didn't quite understand the time constraints in place, and had set everything up on a picnic table up the hill for me. Unfortunately, I did have time (or extra energy) to go up there. He was leisurely folding my shirt as I was was yelling for him to come over. I finally conveyed to him that I wanted him to come to me, and by that time, just grabbed my new shirt and then took off. I felt badly afterwards, but talking to him later learned he didn't sense my frustration. It's a learning experience for me here, and I have a more concrete idea now of what I need a crew person to do and how I can make it less confusing :)

Leaving lone oak, I fell behind mike by 20 ft or so, a distance I kept for most of the uphill sections. The uphill actually felt quicker than coming down, which was nice. It was hard, but I knew it would be the toughest section, so I was okay. I was still worried about the Sibley and Huckleberry sections but pushed those out of my mind for the time being. As we came down into the Steam Trains at mile 30, Mike turned to me and said, I think if you push you could break 12. I responded by essentially saying, I don't care! I'm perfectly happy being DFL. As long as I finish, I couldn't care less about my time. I honestly don't even want to break 12, because that'll be hard and I'm already tired. I don't know that I actually said all of that, but I was certaintly thinking it.

Mike was great because miles 26-37 I started getting tired and he kept me going. I had lots of mental conversations with myself and to Mike, like "Mike, this is called a hill! Why are you running? We aren't supposed to run up hills? I don't feel like running any more..." and towards myself, "could you honestly go back to your little first graders and tell them you just got tired? that achieving a goal isn't important?" and finally "at least you still don't feel as badly as you did that first mile of Diablo three weeks ago! That whole run you felt like crap and you still did a marathon. You have less than that mileage to do now and you feel better than you did then. You'll be fine". It was also good because Mike continued to tell people we passed that his was my first 50, to which they often responded "well you look great! Good ahead and pass us" to which I wanted to respond "I don't want to pass you! I'm tired!" But, I just smiled and pushed the pace. Mike knows what he's doing.

Drinking my Ensure and getting all set for the last 11 miles with the help of my amazing crew/boyfriend

Finally finally finally, we reached Skyline, at mile 37. I released Mike here and got my official pacer, my friend Sarah. I was feeling queasy again, so tried out this ginger drink made by the ginger people. Sometimes those ginger chews are hard to swallow, so this was a good alternative. I also had some cookies and some Ensure. It was so nice to see Ed and Sarah, and to know I was going to have new energy with me. I was dallying a little and a man (who I do know, but have forgotten his name) said, "Okay Addy, get out of here!"

Off we went. My stomach was still a little questionable, so I backed off the pace a bit, which was nice. I felt like I could really just do my pace now, instead of trying to keep with Mike (which, while being a really really good thing, in terms of keeping me going, was really tiring). I walked a little more, and started regaining some energy. Sarah also had her garmin on, which was great. She could tell me exactly how far we had gone since the last aid station, and how far it was to the next. She told me we were on a 12 hour pace right now and asked if her pacer duties meant she should push me to keep that or just let me do my thing. I explained that I didn't want to break 12, so just let me walk. We kept pretty steady through this section, and really enjoyed the redwoods.

[Now, I'll stop here for an interjection on my odd fluid intake in this race. I was warned by countless people to take in enough water, and as I generally don't do that, I was being super cautious. I felt like I was drinking enough, but didn't go the bathroom until Lone Oak, and not much there. Hmm... so I got better and tried to do 2 bottles between each aid station. With all the climbing that wasn't hard to do. However, after leaving the Steam Trains, I then had the odd change of suddenly having to go ALL THE TIME! I must have gone 6 or 7 times that second half. So suddenly I was overhydrated, but still thirsty and with a headache. I asked Rick about that later and he thinks the headache was from a lack of salt. I did do the potatoes in salt as well as succeed, but I guess I need to be better about that]

So, during this redwood section, I stopped for the bathroom. I ran with a nice man for a while, who I kept catching and then losing because of these frequent bathroom stops, who told me that unless something went wrong, we were going to finish, it was just a question of time. And, at our pace, we were looking at 12:15. Fabulous! I picked up the pace a little, as I was feeling good (and had had an espresso gu) feeling more motivated.

It was an odd sensation to be passing people, but passing we were. My legs were feeling much better than I thought they'd be feeling, and the hills weren't as bad as I was fearing. I did lots of running in spurts (to the big tree, to the shade, etc.). It was turning into a perfect evening. It was also fun to run with Sarah again, since we hadn't done that in a few months. I had her stand guard for me for my bathroom stops, and call out mileage. She informed me at Big Bear that we were actually right on track for the 12 hour finish, based on my pacing chart. Really? Hmm...

I kept catching and losing a man named Chuck as well, who I reintroduced myself to before I realized we had actually met around mile 8. That seemed like so long ago! He would get ahead at aid stations, because I took a bit longer, but then I'd catch up within a mile or so. He commented that we were impossible to lose! Finally, around 4 from the end, he said, "You can smell the barn now, can't you?" I could indeed. It had been a fun race, but I was ready to be done.

I was really running now, and soon we were to the lake. I caught up to a man who told me that we should be able to break 12 hours. We could see the dam, and from there, it wasn't much further. I tried to push, but the hills still slowed me to a walk. Sarah told me we'd still be on pace if I walked though, so I shouldn't tire myself out too much. I pushed though, and ran the smaller hills. I know I said I didn't want 12, but now it was only 3 miles away and very achievable. After we crossed the dam, it was a mere 1.5 miles away. I passed another 4 or 5 people in this last section, trying to pick it up more and more and cheering with each quarter mile achieved, marked out on the asphalt. Soon, someone said that it was just around the corner, and when I reached the cones to go left. I was getting really excited. Sarah told me she'd pull to the side when we got there. Before I knew it, I could see the finish. "Lets go!" I yelled, as I kicked it up to a sprint. I heard everyone cheering as I gave it everything I had, smiling my biggest smile and moving my legs as fast as I could. It felt like hundreds of people were cheering for me and I burst across the finish line absolutely on top of the world. Ann Trason congratulated me, saying, number 22, and I bet she's 22! I confirmed :)
My with my awesome, official pacer, Sarah

Everyone came over to congratulate me, and I got to congratulate all the super speedy people who had already finished (some over 3 hours previously!) I got my goodie bag (with the amazing jacket, wine glass, and shirt!) and then went to sit down, suddenly very tired. It had been a long, but amazing and wonderful and perfect day.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would have finished my first 50 miler in less than 12 hours, or have run so hard for the last 10.

None of this could have been at all possible without all my amazing friends and family. My family because they have been so supportive of this whole ultra running thing, despite being caring and concerned about this trail running sport. They couldn't be there but were definitely there in spirit and their support really means the world to me. I had so many great friends who helped make this a success as well. Mike Palmer, first, because he took me on my first long trail run on Mt Tam, introduced me to the trail running community in the East Bay, and kept me going for those first 37 miles. Sarah, because she's been a huge inspiration as well as amazing friend since we started running together in April (I think?). She let Ed and I stay at her place this weekend, was an amazing pacer, and has just been such a positive and wonderful force in my life since we've met. Ed, for being a fabulous crew, waking up at 4:30 in the morning to wait around and cater to me all day long, without any of the glory of running himself. He was just so amazing and wonderful this weekend, dealing with my frazzled nerves and constant requests, for which I'm hugely appreciative.

And finally, all the other amazing running friends I have that were there, Rick, E-Rod, Ernesto, Flora, Norbert, (and others that I'm forgetting!) as well as all the new ones that I made out there. All the encouragement from everyone out there made such a difference, and is one of the many reasons why events like these are so much fun. And, of course, a huge thank you to the volunteers and Ann and Carl, for running and putting on such a fabulous and wonderful event. I hope to be back for many years to come :)

I'm not sure what's next for me, but I can say with certainty that there will be lots more ultras in my future :D Thanks for anyone who read this whole thing! And thanks for the constant encouragement on here. All you guys kept me sane when I was freaking out about doing this, and have all taught me so much. Thanks for helping get me to the finish!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A fabulous race!

The full report will come later, but for now, just wanted to post that Firetrails went amazingly. I was ridiculously nervous beforehand, even thinking I might throw up before the race, and yet when it started, I felt like I was finally able to just breathe. Mike kept me pushing hard to mile 37, when my friend Sarah took over as my official pacer and we took it a little easier to get re-energized, and then I pushed and pushed, doing probably sub 10 minute miles at the end and sprinting into the finish for a wonderful time of...

11:47 :D

It was fun and amazing and wonderful and I can't wait to do another one (well, right now I'm too sore to think about any kind of real movement, but in a few weeks I can start dreaming again :) )

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thanks Everyone! I'm off :)

On part of the firetrails course during my back to back weekend with Sarah

Thank you so much to everyone who has been chiming in with advice and words of support over the last few days (weeks, months...). I'm sorry I haven't been individually responding to posts this week, life has just been too crazy. But I've read them all (and some two or three times), and really appreciate so much all the words that have been offered. Last night, with my classes and student teaching done for the week, I suddenly had the feeling of a weight being lifted and finally started getting truly happily excited about the race. Honestly, I've been so stressed with life the past few weeks, that my thoughts about Firetrails were more along the lines of anxiety, than excitement. Doing this whole running thing on top of my graduate program is harder than I had imagined. But, I think really important.

Today, just being able to focus on the race, I'm just getting really excited about this adventure. One really nice thing is that I'm actually getting all ready early since I need to be packed before I drive up, so I won't have as many things to do tonight. True, I'm still incredibly nervous and really don't know what will happen out there, but I know I'm in good hands (I just learned from the new ultrarunning magazine that Mike Palmer is the first person to do 10 Angeles Crests and 10 WS100s. How's that for a running partner?) There will be a ton of familiar faces out there (and new ones to meet! If I haven't met you yet, and you're going to be there, I'll be #22 :D Come say 'hi'!). Already, I've been reminded numerous times of the kindness of runners, from my friends willing to run with me, to all the kind words, and, most recently, a woman from the Ultra List who has offered to give me a montrail team jacket that she doesn't use, in response to an email I sent out wondering if I should go buy a windbreaker. Really you just can't find a nicer group.

No matter what happens (as I told my first graders yesterday, I'm just going to try my best, which is the most important thing) I'm so happy to be attempting this. It's scary to start something when I don't know all the variables and outcomes, but scary in a good way. I don't think this can help but be an amazing and positive experience with so many great things to look forward to.

I'm off in about half an hour to make the drive up to berkeley with Ed. I'll need to do some last minute errands to pick up a few things, and plan to watch A Race for the Soul to get some last minute insipration. I'm going to print out all the helpful comments people have sent me about the course to study, as well as bring along my Ultrarunning Magazine (side note- look for the Psychedelic Climectic Race Report :) I'm officially a published writer!) and enjoy a hopefully relaxing evening with Sarah and Ed before everything begins.

Thank you again everyone! I'm off :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weekend Forcast for Saturday

68 high and partly cloudy :)

Lets hope it stays that way! Well, getting rid of the clouds would be okay. But the temperature is perfect!

Going out to do my last run, a nice and easy 2 miler :D

There's still so much to do before leaving, and no time (especially since the next few nights I'm aiming for an early bedtime). Gotta do maps of the area, laminate my pacing chart, and get everything together.

I could really use people's opinions on my hydration system. Now, I've done all my training with my camelback, which is great. I love it :). However, the furthest aid station is only 4.5 miles. So, really, I only need 1-2 handhelds, and the backpack would take longer to fill. However, I like the ability the backpack has of carrying things, that the handhelds wouldn't have. But, the backpack is also heavy. So, my two ideas are,

1) Go with the hydration pack, as is


2) wear the pack without the water, so that I can use it for storage (only weighs 1.5 lbs empty), carry one handheld, and stick another in the pack for longer aid station periods

Just handhelds doesn't work because I wouldn't have a place for gus and such! I know there will be lots of food out, but I want to make sure I have fuel that works for me :)

Okay, vote in!

Thanks guys :D

2 days and a handful of hours away from the race!

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Beauty of Big Basin

Our Beautiful Campsite

In an attempt to distract ourselves from the stresses of life (stress about the race next weekend included), Ed and I decided to go camping in Big Basin, which was absolutely gorgeous :). It was so wonderful to be out there all night enjoying the beautiful (but cold) night air, and to see all those stars through the redwood trees. I had fun using my headlamp on a nighttime hike on a nice trail by camp (though we didn't go too far), and did a great hike/run up to Buzzard's roost, where we got amazing views of the pacific ocean and the santa cruz mountains. I had lots of fun playing around with the new features on my camera, too (which is why some of the photos are sort of black and white). We spent less than 24 hours total out there in the woods, but they were hours well spent. For next time, definitely an air mattress would be a plus (that ground was cold and hard!) as well as making sure our wood is covered so that we can start a fire in the morning :) Otherwise it was a great experience!

Good food and Good wine :)

Ed sports my head lamp as he attempts to light a fire (that was very sucessful!)
Our itty bitty (apparently standard 2 person sized) tent

Sunlight peaking through the redwoods. Our view while we had breakfast

We enjoyed watching the sun rise into the sky

Reading by the fire

View from our hike/run (hiked up, picnicked, and then ran down) of the Santa Cruz Mountains

On Buzzard's Roost

A successful overnight adventure in the forest!

I kept thinking all day Saturday that I'd be running the race right then. Crazy thought! Only 4 full days (plus the rest of today) between now and the race. I'm definitely getting the butterflies in my stomach, but hopefully the busyness of this week will be distracting. I've gotten my student teaching days switched so that I'll be off friday. Ed and I will be driving up, and staying with my amazing friend and pacer Sarah for the weekend. And then the excitement will begin :)

[On a side note, Ed did his first double digit run with me on thursday- 10 miles! He did awesome with the 5.5 Saturday and the 5 Sunday too. It's been so nice having someone to do my training with lately, and I have no doubts that he's capable of getting up to nice and long distances at some point]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

DC50, much improved with wonderful friends

As this race is now 9 (yep, single digits now!) days away, I've been a roller coaster of emotions regarding how I'm feeling about it. Mostly stressed (lots of nightmares in general as well as race specific ones) but feeling better now that I've been reassurred of the presence of awesome friends who are going to make this a hopefully much more sucessful journey.

My friend Mike Palmer, who took me on my first Mt Tam run, my first enjoyable run through the berkeley hills (going beyond Strawberry Canyon), and who put on the Psychedelic Climacteric 50k in August, has promised to run with me for the whole race! He wants me to laminate a cut-off time sheet for the aid stations so that he makes sure I don't get timed out :). This was sort of in exchange for me agreeing to NOT take the early start, so I'm back to having just 13 hours to complete the course! Gulp... Mike is a seriously amazing runner, having just completed his 10th (yes, 10th) Angeles Crest a few weeks ago. He's also done countless other ultras (including lots of other 100s) and so is the perfect buddy for my first 50. I've always really enjoyed running with him, and have really learned so much from him since we met back in March, I think? This will also be good practice, as he's told me that I will get to pace him at Western States next year!!! (how cool is that? I'm already looking forward to it....the lottery better let him in :) ).

In addition, my great running friend Sarah (who I did a back to back run with a few month ago and who just completed the Trans-rockies run) is going to pace me officially the last 13 miles. She's awesome at pushing me, and I'm sure it'll be appreciated to be with someone who has fresh legs when I'm likely going to be feeling less than fresh.

A last addition is that I'm going to have a crew of sorts after all as my boyfriend (the mystery flower man now has a title :) ) is going to come to the race and has agreed to crew (though I don't know that he is actually clear on what I'll want him to do, nor for that matter am I necessarily, but having him there will be so nice!).

Plus, with all the familiar faces of everyone else I know running there, it should be more like a big social event than a crazy frightening scary run, right?

I've been doing lots of pace calculations to figure out what kind of times I should be shooting for, as well as soliciting extra advice from the ultra list, which I'll be compiling on here soon. Overall though, knowing I'm going to have such awesome support makes such a world of difference. Not having my family there was a little dissapointing at first, but knowing now that I'll have my 'running family' with me reassures me that this will be an amazing experience.