Saturday, January 30, 2010

Revisiting an Old Trail

Ed and I were looking for a good trail to do 6 or so miles on, that would have held up decently after all the rain we're continuing to have. I had the fun idea of going back to the trail that we ran on for our first date in Nisene Marks State Park, south of Santa Cruz. It would only be about 40 minutes away, and full of those rain resistant redwoods. I'm sure I've shared this story before, but Ed and my first date was a 7 mile, somewhat challenging trail run. We met when I had just come home from a 20 mile trail run (and he was moving into my apartment building, into the apartment just below mine), so Ed knew me from the first moment of our meeting as a runner. It's great because when he sees me with my hair in a ponytail all sweaty, it reminds him of the first time we met :). Anyways, since he knew I was a runner from my outfit, he asked me if we could go for a run. I wanted to impress him (and was at the tail end of my 50 miler training) so I suggested this 7 mile loop. Ed did admirably well and it was a very meaningful and enjoyable 1st date, where we got to talk a lot and get to know one another.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years, and we were looking forward to retracing our steps. Of course, the problem was that we hadn't done that loop in about 2 years, and didn't exactly remember it. We had also never run it in winter, so things looked a bit different. We had to park in a different spot because part of the fireroad was closed to cars. This threw us off a bit. We started off going up the West Ridge Trail, which I knew best from my worst 20 mile run ever, where I almost maced a squirrel, I was so freaked out about running into a mountain lion.

With company it was better, but still steep and challenging uphill. It seemed to just keep going and going, I tried to run when I could, but I was just feeling tired. I had been unusually tired all week, perhaps from all the running last weekend. It was gorgeous though, and I was soon warmed up. I took off the long sleeved and felt great wearing a tank top!

After ages, we finally reached what we thought was the turn off, and I was wishing we had brought the map. We got a bit of downhill which was fun, but introduced a new element - slippery mud! I shrieked a few times as my feet came close to slipping out from under me. When we reached another sign we got a bit confused, as it didn't have the names of any of the trails that we thought we were going to see. We took a guess and kept going, on some beautiful singletrack. Parts of it had the narrow trail just cut into the side of the hill, with a drop off of hundreds of feet off to the side.

What was really special was that we could see the tops of the redwoods that started hundreds of feet down in the bottom of the gorge. It was such a unique experience, to be running in the "Canopy" of a redwood forest :). There were some very narrow sections, made a bit perilous by the mud, but we took them slowly. There was a very neat section with an old plank of redwood that crossed over a section - just very beautiful.

We kept having moments during this whole section where it felt familiar, but we weren't certain we had done it on that run together. When we reached the redwood switchback section that I distinctly remembered, it was much, much steeper than I had recalled. At the bottom of it, we faced a sizable stream crossing. With Ed's help, I made it across dry, but on the other side was a trail posting that made us really feel that we had done something wrong. At this point we were pretty positive we had made a mistake, but we weren't sure what it was.

In any event, the sign reassured us that we were heading back to the main fire road of the park, so at least we were heading back to our car, eventually. For the next mile or so, the trail winded next to the creek, and was just gorgeous. However, with being so close to the creek, it was only a matter of time before we had to cross over again. This time, it was much wider, and I would have had to use 3 or 4 slippery stepping stones to make it. While Ed had no trouble, I was doubtful of my ability to keep from slipping. I had images of twisting my ankle as I stumbled fully into the full creek. Since I figured I'd just wet anyways, I decided to run through.

Wow! That water was cold! It felt nice, though, to just go through. It's just water, after all. And, in about 4 minutes or so, my feet warmed up and I was fine. A bit later, we got to see a beautiful waterfall that actually ran over the trail. It was small, but just magical. Then, we got to run over these platforms, which I think were there to keep the trail from slipping down the hillside. Next up, was a bridge over yet another stream. At around this point, Ed commented that this was definitely up there as the most beautiful run he had ever been on.

Finally, we got to a somewhat flat section that I did remember from our first date run, and then, we were back to the fire road. We still had about a mile to get to the car and I was hurting. Still, it reminded me of all the times I ran down that fireroad at the end of a long run, so I was enjoying it, even through the pain.

Once we got to our original trail head, I knew we were almost finished. We made our last bridge crossing, and then we were at the car. My legs were in quite a bit of pain, but I felt accomplished. We were sure we had gone more than 7, but we'd had to wait until we got home to find out by how much.

We made a quick stop for lunch, since we were not going to be able to make it home for food, and then finally got back home.

Actual mileage total? 9.3 :). A hard 9.3.

So much for taking it easy....

A week from today I'll be tackling my first "big" race, a 17k (10.6) in Woodside :D.

I am so ready!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Trail Runner Once Again

This week I did a lot to be proud of, running wise. As you guys know, I did my 8.55 miler last weekend, which was awesome. Then, I ended up doing 6.5 on Monday, even though I only planned on 5. I even did 2 midweek runs despite the torrential rain California has been experiencing. Ironically, though I suited up for rain both times, somehow my runs seemed to always coincide with breaks in the weather. I was actually a little disappointed, since I love running in the rain, but it was nice to stay dryish.

Since I'd been feeling pretty strong on all these runs, I buckled down and finally registered for Woodside's 17k. That 10.6 miles!! Holy Cow....double digits. I still felt a little uneasy about committing to such a "long" distance, but I figured I could do it, with plenty of walking :). Ed will be doing the 35k, and I'm excited about getting closer to him, distance wise, in these races.

This race is a really special one for me. It marks my first trail experience back in 2007. Up until that point I had been running entirely on roads, and seeking out the flatest of routes on those. The marathons I had done were completely flat (which I picked on purpose for partially that reason), and I saw no reason to make running even harder by doing those dreaded uphills. However, one day I stumbled upon PCTR's website and was reassured by their promises of fun and being okay with hikers. So, I signed up for the 17k, freaked out about hills and mountain lions, but excited about trying something completely new.

I still distinctly remember standing in the crowd of runners at the start, and those first few minutes of running when we reached a single track. My though was, "this is so beautiful, it's like Disneyland!". Sort of an odd comparison, but I think that I was just so amazed that such a beautiful place could exist - it was like a fantasy land :). The uphills were hard, but I loved the aid station, and at that point hooked up with 2 other women who I stayed with for the rest of the race. It was so much fun meeting new people and before I knew it, the race was over. Afterwards, I stayed at the finish for probably an hour, chatting with a woman who told me about the unreal world of "ultramarathons" where people ran distances like 50ks. She made it seem so fun and exciting and really sold me on my own ability to do such a thing. I left the race excited and amazed by the trails and the community, and ready to seek out trail runs and races. From there, I got involved in running groups, races, and finally, ultras.

So, this race obviously had a big impact on me :).

This very long winded reminiscing leads up to my run today. Ed decided it would be fun to head up to Huddart Park and run the trails up there. I really wanted to go at least 9 miles on trails before Woodside, to make sure I could handle going that distance, and this seemed like a good choice. Not only would it be similar trails and terrain to the race, but redwood forests are great places to run after long rains because the trails seem to drain well and don't get that super sticky, hard to run in, mud. Ed also knows this park really well, since he's run here many times before.

We started in a residential area Ed had discovered, about a 5 minute walk from the trail. From there, we had a nice downhill, and in no time at all, we were on a familiar trail. I had actually hiked on it this past summer with my colleagues from work. Apparently, it's also part of the Woodside race. Ed had us just follow the race course along and up a fire-road for maybe another 1/2 mile, until we reached the "Chaparral" trail, a beautiful single track. It was made even more spectacular by the sunlight that was finally streaming down on the mountain and the mist still handing in the redwoods in front of us. At least 30 times throughout the run, I kept exclaiming how beautiful it was. The whole forest was incredibly green - that bright new green that comes after rain. It was switchbacks heading uphill once we got the the Spring Trail, and it would stay that way for the next few miles.

Even though it was uphill, I surprised myself by actually running a pretty good amount of it! It was such a mild uphill that I felt lazy not running. Our original plan included a loop that we had read about online, but as we were getting closer to 4.5 miles and hadn't started the "loop" part of this, I voted that we turn it into an out and back. I was ready to start enjoying the downhills that I had earned over the last hour.

We kept going until we hit 4.42 miles, where a steep decent was beginning. Neither of us was up for heading down that close to a turn around, so we turned a bit early and figure we'd make up that mileage somewhere else.

Heading down was such a totally different experience from the way out. We were "flying" (at a 10ish minute mile pace) down the switchbacks and I was feeling amazing. I felt so fit and strong and happy, and I was so grateful to be outside. The miles seemed to be going by quickly, and before we knew it, we were less than 2 miles from the end.

Ed, however, thought it would be more fun to head down the Spring trail all the way instead of retracing our steps the way we had came, since it seemed like the trail would meet up with our route further down. It seemed like a promising idea, though I was a bit worried that we'd end up short on mileage. We reached the very strong creek, crossed over, and found ourselves having to make a choice of which way to go. Not knowing these trails, but recognizing the name, "Dean's Trail," I thought that that was the way to go, and asked Ed. Apparently he didn't really look at the sign himself, but agreed with me. Suddenly, we were heading uphill :(.

Up and up we went, and I wasn't particularly happy with Ed about his brilliant "shortcut". As we continued to climb, it really started to feel that we were going the wrong way. At a trail junction, I finally took out the map and Ed confirmed that we were supposed to take the other way. Oops.

Luckily, as I told Ed, it was far too beautiful out to be worried about a misdirection. Especially since now we had a lovely quarter mile downhill to enjoy. Once we reached the creek again, Ed actually looked at the sign, then at me, and said, "Sorry Honey!" Ends up that it was only .1 miles the other way to meet up with our trail. We started up again, the right way this time, and in just a few minutes, we were back on the fireroad that we were on much earlier.

By the time we crossed over the creek and onto our last trail, we were 5 hundredths of a mile short of 9 miles. I kept up the running until we hit 9, but then gratefully hiked up the rest of the trail. Ed offered to go ahead and get the car so that I could skip the final section on the road, but I was doing okay and didn't want to give up. I was happy to take the extra mileage.

As we exited the forest and re-entered the residential area, I knew we were almost back. On the downhill we started running again, and, finally we were back.

The garmin died right after we hit 9, but we probably completed 9.5 in all. Wow!

I felt so wonderful out there, and I feel very confident about tackling Woodside in 2 weeks, on my 3rd anniversary of my first trail experience. Now, I feel very tired, sleepy, and happy :). What a wonderful way to spend a sunny Saturday!

Monday, January 18, 2010


As promised, I really picked it up this week with running. It helped to have the Monday holiday and to be well rested after a low mileage week.

The beginning of my week was somewhat low mileage, with 3 on Monday and 4 on Tuesday. I was proud of myself, though, for running on Friday, which I usually take off. Just a short 3 miles, but it felt great! I treated myself to Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner (which, with lots of veggies and brown rice, ended up being a surprisingly healthy meal).

Saturday was my big run. Previously, my last long 'run' was the 8.2 over a month ago on trails, that featured a lot of walking. I had been wanting to try 8 on roads with continuous running but kept running into excuses. With Ed gone for a short conference, I had an empty day and motivation to give my 'long' run a try. I did a great job procrastinating, cleaning the house, reading, napping and eating my way to 2pm. Finally, there was nothing else to do but get out and run.

I had a fully charged ipod and had plotted out an 8 mile out and back route, and was ready to go with my watch timer. I was feeling pretty strong for most of it, and even overshot my turn around by about a quarter mile, because I didn't believe that I could have already reached it :). The second half was definitely harder, and by the time I reached an underpass that was about 2 miles away I was really starting to feel it. I pushed through, though, and finally, I finished.

The last section, as I was running through the parking lot of my apartment complex, I explicitly though, "wow....I can't imagine doing a marathon right now!". It's interesting how hard 8ish miles can feel so hard, when once upon a time I did 50. But, I am so proud of that 8.55 miles I ran :).

Speaking of feeling proud, I am now officially 19 lbs down, over 10% of my starting weight :) (And, you really don't need to do the math to figure out that first #, which is less than 10%, I promise :) ). Even though I was going to wait until 20 lbs to post some progress pictures, I figure one pound won't look any different, and I'm feeling like celebrating now. Pictures are nice because I can really see my progress. So far, besides the people who love me and have to compliment me on my efforts, I've only had 2 other people comment on it, but I just have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing this for me and because I want to feel healthy :). I am happy to be looking healthier and more like my 'old' self.

edited to add: I guess people are noticing :D. I was talking to a coworker today about what I did over the weekend and mentioned my run. He replied by telling me that I've been looking really great lately - fit and healthy! *smile*

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Working Hard

I've been reflecting since I started back up teaching how much running has really become more integrated into my life lately. I used to tell my students about every single run since I was so excited about it, but now that's settled down. My kids still sometimes see me going to or from a run and ask me about it, which is fun. Today, one of my girls asked me why I ran.

We all get this question at some point, but it was interesting getting it from a student. I tried to just explain that I did it because it was fun and I liked to be healthy. Then she asked me if my legs hurt :).

Even though running is feeling integrated, last week was a hard one for being active. I found myself really struggling with getting back into the swing of things because I was so tired, and I ended up skipping my Tuesday run. Another wrench thrown into things was that I unexpectedly ended up getting 3 shots at the doctor's on Friday: flu, Tetanus, and pneumonia. Ugh! Tetanus was supposed to hurt the most so they put it on my right side (since I'm left handed). Of course, for me, the Tetanus was fine! The other two shots, on the other hand, killed, and I woke up the next day sore from my chest to my fingers on my left side. I also just didn't feel good.

Despite that, Ed and I had planned a run, and gosh darn it, we were going. However, not far into it, I started to feel sucky. Originally I was hoping to do something long, but I quickly told Ed that that wasn't going to happen. I decided that I could make 15 minutes, so that's what I did. After we hit the turn around sat on a bench and I laid down. I'm pretty sure those shots (my guess was the flu) left me feeling sub par. the jostling of the running was also really hurting my sore arm.

After about 10 minutes of resting, we started walking back. We ran a few times, but I really wasn't feeling it. After what felt like a painfully long time, we finally made it back to the car. I got home, and crawled into bed :).

I took Sunday off, which meant that I only ran 9 miles last week :(. Really not great, but I'm committed to having a better week this week.

It started out great with my Weight Watchers meeting, where I lost 1.2 lbs. Unfortunately, with the holidays, I gained 2 lbs, so I'm still working on combating that. The good news is I'm .2 lbs from my lowest pre-holiday weight. With my hard work this week, I'm hopeful to be rid of the "cookie" lbs and moving forward towards my goal. I'm only about 8 lbs from the weight that (I think) I was at at Dick Collins back in 2007 and at my first marathon in 2006.

I love feeling healthy :)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Reflecting Back

As it seems most bloggers (and people in general) are doing at this time of year, I too am finding myself reflecting back on the past 52 weeks of life. My original intent was to do a look back in pictures, but I found as I was attempting to put that together, I realized that the effort was not going to be worthy of the cause. I'd rather just reflect through my words and thoughts, since the pictures wait on past blog posts to retell those stories.

Because I am a teacher, I have the somewhat unique privilege of getting to do this kind of reflection bi-annually - once at this time of year and once in June, as I finish my teaching year. So, 2009, to me, exists in 2 parts.

The first part of 2009, up through June, was mostly hectic, from my recollection. It was during this time that I had job woes and spent much time stressing about finding a solution. I also was struggling with many of the parents of my students during that time, as I was still learning about how to balance those relationships. However, it was great as well - I was finally becoming more comfortable with teaching and not needing to work 12+ hours every day. I was having more time to spend with Ed since I wasn't staying in the classroom as late, which was heavenly. And, in general I think I survived my first year of teaching remarkably well. In my non-work life, life was wonderful. We were gearing up for 2 weddings - my sister Ashley's and my friend Christine's, which both happened in early summer (June and May respectively). Right before the first of these events, I got to enter into wedding excitement of my own, as Ed proposed on Mt. Tam.

The second part of 2009 has little negativity to mar the wonderfulness of these months. Ed and I have spent some time (but not too much) working on planning a small, quite, and meaningful wedding. I ended up getting a wonderful new job at a school I love with students who constantly amaze me. I feel so much more confident (and effective) as an educator and am excited about my job every day. As icing on the proverbial cake, I also finally started running again this fall, once I finally decided to make health a priority. I've lost almost 18 lbs and went a top distance of 8.2 miles, with plans for a 10.9 mile race at Big Sur this spring. After so many false starts, I had finally be able to follow through on my goals and I know that I will keep this up and feel athletic, energetic, and happy into this next year.

This coming year has so much goodness promised to me. I get to spend 6 more months with my wonderful pupils at my great school. Then I get to marry the man that I love in the place that I love most. From there, I get to spend two weeks in Europe, playing a mixture of tourist and houseguest as Ed and I explore Italy and Germany.

The tricky thing with being a teacher (or at least with being a young teacher), is I don't know what my entire year will bring. August onward spreads out before me like a blank canvas, with a number of potential images able to be painted upon it. Hopefully it will show me continuing to teach at my current school or, barring that, in my current district. If that is not what my future holds, that at least it should show me teaching somewhat. This uncertainty is against my planning nature, but if last year is any indication, things will work out wonderfully.

No matter what this year brings, there are some elements that I am confident will be threaded throughout. There will, of course, be Ed, as my fiance and as my husband (yay!!). There will be my family, spread throughout California but always close in my heart. There will be running and the outdoors which, now that I have a grip on it, I will not let go again. And there will be good food. The past few months have shown me the wonderfulness of cooking good healthy food, and I am excited to have a whole new year to expand in this pursuit.

So, thank you for sharing in these years with me. Sometimes I feel badly because I used to have entries full of day long, exciting excursions and races, full of amazing places and stories. The past few years have had, predictably, a dearth of excitement. However, I've started on my road to recovery. And I hope that I can start having more entries soon, and entries with real stories to tell. Thanks for sticking with me through this all - and know that this next year is going to be a good one.