Thursday, October 8, 2009

Happy (birthday) run

In honor of Therese's birthday, we ran wearing party hats and playing kazoos today. I think passers-by liked it. We got a lot of smiles.

It was also a nice easy, 3-mile day -- the first run for some of us since the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. The race is probably one of the most boring courses in America (San Jose really lacks in interesting architecture or other sights) but flat and fast.

All that pavement really pounds your body after awhile. Still, most of us made it through with good times. I logged a personal best for the distance: 1:51:24. Two other runners weren't as lucky. A man and woman, both in their mid-30s, collapsed on the course and died later at a hospital. Very sad, and a good reminder to enjoy each day.

Happy running, and happy birthday Therese.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A goal for next year

Last year the goal was to run a 50K, which Rich and I did.

This year it was to finish a triathlon, specifically the Olympic-distance Santa Cruz Triathlon. Check. (And more on Sunday's race later...)

So next year?

How about a 50-mile trail race? An old running buddy (we used to play Spoons together at running camp in high school, then re-met in college, then again on Facebook) is thinking of doing the North Face Endurance Challenge in Bellingham, Wash., come June. I've invited myself along. She hasn't said no, so maybe it's a go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Race photos

So in case you're curious what last weekend's blazing hot trail half-marathon looked like, here are the photos. Check out a few of the shots to see how tinder-dry it was out there, the looks of pain and fatigue on people's faces, the ever-present (and mostly empty) water bottles .... it was brutal. The race director said we had record-high temps that day.

Somehow, all 375 people who started the three races (half marathon, 10K and 5K) finished. How cool is that?!?!?

Monday, August 31, 2009

"Fun" is a fourth-place finish

So it's like this: I kind of kick ass. Oh, and I'm tough.

Saturday was my freebie entry to a Brazen Racing trail run in Briones Regional Park, a hilly, sun-baked open space somewhere outside of Walnut Creek and Orinda in Contra Costa County. The plan was to have fun, not race.

Fun, in this case, is relative. Most would not consider running up and down rocky slopes under the blazing sun (it had to be 80 degrees at 8 a.m., and only got hotter) for nearly three hours fun. But once I got past the idea of clocking a fast time -- more than 2,800 feet of elevation gain over 13-plus miles knocked out that goal pretty fast -- I was able to relax and enjoy the experience.

Without mile paces to concern myself with (the first mile was 9:19, but then the hills started and I gave up watching the clock), I noticed a black butterfly and a grasshopper-like critter with red wings. I talked to the grazing cows and thanked the aid station volunteers who forced a water bottle into my hands at mile 6 and wrung out big sponges of ice water over my head at miles 9 and 12. Sometimes I sang aloud (sorry to anyone who overheard me), greeted hikers and encouraged other runners, mostly as I passed by their pained, sweat-drenched faces. I even stopped to use an outhouse with about 1.5 miles left.

And for this race, I carried a map because it was a Brazen Racing event where I got lost (and exceedingly frustrated) earlier this year. It was a "just in case" move, and luckily, something I never needed. However, I did glance down sometimes to see when the next aid station would appear on the horizon. The blue pop-up tents were a welcome relief from the heat. (It was so hot, I downed two 16-ounce water bottles and about 10 Dixie cups of liquid during the race.)

When the finish finally snuck up on me I was walking up three mild switchbacks (walking the hills was the only way to survive this course). Then bam! The finish line was 100 feet away. After all of the hills and heat, I actually felt like I could grind out a few more miles at that point. The extreme conditions had given way to a rolling-single track, mostly shaded trail. But instead, an announcer read my name and someone handed me a shiny medal.

Really, I was glad to be done. My time was somewhere around 2:40, that is 2 hours and 40 minutes, much slower than I'd predicted and a far cry from my personal best of 1:54. But I didn't care. It was for fun. So I picked up my sweet shirt and the pretty-rockin' goody bag (a reusable grocery bag from BareNaked granola with lots of neat swag in it), spent a few minutes sitting in the shade, then headed out with Kendall and Callie the dog to get burgers and cokes at the In and Out in Oakland.

Only today did I look up my race results.

Sure, my mile pace was nothing to write home about (12:14 a mile), but I was 24th of 84 half marathon finishers (35 of whom were women). That put me third of seven women in my age group and ... drum roll please ... the fourth woman overall!

And I had fun.

So I'm kind of a bad ass, at least when it comes to trail running in harsh conditions. Now, if you try to break into my house, I might scream bloody murder and cower in the corner, but that's a whole 'nother story.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just for fun

I'm running a "race" in the morning. The quote marks mean I intend to just have fun and not get competitive. I'll rock out to some tunes on my iPod, check out new trails in a park I've never been to before and just have a good time.

I hope.

Because usually I race.

Case and point: Two weekends ago I found myself kicking it up a notch during the last half of the Race Through the Redwoods 10K. This, even though I'd spent most of the past 96 hours choking down smoke on a fire line while covering the 7,800-acre Lockheed Fire. Even though I'd netted an average of five hours sleep a night since the fire started. Even though we ran six miles before the race to see how many bridges we could find (and cross) in and around Henry Cowell State Park.

So I sprinted to the finish. My time wasn't blazing fast (57 something) but given the hours and days leading up to it -- and the 1/2-mile hill climb at mile 3 that most people walk (I didn't!) -- the showing wasn't too bad. I was 6th of 20-some women in my age division.

But getting back to tomorrow.... I swear I intend to just have a good time at the Bear Creek Trail Half Marathon. This is my free race "I complained" race entry so really it's a glorified weekend long run... with a T-shirt and a medal.

The big goal is not miss a turn and actually run 13.1 miles. Also crossing my fingers for no food poisoning or bee stings (other recent race ailments). We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A nice thing .... and I feel like a brat

So awhile back I wrote a little something here blasting the Nitro Trail Half Marathon, which I ran with Sarah in May, because I got lost on the poorly marked course, missed two miles and lost out on a personal-best. The rant (which wasn't even that severe) was really meant for the likes of Mom and a few friends, but through the magic of the Interweb, the race director (Sam) found it.

He e-mailed me this week to apologize.

"I'm really sorry that happened to you and I'm really sorry that you thought I had no compassion for your getting lost -- I actually felt horrible that anyone got off course. Things definitely got a bit disorganized and confusing, especially for the faster runners like you. It won't ever be that way again. I hope you at least liked the shirt and had some fun running there."

And then offered me a free race entry into one of his other events. Brazen Racing puts on something like four races a year, all in the East Bay not far from where Sarah lives in Oakland.

"I can assure you that all of those races will be much easier to follow."

I feel a little embarrassed for bad-mouthing Sam's race, but I'm really impressed by the way he responded. So I'll probably take him up on the offer and try another course, maybe even rope Sarah into running with me -- or in front of me, as the case may be.

And Sam's right about one thing. I wear the shirt all the time.

Tough run

So Felix was right. Don't tell him I said so, but he was right when he said the Jungle Run in Los Gatos would be hard.

This was the race the Tuesday morning crew had trained for. Intervals at 6:30 a.m. Tempo miles in the middle of our long runs. Tapering. We were going to run fast -- 8-minute mile pace was the goal, which would lead to a 1:45 finish and a huge personal best.

But I got food poisoning. I can't point fingers at where it came from, I just know that I woke up nauseous around 2 a.m., then spent the next hour trying to keep it together before giving in and giving it up to the toilet. This was really frustrating -- not just due to the 7 a.m. race -- but because I just don't get sick. I brushed my teeth with tap water for two weeks in Guatemala and was fine. I eat warm yogurt without so much as a burp. But something finally got me.

I considered skipping the race, but the Web site had promised cool finishers medals and I was too proud to admit defeat from the bathroom floor (and also too hard-headed to tell my running pals about my predicament). So I went.

The race went well for the first half-mile. I don't be Debbie Downer here, but the rest of it was fairly terrible. I think a bee stung my thigh before mile 1 (I still have a huge welt). Then we hit the main road, where the sun already beat down and temperatures felt like they were 100 degrees. Realistically, it was probably verging on 80, and not even 8 a.m. yet.

I lost the crew (all of whom ran amazing times!) between miles 4 and 5. From there, most of the run was spent convincing myself that dropping out now would be futile, embarrassing and, ultimately, more frustrating that plowing on ahead. With about four miles to go, race bandits Blair and Felix found me. They had sport beans and stories. Blair even carried my waterbottle, and having the distraction of company really carried me through those last few hot, mildly hilly miles.

My final time, though no where near the goal pace, wasn't anything to scoff at: 1:54:37 is still a personal best.

What was even better was Scotty and John both getting personal bests and Lynn taking second place in her age group. Good job!!


I have new fancy new shoes.

They're from a local Santa Cruz company called Somnio. The gimmick is the shoes are custom-made for your feet -- my left shoe has different support in it than the right -- which can be really helpful, especially for injury-plagued runners.

I wrote a story about the shoes. (That photo looking up my skirt even made the newspaper... and the thing that looks like a gash on my shin is actually a laser. I'm not sure why the coloring is all screwy.) The article explains a lot more, and the company's Web site has even more information and sells cool T-shirts with the company logo "for the long run" which I love.

The new shoes have only been out twice, for a 12-minute easy pre-race run Saturday morning and then five miles before work today. We'll see. They feel good, but most new shoes feel good. The verdict is still out on whether these are magic slippers, but the company name means "dream" in Latin, so perhaps that's a good omen!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Toiling through the taper

I'll come right out with it: tapering makes me crazy.

(Yes, this is the place to make the comment that I'm already crazy. Now, moving on...)

I'm limited to 12 miles this week. That's the rule. We're tapering for the Jungle Run half marathon on Sunday. So from Monday to Saturday, 12 miles. That's it. Any mile beyond that costs me $1 at the post-race breakfast.

So I'm crazy -- I stayed up past 1 a.m. a couple nights ago dicing strawberries to freeze, slicing veggies and cleaning out the fridge -- but feel lazy. Also, I have a small amount of guilt after just polishing off a discus-sized toffee cookie.

I understand that tapering will help me run better come Sunday morning, and that this is what we've been gunning for. So I'm sure I'll appreciate it then. But right now I'm trying to figure out what to do with my Saturday? The lack of a long trail run or scenic bike ride will be devastating. Also, I don't have cable to distract myself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

This is cool!

Brooks is making a mostly-recycled marathon racing flat, and it looks super snazy!

The NY Times wrote about it. Even though the shoe won't be released until February, the company is already promoting it. I couldn't find anything on how much the shoes will cost ...

Thursday, July 9, 2009


It's running of the bulls week in Spain!

The full force of the festivities won't hit until the weekend, when something like 25,000 people will pack the streets of Pamplona to party all night and watch the bull run in the morning, but already the scene there is thrilling -- five people were hurt during Thursday morning's record-worthy run. The race through the city's narrow, windy, cobblestone streets was 30-60 seconds faster than normal, according to reports.

Seven years ago, I was in Pamplona for the festival. We were studying in Gijon, about six hours southwest (by bus) and decided to skip class to see the event made famous by Hemmingway's "The Sun Also Rises."

I fancied myself a good candidate to run, but was strongly encouraged by locals that this was not a good plan, as I was American, a girl and likely still going to be drunk when the gun went off. Of course, all of these things were true. Another Oregon girl, Grace, and I had spent the night drinking in the street, then dancing in a dimly lit night club with some skeezy guys who tried to separate us in a dark alley. When we left them, we found some other men bent on teaching us how to drink red wine from leather canteens -- arcing the alcohol more than a foot from the mouth of the canteen into our own mouths. Our white pants (a requisite for the running of the bulls) were never the same.

These guys also taught us how to roll spliffs. It's fair to say neither lesson stuck.

Regardless, by daybreak Grace and I were ready for bed, not a three-minute stampede to safety. Some nice teenager (probably a drug addict, we decided) kindly help us find the race. Instead of entering, we found perches on a wooden fence that walled-in the race course that promised fantastic views of the action.

However, this was not meant to be. Some police, or at least men in uniforms with weapons, told us to get down. Apparently the fence was not intended as a spectator area, but rather a safety feature so racers in imminent danger of being gored could fling themselves over the wood to safety.

We had no idea.

This left Grace and I in front of a throng of people -- many still drunk like us -- anxious to see the marquee event. The gun went off and the crowd surged. We slammed against the fence. For a brief moment, I thought we would have the second-best vantage point (after losing out on our fence-top seats).

Then the cops came through, wantonly swinging their batons to urge the crowd back. Grace took one in the arm. I got it in the jaw and went down hard. Luckily, there were so many people around me, I never hit the ground, just fell on top of others caught in the trample -- and we weren't even on the bulls' side!

I righted myself as fast as I could (while holding my bloody lip) but the white- and red-clad runners had passed. I snapped off one photo of a white bulls' ass shuffling away from me.

It was one time the book was better than being there in real life.

Since then, I've thought about going back in hopes of having a more positive experience -- people know how to party at week-long Spanish street festivals -- but still think this is one race I would never consider entering.

Unappreciated running comments

Nothing in particular happened to make me think of this, but here's a quick rundown of the things I despise hearing about running.

1. Forest Gump references. When was that movie? 1994?
2. Calling it "jogging." I don't jog. Never have. Prolly won't start any time soon.
3. Equating the use of an elliptical machine at the gym to what I do. It's just not the same. If that's your thing -- for whatever reason -- good for you. Seriously. But it's not for me and it's not running.
4. Asking if it's fun for me. I think that should be obvious.
5. Then asking if I can teach you how to run. Prolly not. If you'd like to come with me, OK, but I really have no desire to coach you out of your couch potato-ness.
6. Believing it's a phase. It's not. It's my thing. Chances are good I like running more than I like you. (Sorry, but it's prolly true.)

Happy trails!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Speed training

For the first time since college, I'm doing a track workout in the morning. (And yes, that's me on the left being coached at one of those college workouts.)

To be honest, I'm a little nervous for the early-morning intervals. I keep times and monitor my pace during some runs: we run mile repeats every now and again, and two years ago Julie and I did some half-mile repeats on a loop course, but nothing at the level I'll be able to in the morning.

However, this is good. There is a goal here: Run fast! I want to run a fast half-marathon just to see how speedy I can be. It's kind of a silly plan, because really I'd rather do a four-hour run as training for an ultra-marathon, but this is good for me and it's good for the triathlon training. Also, it's just fun. I like that tinge of fatigue in my legs every morning and the accomplishment of running 10 miles at an 8:30 mile pace (that was Sunday morning) even though it hurt.

But there's one more reason. I think I'm faster than my times show. I run challenging, not fast, marathon courses and over-train (or at least don't taper) for shorter races, so I never gauge what my capabilities really are. I'd like to find out.

And here's the back story: It had been a long time since I had a bad race. College. Probably this really horrible 10K performance I had at Avenue of the Giants one year when I thought I was capable of running 6 miles even though all I'd done for the past four months was eat crap food and drink.

Anyway, point is I'd had a good streak of runs. Until a few weeks back.

Sarah (my sister's friend) and I met up to run the Nitro Trail half-marathon in Pinole, a suburb in the East Bay. The course was fairly flat and fast. Sarah and I ran together through the first half of the run, clocking sub-8 minute miles throughout. It was awesome, especially because it was Sarah's first half marathon and she hadn't done much training. Pretty much, she's just awesome.

So I started dropping back around mile 8 (I think, it's all a bit hazy) but still had a really amazing pace going at mile 10. Then there was a fork in the trail, no volunteer in sight and I was surrounded by a forest of pink ribbons. Right turn or left turn or straight? I went one way, questioned myself and turned back. I found a different trail and followed two women (who turned out to be the winners). I finished in the remarkable time of 1:36. I ran approximately 11 miles.

The race director had no compassion for the unfortunate turn of events in my race. Had I made the correct directional decision, I prolly would have scored a sub-1:50 time, which is a huge PR for me. Instead, I pouted and cussed and was generally disagreeable over it.

The following weekend, I ran a much more challenging half in Nisene Marks -- hilly single-track trail sometimes so steep that I walking was the only option -- for "fun" and finished in just over 2 hours (2:00:16). It was actually my fastest half-marathon race finish ever, but I ran 1:55 and some change at the mid-point of the Seattle Marathon last fall.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A break ... from blogging, but not running

Tandem training is happening now ... for a both a speedy half-marathon and a triathlon.

The half-marathon will be first, next month in Los Gatos (just over the mountains from me here in Santa Cruz). The triathlon is the one I've been talking about for ages -- the Santa Cruz Triathlon (formerly "the Sentinel") in about three months.

Figuring out how to train for both while enjoying the spoils of summer at the beach is a challenge. Go for a bike ride or sit in the yard for a reading/sunbathing session? I've got to be honest, the serial killer book and a lawn chair won out last weekend.

Also, training for just a half-marathon -- I know, JUST -- seems almost like being a woman without a race. I could cover that distance tonight after work if I felt like it. In fact, I've done two half-marathon races in the past three weeks (more on those later) and taken no time off after them. So getting it through my head that I need to run a certain distance at a certain pace can be a tough sell.

The one thing I'm actually getting really into is swimming in the ocean. Yes, totally insane. Nuts. But it feels like such an accomplishment every time I finish loop around the buoys at Cowell Beach. Don't get me wrong, it's no fun when I'm out there. Sunday morning, I thought kelp that caught on my ankles was a sea monster. Sometimes I get little panic attacks from the cold, choppy water. But once I can touch the sand again and run up out of the waves, I'm ecstatic. And this weekend I may try swimming the Wharf, which is the full distance I will have to cover during the triathlon. Woot woot!!

Running-wise, it's time to update my iPod playlist and start cranking out the miles again. I know it's not ideal for some of the racing I'd like to do, but the weather's great and I have a couple running buddies who will explore some of the single-track trails I'm too cowardly to take on alone ... mostly for fear of getting lost.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My kind of holiday

Wednesday is the inaugural National Running Day.
How cool is that?!?! I don't really know what it means, except I should probably get a paid day off for work. This is the closest thing I may ever find to a religious holiday. Maybe I'll ask my boss...

And for all five of you who read this (hi, Mom!) you should get out and run Wednesday also, even if it's just a mile. Right? Right.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Race plans

Bend in August? It's called the Haulin' Aspen trail marathon and half-marathon. Sonja wants to meet up for it. Funny part is I checked out this race when I was trying to find a run to coincide with my 10-year high school reunion in late August.

I already mapped it online and I could make the drive (with Callie) in about 10 hours. We have a place to stay in Bend, so really all I need to do is get up the guts to register and ask for a day or two off.

The other one Sonja's looking at is the Vegas Rock'n'Roll Marathon in December. I've been thinking that flat, fast course might be just the thing to train for. Dipping under four hours would be amazing and I'm getting sooooo close!

Plus this race could maybe even be a weekend trip -- no vacation necessary, perhaps? Fly in late Friday or early Saturday, leave Sunday after the race. I mean, do I really want to hang out in Vegas in December totally exhausted from a run?

See, that's the thing: time. Scoring vacation do get out of town for runs is tough when I still want to make it to that reunion and visit my family in Eugene/Springfield, not to mention get up to Portland or Seattle to see friends or even travel abroad. Three weeks of vacation a year simply is not enough to get it all done.

But both of these runs have a lot of appeal....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trail dance

Callie has been having a ball lately. The lucky pup has gone running nearly every day for the past week and she's loving it!

Last night we went for what should have been a quick'n'easy jaunt on the trails behind my house. It was my "break" after running six of the past seven days, including a 12.6-mile hilly trail run Monday morning. Plus I had 6 a.m. run plans with Leslie today.

So Callie and I set off with some music (for me) and less than 90 minutes of daylight left. We ran the standard 30-minute out-and-back trail, but went up the hill instead of turning back. We zipped through the golf course (I "flew" down the hills with my arms spread wide) all the while rocking out to my special mix of chick country music, Lily Allen and the like, 90s alternative rock hits and my sister's mixed CDs from Guatemala. God, we had fun!

We dropped into the park side of the Delaveaga trails and headed back toward the trailhead singing aloud. There weren't that many people out (by now it was almost 8 p.m.) so I wasn't too worried about embarrassing myself. Sure, some people did double-takes, but I couldn't hear them over my music and off-key, out-of-breath singing.

Callie trotted along just fine, occasionally darting after a bird only to find she was still attached to a leash and therefore unable to lunge far enough to catch her prey. She got a bit tired when I doubled back down a trail to add time (because a 40 minute easy run wasn't enough) but I sang to her and we did a little jig in the early twilight the tree canopy provided.

Eventually, we made it out of the forest and back into the neighborhood. After a quick stop at the dog park for water and a bathroom break (for Callie, really) we sprinted the last four blocks home and Callie got a nice kibble dinner with turkey burger drippings. All told, it was a 55-minute run, which I'm hoping was about 6ish miles (I felt like we were bookin' it!).

She was fully recovered in time for the morning run with Leslie today. I wasn't quite as well off, but I started chugging coconut water at Mom's suggestion and it's a great, natural sports drink. I'm hooked.


Did I mention I did a triathlon? Yeah, a couple weekends ago. Two maybe? It was just a baby triathlon, the "graduation" event for the Nu2Tri program I had been participating in since January.

We won't talk too much about the swim. The 400-yard effort in the pool (eight laps) killed me. While other people got cheers about speeding up and finishing strong, the best encouragement I received was "just stop and take a deep breath" -- so you can see how well that leg of the race went for me.

Oh race. That's right. This wasn't a race. That's what they told the 28 of us competing, err, participating in it. But really, it was. And I was pissed when I crawled out of the pool far behind most of the other athletes.

Luckily I had my shiny new bike to ride (whee!). The 9.6-mile bike portion zipped by. It was hot and sunny, so my sweet spandex outfit dried pretty quickly and I didn't get too chilled (or too warm, for that matter). I caught quite a few people on the ride, which as a huge morale boost after nearly drowning in the pool. Still, when I headed out on the run I had four people in front of me -- they're all strong athletes -- but running is kind of my thing (ha!) and I really wanted to catch at least one during the two-mile run.

Well, I did. Catch one, that is. That brought me to a fourth-place finish overall and second woman across the line. The standings held up even as the second "wave" (those who started after my sad swim) finished. My final time was somewhere around 51 minutes, which doesn't really mean a thing because it's such a bizarre race distance.

However, I was surprised at how tired and hungry I was after exerting myself for less than an hour. I didn't realize how hard you're going all the time in a triathlon -- I was too busy worrying about the next portion and staying hydrated to think too much about how much energy the effort was taking. The whole event was a lot harder than I had expected, but still a lot of fun and something I'm definitely going to do again ... I just have to work on that swim. Ugh.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New priority: sleeping

I met Leslie for our regular Wednesday morning run after just three hours of sleep.

This was not my best move ever. I sometimes forget the importance of sleep and get real excited about doing a lot of things. In this case, it was a 12-hour workday that I needed to wind down from, so I watched episodes of "Dexter" until after 2 a.m. Just a heads up, watching a TV show about a serial killer, even a well-meaning one, does not calm you.

The combo of Dexter and crime reporting just wrecked me. My three restless hours of sleep were spent dreaming about murders and drug use (not my own, I promise). I wonder if I'd even be able to function today were it not for the 45-minute jaunt through Capitola the four of us (and Callie too!) did this morning?

This brings up two important points for me. One, running before work really gets me going, even more so than downing a French press of Guatemalan coffee. Two, when I'm training at any moderate level, I need at least eight hours of sleep at night. It simply doesn't work for me to expend that energy without the recovery time in dreamland.

Exercising is great, but it takes a lot of other elements to make it beneficial. Sleep is a big one, as is diet, staying hydrated, the gear you use, how much you drink or lots of other little things you (or at least I) rarely consider when suiting up to go play outside.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Soooo high! (no, not like that)

So getting up at 6 to run 1-mile repeats -- you know, because I'm so into speed work less than three weeks after running a marathon -- at Skypark in Scotts Valley actually turned out to be a great way to start my day.

Who knew?

I mean, we killed the pace, as in actually didn't really run it at all. We planned to hit 7:55 for three miles. This is nothing like the good ol' days in college, but it would be enough to make me pant and earn a cup of fancy coffee.

Instead, we paced off Blair's internal "GPS unit" for the first one and hit a nice 7:32 split. Lynn led the second one, coming in at 7:40, and for the last one we just threw it all out the window. I was last to cross the line, clocking 7:17 or so.

But after buckling over to catch my breath, downing my watered-down Gatorade and running a cool-down mile with the crew, I got my reward: a frothy, warm, syrupy-sweet soy latte at Coffee Cat.

This would be the first of many highs, many caffeine-related, today.

Crazy antics and results in court today, like having to personally address the judge in front of the court about why the Sentinel should be allowed to photograph a defendant and a mistrial declared for the case of a convicted killer/child rapist who wants out of juvy (he's 37 now, so you could see why.... and also prolly see the arguments against).

So I sucked down some green tea with lunch and then an iced coffee when I got back to the office. By now (it's after 9 and I'm just leaving work), I'm bleary-eyed and dreaming of a shower. Despite, or because of, all the exciting things today -- starting with those blazing fast mile repeats (c'm on, fast for me) -- the one thing I missed out on was a shower. I know, gross, right?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday morning hangover cure

With the taste of Seabright Brewery ale still on my tongue, I reluctantly set off with my friend Scotty for a long, easy run in Big Basin State Park on Sunday morning. My goodness! It is the perfect time of year to enjoy this trail. Even with a hangover, I had a great time (well, once I worked all that beer out of my system and then until I ran out of water toward the end) and loved the views of Berry Creek Falls, our turnaround point on the out-and-back run.

You can pick up the trail at Waddell Beach, which is on Highway 1 near the county line, or up at park headquarters outside of Boulder Creek. We opted for the former, which means the run to the waterfall is about six miles if you stick to the bike- and horse-friendly dirt fire road. Pretty quickly, the trail finds the creek, then follows the water up. You cross several bridges -- one that's just two steel I-beams cabled to the rocks -- and climb a few steep hills along the way. The fire road gives way to single-track trail about a mile from the falls and those last few hundred meters just fly by.

It's hard to not linger at the falls, a 70-foot (ish) drop that is arguably one of the prettiest waterfalls on the California Coast. The viewing platform has a nice bench and some rails (perfect for stretching) and on Sunday there were a few hikers passing through to chat with. But staying too long under the dense redwood canopy chills you, as we found out Sunday.

Making our way back down, it seemed like we breezed down the dirt path -- probably thanks to the slight decline and caffeine fix (Espresso Love Gu). Things were fine until I decided to stop and pee in the bushes. I spotted a little lizard who seemed friendly (he was watching me squat!) so I picked him up to show Scotty. Halfway back to the trail, the little guy bit my thumb! I "accidentally" flung him into the bushes.

The lizard wasn't the only interesting wildlife we encountered. We saw monarchs flap past and watched little fish flick around in the crystal-clear stream. There are a couple of ag fields early in the run, which gave way to lush green forest and fields of tiny baby-blue wildflowers.

Near the beginning of the fire road, there is a trail that loops off of it for hikers, I suppose to give them a reprieve from the bikes and horses. We hadn't taken this on the way out, but decided to come back on it. I'd never been up that way before and didn't know that, with my waterbottle bone dry and the sun starting to blaze down a bit (sorry, 80 degrees is hot!) we were again climbing hills, these ones baked in golden sunshine.

More than once, I stopped to walk. I felt like a huge wimp, especially with Scotty jetting in front of me while playing tour guide (ex: "these are trees"). But he put up with my exhaustion -- this was my longest run since the marathon two weeks prior -- and even pushed me up a hill.

We descended right to Horse Camp, car-camping spot about a half-mile in from the beach, and filled our water bottles from the newly installed water pump before finishing out the run and jumping in the 55-degree ocean. It took us just a bit more than two hours, so I'm guessing it was about a 13-mile trek.

Our reward for running -- and the sole topic of conversation during the last few miles of our run -- were burgers and cold drinks (Coke and juice, not beers) at the Davenport Bakery, Bar and Grill. Yum! Food tastes so much better after a good workout!

And then I went home to nap.

Friday, May 8, 2009

New kicks

Buying new running shoes is one of my all-time favorite things.

My shiny new sneakers specially designed for trail running, complete with water-resistant uppers so my toes don't get damp running through wet grass. As a result, I have to sign up for a few (or five) trail races in the coming months.

First up is that Big Basin run in a week. I was thinking a 50K race isn't too far (just 31 miles) and I've done one before (and nearly went insane). But after that ultramarathon (my only thusfar) my feet were so chewed up from the river crossings and rocky terrain, I could hardly walk for weeks, much less shove them in to running shoes. So I've decided to just run the 25K race, which is about 15 miles. Should be fun!

Then my sister's friend Sarah and I are going to have a trail running race adventure in the East Bay. We have two options to choose from: the Nitro Trail or the Lynch Canyon Trail. Votes? We're thinking whichever race has better T-shirts!

The first weekend in June, I think I'll run the Nisene Marks trail half marathon. When I moved to Santa Cruz in 2006, that state park was one of the first running locales I learned about. It's still one of my absolute most-favorite places to run anywhere (along with Dorris Ranch in Springfield and the Forest Service trails above Ashland). I ran the half marathon in 2006 -- I remember a more experienced trail racer advised me to walk some of the uphills, which flabbergasted me at the time but she was right! Although I've logged hundreds of miles in Nisene Marks since then, I haven't run the half marathon again. I'm excited to get back to it.

After that, there's the ultra in Ashland and then hopefully a trail marathon in the Grand Tetons with Sonja! Woot!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Quick update ... ran a personal best at Big Sur a week ago: 4:05:55. That's about 8 minutes faster than I finished last year's race and about five minutes better than my last best (Seattle Marathon).

Sonja and I ran in skirts (photos to follow) and she had a great run also. Audrey killed the 10.6 mile "walk" with her blistering 8-minute mile pace.

Afterward we indulged in fancy coffees, followed by soda and burgers at the beach. The night was capped with cheesecake in bed (thanks Jim!). I could continue listing all of the delicious treats we scarfed down the next couple of days -- we definitely run to eat -- but the menu is what you'd expect, just a ton of food.

I know it would make sense to take a break now, but why? The drizzly weather is perfect for breaking in my new trail shoes and there are some great runs coming up around here. I'm thinking this trail race in two weeks, even though it's the morning after my first triathon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The Big Sur Marathon is this weekend. Sunday. Less than three days away. Yipes!

People are asking one big question at this point: Are you ready? Answer: I don't know.

How can you know? I did my long runs, capping things off with a 19-mile, 3-hour run about three weeks back. I did sit ups, lunges and push ups, ran some mornings, rode my bike, even swam a bit. I ran hills. I stretched. I ate (mostly) healthy and didn't drink (too much). So probably, yes, I'm ready. And if I'm not, oh well. I'll be at the start like at 6:45 a.m. regardless.

Preparation is obviously key, but out there on the highway for that many miles, anything can happen. Heat, wet fog or the slope of the road can really wreck things fast. Dehydration is a fear. Eating enough so as not to run out of energy (literally) is something to monitor.

But it's also not THAT far (four-ish hours). A person can survive a lot and still have a good race. My last marathon (Seattle, November) I went out too fast and walked all of the hills at the end. A 10-year-old girl beat me, but I still ran a personal best. The first time I ran Big Sur (2007) I pulled off to the side and pooped in some bushes, but ended up having a great race and besting my previous time. At the end of several runs (marathons and long trail races) my feet have been blistered and chewed up to the point where I couldn't walk correctly for weeks. I almost always loose a nail from a big toe.

Without a doubt, running a marathon hurts. Only the most fittest, crazy people (who don't have day jobs) can pound out a hard 26.2 miles and feel breezy the next day. Sonja and I (and most of those other folks out there Sunday morning) will be sore and tired for days. We might curse the race and the pain, swear to never do it again.

But realistically, I probably won't run again for just a week or two. Then I'll pick up a new pair of shoes and work back into long runs on serene trails. The agony of those last few marathon miles will fade and I'll start scanning Web sites of other marathons and endurance events to pick my next big thing. Then the cycle -- build, speed, build more, taper, race, rest -- will start all over again. Hopefully my toenails will be back by then.

Marathon results next week!

Monday, April 13, 2009


So Callie, Marika and I spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon lounging at Manresa State Beach, south of Santa Cruz. Marika and I were completely content to splash in the waves for a minute, then lay out on the warm sand in bathing suits and read novels. But for Callie -- being that she's a rather-dense, hyperactive dog -- this was not enough. She really wanted to dig stinky things out of the sand and chase the coastal birds.

After awhile, I decided a quick barefoot beach run might calm Callie, count for my daily run and warm me up enough to take one more dip in the water. Plus I was reading accounts of 30-mile overnight runs in "Ultramarathon Man" and felt a little lazy.

Callie and I took off down the beach at a good clip, running in the wet sand right at the tide line. Now my dog loves water but has a crippling fear of waves, so sticking to my right (where she is supposed to run) with waves crashing feet away was not going to work. Early into the run she pulled hard on the leash and darted in front of me.

I should have seen it coming, but I was watching the water and birds or taking in the sunshine or loving the sand underfoot -- something other than paying attention to the dog. I went down hard.

Now this wasn't just a trip. Try splatter. Belly-flop. Face-plant. And right on that hard, packed, wet sand. Did I mention I was THAT GIRL running in my bathing suit and hadn't worn sunscreen all weekend? My sun-burned belly became sand-scraped. Ouch!

So a woman walking toward me stared at the entire ungraceful episode, but said nothing. She would be the first of several inconsiderate (perhaps drunk on sunshine?) people Callie and I would encounter on our 30-minute beach run. But -- interestingly enough -- as we made our way up and down the sand, everyone who made our jaunt difficult were other dog owners.

There was cell phone guy with a Labradoodle that loped happily toward Callie, her loose leash dragging through the sand. Callie tugged mercilessly toward the free dog (but was luckily deterred by the incoming waves). Dude never bothered to get off the phone and get control of his dog.

We picked out turnaround point based on a trio of off-leash, rather unsupervised dogs because I knew full well Callie would pull like hell to join them, then the lackadaisical dog owners would freak out a little bit at her size and energy level and I would be left apologizing (even though they were the ones breaking the leash-your-dog beach rule).

But the most ridiculous encounter came at the very end as we neared the beach entrance. Several families with little kids were congregated there, the children wading in the water or digging in the sand. A seemingly unclaimed black and brown Australian shepherd wandered among the kids. Just as Callie and I got to the crowd, a small boy (maybe 3?) grabbed the shepherd's leash. Of course the dog walked toward us and Callie turned to jump (read: play). No parents moved toward the boy -- who probably weighed less than the dog at the other end of the rope he held) or yelled at him to move away. Callie and I stopped, she sat down and we calmly waited it out. Never did the mom (who wandered nearby) come over to corral her dog or check on the welfare of her child. Luckily, the moment passed without any teeth-barring or other calamities.

I love taking Callie to the beach for a nice romp and run. We chase birds and get wet and it's a grand time. But other dog owners, with their off-leash beasts, can really ruin our beach experience. I understand that everyone's dog is the best pet ever and wonderfully well-behaved. Sure. Except that's at home or in some other controlled environment the animal is comfortable with. The beach -- with water, people, creatures, smells, kids and all -- is not the same and that is one of the reasons why dogs are supposed to be leashed at most of these sandy sanctuaries. Otherwise they run after other dogs or skimboarders, ignore you while they chase birds a half-mile down the beach and alarm folks who aren't dog lovers like yourselves. It's not just your beach.

But if you really do feel comfortable letting your dog off-leash where it's not allowed, at least have the courtesy to grab ahold of its collar while my dog and I pass by. I really hate that dirty look you give me when my leashed dog charges playfully at your uncontrolled animal.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Good day

There's nothing like yanking yourself out of a warm bed in the pre-dawn hours for a morning run.

In that moment when the alarm (or, in my case, phone call from Mom) shocks you from your pleasant slumber and into the cold morning, going for a run is the last thing you want to do. It never feels good to peel off the blankets and stumble through the darkness to tug on shorts, a long sleeve and your stinky running shoes.

More sleep always seems like the better options. For me, this usually wins out unless I'm meeting someone for an easy 5-mile jaunt. But when there's someone waiting for me (and Callie, as exercising her is another big motivator) I can usually suck it up and get out the door.

The amazing thing about it is I always feel better after a before-work run. The day goes better and I'm more productive at work. I might be a bit tired and jittery from coffee (which seems to have more of a kick post-run), but I'm also happier.

So today -- even with its intermittent rain showers, fatal car crash and never-ending gang project interviews -- is great because Callie and I roused ourselves at 5:40 a.m., met Leslie for a 6 a.m. run on Pleasure Point and slogged through the rain for about 40 minutes.

The point? Get out there. It's worth it. You can always nap later.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day!

I love April Fool's Day. Always have. It was a silly day as a kid, a time for creative pranks when I was a high schooler and, three years ago, the day marking a monumental change in my life. I moved to California on April Fool's Day.

And yes, at the time I did wonder if restarting my life in Santa Cruz -- a place I'd visited once three weeks prior and knew no one -- was the biggest April Fool's joke yet. I won't lie. Sometimes it's felt that way, but when I look back on my three years here, I see mostly goodness.

(The intent of this blog is to write about RUNNING related items, so I'm going to twist this back around to be about muddy shoes and sweaty workouts instead of waxing on about my love of pranks.)

When I moved to Santa Cruz, I hadn't run consistently in about two years. Frankly, I was a little chubby, drank too much, didn't eat enough vegetables and wasn't terribly happy with who I was. It makes sense. I had run several times a week pretty much every week since I was a second-grader, so to give that up for long hours worked at the newspaper in Ashland and late nights at Omars was tough on me. Of course, back then I was pretty stoked about my lifestyle. It took time to see that living that was neither healthy nor sustainable.

So I moved to Santa Cruz. This wasn't to revive my running habits or reintroduce fresh fruit to my diet, but to write for at a bigger newspaper and, presumably, work harder. Still, along the way a I met a marathon runner/Ironman finisher who was friends with a college professor of mine. He invited me out for a morning run along the coast with his group, the "Thursday Morning Irregulars."

the path on West Cliff Drive

My memory is fuzzy, but it's possible I didn't finish our six-mile run that first morning. For months a struggled to keep up with the group out to the turnaround point at Natural Bridges State Beach, where we would pause to stretch and I could catch my breath. Then I would try to hold out on the run back, learning exactly how many minutes I had to force my feet to turn over before I could collapse in my car. I relied heavily on those unpredictable stops -- to say hello to another runner or watch a pod of dolphins frolic in the surf.

Quickly, the group convinced me I should enter a race. A 10K became a marathon, then another. The morning runs would grow some days depending on what race we were preparing for, but with time I could keep up. A few times, I've even sprinted the last quarter mile fast enough to win the silent race to the finish.

Three years later, the Thursday Morning Irregulars exist more in spirit than practice, but every so often we get a crew out to run West Cliff at sunrise. When we do, the fact I can keep up without feeling like I'll vomit is a pleasant reminder of how far I've come in three years: not just hundreds of miles from my Oregon home, but thousands of miles ... run. When I look at it that way, I see there's no punchline to my April Fool's Day anymore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My next big thing?

The Big Sur marathon is still more than a month off, but I'm trying to plan my next big things ...

The Sentinel Triathlon is likely one of them. But I'm also looking for another 50K and kind of like the Siskiyou Out Back, largely because it gives me an excuse to visit Ashland in the summer and the T-shirts say "SOB" on them. Funny, right? But do I really want to run a 31-mile trail race at 6,000 feet? For a sea level-dweller like myself, this may be miserable. Or who cares, the scenery will be amazing and it's a great challenge.

I can't decide.

But I know I need more races to stay motivated. Races are key to this running thing. Accountability. So now I just need to suck up and sign up ... and find someone who will let me and my dog crash with them that weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will run for food

Let's be honest, we run to eat. Well, at least Sonja and I do. And why not? Food seems to taste better, coffee has more of a kick and we've earned it. So I've been collecting recipes during the past year with plans to make a little book of deliciousness and share it with y'all.

I'm not sure if anyone would actually use it, but it makes a decent gift, right?

Most of them aren't recipes I came up with on my own. Maybe I tweaked them a bit (usually adding extra cheese, except for the cookie recipes) but they belong to someone else. They're from my mom, magazines, CSA newsletters and there's one for carrot cake written by Camilla's aunt. Bottom line, though: they're tasty, and even better if you chow down on them after a nice run or bike ride.

Since I have all of this free time (errr... no) and need more projects, maybe I'll get the recipe book together in the next month or so, at least an online version I can e-mail out. Some of the good stuff? Goat cheese-stuffed red peppers, fava bean pasta and sauteed new red potatoes and green beans with basil and garlic.

My latest favorite (which I had for breakfast after my six-mile run this morning) was homemade bread toasted, then spread on goat cheese and avocado, and sprinkle with some sliced red onions and a little salt'n'pepper. It would prolly be good with regular bread too :)

So that's the heads-up -- recipes to come. Work up an appetite!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Let's hope it's not foreshadowing

Maybe I haven't been running enough or perhaps I'm just too tired lately, but I've had a few really odd dreams the past couple of nights. In one, Callie bit someone in the face and we had to run away so she wouldn't have to be put down ... but that's not running-related.

The running nightmare was Big Sur. Yup, the marathon. The race that I consider MY marathon, that I'm set to run in oh, eight weeks.

There were lots of discrepancies in the dream, which give me hope that it wasn't some strange foreshadowing and actually just stress-induced. For example, I took long bathroom breaks in areas that looked a whole lot like Nisene Marks (a state park around here), not Big Sur. My sister was running the marathon with me, but in reality she's registered for the 10.6 mile race.

However, the end picture was still hard to shake off: me, sobbing. I was devastated because I'd run my slowest marathon time ever. It was something like 4:26, which isn't a time to sneer at, especially over the challenging hills of Big Sur. However, it's not the time I want to see when I trip across the finish line and awkwardly hug one of the greeters. Low-balling it, 4 hours would be cool.

(Sonja and I after last year's Big Sur Marathon)

I'm pretty sure I can chalk the dream (nightmare) up to fretting about not running enough in the past few days. I took three rest days this week and the blank spots in my running log (laying open on my nightstand) are looming large as a result. But the reality was life - namely work - got busy and I was tired. I ran this morning, will bike and run tomorrow, then swim and get in my first really long run Sunday. (Let's hope the iPod holds out for 2 1/2 hours!)

As a 7th grader, my favorite shirt was a purple T emblazoned with "Life is Running" and a big blue and white running shoe. Maybe that was true then, when the biggest drains on my time were English homework and staying up all night to watch MTV at a slumber party. Now I'm an adult (yipes!) with a 9-5 ... errr ... 8:30-7 job, a house to maintain, dog to take care of, among other things. I wish my life could be all training, but workouts have to fit around my grown-up responsibilities.

I think the eight weeks between now and the marathon are an eternity for training. I have a strong base, am biking and swimming also and will start logging those big miles this weekend. Although I haven't had a bad marathon in my four outings thus far, I'm crossing my fingers - and lacing up my shoes - so hopefully this won't be my time to tank. Maybe dreams don't come true?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What do we run from?

Sometimes when I'm running alone in the woods, I hear footsteps behind me. Of course, this scares the hell out of me.

Usually it happens when I'm about seven miles away from the main road, totally alone and my iPod batteries are zapped. So it's just me and the trees... and the pounding of someone coming up fast on me.

My first instinct is to speed up to get away. This could last for quite awhile, but eventually I slow down because I'm pretty sure trying out-run someone for seven miles just isn't in me, no matter how scared I am. The footsteps following me seem to change pace when I do, but I try to remain calm. I don't look back. Maybe, if I don't see it, there is no monster.

But before too much longer my fears get the better of me and I glance back. At this point I'm fully prepared to use my neon yellow water bottle as a weapon. (Maybe I can blind him with Gatorade?) When I finally steal a peek over my shoulder, there's no one there. I get braver and turn all the way around to look. Nope. No one. I am still alone on the trail.

Yup, those were my footsteps echoing down the path. Ghosts? Or just me?

This recurring incident always leads me to think about why I run.

I tell people I run for fitness and that "runner's high" that feels so good. Food tastes better and coffee is even more delicious than normal. My calves look nice when I wear a skirt. My dog likes the exercise. It's healthy and relieves stress ... but am I running from something? I don't know -- maybe those ghosts of mine, and if that's the case, I doubt I'll ever out-run them entirely. At least I know that scary thing chasing me is only armed with a Gatorade-filled water bottle!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A lot of hooey?

The instructor at a spin class last night had us spend a significant amount of time thinking of our "strength phrases" and power animals.

This slipped in right after a visioning exercise, which just freaked me out because I'm not good enough on a bike (even one locked into a trainer) to close my eyes yet. Apparently, we all need to come up with a key word or phrase that will give us strength when we repeat it over and over in our heads. Whatever we come up with should be our touchstone of power for the whole triathlon season.


Our instructor, bless her, is an accomplished athlete and I don't doubt her ability to get us sweating. However, when strength phrases led into a discussion of power animals -- specifically the pros of picturing yourself as a polar bear rather than a fish while swimming -- made me think I'd crashed my trainer and hit my head.

It's true that strange thoughts come into your head (or at least mine) while exercising. I've mulled over lost loves, penned letters to my grandparents and even dreamed up short fiction stories. Sometimes little phrases get stuck on repeat and are motivational (see past post about "you can run four miles") but I don't think I've ever consciously chosen one.

Sometimes I sing Tim McGraw's "It's just the cowboy in me" when I feel like I'm running something incredibly ill-advised, like hobbling 3.5 miles down a trail after falling on my face. I picked up "Grind it out" after some guy yelled it at me as I ran down the incline in Nisene. "Kick it in" has stuck with me since high school track meets.

I can appreciate the power of positive thought and know it's important to focus. But picking one to meditate on? I don't know. Suggestions from the spin class instructor included "strength", "flow" and "I am strong." I think I'll stick with singing "Sometimes you've got to learn to walk with rocks in your shoes."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On training ...

With just over 10 weeks until the Big Sur Marathon my mind alternates between thoughts of those relaxing, long runs I get to log in the coming weeks (and all of the fun music I can listen to, trees I can count and tasty coffee I can drink after) and anxiety that the race is less than three months away. Yipes!

But I feel pretty lucky. Of the three of us who are reuniting to run, my training situation is the most ideal. Nervous energy aside, my biggest hurdles are rain - mostly because it turns the trails into slicks of mud - and work, which sometimes lasts so long my only wants are a bowl of mac'n'cheese and spot to curl up on my couch.

For Sonja, my college friend who is now a sheriff's deputy outside of Yellowstone, my weather complaints sound trite. Yesterday she ran in snow that had fallen over ice. Not so bad on the way up, she reported, but pretty sketchy on the downhill side. Then there is the wind - sometimes blasting so hard it flips loaded-down big-rigs on the highway - and the cold. When we were home for winter break during college, Sonja called to say it was so cold and dry out, her hands cracked and bled on her run. I suggested she wear gloves next time. She had worn two pairs.

So a little rain around here is no pain. And a "cold" morning like today's mid-30s, while a little miserable for those of us used to running in shorts year-round, is really not that harsh.

My sister, Audrey, also faces environmental concerns while training. She's living in rural Guatemala where, generally speaking, people don't run. Audrey has become somewhat of a spectacle because of this, which may not be the best thing. Sure, it's cute when little kids try to run with her, but it's distracting. There are also more serious safety issues at times, like rabid dogs chasing you. Here in the States, there are places and times when we know (especially women) to not go running alone, but broad daylight in a forested area seems pretty OK (at least to me). That's not true everywhere, which makes sense but it still disappointing.

Me and Audrey after a run through Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala, in December. We're trying to look "Mayan."

Her experiences remind me to not take for granted the freedom to run and roam that I have in Santa Cruz. For one, least animal attacks are usually out of the picture. But it is important to remember that bad things can happen. I've gotten lost and been injured while out running alone. Two winters ago, a woman jogging on West Cliff was attacked by a mentally ill man. So some safety precautions are important. I like to tell someone where I'm running and give a time when I will call to say I'm done. When it's dark in the early morning or evening, I run with my giant dog.

Audrey doesn't have these options, but she's coping. She has modified her training, learned some common-sense safety devices that are actually pretty good for women running alone anywhere (run a loop course instead of an out-and-back, for example) and embraced her access to a treadmill.

So come April 26, Audrey will be here to run the 10.6-mile race at Big Sur, where she won't need to carry a stick to beat off a pack of dogs. Sonja, should she survive the snowstorms, will run the marathon as well. Let's hope she doesn't get heat exhaustion. And me? I will have no excuses. I get to train in paradise.

Friday, February 6, 2009

When it's not in your head

Routinely, I'm reminded that even though I run alone quite a bit, I'm usually not alone.

I got out of work around 5:30 yesterday -- which constitutes early at my job -- so I jetted home to leash up Callie the dog and go for a nice dusk run through the neighborhood. Callie, of course, was stoked. Just the sight of her leash in my hands makes her jump in circles (I'm not lying about this). We loped through the neighborhood, cruising down some different streets to make the run longer because the evening, after a day of rain, had cleared nicely and the air smelled great. There was even still a little pink left in the corner of the sky, illuminating those receding rain clouds like cotton candy.

Along the way I chatted Callie about my day and, admittedly, was rather oblivious to the people around us. This happens a lot when I run. I forget that I'm talking aloud to myself or Callie, forget that other people are around ...

Last night, I got a couple of funny looks and one woman, who snuck up on us because of the darkness, declared "Oh, how cute!" I'd like to think me telling Callie about a guy I have a crush on was the cute part, but it might have just been Callie's furry 90 pounds thundering down the pavement.

It could have been worse, I suppose. Once, running out of Nisene Marks after tumbling down a hill, twisting my ankle and getting road (trail?) rash down one lower leg, I sang the chorus of Tim McGraw's "It's Just the Cowboy in Me" and cried to get through the pain of running 3.5 miles on two bum, bleeding legs. In the fall, when Rich and I ran that 50K in mountains here, I gave myself a four-miles-to-go pep talk that went something like this:

"You can run four miles Squires. You've run four miles before. You've run four miles backwards. You've run four miles in your sleep. You've run four miles drunk. You've run four miles naked. You've run four miles drunk, naked, backwards and in your sleep. It's just four miles"

There were young families walking baby strollers nearby. I think I scared them.

... At least Callie understands me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

25 Things

This has been floating around Facebook for a few days, but instead of telling you oddities from my childhood, I thought I'd make it 25 things about running. Actually, that will still include a lot of childhood moments, but with a theme!

1. I once got a free pair of 1993 Nike Air Max shoes for being filmed in a Nike commercial with champion decathlete Dan O'Brien. I ended up on the editing room floor and they used footage of my little sister instead. She got a couple hundred bucks for it, but I still had sweet shoes with the clear air bubbles in the soles.

2. My parents were so proud first time I was awarded a trophy for running (the Track City Track Club "Coach's Award" in 1989) that they got me a cake.

3. I nearly gave up running for racewalking...

4. ... because as a teenager I racewalked at nationals and placed in my age group.

5. I frequently get lost while trail running alone.

6. I never thought I'd be one of those people who need an iPod to get through a run, but I've come to rely on mine (broken screen and all) while on really long runs.

7. My first "run" was two laps around a cinder track with my black rubber boots on the wrong feet. As a high schooler - and much to my chagrin - my dad (and coach) told this story at every cross country and track awards night to show how far I'd come. Now I think it's kind of cute.

8. I think running shorts might be my best look.

9. I've never been fast, but I can run forever.

10. For about five years, I insisted on wearing my hair in braided pigtails for races. The fad ended for me partway through college.

11. I've never dropped out of a race. Ever.

12. My favorite place to run in Santa Cruz is Nisene Marks. Back home, it's Dorris Ranch, an old filbert orchard-turned-city park.

13. I've been accused of caring about running more than relationships with people, and I'm OK with that.

14. When I won the 1,500 meters at the 6th grade track meet, I saved my T-shirt and shorts (and the ribbon I won) in a clothing box and retired it to the attic for posterity. I'm pretty sure they're still up there.

15. I learned how to drive by making slow loops around the high school track in our 1976 extended cab two-tone Ford pickup. Then I crashed into a fence.

16. I didn't think I would ever run a marathon, but I got tricked into training for one when I moved to Santa Cruz. Now I've finished four and one ultra.

17. I hate track workouts. Running laps makes me dizzy.

18. My favorite post-run treat is a soy mocha with whipped cream and chocolate shavings from Aptos Coffee Roasters, sometimes accompanied by a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

19. Save one spring of kiddie soccer and a couple summers on the company softball team, I've never been on a team that wasn't running-oriented.

20. I love running with dogs, but don't have great luck with it. Once, a dog ran me through a yellow jacket hive and the family dog we got when I was in high school - Miles, so he could run miles and miles with me - was a herding dog. You might say that endeavor fell flat. My dog now, Callie, pulled so hard when I first got her, I strained my Achilles.

21. I ran in college for a few years. I find many people don't know this about me.

22. Even though I know better - and my mother always urges me to - I never carry pepper spray.

23. As a first grader, I told my classmates I'd win an Olympic gold medal in the 800m someday. Later, I made a list of accomplishments I'd need to achieve on my way to that golden goal, then tore it to pieces a few years later when I realized I was already off-track.

24. I have an amazing ability to run a finish line crew. It's a gift, really.

25. After a lot of thought, I decided running was up there on the list of things that are most important to me, so last weekend I covered up a bad tattoo from college with the winged track shoe icon. I haven't told Mom yet ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A little bit of something

Last night I attended the opening meeting for "Nu2Tri," a beginner triathlon program I joined in part because I've been wanting to do a triathlon for awhile, in part because some running buddies cajoled me into it.

When explaining all of the workouts we would need to do six or seven times a week, one of the coaches (sorry, I forgot his name) tried to ease our anxiety by telling us just to do something, even if we can't get in the entire workout. "A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing," he told a room of slightly-panicked wannabe triathletes who perhaps didn't realize they should be swimming in the morning and running and lunch -- and don't forget spin class.

In the cold, pre-dawn hours when my alarm clock and cell phone alarm started buzzing to wake me for a 6 a.m. run with a friend -- and I so badly wanted to stay in my bed, if only because the house's heat had just kicked on -- I rolled myself out of bed and with cobwebs of sleep interrupted still fuzzy-ing up my head, I tugged on some running tights, threw on a long sleeve and laced up my new trail runners. Callie and I headed out the door (almost) on time and despite the frigid temperatures (37 degrees -- I do live in California!) had an enjoyable 4-mile jaunt along the coast.

Running during the work week can be a challenge. There are early mornings at court and late nights at the office, with lots of Web updates and blog posts sandwiched between. Most days, I'd rather selfishly cozy up to my pillow for an extra hour rather than drag myself out to run in the cold, fog or morning drizzle. But every time I do manage to leave that cocoon of blankets -- even if it's just for a 20-minute loop around the neighborhood with the dog -- I'm happier all day long... plus coffee tastes better after a run!

The point? Ah, just get out there and do what you do, even if it's quick.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I love going running, but sometimes it takes a little something extra to get me out the door, like a friend to meet up with or the promise of a good cup of coffee at the end.

Along these lines, one night last week I made a collage (photo coming) to try to inspire me, then used magic markers and construction paper to create my own Big Sur Marathon countdown calendar. They're both posted next to my bedroom door, you know, to create anxiety and guilt me into running.

So far, so good.

And today I ordered some silly running-themed greeting cards from this neat company Banana Blossom Press that Sonja and I discovered at the Seattle Marathon expo back in November. Now it's just a guessing game on which will come first: the new cards or that fuzzy Big Sur hoodie I ordered earlier in the week.

Sometimes on a cloudy cool morning, having neat shwag makes all the difference!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ready, set, go!

Today I registered for the Big Sur marathon. That seems like a good-as-any hook for the start the running blog I've been itching to write for months.

Running has been my thing for as long as I can remember. A solid pair of waffle-soled shoes, a T-shirt and some too-short-to-be-cool shorts were essentially my uniform as a child (add a hooded sweatshirt in the winters) and remain my most-comfortable outfit. When I'm bored, I write training plans in the margins of my calendar, calculate mile paces in my head or map out new runs. I don't leave home without a water bottle.

Big Sur will be my fifth marathon, and the third time I've run the breath-taking course north up Highway 1. When I ran Big Sur in 2006, I was terrified. The hills were daunting, the distance still a shock and I only hoped I could finish. Last year I trained alone to see if I had the mental toughness to run so far on my own. The race fell on my 27th birthday (perfectly enough, April 27th), my college running friend Sonja also ran the race and my parents came to watch both of us.

This time around, I was already worried about a lack of motivation even though the race weekend is shaping up to be great gathering. Sonja is coming from Montana again to run with me. Even my sister, a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, is coming to run (she will be in the 10.6- or 9-mile race) before we drive up to Oregon to see our family. Still, I couldn't get amped up to train. The thought of sacrificing more days for three-hour runs or getting up in the pre-dawn hours to crank out five miles before work drained me.

But in my 20-plus years of running and racing, I've learned three important things about how I run:
1. It makes me happy. Once I get past that initial challenge of hitting the road, I'm bound to enjoy myself and be cheerier. And if I don't head out the door, nothing else will bring me that same happiness.
2. It gets easier the second, third and fourth times. For many runners, the very act of exercise is addicting. I'm one of them.
3. When all else fails, sign up for a race. That clock over the finish line will hold you accountable, more than a running partner or coach or even yourself will. Therefore, a race date looming in front of you is the supreme motivator.

I ran 10 miles Saturday morning. Today, I paid my $135 bucks to sign up for the marathon. I even ordered a Big Sur hoodie, so I can snuggle up to the thought of the two-mile summit of Hurricane Point, the camber of highway as you come to those last few rolling hills outside of Carmel or that goofy sign right before the finish that announces "D-Minor Hill at D-Major Time."

D'its time!

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."