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.

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."