Sunday, June 5, 2011


It's helpful to get your ass handed to you from time to time.

I sound like a snob, but I'm good at most things (at least most things I attempt) and generally succeed. I win. Well, maybe not first place in a race, but I set achievable yet challenging goals and I get them. So it was surprising — and wonderfully humbling — to feel like an utter failure during a trail half marathon yesterday.

Two friends and I raced the Forest of Nisene Marks half, a gloriously hilly run that largely follows a root-riddled single-track trail through the state park. I went into the race with just one goal in mind: break two hours.

This seemed do-able. Here's why:
• I raced a marathon five weeks ago and have been running consistently since then, including a couple afternoon jaunts along the trails the half marathon covers. So I figured I'm fit AND I know the ups and downs (literally) of the course.
• Plus, two years ago I ran the same race in 2:00:16. Since then, my half time on pavement has improved dramatically (hell, I was around 1:56 for the halfway point in my marathon, on flat, paved roads), so why couldn't my trail time drop too?

Yeah, so none of that mattered.

It poured. Rained. Hard. All night before the race and on through our adventure in the woods. We're talking Oregon winter rain (minus the cold factor) but the race was just south of Santa Cruz — hello? California coast — and it's June.

The trail was a mess: ankle-deep puddles where the path hadn't turned into a small creek. Anything that wasn't covered in water was a sloppy, muddy mess. It wasn't a large race, but about 80 pairs of running shoes slogged through those trails before me, so any decent footing was long-since mucked up by the time I trudged through.

Add in some sort of poor eating plan that gave me stomach problems the whole way through and I was a miserable, gassy, drowned-rat-looking of a trail runner. I even though about quitting. (But of course, that's not an option. Ever.)

Luckily, I'd handed my watch over to my buddy John so I couldn't see how far off my goal pace I was. There are no mile markers, no split readers and no pace groups in this low-key local run. So I just made my way through the woods hoping that someone in front of me would fall and break a bone so I could play heroine and get out of finishing all 13.1 miles.

I'm kidding. Kinda...

Somehow I eventually got to the finish line, soaked to the bone and far off that seemed-so-reasonable goal time. And I won't lie. I was totally dejected by my results. I get that I'm not fast but I'm also not THAT slow. Not 2:11 half-marathon slow.

A few things helped me get over this "not winning" situation:
• Ericha, the other friend running, finished in 1:55 and some change. She's a 3:27 marathoner (a full 30 minutes faster than my PR) so to have her beat me by approximately 15 minutes makes sense.
• Even in the best conditions, it's a hella tough course.
• An all-caps text message from the boyfriend exclaiming that me I did awesome considering all that rain and mud.

So some days we lose. I'm still glad I finished because I know ran hard (I was pretty darn tired later). And there's next year, and any number of races between then and now.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stretching is Not a Workout

Yoga isn't exercise.

Yes, I know it works your core and all those planks can really get the upper arms trembling. But seriously. It's stretching, with intention. And those young yoga instructors in spaghetti-strap tops and no bras because they're vegan and never got boobs, they look fit.

But yoga is not exercise.

Before I go any further, I will give credit to those pals who do Bikram yoga. Yes, the hot class makes you sweat a lot, which makes it hard and exercise-like.

So I've been going a yoga class here and there since the marathon, mostly to differentiate my exercise routine. The problem is, yoga doesn't make me tired.

I've been trying different instructors to see if it's a personality conflict. The guy who told me to breathe through my neck was a dud, but tonight's instructor (who was hanging upside down from some ropes like a bat when I walked into class) was fun. Still, after 90 minutes with either teacher -- or any of the other ones for that matter -- I don't feel like I got a workout.

I do feel stretched. Oh yeah. We opened our hips and elongated our necks like nobody's business tonight. I'm stoked about that because my right hip is still a little tweaked. But, as an aside here, my personal trainer/brother recently told me stretching is useless ... directly after which he said the look on my face gave the impression he killed my puppy.

Point is, after 90 minutes of "exercise" -- 80, if you take out the time we nap at the end -- tonight I'm not tired. Heck, I'm not even relaxed because I'm so frustrated that I didn't get a workout in.

At least I went for a 5-ish mile barefoot beach run this morning.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Woot-woot! I ran a sub-4 hour marathon, FINALLY!

Yes, the Eugene Marathon was great.

Running in my hometown has so many benefits. Yes, I'm from Springfield (sort of Eugene's ugly stepsister) but the race course wends from the campus area of Eugene, along the bike path and into Springfield for a couple miles. Then it heads out past Autzen Stadium (Go Ducks!) and onward to the finish at UO's storied Hayward Field.

So getting under the 4-hour mark was monumental, but there was much more made this race — marathon No. 8 — awesome. It all relates back to having home field advantage.

• My parents were my race support, driving my sister and I to the start and then appearing several times on the course to cheer us on. (Audrey ran the half.)
• Miles 10-15 were on turf I've run a zillion times, starting around age 11. This was especially helpful when looking for a spot in the woods for a quick bathroom break. (Ucky porta-potties!)
• My brother and his wife, Erica, live a few blocks off the course, so they walked down with their doggies to cheer me on.
• In a super-lucky moment, a high school running buddy who lives on the race course made a "Go Squires" sign and was out with her whole family to cheer racers on. Huge boost having her there! Thanks to (another) Erika!

Perhaps the coolest part of being here with family and friends was having my sister race with me. Audrey ran the half marathon and clocked a 12.5-minute PR (1:29 and some change) with her pacer buddy. After her awesome race, the kiddo changed her clothes and shoes, then popped out onto the course to run me in to the finish. She shuffled along for my last two miles, telling me nice things and making me run faster.

We crossed the finish line together. Super cool!

Final time: 3:56:52. Even the gun time was under 4 hours, something around 3:58:30. My overall pace was 9:03, but for the first 20 miles I averaged sub-8:50 miles. I was 1073 out of 2291 racers, including 75th in my division, which had 178 women in it.

Oh, and don't miss the neat arm warmers I picked up at the race expo. Flowers, but almost a Dia de Los Muertos motif, made by Run Pretty Far. The waist pack (for Gu or a cell phone) rocks too. Dad loves the camo and it was great during the race, not bouncy at all. It's a SPIbelt, check it out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Facebooking a Marathon

My marathon progress Sunday will post directly to my Facebook page. Yup. Awesome or scary? Too much digital age sharing or a great way to get motivated around mile 22? Tough to say.

Hopefully, since it should be a beautiful Sunday morning and the race has a relatively late start time of 7 a.m., my Facebook friends will be out biking, running or just brunching — and not checking my Facebook marathon progress.

It's not that I think I'll be embarrassed of my performance, I'm just not sure I want to Facebook universe with me every step of the way, peeking in at the 10K and half marathon and on and on until the finish line arrives approximately four hours later.

Yes, this makes me a little nervous ... a little more nervous.

So why don't I just delete the feature? Well there is a running group friends whom I'd love to have out there with me — literally running with me if that were possible — and at least this way they are with me online. Also, it's a damn easy way for Mom and Dad or my brother and his wife to figure out when to meet me on Main Street in Springfield (mile 14, good spot to drop clothes, gloves, etc and get a hearty cheer) and when my exhausted, sweaty, sore self will be needing picked up at the finish line.

There are benefits. And it's not like I wouldn't post my time on my Facebook page anyway.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Left My Mind ...

It's tapering time, 15 days until the marathon.

This is the time to go crazy with doubt. Did I train enough? What about that one day when I skipped my ... run, yoga class, sit-up? Can I make it up now?

I've run enough marathons to know the answers are always the same: hay's in the barn, it's in the bag. Pick your metaphor, the bottom line is you can't do anything about it now. From here on out it's maintenance runs, getting good sleep, drinking lots of water and trying not to get hurt. (Important last point, so maybe this week's surf session was a bad plan and riding bikes this weekend could be risky?)

So with this extra time and energy on my hands, what to do? Plan the next marathon, of course.

Picking another race before competing in the race you're training for is a way to trick yourself into not getting lazy once you've crossed the finish line. So I about 13 hours left to decide if I should use a Deal-of-the-Day to register for the Morgan Hill Marathon in October. I'm thinking, for $35, why not?

Then there's the Bizz Johnson trail marathon out in Susanville two weeks before the bargain-bin marathon. Fast, negative elevation gain and trails, but it's at elevation so the altitude may cancel out those pros.

Do both? My awesome long-distance running buddy Sonja would say yes.

For sure, I'm running the Nisene Marks Half Marathon a month after the marathon. That will keep me going post-marathon and roll right into summer ... maybe triathlon training?

But for now, I'm just plotting. Muahahaha!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How Many Miles?

I hurt myself. Specifically, my hip. All week, I could hardly run — yesterday I trudged along for 15 minutes before giving up and walking home.

This was after getting a killer massage/torture session from Jamey, a friend of Scotty and Coach Rod. Fifty minutes of elbow-digging into my hips left me feeling like I'd already finished the week's prescribed 20-mile run.

So you can imagine I was not looking forward to today's outing, the last loooong run of my marathon training plan. With some prodding from Mom and a whole lot of stalling, I headed out to Nisene Marks around 11 a.m. to run the fire road.

I had a plan, I swear. I routed a course on this very nice map, calculated the miles, even told Mom and Christy where I'd be in case something went awry and the sheriff's search and rescue team needed to be summoned.

It turned out to be the best run I've had in weeks.
• Sunny skies, but not too hot under the trees
• Few people out on the trails
• Fun music on my iPod
• And, best of all, no pain in my hip.

The only problem? At the advice of some very kind (but possibly alcoholic) weekend warrior mountain bikers, I veered from my carefully planned course and continued up the fire road past the Sand Point Overlook. The bikers were right: it was beautiful up there. But I think their ability to calculate distances might be inhibited by their love of vodka- and kahlua-laced milkshakes.

When I came across a small "11" sign on the side of the trail, I said a bad word and turned back. Best guess? I was 11 miles from somewhere. (The bottom of the park? Top of the park? Hell?) So it's pretty likely I ran 22 miles.

It took me about 3:45 running time ... but as you calculate that mile pace in your head (10ish), remember there is about 2,000 feet of elevation gain in that run and it all happens at once. Oh, and sometimes my girly pop country causes me to break out in dance while I'm running and I don't stop my watch for that part.

Point is, I'm back and can run the Eugene Marathon on May 1. Thanks to those who helped (or just smiled politely when I ran by singing today).

Here are some photos. No videos of the singing and dancing, though.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reflections on a Decade

We look back on the year when we roll the calendar over each winter, or perhaps on our birthdays as we mark another age gone by. Moments to consider larger chunks of time -— like a decade —- are rarer.

Ten years ago, I was a college sophomore. I ran track, but my dedication waned around this time and I eventually quit the team to pursue activities such as editing the college paper and drinking. I was good at both of them. I still ran here and there, however, it would take moving to Santa Cruz five years later to really get me back into a routine.

Now I've run seven marathons and one ultra, and running is something I know I will never forsake again. It's a place where I -- and a lot of us, I believe -- find strength and sanity.

I remember the crushing defeat a decade ago of trying to run 10 miles of hills on a warm summer day. An elderly couple hiking took such pity on me, they offered to drive me back to town (I still ran). Looking back, I probably wasn't fit enough but I also didn't think I could. By comparison, last weekend's 18-mile run with a 10K race smushed in the middle was a challenge but not un-doable. In fact, we had a pretty good time.

So of course time makes us wiser and we learn from our mistakes. I wonder what would be different had I stuck with racing in college. Would I be faster now? Or would I have given it up when I graduated? Most importantly, would it still be this much fun?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Muddy Day Run

So today we set out to run 12-ish miles in Nisene Marks. After the 35-mile bike ride I embarked on, basically alone, yesterday, the hill-intensive run seemed like a bad plan. However, with the opportunity to crank out the run with Rich, Scotty, Blair, Steve and the crew, the trails seemed less daunting.

Oh my gosh, it was fun! I love running in Nisene but rarely hit the trails. Typically I stick to the fireroad because I'm either running alone (safety) or want to do an exact distance. With a half-dozen "over 40" men to run with, no need to worry about off-the-grid pot growers, getting lost or how I would make it back should I break an ankle.

For anyone who knows the park, we ran West Ridge Trail from the fire road up and up and up to the turn to Hoffman's Home Site. Essentially, it's the half-marathon course backwards.

The trail was all kinds of muddy. Steep, too. We ran, they sang Beatles songs and it drizzled on us. All that uphill paid off with about a mile of extreme downhill. I'm not sure the guys enjoyed it, but I just rolled down making Indian whoops and stretching my arms out like a kid playing airplane. Soooo fun!

At the end of all this, we did have to grind out about three miles on the fire road, which was grueling and made me wish I had eaten breakfast.

We finished muddy and exhausted, but out-ran the downpour (it started just as we were loading up to head home or out to breakfast). And we got in a great 13-mile run, well on our way in our marathon training plan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Land of Peace and Tranquility

Running in the Land of the Medicine Buddha in Soquel is just serene: few people, a challenging trail that's all uphill at the beginning, all downhill at the end and plenty of room for Callie to romp.

The trails allegedly wend all the way up the hill to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, which could make an amazing point-to-point long run. But on this particular day, we only ran about 4.5 miles to a nice little lookout where the redwood trees gave way to orchards and green hills.

The property -- open to dogs, closed to bikes -- is part of the Tibetan Buddhist retreat tucked above Soquel.

The trails themselves are bark dust and redwood duff, under a canopy of trees with sporadic benches and small altars. If you drive up the road, there are more altars and a wishing temple (which was closed -- no wishes for us). All together, we saw six people and a standard poodle.

However, the highlight of the run, of course, is finishing. In the Land of the Medicine Buddha, the trailhead is marked with a gong, an ornate bell and many, many wind chimes. We rang and donged all of them!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Perfect Run

First, yes, I'm back at the run blogging. I didn't stop running, just gave this up for a long while. But no more. With the whole running group training for marathons together (Eugene, May 1) plus the new incentive at work where I get paid to exercise (no joke!), there's all kinds of fun running to share about.

So mid-morning, Christy dragged me out of the house to run at Waddell Creek. It's a decent drive up the coast to the trailhead. It's part of the Skyline to the Sea path that winds through several state parks in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. In the past, I've only done this run as a 13-ish mile out-and-back to Berry Creek Falls, but today we ran shorter, about an hour.

It was gorgeous and muddy and sunny. The trail starts at the beach and heads up through some small farms. The fire road is all torn up this time of year from farm trucks, mountain bikers and the rain, so keeping my new shoes clean was not an option.

Lots of other people had Christy's same awesome idea and were out hiking the trail. Mostly couples, and none of them looked happy. (Probably because they weren't rocking out to the Dixie Chicks like I was!)

The first two miles or so just felt icky. I think it was because I took Coach Rod's advice to carb-load with beer last night. (We'll have to talk about that one later, Coach.) But once I got a little muddy, the run felt great.

There's a side trail that spurs from the fire road just after the ranger station and reconnects about 1.5 miles up the route. Taking the trail back seemed like nice way to mix things up, plus there'd been a lot of bikers and hikers to dodge and Christy claims the trail is less hilly on the return.

It's not. It's still really hilly.

You also have to be a little adventurous to get to the trail. There's a creek crossing that, when the water flow is low, is covered with a plank bridge. However, this time of year, the creek is up to a couple feet deep in some spots and the little bridge is leaned up a against a tree on the riverbank. Hikers were putting their boots back on when I jumped in and splashed across. (Cleaned the mud off my shoes that way.)

Christy, who was not running with me because she can run 11 miles in 32 minutes, or something really fast like that, did the same thing to the next group of hikers.

We finished the run with a romp in the ocean, my special "Dead Body Tour: North Coast Edition" and treats from Swanton Berry Farm. Sure, it took half the day to get in a 6.5-mile run, but it was totally worth. Callie is definitely jealous.

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."