Sunday, December 18, 2011

12ks of Christmas

As we are rushing towards the end of the year, time to look at some goals and being thankful for all the running this year.  Last year I started out with volunteering at a local 5k and had a blast.  Volunteering more at events was definitely a goal this year and I was happy to volunteer at a handful of events (5k packet pickup, sprint triathlon course monitor, 50k trail run course sweep, and marathon packet pick up).  Really I am happy to give back to the sport I enjoy so much.  And there is a bonus involved with volunteering.  Some events will give you a credit towards racing a event as a thank you for coming out to help.  Racing fees can add up and I do appreciate this little perk.  I aim to continue volunteering when I can in 2012. 

It's been the season for parties and seasonal baked goods and I've been feeling like I've been partaking in those seasonal goodies too much of late.  the parties have all been fun stuff though.  Running friends turned regular friends can't be beat. Another fun party saturday night and it was just too much good nibblies and wine to resist.  Oh yeah, I'm racing the next morning though. 

I wasn't sure what to expect.  I've wanted to run the Kirkland 12K's of Christmas for a few years but just never could quite get it on the schedule.  This was the year! I was one week out from the Deception Pass 25k trail run but had recovered from the non-race effort quickly.  I'd hoped to come in around 8 flat for this very hilly 12k (long course - more like 7.6 miles instead of 7.4) but was thinking I'd be more like 8:15 overall.  I'd peeked at the elevation chart and knew this course was basically a flat first couple miles (some up at the start and then down at the 2nd mile) and then rose steadily in mile 3 and 4 to a nice downhill with some subtle up the last miles.  My goal was to go out at 8:00, stay under 8:30 for the uphill miles and then just run paying attention to feel and form. 

It was crowded!  There is a 5k that starts just before the 12k. That start was delayed and so was our start.  Not a big deal but it did start drizzling a little heavily and I started to chill.  I placed myself firmly in the "jogger" pace and waited for the start.  Within the first quarter mile, i'd passed a gal with a dog and was very careful about all the traffic.  7:57 for that first mile was perfect and I felt good.

And then I just raced.  I stayed steady on the uphill and was pleased to hit mile 3 in 8:24 and then mile 4 in 8:13.  It wasn't as uphill as I'd anticipated yet I still worked on those lessons hard learned in hill repeats last week and earlier this year.  I gradually passed people throughout and felt I was in control. 

The 5k mark cracked me up.  There was a group of earnest carolers singing the Twelve Days of Christmas with a LOT of enthusiasm.  I couldn't help but smile and gave Hi-5s to all the kids at that station.  That was a nice touch.  Woo!  and let the downhill begin.  Ok, I'm a good downhill runner and I was passing quite a few people. Lean forward, land lightly with no breaking and keep the legs moving.  It seemed to go on for quite a while with a few flatter sections.  Finally we turned onto Lake Washington Blvd which I knew would be gradually uphill. 

This is it.  Focus. Breathe. Form.  You've worked very hard to get to this point and stay with it.  Now, I always start pretending that various training partners are with me and that works very well.  No way will I stop now.  I got passed by a few guys and passed a few in turn but didn't really see any women around.  I'd passed one gal on the downhill around mile 5.  Just keep working.  I felt like I was slowing and legs were turning to sludge.  Finally we hit the final turn and all of a sudden two women are charging past.  Oh no!  One was the gal I'd passed at 5.  I'm happy to report I did beat her to the line.  Done! 

And what was I concerned about?  My cubemate at work (we've sat next to each other for a couple years now) started running earlier this year.  She's now done a couple 10ks and a half marathon as has her college-aged daughter who also started running at the same time.  I walked quickly until I could run again and started slowly trotting back along the course.  I saw K and cheered.  I saw RPD and cheered and I saw the friend's daughter and cheered.  Where is the coworker? 

coworker working hard!
This was a big deal.  She's done a few races now but mentioned that when I was planning on doing this that she'd never had anyone cheer for her in a race.  I can so help her out with this!  We all know how important the community support we get from fellow runners can be.  Finally, I see her.  She's evidently coming down with a cold but the first thing she says to me is that she's not walked at all on the hills.  Wow!  Those hills were something and I know as a new runner racing, I'd definitely walked. 

She gave me a big smile and took off!  We still had a half mile so she kept at it and soon enough we were at the finish.  Fantastic!  She's already planning her next event and it makes me so happy that she enjoys the racing/running scene. 

I had no idea what pace I'd run my own race overall.  I knew I'd run well and was pretty certain I'd hit my goal of 8 flat but was more focused on getting back out there.  I got back home and checked my garmin.  I'd read it wrong at first and was shocked to realize that I'd come in well under my goal 8 flat pace.  And I'd run this smart and well paced and did not die on the uphill.  Final time was 58:26 for 7:50 pace according to the race officials.  my garmin watch had it at 7:45 pace overall.  I so did not expect that especially post 25k and while in the midst of holiday festivities.  Bring on Nookachamps! 

And if you ever need a great way to re-energize your running, volunteer and help out or pace a new runners.  It is a wonderful feeling seeing them achieve their goals as well. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Deception Pass 25k

It's been a busy holiday season so far.  Vacation, holidays, fun parties, christmas lights, basement cleaning.  Why not add a trail running event and take a quick night and day out of the city? 

JT had been interested in Rainshadow Running's newest event.  The Deception Pass 25k was a great way to end the end the trail running year after starting it with the Orcas Island 25k.  It was a great gift of trails.

JT picked me up after work Friday evening and we made the quick drive to Oak Harbor and a hotel just about 15 minutes from the park where we'd start in the morning.  Yes, we could've just driven in that morning before the race but this was a nice leisurely way to do it and I'd do it again.  We were out of the hotel by 7 am and onto North Beach at Deception Pass State Park with a whole bunch of other excited trail runners. 

The talk beforehand was amusing.  "be careful" was repeated multiple times. Falling off of cliffs was not allowed nor was falling off bridges. no passing people on the bridge as it is too narrow and if there are any tourists walking or stopped, we must walk around them. This course was a series of lollipops, this meant we'd see runners coming and going quite a bit.  faster runners had the right of way.

and we are off only a little late.  1 mile on the road by cranberry lake.  very pretty.  I had to stop and tie my shoe.  Then onto a trail back towards the beach we started from. hey, i could drop my mittens here so perfect.  Soon we got onto the north beach trail which was pretty rooty/up and down rollercoastery and very technical.  and it had the most amazing views. 

oh screw this.  I stop to take photos and that is how it went.  as we were doing the series of lollipops you could see all the faster 50k/25k runners and would really have to wait since the trails were so narrow.  no biggie.  I stopped to take more photos.  the bridge was fun to run across.  JT caught up to me around mile 3.5 because i was stopping so much.  so we were together for a mile or so in here and then i pulled away again.  really gorgeous trails once in the woods although i really cannot get enough of those trails that go along the water.  so beautiful. 

on to mile 5.5 (mile 5 by my watch) and you hit the aid station the first time.  out to rosario head which had the most windswept remote feel.  some very rough trail over there too.  then back to that same aid station (mile 7.3 by their measurement, mile 6.6 by my watch) and i was feeling quite good in here and just steadily running.  eating a gel every 3 miles.  At the aid station teh second time i had half a peanut butter sammich and a couple of pieces of boiled potato dipped in salt and some coke.  i knew my watch was reading short so i kept nutrition/gels every 3 miles.  So 3, 6, 9, 12 plus the stuff from the aid station. 

JT had been in mexico for a few weeks and didn't run at all in november as there was just no way to get it in.  she went out and ran 10 miles last week and decided to come start this race but she did decide to drop at the aid station at mile 7.3. good choice as all the bigger hills came after that. 

It was a very long loop out to Pass Lake with a very long climb in here. It seemed to go up and up and then by this point i was completely alone. I never saw anyone coming back and no one behind me.  I kept trotting along.  the downhill then off this was pretty runnable so i enjoyed that.  but i did  manage to slightly roll that ankle again dammit.  my current trail shoes (Saucony ProGrid Peregrine) come loose plus they are slightly wider so i have to wear thicker socks.  That combined with a lower heel and more minimal feel means I want to roll an ankle.  Sadly I think these shoes are off my list.  I dislike that they have no rock protection either.  I had to stop 2 and 3 times for each shoe to retie.  I finally double knotted and it stayed but that does start to give me some numb toes.  i think the ankle is fine though.  a bit crunchy feeling when i rolled it.

Finally as i'm coming back towards the pass i start seeing and passing people.  i stopped to get some good shots of the bridge. we run across it again and then take a trail which takes us under it.  It's a very pretty forested along the pass (it's goose rock perimeter trail).  I pass a couple more people and then start the goose rock summit trail.  This is straight UP and I'm not kidding.  calf burner.  i pass some more people and really wonder if the leaders can actually run this?  I cannot!  we finally come to the top where it is bald/meadowy and there are these strange flat sloping smooth rocks.  it's flat and think i should be running. Wrong!  the rocks up here are not wet but my shoes do not grip on those rocks. And down i go. grrr.  One bruised hand and bruised front of one leg.  It could've been worse.  we start then some very significant downhill which hurts at this point.  My legs are aching. hmm.  I must need more food and how did I already make it to 12 miles by my garmin?!  These miles are going so quick.  so i take another gel.  that helps.

I come to the turn off for 25k runners. Phew!  I do NOT want to run the 50k today!  :D  it's pretty good running in here although slightly uphill on a wide trail.  i pass a few more people in here who are walking.  Finally we duck back under this little trail which takes us under SR 20 (sneaky trails all through this area) and we are back on the north beach  trail which is significantly harder now on tired legs. It's not as bad as those last couple miles finishing at orcas but it was still pretty technical.  no falling!  and finally back to the beach, i pass a couple gals coming in and I'm done! 

JT had already gotten a ride back to the finish and is happy.  they had an amazing spread of food and i realize i'm quite hungry. eat and chat a bit and we are on the road by about 12:30.  she knew this little coffee shop/store on a different bypass road around mount vernon.  They had very tasty coffee.  I was home by about 2:30 which was much sooner than i expected and ready for the big holiday party that evening. 

I would totally do this one again.  Really the variety of trails/scenery was amazing.  Single track springy forested trails,  the beach, road, grass, cliff hugging trails.  awesome. 

The day after, I am tight from a long run but that is all.  A fun run was the right way to approach this run and it makes me really happy that at any point I feel ready to tackle a 15 mile technical trail with significant elevation changes. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Running along the C&O Canal Towpath in Georgetown.
Our vacation last week reminded me of how many things we have to be thankful for.  We have great friends and family and I'm so happy that we get a chance to go and see them and this beautiful country.  After the quick trip to South Carolina we made our way to Washington DC and visited with lots of different friends some of whom we've not seen in years and years.  

Korean War Memorial
In shirt sleeve weather, we spent one morning walking along the tidal basin and taking in all the monuments. We'd been up to the top of the Washington Monument last year which was good because it is closed this year because of earthquake damage.  And last year we saw the reflection pool at sunset from the Lincoln memorial.  this year, the reflection pool is a big construction dirt field as they begin renovations.  The Korean War Memorial was quite a surprise.  A small intimate setting with a contemplative yet strong impact.  Beautiful and touching.

And FDR's memorial which I'd never even heard of was so relevant today too. 

"No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.
Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order." FDR

We'd been to DC last year during high tourist season in a heat wave.  It was relaxed and mellow visiting the sites this year and I'm glad we got another chance. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Whole New World

We raced the perfect distance to still be able to explore Charleston.  We were only there for 2 full days and most of one other and managed to see a lot.  There turned out to be a lot more to do in the Charleston area than either of us expected and part of that was the great location we were staying in Folly Beach at our friends' house.  Run 1.3 miles and we were on the beach.  So of course, each day after the race, I HAD to do this and it was wonderful.  there were lots of locals walking their dogs and lots of shells to examine.  And this blue crab was on the beach and no, we did not take this shell home.  Every morning we'd wake up to perfect weather and go sit on their outside screened porch with beautiful marsh view to have our coffee.  It was a little bit of perfection each day to start. 

My main draws to Charleston were seeing a plantation, seeing charleston and Fort Sumter.  the plantation we chose was much more spectacular than I expected.  Honestly, it was stunningly beautiful with a well thought out self-guided tour of the grounds with some extra features as in a demo farm (tanning, black smithing, basket weaving etc).  The marsh and the old trees draped in southern moss never ceased to draw exclamations of beauty. The forest was so different looking than what we've seen of forests of washington, California and New Mexico.  However the fact that this was a plantation and ran on slave labor really hit home for us.

We got a chance to walk around Charleston and took a harbor cruise out to Fort Sumter.  Charleston runs on tourism and it shows yet it is a beautiful city with much to offer.  We ran out of time to see some other sites because of limited off-season hours so we hope to be back.  It was great to visit with our hosts who we've not seen in some time. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

South Carolina Sun or the Folly Beach 10 Mile Race

Seattle is very far away from Charleston.  The multiple flights are long.  We left early Friday and arrived late Friday in Charleston to visit long time friends.  Neither of us have been to Charleston nor even to the south.  K did some research and found that there was a 10 mile race just a mile away from where we were staying.  Perfect!

the locals were all complaining of the cold.  That would include the friends we were visiting.  They have acclimated to the weather for certain.  We woke the next morning (race day) and were pleasantly surprised to find perfect conditions for racing.  40 degrees, sunny and no wind.  the sun alone feels so much warmer that I was glad it was colder than expected.  By the time the race started, the sun was well up and it felt a lot warmer (probably mid-50s).

the Folly Beach 10 mile race is a very low key and local event. It starts just a block off the beach and is run in the streets of Folly Beach.  No need to close the course to traffic, at this time of year and day there isn't that much. There were volunteers at every turn and the local emergency services (PO-leese, fire) helping hold traffic at the main street. Everyone was very friendly and soon enough we were started on the 5 mile loop we'd run twice.  The race director even led the runners on bike.  Yeah, low key and local.

Honestly I had no idea what pace to expect to run a 10 mile race.  I've done 1 other some years ago.  What would slightly faster than half marathon pace be for me now?  This race wasn't a goal race either.  I've not really started any serious tempo running yet.  I've been keeping my mileage up and getting trails in plus some easy quicker stuff just to keep things fresh.  based on the 5k a couple weeks ago and long run pace, I thought 8:00-8:05 would be possible. If I was able to come under 1:20 I was going to be delighted but I thought that would be a reach.

Immediately once we started I was running comfortably 7:50 pace.  EEKS!  what have I done?  I felt great though even after the all day flight.  My heart rate was low for the pace and I just decided to stay with it.  Worst that would happen is that I'd slow quite a bit the last half.  I knew I was racing in the south when within the first half mile I heard someone say "baby jesus sure did give us good weather."  Yeah, this is a bit different.

I ticked of 5 miles right about 7:48-7:50 pace.  Solid and I felt good.  I'd not been passed after the first mile, and gradually passed people as I was running.  I'd run with a guy from Germany (but originally from Charleston) and chatted with him and an older local gentleman.  the Germany guy was dressed in full tights and long sleeved zip for almost 60 degrees.  After about 4 miles, he stopped at a house.  Really?  Sure enough, i saw him at the finish and he'd obviously stopped to drop off his clothes.

By mile 5 after the first loop, I was running by myself.  I figured it would start to get much harder here but I kept the same pace and still pulled closer to someone I could see far ahead.  I took water at mile 7 which I needed but then started to get a side stitch.  that threatened to get a lot worse and here is where I slowed.  Still I feared I'd really slow but kept to about 8:05 pace.  One more mile at that where I needed to start concentrating on my form.  The course was sooooo flat that my tendency to lean back and look ahead was starting to tighten my lower back (that and all the airplane travel).  I kept my gaze down and that helped.  one more mile (in 7:50) and as I approached the finish i could see the clock was well under 1:19!

1:18:46 by my watch!  I jogged back just over a quarter of a mile to the last turn of the course to wait for K.  There was a couple volunteering here who'd we'd seen parking right by us before the start.  We thought they were running but nope they were just volunteering for this race.  We chatted while waiting for K while I gushed about what a nice event this was and how wonderful the weather was coming from Seattle at this time of year.  Friendly folk.  That's what I'd heard about SC and it seems to be true. K came through and I tried to keep up as he howled about how hard this was (you are racing K!) and we were both done. 
Most people had finished when they started age group awards.  Yep this was a small race and I placed first in mine.  As they were doing the awards, the second in my AG came through.  Everyone cheered for her.  Our friend came out and we went to a local cafe for some more southern experience.  Yes, i had pancakes as usual but also had some biscuits and gravy and a taste of K's grits.  That is some tasty stuff especially after a huge PR and such a great day to be out running.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Random, but not really.

I did it!  I finished the final exterior painting on the house this year!  Woohoo!  We put up the last bit of siding too on the back of the house and that officially makes this approximately 10 year project done. It started with getting a new roof which meant we needed new fascia and soffit boards. Then the old siding (two layers) came off the house in sections and we put up new sheathing and then painted clear cedar siding. We ended up getting windows replaced (best thing ever!) and built a new back deck and finally had the sagging, broken and rotting porch footing rebuilt.  We payed to have the roof done, windows redone and paid to have the porch rebuilt otherwise all other labor was done by us and K's father.  Phew!  I'm very proud of the work we've done.  it's our house and it shows.  We do good work.

And I do good knitting.  I got my first commissioned knit piece this past week.  A friend at work who is a knitter (beginning and slow) really wants a knit piece for a friend's b-day. She loved an easy knit cowl I did and would like me to knit one for her.  She paid for the yarn and she'll give a bit of spending money for me just as a bonus. I get to knit and get paid!  No the amount of time I'll spend knitting doesn't end up paying me for my time really but since I just enjoy knitting, this is a bonus.  I'm casting on that project today.  And it will be a well knit lovely piece of knitwear which I'll be proud of.

My mom and I had tickets to watch studio rehearsal of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Love Stories" the other day. This is always a real treat! We usually see the pieces where they are still working out staging and details and where they are still getting into performance fit (or at least that's how I think of it).  Why do I say that?  Well we are sitting very close to the athletes (dancers) and you can see the effort and fatigue start to play out towards the end of the sections they are rehearsing.  The guys' legs shake and sweat pours off.  The women's legs and arms shake with the effort.  The most amazing part of this process is seeing the absolute control they have over their expression and finishing what they are doing.  Towards the end of pieces, both men and women are breathing like they are at the end of a 5k yet they are holding a precise pose with a smile on their face.

After watching them rehearse, I feel like a wimp! I took this thought into the 5k last week and it helped.  It doesn't matter that I'm feeling the fatigue, my lungs are on fire and my legs feel like lead.  Keep at it! Move and take pride in being able to run at all. This is what I've worked for and gotten up at 5 am to run in the dark and rain.  Push through and enjoy it.  And I did and I do.

And tomorrow a good friend is racing her first marathon in New York.  I've seen her at the beginning of her running career when she was able to have a huge breakthrough race.  She's trained and pushed through for this event.  She's had the lows and the highs and she is ready and is proud about how far she's come.  I'm really proud to have played a small role in this and I'm so excited for her. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Busy Running Weekend

A busy running weekend is always a good one.

The Pumpkin Push 5k is a favorite of mine. The challenge every year is to find a good (read clever and cheap) costume  that I can race in and not overheat. K was game this year so we went as The Wonder Twins. Instantly recognizable to a certain generation (ours).  This ended up being a great costume to run in.  What made the costume work was K wearing a hilarious black wig. I raced and finished the run and then immediately jogged back to K and we came through the finish line together doing the "wonder twin powers activate" pose.   it got a good laugh. k was recovering from a cold and running easily.  This would not have worked if he was racing as he's gotten much faster.  I would not have been able to get back to him in time!

The race itself was fantastic. After a longer warm up, I made it back to the start with just a minute or two to spare.  This race always starts a bit late though so that works.  Coach Lesley was lined up ahead of me but I thought it would be better to go back a bit and that was smart. We started and immediately I was at a good pace, not too fast or slow. First mile in 7:10 and that's what I'd hoped for.

I can never remember where that dang hill comes in and soon enough we were there.  My goal was just to stay with it and concentrate on form.  And it worked!  I stayed right with people around me and didn't get passed.  And I could recover once over the top.  I stayed steady in the rollers and didn't go too crazy on the downhill section. Truthfully I was a bit nervous about that last flat bit into the wind.

However, I held it and finished well.  I think that is the best I've ever run this course. 23:14 and I was second in my age group. "That was a good run" as Lesley said as I came in after her.  yes it was! Typically it takes me a bit to get in the 5k racing mentality so this was excellent. Strangely not all the fast people showed up so I was second in my age group.  I'll take it! 

The next day I was mildly sore in my quads for my efforts but ready for the next challenge.  Northwest Trail Runs was hosting a first time 50k on Cougar Mountain.  Now I wasn't up to the 50k on such crazy trails but they'd asked for volunteers to "sweep" a section of the course and I was happy to do it.  It turns out I'd be sweeping a section on Squak Mountain that I'd never been on before. Perfect!

I got there around 11:00 am and waited until I could go.  Since I could not leave until the last runner had been through the aid station, I wasn't sure when this would be.  turns out no one else did either. They had the count of runners at the start but no one had good enough cell phone coverage to relay this information.  Eventually a race director showed up and after a bit of a think about timing for when the entire course would close, he sent me on my way.

I had a rope loop over my shoulder to pick up clothes pin confidence streamers (easily visible by runners as a check that yes they are on the right trail) and a pvc tube used to carry the pin flags and turn signs. Evidently you can get the tube to fit into your running backpack and just stick out the top. This makes for easy access and carrying. Well that didn't work for me so I tucked it under my arm and through my backpack strap. Not the easiest way to carry things but it worked. And I ran.

It was wet and drippy but not too cold.  The trails are just starting to soften up with rain so it was muddy and slippery with newly downed fall leaves.  I wanted to stay moving but I really wasn't in any hurry. The run starts with a mile climb and eventually turns onto the East trail which I've been on before.  Then onto some different trails I'd never been on before.  I never saw anyone and just enjoyed the trails.  Steeper and narrower than on cougar and obviously less traveled.

After a long and easily runnable access road, I came to the next aid station and let them know they were done! That was welcome news for them as it was just starting to rain more. And then I started back up the mountain. I felt like I was just hiking so much that I had to figure out a way to do more running.

And then I got it! count steps.  this works when I'm road running and flagging with focus and wanting to stop.  I started counting steps for 100 and then would hike for 50.  I think that interval is a little too long and will try more like 50 run/25 walk or 75 run/25 walk next time. If footing didn't feel comfortable or was too steep, I'd walk and run again when I could. Of course, I'd not been on some of these trails and they were stupid steep.  Straight up and I am not kidding! My calves were burning and I was just slowly hiking.

It took forever to get down off the mountain as they'd put up a lot more tags and tied them to branches. Sorry about all the twig trimming but i could not get them off any other way. I was told it would probably be around 9 miles and it turned out to be more like 11 but that was just fine. I'd do this again especially given the chance to explore some new trails.  And I learned a new running trick.  Yep, it was an excellent running weekend!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trail Rich

I know I've mentioned this before but here in Seattle, we are really lucky to have so many great trails accessible year round for running (ok and hiking too).  It doesn't take too long to drive from where we live just north of downtown Seattle (still Seattle) and get to fabulous single track through forest.  Even within city limits there are what many people would call trails like Hamlin Park, Woodland Park, Discovery Park and many more.

As trail running gets more popular, we've also been lucky to have three different organizations which put on well run and fun trail run thoughout the area.

Rainshadow Running puts on a growing number of tough trail runs of 25k and 50k distance.  They always go up and down various mountains.  Really fun and low key events, the terrain and distance demands a certain level of fitness and confidence.  This year I ran two of the 25k distances (so far) and definitely plan for more of these runs.  The trails that they have picked are really stunning.

Evergreen Trail Runs does a variety of venues and distances.  Last year, i ran a half marathon they had around the flat Lake Sammamish and this year got out for a really fun event at Grand Ridge Trails out in Issaquah.  Again really nice low key and fun events.  I like that they are expanding their venues and although I didn't get a chance to run some events, I am definitely eying some for next year.  There are some trails I've been very curious about and have never been on which are local.  I can't wait to get out there. 

Northwest Trail Runs seems to have been around a little longer.  I first ran one of their events in 2009 at Soaring Eagle and fell in love with that trail system. This year they took over the well known Cougar Mountain Trail Running series from Scott McCoubrey and did a great job that I could see at the half marathon event this past August.  Again like all these groups, these are well run events with a cheerful feel.  I always get the sense that all these groups just love getting people out onto the great trails around here.   

This morning I talked RPD into joining me at a 10k at St Edwards State Park for a Harvest 10k with Northwest Trail Runs.  This was a blast!  Small group running the 10k and there was also a half marathon.  This is the first time they've done this event at this location and I'm glad to hear that they are planning to be back.  It was gorgeous technical trails through lush forests, challenging descents and obscene uphills with a fair bit of running on grass. 

I did a nice warm up with RPD and got to the start just as they were describing the course.  I'd looked at the map online and it hadn't made a lot of sense but as expected and promised, the course was really well marked and I had no trouble.  We walked over towards a couple pumpkins, the race director cajoled people to actually come to the start line (everyone was afraid!) and we were off. 

Immediately the course went onto fairly wide, slightly downhill easy trail.  It was a good start to get people going and string out the field.  I'd expected an easier start and was feeling good so stayed with the harder pace.  I felt great really.  It got pretty technical once going down towards the Lake Washington waterfront.  I passed a few people in here and then was right behind another gal (who'd passed me on one uphill section) and I was really happy with how this was going.  I felt good and strong, still able to talk but at a good effort.  I knew the uphill was going to be tough but I was leaving that for when it came.

then, i took a slight slip and rolled an ankle hard.  OUCH!  I could barely put weight on it once I popped back up with it.  And since I was about as far away from help as possible I thought i better just start gimping along.  If it was a serious injury, i still needed to get moving to get off the course. gimp. curse.  gimp.  This was right where the course started straight uphill so it didn't matter that I was walking because everyone else was too. It took probably a few minutes if not more before i felt like i was getting more function with my ankle.  eventually i could start running again and I felt such relief. phew!  I had some odd feeling twinges during the rest of the race but no pain.  It helped that we didn't really have any more technical downhill or I'd have been a bit too leary of rolling the ankle again. 

After the killer climb, I could just see a few people ahead of me and I worked to keep in contact with them.  They'd passed me when I'd gimped along.  All of a sudden we popped out onto the field which surrounds the seminary and were winding over the grass.  Back to the forest and we hit a very long wide and good surfaced graveled trail.  Oooh this was good for me.  I passed a couple people and really enjoyed myself.  Let the uphill begin again!  And it did.  This second climb was not as long so it didn't seem as bad and was in pretty rough shape with trail wash out.  It was so narrow in places that I was really glad we were going up and not down.  Finally we were up off the ridge and with a mile to go we wound around on a trail which follows the edge of the forest.  One quick little loop down and up on technical trails and more grass and done! 

Good times!  I immediately started an easy jog around and managed to catch RPD coming along.  He was looking good and had also enjoyed himself immensely.  We hung around a bit and chatted with fellow runners.  I was able to get an ankle wrap as it was starting to swell just a bit and I thought it would be prudent to keep it tightly wrapped.  Best of all they had hot chicken noodle soup. Salty goodness! 

Too bad about the fall, but i am delighted with this run.  The ankle is a little sore and a little swollen but not bad at all.  Super fun trails on a very challenging course.  Northwest Trail Runs has delivered another fantastic event. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Distance runner?

Trees at Cougar Mountain
The nice thing about hiking/running 18 miles is that you recover from it quick.  I'd planned on an easy week post-Cle Elum and mostly kept that promise.  It was nice to run the hilly perimeter trail at Lake Youngs the strongest I've ever run it and then still go out the next day for a lovely trail run at Cougar Mountain. 

What's next?  I've been pondering this for a while actually.  And basically have come to the conclusion that I'm not really meant to be a distance runner. Oh sure, I like running longer but it doesn't necessarily like me.  I'm good for one or two very good long runs and then that's it.  The rest (say in a marathon training cycle + marathon) tend to turn into slog fests. 

To get in multiple long runs, I need to start protecting myself and that means my mid-week runs suffer.  After about 2.5 hours of running, I start to have lung issues and foot/hip issues.  So I'm done fighting against this and plan on focusing on shorter distances for a while now.  I'll be the first to admit I love half marathons (I've done over 15 of them now) and really enjoy shorter distances like 5ks and 10ks. 

And some things will never change.  I love running (longer even) on trails.  We are very lucky in the Seattle area as there are three different groups which are putting on various distances of trail runs and I plan on fitting these in judiciously.  I was asked if I wanted to attempt another 50k at the end of October and I was happy and satisfied to say no.  I'm very happy with my decision and that means it is the right one.  I'll work on keeping my mileage higher overall during the week and get in the speedwork that I enjoy and throw in a longer run (16 or so) on either roads or trails every once in a while and I know it'll be good.  I've learned that with running you can never say "never" so I won't say I won't ever do a marathon again but it just is not going to be my main focus. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Running Anniversary

September 2001 has many horrific memories for a lot of people including me.  However there is one thing that happened September 2011 which changed my life for the better.

September 23, 2001
I'd joined a team at work and on this day after training a bit, I walked (yes walked) my very first 5k the Susan Komen Race for the Cure.  I was astounded to take part in the event and had a great and memorable experience.  The most eye opening part for me was the huge variety of people (men, women, big, small, young, old) who were running.  I'd always been fairly active with gardening, walking and had biked some.  Running baffled me though.  It didn't look or feel fun but this event made me want to try running.

And after much sweat and learning (and injuries including the first round of physical therapy), I made it to the start line of the 2002 Susan Komen Race for the Cure (now moved to June) and ran every step of the way in a blistering 33 minutes.  And I felt great.  It took two years until i ran my first half marathon and six years until i ran my first marathon.  Ten years later I define myself confidently as an athlete.  both my husband and i are happier and healthier for this random discovery.  I've made countless friends near and far.  Any time we take a trip, I run and make more memories and usually more friends.  It's been a great ten years!

How to celebrate this?  I knew at some point I'd want to run a trail 50k.  There are a lot of great events around here and earlier this year I ran a 25k on trails.  Coach Lesley, of course, got behind this venture.  JT was the inspiration of choice for the particular race.  Cle Elum Ridge run was supposed to happen in June (right when i was rocking the seattle Rock n Roll half marathon) but the horrendous spring flooded the course and it got moved to September.  Perfect.  Training was mainly building on my fitness from earlier marathon training this year and Ragnar NW Passage and adding in longer trail runs.  I came in feeling a undertrained and very nervous but ready for the challenge.  I was in this to finish and to have fun. JT and SJ planned on running the 25k distance.  Coach Lesley and TC would run the 50k distance with me.  EA was along for cheering.  Wow.  I was looking forward to this weekend. 

And then like every runner knows, life happens.  The weekend before the event, a coworker had a massive stroke at work and died the next day.  I'd known this gal casually for years and as an avid hiker and only in her mid-50s, i was shocked and saddened by her death.  I still cannot believe it (do you know the symptoms of a stroke?).  A friend's husband was fired.  Our sewer line broke.  And there was a deadline at work with extras and I stressed about getting everything done.  To say it was an awful week is an understatement. 

Wednesday I was super achy and tired in the evening.  I thought i was just tired from it all and achy from a (great!) workout the day before.  The next morning I woke feeling better but still very off.  By that afternoon, I was running a low-grade temp, had a rash, my lungs hurt and I felt even achier everywhere including my feet.  Ugh.  I got into the doc because I wanted the rash which i'd had before checked out.  She cleared me to run as long as nothing got worse. 

That night (friday morning)  I woke up at 2 am and felt super hot and shivery.  And my temperature had spiked to 102ยบ.  I drank some water and went right back to bed.  Fortunately by the time I'd woken up the fever had broken by itself, the rash had mostly disappeared as usual and i felt better.  No cough or congestion so I was pretty certain this was some weird viral thing and I doubted I was contagious. I'd woken up very hungry every morning since I'd been sick but had a hard time eating anything more than what I'd usually eat.  Things tasted a bit off and my stomach was vaguely off as well.  I knew I needed to get more calories in but it was a struggle.   The plan changed to just get to Cle Elum and see what happened.  Maybe I'd make it to the start line or maybe I'd volunteer.

Well it was a blast going to Cle Elum with such great people.  I started the 50k as planned but from the start I felt winded and dead legged.  I'd hoped that would get better once I loosened up and got going but it didn't.  I struggled with the decision but made the turn to the 25k course and started back.  At this point, I was just out for a hike and to enjoy the trails. I definitely had some moments of pity party but it was just one of those things.  The trails?  They were gorgeous.  The creek trail was so pretty with lots of bridge crossings and lots of evidence of blow downs and water damange.  I ran a bit here and there, took photos and went along in no hurry since the others had continued on the 50k.

It wasn't the day I wanted at all for running but it was still a really fun day and a great way to celebrate 10 years of running.  I ended up covering about 18 miles (the "25k" was 17 miles plus the addition of a 50k start) and had fun hanging out at the finish line chatting with everyone on a last day of summer. Thanks to all who made this happen whether you were there or not. The support in the running community never fails to astound me and I wouldn't be the runner I am today without all the experiences and wisdom I've been exposed to over the years. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Whose house is this?

It looks like a whole new house!

Ours! Goodbye old porch.

With the end of the summer, we are working hard on getting this last bit of awfulness gone.  I look at this old picture and cringe!  Wow that looked bad. Last summer we had a contractor redo the cement footing.  This summer we had Ballard Ornamental Ironworks make something custom for the porch.  It was installed while we on the cruise! 

It took us a while to decide on the final panel and railing design but I'm really happy with the tulip motif I came up with as a happy compromise.  We wanted something a bit different yet simple and which would work with our old house. Ballard Ironworks was very easy to work with in this regard. They came in took measurements and let us know what we needed to do for code.  I gave some sample sketches and voila! We've gotten complements from neighbors all up and down our street. The final boards which were missing from the underside of the porch roof are up today.  Final caulking, nail set/filling and then final painting still needs to happen.  My plan is to have this DONE by mid-October.   I've started a bit of work with re-grading around the porch and plantings can't happen until that is decided. 

We are still missing one piece of siding on the back of the house.  Other than that our decade-long redo of the exterior of the our old house is done.  It is probably time to paint it again!  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Soaring Eagle Trail Marathon

NW Passage Trail at Soaring Eagle
I need another long run.  Actually the plan called for a long run followed by a 10 mile trail run the next day.  Problem is that I want a run-free day for the holiday weekend.  And the long run would end up being in-city.  Sometimes an in-city run on a glorious summer day is torture for me and I really felt like i needed some more trail running before the event in just two weeks.

A quick search revealed Northwest Trail Runs was putting on a trail run at Soaring Eagle.  Yes my favorite place to run trails and it was supposed to be gorgeous and there was a 10 mile or marathon distance.  OK! So how to approach this then?  Run a few on friday and then run about 4 hours on Saturday paying attention to fueling and hydration and make sure not to beat up the legs.  I signed up for the trail marathon.  Not only are NW trail runs on great trails but they are inexpensive too.  I love that they do trail maintenance and trim back the vegetation on courses as well. 

I always forget how much slower the Soaring Eagle trails are.  It's deceptive because overall they are much more runnable than Cougar or Tiger because nothing is as steep. BUT they are constantly turning and winding and slight ups and downs with some rocks and roots to keep it interesting.  An easy pace on these trails is a couple minutes over my normal road pace at least.

I got over there easily and was immediately annoyed because it turns out there was an early start allowed but there was no mention of this on the website.  I would've been happy to start earlier because it was going to be a long day.  oh well.  But then the pre-race briefing didn't start until about 8:30 when the race was supposed to start.  They were trying out a new timing system and it was having a few glitches I suspect.  So 15 minutes late we start.  Actually that was amusing.  The race director said "Go!" and no one wanted to move forward.  Haha!  I was one of those standing towards the front and no way I wanted to get out in the front.  I was just out for a run remember?

Anyway, after listening carefully to the race directions, we were back at the start after a 1.2 mile loop (hey i thought we were supposed to do the 5 mile loop first?), i went back out to start the 10 mile loop and got lost with a bunch of other people as well.  No, we weren't lost but we skipped a portion of the course.  I realized this pretty soon and decided that it really was a good thing for me.  Instead of having to decide about finishing the race as intended or not, I could just run for time as long as I felt good.

The new plan based on chatting with coach was just to run about 4 hours.  I could go longer as long as I didn't feel beat up.  Turns out that wasn't an issue at all.  By about 2 hours, I was feeling beat up and by 2.5, I was stumbling.  Yeah no.  No reason to continue with this and I cut out across trails to get back to the start sooner and turned in my chip. I had just run over 13 miles so pretty slow but that also includes closely questioning the race directors during hte middle of the race about where I was supposed to go, some general group consults with fellow runners and figuring my way across the trail system when I decided I was done.  Trail running always has some of this! 

I guess I should've had a clue when I went out for my run the day before and made it 3/4s of a mile before I turned around.  I was just not in the mood to run and feeling off.  I felt fine enough trail running and got into a good rhythm at times. 

I figured out what I'd eaten during the race and it was just barely enough per general guidelines for carb consumption during endurance events (40-60 g of carbohydrates is recommended).  I thought i was eating enough but evidently not.  Here's my intake over the almost three hours:

food calories carbs (g)
fig newton 45 11
potato piece 30 3
potato chips (about 3) 32 3
mike n ike (5) 28 5
mint choc gu 100 20
coke (1/4 cup) 24 7
accel gel choc 100 20
1.5 my energy bars 221 33
580 102

Mike and Ike's candies don't count nearly enough carbs considering they take a bit of time to eat! The potato piece dipped in salt tasted really good but I just had a little piece so I'll have to try more of that.  It's also that time of the month so I often need more food not to mention that general malaise.  Oh well. I enjoy the mix of foods offered at these long trail events but probably just need to supplement gels/my energy bars instead of grazing instead of eating my planned food like I did.  I never felt hungry but the stumbling I was doing towards the end indicates low fuel.  If I figure out what I'd had up until around 2 hours15, it was quite low for what it should've been and I started having trouble directly after that.  I felt rather wiped from the effort the rest of the day but perked up by the evening and felt fine the next day so that's good news.

And like usual, any day running on trails is always good! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Beach Interlude

That week of easy segued into a San Diego beach interlude.  I highly recommend this to all!  Oh yes, I did go to San Diego having run 10 miles Thursday morning, 9.6 miles Friday evening and 12 miles Saturday morning before hopping on an airplane.

It was a weekend full of sun and warmth and friends.  Actually i'd call them family by this time since I've known these friends now 30 years.  The big draw of the weekend is visiting two little boys who are growing bigger by the minute.

I did get a great run in with a couple of miles at tempo pace on monday.  I was shocked that my legs felt great and of course i loved the running venue.  One mile away is Florida Canyon and Morley Field.  Florida Canyon is just a simple canyon intersected by a road in Balboa Park.  As I trotted along (7:40-7:50 pace yes!) I breathed in lovely scented eucalyptus and coastal sage scrub.  Ahhh, that was wonderful.

Even better, we had a beach day at La Jolla.  White sands and little waves in that water temp which feels cold at first but then just right.  I alternated between building a Sand Castle Complex with adjacent lake and teaching a gaggle of kids about jumping just when the wave hits and watching for those "sneak" waves.  You know, the one that comes right behind another wave when you aren't expecting it.  I did also get a chance to get completely in the water and try and catch a wave body surfing.  It's been a long time.  The waves were poor and I am out of practice and that was just fine.

Next up...did I really just sign up for a trail marathon as a way to get in a long run before the upcoming 50k?  Yes, yes I did.  and I signed up for this trail marathon practically the day before the event.  That's a new one! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Scott Cougar Mountain Trail Run - 13 miler

So the thing about getting off a cruise boat is that it is really had to readjust to reality.  I had done a 19 mile run sunday after getting off the boat and went into the week tired.  I think that was my complaint for the rest of the week.  Tired.  July was busy!  Out of town to Chelan, Ragnar planning and then Ragnar, vacation and covering a lot of things at work.  I think it was catching up to me this week.

I did what I could.  Tried to go to bed earlier.  When I went out for a run and realized I was so tired, i cut that run short.  Legs felt fine but I was just not feeling it.  I hoped all would settle down because training now turns to a mid-September trail event.  I need trail miles and this weekend was the 13 mile Cougar Mountain trail run.  Of course I signed up.  What a few hours of running when you are tired?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

I was excited about this event.  I really like the trails and I'm not worried about time for this one.  I really haven't had a lot of really steep technical trails this summer and need to get my legs and mind used to them again.  This course delivers.  Straight up and down for 13 miles with a lot of rocks and roots.  it would be good to practice taking in more liquids and electrolytes and see if that helps the lungs last longer in these endurance events.

I last did this event in 2009 after having done all the previous distances in the series plus Ragnar.  In 2009,  I came into this event at probably the fastest I've been and well trained for trails.  Could I approach that same time?  I wasn't sure but hoped that with better food/water management I could.  In 2009, I'd run out of water and had some hamstring cramping issues at the end.  the strikes against me?  Did I mention I was tired?  And I hadn't exactly been tapering last week when i ran 3.5 hours on easier trails.

I got there about 30 minutes before race start and picked up my bib.  I was really surprised to see so many uber-fit looking people.  Honestly I felt like a poser next to some of these people.  yeah, this race is a USATF championship event and I was asked if I was a member and thus eligible for some prizes.  Uh no.  I'm a poser!  And see my ipod loaded with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as read by Stephan Fry (the British version is my favourite!) and I planned to use it which is against the rules of USATF. 

Talk talk talk and we were off 'round the field, to Clay Pit Road and onto Coyote Creek.  This is when you are surrounded by other people and there is some pleasant chatter.  I really just wanted to go out easily and get warmed up and just enjoy myself.  We started up Lost Beagle and really I just didn't feel good at all.  Hungry and tired and grumpy.  Dang.  Already?  It was going to be a long run with that attitude.

I tried to shake it off and was really grumpy about how hard this felt.  Finally we hit the top and started down.  I did pass people as usual on the downhill as I'm better downhill but really wanted to keep it easier so tried not to speed up.  I had a strict routine for liquids and food:
Every 15 minutes - water
Every 30 minutes - gel or my energy bar with an electrolyte capsule and more water

This did seem to work.  I was never hungry again after the initial hunger within first starting.  Two electrolyte capsules per hour is about double my typical rated.  I was really sweaty and could tell I needed both more water and electrolytes. Did the lungs do better?  Debatable.  I still stopped around mile 11, about 3 hours after last using inhaler to use the inhaler again. 

After the climb up Wilderness inwardly snickering at people's reactions to the ongoing and forever climb, I'd turned on good ol' Harry Potter and just started to feel much better about the whole thing.  The trouble with knowing the trails pretty well is understanding how to bail out early if I really wanted to.  Did I want to DNF?  No, I did not.  This really was a good training run for something else.  I needed the more technical trail experience and I was getting it so get on with it.

After that, I felt better and just started enjoying myself.  I took in the gorgeous scenery and just tried to stay steady.  I honestly didn't have a lot of oomph uphill at all.  Oh well.  Just keep going.  The course was very well marked which was great because from about 7.5 on, i really saw very few people on the course and you did have to make those turns on the course yourself. 

I seldom get to run over on De Leo Wall and Marshall's Hill Trail which is too bad.  It was really pretty over there and the weather was perfect for this run. I managed to avoid getting stung by a wasp this year although I think i was close to one.  I do remember at one point going by an area where there were some buzzing creatures.  I could feel something land on my ankle, i swatted at it and took off.  Phew.

I came up to the last aid station (around mile 10) and called hello.  She was alone and sitting reading.  Hopped up and asked what I'd like.  I really love these low key trail events.  Something salty please.  And of course there were potato chips. Munch munch.  She offered some coke and dang if that didn't sound good then.  I haven't had soda in some years (no really, years!) and slurped some down.  Tasty!  I'll have to remember that for these long events as it will give me something to look forward to.

the trails were more runnable in here and I kept at it.  And then finally I made the turn onto Quarry Trail.  This is it.  The last long uphill climb.  Get through this One Mile Climb and that was it.  Flat or downhill and very well known trails to the finish. I could do this!  Trudge, trudge trudge.  I was happy to see that there were some more people around me now.  I was catching up a bit to some others and then, kersplat!  I hooked a toe on a rock and down I went.  I was so mad and stunned.  I was flat out on the trail for a bit and couldn't believe it.  It really was vaguely uphill on this section and wide open.  Dumb.  I hate falls like that.  A guy quarter mile behind me called "you ok?! as I was standing up and leaning over in shock.  My first reaction was to burst into tears.  it was the knee jerk upset reaction when tired, really.  I controlled that, said i was just fine and needed a minute.  He ran on (not stopping which i was glad of).  I did take that minute and then trotted off.

Shoulder sore, knee bleeding and just mad at myself.  Finally I hit Fred's and just steadily started running.  Bypass to Old Man's trail and I passed about 4 people in this section.  Done!

2:48 and my garmin read just under 13 miles
In 2009, I ran this in 2:40 and my same garmin and same course read 13.3 miles.  Results are up and distance is marked at 13.7 miles.  Haha!  I love trail races.

The sense of accomplishment of finishing this punishing course is sky high.  After realizing I've been fighting tired all week and feeling so dead on this run, I'm taking this week as an easy week. I love road races but there is something special about being able to do these tough trail runs. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More photos.

Skagway view.
One week post vacation and I'm still thinking of our trip.  It was also really hard to settle back into work and life.  That's always a sign of a good vacation. 
Onto Glacier Bay

Marjorie Glacier

John Hancock Glacier and well wrapped for viewing.

tide had gone out and left chunks. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Vacation

July was pretty busy with fun events.  The month ended with a week long cruise to Alaska with family.  I heard from a lot of active people that they had a lot of doubts about a cruise but they all admitted to curiosity.  This was my second cruise to Alaska and I really enjoyed it!

Now, as an active person, I made some pretty good choices about the timing of this cruise.  We were coordinating six people's schedules but were eventually able to pick the first week of august.  This was perfect from my point of view.  I'd be post-Ragnar and rather in-between events.  There'd be no need to stress about trying to get a lot of running miles in while on the boat.  I'd still run, of course, but it could be more of a run when you feel like it and for however long which would be perfect one week post Ragnar.

And it was great!  It's rather a different mentality sort of a vacation.  Internet and phone service is available but for a high price.  So cut that right out.  I brought a lot of books loaded onto my nook and picked a few different knitting projects in case I got bored with what I was working on.  I planned to take in some of the events on the boat, hang out with family, take in the sights and nap.

We'd deliberately picked this cruise line because it went to Glacier Bay, Skagway and started/ended in Seattle.  good choice overall.  Logistics were extremely easy boarding the boat at Pier 91.  We had one complete day cruising north and it was a good time to figure out the layout of the boat.  The cruise ships can be big and overwhelming and the best way to deal with that is to just explore.  the staff was unfailingly friendly and helpful.  I enjoyed quite a few of the talks they had on board like National Park Rangers in Glacier Bay, Libby Riddles and random things like a galley tour.  Mostly though, it was pleasant just to sit and hang out. 

I was less interested in the little towns the boats stop in except I decided I'd try to get in a trail run in port at least in Juneau and maybe Skagway.  That was a great decision!  I've been to Juneau before on a cruise and couldn't remember a thing about it.  This time, I found a good looking and easy to find trail, talked K into joining me and off we went.  It was raining pretty hard but it wasn't cold.  The town by where the cruise ships dock is full of little touristy shops but quickly climbs towards the steep hills.  Soon we were beyond the tourist boundaries and it was gorgeous!   It was an easy trail to follow and to run.  One concern was that part of the section of the trail (seen in the above picture) had collapsed!  We'd not seen this but heard it from a couple who were hiking back down.  Yikes!  We went quickly through this area.  The other concern?  Bears.  Juneau can have a lot of them evidently and we saw evidence of the bears on the trail but managed to avoid seeing one. 

Skagway was the next little town.  We'd booked a train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railway but had the whole day in port.  I'd heard from a outdoorsman on the cruise ship about trails in skagway and even gotten a map.  Lower Dewey Lake and uppper Dewey Lake trails would be less running but promised a very good workout and some nice views of the town.  These trails did not disappoint in either regard.  Just a half mile away from our dock, the trail went straight up.  Lower Dewey Lake was a very pretty tranquil area.  K continued on around the lake.  I wanted the harder trail (in prep for an event next month) up to Upper Dewey Lake.  Round trip the run would be six miles but since I knew it was very steep, i still didn't think I'd make it to the second lake.  And I did not.  I turned around at an agreed upon time.  It was a very enjoyable time though and I'm glad I got out there.  The train was just as spectacular although the diesel fumes were pretty bad on the descent!  Blargh. 

Glacier Bay was my goal for this trip and it did not disappoint.  The weather was perfect.  Cloudy but still with the clouds mostly lifted.  We had excellent viewing conditions for Marjorie, Lamplugh and John Hopkins Glacier.  Really, they were spectacular.  I still get chills thinking of the huge chunk of ice which calved off of Marjorie.  The sound of calving is amazing.  We also watched for whales as we were leaving Glacier Bay and saw quite a bit of activity including a humpback breaching. 

After a week, I was ready to get off the boat but I still rather miss the leisure and relaxed mentality.  It was a lovely experience visiting with family for the week and not having any responsibilities.  I really miss my nap schedule! 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ragnar Random

A couple stories which stand out for me:

I finished my 4th leg and was delighted. I'd run strongly and finished well. I was done and even better, we only had two more legs to go and then we were done as a team.  And everyone had run well.  After I finished I walked around for a bit and then realized that there were actual bathrooms at this exchange site.  I went into to dunk my head under the sink since I was hot and disgusting really.

And saw an older runner I passed being helped towards the exchange by his teammates.  I'd passed him on the downhill. He was running but had a bit of a limp/hitch to his gait.  That's not too unusual to see at the end of a relay.  My favorite from last year was seeing a young fit looking guy running his last leg at Reach the Beach Relay and he was carrying The Stick in case of need.  People are well trained and not for this type of relay and dehydration/fueling/sleep issues all play a part in how a runner will run.  it's not unusual to see people struggling their last leg. 

This older gentleman had fallen evidently. His team members went over to help him "run" his last leg in.  Honestly I was very teary watching this.  I get it.  It was important to finish.  After the next runner took off (would that be hard or what?!), they brought him to a shaded area with a chair and I saw a volunteer talking on her radio. Soon we could hear the aid car coming.  Dehydration and heat exhaustion?  Probably.  Spirit?  Definitely. 

I was chatting with a coworker the following day at work.  I had asked him to join the team when we had the team member come down with strep but he was already on a team.  This was his first relay.  And?  What did he think of it?  He described a real sense of accomplishment and as I described a satisfying afterglow.  It seems simple, take a group of people and some challenges and run from point A to Point B. Try it.  You won't be disappointed. 

Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay - The Runner's Version Part 2

I always find it rather odd to be in some neighborhood in some little town and so focused on what we are doing in a relay.  We run by people who are in their beds asleep and will wake up to a normal saturday.  How to explain what we are doing and why it is so fun?  Well, I can't.  But everyone who I've talked to who has done one of these relays finds it a real accomplishment and walk about with a feeling of pride and fairly glow about the experience.

But after you've just run your second leg in a 24 hour period, you are not glowing.  You are tired and it's easy to question your sanity and ask yourself, "what the hell am I doing here."  THat is the time to eat and have some liquids with electrolytes and cheer for the other runs in your van and out on the course.  And that is what I did.  Honestly though, I was pretty up from such an awesome run for quite a while.  EVentually our last runner of the van was out and running towards Deception Pass and we would be done soon.

Deception Pass Park is where the next major exchange is and I was disappointed to see that they seemed to have fewer items available for runners here than in years past.  Actually I felt that was true overall.  yes there were things available to buy but all I wanted sometimes was a cup of hot water so I could add some starbucks via.  Fortunately I had come prepared and was much better stocked for food than I have been.  That made the complete difference in how well I ran.  I had foods which appealed to me and I could eat easily even when I didn't always feel like it.

What did I bring?  buttermilk pancakes (made without the butter) with peanut or almond butter taste really good and are much easier for me to eat than the typical pbj made on bread.  I even had pancakes with a chocolate mint gu at one point.  I had a made a very big vat of a chicken pasta cold salad with feta, olives (love the SALT!), peppers and cucumbers with just a bit of chopped red onion.  I dislike a lot of the commercial dressings people tend to use for this type of salad, so just used balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Tasty and filling with a nice mix of carbs, protein and fat.  I brought my usual chocolate milk.  I had bananas and water laced with nuun.  I was never too hungry and never had any gi problems when running.

After handing off to the next van, we made it to Coupeville High School for the next major exchange.  All we could think about was lying down.  The high school was packed and sleeping on the hard gym floor was not an option.  My back and hips will not take that.  We found a field behind the school and tucked ourselves into a corner.  The grass was really wet but at least the ground was soft and there was a cherry tree over us.  I think I did actually sleep a bit even though my throat got sore and ears plugged up again.  Then the fog rolled in and the cherry tree started dripping.  Argh!  yes, lightest sleeper ever.  That drip kept me awake.  Oh well, again, just lying down flat made a big difference.  And eventually we could hear some sort of alarm going off in the high school.  Yeah, that would be annoying.

Ragnar races have local teams provide volunteers for each team who will work on course.  Our teams' three volunteers were at this major exchange and it was a great boost to see them.  The manned the team number calling and recording.  In fact, they seemed like a nice bit of normal in the midst of all the race craziness.  With this leg, Van 1 was done! They were off to the finish and to wait for us to arrive.

And we were off.  Fog had come up and runners were required to wear reflective vests again.  Our first runner (who had been educated on the term "roadkill" and then did his best to get as much of this as he could) was running on the most spectacular section.  With no warning, we'd dropped down onto a beach road and found wind tortured trees looming in the fog.  It was amazing.  Runner 1 was too busy counting roadkill to notice.  Ha.

Leg 3: The main goal for this 4.8 hilly leg which climbed for 2.5 miles and then went down 2.5 miles was to stay steady and strong on the uphill without blowing up and then use the downhill wisely.  I wanted 8;30 pace overall but wasn't sure if that was possible.  And?  I nailed it perfectly.   it was warm and sunny with a breeze.  I carried water and just kept at it and soon I was in.  I did get passed by Van 1 here and it was a nice pick me up.  they said I looked good and I wasn't even wearing a tutu on this leg.  garmin tract

Now normally, I'd be estactic and jumping around here.  I'd be done.  Not this time.  A runner in our van was just returning to running after a stress fracture.  She'd run her first two legs and we'd always planned for me to run her last leg.  She just didn't have the miles, it had some steep downhill and it just wasn't going to be a good idea.  She really struggled with this but eventually saw the wisdom of it and only packed two sets of running clothing.  so instead of eating like I was done, i just had more water and a gel and pancake and tried to get out of the van and walk around whenever I could.  I had an hour in between legs to stay loose.

Soon enough, the runner I'd handed off to was back at the exchange and I took off.  No  warm up other than just walking around and I felt pretty good considering.  Right away the course started uphill and i just kept at it.  I'd still pass people here and there and I made sure to say the usual "good job" but by this point it seemed like most were wearing their music and not much into responding.   Oh well.  I had my tutu and my water and I was good.  The worst part of this course was seeing a huge looking hill a couple miles ahead on a perfectly straight road.  I could see vans on the other side of the road and knew I'd be climbing it.  Well that was not for now, so just keep running and I did.  4th leg garmin connect

And eventually I hit that hill and it was great to see all the vans cheering everyone.  I continually passed people here and got lots of cheers.  Someone even had  spray bottle which felt great.  it was getting warm.   As I passed people another van shouted out "tutu good" and that made me really laugh and look back at that van in delight.  Yes, i love relays. 

I did get passed by one guy but he really didn't pull too much farther ahead.  EVentually we hit a second uphill section right before the start and then a great downhill.  I blasted down this and I could hear my teammates cheering for me (orange clothing and a tutu REALLY stands out) and I was done! woohoo!  Only a couple more runners and we were into the finish for a reunion with the other van.  Oh everyone was happy and up and I was so happy that everyone had enjoyed themselves. 

And even better, everyone is thinking of next year.  Yep.  it was good. 

As a team we averaged a 9:00 pace.  Fantastic and just what I'd hoped for. 

I ran 4 legs, 19.5 miles total at an 8:31 pace overall.  I am delighted!  And I did this while I was getting a cold.  Yeah, that's what the sore throat and plugged ears meant every time I lay down.  after having done this event this year as captain, I feel much better about it for next year.  No stress, right!  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay - The Runner's Version 2011 Orange Ogres Van TuTu
Actually though, unless I was actually out running, I never felt that I could take of my Captain's hat (see photo for what that hat looked like).  And even when running, I'd be thinking of things which needed to happen next.  since my brain tends to work this way generally, it was not a big deal, but i was surprised at the added effort.

We all got up to Bellingham for Van 2 start in good time.  I was extremely fearful that the prediction spreadsheet used to predict when to expect each runner would be very slow compared to how everyone would actually run.  Would we miss them?!  Turns out I did a great job at predicting overall pace for the team.  I predicted we'd finish between 1:16 pm and 1:32 pm depending on whether one runner in Van 1 was able to complete her legs.  She ended up just sensibly running two legs and we came in at 1:19.  Dang that was satisfying!

For me, I wanted to run strongly but I was going to have an added challenge of running 4 legs instead of 3.  And instead of putting legs back to back, I was going to run what was supposed to be my last leg, then wait for the next runner to go and then run my 4th and final leg.  I wasn't sure how my body would respond and it turns out I needn't have worried.

I was runner number 2 in the second van.  Our first runner was a young guy who was a relatively new runner but fast.  He was great!  he kept it easy but still belted out a blistering pace and made it look like cake.  it was wonderful to finally be running on such a pretty day.  Since I'd never been in Van TuTu before in this event and it was neat to see some different areas.  

Leg 1: Only 2.8 miles but straight uphill and then downhill to the next exchange.  However, I never got any warm up and forgot to use my inhaler before the run.  I felt awful on the uphill portion of the run and both could not acquire satellites nor remembered to turn on my watch at the beginning of the run.  Oy.  Yeah, i was distracted by captainly duties for sure!

No worries though.  After about 10 minutes, I started to feel a bit more warmed up but then realized it felt really warm and humid and i was running into a ferocious headwind at times.  Don't think just run and just catch those ahead.  I think finally i was hitting my stride and feeling better and...I was done!  The best part of this?  We'd made tutus for all van members and I wore mine for this run (with my orange shirt - we are the orange ogres after all) and got a lot of honking and support from other teams.  Yep, it's the details which make this event even more fun.

Everyone ran so well their first legs.  It was a beautiful evening in Western Washington and I was happy to hand off the running mantle to the next van.  Off we tromped to the major exchange.  I chowed down (pasta, chicken with feta, olives, cucumbers, peppers in a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar - perfect!) and brought out my sleeping bag and rested.  We knew we had a couple hours and i desperately tried to sleep.  My throat got so sore and my ears plugged up once I was lying down and a dear vanmate started snoring on the ground next to me. The sore throat and the plugged ears was weird.  the snoring?  typical.  I am the lightest sleeper ever.  It was really nice to stretch out and relax.  after a bit I started getting texts from Lesley and got people up and we tromped back to the van to get ready to start again.

Overall, the course was very well marked for directions and safety for both runners and vans.  Leaving Pioneer Park at La Connor though had some problems.  We could not figure out where to go based on the directions.  Turns out the directions were only how the runner was leaving the exchange and not how the van would leave the exchange.  We had to come back to the exchange and ask a volunteer for help.  He was able to pull up a gps program on his phone and walk us through where we needed to go.  Thanks un-named volunteer directing traffic for helping us find our way at after mid-night when we were not at our sharpest!   

By midnight, temps had dropped to comfortable running weather.  I debated longer sleeves like I saw many other runners departing the next exchange but ultimately decided to go with short sleeves and gloves.  I'd hoped to run this next leg pretty hard and if I did, I'd get pretty warm.  It was a good choice.  My second leg was 7.7 miles from headed towards Anacortes.  It had some bumps in it but ended on a long flat over an amazing trail which used to be a railway trestle out OVER the water in Fidalgo Bay.  I'd heard about this trail but never seen it.  I'd not done any warm-up except just trying to walk about.  But right away I felt good partly because I'd used my inhaler.  I started off fast and settled and then just worked my way up the hill.  i saw no one at all associated with the race which worried me a bit.  Was I going the right way?  Were we as a team very far behind (this is a captain's worry!).  No matter, I just kept at it and eventually got along a long straight road where I could see flashing blinkies ahead of me.

Perfect!  I gradually reeled in a few and was happy to see cop cars patrolling the area as well.  THAT really did make me feel better. I got passed by one gal who then seemed to stop and get water and I never saw her pass me back again.  We went by the refineries up towards anacortes but I didn't pay much attention.  I just ran.  And finally, I made the turn onto the Tommy Thompson Trail and was just amazed.  I didn't need a light here even though it was dark.  It was flat and fenced and there was only one way to go.  I could see a blinkie a fair bit ahead and made it my mission to catch this person.  After about halfway across the trail, the fencing which had been on either side disappeared and there was just rocks and open water.  That was very disorienting and I felt like I was going to pitch right into the black water on either side. 

With just a half mile to go, I finally caught up with the blinkie which had been ahead of me.  He had been running well and stopped to walk.  I yelled as I came close, "allright?" and got a "no."  I yelled back "just half a mile" and he started running again.  I really had not been paying attention to what pace I was running and finally peeked towards the end.  Hot damn!  8:16 by garmin.  That was faster than I had expected.  Maybe I'd pay for this later but it was worth it.  garmin connect link