Thursday, December 13, 2012

Science Experiment

Take one pair of running shoes.

Expose to wet, muddy conditions for an extended period of time.

Put wet, muddy shoes into a plastic bag.

Tie the bag shut.

Put the bag in the laundry room, which is uninsulated and maintains an average room temperature of 50 degrees.

Leave the bag there for a week.

Open the bag, and realize that you've grown grass in your shoes!


Monday, December 10, 2012

North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon

I've been trying to figure out what to say about this race for the past week, when really all that needs to be said is this:

26.2 miles of rainy, hilly, muddy trails in 6 hours and 42 minutes equals a really big smile at the finish line.

                                                                     (photo by May)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Running > Writing

I haven't been writing.  I've always been a writer in that I love language and I love how seemingly random words can connect to tell a story.  However, most of that writing takes place in my head, rather than on paper or on a computer screen. Does it still count as writing if it's not written down? No? Ok then, I am simply a story-teller who hasn't been telling her stories recently, but that doesn't mean I haven't been creating stories to tell.

So I haven't been writing but I have been running. I'm coming up on the last few weeks of my training for the North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon on December 1st. I have several upcoming races which I am using as training runs for NFEC.

I've been having lots of lovely trail running adventures with friends over the past few months, and getting more confident about solo trail runs, especially those in areas where there have been recent mountain lion sightings and those that I don't finish until it's dark. Yes, I am a wimp about certain things!

Here's hoping November and taper time will bring me the added motivation and time to start writing a little more.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Race Recap: Hollywood Half Marathon

It's been almost a month since I ran the Hollywood Half Marathon; hopefully I can remember the details!

I signed up for this inaugural race sometime last summer and had pretty much forgotten about it until March, when my friend Ashley reminded our group of runners about the fun outfits we had ordered to wear during the race. My first foray into the world of running skirts would be a short, red, sparkly one from Team Sparkle, complete with rainbow striped leg-warmers.

To be honest, I was a little hesitant to wear this skirt. Not only had I never worn a running skirt before, but this one was short! I had to wear it very low down on my hips so that it would be longer than the shorts underneath. However, after running 13.1 miles, I can honestly say that it was one of the most comfortable running outfits ever. It did not budge at all during the race, it did not chafe, or brush annoyingly on my thighs. In fact, I barely noticed that I was wearing it while I was running. Plus, it looked great in photos!

pre-race with Laura

The race was Saturday, so A and I drove down Friday and headed right for the expo at Universal City. We waited in line for about 30 minutes  just to get in to the Hilton for parking, and another 20 minutes for a parking spot. After the 6 hour drive, this was not fun, but we kept ourselves entertained. 

The expo itself was pretty crowded, which was likely due to it being 4 pm the day before the race. We picked up my race shirt, bib, and were out of the expo within 15 minutes. We found our hotel in Burbank pretty easily, and then basically crashed. We found a pizza place that would deliver to our hotel room (it was amazing, but I can't remember what it was called) and had lights out by 9.

A was nice enough to wake up super early with me and drive me the few miles to Universal City for the 6 am race start (best race supporter ever!) She dropped me off about 5:30, and as I watched her drive away, I realized I had left my water bottle and GU in the car! Oops.  Luckily, when I met up with Laura, she gave me her non-running water bottle, and I actually carried it through the entire race. This turned out to be a very smart idea, as the aid stations ran out of cups by the time I hit mile 7!

It was still dark when we started running, but already warm. I was comfortable in my tank top and short sparkly skirt. The first 1/4 mile of the race was within Universal City, and it was fun to run past all the shops and restaurants.  Around mile 1, we hit some lovely downhills, and I think I just flew down them. Running downhill is pretty much my favorite thing ever, and I always have a goofy smile on my face.  I was with Laura for the first mile or so, but lost her somewhere on the downhills. 

All of a sudden I heard a familiar voice, and looked up to see Sammie speeding down towards me. She was running with another friend, pacing her to a PR, which she did successfully. I ran with Sammie and Shannon until about mile 6, as we cruised down Hollywood Boulevard chatting and people-watching. The course was an out-and back, so it was fun to see the front-runners flying back towards us as we headed out.

After the turn-around, I picked up the pace a bit as I was feeling pretty good.  Miles 6-9 were at a sub-9 pace. It was getting really hot by this point though, and I was missing my GUs. Just after mile 10, there was an aid station handing out some brand of gel, and I have never been so happy to see an aid station before!

The last two miles of the race were back up-hill. I liked the downhill portion much better. There were a lot of folks walking. I just tried to keep a steady pace but definitely slowed way down here.

Then, the finish! Conveniently located next to a Starbucks, for my post-race iced coffee!

Post-race with Sammie, showing off our bling!

We had a bit of a walk back to the main part of Universal City from the finish line, but I think it did my legs good. A came and picked me up, and we went for an amazingly delicious brunch at Paty's in Toluca Lake.  Then, we headed out to Riverside to spend the rest of the weekend with some friends who live out there.

Overall, the weekend was a blast, and A and I even enjoyed most of our 12+ hour drive between the Bay Area and LA. The race was fun, and I liked being part of its first running. That being said, I don't think I'd make the drive South to run it again. However, if you are local, it's a very fun race.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tales from the Trail

Although I've only been training for my first ultra-marathon for about a month, I've learned a lot about trail running so far. Here's the top 10:

1. I need to eat more on trail runs. While I can run 14 miles on the road fueled by only 2 GUs, the same rule doesn't apply on the trails. I haven't figured out the exact best formula for my body's needs, but what I've been doing so far isn't enough.

1a. When I am grouchy, not smiling, and saying things like "running sucks" this means I needed to eat about a half an hour ago, and didn't eat. My lovely teammates Jenn and Donna got to experience this on Saturday. I hope they'll still run with me!

2. What I used to refer to as "hills" are really just inclines. These are actual hills:
Yes, I ran up these hills. Also, photo credit belongs to my teammate and coach Brian L.

3. Mud may slow me down, but as long as you don't fall in it, it's not so bad.

4. Running downhill is really, really, really fun. It's worth the super steep uphills.

5. I am sure that I will deny #4 many, many times.

6. There is (almost) no way to quit in the middle of a trail run. Each run starts at a trailhead, and that's where the car is parked. No one can drive down that trail and pick you up if you decide you don't want to finish the run. Also, there's no cell reception to call anyone to pick you up.

7. The woods are not full of wild animals or serial killers. I grew up in surburban New Jersey, and watch way too much Criminal Minds. I've usually been frightened when in the woods by myself, but the more trail running I do, the more I can let go of that fear.

8. My ultra teammates are really incredible. I'm inspired by the variety of endurance events many of my teammates have completed, and especially by the huge commitment they've made to team in training. Plus, they're lots of fun to train with.

9. Trail running can take you to beautiful places that are inaccessible except by foot or bike.

                                                                    Again, photo credit to Brian L.

10. There are no porta-potties in the woods. Not that I was really expecting any, but it's a different experience. Also, learning how to identify poison ivy and poison oak has been a very useful skill!


Where have I been?

It's been a while!

I'm still here. Still running. Still training for this It's in 6 weeks. I'm excited. And nervous. But mostly excited.

Also, I've signed up for my next adventure. My first ultra-marathon! I'm running and fundraising again with my very favorite team.  Even though I haven't been blogging here, I've been writing a little bit about my ultra training experience over on my fundraising page:

That's it in a nutshell. This weekend is the Oakland 1/2, and I am looking forward to running with my friends and enjoying my local race. 

Happy running!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Running: A Love Story

Oh, running. 

You know, I can still recall the night when we first met. I was alone in my college dorm room, no doubt filled with some sort of young-adult angst. It was late at night, in the middle of an Ohio winter. I found myself leaving the warm comfort of my dorm, making my way down the hill to the track that I could just glimpse from my third-story room at the top of Leonard Hall.  At that hour of night, the track was deserted, but a full moon gleamed overhead. Propelled by nothing more than my angst, I began running around the track, slowly at first, then working up to a full-out sprint. Round and round I went, tears from emotion and cold blurring my eyes until I could no longer see the red clay beneath my feet or my legs spinning beneath me.

And running, even though you knew that I subsisted at the time on a diet of cigarettes, cheap beer and bean & cheese burritos, even though you knew that the most exercise I got was stumbling home from a north end campus party to my south end dorm, even though you knew that there was no earthly reason why I would be running and it would feel amazing, you wrapped me in that seductive embrace of yours and on that night, I flew.

Our night of passion was short-lived, however, and I am sad to say that except for a few fleeting encounters on tree-lined country roads during my senior year (remember the autumn leaves? weren’t they glorious?) we wouldn’t meet again feet to road for another eleven years.

Full confession here: I spent quite a lot of time with walking in those eleven years. Sure, walking and I had some good times, but walking was always better when someone else was present too. Walking was a great big snuggly fleece blanket – comfortable and safe. For a while, I was satisfied in my safe cocoon with walking, but eventually I realized just how much I missed you, running.

I tried, multiple times, to reconnect with you, to find that magic again. I would go out to the Marina, and get my legs moving, but something was different. My legs hurt, and I couldn’t breathe.  Red-faced and panting, I’d try to catch you, but you were elusive, taunting and teasing from a place I couldn’t quite reach. And when I’d slow to catch my breath, walking would be there by my side. I was weak, and it was easier, to just reach for that familiar cocoon.

One day, though something changed. I heard that a friend of mine on the other side of the country had been spending time with you, running, and that she had done something amazing – she completed a half-marathon. And I was jealous. Not of her accomplishment, but that she had found that connection with you that I longed to have. So, running, I know this is something I shouldn’t be too proud of, but I set out on a mission to make you mine. 

It was a simple plan. I would register for my own half-marathon, and I would surround myself with people who supported me in my endeavor. Not only that, I would work towards a cause, running and raising money for cancer research.

Let’s be honest here, running – between my new-found determination and my passion, you really didn’t stand a chance. I think you knew it too.

You met me again in Sedona, two weeks before my half-marathon training officially started. Nervous with anticipation for what my training would bring, I rolled out of bed early even though on vacation, and laced up my running shoes. I went to the hotel lobby, had some coffee and Danish, and headed for the hills.  I pounded up paths past deserted vacation homes, drawing closer to the red rock canyons lined with rocky scrub brush. I felt you behind me and around me, your warm wind on my face. Something inside me said that you were finally here to stay.

Since then, running, we’ve had some wonderful times. Whether on roads or trails, short distances or long, you’ve brought that magic to nearly every run. Even though you deserted me in San Diego, you’ve more than made up for it. Sure, there’s been some black toenails, blisters and chafing, but there have been so many moments of pure joy that it makes the blisters worth it. You’ve stuck by me through achy shins, tendonitis, and weird foot problems. Most importantly, you’ve pushed me to go farther and faster than I ever thought possible, and you’ve taught me how to really believe in myself.

Running, I am so glad that I found you again, and I don’t plan to ever let you go. Even if I can no longer run an 8 minute mile, or cover 26.2 miles, I want you by my side. Together, we accomplish beautiful things.