Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013: Running

It's that time of year again! Time for the recaps to begin! In 2012, one of my favorite running experiences was my first 50k. Let's see what makes the list this year, shall we?

Amber did kind of a fun thing and talked about how many posts of hers were related to running. This year, I did not write as many posts as normal  (only 80 vs over 200 in 2012), but of that number, roughly half were tagged with "running". That's a lot of running! Approximately 2000 miles of running (just barely squeaked over). I just want to say: thank you all for putting up with all of the running talk! I know as a non-runner, it can be boring and I don't blame you if you skip over some (or all) of it. We can still be friends.

So, what were the highlights of the year, running-wise? It is hard to pick as there were a lot of great moments related to running this year. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Travel: due to running, I got to travel to several far off destinations, such as Washington DC, Boston and British Columbia, as well as several close to home hidden gems, such as Tahoe, the Marin Headlands, Saratoga and of course, my backyard, the East Bay hills and their many parks and open spaces.

vancouver
Vancouver, BC

2. Exploration: this goes hand in hand with the above, but I love finding new places that I would not have seen otherwise and exploring new cities on foot, which gives me such a more extensive tour of the city than I would have been able to accomplish had I only been walking or driving. I have seen sunrises and been places where there are no other people around and it's moments like those that really make all the difficulties worth it.

PCT -- Oregon

Lake Merritt, Oakland

3. My First 50 Mile race: This year, I trained for and ran a 50 mile race. This was a great experience which taught me patience and perseverance as well as made me realize (as always!) that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Plus it was in my own backyard and it was great to be there, seeing my familiar trails in a different light. To top it all off, my Dad and Grandma were there and my Dad ran the final 6 miles with me.

4. Family: My family has been so supportive about my running. This year, they came to Boston, they were there for the 50 mile race, and came to support me at the Quad Dipsea after Thanksgiving. They are so patient and have braved the crowds and the unfamiliar places to be there for me and that has been priceless.

Quad Dipsea -- Mill Valley, CA

5. The Tahoe Rim Trail: This was not even my race; for this race I paced a friend for the last 20 miles of his 100 mile race. Not only was this course beautiful (think 8000 feet, alpine, views of lakes) but being there with him really was an eyeopening and uplifting experience for me. He was such a trooper and he made me realize that if he could run 100 miles, I could definitely run 50!

trt
Tahoe Rim Trail

6. Volunteering: I did a few different volunteering gigs this year and once again, it makes me really have a warm place in my heart for all the other runners out there and the running community as a whole. People who get up at 2 am to drive the shuttle for the runners, or who spend their whole year preparing for this one event, or people who go out and volunteer at many events, are so inspirational. Some people are not even runners; they are just like my family, coming out for support without asking for anything in return. It is really fun to be a part of that group and to see things from the other side of the table sometimes!

7. Local Trails: I know I already said travel, but I also really enjoy the trails that I can get to right from my house! From my house, I can run about 3/4 of a mile and I am at a trail system that could take me easily 50 miles or more! So I really have NO excuse to not go running!

FRC PCT
PCT -- Northern CA

8. Running Friends: I usually run alone, but I have had a great time meeting up with people when I travel for races. When I went to DC, I got to see friends I hadn't seen in over a year. In BC, I got to meet Amber. In Boston, I ran past Jill, saw Nancy and met up with friends from both the Bay Area and Back East. I also joined an ultra racing team, and while we do not run together, we still give a hearty "good job" if we pass each other during a race! I also did quite a bit of running with Broski again this year.

9. Squamish 50k: This was easily the hardest 50k I did this year. In total, I completed five 50k races (6 if you count one Fat Ass), but the steep downhills of the Squamish really did me in.

Squamish, BC

10. Boston Marathon: This was An Experience. A BQ. A new PR. An explosion. You can read about it here and here and here. It was so monumental that I  have 6 of my 80 posts dedicated to it. That is almost 10 percent! I won't forget it.

finish line
Finish Line, Boston, MA
 
What were your top running moments of 2013? What are the majority of your posts about?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Back: November

What better time to do a November recap than at the end of December? I actually wrote this at the beginning of the month and then neglected to post it! So, good-bye November, hello and good-bye December!

To sum up November in three words, I would say: Work. Eating. Fun.

Work: has been crazy; we are still working a lot of overtime, since the end of the year is near and everything needs to be done by year end. We have been going in on Saturdays, which I actually like, because without the phone ringing and a new email popping up every second, I actually get some work done! On top of everything else, we had a guy go out on Paternity leave and the temp who was supposed to cover his desk fell through, so we have been doing his work too. I was already pretty swamped; doing his work as well has made me way behind. In addition, his wife had some complications and the babies came two weeks early, so we have been doing it for a few weeks now.

sf window
Morning view from my office window

Fun: comes before eating because a lot of the eating was fun too! However, I had a girls night at the house at the beginning of the month, which was a ton of fun. I made a bunch of muffin inspired foods and there was plenty of wine and a dance party was commenced. The weekend after that, my brother had an end of Harvest party and it was good to hang out with some of his girlfriend's friends who I had met before but didn't know very well. The next day we canned some pickled veggies and then had Sunday dinner because it's CRAB season! The next day I took the day off and volunteered at the local food bank. It is near my aunt's house and when I asked if she wanted to join, she, my uncle and two of my cousins came too, so it was a fun family affair (plus I chalked it up as a workout since I had to move so many cans of food). Thanksgiving was spent doing a bike ride and then I got to hang out with my extended family, some of who I have not seen in a while (and who are all grown up all of a sudden).

Food: has been plentiful this month! At girl's night, I served muffin shaped foods: mac and cheese bites, southwest chicken cups, mini chicken pot pies, mini quiches, artichoke and spinach dip cups, and....salad. The recipes were kind of thrown together from things I already liked making. At the Harvest party, there was brisket (I ate SO MUCH brisket!), corn, cole slaw, beans (with Jalapenos), and salad. There is always salad. For Thanksgiving there was turkey, of course, and some super good mashed potatoes. My favorite were the two different kinds of stuffing. At one party, it was brie and artichoke stuffing; at the other it was cranberry, sausage and apple stuffing. Both were delicious, even though they were pretty different. Finally, I took the turkey carcass home and made turkey stock, which will be used soon!



Aside from the top three, there has been some running (163 miles), a bit of reading (2 books), a bit of yoga, one trail race, a bit of biking and a little too much TV watching (Parenthood, Greys Anatomy, Top Chef).

What did you do in November? What is your favorite food to serve when people come over? Do you enjoy crab season?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Free Tours Around the World


I'm not enthusiastic about organized trips that require early morning wake-up times, dictate your every move, and keep you captive on a bus for hours every day, but I do love tours that give an overview of the city.  And the very best tours for a Tightwad Traveler, of course, are the free variety.

You can find a free tour for almost any city you visit, and the good people at the Price of Travel have published a handy list: list of free tours

David and I have taken several of these tours; here is a description of the first one we took in Paris in 2009.
                                         **************
Fountain in the Place St. Michel, the gathering spot for the tour.
If you wear your sturdiest walking shoes and prepare yourself for a pace more suitable for twenty-year-olds than fifty-somethings, you'll love the New Paris free walking tour.

Continue Reading>>

Monday, December 9, 2013

Quad Dipsea

So this space has become an area for race recaps and.... not much else.

I hope everyone had a really great Thanksgiving! I did. I double booked myself and had BBQed turkey and 3 different kinds of pie at my brother's house and then had second turkey dinner with homemade candy at my aunt's house. The best part was my parents made it to both, which I missed last year (they went back East last year). So it was good times, good food, good friends, good family! And I took home the carcass and made some super good stock.

So...how to burn off these two dinners (and massive quantities of dessert)? Hill work, of course.

You may remember I have mentioned the Dipsea before. It claims to be the oldest trail race and has been going on for over 100 years. It goes from Mill Valley, up and over a hill and then back down to Stinson Beach.

The quad Dipsea is up and over to Stinson, and then back to Mill Valley and then back to Stinson again and then back to Mill Valley. The first section from Mill Valley, for about a mile and a gain of around 500 feet, is all stairs. After that, it's back down hill and then you begin the climb to Cardiac.


It was about 40 degrees when we started. I opted to go with tank top and shorts because I had made the overdressed mistake in the past. I ran this as one of my team races, with an ultra team that I joined a few months back. The other members are a lot of fun and are very encouraging. We don't run together, but it's still fun to have more people to cheer on along the way.


The first climb was not bad. I had a lot of energy. I was passing people, as I often do on the uphills. I got to the top of Cardiac and skipped the first aid station. I headed back down the other side to Stinson and was still feeling great. This race was fun for the fact that once I got about half way down, the leaders of the pack started to come back up. There were so many "great jobs" and "way to gos" being thrown out and you saw so many people that you knew, whether they were in front of you or behind you. It was very encouraging, especially since trail races usually are not very well spectated, due to their difficulty to reach for most people.

I got down to Stinson Beach and fueled up with some cantaloupe and headed back up the hill to Cardiac. This section is partly trail, partly stairs and it pretty steep the entire way. This section was mostly speed hiking/jog/walking. There was barely any time when it wasn't either uphill or downhill. Usually there is some flat, but this time, there was very little. Finally, it was back to Cardiac again and then back down the big hill, back up the little hill and then DOWN the stairs, which was way harder than up, since they are all different lengths and heights. It is hard to get a rhythm, plus there are other regular Saturday walkers out and about with their dogs and kids and families.

I arrived back at Mill Valley and my family was there, cheering me on. My Mom snapped this photo; it makes me look really fast.



After another handful of canteloupe and a piece of pumpkin pie (I love ultra food!) I headed BACK up the stairs. This was not too bad either. Of course, this time, I was not moving as fast as I had the first time! But I was still feeling good. At Cardiac I ran into a friend who was taking photos, gave him a high five and headed back down the hill again. Before I reached Cardiac, the front runner passed me heading the other way. The next person behind him was at Cardiac at the same time as me, making him about 20 minutes behind the leader. It was pretty impressive. He was just blowing down the hills like a maniac!

On the way down to Stinson, I still felt good. I saw a ton of people I knew and the "good jobs" were still flowing! I got to the beach, ate, and headed back to Cardiac. This is where is got a little difficult. After Cardiac, the long downhill was a bit muddy and rocky, with roots and rocks and bumps in the ground. My knees were starting to get a little tired, but it didn't seem like a big deal. Then one of them really started to bug me, so instead of overdoing it, I slowed to a walk for a while. I got passed by a bunch of people, including 2 girls (darn it!) at this point.

When I got to the stairs, I took it easy, and got back to the end a little after I wanted. I had set a goal of 5:45, but I came in at 5:52. I was still happy to be under 6 hours though!



Total elevation gain: 9200 feet

The winner set a new course record of 3:48. You can read more about it here. The second place runner got 4:15. The first girl got 5:06. I call that impressive! I was the number 10 female out of 72, and the 59th out of 249 overall.

I don't know if I burned off my two turkey dinners, but I sure had fun trying! (PS I went to the gym on Monday and there were at least 2x more people than normal. I am not the only one trying to burn off that turkey!)

How did you burn off your turkey dinner? What did you do for Thanksgiving? Do you participate in a turkey trot or any Thanksgiving day exercise?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Currently: November

Current Book - 22 Brittania Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

Current Running Path - 

coastal
Running the Presidio

Current Drink - Lipton tea with milk and sugar 

Current Excitement - I had a really fun day volunteering at the food bank this week with my family. It was nice to do something for others and to see family members that I don't see often enough.  

Current fashion trend - Yup, it's Movember again.


Current Favorite Blog/Website - Amazon

Current Garden Item - We still have tomatoes, but I turned one bed under to plant some winter veggies...TBD what kind! 

Current Love - Bat kid! Our hero! It was so inspiring to see the outpouring of support for him and his family. So inspiring!

Current Food - Mandarin oranges and persimmons.

Current Indulgence - Baked goods. 'Tis the season. 

Currently Pondering - Whether or not I want to make bread pudding, which I will probably eat most of by myself, or just throw my old loaf of bread away. 


Current Mood - Lazy: this darkness is really affecting me this year!
 

Current New Find - Did you know that Ross/Marshalls have exercise equipment? I even found a Nathan running belt there for about a quarter of the regular price! 

Current Outfit - I vacillate between pajamas, work clothes and running clothes. 

Current Peeve - People who walk and text. 
 
Current Song - This is a good running song, or is great if you just need a pep me up!

 

Current Triumph - I had a very fun and successful girls night in last weekend with food, drinks, dancing and fun! I need to do that more often! 
 
Current TV Show -  The Good Wife; I am trying it out. So far, it's pretty good. 

Current Wish-List - Printer ink. It's not cheap. I think the ink is about half the price of the printer!

Currently Delaying - Working on my Christmas cards. I know it's early but they take a while and I like to get them out right at the beginning of December.

What's your favorite TV show right now? What is your current love? What song do you listen to when you need a burst of energy?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon

**This is the perfect day for this recap! Happy Veterans Day! Now, onto the MCM recap.... 

Since the Boston Marathon, I have neither run nor trained for a road race. I spent a lot of time training for trail races, which means lots of time on my feet and many miles, but none of them were run at a very quick pace. This led me to be a little uncertain of what the MCM would hold for me.

I had planned this several months ago with two friends who I had met last year at The Relay. One of them lives in Philadelphia, and he had been wanting to do the MCM for a long time. It was one of his bucket list races. The other gent hailed from Texas, and had never run a marathon before.

My plan was to attempt to run about a 3:30. I figured if I stayed at about an 8 minute pace the whole time, I could make it. However, like I said, I have been running the trails, at about a 10 - 12 minute pace, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. I have done a couple of road runs, but they were at around a 9 minute mile and there were only a few of them. Texas had been training at about a 10 - 11 minute mile and he wanted to stay at this pace the whole time. Philly was injured; he used to run about a 6:30 pace, but since his injury has not been running. He was planning on running with Texas to keep him company.

starters
Me and the boys -- ready to go!

The expo was a mess. We had to wait in line for 2 hours to get our bibs and goodie bags. Needless to say, this made me really doubtful of how good the race organization would be. However, it was pretty well organized! There were shuttles to the start line, with roughly a 1 mile walk to the start. The sweat checks were well labeled and there were a ton of porta-potties. We had to go through a bag check to get to the start line. The Star Spangled Banner was cool; there were a bunch of parachutes with flags that unfurled as they came closer to the ground.

The start line was self corralled. I lined up at the 3:20 - 3:39 corral (kind of a big gap, if you ask me) and actually got to talking to a few fellow runners about Boston. The guy behind me BQed but didn't get in this year because there were so many applicants. And then we were off!

start
Ready, set, go!

The first few miles had a lot of uphill. The wheelchair racers had started before us by about 5 minutes, and we ended up catching up to a lot of them at this point. I can only imagine how tired their arms must have been! I was really trying not to start off too quickly in this race. However, my first mile was slower than I would like, so I started to pick up the pace a little after that. Mile 1 - 5: 8:15, 8:07, 7:53, 7:30, 7:52

Miles 6 - 10 were pretty flat and were an out and back section. It was cool because I saw all of the front runners and then on the back portion, got a chance to look for my friends, but I didn't see them. Miles 6 10: 7:45, 7:49. 7:47, 7:57, 7:53. 

Miles 11 - 15 were a loop around the tidal basin and the Jefferson Memorial. I was still feeling pretty good and it was fun to see the crowds along the route. I was running along side a couple of Semper Fi guys and I just kept their red shirts in my sights. I saw a lot of the same spectators as they were criss-crossing the course and I could recognize them from their signs. Mile 11 - 15: 7:49, 7:52, 7:54, 8:08, 7:58. 

At mile 16, my hamstring started to give me trouble. I slowed down in order to save myself from injury and to attempt to save a little energy until the end. The best part about this section was that it was run along the Mall and for much of the time we were running toward the Capitol building and past the Smithsonian buildings. However, I was definitely starting to lose energy and my quads were tired and my hamstring was aching. Mile 16 - 20: 8:08, 8:23, 8:24, 8:26, 8:23.

They say the real race begins at mile 20, and for this race, this really was the truth. At mile 21, we crossed over the Potomac for the last time and people were walking. I wanted to join them so badly, but I knew that if I did, I would regret it later. So I kept plodding along, step after step. At mile 23, I ran near my hotel. I was about a quarter of a mile from it and I remember thinking about how I could just go there instead of to the finish. People were handing out doughnut holes and I remember thinking that maybe I could just stop for a while and eat a doughnut and call it a day. I ran past the pentagon and the start line and I finally passed the 25 mile mark. Mile 21 - 25: 8:24, 8:25, 8:24, 8:32, 8:34.

The last mile (point two!) was the longest mile ever. To top it all off, the last 30 or 50 feet before the finish line were uphill. I wanted to punch someone. I gave it all the gas I had left, which was barely any. Mile 26: 8:23, Mile 26.2: 8:06.

Finish: 3:34:57

iwo jima finish
Iwo Jima finish

The verdict? I started out too fast. Again. I fueled. I even ate a Gu, but I am not sure I fueled enough. I definitely did not train correctly. However, I had fun! The crowd was great; there were lots of gorgeous monuments; there were a ton of cute military guys; the weather was perfect. What more could you ask for?

Oh, and my friend from Texas, for his first marathon, got a 4:21, which is just under a 10 minute mile! He is a rock star! He beat his own goal and did so great! I am proud of him! He is already signed up for two more marathons too. See what happens?

Have you ever been to DC? What mile is your least favorite when you are running? Have you ever had a doughnut in the middle of a run?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking Back: October

After the month of September, where I did a lot of running but no races, October was the month of races but not as many miles. Having a couple of taper weeks really gave me a chance to do something besides running for a change! Here are some of the highlights of October:

Lake Merritt

Running: Like I said, although I had two races, my monthly total was not my highest. The first weekend was taper week, then it was the big race, then it was taper and then it was another race. Total miles for October = 140. Over half of them (76) were race miles.

Books: Hurray! This month I actually read  8 books. This is mostly due to the fact that I have not been on the internet, but it also due to one weekend of flying, in which I read almost two books. I finished the Percy Jackson series. The others were State of Wonder, Bossypants, The Art of Fielding & Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Of all of them, my favorite was probably State of Wonder. The Percy Jackson series was fun, but was probably about 3 out of 5 stars across the board.

Travel: I went to Philadelphia and DC for the Marine Corps Marathon, but that will be another post in itself. I also went up to Sonoma county with some friends for a nice day of eating and wine tasting. We had brunch at Parish Cafe in Healdsburg and then went to the Williams Seylem winery for some wine and treats. They were having an event and there were tasty treats like local cornbread with bacon, olive oil and chocolates. To be honest, we never made it to a second winery! But we had a very good time.

San Francisco mini tour

Friends: I spent one weekend with my brother and his lady. It was fun, as it was the one year anniversary of Broski's first race. In the last year, he has gone from running a few miles a week to wanting to try his first marathon soon! His longest run to date has been about 21 miles! I am so proud of how far he's come and it was really fun to do this race again together. This time, since it was the day after my 50 mile race, I walked the 5k with the lady and her sister while Broski ran the 10k with Dad. I also had some friends from the Midwest visit on Halloween, and we had a great time wandering around the city, eating burritos in the Mission and enjoying all the great costumes.

Food: It's that time of year again! I made an old favorite, Pumpkin Spice Muffins and of course lots of curries, stews and bean dishes. However, due to tapering and too many office parties, traveling and friends being in town, I did not really make very good food choices in October. I ate way too much! I need to get a handle on that before the "real" holidays are here! I sure do love me some desserts, fancy dips, carb heavy brunches, wines, cheeses, and meals out with many courses though! And let's not forget nuts. I ate a whole (16 oz) jar of peanuts at my desk the other day.

Music: I really love our local music venue, The Fox Theater, which is small enough that no matter where you are, you can see the band clearly. This was the month of concerts! I got to see Passion Pit, Joy Formidable, and Two Door Cinema Club. I also had a great time at a Bryan Adams concert in Santa Rosa. Have I mentioned that my first concert ever was Bryan Adams?  I have to say; he still rocks it.

Angst over the Government Shutdown

Other Highlights: Finding a great new brunch place with fabulous corned beef hash (they also have duck confit, which I love!), hosting my Aunt and her boyfriend in San Francisco for the day, only falling off my bike once in the middle of traffic, the regrowth of my new toenail,  the BART strike, a really great team pot luck at work, the Government Shutdown and a gorgeous sunset over Lake Merritt.

How was your October? What is your favorite Autumn recipe? What is your favorite brunch item? 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Firetrails 50

It was a dark and stormy night. Just kidding; it was a cool and foggy morning.  I arrived at the start early, and was chatting with some fellow runners when I saw...my Dad and Grandma! They had come to cheer me on! I gave them some good luck hugs, lubed up, went the the restroom, ate an apple (in that order, actually) and hit the road. Literally.

firetrails 50
Raring to go!

The first couple of miles were on pavement. I was trying not to go out to fast, as I know that is one of my weaknesses. In fact, speaking of weaknesses, after the race, a friend asked me what my challenges were for this race, and it got me thinking... instead of doing a mile by mile breakdown, as there are a lot of them, I am going to highlight some of the challenges, as they are really what defined this race for me.

This race was pretty much an out and back, with the only difference being that we went around the northeast side of the lake heading out and came back along the southwest side. This meant we went through most aid stations twice. I am going to recap this race mostly from aid station to aid station.

Start to Bort Meadow / mile 7.9: After the paved section, it started uphill on a dirt fire trail. I caught up with Kent, a guy that I have seen around at a bunch of races, and we actually stuck together for this entire section. He kept telling me that I was pacing at a faster pace than he normally starts out, and I was trying to slow down because I knew that starting out fast would come back to get me in the end. He also said that I would have to have salt, which I have never really trained with. Average pace = 9:00 / mile.

Bort Meadow to Big Bear / mile 10.5: After Bort Meadow, a high five from grandma, and some potatoes with salt, the majority of this section was downhill. Kent took off flying down the hill and I was back on my own again. Even though downhill is not my forte, I did pass a few people in this section.

Big Bear to Skyline / mile 15: When I ran the Skyline 50k, Skyline was the halfway/turnaround point and boy was I glad to see it. This time, I tried to get that thought out of my head, because it was only about a quarter of the way this time! This section was pretty unremarkable. I ran, sometimes near others, sometimes chatting with them, sometimes running silent. I kept slowly passing people, but was still trying not to go too fast. Average pace = 10:30/mile.

Skyline to Sibley to Steam Trains / 21.7 miles: I was still feeling great, which was strange because when I run 50k races, mile 19 - 25 tend to be my weak point. However, somewhere in the middle of this section, my sock started tightening up. I couldn't figure out how to fix it; I took my shoe off and adjusted it, hoping it would help, but I kept feeling it squeezing my toes inside my shoe. Another issue was that I was wearing fairly new shoes and I was kind of hating them. Instead of laces they have that zip tie thingy and it kept loosening up, which was probably why my sock was acting funny. In spite of that, I had a good time, as this was the point when I started to see the front of the pack heading back toward me.

Steam Trains to Lone Oak / 26 miles: This was a good section, with plenty of people to look at, due to the out and back. I saw my friend Kent, as well as many others who were in front of me. I counted the girls, as I always do in this situation, and knew I was not going to get any prizes for this race! However, the best part about this section was the Lone Oak aid station, which was not only the turn around point, but was also the giver of grilled cheese sandwiches! Never before has a white bread and American cheese sandwich tasted SO good! Average pace = 11:25/mile

Lone Oak to Steam Train / 30.3 miles: The worst part about this section was that it was mostly uphill, so it was pretty slow going. Also, it was devoid of trees, so it was a bit warm. However, I buddied up with a really nice Russian guy who was trying to qualify for the Western States (11 hours or less) and we hiked up the hill together and had a nice chat along the way. Also, I got to see who was behind me, as we were again on the out and back section.

Steam Trail to Sibley to Skyline / 37 miles: To be honest, at this point I started to just put one foot in front of the other. My left sock kept giving me trouble and I had to stop a few times to try to adjust my sock/shoe. I could feel a hot spot, which I had a feeling was going to end up as a blister. I remember a couple of rocky, root filled downhills and the fear that my feet were not going to hold up as long as I would like. They were not screaming, not even close, but the left one had the hot spot and I was favoring it a bit and was worried it would affect the right. The last two miles of this section, I was really, REALLY wanting to get to the aid station. I had to pee and I kind of just wanted to stop just for a minute. I kept thinking that I just have to get to 40 miles and then it would all be easy from there.

Skyline to Big Bear to Bort Meadows / 44.1 miles: After fueling up at the aid station and stopping for a potty break, I headed back down the Stream trail. Most of this section was run with a guy I had been talking with before, Matt, and his pacer. I didn't really talk to them much; at this point I was not very social, but it was kind of nice to just run behind them, or in front of them (we kept switching) and to listen to them chatting. I cannot tell you what they were talking about, but just having them "keeping me company" was nice. For this section, I walked the uphills, even if they were little or not steep. I just really wanted to save a bit of energy for the last few miles. After Big Bear, we headed up the big hill toward Bort. These miles up the hill were 16 minute and 18 minute miles. This hill made my legs pretty tired, but on the other hand, I was glad to not have to run.

Bort Meadows to Clyde Wood to Finish / 50 miles: I ate a potato, which I was not hungry for in the least, but I knew I was running out of energy. I also had some Gu Brew, which tasted like medicine. It was gross. Dad caught up with me and together we headed out for the final section. I told him he needed to just talk so I wouldn't have to and he did a good job of keeping me entertained. I was feeling a little gross at this point. The Gu Brew was threatening to come back up and my legs were pretty tired. I think Dad was surprised when I walked the little hills. I did get a burst (if you can call it that) of energy around mile 47 or 48 (my Garmin had died by then) and I even started participating in the conversation a little. However, I felt like a drunk person, where you can't control what does or doesn't come out of your mouth. My brain was like a marshmallow. The last section was on pavement again, and there were regular people hanging out and walking and they all looked so fresh and so happy! I rounded the corner next to the finish and the clock read 9:54:xx. I sprinted (term used loosely) to the finish and crossed it in just under 9:55!

Afterward I felt pretty good. My legs were a bit tired and my feet were pretty excited to get out of those shoes, but otherwise, it was not too bad. I scarfed down a hamburger and some ice cream and put on my new fleece (bonus) because believe it or not, I was kind of chilly!

finish dick collins
My loyal fans!


Just for reference, here are a few of the stats: #1 guy came in at 6:27. #1 girl was 7:43. She is 50 years old. The Russian from the Steam Trail section came in at 10:17, which means he qualified for Western States (nice job buddy!). I came in 103/287 overall and 19/94 females. I think there were actually about 380 registered runners in the beginning. Another pretty cool thing that I didn't learn until I saw a camera on the side of the trail is that it was all being broadcast live! My Mom went online to watch me finish but her bandwidth ran out right before I came in (bummer). I wish I would have known in advance. Next time, I guess. They did put the start online HERE.

So, the big question is: Would I do it again? Yes. Am I ready for a 100 miler? Not quite.

But maybe 100k.

Do you talk to other runners when you are racing? Have you ever been so tired you feel like you are drunk? Who is YOUR most loyal fan?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Points Guy's Pointers

Check out The Points Guy's blog today as he gives an overview and valuable details about his recent Chicago Seminars.  If you weren't able to attend the seminars in person, this is the next best thing!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Going The Distance

Yup, it's that time again. Cue the music. It's The Taper.

On Saturday, I will run my longest race (or distance in general) EVER. The Firetrails 50 mile.

You know, I am actually ready. I am sure you have done something for the first time and been kind of nervous about the entire thing because you aren't really sure what you are getting yourself into. I am like that. However, I remember my first marathon and how I felt and how the actual race was not as bad as I thought it would be. I did NOT come in last. I DID finish. I did NOT die, injure myself, starve to death or hit the wall that hard. All the things I worried about...did not happen.

This race is the same. It's just a race, albeit a bit longer than normal. I know I can finish. I don't know if I can finish without walking (probably not). I don't know if I will be super sore by the end (probably). I don't know how long it will take me (hopefully less than 13 hours)!

Do I have a strategy? Of course. Will it work? Who knows!

The strategy is this:

1. Run, unless there is a big hill in the way. Then I will hike as fast as I can.

2. Eat whenever I can. I will eat at each aid station and will carry snacks, just like any other race.

3. Slow and Low is the Tempo. I am going to TRY to remember not to go too fast, which will be hard. However, I don't want to end up pooping out for the last 20 miles! So slow it will be!

4. Talk to people. Company on the trail makes the time go by a lot faster. And it will be nice to have 13 hours feel like 8, right? 

So, here's to finishing, not last, and before 13 hours (the cutoff).

Also, I want to say a huge GOOD LUCK to everyone who is running Chicago this weekend! I know you are all in taper mode as well and I hope that it is going well and is not making you too "mad"! A friend of mine who is running Chicago this weekend (kick some butt, Jill!) sent me this and I thought it was funny, becuase I know exactly how this feels!



I bet you know what this feels like too! Here is hoping that Stage 8 comes as fast as possible!

How do you cope with nerves when it comes to doing something for the first time? What is your strategy for getting through a challenging event?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shangri-La? It's Just North of Philly!


Scenes like this border many roads in Bucks County.
It's not named after a famous writer, although Pearl S. Buck did live here, or after the deer you'll see in the protected green spaces lining the road, or even after the bushels of "bucks" it takes to be able to afford a house here.  This idyllic spot in Pennsylvania is called Bucks County after William Penn's home county in England--Buckinghamshire.

But a more accurate name for this place might be Eden.  Forget Mexican beach hotels or Costa Rican mountain resorts; if you want to get away, a much more accessible Shangri-La can be found right here in the United States.

Although just an hour's or so drive from Philadelphia and New York, it might as well be on another continent--it's that far removed from those bustling cities.  Here, nature reigns with Monet-like backdrops of lush greenery with deer loping across the fields, and quaint towns with gingerbread houses hugging the sides of the twisting roads. 
Even the bridges are so narrow that Tom tucked the side view mirror against the car before we started across.  I don't think signs posted a speed limit, but no one was foolish to drive faster than five miles an hour on this bridge crossing the Delaware River.
It is here, where the Delaware River divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey that you finally understand why New Jersey has the moniker, The Garden State.  As difficult as it is to believe gardens exist anywhere in the state when you are on the turnpike approaching Newark, this area adjoining Bucks County makes you a believer in miracles.  It is as lush as Newark is industrial.

This two-county area straddling the river (Bucks County in Pennsylvania and Hunterdon County in New Jersey) is ripe with possibilities for exploration--to name only a few, there are the Doylestown Mercer Museum, a six-story castle housing American artifacts; the eclectic shops and restaurants in the charming little towns of New Hope, PA, and Lambertville, NJ, (Actually, most any town in this area is worthy of your time.); Washington Crossing Historic Park; and tubing trips down the Delaware River.

Two Buttons
For those with a literary bent, the Pearl S. Buck house is a must-see.  And, if you're a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Last American Man and Eat, Pray, Love, to name only two of her books, you will want to visit the store she and her husband opened in Frenchtown, New Jersey.   
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Looking Back: September

September was a month with no races, which was a big change from August (2 races) and October (2 races). However, I was ramping up for my biggest race ever, the Firetrails 50, so it was not a month without running! Here are some of the highlights of September:

Running: This was one of my highest mileage months ever; I ran 225 miles. Even with being sick and not being able to run as much as my schedule required, I still managed to log a lot of foot time. This was good, yet it also caused me to be pretty exhausted in September. It's amazing how much time is required for heavy training. It left me with little time to do much else. My total running time in September was about 40 hours. My longest run was a 23 mile run with Broski in the rain, which was definitely a challenge but was actually quite fun in the end!

Softball: Even with all the running, I am glad that I made time for the weekly softball team at work. We lost our last few games, leaving us with a final record of 2 - 6. I guess there is nowhere to go next year but up! The season is now over and it will be nice to have my Thursday nights back! I have to admit, joining the softball team while training for a fifty mile race was probably not my brightest idea ever, but it was really fun to get to know some people at work who are in different departments. It makes me realize how little I interact with anyone outside my immediate vicinity at work!

Books: I actually read a few books this month! They were just random books that I had on my Kindle, so they were nothing new. I read Jackdaws by Ken Follet, which was about the French resistance in WWII. It was entertaining, but wasn't too deep. I also started the Percy Jackson series, which is fun, but it's definitely no Harry Potter! I also read Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, which was another book that was okay, but not great.

Travel: For Labor Day, I went to see my parents, which was really good. It was nice to be home and to see my family and to gaze at my favorite mountains and river and trees. Going home always makes me feel a sense of belonging. I had a great time running on my favorite trails, taking a bike ride/run with my parents and hanging out with the cat and the neighbors.

Friends: I met up with Broski and the Lady for some horse races and wiener dog racing,  which was a blast. Have you ever seen a wiener dog run? Its funny. Now picture 20 of them running at the same time; its even better! I also took the puppy (Emi) up to Broski's house and she got to get hassled by his two Jack Russel terriers. It was definitely interesting. We ended up having to muzzle one of his dogs for a few minutes because he kept trying to bite Emi. After they established who was boss, they got along just fine. The next day we had a nice run and had a "make your own pizza" dinner with the in-laws. Good times. I also had some great times joining up with work friends for happy hour. Work is so busy that we don't often have time to hang out, so it was nice to unwind and have a drink and get to know each other better.

Food: I did some canning! I canned tomato sauce and hot pepper sauce. This year we didn't get so many veggies that we couldn't keep up, so I really didn't have as much to can as I had hoped.

Other randoms from September: I cut off my black toenail, the new Bay Bridge opened, I taught the dog how to use the doggie door, I fell off my bike, I went to yoga twice and I watched Midnight in Paris.

The end.

How was your September? Have you ever been/would you ever go to a wiener dog race?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Headlands 50k

If you have never been out to the Marin headlands and taken highway 1 to Stinson Beach, you really are missing out on an awesome experience. It's really beautiful and the road is windy and the town of Stinson is idyllic. However, although driving there is fun, it's even more fun to run over the hill and get the sweeping views of the ocean from the top.

The Headlands 50k is 6,400 feet (according to Garmin; the website said it was 7,300) of climbing and is on firetrails and single trails and encompasses many of the classics (the Dipsea, Matt Davis, Miwok and Coastal trails, to name a few) of the area.

It starts near Muir Beach and the morning of the race was foggy and cool. Driving there, you take the windy road and it's slow going, creeping down toward the ocean without being able to see more than a couple car lengths in front of you. The race is put on by one of the local running teams and the organization of it was very good. It was a figure eight race, so we would end up back where we started.

My goal was to finish in around 6 hours, as this was less gain that Ohlone (8000 ft) where I finished in 6:30 and more than Skyline (5000 ft) where I finished in 5:09. Based on elevation, I was hoping to come in right in between the two. I would be happy if it were closer to the 5 hour mark than the 6, but would not mind anything in between.

We started on time and as always, went straight up. From Muir Beach, we went on a firetrail to the Coastal trail, which winds around the outside of the cliffs right near the water.

Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail

I made a friend as we were speed walking up the first hill and we hung together for a while, chatting. However, I tend to be faster on the uphills than the down, so I took off without her after a while, in order to keep my pace going. We wound down to Tennesee Valley and then back up the hill again, which was a trail I hadn't tried before, so it was a new adventure! After that, the trail went down to Rodeo Beach and my new friend caught back up to me. She was way faster than me on the downhills come to find out. We made it to the first aid station, where a random guy told us we were females number 7 and 8 overall.

From that aid station, she and I stuck together, keeping each other going. She would lead on the downhills and I would lead on the uphills. We arrived back at Tennesee Valley aid station (AS) together and her husband told me to keep her in line, even though I was struggling to catch up to her half the time. She had the cutest little family, three kids, the husband, the dog...the perfect cheering team! We didn't stay long at the AS, maybe 30 seconds, before heading back up the hill.

This was the big one. In the elevation profile, there were a few smaller climbs and then two very large ones in the last third of the race, which is generally where I have problems.


 We climbed and climbed and climbed. Then we got to another aid station and I stopped to get some lube and all of a sudden my friend was gone. I hustled up to try to catch her. Once we reached the top of the hill, the way down was awesome. It's on a trail called the Matt Davis, which is covered with ferns and in the middle of a mossy forest. It's really pretty. However, we were not the only ones who thought so; there were a TON of hikers! I have to say, this race would be better if we did this section earlier, when there are less people.

At the bottom of this hill is Stinson Beach. By this time, I was starting to get tired, which didn't bode well for the next section. From there, we headed back up the famous Dipsea trail to another trail called the Steep Ravine. This trail was also very beautiful, but was also full of hikers. It also lived up to it's name; it was steep. Luckily some new friends were spectating from this trail and they gave me some words of encouragement as I chugged up the trail.

Once we got to the top of the second big hill, I would like to say it got easier, but downhill is not really my friend. However, I was (still!) trying to catch up to my friend and thought maybe I still had a chance, so I skipped the last aid station at the top of the hill and headed down toward the finish. The last few miles consisted of switchback after switchback and it was brutal. I probably got passed by about 15 people in this section, which really bummed me out. However, I could not move any faster!

I finally got to the bottom and gave it my all to pass ONE guy right before the finish. Yes! That really made up for all the ones who had passed me before. I finished in 5 hours and 55 minutes, just under my goal of 6 hours.

My new running friend beat me by 7 minutes! When I went up to talk to her after the race, she said that she had thought I was ahead of her the entire time and had been trying to catch up to me. Man, she was fast!

This was not my best finish. I usually end up in the top quarter overall; it was not so this time. However, it was pretty interesting to see what my splits were at the aid stations. Actually, I guess that there were not as many people passing me at the end as it seemed!

11.5 miles -- 85th
19.5 miles -- 71st
24.1 miles -- 58th
27.7 miles -- 59th
Finish -- 62/181

Age group: 4/15
Gender: 9/60

After the race there was pizza; it was so good! I also enjoyed an after race beer and had a great time hanging out, shooting the breeze with new friends, ie people who passed me or who I passed along the way. All in all, it was a great day on some of my favorite trails!

Do you have a favorite trail nearby? Or maybe just a place you like to go on the weekends?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

European Discounts for Seniors


Friends in Benalmadena Pueblo, Spain
Are you a senior who wants to save money on your next trip to Europe?  Seth Kugel, frugal travel writer for The New York Times, will give you a few tips in this article published yesterday, "With Age Comes (Some) Discounts."

Kugel says, "Most of the countries that responded to my survey claimed that discounts are frequently given at theaters, cinemas and tourist attractions to those aged 60 or 65 and over."  He goes on to list countries that recognize age with reduced public transportation fares or reduced admissions, and he gives two websites with information geared to the older traveler.  

Getting a discounted price in countries that have never heard of AARP is helpful, but I think it's also valuable to plan a trip that will save you money every step of the way.  My book, Europe on a Dime:  Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, is geared to the baby boomer, and it shows how to travel in style for less than $98 per person per day! 

Use Kugel's article and my book to plan your next frugal visit to Europe.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cheap Sleeps


Fort Payne, Alabama
Want a room for less than $55 a night?  Then look for those old motels with names like Dew Drop Inn or Three Roses Bed and Breakfast.

I wrote about these colorful accommodations a few weeks ago, and now Seth Kugel, frugal travel writer for The New York Times, has discovered them, too. On a recent trip through the heartland of America, he enjoyed staying at these roadside motels, the mom and pop places that have sometimes been in the same family for fifty years.

He found that, "... the old roadside motel has gotten an upgrade. Though they are still decidedly one-star, my experience indicated travelers can expect flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi and beds that are perfectly comfortable."

I'm sure he'd agree with me that most of these places also have character, a trait missing in most of today's motel chains.

If you'd like more details about Kugel's experiences and information about how to find these places, read Kugel's article, "Finding the Right Roadside Rooms," here.   Check my blog post for additional resources.

Monday, September 23, 2013

R & R

Last week was scheduled to be my highest mileage week before starting the big taper for the Firetrails 50 mile race, which is in three weeks (eek). As I have mentioned before, things have been busy at work and it's been hard to fit any miles in at all, never mind a large amount of miles, so I was kind of looking forward to getting this week over with so I can start to return to a normal weekly mileage again.

However, I was also excited, because it would be my highest weekly mileage ever. It was going to be a 60 mile week.

But it wasn't in the cards. On Monday I started getting a cold, so I took the week easier than planned. I ran a 10 mile run on Tuesday in the city; it was a beautiful clear day. I got up on Thursday morning for a nice and early (and dark) 10 mile run before work, which I am really loving. It is really (really!) hard to get up any earlier than I already do, but man, the run in the dark and the silence, with the lack of cars, and being part of the early morning city activities (delivery, street cleaners, sleepless elderly folks out for their morning stroll) is really special.

On Friday I came straight home from work and got in my PJs and went to bed. I actually think I was asleep by about 9 o'clock. That is, after I drank about 248 liters of liquids! I tried it all; juice, tea, water, theraflu and soup. I was determined to get rid of this thing!

I got up Saturday and met up with Broski for a run in the Marin Headlands. There was a 50k we were going to run, but Broski works in the wine industry and they are in the middle of harvest, so we couldn't take that long of a run. The forecast called for rain around 8 am, but it was supposed to move through really fast so we figured it wouldn't matter if we got a little wet. We started around 6:30 and it was kind of misty/foggy for the first half an hour and then it just started pouring! It rained on us for roughly the next 3 hours (out of 4) and it was an interesting run to say the least. There were not a lot of great views but the rain also kept all the weekend hikers off the trails. We had them nearly all to ourselves. On this day, my cold was not too bad; and being in the woods made it easy to do a couple farmer's blows from time to time! I ended up running about 23 miles, which was longer than planned but the loop we took ended up being longer than we thought. We rewarded ourselves with a burrito before going our separate ways. I never say no to a burrito. Plus, isn't the saying, "starve a fever, feed a cold...a burrito"?

I got home, took a shower and got back into bed. It was kind of nice to finally have a relaxing weekend! I watched Midnight in Paris (which was a pretty good movie). I finished Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang (which was entertaining) and started another book. I got some laundry done. I watched the first season of House of Lies. Yup, I watched a lot of TV, ate, drank and relaxed. It was great!

Sunday I slept in and was feeling much better, so I met up with some friends for brunch and a walk and then went for another run around the neighborhood. Ironically, after Saturday's rain, it was perfectly clear and warm on Sunday. However, my legs were pretty tired and my heart wasn't really into it, so I cut it a little shorter than I had planned.

I would like to say I reached my goal of 60 miles, but I didn't. Sometimes life just gets in the way! However, I did get in some good mileage and some good rest, as well as having a great weekend with good friends. Now, let's bring on the taper!

How was your week? Did you get everything done that you wanted to do?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mexico Is Land of Opportunity

English Library Courtyard in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
An article by Damien Cave in The New York Times yesterday detailed the changes in Mexico that are making it more attractive to big business and expatriates from the United States, Canada, and Europe.

In "For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico," Cave says that not only is Mexico appealing because it offers cheaper industrial costs and lower wages, it is also attractive because of its creative opportunities.

My three-story house in Ajijic with pool and two-story casita (not visible) for $550 a month.
As Cave states, "Europe, dying; Mexico, coming to life. The United States, closed and materialistic; Mexico, open and creative. Perceptions are what drive migration worldwide, and in interviews with dozens of new arrivals to Mexico City — including architects, artists and entrepreneurs — it became clear that the country’s attractiveness extended beyond economics."

My living room which is the first floor of the three-story house pictured above.
Of course, Mexico has long been a destination for retirees looking for a cheaper, simpler, and culturally diverse retirement destination.

For more information on how to make a move to Mexico, see my book, Retire in Mexico--Live Better for Less Money. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Currently: September

Current Book - Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler: this is the second book I have read by her and although I don't love her TV personality, her books are pretty funny. They are a bit crude, but are a good way to pass the time, especially since I usually read on the bus ride home, so her short antidotes are a perfect length.

Current Running Path - 

FRC PCT
Home sweet home

Current Drink - Supplication

Current Excitement - I signed up for Boston!


Current Favorite Blog/Website - Garmin Connect
 

Current Garden Item - Tomatoes: We made tomato sauce, tomato salsa, and have been eating a ton of salads!

Current Love - Getting up before work to run. Okay the getting up part is not so great, but the being up when the rest of the world is still is priceless.

Current Food - Potato and Beet Salad. I have been on a kick where I throw some veggies together with a bit of vinegar and a scoop of greek yogurt and call it a salad. I love it!

Current Indulgence - Happy Hour

Currently Pondering - What is up with Miley Cyrus? I am sure you have all seen this video. Next thing we know she is going to shave (the rest of) her head and start weilding a bat in the middle of Los Angeles. Is this just a phase? 


Current Mood - Tired


Current New Find - Butter infused garlic noodles. What can I say? Butter? and Garlic? Tell me more! 

Current Peeve - I think I am getting a cold. I am fighting it off with water and vitamins and...pickles, and I am hoping it doesn't get any worse! This is not the time for that! 
 
Current Song - 

 

Current Triumph - August was my second highest mileage month ever with 206 miles, and September is looking to possibly surpass it! 
 
Current TV Show -  Master Chef is over and I am so glad that ___ didn't win! Since then, there's been nothing else. I am looking forward to Top Chef starting again.

Current Wish-List - More hours in a day 

Currently Delaying - Some organization of my finances that will take me a while, so I am not looking forward to getting started. 

What is your current favorite blog? What are you currently loving? What do you think about that Miley Cyrus video?