Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ohlone 50k

Welcome to the other side of the table! Last year, I volunteered for this race. My friends thought I was crazy, because to get to the aid station where I was, you had to run 10 miles, work, and then run 10 back. Well they really think I am crazy now.

This is not an easy race. With an elevation gain of almost 8000 feet and an average day time temperature of about 90 degrees, it is not for the faint of heart.

source

I arrived at the finish line around 6 am. From there, you take a school bus (with your knees in your face the whole time) to the start line, which is in the Mission Peak Regional Preserve near Fremont, CA. I did the usual: got my bib, #64, used the potty (there were 5 of them and with only 200 racers, this made for a not too long line), and got my music ready. My plan was to have the music in one ear because it's fun to be a part of the course and when you are on smaller trails, you need to be able to hear other people coming up behind you. I had made a new playlist just for the race; it was 6.5 hours long. I was really hoping it wouldn't take me any longer than that to finish this race. I had taken a look at last years times and the top man was just under 5 hours and the top woman was just under 6.

The first part, as you can see from the above elevation chart, was straight up. From about 500 feet to about 2500 feet, to the top of Mission peak. The trail was full of day hikers, huffing and puffing their way up, wearing sweatpants and street shoes and carrying big cameras. We power hiked by them, causing puffs of dust to go everywhere. Did I mention yet that this trail was dusty?

mission peak
Heading up to Mission Peak

I am usually stronger on the uphill than I am on the downs, and this day was no different. I passed a lot of people on the first stretch uphill. Then we were flying back down and people were passing me. The section after Mission peak was a difficult downhill for a bit, as it was quite rocky and there were still a lot of hikers, so trying to avoid them and the rocks without falling was challenging.

I carried my Nathan 2L bladder and boy was I glad I did. I was swilling water like it was going out of style. I had also brought two squeeze baby food / applesauce packets with me and I had one right around the top of Mission peak because by this time I was already hungry! That's what happens when you eat breakfast at 4:30 am and then don't start racing until 8 am.

As I ran down a not so steep part of the hill right after the first aid station, I started joking with the guy next to me about how I thought the rest of the course was just like this...a gradual downhill. Ha! Just kidding! It turns out, he is from a town very close to where my parents live, so we had a good time running and talking for the next couple of miles. As the course went on, we were constantly playing leapfrog and cheering each other on. 

We arrived at the second aid station, which sits at about 700 feet. I grabbed a potato and a banana and a swig of Gu brew and headed back out, and up! For the next 10 miles, it was all uphill, I swear! I was glad to see the Goat Rock aid station, where they had BACON! I also applied some Vaseline and sunscreen and helped myself to more potatoes and salt. I read an article somewhere which said you should eat what appeals to you...potatoes and salt and fruit are what I always want!

The thing (one of them) that I like about ultra racing is the little conversations you have with people along the way. As we climbed up from 700 feet to 3700 feet, we talked to everyone we passed, or who passed us.  I didn't know any of these people, but you always have something to say! People were cheering me on when I passed them and the conversations were easy as pie.

Another thing I noticed at this point was the gender difference. Not counting the very beginning where everyone is kind of finding their groove and everyone is passing each other, I only passed four women the whole race, and only two women passed me. The whole time, I was running with men, and was sometimes even passing them. Don't worry; plenty of them passed me too! I even took off my headphone around mile 2 and didn't even listen to music! I thought I would save it for the end when I needed a little pick me up.

Right before we got to Maggies, which is the "top of the hill" aid station that I volunteered at last year, we had to go up to the top of Rose Peak, which at 3,817 feet is the second tallest mountain in the East Bay. When you get to the top, you get a bracelet to prove you really went there and didn't just skip it. Then it was off to Maggies to say hi to my volunteer buddies from last year (the Boy scouts) and to refill the water bladder and eat some strawberries (BEST racing food EVER)! After that, it was supposed to be "all downhill from here" but as you can see from the chart, it was mostly downhill with a lot of uphills thrown in!

I can't remember if the worst part was right after Stewart's Camp or right after Schlieper rock, but one of those steep downhills was a tiny little single track trail that was very steep and rocky and hot and covered with poison oak. I was not loving it. In fact, it was at this point that I turned my music back on for a while and it was nice to have something to distract me from the brutal (down)hills! After the single track and the last aid station (and a swig of cold coke!), it was steep downhill to the end. Already a bunch of people had passed me on the downhills and by this point my knees were starting to wonder when it was going to be over. Actually, I think I heard them praying.

I hobbled ran down the last hill and I have to say, I have never been so happy to see a parking lot (and the finish line) than I was that day. I crossed the finish line, got a hug from the race director (such great service!) and collected my trophy for the day (a wooden block).

I ended up being the 6th woman overall, coming in at 6:31, which was about a half an hour after the fastest woman and about an hour and a half after the fastest man. Plus I got first in my age group! Except it's a little confusing the way they do it; the first three women get their own prize, so they get taken out of the age group awards. So technically I was the second in my age group, but whatever!

Ohlone 50k
The shirt had a tribute to Boston on it!

Some interesting stats: In the top 10 people (all men), one was in his 20s, two were in their 30s, three were in their 50s and four were in their 40s. This is not a young guy sport! The same goes for the women! The top woman was 48. The next four women were three in their 40s and one in her 30s.

Edited to add: If you love race reports, it's pretty interesting to read the reports of the  first, second and fifth place runners. They run as fast as 6 minute miles part of the way! They are pretty impressive! 

Afterward there was a picnic and I hung out for quite some time, eating hamburgers and cold watermelon and chatting with the people who had passed me on the trail.  Then I headed home, took a much needed shower and passed out around 8 pm.

What's your favorite food to eat on a hot day?  Have you ever received race paraphernalia that was little different from the norm? Do you like hiking to the tops of high peaks in your area?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cinderella Trail Half

I ran this race last year. It was hard last year. I remember feeling fatigued and thinking that it was probably because I didn't eat enough breakfast. I have come a long way since then. Running takes a lot of training, a lot of practice, and a lot of learning the hard way. You can easily under-train or over-train or overexert yourself the day before a race or eat too much or not eat enough...there are so many factors that go into race day.

So it was a perfect race this time.

I am kidding.

This race was Broski's first 30k. He has run 17.5 miles and was excited about the extra .5 miles (super excited). We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal about 45 minutes before the race and then we headed up the hill to the start.

Like last time, the first 2 miles are about a 500 foot climb. Broski and I huffed and puffed up the hill until you get to a kind of flat spot. After that there is a pretty steep downhill, and then a really steep uphill. These are hard. Really hard. Just when you think that you are feeling alright, another uphill comes up.

Broski was having trouble. Here I was, running along, talking some nonsense to him about the last time I took someone hiking on this trail and she was complaining about the hills...and I was giggling and jabbering away and I look back and he's not behind me. Oops.

We tried to figure out why as the trail leveled out and it wasn't getting any easier for him. Breakfast? Check. Maybe too soon before running? He had a 10 miler on Tuesday, but that was far enough away that he should have been fine. He gardened the day before in the hot sun...maybe he didn't have enough water? He had a couple low weeks, mileage wise...maybe not enough training? Whatever it was, it reminded me of my first Cinderella experience. Maybe this course was just hard!

Then we went way downhill and there was Mecca, aka an aid station. We refueled with some fruit and water and then came the big one Elizabeth. The next two miles were a 1000 foot climb. And it's brutal, with a capital B. Brutal. Our pace at this point was 15 - 16 minute miles. I was starving, since by this time we were at about the 2 hour mark.

Cinderella trail race
Climbing the hill (with Broski in the background)

Luckily, once we got to the top of that big hill, it was almost "all down hill from here". We cruised down the hill and man were we glad to see the Finish line. Unfortunately, we did not finish a 30k race that day; since it was a loop course, with one half marathon loop and then another 10k loop tacked on to make 30k, we decided to skip the 10k loop, thus making it a half marathon instead.

The verdict? We finished in 2:44. We got #43 and #44 out of 104. As Broski says, that's not bad for a race that he wasn't feeling his best. If we would have kept going for the 30k, we probably could have finished in about 3:47, which would have put us in around #13 out of 30. So, after all that, it wasn't even that bad really. Still in the top 50 percent.

Like I said to Broski, I like being outside, and the trails we ran are some of my favorites, so it was no sacrifice on my part to be out on the trails with my favorite brother on a beautiful Saturday morning. He was bummed that he didn't finish his first 30k. However, he is not broken, just bent and he will yearn to run again.

Sorry. I can't get that song out of my head.

Have you ever run the same race twice? If so, did it get any easier? Have you ever had to learn something the hard way?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Walk the Camino de Santiago

If you've ever dreamed of walking the Camino de Santiago, the 500 mile trek that hugs the northern boundary of Spain, the movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez, will have you rooting through the closet searching for your walking stick.

This touching movie, sweet but never syrupy, tells the story of a busy California doctor who, upon learning of his estranged son's death in France, decides to finish the journey his son did not live to complete.  Along this pilgrimage route, one of the most important to Christians since medieval times, Sheen meets three other hikers who have undertaken the journey for various reasons.

Not only do we see all four pilgrims grow and change during the course of the journey, but we experience the gorgeous scenery along this famous route in the Basque region of Spain.

If you have ever questioned the wisdom of travel, this movie will show you it is as necessary as food and water.

Get Away From It All--While Sitting at Your Desk


Mont St. Michel, France
Are you having a terrible Tuesday after a miserable Monday?  Are you craving a vacation that's still too many weeks away?

Then take a look at MapCrunch, Google's answer to a spur-of-the-moment vacation.  Choose a destination from the list on your right (Estonia, anyone?), and click "Go."   Or click on the Gallery button at the top of the screen to see some of Google's best street views. 

Whichever route you choose, you're sure to enjoy a brief escape from wherever you are right now, and that can make a terrible Tuesday a lot more tolerable. 
 

Tour the world from your desk

5/8/2013

Do you ever want to take off for an impromptu vacation? Unfortunately, life doesn't usually let you.
When you need a break, check out MapCrunch instead. It showcases the best spots recorded with Google Street Views. They'll magically whisk you away to anywhere you wish.
Just select your browsing criteria in the box on the right hand side of the site. You can choose your destination by continent or country. If you choose the option to take a tour, the site will present you with a new location every few seconds.
You can also click on the Gallery to browse through amazing Views of the Day from castles and dinosaur statues to cute animals and stunning landscapes.
Here's one of my favorite spots I've found so far (click it to go there):
Castle
Don't forget that this site uses Google Street View, so when you find a place you like, you can click and drag your mouse, or use the arrow keys on your keyboard, to look around and go exploring. I also recommend setting your browser to full screen.
mapcrunch.com
- See more at: http://www.komando.com/toolbox.aspx?mode=print&id=14441#sthash.D9AClqPT.dpuf

Tour the world from your desk

5/8/2013

Do you ever want to take off for an impromptu vacation? Unfortunately, life doesn't usually let you.
When you need a break, check out MapCrunch instead. It showcases the best spots recorded with Google Street Views. They'll magically whisk you away to anywhere you wish.
Just select your browsing criteria in the box on the right hand side of the site. You can choose your destination by continent or country. If you choose the option to take a tour, the site will present you with a new location every few seconds.
You can also click on the Gallery to browse through amazing Views of the Day from castles and dinosaur statues to cute animals and stunning landscapes.
Here's one of my favorite spots I've found so far (click it to go there):
Castle
Don't forget that this site uses Google Street View, so when you find a place you like, you can click and drag your mouse, or use the arrow keys on your keyboard, to look around and go exploring. I also recommend setting your browser to full screen.
mapcrunch.com
- See more at: http://www.komando.com/toolbox.aspx?mode=print&id=14441#sthash.D9AClqPT.dpuf

I Will...

My goal is to train for, and eventually run, a 50 mile race. When I volunteered for the Miwok 100k, I was so inspired by the runners and motivated to to it someday myself! So why not start now? It will be quite a journey and I will need both words of encouragement and inspiration from others who have either done something similar themselves or who have had a challenging goal they are working toward, be it emotional or physical or both.

We all need a little help sometimes to reach our goals. One of the great things about the running community is how supportive it is. However, it never hurts to broaden your reach, so you can get inspiration and tips from even more people! That is why I am excited to be a part of the sponsored team of folks who are joining up with Fitfluential and Under Armour to compete in the What's Beautiful campaign. 

In this campaign, you can make a page where you declare what your goal is. This can be anything mental, physical, or both! There are a set of challenges you can complete in order to help you reach your goal.  For instance, one of my paths to my goal is to run a couple of 50k races to prepare myself for a longer race. You post pictures of your progress and people can follow along, cheer you on, or make comments.



There are also teams so you can join in with like minded people. So far, I started one where we all just try to run one mile at a time and together we can run thousands of miles. It's called Team Ultra. There are also teams for clean eating, trying new fitness moves, and not using disposable water bottles. I am sure there is a team that you would like too.

You can sign up too! What goal do you have that you need encouragement and support for? If you sign up, be sure to let me know so I can follow along with your progress!

What is a current goal that you have? It can be anything: fitness, life, work, pleasure or mental health related.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Planning to Drive in Europe?


If you're planning to drive in Europe, here's a US government site that will give you the cost per gallon of gasoline in six countries. 

After you've picked yourself up off the floor, you may want to chart your driving route on the ViaMichelin site.  In addition to learning what roads to take, you will also learn the approximate cost of gasoline and tolls, as well as the amount of time required for your proposed route.

Parlez Vous Fran├žais?

No Italian translation needed.  It's all delicious!

Boomers, You Can Do It! Part 4

 "Not only can you travel independently to Europe, but you can do it much more cheaply and easily than you thought possible."

I always hope that sentence will galvanize my listener into action so that he'll race to buy my book, Europe on a Dime: Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, and start planning a trip. After all, the book holds your hand, step-by-step, so you can plan a European experience that is easy on the budget.  Truly, Europe on a Dime practically makes the reservations for you!

But no matter how sincerely I promise to walk people through the process, it's never quite that easy to convince them.  No matter how tantalizing the thought of traipsing down the Champs d'Elysee or cruising the canals of Venice, there's usually a "yes, but...." counter to my promise of cheap and meaningful travel.

So, it's time to face those "yes, buts...." in the next few blog posts.  We're going to take a look at the fears which keep people rooted to their La-Z-Boy recliners when they could be sauntering down exotic cobblestone alleys instead.  We'll confront the objections head-on in hopes that everyone will soon feel confident enough to plan a European trip.

We've dealt with most of the fears in previous posts, but there is one more fear, more of a niggling doubt really, that holds people back even though they are reluctant to admit it.  People worry that traveling independently, without a guide/interpreter, means that they'll be wandering the streets mumbling incoherently in a futile attempt to communicate.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

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