Sunday, June 29, 2008

Alpine Lake- Shorter!

Alpine Lake- Round 2
(Azalea Hill- Bullfrog Rd- Kent Trail- Stocking- Rocky Ridge- Bullfrog Rd- Azalea Hill)
(8.5-9.0? miles)

There are two (mentionable) activities that are guaranteed to make me really, really happy. One is salsa dancing (as mentioned in the previous post) and the second is trail running. Yesterday I finally ended up going salsa dancing at The Ramp- one of my absolutely favorite places in San Francisco. (You can't beat a live band outdoors, on a Saturday afternoon, right next to the water, in my opinion.) Today I headed over to Marin for a longer trail run than I had planned, but I was reminded of how much I love this trail AND how much I love long runs in the dirt.

For parking and starting point for this run, go back to my previous post. Today I took it very easy on the beginning downhills, but then was running pretty well by the time I got to Bon Tempe Dam. From there, I took the Kent trail alongside Alpine Lake. I will not go on at great length about its beauty, but it's still my new favorite lake in Marin. This time, instead of taking the Helen Markt trail to the (rather painful) Cataract Trail, I went left at the fork and continued on Kent Trail as it climbed up the hill. Kent trail is not exactly what I would call flat, and there were a couple of "fast-walking" sections, but it was nowhere near as grueling as Cataract-- or that was my impression today, at any rate. Kent trail IS a gorgeous trail though. Shaded most of the way by huge redwoods (see first picture) or overhanging manzanitas, like the picture to the right, it makes for great summer running.

At the next fork in the trail, I headed toward Rocky Ridge. The last time I ran this section of the trail, Alex and I were hot, tired, very low on blood sugar and not in the mood to be impressed by much. (Nor were feeling grateful, to the dismay of the waitress at Cafe Gratitude...) As a result, I wasn't waxing poetic about the view. Today I was much more aware of how far I could see on the top of this ridge. It was not crystal clear today (a few smoky vestiges still), but I could still see the Bay on one side of me, and then, on the other side, the Pacific Ocean. Ah, Marin. Why must you justify your astronomical housing prices?

I must say that I need to find another way to start this run though. For some reason, the grueling uphill at the end (0.8 miles of rather impossible-to-run climbing) didn't seem as painful in my memory as it is actuality. Apparently I could have parked near the golf course, but I was not feeling exploratory today. Too bad.

The great news is that my knee felt fine-- and this was not an easy run. I'm very happy about this. I'm also happy about the fact that I just got back from a five-course dinner at Chelsea and Louis'. In short-- this was a brilliant weekend. This last picture (which was at the top of Azalea Hill as I finished my run) completely sums up how I feel right now...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

For Your Educational Pleasure...

From Mr. Two-Heel Drive, I learned about the existence of the revamped Bay Nature website. Lots of information on nature in the Bay Area, but also historical pieces, geological insight--much to add to your knowledge of the Bay. It's very cool--especially the section where you can go to an interactive map to learn about specific areas around the Bay. Should you not wish to read through the entire website, fear not-- I'm sure I will be sprinkling different nuggets of botanical or historical information gleaned from the articles throughout my posts. 'Cause I'm a big nerd like that. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Salsa withdrawal... on the trail??

Tilden Regional Park
(Wildcat Creek- Jewel Lake- Laurel Canyon-Wildcat Peak- Nimitz Way- Meadows Canyon- Nature Center)
(5.5 miles)

You know you've been without salsa for too long when you start dancing by yourself on the trail. I had my shuffle with me today, which I haven't used in a long time, and when Fulanito came on, I simply needed to have a moment in the middle of the trail. Maybe I need to get out this weekend...

Today was another needed run. I am SO tired of working on the computer right now. I have been trying to finish a paper today and get some other work done at the same time... with highly limited success on both tasks. I didn't really think I should be running steep hills, but I wanted to do a little bit of hill running-- especially to try and get a view of the current view-- or lack thereof.

This trail started at the Nature Center at Tilden Regional Park. It is true that Tilden is not necessarily my favorite place to run, but I used to run here a lot, and it brought
back some memories. The trail starts on Wildcat Creek trail, which I could take all the way to the Wildcat Canyon trail head I usually run from, but instead I turned off to take the miniscule trail shown above to Jewel Lake. The raised wooden walkway is only a quarter-mile long, but I think it's one of the prettiest little moments possible in all of Tilden. This tiny walkway leads to Jewel Lake, an adorable little lake/large pond that usually has a population of ducks and/or turtles. (For those who have children, this walk from the Nature Center parking lot to Jewel Lake is probably a great option for the 2-4 age group.)

Once I reached Jewel Lake, I took Laurel Canyon for a half-mile or so, until the Wildcat Peak trail forked to the left. These two trails climb sharply-- and it was here, in the middle of a hill-climbing moment, that I felt the need to do some solo salsa. Fortunately it was the middle of the week and no one was around-- but let this stand as evidence for the tragedy that could befall the world if I do not get some dancing in soon... who knows where I will next be forced to shake my derrière?

At the top of Wildcat Peak, visibility was pretty dismal. Normally one can see across the Bay, and all the way to Mt. Diablo on the other side-- today it was completely grey in front of me, and this was the view looking to the northeast. The body of water is San Pablo Reservoir, where I am planning to run soon.

I'm sure people already know about the fires in Northern California. The terrible visibility is partly from the smoke and partly from fog-- it's pretty cold and unimpressive as far as weather goes right now.

From Wildcat Peak, I took Nimitz Way. This is a paved path that leads from Inspiration Point, and it's one of the most popular places to run/bike/rollerblade in Tilden, but there were few people on the trail today. After I reached Inspiration Point, I took Meadows Canyon to the right and ran back to the Nature Center on a long and gentle downhill--and my knee felt great!

To end, a picture of some late-blooming wildflowers. As seen in the picture, Tilden and the surrounding hills are pretty brown and dry right now (hence all the fires), but these flowers were exploding in pink right next to the trail. I think they're wild sweet peas, but maybe I should ask my amateur botanist mother--the birthday girl, as I mentioned earlier today. (There's another way I'm turning into my mother! I want to know more about plants!)

Dogs? Well, they are not allowed in the Nature Area, and they have to be on leash on Nimitz Way, but they can be off leash on Meadows Canyon. Go figure.


Last night, I was talking to my brother about the whole knee/swimming debacle, and he stopped me mid-sentence and said, "You know who you sound like?" I said no, to which he replied, "Mom. You know, she's always doing fourteen different things, exercising all the time." In my head I had a momentary internal monologue, where I tried to convince myself that I'm doing lots of different exercise because I signed up for the 50K in September, and the 50M in October, and SB9T in November-- like these were choices forced upon me, in which I had no say in the matter, and not because I'm just a little genetic apple, about 2 inches from the proverbial tree.

Don't get me wrong-- my mom is great, and I'm very happy she passed on her love of cooking and entertaining, commitment to running, willingness to invite people into her home, etc. But sometimes I like to labor under the delusion that I'm branching off into somewhat of my own life and not locked into the train-track of nature or nurture influence. 

Ah well-- at least if I follow in my mom's footsteps, people will be saying "she has great legs" when I'm over 60, as happened last summer to my mom. 

It's her birthday today as well-- Happy Birthday Mom! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Duct tape anyone?

Apparently I am getting old and falling apart at the seams. Due to the knee issue, I decided to run a track workout today because running fast doesn't seem to hurt. A few 400s in, I noticed my quad starting to let me know it had not done speed work in a while, so I decided not to push that. Then I went to swim, because hey-- it's good cardio and it's letting my knee heal, right? Well, your weekend warrior here hasn't done much swimming since oh, say, high school, and last week I did the masters' workout on Thursday. 3000 yards was nothing in high school-- that was ONE of the two workouts I did every day. I was feeling pretty smug last Thursday because I did the workout and felt good as well. Today I got in the pool and after about a 600, my shoulder let me know that we would NOT be doing much more than a 1200. 

The good news is that my knee feels great. Maybe this will be a time for me to work on my speed while I am waiting for the knee to heal for the long runs. That is, if I can avoid ripping my quad muscles to shreds in my enthusiasm. 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

While Doctorating in Davis...

UC Davis Arboretum Path
(3.5 miles from downtown Davis)

I would suggest you guess where this picture is taken, except that I already wrote Davis all over the title. I think this picture looks like it could have been taken in the Sierras, but it's actually part of the UC Davis Arboretum. This has become one of my favorite things about my school weekends. It's a very short running path, (and it's paved) but like I said before, it has beautiful plants arranged by California climate zones, all planted along a small water way--home to many mallards.

One of my best discoveries today was the "California Lawn" placard. Apparently my current lawn is really a very ecological "choice" on my part. Ha. What they don't tell you in the placard is that the foxtails can get in your dog's eyes... or throat... or ears. But at least I'm being ecologically sound.

Either way, I'm impressed with Davis' work on this path. It didn't even feel so hot this morning...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Favorite Nut!

Two pictures, both alike in dignity, in fair Huckleberry and, um, Paris, where we lay our scenes...

Apologies to the big WS (and get your minds out of the gutter, those who thought this would be about something ELSE entirely)-- but what's the connection between these two pictures, you ask? Allow me to enlighten you with some education I received from Huckleberry Regional Botanic Preserve this morning.

The picture above is of the California Hazelnut-- yes! The hazelnut! I had no idea this is what a California hazelnut looked like. The brochure describes it as "related to our market filberts."

I have, in the recent past, become a fan of the hazelnut (or filbert, but I like the name hazelnut better). The picture on the left was taken in Paris this March, and the round pastry on the bottom of the picture is the most exquisite hazelnut concoction I have ever eaten. (If memory serves, it's called a Paris-Brest.) If you want to be my best friend forever and ever, take me here. If you want to just take some good advice, go there the next time you're in the City of Light. (The hot chocolate is famous there, too, but for les macarons, go here. Divine.)

However, if I can't have parisian perfection, I'll also settle for the tried-and-true Nutella. Preferably eaten out of the jar. With a spoon.

Huckleberry Hideout

Huckleberry/Redwood Regional Parks
(East Ridge-Skyline-Huckleberry loop-Skyline-Huckleberry-Skyline- East Ridge)
(5.0 miles? Some people need to learn to turn off their Garmins...)

I almost didn't run today. I'm going to try to swim later and I have so much schoolwork I'm avoiding right now. (Really, wouldn't you rather run than write about regression, ANOVAs, and standard deviations?) Yesterday was kind of an annoying day though-- my brilliant dog ate a foxtail that got stuck in her throat and I spent the day (and a trip to the vet) worrying about her (she's apparently fine now). Between worrying about the dog, doing tons o' work to get our summer program going, doing schoolwork for class this weekend, trying to clean out some of the foxtails in the backyard so I don't have to take her in AGAIN, I was feeling overwhelmed and cranky--not the space to write anything beyond "feel sorry for me--I certainly do!" I really did need to go for a run today...

I started from the Redwood Park Skyline Staging Area, but then took the Skyline/Bay Area Ridge Trail immediately off the East Ridge Trail. This trail leads to Huckleberry Regional Park, a tiny little park between Redwood and Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, another place I had a hankering to visit. The trail drops down for a half-mile or so, then runs along the side of the hill, in beautiful shade-- this is a good summer run for that reason. There were a couple of exposed moments which were HOT, but for the most part, this run was all shaded by oaks, madrones and the occasional redwood.

Huckleberry's claim to fame is its biodiversity-- and they provide you with a educational brochure pointing out different flora along the path. (According to the brochure, Huckleberry Path is "perhaps the most unique and diverse plant life of the entire East Bay.") However, I did not start at the beginning of the trail, so I ended up seeing the markers but not really knowing what they were pointing out. If you want to get yourself educated, start at the Huckleberry parking lot off of Skyline.

From Huckleberry, I took Skyline trail out-and back for a mile or so. This is a gorgeous trail as well, and I definitely want to come back here when I'm feeling certain about the knee. I'm supposed to be taking it easy, and this run, while short, had a TON of straight up and down. Good, good hills. If I'd continued on Skyline, I would have ended up at Sibley--I definitely want to come back here, and I think the two combined would make for a great run. Be warned, though-- this is some hill running. Beautiful hill running though-- shaded paths open up to vistas like the one at the top of this post.

This is another completely secluded run, too. I saw NO other people on the trail once I turned off the East Ridge trail. I was very surprised by this, as Redwood can seem like Grand Central Station. True, I was running in the middle of the day on a Thursday, but I had my own personal trail the whole time. Nice, Huckleberry!

Definitely coming back to this run-- next time adding in Sibley. Unfortunately, the pups are not welcome on this run, so leave the canine companions at home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ridiculously Spoiled by the Bay...

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline
(Bay View- Fishing Pier- Owl Alley- Cook's Point)
(4.43 miles)

I've been to Point Pinole only one other time, despite its proximity to my 'hood. I tend to think of Point Pinole as not worth the effort, since the longest run you can do is about a 5.5 mile loop. However, as I had an errand in Pinole and I'm trying to run short, I figured--why not?

What I realized on this run is that I am spoiled. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled by the Bay Area. See, I've been reading different blogs around the country lately, and we have, um, ridiculously good weather for running. Today's weather? Sunny and 63 degrees, with no humidity. Sure, it could have been a little less windy
and a little warmer to make it perfect... but really, it's great running weather. (Plus, I'm eating the last of some delicious chocolate that is adding to my excessively spoiled feeling.)

Then we come to the whole matter of trails. Today I was running along the Bay View Trail, which gives you... a view of the Bay! Yes, if you look closely, that IS Mt. Tamalpais in the distance-- the whole time you run along this trail, you are treated to views of the Sleeping Lady, as the mountain is called in Miwok stories. Not bad, right? Then the trail leads out to the point, and all you can see on three sides is blue, blue, blue. It's one of the best views of the North Bay I've seen-- it feels much more remote and peaceful than Angel Island, and several benches offer 180 degree views looking out over the water. At the end of the point, a fishing pier juts out into the water, and there's a gorgeous picnic area that takes advantage of the great views. Different plaques detail historical information about Point Pinole. It used to be a dynamite producing plant, and much of the early community of El Sobrante worked here in the early 1900's.

I realized today that I am spoiled though, because I felt this run was kind of-- eh. It was fine and all, but it was pretty flat and eucalyptus trees seemed to be rather over-dominant on the landscape, in my rather snobby opinion. And I think really, if I weren't so spoiled by all the other options I have to choose from around here, it's a pretty decent little run. The brochure says it has 12 miles of trails and you'd have to probably run every single trail in a row to get to 12 miles, but who said every park needed to be the Ohlone Wilderness? I will say this for Point Pinole--it has a quietness about it that is very peaceful.

Dogs? Well, that's confusing. I think that on the unpaved trails, you can have your dog off-leash, but then at the picnic areas or paved trails, dogs have to be on leash. I kept passing signs that said "Now entering leash area"-- but I wasn't ever aware of when I exited the leash area. I guess just bring the leash and take cues from other people with dogs.

Re-cap of the Knee-cap...

Sorry. That's a very silly beginning. Anyway... I discovered today that the leg that had knee surgery 9 years ago has never fully regained its strength, and THIS is what is making the other knee hurt. So I have a regimen of core strengthening exercises to follow. We shall see what happens next...

One thing I did love about the physical therapist-- she never acted like there was anything strange about training for a 50K or 50M race. (Good rec, Jen!) Plus, she said there was nothing wrong with running as long as my knee wasn't hurting. Lovely... more trails soon!

Just to let everyone know: Sports Basement is a dangerous, dangerous place. I think one should never venture in there without specific limits on both time and money to be spent. 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cross... um... Training Weekend

Well, I did ride a bike this weekend. And there were a couple of hills. I'm thinking maybe we could call it a cross-training weekend? So what if the rest of the weekend was an eating and drinking extravaganza in which most of the training had to do with identifying the subtler flavors of different varietals? And aren't hot tubs good for muscles?

Worth noting, however: along the Sonoma Coast, Annapolis Winery deserves a visit. While the coast was completely fogged in, climbing up to the winery, the fog burned off. After tasting the wares, (particularly good were the Zinfandel and the Cabernet) we had a beautiful picnic and lazed around on the grass like lizards soaking up the sun. 

Tomorrow: In Which We Make the Acquaintance of the Physical Therapist.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mott Peak: Avec les chiens, encore sans vache!

Briones Regional Park
Old Briones Road- Briones Crest- Mott Peak- Abrigo Valley
(4.51 miles)

It was great to get out and run today. I think if I hadn't, the puppies might have staged a mutiny. Between working a ton and having the street in front of my house repaved, the dogs haven't been out too much. If you have seen border collies after 2 days without running, you will know this is not a good thing.

I didn't want to go long today because of the whole knee situation, but this trail still provides a bit of workout for the short distance. Because it was a weekday, I parked inside the Bear Creek Entrance without paying (see other posts on Briones for free parking on the weekend). We started up Old Briones Road. This trail is basically flat for the first half-mile or so, winding through a meadow that had the youngest calf I've ever seen the last time I ran here. Fortunately, today the cows stayed off the trail and we had no encuentros de vaca. After the meadow, the trail veers left and climbs up to Briones Crest. This section of the trail is short but climbs probably 800 feet in a quick mile--enough to get your heart rate up. Once on top of Briones Crest, the views were once again superb. However, were I to suggest a run in Briones, I would say the views from this trail are better (these trails are also VERY easily combined).

On both sides of Briones Crest, just before Mott Peak, are two or three water sources named Snidicich Lagoons. I wanted to run this trail today to see the lagoons, and remembered when I got there that I actually saw them five years ago when I took a group of sixth graders backpacking. They stand out as little green oases in the middle of the parched grasses (otherwise known as my friends the foxtails). I'm sure a better ecologist than I could explain how they came to exist, and the different plants that grow around the stagnant water.

Up to the Mott Peak trail, then past some cows who eyed us from a safe distance and then down, down to Maud Whalen campground (where I took the sixth graders many moons ago). This is a great group campsite, by the way-- you can get permission to bring in one car laden with food and then everyone walks in from the trailhead. Running water and a fantastic fire pit (seating for close to 30 around the campfire--my students tried!) make this a great place to take kids. (In case you had 30 or so hormonally charged adolescents with whom you willfully chose to spend time in the wilderness. I'm just saying...)

After that it was back to the car by way of Abrigo Valley. Again, Briones Regional Park is one of the less-visited parks I have been to. Of course, I was also there at 8:00 am on a Thursday morning--not exactly the crush time for hikers, but I saw exactly one other person on the trail today, not counting the two horse trailers and truck that were driving in as we started. It continues to amaze me how trails so close to urban centers like the Bay Area can feel so remote.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Apricots: Part Deux

I must speak of apricots again... and then it will be back to running. I had extra cherries and crisp topping from a crisp I made for a friend on Sunday, so I made an apricot and cherry crisp today. And it was good. Very good.

I ran today and my knee was fine-- as long as I ran fast. While this is fine for a 4 mile run, I don't think I can hold 7:30s for 15 miles... or 50 in October. So I am seeing a physical therapist on Monday. Let the negotiations between myself and my knee begin. 

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thoughts on Injuries...

When I was fourteen, I joined the high school portion of our club team. We had a great coach, and I was very excited to be part of the "big people" group--with even bigger workouts. I was a butterflier at that point-- lots of shoulder work. I wanted to work hard for my coach, and felt that a hard worker didn't complain--so when my shoulder started hurting, I didn't say anything for three days. On the third day, I approached Mike and told him that my shoulder hurt. He asked how long it had been hurting, and when I said three days, he got mad at me, which of course made me burst into tears. He explained clearly that he wasn't mad for my shoulder hurting--he was mad for me not telling him so that we could make sure my shoulder got better. It was a great lesson in what kind of pain I needed to stop at-- and it left a big impression on me. I cut back a little, did some strengthening work and was fine for the rest of my swimming career. Aches and pains and occasional minor overuse injuries associated with sports weren't a big deal-- they just came with the territory of working your body really hard and pushing the limits of what you could do.

I have realized lately that I had completely forgotten this lesson in terms of running. This is probably the third time that my knee has surfaced as an issue (it tends to do that when I up the mileage). The past two times I have gotten freaked out (Am I just not meant for long-distance running? Will I have to stop running? Are my knees dying?) and cut way back until my knee felt better--but not really dealt with the underlying problem (i.e., is this a muscle thing? Tight hips?). No physical therapy, no doctor, no research-- just a bunch of fear. This time, (partially thanks to reading a whole bunch of blogs and the RW forums) I feel much calmer about things. Sure, my knee needs some attention--but it's normal. Again, going back to George Leonard's Mastery, "If your path is a physical one, and if you're like most of us, you'll probably encounter injuries somewhere along the way. Minor ones come with the territory." 

Right... forgot about that. 

Running can be a really solitary pursuit--I think running with community support (even if it's a cyber-community) helps to keep out the "What ifs?" and remember that my trail isn't that much different than other runners-- we are all experiencing training bumps and detours and figuring out how to navigate back to the course. (Excuse the overly extended metaphor.)  To end with Leonard (yes, it's one of my favorite books right now): "The best way of achieving a goal is to be fully present. Surpassing previous limits involves negotiating with your body, not ignoring or overriding its messages. Negotiation involves awareness. Avoiding serious injury is less a matter of being cautious than of being conscious."

As of today, my knee and I have entered into negotiations...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Race Silliness...

Who said races are serious affairs?

Lush-us running?

San Francisco Night and Day Challenge
(27 miles?)

This run may go down in my history book as one of the funniest runs ever. Now, looking at the pictures, one might assume that I had the order wrong-- you win your division and THEN have a beer... but that would be an incorrect assumption. No, Jen and I had a pint in the middle of our run... and then found out we won our division! I'm not sure that this occasion would present itself again, because I don't know too many ultras that have beer at the aid stations, but based on yesterday's run, I'm thinking that maybe they ought to start....

This run is a ton of fun, and probably one of the only races longer than a 10K I would do on pavement. Basically, you get a map of the city with a bunch of point-valued checkpoints, and your job is to go out and visit as many as you can within a 3, 7 or 16 hour time period. I did this race two years ago with a group I found on Craig's list, but they stopped running 20 minutes into the seven-hour division. Not quite what I had signed up for.

Clearly, this year was a different experience. Yesterday was beautiful--clear and sunny with a slight breeze.

We headed out from Douglass Playground, down through the Mission, picking up various checkpoints along the way. We crossed the freeway and wound our way through Portrero Hill and down to the water. Incidentally, one of the surprising checkpoint locations was the cluster of houseboats at the intersection of 7th Street and Berry Street, right under the 280. I had no idea this little section of the city existed, which is why I love this race.

From there, we wound back toward Market Street, and headed to the Westfield Center for a panini from Bristol Farms for dinner. One of my favorite things about this race is interacting with people who are curious about why people are running around the city with maps and bandanas (the required piece of clothing for the race)-- we looked doubly suspect because we were dressed in matching baarbd jerseys. This led to an explanatory conversation with the counter person and another customer at Bristol Farms-- how many times do you explain (mid-race) what your race is all about?

My favorite race "sights" came after dinner--we ran down to the Embarcadero to one of the checkpoints, a huge spider by Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois has lately become one of my friend's favorite artists--she has a poster of this sculpture en large in her living room (a 30 foot version of this sculpture also exists).

Another "find" was the stairway leading from Sansome
up to Coit Tower. I'm sure many people know about it, but I had never approached Coit Tower from this angle. The stairs lead between houses who appear to be out-doing each other in their gardening attempts. Explosions of vines and flowers line the stairs and paths to the doors. Different floral scents waft through the air--it is so green as to appear almost tropical. The views, not surprisingly, are magnificent. A restaurant at the end of Montgomery commands a sweeping panorama of Alcatraz and Marin. (Apparently the quality of food is not justified by the exorbitant prices, but I want to come back one day for appetizers and drinks while enjoying the view.)

So now I'm sure you might be wondering--what's up with the mid-race beer? Are these two such tipplers they cannot wait until the finish line to indulge? As I have said in previous posts, my knee has been lurking about lately. It hasn't been painful, but it has threatened to hurt. Up until about 20 miles in, my knee was fine. If I made sure to run relaxed and focus on my stride, it was comfortable. A couple of times I stopped and stretched out, and carried on feeling much better. However, after about 20 miles, my knee decided that was enough. Stretching and adjusting my gait did not help, and I said to Jen after picking up the checkpoint in the Panhandle that I wasn't sure how much more I could run. (This was about 9:40 p.m., with an hour and 20 minutes left in the race...although not everyone in the group was aware of this, as we shall see later.)

Jen's comment? "Well, if we're going to be walking for the rest of the race, I'd be up for a beer." Considering we were very near the Haight, with bars a-plenty, I was amenable to this diversion. So we had (excellent) beers at the Alembic. The thinking here: If we're walking, we're not really competitive anymore, so why not have a drinky-poo?

Leaving the Alembic, it was about 10:20 p.m. We needed to get back to 26th and Douglass by 11:00 p.m. or we would lose points. I was trying to power walk as fast as possible because I knew we didn't have too much time and I did not want to hold us up because of my knee. We wound down to Valencia, trying to avoid hills, and somewhere around Valencia and 18th, Jen said something about getting two other checkpoints on the other side of the finish. I said that I didn't think we had time, and she said, "don't we go until midnight?" I said no, 11:00-- and what time was it, anyway? It was 10:45. We had 15 minutes to get through the Castro and Noe Valley all the way up to Douglass Playground. We started running-- and I do mean running. Most of the day had been carried out at a fast jog/slow run-- but not now. We flew down Valencia until 24th and then started charging up the hill. Up and up, past Guerrero, Dolores, Sanchez, Castro--when would Douglass appear? Jen said after we finished she kept thinking, "Don't throw up, don't throw up." Finally-- a left on Douglass and then 2 blocks of even steeper uphill. (The good thing is that my knee did not bother me on uphills or running fast--apparently when I run hard, my form is better and not as painful for my knee--just painful on the lungs...) We flung ourselves through the gate to Douglass playground at 11:01--one minute penalty.

As I said earlier, despite our adult beverage break, we ended winning our division. It's the first time I've won in my division, AND the first time I've ever taken a break in the middle of a run for a beer. I don't know quite what to make of this... maybe a keg on top of Rose Peak at Ohlone next year?

A thoroughly enjoyable day--lots of laughter, running, seeing new city sights, beer and winning--what more could you ask for?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Inspirational People Moment

Worth looking at: the Runners' World new feature, where they feature a reader of RW. It's none other than La SillyLillie, who ran quite impressively at Ohlone (well, she runs impressively quite often), and writes a great blog. She's also a mother of three and a police officer... AND an incredibly positive person. 

One of the things I have enjoyed through starting this blog is getting to know many people who aren't necessarily Deena Kastor but who accomplish amazing physical feats all the same, and I appreciate RW profiling "The Skirt," as she is known on the RW forums. Check out her profile...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Haruki Murakami Runs...

In the New Yorker this week, there is an essay by Haruki Murakami that I wish I'd written. Well, sort of. I'm becoming pretty happy with my life in all its messiness in the past few years, but Murakami weaves together his journey of writing and long-distance running and draws parallels that I have thought about but never said quite as eloquently as he does. 

As an example:

"That's why I've never recommended running to others. If someone has an interest in long-distance running, he'll start running on his own. If he's not interested in it, no amount of persuasion will make any difference. Marathon running is not a sport for everyone, just as being a novelist isn't a job for everyone. Nobody ever recommended or even suggested that I be a novelist--in fact, some tried to stop me. I simply had the idea to be one, and that's what I did. People become runners because they're meant to." (Haruki Murakami, "The Running Novelist," The New Yorker, 6/9/08) 

His essay made me think of the concept of mastery that I talked about last month. So much of moving forward and growing in skill level for whatever path we choose has to do with the showing up and practicing every day, even when it feels like a slog through a bunch of muck. As Murakami says, "The main thing was not the speed or the distance so much as running every day, without fail."

I'm not posting the link to the abstract on the New Yorker's site, because I don't think it does justice to the article. Go out and buy it, or go stand in a book store and read it for free. If you are interested in either writing or long-distance running, I recommend it.

Incidentally, there is also a movie review by Anthony Lane in the same issue of "Sex and the City" that had me practically crying with laughter. I have no intention of being bored silly by the movie, but the review was worth the price of the magazine. (However, you can also read it for free here.)

A final quote from Murakami's essay that I think might become my new motto:

"I felt that, even though I was past thirty, I and my body still had some possibilities left. The more I ran, the more my potential was revealed."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This post has nothing to do with running. Nothing at all. It has to do with APRICOTS. Apricots from MY tree that are starting to get ripe!

I think someone forgot to tell the apricots they're not supposed to get ripe until July, but the tree seems unconcerned with others' opinions, and I can say with surety (after eating two), that they are becoming ready to eat.

Now, if you have only eaten apricots from the grocery store, I might understand it if you read this post with less than rampant enthusiasm. I grew up with apricots off my parents' tree, and I can assure you that well-ripened apricots are a major cause for celebration. 

Yum. Very much yum.

Shaver/Yolanda--with the quickness!

Shaver-Yolanda Loop
(Phoenix Lake- Shaver Grade- Connector- Bald Hill- Yolanda- Phoenix Lake)
(4.7 miles)

I miss this trail. This was one of my first trail runs with Tamalpa... my introduction to trail running. (Fx: sighs nostalgically) 

This trail starts from the Natalie Coffin Greene parking lot, like Bon Tempe, which means that your mileage will be adjusted accordingly depending on where you find parking. Today I ran at noon, which meant I actually found parking in the Natalie Coffin Green parking lot, but be prepared to add anywhere from half a mile to almost two miles more, depending if you park at the tennis courts or back at Ross Commons. 

This trail starts out like the Bon Tempe trail-- I ran on the Phoenix Lake trail until the intersection of several trails, at which point I headed up Shaver Grade again. When I got to Five Points (six, actually), I took the short connector just to the right of Shaver Grade. It heads straight up, but it's very short.
Note: According to the sign, Shaver Grade will be undergoing some renovations starting in July of this year, so if you want to take this trail after July, bring a map of the area and be prepared to adjust your plans.

Once up the connector, the trail runs along a flat section for about half a mile before ending up at Six Points. From here, it's possible to add some more running (and some very steep hills) to run up to the top of Mt. Baldy and then down Worn Springs. I will do this run some day, but today I just took Yolanda in the the Phoenix Lake direction. This trail reminds me a lot of Santa Barbara--dry hillside with varying chaparral and oak trees, while running somewhat technical single track. 

After a quick descent with some switchbacks, Yolanda ends up back on the Phoenix Lake trail, and then back to the parking lot. A good midweek run, some hills and, as always in Marin, beautiful scenery.

You can bring your dog on this trail, but they have to be on leash. However, during the week there aren't a lot of people past Phoenix Lake... I'm just saying. You DO need to make sure you have your dog on a leash during the weekends though--this is one of the most popular areas for hiking in Marin. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tagged-- I'm it!

So I got tagged by a runner in Texas--Burleson, to be exact. Despite my inclination to wax poetic about the powers of the internet, and how I have made the cyber-acquaintance of people who I would otherwise never run into... I'm going to cut myself off at the pass and just complete the instructions...

I answer 5 questions about my own running here, and then at the end I tag 5 more people and post their names. I then go to their blogs and tell them they've been tagged. When they've answered the questions, they go back to this blog and tell me... 

1. How would I describe my running 10 years ago?

1998? I was running--maintenance running. I was staying in shape, but not doing much more than that. 1998 was just prior to the ski accident that resulted in knee surgery and crutches for 2 months.

2. What is your best and worst race experience?

Hmmm... best? I had a good time at Ohlone last year. I was under-trained (this is a pattern with me), but I had so many moments where I was really happy and enjoying being out and running ridiculous amounts of miles. At the Schlieper Rock Aid station, I remember telling one of the aid station people, "Hey-- it's only 5 more miles! After all this, no problem!" This year was not quite the same thing... Worst would probably be the DNF at 9 Trails last November. I've never DNF'd before-- even when I had major knee issues from under-training for the first marathon I did, I still finished--in tears, true, but I finished. 

3. Why do you run?

Oy, so many reasons! One, because I'm a little too intense to not have a major physical outlet for all that energy. Two, because it feels good. Three, because I love being outside--especially in nature (hence the trail running adoration). Four, because border collies need a lot of exercise. Five, because I started a blog and need new trails to post. Six, because eating is another one of my obsessions, and I hate eating when I'm not really hungry. Running a lot makes me really hungry. Seven, because it's my silent time during the day. Eigh, because I love working out/exercising hard/running with other people (not actually opposite #7). And more, but I think that's enough for the moment.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Someone posted on the RW forum recently the reminder that we are all "an experiment of one." Love this for running and for life. It's true.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

Scotch, Cat Stevens and I are not a good combination. I also co-taught two semesters of a student-led class on female sexuality when I was at Cal.

People I'm tagging:

Well, now THEY'RE it! 

I heart my foam roller

So I bought a foam roller 2 years ago. It's sat in my room for a while, collecting dog hair and dust bunnies. Every once in a while (every 3 months?), I would take it out and dutifully kind of use it... and then put it back. 

Lately, my knee has been kind of ...there. Not painful, just a "hey, I'm your knee and don't forget about me as you are wont to do" kind of feeling. I've been reading about knee issues, and apparently I could have the lurking beginnings of runner's knee-- I think I've had it before (why I had to drop from 9 trails last year) but I've been paying attention to how it feels and especially trying to work on downhill technique. I also think I need to strengthen my quads, so I've been doing some exercises for that. 

Today I got back from a short run and thought, "Why not try the foam roller?" The worst thing that could happen is that your muscles feel more relaxed, right? Um... it made my legs feel great. And my knee felt better, too. 

Monday, June 2, 2008

My new pipe dream...

Oh yeah. I was reading the RW forum today and people were talking about the Hardrock 100. I think I have a crush on that race from these pictures. Don't anyone get their undies all in a bundle-- I have yet to complete a (relatively) easy 50M race, so I'm not signing up for Hardrock any time soon. And yet... if I was going to pick a 100 mile race to run... this would be it. Maybe I need to go to Colorado...

San Jose Silliness...

Yeah, so I'm not a blonde. And this isn't really MY confession... but it made me laugh, so I'm sharing it with you.

Today I was waiting at a Starbucks in San Jose for one of my interns. She was caught first by other people and then by traffic. I waited a while. While waiting, I read some stuff for work (not exciting). A couple of guys rode up on their bikes and sat at a table near me. They were rather punk-rock genre-ish, and in their early 20's, as far as I could tell. As a point of reference, I have never been punk-rock, and it's been a while (10 years?) since I saw my early 20's, AND I was dressed in a "I'm a grown-up," dress, scarf and heels outfit. One of them even had a quasi-mohawk. (My brother called it a faux-hawk, which I had not heard before and amused me.) Anyway... they had nothing to do with teacher education and I paid them little mind.

Eventually my intern showed up and dropped off her stuff, at which point I started packing up. As I turned to go, Mr. Faux-hawk said, holding a folded-up piece of paper, "Um, excuse me, but could I give you something?"

I was a little surprised but said "Sure" and held out my hand.

"I wrote this for you, but promise me you won't read it until you get home--" he cautioned, holding it out. I nodded, and he gave me the mysterious piece of paper.

I didn't actually wait until I got home-- I read it as I drove out of the Starbucks parking lot. It was a poem he'd just written--obviously for me. And while I would most definitely NOT label him as an Undiscovered Poet Laureate of the US (you see, it's not getting quoted here), it was very cute. AND there was no phone number, no email, nothing.

Why do I love this story? Because so often, people do nice things in an attempt to get somewhere with someone. He handed me a poem and that was it. One of my friends says often that she hates the "Practice Random Acts of Kindness" bumper sticker, because it's generally harder to practice specific acts of kindness with people you know. 99% of the time I agree with her--people you know well are often much harder to be kind to than strangers...but sometimes it's really nice to have someone do something for you (like writing a poem) and expect nothing in return.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Purisima Creek Redwoods

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
(Purisima Creek- Whittemore Gulch- North Ridge- Bay Area Ridge- Soda Gulch- Purisima Creek)

I'm not going to lie to anyone. I've lived in the Bay Area for 14 years, and I have only visited Peninsula hiking trails on 3 different occasions--two of those were for PCTR events. However, my aunt had sent up a request for computer assistance for her blog, and Peninsula trails were closer to her than, say, Marin or the East Bay. So we headed south on the 280. 

Purisima Creek Redwoods, according to the cursory research I just did on the internet, are generally second-growth forests. (I swear, I'm close to buying a bunch of Bay Area history books... as well as a guide to the flora. I know lots of plants but it's becoming irritating to not be able to refer to plants by name...) From 1854 to 1920, several lumber mills operated in this area, and logging even continued until the 1970s. However, there are still two old growth areas on this hike: one sandwiched between Whittemore Gulch and the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and the other off the Soda Gulch trail. Did I notice the ancients compared to the newbies while I was running? No. I am neither a botanist nor a dendrochronologist--I just think old trees are cool. 

The second growth forests aren't bad, either. We started at the Redwood Trail parking area, and started down the Purisima Creek Trail, shaded by stately second-growth redwoods.
 Down is a good word to use here. Steep might also be appropriate. Foreboding, thinking of the end of the run, would be another good one. Jen and I kept hoping the trail would flatten out soon, because every step down would be another to run back up.

When the trail did flatten out, it meandered along next to Purisima Creek. Ferns and other greenery (there's that lack of names again!) kept the trail cool and comfortable to run. To be honest, it was rather chilly on this run, and I was glad to be moving the whole time. This is a great run for summer, though. I kept thinking how different this environment was than the Ohlone Wilderness, or even the trail I did on Thursday morning. It makes one rather overwhelmed by the Bay's ecosystemic possibilities...

At the end of the Purisima Creek Trail, we took the Whittemore Gulch trail to the North Ridge Trail. Whittemore Gulch is a worthy trail. It climbs a bit but then mellows out and gently ascends up to the ridge. As we left the redwood forests and headed up to more exposed regions, we were treated to many different wildflowers--blue forget-me-nots filled in any space left by the different plants, and we also found thistles holding on to beads of moisture. I have never seen a thistle that looked this pretty.

Whittemore Gulch led to North Ridge and then the Bay Area Ridge trails, and then dropped down to Soda Gulch. Several sites I had read before this cautioned against missing this trail, and I am happy to report I would agree with them completely. Soda Gulch is a hikers-only trail, which Jen partially lamented. It runs through huge redwood trees--some of the old growth forests, but again, I was not aware of which trees fit this bill and which did not. 

As a random side note, there was an article published in the New Yorker in 2005 about the redwoods in Humboldt County (the link is just to the abstract). Many have crazy plants (huckleberries, ferns and others) that have taken up residence in the uppermost branches of the tall trees. I was reading another site (sorry, did not note the link) that said some of the old growth trees at Purisima Creek Redwoods have some of these same kind of epiphytes growing in the tree tops. Not as many as the giants in Humboldt County, but they still exist.

Once back on Purisima Creek Trail, we slogged back up to the parking area. This was a rather painful 1.8 miles--at the end of the trail and straight up. We ran into some bikers who were on road bikes (yes, road bikes) on this trail and judging from their tracks, they rode all the way back up to Skyline. And we thought we were studly for running all this...

All in all, Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve has made me a convert to the trails of the Peninsula. I have a feeling I will be coming back more this summer, as these trails are MUCH cooler than the East Bay options. Apparently you can bring your dog on some trails on a leash, but it was not clear from the websites I read which trails those are.