Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Possibilities

Well, I was going to post a silly picture from H2C, but that will wait for tomorrow, as this is blog post #100 (!!) and a silly pic is not worthy of such a gravity-inducing honor.

I've been thinking a lot about possibilities in the last couple of weeks-- from Constantina Tomescu-Dita and Dara Torres, to my shock at running a big PR for me, to a group I was a part of this summer about the role of spirituality in social justice work, and they have all been making me think about what I (or any of us) hold as possible. What we believe possible is usually less than what we are capable of being or doing.  We hold back with people around us (in both work and family situations), thinking "I can't be really open with _____ because of x or y reason." Maybe that's true... but maybe that's a limit we're placing on the situation. I definitely thought there was a speed I was capable of going, and that was just as fast as I would ever get. I'm not saying that Tomescu-Dita needs to start looking over her shoulder just yet, but it's made me really question my assumptions about my running, and by extension, anything else about me. 

One of my favorite books is called The Art of Possibility, recommended to me several years ago by my best friend. In the first chapter, they demonstrate how we see the world frames our possibilities-- when our frame is narrow, our possibilities narrow simultaneously. They suggest asking, about whatever situation presents itself, "What assumption am I making, that I'm not aware I'm making, that gives me what I see?" (You can actually read the first couple of chapters from the link included.) I assumed that I couldn't run as fast as I did on Saturday--look what happened. I had some crazy assumption that people who were meant to run long distances didn't get knee injuries. Tomescu-Dita spent three months out of the last year recovering from tendonitis in her knee. I assumed, when I got rejected from a poetry class in college, that there was no other way to enter the writing world. This suggested otherwise. I assumed my running would probably go downhill after 35 or so--this runner just won the Headlands 50M at 50 years old. (Read her blog carefully for why she's even more inspirational, challenging "what is possible" on a daily basis.)

Again, my point is not to suggest that we all start training for London (although perhaps more of us should than we realize), but to question--what are the limits we place on ourselves and how do they keep us from connecting to each other and our infinite possibilities?

To quote from a rather famous opener of possibilities:

"If we did all the things that we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves." (Thomas Alva Edison)

Let's go be astonished.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hood to Coast Race Report!!


Hood to Coast Relay Extravaganza!
(Mt Hood to Seaside, Oregon--197 miles)

So much fun. So very much fun. Fun, that is, if your idea of a good time is running a bunch of miles at random times of the day and night, getting to know way too many port-a-potties with a bunch of other sweaty, equally crazed individuals. (We never shared port-a-potty time. That didn't come out right.) Fortunately, this IS my idea of a good time, so Hood to Coast was fantastic. Plus, I realized I can run much faster than I thought I could. Yay! Yay!

First, the team name: Mach Schnell. Schnell means "fast" in German, "Mach Schnell"= more speed, faster, etc. It's great to say and even more fabulous to yell at team members from a vanagon.

Second, the relay. 12 runners, 2 vans (6 runners/van), 2 drivers, 36 legs. Each runner completes three legs of varying distance and difficulty--no one runs over 20 miles and no one runs under 13. Runners start off in groups from midway up Mt. Hood, depending on the projected speed of their team--slower first, faster later, with the aim of as many people as possible finishing around the same time. (Yes, this makes for massive traffic issues in Seaside.) After each sendoff, the van drives to the next exchange point (usually stopping to cheer their runner along the way) and waits to switch people. When one group of 6 has finished, people usually try to sleep between legs (maybe shower), and then gear up for the next run.

In short, it's a bunch of nonsense. And if you haven't run one, I highly recommend it. At this point, a relay would be one of the few things that could get me to run an extended distance on asphalt. (Well, maybe I'd do *one* more marathon to try and qualify for Boston. Just to say I did.)

Anyway, the run starts midway up Mt. Hood. We knew we were getting closer when we started seeing warnings about runners on the road. From Mt. Hood, it drops down (and down and down!) to Portland, then winds its way out to the Oregon coast.

I felt very fortunate to have missed out on the first and second legs of the run. They each drop over 1500 feet in a very short amount of time (5.6 miles for each run). However, the start of the run was gorgeous. Despite Mt. Hood's reputation for unpredictable and inclement weather, we had a tourist-bureau day-- clear with stunning views.

Leg #1: In Which I Discover I Am Faster Than I Thought

I was runner #3, which meant that my first leg, while a net downhill, was not as insane as the first two legs. It was a lovely 4 miles of flat and slight downhill. I wanted to go slower on this leg, knowing that I had two other much longer legs to come, but being me, I went out too fast, looking down at my watch in mile #1 and seeing 6:20 on the Garmin.... but I ended up holding on to it! I ran 4 miles with a 6:30 average! I have never in my bleedin' life run that fast for 4 miles. The fastest I have ever averaged for 4 miles (or a 5K) was 7:00s, so that was definitely a new PR! Normally I get excited when I'm anywhere around 7:00... apparently I need to adjust my expectations of my running.

I also realized on this leg that training with long runs is very helpful when running short distances. Even when your lungs are burning, knowing you only have to run for 30 minutes or less feels mentally super-energizing.

After superior performances by the rest of the van, we went back to the Machest of Schnellsters' house in Portland to crash for an hour or so, before we had to meet up with the other team at the Hawthorne bridge in Portland. We got the hand-off around 1:15 in the morning, which meant that I ended up starting my 2nd leg at 3:10 in the morning.

Leg #2: In Which I Am Not Run Over By a Car

My second leg was a long straight-away on highway 30--7.25 miles, to be exact. I was not looking forward to this run. My legs were very tight (out too fast much?) and I was just not excited about running such a long distance. Sleep sounded much better at that point. However, I was left with a leg to run--this was, after all, why I had flown up to Portland. This run had a little more uphill than the first leg, but it wasn't enough uphill to register on the "trail running" hill spectrum. Or at least, on the California hill spectrum. Apparently we're used to running big hills here.

Anyway, my normally non-neurotic mind (well, in this arena anyway-- I have plenty of other neuroses) decided it was a good moment to begin to think about all the things that could go wrong on this stretch of road--particularly how easy it would be for a car to swerve and take me out. This kept me moving for the rest of the leg, but I also definitely noticed that my knee was unhappy with me. Running without relaxing/stretching enough did not enhance my form and I really just wanted the run to be over.

*Note* I found out later that I wasn't as neurotic as I thought I was (well, that's probably debatable)-- unfortunately, four hours earlier, a runner was hit by a car on the exact section of road I was running. She's going to be ok, but a very sad event.

Leg #3: In Which I Fall In Love With The Oregon Countryside

Finally! After an hour nap on the grass with a bunch of other exhausted runnin' fools, we took the last handoff in Mist. We started our last leg just after 10 in the morning, and it was a lovely day--warm and clear. While this was the scenery for the leg just before mine, my leg had a similarly bucolic feel. Cows grazed to the left of me (fenced in-- no cow encounters for me!) and the trees kept the heat down--although I must say that I'm more of a heat runner than I thought. According to the Garmin, the temperature was in the high 70s, which I found eminently runnable--my legs felt much looser than they had at night and I ended up holding 7:42s for my 5.99 miles. Considering how tired I was, I felt really happy with this run. (Ok, it wasn't another 6:30 pace, but hey-- we'll take what we can get!)


After the rest of the van finished, we headed down to Seaside, parked and had some food and adult beverages while waiting for the rest of our team to finish. (Does this mean I have now completed two races with mid-race beers? Should this become a race routine for me?) We waited for our runner to get in, crossed the finish line with our team and then headed back to Portland, exhausted.

To sum up? Good time, great people, fun running, and a great kick-off to the school madness that my life is about to become.

p.s. I can't believe I need to rave about this, but anyone who has done a relay event knows the importance of this race detail. The port-a-potties were the best ever. Seriously. They got cleaned a couple of times throughout the race, always had toilet paper AND hand sanitizer. Plus, they were called Honey Buckets. And you should also know that no matter how laughable you find this detail, the man who caught me taking a picture of the port-a-potty found me even more ridiculous.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pre- Hood to Coast

I'm back in Portland for the relay extravaganza. Carbo-loaded last night and had a delicious waffle here this morning. Note to Richmond: I would really appreciate if you put in a delightful waffle café near my house. In a couple of hours, we'll be heading up Mt. Hood for the start of a long and sweaty day/night. More to come!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Things that make me happy as of late....

1) Constantina Tomescu-Dita and Dara Torres
At 38 and 41 years old respectively, they've convinced me I need to start taking my training more seriously. I mean, I still have 4 years before I'm even Constantina's age-- I could even set my sights on 2016, as I will only be a year older than Dara Torres then. Come on, ladies, get to it! Just because you missed your window to be a teeny 16 year old doing backflips on a 4-inch piece of wood does not mean you need to put your Olympic dreams away! Clearly we all have a lot more years left than we thought...

2) My job. I'm back working with people as opposed to designing retreats and curriculum. I love my job and I love the people I work with.

3) House projects. I've done so little this year because of school, I've forgotten how much I love working on my house. Now if I could just get out to the garden...

4) HOOD TO COAST IN 3 DAYS!!!




Sunday, August 17, 2008

Howling in the Fog

Well, it's August in Richmond, as you can see from this picture here. I ran this trail today, and it would have been rather unblog-worthy, were it not for this crazy fog, and what I heard just after I took this picture.

I was running down the trail, listening to some salsa, as is normal for my long runs, when I started to hear some kind of screaming in the background. I thought it was the song, and was confused for a moment, so I turned my iPod off and realized it was not the music, but sounds coming from the left of me, off toward Havey Canyon. I thought for a brief moment that it was a child, but then the high-pitched barking/whining came through, and I figured out I was listening to coyotes calling back and forth across Havey Canyon. If you have never heard coyotes call back and forth to each other, it's something else. You can tell they're communicating-- Neko could definitely tell something was going on. I did have a brief moment of worrying they were barking because they were trying to tell each other about a mountain lion's presence, but then decided that I was already out there, so I might as well run on and stop thinking about it. Rather cool though-- not something I have ever heard in Wildcat Canyon. I have run into individual coyotes while out on the trails, but never heard such a call-and-response chorus.

My running companion was totally unconcerned by the fog, as you can see here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tilden to Skyline- Firetrails practice

Firetrails Practice Run
(Lone Oak-Meadows Canyon- Curran- Sea View- Skyline- Sea View- Curran- Meadows Canyon)
(14.2 miles)

So many things to say about this run. First, I have been thinking about how much I love getting prepped and anticipating my long trail runs. I love getting my water bottles prepped, putting new songs from my "running mix" on my shuffle, putting my hair in braids (only happens on long runs) deciding which shok bloks I'm going to eat, and I really do love thinking about how I'm going to do something that will take a while, be difficult and feel a very good kind of tired at the end. There's something very comforting about all this. 

So today I decided to run part of the Firetrails course, as I will be running it in October. I have started to get worried about the fact that I signed up for a 50 mile run, which I have never done before. I alternate between having conversations with people who have written me off as certifiably nuts, and conversations with people who could be utterly crazy already, who talk about things like "best aid station food" or toenails falling off without blinking an eye. 

I started at the Lone Oak picnic tables in Tilden Park. This is the turn-around point for Firetrails, and I figured that getting used to the second half of the course on fresh legs might help me feel mentally prepared... or not. The course follows Meadows Canyon up to Insipration Point, at which point you turn right on the road and continue until you hit Sea View. Sea View is one of the most hiked trails in Tilden-- it climbs onto the ridge and gives you views of the Bay on one side and San Pablo and Briones Reservoirs on the other. Today the fog obscured some of the views, but it was definitely warm above the fog.

While it felt good to run this section this morning, I kept thinking about how I would be running this on legs that had just completed a marathon. Um, yeah. 3.5 miles of more or less continuous climbing. It's pretty gentle (no Ohlone trails here), and none of the climbs seem interminable, but it's a pretty long section of uphill from Lone Oak to Vollmer Peak. From Vollmer Peak and the Steam Trains, the trail crosses Skyline Boulevard and continues on a single track trail. The trail took me a moment to find-- it's a smallish sign, but it's also directly across the road from the entrance to the Steam Trains. 

I now love Skyline trail. I had never run on this trail before-- and it's definitely worth running. It's East Bay MUD land, so while you don't need a permit, you cannot take dogs on this section.
The trail winds along the side of the ridge, more or less heading downhill until you cross Skyline Boulevard again. From here, the trail begins to have much steeper inclines-- I kept trying to slow myself down because I didn't want to have to run all the way back up the hills I was running down! This area was shaded and relatively cool though-- oaks and bay trees stretch their branches over the trail, providing a bit of respite from the sun. 

As soon as I turned around however, I started to feel it, and this has caused me a relative degree of panic. I was exhausted going up some of the hills, and running everything was just not an option. While the second half of the run went quickly in some ways, I realized that I need to run A LOT MORE in the next couple of months. Fortunately, my knee seems to be doing tremendously well, but I need to not be this tired after 14 miles if I'm going to run 50 in October! 

Overall, good run-- I will be running more of this area in the upcoming weeks. 
Tilden is a great place to take dogs-- you can have them off-leash as well. However, it's impossible to take dogs on EBMUD lands. 

Finally, a bit of the local wildlife that made an appearance this morning...

Wow. Just wow.

Apparently some Texas teachers will be packing heat when school starts.

I realize this has nothing to do with running, but I am absolutely amazed at this. What are we doing when principals advise against hugging kids from fear of lawsuits, but THIS passes? 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back in the saddle!

Well, in the running saddle, that is. I'm finally done with the back-to-back retreat schedule of simultaneous greatness and exhaustion! I'm ready to start gradually and steadily ramping up the mileage for Dick Collins. Tomorrow-- running part of the course!

Today's run felt like the most blah run ever though...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mt. Tamalpais!

Mt. Tamalpais (non-summit)
(Nathalie Coffin Greene-Eldridge Grade-Nathalie Coffin Greene)
(12 miles)

I think this picture pretty much says it all. 

(Yes, that IS the Golden Gate Bridge you can see just tucked between the clouds and the Headlands.)

But just in case, I'll still add a few words. 

I have been buried in an avalanche of schoolwork the last few days and while I have kept up on my running, no new trails to write about until today. I insisted on holding two hours free today for a long run, as I will be sitting in class for the next four days. (There is a chance I'll run at Pt. Reyes, but it will require getting up very early-- always a tricky business...)

In fear of 9 Trails, I have been thinking about how I need to run some BIG HILLS. Mt. Tamalpais is a big hill. A very big hill. I parked at Ross Commons (see this post for directions) and ran around Phoenix Lake until I came to the Eldridge Grade/Shaver Grade/ Fish Grade intersection and then just ran up and up and up Eldridge until I hit the Indian Road Trail, which continues up another 2.6 miles to the top of Mt. Tam. I had been running for about 5 miles at that point, and I decided to just go another mile, then turn around and come back, as I was not sure how my knee would fare with so much downhill.

What can I say about this trail? It's gorgeous. It's also a fire road, so if you're a diehard single-tracker, skip it. It's also very popular with mountain bikers-- stay alert. It is also rather predictable. It goes up to the summit, and then you come down. There are ways of making a loop out of this route, but I was not in the mood for the brain work it would have taken today. But...if you are looking for a trail that gives you vista upon vista of the Bay--this is your trail.
 I kept thinking the view couldn't get any better... and it did! 

The picture on top is of San Francisco, but here's the view looking towards the East Bay, with Mt. Diablo dominating the landscape. I cannot wait to get back and run this trail all the way to the top. I have been on the top of Mt. Tam only once in my life (I know, it's as bad as not visiting Pt. Reyes until last Saturday!), and that was about 12 years ago. I think it's time for me to get out there again...

I saw a few dogs, and while the dogs I saw were not on leash, I think technically they are supposed to be... but there was no one checking near the top. 

Tomorrow starts a whole bunch of craziness for the next two weeks. I really hope I will keep up the running, because today gave me great hope for my upcoming races. (Knee felt fine, and I actually felt really good the whole way up as well.)