Before the start of Saturday's race, Ms. Dirt Diva asked me if I had "done a 100 yet"-- as if it was only a matter of time. And while this race is my ultimate running fantasy (especially with those pictures!), I cannot lie-- I felt so relaxed and was having such a good time before I fell that I was getting excited about Firetrails. Then tonight, I have been trying to follow the Rio del Lago 100 webcast, trying to figure out where La Diva and Ms. Becky are... and even though I can SEE my leg start to lose muscle with each passing day, I started to get excited about it... Maybe I *will* set my sights on a 100 in the next year or two.
Maybe I should start researching 50 milers to do in the spring.
So I've been a big mishmash of stuff the last couple of days.
As is probably really clear by now, I'm a pretty physical person. (Um, duh.) I love being outside. I love running. I love running on trails. I love moving in general. And clearly, I can't do a lot of that now.
What people who know me well also know is that I'm an extremely independent person. I hate asking people for help. I have a lot of stories running around in my head about what it means to ask for help-- well, what it means for ME to ask for help. I think everyone else in the world should ask for help if they need it... just not me. The most difficult year of my life (so far), I spent totally convinced that I could "handle it," even when I was falling apart and so completely on auto-pilot it wasn't even funny. People asked me, "What can I do?" and I said "I'm fine"-- over and over again.
I can't do that right now. I live in the 'hood. I'm not going to crutch it home from the bus stop at night, and the nearest big grocery store is a good 1/2 mile away (and good luck carrying a basket and crutches at the same time!). I'm also not going to move out of my house for 6 weeks, so I am stuck rather dependent on people. I live by myself, so it's not like I can ask a housemate/partner/family member to pick me up or drop me off or generally do any of the random daily chores that don't seem like a big deal but really are when you can't go more than 3 blocks without feeling exhausted and breaking out in a sweat. (Crutches= big fun.)
Thus the "Bitter" part of this post.
Yeah. Now for the "Sweet" part. As I said before, my friends/coworkers/former foster daughter have been absolutely amazing. While it may seem like a big "duh" to outsiders, the realization that I have this incredible safety net of people who care about me and who are willing to drive to the 'hood to take me to the grocery store or drive me to Bart, etc., is not such a "duh" to me. Actually, let me clarify that. I've always known I have good people around me. I've never really felt like I had to *ask* them for stuff before, though. Laboring under the delusion that I can "do it all" (and I consciously know this is SUCH a delusion, because really, who among us can really "do it all?"), I've never felt like I had to ask multiple people, multiple times over, for their help and support. One of my friends pointed out though, that when people ask, "What can I do to help?", what they REALLY mean is, "What can I do to help?" and I might just want to hear what they're actually asking for as opposed to turning it into some other story in my own head.
So I've been letting people help. And it's a) allowed me to get to work and b) been weird and c) showed me that letting people help you is a whole different way of caring for others and being cared about.
I haven't written about my former foster daughter on here at all, because it has nothing to do with trail running, but her reaction to this has shown how important letting people help me actually is. For the first time ever, she can "take care of me" in a way that she never has been able to, and seeing how much it means to her has made me think that maybe this stupid fracture is really one of the best things that could have happened to me. And if I hadn't broken my foot, I don't know how or when she would have been able to help me out this way.
So while I have spent some time being highly irked at my limited mobility and lack of aerobic exercise, I am also aware that this has been a big slap over the head on the part of the universe, reminding me that I am actually quite blessed, and I should stop whining about how I want to be running.
So in the doctor's office today, they gave me a choice of colors for my cast. I looked at all of them and decided that shocking neon pink would be the way to go, because really, who is going to match their cast with their outfit? Plus, if you're going to have some huge unwieldy thing on your leg, you might as well make a statement with it, right?
(I actually have a shirt that is super-pink, but I was informed by a friend today that I am forbidden to match my cast to my outfit.)
The cast is way bigger than I hoped it would be, but the doctor said I only have to have it on for four weeks, and then I get some other, more mobile cast.
What made me laugh out loud though, was JoLynn's comment on yesterday's post-- she guessed the color!!
Ah well-- I am learning that even if I can't run around, I have great people in my life who are willing to drive me around, cook me dinner, even clean my kitchen. My former foster daughter came over yesterday with her cousin and swept up, took out the trash, took the dog for a walk and generally ministered to me for the afternoon. Who said teenagers were selfish? (Ok, so I probably have said it-- but they can also be selfless and full of love.)
I will probably post a couple of still-in-the-files trails I have yet to write up, but I have really appreciated all the well-wishes from people here as well. Even though I would rather have remained ignorant at how caring people can be (and still able to run!), it has made an impression on me. Thanks.
So I went to the doctor's today and they said that I managed to fracture one of the bones in my foot in a couple of places yesterday. I get a cast tomorrow and will probably have it on for the next 6-8 weeks. This means a) no Firetrails but probably b) no 9 Trails either! Boo. This was not good news for me.
Well, before I start to regale you with some of the less than stellar moments of the day, let me just say that I had a great day overall and I'm pretty excited about the next race I do (whenever that will be...).
So. Let's start at the beginning. I got up at 3:30 this morning to make sure I had enough time to get down to Santa Cruz in time for the shuttle. This ensured I was tired enough to sleep on the 1 and a half hour bus ride from the finish to the start. This was a good way to start the race though-- being in a bus with a bunch of people excited about the race and trading quips back and forth set the tone for the day.
After waiting through an interminable port-a-potty line, talking with Mike, Catra and Jo Lynn (finished her first 50K with her friend Kristy-yay!) we were off! My plan for this race was twofold: first, I wanted to go out nice and easy. I have a tendency to go out WAY too fast, and I wanted to work on holding a steady pace throughout instead of dying midway through. Second, I wanted to work on running as relaxed as possible. I have realized that my knee hurts less when I am running relaxed, and I wanted to focus on being as calm and relaxed through the whole race as possible.
I did manage to go out relatively slow, but 15 minutes down the trail, I looked down and saw a yellow jacket on my leg. I smacked it off, only to realize that I was being stung on my posterior region and on my head as well! The man in front of me had a sweatshirt covered with them in a matter of seconds. After an adrenalin-inducing minute of smacking wherever I felt bitten (yes, I WAS smacking my own derriere as I ran down the trail, but this was far less titillating than it sounds. Trust me.), we continued on down the trail, thankful that part of the race was over.
Ha. Less than 20 minutes later, we ran through a similar bee attack zone, and I was stung several times by bees. Fortunately, the billion shots I had as a child to develop an immunity to bee allergies seems to be holding strong. If not, it would have been a ridiculously rough day.
We all were hoping that this would be the end of the bee/wasp attacks, but minutes after the second aid station, we ran through ANOTHER zone. To put it mildly, this was not fun. There were several theories floating around about why the bees and wasps attacked-- someone said something about the vibrations of peoples' feet irritating them. Apparently the next time I run this, I will have to run with the lead runners in order to escape the wrath of the hives.
Despite the insect attacks, I was running really well. I felt strong on the uphills (admittedly, there weren't a whole lot of them-- this course was a much easier run than Ohlone) and the downhills were feeling great-- calm and relaxed like I wanted them to be. No knee pain whatsoever.
Plus, this course is gaw-geous. The majority of the course runs through the Santa Cruz Mountains, lined by redwood and bay trees, and while it has some sections of uphill, most of the day was spent in the cooler shadows of the forests. (I even forgot to put on sunscreen, and while normally this would be a disaster for this extra-white girlie, the trees made this less of an issue than it could have been.)
One of the few sections of uphill came on an added loop (they needed more mileage to get to 50K, and why not add hills?), but the view and the change in flora made it worth it for me.
After a reasonably steep section, the trail left the redwood cover and ended up on the top of a hill with pine trees and other scrub plants on a sandy road. The shift in landscape is actually quite amazing and I'm sorry I did n't take more pictures.
After we were done with the loop, we had about 12 more miles to reach the finish, and I was feeling pretty good about things. My knee was in great shape, I felt tired but able to keep running and there were rumors of a bee-free trail to the finish.
However, the universe had other plans, because at about mile 21-22 (my Garmin decided to lose satellite reception and I forgot to reset it, so I'm not exactly sure), I took a big fall on the trail, and smacked my foot hard on a rock. (Actually, I think it was a rock-- I only remember the pain from something hitting my foot very hard.) I pulled myself together and took stock of the situation. My foot hurt. A lot. I thought the next aid station was about 4 miles away, all downhill. The aid station behind me was straight uphill all the way back. No one was going to come get me. I started limping down the trail, convinced this would be a better option than returning to the Gazos Creek aid station.
While I was absolutely in pain and very frustrated and upset about this turn of events, I also want to say that the other runners on the trail were amazing. Just about every person who passed me asked if I was ok, and tried to offer their help in whatever way possible. People volunteered to walk me to the aid station (at least 4 miles away), gave me painkiller, found me a stick to help me walk, offered food or drink-- it was really encouraging and gave me much hope for the human race. Good people, trail runners.
I limped along for probably 2-3 miles, having possibly the biggest pity party for myself I've ever had. (This meant I was probably less than enthusiastic when people tried to be positive with me-- oops.) I wanted to be DONE and stop walking, and the more time I walked, the more I realized it was going to take me a looooooong time to walk even to the aid station. I wondered if I could figure out some kind of not-running-but-faster-than-walking movement and tried to start shuffling my feet. While I'm sure I looked like I was 80 years old, it didn't make my foot hurt unbearably and it was faster than walking, so I continued with my grandma-shuffle until I finally reached the aid station. At this point, the aid station was less than 2 miles away from the finish line, so I declined the offer of a ride (which I was convinced I wanted 3 miles earlier) and shuffled to the end.
Continuing the amazing beauty of the trail--this is what you run over just before the finish line. Despite my fervent desire to be done running, I had to take a picture of it.
To cap off my comedy of errors, as I was trying to hop around and figure out how I could find someone to drive my car back to Richmond with me, I managed to step in a pile of stinging nettles that lit my left ankle (the unhurt foot) on fire. Perfect.
My foot, to put it bluntly, is not cute. It is swollen and starting to turn purple all along the outside. I have an appointment tomorrow to have it x-rayed, but right now it looks like a little fat thing with some toes.
All in all though-- when I think about this day, I had a great time. I am really pleased with how I ran before I fell, and I am feeling very confident that whenever my foot heals up, I will be back on my running game.
I know, it's been a quiet moment here in bloglandia. I haven't run anything exciting lately, and I'm having trepidation over this weekend's race. That, plus some loooong hours at work have made interesting runs a rarity this week.
However, I promise a race report from this weekend....
(Penitencia Creek Trail- Switchback Trail- Penitencia Creek)
Once again, I am overcome with admiration for little Alum Rock Park. This park is a gem of San Jose, and I heartily recommend running its few but worthy trails.
I started again outside of the park entrance, so I did not have to pay the parking fees, and then ran along the Penitencia Creek trail. This trail alternates between paved and trail, so if you are trying to save your joints, pay the parking fee and cut off 2 miles to get straight to the trails that climb out of the canyon.
As I've said before, Penitencia Creek trail (and indeed, Alum Rock Park in general) puts me in mind of Sycamore Canyon in Santa Barbara. Running along next to the creek, shaded by oaks and sycamores feels like being back home again.
This time, I went farther along the trail until I reached the Mineral Springs Grotto. The history lesson from the posted sign informed me that there used to be bath houses on the site, and that from 1892 to 1902, the springs were touted as having "beneficial health qualities" by medical doctors, and many people came to rid themselves of "kidney and stomach troubles, rheumatism and malarial afflictions." All that is left today are some grottos, but it put me in mind of Alvarado Park near my house, which used to have a dance hall and a roller rink-- at a very similar time in history.
From the Mineral Springs Grotto, I took the Switchback trail up toward the South Rim trail, but since a) I hadn't looked at a map, and realized I could keep running and eventually make a loop back to the parking lot and b) I didn't think I had enough time to run all the way up and back, I stopped and came back. However, the Switchback trail up to the South Rim trail is tough enough that a real workout can be had and also full of amazing views as you climb up the side of the canyon, finally getting a view of San Jose and the Bay beyond.
I most definitely want to explore other trails next time-- but once again, Alum Rock Park surprised me with its beauty and accessibility.
Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed at Alum Rock Park--on leash or off...
Now don't get me wrong. Most of the time, Neko is the best running companion I could possibly ask for. I offer as evidence:
1) She never has "other plans" when I want to go for a run.
2) She has no work commitments to stop her from taking mid-day runs.
3) She never thinks I'm running too fast or too slow.
4) She's always in a good mood.
5) She never drinks any of the post-run beer.
6) She never insists on running shorter or longer distances than I want to do.
7) She never tries to talk to me when I'm sucking air running up a hill.
8) She thinks I'm the greatest running companion every time we hit the trails.
However, not a single one of my other running companions have ever done what she did today. Two miles into a 7 miler, I look over and my brilliant canine has rolled in dog poo. She was so happy as she ran up, too, it was hard to be mad at her... but it has to be one of the most disgusting things EVER!! (I must say, if any of my human running companions ever did this, they'd be off the list with the quickness...)
Yeah, this was a short run. I did this last week, and my hamstrings made running anything much more than 3 miles an impossibility.
This run starts just outside of Palo Alto. I was under the mistaken impression that Palo Alto was close to San Jose (yeah, so I don't know South Bay geography too well), and as it's NOT, I probably won't be running here much again. This is too bad though, because Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is a great mid-week run option. While more than 12 miles or so probably isn't realistic, a great 8-12 mile run is very possible here.
I started at the Portola Road entrance, and immediately found myself looking at Sausal Pond, which the signs pointed out (quite helpfully) was not safe to drink from, in case red algae looked tempting to you.
From there, the trail followed the edge of the preserve until it forked right on Spring Ridge Trail. The trail immediately starts to climb out of the oak-lined fire road, opening up to dry grassy hills dotted with shrubs and pine trees. Your climb is rewarded with gorgeous views of Windy Hill itself (I assumed) in front of you, and then the Bay behind you-- all the way to Mt. Diablo, if you look closely!
Unfortunately, I could not run much more than 3 miles, but if I was in Palo Alto on a regular basis, this would be a running haunt. Plus, dogs on leash are legal on most of the trails, and in the South Bay, that's quite an anomaly. (When I was there mid-week, I saw only one or two other people the whole time, so perhaps no one would notice if your pooch was running free...)
(Carr Lake- Round Lake Trail- Grouse Ridge Trail-Round Lake Trail)
But wouldn't you want to play hooky here, too?
So through various circumstances, I have not been up to the Sierras at all this summer. This is not my idea of how a summer should be, and so I decided to rectify the situation. Thanks to other circumstances, a weekday was all I could scrounge up, but it was SOOOO worth it.
As I said before, I was worried about my hamstrings/knee, but decided that even if I walked for 3 miles, it would be worth going--and clearly I ended up doing more than 3 miles. I didn't feel the best I've ever felt, but I was happy that I could run more than I've run all week, and I am feeling optimistic about things.
This run starts from Carr Lake, which is off Highway 20 out of Nevada City, in the Tahoe National Forest. It's called the Grouse Lakes Area (link to a small map of the area) and it is a great summer running trail. From Highway 20, take road 18, and then after 8 miles of windy curves, road 17 for 4 miles of dirt road.
Getting here from my house was not a short drive-- over three hours, but for someone in the Sacramento area, or a Bay Area person on a rare weekend day, it's worth the drive.
I had hiked part of this trail in 2003, and I remembered a plethora of swimmable lakes on this trail. Memory did not deceive me. Within the first 3.5 miles of the trail, I passed by six different lakes, five with wonderful water options. The top picture and these two are just three of the five lakes-- and I don't even think any of these are the lake we swam in last time I was here!
I did feel like I got my dose of Sierra trails though-- this trail leads throug h some very typical Sierra scenes. As mentioned here, there were plenty of lakes, surrounded by huge pine trees and at least part of the lake edged by granite boulders spilling into the lake, reminiscent of the glacial carvings that formed them.
Then we also had the standard forest scene, where the trail led between huge trees and fallen logs necessitated several detours, one almost causing me to lose the trail.
I love this hot and rocky kind of trail the higher it climbs, because when you are above timberline, this landscape turns into rocky spires that promise a sweeping view if you climb to the top. Today I was not remotely near timberline-- Carr Lake started at 5565 feet, and while this is definite ly enough to create a little heavy breathing, timberline is usually around 8-10,000 feet in the Sierras.
Finally, we have our pastoral scene: a trail winding through a forest meadow. This grass was so soft, I could have lain down and taken a nap-- I kid you not.
We ended up splashing about in a lake that was called both Milk and Mill Lake, depending on whether you were looking at a map or signpost. Neko was, of course, ecstatic at the opportunity to splash around. If you have never had the privilege of being the only human being at a Sierra Lake, well, I cannot recommend it highly enough, and it helped assuage my disappointment that this was the only day I spent in the Sierras this summer.
This run must be done in the summer, because they do not plow this road in the winter. Dogs are also welcome in National Forest land. Even though I don't usually worry about kids when writing up trails (who is going to make their child run 12 miles?), this would be a great place to take kids on a hike.
As you have noticed, I have been absent from the blogging milieu. Part of it was a weekend spent with some international visitors, which first necessitated a home improvement and cleaning frenzy. Once they were here, it absolutely REQUIRED things like eating in yummy restaurants and drinking vast quantities of excellent wines in Napa while consuming local cheese and paté. (I mean, don't we want them to see the best of California?)
The other part of it was I realized that my burst of speed at HTC resulted in ripping my hamstrings to shreds and I have been able to run very little since then. This is annoying, to say the least. I am trying not to go into major worry mode about what this means for Skyline to the Sea or for the Firetrails 50. I did find a great little trail that I will write up this week, but tomorrow I'm off to try to run outside of Nevada City with the Neko-dog. One last day of fun stuff before things are back to crazy pace.
Trail running in the Bay Area! I love dirt and running on it! This is my chronicle of trail running in the Bay Area. Some about me and more about trails. Lots o' trails. Because we have lots of trails in the Bay Area...Get thee off the asphalt and onto some trails!