Saturday, February 28, 2009

Too Awesome for Snot Bubbles

PCTR Sequoia 30K
Joaquin Miller/Redwood Regional Park

I'll get to the slightly cryptic title in a moment. First, I would like to draw your attention to the fabulous picture of the trail tarts pre-race this morning. This is why I love trail running. Other people might be running around, stressing about this or that-- but we spent a good 15 minutes shooting hilarious pictures like this one, in which you can clearly see the hoof-like characteristics of our hands, in honor of Suzanne's zebra arm panties.

(I'm getting some arm panties with my Zombie Runner gift certificate, I just haven't decided if they're going to be leopard or zebra. Seeing as a zebra pair and a leopard pair already run the PCTR circuit, I suppose I *should* get giraffe, but what's fast (or fun, really) about a giraffe? I want Moeben to create a pair that are tiger print, or maybe I should get the flame pair, but then I'd have to get gaiters to match...Such fashion dilemmas!)

Anyway, besides acting out zebras before our race, we also showed how strong we are. Wouldn't you be afraid if you saw us blazing down the trail toward you? No? Oh.

In any case, despite being doubled over with laughter looking at these pictures, we managed to get started. As seen in my previous post, the knee thing has definitely been annoying lately, and I really wanted to just finish with a pain-free run. To this end, I decided to run with Suzanne, who was running the 50K and who I figured would go out at a good pace-- not some ridiculous "Look at me run up the trail for the first 3 miles" pace, which is what I tend to do. Plus, it's easier to run relaxed when I'm running slower.

The race followed quite a bit of the trail we did two weeks ago, running up and down French trail, but today was minus the sheets of rain pouring down. It was a great day for running-- cool and overcast but not raining. I kept checking in with myself, trying to be positive and relaxed. I realized shortly after the 30K turnoff that when I engaged my core muscles when I ran downhill, my knee didn't hurt. Oh, so THIS was what the PT was talking about last summer about the importance of core strength? It was a pretty obvious thing, too. It made me really happy about all the yoga I've been doing, because I could feel different muscles engaged throughout the run, particularly when I got tired.

After the turnaround point, I was feeling really good and I started taking it a little faster. A very little bit, but I kept checking in with myself and trying to use my core muscles whenever possible. I feel like I'm finally "getting" why core strength is important. Duh.

The rest of the run felt good-- I was definitely running stronger in the later half of the race than I usually do, and I'm going to try and keep this in mind at Pirate's Cove, when I'm going to do the 50K, but also for AR50. Major note to self: GO OUT SLOW. There is plenty of time in a 50K or 50 miler to pick up the pace if need be. Right.

After I finished, I had some chicken noodle soup, which has become my new favorite post-race food ever. I got to see Jo Lynn, who did the 20K, and chatted with some of the other regulars of the PCTR community while waiting for Suzanne to come in.

The best line of the day came from the RDs' son, who reminds me that part of the reason I loved teaching middle school is because really, I have kind of a middle school sense of humor. At one point, after a particularly funny episode that will not be detailed here (yet which involved, not surprisingly, bodily fluids of the nose), he pronounced himself "too awesome for snot bubbles," a declaration that made me almost hurt myself with laughing. I would hate to see those who didn't make the awesomeness cut.

Great day again-- can't wait to do the 50K at Pirate's Cove next month!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Today I got home from work and really wanted to go on a non-thinking run. A non-thinking run is a run where I can just run without worrying about anything. I might run hard, I might not, but I don't pay much attention to anything-- I just run. When I got started though, I immediately became annoyed because I could *feel* my knee. It didn't hurt, but I was aware of it. I was instantly resentful of my knee and being injured. I am trying to do my knee exercises and I have been doing yoga on a regular basis (more about this in a minute)-- why can't my knee just get better?

I was about to go into a long rant in my head about how annoyed I was at my knee, when I was reminded of a facebook update I read that afternoon, from a woman I used to work with. She said, "i am thankful for all of the pain, sadness and loneliness in my life because it fuels my art and brings me closer to you." (She's a great photographer, by the way-- check out her site here.) I started to think about how I was so focused on how BAD it was that my knee hurt, I didn't see anything else. One of my favorite buddhist writers wrote once (I can't remember where, so don't ask) that we can use painful experiences to shut us down or to open us up.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not being dramatic and claiming that a mild case of tendonitis is tragic. It's not. I'm still able to be more active on a daily basis than the majority of people in the world are. But this quote made me think today about how I can choose to accept this experience or fight it and try to control it. (I'm going to leave it to you to figure out which is the more traditional Victoria method...)

Then I realized though, that even the experience of recognizing I have a choice about fighting my body or accepting it where it is was a gift. I'm a (slightly) driven person, and I tend to operate under the assumption that if I go after something with, (to quote my partner in trail tartness) "an aggressive plan of action," it will change. Very soon. Patience is not one of my cardinal virtues, as you may have guessed. This is very helpful in certain areas of my life, but not so in others (particularly those involving other people, as one might presume). I could use this experience to be annoyed and mad at my knee (truly a useful pasttime, as I'm sure my knee is doing this out of pure spite), or I could enjoy my body just as it is in this moment, injured or not.

I also started thinking about what an overuse injury is-- basically your body's way of telling you to pay attention for some reason. Either I need to run less or run differently, or work on supporting my knee through yoga and muscle-building-- but whatever it is, my knee is telling me the current situation is not working for it, and it's getting my attention the only way it could-- through pain. I know I would have completely ignored my knee if at all possible (this is the person who finished 8 miles on a broken foot, after all), and the only way I will stop and pay attention is if it really, really hurts. My knee is here to remind me to pay attention to me and what's going on in my own body. These are not strengths of mine either. Ok knee-- I hear you and I promise to stop resenting the hell out of you. (I am well aware that it is a giant waste of energy to resent one's own knee, but I'm just being honest about the conversations in my head, and I'm sure you have had similarly ridiculous inner conversations at some point in your life as well.)

The other really great experience tendonitis has brought for me lately is the return to yoga. I have been a yoga fanatic lately, getting up early for my yogatoday class (core strength today!) and let me tell you-- there is something about yoga that lands somewhere between physical therapy and mental therapy that SO works for me. Paying attention to my mind and body at the same time, noticing what gets me frustrated, where I hold tension and working on letting go? REALLY what I needed. I can literally feel myself shifting and holding better posture outside of classes as the days go by, and I've had some really useful emotional insights while practicing.

It's funny, because one of the things I work on most with the people I coach is reframing. If we can see the same set of circumstances from a different perspective, we can have a completely different experience. I suppose one of the things my knee is here to tell me is, "Physician-- heal thyself!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From the blogosphere have I been absent in the Spring...*

*(With apologies to W. Shakespeare... and the spring, which has yet to come)

Jesusita Trail
(Stevens Park-Jesusita Trail- Inspiration Point-Tunnel Road)
(5.5 miles)

A blogging friend recently pointed out that I have been rather silent on this site as of late. He is right-- but not out of any particular reason. I've just been uber-busy the past few weeks, and then I was down in Santa Barbara this weekend, which means I have internet access but not on my own computer= no blogging. (It does, however, mean drinking wine with the parents and having tons of home-cooked meals and taking a homemade coffee cake home with me... yum.)

I did get a chance to spend some time on the trails. I am very familiar with this first trail. Growing up, Inspiration Point is one of the standard go-to trails for, oh, say, EVERYONE who hikes in Santa Barbara. I have no idea how many times I have hiked the Tunnel Road-Inspiration Point trail--less from the Jesusita side, but still quite a bit.

The Jesusita trail is also famous for being the start of the infamous 9 Trails race-- my nemesis! Seriously, this was my first and most irritating DNF. This race is 35 miles of straight up and down (tendonitis flare-up at mile 14 as a result led to the DNF). There is no flat in this race-- as there really isn't for any of the trails in Santa Barbara, come to think of it. The start of the race is no exception-- the Jesusita trail leads up and up and up... relentlessly.

The trail wanders alongside San Roque creek at first, through big oak trees overhanging the trail, but it soon leads through the meadow and then begins the climb to Inspiration Point. Eventually the trail climbs out of the oaks and into the rocky, chaparral-covered hills that characterize so much of Santa Barbara trails.

After hitting the ridge, the trail follows the fire road until Inspiration Point, then drops down steeply to cross Mission Creek and then back to Tunnel Road. I remember running this portion during 9 Trails in 2007 and enjoying the downhill, not realizing how much was still to come!

In case you were wondering, this is hard trail running. I would like to say that the whole party bounded up the hill like mountain goats, but really, the only bounding was done by the border collies. I knew I had another trail run lined up the next day, so I was hunkering under the cover of "must save legs for tomorrow," but truth be told-- this is some extremely hard trail running.

The rest of my trail companions--the brother and the pups.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Tarts Go Hardcore

Joaquin Miller-Redwood Regional Park
(Sunset- Sequoia-Bayview- Castle- West Ridge- French- Fern- Stream- East Ridge- Canyon- Stream- West Ridge-Dunn-Joaquin Miller Rd)
(15 miles)

Yesterday I was going to do a long run, but I wimped out due to tempestuous conditions. This was serendipitous for me- not because of the weather (which was rather worse today), but because l'autre Tarte des Trails was doing a loooong run in Joaquin Miller/Redwood and thus I had some company!

I thought at first I would only run a portion of Suzanne's planned 4 hour jaunt, as I was feeling somewhat nervous about the state of the knee after last Saturday's DNF. I did yoga four times this week, which reminded me every time that I have ridiculously tight hip flexors and quads. This must change, I think-- especially based on today's results. My knee was feeling pretty good, but I was thinking that 2 hours or so would be a good goal.

I woke up this morning slightly dehydrated from a fun dinner the night before. This, added to the sheets of rain falling outside my window did not exactly make the thought of hitting the trails especially tempting. However, I had informed Suzanne I would be there, so I suited up, put the dog in the car and headed for Joaquin Miller.

When we got to the trailhead, the rain was coming down so hard, it was making tons of noise on the car's roof. Running in the deluge was about the last thing I wanted to do, but there I was. And there Suzanne's car was, too, so it's not like I could claim I got there and she wasn't.

Amazingly enough, it wasn't hard to find each other. For some reason, there weren't too many runners out this morning. We waited around a couple of minutes for Steve, who was supposed to join us, but then decided hypothermia wasn't a good plan for the day and took off. Fortunately, we met Steve coming down the trail a few moments after taking off (he did a bunch of miles before meeting up with us), and the three of us (plus Neko!) took off.

I don't have many pictures from the run because everything was so soaked, I didn't want to take my camera out too much. (It's making some strange noises tonight-- I'm a bit worried I got it too wet.) However, running today was lovely. If you could get over the fact that every single piece of clothing you were wearing was absolutely soaked, it's hard to complain about towering redwoods, dripping ferns, green, green, green moss over everything, and then, when it broke up a bit, wispy clouds sitting on the tops of the trees. Suzanne pointed out that this looked very "Middle Earth" and I could not agree more.

The other good news? I ended up running 3 1/2 hours today and my knee did not hurt at ALL. (Ok, so we weren't setting any speed records, but you try running through ridiculous puddles and up and down French trail and then tell me how fast YOU run!) I couldn't be more pleased-- I have definitely been worrying about AR50 and my knee, and while I don't think I'm out of the woods, I felt so much better today than I expected to, I have much hope for the spring!

The big winner of today though? Neko. I think this is the longest run I have ever taken her on, and let me tell you-- she is a dog built for endurance. An hour and 45 minutes into the run, she was still bounding around, trying to get someone to play stick with her! I think at about 2 1/2 hours, she finally started running with us, as opposed to bounding up, back, around and around. I think that I actually tired her out today though-- another first! She has been sprawled out, sleeping on the floor the entire afternoon.

Great day today-- definitely a day that earned us our "hardcore" stripes as well. Just ask Neko.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Some appropriateness for the day...

Three of my favorite quotes, particularly à propos today:

"No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever." (François Mauriac)

"We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh." (Agnes Repplier)

"You don't know, or maybe you do," said Mr. Hal, a look of deep satisfaction with the coffee and with his thoughts on his face, "how wonderful a feeling it give you when you know somebody love you and that's just the way it is. You can be good, you can be a devil, and still that somebody love you. You can be weak, you can be strong. You can know a heap or nearly nothing. That kind of love, when you think about it, just seems like some kind of puzzle, and you can spend a lifetime trying to figure it out." (Alice Walker, from The Temple of My Familiar)

Much unconditional love to us all today!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

With apologies to my knees...

Yesterday my fellow tart of the trails told me about a workout designed for runners that is currently posted on Yoga Today. If you are not familiar with Yoga Today, it is a site that posts free hour-long classes that change all the time. There are multiple options for whatever yoga kind of person you are, which I find quite lovely.

Anyway, I had not been doing so much yoga lately, and this morning I tackled the "Yoga for Runners" class. Adi, the yoga instructor, spoke at the beginning about how this class was going to stretch out the hips and quads, very important for runners-- especially for their knees. Quad stretches, I thought-- how hard can those be?

Oh. My.

In case you were wondering--the answer to that question? VERY HARD. Apparently my hip flexors and quads are so tight it's a wonder I can walk upright at all. If those muscles have anything to do with knee pain, I'm suprised I don't have constant knee pain. Bless my little knees for all their hard work in such unfortunate circumstances.

Time to work on those quads and hip flexors. Sheesh.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

DNF= Disappointing N' yet Fun...

PCTR Woodside
(17 of 35K)

You know what's really annoying? Thinking that you face one significant problem in your race, finding out that this is not a problem, feeling great about your progress in the race... and finding out a whole DIFFERENT issue is what brings you down.

I spent most of this week feeling rather crapola, and worrying that I would be too sick to run today's race. 35K felt long, and I was worried that I would die en route. I was vacillating between the 17 and 35K distances until Friday afternoon, but I started feeling much better on Friday and decided to do the 35K. I woke up this morning, saw some blue sky and was quite happy with my decision.

When I arrived at the start, there was so much good running energy (excuse the term-- remember, I'm from California and we're allowed to use phrases like "good energy"-- part of our constitution, I think) that I got happy thinking about the 35K. Mike was running the 35K as well, and I knew several people in the 50K group.

We took off in the last group-- 45 minutes after the 50K group and 15 minutes after the 10K group. I made a big effort to go out slow and steady, and I think I succeeded. I felt great up until the 1st aid station-- the first picture was taken just before the 1st aid station, and it shows the absolutely ideal running conditions of today. Running through the redwoods, cool temps (but not raining!), not too muddy despite yesterday's rain-- perfect! Until the 1st aid station, the trail leads pretty much relentlessly upward, and I kept a steady pace that felt neither too fast nor too slow. I was trying out one of the philosophies I have heard about running ultras-- think of the race as separate races between aid stations, and I was also trying to focus on my "run calm and relaxed" practice that worked so well (until the foot breakage) in Skyline to the Sea.

After the 1st aid station, the trail gently rolls up and down until the second. I had a second mental breakthrough on this section-- I started to feel tired and wanting to stop, and I could feel my thoughts turning negative, but I remembered something else that I read in a blog (or article) of wisdom about ultras-- someone said that the one piece of advice he had for newbie ultra runners was to remember that however they felt at a certain moment, it would change. It's amazing what mental comfort this gives, and I relaxed into the tiredness, had some food (key as well) and felt better within the next mile or so. Again, I was running very smoothly, and I was looking forward to the turn-around point, because I had told myself I would not let myself push it until I was done with 10 miles--and I was definitely feeling like I HAD something to push.

However, my knee had other ideas. Right about mile 9, my knee decided that it was not ok with my lack of attention to the exercises the PT told me to do last summer, and it decided to make its presence known. It shouldn't really be so much of a shock, as part of the reason my left knee has tendonitis has to do with the long-time weakness of my right leg from knee surgery 10 years ago, now compounded by being on crutches for a month in October. Have I been doing all the work to strengthen the right leg? No. Was the PT right? Yes. My knee HURT.

So I dropped at the turn-around, felt annoyed for a minute, but then came back and hung out/helped at the start/finish. It's hard to be bitter about not finishing a race when it seems like a big town-hall social hour at the finish line. People cheer others on as they come in, chat about running, upcoming races, where to go for sushi next weekend... Sarah and Wendell (RDs) are well on their way to developing not just a great race series (well, they've already done that), but a real community of runners--much harder, and in my opinion, when I think about the problems of the world, much more important and lasting.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Super Sunday...

Rodeo Beach Loop
(12 miles)

Well, I did something downright un-American today. I did not watch a single minute of the Super Bowl. I did drink some beer and eat some chips, but there was not a single mention of yardage gained or lost in my day today.

Instead, Jen and I ran the same loop I did for the Rodeo Beach 20K, only with lots more stops for taking pictures and admiring the view. Again, this summer-in-January situation is working out well for the trail runs.

Because I'm really tired yet I know that if I don't post now, I won't post until sometime next week, I'm just going to give you a few pictorial highlights from the day with some brief commentary.

First, overlooking Rodeo Beach.

Next, getting started.
I need to learn how to stand so I don't look portly.

Then with the view from the trail as we climbed out of Rodeo Beach. If you look carefully, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge peeking through the hills.

Now some flowers that are not aware that it's January and they should wait at least another couple of months before blooming.....

Very pretty, though!

This was the best viewpoint of the entire day. If you are running the Marin Headlands, you simply must run the SCA trail...

Not looking as portly... and if this doesn't explain why housing prices are too expensive in Marin, I don't know what would...I mean the view of course, not the fact that Jen and I are running IN Marin.