Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ms. F-n-D finally runs Lake Chabot...

Lake Chabot Loop
(Bort Meadows Staging Area- Brandon Trail- Ten Hills- McGregor George- West Shore- Bass Cove- Columbine- Cascade-Brandon)
(15.8 miles)

Sheesh. This run was HOT. And not because the Trail Tarts of Power were running. I mean, we certainly heated up the trail on our own-- if I must be modest about these things-- but I really meant the weather.

And while this run was quite delightful in some ways, here's a hint: when it's boiling outside, you might want to stick to Redwood. And by stick to Redwood, I mean down in the stream section, under the redwoods.

However, let me tell you about the nice things about this run:

1) It's almost completely runnable. The Trail Tarts were trying to save their legs this weekend (one 50K last weekend, one 50K the next), so between that and the heat we walked quite a few sections, but if we had been in our normal PowerTart form (with normal temperatures), we could have run just about all of it.

2) There are multiple water stops. After a recent brush with dehydration, this is a plus. Also, one of those water stops is at a golf course that apparently provides reading material in the bathrooms, should you be so inclined.

3) You run by Lake Chabot for a few miles. I am a big fan (as everyone probably knows) of running by lakes. Even though it was blazing hot, it's nice to have a large body of water right next to you.

4) It's Firetrails practice! Not all of it, but enough that I felt as if I were doing my Firetrails training some good (besides getting some miles in, of course).

It starts out with a section on Brandon that looks flat but which is actually slightly downhill, making you feel like a rockstar fresh out of the gate. Then the trail winds through some eucalyptus trees for a while, providing some welcome shade on Sunday's run. Then the trail comes out on the top of the ridge and you follow Brandon down to the golf course (where reading material and a water fountain await you...). This section was one of the most brutal on Sunday because it was so exposed-- the heat seemed to rise up from the trail in waves. (And yeah, I'm sure it's hotter in Arizona right now. But we're wimpy Bay Area people who don't know what it's like to run in blazing heat all the time.)

From the golf course, we took Ten Hills trail. Apparently there are MORE than ten hills (false advertising!), but they're all rolling hills and again, if it weren't 5,000 degrees outside, quite runnable. This was a nice trail though- most of the time it was relatively shaded.

Water stop #2 was at the Lake Chabot Marina, the start/finish for Firetrails. We hung out here for a while, slurping up as much water as we could stand. If we had a car there, we might have called it a day, because another 5 miles was not sounding like a picnic. However, we saw no one we knew (and hence no car) so we slogged on up the trail. The first bit of the Firetrails course is on a paved path that runs next to the lake-- this is nice if you have a baby jogger, I suppose, but it was nicer when we got onto the trails.

The section that leads away from the lake (Columbine-Cascade) was one of my favorites of the whole run. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, I was a little over taking pictures and trying to avoid whining about how hot it was, so I forgot to snap any, but it's a green leafy section in the East Bay in the middle of the summer-- nice.

From there, the trail connects back with the last mile or so on Brandon, and you can realize that the trail that looks flat is actually slightly uphill-- enough to make you bitter about running it, but not enough to make you feel ok about walking it.

All in all, a great loop and one I think I will do again! Thanks to my fellow Trail Tart for bringing me out there-- next time we'll run when it's not Saharan desert temperatures.

Also, it's all EBRPD land, so you can bring the pup- must be leashed around Lake Chabot/Marina area, but if you bring enough water, no problem!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not about running....

First, a little background to this posting:

I used to teach in San Rafael, but I have always lived in the East Bay and I took the Richmond Bridge every single morning. Trying to avoid traffic, I would usually leave my house by 6:45 am at the absolute latest, but usually it was more like 6:30. As I am not a morning person, this was generally the grumpiest point of my day. I made it into the car, but I was not happy about it.

Taking the bridge every day, you get to see the same people in the toll booth. Some of them just took your money and moved on, and one woman seemed pissed about having to see me every day (I made it a personal vendetta to be extra cheery when I was in her lane and always told her to have a nice day), but there was one woman who stood out from the rest.

Every single day, this woman had a huge smile on her face. I would literally feel myself smiling as I realized I was in her lane. You'd drive up and she'd say, with a big grin, "Good MORNING!" and just like that-- it WAS a good morning. Sometimes she'd send me off with a "God Bless you" or a "Have a great day!" and sometimes she even called me "honey." Whatever the words, I always felt better as I drove away. I used to think about (indeed, some friends have heard me discuss it-- probably several times) how that job could be totally tedious and perhaps if I was a toll worker, I'd be pissed like the other one, but this woman really took every single interaction she had with people as an opportunity to share some warmth and kindness with the world. Those interactions reminded me that I always had an opportunity to be kinder to someone, to be in a better mood-- it reminded me that we choose so much of our outlook on the world, and there was nothing stopping me from reaching out, in whatever small way it was, to another human being.

She was my favorite toll person. Hands down.

Flash forward to today, when I was crossing the Richmond Bridge again. I almost missed the sign saying "In Memoriam of Deborah Ross." I couldn't see the picture clearly, but I thought-- I hope it's not that wonderful woman. I came home tonight and found out that yes, Deborah WAS the name of my favorite toll person and that even worse-- she was murdered by a recent ex-boyfriend, while she was working in the toll booth.

Obviously this is heartbreaking and it has made me very sad. (I'm not going to have a rant about domestic violence, but go support your local organizations.) I didn't really know her, so I didn't go to the funeral (plus, it was two weeks ago), and it's not like she was a big part of my daily life-- especially now that I don't commute to San Rafael any more. However, her life was important--I am sure that if she impacted my morning commute in such a positive way, she must have done the same thing for thousands of people over her toll person career. So I'm writing this in memoriam of such an amazing person, and also to remind myself that we never, ever know what impact our words and actions can have on others. Deborah Ross had no idea what my name was, but she made my life better just by her joy and warmth toward others. I hope that I can keep trying to do the same.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Montaña de Oro 50K- back in the racing saddle!

PCTR Montaña de Oro 50K

Ok, ok, I KNOW it's been a terribly long time since I figured out how to post something new. And yes, I realize it doesn't take too long to post something.

It's not like I don't have things to say, either-- I have fallen in love with a pair of shoes and my new hydration pack-- that ALONE would be worth at least two blog postings! I've run in some great areas lately-- AND had an amazing adventure crewing for a friend... so yeah, I've been busy. However, that busy-ness did not include posting on this blog. I am determined to rectify this situation though, because I have missed writing-- and reading other peoples' blogs, because I haven't been doing much of that, either. I kind of went into a writing hiatus-- both for this blog and for school (it's more of a problem for school, but oh well). I am hoping this blog entry will mark the end of that hiatus.

Anyway, yesterday I ran PCTR's Montaña de Oro 50K. Yes, a 50K! And guess what? Pain-free knees! (I know everyone was on pins and needles about that one, so I thought I'd provide the spoiler early.)

Montaña de Oro is on the Central Coast of California, an area that I have driven by countless times on my way to Santa Barbara, but never explored the trails. It's about 2 hours from my parents' house, and that means I am usually tired of driving and ready to get to Santa Barbara or just getting started and not wanting to stop and make the trip home any longer. It's too bad though, because this is a gem of a park.

I managed to talk my mom into doing her first trail race EVER, so the two of us left the house at a ridiculously early hour. By the time we got to Los Osos, it was daylight but quite foggy. Thanks to Google maps assuming we'd drive 55 miles an hour, we got a great parking space, and then spent the next hour chatting and watching people fill up the parking lot.

The Montaña de Oro course does two loops twice (12k, then 13k, then repeat). Normally I am not a fan of a loop course, because I hate feeling that I have to come into the finish and then go back out again, but for some reason this time it was different. It may have been the balanced quarters, and doing each section just twice-- whatever it was, I loved this course.

The first 12k starts along the bluffs (2 miles of flat! what joy!), then cuts up toward the peaks. The first time I did this loop, I was filled with the joy of getting started and I felt relaxed and very strong. I was quite honestly surprised when we reached the top of Valencia Peak-- I was expecting it to take longer for some reason. Perhaps this was because we were completely fogged in until we reached the very top of the peak, and so I had just assumed we were going to keep climbing. This made for a happy Victoria, as you can see here. Climbing up to Valencia Peak is not an easy trail, however, and the rocky shale around the peak makes for some tricky footing going up AND coming down. Once you get off the shale portion however, the rest of that loop is pure fun to run.

The second loop climbs up to Hazard Peak, but it is much less steep than the Valencia Peak climb. This loop was also gorgeous. Whereas the Valencia Peak loop is primarily out in the open and facing the ocean, the Hazard Peak loop takes you into the canyons made by the coastal hills. This trail as well had a nice bit of flat before started climbing, then after about 2 miles of climbing, a glorious stretch that winds down to the finish line again.

After such a fun couple of loops, I thought the third loop would be as much of a breeze as I had remembered it on the first one. Unfortunately, someone had put much more uphill on the 2nd Valencia Peak loop and I really wanted to stop. I also have noticed that I hit a low point in 50ks right around the 18 mile mark. For some reason, things can feel good at 1/2 way and then 3 miles later, 13 miles more seems ridiculously long, and I'm convinced I will feel like a slug the rest of the way. I'm getting better at recognizing that I will get through this period, and I tried to remind myself that I usually felt this way at mile 18, so to try to stop being despairing and just move through it. That sort of worked-- it was helped by the lifting of the fog and realizing that I could see up and down the coast, and the higher I got, the better the view became.

Once I turned around from the peak and started that extremely fun descent, everything got much better, as I knew it would. Hitting the aid station and getting some laughs in with Sarah before I headed out on the last loop up Hazard Peak got me back into a good mood for the rest of the race.

My mom enjoyed her first trail race, although I think the 12k she did was probably a little tough for a first trail race for someone who doesn't like downhill, but I think I might be able to get her to try another-- maybe Woodside if she comes up to visit? Either way, an absolutely wonderful day! Looking forward to my next race now!!!