Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Wow. Here we are almost an entire month into 2010 and I haven't written a THING. I had first put my lack of bloggage on the doctorate work, but considering I have taken a huge stall in that area, perhaps this is not accurate. Then I put it on how I wasn't running many new trails (for example, this is from Diablo, which I have run several times now-- and it wasn't even a new trail!) but then I realized I ran several cool trails over Christmas break in Santa Barbara and then I explored Mission Trails in San Diego over MLK Jr. weekend.

Then I decided to not analyze it anymore and move on and write when I felt like writing... and clearly it came back, the writing itch.

2010? Really?

When I was a wee one, I had a lot of plans about how I thought my life would be in 2000-- 2010 seemed too far away to even contemplate, but here we are. I can guarantee that I had no thought about running ultras, though. My dad ran a marathon when I was young and my mom ran every day, but running ultras would never have crossed anyone's mind. Even in 2000, as a recreational runner, I would never have imagined that running would become as big a part of my life as it has become.

And now? Um, I kind of plan my weekends around running. An ultra friend recently set the date for her wedding, keeping in mind all the different possible ultras when she planned it.... and I totally understood why she did. My salsa dancing has fallen by the wayside. I have way too many people I want to invite for dinner (quite a few who are ultrarunners). I have a big idea about running the East Bay hills and then ending up at my house for a BBQ. All these things I would not have pictured.

And yet, here we are. And it's all good. Lesson in life that I apparently need to learn about 5,000 times: I cannot predict or control my life, so I should stop trying and enjoy the ride.

Part of that enjoying the ride?

A somewhat ridiculous race schedule so far for 2010 that includes a 100k in less than 6 weeks, getting into Miwok 100K for May, doing Ohlone again (my ultra anniversary!) and then a secret plan that I will reveal as the time gets closer....

So yeah. Welcome to 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Red Rock 40: Finally an Ultrarunner...

Red Rock 40

Remember when this was a running blog? I mean, remember when I actually BLOGGED? Yeah. Pretty exciting... and rather long ago, I realize.

Well, I'm finally catching up with this race and then I have another race to post as well, in which I'm going to tell you what I've realized about running this year. So you have a whole TWO postings to look forward to.

Hold on to yer hats, ladies 'n gents. The excitement just doesn't cease.

Anyway, I have to talk about this race first. I've talked about this race a few times. This race, along with the 50 mile distance, was my "vendetta" race. In '07, I DNF'd this race due to knee issues. Then last year, I was recovering from a broken foot and not ready to race. FINALLY, this year, I was healthy and ready to run.

Ready to run with not just a little trepidation, however. When you have tried to do anything more than once, and not accomplished it, there's always a bit of the "what-if" factor. (For those of you who have not read the Shel Silverstein poem, "The Whatifs," I highly recommend you stop what you are doing and go read it now for the best description of the "what-if" factor.) What if my knee started hurting again? What if Firetrails was a total fluke and I couldn't really run that far without collapsing? What if I wasn't really an ultrarunner and it was going to take this race to really find out? (I'd go on, but I think you probably get the picture...)

Anyway, I went down to Santa Barbara to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. We had a lovely meal (outside!) with some friends and then did the now traditional (because twice= tradition) wine tasting the day before at Jaffurs (my father's comment: "it will keep you relaxed") and I woke up early on Saturday morning, heading for Red Rock.

I've talked a little about this race before, but humor me with 20 seconds of background. This race used to be Santa Barbara 9 Trails, which was all Santa Barbara front country trails. (Front country= ocean side of the Los Padres mountain range.) Due to the Jesusita Fire last spring, the course had to be moved, and RD Luis Escobar decided to start it from Red Rock, which is considered Santa Barbara back country. From Red Rock, the course headed up towards Cold Springs Saddle, then down to meet up with the original course until Romero Canyon, at which point it turned around and followed the same trail back. (With an additional 5 miles...) I had run the first 7.5 miles of the course over Labor Day and was really looking forward to the run.

We started in the dark, a small group of runners, only one of whom I knew at all. (Suzanna Bon, the eventual womens' winner, was another Bay Area representative.) In true trailrunner fashion, however, friends were easy to make, and I found myself 4 miles into the race in the company of a bunch of hardcore women. For a mile or so, I ran with two women who had completed more than 15 Ironman triathlons apiece, the 2nd place finisher, and another woman who had completed at least 2 100 milers. For some reason, there were no men around for this section of the course, and someone remarked on how we were running with a bunch of impressive women. It's true. We were.

I ended up running for a few miles with Kathy, one of the "Trail Hoes" (FABULOUS sweatshirts!) and the eventual 2nd place winner. (She's not in that picture, by the way, but IS in the picture here.) For some reason, I thought that because I was running with her, I should not pay attention to my own nutrition needs, but follow hers-- and she didn't need calories the way I apparently did. She had pulled ahead by the time we hit Cold Springs Saddle, but for some reason, I decided I didn't need to monitor my own nutritional needs, and if I felt decent, that was a good reason to not eat. (Yeah, it's probably as bright as it sounds at this point.)

Really though, I didn't eat because I was feeling great and didn't want to mess with the "magic." And the race was feeling pretty magical at this point. I mean, really-- when you see the views we had at every turn? How could you NOT feel like it was a magic race? (I'll explain how in a minute, don't worry.) I was SO happy though-- I love Santa Barbara county and I think the trails are gorgeous. They're completely different than the Bay Area, but wherever I looked, I had an amazing view. I could have stopped and enjoyed the view for hours.

I came in to the turnaround and was extremely happy to see my parents. It's very rare in my races that I ever see anyone who's not already connected to running, and seeing my parents (who think I'm crazy for all this (extremely) long-distance running stuff) come out to support me was a huge boost. I had some food (not enough) and took off again, totally surprised to find out that I was in 4th place at that point.

Ha ha ha ha. Then the non-eating caught up to me and about 20.5 miles into the race, I crashed BIG TIME. I realized that my non-eating plan was about the dumbest thing I could have done, because I was totally out of gas. Unfortunately for me, this was also probably THE hardest section of the entire course. The trail out of Romero Canyon is ridiculously un-runnable. It goes straight up, and then straight down. It does this for a good 5 miles, and then it climbs straight up for the next 3 miles until you reach Cold Springs Saddle again. Grueling, difficult running. Especially on not enough calories.

This was the dark part of the race. A couple of people asked me if I was ok as they passed me (never a good sign). At one point, I went to pull my salt caps and ibuprofen bag out of my hydration pack, and the hole in the bag (that I had not noticed) spilled them all over the trail. All of them. Fortunately, at that point I had regained enough sanity to see the humor in the situation, but I was very close to weeping openly at the silliness of losing all my salt caps and painkiller in the worst section of the trail.

What I found fascinating even at that moment though, was the certainty that even though I felt like crap, I knew I'd get through it and that it would get better. I kept telling myself that if I could just get to the top of Cold Springs Saddle, I would be fine. And really, I knew I *would* get to the top of Cold Springs Saddle. I knew the aid station would have ibuprofen and salt caps if I really needed them, and I knew that I'd eventually make it up there.

The trailrunners I met supported my theory that trailrunners are the best people ever. As I dragged my sorry self up towards Cold Springs Saddle, a couple asked me if I was feeling ok, and then walked me through the list-- did I have enough calories, enough salt, etc. Even in my misery, I felt taken care of, and that's a pretty good feeling to have.

Finally I got to Cold Springs Saddle, had soup, ibuprofen, salt, and some coke. The fabulous volunteer at the top made me eat a potato in her sight, because she was worried I was going to wander off down the trail without enough calories. I took a sandwich for the road and toddled off down the hill.

Here was the point that I realized that all the miles I've done this year have finally paid off. My thoughts as I left the aid station? "It's only 12 miles! Anyone can do 12 miles! You're home free!" Even in my calorie-deprived state, I paused for a moment to reflect on how I would not have made this statement a year ago. "Only 12 miles" is just under a 1/2 marathon. But it felt so doable and comfortable. Don't get me wrong-- it definitely took me a minute to finish it-- but once I was under the 12 mile mark, I knew there was no way I wouldn't finish the race.

After I left Cold Springs Saddle, I just enjoyed the last 12 miles. I stopped to take more pictures, and tried to look around me more, happy that I was getting to experience this area of Santa Barbara County that very few people ever really see.

By the time I was down to the last 4 miles, I had my mojo back and I was running pretty strong. I was met at the finish line by my parents and my aunt, who was in town for Thanksgiving and who I don't think has ever seen any of my athletic events. Having a support crew at the finish was fantastic, and made me want to come back and run this event again every year (not how I was feeling on the death march up to the saddle, might I add).

This event was pretty major for me, though. For one, I FINALLY finished an event that I had entered twice before but never finished. For another, it proved that Firetrails was not a fluke. That race seemed so magical that I had wondered if I was really capable of doing that again. This race, particularly since a good 8 miles of it were not wonderful or magical in the least (in fact, they sucked), proved to me that yes, I can have a crappy part of my race and still finish. Rick said after Firetrails that "Good trouble shooters finish many races." I didn't run as fast as I did at Firetrails at ALL (in fact, the race was 10 miles longer and it took me 30 minutes more to finish!) but I feel so much more confident that I can have a lame section of a race and get back on track. This race (because of the death march section) made me feel much more than Firetrails that I might be able, finally, to call myself an ultrarunner.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler- Finally!

Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Miler

Wow. It's 8 am on Sunday, the day after Firetrails, and I'm completely awake. I've checked email and refreshed my Facebook newsfeed enough times that I might as well get started writing this while it's still fresh.

(Note: there are very few pictures in this long-ish race report. Thanks to Suz for the one on the left.)

This race started in 2008 for me. I had decided after Ohlone that I wanted to sign up for my first 50 miler. I had planned to run Skyline to the Sea as a last training run, and we all know how that went. Dick Collins last year was spent handing out awards at the finish line, pink cast on my foot.

Fast forward to April of this year. I still wanted to run a 50 miler, so I signed up for the American River, which, thanks to my knee making a painful appearance, became American River 18. (Not to disparage AR50, but the 18 miles of paved bike path--and there was more after that--was one thing that let me get over the DNF. I run trails because I like dirt.)

By this point, I was feeling pretty frustrated. In the last year, I had met a bunch of ultrarunners who were talking about what 100s they'd run, or were planning to run, and I have been asked a couple of times if I'd run a 100 yet. (And yes, the word was "yet.") I said no, I had yet to run a 50 miler.

Needless to say, by the time yesterday morning rolled around, there was a bit riding on this day for me. I REALLY wanted to finish this race. I was also pretty happy that I was back attempting my first (completed) 50 on East Bay trails. I have a lot of East Bay love, and it seemed very appropriate to be running a milestone race on hometown trails.

My main goal was to finish, and to have a good time while running. I knew there would be tons of people I knew out on the course, either running, spectating or volunteering, and I was looking forward to spending the day getting to see everyone. In the back of my head, I had a "if everything goes perfectly" goal-- to break 10 hours--but I didn't tell anyone this, as I didn't think it was very likely.

I drove up to the Lake Chabot Marina yesterday morning in darkness--but it was already a flurry of activity, with head-lamped runners checking in, adjusting their gear and greeting each other. Many hugs were exchanged as I ran into all the people I knew who were running as we got ready for the send-off. Sooner than expected, Carl brought us over to the starting area, and we were off!

The first 2 miles (and last 2) are on the paved path that encircles Lake Chabot (but we're not going to hold that against it). I ran with Leigh and Mike, trying to start conservatively, as I have a long history of getting excited about racing and going out too fast.

As the group started to spread out, I tried to keep my pace at a comfortable, manageable speed, staying as relaxed as possible. I checked my watch around an hour and found that I was right around 10 hour pace, but since we had just started the race, I figured I'd slow down later on and stopped thinking that was an attainable goal and just kept running.

During the 2nd hour, I started to get worried, though. I was running with people that I had no business running with. Steve has completed a bunch of 100s and is MUCH faster than me, and I was keeping him in range. I ended up running with Larissa for a bit-- another runner who is WAY faster than me. I kept checking in with myself, asking if I was pushing it too hard, and reminding myself to keep it relaxed and easy. Here's the thing: it WAS feeling easy. Not easy like drinking-a-beer-on-the-couch easy, but I felt great. I was power hiking the steep hills, running everything else, and I felt marvelous.

Another very cool thing about this race: The Golden Hills Trail Marathon starts at the turn-around point and then heads back along (mostly) the same trails as Firetrails. This meant I got a huge hug from Miki while heading up one of the steeper sections toward Steam Trains, but it also meant that it was a continual stream of "good jobs" coming from runners as they passed by me. Seriously, trail runners are the best for giving each other support.

At Steam Trains (mile 21), a fellow runner was working the aid station and she looked up in surprise to see me, as I had come in just behind her boyfriend, who is also MUCH faster than me in real life. She asked me what I was doing, and I said I didn't know, but I was feeling good, so I wasn't going to question it.

I had really started trying to focus on the ultrarunner tip of concentrating just on the next aid station, and this was making things go much faster. There are tons of aid stations on this course, and each 3-4 mile section kept appearing faster than I thought it would. Even the climb from the turn-around back to Steam Trains, which is the longest stretch of uphill in the entire race, seemed to go by quickly. As I went through Steam Trains again, I heard my name being called-- Suz and her boyfriend (who is also a runner, or so I've heard...) were out cheering people on. It was especially nice of her to come out because she was planning on running FT herself (with me, even!), but a stupid knee injury had sidelined her just days before. It's easy to get bitter when you can't run a race that you were looking forward to, but they came out to support people anyway. (This is part of the reason I maintain that the trail running community has a very high percentage of quality people.)

It definitely helped to see familiar faces at Steam Trains, and I took off down the hill feeling happy and upbeat about the final 20. Incidentally, I was at least 15 minutes faster than my 50K PR time by the time I hit 31 miles, which definitely gave me a lift. (A confused lift, because I still didn't feel like I was running exceptionally hard, but a lift anyway.)

About a mile and a half away from Sibley, my knee started to hurt. I was SO MAD. It couldn't have been any more perfectly timed, either-- I go a TINY bit further than I've ever gone, and it starts to hurt. This definitely messed with my mental state, which had been ridiculously happy up until this point. I had thoughts of dropping at Sibley, because I didn't want to run 17 miles of pain, and then I got sad because I was doing so much better than I thought I was going to do-- it didn't seem fair. (And yeah, I know life is not fair, but this is my brain mid-50 miles.) However, I did stop to stretch my hips out and realized that it got better when I stretched, so I decided to keep on trucking and NOT drop at Sibley. Miles 33-37 were definitely the low point of my race. There is a very steep section out of Sibley that was PAINFUL, and people were starting to pass me, which hadn't happened much during the rest of the race.

Then there was a good section of uphill that made me feel better, and I ended up chatting with a really nice guy who was very encouraging and told me I was doing great for my first 50 miler, especially if that was my "dark moment" (which it was). People telling you that you are doing well is always helpful, and I realized that my knee wasn't going to be painful for every step, so I was feeling better about making it in.

Skyline Gate was the ending point of the dark time. Steve H gave me a big hug, I saw Suzanne again and I was so overwhelmed with the niceness of the people I know, I almost started crying. (So maybe I was a little tired at this point, too...) I also realized that I was going to finish this thing-- even if my knee got worse and I had to slow way down for the last 13 miles. This resolve was tested as I headed down Stream, but Steve (fast person from much earlier in the race) caught back up with me as I was walking and asked me if I'd taken any ibuprofen. I was trying to avoid it, but I realized that one round would probably fine, so I did. And what do you know-- drugs help. Seriously, I think it loosened up my hips, which meant that my knee was running in a better position, and it generally stopped hurting.

From there, things generally improved little by little, as I realized I was getting closer to the finish line, and that I was going to absolutely break my "if everything goes perfectly" goal time. By the time I hit Bort Meadows, I was feeling SO good about the day, I ran the next 3 (blissfully flat) miles holding around 8:30s, and feeling much more fabulous than I thought I would have been feeling at that point.

From there, it was a short 3 miles (with some lame hills on the first mile!) to the finish line. I finished in 9:33, much faster than I would have ever remotely thought myself capable of.

A few take-aways from the day:

1) Training helps. (Who knew?) I have been running more long runs this past couple of months than I ever have.

2) While I didn't have any major stomach issues, I don't think I was eating enough either because nothing appealed except for coke and watermelon and the occasional 1/4 sandwich. (This is particularly tragic because Ann Trason, the RD, baked all week to have about 3 kajillion different kinds of yummy-ness at the aid stations. Not eating chocolate chip cookies was one of the few sad things of the day.) If I'm going to run more than 50 miles, I need to figure this out--especially if there are delicious baked goods available.

3) Running on trails I knew= HUGE. It was a major mental support to be running along and know the trails, and know when the aid stations were scheduled to appear.

4) The reason people run these long distances? It's FUN. Seriously, until the knee problem started again, I was having the time of my life. Sure, some parts were harder than others, but I completely understand the draw for 100s. Once I got back in a better head space after the knee stuff, I was back enjoying myself. I'm definitely taking some time for rest and recovery (and lots of knee work!) but I'm looking forward to my next race already....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Santa Rosa trails...

Howarth Park/Spring Lake Regional Park/ Annadel State Park
(Bob Whiting/Medica Ridge Trail- Spring Lake Loop- Bay Area Ridge Trail- (unnamed trail)- Cobblestone Trail- Rough Go- Lake trail- Canyon- Rough Go- Cobblestone- Spring Lake Horse Loop- Sullivan Ridge Trail)
(10.9 miles)

Well, who knew? Santa Rosa has some really great trails.

For various and sundry reasons, I've been spending some time in Santa Rosa lately, and as a result, I've needed to find some trail time around the city. Now, it's not that I would have said Santa Rosa *didn't* have good trails, but I would not have expected great trails so close to the city. However, these two parks offer great options for anyone who happens to find themselves in Santa Rosa.

This run started off at Howarth Park. Howarth Park is extremely accessible, and seems to be a major draw for families on the weekend. The run starts off relatively flat, winding through oak and bay trees that put me in mind of Santa Barbara running.

After hitting the water fountains at the end of Spring Lake, I headed toward Annadel on the paved road that heads away from Spring Lake. Just inside the park boundary, I found an extremely steep unmarked trail that led up to Cobblestone Trail, aptly named for the rocks that keep one foot-focused, despite the amazing views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Then I took Rough Go trail until Lake Ilsanjo-- this is a three-lake run, by the way-- and we all know how much I love trails that go by lakes. Lake Ilsanjo is a bucolic spot of repose in the middle of Annandel, and I highly recommend making sure it's part of any Annandel tour. I took the trail that skirted the lake, and then decided to add on a small spur of the Canyon trail to add a bit more mileage. A biker that I met told me that the South Burma trail was magnificent and not to be missed, but last weekend I was on taper (Firetrails coming up on Saturday!) and so didn't want to add on excessive mileage.

After circling Lake Ilsanjo, the return trip was a retracing of my steps until I reached Spring Lake Park, at which point I circled the other side of Spring Lake and then Lake Ralphine, the center of Howarth Park.

I'm rather looking forward to getting back to Annadel-- this is some great trailrunning, although its state park designation means that dogs are not welcome. (Howarth Park is fine with dogs as long as they are on leash.) If I lived in Santa Rosa, I would probably haunt this park for the convenience combined with great trails factor. Definitely worth checking out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Red Rock Preview...

Red Rock
(Red Rock-Gibraltar-almost Forbush Flat-then back)
16.5 miles

Apparently I'm not doing too well with keeping up-to-date on this blog. I ran this trail the day after the Romero Canyon, but clearly it's been a while since I posted-- and I have multiple other runs to write about!

Anyway, this was one of the best runs I've done in a while and it made me very, very excited for the Red Rock 40 in November. I feel very afraid to say this in writing, but the beginning part of this trail, at least, *might* be easier than the original beginning of 9 Trails out of the Jesusita trailhead. Yes, it's 5 miles longer and I have been told that the climb up the canyon, once you get past Forbush Flat, is brutal. So I have that to look forward to.

I wanted to try out this end of the course, because I am not familiar with the trails out of Red Rock at all. I've heard about them for years, but never actually explored them. As I discovered this Sunday, most people hike the first 2 miles of the trail, but never get past Gibraltar Reservoir-- which is too bad, because it is stunning.

I started with the plan of doing two 8-10 mile loops. I thought I would use my car as an aid station rather than trying to go 16-20 on one hydration bladder.

Starting out, I had a little trouble following the trail-- it winds back and forth over the somewhat dry creek bed (although a couple of beautiful swimming holes were still available!), and I found myself getting a little confused. However, this section of the trail is really quite flat, and for someone who was expecting the Jesusita trail (which has no flat at all!), this was a welcome change. I wonder how much water will be in the creek by November...

After that, the trail heads toward the Gibraltar Dam, which is probably about 3-4 miles out from the trailhead. The day was not too hot yet, and I felt quite uninterested in turning back to my car again-- new trails beckoned over the horizon!-- so I made the decision to keep going onward rather than turning back.

Just after the Gibraltar Dam, I found the ranger station, and I stopped to make sure I was on the right track to head toward Forbush Flat. The rangers said yes, I was definitely on the right trail, but did I know that was a good 4-5 miles from where we were? I said yes, and continued on up the trail, apparently to the confusion of the rangers, who could not understand why anyone would head out on her own to such remote territory, I suppose.

I am so glad I did, though! This was some of the most glorious, amazing running I have done in a while. I saw not one single other person from when I left the ranger station to when I came back to the Red Rock trail, about 3 miles from the trailhead. This is shocking because the trailhead is only about 40 minutes from Santa Barbara proper-- it's true that there is no water out there, and you'd have to be either on a mountain bike or a pretty strong runner (or backpacking), but my point is that it's not a remote trailhead. If I ever moved back to Santa Barbara, I would definitely spend lots of time in this area, because it's challenging, gorgeous terrain.

Gibraltar Reservoir, as can be seen in the first picture, is a wealth of photo opportunities-- the trail follows the side of the reservoir until it gets to the old mine (which you can also see in the first picture). Then the trail heads into the much more remote Santa Barbara back country-- and the water disappears almost immediately. Yucca plants and chaparral cover the hillside; the air smells immediately of Santa Barbara nights. This sounds strange, but especially in the summer, when the wind blows over the top of the ridge, it brings a certain scent to Santa Barbara, and all I can ever say about it is that it smells like home. One day I will figure out what plant it IS that is so typically Santa Barbara, but for now, this is all I can tell you.

I decided to turn around before getting to Forbush Flat, because I was running a little low on water and I didn't want to do anything risky while running alone. (Considering this recent story, I think conservative behavior while running alone is a good thing...) However, this run has me looking forward to Red Rock 40 immensely. I know it's going to be a TOUGH day, and I'm not looking forward to the straight up-and-down of the Romero Canyon section (and probably the post-Forbush Flat section as well), but this run is going to be one of the more unique that I have done, I think. Congrats in advance to Luis Escobar, the RD, for not throwing the towel in on it once the Jesusita Fire happened, and for expanding the possibility of Santa Barbara trail running.

If you find yourself down Santa Barbara-ways, I highly recommend checking out the trails on the other side of the mountains. There are some glorious trails for the experiencing, if you can handle remote, self-supported running.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Romero Canyon- RIDICULOUS!!!

Romero Canyon
(Romero Canyon-Buena Vista Trail)
(5.13 miles)


(I can say that-- I'm from Southern California. From Santa Barbara, in fact, which is where this run is.)

So two years ago, I DNF'd at Santa Barbara 9 Trails. This race is legendary in Santa Barbara and holds a large amount of charm for me because it's on trails I hiked with my parents while I was growing up. I DNF'd because of my knee issues relating to my weak posterior, and then last year a) I broke my foot in September and b) the Tea Fire caused the race to be relocated to Ojai, which I have passing but not deep affection for. This year, the Jesusita Fire destroyed much of the Santa Barbara front country trails, and I was terrifically sad to think that I would be shut out from revenging myself on 2007's DNF yet AGAIN.

Fortunately, the RD Luis Escobar has created a new race, the Red Rock 40, that adds miles to the trails AND will be run on some of the more remote Santa Barbara back country trails. I managed to get myself entered (it's sold out already), and as I was down in SB for my father's inaugural wine bottling extravaganza (yes, he's making wine!!! and it's really good!!!), I decided to warm up the wine bottling by starting at the 1/2 way point and running along part of the trail to get myself used to it.

Now, in 2007 when my knee was an issue, I remember thinking this part of the race was very tiring, but I chalked it up to being exhausted mid-race.

Ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

No. The reason I remember this being tiring is because the trail is RIDICULOUS. I couldn't believe how long it took me to do 5 miles. There was absolutely no flat or rolling on this section of trail. It was either grueling up or "I-need-to-walk-this" downhill. I seriously slid (yes, even in my fabulous Wildcats!) trying to WALK down a couple of sections. I decided I needed to do every single one of my long runs going up and down Eagle Peak on Mt. Diablo. Not just running Mt. Diablo--running ONLY Eagle Peak (Or walking and then trying not to slide downhill, which is how one "runs" Eagle Peak).

Over and over in my head I kept thinking, "You're doing 40 MILES of this in November. What on earth possessed you to do that?"

Fortunately, the trail affords plenty of gorgeous views while one is gasping for air, and I suppose that will be my consolation for spending a large number of hours running Red Rock 40.

Because, dude-- this race is going to kick my slowly-gaining-strength glutes.

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!