Monday, November 26, 2012

Thought for the day

Yes, deep thoughts, I know, very Jack Handy-esque.  But, after hearing on the news this morning about the billions (maybe that number is wrong, but I swear it isn't) of dollars that Americans spent over the weekend and finding that to be somewhat depressing, I was cheered when I opened up an email from Patagonia and saw this image:

As it turned out, we eschewed all sales on Friday and throughout the weekend, and we ended up finally taking a trunk full of clothes and other household items (old wedding presents that we've never used, for example) to donate on Saturday.  It was nice to clear out some of our stuff and to not add to our possessions!  To be honest, we did not do either one deliberately, it just turned out that way, but avoiding the sales did seem like the sane and rational option to both of us.

I have yet to take the pledge, hypocrite that I am, and we're hardly purists when it comes to consumerism.  But it does seem that we're downsizing this year in terms of Christmas for other people and birthdays for each other (we stopped giving Christmas presents to each other when we got married).  Downsizing, at least, in terms of "stuff".  We have plenty of activities planned, and we'll certain enjoy these experiences which are not exactly cheap, but no stuff.  We would like to buy new bike shoes and pedal systems at some point within the next two months, but I'm hoping that will be the extent of my personal shopping for a while!  I've also resisted signing up for a bunch of races, despite all of the deals that have cluttered my inbox in recent days.  Although they seem so appealing (and the prices are right in many cases), I'd like to be thoughtful rather than randomly signing up for a race just because it seems like a bargain.

So, here's to a little less consuming this holiday season?!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Switching things up a bit

This is a happy Thanksgiving week, in more ways than one, and I've definitely felt gratitude towards much in my life.  The week has been remarkable for the low-key nature of it, and I've been looking forward to that for a while!  We traveled the last two years over Thanksgiving, and as much as I love going elsewhere to see family and friends, staying at home has given us the chance to be pretty lazy and indulge in a few activities that are rare treats.  First of all, going out on Tuesday night for four-and-a-half hours!  The three of us who ran "together" on Sunday (together is a loose term since one member of our little cohort finished over an hour faster than I did!) met up for celebratory margaritas at Amigo's.  Again, not the best Mexican food in Pasadena, but how I love that place!  On Wednesday afternoon, we went to the Arclight Movie Theater in Hollywood, always a great movie-going experience, and saw Skyfall.  I've been a Daniel Craig as 007 fan, and this movie lived up to the reviews, some of which were rave and others a bit more subdued.  While I wouldn't say that it was the best movie ever, it did entertain us, which is really what I expect from a James Bond movie.  Also - Javier Bardem as the bad guy?  He's so good in that role!

Thanksgiving day was a nice celebration - nothing too crazy, which I definitely enjoyed.  We ended up having a friend join us for our meal, and it was good to have the company as we drank champagne and a decent cab.  We opted for duck breast rather than turkey, but had a minor moment of panic when we thought that we had not packed the duck breast in the grocery bag.  Crisis averted - it was in hiding in one of the drawers in the fridge!  However, I had forgotten a bag of fresh cranberries for our dessert, but that was an easy mistake to repair since the store was still open.  While I like to tuck into a huge array of typical Thanksgiving food, it was great to have a smaller, more manageable meal.  Probably the most traditional aspect of the day was watching on and off some of the football games!

Even though I have yet to test out my legs on pavement or trails, we did go spinning yesterday and today, during which we both felt somewhat out-of-shape as we panted and pushed through intervals and sprints.  I am also going to return to the swimming pool this weekend!  I originally planned to take a two- to four-week break from running after the trail race, but then I started to fantasize about proving to myself that I really CAN manage a 30K trail race and found one that looks equally parts terrifying and exciting.  For starters, the elevation gain is even more than the last one, which then makes me think that I must be crazy to even contemplate this race!  But, I do think that my plan to take a major break from running is out the window, unless I go for a run and find it way too painful, which could possibly happen.

As I research different race options, I actually am trying to show some restraint and not sign up for another trail race immediately. Or any race, for that matter.  For now, taking a break from any sort of "training" will, I hope, allow me to start 2013 with a sharp focus.  So, while I'm back in the pool, sort of back in the saddle, and will certainly continue to run, there is no training and there are no 'events'.  A revolutionary concept - to have no plan!  It sounds pretty appealing at the moment.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Serious fun": Santa Monica Mountains trail race

So, our race bibs had the tagline "Serious fun", reminding us of why a fairly small group of people had arrived on the early side of a Sunday to do something crazy like run a 30K or an even longer distance.  Throughout much of this race, I completely forgot the fun part, and even now I would say that a more appropriate description of my experience is "Fun if you love suffering".

Because suffering is what I did today.  I certainly don't consider myself a badass, but I can usually hold my own in a race if I've trained.  This race humbled me far more than anything that I've done recently - maybe even in all my very limited racing experience (even Wildflower in May and certainly harder than Boulder 70.3).  I often say that I'm just happy that I finished, but let's be honest.  Really, I'm not happy to "just finish".  I like to have a sense satisfaction when I reflect on my performance and know that I ran a good and smart race and finished strong.  As for today, I have zero satisfaction about my performance, except that I'm still a bit surprised that I finished the damn race.

To back up, the race for the 50k and 30k participants started at 8:30.  The 30k course was made up of two different 'loops', or lollipops, the first one being 12k and the second one 18k.  The 12k loop was tough - challenging, rocky uphill and downhill trails.  Also, there was one stretch that should have been fast and easy, but because of the rain yesterday it ended up being muddy - and a sticky mud.  I kept stopping to scrape the mud off my shoes because it felt as though I was carrying around an extra two pounds per leg!

Once I returned to the start line, I then began the second loop - the 18k.  I finished the 12k in over an hour, but I felt good about my pace.  We had a long climb for a few miles, but the trail was a lot easier than the 12k loop, so I was confident that I would have a strong 18k.  I felt that way until about mile 11.5.  At that point, I had hit a nice downhill slope and should have picked it up, but I just could not make my legs go.  So, I asked myself "What is going on" - a rhetorical question because I felt clammy, cramping, and weak.  I started walking on the downhill (how lame) and even sat down a few times.  I knew that the aid station was up ahead and I just had to walk another 1/2 mile or so which, in any other circumstance, wouldn't have bothered me.  However, this was the longest half-mile walk of my life.  Meanwhile, tons of people were passing me which drove me crazy but there was NOTHING that I could do about it.

Finally, I made it to the aid station.

Ah, the aid station.  I hoped that there would be paramedics there or a huge crew, ready to deal with any and all problems.  Ahem, this is a trail race, and a tiny one at that.  There were two guys managing the aid station, but even then I hoped that one of them would call an ambulance for me - or do something dramatically helpful like drive me back to the start/finish line.  I had accepted that this would be my first DNF, and I didn't even care because I wanted the experience to end.

Well, no such luck. Instead, they jumped into action, making me sit in a chair, giving me two salt tablets, a cup of regular coke and some boiled potatoes with salt.  I was too fried to say "no, I need a doctor!".  When I eventually felt a bit more energetic, I apologized for all the trouble.  Again, the volunteers were great and assured me that it happens to everyone, at least once.

After a 15 minute (or longer?) break, I shuffled off, thinking that I must really be crazy to continue, but what choice did I have? Also, I noted that I was feeling better with each step, and eventually I caught up with a few people who had arrived at the aid station and then continued on while I was still 'recharging'.  I kept ticking off the miles and feeling a bit stronger and more confident, even on the uphill.  Once I turned onto the trail that would lead me down to the finish line, I felt incredibly happy and relieved, despite the fact that I still had a few more miles of downhill to navigate.  For a brief moment, I hoped to push it on the descent and try to pick off one or two people, but I then settled into an easy pace and accepted the fact that just finishing would be quite a feat at this point.

So, I crossed the finish line at 4:17.  Woo-hoo!  I thanked the organizers and told them that the only reason that I made it back was because of the people at the aid station.  I also saw those guys - they seemed surprised and happy that I had made it back so "quickly".  It was obvious to me that their concoction - salt tablets, coke and potatoes -was some sort of holy trinity of trail running.  I think that I was one of the very last people running the 30k to cross the finish line.  I won't lie - that hurts my ego a bit, but considering that I didn't even think that I would finish, I'll try to find some satisfaction in that.

So, final thoughts on the day?  I'm glad that I ran the 30K, despite the fact that the race shredded me.  It was a new distance, and it challenged me more than I could have expected.  I learned an important lesson - fuel, fuel, fuel on real food during longer trail races.  I'm not sure what happened, but I know that I'll be more careful in the future.  Also, I hesitated to wear the Garmin, but I opted for it, and I think that it helped me continue when I was in my meltdown mode.  Otherwise, I probably would have sat on the side of the trail and given up completely.  A major positive - the race was beautiful, although I wish that I could remember more of the great views and the wonderful trails (especially that 18K loop).  I'd love to return and hike some of the trails and actually take in the scenery!  Finally, it was a really tough race.  I knew that the climbs would be serious, but I trusted my training, perhaps naively, because it was all much harder than I expected.

But, I'm alive and well now and don't feel too terrible after 18.6 miles and 3200 feet of climbing.  Looking back, I'm also happy that despite my meltdown today,  I remained relatively healthy during the training cycle.  I am not, however, about to sign up for a 50K, or even a 5K, at the moment!

*Sorry this was so long!
**Sorry that I have no photos - no energy at the end!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Running tomorrow!

Okay, after my mini crisis on Wednesday when I was doom and gloom and feeling sorry for myself, my eye has improved enough each day that I think that I can safely run tomorrow!  After embracing the notion that I wouldn't be able to run, I now have to switch gears and get into that "race" mode.  Although calling this a race is, perhaps, abusing the meaning of that word.  I recognize that I'll be going slow, for much of it.  While it won't be as brutal as, say, the Mt. Wilson race, in terms of elevation, I will have to sustain the ascents and descents for considerably more mileage.  So, the race/run will certainly challenge me, even if I take it in a slow gear!  It should be a beautiful day - or a wet one, if today's rain doesn't clear up by tomorrow.  Obviously I'm gunning for the former, and the idea of great views was one of the reasons that I signed up for this run/race.

Today, then, is a bit of a rest day.  Well, the entire week has been a bit a rest week, in terms of running (or any physical activity, for that matter), but this is "intentional rest".  I did go cheer on our students who raced today - go cross country!  They were super fast - oh, to be young again!  But at the moment, I'm watching the UCLA/USC game, looking at a pile of papers, and listening to our dogs snore.

As for tomorrow, most of my gear is ready to go.  The question that still remains - to run with the stupid garmin or not?  In many ways, I really do enjoy the information that garmin gives me, and sometimes I push myself a bit more because I'm looking at my time.  However, this is not a road race, and, as I mentioned earlier, I cannot focus on speed tomorrow.  Like the tortoise, my goal is a slow and steady pace and, hopefully, a strong finish.  At the same time, I'd love to see the data, see my elevation gain/loss and, if I sign up for the same race next year, to be able to compare.  Oh, garmin, how you confound me!

So, the jury's still out.  I'll probably decide as I line up at the start!  Speaking of the start, I do appreciate that I will be showing up to run tomorrow, and I'm excited (and nervous!) about the experience!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Motivation - totally worth it

This weekend served as a nice reminder as to why I should NOT succumb to my couch potato tendencies, as much as I would like to just lie around and do nothing.  On both occasions this weekend, when I wavered and then finally got out the door, I was ultimately rewarded with the chance to enjoy a beautiful day.  So, reminder to self - don't be a lazy slob!

Before I give myself too many pats on the back, I admit that I ditched a Saturday morning run, even though I was the one who sent out an email earlier in the week trying to drum up interest.  So, total fail on my part (Rob - sorry about that!).  I will say that it was nice to go to the farmers' market, walk the dogs and run a few errands.  However, by Saturday afternoon, I was regretting my decision, especially after I watched the 2012 Ironman World Championships on TV.  Totally inspiring.  Plus, the weather was gorgeous - I couldn't ask for a better afternoon for running.  So, I finally laced up my shoes and hit the trails.  I set out around 2:30 and finished around 4:00.  While I missed the companionship that the morning run would have given me, I will say that the light during the afternoon hours was just amazing - almost like something out of the Hudson River School.  I finished the run tired and kind of chilly, but quite happy that I had a few miles under my belt for the day.

Yesterday afternoon, the opportunity to be lazy for the afternoon once again presented itself.  We had plans to go camping in Malibu for the night, but more than once I entertained the thought that we could just spend Sunday en casa and then go to Malibu for a hike early Monday morning.  Somehow, we opted to get our camping stuff in the car and head west.  Once we hit the road, we were both so happy for the change of scenery.  Even though Malibu is not that far away from where we live, it has such a different feel, so it does seem that we're getting away from our humdrum lives, even if it's just for a morning or an afternoon.  We camped at Leo Carillo, not exactly a place to go for solitude! There were some younger kids having a fun night! But, it makes up for that by allowing people easy access to the water and a lovely beach to watch the waves, birds, surfers and the sunset.   This was truly LA camping - we didn't bring food but opted to grab dinner out after the sunset and then return to our campsite to drink wine and go to sleep. Which we did by 8:00 pm or so!

Overall, not a bad place for a quick jaunt, even if the wind kicked up and our tent hit our faces for most of the night!  Waking up, getting coffee and taking yet another walk on the beach was an even better reminder of why this was all totally worth it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Going longer

As the date of my impending trail race nears, I've had plenty of time (mainly on the trails) to think about the concept of going longer.  I would say going "long", since for me this really does feel that I'm pushing myself to max miles per week, especially considering that I'm a total mileage underachiever, but for other people, my long runs barely count.  Still, it's all relative, and October did see me ramping up my mileage significantly.

This 'ramp up' has been kind of fun and kind of scary.  I've had a history of injuries, and I hoped to avoid that situation, obviously.  My knee can be temperamental, and often a cortisone shot can fix it.  I had one in June, and I'm trying to maintain the status quo until January, so I didn't want to go that route quite so soon after the last one.  I would say that running 3 times a week is my sweet spot, and even if I'm upping my mileage, I can stay healthy if I'm not an idiot about it.

As for the longer runs in October and on Saturday, I can't complain about any of them.  At times I set out hoping to barely hit 10 and found myself finishing 12 or 13.  I often felt quite lucky while on the trail, not only because my body was cooperating but also because we've had some amazing fall weekends!  The light has changed, and this weekend especially I enjoyed moving between the shade and the golden sunshine.  I also felt completely spooked on one run - two weeks ago, it was an unusual, dreary day and I hit the trails for a solo run.  As I crossed a stream or two and then ran through some high grass, listening only to my breathing, I did think that it would be the perfect setting for Kujo or Jason or Johnny or any other horror/suspense-movie villain lying in wait...

This Saturday marked the longest run that I've completed in ages - maybe 10 years or so?!  We couldn't have wished for a perfect day - sunny and crisp at 9:00 am, it warmed up but was never hot.  It was great to run (and shuffle) most of the 15+ miles with a partner who patiently waited for me as I huffed and puffed along behind him.   This run reminded me of the importance of patience while running.  We set out climbing and worked our way up the El Prieto trail around JPL.  It's not a terribly difficult trail, but I wouldn't describe it as easy either, especially because I felt that I had to be so aware of mountain bikers zooming downhill.  Once we hit the fork in the road, heading to Brown Mountain, the trail became less rocky and the grade eased up a bit.  I hit a few moments during miles 3-4 when I questioned whether I could go much further, but once we hit miles 6 - 10, I could actually enjoy the experience! Again, pushing through the tough miles allowed me to appreciate those 'easy' miles and also the views that the higher elevation offered!  By mile eleven or so, it occurred to me that I could run for another hour or so, but by mile 13, exhaustion had begun to set in.  At this point, Rob and I split up - I was on my own for the final 2 miles or so.  The first solo mile went well.  I felt that I was slowing down, but I kept up a decent pace.  The last mile, however, felt like my Waterloo.  My body ached (legs, hips, back) and I was just damned tired.  Fortunately, it was the final mile, so I pushed on and managed to hit the 15.5 mile mark.  Yippee!

Again, it was a long, SLOW run, but it felt almost luxurious to be out on the trail for several hours, just taking in the day, measuring the twists and turns of the trail, trying to cautious about bikers heading up and down trail (at one point, I was totally lost in thought and when a mountain biker and I almost collided, I was as startled as a deer and, very un-deerlike, yelled "Fuck!"), and also losing myself in the movement of the trail and of myself and contemplating the idea of an even longer run.  There was a definite ebb-flow quality about this run as I clocked some painfully slow miles which were then followed by a few decently speedy miles.  Hitting 15 miles did mark a bit of a milestone for me, and I'm looking forwarding to the full 30k in just a few weeks.

I will say that running longer does open up the question - can I go 'long'?  Is another marathon (last one being Philly, 1996) a possibility?  A part of me thinks that I could definitely run a marathon, no problem.  That would be the overly-optimistic persona that does reside in me, but I also try to listen to my more reasonable voice when it comes to matters of running.  I honestly believe that I've managed these longer runs because they've been on trails.  While trail running is hard, it also slows me down, and I think it's easier on my knees and other joints than the relentlessness of pounding out miles on the pavement.  So, what is funny about my idea of going long is that I would lean more towards a longer trail run and, for the moment, put aside any thoughts of marathon madness.

All this is hypothetical, at any rate.  We'll see how I run in Malibu and, more importantly, how I feel during and after the race!

Friday, November 2, 2012


Am I the only person who is pretty damn excited that it's November?  Is it terrible that one of the reasons that I'm so looking forward to the month is due to a long weekend (Veteran's Day weekend - we have an in-service that is pretty creative this year) and, of course, Thanksgiving.  While we love traveling and visiting family and friends and all that this entails, we have zero plans for Thanksgiving weekend, and I cannot say how appealing that is to me.  Lame?  Maybe, but also indicative of my need for a total break.

November 1st, yesterday, came and went with two notable items for me.  First of all, I finished 18 student recommendations, a record for me.  Shew!  Most of the recommendations were quite good, some were even excellent, but a few were probably weaker than they would have been if I had been able to take a day or two more with them.  I know that I nailed some of them, but I do wish that I'd had a day or two more for the final 3-4 letters.

The second item of note is that I signed up for this event:

So excited about Vineman!  It's crazy that I signed up for a race that is in mid-July.  Even crazier that it sold out yesterday - the first day that registration opened.  After many conversations about 2013 with myself and with Michael ("I want to do an Ironman, I can't do an Ironman, it would be great to do an Ironman next year, this is a ridiculous idea for about a thousand reasons but I can think of a one or two great reasons...."), I - we - decided that such a goal was not a viable option.   So, I've set my sights on two long-course races.  I'm waiting to sign up for the other one, but my impatience got the best of me for Vineman.  Turns out, that was a good thing!  

As for the "why" - well, a lot of it has to do with timing.  At the moment, I plan to head south to Nicaragua again in August and while I loved my experience at the Boulder 70.3, I don't want that race to cut into the Nicaragua trip.  I will, however, still have time once summer break starts to both ramp up my training AND taper before the race in mid-July.  Also, Vineman seems like it will be a great venue. California wine country - why not?!  And the course sounds great.  

I can't wait for July, but in the meantime, I'm focusing on my trail race November 18th.  I pushed myself in October to run longer (and slower).  This definitely isn't marathon training and makes me realize that tackling 26.2 would be rough (and I have no idea how I did it so many years ago) as  I find that setting out on the double digit runs is daunting for me!  I maxed out at a 13.5 mile long run two weeks ago, and I plan on a 15 or so mile run tomorrow.  I'm excited and nervous about it and am trying to remember what a friend said -  think about it as a fast hike. 

So, fast hiking, here I come!