Monday, June 29, 2009

Burton Creek 10K Race Report, or, How a Rookie Mistake contributed to my DFL status, or, How I Won My AG

When all is said and done, I gotta say this was my kind of race!  

Last year was the inauguration of this race, part of the Big Blue Adventure Series, though then it was a 10 mile or 20 mile distance.  This year, they offered 4 distances: 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon, all on beautiful trails in Tahoe City, right at the peak of wildflower season.  There weren't all that many runners, probably less than a hundred all together (just a guess), but the organizers say they're hoping to grow the race each year.  I think the expanded choice in distances will help that.

I'm no race veteran, but this seemed a very well organized and well marked (we'll get back to that) trail run, with plenty of well stocked aid stations.  Certainly the route was awesome, a 5k loop that ran up a gentle slope, then crossing a pond over a dam, up a more strenuous climb through tons of blooming mules' ears, lupines and indian paintbrush.  After a short, flat section of fire road, back on single track heading down, then through a couple fields and intersections and back to the start.  Repeat.

I'd have some nice photos of all this, but my camera battery was giving up the ghost as we got there, so only a few photos.

Some cool swag for the relatively cheap price.  In addition to the nice technical T-shirt, I also scored lip balm, sunscreen and a big ol' bottle of Technu, that stuff that's supposed to halt poison ivy in its tracks.

On to the race.  I had a (probably unrealistic) goal of finishing this 10K in 1:10.  This had to be readjusted even before the start of the race, because they let us know the course ran long, 3.4 miles each loop according to my Garmin.  So maybe 1:20?  I started in the back of the pack, and remained there.  I did pass a couple of people at first, then settled into a nice place and a nice rhythm.  I definitely slowed down on the second climb, and walked a few steps up the steeper section.

I was a little over my hoped for 11 minute mile pace, but still felt I had done ok so far.  I got my wind back on the flat fireroad section, and headed down the single track descent determined to make up some lost time.  I was running at a 9-10 minute pace for this mile, and started to feel pretty good about my time.  After some water at the aid station, I trotted off looking to complete my first loop.  I was sure I could do better on the second. 

I had been thinking how well marked everything was.  Therefore, I was a little disconcerted when I came to an intersection that wasn't marked.  Hmm.  I went in what seemed like the most likely direction, and soon found myself at yet another unmarked turn.  WTF?  It slowly dawned on me that, yes, it appeared I was lost.  Damn!  I ran back the way I had come, looking for arrows or some indication of where I was supposed to be.  I heard some cheering off in the distance, and headed that way.  Luckily, I spotted a runner and quickly followed and was back on track.  But I had travelled an extra .5 miles (at least), and some of that was spent standing around scratching my head.  Was I 10 minutes down at this point?  Probably!

O well, I am not in it to win it anyways, so I just shook my head at my stupidity and got back on track.  My 1:10 was DEFINITELY out of reach now.  

I ran through the start gate, and back up the hill to the wildflowers.  I had lost a little of my mojo at this point, and decided the best thing I could do was just enjoy the run.  There was absolutely no one around me at this point, which turned out to be a good thing.  Right as I started the climb (which was much easier this time, further validating my theory that I am useless as a runner for the first 2 miles), my normally calm and acquiescent bowels suddenly spoke up and declared "Everybody out of the pool!"  WTF???  I have NOT had the slightest bit of GI running trouble in like a year, and NOW?  I ran off into the trees and did my thing.

Side note:

Mule Ears, whilst being some of the loveliest wildflowers around here this time of year, also make EXCELLENT toilet paper.

I ran another couple hundred yards, and then had a repeat experience, this one leaving me chilled and quivering for a good 5 minutes.  Now I knew my race was really shot.  I kept a lot of this post in mind, and just kept on going.

I had a great time on the second descent, and came into the finish line smiling.  I immediately was assured of my expected DFL status, and took some pride in this first-time accomplishment.  I packed up my things and was leaving the venue in a hurry, as we were late for another engagement, when the race director came over to offer the entirely unexpected news that I had, in fact, actually won my age group as well!  Another first time accomplishment!  I even got a beer glass saying 1st!  Oh, and my final time (according to Gary) was 1:36 for a 7.5 mile run.  OK for me!

I really had a great race and enjoyed just about every minute of it, it was such a nice day and so beautiful a course.  Plus, I have now learned the benefits of entering really small local races . . .

(btw, I had been wondering where one of my favorite bloggers drifted off to, and today I found out.  Plus, she's got a really fine contest going on, so drop by.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The start of Western States

Filled with the urge to get a good night's sleep outside (somehow, we always seem to get a great night's sleep in the back of the Toyota), last night Tom and I headed out to the parking lot at Squaw.  This morning, we rolled out after a horrible night's sleep (note to self: omit parking lots from the "good night's sleep" venue list) at around 4:30 am to catch the start of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.  The place was crawling with superfit runners, all looking calm but a little nervous.  I can't imagine what it must feel like to be facing a 100 mile run -- and one so tough as this one. 

It seemed like a great start to the race, the sun was just starting to chase the dark from the sky, it was fairly warm and certainly has turned into a nice day.  We didn't talk to anyone, merely stood around and gawked, then cheered everyone on as the race started.

Of course, I was totally inspired and am now thinking, I can do ultras, can't I? Perhaps I am built for distance, not speed. While a 100 mile run seems kinda unobtainable, a 50k or 50 mile seems, I dunno, do-able, I guess. I mean, 2 years ago I would have never thought I was capable of running a 10k, yet here I am contemplating a oly tri and a marathon for next year. Why stop? I will have to file this away in the back of my mind, and maybe take this idea out for contemplation after I complete a marathon. IT IS NOT OUT OF REACH!

This is where I would be starting (and, hopefully, finishing) such a thing -- firmly in the back of the pack.  I guess today is the day where I can say the idea was hatched -- I could do this.  Indeed.

Back in the present reality, I ran 4 miles yesterday out in Cold Creek Canyon.  I have been coming to the realization that, no matter what, my first 2 miles just suck.  I can't get into a rhythm, my legs ache, my breathing is ragged and all I want to do is turn around and go home.  Once I'm a few miles in, though, things smooth out and these problems just fade and I find myself happily trotting along and feel like I could just keep on going.  This was definitely true yesterday, though a very slight right knee pain followed me the whole way.  I think the albuterol definitely makes a difference, because I was much more plagued with the tiredness in my legs (leftover from the previous day's run, no doubt) than I was with my breathing, which was a notable first.  We shall see.

I'll leave this post with a glimpse of Tom's first brush with fame.  He was asked to do the male voice-over for a radio spot for a local business.  Here he is with K, the female voice, plus the beer used to ply him for his signature line, the hilarious "I wish I was a woman" . . . 

He dressed for inspiration.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Up, up and away!

I don't know why this happened, but yesterday I just kinda felt like running and running and running some more . . . and uphill, too!

This messy ol' graphic represents 1350 feet of climbing in a 8.5 mile run . . . yeah, no shit.  I don't quite know what happened, as I usually avoid hills like the plague.  I went out of D's backyard, while all the other peeps went for a mt. bike.  I thought, sure, I'll go out for a quick 4-5 miles, come back and feel proud of myself.  Instead, I just got LOST inside the run.  Not lost like i-don't-know-where-i-am lost, just totally into the run.  So, climb climb climb, then halfway though the first part of the run I ran into a guy at a trail intersection, who kindly told me where every path went (this one goes down to northstar, this goes up to Watson lake, this goes down to wherever) . . . and I CHOSE to go up!  WTF?!?  I just ate it up.

Granted, I went slowly, and averaged a 14 minute mile -- which I guess isn't too bad considering A. it's me, and 2. trail running, and C. so much climbing!  Anyhow, I was kinda amazed at myself, and think I would have ran another 4 miles or more if Tom hadn't been waiting for me. 

Now, of note, one thing I did differently before yesterday's run . . . I have had a very very mild case of exercise-induced (really, only running-induced) asthma, ever since I started this journey a few years ago.   Like I said, really mild and I mostly ignored it, as all it amounted to was maybe 20 minutes of mild wheezing 5 minutes after a run -- and usually only if I ran within 1 day of returning to altitude.  If it was particularly bad, I might take a puff of over-the-counter Primatene Mist (basically, inhaled adrenaline), no more intervention needed.  Even this was rare.  Nothing major.  So, I mentioned this to my doctor during a recent exam, and she gave me an rx for albuterol, and told me to take 2 puffs before a run to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.  This I did for the first time yesterday.

So, this leaves me wondering if this asthma has been bothering me more than I know, and has been impacting my (limited) running skillz right from the get-go?  I dunno.  I'll use it again today and see if yesterday was a fluke. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I've been drinking

A lot, lately.  When I was in Mexico, I fell in love with a drink available at almost every restaurant . . . and each place it would be just a little different.  This is Jamaica . . .

Pronounced, however, "ha-MIKE-ah" . . . and, in reality, refers not to the country Jamaica, but the abundant flower that grows there and in so many other places, hibiscus.  So, this drink is often referred to as Hibiscus Tea.  I like the Jamaica, though.

In any case, I drank the stuff a lot while I was there, and was bummed that I couldn't bring it back over the border with me to enjoy at home.  The other day I was shopping at what we refer to as the Mexican Costco, and I was so happy to see a bag of this stuff . . . and it was dirt cheap, too.  I think like 8 cups or so of the dried flowers set me back all of $3.  I bought it, came home and checked recipes on the interweb and, after some testing and fiddling, decided I like it prepared this way the best.

makes 1 quart, more or less
1/2 c dried hibiscus leaves
1/2 c sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 c water
3 c water

Bring 3 c water to a boil, remove from heat.  Add hibiscus, sugar and cinnamon stick.  Let sit for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to dissolve sugar.  Pour through strainer, pressing the flowers to get all the juice.  Add another 3 c water to taste, chill and serve.

Notes: the amount of water is variable, depending on how strong you like it.  This is really more of an infusion than a tea, so steeping it longer than 10 minutes does not give you a stronger brew, only a more bitter one.  Want it stronger?  Add more flowers, or less water.  In Mexico, this is optionally served with milk.  


So this is a little late, but . . . I DID make it out to run with the Truckee Running Group.  We all met last Thursday for the inaugural race of the Underground running series, over at Martis Valley.  I arrived a little early, and was a little psyched out when other people started arriving.  It was really really easy to see that they were all Runners (with a capital R), long of leg, trim of torso and short of shorts, all of 'em -- I think 20 or so showed up.  I knew I was out of my league, but swallowed my fear and stood up milling around and chatting with everyone for a few minutes.  It seemed like a very nice group of people, very open and friendly and I was quickly put at ease.  I was also quickly put in my place, cause the race started (Go!) and almost immediately I settled into what would be my finishing place, 3rd from the back.  4 miles.  My initial goal was to finish in 45 minutes; I actually finished in 48 minutes.  The winning male and female (a married couple, no less) finished in under 27 minutes -- super fast.  We cheered in the last finishers, then headed out to a local brewery for pizza and beer and another 2 hours of conversation.  

I am really happy to have met all of these cool folks.  Although just about everyone in the group was an accomplished runner with years of experience, they were very open and accepting to a newbie like me, and I pretty instantly felt like I met a new group of friends.  These guys are super accomplished and many super fast (one guy had been a world class runner, and had some 2:20 marathons back in the day) and thus have tons of great advice (I gotta keep up with my hill repeats).  The next race is next week (every other week), and there are various and sundry runs in between.

I will at the very least join them for the races; I am still not sure I want to run with a group on a regular basis both because I am so slow and because I do enjoy running on my own.  We'll see how it all progresses.

Anyhow, the day after I headed to Marin for my week of work, and worked and slept and ran not at all.  I got back home yesterday, slept for yet another huge passel of hours, and am finally feeling at least a little like myself today.  I hope to get out later for a run . . . . 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I rode Donner Summit again today, and had a great ride.  I rode with J, who's a much faster rider than me, but seemed to really enjoy the slower pace that I set, and was a great partner for the ride.  It was 19+ miles, and covered maybe 2/3 of what the bike portion of DLT will be.

It certainly was a bit of a reality check.  I was under the mistaken impression that all I really needed to worry about was the climb to the summit, then it would all be relatively flat and really a dream ride, well, not so much.  I have driven this road many a time, but it is crazy how you just don't really notice the hills while in a car, but on a bike every little rise becomes huge.  OK, so here's the elevation profile (looks just like a pair of tits, no?) 

This represents 2,335 feet of climbing, and there'll be another 7 miles (surely not flat) on race day.  I think the bike portion will be the toughest discipline in the race, by far.

Anyhow, the whole thing took just over 2 hours.  I do believe I am improving, measurably even . . . I reached the summit 7 minutes quicker than I did the last time, and if I had really concentrated and socialized less, I could have done it faster.  I did give this ride a lot of effort, but did talk most of the way and could have ground quite a bit harder, so I think my time of 2:01 could be improved somewhat.  J and I decided to do the whole course sometime next week, and I will shut up and put my nose to the grindstone and really try to get an idea of what might be a good goal for race day. 2:15 for the whole thing?  Maybe a little unrealistic.

After we returned from the ride, I had a bathroom break, a phone call and a 10 minute 'transition', then headed out on the road for a 2.5 mile run.  Oooh, that was hard, at least for the first maybe mile and a half.  I had to stop once or 3 times, a little 'cause I'm lazy but mostly because my left leg just didn't really want to go, not a charley horse or anything it just felt like it was asleep, tingly and empty.  I ran 2.37 miles in 29.11.  Oddly, the Garmin times seem correct, yet when I transfer the data over to my Ascent program, it lists the times as longer.  I think it doesn't subtract the time that Gary is in AUTOPAUSE.  I'm not overly familiar with the Ascent software, but I think I must be doing something basic wrong, or there's an easy correction for this. There's a few other questions I have regarding this software, so I guess I better do a little research.

So, the first mile or so was pretty damn tough, but things smoothed out and felt better after that.  I probably could have (and should have) continued on for another 4 or so miles, but I was already running late and took the easy way out.  I did pick up the pace at the end, and ran the last quarter mile at a 10:20 pace -- screaming!

All in all, it was a good day for me.  I felt quite athletic!

Monday, June 15, 2009

An interesting day today.  I have done one open water "swim" this season -- in "quotes" because it was more like a little paddle 'round more than a swim.  Tom had watched me from the shore, which seemed a little silly when I found there was quite a lot of area where the water was only a few feet deep.  This finding has allowed me to quite confidently head out for solo open water swimming, stay-close-to-the-shore style.  Today was my first time!

Being the gadget freak that I am, I was completely intrigued with the idea of swimming with Gary the Garmin the moment I read this.  I followed the instructions pretty faithfully, though I substituted ALOKSAC for the ziploc, as suggested by Tom.  It worked great.

Before any of that could happen, though, I had to learn a few lessons.

1. PRIOR to the first solo swim, it is probably a great idea to practice zipping the wetsuit up -- somewhere other than in public.  It is *not* an easy task.  I think it took me no less than 10 minutes to zip that thing up, hopping and bending and contorting all over the picnic table.  I'm sure it was quite entertaining -- I laughed most of the way through it (not for the last time).  Finally, after a calculated series of shoulder-shrugs, spinal wiggles and strategic breath-holding, I got it closed, then learned another essential thing about swimming in the cold lake:

2.  Do it sloooowly.  I found that by spending 5 minutes just hanging around in the water, occasionally dipping my face in the water, and just floating now and then, getting my ears wet and such, went a long way towards eliminating the physical panic that has accompanied the few open swims I have done.  

After all of this, plus the additional comedy of trying to figure the right placement of Gary on my head (which I did drop in the water once (though in its protective bag) while trying to figure out just which button I had pressed in error)  I did get to some swimming.  Yeah, it's way different than in the pool.  At the end, Gary said I swam .77 miles, which seems a little much . . . I think I spent a considerable amount of that distance walking around, or just swimming easily.  Nonetheless, it was a successful first solo swim.  Here's my Ascent track from the Garmin:

You can see right in the middle of the track where I had to cross a little spit of beach; my swim on the right side of the track was probably my favorite part.  Not part of Donner Lake proper, it's a reasonably long channel of water that is like a river, but without any real discernible current, that eventually leads to a damn and then into a typical stream.  I really enjoyed swimming here 'cause it felt like I was swimming through some kind of jungle (albeit one lined with pine trees).  At first, I totally freaked myself out, because the water was a little murky and quite a few feet deeper than where I had been swimming, and despite my relatively cool head I was busy imagining all kinds of things ready to attack me -- snakes, sharks, giant squid and the like.  I was giggling like crazy, so much so that I had to stop and tread water on numerous occasions, just so I could laugh nervously.  Anyone passing by on the nearby walking trail must have thought I was nuts.  As I continued down the channel, I mellowed out a bit and began to enjoy the water plants and little fishes that were visible on the bottom.  At one point, one of these water plants was long enough to brush my chest and face, leading to a full underwater scream and considerably more nervous laughter.  

The whole swim was hugely enjoyable, and I look forward to getting out there some more, and exploring that channel even further.

The start point for this swim is about 3/4 a mile from where I parked, so I loaded up a daypack with the necessary items for the swim, ran to the start point, swam, ran back to the car and dropped off what I didn't need, then continued on for another 3 miles or so.  I did another 4 hill repeats on a steeper hill (one that I will have to conquer during the DLT).  Well, the first half of the hill, anyways.  I think I might spend another run or two working on that first half, and then try to repeat the whole hill.  

All in all, a good day of preparation.  I have a date on Wednesday with J to do most if not all of the bike portion of the DLT.  This includes that dreaded 3 mile/1200' climb.  I wonder if the riding I have done since the last time will result in any noticeable gain?

She lives

I can't seem to really be consistent with this blogging thing, but since I'm really only doing it for my own amusement I guess I shouldn't be too worried.  If anyone is actually reading this, well, thanks for sticking around.  I am amazed.

Anyhow, I have been ramping up my exercising, but am in no way really "training" for the DLT. I have no doubt (well, not much) that I will be able to finish, but I haven't really been on it in terms of training and really getting physically ready -- I'm just kinda doing what I feel like doing as opposed to following any plan -- this could very well end in some kind of disaster, I guess. I am running and biking somewhat consistently (better than I've been doing on this blog, anyway), not doing too much with swimming. This will probably come back to bite me big time. I don't know why for this race I have been so lax, when usually I am all about the plan and the calendar and the scheduled daily workout. So if you're interested in seeing what happens when you take a (extremely) mediocre "athlete", throw in a little half-hearted training, and then have 'em race a really tough and hitherto unexperienced oly tri, well, just stay tuned!

I haven't totally dropped the ball, though.  I have dusted off the wetsuit, and went for a paddle in the waters of Donner Lake.  It was a little chilly but not too bad with the suit, and I was pleased to find there's plenty of swimming to be had right along the shore where it's only a few deep, thus in my mind ok for me to swim by myself.  I think there's miles of 'coastline' that fits this description, and I'm ready to get out and explore.

Just not the most flattering thing to wear.

I've been trying to run consistently, meaning, over 15 miles a week.  My longest run so far (in the past few weeks) has been 7 miles, and I was ok with that, but think I should get in several 10+ runs before this race.  In the plans!  

A few new things have happened on the running front.  I have joined a local running club that Tom heard about, and am totally psyched about this development.  I have yet to run any runs with them, but they apparently meet pretty consistently over the summer for lots of medium distance trail runs at some of my favorite locations.  My first foray with them will be a 4 mile run (and race!) over at Martis this thursday and I'm looking forward to (and, conversely, dreading in a weird way) meeting and running with some other people.  This will be a completely new experience for me, as running to me is a totally solitary thing and I really can't imagine how it will be in a group, hence the slight dread.  I think in the end it can only help, and I am curious as to how it might impact my "training."

I've started incorporating more than just "running around" into my runs.  Yes, I have started hill repeats!

. . . and it felt like I was gonna die!  I ran up this hill 5 times, ever so grateful when I got to walk back down.  Though I did not enjoy the actual activity, I feel that it is probably incredibly beneficial for me as a runner, as hills have really been my nemesis, though I am improving.  I fancied I could feel myself get stronger every time I did a repeat.  I've tossed a few into my runs here and there, and will try to incorporate such little exercises really regularly.  I have also threw a few fartleks into the mix as well.

I am definitely enjoying myself on the bike, and have noticed some real improvements over a relatively short period of time.  I did the Boca ride again on Saturday, and knocked a full 5+ minutes off of my time!  We started from a slightly different place than the 2 rides before, so I'm not exactly sure, but definitely faster than before.

Here's me with L and D just after completing the ride -- there were 2 other folks along for the fun, but not pictured.  I originally met these new friends through Tom's mt biking group, and they are so much faster than me (natch) it takes my breath away!  Gracious to a person, they cheerfully put up with my slow ass with no complaints.  This is such a bonus for me, to get to ride with such a fast group.  Whilst I am invariably the slowest of the bunch, the way I look at it that's the slowest of a *fast* bunch, therefore if I were to ride with some slow people, maybe I'd come across as fast?  This is what sustains me!

D took this random photo of the sky -- we get some great clouds in Tahoe!