Friday, April 29, 2011

Check it out , now, my funk soul brothers (and sisters too)

Here is a website I am really digging  right now:

You input your running pace and BAM it gives you a list of songs with the appropriate beats per minute (BPM).

Here's what I love about this site:
  • You can listen to each song right there and you can listen to your entire playlist if you want to get a feel for the flow while you do dishes.
  • You can add your own favorite song if it isn’t included, and they will figure out it’s BPM and add it to the site. How cool is that?
  • You can save your playlist.
  • You can browse other people’s playlists
  • You can put together a playlist that with a warm up, a tempo middle and a cool down.
  • And finally, they include a research paper as to why you may want to add songs at half or double your pace, and actual research is something near and dear to my cynical heart.
The Rockafella Skank: it'll give you wings....
They've even got Fatboy Slim, The Rockafeller Skank, perfect for a 9:48 mile.....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Afterglow

Since Skyline to the Sea my calves have been killing me. I have compartment syndrome and as I run, they constrict tighter and tighter, the pain builds and I imagine taking a pin to pop them and spewing calf muscle everywhere. I get ART (Active Release Therapy) from Dr. Ho and it really works. He leaves me literally bruised but he breaks up the tissue and the results are amazing. I’m seeing him once a week right now, twice would be better, but the costs add up. 

So, running has been frustrating since my 50k. Half burden, half joy.

My body fails me, but my will does not. 

Saturday I spontaneously decided to go on another organized trail run. I needed the mental lift of being back on the trails, and I didn’t want to get lost alone. My calves would hurt, but it was a pain I was willing to pay. 

I went out to Rancho Del Oro and joined a small crowd of runners most of whom were running the 4 mile option. The race started and BAM, pretty quickly it looked like I’d had my own private start. I can’t say I cared; I was outside on a trail with painful calves and if no one was there to hear me swear, well then all the better.  There was another woman with me for the first mile or so, but she was listening to her Ipod and, sadly, she didn’t offer much distraction. 

The trail went up, up, up for the first two miles, then, finally it was that wonderful rolling single track, where I feel like a running rock star. My calves loosened, I spied a dead snake, and the sun went behind the clouds. Life was improving. Few things make me happier than a little road kill on a run.  Alive is good too, but I’ll take a dead snake with a smile.
I came through the finish euphoric and filled with goodwill towards men. The timekeeper told me, and the woman in front of me, to stick around as we both might get medals. WHAT? No problem. I grazed on the food and sure enough, my patience was rewarded with a medal that read: WINNER.

Read it and weep

Turns out, I was both last in the 9 mile race and 2nd in my age group, and, thus, had made the podium. I can’t fully explain how completely frickin’ awesome this was.  Turns out you can show up when most of your age group doesn’t and that gets you a big shout out from the running universe. 

Always, to get a medal you have to show up, and do the work. It’s not often, but sometimes, that right there is enough. You don’t have to be the strongest, the fastest or the smartest; on occasion just giving it all you have to give in that moment is good enough for the running gods to pause, give you a high five, a pat on the back, to hear them whisper Welcome, we’re so happy to have you, we’d like you to join us again….


Friday, April 22, 2011

Skyline to the Sea - Part II, wherein the second verse was better than the first

Note that, again, many of the photos were taken by Paul Rodman (thanks, Paul!) and you can read his race report here:  50 is the new 30
Gazos loop to Gazos aid station (second time, 20.3 miles)

I began the extra loop the 50k runners have, it’s hilly and tiring after coming 15 miles, but I didn’t mind. Let's pause and consider that for the nearly the whole 31 miles I was emotionally upbeat and mentally strong. I never wavered in thinking I could go the distance, only in if I could make the cutoff. While I walked these hills, however, I felt the first signs of needing nutrition: I was increasingly irritable and unable to finish a complete thought (just like usual, I know. Shut. Up).  I was listening to This American Life and I would vacillate between thinking it was fascinating and then....what the heck is that sound in my ear...oh yea, the podcast, hey this is interesting. I took out a 270 calorie bonk bar and ate the whole thing. I followed it up with goo and some water and by the time the trail headed back down, I was running again and feeling much better. I took the time to set my alarm for every 45 minutes to remind myself to refuel as I still had a long ways to go. 

Gazos to the Sea (11 more miles to go)

I headed out for the last stretch before the race end. This was virgin territory for me as I had never run it before and I was slightly surprised to find a longish climb out of the park. Whatever. I passed some hikers who tried to convince me I was on the wrong path, spotted a pink ribbon and shouted back to them "see, here’s the ribbon, I’m ok." Yeah, they loved that I'm sure. It was gorgeous and I was delighted to have passed the hikers. I continued to make forward progress and came to the top of the hill to find my lighthouse administering to his friend’s blisters. We encouraged each other and I headed out in front of him for the first time all day. 

 As I continued down the hill I suddenly realized that the bump in my waistband from my running gloves was smaller, because I had lost one glove. Ack. I love those gloves, so much that I actually turned around and went back uphill for a bit. That is unheard of for me. Still, no glove. Darn.
This part of the race was a scenic, long, downhill. My legs hurt, but not terribly. I contemplated how after awhile downhill wasn’t actually  preferable to uphill anymore. I passed a group of young women hiking up the trail and heard them saying as I continued “Can you imagine running all day?” “NO!” “You’d have to be…..” one voice trailed off and another finished her sentence “crazy.” Listening, I smiled and felt my spirit lifted again. 

And so the miles passed. My lighthouse caught up with me and handed me my lost glove. “Oh, you are my running angel today. I am so happy to have this glove back and to have had you to follow on this course that if we ended the race in someplace that was both Las Vegas and Utah, I’d marry you. We need Vegas for the run in Elvis wedding and Utah because I am already married.” “In our stinky running gear?” he asked, naturally concerned about our attire in this scenario.
Kiinda like this, but different.
“Heck no, I replied, in our matching race shirts.” “Of course, he countered, and then we could start a reality TV show called Brother, Husbands.”  We riffed on this awhile, thoroughly enjoying our silliness, until he scampered off out of sight.

I crossed a stream with half a bridge. Then I came to what looked like gutters spanning the creek. "Seriously? this is TOO MUCH," I yelled to my lighthouse who had made it to the other side (really too bad I never exchanged names with him. A hypothetical marriage proposal, yes, names, no. I'm quirky that way.).

Eventually, the sweeper caught up with me. “I can’t run in front of you,” he warned. “Well then, I replied, you better slow down, ‘cause this is the speed I’m running.” I laughed giddily, but in truth I didn’t really want the company: I kinda had to pee, I had a shadow that I couldn't shake and I was used to running by myself by now. So, you can see how he kinda put a wrinkle in my plans.

I  don't know why everyone told me there would be sun here.
Finally, I saw a white tee shirt in the distance. "Oh I think that’s my husband," I told my shadow. What a relief. When I finally saw Mike, he looked so fresh and happy that it warmed my heart. The endorphins must have really been kicking in because I remember this whole section of the run as being bathed in feelings of gratitude, good humor, and flattering light.

In front of us I could see my lighthouse; he turned and waved as we brought in the last mile or two of the course. I told Mike how I had followed him the whole 31 miles and Mike of course, being a good pacer, and a very good racer, encouraged me to try and catch up. I laughed and laughed. Even now at the very end of my adventure I was surprisingly euphoric.
Just thinking about how happy I was made me even happier. Seriously. It was a veritable love fest for me right then. No tears, no begging to walk, no toenails popping off, no swearing I’d never do it again. I may not be fast, but clearly I can endure with a smile; maybe that’s my special talent.

Finally, there was the finish line, with Ivette clapping for me. I was delighted to be there. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Skyine to the Sea - Part 1

Note that the photos were taken by Paul Rodman and you can read his race report here:  50 is the new 30

If I had to sum up the experience of my first 50k in one word it would be: surprise.  Sometimes it was the surprise you feel when you come across a 20 dollar bill in an empty parking lot (lucky!) and sometimes it was the surprise you feel when you take a swig from the milk carton and find it’s gone sour (wha? sputter. ack). 

Start to Waterman Gap aid station (6.2 miles)
The race started with little fanfare.  We were standing across the street, warming ourselves in a patch of sun when the pack of runners across from us surged. Time to get this thing done.  As I ran along the gentle downhill slope I was surprised I was keeping up with the runners around me, but I was. I don’t have much experience being part of a line of runners and I’m not sure if I liked it or not but I decided I was open to the experience and did not drop back. Regardless, it ended when my shoe came untied. This should not have been a surprise, since the laces of my trail shoes have trouble staying tied, but I had completely forgotten that. 

Do you see roots and branches? Me neither.
 Two miles later I had a real surprise when I turned my right ankle on a branch. Turning my ankle while trail running used to be a big fear of mine, but then it never happened, and so I have worked to let that fear and the caution it produced go. This was a pretty hard turn, but I kept going, sorta skipping and hopping while I decided if it was serious or not. Naturally, it did not feel good but did it feel bad enough to stop and assess the situation? Was I crying? No. The day before I watched the movie Run, Fat Boy, Run. In it one runner twists his ankle badly in a fall and finishes the marathon. Chuckling, I actually thought of him and decided if that mythological man could keep going so I could I. The ground was soft from the needle cover and I tried to control my breathing and my fears and enjoy the journey. Imagine my surprise 2 miles later when I inexplicably found myself sliding down the trail with my arms outstretched, the trail a few inches from my face. Dang. I jumped up and kept going. I was shaken again, having never fallen on a trail run, but I really did not want to take the time to assess the damage too closely. My right knee hurt, my calf was scraped, but I didn’t feel any blood and my palms weren’t bleeding either.  

I hadn’t yet hit the first rest stop; I’d twisted my right ankle and then fallen and banged up right knee. At this point, I needed to get a hold of my mental game, because it was starting to falter. Negative thoughts and fears were running through my mind.  I repeated to myself to focus on the moment at hand. I wasn’t going to drop out yet, so I needed to press on, and there is always my litmus test for stopping: “are you crying?” I mean this literally, when you’re crying for your mom, it’s then you’ve got a problem, but until that moment, you have strength. You haven’t really started to crack until tears are running down your face and my cheeks were completely dry. So, I told myself to suck it up, consider it a new race and focus.  Don’t stop to feel sorry for yourself, don’t pause to check out the damage, just go. And I did.

Waterman Gap Aide Station
I was thrilled to finally get to the rest stop and find at least 7 other runners there; I’m used to being by myself at these things. I stuck to my game plan, threw some snacks into a plastic baggie, cleaned up my scrapes and headed back out in less than a minute and a half. I was especially impressed because I’d been running with another woman for over an hour and I left the rest stop without her. Hanging out (and back), with another runner tends to be a weakness of mine and I couldn’t afford it this race. I needed to make it to the Gazos Creek aid station by 1 if I was going to run the 50k. If I missed it, I would be running my first marathon of the year instead. I didn’t even pause to say goodbye.

Waterman Gap to China grade aid station (11 miles)

I started on the next section of the run, more rolling than the first. My hands were stinging, and my ankle/knee were kind of hurting but nothing was terrible. I focused on the cut off time and actually passed two runners, then another. The third woman stuck with me for a long time. We ran along silently, only chatting every once in awhile.  I was focusing on the cut off time, and doing the best I could do at the moment.  She kept commenting on how beautiful it was; I didn’t look up from the trail much...I'd already seen it up close and figured I didn't need to revist that vantage point again.

Great view, slippery rocks
We ran to the second rest stop, and it was noon. I had one hour to make the cut off, and the guy there told me it was a little over 5 miles. I had run this portion before and knew I had rocks to go over, and a stream to perhaps dunk my foot in, but it wasn’t too hilly. I had a slim chance of making it. This time I swore, threw a little jerky and a goo drop into my baggie and kept right on going. I was in and out in 30 seconds or less but I wasn’t happy. Just in front of me, I saw a guy in last year’s Skyline to the Sea race shirt and knew that if I could keep close I him I’d make the cutoff, since he had done this race before. 5 miles on the trail in under an hour was going to be a stretch, but I tried not to focus on that too much. 

China Grade to Gazos aid station  (16 miles)

I ran along, monitoring the time and trying to stay hopeful and focused, I was getting closer, but time was running out. I was going nuts on what would happen if I didn’t make it. How long was too long after the cutoff to beg to continue? How would I feel telling everyone I didn’t make it? I wrestled to focus on the trail in front of me while deciding 5 minutes or less after the deadline and I would beg. After that I would run the marathon without complaint.  A runner came in the opposite direction telling me I had a little more than a mile to go, my watch said 12:49, 11 minutes, and one mile to go, and it should be doable. 

I longed for a straight stretch of asphalt but instead I found a tree to duck under, a trail lost in roots, wooden steps and nothing but turns ahead. I focused on the athletes I know who are great runners: Mike, Jason, Molly, be like them I told myself. Mike would go up the hills with ease, Jason would be scrambling up these rocks, and ducking under the trees with speed and grace, Molly would be embracing the pain, checking her watch and running hard. Me? My hands were shaking. My legs were shaking. I wanted to throw up, and go to the bathroom at the same time. I felt my asthma kicking in and I couldn’t breathe all that well. Adrenaline is not my friend.
I pressed on, trying to focus on the moment.

I wanted to stop and catch my breath. I wanted to say, you came very close, congratulations on a hard effort, maybe next year.  Instead I repeated "be like Mike, Jason, Molly, c'mon, just for a moment."  and pictured them running alongside me, all grace, speed and hard effort.  I heard people ahead and increased my speed thinking it was the rest stop, but it was a large group of hikers. 1 minute to go and still I couldn’t see the end.  I pushed on and heard voices again, again I upped my speed, rounded the corner and there it was, the rest stop. I pulled in completely out of breath and wild eyed, tapping my watch which read 1:00 and asking who would mark my bib, because I had made the cutoff. Yipeee. Now, I cried. I’d been out of water for a little bit, and had not taken the time to eat goo when I knew I should and was an emotional wreck. PHEW. My reward was 16 more miles to go and I was frickin’ delighted.

Crying, I saw the guy in the shirt I’d been trying to catch. I hugged him (yeah, he was a little teeny bit surprised, but he went with it. Smart man.) while I babbled that I’d been following him, trying to catch up because I knew I’d make the cut off since it was his second time running the race and he had made the cutoff the first time (don’t question my logic here, it made perfect sense at the time). You were my lighthouse I said, my beacon on the trail, and you didn’t even know it, but thank you. He laughed, pulled at his shirt and said, “oh this shirt is kind of false advertising. Last year I DNF’d.” DNF’d?! OMG. Thank goodness I didn’t know that, it would have really depressed me. We both cracked up at the irony and he headed out on the trail.

A volunteer took my Nathan pack to refill with drink while I ate a little, refilled my baggie and turned to find she had somehow gotten the clasp that holds the water closed stuck in the half on half off position. Nobody could pull that slider off. We were all panicking a bit as we realized that finishing this race was going to depend on this water bladder holding and it was stuck beyond help. She managed to cram it into my backup all messed up. Disaster averted.