Monday, July 25, 2011

Serious Fun =Table Rock 25k and new experiences in California

Saturday's bib
Saturday was the 2nd to the last race of the 2011 La Sportiva Mountain Cup Series; Table Rock 25k in Stinson Beach, CA.

I did not get any photos of the "enchanted woods", yet this sketch captures the essence!
The course is a loop which uses the Dipsea Trail among other trails to usher runners in and out of some of the most magical forests I’ve ever experienced. Fog from the ocean combined with glowing neon vegetation and very big trees reminded me of something that might be found in Middle Earth. I had a great time following pink ribbons as we were guided across grasslands smothered with fog before diving back into the thick woods.

The course was generally either up or down, very little flat and very, very fun!

The miles of the 25km seemed to go by very, very fast. (I had fast downhills and tedious, yet steady ups...)I wound up running in 2:30:14  and was 6th woman, 22 overall out of 121 finishers.   Full results linked from here: This did give me some points for the series, yet after earning 0 at Vail, it is unlikely I will wind up in the top 5.

So be it!

I am grateful for the Series as without participating I would not be visiting these amazing trails and expanding my racing to include some non-ultra distances.

Cynthia Arnold who lives is CO is fast! (She got 2nd on Saturday.) She and I first met a few years ago when we were running the Black Mountain Marathon/ Mt Mitchell Challenge.
Rewind to days before the race....

Six days before this race I ran the World Master’s Athletic Championships Marathon in Sacramento, CA and therefore had some time to adventure in CA! Wanting to keep costs down and new experiences high I spent some time at Harbin Hot Springs outside of Middletown, CA.

The following few photos are from the Harbin website, as photography (as well as cell phones and alchohol are not permitted on the property.
Harbin's Mainside Pool area. You can't see the varied hot springs or smell the wonderful eucalyptus in this photo!

The temple at Harbin.

This retreat center offered camping, use of a community kitchen, hot springs, yoga and miles and miles of trails all for $25.00 per 24 hours. Except for in the kitchen, eating places and temple, the entire grounds was clothing optional. ‘Nuff said! Now I have added yet another perspective  to the experience of trail running!

Coolest TP holder ever sighted at the Calistoga Bike Shop.
I also rented a road bike for a day and romped around upper Napa Valley for 45 miles or so, just by chance finding Velo Vino in St. Helena, CA. This winery is owned by the same folks that created and own Clif Bar. They make very tasty wine, with my personal favorite from the ones sampled , Gary’s Improv which is Zinfandel.

John DeGregory  is a Clif employee and ultrarunner. John ran Angles Crest 100 this past weekend. Congrats John!

Other touristy activities included a walk early in the morning over Golden Gate Bridge and a run in Muir Woods National Monument.
San Fransisco through 6:30am fog
Same fog...Am I touristy or what?

Signs like this one were next to crisis phones all over the top of the bridge.
Muir Woods. Huge Redwoods, fabulous!
Now I am back home readying to dive into work full-tilt boogie and put long trail runs on the back burner for a couple of months as I work towards WC 100km.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

World Masters Athetic Championships: Inspired by Many (and a Marathon PR!)

Goofing around post race at the Expo!
Finish Line of the Marathon Sunday morning
On Thursday night late,  I arrived in CA for the World  Masters Athletics Championships. These races are held every 2 years in many countries across the globe, this year the events took place in Sacramento, CA from 7/6-7/17. I came out to run the marathon on 7/17, volunteer and generally check things out.

I choose this marathon as a practice for the 100k in the Netherlands. The timing was right: 9 weeks prior, it is a loop course, flat (like Netherlands) and international in attendance. I figured this would be a good venue to practice pacing, patience, wearing the uniform and generally doing a reality check of where I am “at”.

On Thursday morning, I reported for my 10:30-3pm volunteer duties. I was assigned hurdle mover and spent hours moving hurdles up and down and to and fro, depending on the event. What a gift I’d been given. I watched and experienced passion and drive and form emerge from seasoned men and women with strong yet aging bodies as they were immersed into competition. These guys and gals are my role models of possibility as I continue to collect birthdays and continue to seek to satisfy my passions of running, freedom and adventuring!
I am not a track person historically, yet learned alot witnessing the 60-75 Men's 4X 100 heats! Wow! These dudes have legs and speed mine only dream of! Wow, Wow, wow!
 Friday was a day of details, spectating, rest and readying. I went to bed at 9pm after using a sharpie to mark some splits on my left forearm. I planned to run a sub 3:05. This number came to me in relation to a downhill marathon I'd run 19 months ago, and on finding the recommend conversation for a 50k road time of 3:43ish (my last road 50k(2010) conversion was a 3:04 marathon).Check out the Race Time Equivalent Calculator from Running Times.

The Marathon. 5am, 7/17/2011.

This course was 2 miles looping around Sacramento State Campus with the balance of the miles sharing 5 loops on the bike/hike paved path (same as used for AR 50) to equal 26 miles. The remaining .2 miles took place from river to finish line on the campus. Marathon started at 5am.

I arrived at 4:00 and walked around, had a English muffin w/ Nutella and ½ banana and thermos coffee breakfast before hitting the extensive port-a-pottie lines. 20 minutes of easy warm up, brought me to race start in time to hang out for 5 minutes before the gun. To my delight, I saw Tony waving to me!
Tony! Thank you for your enthusiasm and support!
 Tony is George’s Mom’s brother (George’s uncle) and he has been a guardian angel to me in several west coast races I have run: Sharing assistance, enthusiasm, and fabulous supportive energy! Tony lives in The Bay Area and got up at 3am too in order to cheer me on.

After saying hello to Scott Dunlap, one of the few other runners I was acquainted with, we were off! The first 5 miles were too dark or tree covered to make out my watch, yet at mile 7 I learned I was 5 minutes ahead of pace! Perfect! Coach Howard and I discussed as readying for the World 100k, my 1st half would be 5 minutes faster than 2nd half.

The miles went fast: flat and moderately rolling sections…It was so neat to be out there with all ages and nationalities and motivations. I can’t say thank you enough to my fellow runners from EVERYwhere who cheered me on! I hope most of you felt encouragement from me…thought during the last 3 miles I used hand signals instead of words, as I was feeling the effort!
To tell the honest truth, I didn’t care about place this race. I was running for time and to stay within myself. I have vowed not to go “to the depths of the well” again until Netherlands in September. Last time I went there was Bear Mountain 50M on May 7th.

I worked hard at times this morning, yet dipped into the well for a little while. No well diving today. No dorsal fin. I think dorsal fin was intrigued and fascinated at the prospects of aging fantastically as I was!

Kathy Wolski of TN and I swapped places a few times during the run...
Me and 1st tough girl Sally from NZ post race! Yay Masters!
The Polish team (my ethnicity) get points for highest team spirit!
I finished 3:01:30, 4th woman, 52nd overall (less than a minute behind 3rd place Christine Kennedy, 56, USA, 3:00:48. Sally Gibbs, 48 of New Zealand was 1st overall in 2:52:53,  and behind her in 2nd was Sara Gigliotti, 37 of USA, 3:00:43.
On the podium with 2nd place F40 Verity Breen, 44, Australia, 3:07:26, silver medalist, Veronica Acuna, bronze  of Argentina had to leave moments before the slightly delayed ceremony. It was cool to have the National Anthem played in my honor (1st place age group)
I kept pretty well to my plan, though my first 5-7 miles faster than planned. It was dark/ie: sun not yet come up or overcast and it was 47 minutes in before I could read my watch! Still, great practice for what is to come on 9/10!

Thank you to Tony, the other amazing athletes, volunteers and weather of central CA for providing a really satisfying and neat experience!

Gear and Fuel:
USATF Nike Team USA uniform from USA 100km team kit,
Bodyglide! (uniform shorts chafe lots) …Yet nothing Bodyglide couldn’t assist with! Yay!
Saucony Tangent 4, Dry Max Mini Crews (yes the feet were and are happy!) As much as I love Montrails for anything, dirt, I am lovin’ lightweight road shoes for fast 100% paved courses.
2 Cliff Shot blocks, 1 Cliff Mocha gel, Gatorade and water from aid stations.
Post race: Clif recovery drink, shower, warm clothes and meal with Tony!
(Ice bath followed later).
Next up: Several days of adventuring around Central/Northern CA on a budget... camping/hiking/maybe cycling...we'll see!), and Stinson Beach, CA, Ie: Table Rock 25k on 7/23. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Playing for a Week in the Colorado High Country!

Fellow NC runner (very fast boy) Ryan Woods  and I post VHC 2011
The Vail Hill Climb is part of the 2011 La Sportiva Mountain Cup. It is a 7.5-mile run up a ski slope, starting at 8500’ and climbs to 11,000’. I knew when I signed up that I would not be acclimated to the elevation and had little chance to run competitively,  yet I had to deal with my work schedule and this race fit into my limited summer vacation days.

The trip turned from “race travel” to vacation when George discovered he could join me and we planned a week-long trip to Colorado.

Atop Lily Mountain...9 hours after leaving Greensboro, NC. It was crazy-windy otherwise we'd have used a timer on the camera to catch both of us with crazy hair!
We flew into Denver on Tuesday morning and immediately drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park, stopping on route to do a short 4-mile hike on Lily Mountain. Wow! I expected to feel the elevation change and sure enough did. My respiratory rate and heart rate elevated immediately and what would have been a charge up a mountain at 3000’, turned into a super-slog as we made our way to 9500’.

After a stop in Estes Park for supplies we moved into our campsite in Loop D of the Moraine Park Campground. We camped simply with whatever we could get into one very full Mountain Hardwear duffel bag. Many of our neighbors had lounge chairs, rain/sun canopies, and all sorts of comfy campsite swag. We were perfectly happy with our Sierra Designs Meteor Light car camping tents, Thermarests, sleeping bags and Primus camp stove.

Over 3 days we pounced on the park and did all we could realistically do as 2 folks having just come to the CO high country. Running took a back seat during this time-each day I ran at least 30 minutes, yet my lack of adaptation made it tough going.

Wednesday: 12.5 miles. Flattop Mountain, summit 12,324,’ plus a walk into Hollowell Meadows. 
George on route to 12,300+ Flat Top Mountain
Top of Flat Top looking down on the lakes...
Even the flowers looked fuzzy to me as I tried to adjust to the elevation!
 Full Day One: Lots of snow this day. Gobs of it on the trails and several snowfields to kick steps across. This is a beautiful part of the world! Very slow going, especially on the descent when the top of the snow melted into runways of slippery slush! I think George and my favorite part of this hike was running downhill across the 2 snowfields on our return trip. It was gleeful and absolutely a slippery riot!

Full Day Two: Wishing to avoid the post holing and most of the snow we chose a tour of the lakes: The Loch, Mills Lake, Lake Haiyaha,  Lake Dream Lake and Nymph Lake.

Beautiful raging falls!
Our journey took us past Alberta Falls which were raging! CO had over 200” of snow above normal this year.

Washed out bridge on route to Mills Lake. We turned around. Water too rapid to consider a wet crossing....
As noted earlier, we intended to avoid snow this day. Not-gonna-happen! We had a slow, snowy, slippery, step kicking morning as we traveled a less-used route from Mills Lake to Lake Haiyaha. We made several wrong turns, yet after awhile I became accustomed to reading the terrain and we were able to pick our way to our destination. We met 2 neat local women and took turns assisting each other with route finding. They shared with us that the park advised not to do the route we were on (they also advised against Flat Top Mountain which we walked the day before).
Lake Haiyaha, a beautiful spot...well worth the post holing and navigational challenge!
 George and I continued our loop against the advisement of these 2, figuring if things got too gnarly, we could always backtrack. No worries, we got spooked in one section and bushwhacked off trail for 200’ to avoid a steep snow traverse…yet soon we arrived at the hyper activeness of Dream Lake. Approaching from the other side, it is an easy 1.1-mile walk from the nearest trail head, and there was a multitude of folks to prove it! We actually decided to run the remaining 2 miles back to the car in order to try to avoid some of the gobs of slow walkers. (Nothing wrong with walking slow-I will celebrate every person gifted with mobility who gets off the pavement and onto a trail…no matter how slowly they may move!)
Dream Lake...beautiful mountains, many people!
 That afternoon we drove parts of Trail Ridge Road and watched the park video at the Glacier Meadow Visitor Center as we tried to stay out of the powerful cycling thunderstorms.

Looking back as we left treeline heading up Twin Sisters...
Next day was a 7.4 round trip walk up Twin Sisters. The elevation was 11,400+, yet there was no snow and even a couple days walking around up high took the edge off of elevation hyper-heart rate.
George at the top of the hike.
 After a quick trip back to Estes Park for laundry and showers we went to Boulder to meet up with friends for a delightful evening of drinks and supper at their neighborhood low-key swimming pool. George and I both used to work with Brady Robinson at NCOBS (North Carolina Outward Bound School). Because Brady is now Executive Director of The Access Fund and George is ED of National Committee for the New River they have future developed their professional and personal relationship. Hanging out with Brandy, Lucinda and Tessa and their kitty EB were a real treat! We slept in Brandy’s home office with a purring EB crammed between us!

The Vail Hill Climb was awesome! My performance, not so awesome. Spending the last few days hiking around the mountains helped get acclimated, yet not nearly enough. So it was with no great surprise that my eventual female in the event was (I think) 30th! My muscles begged to go faster –yet my heart rate would not cooperate. Still, I loved trying something totally new. At only 7.5 miles this is was a hyper-short event.

Each time I sped up, I got lightheaded. I tried power walking the steeps to see if that would help. Nah. So I made running motions as I slogged up the mountain…and LOVED every bit of the experience! I stilled worked as hard as I could, yet to my surprise didn’t get too disappointed with my lack of performance. After all, if I can’t breathe, I cannot run!

George and I on top. He hiked up top in the snow while I ran...
I expected it would take around 1:30, yet I finished in 1:14 plus some seconds. I was disappointed only for a few minutes that I did not run faster. If I could have taken off 8 minutes that’d have made a huge difference. Yet reality is reality…I struggled and that is that!

Still, I got to finally meet Anita Ortiz and see Ryan Woods who lives near George and I in NC. He ran well, yet I think he too was affected by the elevation and earned a 5th place. Last week he ran Cranmore Hill Climb and was name the US Mountain Running Team! Go Ryan, go!
Anita and I post run...she is a toughie...ran WS 100 last weekend and romped up this climb with some sort of injury...though you'd never know it from her attitude and time! (Her 2 daughters ROCKED the course!)
George, Debbie, me and Rob!
We rounded out our grand Colorado adventure by meeting up with my cousin Debbie- who I hadn’t seen in 20 years! George and I stayed with Debbie, her husband Rob and 2 awesome labs. We shared lots of stories, wine and good food before George and I finally accepted that we needed at least 4 hours of sleep before leaving at 4:45am for the airport! A very, very fun time!

This trip reminded me of the simplicity and joy of camping and hiking and it was a great adventure with George and a fabulous mental break from running and training.

Mom is coming to NC tomorrow for a long weekend. Next week I am off to CA for the World Master’s Marathon in Sacramento (volunteering for 2 days and running on 7/17 as  a pacing practice for World 100k in September...) and will remain out there camping and low-key adventuring until after the Table Rock 25k at Stinson Beach on 7/23.