The Ventura Half Marathon

September 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

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The Trail of Snot.  That is how I will remember this race.  I felt fine, but that cold/virus/whatever my children gave me two weeks ago is still clearing itself out and I left quite a few snot rockets in my wake…including, possibly, on other runners trying to pass me.  That’ll teach them.

But anyway.

The first two+ miles of this race were not good.  It was slow.  Felt awful.  Gave up all hope of breaking 2 hours, maybe even finishing.  Why bother.  This was terrible.

I should know this by now, but I need a little bit of time to warm up.

Mile 3 things started to kick into gear.  I felt like I was working harder than I should be given the fact I had another 10 miles to go and that, by all other indicators, this would not end well.

But by Mile 4 I figured that since it was already happening, I’d just keep going that hard as long as I could.  #strategy

At Mile 5 I started walking through the aid stations because I got tired of soaking myself and having most of the water go up my nose.

Mile 6 a guy with super buff arms befriended me.  We ran together for about half a mile until I LEFT HIM IN THE DUST.

The turnaround point was a highlight, because the marathon runners ran straight and we got to head back, so I took a moment to appreciate the fact that I dodged that bullet.

The second half we were running into a headwind.  But I managed to maintain my speed and was still in control and killing it.  This race was going to be a cakewalk.  Why don’t I always use this strategy?

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Mile 10 I hit wall #1.  Mile 11.5 came wall 2.

Right around Mile 11, based on my watch (which was a little bit off the official time), I realized that I could *probably* break 1:45 if I hung on.  And once I realized that I had to do it.  Had to.

That’s when things got ugly.  My body was like, “Sorry, you did not adequately prepare me for this, stop right now.”  And I was like, “NO, BODY!  I’M THE BOSS HERE!”  and my body was like, “F*** you,” and my entire body, arms included, started to burn then go numb.  I tried to stay calm and not puke.

Mile 12 Buff Arms passed me.  And there was nothing I could do about it.

When I crossed the finish line my heart rate was 195.  Based on the Mayo Clinic’s method of calculating, my max heart rate should be 185.  I almost exploded.  Finish line pictures will be keepers.

I crossed the finish in 1:45:03.  God.  Dammit.

I wore my Garmin, which spit out a bunch of info that I probably didn’t need to know but is fun (for me) to look at.

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Total elevation 52 feet.  Shwing.

Discrepancies in distance due to starting my watch a little late, and having it pause itself when I slowed down too much at the aid stations (a setting I have it on for when I do city running because it’s awesome at lights).

For posterity’s sake, and since I have them so neatly packaged right in front of me, my splits:

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Wrapped it up with these puppies:

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Why is running so fun.

The poor friend who I convinced to sign up for the full marathon did indeed finish, but did so while deathly ill.  CHELSEA, YOU ARE CRAZY but also a rockstar.  Feel better soon, girl.

Now I’m off to eat 1300 calories and completely negate this entire experience.

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Catalina Island Marathon

March 28, 2016 § 1 Comment

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We spotted the ocean at the head of the trail
Where are we going, so far away
And somebody told me that this is the place
Where everything’s better, everything’s safe

In high school there were two girls who were best friends, I never saw one without the other, both used mini rolley backpacks covered in Toad the Wet Sprocket patches and stickers for their school bags.  They were DEVASTATED when the band broke up the summer before my senior year.  Every time I hear that song, including during a marathon, I think of them.  But that’s beside the point.

The Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon was last weekend.  26.2 miles.  4,310 feet in elevation.  350 runners.  Old friends.  Bison.  Garibaldi.  Buffalo milk.

Friday afternoon my sister, myself, and our old friend met up at the Long Beach terminal to catch the Catalina Island Express out to Avalon.

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The three of us worked together for a few summers at a camp for kids on the West End of the island.  We hadn’t seen each other, or even really spoken much prior to the marathon, in almost 12 years.  TWELVE. YEARS.

But as it goes with relationships that are built through sharing a singular experience, there is a strange kind of bond that doesn’t seem to fade, regardless of how long it’s been.

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We took the ride across the channel, one we had collectively done dozens of times, arriving both sun and windburned.  And as we pulled into the harbor, excitement set in over the nerves.

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We checked in to our hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon making trips to the sole grocery store, picking up essentials for the next morning.  It felt good to be back.

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We stayed in Avalon on the East End, next to the finish line.  The starting line was at the Isthmus, a narrow strip of land that connects the island’s east and west ends.

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Kind of hard to see on the map, but the course is marked by a yellow line.  It basically runs from Two Harbors / Cat Harbor on the Isthmus, cuts through to the west coast, back through the middle and ends in Avalon, on the East End.  (The red crosses indicate aid stations, they’re a little easier to see on the map.)

Up at 3:45am on Saturday morning for another boat ride over to the starting line!

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Apparently during previous years the ride over had been a little rough (two years ago Molly did the race and said 90% of the people on the boat were puking the entire ride, which is about an hour long.)  We had nothing but smooth sailing.  Thank God.

The first two and a half miles of the race are uphill.  Straight uphill.  Like, enough uphill to deprive your brain of sufficient oxygen to figure out how to take a picture on your phone.

…followed by about a mile and a half of minor ups and downs, and then some serious downhill.

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Parts of the trail were narrow, muddy, and had a lot of loose rocks.  We saw a few people bail hard…including Molly immediately after taking this picture while she was fiddling with her phone.

The island was super green, which was a nice change from the brown, dry hills we were used to in the summer and fall.  It was pretty spectacular.

IMG_20160319_141723our view of shark harbor and little harbor, right around mile 9.  those little dots on the road are runners that were behind us.

A few things about this race were really, particularly awesome:

The aid stations were perfectly placed and had all sorts of options for hydration and fuel, as well as sunscreen and first aid kits.

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There were Catalina Conservancy crew going up and down the course the entire time, making you feel that even though you were running on a trail in the middle of nowhere, you were never far from help.

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The sun didn’t come out until about 3 hours in, which was super great on a course that is so exposed.

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The vibe.  Everybody was supportive and nice and helpful and just psyched to be there.

Things that were not awesome:

This hill at mile 18, where we gained almost 600 ft in elevation in about a mile and a half…

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…and the fact that my Catalina Marathon Running Mix didn’t download onto my phone.  Because of that, my personal soundtrack for this race ended up being a High School Flashback alternative rock mix that I had probably accidentally downloaded a few years ago, because I apparently hadn’t completed it.  It only had 8 songs.  I had no idea it was on my phone.

While Space Hog and Savage Garden and Blind Melon and Nada Surf are great, they have their place.  And I’m going to go ahead and say on repeat during a marathon is not that place.  You can only listen to Truly Madly Deeply so many times before you want to tear your eyes out.

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After mile 19 the course was pretty pleasant and flat-ish, though still uphill.  The last three miles back into Avalon are a steep downhill, which can be rough on the legs after so much climbing.

But…(and not to beat a dead horse here)…it was just so gorgeous.

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We all survived, made it back to Avalon, and recovered the only way we knew how.

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That night we visited a few old hangouts, sitting in corner tables, drinking our celebratory buffalo milks, watching everyone else rock out, remembering when we used to do the same, before we were older and busted and had just finished making our way across the entire island on foot.

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Catalina is a special place.

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I went into this race feeling undertrained and overtired and overwhelmed and terrified that the hills would be undoable and my body wouldn’t make it.

I came out feeling revitalized.  I loved every single second of it.

IMG_20160320_072735the morning after

So anyone who feels like doing this particularly challenging course in the future, let me know.  I’m in.

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Now we’re back at the homestead
Where the air makes you choke
And people don’t know you
And trust is a joke
We don’t even have pictures
Just memories to hold
That grow sweeter each season
As we slowly grow old…

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Race Report: Del Valle 10K

June 25, 2015 § 1 Comment

IMG_20150625_145610the dry hills of northern california

This is going to be the most boring race report ever.

Two weeks ago I drove up to Sunnyvale for the Del Valle 10K.  I left crazypants with Mimi and Grandpa, and stayed with some old friends who were fantastic hosts/fellow racers/support crew.  We got up around 5 the following morning and made the drive out to Livermore.  The water was a really nice 71 degrees, the sun was out…pretty ideal.

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My strategy was to go out really, really easy and hang on.  Because I was terrified of not finishing.

The course was 4 x 2,500m loop around a lake.

So I went out easy.  Like, suuuuuuper easy.  For the first 7.5K.  That is a very long time to swim easy.  Fortunately I had this song to keep me company:

The. whole. time.

My splits:

Lap 1: 39+ min
Lap 2: 42+ min
Lap 3: 41+min
Lap 4: 41+min

With about a 30 second break between loops 2 + 3, and 3 + 4 (I just swam by the aid station after the first lap, didn’t need a break).

Total time: 2:44:xx

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Strategy made for a boring race, but it worked!  I broke 3 hours, didn’t faceplant running up the ramp (which I was nervous about), and came out honestly feeling fine.  I thought I could have gone further (though in retrospect, I felt like I picked it up at the end, when in reality it looks like I just held steady).

Aside from a foot/leg cramp towards the end of lap 3 that I thought was going to be the end of my race, but somehow miraculously disappeared, there was little to no excitement.  I spent a lot of lap 2 worrying about a turtle biting me.

IMG_20150625_150348time for beer

I finished not sore, surprisingly not too exhausted, and feeling like I need to do another 10K to see if I can actually race it.  …then proceeded to not swim for what is now going on 2 weeks and promptly got out of shape.

And that was it!  Ready to rock Tahoe.

r-r-r-r-raaacesssss

March 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

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Finally.  FINALLY.  After 2 years of hardly anything, I’ve got a schedule happening for 2015.

So far it’s just water (I have some foot stuff going on, I’m going to go see a doctor about it soon, still hoping to sign up for a half or two in the fall, but for now no running.)

SO!

I realize this is backwards in terms of distance, going from the longest swim to the shortest, but what are you going to do.  Also, note that none of these are in the ocean (that’s really just coincidence.)

Time to start ramping up the yardage…

It’s been so long.  So happy to be back.

Brush with Great(white)ness: The Dwight Crum Pier to Pier Swim

August 4, 2014 § 7 Comments

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The night before the race it rained.  In August.  In LA.  What.

The morning of was cloudy, rainy, and super humid.  Fellow swimmer Vanessa picked me up at 6:30am.  Weather.com predicted “chance of storms” all morning.

Where sharks are normally the thing I like to freak myself out about before an ocean swim (especially in this case, given what happened off the MB pier last month), after living in Kentucky I also excel at panicking about weather.  And with the lightning incident in Venice last week and the humidity that high, I really started to stress out about a storm rolling in while we were out in the water, despite reassurances from the race director that they were “monitoring the situation”.  Because let’s be serious, beach guards might know how to deal with sharks, but nobody in LA understands weather.

IMG_20140803_131408pre-race registration.  the one picture i took the entire day

Before the race started the humidity mellowed out, and so did I.  By the time we hit the water I was feeling fine about everything on all fronts.

The start was way way way easier than I expected.  Not that crowded, no kicks to the face, no problem.

The water was super warm (almost 70), surprisingly clear given the fact it had been stormy, with a mild swell. Nothing crazy.  I could see shadowy patches of seaweed along the bottom, but other than that no sea life.  It was pretty pleasant, and I just decided to cruise along, avoid any big groups of male swimmers (who had gone off in the first wave, 5 minutes before us), zone out, and do my thing.

And that’s exactly what I did.  I zoned out to some music in my head for about 30 minutes and just kept swimming.

As the pier got closer, I realized that I hadn’t seen anyone from the women’s heat in a really long time (we were all wearing the same color cap) and that I had been swimming pretty much by myself for probably 10 minutes.  I guessed that the really fast women were in front of me and that the big pack was probably behind me.  And I was by my lonesome in the middle. I did a little calculating and figured if I could keep sighting fine and swim straight I would be done in about 10-15 minutes.  I was pretty happy to not be in the middle of a mass of agro dudes, but the thought did flitter through my mind that it might be nice to be a little bit closer to someone else for safety.  But whatever, I was almost there.

That’s when I saw the shark.

I grew up near the ocean, I surf, and I’ve done tons of ocean swims.  I’ve freaked myself out plenty of times touching seaweed and having seals or dolphins pop up next to me, but I’ve never seen a shark.  This was not a “dark shadow”, it wasn’t like “maybe a dolphin”, the water was really clear, I had clear goggles on, and it was very, very clearly a great white shark.  Not a super huge one, probably only 7 or 8 feet…but really, in a situation like this, does that matter?

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This is one of those moments in life, one that you’ve thought about, like, “Hmmm, I wonder what I would do if I was in the middle of the ocean and suddenly I saw a great white shark.”

Well, predictably, first I pooped my speedo.*

Then, in a surprising second move, I popped my head out of the water and, trying to keep cool (NOT something I would have guessed to be a priority at a time like this), said to the guards on paddle boards a little ways away, “UUUH….UUUMMMMMM…UUUUUUUHHHH…THERE’S A SHARK.  THERE’S A SHARK LIKE RIGHTHERE.  IT’S SWIMMING THAT WAY.”

There were a few things that made this way less freaky than it could have been.  First: even though it was only maybe 10 feet from me (yes, that close), by the time I saw it, the shark was swimming away from me, not toward me (holy shit thank god).  Second: the shark seemed calm and not at all interested in me.  Third: though I was in big open space with no other swimmers around, there were guards on paddle boards all over the place…one of whom came paddling up to me, told me he couldn’t see the shark, and that I was “doing great, just keep swimming!”

I stopped and looked at him like, “How about I push you off your board and YOU ‘just keep swimming’?”  I don’t know what I thought the alternative was, but at that point I couldn’t care less about the race and did NOT want to put my head back in the water and come face to face with anything toothy.  I wanted second-by-second updates from the paddle board that the shark FOR SURE wasn’t coming back to eat me.

efab6612820cd6fcade8ed4f511d8582this is basically what i saw. this clear. that is not kelp.  via.

I’d like to stick a disclaimer in here that logically yes, I know the shark was “probably more scared of me than I was of it” (umm…false), and that sharks don’t eat people intentionally, and that it was just roaming its natural habitat and wanted nothing to do with me, etc etc.  But logic doesn’t always rule in these situations.

The guard said he would paddle with me until I hit the pier and keep an eye out, which I really, really appreciated and gave me a nice false sense of security.  He was so calm and nonchalant about it that after about five minutes of me swimming with my head up so I could talk to him and make sure he still couldn’t see the shark I was like, oh….maybe I’m being a little too dramatic.  At one point I actually think I apologized to him for “being such a wimp”.

Anyway, I (obviously) survived and made it to shore.

IMG_20140803_164050my hammerhead greeting party!  …and me looking rough
(and, as my sister would say, “what a cute little boy!”  we probably should put some bows on her or something, or at least dress her in not-grey)

The guard left me as I rounded the pier.  By the time I hit land I was a little bit shaky from my brush with nature, so no big dramatic sprint up to the finish line.  I remember seeing the clock at 54:xx as I was coming out of the water and being mildly  bummed that I didn’t have it in me to sprint and squeak in under 50 (as the second wave, we left 5 minutes after the official clock started).

Official time: 50:15.  First in my age group, whattup. Thanks, shark friend.  (But two 13 year olds beat me, along with a 50 year old, so…yeah.)

Most of the field was still out in the water when I came in, and I didn’t want to freak people out by running up onto the beach screaming SHARK!  SHARK!   But I couldn’t wait to tell SOMEONE, so Paul got an earful when I found him.  And when Vanessa got out of the water I immediately told her.  Because seriously.

So there it is, the story of how I convinced all of my non-swimming friends to never, ever do an open water swim with me.

Happy Shark Week.

*This was a figurative poo. Sorry folks.

Trans Tahoe

July 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

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6 swimmers.  one boat.  11 miles across lake tahoe.

i love this event so much.

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even the ride in is beautiful (ignoring the 3 hours of traffic you inevitably hit in sactown when you leave SF at 3:30 on a friday).

This swim is a little bit different than running relays I’ve done in the past in that each leg swims for a set amount of time (in this case, 30 minutes) as opposed to a distance.  And you continue to rotate until you hit the finish line.  Simple, and kind of beautiful in the fact that nobody can really tell how fast you’re going (unless you really gain or lose ground to another nearby boat, though the lake is to big and people get pretty spread out that it’s not usually like a neck-in-neck race until the end.)

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proper nutrition. key for peak performance. oh 21st amendment, how i missed you.

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6am boat pickup

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early ride to the starting line

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the starting line, sand harbor state park

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waiting for our first swimmer

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go time.

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one of the many exchanges

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we finished in 4 hours 10 minutes(ish).  then we got to hang out in this for a while.

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seriously.  the water was just incredible.

it’s good to be back.

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Twice the fun

November 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

IMG_20131106_112028I went for my run a little later than usual this morning, and the crossing guards for the local elementary schools were out.  They guarded me when I was crossing, which I thought was hilarious (because I’m not 3 feet tall) but also made my day.  It’s the little things.

The trees are out in full force.

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And leaves rain down on you.

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Paul is interviewing for residencies right now, and there’s a chance we’ll be back out in CA next year.  I think about that on these runs.  If we do move, I will miss running here this time of year.  A lot.

IMG_20131106_111259Speaking of running in the bluegrass, Margaret just sent me an email and let me know that she has registered…

Run the Bluegrass

…for Run the Bluegrass at the end of March!  Guess that means two races for me this spring.  I AM SO EXCITED!

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