TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back In The Vest

Today, I put back on my vest.  With 64 fluid ounces of water, a few gels, my camera, phone, tissues, Nuun tablets and more, it felt heavy on my back. About a mile in, my good ole’ vest felt just like normal.  And I was back to normal, hocking loogies off the trail.  What is going on with me? 

This morning the weather was hot, the skies blue.  I decided to run a clockwise loop up Meadows at Aliso/Wood Canyons.  Why Meadows?  Because now (ha, ha) I consider that a “runnable” trail (see elevation profile below and perhaps you will laugh too.)  I took in one gel when I reached the top of Meadows Trail and kept on going, admiring the ocean view on the run. 

The view running up Meadows:

Whew!  Made it to the top of Meadows Trail:

The weather so warm, I didn’t see many runners out today.  They probably made an early morning run of it. But I came across plenty of hikers and bikers, especially at Top of the World.  There, I watched a group of three ladies with backpacks and water (good girls) studying the kiosk map, exclaiming how they didn’t want to get lost.  Then I watched as they hiked up a dead-end trail.  I watched them hike back down as I ran Park Avenue Nature Trail to Westridge.   It’s funny how I’ve lost perspective on getting lost at Aliso/Wood Canyons.  The trail system makes perfect sense to me (now).  There’s absolutely NO POSSIBLE WAY to get lost.  (A sign I’ve run these trails at least one too many times – that’s a good thing.)

Another summit – Top of the World:

Lovely, dainty pink flowers on a Westridge detour:

So, I ran down Cholla Trail back into the Canyon with pretty decent time, especially after feeling so sluggish at the start.  I thought, heck, kick it in a little and try for a negative split.  Of course, I didn’t have the elevation gain on the second half of this run.  All the more reason to go for a negative split.  Smile

I watched my garmin periodically, and that helped me pick up my pace when I slowed.  Cool breezes blew through the canyon.  Bikers made their way through, smiling.  I concentrated on keeping my speed faster than I wanted to run (not an all out sprint of course).  And as I ran, I noticed dozens of snake tracks across the width of Wood Canyon Trail.  I would have loved to have seen the actual critters so that I could snap a photo.  But I never actually saw the culprits.  Instead, I found myself flying (yes flying!) through the air.  I didn’t even feel the trip that my foot made over something like a rock or root.  Usually, my foot feels something, I know I’m going to trip and I can save the fall. 

Not this time.

Nope, I found myself, completely unexpectedly flying through the air.  And though only a moment passes during the time you realize you’re falling and when you land, I knew this was not going to be one of my ballerina falls.  A ballerina fall is that fall where the impact spreads evenly, I roll over my right shoulder, bounce back up and continue running. 

Instead what happened was this:  First my left knee crashed to the dirt.  Then my right knee hit, but not as hard, as my right elbow skidded along the trail, my momentum still moving forward.  Then my left wrist/palm made impact, soon after my right wrist/palm followed.  That’s when I rolled.  Yup, when it was all over, I rolled over my right shoulder to lay on my back, actually my vest back. 

I got up quickly, noticed some blood on my right elbow and left knee, and redness on all the other impact spots.  Covered in dusty dirt, I sat at the side of the trail and looked about to see if anyone witnessed my little air dance.  I was alone in the canyon. 

After a couple seconds, I stood back up and continued running.  I ran slowly at first with an aching knee and aching hands.  Within a couple miles I picked up my pace.  Even though I might have run quicker without the fall, I still made it into my truck running the second half of this run about 20 minutes quicker than the first half. 

Elevation Profile:  12.17 miles (19.59 km):My Activities Clockwise Meadows Cholla Loop 5-31-2012, Elevation - Distance

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Recovery–How It Went

Recovery was a strange, strange road this time around.  But then again, I never recovered from anything like this.  Sunday, the day Nanny Goat ended I drove home and went straight to bed (knee braces still on.)  I ached from fatigue.  A couple hours later, my husband drew a bath, woke me and insisted that I soak. 

Basically, Sunday and Monday, I slept and ate.  My feet only slightly swollen were still red.  My arms, the tops of my feet, all of my legs and my scalp itched.  That darn near drove me crazy.  I also felt stiff, but amazingly I experienced absolutely no pain while foam rolling.  My knees ceased causing pain by Monday.  And by Monday I could walk around just like normal – even up and down steps.  I felt so good Monday, I thought that I might run on Tuesday.

When Tuesday rolled around however, I still had sleeping to do.  I decided to reel in the calories however.  It was time.  After I got the boys off to school, I slept pretty much until noon when it was time to pick-up the boys (early-out day) and then get ready for work. 

Even with this napping, pretty much around the clock, I went to bed at a decent hour and slept all the way through the night, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. 

Today, Wednesday, I felt great!  Great enough for a run.  And so after getting the boys off to school, I drove home to do some chores and dressed for a trail run.  I was astonished how loose my shoes felt, how in fact comfy they felt.  If I didn’t know better, I was off to run in slippers!  I’m surprised how those 67 miles got me used to dirty, grimy, sweaty clothing and swollen feet shoved into my shoes.  I drove off to Wood Canyon DOWN-RIGHT GIDDY.

I found today’s run to Top of the World, ridiculously easy.  It was as if I had been wearing weights on my back until today.  When suddenly freed from the weights, I practically floated along the trails.  I found myself dancing to the tunes on my ipod as I ran along the ridge.  Sure I broke a sweat, quite a sweat running to Top of the World.  But it was a lovely, clean, fresh sweat.  LOL.  Yes, I’m acting silly.  Truth is, I feel like Nanny Goat changed my run.  It changed my perspective on distance.  It changed my perspective on my current abilities and gave me confidence that I can train for Twin Peaks. 

When I returned home, I drew a bath, and did ab work on the living room floor.  Just prepping – next week, the training begins. 

Bring it on. (With a smile of course!) :)

My Run Today:

Entering into Wood Canyon (wearing my Nanny Goat shirt):

A Detour off Westridge for a little more elevation:

Comfy feet Smile

View of Pacific Ocean from another Westridge Detour:

I found my ex-marine trail friend (A-Rod) on Park Avenue Nature Trail – we’ve been passing by each other on the trails for about three years now (I have him to thank for nasal breathing):

Top of the World:

Flowers at Top of the World that remind me of fried eggs:

Running back, along WestRidge with a view of Saddleback Mountains:

The Elevation Profile (which Twin Peaks will dwarf)My Activities Triple Park 5-30-2012, Elevation - Distance

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nanny Goat 2012

How do I blog about Nanny Goat, a 24 hour race, in just a few pages?  Yikes.  I’ll begin with the race specs.  Run for The Wounded Warrior Project, this race was basically how many miles you could run in 24 hours (beginning 8AM 5/26/12).  Runners could also begin at 8PM for the second 12 hour option.  If a runner made 86 miles by the 24 hour mark, he/she would be given four more hours to make 100 miles.  The course was a mile loop (not exactly elliptical) that brought us through a working ranch, past horses, through orange groves and ended with a run through a barn where our mile was recorded and projected on the wall.

Having never run more than 32 miles, I took on this race as an experiment, an experiment on what my mind and body would do when I ran past my maximum.  However, in the back of my mind, I hoped I could make that 86 miles to gain the extra four hours for 100 miles.  (I also really, really wanted to run an Old Goat race). 

I decided to drive out to Riverside the morning of the race instead of spending Friday night like many of the runners opted.  I watched photos pop up on Facebook a little jealous, as runners set up the night before.  I made a good decision though because I already spend too much time away from my family.  Waking rested at 4:30 AM, I was in my truck by 4:45 and headed east for the event of my life. 

When I arrived, I set up my spot alongside the barn – a small tent, with a sleeping bag, an ice chest with some of my favorite fluids, potato chips, lots and lots of Nuun tablets, changes of clothing and shoes, etc.  I met some of my running neighbors then set off to look for Steve and my running friends Judi and Matt. 

Pre-race, I mingled with numerous runners I’ve run with in other races.  Other runners, I’ve met on the trail.  A couple runners were running friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.  The pre-race atmosphere was exuberant, like a family reunion, a family reunion of down right crazies.

I left the garmin at home, as well as my vest, though I did pack a handheld.  And I buckled on my running belt to start the race – zipped inside, my phone, camera and lip balm. 

 Amped and ready to go with Judy & Matt W.:

Me & Hwa Ja (whom ironically I met with Judi & Matt while running Harding Truck Trail):

Race Director Steve Harvey gives race directions before herding us into the barn:

Runners listening very, very carefully to race directions:

Me listening very, very carefully to race directions:

And we we off.  The mile was mostly trail, some dirt, some grass.  There was an asphalt portion with dirt on both sides that the trail runners like myself chose to run.  We ran past chickens and colorful roosters.  There were too many dogs to count (lots of border collies, all friendly) and also lovely horses.  My favorite part was running through the shady orange trees.  Within five miles, I took off that running belt and threw it in my tent. 

At times the loop seemed extremely short.  Other times it felt quite long.  I learned quickly where the gopher holes were, and also where the giant ice-chest filled with bottles of water was located.  I took that bottled water frequently and dissolved a Nuun tablet into it.  I phoned home occasionally.  I chatted with old friends and new friends, learned the names of familiar faces.  I after all, saw the same people over and over and over again. 

Lucinda (Lucy) J. carries the U.S. flag the whole race, as she does in every race I’ve seen her run (She has amazing strength):

Running out of the barn:

Twenty miles came and went with cool breezes and no pain.  My hamstrings were a bit tight, which is unusual for me.  I thought the culprit may have been the flat terrain.  26 miles came and went like the easiest marathon I’ve ever run.  Mind you, I was pacing myself – I had lots and lots of miles to go.  By about mile 30 congestion was building and I began hocking loogies to get that phlegm out.  But alas, it would stay with me for the remainder of the race.  After hocking quite a few in a row, I turned around to discover three guys running right behind me.  Being raised a “lady” Smile I apologized for my vulgarity.  The guys laughed and one of them said, “This is Nanny Goat, it’s what we do.”  I chuckled and replied, “I didn’t even learn to do that until I was a runner.”  The guys laughed harder.  Though fatigue was setting in, most everyone still held themselves together.  Actually, it was great group, even when suffering terribly.

And then, AND THEN I changed my socks.  My feet were blackened from dirt.  I didn’t wash them because didn’t want to waste time.  I simply squeezed into the clean socks (yes, my socks seemed too small) .  You would not believe how these socks put new life into my feet.  I have never before felt how good a clean pair of socks could feel.  Who knew?  When I came upon Judi and Matt again, I ran over to them, “Have you changed your socks????”  They smiled wide and said with great relief, “Yes!!!!”  No explanation needed.

The Nanny Goat Loop:


I don’t know when I stopped to take in a burger fresh off the grill.  It was well before mile 32.  I had been taking in calories all along.  I train taking in calories.  I had already seen a couple runners vomit during this race.  I wasn’t sure how I would react after eating such a solid item.  I certainly have never eaten beef while training.  I have to say that it was probably the best burger I’ve ever tasted.  (And it was cooked by my running friend, Rob W.) 

I walked to my tent eating my burger with cheese and mustard and finished it off sitting in the chair Judi and Matt lent me.  I was back on the trail quickly with a handful of potato chips and also my handheld full of water and a dissolved Nuun tablet.  I decided to walk that first mile after the burger.  Ends up my stomach did just fine.  In fact, I think it gave me more energy.

I continued on running, running through the barn.  Runners were still laughing and smiling.  We were feeling it though.  The 8PM starters were arriving and my muscles were tightening.  I stopped to foam roll and headed back on the trail.  And I ran again and again through that barn.  Steve Harvey put his talking stuffed goat up to his megaphone for some extra entertainment.  There were “The Dudes in Pink” who were recording their laps, as well as beers, on a big whiteboard!  My friend Rob, who is an extremely amazing ultra-runner was super supportive every time I ran through the barn.  As an added surprise, I saw an old trail running friend, David C.  (not old as in age) getting ready for the 8PM start. I don’t believe I have seen him since the Saddleback Marathon 2010. 

Smiles from Rod W. as I ran through the barn once again: 

Starting to “feel” it":

Mile 32 came and went with a little “yippee” from me to celebrate the longest I’ve ever run.  By mile 40, my knees ached terribly.  I stopped alongside the horses to stretch when a border collie approached me.  He stood at my side, his fur touching my leg as I stretched my hamstrings, quads, IT band and calves. 

As I finished stretching the collie ran off to a man who seemed to be struggling as he shuffled along the loop.  By now, it was growing dark.  I took in dinner, fresh off the grill – a tiny piece of tri-tip and a good portion of rice.  Though the beef tasted good, I felt that I might choke swallowing it, so I was sure to chew and chew and chew. 

Miles 41 and 42 were excruciatingly painful for me.  I had absolutely no strength, which was frustrating, because I still had my mind.  I stopped  to ask Rob how to get my strength back.  He suggested food, fluids and rest.  He fetched me a cup of rice and a fork.  I ate that rice sitting in my chair outside of my tent.  Then I crawled inside changed into some night running clothes, found my headlamp and put a knee brace on each leg.  Then I phoned my husband and said these agonizing words, “I can’t run any more.”

“Yes you can,” he said.  “This is what you do!  At your weakest is when you become stronger!” 

I groaned in pain into the phone.  “I can’t,” I said.

“You have the amazing ability to keep on running,” he said.  “Just run one more mile.  Just one.” 

I agreed to a twenty minute rest and tried to sleep.  But I couldn’t sleep.  My knees ached terribly.  Kids laughed and shouted around my tent.  And I could hear cheers and shouts every time a runner stopped and accepted his/her finisher award.  After twenty minutes hubby called to “wake” me, I filled my handheld with V-8 berry blend, and managed to crawl back out of the tent and get myself on the course. 

Ready to run again after crawling out of my tent:

The sun completely down, I ran alongside runners who were draining and runners who had just begun the race.  Steve was surprised to see me in the barn again and exclaimed, “Where have you been?”  I replied, “Well, you said ‘No whining,’ so I went into my tent to do some whining in private.”

By then I had completed my fourth mile after telling my husband I would run one more mile.

My newfound energy did not last long.  As I ran into the barn to record mile 51, I told Rob W. and Christine B. that I couldn’t go on anymore.  “But you look so fresh!”  I knew they were pulling my leg.  Even though they insisted, I ran through the barn straight to my tent.  I groaned making my way back inside.  I phoned my husband at 11:30 pm.  Growing a bit delirious from muscle pain I told him that I was done.  I was going to call it and collect my finisher’s medal at mile 51.  He reminded me about my so-called “amazing ability,” which I didn’t buy for a second.  But he was uplifting nonetheless.  He convinced me to take a nap then at 2:30 AM get up and collect my medal.

I put on a fleece long sleeve over my pink long-sleeved shirt and PAINSTAKINGLY crawled into my sleeping bag.  I could actually hear a few other runners groaning in their tents.  I felt so cold, my teeth chattered.  Stupidly, I didn’t take any pain relievers as I attempted to doze off.  I thought the knee pain would never let me sleep, especially with the occasional loud cheers that came from the barn when a runner received his/her finisher medal. 

2:30 AM my phone alarm rang out.  Like a zombie, I put my shoes and headlamp back on and crawled out of that tent.  I staggered back onto the course along with the other zombies.  I saw Lucy – she wasn’t staggering, but she was suffering.  Everyone was suffering.  I saw Rachel S., a lovely little lady, STILL RUNNING.  I saw my friend Dave C.  I also saw moving wiggly lines on the ground, and was barely able to walk a straight line.  The field had thinned out greatly, a lot of runners that I had seen for many hours were not on the course.

My job at this point was to go through recovery on the trail.  How did I do that?  I walked!  I got faster and my knees amazingly grew stronger each mile.  I took in fluids, but few calories.  I could see my breath in the dark, but nothing much more than headlamps.  Race director Steve greeted me in the barn with enthusiasm.  “Back from the dead,” he said.  “One good thing about me,” I responded, “I’m hard to kill.”  And I kept on going, wishing for, yearning for, the sun.  As I ran in the dark, no one in front of me, I felt so alone, kind of pathetic.  Then I made the turnaround and saw the glow of dozens of headlamps headed toward me.  I nearly cried. 

The roosters called out before the sun even hinted of showing.  I remember at one point stopping with several other runners to check out 4 or 5 roosters up in a tree.  We all chuckled unaware that roosters went up in trees (city girls!).  At the end of my 5th mile back on the course I began running. 

And then I heard this song on my ipod (Thanks Lumberjack) (Another note:  the female vocalist reminds me so much of Annie Harvey): 

When this song was over, I hit the back button and played it again.  And when it was finished once more, I hit the back button and played it once again, and I was “good to go” until the end of the race.

Head Lamps in the dark:

Running through the barn once again (Steve Harvey in the middle):

Freezing my butt off, wishing, hoping, anticipating the sun:

I have never felt the glory of the sun like I felt it on May 27, 2012.  I guess you can call me a “day person.”  It’s wonderful to be able to see clearly where you step, to see clearly the faces of people who pass you by.  Absolutely glorious! 

Running during sunrise:

I know people don’t like to say this about ultras – but by now, this race was certainly, what my friend Rob said, a “Suffer-fest.”  A few runners were crying.  There were a couple vomiting.  Many were limping, lots were groaning.  Others were staggering.  On the other side of the coin, many runners were going strong.  Lots were also smiling, though not like before.

About 5:00 AM, I finally decided to take some ibuprofen.  I took three and continued on to run until 8:00 AM completing a total of 67 miles.  This was my first 50 miler and my first 100k!  I am not disappointed that I didn’t make the 86 miles to earn the extra time.  I’m more happy that I didn’t crack up mentally.  I fueled well with no vomiting or stomach problems.  I didn’t even deal with cramping. 

What I did deal with afterward was this:  swollen red feet (but no blisters) and very painful knees.

Running the last few miles, David C. still going strong:

If you EVER get the chance to run this race, DO IT!  The ranch owners are wonderful to lend 200 or so runners their ranch.  And race directors Annie and Steve Harvey are great.  They take care of their runners with enthusiasm, good food and anything else we need.  They know when to “call” it for a runner and when to let him/her go onward.  They have great volunteers and an amazing cast of participants.  Though I suffered some, I couldn’t be happier over my results.  I got up and ran again after thinking I was done.  Sure, lots of runners finished 100 miles and they deserve the glory for doing that.  As do all the runners who lined up at that start line for such a daunting task. 

See, it wasn’t that bad.  I’m still smiling back at my tent after 67 miles completed (photo compliments Matt & Judi W.):464410_3294174468812_96179819_o

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Everyone Needs a Miserable Run Once in a While

I set off late this morning looking forward to a 13.5 mile run.  The weather was again cool and gray, and yes, wet.  No rain, just wet, thick air.  Aliso/Wood Canyons was crowded with runners and hikers and mountain bikers.  I think most people like this kind of weather for their activity.  I’m not too keen on humidity.  Though it was cool out, it was hot. 

My cough was minimal, my nose ran, and I was still congested.  Still, I anticipated a good run.  Very quickly into the run however (just 1.5 miles), I needed to get the long sleeve shirt off.

A quick pose at the ranger station:

I was slow and sluggish making my way to Wood Canyon.  My pace lethargic, I began thinking about the term, “junk miles.”  I’ve heard and read the term on many occasions, but never put much thought into it.  Junk food is food with so-called “empty” calories – in other words, nothing good for the body.  If I were to think about junk miles in the same way, the term “junk miles,” doesn’t make sense.  I mean, isn’t running any type of miles better than sitting?  Running was always difficult for me.  Even though I have good runs, sometimes, seemingly “easy” runs, they are NEVER really “easy.”  Miles are always a chore for me, my effort is never “junk.”  In fact, when I first began running and people asked me why I ran, one of my pet answers was, “Because of the last step.”  Using another person’s words (I don’t recall where I read this):  “Why do you keep hitting yourself with that hammer?  Because it feels so good to stop.”

Running Mentally Sensitive Trail contemplating “Junk Miles”:

Well!  I was beginning to think this morning that I may have stumbled on “junk” miles.  I could hardly put forth any effort.  I was slow and tired quickly and found nasal breathing very difficult with a runny nose.  Then I went and did the stupid thing and climbed Mentally Sensitive.  That about took everything that I had.  I slid back some in the dirt.  I used my hands to push off from my thighs.  It was awful.  Truly awful.  The air thick, my shirt was drenched.  And before I even made it to the top, I decided to shorten today’s loop.  I didn’t feel good about myself.  But I knew that this would pass – not today.  Today I was set for a miserable run and that was that.  I merely had to get through it and run again another day.

Climbing Mentally Sensitive:

I thought to myself, “First chance I get to run back down to the canyon for a shorter loop, I’m taking it.”  Turns out, the first chance is down Meadows Trail, resulting in a 7 mile loop.  I would not have minded a 7 mile run.  Problem was, there’s a funny little thing about me.  When I reach a ridgeline, I GOTTA SUMMIT.  Therefore, I found no logical reason NOT to run to Top of the World, then run down to the canyon first chance I got, still cutting my original loop short.  No logical reason, except for the fact that I could barely lift my feet.  Up hills were a tremendous chore.  I was in near-agony.  Yet I ran that MISERABLE ridgeline onward to Top of the World.

There!  I summited:

I ran West Ridge to the first opportunity I had to run down to Wood Canyon.  That trail was Mathis.  And it was muggy, and I was slow.  And I found it extremely difficult to pick up my pace even a little.  Still I ran on, convinced by then, that even though I felt I could barely run these miles, they definitely were not junk miles.  If I could continue running feeling so dull and draggy, then I was putting forth a great deal of effort.

In all I ran a little over 10 miles this morning.  And I entered my truck without a smile on my face. 

Running down Mathis Trail:

I got to thinking on my drive home how it’s these miserable runs that really make me as a runner.  It’s the miserable runs that I learn most from.  It’s the miserable runs that I remember more fondly than the “easy” runs.  The first time I ran the Calico 30k (my first long distance trail race), I crossed the finish line with bloody knees and tiny pebbles embedded in my arms.  I felt like vomiting for at least an hour.  At that point, I had never had a more miserable run.  The third time I ran Calico, I crossed the finish line with my best time, feeling strong.  I placed third in my category and went about the day feeling lively.  Which race do I look back on more fondly?  The one full of misery.  Why?  Because I conquered.  I made it through the torture.

Though today’s run was not exactly torture, it was dang well near.  It certainly was miserable! 

Oh the glory. : ) 

California Poppies at the bottom of Mathis Trail:

The miserable profile:My Activities Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-23-2012, Elevation - Distance

The miserable satellite:My Activities Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-23-2012