Ohlone 50k

Welcome to the other side of the table! Last year, I volunteered for this race. My friends thought I was crazy, because to get to the aid station where I was, you had to run 10 miles, work, and then run 10 back. Well they really think I am crazy now.

This is not an easy race. With an elevation gain of almost 8000 feet and an average day time temperature of about 90 degrees, it is not for the faint of heart.


I arrived at the finish line around 6 am. From there, you take a school bus (with your knees in your face the whole time) to the start line, which is in the Mission Peak Regional Preserve near Fremont, CA. I did the usual: got my bib, #64, used the potty (there were 5 of them and with only 200 racers, this made for a not too long line), and got my music ready. My plan was to have the music in one ear because it's fun to be a part of the course and when you are on smaller trails, you need to be able to hear other people coming up behind you. I had made a new playlist just for the race; it was 6.5 hours long. I was really hoping it wouldn't take me any longer than that to finish this race. I had taken a look at last years times and the top man was just under 5 hours and the top woman was just under 6.

The first part, as you can see from the above elevation chart, was straight up. From about 500 feet to about 2500 feet, to the top of Mission peak. The trail was full of day hikers, huffing and puffing their way up, wearing sweatpants and street shoes and carrying big cameras. We power hiked by them, causing puffs of dust to go everywhere. Did I mention yet that this trail was dusty?

mission peak
Heading up to Mission Peak

I am usually stronger on the uphill than I am on the downs, and this day was no different. I passed a lot of people on the first stretch uphill. Then we were flying back down and people were passing me. The section after Mission peak was a difficult downhill for a bit, as it was quite rocky and there were still a lot of hikers, so trying to avoid them and the rocks without falling was challenging.

I carried my Nathan 2L bladder and boy was I glad I did. I was swilling water like it was going out of style. I had also brought two squeeze baby food / applesauce packets with me and I had one right around the top of Mission peak because by this time I was already hungry! That's what happens when you eat breakfast at 4:30 am and then don't start racing until 8 am.

As I ran down a not so steep part of the hill right after the first aid station, I started joking with the guy next to me about how I thought the rest of the course was just like this...a gradual downhill. Ha! Just kidding! It turns out, he is from a town very close to where my parents live, so we had a good time running and talking for the next couple of miles. As the course went on, we were constantly playing leapfrog and cheering each other on. 

We arrived at the second aid station, which sits at about 700 feet. I grabbed a potato and a banana and a swig of Gu brew and headed back out, and up! For the next 10 miles, it was all uphill, I swear! I was glad to see the Goat Rock aid station, where they had BACON! I also applied some Vaseline and sunscreen and helped myself to more potatoes and salt. I read an article somewhere which said you should eat what appeals to you...potatoes and salt and fruit are what I always want!

The thing (one of them) that I like about ultra racing is the little conversations you have with people along the way. As we climbed up from 700 feet to 3700 feet, we talked to everyone we passed, or who passed us.  I didn't know any of these people, but you always have something to say! People were cheering me on when I passed them and the conversations were easy as pie.

Another thing I noticed at this point was the gender difference. Not counting the very beginning where everyone is kind of finding their groove and everyone is passing each other, I only passed four women the whole race, and only two women passed me. The whole time, I was running with men, and was sometimes even passing them. Don't worry; plenty of them passed me too! I even took off my headphone around mile 2 and didn't even listen to music! I thought I would save it for the end when I needed a little pick me up.

Right before we got to Maggies, which is the "top of the hill" aid station that I volunteered at last year, we had to go up to the top of Rose Peak, which at 3,817 feet is the second tallest mountain in the East Bay. When you get to the top, you get a bracelet to prove you really went there and didn't just skip it. Then it was off to Maggies to say hi to my volunteer buddies from last year (the Boy scouts) and to refill the water bladder and eat some strawberries (BEST racing food EVER)! After that, it was supposed to be "all downhill from here" but as you can see from the chart, it was mostly downhill with a lot of uphills thrown in!

I can't remember if the worst part was right after Stewart's Camp or right after Schlieper rock, but one of those steep downhills was a tiny little single track trail that was very steep and rocky and hot and covered with poison oak. I was not loving it. In fact, it was at this point that I turned my music back on for a while and it was nice to have something to distract me from the brutal (down)hills! After the single track and the last aid station (and a swig of cold coke!), it was steep downhill to the end. Already a bunch of people had passed me on the downhills and by this point my knees were starting to wonder when it was going to be over. Actually, I think I heard them praying.

I hobbled ran down the last hill and I have to say, I have never been so happy to see a parking lot (and the finish line) than I was that day. I crossed the finish line, got a hug from the race director (such great service!) and collected my trophy for the day (a wooden block).

I ended up being the 6th woman overall, coming in at 6:31, which was about a half an hour after the fastest woman and about an hour and a half after the fastest man. Plus I got first in my age group! Except it's a little confusing the way they do it; the first three women get their own prize, so they get taken out of the age group awards. So technically I was the second in my age group, but whatever!

Ohlone 50k
The shirt had a tribute to Boston on it!

Some interesting stats: In the top 10 people (all men), one was in his 20s, two were in their 30s, three were in their 50s and four were in their 40s. This is not a young guy sport! The same goes for the women! The top woman was 48. The next four women were three in their 40s and one in her 30s.

Edited to add: If you love race reports, it's pretty interesting to read the reports of the  first, second and fifth place runners. They run as fast as 6 minute miles part of the way! They are pretty impressive! 

Afterward there was a picnic and I hung out for quite some time, eating hamburgers and cold watermelon and chatting with the people who had passed me on the trail.  Then I headed home, took a much needed shower and passed out around 8 pm.

What's your favorite food to eat on a hot day?  Have you ever received race paraphernalia that was little different from the norm? Do you like hiking to the tops of high peaks in your area?


Cinderella Trail Half

I ran this race last year. It was hard last year. I remember feeling fatigued and thinking that it was probably because I didn't eat enough breakfast. I have come a long way since then. Running takes a lot of training, a lot of practice, and a lot of learning the hard way. You can easily under-train or over-train or overexert yourself the day before a race or eat too much or not eat enough...there are so many factors that go into race day.

So it was a perfect race this time.

I am kidding.

This race was Broski's first 30k. He has run 17.5 miles and was excited about the extra .5 miles (super excited). We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal about 45 minutes before the race and then we headed up the hill to the start.

Like last time, the first 2 miles are about a 500 foot climb. Broski and I huffed and puffed up the hill until you get to a kind of flat spot. After that there is a pretty steep downhill, and then a really steep uphill. These are hard. Really hard. Just when you think that you are feeling alright, another uphill comes up.

Broski was having trouble. Here I was, running along, talking some nonsense to him about the last time I took someone hiking on this trail and she was complaining about the hills...and I was giggling and jabbering away and I look back and he's not behind me. Oops.

We tried to figure out why as the trail leveled out and it wasn't getting any easier for him. Breakfast? Check. Maybe too soon before running? He had a 10 miler on Tuesday, but that was far enough away that he should have been fine. He gardened the day before in the hot sun...maybe he didn't have enough water? He had a couple low weeks, mileage wise...maybe not enough training? Whatever it was, it reminded me of my first Cinderella experience. Maybe this course was just hard!

Then we went way downhill and there was Mecca, aka an aid station. We refueled with some fruit and water and then came the big one Elizabeth. The next two miles were a 1000 foot climb. And it's brutal, with a capital B. Brutal. Our pace at this point was 15 - 16 minute miles. I was starving, since by this time we were at about the 2 hour mark.

Cinderella trail race
Climbing the hill (with Broski in the background)

Luckily, once we got to the top of that big hill, it was almost "all down hill from here". We cruised down the hill and man were we glad to see the Finish line. Unfortunately, we did not finish a 30k race that day; since it was a loop course, with one half marathon loop and then another 10k loop tacked on to make 30k, we decided to skip the 10k loop, thus making it a half marathon instead.

The verdict? We finished in 2:44. We got #43 and #44 out of 104. As Broski says, that's not bad for a race that he wasn't feeling his best. If we would have kept going for the 30k, we probably could have finished in about 3:47, which would have put us in around #13 out of 30. So, after all that, it wasn't even that bad really. Still in the top 50 percent.

Like I said to Broski, I like being outside, and the trails we ran are some of my favorites, so it was no sacrifice on my part to be out on the trails with my favorite brother on a beautiful Saturday morning. He was bummed that he didn't finish his first 30k. However, he is not broken, just bent and he will yearn to run again.

Sorry. I can't get that song out of my head.

Have you ever run the same race twice? If so, did it get any easier? Have you ever had to learn something the hard way?


I Will...

My goal is to train for, and eventually run, a 50 mile race. When I volunteered for the Miwok 100k, I was so inspired by the runners and motivated to to it someday myself! So why not start now? It will be quite a journey and I will need both words of encouragement and inspiration from others who have either done something similar themselves or who have had a challenging goal they are working toward, be it emotional or physical or both.

We all need a little help sometimes to reach our goals. One of the great things about the running community is how supportive it is. However, it never hurts to broaden your reach, so you can get inspiration and tips from even more people! That is why I am excited to be a part of the sponsored team of folks who are joining up with Fitfluential and Under Armour to compete in the What's Beautiful campaign. 

In this campaign, you can make a page where you declare what your goal is. This can be anything mental, physical, or both! There are a set of challenges you can complete in order to help you reach your goal.  For instance, one of my paths to my goal is to run a couple of 50k races to prepare myself for a longer race. You post pictures of your progress and people can follow along, cheer you on, or make comments.

There are also teams so you can join in with like minded people. So far, I started one where we all just try to run one mile at a time and together we can run thousands of miles. It's called Team Ultra. There are also teams for clean eating, trying new fitness moves, and not using disposable water bottles. I am sure there is a team that you would like too.

You can sign up too! What goal do you have that you need encouragement and support for? If you sign up, be sure to let me know so I can follow along with your progress!

What is a current goal that you have? It can be anything: fitness, life, work, pleasure or mental health related.


So Long Sugar

Last week I decided to join up with Laura in a sugar detox, where we would remove all processed foods and sugars from our diet for one week. I mentioned before how I am not really a sweets person, so things like soda or dessert would not be an issue for me. However, it was kind of fun to see what there was in my life that I did miss.

I think I mentioned in my last post that I would have a hard time with coffee and morning oatmeal, since I do use a bit of Splenda in both (or for coffee I use flavored creamer). These were not as bad as I thought they would be. Actually, I put a little unsweetened applesauce (or extra fruit) in my oatmeal and I was good to go! For coffee, I just used whole milk and it turned out fine as well!

The other thing I thought would be difficult was running fuel. I had a race on Saturday and it turned out okay, food-wise. I had some oranges, some bananas and some potatoes with salt. If the race would have been longer, the no-sugar may have been an issue, but as it was, it turned out fine! I did kind of miss the gummy bears, as these are my go-to trail race fuel!

I was worried that evening time would be difficult, as that is when I usually have a nice little after dinner snack, which is usually dried fruit or trail mix. Unfortunately, most dried packaged fruit has added sugar, and my trail mix has mixers such as yogurt chips, dried fruit (again, with sugar) or chocolate chips. So I thought I would just eat plain almonds, but actually I made do with regular fruit instead.

So...what WAS harder than I thought?

1. Booze: I actually had a huge fail due to the fact that I went out on Wednesday to see a friend's band play and had a couple of beers, on Friday for happy hour for a couple glasses of wine and on Saturday to a music festival (and a few more beers). I kind of sound like a lush! To be honest I don't really drink very much usually and most weeks not at all, but this week was probably a bad one to quit sugar! However, since I am usually pretty much of a hermit, I don't feel bad about getting out for a change and having a few drinks!

2. The small things: Things like gum and vitamins (I use the gummy ones) were something that I did not even realize I used very much. However, gum is my cigarette; I have it after lunch, before I start my commute home and often during a run (okay maybe that's not really like a cigarette...). It's such a habit to always have a piece at the ready. I also chew it when I am craving a sweet, so it usually curbs my craving. So I did have even more fruit than normal this week!

3. Eating out / People cooking: I stopped being a vegetarian partially because I was tired of being THAT picky person. You know the one who comes to your house when you are cooking meat and you have to cook something special for them? So when I went to my friend's house for Mother's Day, I ate what was there, which was processed sausages, tomato pie, croissants etc (plus Birthday fruit tart!). Also, eating out, when  you can't control what goes into the dishes, can be difficult! I went to Thai food and got the chicken curry, which I think may have had peanut butter or sugar in the peanut sauce...but I am not sure!

So...how did this make me feel?

I have to be honest, I did not have a revelation and a feeling of supreme health. I felt the same as I always do. Maybe this is because I don't really eat that much sugar or processed food anyway, so it wasn't a huge change really. I probably snacked less after dinner, which is good, but I made up for it by eating about 5 extra pieces of fruit in order to feel like I was getting a bit of sugar after lunch (one day I ate 4 apples). I think I will have to try this again on a week where I don't have any social outings coming up!

Did you join up for the detox? Have you ever given up one type of food? Is there anything you feel you could probably cut back on food-wise?


Beer, Bikes and Busted Plans

{1} Why is it the week I decide to avoid sugar is the week that...I go out to dinner with my brother (which I only do about once a month), my friend's band is playing at a bar in my neighborhood, the ladies at work get together for happy hour, I am meeting a friend for a birthday dinner (two times eating out in one week!) and it's Mother's Day Brunch. When it rain's it pours, I guess.

{2} I went to see my friend's band on Wednesday and I rode my bike to the show. I am no bike expert, let me tell you. I barely know how to shift gears. Why does it always seem like every time I shift it gets harder? It never gets easier, I swear! Downshift, upshift...either way, it keeps getting harder. So I was riding the bike back home when I shifted and the chain fell off and got tangled up in the round thingy, which I googled, and found out it's called a cassette. I had to walk the rest of the way home.

{3} I was supposed to go to a music festival this weekend, but then my friend flaked out so we decided to sell our tickets and I made other plans with other people for the weekend. But then nobody wanted to buy them and I've been placing ads on Craigslist and dealing with a lot of flaky people and I am getting annoyed. This is why I don't change plans; it gets aggravating, scrambling around at the last minute trying to coordinate things, changing plans with everybody, not knowing what your actual plans will be, and losing money on top of all of it.

{4} My roommate got a dog. That's really all I have to say about that. No really, it's cute; it's a puppy; it pooped on the floor today. What else is there to say, really?

{5} I have this race tomorrow with Broski. It will be his first 30k and his longest run ever! By the way, I think he's finally come to terms with the fact that the trail "half marathons" are not always 13.1 miles.

What's going on in your life? Any fun plans for the weekend? Do you know anything about bikes?


Miwok 100k

For a minute there you thought I did a 100k this weekend, didn't you? Well, as much as I would love to say that I did, I did not. In fact, none of the people who ran this race did a 100k. Let me back up a bit. The Miwok 100k is a 62.2 mile trail race with over 12,000 feet of elevation gain. It is held in Marin County, in the Headlands, which are just north of San Francisco. It is a beautiful place to run and the race is world renowned.

rodeo beach
Rodeo Beach

Just a little *extra* Ultra info for you: one of the most widely known races is called the Western States 100 (mile) and it's held in Lake Tahoe. To get into the WSER, you have to qualify, just like Boston, so it's a big deal. To qualify, you have to run certain races within a certain time. For a 100km race, you have to finish within 15 hours to qualify. Then you have to enter the lottery and only a handful of people (369) are chosen to run the WSER.

rodeo beach
The Coastal Trail

On Saturday, I headed to the headlands very early in the morning to get a run in before helping man the Tennessee Valley aid station, which was supposed to be mile 36 and 48 for the runners. I ran a loop around the headlands that shows some of the many variations of flora in the area. There were Eucalyptus, grasslands, and brushy areas; there were views of the rolling hills, the city, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. I started off around 5 am, in the dark and so I got to see a beautiful sunset light up the sky just as I was nearing the top of a hill where I had a view of San Francisco.

coastal trail
San Francisco in the distance

THIS is why I run.

I got back to the aid station and got straight to work. However, I soon found out that the threat of fire had caused a red flag warning which had shut down parts of the race course, making it no longer a 100k, but roughly a 60k instead.

However, like ultra runners do, people remained in good spirits (even though this was going to mess up their chance to qualify for Western States). We were now mile 12 and 25. The first guys passed us in about 1:40. With my limited math skills, I still call that about an 8 minute mile. On the trails! These guys impress me so much. By the way, the first girl was not too far behind them!

Coastal Trail
Coastal Trail with coast view

I had a great time making sandwiches, cutting potatoes, filling bowls of peanut M&Ms,  handing out water and making sure people were doing okay; the camaraderie was unmatchable. There were even two random guys who had biked over with their Go Cam and jumped in to help volunteer for a couple of hours while they were waiting for their friend to pass by.

THIS is why I love the running community.

In longer races, the runners get crew and pacers. The crew are fun; they wait for the runner and then douse them with water, ice and sunscreen, jam a Gu in their mouth and hand them a new water bottle...and they're off! The pacers only get to run the last section with the runner, which would have been about 20 miles, but turned out to only be 12. Everyone there was energetic and supportive and having a good time. Even the runners I met who were dropping out were still positive about things.

Verdict? I would volunteer for this race again in a heartbeat. Also, maybe someday I will even run it!

Have you ever volunteered for anything? Did you learn anything from it? Would you be mad if your race was nearly cut in half on the morning of the race?


Pour Some Sugar on Me

I know you are singing this song now. Gotta love that hair.

I am not one of those people that eats or craves a lot of sugar. I prefer a nice salty snack over a sweet one most of the time. However, there are a few things I either eat that have added sugar, or that I add sugar to. When I say sugar, I mean honey, maple syrup, sugar, or any other form of sweetener.

Laura over at Mommy Run Fast is having a sugar detox challenge this week, which not only includes added sugars but processed foods as well. This does not include fruits or naturally sweet foods, thank goodness, because in that case I am not interested. We all know how much fruit I eat on a daily basis.

At first I thought that it wouldn't be very hard, as like I said, I am not a sugar person anyway and I usually eat pretty naturally already. But there are a few things that I have pinpointed that may be a little harder to give up than I think.

1. Coffee creamer: I love the vanilla flavored creamer. It's full of things I cannot pronounce. At work we have Coffeemate plain creamer, which is also full of weird things. I will be using either cream or nothing in my coffee this week.

2. Almond Milk: I am not a huge milk fan, but almond milk has "natural flavors" as one of the ingredients (among other things). Not so natural. However, even skim milk has some weird things floating around in it. So I am considering using regular milk or yogurt in my oatmeal this week to see how it goes.

3. Splenda: I confess; I use Splenda. Don't hate me. I use it both in my oatmeal and my coffee at work (where I don't have flavored creamer). I will sometimes use brown sugar or honey but either way, this week they are out. I always add fruit, but this week I may have to add a bit extra.

4. Sweet nuts: Sometimes when I DO have a little sugar craving, I go for some maple almonds, or cinnamon (and sugar) almonds, or my favorite, coconut (and sugar!) almonds. I will just stick to plain almonds for now (which is not a problem).

5. Running fuel: Gu and gels and chews are basically all just processed sugar. So for next weekend's trail race, I will be using dried fruit or baby food as my fuel. I have done this before and it has worked out great, but the dried fruit is a bit sticky.

6. Nutrition bars: I don't eat these very often but do like to use them in a pinch from time to time. However, most of them are loaded with added sugar. I did find out that Larabars do NOT have any added sugars (source: apple pie flavor).

I am not a huge fan of cutting things out entirely; I am much more a fan of everything in moderation. However, this is more of an experiment to see what things I may need to eat less of or maybe substitute with something just as good or better. So...what's on the menu? Lentils, navy beans, beets, acorn squash, quinoa, veggies, fruits, nuts and chicken: all things that I cooked or roasted in the oven yesterday. I will check back next week to let you know how it goes!

Are you doing the sugar detox? What would be the hardest thing for you to cut out sugar-wise? What about processed food-wise?


Recovery Mode

If you have ever had a big event, you know how it feels when it's over. You feel a little lost, a tad adrift, a bit confused. You don't know what to do with yourself. Due to the weeks I spent training for the marathon, this is kind of where I am right now. Couple that with the events that happened in Boston after the marathon and it is definitely a strange mental state overall.

I read in Runners World, and I mentioned it after my first marathon, that you are supposed to "rest" for the same amount of days as miles that you ran for your race. For me, this would be 26 days, or approximately one month. They say that for the first couple weeks of your break, drop mileage to zero and do light cross training instead. For the next three to six weeks, add running back in slowly: For two weeks, run 25% of pre-break mileage; for two weeks run 50%; the last two weeks, run 75%.


This really is counterproductive to having a positive mental state. Most people who are runners RUN when they are feeling sad/angry/tired/scared/stressed. I am no different. My daily run makes me feel strong, makes me feel happier, and takes away the cares of the day.

So I did not take the advice of the good people of RW. I would have gone crazy. I already tapered, which was horrible, but they can't take away my after marathon run therapy! 

First of all, I had already signed up for the Ohlone 50k, which is May 19th. There are roughly 5 weeks (4 weekends) between the two races. I guess I was feeling kind of post race blues before the marathon even happened, because I also signed up for the Squamish 50k and the Marine Corp Marathon. It's like retail therapy, but better!

So, what's the recovery plan? Well, it's hard to figure out how to work it when I have a 50k in three weeks. So I decided to do a four weekend training plan, consisting of one easy weekend, one little bit harder weekend, one high mileage weekend and one easy weekend, and then race weekend.

Week 1: April 15 - April 21: Boston Marathon / weekend trail runs (easy)
Week 2: April 22 - April 28: easy week / weekend trail runs (med)
Week 3: April 29 - May 05: med week / weekend trail runs (long)
Week 4: May 06 - May 12: easy week / weekend trail runs (easy)
Week 5: May 13 - May 19: easy week / Race weekend

After weekend one, I was pretty tired. My legs were pretty sore, plus I followed short Saturday and Sunday runs with a two hour hike up a steep hill and the Monday BostonStrongSF run, so I took Tuesday and Wednesday of the next week completely off. (TOTAL = 41 miles (including the marathon) / 5 hours, 53 mins)

After weekend two, I feel good. My legs are definitely not back to normal, but I did do one shorter test run where I was able to keep the pace under an 8 minute mile, so they are not totally dead. (TOTAL = 45 miles / 7 hours, 40 mins)

Next weekend is the big mileage weekend. I hope my legs are up for the challenge. I know my mind is.

finish line quote

How do you deal with the comedown from a big event?  Do you have a long recovery time after a big race? What is the closest time period you have had two big races together?

Want more? 
**Check out Laura's take on the Post Race Blues.
**Head over to Fitness Friday at Jill's for some more fitness advice and info!


Looking Forward

Happy May! Did you know this is my favorite month of the year? And not just because it's my birth month. I love Spring and May reminds me of birds singing, school ending, first river swims (if we were lucky!) outdoor eating, warm days and flowers blooming.  So it's a good time to be looking forward to things!

Today I'm looking forward to good weather, a nice after work run and a hearty dinner!

This week I am looking forward to meeting up with a friend for lunch and possibly volunteering for a race on Saturday!

This month I am looking forward to Mother's day with my real and honorary Mom, happy hour with friends, a friend's band playing in a local joint, a race with Broski, birthday celebrations with friends and family, a 50k race, and a mini vacation!

This year I am looking forward to rounding out one year at my current job, trips to Oregon, Canada, DC and possibly New York City, and a hiking trip to Mt. Shasta.

Mother's Day / Birthday
2012: Carrot Cake

What are you looking forward to? What exciting things do you have going on / coming up in your life?