Monday, January 31, 2011

Orcas Work Party and Mapping

I make my first water bar, photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama

 I spent the weekend on Orcas helping with trail building at the Orcas 25/50k work party.  This was my (gasp) first time ever making a trail.  I can hardly believe it... I am far overdue for this kind of work considering the indescribable pleasure I have gleaned from the trail these past few years.  I hope that all trail runners and other motivated and generous folks take a day (at least) every year to help keep our trails maintained.  The work party was a lot of fun and we had a great time hanging out afterward at Camp Moran.

My favorite minimalist shoes. Hands down.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I really do this quite a bit.  In a mindful way.  I'm not usually running through someone's front yard, although there have been times when finding a road necessitated a little front yard action.  Most of the time when I am trespassing it is to connect from one trail system to another or it is on land that has been vacant for many years.  I took James on a run with me recently on trails that I have been trespassing on since high school.  It looks like there are going to be houses built soon as roads have been put in recently and there are tell tale wires sticking out of the ground.

Happy Trespassing 

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Lesson in Buzzing and Mud Baths

James, Kevin, Alvin, and Candice at the start of cap peak mega, all smiles.  Photo courtesy Narrows Bridge Running Club.
I ran the Capitol Peak Fat Ass 55K last weekend.  Nobody can quite agree whether the race was actually 34 miles (55K) or as I have heard ever since the race ended...35, 36, 37, even 40 miles long.  With all these GPS watches, everyone seems to be getting different numbers.  To me it felt like a 34 miler, but a few bonus miles sounds good to me!  I was happy with my finishing time considering the longer distance, the elevation profile, and the really muddy and wet trail conditions.  I was actually guessing, based on my time for the first half of the race, that I would come in to the finish around 7 hours, but I was able to pull off a significant negative split for the second half of the race, and came through in 6:27.  It's pretty amazing that with running you can start out feeling tired and slow, and end (34 miles later!) feeling energized.

That surge of energy reminds me of one of my favorite races last year in the Capitol Forest the Capitol Peak 50 mile trail race.  That race has a special place in my heart as I learned a very valuable lesson.  At the point in the race when I expected to feel the most tired just 8.5 miles from the finish, or 41.5 miles into the race,  I remember feeling incredibly energetic.   Being that it was only my third ultra marathon and the longest distance I had run, I was surprised to have that kind of energy at the end of the race. I love finishing races strong!  It is much more fun to pass people at the end of a race then it is to pass them at the start.

Back to the race-at-hand...
On the morning of the Capitol Peak Fat Ass last weekend, James and I arrived at the start line just minutes before the race started and unfortunately missed visiting with friends pre-race.  We had just enough time for me to drop off my drop bag for the aid station at mile 8.5 and 25.5.  The race was a mostly out and back course with a 4 mile loop at the far end that eventually climbed up capitol peak via the aptly named "grunt" trail.  The Grunt trail climbs 1000 feet elevation in less than a mile, to reach the top of Capitol Peak.

For the first half of the race, I felt so-so.  I was a bit disappointed at my seeming lack of energy and with the heavy feeling in my legs, but I was happy to be doing 34 miles whether or not I placed well in the race.  As I put it to Roger, one of my running buddies during the race who was telling me how he did multiple Crossfit workouts during the week and felt tired from them, my legs feel tired and I didn't do anything this week!  So much for excuses.  Excuses...they are overrated anyway.

As I reached the halfway point, I turned a significant mental corner: I felt like I could start to give the race my full effort.  Before the halfway point, I knew that it would be smart to conserve energy on a 34 mile race.  It is really easy to get caught up in the excitement of the start of a race and go out too fast.  The result?  Sore and tired legs, fatigue, lack of motivation, bonking... just to name a few!  By the time I descended capitol peak I was literally emanating energy.  I felt like I had to contain my energy so that I wouldn't hyperventilate or something.  It was a really interesting and intense feeling.  What exactly was in those energy gels?!  I'm not sure that I have ever felt that intensity of energy in the last 1/3  of a race before.  Buzzzzzzz.... It could have been overwhelming, but instead I was able to breathe and dole out the energy throughout the next 15 or so miles.

It was also during this time that it really began to rain.  Small puddles in the trails became big muddy messes and streams of water washed down the trail.  There were several (actually lots) of sections of trail that were a slip'n'slide.  Running on Whidbey Island I have become very used to navigating muddy trails, so I knew how to step (even in my racing flats) so as to not fall.  This part of the race was definitely one of my favorite parts!  I love the challenge of terrain and accumulating mileage.

Oh yeah!  Muddddddyyyyy!
James didn't get very muddy

Love some post race heat!
Horse...or bike? Or Bikorse? Or Horsike?
Race directors James Varner of Rainshadow Running and John Pearch Of Capitol Peak Ultras
Post race relaxing: James and me

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Running Therapy: Solo Chuckanut 50K

I was starting to feel antsy.  It doesn't take long.  Sometimes it's a few days, sometimes a few weeks, but rarely longer than that.  It was time to get out into the mountains, or in this case out in the hills and run to exhaustion.  I planned a 31 miler at Bellingham's Chuckanut Mountain for Monday the 3rd of January.  It was an easy choice to do the Chuckanut 50K course, which starts at Fairhaven park and follows the interurban trail for 6.5 miles before climbing to Fragrance Lake.  The course then heads toward Cleater Road.  Cleater, oh Cleater how I love to hate you!  Cleater is a 3 mile gravel/hard pack road that starts at Chuckanut Drive and climbs all the way up the mountain.  The 50K course follows the road until just before the top of the mountain when it angles off to Chuckanut Ridge Trail: a technical trail that pays back the weary runners who braved the climb with stunning views.  Runners are rewarded by views of Mt. Baker, the Cascade Mountain Range, treacherous but awesome views into the valley, and the city of Bellingham.  I was lucky enough to run the course on a Monday, a perfectly clear but chilly day.
View from Chuckanut Ridge Trail
City of Bellingham from Ridge Trail
Snow covered much of the road as I ran up Cleater.  The Ridge trail was equally snowy with some icy spots.  After the ridge trail, you take Dan's Traverse to Lost Lake Trail.   At the "Y" you head to the right toward Fragrance Lake.  This section is the part that is usually muddy and wet.  What a pleasure it was today!  The chilly temperatures froze the ground, covering the trail with at times a sheet of ice and at other times a 1" layer of snow.  At one point, I was so awe-struck by the trail that I cried out in pleasure on seeing leg-size icicles that formed on the rocks above me like giant teeth.
Awe inspiring icicles, treacherously thick!
Spending all day outdoors and in the mountains running is incredibly therapeutic.  The trail has taught me many things, and today it rewarded my efforts with the most magnificent icicles I have ever seen.  I could have retreated into my head and been oblivious to the magic around me, but the moment before I saw the icicles I remember thinking what fun the trail was and enjoying the flow of my pace, my breathing, and my body.  I would have been perfectly happy enjoying that moment, and then I ran right into the winter magic that was Chuckanut!  All over the ground and rocks were frozen ice sculptures that appeared to have defied gravity and frozen in mid-air tracing the curves of fallen branches and looking like a frozen raging sea.

The trail continues to "Chinscraper" a <1 mile section of very steep trail that take you back up to the top of Chuckanut Mountain.  After I climbed the first two steep sections (one more to go) I began feeling really messed up.  My eyes were zooming in and out a bit and my brain was dragging.  Darn, I would have to take some energy gels after all.  I had survived the first 20 miles on a banana and a few Lara bars, but it was time to get some fast sugar.  Wow, those two clif shots were better than I remember gels being, and super sweet tasting!  That's what happens when you starve yourself of sugars, on a cold day no less.  After the nice sugar boost I easy finished the climb and began descending Cleater Road.  I was ready to take on the last 10 miles of the course, feeling impatient to get to the interurban trail, at which point I would have 6. 5 relatively (ha!) flat miles back to Fairhaven Park. 

My heel really began to hurt on the descent to the Interurban.  I thought for a bit that maybe it would be wise to hitch a ride to my car when I got to Larrabee State Park, but it was only a fleeting thought as I was set on running the entire course.  I slowed my pace and within a few miles the pain had diminished enough for me to take my mind off of it.  I began to feel some tightness in my underfoot as well as the heel.  My heel continued to be sore, tender and at times painful the rest of the run, but I was able to speed through the last 6.5 miles with the energy I saved for that section.  Having run this course before, I knew to save a little so I could make a strong push to the finish.  The last 6 miles can be heaven or hell. I finished the run just after the sun had set, happily worn out and ready to enjoy the car ride home, exhausted.
Interurban trail
Sweet rock formations along the trail that circles Fragrance Lake, one of my favorite sections.
Fragrance Lake, frozen.   The lake would bellow out ringing, almost melodious craaaaa-cks every few minutes as the sun settled its warmth on the frozen water. 
Cleater Road
Some snow and ice along Cleater Road
Chuckanut Ridge Trail, snowy and icy
Icicles along Lost Lake sections of the trail
The hillside was at times a sculpture garden of frozen water
Trail of ice... just a wee bit treacherous!
More incredible ice sculptures
Trail back toward Fragrance Lake, before I arrived at Chinscraper
I ran in a hat, gloves, wool shirt, t-shirt, and leggings with my inov8 230's.  The few times I stopped or slowed down, I became too cold quickly.  Definitely traveled minimally!

Descending toward the interurban trail, some frozen waterfalls. 
On the interurban trail, almost finished as the sun sets

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutions and Races for 2011

polar bear dive, 1//1/11
  • run my first 100 miler (Cascade Crest, August 27 and 28)
  • do the Washington Ultra Series again (6 of the 10 races)
  • get a road or triathlon bike and start biking.  I'm setting my sights on a triathlon, probably in 2012
  • keep track of my running mileage for the year
  • do a swim-only race
  • which probably means getting a wetsuit
  • volunteer for more races this year
  • get out to dance even more than last year
  • keep it fun and playful.  "It" being everything, especially running
Here's one option I'm considering for the open water swim race: Fat Salmon 3.2 mile.  The race starts at the Day Street Boat Ramp near Madison Park, Seattle.  They also have a 1.2 mile race if I feel like I'm not ready for the longer distance.

A note on the New Year's Resolutions- These pertain mostly to running, exercise and outdoor fun, but I also have some more personal goals.  I like the idea of making resolutions as it can help focus my goals and bring them into fruition.  So personally, I would like to keep working on myself spiritually, allow more love in my life give more love, and take responsibility for my life by recognizing more often how what I think and do creates my experiences. 

That being said . . .

Races for 2011
Here's what I'm planning to run this year, specifically this spring and summer:
Jan. 15 Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass 30 miler (near Olympia, WA)
Feb. 5 Orcas Island 50K (Orcas Island, Eastsound)
Feb. 26 Snow Fun 35 mile (Winthrop, WA)
March 19 Chuckanut 50K (Fairhaven, WA)
April 3 Yakima Skyline 50K (Ellensberg, WA)
April 30 Capitol Peak 50 miler (near Olympia, WA)
May 22 Sun Mountain 50 miler (Winthrop, WA)
June 25 Cle Elum Ridge 50K (Cle Elum, WA)
July 30 White River 50 mile (Crystal Mountain, WA)
Aug 27-28 Cascade Crest 100 miler (Easton, WA)
Sept. 18 North Cascade PCT 100K (Mazama, WA)- maybe, I'll see how I'm doing after cascade crest.

I'm planning to do enough races in the Washington Ultra Series to place anyway, which is 6 of the 10 races.  After September I will decide what I want to do in the fall/winter (Oct, Nov, Dec), but I'm leaving it open for now.

Break down:
six+ 50Ks (one of which is 30 miles, one 35)
three 50 milers
possibly one 100K
one 100 miler

Sounds a little ambitious, but it is mostly just one race a month.  Since late September I have been doing almost a 50K fun run (or race) a week, with a double 50K one week (saturday and sunday consecutively).  So I think I can handle it.  I plan to handle it and have a lot of fun!

2010: looking back
I finished every race I entered, and completed every race in the Washington Ulra Series to earn first place woman in the series (scored best 4 races).
Last year I did these races:
Feb: Orcas Island 50K
March: Chuckanut 50K
April: Capitol Peak 50 mile
May: Rhody Run 12K
June: Lake Youngs 29 miler
June: Sun Mountain 25K
July: Grey Rock 50K
July: White River 50 mile
September: Cle Elum Ridge 50K
October: Triple Ripple Trail Festival (4 mile, 10K uphill, 30K)
December: Pigtails 50K

Break down:
six 50K
two 50 milers
one 25K, 12K, 4 mile, 10K, 30K

Cross training of 2010
  • regular swimming from 1 to 4 times a week all year long, with some time off in August and September
  • semi-regular yoga classes
  • Trampoline when the weather is good, a lot more in summer and fall
  • calisthenics / yoga at home

Injuries of 2010
I made it until Capitol Peak 50 miler (end of April) before I got any injuries.  During that particular race a tendon in the back of my right knee became really inflamed and swollen 22 miles into the race, but I finished by taking ibuprofen and running through it (I don't recommend taking ibuprofen btw).  I took time off from running until the Rhody Run in mid-May.  My knee hurt in that race as well, and I began to ice it regularly.

Knee was better by Lake Youngs in mid-June, but by then I injured my left hip dancing and felt a lot of pain in that race.  Also had pain in hip for Sun Mountain 25k the week after Lake Youngs.

Everything was all better by Grey Rock 50K in mid-July, just some little twinges in the hip.  This was very good because a few weeks later I had White River 50 miler.

At White River I got the most intense foot pain: sharp, stabbing, yell-inducing!  It started about 26-27 miles into the race.  It was really flaring up all the way to Sun Top (mile 37), and I had to walk a lot.  At Sun Top, the race transitioned from single track trail to downhill gravel road and the pain was a little more manageable.  It was the uneven trail that really flared it up.  I finished the race at least an hour slower than I expected, but was happy to finish at all!

Lastly, I began to get IT Band Syndrome at White River and it continued through October.  It was never bad enough to really slow me down, but I worked on stretching and massage to get it better.  Well, that and just plain ignoring it, which is usually what I do with the come-and-go pain.

What are your goals?

Happy New Year!

polar bear dive on Whidbey for New Years day
snow run
celebrating New Years Eve with friends