Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1st 20 Miler for Napa-Done

Hee Haw!  Thank you Lord for giving me this day to finish my run. It's been a long time since I've been sidelined by injury. It's no fun! 

Since the MLK holiday, I've been nursing a sore achilles tendon and a sore sacroilliac joint.  For five agonizing days, I stayed away from running to give the legs a break and a chance to heal. I surmised that the prior 40-mile week, the Castle Coast race and the return to my power workouts have all wreaked havoc to my body. Something's gotta give. It was as if my body revolted and said "Whoa, not so fast--one change at a time." I knew better. I can't train hard and race hard in the same week.  I am afterall growing older, the resilience is gone.  Gone are the days that I used to roll out of bed and not stretch.  I promise to be good to my body if I can heal as soon as possible.

To get my mind off these minor set-backs (injury is such a scary word), I thought I'd give the brain something new to process, perhaps a new scenery?  I found a new 20 mile route right here in Los Osos along Turri Road. I've noticed bikers use this road often and the greatest part about it is, there's not a lot of traffic. Today being Sunday was a good day to try it. 

I've been quite anxious to get out there having only 5 days of recovery and I was sure it was not enough. I was leary about how my body was going to react since I was not 100%.  But I have a measly six weeks left before Napa. I thought if I could have this 20 today under my belt, this would be a confidence builder. I knew I could do this, I just need time on my feet.

My legs were heavy and full of glycogen, feeling very much as if they are ready to run a marathon. This was a welcome sign. I took it easy the first 1/2 mile and walked. My feelings dampened when the achilles started to ache a little and then the back pinched to let me know the pain was very much still here. I was a little nervous about going the distance and already made a pack to myself that the minute it started to grab, I would turn around and go home. Needless to say, this 20-miler was nothing at all about goal paced time. It was steady-state and all I wanted was time on my feet. It seemed forever since I ran a twenty.

Three Porshes zooming by.

Turri Road, Los Osos, CA

The morning was magnificent.  A few bikers were out and about. The only annoying thing was the Porsche club of some sort.  They zoomed by me one by one, carelessly weaving through the windy road ahead. I stepped out of their way and by the 17th car, I stopped  counting. Minor annoyance, considering the view was so beautiful. The hills, the cows and the horses reminded me of a country prairie.  I wondered why I haven't ran this way before.  There rolling hills and gradual inclines worried me at first.  Probably not the best thing for my achilles and lower back. But I took it easy and slowly.  There were a few moments where I was tempted to increase the pace, but I didn't dare. Every step I took I held my breath for a possible worse pain that could strike at any moment. I was just thankful I was able to run even at a slower pace.  I took the pain in stride and kept going. Somehow, at some parts, the pain seemed to disappear. I  looped Turri Road twice.  In the end, I ran an average of 55 seconds per mile slower than my usual long run pace.  Even with the hurt, I was still faster than some previous 20 milers I've run with no injury. After close to 3 1/2 hours I was done!  I ran  all the way home thinking about breakfast and my ice bath.  It was a great day indeed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marathon Maniacs?

In late October last year, I volunteered in an aid station for the inaugural Paso Robles Harvest Marathon.  I would have love to run this marathon but it was two weeks from NY. I had no choice but to get my fix by volunteering.  A finisher asked me to look into this website called Marathon Maniacs.  It is a club of ultrarunners who are fanatical about marathons.  They hunt down small marathons, big marathons, all over the United States.  He said I might very well qualify for "Maniac" status. Intrigued, I checked out their website and here's a list of questions they asked of potential members. My answers are italicized. 
  1. Are you addicted to running marathons? Yes
  2. Do your thoughts switch to the next scheduled race immediately after finishing a marathon? Yes, always.
  3. Are you signed up for more than one race right now?  Yes, three.
  4. Do you know specifics about many of the marathons? Dates, courses, years run, etc.? Yes
  5. Do you know the story of how the marathon got started? Also why the course is 26.2 miles? Yes
  6. Do you read books on marathons like Marathon and Beyond?  Yes. I own it.
  7. Is http://www.marathonguide.com/ book marked on your computer? Yes
  8. Do you look at the race schedule more than once a week? Yes
  9. Do you start to feel down when you haven't run a marathon in a while? Yes!!!!!!!! 
  10. Are your closets and dressers filled with marathon t-shirts? Yes! My dresser has one dedicated drawer each for: shorts, running skirts, pants, race shirts, tech long-sleeve shirts, tech short sleeve shirts, tech tank shirts with pockets, 1/4 zip shirts & T-necks, running jackets, running hats, arm warmers, calves sleeves, misc gear, watches, sunglasses.
  11. Do you have so many marathon medals that you've run out of room on the hook they hang from? Yes
  12. When asked about your racing from none running people, do you find yourself talking with great passion to the point that the person that asked the question regrets ever asking?  Yes
  13. Have you run marathons on back to back weekends? Or better yet back to back days?  Not that crazy yet.
  14. Have you run a marathon as a training run? Or just to pace a friend? Yes
  15. When asked by loved ones what your plans are for the weekend, you feel guilty telling them your running another marathon so you tell them "it's only a half this weekend"?   Yes
  16. Do you plan all your vacations around a marathon race? Not all.
Well if you answered yes to any of these questions, you just may be a Marathon Maniac!!!

Well I am not quite a maniac yet. To become a marathon Maniac member at a minimum, what they call the "bronze category," I would have to run 2 marathons within a 16-day time frame or 3 marathons within a 90-day time frame. Barring injuries, it appears though, I may have a chance since Napa, Oakland, and the Avenue of the Giants are within a 56 day-period.  The thought makes me tingly all over. Gee, am I starting to sound like a maniac?

The Dipsea Race

The New Year always seems to bring forth a sense of renewal, a time to "do-over" or "start-from-scratch" or  "wipe-the-slate clean" type of atittude. In 2011, I am taking life by the bull horns with a can-do-attitude--at least with my running, anyway. I'm going to try to run races that I've never given a second thought like, mud runs, relays, or gnarly trail runs and maybe even run the Dipsea Race.

Have you ever run Dipsea? I've been asked countless times. As if to say, you're not quite there yet, until you have run Dipsea. So maybe, I might be buying into its prestige.  I have heard of this race before, but never really paid much attention to what it really is.  Runner's World had an article about the race this past summer and it piqued my interest.  After reading the article, it's on my bucket list of races to run.  A scenic and truly challenging course, it is not for the faint of heart.  Runners face uneven footing, single-track trails, a rooty, steep terrain, featuring about 2,200-foot  elevation gain and loss over the 12K course. You don't have to be fast, but you do have to have a strong desire to finish.

The gnarly course is only 7.4 mile long from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach in Marin County.  It is a 30-minute drive through Highway 1, north of San Francisco, via Golden Gate Bridge. It is super hilly and technical in some spots. Talk about 688 stairs and steep narrow trails, treacherously and aptly named: Windy Gap, Suicide, Dynamite, Hogsback, Cardiac, Swoop, Insult Hill, and Steep Ravine.  Experienced runners found shortcuts in order to move up a couple of places in the results.  The race features a handicapped grading system (more on that later). It is one of the oldest trail races in America with the first one run in 1905. Runners are capped off at 1,500 to preserve the trail and due to safety and environmental concerns.  How do you get in, you ask?  Well that's a story in itself.

First, you have to be among the first 750 finishers in the previous Dipsea. Next, from the remaining (800-900 slots): 500 slots are on first come-first serve basis.   The application is downloaded from the official website after March 16, 2011.  Applications must be sent by U.S Postal Service only. No Fedex, UPS, or any other overnight service. This is slightly skewed to local runners. The next 100 entries are held for silent auction. Anything above the $60.00 entry fee, "bribe"money, goes to charity.  The last 300 slots are for randomly held lottery.  All applications must be received by April 1, 2011.   

Back to the handicapped starts. In an effort to level the playing field, some runners are allowed minutes head start before others.  Based on age and gender, they have developed an equitable system of start times. The race's official handicapper submits the data annually to a committee who then reviews the information based on previous years of historical data and actual record of finish times of female and male runners. Last year's first and second place finishers, had a 25-minute head start in the first group of runners. The winner was an 8-year-old fourth grader, Reilly Johnson. She beat out a 68-year-old grandmother of four, Melody-Ann Schultz of Ross.  This 8 year-old is the youngest winner in Dipsea's history. (By the way, she is a local from Mill Valley and her dad was a past Dipsea champ.)  Come March 16, 2011, I'll be ready to download the application and head on to our regional Post Office.   Well that, or find a friend who can mail my form for me in the Bay Area. Yes, I want to experience Dipsea.  I want to feel the rocks under my feet. I won't mind if I trip on roots. I want to feel the burning air in my lungs as I ascend the 688 stairs and feel what its like to climb Cardiac Hill. I want in on this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Napa Valley Marathon 2011

Well, Happy New Year to all!  The new year brings about new goals and resolutions--new you.
I am not immune to this newfound renewal.  As the new year embarks, so does my love affair for running.
Losing both spots in Big Sur and CIM in November and soonafter the novelty of running NY wore out, I signed up for races that I thought might follow suit in early sellouts. What a weird phenomenon, I thought. We're deep in recessionary period, and yet, more and more people are signing up, a lot earlier to these running events.  What's the deal? Case in point, Big Sur and CIM closed in November.  Boston closed at 5 p.m., in one day!  More recently, Napa closed on New Year's Eve. I narrowly dodged the bullet on that one.  Being scared that Oakland might fill up early too, I signed up last night.   I sent in my registration to the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in November. At last check, my name is still not on the roster.  That's on my to-do list to call.   On to training.
My first marathon this 2011 will be Napa.  Running it for the 6th time, it will be #19 for me.  The course never fails to inspire me. The beauty of the valley is breathtaking even in the downpour of 2007 or the extreme heat of 2003. It keeps me coming back.  I will be using the same training program I used in NY. Even with my head not totally in the game,  enjoying the sights and senses of the New York experience, I still ran my personal best.  Just imagine, using the program a second time and knowing what to expect and being on the Napa course for the 6th time, I can do some serious damage, barring injuries, extreme weather changes.  Probably best not to get ahead of myself.  I am anxious to see the difference this running program will make considering for Napa last year, my training consisted of only two 20-milers with hardly any goal paced runs. This go-around,  I will be running one 18-miler, two 20-milers and one-22 miler--all goal paced.  With 8 weeks left before Napa, I am so looking forward to running the 18 miler next weekend. NY seems like a long time ago.  My legs are dying to run. Will let you know how the 18 goes.  Happy running!