4.04.2014

In Like a Lion?

Yup, it's my third post this week! Already I nearly have more posts in April than I did in March! 

March is supposed to go in like a lion and out like a lamb. As you know, I live in a pretty temperate area, so we don't get a lot of temperature fluctuations. However, we had some rain (yay), which was very much needed, and a little bit of snow in the mountains toward the end of the month. So I am not sure if the lion/lamb theory is true.

The stats of March are thus:

Reading: March was a month of Non-Fiction and half read books. I got a bunch (aka too many) of books from the digital library and they expired before I could finish them. When that happens, you have to put them on hold again, and so I will finish them later, but currently, I am half into several books. I did finish two books: Don't Know Much About History (audiobook) and Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science that Makes Life Dismal. As you can see, they are not the most "exciting" books ever, and were hard to get through at times. I am also trying to read the news every day, which is taking away from book reading time. The number of books I "half-read" was 3.

Running: I ran one race, Way Too Cool 50k, at the beginning of the month. I am currently training for the Boston Marathon on April 21st and the Miwok 100k on May 3rd. I have to admit, I don't think I am doing it right. I feel like I have the legs to run the 100k, but not the speed for Boston. I am not really sure how to train for them both at the same time. Knowing this, I don't expect much at Boston, but I am okay with that. Total miles run in March: 208. An interesting stat: last year in March, I ran 215 miles at an average pace of 8:55. This year, my average pace is 13:06. What a difference!

Travel: I went to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and beautiful Bakersfield by the sea this month! I also had a trip to Cool and another one to Dublin (CA, not Ireland) for brunch and a walk with a very pregnant friend. I had a great time with Amber, on her short but sweet layover in San Francisco. I forced her to eat a burrito (naturally) and we had a great time catching up. I even tried to take her to the transvestite Mexican bar in my favorite neighborhood, the Mission, but it was closed down! Darn it!

Work: One of my coworkers just quit, so we are handling his cases as well as our own, which I am learning is pretty much par for the course. Every time I start to feel like I am catching up on things, they throw something else at us. We also had our performance reviews. Mine was really good; I am very happy with it, however I was not super impressed with my salary increase. I am not complaining too much, because at least I got an increase, however, I expected it to be higher.

How was your March; was it a lamb or a lion? Do you get an annual increase/performance review at work? What is your favorite kind of book to read?

4.01.2014

Way Too Cool 50k

I was picked up from my house at 3:30 am. Yes, that is A.M. This is what happens when you catch a ride with other people; you have no control over the timelines. Ha! The reason for this was that we were driving to Cool, CA to run the Way Too Cool 50k. To get into this race, you have to put your name in a lottery. When I received the notice that I got in, I was so excited, and I went to the entrants list to find out who else had gotten in that I know. There were 1200 entrants on the list! This is not normal for a trail race. Usually it is anywhere from 200 - 600 people. I have to admit, I had to groan at this a bit, because this is a lot of (too many) people. However, I was excited to run in a place where I had only run a couple of times before. Plus, part of this course is on the Western States course, which is kind of fun.

Cool is in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 20 miles from Sacramento, near the American river, in a gold mining area. It was a stagecoach stop during the gold rush.  It's a really pretty area and there are tons of trails to hike, and swimming and fishing in the river to be had.


We arrived in Cool before 6 am. We got a great parking spot, thanks to the early departure, and went to pick up our bibs etc. I was there with two other people, one who was running and another who had not signed up, but was going to wear the bib (without chip) of a friend and run with the other friend for a while. It was pretty cold so we stayed in the car to keep warm until the start. Once the sun came out, we got ready to go. This race has so many people that there is a wave start. I was in wave one, which started at 8 am.


The race started and we were all running in a pack. There were so many people; we could not really run any faster or slower; we just had to scoot along with everyone else. I stopped for a pit stop and then caught back up to my friends. The first mile was on a paved road and then it turned into a single track. The single track was brutal, as there really was no room to pass. I was going at about a 10 minute mile, which was slower than I wanted to go, especially since it was fairly flat.


Around mile 3, we went through our first water crossing for the day. It would not be the last. It had rained the week before and the creeks were running full, and the trail was very, very muddy. Everyone was slipping and sliding around and trying to avoid the really big, slippery sections, but it was difficult. The single track loop lasted for about 8 miles, then we looped back around to the start.

The next loop started out kind of flat, then there was a downhill section leading down to the river, where we ran along the river for a while. My legs were getting tired, as by this time, I had been running for a while. This course was so far the flattest trail race I had ever run. Usually there are some ups and some downs, which give you a chance to regroup a bit and regain your strength, but this was flat our running for a really long time. Until about mile 15, I was running about an 8:30 pace.


At mile 15, we started up a hill and my pace slowed to about 10 minutes, then as the hill got steeper, it became 13 minutes, then 16 minutes. Around mile 15, I also started to have to use the restroom, but I thought that at the next aid station there would be a portapotty. There wasn't, so I waited until the next one. Still nothing. By mile 26 or so, I was bursting. I would have just pulled over and gone in the bushes, but there was poison oak everywhere! Around mile 20, the hill stopped and the course flattened out a bit. It was rolling up and down a little, but was still pretty runnable the whole time. My legs were pretty tired by this point and I started to slow to about a 12 minute pace. The only reason I was even keeping it that fast was because I really had to use the bathroom!



I crossed the finish at 5:12 and ran straight to the portapotties, do not pass go, do not collect $200! Afterward, I went back to the race expo, where there was recovery drink, pizza, and the famous frog cupcake! The day had turned out really nice and it was really great to just sit in the sun and eat pizza. I hung out for a while and chatted with some of the other racers.


The verdict? I don't think I would do this race again. The sheer number of people is a turn off. It feels commercial. I didn't really like the big expo full of people trying to sell things after the race. However, the shirt is great and the food afterward was pretty good. The location is good and if you are brave, you can even go for a dip in the river afterward. Also, I feel that it would be a great race for your first 50k. Its well organized and there is not too much elevation gain and it's almost like a road race feel in a trail-like setting.

Also, unless you are super fast, it is really hard to place in this race! I was number 11 in my age group, 203/1026 overall, and 41/422 in my gender. The number one guy finished in 3:16; the number one girl finished in 3:53.

Have you ever been to gold rush country? Do you like it when a race has a big expo? What is your favorite treat after a workout?

3.31.2014

Rim to Rim to Rim

On day three of our road trip we got up and had a white trash picnic in the parking lot of the hotel (homemade sandwiches out of the U-haul), which reminded me of my childhood, when we used to take the motor home on road trips and I was SO embarrassed that we had to make and eat our own food. Now I am the one embarrassing the kids.

We made a stop at the Hoover Dam, where they have built a new highway above it, so that you can walk on the dam since it is no longer used. We next stopped at the Cracker Barrel where my friend's daughter had the best blueberry pancakes ever! They must load those suckers up with butter, because they are good.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon pretty late due to our lackadaisical driving style, and only had time to pack for the next day and go to bed. The reason for this is that the next day we were planning on running from the South Rim to the Colorado River to the North Rim and back. This is a total run of 44 - 50 miles, depending on which route you take. At first we thought that we could always just do it one way, but the roads to the North Rim are not open until May.

Our day started at 4 am. After a quick breakfast of PB&B (banana) sandwiches and a shot of espresso, we headed out to the rim. It was dark and it was hard to find the trail head and the lady-friend was driving and the Broski was nervous and our GPS was not working, so we had a bit of a quibble in the car. However, we soon found the trail and we started off. The temperature at the top of the South Rim was about 27 degrees.

From the South Rim, there are two ways to get to the bottom of the canyon. Once there, the main area, where there is camping and bathrooms and water, is called Phantom Ranch. If you take the Bright Angel trail, it is less steep, but more miles, totaling 10 to Phantom Ranch. If you take the South Kaibab Trail, it is steeper, but it is only 7 miles. We decided to take the Bright Angel on the way down, to save our knees for the rest of the trip.

Bright Angel Trail head to Phantom Ranch: We started down the trail at 4:30 a.m. It was dark and our headlamps were barely penetrating the gloom, because the dust was outrageously thick. However, as soon as we dropped below the rim by about a quarter of a mile, it warmed up a lot. We stopped at the 1 mile bathroom and stripped down. The first hour was just a pretty easy slightly downhill jog, where we were really focused on the ground in front of us, which was pretty lumpy. This section took us much longer than anticipated. We thought that the downhill would be about a 9 or 10 minute mile, but it was more like a 13 or 14 due to the darkness and the dust. Around mile 7, the sun started to come up and the colors on the canyon were just starting to show. We arrived at Phantom ranch in about two hours, which is about what our goal was.

One of the things about doing this that we were most worried about was the water. The trail has several water stops in the summer. However, in the off season, the only one that was a (mostly) guarantee was Phantom Ranch. Broski had 4 liters of water and I had three. We filled up at Phantom Ranch, stashed our sweatshirts behind the bathroom and headed toward the north rim.

Phantom Ranch to North Rim: The sun was starting to come up and this was my favorite section of the run. The first 7 miles was mostly flatish, with a gradual uphill. I think it was about 1000 ft gain over 7 miles. The next 7 were straight up. The Colorado River is at about 2,200 feet. The top of the North Rim is at about 8,200 feet. So the last 7 were pretty steep. However, the colors were great! The reds were so red and the top layer, which is white, was like a beacon, guiding us up, up and further up. The best thing about this section is that there was one place where the water was working! We filled up our water and washed our faces and got ready for the big climb.



As we were climbing the hill, I could tell that Broski was getting discouraged. I think he was thinking about the fact that we were not even half way yet, and he was already tired. That's what I was thinking at least! We got to the top and ate the sandwiches that we had been carrying for the last several hours. They were the best sandwiches ever. This uphill part took us longer than we thought it would. We had hoped that we could average about a 15 minute pace, but this part was about a 25 minute pace and our running pace on the flat/downhill had not been fast enough to bring down the average that much. We arrived at the top of the North Rim around noon, 7 and a half hours after we started. We figured this would still be good time though; we could even make it back before dark (our goal was 6:30 or 7 pm).

North Rim to Phantom Ranch: The sandwiches really revived us and we headed back down the hill refreshed. The downhill at first, the steep part, was hard on the knees, but the second section, the flatter one, we could run a pretty good pace the whole time. We still were not booking by all means, but we were keeping it pretty steady at about 14-15 minute miles. We got back to Phantom Ranch and the sun was just starting to go toward the rim of the canyon. We grabbed our clothing stash and some more water and got moving, as we wanted to try to hike in the light as much as possible.


Phantom Ranch to South Rim: We decided to take the South Kaibab trail on the way up. It was steeper, but it was also shorter and we were thinking that it would be the better of the two evils. It was approximately 5 pm when we left the bottom and headed up the hill. We knew we would not be making it by our 6:30 goal, as the last hill had taken about 3 hours to climb. We had steeled ourselves for a long walk up the hill. This time the elevation of the South Rim was about 7,200 feet and we were back at 2,200 ft again.


This hill took forever. It kept going up relentlessly. As you walk down the hill in the morning, fresh as a daisy, there are signs shouting out warnings that you WILL have to go back UP the hill and not to overexert yourself. Our fresh morning selves had scoffed at the signs. Now, we knew we would make it, but we were laughing at how nonchalant we had been before. Our pace slowed as we went up the hill. We were making about 2 miles an hour. It got dark. My Garmin died so we had no idea how long it had been. It felt like forever, walking step by step, up the hill, in the dark, without any idea how much time it had been.  And it was SUPER windy, and it was blowing dust everywhere. We could barely see and there was grit in our eyes and I was so thirsty.

Ready to be done

And then we ran out of water. Just kidding mom! But we were starting to run lower than we had anticipated. The dust was a factor we had not banked on. However, we had enough to get us to the top. We walked forever, and finally we had reached the South Rim. Immediately we got cold. It's amazing how different the temperature is inside the canyon vs at the rim.We arrived at the top at 9 pm.

The lady-friend was on standby and she came and got us with the warm car and a burrito. She is my favorite person ever, by the way.


So, the stats: 47 miles, 16:30:00 for elapsed time (21:00 pace) and 12:54:00 for moving time (16:37 pace). As you can see, we took a lot of breaks! This was Broski's first night run, longest run ever (second longest is 23 miles) and most time on his feet at one time!

Sorry about the never-ending recap! Happy Monday! 

What's the longest time you have been on your feet at one time? Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? Have you ever done a hike where the uphill is at the end? 

3.26.2014

On The Road Again

I have only three words to explain last week: What A Week!

First, work has been slammed lately. Add to that the fact that I took Wednesday - Friday off last week for a road trip to Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and it makes for a very busy Monday and Tuesday. Add to that two different meetings on Monday, which meant less time to do the normal work stuff, and we had a pretty interesting first couple of days.

City of lights sin

But then...we were off! As soon as I was off work on Tuesday, I was picked up by the fabulous five, aka Broski, his lady, her sister and the sister's kids. Let me set the scene. We were all riding in a Dodge Journey, but since there were so many of us, we rented a small U-haul trailer for all the stuff. I have taken a few road trips in my day and the key to a good road trip is (1) the snacks / drinks and (2) the tunes. We started the trip off with a stop at the local taco truck, where the lady got a burrito longer than her arm. Then we cranked up the tunes and we were off.

First things first: burrito

If you have ever taken a road trip, you will know that it brings out the best (cough, cough) in everyone. This trip started off great. It started off like rain (ray-e-aiiiiin) on your wedding day. In fact, on Tuesday, while I was still at work, I got a call from the lady, who stated that her sister had changed her mind and did not want everyone to ride in the same car. She was going to drive her own car.

This was at 10 am, when they were set to pick me up at 3. This was after Broski had already rented the trailer so that we could carry all the extra stuff. This was after we had to decided to drive instead of fly, since there were going to be 6 of us. This was after we had already made a spreadsheet breaking down the misc costs for each of the different travel options. The lady was not happy. I was slammed with work so did not have time to think about it, but was not sure what to expect when they picked me up.

When I met them at 3, surprisingly everyone was in the car. However, as soon as I got in, someone had to use the bathroom. And then, someone else needed food. You see how it goes. So we got the arm's length burrito and got on the road. We probably stopped at least 4 more times in a four hour time period, causing that period to stretch to to 6 hours, causing us to arrive in Bakersfield around 10. We originally were going to drive all the way through to Vegas, but there are a few things that stopped us.

(1) Sister did not want to drive at night. (2) The addition of the trailer meant we had to go much slower than we would have without it, causing our trip time to be much, much slower than normal. (3) Multiple bathroom and food breaks, which added at least 10 minutes to every hour, maybe more like 15.

My takeaway from Bakersfield? It smells bad. Have you ever been past Harris Ranch? It stinks. Then you get to Bakersfield and believe it or not, it smells even worse! Add to that a teenage boy and a lactose intolerance and you have quite an interesting scent profile in the car.

We decided to get up very early the next morning and drive to Vegas so we would have as much time as possible to spend in the city of sin. Somehow, the plan was to "get up at 3:30". When I asked what time we were planning on leaving, nobody answered me. We ended up leaving at 4:30 after getting up at 3:30. After going to bed around 11 or so the night before, I was Grumpy McGrumpster that morning.

We watched the sun rise as we were heading across the high desert, and we arrived in Vegas around lunch time. After a drive back and forth on the strip, we went for a buffet lunch, which was not super great but we had to do it (plus I got to try ALL the desserts). Next was the New York, New York roller coaster and then the obligatory strip walk, complete with Bellagio water display. We had dinner at the Venetian and then headed to the Rio for Penn and Teller, which was probably my favorite part of the Vegas portion of our trip. The only problem was that the show started at 9, and I was pretty much ready for bed around 5 pm. The redeeming factor is that the Rio has serve yourself frozen yogurt for FIVE DOLLARS. Not $5 an ounce, but a five dollar flat fee for as much as you can fit in the cup. Score.

The Venetian


After we got back, the ladies went out to gamble a few rounds and I passed right out. It was a fun filled day, but I was plum tuckered out!!

Next up: Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon and more Vegas shenanigans.

Have you ever been on a long road trip? Do you like to gamble? Have you ever been to Vegas?

3.14.2014

Randoms and Peeves

There are a lot of things that annoy me; some of them are organizational, like the fact that I like certain things to have their place and when they are not there, it is annoying (car keys anyone?). Some just seem like common sense, like not leaving two drops of milk in the milk carton in the fridge or one square of toilet paper on the roll (obvious, right?). However, there are things out in the world and on the streets that I know I can't control (nor do they really affect me) but I get annoyed at them anyway. So, in no particular order, here is a (Friday Five?) list of some of my peeves.

People who use cell phones while walking. Just like driving, this should be illegal. They don't pay attention; they don't look up; they don't walk in a straight line OR walk fast enough. They need to pull over and use the phone while stopped in a place where they are not in other people's way.

Litter bugs. This is a really big one for me. I see littering as something that the lower class does. I am sorry if this is not true but it seems like the lower income neighborhoods have more trash. However, I've seen people throw their fast food wrappers down right in front of me in downtown San Francisco (and I didn't say anything)! Have you no pride? Also, in this case, the trash can was literally 10 feet from them! To make it worse, I ran a trail race last weekend and there was a bunch of race detritus (Gu wrappers mostly) on the trail! These are people who should be loving and respecting nature!

This one kind of goes along with the trash theme, but people who do not sort their trash annoy me. At work, we have a basket for compost, one for bottles and cans, one for all other recycling and one for trash. There are PICTURES that tell you which thing goes in which bin, but there is always someone who throws their plastic container in the compost bin.

People in the gym who take up the whole changing bench in the locker room with all of their stuff, or people who sit on the changing bench and text, Instagram, Facebook or talk on the phone, especially when the locker room is really crowded (like at 5 pm, as everyone is changing for Zumba).  There is an atrium in my gym where there is plenty of space to socially network.

People who walk really slow on the sidewalk, especially during rush hour. Don't they get it? It's "rush" hour! Also, when they don't walk straight, whether I am walking or running up behind them and am about to pass, if they are swerving/veering around, it's hard to figure out how to get around them without a collision! 

So, all of my peeves are regarding things that people do/don't do. Hm. By the way, Happy Friday everyone! If you do one of the above things, I will still be your friend, but I may complain a bit about it!

What are some of your peeves? Do you have recycling/composting where you live?

3.05.2014

Jed Smith 50k

If you want to PR on a 50k, do it on a nearly flat course. If you want to nearly drive yourself crazy, run around the same loop six times. On a flat course.

Lest you think it is all bad, let me set you straight. It's actually nice to be able to wear an extra layer for the first loop and easily throw it off. For spectators, they get to see you at least 6 times, and you don't have to carry any snacks or fluids on you because you can keep some at the finish and keep grabbing them each time you go around.

Last month I ran the Jed Smith 50k in Sacramento. It is approximately a 5 mile loop course around the American river parkway, from Watt Ave to CSU, Sacramento. At the college, you hang a right and cross to the other side of the river and head back to Watt, where the finish line is. This race has a 50 mile, a 50k and a half marathon. The 50 mile started at 7:30 and then we stood around for about an hour waiting for the 50k start. It was a pretty chilly morning, probably in the 30s. Luckily, I had company and it went by quickly.

Our race started at 8:30. Since the loops didn't quite add up to 50k, we first had to do a strange little out and back and then we started the loops.

Out and Back: 1.92 miles / 15:16 : Right from the get go the front runners got in place. It is fun to do an out and back because you can see who is ahead of you and who is behind you. I kept my windbreaker on for this section, knowing I would have many chances to leave it at the finish line.

Loop 1: 6.75 miles / 54:48: After the first loop, I ditched my jacket and felt a lot better, as I had warmed up a lot. It was fun to see the spectators again and everyone had set up tables with their snacks and stuff so they could just grab them each time they passed by.

Loop 2: 11.6 miles / 1:35: After the second loop, I thought, "do I really still have 4 loops to go?" I was already starting to dread it.

Loop 3: 16.55 miles / 2:18: After the third loop, I started to lap a couple of people. Funny enough, a couple people also started to lap me.

Loop 4: 21:37 miles / 3:00: A friend of mine passed me, saying that he had been trying to catch up to me for the last three laps. At this point I was just ready to be done. There was a guy behind me who shuffled his feet and it was pretty annoying but I did not have the energy to move any faster, nor did he have enough energy to pass me apparently.

Loop 5: 26.23 miles / 3:45: If you can't beat them, join them. I decided to talk to the foot shuffler, who turned out to be a really nice guy. Also, at the end of this lap, I remember thinking that it wasn't really a bad marathon time, really. Also, I was really excited that I only had to do the loop one more time. REALLY excited.



Loop 6: 31.26 miles / 4:31: I took the turn at the college and was very excited that it was the last time I would have to see that bridge over the American River. Shuffle feet (his name was Eric) and I stayed together the entire time, talking about how good a beer was going to taste at the end, and again, how happy we were that we were almost done (a reoccurring theme). And then we rounded the corner and were on the last stretch to the finish line. And finally, we were done!

After I crossed the finish line, a fellow runner told me that she wasn't sure that I been counted, as they had not called my name. I went over to the finisher tent and she was right, I had not been counted. Luckily I had run in with my new shuffle footed friend, Eric, so they said they would manually enter me in at the same time as him. Later I learned that I had been the number 3 female overall!

The best part was the after party. I had a beer afterward with Eric and hung out and watched other people cross the finish line. It had warmed up a bit and it was really nice to just sit there in the sun, cheering people on, eating some snacks and drinking a brewski. It was a perfect end to the day. It made me forget how many loops I had run.

The verdict? I don't know that I would do this race again. I am not a huge fan of the multi loop course. However, I never say never, because you can get into trouble that way! Maybe next time I will just sit at the finish line and watch everyone else run by 6 times while I drink beer in the sun.

Have you ever been to Sacramento? Have you ever run a multi loop course? What did you think?

3.03.2014

Looking Back: Februrary

For being the shortest month in the year, the month of February packed a huge punch! A lot happened in a mere four weeks.

Running: I actually ran one race, which I have yet to post a recap for, bringing my total February miles to 199. I know, I should have run ONE more mile in order to round it out, but I did not realize that February was even over until it was gone! It really flew by. I have been doing a lot of after work runs along the Marina and Crissy Field in San Francisco and the views have been gorgeous! I also had a great trail run on the coast with Broski, which was his longest EVER (22.5 miles)!

Alamere Falls run

Travel: I actually got out of the state this month, with a food and fun filled weekend with Lisa in North Carolina. In addition, I had a day trip to Sacramento, and another to Santa Rosa. It was nice to get out the the Bay Area if even just for the weekend, although it's always nice to come home! I am hoping to get out of the country soon, but the prices of flights have been really expensive lately!

Books: Wait for it...this month I read 5 books, and read 4 half books (one novel I just couldn't finish, 3 reference type books such as a book about the John Muir Trail). My favorites were Someone Knows My Name, which is about an African girl ripped from her home and taken to America to be a slave in the 1700s, and Orphan Train, a story about New York orphans who get taken to the Midwest to be "adopted" by farmers wanting free labor. Both are stories of hardship and are based on true stories and they were both hard to put down.

An attempt to brush up on my Spanish

Food: Aside from all the wonderful food in North Carolina, I also tried a new Korean place in Oakland as well as had a nice lunch at Brown Sugar Kitchen, which has the most excellent waffles (with chicken). In addition, I have been experimenting more with canning, and had a great Sunday night dinner with the Broski where we had homemade hamburgers and baked sweet and regular potato fries. I also had a great time (as always) shopping in my local Mexican supermarket, where the jalapenos are super cheap!

from crissy field
View of the city from Crissy Field

Other highlights included happy hour with the girls, some great lunch time walks, some garden prep work, an extra productive month at work and lots of time spent planning out summer weekends!

How was your February? Did you have any fun weekend trips? Do you have a favorite local market?