Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Am No Longer Driving a Rickety 11-Year-Old Hyundai Accent

My brain is completely fried from work today and I can’t leave yet as I’m waiting out time till a spin class. So! Thirty minutes to kill = get off my lazy mental ass and write a blog post.

In case you are wondering about the car situation, I think we’re in the “insurance companies now duke it out for the fault” phase and I will lose my shit if it isn’t deemed 100% the other party’s fault. My car was totaled (~16K damage), and I got back more than I was expecting. The day after I got information that it was a total loss (Saturday), we were test driving, and the following day (Sunday) I had bought a car.

A black 2013 VW Sportwagen TDI in manual (because I heart stick shifts like Snooki hearts pickles). There were only two manual transmission TDI Sportwagens available in all of southern California! And one wasn’t arriving for a couple weeks while the other was waiting at the port, scheduled to arrive the next day. So I think I was lucky to get one. It’s not necessarily the color I would have picked, and additionally, it has upgrades I would never choose to get ever (like navigation), and the sun-roof I didn’t need either. But, dammit, I wanted my 3-pedal, stick shift! Give me a Clutch or give me Death! Ok, that is extreme, but you get what I’m saying.

And if you are also a stick-shift aficionado, good luck in your next car hunt. Apparently, stick shift is like trying to buy a hot pink Toyota Camry.

The dorky part is that it’s the same model car that my husband drives. Yes. We both have TDI Sportwagens. His is a 2009 automatic, though. And at least it’s gray and mine is black. And, I am routinely getting 44-48 mpg on my 34 mile commute (10 miles of which are city driving). Nearly as good as Prius and has way more pick up than a hybrid. Gotta love German engineering.

But all is not 100% well, driving-wise for me. I am super-paranoid that I’m going to get wacked again. I am hyperaware of drivers behind me that appear to be driving too fast, or when I am slowing down in traffic on the freeway, I feel my heart rate jump up. You just have no control over what people do behind you. It’s scary. I hope it goes away soon because it’s a pretty unpleasant experience to be continually worried about getting rear-ended.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

At This Point, Who Gives a Flying Ferk?

Yeah, about that Wineglass Marathon thing. So, I’ll keep it short-ish.

  1. Shin problem was a non-issue.
  2. The race is awesome – I highly recommend it. Well run, plenty of porta-johns, excellent swag, great race support, small (under 2000 people in the marathon), ridiculous food spread at the end, free showers at the Y for runners, easy course. I will do it again, for sure.
  3. While 5 weeks of taper from a 20 miler seemed to work ok for Carlsbad, 8 weeks? Not so much. And only 18 miles with a two week taper? Also not sufficient. And I don’t think the 6 days off did anything for the shin.
  4. So, even though miles 21-26 were awful thanks to point #2, I learned that I can, for sure, run an 3:40 with proper training.

The first 20 went like this – I crossed the half way point around 1:50:xx:

8:28, 8:18, 8:29, 8:27, 8:30, 8:31, 8:12, 8:19, 8:19, 8:19, 8:26, 8:26, 8:27, 8:22, 8:25, 8:34, 8:23, 8:24, 8:26, 8:32.

Around mile 20, I knew that the wall was coming. Not surprisingly, with 18 miles being the most I ran, and only once, this makes complete sense.

From 21-26, I watched my 8:25 pace go down the shitter. My legs were completely fried.

Last 6:

8:40, 9:16, 8:46, 9:33, 10:32 (I was hating life here at mile 25), 9:07, 2:41 (last .35).

I salvaged the PR, just barely. Official chip time 3:46:45.

Once I finished, I was the achiest ever. I thought after RnR New Orleans, it was bad. This was twice as bad. I was scared to sit down for fear I would not be able to get back up. But then, staying upright was hard, so, I was in a catch-22. I hobbled around for like 10 minutes until I found the bag pick up, sat my ass down on a curb and waited for the Husband.

While I am kind of bummed out with the last 6 miles, it wasn’t exactly a surprising outcome. The one takeaway that left me hopeful was that I maintained that 8:25 quite easily. It felt no harder than when I was running the first 20 miles of Carlsbad and New Orleans. I know the wall came because I didn’t have recent long runs under my belt.

Anyway, a while back I registered for Lake Hodges 50K at the end of this month. Let’s  hope this 90+ degree heat wave doesn’t come back next week. And at least I got 26.2 miles in 4 weeks before, and 15 miles this past Sunday, so I am reasonably prepared – probably more so than for Wineglass!

Friday, October 5, 2012

I Am Car-less.

Are you here expecting my Wineglass Marathon recap? Pardon the interruption but I have more pressing ridiculousness to brain dump on the blog. Like how I don't have a car anymore.

Oh, and how I am really lucky I am not hurt or dead.

Yesterday was my first day back at work from our little vacation/romp around the northeast. I left at my usual time, around 6:15pm. Got on the 5 freeway, northbound. Per usual. Traffic was moving well, however, I know that this freeway is fairly unpredictable from 4-7pm, so, I am always on guard. I had maybe gotten 8 miles from work? I was driving in the fast lane (apparently it is called the "number 1" lane) behind someone who works at my company - I know this because she has an interesting vanity plate that I see in the parking lot nearly every day. No idea who she is. I would guess traffic was moving around 70 mph, give or take 5. We crested the hill before the Via de la Valle exit and I see my lane is coming to a stop ahead.

I hit my brakes pretty hard, but nothing extreme. It was not a majorly difficult to come to a stop. But at that point, I was a sitting duck. I looked in my rearview, a white van was coming up fast. Moves into the carpool lane to avoid us. Next, a silver van of some sort was coming up quickly. Unfortunately, this person, either panicked, wasn't paying attention, or was driving way too fast to stop in time. Or all of the above.

It was like slow motion. You know? Even though it probably happened over the span of like 5 seconds. I was sitting there with my hands on the wheel, clutch pedal engaged, foot on the brake, bracing to get wacked hard. Watching this car come at me from my rearview. I could not move, seeing as I was at a complete stop. And the other lanes were moving, so, I had no options.

Let me just say I was damn lucky yesterday. She (I found out it was a "she" later, from the police officer) managed to swerve enough to hit rear-side of my car, rather than getting completely rear-ended. Side airbags deployed, and my seat side air bag deployed, too. It was surreal. I watched the car continue down the carpool lane and though "The aren't going to stop." She was so far up head when she finally did, I could barely make out what the vehicle looked like. All I could think of was "Great, so now I also have a hit and run situation." Oh, and it was CSA pick up day, so, naturally, I was concerned about my $26 box of organic vegetables sitting in the trunk. I swear, the shit that goes through your mind in these situations.

As I'm sitting there in WTF mode, this lady, who had the best of intentions, tries to convince me through my open passenger side window that I should hop in her car and get out of there. Even in my very shaken state, this seemed like a dumb idea. I told her I was going to call 911. And can you believe I had people honking at me? I tried to move the car - it started, but when I pressed the gas it didn't move. Yet, people are assholes and honk. Awesome, right?

Anyway.

The CHP? They came in a New York Minute. However, I believe this is because they were already enroute to another accident up ahead at the exit. I think this is also why my lane was stopped. CHP though? They are on point. One of the cruisers backed up in the carpool lane, another came up shortly after. Meanwhile, fire engines had zoomed by me for the other accident. Here I am, peeking around my side airbags (the smell when they deploy? Gross), the officer comes up, asks if I'm alright (I tell him that I think so), and he takes my license and insurance. He has the other person's as well.

They then have me attempt to drag my car over to the left. I start it and press more aggressively on the gas, it actually hobbles over. A sit there a few more minutes, texting my husband about my situation. Few minutes pass, the officer comes up and asks me to try to move my car all the way over across lanes. They will left the back if they have to. I start it, turn hard, and press the gas hard. As I'm slowly dragging my poor car over, I see that all traffic on the 5 is stopped in a traffic break. This is all happening over like 5-10 minutes, that's how fast these guys work. I drag my car over to the right shoulder, and traffic starts going again, and the tow truck is already there.

Did I mention I am super impressed with the CHP? Holy crap. Tax dollars in action right there.

Finally, I crawl out of the passenger side and look at my car; while it wasn't as bad as I though it would be - probably because the Mazda3 is a very solid car, thank God I wasn't in some tiny-ass tinfoil economy car - it didn't look good. The officer says airbags are at like $2K to repair. The doors are completely done/buckled. He says it looks like my rear axle is broken based on the way the tire is dented in (makes sense because even with a complete flat, it wouldn't take that much gas pedal to move across 4 lanes).

Oh, and also? I paid off the car about 3 months ago. So there's that. It had only 29K miles on it. 2011, still under warranty. Now, I don't want to sound whiny, because I am freaking relieved that I didn't die or get seriously hurt, but this kind of sucks. The trade in value is like $13.5K. I can't get the same car, used, for that amount of money.

And then I got to ride in the front seat of a cruiser. That was pretty cool. He dropped me off at a local coffee shop to wait for my husband to come get my sorry ass, 25 miles from home. During the 5 minute ride off the freeway, he said that apparently another unit responding to the original crash, saw the whole thing happen. And they also were concerned the other person was not going to stop and it would be a hit and run (I think that's why they went to her car first rather than me). I think that was highly possible, except she probably figured out there were a bunch of CHP everywhere, and that would be a pretty dumb idea.

I have no idea what happens next. I've filed my claim. I have two reps that I can call. But I have no clue how long this kind of stuff takes. Do I bug them about it? It's clearly not my fault - but I am hoping that I don't have to wait for the two insurance companies to duke it out. And I really hope they don't try to fix my car. Anyone have experience dealing with this crap? In my 17 years of driving, I have never been in an accident. I suppose it was bound to happen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wineglass Marathon in 8 Days...


Sometime in July, I registered for the Wineglass Marathon in New York. I had been planning to go back East to see my grandparents and while Corning, NY is more than 6 hours from my hometown, it's only about 3.5 hours from my husband's hometown. And I have a real soft spot for roadtripping. Even if it involves some initial flying. I can already see myself being retired with an RV. So long as by the time I'm retired, we've improved fuel efficiency because I cringe at the thought of less than 20 MPG.

Anyway, it's a flat course. 269 feet of climbing (whoop dee do, I do more than that on my usual 4 mile route from my house) and 469 feet if descent. So, 200 feet of loss over 26 miles. Not sure you can find an easier course (well, Ojai 2 Ocean or St. George might be easier, if you're quads are up for some pounding).

Then I worked myself too hard into this shin problem which I have self-diagnosed as some kind of compartment-syndrome type thing. Especially considering when I wore flats last week on an off-running day my shin muscles (both legs) were ridiculously angry. The next day I ran 6 miles and wore heels to work (which I haven't done in months) and my shin muscles were happy/unstressed.

The last 20+ run I did was 26.2 on 8/4. Yeah. We're talking 8 weeks from race day. I took 6 days off at the end of August at the end of a 50K taper which left me with only 5 weeks to race day to attempt to ramp back up as close to 20 miles as I could safely get. I was left with the choice of ramping up too fast (bad idea with a questionable shin), compromising to less then 20, and/or taking a shorter taper. I compromised with 18 miles and a 2 week taper.

The last month has looked like this:

Nice contrast from July to August, right? Sigh. 50 flipping miles. The plan was to be around 160 again but, hey, I had a nice run of it. I did 18 last weekend with Nicole starting before the sun rose at 5:45am, completing it at 9:00 pace (nearly on the dot - a fraction of a second under). And then into taper. 6 miles twice last week and 10 miles this morning @ 8:47 pace. My plan is to do 4-5 on Monday, and then 4 on Wednesday. Then we leave for Pennsylvania (well, we land at Reagan and drive into po-dunk central PA).

I honestly don't know what to expect. I have dropped a pound or two with all the spinning - I think it's actually been harder/tougher in some ways than running. I have only been taking 1-2 days off. But I just don't know if substituting cycle for running 2-3 days a week is enough to allow me to run well. I kind of don't think so, but, really, I have no idea. I haven't run a marathon on such low mileage in a long time (specifically June 2003 at SD RnR and it didn't go well. PW for that one at 4:30:15).

I know I'm going to have fun because even at SD RnR when I was hurting, I still enjoyed it. The marathon experience is really fun for me. It's like it still feels "new" -- like a big accomplishment even though I've done it 6 times before. But the fact that the course is a PR course and I'm not in the shape I'd like to be, just seems like a wasted opportunity. I've done the best I could with the situation, and my leg is feeling pretty good, so, I think I should consider it a successful salvage of what could have been another DNF.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

So How’s The Shin…

Well, I’m fairly certain now it’s is muscular rather than an sfx, otherwise, running 16 miles without pain would probably not be doable. However it’s still a cranky asshole the 24 hours following a run, making it difficult to run two days in a row without paranoia that I’ll injure myself for real. Likely, I can run two days in a row without pain, but I don’t like the idea of starting a run if I can push the spot on my shin and it’s tender. So it’s left me in a situation where I’m running 3 days a week.

I took 6 full days off at the end of August. I am now 2 weeks post run-break and last week looked like this:

Monday (Labor Day): Worst spin class in the history of the world. We essentially got yelled at us for an hour (not exaggerating, another woman moved to the bike next to me about 30 minutes in trying to get away from the loudness) and told to add tension without any real direction, instruction, or explanation. I basically ignored her. At the end, she gave us some spiel about “you get what you put into it” in a condescending manner (which, not to be too snarky, but it’s not like she was Bob Harper, in super fit shape doling out a scolding). I wanted to tell her that I had run 12 miles the day before so I was going to put in the effort I felt was appropriate for me. Instead I just left and decided to never go to her class again.

Tuesday: Hottest spin class in the history of the world. Apparently the Kearney Mesa LA Fitness does not have good AC going on in their cycle room. But the teacher was excellent (I got my ass kicked pretty well with good instruction and appropriate periods of rest in between songs). And the bikes were also not from 1990 like my regular location.

Wednesday: 8 hot miles after work around Lake Miramar in my Mizuno Elixirs.

Thursday: 5:30am spin class on old ass bikes (I can’t wait for them to upgrade that location)

Friday: 8.3 miles in the neighborhood in my Brooks Launches. Loving these shoes and extremely bent that Brooks is discontinuing them.

Saturday: Yoga at Lululemon with Nicole wherein I also bought a pair of Speed Shorts (yes, I can’t believe I did that either. $54 for shorts. The fit is great, though).

Sunday: 16 miles with Nicole (who did 20+ total with hills from her house. Badass) in roughly 2:26 (haven’t downloaded the Garmin data). It was toasty out there. We stopped twice to refill at fountains after draining 30 ounces from our belts. I think I went through 50-60 ounces for 16 miles. I have since peed only twice and it’s 3+ hours since I finished. Sweaty and hot. It had better not be this sweaty and hot for Wineglass.

Forgot to mention that little tidbit – that I’m running marathon in 3 weeks. So, normally, I would probably not be running 16 miles if I was trying to completely rehab my leg, however, I have a marathon scheduled. It’s definitely NOT going to be a PR effort. However, it’s back East and the plan is to visit my husband’s granny in PA and then drive on over the MA to visit my grandparents. And the race sounds like fun one, so I don’t want to miss it. So, it’ll just be an “eh” effort marathon. Whatever. I will do 18-ish next weekend with a two week taper and that will have to do.

The 16 miles today felt totally fine. Granted, I was starting to feel pretty pooped towards the end but I think the weather had partly to do with that. It definitely is not ideal to be only running 3 times a week; but it’s keeping my leg happy, and cycle class has proven, again, to be an awesome alternative.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Because I’m an Idiot

It's no longer feeling like Satan's Armpit in Southern California and I should be thrilled that it happed for Bulldog 50K weekend, except as I type this, the race is currently underway. My first damn DNS and while it was the right choice, I am really pissed that I did all that heat training and then the weather got all nice. I think I probably would have beaten my Harding Hustle time.

So, why the DNS? Well, I am like every other running asshole out there that has a good week and decides to push it too hard. Well, that was also more than 3 weeks ago, after my soapbox spiel about running easy (written in the throes of knowing what happens when I don’t). The week went something like this:

7/23, Sunday: Long 16, in hot weather but felt pretty damn good.
7/24: Monday, Recovery 2.5 with a friend
7/25: Tuesday, 8 miles, SDTC fartlek: 1000m + hill stride, in Kinvaras
7/26: Wednesday: 5 easy
7/26: Thursday: 7 mile, tempo, in Brooks Cadence
7/27: Friday: 6 easy
7/28: Saturday: rest (gee, really?)
7/29: Sunday: 5K race (22:01, PR, in Kinvaras), then proceeded to run 12.5 more easy (in DS trainer) to make it a long run. I had told myself during the race that if I broke 22 I would let myself skip the extra miles. Dumbass should have skipped it anyway. 22:01 is close enough.

This was a stupid week. Truly idiotic. I mean, I felt really good that week so I threw my better judgment to the wind. There are 4 hard workouts in there over the span of 8 days (long run, fartlek, tempo, and race PLUS long). Additionally, I ran 3 days in Kinvara or Cadence - low heel-to-toe drop shoes. I have done this kind of week before without problems but I think that was dumb luck (and not in minimalist shoes). The week after the 5K I had the tightest and sorest calves on planet Earth. What's interesting is that hard efforts in the Kinvara or Cadence are what end up messing up my calves. Speed. The faster I run in those shoes the more likely I am to have a mess on my hands.

Anyway, so, yeah. I stretched and rolled like crazy. It improved and I even got that long training run (26 miles) in without any problems. I felt like I was on the mend... then I wore the Brooks Cadence (because I had only sworn off the Kinvara at this point) to SDTC fartlek night two weeks ago. Ran less than 5 miles and none were really fast (because it was 87 degrees out at 6pm so we were sweating our asses off), but that seemed to reignite the problem. I found a painful spot (about the size of my thumb) on my outer shin that if I pressed it, hurt, so the hypochondriac in me was like "Ack!!! Stress fracture!"  But then, I can run and hop with no pain, so, seems kind of unlikely. Regardless, my left leg is messed up so running 31+ hilly miles on it seemed like a really dumb idea. I didn't want to go all the way up to Malibu, stay in a hotel, inconvenience my parents to watch the dogs, all to have a very good chance of a DNF and then further injure myself.

Having not taken more than 2 days off running since my RUN ALL THE THINGS week, I figured I should give a no-running-week a whirl. So, I haven't run since Wednesday (aside from having to dart around a bit for dodgeball playoffs at work, which, honestly, didn't help my shin). I went to a cycle class yesterday and then hit up the rower and elliptical. This morning? Zero shin pain. I can press hard on the spot and no pain. However, my achilles and soleus? Tight and cranky. I think I have discovered my problem – tight calf muscles? Can causes stressed out tibialis anterior. Stressed tibialis anterior? Shin pain. And it isn’t the first time I have an overworked shin muscle – last time it was in 2005 on my right leg when I was stuck running crazy hills in my neighborhood in Lake Elsinore (at the time, and may still be the case, there were few options in that area with proper sidewalks).

Honestly, I am (a) not running a stupid week like that again, and (b) 100% sworn off low-heel-toe drop shoes. Regular trainers with 9-12mm drop were working fine for me - I have had relatively injury free running over the last 19 years (started running sophomore year of high school). I guess I didn't see trying out the latest trend as messing with what was working (i.e. if it ain't broke, don't fix it) but that's the danger with this stuff. Sometimes you don't realize you are in fact, making a significant change by running in a certain shoe ESPECIALLY if you are a shoe rotater like myself. I have run in lots of different brands and models with little issue, so I didn't immediately realize that the heel-to-toe drop difference is non-trivial.

I am rolling, stretching, compressing, icing, and even heat compresses. I hope this week off does the trick.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Sure Way To Get Injured: Never Run Junk Miles

I have been seeing the term "junk miles” thrown around lately, clearly with the connotation of being bad because it's preceded by the word "junk". Reading into the context it's used, the writers are referring to slower, easy miles.

When did easy miles because suddenly something you must avoid? Aside, from Run Less, Run Faster, where did this shit come from?

Easy miles are the foundation and base of any distance (half/full marathon) training program. Stocking your training week with 3 to 4 fast/hard workouts only to follow them with some recovery miles and doing no easy miles is a great way to get injured. Sure, the elites might have 3+ hard workouts per week, including tempos, trackwork, fartleks, two-a-days, etc, but they have built up to that their whole lives. And they're elites! Genetically gifted runners!

Most training plans out there, do not advocate more than 1, maybe 2, tempo/speedwork days per week. The long run? Guess what… that is a hard workout. When you run 15+ miles, that is a hard run that requires a rest day or a recovery/easy run after. Long easy runs are not junk miles. Mid week easy run? Not junk miles. They are foundational/base mileage keeping you from getting injured during your hard workout days. Personally, when I do more than one speedwork day a week, I find myself riding a fine line between just barely healthy and injured. With a 50-50 chance of finding myself on either side.

Sure, I have not backed up these statements with any scientific studies or research links. They are anecdotal – my own empirical findings. However, I ran all 3 seasons of track in high school and, while I was always a middle-to-back-of-the-pack runner, our teams were consistently competing on the state and regional level (by regional, I mean all of New England). Our coaches weren't dumbasses. Our XC and middle/long distance track coach is now a head track coach at a university (and while not a huge school, it’s not a podunk super-small one, either). We ran easy miles ALL THE TIME. We had maybe two hard workouts a week. One on the track, one tempo or fartlek. If there was a meet that week, then maybe just one.

Calling easy miles "junk miles" is sending the wrong message, especially to newer runners out there. Wanna keep injuries at bay? Make easy miles the bulk of your training volume.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stairway to Heaven 15K: Thank God I Wasn't Actually Racing

With Bulldog 50K coming up on the 25th, and the Vista Half Marathon originally scheduled for 8/11 postponed until freaking 2013 (so annoying), it opened up the weekend for a trail race I had been eyeing. Dirt Devil Racing's Stairway to Heaven 15K.

Now, when I registered, we weren't in the thick of a heat wave, so, I figured it would be hot since it's August but manageable, and that would be good Bulldog training. The past two weeks here in So Cal have been fairly miserable. It's been close to 90 and the humidity… it's like East Coast style shit. I compared Thursday, the humidity in Oceanside and the humidity where I grew up in coastal Massachusetts. Same. Exactly the same at 62%. In the morning here it is over 80%. So it's pretty uncomfortable. It's downright awful if you've been babied by Southern California for many years (going on 12 years for me). So it didn't really make for good race conditions.

This run is held at Mission Trails Park in Santee, which is a bit inland (if you’re familiar with San Diego County, it’s also known as “Santucky”). Pretty close to “The Big Box” (El Cajon). And it's generally a bit hotter there. I parked around 6:10am and it was already 75 degrees.

Within about 10 minutes, I find out there was a porta-potty snafu wherein the contracted company dropped them off at the opposite end of the park. Awesome! So there was one flushable toilet, and one extremely disgusting porta for like 400 people. I lucked out and managed to get in the line of the flushable one fairly early on. Due to the heat – the race director could not delay the start of wave 1 longer than 15 minutes (smart). So, some folks may not have made the first wave or perhaps started the race having to "go".

All the pictures, I have shamelessly lifted from the Bonita Roadrunners who were an awesome group of folks. Part of me wishes we lived down in south county, because I’d totally join their running club. The person taking the photos must have been close behind me because I am in two of the pics. The blue tank, hat, and orange shorts.

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Seeing as it was toasty, already, with not a cloud in the sky, I knew I was taking this race slow. Like a trail training run. The race directors had thrown down the gauntlet of "break two hours, qualify for entry into the 2013 Dirt Devil Invitational Marathon." Prior to the heat-wave, achieving this seemed like a non-issue. At the start line, I wasn't so sure anymore. At 7:15am we took off. Somewhere in mile 1, my asshole Garmin decided it didn't need the satellite connection anymore and just shut itself off. I looked down probably around .8 miles in and it was just showing me the current time (i.e. 7:21am or something). So I had to wait for it to find the satellite. Again (apparently, it only tracked .11 miles before losing it). Reset, and start again. So I was somewhat at a loss for most of the race as to how much I had left to run or my elapsed time.

Within a few miles, we hit the first ridiculous hill at the power lines. No one was running. No one. Seriously, it was hard walking up that hill. Some people just straight up stopped and rested. WTF. Finally we get to the top and we can actually run. I remember very little of the sequence of events during this race, other than:

1. Garmin loses signal. Cursing.
2. Power lines hill
3. Aid station where I put ice in my hat and sports bra
4. Stopping to walk for a bit and suddenly finding myself in the fetal position playing in the leaves*

*First trail running spill for me. And man, did I feel stupid. I was thinking to myself: “Let me just take a little walk here. It’s hot, I’ll take a little breather” and suddenly it was Stop-Drop-And-Roll. Luckily, I had very very minor scratches (almost none) and no one was directly behind me so I didn’t create a pile up.

5. Thousand Steps or Stairway to Heaven or Are You Seriously Telling Me We’re Climbing Up There?

Now, the race description mentioned that parts were more like a hike than a run and I remember thinking “yeah, ok, whatever.” Um, when the winning female is slower than a 10 minute mile for 15K, you know this shit was ridiculous. We hit the first rail road tie (i.e. “step”) and someone mentions they can see where we are going. One of the chicks curses. I keep looking up and around but I can’t see what they are talking about. About half way up (everyone is walking, btw), I finally see the trail of people.

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See the trail way back at the far end of the pic? We came from there. See how tiny the people are in the back?

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We finally get close to the top and in classic Dirt Devil Racing style, this crazy chick was at the top, cheering for us:

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Shortly after we meet the angel, the girl behind me loses her breakfast (it was a tough climb in 80+ degrees).

We had to climb over rocks (I had to use both hands to pull myself up and over), like we were bouldering or something. This is not running.

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With no idea how much time had elapsed and having to climb this insanity, I was thinking that the sub-2 hours might not happen. The final few miles included running down the power lines hill which was kind of scary, but I threw caution to the wind and flew down it. It felt better to just run down the hill in a barely controlled manner than waste a ton of energy trying to slow myself down. My quads weren’t happy with me the rest of the week, but whatever.

At the second-to-last aid station, they were already short on water and we were the first third of the runners. Not ideal. I took a little bit for my bottle (after I was almost told I couldn’t, so, I was really taking the bare minimum I needed) and took off. The last half mile, I sort of didn’t believe we were close to the finish based on their last race that was well over the supposed 13.1 miles. So I kind of trotted it in until I could actually see the finish line. I crossed and then asked some dude what time he had finished so I could try to figure out mine (there was no running clock displayed). It turned out I finished 1:58:52. So at least I hit that 2 hour mark. Considering the winning female was 1:37 (and these races generally attract some pretty fast runners), I didn’t push it hard, it was like 85+ degrees by the time I finished, and we climbed two insane hills, I am fine with this. And hopefully this will be good heat and terrain training for next weekend!

Even with the portajohn problem, the heat, and the water nearly running out, it was a good race. This is my second event with them, and while both had issues, there is something fun and endearing about these race organizers. They put on a fun race, it’s reasonably priced, good shwag, and just an all around good time. Definitely recommend as long as you are cool with running slow and getting your ass beat by the trails.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Saucony Kinvara 2: My Legs Don't Buy The Hype

I spent many months fighting the hype: "OMG the Kinvaras are the best shoe everrrrrr!"

I tend to be very skeptical of any product with excessive enthusiasm surrounding it. In January of this year, my second pair of Ravennas (first edition) were coming due for replacement so I hit up Road Runner Sports. They did not have the Ravenna 2 in my size but the salesperson brought out several models to try - the Asics Neo, Brooks Launch (which ended up being too big and they didn't have the smaller size), Saucony Guide, and... the Saucony Kinvara 2.

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I wanted to not like the Kinvaras. Really. I wanted my cynicism confirmed. But on the treadmill, they felt pretty good. Yet, I didn't get them. Finally about a month later, I found a good deal on them (less than $70) so I picked them up. They have a 4mm heel-to-toe drop so, they are on the "minimalist" end of shoes. And super light at 6.6 ounces. Like every internet source suggested with low heel-to-toe drop shoes, I eased into them. Starting with 3 miles, then 4, up to 6 miles, only using them once a week. Truly, I did not jump into the minimalist shoe thing so, I really cannot explain why with 123 miles on the shoe, they finally decided to screw me over.

Things started getting funny with these shoes about a month ago (I had nearly 100 miles on them at that point). I ran a 5K on the track (McMahon Masters Track Meet in San Marcos). The next day my calves were crazy tight and sore. I continued using them once a week for my one speed workout. Then two weeks ago, I ran the San Diego Blood Bank 5K in them (wherein I again narrowly missed breaking 22, coming in 22:01. No chip-timing, and Garmin says 3.14, so, yeah, I know I ran sub 22, but it isn't official). I then ran an easy 12 miles in my Asics DS Trainer around the harbor.

My calves and Achilles were so angry with me. My left shin was also pissed off because my tibialis anterior muscle was doing all kinds of extra work due to my calves being all messed up. I spent all last week, stretching, icing, rolling, sticking, stretching, icing, compressing with ace bandages (because socks weren't tight enough). Skipped a longer mid-week run. It's still not 100%. But I have only run in my standard trainers with 10mm drops.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I officially don't buy the hype. This minimalist trend is not for everyone. Is the Kinvara a good shoe? Well, I liked it for a while. But really feel like I am not built for this shoe. And I know it isn't because I "jumped" into it - I eased into it. And I know it's not a matter of not having strong feet, because I do (I have excellent single-leg balance, and easily pass the "pick up a pencil with your toes" test. And I don't over-pronate much on either leg).

I think there are a number of things at play: (1) it seems like the shoe breaks down quickly thus why I started having issues around 100 miles, (2) it's quite a "soft" shoe so, that can aggravate muscles and tendons for certain people (which, apparently, might be me). I have read forum posts of people wearing these shoes for 500+ miles! I would venture to say these people are either very light runners and/or have a very efficient stride. I don't think the average run-of-the-mill runner fits this profile. I'd be curious to hear from any other Kinvara owners out there on what they think of the shoe.

For me? They are permanently in retirement. I am not chancing it again with them and risk an Achilles injury (or worse, tibial stress fracture from an overworked anterior tibilalis muscle).

Monday, August 6, 2012

When You REALLY Don't Want to Run 26 Miles Alone

While it was completely painful the last 6 miles of the Harding Hustle in the heat and the relentless downhill, I had a great time. Trail races, especially long ones, to  me feel like an adventure. The pressure was of a different kind - more like "will I make it" rather than "how fast will I do it and if I don't run it fast I will be all bummed out for several days." That part of road racing is getting old for me.

With few options in August/September for 50K events, it was either Endure the Bear in Big Bear Lake (i.e. at 8000+ feet elevation) or Bulldog 50K in Malibu Creek State Park. They both sound hard, but running trails and hills for 31+ miles at 8000 feet seemed more painful than running 50K in hot conditions. So Bulldog 50K on 8/25 it was.

This meant I had to get one long training run in. Long as in 24+ miles.

I really had no desire to do this alone again (I did 24 for Harding Hustle alone and, yes, I managed, but I'd rather not if I don't have to). So I started poking around the local no-frills race options (Rocket Racing and Charlie Alewine Racing). I found the Charlie was putting on two events this weekend that were both closed for registration (since it was only 5 days before). I read his FAQs and he stated if a spot opened up, someone could swap in. So I emailed him, pled my case, and he let me in his Sunday event in Lake Forest, Rock the Path Marathon and Half Marathon.

I really didn't know what to expect, but I knew it was going to be very low key and no frills. And it was. Simple countdown from 10 with the "official clock" being a chronograph watch on Charlie's wrist. Some chalk markings on the ground for the turn-arounds (marathon did 4 out and back loops) and no bibs. One aid station that you passed 8 times. The loops were up and down Aliso Creek bike path along El Toro.

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I planned to run easy as this was a training run so anywhere from 9:15 to 10:00 pace would be acceptable to me. The first two loops the weather complied. Overcast and around 70. A super-fast and super-friendly runner was the leader the whole way - apparently she has run a 3:20 before, so, even though she was "out of shape" she still was going to kick our asses out there. I was holding around 9:15-9:20 average pace on those loops. I had my hydration pack filled completely (70 ounces) which weighed a veritable ton on my back. But I didn't want to trek up to the aid station every time, so, I was glad I brought it.

Second two loops it got toasty. I am thinking it was probably 75-80 for the 3rd loop, and probably 80-85 for my 4th. When I left at 12:15pm it was 87 degrees. So I started walking the shaded sections. Seeing as it was a training run, I was not going to kill myself or get heat exhaustion. I ended up going through all 70 ounces of banana Nuun, and then another 10-12 ounces of water when I filled up before completing my last 4 miles. The course came up slightly short so I had to do a bunch of silly loops to get the full distance at the end, but I timed it perfectly, with the Garmin hitting 26.2 as I ran up to the aid station/finish area. Total time 4:16:49.

The other fun thing about these small races is that you have an excellent chance of placing. Sure, you have to also complete with the men  (it's top 3 overall) to get a trophy, but the field is much smaller. Speedy lady, Sally, took 1st and I rolled in 25 minutes or so after her. Third place was also a woman. I totally wasn't expecting to get anything, I was just in for a training run, so it was a nice surprise! I hung around for an hour or so, cooling down, and chatting with Charlie and the other runners. Such a fun group - really enjoyed it. Will have to do some more of his races in the future!

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Now it's time to taper some for Bulldog. I have one trail race, Sidewinder 15K, next weekend. It looks hard, but I'm excited to get a cool finisher's pint glass. And it'll be a good warm up for the big race in 3 weeks!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shoes: Brooks Ravenna 3

Shoes. Let's talk shoes. I have a little secret. And it's somewhat embarrassing because I like to consider myself low maintenance/no frills type of person. Except that I'm currently rotating 5 pairs of running shoes. Actively. And I have another 2 pairs waiting to swap in. All different. I feel like this is very much excessive. But (a) I love a good deal, and (b) running shoes appear to be a serious vice for me like some ladies with handbags.

The Mizuno Mezamashii Project was floating around blogland last month and while I entered a couple giveaways, I decided I would just go enter my name directly with Mizuno and if it happened, great. They only ask for name, zip code, and email, so I'm pretty certain the blog had nothing to do with it. I don't have enough notoriety for any random Mizuno employee to know who I am by name and zip code. Lo and behold, I got an invite. I sent my extra invite to a non-blog runner friend. So that's pair #6. I also have a pair of the soon-to-be-defunct Brooks Launch sitting in my closet waiting to be taken off the bench. Number 7. WTF.

I think, unless you want to be reading for the next 2 hours about all my shoes, I am going to make this a series and do a short right up on each of the pairs.

Let's start with my what was once my go-to-shoe and now is my "can't wait to hit 300 miles and retire you" shoes. Very sad.

Brooks Ravenna 3

I have run in all three versions of the Ravenna. My first pair were the original Ravennas - I picked them up on whim at the Road Runner Sports HQ clearance backroom. They felt light and hugged my foot nicely. I said, what the heck? $70 is a decent deal for new shoes and a current model. I logged 420 miles on them. Got another pair for $50 at RunningWarehouse, put 320 miles on them. Tried on 4 or 5 shoes and still picked the Ravenna 2 and put 320 miles on those. Ran two marathons in them. I liked the 2nd edition even more than the 1st! I have never been so loyal to a specific shoe in my 19 years of running. I was like a damn Ravenna Evangelist which made me a Brooks enthusiast.

Enter the Ravenna 3.

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I tried on about 6-7 different shoes at RRS. None felt "awesome" including the Ravenna 3. But with the track record I had with them, I figured it would probably live up to or come close to it's predecessors. It was a safe bet.

They are light for a stability trainer (approximately 9 ounces) and have good cushioning. They also look pretty good too - not flashy, but not boring either. They have a heel-to-toe ratio of about 9mm. Not too high, not minimalist either.

The first few runs, I was convinced I had made the right choice. No blisters or breaking in period. Nice toe-box room, etc. However, the more I wore them, the more I found myself wishing I was wearing the 2s. I wore them for 2 out of 3 of my Ragnar ltra legs and the last run, I got some gnarly blisters under the toenail of the second toe on both feet. If found myself gripping with my toes because my midfoot wasn't hugged by the shoe.

I laced them up differently so I could tighten the arch/midfoot but leave the forefoot loose. This was better - enough to keep my toes from blistering and my midfoot from feeling like it was moving around laterally. But not enough for me to love them.

Interestingly, I tried to leave a 3-star review (i.e. “average”) on the Brooks website, citing my concerns with the shoe updates from the 1st and 2nd model. It was not accepted/published. A month or so later, I went to RRS, left a 3-star review for the Ravenna 3 there and a 4-star review of the Brooks PureCadence. Not surprisingly, the 3-star review was not posted. But the 4-star was. So, take shoe reviews with a grain of salt because they seem to be mostly biased to the 4 and 5 stars (not exactly objective or a good sampling of opinions). I have to wonder who is doing the filtering – seems like it’s possible the shoe companies.

I have 200 miles on the Ravenna 3s as of today – they have some pretty good wear on the forefoot outsole, so, 300 will definitely be the max for me. Honestly, 100 more miles seems like an eternity to cover. Hopefully it goes fast. I definitely will not be buying another pair of these. When the 4 comes out, I'll certainly give them a chance for redemption. But I am actively seeking out a long run replacement shoe (interestingly, the Mizuno Elixirs I just tried this evening felt like a million bucks... but can't call them my new go-to yet...).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Do the Hustle! 2012 Harding Hustle 50K

It’s the day after the race and while I’m sore, I really expected to have serious trouble walking down the stairs. Not the case – my quads are ok. The stuff that’s sore is my hips and my ankles/feet/lower calves. Not sure why on the former, but for sure I know why my ankles are sore. Miles 9-19 involved traversing lots of loose, rocky, ankle-rolling, curse-word inducing trails

The Husband dropped me off at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary around 5:30am and drove home to catch more Z’s and hang out with the dogs. It was around 55 degrees which felt great but I knew it was going to be short lived as the sun had not yet risen fully. The 50K had it’s own start at 6am. It was nice to not be completely crowded with runners from the 15 and 30K. The 50K had 56 runners (55 finishers) and only a few of us were running our first ultra (maybe 3-5 hands sheepishly went up when the race director asked). We took off a couple minutes after 6am with little fanfare – in fact most of us didn’t even realize the countdown to the start was happening.

The course begins at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary up Harding Truck Trail to Maple Springs. Then you do a series of 3 out-and-backs to Modjeska Peak (5384 feet), Santiago Peak (5689 feet, highest point in Orange County), and Modjeska Peak again.

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Immediately, I felt like I was running up a wall. Extremely steep.Note the above 7.6% grade for 7 miles. Around me, most people’s breathing was crazy – I was concerned that we had just started and this was already the scene. But I was “in” so, unless I was seriously in trouble of getting hurt/injured, I was going to tough it out. We had a tiny little break in climbing at mile 1.5-ish, but, other than that the first 6-7 miles were billy goat territory. To add to the climb, at that point, I had a full reservoir of banana nuun (70 oz) and various other items packed, so, I was lugging around an extra 5-8 pounds up the mountain.

Miles 1-7: 2938 feet of climbing and a laughable 144 feet of descent.

Mile Time Moving Time Up Down Notes
1 13:31.1 13:13 544 0  
2 11:23.4 11:07 313 121  
3 14:21.7 14:15 487 0  
4 14:29.3 14:13 482 0  
5 15:10.2 13:27 474 0 Laurel Aid Station, 3450'
6 13:41.5 13:32 367 0  
7 12:06.7 12:07 271 23  

The first aid station, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time at, according to Garmin, looks like about 90 seconds. Grabbed some boiled potato, some water, and took off. I was, at least, relieved that I was well under the required 16:25 cut off pace. After mile 7 the climb got less steep. Somewhere in this stretch, I realized that my if I didn’t take off my rings ASAP with the way my fingers were swelling, it could get ugly. It was actually pretty tough getting them off, but I managed to do it and I stowed them in my zipper shorts pocket.

Side note/back story: the day before I had spent a couple hours Googling random 50K race recaps and read one for the 2011 Bull Dog 50K where the blogger noted the conditions were hot and that he was sucking down salt tabs every 60 minutes. I had not even considered salt. Then again, I’ve never run for 6 hours straight in heat. So, on the way to bib pickup, I stopped at RRS for Salt Stick caps which cost a flippin’ arm and a leg ($19.99? For salt and some other stuff?).

90 minutes into the run, I touched the side of my face and it was already littered with salt crystals. So I started taking a salt cap every 60-90 minutes – generally whenever I’d start feeling a cramp somewhere in my legs. I am so glad I read that blog entry and decided to pick some up.

Anyway, back to the race. Somewhere in the first 6 miles I snapped this pic:

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Hello, Marine Layer – too bad you didn’t feel like hanging out inland! Though I have to say that without the fog the views were incredible.

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Before I knew it, I had reached the next aid station – 9.1 miles, Maple Springs, 4500’ elevation.

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This one was a full aid station with tons of goodies – including watermelon and coke. The coke was freaking awesome. I spent another minute or so here knowing the next pared-down aid station was only a mile and change away at 10.5.

When I got to there, the volunteer informed me that I’d be seeing her 4 times (!) as we had to run the Modjeska Peak trail twice – roughly 2 miles roundtrip. It was almost impossible to run up this trail. So much loose, chunky rock. Nearly everyone I encountered was coming down was cranky – the leaders especially. I can’t even count how many times I rolled my ankles. It, straight up, hurt to run or walk this stretch.

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Mile Time Moving Time Up Down Notes
10 14:41.8 13:33 340 0 Laurel Springs aid station
11 14:15.4 13:20 282 0  
12 16:56.5 15:57 405 117 Modjeska Peak, 5384’
13 11:37.4 10:34 0 345 Maple Springs aid station

The Modjeska Peak trail was like a turd-covered diamond. Everything about it sucked – except the views. They were probably the best of the course. Even better, in my opinion, than Santiago. You could see Cuyamaca in San Diego, Lake Matthews in Corona, much of the Inland Empire and surrounding mountains. I went to snap a pic on the first time up and found my camera battery was dead. Booo. So I got to lug that extra useless weight around with me the rest of the trip. I figured at Santiago I’d swap out my cell phone from the back to the front pocket so I could take some pictures.

The trail up to Santiago was marginally better but still had loose rock, lots uneven embedded rock, and required some careful foot placement. But it wasn’t super steep (though Map My Run still classifies that part as a Cat 3 hill with 5.6% grade). I certainly took walk breaks with that kind of grade and elevation.

Mile Time Moving Time Up Down Notes
14 10:27.2 10:14 67 88  
15 15:05.7 14:16 377 11  
16 22:54.7 13:58 303 36 Santiago Peak, 5687'

When I got to the peak it was 3:38 which was about what I expected to do time-wise. I tried to be as efficient as possible, but apparently I spent nearly 9 minutes here. Sheesh. My hydration pack was empty – I had burned through all 70 ounces and several cups of water and coke at aid stations. So, I had to get it filled with ice and water. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the aid stations that had Grape and Pink Lemonade Nuun, this one only had Tropical and Fruit Punch which I could not stomach for 15+ miles. My least favorite options along with Tri Berry. Yuck. Thankfully, I had put some in my drop bag – I grabbed whatever I fished out first (Lemon Lime) and dropped in 3 tabs. I reapplied 50+ SPF sunscreen, ate some random stuff from the fully stocked aid station, and then a volunteer offered to snap a picture of me.

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The volunteers of this race were awesome. I definitely need to volunteer in the future to pay it forward.

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I finally headed back out, nearly got lost if not for another runner hollering at me that I was going the wrong way. I had told myself that once I completed that last rocky piece of shit Modjeska climb that I’d be in the clear.

I caught up to two ladies and another dude at the base and we all walked up it, though, my short legs meant that I could not keep up their pace. I took a quick stop half way to get a shot of Lake Matthews.

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I hit the peak, turned around, and attempted to slowly run down, but, after rolling my ankles 2 or 3 times, I finally said (out loud) “Oh, fuck it” and just walked until I got to a couple stretches where it wasn’t 100% loose rock.

Mile Time Moving Time Up Down Notes
17 09:37.6 9:37 0 399  
18 09:14.3 9:14 0 308  
19 15:20.7 14:39 157 0 Joplin Aid Station
20 19:58.5 18:15 400 107 Modeska AGAIN
21 13:23.7 11:48 0 355 Joplin Aid Station

It had started getting hot – the sun had come up enough that it was no longer behind the mountain so we were completely exposed. Update email I just got from the race director said by early afternoon the temps were pushing upper 90s. I had caught up with the two ladies, at the Maple Springs aid station. A little over 9 miles to go. I was feeling pretty good, so I was positive. Overall, most of this race, I was pretty smiley, cheerful, and happy. Nothing like zero-PR-pressure to make a race enjoyable! I spent 2-3 minutes at this aid station before taking off. From here on out, no one passed me. I ended up catching 3 dudes on the way down.

Around mile 24 it started feeling gross. I chatted with one fellow I caught up with who was having leg cramps. I offered him some salt caps since I had extra, but he said it was “too late” (I beg to differ on this one, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt to take some – was worth a try) but after offering a second time, I gave up.

My legs were starting to ache pretty good. At mile 25 we hit an uphill stretch of which I walked probably about 50%.

Mile Time Moving Time Up Down Notes
22 10:22.5 10:23 0 381  
23 11:24.7 9:05 0 302 Maple Springs Aid Station
24 10:11.4 9:53 0 244  
25 13:13.9 12:48 160 80  

I knew at that point I was going to finish under 7 hours, but it was looking like it would be on the higher end of 6 hours which was a little longer than I had expected. However, it had gotten so warm without shade that I really didn’t want to risk heat exhaustion or passing out. The back of my arms felt like they were burning - it would turn out it was more chaffing than sunburn. But when I looked at my arms they appeared red, so I prayed that the last aid station would have sunscreen.

Even though it was downhill, I would occasionally try to walk. And walking felt so much worse than running. Which kind of sucked because at times I wanted just to take a bit of a breather, let my heart rate come all the way down, but walking downhill just felt like crap. Finally, I saw the Laurel Springs aid station which I knew was around 4.6 miles from the finish. As I rolled in and they marked down my bib #, I asked if they had sunscreen – and they did! Such a relief. The one volunteer seemed very concerned about all the runners – he wasn’t there on the way up so I am guessing he was just seeing all the people on the way down looking fried and worked over. He convinced me to drink another cup coke. I complained/whined that I really didn’t want to go back out. I finally left the aid station after 5 minutes.Yeah. Five freaking minutes I lingered there.

The last 4 miles felt like crap mostly because it was so hot out. Seeing as this is a trail in the middle of nowhere, running down it would get me out faster than just sitting down and waiting for an aid station truck. Around mile 29 or so my Garmin beeped “low battery” but I figured it had enough juice to get me to the finish. There was one quarter mile uphill bit that I walked (uphill walking felt alright), and then I just shuffled down the trail, draining the rest of my nuun, and forcing myself to eat some clif blocks.

Mile Time Moving Time Up Down Notes
27 14:04.6 9:12 0 396 Laurel Springs Aid Station
28 09:18.0 9:17 0 438  
29 09:10.8 9:11 0 512  
30 10:01.4 10:00 0 446  
31 11:30.9 11:09 99 376 freaking uphill
31.6 05:29.0 5:29 0 317  

Volunteers lined the little finish stretch and cheered for every 50K runner coming in. Seriously, awesome. I crossed, official time, 6:43:40. 6th woman of 19. 22nd out of 55 overall.

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It’s a dude with a huge afro! Pretty funny theme with the whole “hustle” bit.

Garmin Data:

  • Time: 6:44:09, 31.6 miles, 12:47 pace
  • Elevation gain: 5929 feet.
  • Moving Time: 6:14:41, 11:51 pace – so if I hadn’t screwed around at every aid station I probably would have been under 6:30.

 

The winning female finished 5:12, second female was 5:54. From there, they were all above 6 hours. Which speaks to how much of a ball buster this course was. The dude who finished 6 minutes ahead of me has run several 50 milers and looked to be in good shape and I probably could have caught him if I wasn’t just hanging out at Laurel Springs. When I saw that only 2 men broke 5 hours (and not by much) I concluded that (while I always feel I can do better) I did pretty well for my first 50K with very little trail experience.

Maybe next time I won’t pick a course that involves climbing 5000 foot mountains in July in Southern California!