Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chill Day

Been taking it easy all day and it feels great. We woke up to rain and dark clouds and we were both thankful we didn't have to be out there running this morning. It's our "back down" week and it could have come sooner. The last three weeks have been build, build, build. Last weekend we felt so run down and trashed at the Lake Sonoma training run that we not only ran slow but crawled the last five miles. We both took two days off of training after that and spent the rest of the week doing easy runs. With Lake Sonoma only a couple of weeks away now, Masha will just go straight into her taper. I on the other hand will go right back to building since Lake Sonoma is simply a stepping stone to the Mohican 100 in June. I want to be prepared for Lake Sonoma but I can't do a lengthy taper since it's not my main goal race.

The training run was fun and well attended. It's been at least three years since I've run on the course — never done the race itself. It was good to re-familiarize myself with the trails and the major sections of the race. It started well enough but early on I noticed that we were going slow, covering only 4 miles an hour. Sure we stopped to take pictures and such but it shouldn't have been that slow. Masha led and I had her up the pace a bit. We ran at a faster pace for awhile but ultimately slowed back down. By mile 19, where I feel the course dramatically gets harder, we were cooked and it was a slow crawl back to the car at 25 miles. I've never laid down on the trail at races or training runs but I did here:) I didn't feel ill or anything, I just got an overwhelming desire to do so at 19.5 under the shade of a tree. I also got really hungry and wished I had something more substantial than gels in my waist pack. On the drive home I had to stop at a gas station to pick up a cold coffee drink to stay awake. I also gave in to what must have been a day old Krispy Kreme donut, I didn't really care at that point. Coffee got me home, donut made me wish I could turn back time.

So it's been easy miles and intensity for us this week. Last night I finally felt back to normal. Later this afternoon Masha and I will head out to the Presidio for some easy miles there. We thought about joining SFRC (click for great pictures)for their Saturday morning run this morning but I think we made the right choice to sleep in and enjoy a slower paced day.

Enjoy the pictures from the training run, it's mostly Masha because as much as she likes pictures she doesn't take any when she runs. I'm also adding the mental notes I took on the run:

• Start can be chilly (heavy fog through Sonoma in the morning)
• First 18 is no sweat if you are used to hills—rolling terrain with creek crossings and lots of tree cover
• After 18, trails are more exposed, sun will be up with big climbs starting around 19
• 25 to 31 will be equally tough, exposed trails and harder terrain
• Things should get easier after 31, back to gentler rolling terrain and more tree cover

We will be running our own race but our goal is the same. We plan on a conservative start, do our best not to get pulled into a faster pace with the cool temps and easy early terrain. Plan on getting to 18 feeling good, hold on through miles 19 to 31 then hurry home the last 19 with what energy we have left.

Great turnout for the run.

Coke never tasted so good, there was one aid station for the training run—nice of Jon Medinger and gang to set that up. We were only 12 miles in at this point but feeling like already ran 20.

Good times despite being low energy.

Wulflow, mile 17 of the race. This was our aid station last year. Janet Thompson and I were registered for the race but were injured so we volunteered instead. Masha came along and all three of us joined Greg Lanctot to make up the crew of the Wulflow aid station. It was a blast with Masha declaring publicly at the finish line that she was going to run the race the following year. Quite a surpise and a big deal since she had only finished her first half-marathon a couple of months before and her longest run was 18. Wulflow is also a shortcut on the training run, cuts out 6 miles.

Mike Palmer and friends, more exposed sections after Wulflow.

Beautiful out there. Never too tired to enjoy the scenery.

The real climbs start and Masha is unhappy about it. Nothing like being tired right before the start of more challenging terrain.

The unhappiness, much like the hill, continues.

Finally the finish! RD John Medinger presiding at the parking lot. We were one of the last ones.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Marin Ultra Challenge

Masha and I shortly after her finish.

So the race was good. Our first 50k race and it pretty much turned out like I thought it would, the only thing missing was the speed but that's ok. Weather was amazing and by the time I finished, which was around noon, it was still in the mid-60s. Felt warm especially since the 50k course is exposed but not hot. It was good, good day.

The start was early. Up by 3:45, out the door by 5 and race start at 6. The event was a 50-mile, 50k, 35k and half-marathon, with the 50 milers and 50k'ers starting first. I brought my old headlamp with tapped batteries so for the first several dark miles I was overly cautious, especially on the downhills but it kept me from going too hard too early. Man, I felt in control the entire time and it felt like time moved too quickly. Ten miles, twenty miles, went by without a hitch or problem. I really didn't start getting exhausted until mile 26 or so, on the last climb of the course. By then we were mostly done and the last 5k was downhill. The only thing I wished I had was more speed but I finished around the time I thought I would - 5:42. The people along the way were excellent, fellow runners in a great mood and encouraging, volunteers and race staff were on the ball and spectators were doing a great job cheering us on. Masha and other runners in her group did encounter a female hiker who refused to step aside on the trail but other than that experience I didn't hear of anything else that was negative. And before we left we got to catch up with Bob Shebest who won the 50-mile with a time of 7:09, pretty amazing. Before heading home we stopped off at San Francisco Running Company to say hello and for a delicious somewhat healthy meal at Cafe del Soul with more friends. It was a great day.

Sunday we woke up rested and feeling like a million bucks maybe even a billion. It was also our wedding anniversary! So after a leisurely morning catching up on events on social media we celebrated by going on another run. We had planned on a double since we are training for Lake Sonoma but was dreading the usual route so we decided to head back out to Marin. Hit SFRC and Cafe del Soul again but this time we went through Sausalito. Unlike the day before, we ran together this time and took our time enjoying the sights and weather. It was good fun but I had trouble keeping up with Masha. It was hard the first couple of miles but we warmed up nicely and the going got easier. We managed 13 miles and by the time we stopped I was ready to be done.

Monday I was bleary eyed, sufficiently tired and wishing it was still Sunday but without all the running. Felt like a million/billion dollars, just like Sunday morning. Damn awesome weekend.

Tomorrow we head out to Lake Sonoma for a training run organized by the RD's. The drive there and back will take longer than the actual run but it will be good for Masha to run the course. More trail fun coming up.

Masha finishing.

With her Iron Minx group, soon to be the Trail Minxes

With Bob Shebest.

Jon after his 35k race.

Hard working volunteers; Kara, Lauri and Gary.

Jorge and Jenny, working hard. At SFRC post race.

Race bling.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's Almost Spring

How stoked am I that it's already March. January and February are the hardest months for me. January I'm just getting back into it after taking December off. It's usually slow going, it's dark early and it's months to go before Spring. This year was particularly hard to get motivated because after 13 years of freelancing I went back to a 9-5 job. I love the job but it's been busy and I'd get home tired when it's already dark and unmotivated to go back out again. Get up early in the morning? Forgettaboutit.

Somehow I got myself out there and by February, Masha was back from visiting family in Vladivostok. The passion and effort she's been putting in on her training has inspired me in turn. She works out more than I do and there's been a couple of weeks where she not only ran more miles but got more elevation gain as well. We are both training for the Lake Sonoma 50-mile in April. It also helped that the weather has been amazing! Bad being in a drought but it's been great for my running. Besides there isn't really anything I can do about it. Sometimes the weather is bad, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad even when it's good, nothing for me to do but to keep on keep on.

Tomorrow we have our first race of the season—ITR's Marin Ultra Challenge 50k/50m. We are entered for the 50k and we're excited. I'm gonna go out and have a great time and hope to whip my butt all over the course. I'm going to focus on the present, that means who I am now and what I'm capable of now and not who I was before and what I was capable of then. That's the plan anyway. It's hard not to think of the past, you know that can be. Hard not to think back on the years when I was more willing to sacrifice, put in the hard training, lose the necessary weight and run times I didn't think I could achieve. I'm not that guy anymore. Oh I'd like to be but I don't train as hard these days and I eat like a hog all year round now instead of just in the fall and winter:) Life is good. I also noticed I'm lazier than I used to be. Strange really, how did I become more lazy as I continued to run long distances? Sometimes I look in the mirror and give myself that look, the one that says "you're kind of an idiot". Well I just have to be at peace with being slower or get off my arse and do something about it. The latter seems like a lot of work and since I already mentioned I'm lazier than ever I'll just work on being at peace with running slower. However, the sense of achievement and satisfaction I get from running these races, the enjoyment I have being outdoors especially the hills of the Headlands and Mt. Tam, the joy I have meeting new people and being around old friends, that has not changed at all and now I get to enjoy it with Masha.

We are looking forward to a great day in Marin.

Photo courtesy of Michael Stricklan, shot by Lauri Abrahamsen. Starting the year running. With friends and other runners at the top of Mt. Tam to watch the sunrise new years day.