Race Recap: Ayala Cove 10 Miler

On Saturday morning, I ran the Ayala Cove 10 mile trail race, which is its formal name..I’ve always called it the Angel Island 10 miler. Angel Island is an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, between the city and Marin. It’s car-free except the little tourist bus and some park ranger vehicles, so everyone who visits hikes or cycles. You can camp here, but there’s currently no residential houses. It’s peaceful and beautiful. Mt Livermore rises 788 ft/240m above the bay and the island is crisscrossed with beautiful single-track trails lined with forget-me-nots or with simple fire roads. We hiked there three years ago and I’d been dying to go back and run there.

In this post, I’m using a mix of photos from Saturday and from our 2011 hike. If the sky is blue, it’s an old photo. If it’s a photo of the race or the sky is grey, it’s from Saturday.

The race was held by Zoom Running Events and incorporated a 5 miler, a 10 miler and a 15 miler. The 5 miler goes straight up to the summit. The 10 miler climbs half-way up and loops the island on a fire road before doing the summit loop, and the 15 miler circles the island on the flattish road at the bottom before doing the fire-road loop then the summit loop. I have to say, Zoom managed this event perfectly, I was really impressed.

I’ve mentioned before that this race was particularly exciting because my friend Louise was running it and it was her first ever race. She only really started running in November when she and I did an ‘exercise exchange’. She took me to yoga, I took her trail running. Now I do yoga fairly regularly and she is totally hooked on running. Watching her increase her distance and fall in love with running over the past few months has been a real delight and I was so excited to see her run her first race!

Angel Island from the ferry on Saturday

Angel Island from the ferry on Saturday

We travelled together up to Tiburon, the pretty little town in Marin from where all the runners would get the ferry over to Angel Island. The original plan was for my boys to come with us and cycle round the island whilst we ran, but the Dude picked up a germ at pre-school this week, so they stayed home.  It was a late start – the ferry left at 10 am, which made fuelling for the race a little tricky – when should I eat breakfast? should I have a snack beforehand? Packet Pick-Up was smooth and simple – I think only about 150 people ran any of the three races – and soon we were on the ferry heading to the island.

Packet Pick Up

Packet Pick Up

Ready to run...

Ready to run…

We knew it wouldn’t be hot but it was surprisingly grey and bitterly cold. We got pretty chilled before the race started. The 15 milers set off at 10.50 and the 10 milers set off at 10:55. We were literally freezing so really glad to get running. As ever, once we started running, we were warm enough pretty much immediately and the weather was perfect for running.

Ayala Cove

Ayala Cove

The 10 miler was made up of two loops. The first loop started up some beautiful single track. There was a little passing to negotiate (both me passing other people and being passed myself) but it wasn’t too bad or stressful and it was never badly crowded. About half-way up the mountain-side, we veered off onto a fire-road and after that I was pretty much on my own for the rest of the race, which was blissful. The fire-road turned a corner and there was the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge and I just had to marvel once again at how lucky I am to be living here, how flipping beautiful this city is and how much I love it.

I ran on – the fire road was pretty flat and nicely surfaced, it was a real pleasure to run it. At one point, I took a wrong turn and headed up a hill (obviously) but two ladies whistled and yelled at me and I got back on track. Soon enough, I was heading downhill to the end of the first loop – we had to run all the way back down the mountain to the start point. The trail was quite steep and rocky – I ran it as fast as I could whilst still being careful not to fall, it was a bit of an adrenaline rush, I loved it. We finished with some brutal stairs and a flat paved stretch back to the staging area. When I got there, Louise’s husband and children were there cheering, it was lovely to see them. I had enough drink in my handheld so yelled back at them and kept running.

Angel Island trails

Angel Island trails

Tiburon, Sausalito and Mt Tam from Angel Island

Tiburon  and Mt Tam from Angel Island

The second loop was tougher. We initially followed the same trails up the mountain and it was impossible not to compare how much harder it felt on this second loop, on tired legs versus how fresh I felt last time. Having said that, it was very do-able and both Louise and I managed to run the entire race, the first time I’ve not had to walk during a trail race, so the gradients were great. Where we veered off on the fire road on the first loop, we continued climbing on single-track towards the summit. The trails had left the woods now and the views were stunning. I was so very happy running here – so much pleasure. I choked down a Gu and a few minutes later, it kicked in.

The City from Angel Island

The City from Angel Island

The final push was an out-and-back to the summit. My legs were tired from what felt like the constant climbing but I was now determined not to walk. So I slogged up the final stretch. There were times when I might have walked faster but I kept running and before long, I was at the top, turning round and plunging back down the mountain. Just as I finished the out-and-back I saw Louise looking amazing and strong so yelled some encouragement at her and started flying back down. The downhill stretch was awesome, except the moment when I had to bend low down to climb under a fallen tree. My muscles did NOT want to stand up and start running again, it was hilarious. Down the rocky, steep trail again and down those horrible steps and then I was flying along the paved road to the start. There was a guy in front of me and I focussed on the poor man, determined to catch him and flew past him in the finishing chute. I finished in 1.47.50, a few minutes less than my goal time. I was utterly delighted.

Pretty happy with that! Photo: Lou's husband

Pretty happy with that!
Photo: Lou’s husband

I got a medal, a fat coke, my race t-shirt and a hug from Louise’s lovely husband and we stood to wait for Louise to finish. She slowed up a little on the final descent, wisely opting to be careful rather than risk falling on tired legs, but soon enough we saw her running towards us and before we knew it, she’d crossed the line. I am so incredibly proud of her – it wasn’t an easy race (it had 1,350 ft elevation), she ran the whole thing and finished in 2.01 (she’d expected to finish in 2.30, I thought she’d run it in 2.15) so she utterly crushed it. It was a really lovely moment.

Louise wasn't unhappy with her performance today!

Louise wasn’t unhappy with her performance today!

As icing on the cake, when I went to confirm my time I found out I’d come 3rd in my age-group, only the second time this has ever happened. Last time, I didn’t find out till I’d left the race. This time, the race director shook my hand and congratulated me. It flipping made my day!

angel island

AG medal and race medal

Louise's daughter ran off with her medal so we shared mine ;)

Louise’s daughter ran off with her medal so we shared mine ;)

(In case you think these photos are ridiculously enormous, please know that these are the size options WordPress is giving me at the moment. The one of me alone is ‘medium’ and this one is ‘large’. I’d say ‘small’ or ‘HUMUNGOUS’. Grrrr)

We were thoroughly chilled now, so got the ferry home as quickly as possible. I’d had a niggle in my throat all morning, the Dude’s germs, and the chilling didn’t help – the next day, I was all croaky and snotty and delightful!!

Proud husband ....aaah!

Lou and her proud husband ….aaah!

In terms of the race itself, it was beautifully organised. I wish it started earlier but understand the limitations due to ferry times. The course was utterly beautiful. A few more sign-posting ribbons would have been useful – several people took a wrong turn (including yours truly) and Louise was stood under a tree for a few minutes waiting for someone to join her and confirm which direction she should go in. But apart from that, it was perfect. The loot was great – a really nice t-shirt and a big, heavy medal.

Loot! And the best EVER race number for a Brit!

Loot! And the best EVER race number for a Brit!*

All in all, a pretty cracking morning!

* 1066 is the one date that every British school-child knows – the Norman conquest, the last year Britain got invaded. Kind of like 1776 for America but without the glory.

As an added bonus for you, I mentioned to Louise that she might like to do a race recap. It’s so easy to take racing for granted and forget what it’s like to do it for the first time. This is what Louise said.

I was running a weekly total of six miles when Cat suggested I try a ten miler on Angel Island. I signed up, secretly confident that I could stretch my distance in three months and be in a strong position to run my first ever race. As I scrolled through the course information I do recall a pretty graph outlining some kind of elevation, but in all honesty I didn’t pay it much attention. And then I boldly announced my first race plans and received a barrage of well meaning concern; ‘If you don’t hill train you will struggle’, ‘Perhaps the five miler might be more your thing’ and ‘I once climbed to the top of the mountain there.’ (There is a mountain? You only climbed it once?)

With the help of a plan Cat put together for me I did two training runs a week over 11 weeks in preparation, building up to one flat ten miler and managing three hill training runs, the longest being a five miler.

Cat warned me to hydrate as much as I could before the race, but the drive up to Ferry Terminal at Tiburon was too much for my 37 year old bladder. I was thrilled when her beady eyes spotted a restroom on the side of the road. I hobbled down the embankment only to find it wasn’t a restroom. I now deeply regret the 2 minute watering I gave the garden of the people who live at number 64, but I really had no choice.

I wasn’t as intimidated before the race as I thought I might be. There was a fun spirit on the boat, and a spread of age and ability amongst the runners. Seeing Angel Island for the first time as we approached was impressive, and I no longer needed a graph to picture a 1390 ft elevation! Cat never left my side and only found encouraging, positive things to say. As a result nerves never set in.

I am not a natural runner, having run outdoors for the first time five months ago. I knew nothing about gels or PRs (or clearly elevation!) I was determined for my first ever run not to be about timing, had never trained with a watch, and had no idea what speed I ran at. I hoped I would run it in two and a half hours, Cat suggested I could do it in two hours fifteen. I then couldn’t get her prediction out of my head and it pushed me several times during the run!

The race was a double loop of the island, the first five miles was a climb of 500 ft and back down to the start, and the second loop repeated the first but included a stretch up to the summit – a 890 ft climb. Initially the runners ran close together. I concentrated on green jacket lady in front of me and pink pigtail girl behind me. The trail path was varied, initially as narrow as my shoe, later a wide track. The covering was exposed in beautiful streaming sun, and then into dark glossy leaves. I hadn’t prepared for running on loose rock, and stumbled a few times. The twists in the track meant that you were often turning and climbing at the same time, and I felt pressure to maintain pace by runners behind me. As I climbed the summit I was gasping at the clear view of San Francisco Bay from a 360 degree view looking down on Alcatraz, the city and the bridges. It was a remarkable distraction.

I was surprised at how competitive I felt. I was aware of the distance building between Cat and I. I wanted to keep up with Green Jacket Girl and was gutted when Pink Pigtails flew past me on the downhills. I pushed harder on the second exhausting climb, a gel kicking in, and found myself with more space around me. I was surprised by the ‘off the beaten trackness’ of the trails – a fallen tree we all had to crawl underneath and a huge bush to climb over. I was not prepared for running down steep gradients at speed, and found the loose rocky ditches frightening.

I found the distance much easier than the gradient. I recognized the final approach and knew Cat and my family would be waiting. I wanted to finish on empty and found energy to speed up on the last stretch to overtake Green Jacket Girl. Two hours, one minute, and sixth in my age group.

And collapse.

The run was totally different from any training experience. Because it’s race day there is a natural competitiveness that gets you mentally moving. The entire race was a mental and emotional journey and I relished rising to the challenge of picking up speed, climbing the incline and wiping negative thoughts from my mind. I was a ball of jelly that evening. My body ached more than it did after childbirth, and my insides were in knots, but the next morning I just felt pride and a huge sense of achievement at nailing my first ever race!

And naturally, sensing my competitive spirit Cat has already indicated my next race to me and subtlety suggested what my time might be. She’s good isn’t she? We start training this week.

Hehehe…. x

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Getting ready for the Angel Island 10 miler

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the Angel Island 10-miler (aka Ayala Cove). I’m really looking forward to it. We all have to get a ferry together from Tiburon over to the island, kind of like a school trip for runners. And I’m going to be joined by my friend Louise who is running her first ever race. She’s never run a race before and she’s chosen a hilly trail race on an island. She’ll either love it or hate it. I think she’ll love it.

The elevation is fairly tough…

Source: 

My own goals for the race are as follows:

  • Have some fun. I’m not ‘racing’ this. I’m doing it to explore new trails, run in new places and take some great photos.
  • Run it well. Despite my first goal, I still want to run this well . I don’t want to dawdle, I want to run as much of the hills as I can and push the downhills, without twisting my ankle.
  • My very unofficial goal time is 1 hr 50 but that was chosen quite arbitrarily and frankly, if I ran it in two hours (or even more) and had fun, I’d be happy!

This week’s running has been mainly about practicing trails and practicing hills.

Saturday: 10.4 miles on San Bruno Mountain at 13.01 pace.

The hills are alive...

The hills are alive…

(Is it really sad that every time I looked down and saw my blue skirt swishing, I felt like a slower, non-Swedish Emelie Forsberg??)

My quads were absolute agony on Sunday from that rocky descent so I ditched my usual easy three miler and sat by the pool reading a book.

Monday: 6.6  hill repeat miles

My quads were still very painful and quivery on the stairs, but I knew they’d be okay for running so I headed to a local park to do hill repeats. I ran up, across the top, down some stairs and down the gentle descent back to the start. Each lap was roughly 0.5 miles and I did it 10 times in the surprisingly hot sunshine. Ended with a loop of the hill at the end. 6.6 miles in 1 hr 04 at 9.40 pace. Felt good, apart from the shaky quads on the way down the stairs.

Lovely views today.

Lovely views today.

Wednesday: 7.2 trail miles

Back to Edgewood for 7 miles, packing in as many long, steady ascents as I could do. I am starting to really love this  park – it’s quite small but by doing different loops you can get decent mileage. The hills are runnable yet challenging.The trails are well maintained.  Best of all, it’s busy with hikers (so I feel safe) and doesn’t scream MOUNTAIN LION HABITAT, even though I’m wary!

I love this photo!

I love this photo!

- Yoga in the evening to stretch those poor legs. I actually think I’m getting worse at yoga!

I chose to have two rest days on Thursday and Friday to rest my legs and get them fresh for Saturday.

Angel Island

Angel Island in the bay!

And finally…on Sunday, it’s the London Marathon, which this year is going to be an absolute corker if you follow professional running (which I don’t, if I’m honest). Mo Farrah, the UK’s running hero, is running his first marathon and the UK general public pretty much expects him to win it. It’s unlikely, bearing in mind he’s up against the absolute cream of marathon running, but it should be amazing to watch!

And that’s it. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Running The World: India

I am enormously excited about today’s Running The World post because we’re talking about what it’s like to be a female runner in India! I spent the week emailing with the amazing Preeti and she put so much time and effort into her responses to my questions, it’s been fascinating. As ever, this is just one person’s view and is not meant to be a definitive view on Indian running. 

I found Preeti when I googled ‘Indian Running Blogs’ and ended up at the blog of an Indian PHD student based at Stanford, about 10 miles south of me. I asked him if he knew anyone suitable and he copied Preeti into his reply to me, saying she’d be perfect. She quickly replied to say she’d be up for talking and warned me she could talk about running forever. Like that’s ever been a problem! So without further ado, may I  introduce you to Preeti.

Tell  us a little about yourself.

I am an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering. I teach undergraduate students and have several research students to guide as well. I spent several years in the US during my graduate school studies. We moved back to India in 2002. My husband is also an exercise freak like me and we have a ten year old daughter who hates running ( she loves swimming though!)

Preeti

Preeti

How did you get into running?

I have been running a very long time. I was a sprinter in school and college and we trained several months of the year. It wasn’t the most scientific of training routines and anyway I was too preoccupied with studies to pursue running in any big way. In the US I found it very cathartic to get out and go for a run at least during the spring/summer months. I played basketball otherwise (despite being very short! I am only 5ft!). In Boston, during my Post-Doctoral appointment at MIT, my research group ran a charity 5k and that’s when I discovered these ‘races’. In India I was in Mumbai when the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon first began in 2004. I missed that year as I was pregnant but have taken part in that race every year since then, even though we don’t live in Mumbai now.

Moving to Chennai was a big shift, and I initially really suffered with the weather. I continued to do Half Marathons and have been lucky enough to make great friends and meet lots of people running. I graduated to Full Marathons in 2011 and train as meticulously as I can nowadays for races.

I take part in 2 full marathons and an informal local ultra (50km); and at least half a dozen half marathons, every year. I mostly sign up based on the company I will have with me. I have a big group of friends and we run and train together. I run 3-4 times a week and do tempos, intervals, and long runs. I also do strength training – a little bit – and have been trying to swim and bike a little of late. My favorite is the Half Marathon distance though I do enjoy the 50km run we do every december.

This year I ran a Full Marathon at Mumbai in January, a Half & a 10km locally, up to now. I am gearing up for a women only 10k next week and also the Chicago Full Marathon in October, aside from a handful of Half Marathons I will do later in the year.

 I am on the organising team of what is called The Wipro Chennai Marathon and we work solidly for 6 months to put up our ‘By the runner, for the runner’ race every December. Our numbers are increasing rapidly and Dec 2013 saw 10,000 runners on the streets, and the feedback was pretty awesome!

Does India have a history of running?

Recreational running is quite new to India I would say. We have our athletes and they of course have been training for years and we have a good track and field culture, but it’s all been quiet till this past decade when recreational running started taking off like this.

Preeti India

How popular is running in India? Is it increasing in popularity?

Right now, it’s nowhere as big as in the west. I would say we are still in the fledgling state. I feel like this type of recreational running that we are talking about  started in a big way in 2004 with the Mumbai Marathon. Now, 10 years later, every major city has a full marathon or at least a few half marathons. There are some really beautiful trail marathons coming up in various parts of the country – some real tough ones as well – such as the summer Corbett Marathon or the Leh-Ladakh event which is at very high altitude.

It is becoming really increasingly popular, I myself have seen, in Chennai, which is a relatively ‘conservative’ and ‘traditional’ city in the South, how crazy people have gotten. In my first race here, there were 100 participants. These days, we have to be real careful how we announce events as at the click of a finger, 500 people will line up and we have the local authorities come in and question us and ask us if we have permissions etc.

It is DEFINITELY growing, no doubt. Number of races, number of running groups, number of people – on all parameters you can imagine.

India is clearly a huge country – do you have any idea if running is popular throughout the country or in specific regions?

Running is definitely the most popular in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune. It’s becoming popular in many of the smaller cities as well, and in the rural areas too. The advantage of the cities is that we have access to lot more information and shoes and so on. The advantage of the rural areas is that they have such beautiful vistas.

Who is running? In the US, the current running boom is primarily led by women, is there a notable gender difference in India?

Right now, or I would say up until now, it has been largely men who are running. Middle aged men mostly. But definitely this is also changing, because more young people and women are getting into this as well. It’s amazing to hear of it being a ‘woman’s sport’ – I hope it will become that here as well. But at this time, it’s dominated by men though there are several of us in this ‘space’ who have carved a niche. There are three Indian women completed the Comrades marathon in the past few years for example and a group of 3-4 women from Bangalore who qualified for Boston this year, and a lady who has been organising these insanely difficult trail races across the city.

Is running popular within specific social classes?

Generally, the bulk of participants are from comfortable economic means. There are a few people who participate for the prize money. In our Wipro Chennai Marathon, we try to help out underprivileged people under a program we call ‘Star Runners’ These are Indian athletes training under various coaches for national and international events, they are typically not very well-off. We help them participate in our race in various ways. They are good – and win the prizes – but not really well-trained enough. I wish we could do more for this class of people, for sure, as they are talented and get lost in the mire.

Let’s talk a little more about women running in India. Do you have any idea about the numbers of women running?

Only 10-15% of the total participants in the big races in India  are women. You can definitely quote me on this as I have studied the numbers are least for Mumbai Marathon and our own Chennai Marathon. :-) The numbers are on the increase, no doubt, but still we are a gross minority here, sadly.

We hear a lot in the West about the safety of women in India. How safe do you feel when you run?

Safety during training is a big deterrent actually – I did a survey few months ago of many women runners across India, and at least 90% felt that the “Eve Teasing”, hooting, name calling, staring, and even, in some cases, physical assaults were becoming a big problem for women runners who want to train seriously, With our weather and various household responsibilities, we really cannot afford to run through the course of the day and have to get it done early morning or late evenings. Although many of us have ways and means of keeping safe (the easiest being to run with a group – there are many to choose from now), this is a problem that we constantly grapple with.

Currently the awareness on this is very high with the worldwide focus on violence against women, particularly in India. There are many cities, many areas in any city, many times of the year (festivals,for e.g.), etc when it is just not recommended for women to be running alone, that too in a zonked out manner with earphones.  Personally, I run early mornings, and stick to routes that I am familiar with. I do run with a group and have a large number of people who are quite happy to run with me on my terms – anyhow we are usually training for the same race, together, on similar plans, anyhow. But I also do run alone when I feel like it.

What do female runners wear?

The cultural aspect comes in also in many ways, primarily with the clothes.I wear shorts and a t-shirt, though I am in the minority in this. Most of the women in Chennai wear capri pants (nice ones from Nike or Reebok) and t-shirts. You won’t see any woman in India running, even if it is the peak of summer, in a sports bra and shorts. That wouldn’t be looked on too kindly, at least not right now, I expect.

Preeti and some of her female running friends

Preeti and some of her female running friends

Let’s talk racing. How popular is racing?

Racing is definitely on the rise now. It is again nowhere close to as popular among recreational runners as in the west but we are getting there! The Half Marathon and 10k are popular though the Full is picking up steam fast.

Many have timing chips now – maybe 10-15 of them. Both the shoe tie version and the bib version. There are a mix of big and small races. The biggest & most ‘important’ ones are:

  • Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon
  • The Wipro Chennai Marathon (that’s ours!)
  • Airtel Hyderabad Marathon
  • Airtel Delhi Half Marathon
  • Auroville Marathon
  • Running and Living Marathons (several)
  • Kaveri Trail Marathon
  • TCS 10k Bangalore

I do the Mumbai, Hyderabad and Auroville without fail every year. I been on the organising team for the Chennai Marathon all along so I can’t manage to run it, though I live here. Auroville is super as it’s through a natural forest and inside a beautiful community living space (no timing chip!).

The marketing reminds me very much of that other Wipro sponsored race, the SF Marathon

The marketing reminds me very much of that other Wipro sponsored race, the SF Marathon

Who organises the races?

The races are organised by corporates such as Procam Running / Life is Calling or by running groups, like us, the Chennai runners. Other groups that organise races are  Hyderabad Runners, Runners for Life, Running and Living.

If you could encourage a traveller to do any Indian race, which would it be?

Travellers would enjoy the Mumbai (Full & Half) and Delhi (only Half) marathons I think, as they are corporately run and you get to see these two cities. Ours is an up and coming race but we have lot of heat and some real challenging humidity – so it would be challenging! There are some beautiful races up north in the country that I haven’t personally attempted.

How expensive are races?

They are not very expensive in absolute terms (max. : $30-$50 per registration – which usually comes with t-shirt, finisher medal, online certificate, timing chip, etc. . But it is definitely something that the lower economic strata would think twice about.

What trends are becoming popular in Indian running circles?

I think triathlons and duathlons is now fast picking up steam and growing in popularity here.

Trail Running is growing hugely in the US. Is that the same in India?

Yes, it’s not booming per se, But lot of people are keen on rural and trail runs. Auroville is the oldest trail run and is very popular in running circles. It’s not a challenging trail in terms of terrain – it’s just uneven ground – pebbles and roots – not hills or anything.

Locally, some of the guys training for Comrades this year have been exploring some insane sounding hills and other areas. Some day I will check it out (these are small, invitation only events) and report back to you! :)

Preeti at the xxx trail marathon

Preeti at the Kaveri trail half-marathon

 

Where do Indian runners buy their gear – and what brands are popular?

People tend to buy their running gear at general sports stores as opposed to running specific stores. Nike, Reebok and Adidas apparel is the most common and for shoes, it’s Asics, Nike, Adidas and Vibrams…and some barefoot runners. There is reasonable gear available for women right now (it wasn’t so even as recently as 3-4 years ago). Many of us do end up buying stuff when we travel abroad (which also tells you about the economic class of people running!). Garmins are also popular.

 Who are the running heroes in India?

Interesting question. We have a handful of Indian elite athletes who win at races. We mostly have separate categories for Indians vs. Foreigners else the African athletes who come over take all the prizes. They are somewhat known.

Some of the women who have recently done super well are well known. Roshni Rai is a Comrades finisher who also organises a group of underprivileged athletes from her hometown to participate in races, she is known. Neera Katwal is a fitness expert/coach in Bangalore who is enormously successful and a podium finisher often. Vaishali Kasture is a banker who is a Boston Qualifier this year. Timtim Sharma is a young girl who is running really strong and fast these days and even beating the Indian athletes. Kavitha Kanaparthi organises these tough marathons with her company Globeracers. Rahul Verghese organises several marathons in North India. Ash Nath and Kothandapani are coaches and speedy runners

Don’t forget Milind Soman – a famous male model and runner who organises Women Only running events under his brand ‘Pinkathon’. (Cat’s note – check this link out, it’s amazing). These are shorter races – 3, 5, and 10k that are becoming very popular. He is a big heart throb (though old- think George Clooney !) but very dedicated. In fact Pinkathon Chennai is next weekend. I am one of his city ambassadors so am on Facebook so much these days!!

 Cat’s note: Preeti celebrated her birthday last weekend with a run, a cake and the aforementioned gentleman. I like this girl’s style!

My birthday is in February

My birthday is in February, Mr Soman

What do Indian runners use to fuel and hydrate when running?

There is a big movement towards natural foods – bananas, dates, oranges – though lot of us use Gu gels and chomps. For hydration,  Gatorade and its local variants are popular though most people are thinking about home-made natural versions with honey and lemon and so forth.

How does social media fit within the Indian running community. Are Twitter and blogging popular?

Twitter and Blogging are somewhat popular. But the biggest trends seems to be that all groups have Facebook presence and like billions of photos of every single training run ever run are uploaded and people tagged everyday!!

If I landed in your city, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs, and local races?

Without doubt, the Chennai Runners Facebook group!

Preeti and some of her Chennai running group

Preeti and some of her Chennai running group

And finally…what is the best thing and worst about running in India?

The best thing? It’s a great way to meet people!  Everyone in the running community at least here in Chennai, is really uncompetitive and sweet. It’s almost like hanging out at a friendly neighborhood bar !

The challenges? Infrastructure is the problem in most cities. Roads aren’t great, first of all, and unsafe many times. Traffic can be crazy. Pollution can be very high. No ‘beautiful vistas’ accessible in easy driving distance. And of course safety is a great challenge for female runners.As race organisers the thing we struggle most with is getting permits to close roads for traffic so we can conduct our races or even identifying reasonably running routes to traverse 21 or 42 kms and be convenient to runners.

Preeti, thank you so much for all the time you put into helping me on this blog post. I hugely appreciate it! People, you can (and should) follow her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Conquering San Bruno Mountain

Before I start…Wordpress has recently changed how it lets you show photos. Beforehand I was able to select the size quite specifically. Now I either get to choose miniature or enormous. Clearly, I’m the kind of girl who will always pick enormous. I am sorry about this – you’ll just have to forgive me. 

Anyway…

As you drive north on the Peninsula towards San Francisco, you pass by this enormous hulk of mountain rising out of nowhere. It looks a bit like a sleeping giant. This is San Bruno Mountain. There’s a trail that runs across the long ridge at the top. We hiked up there once when the Dude was just a baby, and the views were spectacular. You can see San Francisco to the north, the Bay and the airport to the east, the ocean to the west and the peninsula stretching out to the south, all at the same time. It’s amazing up there.

I've used this photo before but it shows San Bruno in all its glory!

I’ve used this photo before but it shows San Bruno in all its glory!

Since I got into trail running, I’ve wanted to run there – along that trail specifically. And the idea has nagged and nagged away at me. Every time I drive past on my way to the city, I look up at the mountain and wish I was up there running. And on Saturday, I finally got to do it!

I met up with Jen and her friend Jess at the park in Brisbane. The Dude had been poorly all week (he is fine now, I didn’t abandon a sick child) so I’d had plenty of time inside to plan the route. However pretty quickly we discovered that a route on Google Maps bears very little relation to what it looks like on the ground. We got a little lost climbing out of Brisbane but with Jess’s smartphone map, we soon found ourselves at the base of the trail, Siskyou ‘Avenue’. It was basically a rough, steep hiking trail up. So up we hiked. It was almost vertical and awash with poppies. Soon enough, we emerged at the top onto the ridge trail and the views were spectacular!

IMG_2514

Up we go…

IMG_2517

Jen and Jess ‘pausing to admire the view’. We did a lot of pausing to admire views today

san bruno 3

The finest bottom in California :) Photo Credit – Jess

IMG_2531

Made it!

We set off westwards along Ridge Trail. It was a steady climb up to the radio towers at the top, but the trail was a total roller-coaster of steep little uphills and downhills. The views were amazing though and the weather was perfect.

IMG_6887

Heading West Photo Credit: Jess

Heading West
Photo Credit: Jess

At the radio towers, we switched onto Summit Loop Trail which we took in a clockwise direction. We ran into a hiking group and did some mountain goat scampering to get past them, which was fun, and then Jess took a dramatic tumble from which she bounced up declaring ‘I’m okay, I’m okay’ and we ran on! The trail descended steadily down to a little creek with a very lopsided, rickety plank-bridge.

IMG_2533 From there, we faced the inevitable climb back up to the radio towers. It wasn’t too bad and the trail was beautiful!

san bruno 6

San Francisco in the distance Photo Credit: Jess

Back along Ridge Trail in the way we had come.

IMG_6890

Downwards!

From there, we were all looking forward to our well-earned descent. But alas no. The trail we took down was as ridiculously steep as the one we’d initially climbed up, but was covered in large stones which made it somewhat treacherous. I ended up on my bottom at one point. Eventually it became a little less steep and easier to run.

IMG_2541

Staying upright with the city in the background

san bruno 7

Photobomber! Photo Credit: Jess

san bruno 8

Finally, a runnable stretch of downhill Photo Credit: Jess

From there, it was an easy run back into Brisbane to the car, and then up to Madhouse Coffee for coffee and sandwiches. I’d been excited about my sandwich for a few miles now but alas they don’t do sandwiches at the weekend so I had to make do with a bagel. Sob.

If you’re interested in the logistics of the run, here is the route we took, minus the initial getting lost in Brisbane. I’d initially wanted to do this route but couldn’t find any online details about picking up the trail at the end of Harold Road so we opted for a different route. I believe the Harold Road route is do-able but am not sure.

All in all, we ran 10.44 miles in 2.16 at a 13.01 pace – not that that is important at all. The best thing about this run was the sense of adventure and exploration that we had. There’s something kind of cool about running up a mountain, around it and back down and an amazing sense of achievement. It was pretty brilliant, to be honest. Thanks Jen and Jess for the company and the entertaining conversations. What goes on the trail stays on the trail, eh??

BTW…on Wednesday, this week’s Running The World interview is with the amazing Preeti from India. I am honestly beside myself with excitement about it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

This week’s running

Guys, thank you all for your comments and enthusiasm about the inaugural Running The World post. I was so excited about it and I’m so glad you liked it. I’m hoping to have something great for next Wednesday as well.

In terms of running, this week looked like this:

Friday: Long run – 12 miles at 9.22 pace

Sunday: Hills – 5 hilly trail miles at 11.09 pace

Pic courtesy of FitSnap app. Promise not to subject you to too many of these!

Pic courtesy of FitSnap app. Promise not to subject you to too many of these!

Monday: Tempo run – 6 miles at 8.35 pace

A decent tempo run. M1 – Normal, M2,3 – Tempo, M4 – Normal, M5,6 – Tempo with tempo miles averaging 8.19 pace. Those tempo miles did get progressively slower…but whatever! :)

Wednesday: Intervals – 4 miles at 8.35 pace

The Dude was poorly all day which is horrible for both child and parent. In the evening, when the Husband was home, I got outside for the first time all day and knocked out a sluggish run. Unremarkable but I was glad I did it. The pre-twilight light was beautiful!

What else? Yesterday afternoon, I went to the wedding of two dear British friends at the beautiful San Francisco City Hall. The Dude was much better but not well enough to go, so the Husband came home from work to look after him so I could go, which was very sweet. I love a good wedding!

Lovely girls

Lovely girls

IMG_2465

Every now and again, I like to get dressed up!

This weekend is going to be a corker because I’m going trail running with Jen and a couple of other people up San Bruno Mountain. This was the run we postponed in January due to one of the few deluges we’ve had this winter. But Saturday promises to be dry, if not even sunny, and we are finally running the beast that’s whispered to me every time I drive past it!

San_Bruno_Mountain

We’ll be running along that ridge!

And if that wasn’t enough….IT’S FLIPPING GAME OF THRONES WEEKEND! Bring on the dragons! Dracarys!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Running The World: the Czech Republic

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a weekly feature where I ‘interview’ runners from around the world about what it’s like to be a runner in their country. Please remember that this is just one person’s view and therefore subjective – I’m not claiming this as groundbreaking journalism but rather a fun way of learning more about the running culture around the world!

We’re kicking off with the Czech Republic, in the heart of Europe.  This week’s interview is with the lovely Michaela (or Myjka), a Slovakian living in Prague! I was put in contact with Myjka via our mutual friend Pavlinka, a fellow Slovakian living in the UK. Pav asked her if she’d be willing to speak to me and she gamely said yes!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Myjka. I’m Slovak but I’ve been living in the Czech Republic since 2006. I studied and worked in Brno (the Czech Republic’s second city, 200 km from Prague) and three years ago, I moved to Prague. I live with my boyfriend in the city centre, near the Vlatava River. I’m 27 and I work in Customer Support. I like animals, reading, running and yoga, and I like cooking and baking healthy goods.

Myjka!

Myjka!

Tell us about your running

I started running in March 2012. My first goal was to lose weight – I lost about 40 lbs. I’m not very fast but I like running and now I run for fun. Sometimes I run races. I’ve run six half-marathons and this year I’m planning to run half-marathons in Prague, Karlovy Vary and Ústí nad Labem. I’ve not been running so much over the Winter but Spring is in the air and I’ll run more. I started my blog Bežkyňa in 2012 to help me stay motivated. Bežkyňa means ‘Runner’ in Slovakian.

Bezkyna 1 Czech

How popular is running in the Czech Republic?

Running is as popular in the Czech Republic as it is around the world. I’m meeting more and more joggers, and races are selling out weeks in advance. It’s popular with both men and women.

Due to the popularity of running, in Prague we have the first Running Mall - a place where you can train, learn and relax alongside your fellow runners.  They organise running events every day.  Cat’s note: It’s worth checking this place out via the link above, there’s an English translation button. It looks amazing, I’m jealous!

And I’m going to Nike Training (a running club held at the Prague Nike store) twice a month. I’ve got a running friend there and we are now the best of friends!

What is the racing scene like? 

The biggest company is RunCzech. They organises races in 5 Czech cities from the Prague Marathon to some half marathons and some family runs etc. Of course there are a lot of other races…both shorter and more extreme. At the moment, RunTour is really popular – a series of 5k and 10k races in 7 different Czech cities. You can earn loyalty prizes if you run all seven. They also organise kids’ runs of 500 or 1,000 metres too. Also popular is We Run Prague, a 10k race which is organised by Nike. Races cost anything from under 100 Czech crowns ($5/3 GBP) to a thousand crowns ($50/30GBP), depending on how big the race is.

The biggest race in the Czech Republic is the Prague Marathon in May with 10,000 participants (roughly $120 entry fee) and the Prague Half Marathon in April, which has about 9,000 participants, but my favourite is the half-marathon in Karlovy Vary due to the beautiful views of the city.

Where is this?? xxx

Mjyka crushing the cobbles in Plzeň

Is trail racing popular there?

Trail Racing is getting bigger here, like in America. For example, we have the ŠUTR ,a trail ultra near Prague. Also really popular is the Spartan obstacle race!

ŠUTR - photo from their FB page

ŠUTR – photo from their FB page

Which brands are popular in the Czech Republic?

My favourite is Nike but I can get cheaper running clothes at Tchibo (a cafe that sells running clothes every few months) or DirectSport, so I tend to shop there. I wear Adidas shoes.

Tell us about the running media.

I know of Behej.com (both a website and a published magazine) and Run. There was a magazine called Bĕžec (‘Runner’) which I wrote a few articles for, but sadly the magazine closed.

czech myjka

Who are people’s running heroes?

My favourite running star is Miloš Škorpil. He is a trainer  and ultramarathon runner and he is the founder of  a running school – Bĕžecká Škola.

Are there other Czech running blogs out there?

Yes, I read a couple…Baborka On the Run (English language),  http://kilometrzakilometrem.blogspot.sk and Mojetelo.

Bezkyna 4 Czech

Finally…what is the best and the worst thing about running in the Czech Republic?

The best thing is that you can always find someone to run with if you want to. The worst thing? Running through the cold, dark Czech winters!

Thanks so much Myjka for all your help pulling this post together! Do check out her blog, there’s a ‘translate’ button so you can see it in English.

I would really welcome your feedback about the structure of these Running The World posts. Are there any questions or issues you want me to cover in particular, were there any questions I missed out? Please feel free to let me know.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

What do runners do on a wet weekend?

It’s a good question. And after this weekend, I am qualified to answer it.

1) They spend too much time on social media.

(My favourite tweet of the weekend)

2) They buy new running shoes.

My right leg has been bothering me lately, with a dull ache along the shin, where I had shin splints last year. It’s not been bad and hasn’t affected my running but it’s been at the back of my mind. My current running shoes are stability shoes, as opposed to the super-cushioned neutral plus shoes I usually wear. I think they have been excellent for helping my ankle mend and get strong again, but I’ve been thinking for a while that I should buy a second pair for long runs. The Husband was also in the market for new shoes, so we set off to the running shop.

I tried on several pairs of shoes, including Hokas which I’ve heard loads about and was curious to try. I was surprisingly taken with them – they may look a little silly but they felt great, except maybe a little loose around the ankle. However when I tried on the Asics Nimbus, I felt like I’d come home! It was a pretty easy decision, especially when the sales guy casually told me he was nervous of Hokas as it would be so far to fall if he stumbled. Asics, sold to the girl with the gammy ankle.

My new shoes

My new shoes

3) They watch running movies

On Saturday night, we downloaded and watched the new documentary film about Kilian Jornet’s record-breaking ascent and descent of the Matterhorn. It was honestly brilliant – from the jaw-dropping opening shot to the moving finish. It’s only $14 to download (and keep forever) and is worth every penny. Watch it tonight, seriously!

4) They plan trips

This weekend, we booked flights for me and the Dude to the UK in June. I haven’t seen my parents since August so I’m pretty much beside myself about this! In addition, we started  planning our trip to watch and cheer for the Western States. We leave for that the day after we get back from the UK. Jet-lag be damned!

Hopefully June will be sunnier and warmer!

Hopefully June will be sunnier and warmer!

5) They register for races

Not me but the Husband, who casually signed up for a  triathlon in May and a Half-Ironman in June, both at Folsom Lake. He needs to practice putting the three disciplines together and practice transitions, so we’re off to the foothills!

6) And they run

Luckily, I got my long run in on Friday morning before the rain started. My run was very very unremarkable.  I had plans for a fun route but the night before, I ate too many black beans so had to reroute my run around the public bathrooms in my town. Sorry but it’s true. I felt pretty lackluster from the start and nearly bailed at one point, but sometimes you just need to churn those miles out. Not every run will make your heart soar, some will just make your legs sore. All in all, 12 miles in 1.52 at 9.22 pace.

Sunday dawned dry and sunny and in the afternoon I met up with my friend Louise to run trails at Edgewood. She’s running Angel Island with me – it will be her very first race and she’s been training like a champ, so we met up to run some hills (we both live in very flat towns). We had one of those super-cool runs when it’s just a load of fun. I haven’t run with Louise since November, and I was astonished at how much progress she’s made. She’s going to crush Angel Island. I was so proud of her. It was a brilliant run. 5.1 miles in 55 mins at 11 min pace. And the new shoes felt really good!

Edgewood Louise Trails

Happy girls!

Louise Edgewood Trails

Louise on Ridgeway Trail, my favourite in this park

And that was our weekend!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Rise and Shine

And somehow it’s the weekend again!

I am not going to talk about selfies, banditing races or running in tutus. Sometimes, the interweb just needs to MOVE ON! But there have been a few things on the web this week that I have adored. Firstly, have you seen this advert from Nike? It’s 3 1/2 minutes long but it’s AMAZING….there are some incredible quotes in it:

‘For what is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way.’

‘Drown out the voice of uncertainty with the sound of your own heartbeat
Burn away your self doubt with the fire that’s beneath you
Remember what you’re fighting for.’

‘Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident.
Sweat on the other hand is for those who know it’s a choice.’

It gives me chills just writing these words down. It’s clearly relevant to us as runners and as ‘athletes’ but also surely for anything that we’re working towards, anything that is precious to us and risky.  I found it incredibly motivating – it made me want to train and fight and run my heart out!  I sent it to the Husband at work and HE got all psyched for his Ironman! So watch it and get psyched for SOMETHING!!!!

And whilst I’m sharing links, check out this song and video dedicated to the Boston runners. It’s so sweet! I loved it.

I’ve also spent this week working on my new ‘Running The World’ project and I am quite beside myself with excitement about it. The first interview is going up on Wednesday, with the lovely Michaela from the Czech Republic! It’s been fascinating, learning about the running culture there, I can’t wait to share it!

I’ve also been running (phew) and this is how it went down!

Saturday: 13 miles in San Francisco at 9.13 pace.

The Presidio from the bridge

The Presidio from the bridge

(WordPress has recently changed its facility to size photos. You can either have them ginormous or mini…I’m sorry about this).

Monday: 4 miles intervals at 8.39 pace. Usual interval session.

Wednesday: 6.6 miles at 8.34 pace

It rained today in the Bay Area. Rained a lot. To the point where I wore my waterproof jacket for about the 5th time since we moved here, with shorts and a t-shirt underneath. I got drenched, but it made me run faster because I wanted to get home.

Yoga – In the evening, I went to yoga for the first time in many weeks. Frankly, you could tell. I was even tighter than usual. I need to get back into yoga…when I was going more regularly, I was definitely a tiny bit looser!

There’s been a notable lack of walking miles since the dog went home…I want to start getting into the evening walking routine again. That’s my goal for this week.

And that’s it! Have a great weekend, everyone! Rise and shine …

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Running The World

I got very excited this weekend about a new series I’m planning to start here on the blog.    I was thinking about our time in Japan and how interesting it had been to see the running culture over there, and it made me wonder about the running culture elsewhere in the world. So I’m going to be running a series of interviews with runners from different countries across the world.

I’ll be asking them about the running community in their country – what’s popular, where it’s growing, what the big races are, what the cool kids are wearing…that kind of thing. Obviously, this will be one person’s perspective on their country, as opposed to an exhaustive, definitive survey that covers all the bases, but it might give us a glimpse into different running cultures!

Japanese running magazine!

Japanese running magazine!

I’ve been speaking to all my international friends, who have then reached out to some of their compatriots to find runners for me to speak to. It’s been a really exciting process so far and I am so excited about the series kicking off. I’d like to run one interview weekly, but we’ll see how that works out.

How can you help?

Firstly, is there anything in particular you’d be curious about? That may vary per country so I’ll try to mention every week which country I’ll be featuring next. But is there anything generally you’d be interested to know about?

Secondly, this blog needs YOU!!! If you are an international runner and would like to be interviewed, drop me a note! Alternatively, if you have any friends who you think would be perfect for this project, I’d be so grateful if you could link us up. I’m after people of either gender who are passionate about running and who are part of the running community in their country. I’m not after speedsters by any means! I’m having particular issues finding people to speak to from Africa, the Middle East and South America!

Running in Japan in a shell suit and a breathing mask

Running in Japan in a shell suit and a breathing mask

The one thing that’s struck me as I’ve started pulling this together is how social media has shrunk the world. I’ve been linked to people via Twitter, Facebook and email…a few years ago, this project would have been so much harder! Social Media has been so revolutionary in linking the worldwide running community together!

When I wasn’t frantically emailing random strangers across the world, I got a great run in on Saturday. The Husband and the Dude went to the Exploratorium, the new science museum in San Francisco. I’ve already been and they wanted some boy time, so I used those few hours for a run through San Francisco. I started on the Embarcadero and headed west through the tourist hell of Fisherman’s Wharf and out onto Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge and back again.

I initially planned to throw some tempo miles in there, but it quickly became one of those lovely runs that you simply want to enjoy. Running for pleasure, not for training reasons.  So I ran at a comfortable pace, stopped frequently for photographs, people-watched (the beautiful, the touristy, the crazies) and just soaked in the beauty of this city and appreciated once again how lucky I am to live in the Bay Area!

Cue the photos.

I always vow I won't take any more photos of this bridge...and I always do

I always vow I won’t take any more photos of this bridge…and I always do

I was there too...

I was there too…and it was windy!

Angel Island...I'll be running up that hill in a few weeks

Angel Island…I’ll be running up that hill in a few weeks

The city from the bridge

The city from the bridge

Little boat, big bridge

Little boat, big bridge

Industrial Orange

Industrial Orange

Heading back towards Crissy Field

Heading back towards Crissy Field

The Finish line...the Ferry Building

The Finish line…the Ferry Building

Happy Monday, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Week in my Shoes

Our fortnight’s dog sitting came to an end on Wednesday when Monty went home. We were sad to see him go but it’s rather loving not needing to pick up hot steaming poo any more! And the cat is triumphant!! What was nice about having the dog was the amount of walking we did – I’d forgotten how simply walking burns calories and gets a girl fit! I always underestimate it!!

This is how this week went down.

Friday:

Long Run of 12 miles at 8.56 pace.

- Dog walking – 2 miles.

SaturdayDog walking – 3.5 miles

Sunday:

- Easy run of 3 miles with friends and the dog.

4 mile family hike at Sweeney Ridge

sweeney ridge hiking

Monday:

- 4 miles intervals – overall pace 8.22

My first speed session since Hellyer. I did my usual intervals routine of 1/2 mile warm up, 12 x (1 min fast, 1 min recovery) and then jog to the end. I thought it would be horrific, having not done any speed work for a few weeks…but no, it was great. I die a little of shame, but the run was fueled by my Disney soundtrack...the minute Aladdin starts warbling that he can show me the world, my heart starts singing and my legs start soaring, tumbling and free-wheeling through an endless diamond sky!

- Dog walking 2.6 miles.

Tuesday:  2 dog-walks totaling 3 miles.

Wednesday:

- 6 miles trail running at Edgewood – 11.17 pace.

I REALLY loved this run. I know the park well now, and it was packed full of people hiking so I felt very safe and I just ran and ran. I packed in as much climbing as I could…including a couple of long, steady climbs preparing for the hills on Angel Island. My favourite bit was running on Ridgeway Trail where I must have seen 20 or 30 little lizards scurrying away into the undergrowth. My only concern was rattlesnakes sunning themselves, but didn’t see anything. Such a lovely run.

- Also, 1.5 mile hiking with the dog at Pulgas Ridge.

Views over the Bay

Views over the Bay

Wednesday’s run was also interesting because I tried using Strava for the first time. Anyone else got any thoughts on it? I used the Strava Run app and really liked it – it was easy to use, seemed to record the data pretty accurately. I’m not interested in the social media aspect of it, but I’ll keep trying the app out and see how I get on with it! I currently use Nike Plus (being a Garmin-less girl) which I quite like but I could be lured away. 

The other thing was that I got a slight shin-splinty ache this week. My current shoes don’t give as much cushioning as my preferred shoes and things ached that don’t usually ache. I switched back into my old Nikes for the Edgewood run and haven’t had any aching since. I’ll watch that carefully and get some new neutral plus shoes for longer runs if I feel I need that extra cushioning!! 

All proper bloggers post photos like this. I haven't done one for ages!

Lots of ankle support, not so much cushioning

And finally…this week, I made kale cupcakes. It felt like a perfect storm of California cuisine…it’s favourite vegetable and it’s favourite dessert! They actually turned out pretty well – so well that I ate most of them within 24 hours all by myself. PMT, people!! PMT! Anyway, you should try them…they were fun!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments