Race Recap: Pace for Peace 5k

I hardly know where to start with this race recap.

I signed up initially for the 10k, as part of my Spring of 10k’s. And then, last week, it occurred to me that I knew I wasn’t in shape to PR the 10k (or even get close) but I could potentially PR the 5k. My 5k PR of 26.15 is two years old and I know I am faster now than I was then. All the 5k’s I’ve done since have been pushing the Dude. And I found myself getting SUPER-EXCITED about racing a 5k! So I emailed the organizer, she happily switched me and I started planning.

I had two goals for this race. My A goal was to come in under 25 minutes, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. This would mean I needed to run 8.02 pace, which I thought was possible. My New Year’s Day 10k pace was 8.11 – I know I’m not as fit as I was then but maybe I could hold 8.02 for 25 minutes? My B goal was just to PR, and if I couldn’t beat 26.14,  I would be pretty heartbroken.

My son is ‘taking a break from running 5k’s’ so I was the only one who drove out to Livermore early Saturday morning. I allowed too much time as usual – it took about 45 minutes at 7am! I got there quickly and found the race being set up. It was a really lovely event – a tiny, community race to support a non-profit helping women who have suffered sexual violence. I felt pretty moved to be part of it. I got my number, used the loo (actual loos in their building) and went back to my car to do myself a little playlist and keep warm. It was surprisingly chilly at that time.

livermore

The start line at dawn

 

At about 7.30 I went for a little warm-up jog, just one mile along the course. I’m glad I did – the course was marked by  arrows on yellow pieces of paper, taped to the ground. They weren’t that easy to see – having them standing upright would be easier. A quick reconnoitre helped.

livermore vineyards wine

Livermore has vineyards basically in the town centre. I could live here.

livermore vineyards wine

My future place of work?

 

The staging area was busier now and the queue for the loos was much longer – 2 bathrooms for 150 or so people wasn’t quite enough. But soon enough we were lining up. I positioned myself somewhat uncomfortably near the front – I thought I was in the right place, looking around, but I’m not used to being at the front. And the klaxon (?) sounded and we were off.

It was the weirdest thing. I was in the lead. (For the women, obviously. The men dashed off). I ran along, waiting to be passed (and going too fast) but was in the lead. It was kind of awesome. I ran on and still no girl passed me. I was running hard, I have to admit but I got to the turnaround point at halfway and somehow I was still in the lead. As I turned back, I didn’t really look at the girls coming the opposite way – I was trying to focus on things I could control. My running, my breathing, my race. ‘Focus on the PR’ I kept telling myself. But I was in the lead. I admit it, I felt like an Olympian.

The problem was…I had no idea how to play this game. I have never been in this situation before. I had no experience of race strategy. I had no plan about ‘racing’ this race. I was a total rookie and I had no idea what I should be doing. So I just kept running.

The way back felt very long. I ploughed along…still in the lead. A woman still heading ‘out’ whooped for me and yelled ‘First woman’. (HAHA, THAT’S ME!). I kept running but I was struggling now. I was running too fast. With about a mile to go, we had to turn sharp right. I turned, and glanced over…and saw a girl just behind me. My heart sank. I kept running.

With about half a mile to go, the inevitable happened. She passed me, looking pretty much effortless, and she ran steadily into the distance. I was disappointed but kept telling myself ‘Focus on the PR’ and just kept pushing. Eventually I turned into the home straight, the balloon arch was there and I may have accelerated a tiny bit…and I crossed the line and stopped my watch.

pace peace me 5k

FLYING to the finish line Photo Credit: Layla!

pace peace 5k me

The hordes at the finish line went wild Photo Credit: Layla

 

24.23! I hadn’t won but I’d got my goal time!

Once I’d caught my breath, Layla came over. She was out cycling for the day and stopped to cheer me over the line. This girl is an amazing team player – she can’t run much at the moment but she’s always out cheering for her friends. I hugely appreciated seeing her and giving her a delightful sweaty hug. Less fun was when I saw the course was short, I’d run 2.99 miles instead of 3.1 and when I extrapolated that pace up, my 5k time would have been 25.19.

So I lost the only race I’m ever likely to win and I didn’t get my goal time.

I shook hands and had a chat with the winner, who paid me the great compliment of saying she had to work  hard to catch me and that I ran a great race (le sigh). A while later, I saw her go up to get her prize, so I sidled up to get my second female prize. I envisaged a giant trophy. Gold, with a plinth and a female runner on top. Oh the Dude would be so impressed. Or maybe a plaque declaring ‘2nd woman’. But somehow… no. There were only prizes for the first three overall runners, which mean that I didn’t get a prize…and more significantly, the female winner didn’t get a prize either! I was actually pretty shocked for her. Bearing in mind, TriValley Haven is a women’s nonprofit, this was pretty ironic. They did have a fantastic buffet spread so I claimed a doughnut as my prize once Layla had cycled on and I could pig out in secret :) There was also a good raffle, but I didn’t win anything.

layla livermore

My awesome cheering squad of one (and her swanky new bike)

 

I have some (genuinely constructive) criticisms of this race, which I’ll mention below but frankly, none of them are important. This race raises money for women who have undergone great trauma and it raised over $10,000 for their work. So NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER! But because I hope this review might help future runners, these things need pointing out.

  • They need more bathrooms. 2 isn’t enough.
  • The course was short. This isn’t the first time I’ve run a short course and it’s so disheartening. You run your guts out and find that your time isn’t really valid. Checking and double-checking the distance is crucial. I’d rather overrun slightly than run short.
  • You HAVE to have prizes for the top three women. You don’t need age-group awards, nice though they are but the top three women need prizes. The female winner DEFINITELY needs a prize. The girl who won looked like me, like she doesn’t win races every day, and I felt bad for her.
  • Chip timing. This doesn’t actually bother me at all but it’s worth saying this race didn’t have chip timing.

TriValley Haven are organising a race in October and I believe it WILL have chip timing, a certified course and age-group prizes. So I may well be back to try again!

livermore

My returning has NOTHING to do with the doughnuts they provided, obviously!

 

But as I said – it’s not important. This month, I’ve been reminded again of what IS important and what isn’t. Running is awesome, but helping other people is what really matters.

Personally, I have really mixed views about my performance and I haven’t quite worked them out yet. On the positive side…I PR’d and that is always a fantastic achievement and one that should be celebrated. I also placed overall for the first time ever! 2nd woman is pretty awesome! I thought about how I chatted with the winner and how I’ve NEVER had that kind of discussion before. I thought about the male winner coming over, congratulating me and asking if I’d been first female. No-one has EVER asked me that question before. I know this was a tiny race, but this whole experience made me feel like a runner more than anything ever has before!

On the negative side…I didn’t run my goal pace. That is genuinely disappointing. I also lost the race. I could smell my first ever win and I lost. Pretty gutting. Most materialistically, I also think that if I had won ‘something’ as second female, I wouldn’t actually be bothered about losing the race. (That’s kind of embarrassing). So overall, I feel a bit flat.

I’ll tell you something though…I feel flipping FIRED UP! Sub-25 is within sniffing distance for the 5k. Sub-50 is within sight for the 10k. Today’s not-winning experience has filled me with fire and the desire to run fast and achieve those goals. I may or may not have spent the rest of the weekend planning!!! More on that later this week.

Here endeth the world’s longest, most navel-gazing recap of a Saturday morning’s 3 mile run

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Humbled by the trails…again!

Sometimes, the opportunity to run comes up and it’s so good that you have to say yes, despite the fact that you know you’re not in shape to do the run justice. This happened to me earlier this week. On Tuesday mornings, you’ll usually find me at the dining room table, with the computer, studying away. Not this week. I bunked off my studies, dropped the Dude at school and drove into the city.

My running buddy for the day was Marjolaine. I met Marjolaine online and interviewed her last year for Running the World: France. We met up once last year and have become solid interweb friends. She was up in SF with visiting family, got permission to have a few hours away to run and we organised a time and a date.

I mapped out a route up in the Marin Headlands. I’d run a fair portion of it with Jen a year or so ago, but there were some new trails. I knew it would be hilly, but whatever, I’d survive. I picked Marjolaine up from her hotel and we sped over the bridge, up the hill and parked by the little loo next to the roundabout. The day was bright, sparklingly clear, warm but not hot and we were excited.

We started by running downhill along Coastal Trail for a mile or so. We were chatting away non-stop, the running was easy and we were having fun. We got to the road at the bottom and ran to the link trail which would take us to Miwok only to find that it was closed for maintenance so we had to divert, running along the road to Rodeo Lagoon. It didn’t add on much distance. Eventually, we got to the Miwok trailhead and started up.

marjolaine trails headlands marin

Marjolaine heads down Coastal

rodeo lagoon marin headlands

Rodeo Lagoon looking pretty much like an infinity pool

 

Miwok is a beast. We basically ran  over a mile solidly uphill and whilst it’s technically ‘runnable’, it was tough and I ended up walk/jogging. At the bottom, I told Marjolaine to run ahead, to not feel obliged to run with me. She is MUCH faster than me, and as I started puffing and panting, she literally sprang away with a kick of her heels and scampered up the hill. I choose my words carefully – the girl just scampered up Miwok. Hmmmph. (Seriously – Marjolaine is a fantastic runner and it was actually really lovely to watch her run today!)

miwok marin headlands trail

Miwok – one of the flatter moments

miwok marin headlands

We started a mile away at the bottom, in the valley.

 

She was waiting for me at the junction with Wolf Ridge trail, our next trail. I’d not run Wolf Ridge before and as we gazed at it, looming up pretty much vertically, my heart sank. We ran along the flat bit and got to the steep bit. I haven’t seen a much steeper trail in my life – but my companion skipped up it. We emerged off Wolf Ridge at the ocean whilst a massive vulture flew low overhead. That was pretty magical.

wolf ridge marin headlands trail

Wolf Ridge trail looming up into the distance That dog-leg on the left was insanely steep!

marjolaine marin headlands wolf ridge trail

Marjolaine making it look effortless

marin headlands trail

The views that made it all worthwhile

marjolane me selfie

But first, let me take a selfie

 

We got a little lost here and ran downhill for a bit before we realised we needed to head back (uphill, boo) and take a different trail. We then scrambled down a crazy steep downhill section of Wolf Ridge trail which had me descending on my bottom whilst Marjolaine skipped down like Kilian. And eventually we hit Tennessee Valley trail which is a very gentle upward climb to the car park.

wolf ridge trail marin headlands

Me on a flat section of the trail before we plunged downwards

 

From there, I knew the trails back, which helped, but I had forgotten how long and steep Marincello is. At one point, a guy passed us and I said to Marjolaine ‘Go, get him’. I was dying quietly at that point but she immediately bounded into life and chased him down. It was kind of like running with a young puppy. (I said this to her and she said it wasn’t the first time the super-excited dog analogy has been applied to her, so I don’t think she’ll mind me posting this). Basically today, I was like this:

…and she was like this.

 

I’m being funny….but it’s also the truth. :)

marjolaine marincello deer trail running

Our exciting wildlife sighting of the day. A deer.

 

Life got easier at the top of Marincello, and we ran through the merciful flats of the eucalyptus trees on Alta trail before going onto SCA trail. SCA is my favourite trail in the Headlands. It’s beautiful and winds it way downhill with the Golden Gate Bridge and the city in the distance. It’s  the Marin trails at their finest. I sent Marjolaine ahead to enjoy it and I slogged along. I have to be honest, I was so tired at this point that I could hardly enjoy its beauty. Finally we got to the last tiny incline, which I climbed like a dying swan, and eventually we turned up back at the car.

me marin headlands trail eucalyptus

A moment of peace on Alta trail

SCA marin headlands trail GGB

The best view in the world, maybe.

marjolaine marin headlands SCA GGB

She STILL had energy to jump :)

 

We ran 13 miles at about 14 min mile pace (ha) and with 2,300 ft of climbing. I never quite understand what that means in reality but basically it’s two times up Kings Mountain, my local ‘hill’ which makes me feel better about the dead legs!!

I can’t deny that this run was super hard for me and revealed to me quite how much fitness I’ve lost since Kaiser. This is mainly due to my starting studying and I knew it would happen but it’s been quite motivating to get training properly again. I need to work hard and get fit again. I really want to run ‘fast’ again. I want to feel like a runner again. I need to get myself into a routine.

Despite how tough I found it, today’s run was magic. The Headlands are really beautiful and the weather was spectacular today. It was lovely to run with Marjolaine and to get to know her better, and there is nothing quite like running green trails to make my heart glad. It was a pretty awesome morning.

My quads the next day? Oh the pain :)

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Spectating the HITS Napa Valley Triathlon

On Saturday, the Husband did a half-ironman distance triathlon. I wanted to blog about it because 1) it was a good day and 2)it may help any people racing it next year who find this post via google!

I have to admit, this was the last prepared we have ever been for a race.I mentioned the ‘minimal’ training the Husband has done for this race. I don’t think its minimum-ness can be underestimated. Apart from a few runs in the past month (!) he was basically relying on residual fitness from Ironman Canada to get him round.

We stayed in a hotel in Fairfield the night before. There are NO hotels within about an hour of the race, which makes life tricky – I’ll talk a little about that below. The Hilton Garden Inn was pretty much perfect. Unfortunately there are no healthy places to eat the night before, so his pre-race meal was a Chipotle burrito and a giant Cold Stone Creamery ice-cream. Not ideal.

We left the hotel about 10 minutes late, at about 4.55am. It was about an hour’s drive on windy roads to the staging area at Lake Beryessa. The lake is pretty big but the race would take place right at the top of the west shore, which just requires a lot of driving to get there. Once we arrived, there was plenty of parking near the race area and plentiful portaloos. We didn’t have THAT much time to get set up so it was a little rushed, but not unbearably so. Packet pick-up was incredibly quick and easy, and for that we were grateful.

It was still dark when we arrived and not particularly light when the swimmers started heading for the lake before the 7am start. As the Husband got ready, we somehow bumped into Danielle who I know via social media – it was lovely to meet her at last. She was super grinny and excited to go! The Husband was a little less keen. But we all shuffled down to the water’s edge, we kissed him, I told him not to die and he went off to join the blue swimming hats.

triathlon HITS

Morning breaks over Lake Beryessa

(HITS later posted a little video on twitter and somehow, the Dude, Danielle and I are on it!)

I think there were about 250 athletes doing the half iron distance and maybe 30 or so doing the full ‘Ironman’. There was a countdown and the swimmers set off. The Husband clearly wasn’t feeling that nervous as he waved quite hilariously to us as he was swimming. I wasn’t quite sure if he was waving or drowning (this is our ‘HELP ME’ signal for the Dude when he swims) but he kept swimming so I guess he was okay.

It was cold, so we went and huddled in the car whilst he swam but before too long we saw the speedsters heading out on their bikes so we went back to the lake and fairly soon, we saw the Husband coming out the water, still alive. He’d done it in 55 mins which was better than we’d expected. He was very chilly, the water was much colder than anticipated and he’d struggled to deal with the cold!  Everyone looked pretty arctic, coming out the water. We saw him off on the bike with waves and cheers.

husband triathlon HITS

Still alive

husband HITS triathlon cycling

Off on the bike stage

The course is not at all spectator friendly and we knew he would be many hours, so the Dude and I went for a day out to the ‘nearby’ town of Davis. Here, our lack of planning showed itself again. Davis and Napa look more or less equidistant on a map – but due to the windy roads round the lake, it took about an hour and a half to get to Davis, much longer than I’d expected. (For UK readers, Davis is the home to one of the campuses of the University of California, it’s apparently a small, bike-friendly town and we’d fancied popping in for years but had never made it).

The Dude and I had a fantastic day out. We rented bikes at Ken’s Bikes and Skis ($13/hour which is a bargain) and cycled through the town to the car-free campus. We stopped for coffee and breakfast (the 4am wakeup call was getting to me) and then cycled round the uni, especially the lovely arboretum – a gorgeous bike path edged with various California trees. REALLY pretty. The whole campus was full of prospective students visiting for  tours and I felt like I was on the set of Pitch Perfect! We stopped in a second-hand book shop and then a toy shop and pretty quickly it was time to drive back. Three hours driving for three hours there. Oh well.

davis dude cycling

The Dude on campus

me cycling

Every campus should have its own redwood grove

We got back to the triathlon at about 1.50. I was expecting the husband between 2 and 3pm. We sat in the shade and cheered on all the incoming athletes. Amanda and Matt turned up, picking up their bibs for Sunday’s sprint distance – their first triathlons! – so we hung out with them and they inadvertently taught my son some ‘new words’. Danielle arrived, having done a good, solid race! And just after 3pm, we saw a very tired but unbroken Husband running down the road towards us. He’d done it, in about 8.08.

husband triathlon HITS

Still smiling :)

This wasn’t a PR for him and it won’t break any records but frankly, I was astonished that he managed a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run on pretty much no training. I’m secretly quite impressed…don’t tell him.

We hung round for a bit afterwards and I spotted Kimra volunteering at the finish line. We ended up ‘volunteering’ too (aka chatting) for about ten minutes whilst the Husband recovered. I was a rubbish volunteer. Whilst my son seriously handed out water to finishing athletes, I just got all emotional every time they crossed the finish line and was no good to anyone :)

For future HITS racers, here are some things you might like to know.

  • This is a really well-organized race. We were really impressed. Plenty of parking, plenty of loos, great volunteers. Nice medal, great vibe.
  • The Husband felt that the aid stations were a little too far apart on the bike course but was full of praise for the quantity and quality of those on the run course.
  • The run course, despite what they say in the blurb, is NOT shady.
  • Both the bike and run courses were much harder than anticipated. They were constantly up and down.
  • The water was COLD. And the morning itself was cold. Bring PLENTY of warm clothes for before the race, I wish I’d had a hat. Consider neoprene swim socks.
  • The race is pretty remote. Napa is slightly closer for hotels but Napa Valley hotels are VERY expensive and often require two night minimums at weekends. The Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfax was pretty much the best in terms of value/location. In retrospect, I wish we’d rented a VW camper/RV and parked up somewhere nearby!
  • There’s no crowd support at all. No cheering. If you know that, you can be prepared for it. This isn’t so bad for the half but if you’re doing the full Ironman distance, we both felt it would be really tough psychologically, especially on that second cycle lap and for the run. You’d have to dig pretty deep. My respect for those exhausted full-distance people we saw late in the afternoon was boundless.
  • That Napa/Solano County border is SO beautiful. We had no idea how lovely it was, especially when green.

A day or so later, the Husband has mixed feelings about his performance. He thought he would automatically PR because his first half-ironman was SO TOUGH but he missed it by about 20 minutes. It was a reminder of quite how fit he was last summer. He’s talking about doing another one later in the year, we’ll see. He’s also muttering about another Ironman next year…hmmm, we’ll see, eh?

HITS triathlon

Ice-bath!

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March Favourites

I’m slightly late with this post, but seriously…how can March be over already? I feel like running played somewhat of a back seat but I still notched up 95 miles which I’ll take as a success. When I wasn’t running (which was clearly most of the time), these were my favourite other things that I got up to. 
 
Studying
 
I loved my studies this month as well. I learned about the development of 0 – 2 year olds, including the way they learn language, which filled this linguistic geek with excitement and delight. I presented with my team on subsidized preschool in California (or the lack of it). I went on a field trip to an amazing preschool in Palo Alto which filled me with excitement about my new career and also made me despair a little of ever being as good a teacher as I saw there. I sat one online midterm exam and one classroom exam and survived them all…not got my grades yet. And then I gratefully embraced the midterm break! 
 
Reading
 
Once again, I surprised myself, given my study workload, by managing to read 4 books and one of them was heavyweight and pretty life-changing
 
Salvage by Keren David was neither heavyweight nor life changing. It’s a young adult novel I had to read and review for one of my Early Childhood Eduction courses. (I know, I’m as bewildered as you are). I’m not a fan of YA novels and this reminded me why. All the melodrama, coincidences and unrealistic characters. If you like YA, I believe this is highly regarded but if you like good literature, trust me…skip this one. 
 
Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin, was on some of those ‘Best Novels of 2014′ lists and I’d been waiting for ages for the library audiobook to get to me. It was my holiday/vacation ready in Hawaii…and it was so boring. The tale of a middle-aged widow (actually, she’s quite young, she’s only 46) adapting to life without her husband, it went nowhere, nothing happened and when my rental period expired two chapters from the end, I was not sad.

Run or Die,  by Kilian Jornet was a birthday present from Nicola. I’m a big fan of Jornet and a huge admirer of his running, but this book wasn’t anywhere near as exciting to read as it is to watch him run! I really enjoyed the chapter about when he ran (and dropped out of) Western States and it was fascinating to read about the suffering he endures when he does his 100-milers. He makes it look so effortless but there is so much pain involved. But overall, I was left a little flat by what I expected to be an awesome book. 
 
Which leaves the amazing book, Half the sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn was kind of life-changing for me. They’re a pair of journalists who published this book in 2010 about the challenges facing women around the world. Sex trafficking. Bride Burning. Female Infanticide. Fistulas. Rape as a weapon of war and subjection – that kind of thing. I listened to this on audiobook wilst running and had to stop several times because I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. It is not an easy book to read but I think it’s important that women read it and then get involved. I’m still trying to work out how I should respond to it – which ’causes’ mean the most to me, how I can best respond and help from where I am. There has been some criticism of the book but it’s incredibly powerful and I urge you to read it. 
This post needs a photo - and this was my favourite race of March

This post needs a photo – and this was my favourite race of March Photo: KP? Maybe?

 

Watched
 
We managed to get through some good TV this month as well although I admit to watching it in the background as I studied. We worked though all of the latest series of House of Cards (so good, I want Claire Underwood’s wardrobe) and Girls which is always fun, even if I thought this series was lackluster. (I don’t want Hannah’s wardrobe). Best of all, my friend Rod loaned me Running on the Sun about the Badwater 135. That race looks brutal and deeply unpleasant, I have no desire to do it, but I did cry a bit when the guy with the prosthetic leg limped across the finish line!
 
Cooked
 
This month has not seen many spectacular cooking moments, mainly due to studying and being on holiday! However this (slow-cooker) Black Bean and Mango Chilli was SUPER EASY and delicious. The Husband actually said it was the best chili I’d ever made and that he barely noticed there was no meat in it. (kitchen treaty)
 
Wore
 
I am a BIG fan of running skirts – I like to think that they are more flattering to my British thighs and not insubstantial bottom than shorts. I spent some birthday money on the Winning Combo skirt from Roadrunner Sports and I AM OBSESSED WITH IT. The shorts are longer than on other skirts (no chafing, people) but it’s still really cute. The shorts don’t ride up, it fits really snuggly, it has a pocket at the back…I bought a second one immediately. Crazy in love. 
 
Visited.
 
You know all the goss. Vegas. The cat cafe in Oakland. Hawaii. It’s been a good month! 
 
Looking forward to…
 
GAME OF THRONES!!! IN 4 DAYS. I AM BREATHLESS WITH EXCITEMENT AND CANNOT TALK ABOUT THIS WITHOUT CAPITAL LETTERS. 
 
The Husband has a half-ironman on Sunday. He has used a ‘train less’ approach for this race (although he has tapered solidly) so I’m interested to see how he does. 
Running more. Since Kaiser, my running has been very lacklustre. I love running, I want to get back at it! 
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Ten things I didn’t know before I went to Maui

I usually try to keep this blog about running as much as possible…but last week, in Maui, I did pretty much no running. I ‘ran’ a 5k with my son, I ran 4 miles one morning…and that was it. I can’t remember the last time I ran less and I can’t remember the last time I felt more chilled out. I totally slacked and it was fab.

However I did learn several things over the course of the week.

1) We could potentially be beach people. 

We are NOT beach people by nature, but an hour or so a day in Hawaii is pretty much bliss. The Dude learned to snorkel and I managed to handle my fears of going underwater via a submarine trip. But best of all, on our first day, the Dude was splashing about in the water and suddenly started yelling like a crazy person ‘Sea turtles, sea turtles’. Whilst he went ballistic, crowds gathered to see sea turtles in all their amazing glory. Totally brilliant.

turtles

 

 2) The Husband is sometimes right

We’d planned a very tame little stroll in the Iao Valley State Park. But the Husband discovered a geocache about a mile’s hike into the dense jungle and up a mountain, so off we went. I have to be honest, I was NOT keen. I’m risk-averse by nature and I was very nervous of 1) spiders, 2) one of us falling, getting injured or dying and 3) anything else that I can’t control. So I very reluctantly followed the boys up a dirt trail through increasingly dense jungle. Several times I voiced my determination to turn back immediately but they called my bluff and kept climbing and so did I, increasingly grumpy, until somehow, a good hour or so later, we emerged onto a clearing at the top of the world and the view was so spectacularly beautiful that I immediately admitted I was wrong and the Husband had been right and that this place was incredible. Honestly…totally amazing. If you DO do this hike, wear shoes that can get muddy (we were filthy) and take water (oops). I saw no spiders at all and got back to the bottom grinning from ear to ear, if secretly relieved. Totally amazing.

maui

The ‘trail’ got a little snuggly at times

maui

It’s a cliché but a photo will never do justice to these views

 3) I get really excited about trees

On the road to Hana, we discovered rainbow eucalyptus trees, which were so gorgeous that I honestly nearly cried. How have I gone 40 years not knowing these trees existed? One of my life highlights and I am not exaggerating. The next day, I saw my first Jacaranda tree and it was breathtaking. And then we hiked through a bamboo forest! All the trees, please.

eucalyptus

Rainbow Eucalyptus – currently jockeying for position as my 1st favourite tree

My first Jacaranda tree

Bamboo Forest hike

Bamboo Forest hike

4) Julia’s Banana Bread is the best on the island and I need to work harder at mine. Apparently her recipe is here.

maui

Try it with the Lilikoi butter

 

5) My hair looks super-sexy with saltwater in it!

Somehow, I had no idea how amazing my hair looks after immersion in sea water. All wavy and not thin at all! Being totally vain here, but it made my day. Off to buy that Bumble & Bumble spray so I can recreate that look in the deepest suburbs.

Forgive the total vanity please.

6) I’m so glad I didn’t give up eating fish

I am SO glad that I am a pescetarian instead of a proper, bona-fide vegetarian. Because the fish on this island is amazing. Despite all the hype about posh restaurants, the best fish I had was from this food truck in Lahaina. Best meal of 2015 so far!

ula

 

7) Macadamia nuts are good on everything

Like basil and cinnamon, I discovered that there’s nothing that they don’t make taste better. Banana bread and Mahimahi are just two good examples.

banana bread

8) Cane spiders are utterly terrifying (NO PHOTOS!!)

There are no scary predators on Maui. No bears, no mountain lions, no rattlesnakes. But there are spiders. And after three specimens scuttled at high speed around our studio flat, terrifying me and unnerving even my non-arachnophobe husband, we will NOT be relocating here permanently as I was starting to plan.

 9) I can beat the Husband at mini golf

It’s only taken ten years of marriage but FINALLY I won a game!

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The Husband commits to the water shot

 

10) I really want to go back

Despite the spiders and despite the fact that we are not Beach People, I want to go back.

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I could be a beach person

 

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Race Review: Maui 5k for Kids

We’ve spent the last week on the gorgeous Hawaiian island of Maui. We’ve visited Oahu and Kauai but this was our first trip to Maui. It’s beautiful (although I still think Oahu is my favourite). We had an amazing week and I was VERY slothful despite my best intentions to run a decent amount whilst there. However we did participate in a race, and it was a lot of fun.

The Maui 5k For Kids isn’t actually FOR kids (i.e., just for kids to run) but is for kids in that it raises money for schools – last year’s race raised something like $8,000. It’s a little community race, and I mean that in the very best possible way. There were about 700 people racing, including a massive number of schoolchildren and there was a fantastic community feel to it. I think a fair number of runners were holiday-makers, but there were loads of residents running and we really loved being part of such a community event.

All three Ramsdens were running. The Husband was going to race it – he’s run with the Dude several times so it was definitely his turn to fly. The Dude and I would run it together. I was VERY excited about running a 5k with my little boy. I’ve seen his glowing face and pride at the end of his previous races but haven’t run with him before, so he and I were most excited about this.

Packet Pick-Up was the day before at the local Sports Authority although there was limited pick-up on the day. The race started at 7am so we got there at about 6.30am. It was held at Ma’alaea, down by the harbour in the central section of the island. We gathered in the plentiful car parking, got bibbed up and used the loos. (There were only 2 portaloos, the race director ordered 4 and didn’t get what he ordered, but there was a petrol station with a loo nearby). The very lovely Miss Maui was there to support, along with the local mayor. One of my boys was most keen to have his photo taken ‘with the pretty lady’.

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The Mayor, Miss Maui and the Dude

 

The race director briefed us and we all walked up to the start point. There were a LOT of fast-looking runners there – despite this being a community event, it was a good field. On the way to the start line, we met BT’s neighbours (she’d warned us all we would be there and to look out for each other). Such a small world. The Husband positioned himself nearer the front, we took what we thought was a good position, the klaxon sounded and we were off.

I’ve been trying to decide quite how to describe running a race with my son. Should I be tactful and just be grateful for the experience (which I WAS) or should I be honest? So I’ll be honest. Running with the Dude was the most frustrating thing in the WORLD! Bearing in mind his PR is 36-something, I assumed we’d be running a lot of the time but the Dude just wasn’t into it today. We’d done a tough hike the day before, it was already pretty warm and humid, the course was quite hilly and the poor child is just five…but let’s just say there was plenty of moaning (him), plenty of cajoling (me), plenty of motivating (me) and plenty of agonised death-faces (him). His shirt came off within half a mile, which helped cool him down but it was not the blissful running experience I’d expected. The Husband later nodded wisely when I told him this and explained that our son has to be praised and motivated constantly, told how well he’s doing etc. My ‘tough love’ approach apparently didn’t work!

dude

 

The course itself wasn’t particularly pretty. Half a mile or so downhill to the harbour, then up onto the main road and up a long straight hill until the 2 mile marker. The traffic is coned off, we felt very safe. But it was exposed and stretched up into infinity. We got to see the speedy people heading back down the hill to the finish line – they were flying! We got to see some of the kids hurting back down, there are FAST kids on Maui, and we got to see the Husband running down, waving at us.

maui

Eventually we got to the turnaround and headed downhill, pretending to be aeroplanes. This helped for a while and then it was a case of ‘Run to the lamp-post then walk till the tree’ and repeat. Finally (slooooowwwwllllyyyy) we got back towards the staging area. The Husband came towards us with his medal, yelling encouragement at the Dude. My son sensed the finish line coming and suddenly it was like a light went on. He TOOK OFF like a jet plane, hurtling towards the finish line, dodging people right and left. The crowd went wild at this amazing, speedy child…and he crossed the finish line a good few seconds before me. ‘See Mummy’, he said, cheeks glowing and eyes shining, ‘I was saving all my energy for the finish line’.

Awesome.

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LOOK AT THE FORM ON THIS CHILD!! I BRED THAT!

 

Still, lots of hugs and high-fives and sweaty kisses.

The Husband was mildly disappointed by his race. He’d hoped to do 25 or 26 mins and came in at about 27.15. I think this was pretty good – there was a lot of steady uphill and it was surprisingly warm at this time of the morning, they could easily have started it a little earlier! He wondered if he might still have placed in his age-group until three super hard-core runner guys got up to claim the positions, running something like 21 minutes!

Later on, I spotted my bottom on the race’s FB page (top left-hand bottom). I have to say, I was very chuffed with my outfit.

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The loot for this race was pretty good – we got nice cotton t-shirts and a super-cute little flip-flop medal that we all really loved. Age-group prizes went three-deep and they were VERY generous, due to the number of kids. 1 – 6 yrs, 7 – 8 yrs, 9 – 10 yrs…that kind of thing until you got to the adult ages which went up in 5s. Each winner got a water bottle.

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The Dude was a little disappointed not to have placed in his age group (I muttered darkly about how maybe he should have run a little more) but somehow, miraculously there was a prize draw and his number got called, so he went up to claim his prize, to say which school he represented and to come back to us beaming, with the gift certificate for a Road ID! Some kids have all the luck.

maui dude

(Also…why on earth haven’t we got him a Road ID before?? A bracelet for him to wear with  our phone numbers on? Perfect for trips into the city or for crowds. Genius idea.)

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Winner winner, Mahimahi dinner!

 

All in all, this was a fab race which we really enjoyed being part of. It was only something like $25/person so an absolute bargain. Thank you for having us, Maui 5k for kids!

Before you think I’m a nasty piece of work complaining about my kid not running fast enough and shouldn’t I just be grateful about having a healthy kid in the first place….absolutely yes. I am writing with my tongue firmly in my cheek and I was super-proud of my little man! I totally get how lucky I am. 

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A tribute to running!

(AKA….why running is so good for Stay-At-Home-Mums).

As you read this, we are in Maui and it’s gorgeous!! But I wanted to press publish on a post I’ve been working on for a while, about how my relationship with running has changed over the past few months and, in particular, how important it has been to me during the most recent phase of my life. This has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, I hope I manage to put it into words properly.

In November 2009, I left my mid-management job in a big company to have the Dude. We moved to California and since then, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM from now on).  I have LOVED being a SAHM. I had precisely two days when the Husband got home and I thrust him the baby and had to get away. Two grim days and 5 whole years of happiness. It helps that my little man was a pretty easy baby and has grown into a chilled, happy, sunny little boy. It also helps that I only had one child – two or three kids under 5 and I think it would be incredibly difficult. So I’m saying I had it easy. I loved being the one to take the Dude places, to teach him words, to explain the world to him, to snuggle up on the sofa and cuddle him when he was sick. It has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Me Dude Baby Newborn

Slightly jaundiced from blood loss. One of my best looks.

 

However, it does change a girl and change her self-image as well.  Initially,it’s kind of weird. There are the obvious changes – sweatpants instead of pencil skirts. Clearing up poo and shoving your boob into someone’s mouth instead of writing presentations and managing budgets. Life being both a perpetual weekend and NEVER being a weekend again, all at the same time. However, as time when on, I started to feel thick. Stupid. I forgot the big, clever words I used to use daily at work. And although I firmly believe that bringing up a child to be a kind, compassionate, well-adjusted young person is the most important thing you can ever do, I have to admit that it knocked my confidence a little.

All of a sudden, I was financially dependent on the Husband. All of a sudden, when people asked me what I did, I mumbled about being a SAHM. When the Husband would get home at night, my conversation would be about what the Dude did, rather than anything I’d done. And bit by bit, my confidence ebbed away. In fact, when I started looking for a job a few months ago, I honestly found that I could not imagine ANYONE giving me a job and I was TERRIFIED to get back into a work environment again.

As you know if you read here, I’m 8 weeks into studying Early Childhood Education to be a preschool teacher. And in those 8 weeks, all those feelings of inadequacy that I talk about above have faded away. My brain has slowly cranked back into gear. My evening conversations with the Husband are about genetics and brain development and the California State Budget. My confidence has soared. And, somehow, I also feel like I’m a better parent.

me dude race end world hunger

At the same time, running has taken a back seat. Mainly because of time pressures and because I purposefully haven’t got a goal race lined up until my courses are finished in June, but also because what running gave me during those five years is suddenly less important. But I wanted to note it all down and almost pay tribute to running because it has been really meaningful for me since the Dude’s birth.

Running made me ME again.

Particularly in that difficult first year of parenthood, running was the only thing that made me feel like me again. When you have a child, your whole identity changes. It’s weird. But when I was out running, whether for hours on the trails with friends or a quick half-hour in town, I just always felt like the girl I was before I became a mother. I wasn’t someone’s wife or someone’s mother. I was just me. It made me feel free and young again.

Marin Trails Me

Running gave me time to myself

One of the shocks of motherhood (particularly as an only child) is that you are NEVER alone. Now it’s pretty magical to look down and see your baby, it really is, and particularly at first, my arms physically ached to hold him if he wasn’t around. But I love time alone and, to some degree, I need it. So being out running gave me that space and it was really precious.

Running gave me a sense of achievement

Clearly my biggest achievement since 2009 is bringing up a really nice child that I adore – and that’s mainly due to genetics and finding a fabulous dad for him. But running definitely gave me a sense of achievement that has been really important for me. Every PR, every long run, every new trail explored all brought me a quiet sense of pride. I might not be launching any projects, I might not be getting promoted or a pay-rise…but I was still achieving things. I don’t think I can overestimate how important it is for people to feel like they are achieving something, it’s so crucial for self-confidence. And running gave me that!

Running brought me friends

You know you are. And I am so grateful for you.

Love these girls!

Just three of those amazing friends running brought me.

Running gave me a sense of identity

Running is part of who I am. One of my friends told me that she puts me in that ‘Super-sporty’ category of FB friends. Now I am not super-sporty but I do know that running has become part of who I am. If you asked me who I am, I’d say I was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a Christian and very definitely a runner! Angela wrote a fantastic post a while ago about what being a ‘runner’ implies, and I’d strongly advise you to read it. This was the bit that resonated most with me.

  • I like the idea of being a runner because I associate runners with lots of qualities I value: strength, toughness, stamina, health, discipline, etc. I’m very proud of being a runner and I like the idea that knowing I’m a runner makes people associate those qualities with me (at least in my mind).
  • I like what I’ve learned & continue to learn from running (patience, staying calm under pressure, mental toughness, appreciation for how amazing your body is in all its imperfections, etc.).
  • I like way I feel physically after a run (looser muscles, the feeling of having worked hard, lower stress levels).
  • I like the way I feel mentally after a run (refreshed, accomplished, hard-working & disciplined).
  • I like the way I feel long-term because of the fact that I run regularly (relaxed, healthy, fit, strong).
  • I even find little pockets of pleasure sometimes during a run (the smell of freshly cut grass or the air after a rainstorm, a cool breeze, nice weather, interesting people watching).

I could not have said this any better.

As I said, since I’ve started studying, I’m finding a new sense of achievement and identity.  The old me (that competitive, academic me) again has surfaced again and I LOVE it. But now running serves new purposes. It is brilliant at helping me relax and de-stress. I’ll often start runs thinking I should be studying or revising or working on our group presentation but by the time I get back, I’m so much more chilled and happy and calm about it all. I wonder if I’ve even got running back into proportion again. Instead of it being the Be All And End All, it’s now just something that I really love. That’s probably healthier.

I’m so excited about the future at the moment – studying, starting teaching and all the running adventures ahead of me. Running is a wonderful sport, I’m so grateful I’ve been a runner for the past five years!! How lucky we are to be runners.

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Race Recap: Oakland Marathon Relay

Yesterday, I joined three of the loveliest girls in the Bay Area (Jen, Jess and KP) to run the Oakland Marathon Relay. I ran Oakland two years ago where I blew up quite spectacularly by going out too fast. I didn’t have plans to run it again (so many races, so little time) but the thought of being on a team with these girls had me saying yes in a heartbeat! Our team was the Crazy Cat Ladies as we all are felinely inclined and we had the most awesome tops in the world, made for us by one of my friends.

I adore this so much

Cattitude. My new favourite word.

One of the more annoying things about Oakland is that you need to go to the expo the day before to pick up your bib. This is very frustrating for those of us that are not particularly local, but we made the most of it by kicking off our Team Weekend by going to the USA’s first Cat Cafe! We’d gone to one in Tokyo a few years ago but were VERY excited to go to the Oakland cafe. My little Dude came with us (he had signed up for the 5k). The cat cafe was brilliant – they take cats out of shelters and generally most cats are rehomed within two weeks, what a wonderful initiative. I came away sadly as I had fallen in love with two gingers – a big thug of a ginger and a tiny, adorable one-eyed ginger. I offered my husband the opportunity to do another Ironman in exchange but alas he said no.

I particularly loved the one-eyed ginger!

I particularly loved the one-eyed ginger!

The expo was easy enough. Got our numbers, got our humongous ankle-strap for the relay. We managed not to buy anything else and snuck off for lunch.

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Jen and KP checking out the ankle strap. No fat ankles on our team.

 

Race morning dawned bright and early at 5.30 and we were out the door by 6am. The Husband would run with the Dude. Our drive to Oakland was eventful as I desperately needed a ‘bathroom trip’ in San Leandro. The 7/11 we stopped at said ‘no, you can’t use our bathroom, there’s one at a gas station three blocks away’. The gas station said ‘no, you can’t use our bathroom, there’s one at another gas station three blocks away’. The third gas station thankfully let me use their loo before there was a pre-race disaster. So never get caught short in San Leandro.

I was the third runner for the Crazy Cat Ladies. KP would kick us off for 6.2 miles. Jess would woman up and take on the hills in leg 2 for 6.5 miles. I’d run the flattish 7 mile third leg and Jen would bring us home for about 6.5 miles. The race started at 7.30 so I would be starting at roughly 9.15 but the shuttle bus to my exchange left the staging area at 7.30am! I had to kiss my boys goodbye and pile onto the bus before they started running. The skies were grey and a little damp.We got to the exchange at 7.45 and there we waited for an hour and a half, getting increasingly chilly. I made friends with some lovely ladies and so the time passed very pleasantly but we got quite cold and very adrenaline-y and the queue for the portaloo got longer and longer.

oakland relay exchange

An hour and a half at this glamorous spot

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Four random strangers who became underpass friends!

 

The first runners came through, long and lean. It was very exciting. And eventually, at about 9.11, Jess came charging into the exchange. I strapped the timer round my ankle, turned up the music and charged off.

As expected, I went out too fast. I knew this would happen and wasn’t too concerned. I was super-hyped, desperate to warm up, the first mile was downhill and I had Elsa exhorting me to Let it go on my headphones so I charged along passing loads of people. Alas I have no idea of my time because I unfortunately left my Garmin at home. So clearly I was running 6.30 miles :)  Eventually the road leveled out and I just settled into my pace, whatever it was, and concentrated on running hard and passing as many people as possible.

My leg was not particularly pretty. Some nice residential streets gave way to a long straight stretch on International Blvd which was more rolling than I’d expected but not problematic. I passed what I assume was some native american dancing, which was awesome, and then at about 3 miles in, my relay leg combined with the half-marathoners. It got VERY busy at this point and I had to slow down somewhat, which annoyed me a little. I dodged people and tried to run as hard as I could, spotting my boys at the Oakland Museum of California. We went under an overpass where two pitbulls from the homeless encampment there were barking and throwing themselves at the wire fence. I ran a little faster. We ran through some of the less exciting streets of Jack London Square and finally I could see the Flaming Iron Archway and Mandela Parkway in the distance. I knew that my exchange, and Jen, were just round the corner. I saw the relay runners lined up, took out my headphones and yelled Jen’s name and she magically appeared, took off the chip, hugged me and sped off into the distance.

Later on, we got our splits and I ran 6.95 miles at 8.26 pace. I am ever so slightly disappointed but I know that I ran as hard as I could. I also realised that 7 miles is very different from a 10k. That extra 0.8 mile is murderous :) Our team’s overall time was 3.45.51 (yay, marathon PR for me) which we thought was excellent but means we still failed to qualify for Boston and we were ONE HOUR slower than the winning women’s team! We did come 7th out of 92 teams though!!!

kate jess me oakland

Waiting for Jen!
Sweaty selfie credit: Jess

One of the loveliest things about today’s race was that feeling of being part of a team. I knew KP had PR’d her leg. I knew Jess had run her socks off and I knew Jen was waiting for me, so every time I wanted to slow down, I thought of the girls and pushed a little harder. I really loved being in a team today.

I got BART (like the tube) back to the start line and here the organisers failed a little. They really needed someone outside the station to help non-Oaklanders. I had no idea which BART station I needed to go to and no idea which line I should take. Maps were few and far between and not very helpful. Luckily one of the other relay runners was standing outside looking desperate – she had no cash. So I bought her a ticket in exchange for her putting me on the right train! Teamwork! We both got safely back to the staging area.

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The finishing stretch, uphill
Photo Credit: Jess

I found KP and Jess waiting just before the final 100 yards and we watched the incredible runners coming up the hill to the finish line.  And finally we saw Jen in her orange shorts and little cap coming towards us. So we all dashed into the road and ran across the line together! It was pretty awesome.

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Love these girls! Photo credit: Jen

oakland relay jen jess kate

Four of the finest bottoms in the Bay Area. Photo credit: Jen

My boys came to find us afterwards. The Dude had a good 5k and really enjoyed it, which is by far the most important thing.

My little 5k-er before the start

My little 5k-er before the start

We collapsed in the grass and the sunshine and drank our free beers and wine. BT found us and then Paulette and her husband and then Dennis, so it was fun hanging out for a bit. But then I ran out of Little Person Goodwill and we decided we should head home. On the way back, I bumped into one of my Underpass Exchange buddies so it was nice to see how she’d done!

oakland marathon relay

Each runner got two little beers or two little glasses of champagne. Nice.

 

Overall…a really cracking morning. This race is really well organised, I can hardly fault it. All I’d suggest is 3 more loos at Exchange 3 and a volunteer at the BART station to help non-locals get back to the finish line. The volunteers were really kind and the Oakland population turned out in droves to support us, which I really appreciated.

Next up? A 5k in Maui next weekend – it’s the Husband’s turn to fly, I’m running it with my favourite little person!

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Last week’s miles

After last weekend’s half-marathon, I was filled with good intentions to run on Monday but I failed. I had loads of study to do in the morning and Nicola and her boyfriend arrived late in the evening after a long, two-day drive from Vegas and frankly, the house needed cleaning, so I put it off!

Tuesday: 6 easy miles

I totally planned to do intervals today but it was much warmer than I expected when I got outside and I had way too many clothes on so I switched it to easy miles and sweated out some impurities.

Thursday:  4 miles with intervals

Super-early miles on the complex’s treadmill. Daylight Savings Time stinks for morning runners – we were just starting to get some light and all of a sudden, it was so dark outside that I was nervous to run intervals outside in case I tripped. I warmed up and then ran 10 repeats of 2 minutes fast, one minute recovery and then cooled down. It was quite fun actually.

Friday: Trail Miles

If you come and stay with me (and you’re a runner) I will definitely take you running through the redwoods. When we leave California, the redwood forests will be one of the things I most miss about the place. There’s something magical about them. So I took Nic to Huddart Park and whilst her boyfriend hiked, we hit the trails and went running. Huddart is spectacularly beautiful but very hilly so we took it easy and wound slowly upwards until we hit the top and then we plunged downwards for seemingly ever. It was beautiful! Somehow we only did 4 miles but they were excellent miles and we took a lot of photos.

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I vowed I wouldn’t take any more photos of looking up at the redwoods…but I failed

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Nicola on the trails

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Intriguing twisted trunk!

 

Sunday: Long Run 

I set out for this week’s long run at about 2pm, which was maybe not wise. It was warm. I was in my sports bra within half a mile! My plan was to run 10 miles up to Coyote Point, a local park, where my boys would meet me with the bikes in the car. We would geocache by bike and then the Husband would run home.

It didn’t work out quite as smoothly. I got to about mile 4 and two things happened simultaneously. Firstly, I suddenly realised that I would not last until the next public bathroom. And at that very moment, I noticed the Husband and the Dude just ahead, holding out a drink and waving. They were surprised but delighted to put me in the car and drive me to the nearest garage to resolve my pressing issue. They then drove me back to the trail, further round and I ran the remaining 3 miles to meet them. Darn, I thought, I’ll only do 7 today. Oh well.

However when then the Husband got my bike out the car, it didn’t have any pedals. They’re on my other bike. (First world problems, I know). So I ended up running alongside the boys on the bike as we geocached. I made up those three miles and did the 10 I’d originally planned…and I found three geocaches all by myself :)

Pretty Coyote Point

Pretty Coyote Point

This week will be a little crazy as it’s midterm week. ‘Midterms’ always makes me think of….

JoshLyman

….but alas, no Josh Lyman this week. Just one online test, one group presentation (aaaaggggghhhh) and one written test. Not the California bar, I know, but they’re a big deal to me and I want to do well.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

I also want to do well next Sunday when I’m running the Oakland Marathon Relay with Jess, Jen and KP. I’m running leg 3 which is 7 downhill/flat miles and we have AWESOME team tank tops!! Super-excited about it. The Dude is running the 5k, accompanied by his father, it’s going to rock! And I’m hoping to finally meet Diana who I interviewed ages ago for Running the World: China! It’s going to be fab.

So this is probably my only blog post till Sunday due to the aforementioned exams! Wish me luck.

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Race Review: Red Rock Canyon Half Marathon

This weekend, the Husband and I went to Vegas, child-free. We adore our small person but frankly, it was awesome. The Husband needs no encouraging to eat his vegetables, he showers willingly and does not need me to check his bottom after doing a poo. Totally brilliant.

We were there to meet my friend Nicola from the UK and to run the Red Rock Canyon Half Marathon, which took place on Saturday, her 40th birthday. We stayed off the strip (having been to Vegas before) at the SunCoast Hotel which was the official race hotel. The hotel was a little shabby but our room was lovely. Packet pick-up was in the casino the night before. It was very quick.

Race Day started at 5am and by 5.4 we were downstairs in the lobby, meeting the birthday girl and getting bagels, ready for the bus. It was VERY nice to simply stagger bleary-eyed out of our room onto the bus. The race was about 20 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon State Park. We had driven through the park 4 years ago, but running it would be very different. Logistics were easy, the bus was on time and we got to the start line just in time to use the loo. It was FREEZING. Seriously chilly. I huddled in my space blanket until it was time to be brave, cast it off and dash for the start line. The start line was very low-key, with about 250 runners and before we had time to get chilled, we were off.

At the start....brrr

At the start….brrrr

My plan for the race? To run with Nicola. Wasn’t fussed about my time, wasn’t fussed about running the whole thing. I wanted to run it, enjoy it and take a lot of photos. We had the additional problem that Nicola wrenched her back badly on the flight out, lugging a suitcase. A trip to a chiropractor had helped but she was a little uncomfortable and we wondered how her back would hold up.

The course is one of the most spectacular courses I’ve ever run. I think only my relay in Colorado compares. We wound our way through the state park in a giant horseshoe shape. The road was well paved and we had scrubby desert, studded with cacti and Joshua trees  on one side and gorgeous red cliff mountains to the other. It was just a really lovely place to run. Well chosen, Nic!

husband red rock

The Husband enjoys some flatness for a while

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Heart-broken to not see a tortoise

It wasn’t an easy course, however. The first five miles were pretty much uphill. Pretty runnable hills, fairly decent gradients, for most of the time, but relentless. We ran a little, walked a little and did it all again until we finally reached the aid station at about mile 5 where the hills were pretty much done. This aid station had a portaloo, orange segments and delicious Pringles which tasted like manna from heaven. We lingered there a while. We were in no rush, and it was lovely.

red rock canyon

It’s all downhill from here….apart from the rollers

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I was feeling pretty good at this point!

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From there, we plunged downhill. The remaining 8 miles were pretty much solidly downhill although with three or four short but not insignificant climbs. We were on track for a 2 hr 30 finish, which would do us nicely but towards the end, Nicola’s back started to get fed up with the downhill pounding and began to hurt. She was super tough and never complained, stopping a few times to stretch it out, but I could tell that she was in some discomfort and I really felt for her. To make the situation better (worse?) I put some music on for us both and sang very loudly when the inspiration took me.

red rock

The down side of amazing, spectacular views that stretch out forever is that you can see just how far it is to the finish line…and it was a long way. But soon enough we were nearing the end. We walked a little, one more time, to ease Nic’s back and then, with quarter of a mile to go, we set off running and finished with a ‘sprint’ so that we looked super awesome. We crossed the finish line in 2 hrs 35, several minutes behind the Husband and to find Nic’s boyfriend as our personal paparazzo! Awesome.

The finish line refreshments utterly rocked. Pancakes. I piled into the pancakes and syrup like a starving girl. Utterly perfect. And then Nicola opened up a bottle of prosecco that she’d put in her checked bag so we helped her drink that too!

nic red rock

Rehydrating the British way

All in all, I have to say that this was one of the best races I’ve ever run. The views were breathtaking (in every sense). Really gorgeous. It made me so happy to run somewhere so beautiful. There were plentiful aid stations giving out water and Heed – and the air was so dry I stopped at pretty much every one.  It was very well organised, the buses were on time, smooth and pleasant, and the finish line ‘party’ was great. We got a very nice black tech shirt and a HUMONGOUS medal. Well played, Calico Racing. Really nice job.

red rock me husband mic

Medals, grins and prosecco

Personally, I loved the race. Whilst the competitive part of me is interested to see how fast I could have run this course, I have to say that I really loved just being out for a run and enjoying the views. I loved running along at a chatting pace with my friend, loved stopping for photos. It was a flipping brilliant morning out.

And then, later on, after naps….we hit the Strip!

vegas

Proud to be an American…

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NOT wearing lycra for once

vegas

Red or black? Red or black?

IMG_7054 IMG_7061

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