Currently

On Wednesday, the best thing in the world happened…my parents arrived for two weeks. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. They looked pretty happy about it too!

Airport adrenaline

Airport adrenaline

My plan for running whilst there here is to continue to run slowly and steadily, building up a level of base aerobic fitness in preparation for me starting to train for the Kaiser Half. No-pressure running, just getting out there. It will mean some very early mornings so as to not waste any time with my favourite people. On Wednesday morning, I was up at 5.30 am and out on the road at 6. It was dark but my town is pretty safe and I actually really relished the run, ending on a total endorphin high. I’m sure getting up that early will lose its appeal quickly but it was fun for the first time. So whilst I hang out with the ‘rents, here’s a quick fun look at some of the things I’m enjoying at the moment.

(None of the links are affiliate links.)

Reading

I’ve really got back into the swing of reading again, inspired by that Facebook thing recently where people nominated the books that impacted them the most. I wrote down all the titles on the lists of my cleverest friends and am quietly working my way through them.  I’m currently reading Gilead by Margaret Robinson. It’s the reflections of an old dying pastor, passing on pearls of wisdom to his young son. The writing is beautiful. I initially felt a little frustrated that there’s no ‘plot’ as such but I’m learning to slow myself down and wallow in each individual sentence and thought. I’m loving it.

I recently finished ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery. It’s very French and was initially slow and ponderous, but once the ‘plot’ got moving, I was obsessed. When I finished, I sat in the car and sobbed silently for half an hour. (Won’t say if it was due to sadness of happiness). Can’t remember the last time a book moved me so much.

Watching

In terms of TV, we’re in a bit of a lull – the only good thing we’re watching is the current season of Downton Abbey, which is CRACKING and so much better than the rubbish third season. The Dowager always reminds me of my awesome grandma.

I’ve seen a few great movies lately and they’ve all been under an hour and a half. More movies should be that short – I feel like movie-makers have forgotten the art of editing and are too self-indulgent!!

I FINALLY watched ‘The Triplets of Belleville (‘Belleville Rendezvous’ in the UK) and it was utterly awesome and I loved every second! And last week I watched my first Japanese anime movie ‘My neighbour Totoro‘ which was wonderful too. Both films have gorgeous animation, although with very different styles, and gripping stories. Totally recommended. And a month or so ago, I finally saw Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and it is without doubt my movie of the year. It’s a jewel of a movie – lustrous and beautiful.

Looking Forward To...

Despite the fact it will be my parents’ last night with us, I’m looking forward to Bonfire Night on November 5th, when all the Bay Area Brits will gather on Muir Beach near the Pelican Inn in the dark around a massive bonfire to burn guys and drink hot chocolate! Remember, remember!

Once they leave, I’m getting ready to move house. We got priced out of our 3-bed apartment and are moving round the corner to a 2-bed apartment in the same complex. And then a few days later, four of my in-laws come for a two week visit! Snuggly! So I’m definitely looking forward to renting this awesome house in Tahoe over Thanksgiving. It has a hot tub and table-football and FOUR bedrooms! Looking forward to some bracing, oxygen-reduced lakeside running!

Lakeside running, Thanksgiving '13

Lakeside running, Thanksgiving ’13

Listening to

My current favourite song is ‘All about that bass’.  It’s just awesome and makes me wiggle-dance in the car. I particularly like the bit about ‘Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top’ and I sing it loudly to my little boy because it’s utterly true!

Whilst running SLOWWWWLLLLYYYY, I’m listening to ‘Finding Ultra‘ by Rich Roll. I’ll do a proper review when I’ve finished it but it’s pretty gripping. I roll my eyes when he waxes lyrical about spirulina and bee pollen smoothies but his tale of descent into alcoholism and emergence from addiction was deeply moving.

Eating

All the pumpkin things. Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter. Not the pumpkin spice lattes. I have one every October and every October I remember that they’re disgusting, syrupy things and I prefer hot chocolate.

I also recently discovered this….and my waistline will never be the same again.

YUM!

YUM!

I’ve started dabbling with smoothies. I know everyone moved on from smoothies about three years ago but I’m late to every party and I am really enjoying them. I’ve started using  almond milk and am surprised at how much I like it, especially in porridge, although I shall never use anything apart from cows milk for my morning Earl Grey!

I bought ‘Thug Kitchen‘ this week and am starting to work through the recipes. It’s weird because the there’s so much swearing on every page and I’m NOT one for bad language, it usually alienates me. But somehow this book makes me giggle so hard that I couldn’t resist. I’ve made one recipe so far (lemony lentil soup) and it was a success!

Surfing

I don’t think I’ve found any new magical websites lately apart from Deliciously Ella which is a vegan food/lifestyle blog from a very beautiful girl in London. I have a bit of a crush on her – she’s so pretty and clean and well-dressed and glossy. She makes me want to eat better just so I can be equally glossy. Because that will happen!

And that’s it, folks! Tell me what you’ve been loving lately.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The great 80/20 experiment

A little background. As you may know, I’ve fried my legs by running too fast too often. My average speeds have decreased, my tempo speeds have decreased and my legs just feel heavy and tired all the time. Clearly my home-made training plan wasn’t as great as I thought it was.

Enter Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 running. Tucked up on the bed nursing my cold over the past fortnight or so, I’ve been working my way through it with a highlighter. I am pretty much brand new to ‘scientific’ books about running and science is not my strong point at the best of times, but basically…the author takes about 4 chapters to say that:

  • Elite sportsmen and women from many disciplines all do 80% of their training at low intensity (he calls it ‘below ventilatory threshold’ which is slightly below the more commonly used lactate threshold) and 20% at high intensity.
  • He quotes many studies from around the world which back up the benefits of doing this. The arguments are pretty strong.
  • He makes the point that most hobby joggers train too much in either high or mid-intensity zones and not only fry their legs but also sabotage their own chances of good racing results. (Ahem). Notably, what we usually think of as ‘easy’ runs are generally more ‘moderate’ – we always underestimate the effort we’re putting in.
  • The main gist is that if we recreational runners followed this 80/20 rule and ran 80% of our runs below ventilatory threshold and the remaining 20% at high intensity then we should see miraculous, exciting PRs and significant differences off our racing times.
Last time I PRd in Golden Gate Park

Last time I PRd in Golden Gate Park

He then goes on to explain how to gauge your own low/moderate/high intensity zones and then there are 12-week training plans – three plans per distance (5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon).

I was somewhat reluctant to be persuaded. I don’t want to run slowly – I want to effortlessly cover the ground with the grace and speed of a gazelle. I’m also dubious – it makes no logical sense that, by running slowly I can race faster. But his arguments are compelling. So I’ve been focussing on running really slowly for a few weeks now and I’ve been listening to an e-book of ‘Finding Ultra’ by Rich Roll in which the author actually starts using this very method for his training. Listening to him expound the training- method I’ve been considering and  then moan about how slowly he felt he was running as I crawled along was kind of funny!

The crux of it is…I’m in. I’ve decided to give 15 weeks  (see below) of my running life over to one of his plans and see what happens. I’m going to be an 80/20 guinea pig.

If it works, I’ll have a shiny new half-marathon PR in the Spring in time for my 40th birthday.

If it doesn’t work…frankly I haven’t lost much. I’m not an elite runner. My livelihood doesn’t depend on my results. I might feel a bit shame-faced on this blog and I’ll be a bit dejected and miserable heading into my 40s but that’s hardly a big deal.

I was initially planning to follow the plan for a 10k PR and to aim for that. My friend Maggie made the comment that she thought focussing on shorter distances would be good for me, and I actually really agree with her. But I didn’t find a suitable 10k within the correct time period on the race-finders and  then came RnR SJ and my disappointing time, and it lit a fire in my belly to go out, train my socks off and run my heart out. I love the half-marathon distance, I really do, and if I could improve one PR as I turn 40, it would be that one. So half-marathon it will be.

(I am however planning a Spring of 10ks! And I’m already super-excited about that!)

Back to the training plan. I have a few concerns.

  • It involves a LOT of slow running. More miles and slower speeds. This will take extra time and I’m a little nervous of the additional time that I’ll be having to find for running. October and November (oh November) are likely to be extremely busy although it should calm down a little after that. I think some discipline over early nights will be necessary and some discipline over early mornings too. But discipline is good for me.
  • I’m nervous that I won’t accurately gauge my low/moderate/high intensity zones and thus muck up my training. I’m reluctant to wear a heart-rate monitor although I accept I may have to. I’ll just have to work hard on that particular step!
  • I’m signed up for a trail race mid-December. I’m going to run that however I feel on the day!
This looks nice doesn't it! Source

This looks nice doesn’t it!
Source

My chosen goal race is (drum-roll)….the Kaiser Half Marathon on Feb 1st 2015. I chose Kaiser for many reasons.

  • I’ve run it once already and I know the course.
  • The course is supremely PR-able!
  • It’s five days before I turn 40.
  • Lots of local runners run it – and if you’re a local runner, I think you should sign up too and come and run my Birthday Half-Marathon too :)
  • I can go to Crepes on Cole for French Toast afterwards and that will make my day.
On my way to a 37th Birthday PR at Kaiser 2012

On my way to a 37th Birthday PR at Kaiser 2012

Kaiser is 15 weeks away – the training plan is for 12 weeks so I need to start training on Nov 10th. This gives me some time to do lots of slow running to build up my aerobic base and to enjoy my parents’ visit over the next few weeks.

I’m actually quite excited about it. I like the idea of following a plan and being told what to do and when. I very much like the idea of a shiny new PR :)

Let’s do this!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

What it’s like to be married to a future Ironman

I wrote this post a while ago but wanted to sit on it for a while until the emotions about Ironman had calmed down a little and I could be a little more clear-headed about it. Three months on and having re-drafted this several times, I think it’s ready to go. I hope it’s useful.

I’m a little hesitant to publish this because there’s a risk that I’ll just be moaning and I’ll come across as whiny. I CAN be whiny and I do moan a little in the post below but I thought the frankness of the below post might be useful to someone whose partner is signing up for an Ironman. I’m publishing this (with the Husband’s blessing) because it’s information I wish someone had given me before we signed up for the whole Ironman thing. I was warned that Ironman training takes a toll on a relationship and that I had to be totally on board. I knew roughly what we were getting into but the info below might be more practically useful.

Firstly, I have to say that the Husband has supported my running and my racing (and ME generally) for years. I adore him;  it was my honour and joy to support him in return and I am beside myself with pride in what he achieved in July. So please bear that in mind as you read the below.

So.

Before the Husband signed up, I had some idea of what the impact it would have. A long time ago we discovered this video on Youtube and we thought it was SOOOOO funny. Now we’re the other side of Ironman, I can say it’s pretty much accurate!  (Excuse the few rude words in the video).

The moment he pressed the button

The moment he pressed the button

Say goodbye to your partner

The Husband started training in January for Ironman Canada at the end of July. He got himself a coach who gave him monthly training plans. I felt reassured that this would ensure him surviving the Ironman (as much as can be guaranteed) and we both feel that this was a great decision and would recommend it.

His training ramped up as you’d expect. I can honesty say that for Jan – March, it didn’t really impact our lives too much. If  anything, it was a good thing. Now, we were BOTH training for things – it felt like a real partnership as we plotted our weekends to give us time to train, time with the Dude and time together as a family. It was fun. If  we went away, we had to fit his bike ride of 1 – 3 hours into the weekend but that was totally do-able. We have a pool where we live which really helped in terms of him not having to drive to/from a pool and thus save that travelling time. His weekday training was roughly an hour and not too burdensome at the weekend.

April and May got more serious, especially May. By now he was gone all of Saturday morning and most of Sunday morning as well. Sunday morning suits us well (the Dude and I are at church) but Saturday was harder. As a SAHM, I looked forward to the different dynamic of Saturday when the Husband is home. Saturday basically became just like my weekdays. There was a period when, being honest, I resented that. I honestly still supported the Husband and ALWAYS wanted him to do the Ironman, I never wanted him to drop out, but I just got fed up with his absences.

The second half of May and June were ALL about Ironman. In fact, it felt like May and June would never end. On a Saturday, the Husband was gone till 4 or 5pm. On Sunday, he was gone till midday or later. After both days’ exercise, he would need to sleep for an hour or so…thus he was technically gone for longer. I was VERY grateful to go to the UK for 2 1/2 weeks in June and have a break from it. That really helped.

Both the Dude and I quite enjoyed supporting the Husband during his Olympic Distance and Half-Ironman races. They were a lot of fun.

rich husband

The first weekend of July was the biggest weekend of training – on the Saturday, the Husband did 110 miles bike, 1 mile run, 2 miles swim and on the Sunday he did 3 miles of swimming and 19 miles of running. He was basically gone the whole weekend. After that, taper began and the burden lessened. We saw a bit more of him.

How did the training impact me as his wife?

Personally, there were a few things I hadn’t considered beforehand.

  • Weekends away stopped after April/May. I tried to book a weekend away in May and gave up. We would have spent the whole time fitting the Husband’s training around what we were doing, and it wasn’t worth it. This means we didn’t go camping at all.
  • We missed out on a few things that I was particularly excited about as a result of training…Western States being the biggest. I’d been planning all year to go and camp in Auburn for Western States to cheer on the runners and I even booked my flights home from the UK in time to be able to do that. But as it grew closer, we realised that it just wouldn’t work with the Husband’s training. Having been away from him for 2 1/2 weeks in the UK, I didn’t want to leave him and go away alone for the weekend, so we didn’t go. I was pretty gutted about that.
  • My own freedom to run was curtailed. Saturdays became all about childcare. I only managed one Saturday trail run with the girls from April onwards and that was thanks to wonderful friends who got up at 6.45 on a Saturday to watch my son. I got fed up with not being able to say yes to invitations.
  • My friends got used to me and the Dude showing up for things alone. ‘Where’s Rich?’ they asked. ‘Training.’ I’d inevitably reply and there would be plenty of sympathetic eye-rolling. Having a bunch of supportive friends to keep us company made it much better.
  • I was able to continue to train because I was free during pre-school times to run. I was incredibly grateful for this. If I was working full-time, it would be pretty hard for us both to train.
  • I stopped racing. Weekends were all about the Husband’s training and me playing with the Dude. Racing wasn’t really possible unless I pushed the stroller. Not having any races in the diary took some of the momentum out of my running – I need something to aim for.
  • We didn’t do any family hiking for months. I don’t want to hike alone with the Dude and the Husband justifiably didn’t want to hike after exercising.
  • This is a family blog…but there was another ‘California Drought’ if you know what I mean. Ironmen are generally working, training or sleeping. They don’t have much ‘extra energy’.
  • On a lighter note…SO MUCH LAUNDRY! And SO MUCH EXTRA FOOD.
  • It’s expensive. REALLY expensive. The Husband keeps saying the next one will therefore be cheaper. Next one?
  • More positively, I felt really proud when I told anyone he was training for an Ironman. An online contact once described me as ‘a runner married to a triathlete’ and it took me a few moments to recognise our family. My pride in and respect for the Husband has grown enormously as he’s trained for this – and I was proud of him and full of respect for him anyway!

How did it affect the Dude?

  • Not too badly. He missed having his Dad around on the weekends, especially if he woke up after the Husband had left to train on a Saturday when sometimes there were tears. But he got used to the different dynamic. The Husband is an awesome father and made time to do one-on-one things with the Dude each weekend and in the evenings.
  • He was given an ‘ironman’ superhero toy for Easter by some relatives. He immediately started making it swim, bike and run!! The poor child thinks that this is how normal families operate.

Tri Folsom Family

How did it affect the Husband?

  • He lost weight. Since March 2013 he’s lost about 50 lbs. He looks awesome right now.
  • He grew in confidence. With weight-loss and fitness comes confidence and I think he’s rightfully proud of how fit he is right now.
  • It was great to see him get back into exercise and fitness. He’s a guy who thrives on challenge and he’s been talking about future challenges already. I did giggle when he nonchalantly decided he’d run Western States next year though.

Well done for reading this far. I hope I haven’t moaned too much and it’s been helpful to someone. I appreciate it may be a little negative and I apologise for that if so. I think the main thing to consider is that a spouse has to be TOTALLY on board and supportive of the athlete. He or she really has to want the IronSpouse to succeed and be willing to sacrifice for a period in order to make this happen.

Having said all that…I can honestly say that watching the Husband come out the water, fly past us on his bike and, best of all, run down the finishing chute with the Union Jack was utterly incredible. It still makes me teary-eyed to think of it now. It was an incredible journey for all three of us and I am so glad we did it.

Family portrait - sleeping Dude included

Family portrait – sleeping Dude included

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Ramage Peak

On Saturday morning, I was up early and I found myself in the East Bay with Jen, Jess and Angela for our next trail adventure. Jen’s birthday is coming up so this was her birthday treat and she got to choose the location.

She chose Ramage Peak.

‘Where the flip is Ramage Peak?’ I asked myself as I frantically googled it last week. Somehow, this park is pretty much unknown even though it’s a decent size and is nestled in the middle of various motorways and cities. It’s part of the East Bay MUD watershed and as such is pretty much deserted. We were joined by Layla and Kristen and Kristen’s gorgeous little three-month old baby who was out for her first hike! I investigated the pit-toilet there on behalf of the interwebs (totally fine) and then we set off. All hikers and runners need a permit and need to sign in and out of the preserve as it’s on private property.

layla kristen ramage

The Hiking Girls – Kristen, Layla and little Miss Gorgeous in the sling

ramage

Birthday Girl and Permit Holder signs us in

There’s only one real trail – the Ramage Peak trail, which is sometimes sign-posted as the Rampage Peak Trail. There are various fire-roads which veer off at various intervals but just keep going straight ahead. The trail is beautiful – we ran through lovely shady forest and then out onto hilly meadows waving with golden grass.

 

ramage

There were some wildlife sightings. A giant owl swooped in a wooded glade and I stopped up short at a tiny, very cute black and white Californian Kingsnake. We ran/hiked up the hills and ran the flats and the downhills comfortably, chatting away. It was great.

ramage snake kingsnake

See him?

ramage angela

Angela heads uphill

ramage

Angela was running at the front of the group as we ran up a hill in some woods. She rounded a corner and literally bounced off thin air back towards us, yelping. My heart jumped through my chest. Mountain Lion!

‘Cow’ she gasped. ‘Cow on the trail’.

It sounds funny now, and it is, but cows are BIG and stupid and it turns out we’re all pretty wary of them. We spent some tense moments trying to work out if it was a male or female. Luckily it had an udder, but she stared at us for a bit and we were frozen, ready to dash if necessary. Eventually she mooooved along (sorry) and we gazed after her and then casually decided that we’d run far enough, so we headed back.

A bad picture of a big cow

A bad picture of a big cow

Ramage trails

Beautiful trails
Photo credit: Jen

The run back obviously included me falling. I twisted my ankle (again, yawn) on a giant rock and fell to the floor as agonizing pain shot through my leg. I knew instinctively that it was broken.

me trails ankle falling

Agony!
Photo credit: Jen

 

Just kidding. It hurt a bit, but I knew it would be okay before too long and it was and I was able to run back comfortably enough. Traditionally, I twist my right ankle – this was my left. Awesome. Matching weak ankles. We got back to the trailhead after about two hours and six WHOLE miles which is kind of hilarious but we’d had a great morning.

Love this shot! Angela, Jess and Jen heading home

Love this shot!
Angela, Jess and Jen heading home

ramage me jen jess

Look how fast I am!
Photo credit: Angela

Trail runs should always be followed by food and we headed to Doug’s in Castro Valley for awesome eggs.

Layla and Jen refuel

Layla and Jen refuel

My ankle was pretty painful for the next 24 hours but seems to be mending now. I’ll be careful for a few days. Flipping ankles.

All in all, a cracking morning’s run! Ramage Peak is remarkable  – it feels so remote and so empty, we didn’t see anyone on the trails apart from us. I was glad we were in a good-sized group as it was pretty lonely out there. Good choice, Jen and Happy Birthday!

Birthday cakes...but no candles due to the wildfire risk. Photo credit: Angela

Birthday cakes…but no candles due to the wildfire risk.
Photo credit: Angela

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Recovery Running

At the weekend, I finished Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running. Despite my reluctance, he makes a very convincing case for running SLOOOWWWWLLLLLYYYY  and I suspect that I’ll be trying out one of his training plans over the next few months. I’m not quite ready to do a review or to commit to a plan QUITE yet but I should get a post up about it in the next week!

However I decided that a few weeks of super-slow running was probably just what my legs needed after a poor training cycle and Sunday’s Half-Marathon. So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. It looked like this.

Sunday: Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon.

Monday: 25 mins Yoga for Runners and then Marjolaine’s Stretching routine. Try the stretching routine, it worked well.

Tuesday: 3 miles recovery run at 11.19

My first official slow run. My legs were still a little tight and a little sore from Monday so I started slow and then slowed down even more until they didn’t hurt any more. I think that audio-books are going to be key for surviving slow runs so I downloaded ‘Finding Ultra‘ by Rich Roll and crawled my way along the Bay Trail. I was kind of flabbergasted to see an average pace of 11.19 at the end of the run. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that slow a pace before so it implies that what I thought was an easy run before probably wasn’t ‘easy’ but more ‘moderate’. It felt kind of weird. I felt a little like I was cheating.

The light was amazing this morning. Luminous. Kind of breath-taking

The light was amazing this morning. Luminous. Kind of breath-taking

Wednesday: 5 mile recovery run at 11.19

One of the vaunted benefits of slow running is that you can (and should) run more often because your legs don’t need as much recovery time. With the Husband away, I took advantage of the Dude being at Kids Club and went out for five slow miles. Again, I ‘plugged in and plodded on’. It was surprisingly chilled actually – evening running on a Summer Autumn evening can be delightful. And when I got back to the car, I noted a very definite benefit of slow running. You hardly sweat, so all it takes is a quick wipe with a baby wipe and you’re ready to sit at a pavement cafe, read a book and drink a glass of red, waiting for your boy. Most civilized. Quite strangely, this run was also at 11.19 pace. Weird!

I am craving a flipping good Autumn SO badly and the heatwave just keeps on keeping on!

I am craving a flipping good Autumn SO badly and the heat wave just keeps on keeping on!

Thursday: 4 mile recovery run at 10.53

I honestly didn’t try to run any faster – I barely glance at my watch when I run – but I plugged in and plodded on once more. Does this qualify as ‘speedwork’ this week?

This weekend, I have a trail run planned with the girls (yay!!) and I shall run at whatever speed we all end up running at. But next week, I’ll be back to plugging and plodding whilst I decide my plan for the next 12 weeks. I have to admit, running so slowly is both nice and not nice. It’s very relaxed but it’s strange to have been out there for a while and to glance down and see you’ve only run 2 miles. I’m also struggling with a little guilt about it and (being honest) a sense of shame. I jogged/ran past a friend’s house on one run; she was out in the garden and I had to stop myself running faster to look more like she probably imagines I look like when I run. Most weird. But it’s definitely been a good thing for my legs to recover from Sunday’s race.

Talking of that race…my disappointment with my time has pretty much faded and what I’ve been left with is a good, old-fashioned hunger to race hard. I’ve not felt that race hunger for many months now but suddenly I want revenge, I want redemption, I want to flog my guts out once again. A fire has been lit once again, and I’m so excited about that!

But in the meantime…plugging in and plodding on :)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon

There was so much procrastination about running this race. I was running it, then I got a nasty cold so I wasn’t and then at 7.30 on Saturday night I found myself making a playlist so apparently I was! At 6am on Sunday, I left the house and drove the half-hour down to San Jose. ‘I’ve forgotten something’ I told myself for a few miles. It turned out to be my Garmin. I’d be running blind. But that was probably a good thing. My training has been less than stellar and I wasn’t 100% health wise – running blind was a good idea.

Super-early to the start line!

Super-early to the start line!

Getting to the race was super easy. There was plentiful parking at the SAP centre (although we’d been warned to get there before 7am if we wanted a place). I parked, walked the 10 minutes to the start line, snapped some photos and sat down to wait the hour until the race started.  I’d been given the bib by the friend of a friend who is injured. She and I had exchanged bibs outside Pinkberry in Stanford Mall on Friday night – it was cool to meet her. (Hi if you’re reading this!!) My place  was in Corral 16 behind the 2 hr 30 marker so I would definitely not be going out too fast. The only downside is that it meant there was a long wait between Corral 1 setting off and our corral. The race staggered the start quite precisely so that waves setting off didn’t have to stop for the trains trundling through the centre. So it was about 35 minutes before I got to start the race – or so I thought. I had no watch! As I was about to start, Jess came flying through (the course had a couple of places where runners saw other runners in the opposite direction) and then I was super-hyped to start. And before long, we were off.

RnR SJ

The start line…

The course is perfect for PRs – it’s pretty much entirely flat apart from two underpasses you run down and then up. Having said that, it’s a little boring. There are no goose-bump sights like the Golden Gate Bridge or fields of grapes covered in fog. There’s not a lot to see so I put my music on loud and concentrated on running steadily. My legs took a mile or so to loosen up but eventually they were running more smoothly. The first five miles or so wind their way round residential streets before heading back to the start-line and heading out in the other direction. I was hugely impressed by the number of local residents who came out to cheer – kids had their breakfast tables set up in the gardens and some people were even playing musical instruments for us. A few people were handing out food or drink and a couple had their hoses on to cool runners down – it was HOT today! At mile 5, I took my first Gu and then saw Jess hurtling back on her way to the finish line. Seeing her looking so awesome (and the sugar) did wonders for my morale and I found myself picking up the pace for a mile or so. I was running pretty steadily, I was happy with how I was doing, passing people all the time. It was hot now – it went up to the 90s/30s today and the race organizers did an excellent job of having plentiful water at water stops and plenty of hoses out at every water stop. I made a point of getting wet at every stop and that was gooood! Having said that, when ‘Let it go‘ came onto my playlist, I felt a little resentful of Elsa and her frozen fractals whilst I melted into the pavement. By Mile 10 I was looking forward to stopping. I took my next Gu, which made me feel a bit sick and pressed on and soon enough, I was heading back towards the finish line. At Mile 12 I stepped on the gas as much as I could, I felt pretty good and pushed and pushed, especially at the Mile 13 marker  – I flew down that final 0.1 as hard as I could and was absolutely done at the end. As I crossed the line, I saw the clock was about 2.30 – which, assuming I started 35 minutes after the clock meant I’d gone well under two hours. I was delighted! I got water and my enormous medal and sat in the shade for a long while to recover. The lady whose bib I had run with texted me to congratulate me so I asked her if she knew my time. She did. 2.02 It turned out that when I thought I wanted to run in about two hours, I actually meant 1.59.59. And apparently I didn’t start at 35 minutes past the clock. I was pretty gutted. There are many reasons that this race wasn’t fast for me but in March I ran the same distance in 1.52 so I’ve gained 10 full minutes in 7 months. I’m not after sympathy here, honestly, but it was sobering and kind of depressing. Writing this report 8 hours later, I’m cool with it but I definitely need to look at my training. A few thoughts on the race. It was my first Rock n Roll.

  • As would be expected with a huge race company, it was very well managed. I got inexplicably hungry half an hour before the race and no shops were open. I asked at the Information tent and they had water and bagels and bananas for runners in a tent nearby. I was very grateful.
  • MANY portaloos. There was some queueing but it wasn’t bad at all.
  • The race starts at 8am. It needs to start at 7am.
  • I felt that they dealt with the heat very well – plenty of drinks and volunteers at water stations and the hoses were a godsend.
  • There was more shade than I had expected. I’d expected much more exposure but on the whole there was shade if you were prepared to run to find it. I think I ran a lot of extra mileage finding shade, getting in the hoses and dodging runners. I definitely did run the tangents.
  • I was surprised that there weren’t more bands en route. I’d initially left my music off so I could enjoy the atmosphere but very quickly it was silent apart from heavy breathing so the headphones went on.
  • Having said that, there were more cheerleaders along the route than in the entire ‘Bring it on‘ movie. The British girl in me LOVED every single one of them. I wish I’d been a cheerleader.
  • The course isn’t exciting but it is flipping PR perfect – thus Jess’s astonishing 4 min PR to finish in 1.25! My friend also PRd in the 10k.
  • It was crowded. There were 15,000 runners out today and I ran behind most of them. Admittedly I was in the wrong corral for my pace but I spent a lot of time dodging people! I wonder how it would be in my correct corral. I think I prefer smaller races on the whole even though I very much enjoyed the energy of a big race.
  • The race bib is ENORMOUS!!! It was so big that I tore off the bag-check bit and the free beer bit and left them at home just so I could fit it on my running skirt. Why the big bibs, guys?
  • The medal is also humongous. I kind of like it.
  • Parking was easy if you get there early enough. The walk to the start-line was super-easy. The walk back to the car was murderous.
Basically as big as my torso.

Basically as big as my torso.

Not small.

Not small.

A few other observations.

  • Apparently I am not the only other person out there who likes neon.
  • I love looking at other people’s outfits during races. Wispy tops attached to sports bras are all the rage.
  • If I’m clutching at morale-boosting straws, my bib today was registered to the 40 – 49 group…my new gang in three months. I came in the top 17%  of that age-group and the top 14% of all women. Not so shabby.

I’m really glad I did this race. I’ve felt so rough this week that I was just grateful to be almost healthy again and to be strong enough in leg and heart to be able to run. Thank you to the lovely lady who gave me her bib and thank you to the people of San Jose for a great morning’s work!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 20 Comments

Redemption at San Pedro Valley County Park

Back in January I ran a trail half-marathon in Pacifica. At the top of the first mountain, after a giant climb, I twisted my ankle badly on the way down. It was the third ankle twist in three months and I realized I needed to take some action to strengthen it and very sadly made the decision to drop out of the race half way. I didn’t regret the decision for a second once it had been made!

Having said that, I had this nagging curiosity about the trails I didn’t get to run, especially Hazelnut Trail which sounded idyllic. I’ve been meaning to go back and run those trails ever since. And on Friday, I did.

Pacifica is really gorgeous. Beautiful green mountains slope down into the ocean and in the scorching October heatwave, the sun sparkled in the distance. I always mean to run here every time I come.

Pacifica

My cold was pretty rough on Thursday and I nearly cancelled on my running buddy Brianna several times but I took myself off to bed at 8pm and slept till 6.30am and woke up feeling like a different girl. Still snotty but suddenly not ILL. So I dropped the Dude at school and headed over to Pacifica to meet Bri. She very kindly agreed to run at a snail’s pace with me!

We set off up Valley View trail first. All the trails were lovely and smooth and the climbs were pretty runnable for normal people but I felt fairly weak and ‘stopped for photographs’ on a regular basis and walked a little too. Valley View wound up and over a hill and then dropped us back on the valley floor on the service road for a short distance, and then we turned right up the long-awaited Hazelnut.

pacifica

The view from Valley View trail

Hazelnut was TOUGH! I have no idea how well I would have run it during the race if my ankle hadn’t twisted! It was very pretty, and looked quite English in places, but wound its way gently but mercilessly up numerous switchbacks. I ran out of water fairly soon and again my legs felt tired and weak but we continued slowly and eventually we were at the top. The views were pretty awesome.

pacifica brianna

Bri at the top

pacficia

A little snippet of England?

IMG_8847

The downhill always makes the uphill worthwhile. I even struggled a little on the downhill on this run as I got the first stitch I’ve had for years, but it didn’t take away from the beauty of these trails. And then we popped out at the end and were back at the start.

It felt REALLY good to run these trails at last. They were beautiful but it also reassured me again that I’d made the right call not to soldier on with a bad ankle. And to be honest, having already run a massive mountain in the first half of the race, the second half would have been pretty brutal. Today we run about 5.5 miles including 1,100 ft elevation gain so it was a pretty good workout. But this run was good for my soul…thanks for a great morning, Brianna!

IMG_8850

I still haven’t decided whether or not to run RnR tomorrow. On Friday I was feeling better and was psyched to run it slowly and for fun, but today, Saturday, I’ve been feeling rough again.  However…a good night’s sleep and I may yet change my mind! Oh the drama.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Legs, books, snot and racing

First of all, thank you all for your thoughts on my last post about how I’ve become slower and slower as a runner. Please excuse the radio silence this week – I promise I didn’t say ‘ooh I’m so slow these days’ and then flounce off the internet! I do try not to post just for the sake of it – I try to post when I have something to say…and I’ve not had much to say this week. I do have a few things I wanted to talk about today though.

NB: Hopefully this goes without saying but when I talk about running fast or slow, I’m taking about running fast or slow FOR ME. I’m faster than some people, slower than many. Aren’t we all? 

1) I have well and truly fried my legs.

Over the past month or so, I’ve tried to run every training-run fast. My logic was that if I want to run fast, I need to practise running fast. So I ran ‘fast’ every time I ran. I would throw fast miles into easy runs. I did loads of tempos. I alternated fast and slow miles on my long runs. For a while, that was working and suddenly it wasn’t. And last week it stopped working completely.

On Monday I went for what turned out to be my only run this week…4 miles. I decided just to let my tired legs run at whatever speed they wanted. It turned out that the speed they wanted to run at was 10.18. I can’t remember the last time I ran 4 miles at that speed so it was a little humbling and brought home to me that my ‘training plan’ wasn’t doing me any good.

2) I bought a book that is bringing that fact home to me.

80/20 running by Matt Fitzgerald

80/20 running by Matt Fitzgerald

This week, I bought – and am reading – Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 running. This is the first running book of this type that I’ve ever read. I’m reassured that Angela, whose running-science brain I really respect, is a big fan of Matt Fitzgerald.  I’m not a scientific runner at all but I’m working through the book. From what I can tell so far, the idea is that runners do 80% of their training at a very slow pace and then 20% is speed work. He hasn’t completely sold it to me so far but there’s a lot that is ringing true.

3) I also read this book

What I think about when I think about running Haruki Murakami

What I talk about when I talk about running
Haruki Murakami

I’m a BIG Murakami fan – I’m a big Japan fan really. I ‘read’ this on audiobook last week whilst running and rather liked it. The thing that struck me was the quiet sense of discipline that Murakami has. Discipline about diet, about training, about writing, about his priorities. I loved how he expresses the reality for most runners – that we’re not trying to beat other people or win a race but generally trying to beat the runner we were yesterday.

“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”

I also loved how he faced up to aging. With my 40th birthday looming just after the New Year, it felt pretty apt.

“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”

“I am struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.

4) I signed up for a race

I signed up for the Summit Rock trail half-marathon in December with Jen and a load of other local runners. I’m hoping my legs will be better by December but I’ll be doing this for fun and for happiness in any case!

This looks nice doesn't it! Source

This looks nice doesn’t it!
Source

5) I’ve been struggling to find international runners to interview

Remember Running The World? I LOVE doing this series but recently have failed to find international runners to interview. I’m particularly struggling with Central and South America. So if you know any runners across the world who might be willing to speak to me, please put us in touch!

6) I have a cold

I rarely get sick but I have a stinking cold this week which has stopped me running since Monday. I suspect this is a good thing!  I’m going to be running with Brianna tomorrow morning so we’ll see how everything feels.

7) I’m supposed to be running the Rock n Roll San Jose Half-Marathon on Sunday

I’m being given a bib by the friend of a friend and I’ve been really looking forward to it. With my fried legs, I’ve got my head around the fact that it won’t be a PR attempt or anything like it, but my cold is nasty enough to make me wonder quite how slow I’ll be. The fact that the temperatures will be in the 90s is also quite fun. Part of me is considering not running, but I really want to.

So that’s where we are this week. Full of snot, tired legs, reading some books and running a half-marathon on Sunday! Awesome.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Slowing down..

Somehow, it’s been a week already since Ragnar! We were exhausted for the first day or so but are pretty much mended and back to normality again. Whilst I haven’t yet got into a hot shower without appreciating it or stretched out in bed and not sighed in bliss, I am flipping MISSING it and still buzzing from all the fun.

Let’s start this post with a quick summary of this week’s training.

Friday: 

- Morning: Ragnar Leg 1. 4.3 miles in 9.44 pace (including a lot of stop-lights)

Always invest energy at the start of a relay by leaping for the photographer. Thanks Ragnar for the free photo

Always invest energy at the start of a relay by leaping for the photographer.
Thanks Ragnar for the free photo

Early evening: Ragnar Leg 2. 6.6 miles at 9.14

Saturday:

Very early morning (1.30am) – Ragnar Leg 3. 5.7 miles at 9.11

- Lunchtime – Ragnar Leg 3.9  miles at 8.46

Posing before my last leg

Posing before my last leg Photo Credit: Bean

I had both Sunday and Monday off to sleep, sit on the sofa, eat incessantly (RUNGER!) and give my aching legs a break.

Tuesday: 8 miles with 6 at tempo

Looking back, this was ridiculously silly. My legs felt more or less mended, just a little tired maybe. But I have Rock n Roll San Jose next Sunday (5th) and I wanted to push on, so I ran 8 miles which consisted of 2 x (1 mile normal, 3 miles tempo). My tempo miles were hilariously slow – averaging about 8.50. All I could do was laugh and realize I’d overstretched it! But secretly, whilst recognizing this, I was dismayed. (FORESHADOWING!!)

Thursday: 2.5 miles super-easy

Learning from Tuesday’s mistakes, I went out for 3 easy EASY miles whilst listening to my new e-book ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami. I love the book, I loved the easy run, I loved nearly slipping up in the mud from the season’s first rainfall and I loved not feeling guilty when I cut the run short to go home to the loo. Bliss.

Which brings us to:

Friday: 11.75 long run at 9.22

I would usually include this in next week’s summary but it’s important for what I’m going on to talk about. I wanted to do 12 miles alternating normal and faster miles, which is what I often do in preparation for a race. It has always worked really well for me. Usually I’d expect slower miles at 9.20 – 9.30 and faster miles at 8.40 – 9.00 pace. But today, after the first two miles where I hit those paces, everything slowed down to a slow crawl. My faster miles got up to the 9.30s and my slower miles went up to 10.

My overall pace wouldn’t be so bad except that I had WORKED FOR THIS. With the level of work I did, I was hoping for an average pace of 8.50 – 9.10.

Which brings me to something I’ve been noticing for a while.

I am getting slower.

At the start of the year, I was training hard for a 10k and Half Marathon PR attempt. Training was awesome – I was getting faster and faster each week and I felt like I was flying. Even though the week before the half-marathon was fairly dire, the solid training I’d done for the 10k carried me through and I ended up PRing at both of them. I felt amazing.

However since then (March), my running has lost a lot of impetus. I did some trail races which I LOVED and then the summer was more about me maintaining my fitness as we focussed on the Husband’s Ironman.

But over the past month or so, I’ve really upped my training game, using the same home-made ‘plan’ that I used in the Spring. And whilst I’ve seen glimmers of speed, the majority of my running has been fairly slow and solid and unremarkable.

I am getting slower.

I have two options here.

The first option is to consider some of the other training plans around. I’ve always believed that you get faster by practicing running faster and it’s worked for me so far. However maybe I’ve just done too much tempo work and my poor legs are knackered. Growing in popularity are the plans that involve training slower and racing faster. Jen has been using the MAF plan and making some remarkable progress. Angela just published a post about how she is doing something similar. I’m happy to jump on a bandwagon that looks like it might be helpful so I’ve ordered this Matt Fitzgerald book and I’ll see what that teaches me. 

The other option is to just accept it and to go on enjoying running – my lack of progress doesn’t seem to be making me particularly grumpy and is not taking away the pleasure I get from running.. I’ve quoted this before but the lovely Sara from Running The World: Sweden said so succinctly:

‘I’ve come to the conclusion that running a 10k race 30 second faster, or so, won’t make me happier. But running in beautiful places will. That’s quite an insight which has completely changed the way I run, and made it more fun and more meaningful.’

wiltshire

So for now I’ll do some reading and enjoy the views along the way.

I’d welcome your thoughts!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Race Report: Ragnar Napa Valley

This is such a long post, I’m so sorry. Get some wine before you start reading.

So. The run-up to Ragnar Napa Valley was ‘dramatic’. We lost runners (all for important reasons), gained last-minute runners and switched leg-order around pretty much solidly for the final week. It was sometimes stressful for everyone but I was always pretty wowed by how the team pulled together to help out. All teams will be ‘tested’ during the race. Our team was thoroughly tested before we even got to the start-line and we rose to the challenge like champions. I knew we’d crush the race!

Our team consisted of: Me, Rich (the Husband), Sabrina (aka Bean), Amanda and her husband Matt, Jess, Jen L, BT, Jen H, Jim and the super-brave Janet who joined our team on Monday, stepping in to fill a gap. We were also joined by the lady known as Milfrunner who would drive for Van 1.

My race weekend kicked off on Thursday afternoon when Bean arrived. We spent the afternoon fueling with cake and making rice-cakes and giant tubs of pasta for the van. Our family’s race preparation was complicated by having to sort out childcare for the Dude….so on Thursday night, we had a full house as the first of his baby-sitters stayed over as well to take him to school in the morning. We have awesome friends, I am so grateful.

Bean, Rich and I left the house at 7am and got to Golden Gate Park at about 8-ish. The starting area was absolutely heaving. Vans lined the road, the music was pumping and everyone looked SO fit. I’m always intimidated by other runners before a race and this was no exception. I finally met Paulette after a couple of years of Twitter/Blog following, which was fab!  We met up with the rest of Van 1  – Amanda, Matt and Milfrunner – and got checked in, safety-briefed, bibbed up and ready to run. We had a heart-stopping moment when we lost the van keys…but we found them again :) We decorated our van and before we knew it, the countdown was on. Amanda, our first runner, was up.

Van 1 Rich, me, Sabrina, Matt, Marjorie, Amanda

Van 1
Rich, me, Sabrina, Matt, Milfrunner, Amanda

Fighting Talk!

Fighting Talk!

Amanda at the off...

Amanda at the off…hidden from sight

Each team is supposed to have 12 runners who each run three legs. We had 10 and 2/3 runners.  Van 1 had 5 runners and thus needed to cover the three extra legs between them.  Van 2 had 5 and 2/3 runners – Jen H would miss her first leg. Van 2’s legs were longer and tougher than ours so we covered that first leg too. So badass.

Amanda ran two consecutive legs – our missing runner’s first leg and her own. This was about 8.5 tough miles from the park up the sandy, trail-y Coastal Trail and over Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped several times to cheer her on and also for Richard to ‘comfort’ a grumpy old rich lady who complained vociferously about not being able to get her car out of her driveway even though we suspect she didn’t actually want to. Some of her complaints became our Van Mottos and got yelled out on a regular basis for the next 36 hours.

We also selflessly cheered on other runners. Many were grumpy and didn’t respond. Many were lovely – our favorites were Butt-Cheek girl who was running in the tiniest shorts ever which showed most of her perfect, smooth, toned buttocks and Smiley Guy who was lovely. We saw Smiley Guy several times and chatted at exchanges. He wasn’t ugly.

Smiley Guy Photo Credit: Marjorie

Smiley Guy
Photo Credit: Milfrunner

Amanda chasing down the nicest bottom in California

Amanda chasing down the nicest bottom in California

I have to mention Milfrunner here. This lady had a total hip replacement a few months ago so can’t run at the moment, but selflessly came to drive our van and be part of the race. She is also the best race cheerer in the entire world; how her voice didn’t give out, I will never know.

Marjorie ticked off every leg she drove!

Milfrunner ticked off every leg she drove!

Amanda handed over to Bean who hurtled downhill like a skier. Matt sprinted off for his leg (he was fast), Rich manfully took on the big hill and then it was my turn.

Bean about to run

Bean about to run

Three bloggers got together and this was the only photo we got. Paulette (in white), Amanda (with the face) and me (hidden behind the girl in yellow) Photo: Paulette's friend

Three bloggers got together and this was the only photo we got.
Paulette (in white), Amanda (with the face) and me (hidden behind the girl in yellow)
Photo: Paulette’s friend

Would any dehydrated, tired runners like to give blood at an exchange?

Would any dehydrated, tired runners like to give blood at an exchange?

Leg 1

My first leg was 4.2 miles long and wound through the fancy Marin towns of Larkspur and Corte Madera. It was flipping hot already and I bust an absolute gut on this leg. I ran so hard but kept getting thwarted by stoplights – I must have stopped 6 times. For some reason I didn’t stop my watch at stoplights so my overall pace was 9.44 which broke my heart as I think I was running 8.40s at least. I dodged one absent-minded driver and I got lunged at by the only non-smiley Golden Retriever I’ve ever met. I passed four people, which felt AWESOME and flew into the exchange to find my entire team waiting. Being the last runner in our van meant that both vans were at the end of each of my legs and I really loved seeing everyone.

High-fiving the Husband Photo Credit: Jess

High-fiving the Husband
Photo Credit: Jess

Bean took on the next leg – the extra Van 2 leg we were covering – and ran solid miles in the heat! And then we were off duty for a few hours. We drove to Petaluma, where we’d start running again. We ate a lot of food, rolled our legs, rested a bit and then, as it got dark, we prepared to run again. Petaluma is an agricultural town and it STINKS!

Ragnar

Amanda’s face shows quite how badly Petaluma smells of cow poo.

IMG_5228

Leg 2

My second leg wasn’t officially mine – it was Runner 1’s leg that I was covering. It was 6.5 miles at 8.30pm in the darkness. I’d not enjoyed my night leg in Colorado so was a little apprehensive but absolutely LOVED this run. There were plenty of people around and a good stretch of it was in town so there was some lighting. Once we got out into the rural areas, it got much darker but it was fine. I charged along like an absolute steam train, I felt awesome from start to finish. I passed 6 runners and each one was like a badge of honour. I definitely got into the ‘roadkill’ spirit in this relay but was sure to cheer on everyone I passed! I felt like I was flying on this leg so was disappointed at an overall pace of 9.16 but never mind, it was fab.

Night Running  Photo Credit: Marjorie

Night Running. Not me. 
Photo Credit: Milfrunner

Van 1 worked its way steadily through its runners. Everyone ran their legs off, there was such a good atmosphere in the van. Matt picked off 14 runners! In 3 miles! How does anyone do this? When Rich was running his hour-long leg, we dashed off to In-n-Out so he could have a burger and fries when he finished. We found him about 2 miles before the end and he requested a diet coke. I grabbed one for him and he finished his leg drinking coke! Dude. Earlier in the day, he was rechristened ‘IronBalls’ and something else totally unsuitable for a family website.

IMG_5238

Safety Officer Matt! No violations here.

ragnar

Amanda left it all on the road

ragnar bean

Bean lit up like a Christmas tree

My official night leg started at 1.30 am. However I’d already run one night leg and was having trouble getting excited for my second. I was tired, it was cold and a little drizzly, I just wanted to stay in the van and then go to sleep. But it was my turn. Rich came thundering into the exchange, slapped the bracket on my wrist and I was off again.

Leg 3

My legs felt surprisingly decent and as soon as I started running, I was psyched. Once again, I LOVED this leg – 6 miles around Santa Rosa. Once again, there were enough people out there and enough street-light action to make me feel safe so I just ran my heart out. I passed TWELVE people on this leg. I’d spot the red flashing light of the runner in front of me and each time, I felt myself focus on them and start to reel them in. It was honestly pretty awesome. I’m not usually this competitive and feisty, so it was pretty fun. My favourite ‘rabbit’ was a girl running in a bride costume. I chased that girl down for over a mile – it was so surreal running through empty streets in the darkness chasing a ghostly bride. I passed her just before the end of my leg. That felt awesome.

What didn’t feel awesome was the next hour or so before we got to sleep. I will always be grateful to our driver for getting us safely to the next exchange and setting up a little tent for me, Rich and Bean. So kind. We threw ourselves down on the ground to sleep. It felt so good to stretch out. Sleep didn’t come easily for any of us – the exchange was noisy, van alarms went off, people talked and adrenaline still coursed through our veins, but we rested a little and slept enough.

A night exchange. Headlights, vans and portaloos

A night exchange. Headlights, vans and portaloos

Van 2 had run through the night…from 2.30 to 8am. Utter rock stars. We had some time to wake up, get much-needed coffee and pastries from Peets and brush our teeth. We were pretty comatose but no-one was grumpy or snippy. Awesome people. We looked particularly attractive by now. Sweaty, slept-on hair and no mascara is one of my best looks.

Zombie-like in the morning

Zombie-like in the morning

Matt covered the final Runner 1 leg, tearing up the course. Amanda had the joy of running past the first vines but had to run on a very busy road up a big hill. There was a lot of van congestion – significant traffic jams which we managed to avoid due to our sheer awesomeness but many runners at the next exchange finished before their van arrived and stood exhausted and shivering for a long time waiting for their runner. Sabrina, Matt and Rich ran again – the sun came out and finally it was my last run.

Bean and I cheer on the runnings, always being careful to not get any safety violations

Bean and I cheer on the runners, always being careful to not get any safety violations Photo Credit: Milfrunner

Amanda among the vines

Amanda among the vines

IronBalls sets off on his final leg

IronBalls sets off on his final leg

Leg 4

My legs were NOT happy to run again. The first mile of this 4-mile leg was deeply unpleasant. It was rolling hills – nothing big but like a roller-coaster. I crawled up every climb and juddered awkwardly down every descent. It took a good mile and a half to feel half decent. However I remembered the Pre quote about racing to see who had the most guts and I was determined to have the most guts. Most of the runners out on this leg were clearly exhausted; many took walk breaks, so I ploughed along at my top speed, reeling them in with my new laser focus. The last mile and a half were all downhill so I just went for it and ended up hurtling into the exchange. I didn’t turn my watch on at the start but I ran the 3.5 miles I did measure at 8.40 pace and I was grinning like a loon at the end. I grinned less when I got stung by a wasp on my back as I got a drink.  Ow.

Our Roadkill score Yeah, we got into it.

Our Roadkill score
Yeah, we got into it.

And with that, Van 1 was finished. We now needed to wait for Van 2 to run their legs. Van 2 definitely had a tougher time of it. Two of their three legs were in the heat of the day, the other was in the dead of night. Their legs were longer, harder and on less runner-friendly roads. We really felt for them! Having filled our faces with food (our sympathy didn’t prevent us from eating) we drove up the Silverado Trail to Calistoga and the finish line, passing Jen on the way. Those last legs were particularly brutal for van 2. The Silverado Trail sounds so lovely but it’s basically a busy road in direct sunshine and looked like miserable running. We made a point of cheering on every single runner and many looked like death (apart from Jen who looked like Lauren Fleshman).

Ticking off our legs. Oh really, is Rich an Ironman?

Ticking off our legs.
Oh really, is Rich an Ironman?

 

We had a few hours at the finish line ‘party’ which was actually pretty good. Runners got free beer but had to pay $6 for tiny glasses bad wine if you didn’t drink beer, which was a shame. Luckily just one glass,when sleep-deprived and dehydrated, felt like half a bottle, so we basically sat in our sleeping bags and went to sleep. Top party!

Sleepy party selfie Photo Credit: Marjorie

Sleepy party selfie
Photo Credit: Milfrunner

 

ragnar

Ain’t no party like a Ragnar party

The Dude’s wonderful babysitters dropped him off and before too long, Van 2 arrived with Jim, our last runner, still out on the course. Soon enough, he was charging down the road like a rhino and leading us in a slightly disorganized rabble under the finish line. 11 runners, one new-hipped driver and one tag-along four-year-old dressed as a minion. Team ‘You’re the Wine That I Want’ had crossed the line in and frankly, we rocked it.

205 miles and all we got was a blurry team photo. Blurred due to extreme speed.

205 miles and all we got was a blurry team photo. Blurred due to extreme speed.

My relay ended particularly sweetly when my little boy came over, put his hand in mine and asked me politely if I would like to dance with him. There is only one answer to that so I hauled my stiff, aching legs off the chair and danced with my son. He’s got his daddy’s moves!

Shaking it with the Dude

Shaking it with the Dude

 

Overall thoughts on Ragnar Napa Valley

There was a lot of ‘feedback’ about the race on its FB page. Many people, especially in their team’s second vans, had a lot to complain about. I can only speak for my own experience.

Pros

  • On the whole, I thought this was a well organized race.
  • Signage was generally excellent. There were a couple of confusing bits on my leg but nothing that couldn’t be worked out by carrying your route map.
  • There were plenty of portaloos along the course (which is the most important thing for me) and they were always decent and had loo-roll and hand-sanitizer.
  • The volunteers were fab.
  • The party at the end was great. The best end-of-race party I’ve seen. Or slept through.

Cons

  • I don’t think the course is great. The route is very indirect. To some degree, this is to be expected but a few legs were basically ‘loops’ that didn’t go anywhere. In contrast, my Colorado relay was very obviously between two towns and every leg moved us forward.
  • One of my team-mates pointed this out but I don’t think the towns we passed through really appreciated us being there. Marin and Wine Country are kind of fancy-pants and we smelly runners got in the way a bit. In one town, a supermarket’s car-park had a sign saying Ragnar Vans weren’t welcome there. I get it, we’re in the way a bit, but if they’d embraced the race, like the Tour de France, we would have spent our good, sweaty money in their shops and come back to visit!
  • Many of the roads are unsuitable for runners. They are often very busy and several of our runners felt unsafe at times. The Silverado Trail was a particularly bad example. Vans weren’t allowed to support runners during these legs (where they actually needed support). Getting in and out of exchanges during this stretch looked pretty grim.
  • Van 1 hardly saw any vines during its legs. I’d envisaged me running effortlessly through the vines but in the end, I didn’t run past any. Van 2 DID run past vines but on a busy road in the burning sunshine so probably didn’t appreciate them.
  • Calistoga (and wine county in general) is not a good ending point. In contrast to the end of my last relay at Steamboat in Colorado (which had plentiful, reasonably priced accommodation) hotels are relatively few. They are also pricey and require two nights over weekends. This was the reason why we, as a team, didn’t stay over after the race and celebrate but rather go home instead. Such a shame. Clearly the idea of a relay to Wine Country is hugely appealing and sells well, but in practical terms, it’s not great.

General comments

  • The race medals failed to arrived from the suppliers in time. Race Control gave us a heads-up in enough time to manage expectations and made up for it with extra beer tickets (but not wine!). They also gave us buckles from Ragnar Trail races to keep us going till our medals are mailed to us. I appreciated the gesture even if I felt it was unnecessary and a little odd to give us mementoes from a race we didn’t do. I’m not sure how medals fail to arrive on time if you’ve known the race date for a year.
  • I think the option of free beer OR wine at the end is pretty much obligatory for a race in wine country.
  • I would have paid anywhere between $10 and $20 for a shower at the end.

Overall thoughts on our team.

We had a blast. What wonderful people. Both vans gelled really well – I would do another relay with those people in a heartbeat. Next weekend! So much fun!

Maybe not next weekend…I’m so tired.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 18 Comments