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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Let’s Get Ready to Ragnar!

By the time you read this (if you’re in the US), we will be about to start our Ragnar Napa Valley Relay! Our team has had a difficult preparation for various reasons but I have been so humbled at how everyone’s pulled together and worked as a team already. The 13 people (including our driver Milfrunner) in Team You’re The Wine that I Want are pretty awesome!

This week’s training looked like this:

Friday: Archery date night

Clearly Archery isn’t really training but it IS fun. Last Friday, the Husband and I had archery lessons as a date night and it was amazing. I was pretty rubbish, the Husband was better but we both loved it. It felt incredible. You lift up the bow, aim it, pull the string back…and BOOM, in your head you’re Maid Marian or Katniss. I have to be honest, it was super-sexy. I felt like a total fox every time I shot an arrow. The Husband looked hot, the girl next to me looked hot, everyone looked hot. So basically, you shoot arrows, you look hot! Cannot wait to go back.

Yes, I feel very sexy in this photo.

Yes, I feel very sexy in this photo.

Just call him Robin Hood

Just call him Robin Hood

Thank you for your consideration.

Thank you for your consideration.

Saturday: 7.4 miles of killer trails and one twisted ankle. 

Jess on the trails at Redwood Park

Jess on the trails at Redwood Park

Monday: 6 mile Tempo Run

My ankle felt pretty strong so I ran 6 miles with 4 at tempo in the middle. My tempo miles averaged 8.37 and I felt good throughout. My numb feet have gone away – it must have been the shoes. My cholesterol results came back and I have excellent arteries!

Wednesday: 6 mile Tempo Run

I ran the same again but my tempo miles averaged 8.42 which I was a little disappointed about.  Not a biggie though.

On Thursday, the wonderful Bean arrived – flying in from Texas (via Colorado) for Ragnar. So good to see her again. We spent the afternoon in the kitchen making rice cakes, flapjack, energy bars…oh and dinner.

So here we go…Ragnar Napa Valley. Wish us luck! If you’re interested, you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram at #ytwtiw and #greaselightening! See you all in Calistoga!

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Just when you think you’re a decent runner…

…the trails remind you that you’re pretty mediocre, really!

Last Friday’s unexpected 11 miler at Windy Hill was a lot of fun.  I came away pretty chuffed with myself. I’d climbed over 2,000 feet, I’d done two big climbs and I felt pretty strong. I spent that weekend searching for trail half marathons and found a good one in November with a lot of climbing. Yes, I thought. I can handle that. I’ve got actual trail running shoes, I’m a proper trail runner now.

See? Proper trail shoes.

See? Proper trail shoes.

Enter Redwood Regional Park.

This Saturday, I drove over to Redwood Regional Park in Oakland for the latest trail exploration with Jen. This time, we were joined by LOADS of other local running bloggers and twitterers. It was SO good to see everyone – it was lovely to have a big group together. We split into two groups – the runners and the hikers.

Jen Marjorie Kristen Layla

The Hikers… Milfhiker, Jen, Kristen and Laya

Jess Caitlin Margot Kate

The runners…Jess, Roserunner, Faster Bunny, me, Kate, Huyen and Jenn

Off we set. There were 7 runners and fairly quickly we fell into mini-groups with others at our pace but there was a fair amount of stopping and regrouping so we got to see everyone quite often. I ended up running with Jess. She and I are running Ragnar Napa Valley this weekend so we had a lot to chat about.

The trails were beautiful. Really lovely. Wooded, foresty trails which, every now and again, opened up to show expansive vistas over to Mt Diablo. However we were plunging downwards. The running was effortless at this point, but I thought about the climb back.

Redwood Regional Park

Gorgeous foresty trails…

 

redwood regional

Soon enough, we started climbing again. The climb was so steep and technical that for a lot of it we hiked. My thighs were screaming, it was a really tough workout. Once the trail had levelled out, we started running again and Jess went flying, landing on her knee. Girl down. She recovered and we ran on.

This doesn't even begin to show how steep it was

This doesn’t even begin to show how steep it was

There was a very surreal moment. We were running through the forest and a guy ran towards us. He was dressed in a very dapper outfit – a nice shirt with a tucked-in tie, a fedora on his head. ‘Good morning ladies’, he said as he ran past us. We were all too surprised to reply. Where he came from, where he was going we had no idea.

The turnaround point was the Sibley Staging Area. A couple of runners headed back – four of us ran on another mile. This mile was all downhill. So when we turned around, we had a long uphill to drag ourselves up. Just past Sibley, as we ran down the little lane to the trail entrance, it was MY turn to go flying. I twisted my old bad ankle and crashed down. It was nowhere near as bad as last November – I knew I’d be able to go on and fairly quickly, we were running fairly delicately back down the trails. At one point, we got lost (the signage wasn’t great and the park map was atrocious) but with some luck, we were heading back to the car park.

redwood regional

By this point, I was struggling. The trails had been very steep, both up and down, and my legs were drained. I hadn’t fuelled properly – I’d made some apple pecan oat bites from Feedzone Portables and whilst delicious, they didn’t give me the calories I needed. I was desperate for a good old-fashioned Gu by the end. By the time Jess and I jogged down the final trail to the car park, I was spent.

It was a humbling run. We only covered 7.4 mils but I was utterly done for. I could not have done much more. I definitely couldn’t have done a half-marathon. It was a good reminder not to get too cocky as a runner – the trails always humble us. Having said that, Redwood Park is BEAUTIFUL! Really gorgeous.

Despite the relatively low mileage, I was RAVENOUS at the end. We retired to the Montclair Egg Shop where I inhaled french toast. When I got home, I had a second lunch.

I ate all of this. No guilt.

I ate all of this. No guilt.

I’d planned to run a few extra miles on Sunday but my ankle ached still so I ditched that plan. A wise move…I was in no discomfort by Sunday evening.

This week is all about NOT getting injured for Ragnar. Our team doesn’t seem to be the ‘luckiest’ so far but I’ve been blown away by how everyone has pulled together and supported each other and we haven’t even started running yet. If you’d like to be part of this, we have two spaces in our van and we would LOVE you to join us :)

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Running and cycling and climbing, oh my!

This week, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a little free time with the Dude in school five mornings a week. I need to get my bottom into gear and start applying for my work permit but I’ve decided to do that after Ragnar next week.

Talking of Ragnar, we are a runner down for our team so if you are local and want to spontaneously run with a bunch of really nice strangers from the internet, drop me a note at myheartscontentblog@hotmail.com. Seriously…we’re getting a little desperate! You’d need to run 10 miles split between 3 runs so you don’t have to be an ultra-runner!

This is what I got up to this week.  Along with running, I actually did a bit of cross-training this week, which is very rare for me!

Friday: 11.7 mile trail run at Windy Hill

Monday: 5.75 mile tempo run

This was a bit of a disaster. At Mile 2, my right foot started going numb and it spread up to my calf. By Mile 4, it was like running on a wooden stump (I imagine) so I stopped, got some feeling back and jogged home. This has happened before, a long time ago. I seem to remember it was either that my shoe was tied too tightly or the cushioning had worn down and the shoes need to be replaced, which could well be the cause. It could also be a sign of cardiovascular disease. I genuinely don’t think this is the case (due to it having happened before and being fixed by sorting my shoe situation) but with my heart condition, I headed off to get my cholesterol checked this morning.

Tuesday:  Cycled 4.8 miles to and fro the climbing wall + an hour’s bouldering

I roped my friend Louise into checking out Planet Granite. I’d bouldered once, she had never done it before. Thus we were both rubbish but both loved it. We’re considering going on an introductory course so we get slightly less rubbish. The upper body workout is fantastic – neither of us could take our bras off comfortably the next day!

climbing bouldering

Hanging on for dear life

climbing bouldering louise

Post bouldering grins

Wednesday: 3.7 mile hike

Two friends and I headed off for a morning’s hike up Sneath Lane to Sweeney Ridge. We’ve hiked there before but this time we took a different route. The views weren’t as good this time but the company was excellent, the scones at the top were delicious and it was fun.

sweeney ridge

The views of the Pacifica Mountains

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Crystal Springs shining in the morning sunshine

Thursday: 6 mile Tempo Run

I tried again at the tempo run with more success. My foot didn’t go numb, although my hamstrings felt tight and there was some sensitivity in my calf. I ran: M1 – warm up, M2,3,4 – tempo, M5 – recovery, M6 – tempo. Tempo miles averaged 8.35 which I was pretty happy with.

So all in all, a good week and a fun week! This weekend, I’m going trail running with a load of Bay Area bloggers and twitterers which I’m really looking forward to. I’m planning to make THIS energy bar – I made it once before and it was not only easy but also delicious, nutritious and kept me running!!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

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Windy Hill

On Friday morning, I got to run trails again! I ran with my friend Bergen. We’ve never managed to run together before! I found a route in a hiking book (a great source of trail run ideas) at Windy Hill – one of the open spaces along Skyline Boulevard, which is basically the San Andreas Fault!

The plan was to start at the bottom of the hill in swanky Portola Valley. We’d follow Eagle Trail to Razorback Ridge, climb up to the top, take Lost Trail along the top and then plunge down Hamms Gulch Trail to the car again. We met up at 8.45 and set off cheerfully. We ran along the link trail to Eagle Trail and fairly soon came out on a road. Now my guidebook had said that Eagle Trail paralleled Alpine Road a little and sometimes there were stretches on the road so, both confident we saw a sign pointing us right, we set off, looking out for the trail off to the right.

windy hill

It never came. We climbed and climbed and climbed. Once, we stopped to check our map and our phones but the map was too basic and the phones were useless. We thought we were on Alpine Road and knew that if we followed it to the top, we’d hit Skyline and we could rejoin the park there. Unfortunately, we weren’t on Alpine Road. (Back at home, I compared Garmin data with Google Maps and cannot find any trace of the road we took so I’m still clueless). We got to the top and came to a dead end with some grand houses and some grander dogs barking, so we turned tail and plunged all the way back down the hill.

windy hill

When we got back to the trail, we decided to head up Hamms Gulch which was clearly signposted and do an up-and-down. So we started climbing again. Our legs protested but fairly soon they stopped moaning and we just worked our way up. There was more walking on this climb – each climb was about 1,100 ft so fairly significant. The trails were beautiful…really lovely. A nice gradient so very runnable and we wove through tree lined trails and open stretches of meadow and some lovely cool (cold) dells lined with damp ferns and with wet floors despite the drought!  We were both VERY sweaty – the sweat collected charmingly under my chin. Most classy.

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The views on the way up

The views on the way up

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This top shows quite how delightfully sweaty my core got!

 

We got to the top and ran a short out-and-back to see the view. We felt we deserved the view.

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Photo by Bergen. Climb by Me. View by God.

The descent back down Hamms Gulch was gorgeous. I was very impressed with how far we’d run, to be honest! We discussed cake at great length as we plummeted downwards. Back at the bottom, we got back on the link trail back to the car park but the signposting let us down again and we ended up taking a mile-long diversion to Sursal Pond (small, green, unimpressive pond) and having to run/walk another mile back to the car. We were utterly shattered when we got back to the car.

I’d lured Bergen with the promise of 8 miles and one climb to Skyline. In the end, we ran 11.7 miles with two Skyline Climbs totaling 2,200 ft. I’m flipping lucky she didn’t hit me and even said she’d run again with me in the future! The trails were beautiful but fairly empty and remote, I wouldn’t run there alone so was hugely grateful for her company!

A quick aside…I wore my new Salomon trail shoes today. I thought 8 miles was a good testing distance. Luckily 11.7 miles was also fine. I like them. I can’t say I felt dramatically different to my road shoes but they were fine! Just as well….they’re well too dusty and dirty to send back!

Salomon XR Missions So far, so good.

Salomon XR Missions
So far, so good.

 

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Running Happy

Last week felt like I was starting to get my running mojo back. This week, that feeling has grown. I’ve been enjoying running so much more. I may not be much faster than I was but I’m much happier!

Monday0.8 mile disaster run

At the end of a fun but unhealthy weekend, I decided I really should make an effort to run. I had a 6 mile tempo run on the cards so I set off at 4pm to do it. Right from the start, I felt rough. My belly was too full of water from the hot car ride home, my legs felt like lead. It took less than half a mile for me to decide to turn back and try again in the morning.

Tuesday: 6 mile tempo run at 8.44 pace

6am. Pitch black. Running. Yesterday’s failed tempo run went really well. I repeated last week’s routine: M1 – warm up, M2 & 3 – tempo, M4 – recovery, M5 & 6 – tempo. My tempo miles averaged about 8.35 so faster than last week and it felt a lot smoother. I was buzzing for the rest of the day!

Wednesday: 12 mile long run at 9.52 pace

My car had to go in for a service today down in Palo Alto so I took advantage of some new roads to run. I ran a great route down into Palo Alto, through Stanford University, past some swanky frat houses. I’d never seen frat houses before apart from in the movies, so that tickled me. From there, I ran up to the Dish – a hiking park that belongs to the uni. It’s super hilly and super exposed, so I got pretty hot but the views were great. And then I returned through pretty neighbourhoods to the garage. This wasn’t a speedy run but it was good to run somewhere new.

Stanford looking clever! The sun breaking through the cloud behind it

Stanford looking clever! The sun breaking through the cloud behind it

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View from the Dish over the hills

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Le Dish

 

Thursday: 9 miles bike ride, 1 mile crazy run and 1.2 mile walk

With the Dude in school, I’ve wanted to cycle more so I used my bike to get around today. It was all going swimmingly – it’s SO nice to cycle without a child trailer, a child seat or a weehoo. Cycling feels like flying and I was loving it. I was pelting back towards school for pick up, I had about 10 minutes for the final mile…and suddenly my chain jammed. I couldn’t pedal. I used my minimal bike repair skills and got nowhere, so I found myself running through town, wheeling my bike next to me with my backpack banging away. I made it to school just in time (pouring sweat and looking like a dog’s dinner) but I got my son on time (ish) and made the poor child walk the final mile home!

Later that day, I headed into SF for the Ragnar Team Captain’s meeting. I am officially the captain of our relay team ( just because I’ve been organizing it). I mentioned to my parents that I was the captain and they roared with laughter as I wasn’t a sporty child! I took my bike as the meeting was at Sports Basement and the mechanics there very kindly fixed the problem for me. The meeting was good! Brianna came along to keep me company –  I’m starting to get really excited about it now!

Team Captain's Meeting

Team Captain’s Meeting

My cheap but ugly trail shoes arrived this week – they’re much prettier than expected, so now they’re just cheap trail shoes. I’m testing them out over the weekend! Wish me luck!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

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Western States Fan-girling

This weekend we went ‘camping’. Kind of. We booked a cabin at the KOA near Placerville, one of our favourite parts of California. When we were booking, we had to choose between a simple cabin and a ‘fancy’ cabin with a fridge, a microwave and a TV. My boys’ eyes LIT UP at the TV (we don’t have cable TV at home) so I relented and we booked our fancy cabin.

Every cabin needs these additions :)

Every cabin needs these additions :)

I didn’t run at all this weekend. I had cramps, I was all bloated and sore, I felt rough…does any girl really want to run during those few days?  So I kicked back and enjoyed my time with my boys.

On Saturday, we went to Apple Hill – like Wine Country for apples. It’s full of orchards where you can pick your own apples, eat apple pie, drink apple cider and pretend that you’re basically Tess of the d’Urbervilles with apples instead of cows.

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I’d like big boobs and I cannot lie (well, bigger)

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Our favourite orchard is up for sale $800,000 for all this – less than the price of a parking space in the Bay Area! SO tempted!

On Sunday though, we made a ‘pilgrimage’ to Auburn – the end point of the Western States 100. Like many of us, I’m an armchair groupie of ultra-running and the Western States 100 is trail-running’s Wimbledon, World Cup Final and Superbowl. Our first stop was No Hands Bridge – the famous little bridge 3 miles from the finish line. We ran across it pretending to be ultra runners and hiked a tiny way up the trails.  I kind of felt like a footie fan stepping on the hallowed turf at Wembley…it was a lot of fun.

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The Dude heads down the WS trails

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The lead female heads across No Hands Bridge!

The lead female heads across No Hands Bridge!

In the window of the Auburn Running Company store were a number of WS trophies – we kind of drooled over the glass at them.

Later that night, Alisyn and her boyfriend Matt came over to our little cabin for a BBQ. We last saw them in June – since then, the Husband did his Ironman and Matt ran Western States. He very kindly brought his silver buckle to show us…we were hugely impressed! (To read his race report, click here!)

One of us scrubs up well! One of us is living in a cabin.

One of us scrubs up well! One of us is living in a cabin. Photo credit: Alisyn

We were wondering about what’s harder – the Ironman or the Western States. (In a nice way, not an obnoxious way, honestly). The general consensus online was that a 100-mile ultra is harder. It’s longer, you get more tired and it’s the same sport all the time so it taxes your body enormously. The Ironman is a massive challenge too, but you use different muscles at different times which must help a little. We did find a very neat little comparison of the two though which made us giggle.

‘A 100-mile ultra race is an enormous test of your endurance. The Ironman is more a test of your spouse’s endurance’. 

Hehe.

So hugely impressed by these two dudes!

So hugely impressed by these two dudes!

Our peaceful Sunday night BBQ was ‘disturbed’ when the campsite set up a karaoke competition bang opposite our little cabin. Matt and Alisyn were great sports about the whole thing. We fuelled up (with wine and beer to give us courage) and then headed over. The Dude charmed the crowd with ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ and ‘The ABC song’. I gave a British version of Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5′ and then Alisyn wowed them all with some super-fast show-tunes number!! Once a drunken group got up to do ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ we knew it was time to retire to our fancy cabin!

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Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin'.

Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin’             Photo credit: Alisyn

One of the things I most love about running is that we ‘normal people’ get to run exactly the same roads and trails as the elites. No tennis fan will get to knock a ball about in Centre Court. Few footie players will kick a ball into the net at Wembley.  But the Western States trails and the Boston Marathon roads are also there for us, the armchair groupies who run our 25 miles a week. This sport is so cool, I do love it!

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Boom!

‘Boom’ may be an over-exaggeration of how awesome my running has been this week, but it’s been a darn sight better than last week. I’ve been a lot more energetic and positive about running this week and my mindset has shifted a lot…so BOOM!!

Monday: Tempo run. 6 miles at 8.50 pace  

I started the week with an early morning tempo run before the Husband went away for the week again with work. I worked flipping hard and although my tempo miles averaged about 8.35  which is hardly spectacular, I was actually really pleased with how it went and how I felt throughout. I felt like I was WORKING and that feels really good after a few weeks of lacking focus!

Tuesday: Brunch

On Tuesday, the Dude and I headed over to Oakland to have brunch with Jen and with Amy and Aaron who were visiting from New Mexico to run the Santa Rosa Marathon. It was great to meet them and I fuelled up.

Jen brunch amy lavendar

Brunch is my favourite meal of the day

Wednesday: Long run. 12 miles at 10.06 pace

On Wednesday, the Dude started school. I totally expected to be cool about this – HE was very excited and I was excited about getting some structure back to our lives. So I was unprepared for the wave of emotion that swept over me on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. I dropped him off, kissed him too many times and watched as he happily went into the classroom. Then I put on sunglasses and went and ran 12 miles, which may have been a little weepy.

I ran 12 very hilly miles. Miles 3 – 8 were all uphill, sometimes quite steeply so. As such, the final few miles were fairly rough but I ploughed through it and was pretty happy with the overall pace, given the elevation profile!

Friday: Trail Run. 6.3 miles at 11.05 pace

I’ve not been on the trails since June. That is too long for my soul. I talked last week about losing some desire for running and I think the lack of trails (for hiking and running) has contributed, as several of you suggested. So today I hit up Edgewood Park for 6 sunny miles. I need to pull up my big girl pants and run some trails alone – Edgewood is a great, safe place to start. I came away GRINNING LIKE A CRAZY GIRL so yes, it worked.

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I fully admit to a couple of breather stops on the way up!

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Pretty trails

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Ridge Trail – my favourite

At one point, I heard a rattlesnake rattle. It was some distance off my trail and was behind me so I wasn’t concerned for my safety, but I tell you what – it chilled me to the core!

I’m planning to run trails more regularly and I have made some purchases in preparation for these forthcoming runs. Firstly, some trail shoes. Zazi.com had a sale of Salomon trial shoes. I’ve worn their shoes for hiking for YEARS and I love the brand, so I secured some trail shoes for the princely sum of $44/30 GBP. The pretty colours were $110. The nice colours were $65. The black and pink ones were $44. I went black and pink! I can do pink if it’s cheap.

Next week, I’m hoping to start adding some cross training. I am applying for a work permit, which apparently is quite straight forward with my visa type, but in the meantime, I really want to do some cycling, some bouldering and (aaaagggghhh) a little yoga!

This weekend, we’re off to Apple Hill. Somehow it’s technically Autumn and the apple season is open. I have an apple pie at Grandpa’s Cellar calling my name. See you next week!

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Running The World: Egypt

This week’s Running The World comes from Egypt. Egypt is the largest country in the Middle East – it’s 390,000 sq miles and has 89,000 inhabitants. The majority of its people live in a corridor along the Nile River but the Sahara Desert makes up the majority of its actual land. Egypt has incredible history but is currently going through a very difficult, turbulent political situation.

I found today’s interviewee, Jaida, though the Cairo Runners running club who I contacted through Facebook. And this is what we talked about.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Jaida Lasheen. I am Egyptian and at the moment I work at a bank in the corporate department, I’ve always been interested in travelling around the world exploring different places.  The most interesting place I’ve been to is Kenya – seeing the wildlife was spectacular.

How did you get into running?

I started to run when I decided I wanted to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle,  especially when I lost interest in gyms. I lost 17 kilos and I’ve  never stopped running since then – partly because I want to maintain my weight but also because I realized running always lifted my mood and spirit. I’ve been running for 4 years now and can’t imagine my life without it.

Running became more than just trying to lose weight, it changed my strength (mind and body), my endurance and my personal power. First I was only running at the track- about 4k –  twice a week but now I can easily run 10k three times a week.

Later on,  I was introduced to Cairo Runners an organization that organizes weekly runs which, every week in a different location. I thought this was perfect as I enjoy the changing scenery. What’s more, the spirit, energy and companionship of perfect strangers is amazing.

The start of this year's Cairo Half Marathon. Source: Cairo Runners FB

The start of this year’s Cairo Half Marathon.
Source: Cairo Runners FB

How popular is running in Egypt these days. Is it growing in popularity?

Running has definitely been getting bigger recently. Over the past two years,  Cairo Runners has successfully organized a  half marathon. Last year, 2,000 runners participated whilst this year over 5,000 runners participated.

Do you have any idea about running’s popularity in different parts of the country?

All I know is that after Cairo Runners started up,  we’ve been seeing similar organized runs in different cities.

How do Egyptian runners handle the heat?

They tend to run either very early in the morning like Cairo Runners or late at night with lots of water.

How popular is running amongst Egyptian women?

Definitely now, women are much more confident about running than before. I see as many women as I see men during my Friday runs with Cairo Runners.

How safe do you feel when you run?

Individual running in the street is still not safe as we have been dealing and fighting several sexual harassment cases  – that’s why I’d much rather run as a group where I feel completely safe.

The Kids Games in Cairo Source: Cairo Runners FB page

The Kids Games in Cairo
Source: Cairo Runners FB page

Which are the most popular races in Egypt?

This year The 22nd Egyptian Marathon will take place in Luxor City on January 16th 2015, the 14th 100Km Pharaonic Race will take place in Cairo City on 21st November 2014 and the 6th Sharm El Sheikh Half Marathon on next March.The Marathon is an international event with over 36 nationalities participating and it is the only A I M S (Association of international Marathons and Road Races) certified marathon in the country. There will also be Cairo Runners’ annual Half Marathon although the date has yet to be announced

Which is your favourite race?

I haven’t done any races yet but my goal is to train for the Triathlon which happens in Gouna, Hurghada every year, mostly because I will be combining three different sports in one race. I find that an exciting challenge. Not only that but, with the multi-functional training that is required, I’d be exercising and training my whole body.

The start of the St Catherine race Source: Cairo Runners FB page

The start of the St Catherine race
Source: Cairo Runners FB page

What do Egyptian runners use to eat or drink whilst running?

In order to keep your energy levels steady during a run particularly a long one, we at Cairo runners always recommend to refuel with carbs through sports drinks as they are easier to digest. They can be found in popular super markets like Metro and Alfa Market –  brands like Gatorade and Vitamin water

How expensive are races, compared to average salaries? Are they something that most people can afford to do or are they too expensive?

On average, they are usually pretty reasonable compared to international races. When races are organised,  the average salary is usually considered before the final price is set.

What brands are popular in Egypt?

Activ is a popular Egyptian brand. They sponsor many football teams, young champions and local championships. Not only football but they are also sponsors of basketball, tennis and the Olympics delegations too. However you can still purchase some of the international brands at our malls.

What is the best thing about running in Egypt

There are so many cities and different places around Egypt you can run and explore –  for example around the Red Sea,  the Mediterranean Sea and the River Nile. However it does require a bit of travelling.

The beautiful Sinai peninsula, scene of the St Catherine race Source: Cairo Runners FB page

The beautiful Sinai peninsula, scene of the St Catherine race
Source: Cairo Runners FB page

What is the worst thing/biggest challenges?

Road races in Cairo can be challenging because of the lack of sidewalks and chaotic traffic!

Jaida, thank you so much for your time. You can follow Jaida on Instagram HERE.

For more Running The World interviews, click HERE.

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