Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mt. Hopkins run with the Tucson Trail Runners

I joined TTR this morning for a run up Mt. Hopkins, which is located South of Tucson near Amado, AZ. The route to the top, the location of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, is 23.6 miles. I opted for a shorter version, which is to take the mostly dirt road (part of the first or second mile is pavement) to the gate at the top, which was supposed to be 7.8 miles up. After the gate, the paved road to the summit is 4 more miles, so I cut a round trip of 8 miles off. Ross Z., one of the respected group leaders and today's RD (run director), tried to talk me into doing the last 4 miles and then running down the 4 miles back to the gate, whereby someone would drive myself and a few others taking that option down. I gave it thought, and decided to make the decision when I got to the 7.8 mile gate. The distance would be the same either way, but I wasn't sure I wanted do the additional 1,000+ feet of elevation gain. The run starts at about 4,200 feet elevation and is 8,550 at the top of Mt. Hopkins. Total elevation gain was about 3,000 feet for about 16 miles round trip, and 4,350 feet for the 23.6 miles round trip. The weather was so nice this morning, very cool and crisp. It did warm up a little as the morning went on, but the breeze made most of the run super comfortable.Less than 10 of us headed out right into the sun, which was getting ready to peek over the mountains. Ross and some other guy (Michelle's SO, not sure of his name) were on bikes, and runners included Troy, Nate, Mindy, Julie, Michelle, and Joel (I think that was his name). Nate took off fast in the lead, followed by Julie and Joel, then Mindy, then Troy, myself and Michelle. Here are Mindy and Nate at the start (they are a couple and just super cute):

The dirt road is a nice, gentle grade, a little steep in spots, but definitely runnable. My legs were a little sore from yesterday's race (as were the tops of my feet, which I attribute to the deep sand on the course), so at first I ran the more level spots and hiked the steeper uphills. Although I had achy legs in the beginning, eventually, my legs warmed up and my energy level kicked in and I found myself running quite a bit of the uphill as well. I passed Troy at some point, who was doing amazing considering he just ran a super hard marathon yesterday (yes, yesterday!). We chatted for a few minutes, but then I ran alone the rest of the way to the top. Here is Troy against a backdrop of one of the many beautiful views on the way up:I made it to the gate at 1:49, which was under my 2 hour 'guestimate'. The views were beautiful all of the way up. Here I am at the gate, the entrance to the Whipple Observatory:

At the gate, I saw Mindy. She was trying to decide what she should do and so we both talked about it and determined that we would run back down. What fun! I love running downhill. It wasn't too steep running down; it was just right. We made pretty good time, making it down in about 1:16, for a total run time of 3:05 for me. Mindy had clocked pretty close to 16 miles total for us on her Garmin. I think I talked her head off (too much caffeine?) but she was super nice and such great company.

I didn't make it to the top, where the views are supposed to be incredible, so I'll have to save that for another day. I am considering doing the total 23.6 miles as a training run next month for the Tucson Marathon, to give my legs some good downhill training. I had a blast, though and felt like it was a perfect distance for me today, given the race yesterday.

I hung out afterwards with Mindy while we waited for others to come down. Once Ross got back, he broke out the most amazing stash of snacks and drinks! I think it was the largest and most fantastic spread of food I have ever seen at a run or race! There were also 4 aid station volunteers out there today (can't remember all of the names!) who were on the top with food and drinks. I snacked a bunch and talked with everyone for quite a while.

I then headed back to Tucson, first stopping on the way at my in-laws brand new house in Sahuarita for an afternoon visit, which was great.

The only thing that could have made this a better day is to have come home to my wonderful husband. He'll be home tomorrow and I can't wait.

We might be adopting another dog, a Louisiana Catahoula (hey, that's where I'm from!) More on that later....

44 miles for the week. 27 this weekend. Whew! I think it is finally time for the ice bath. Brrr.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Catalina State Park 11 mile (10.75, really) Trail Race

This was my second running of this race, although the first time I did it, the course was in reverse (actually, this race was called 'Reverse the Course'). When I ran it back in April, my time was 1:46:48 (and I was second in my age group!) Today, it was 1:44:06. I'm not sure if the course was the same distance before and just got measured a little more accurately this time, but it seemed the same to me (it starts on a little stretch of pavement and ends on pavement and the trails were the same.) We did the Canyon Loop trail, Nature Loop trail and Bridle trail, all times two. The 5.5 milers just did one set of the same trails.
Here I am with my friend Steve right before the start:
Here we are getting ready to line up behind the new Everyone Runs start balloon:
It was so nice and cool at the start, which was 6:30am, and besides a little bottleneck here and there along the trails, it went really smooth. I had a great race, with no real complaints but some heavy breathing (my allergies, or just challenging?) It was really fun. I ran behind a gal for a while that was doing her first trail run ever! (she is in the top picture) I passed her at some point, but she passed me in the end! Some people are just naturals on the trails. The CSP trails are only true singletrack in a few spots, so it is fairly easy to pass. There is plenty of uphill (2 big hills that you have to do twice!) but also some great, screaming downhill, which is so much fun. The trail is fairly wide, but boy, is it sandy! Looks and feels like a sandbox most of the time:Here is my friend Shari coming into the finish. Shari was 4th in her age group! Shari is currently training for the El Tour 109 mile bike race in November and the Tucson Marathon in December. Wow!
Everyone Runs had Robek's smoothies (yum!) and beans, eggs and tortillas for the after-race breakfast, so I scarfed a bunch of food (sans eggs, I like mine very well, well done) and water down and headed over to the awards ceremony.
I won 1st place in my age group! Wahoo!!! I just about fell out when I heard my name announced. Very cool. We received beer glasses like we did in April (although I don't drink, so they'll just sit on my dresser, looking pretty). Here I am with Mary (left) and Rachel (center), who both placed in their age groups (Rachel 1st, Mary 2nd) as well:

I finished 43rd out of 89 total in the 11 (10.75) mile race and 1st in my age group out of 5 total (it was a pretty small race - the 5.5 mile option got more people -179 to be exact). My friends Steve and Martinho placed 4th and 2nd in their age groups, respectively. David from Sierra Vista, who I met at the BPR trail races, was 2nd in his age group. David, if you are reading, OP50 registration starts Monday, September 29th and is expected to sell out in 4 hours or less! Jump on it and good luck! My new friend Julie is suspecting a stress fracture on her foot, so she opted out of the race. You were missed!

Congratulations everyone on a fine race!

Next up: tomorrow morning, I'll head out to Mt. Hopkins (near Mt. Wrightson) down South of Tucson to do a little run (hike?) with the Tucson Trail Runners. Not sure what my legs will feel like after today (I'm trying to work up the courage to do an ice bath) but I thought it sounded like fun. I won't go all the way to the top (23 miles!); instead, I'll turn around at the gate at the end of the dirt road, which will be around 15 miles. Just 15 miles, unless I get some burst of energy, which I highly doubt will happen. I'll probably hike up and run down, but I didn't want to miss it. The views are supposed to be great! Plus, Troy was planning on doing it after doing the Flagstaff Marathon today, so I figured I should try and do it after an 11 mile race!

I treated myself to a wonderful facial afterwards, which was great. I'll be getting a massage on Monday, which I'll really need after this weekend! My calves and shins are seriously tight right now.

And finally, a little quote that fits me well today:

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Law of Probability and Trail Running

Since plans fell through to run with someone else this weekend, I ran by myself out at Catalina State Park. Having no commitment to someone, I took the opportunity to sleep in a little and I headed out a little late, arriving at the park at 8am. I'm always a little nervous/excited heading out on a longer trail run by myself. Not sure why, but I think I worry about what I might encounter (i.e. critters), but also, whether or not I'll be able to stay energized running by myself and not having companionship to pass the time. It turned out fine, as usual.

I knew the Catalina State Park trail race packet pick-up was going to start at 10:30am at the park, and rather than make two trips out there (1 hour round trip driving each time), I thought it would be good to get my run in later in the morning and then right when I got done, I could get my packet. I did the whole race course, plus a little extra, for about 12 miles total. The course consists of the Canyon Loop trail, an out and back on the Montrose trail (where it forks to go to Romero Pools), the Nature trail, and an out and back portion of the Bridle trail. I did all of those twice, which is what we'll do during the race, and then I did an extra loop on the Nature trail and a little extra out and back on the Bridle trail. I would guess around 12 miles. I wanted to do 13, but I got too late of a start and it was just too hot. You can tell how high the sun was by my shadow in this picture:

The wildflowers were still out, although no rain has everything drying up quick:

And dang it was hot! Getting started after 8am made for a super challenging run. The desert was heating up quick. I wore sunscreen SPF 70, so I wouldn't get sunburned, but I still got too much sun on my chest and shoulders. Luckily, the race will be starting at 6:30am, so it should be great! I'll be switching to evening runs soon, as darkness steals my morning run time day by day. So, a little heat training was probably good, because it is still pretty hot in the evenings here in sunny Tucson. The water I saw out on the trail will probably be dried up by race weekend:

The Law of Probability header is related to seeing rattlesnakes. I guess if you run trails enough, the stats on seeing rattlers goes up, too. I haven't seen very many while trail running, but I saw 2 today! One was crossing the trail in front of me and I heard him before I saw him. I was polite and let him pass, snapped a few pics, and ran by him when he was almost off the trail. Boy, did he send off a rattle when I did that! Made my heart beat faster. That's what I love about trail running - it is so exciting and adrenaline-filled! Another one I saw was off the trail, and the only reason I saw it was a guy was bent over taking a picture of it. This rattler was not happy at all, and the head on this one was up off the ground about a foot or so in strike position. This happy hiker was snapping pictures like there was no tomorrow. I made a comment about the snake not looking too happy and I moved on along!

It is pretty sandy out there - great workout for the ankles and calves!
Running alone, which I do for most of my runs, I think of all sorts of stuff. Today, there were a gazillion ants out there on the trail; over and over again, I pondered how many thousands I killed on today's trail run (and other bugs I may have done in). It really bothered me! I also wondered if I'll be able to face my increased responsibility at work, how I can become more effective in helping others, and how I'll do with my upcoming training (trail running in the dark! more on that later). I came to the conclusion that God will help me deal with all of my problems! He always has. Not sure what to do about the ants/bugs dilemma.

There are still plenty of open slots for the Catalina State Park 11 mile trail race, so come join us! Should be a lot of fun. There is a 5.5 mile option as well. When I picked up my packet, Steve, the RD, didn't recognize me because I wasn't wearing pink (he always says, 'pretty in pink' when he sees me!) Can't wear pink everyday when I'm running, but I almost do. :)
Sure was pretty out there today and I had a good time. It is always good to run with others, but I'm glad I feel comfortable enough in my own skin to run alone with all the thoughts in my head (no ipod!)

I got in 37 miles for the week and 2 weight workouts. I was going to do Bikram yoga, but my in-laws are coming into town and I needed to clean the house. Can't do it all, but I try.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Catalina State Park trail run

This morning, I headed out for a training run for the upcoming Catalina State Park 11 mile trail race. Julie (my new friend from Colorado), Shari (my trusty trail running partner in crime), Shari's friend Jen, and I met out at the park today to check out the course. We arrived right about 6am, and it was just getting light enough to be able to hit the trails. Our plan was to do 2 loops of the course, which is 11 miles (some people can choose the 5.5 mile option only). Jen was out on her first trail run, I think, so she was only going to do about 8 miles. The course is a 'reverse the course' from the race in April. So, we go down the steps (all 92 of them) this time around, but up a big hill instead (and you still have to go up the other big hill on the Nature trail either way). Seemed just as hard, but it is a fun and beautiful course. It was Julie's first time on the full course, and I think she really enjoyed herself, too. She has good stories to tell and the time passed fast.
Julie, Renee and Shari

The park is glorious right now! I'm not used to seeing it after so much rain. Everything is very green and the wildflowers are in full bloom. Morning glories have taken over and are covering everything with the bright blue flowers and vines. There were also tons of these purple flowers which were amazing! Definitely a great place to be this time of year. Morning glories are actually considered a 'noxious weed' in Arizona (they spread like crazy). The reason I believe they have classified it as such is because they are highly allergenic and of course, Arizona has enough problems with allergens.

The tens of thousands of little blue flowers didn't bother me today, but Shari was really suffering with her breathing. The morning glories were everywhere! Really pretty, but not if they are bothersome to someone! I sure hope Shari feels better.
Julie, Renee and Jen (Isn't she tan? Holy cow, I look like a pale white girl next to her)

This is a fairly sandy course, which feels great on the body, but gives the lower legs a real workout! There are some rocky areas, but not too bad. We had to rock hop across a few creek crossings, and there are some hilly/uphill sections along the course.

If you haven't made it out to Catalina State Park recently, go check it out. Better yet, join us for the race on Saturday, September 27th.
This puts me at 35 miles for the week (four 6 mile mid-week runs and about 11 today). I'll be taking tomorrow off from running to get back into the Bikram (hot) yoga. I feel a little creaky and think it would be good. I'll be upping my running mileage a bit and getting serious about marathon training soon and I want to make sure I'm really taking care of my body. I skip the hot yoga all summer because it is already super hot in Tucson, and sitting in a hot room just doesn't sound fun. Now that the weather is cooling off, it shouldn't be too bad.
Oh, and I consumed raisins again during my long run today, and they were great. I just get a small snack bag, fill it up and snip a corner off. Then, I squeeze them out to eat them. I don't have to worry about touching them, because they are sticky. Works great!
What a fun morning. I think all of us felt like little kids out there today, running in the sand, rock hopping, running screaming fast on the downhills (thought I heard a 'wheeee' out of someone today) and just having a blast. Trail running in the desert is a real kick.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mt. Wrightson Ascent

I finally got up the courage to join the Tucson Trail Runners for my first event ever with them and their first event of the season - the Mt. Wrightson Ascent. Mt. Wrightson is located south of Tucson (about an hour or so) in the Santa Rita mountains and is the highest peak in the area. It is in the beautiful Madera Canyon recreation area. Even though I have lived in Tucson 22 years, I have never been there, although I have always heard such wonderful things about it.
I caught a ride with Bruce and his friend Joel, which was nice, so I didn't have to worry about finding the place. All the way down to Madera Canyon, I kept thinking to myself, "Are you crazy? You aren't in the same league with these people! What were you thinking?" I always have fear that I'm going to look bad with a new group of people. I'm not sure when I'll get over it, but at least I can recognize how ridiculously ridiculous the thoughts are and I still take action in spite of the fear.
Anyway, when we arrived, the weather was a little cool, which was perfect! I immediately found Joyce, who I had met at the Tucson Trail Runner potluck, so it was nice to see a familiar, friendly face! She is about one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.There were about 20 people there to do the run. It starts in Madera Canyon at 5,420 feet elevation and goes up to the top of Mt. Wrightson, which is at 9,453 feet elevation. Whew! I knew it would be a hike up at best, since it is only about 5.4 miles up. 4,000 foot elevation gain in 5.4 miles! Hike, hike, hike. My plan was to take the Old Baldy trail up, but then cut over to the Super Trail on the way down.
There were quite a few decent runnable spots on the way up, but it was pretty steep most of the way, especially near the top, so I did do a lot of hiking going up. I paused for a moment at the memorial for the 3 Boy Scouts who died in 1958 when an unpredicted storm hit the area; I had read about it previously in a hiking book. How sad. Such a reminder that nature is unpredictable. I have a lot of respect for nature and the power it holds.
I finally made it to the summit in 1 hour and 59 minutes! Ed was so nice to capture the last part of my ascent and my 'touchdown!' gesture. Thanks Ed for the pictures! The views from the top of Mt. Wrightson are pretty spectacular - 360 degrees. Although I was excited to be at the top, I didn't take much time to rest. Because it had taken me so long to get there, I figured I better hurry on down and not make anyone have to wait on me. After talking with some others, and given the time factor, I decided to just take Old Baldy trail back down, since Super Trail is longer. What I also heard is how overgrown the Super Trail was, and after having Butterfly trail flashbacks, I decided to forgo!

It took me about 1.5 hours to get back down. I was able to run quite a bit, but the rest was slow going because of the: 1) steepness, 2) overgrowth on trail (not like Butterfly trail, though!) 3) rocks and roots and 4) because going up wore my legs out! Total time up and down was about 3.5 hours. Not bad. I wish I was a little faster, but I'm just not in that kind of speed hiking/running shape and I was also playing it safe.

Oh, but the wildflowers were amazing! Lots of yellows (fields of them!), purples, reds and whites. Just so pretty. And the trail is very shaded for much of the way, which was delightful.

I saw a lot of wildlife - 2 large deer, a squirrel, a hummingbird, lots of beautiful butterflies, and a snake (King snake?) The deer bolted too quick for a picture. I had to leap over the snake - he didn't seem very interested in moving - he was right smack in center of the trail. Lots of bees because of the wildflowers. After reading Jeff's blog post about the bee, I made sure I kept my mouth closed.

A lot of runners were already in when I arrived, but there were still a few out on the trail, so we all chatted for a bit. The runners that took the Super trail down were pretty scratched up and were already starting to itch, so I made a good choice skipping that one! Just as the last runners came in, fat raindrops started coming down, so the whole crowd split pretty quick.

I forgot to mention - on the way down Old Baldy trail, I ran into Troy! He mentioned he was running late getting to the trailhead and quickly sped past me on the way to the summit of Mt. Wrightson. Unfortunately, I had to leave before he got back down. I swear that guy has the biggest smile I've ever seen. It was great to see him.
The fastest guy got up to the top in around 1:15. Crazy! The Tucson Trail Runners are a pretty fast and experienced group of trail runners, and I enjoyed my first run with them very much.
I'm already sore from the run. I think I overstrided a little too much coming down (some fast descending!) which has caused my shin to ache a little. I'll just take it easy for a few days.
I ate raisins for this run and had lots of energy. They are much cheaper and have everything and more than do other energy blocks/gels, except salt. However, I use Nuun electrolyte replacement, so I should be fine. The combo seems to be working good. And raisins are a lot cheaper than Clif blocks, which are my favorite. I'll still use the blocks from time to time, but on longer runs, they almost get too sweet for me.
Next up: training the next two weekends with Shari, and possibly Julie, for the upcoming Catalina State Park 11 mile trail race on September 27th. We'll be out at Catalina State Park running the exact course to get ready. Shari saw a bobcat (mountain lion?) out there the other day when she was by herself (not on the course, but on the road). We should be fine in a group, but I think she got a pretty good adrenaline rush! Makes for a good story, Shari!
Touchdown! Bagged a peak! Life is good.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Saguaro National Monument 8-mile race Report

It has been quite the busy week (I worked 40 hours in 4 days), so I haven't had a chance to get my race report done!
Well, I got a PR (personal record) for the course! This was the 4th year I have run this race and I beat my time for the last 3 years! I was aiming for 1:12 total time (9:00min/mile avg.) and I came in just under that! I had an exceptionally good energy day. I believe I have fixed my iron deficiency, which was really contributing to how tired I was, by taking iron supplements, eating red meat, raisin bran and spinach). I was also feeling fairly well rested from my trip (being away from work!), even with the trail run/hike miles I accumulated when I was in Silverton last week. I was worried that the Body Pump class I took there was going to affect my race (I was still sore on Saturday from that dang class!) and I also skidded on some scree coming down slope on our short hike in Silverton on Friday, which tweated my left quad. Nevertheless, I was feeling great by race day and was raring to go.

It is a hard race - see the elevation profile below:

I started off pretty fast (for me on hills), running 8:15 min/mile average for the first 3 miles. The big hill hits at mile 3.5 and goes on for a mile and a half, at which my speed dropped a bit. Then, I was a little slower the 6th and 7th mile (still more hills), but picked it up for the last mile to bring it home. Here are my total times for the last 4 years:

2008 - 1:11:56 (8:59.5 pace) I made my goal! Yeah!

2007 - 1:13:11 (9:09 pace)
2006 - 1:15:50 (9:28 pace)
2005 - 1:17:27 (9:41 pace)

The first year I ran it I was sick, but ran it anyway. Last year was smoking hot and I just didn't feel good or have as much fun during the race. This year, the air was a little cool in the beginning and I really enjoyed myself. I leap frogged with my friend Steve H. for a while, until he finally pulled away. Here we are at the start of the race in the picture on the left (I am being silly and Steve has a mouth full of some sort of energy food).

And, here we are at the end of the race at the awards ceremony (my friend Martinho snapped the pics - I think that guy to the far right in the first picture is checking me out):

I saw my new friend Julie, who did great (she is super fast!) I spent a little time with my good friends Lynn, Steve F., and Sheryl (Lynn is back in town again!):
I also saw my friend Fireman Richard, who was there with the fire department to lend a hand to any problems that arose from the race. Always great to see him.
I had the same number this year as last year, 440. How strange. Must have been good luck! I certainly was happy with my time. I was 7th place out of 29 women in my age group (40-44) and I was 227th out of 552 overall.

It was definitely a bittersweet day, though, as I had to euthanize my very sick bunny rabbit shortly after the race. It was the same thing he had 4 times previously, he was getting old and we didn't think he was really living. So, I spent the rest of Labor Day taking care of that. Blackjack joined our current pet cemetary in our side yard with our previous dogs Buster, Taylor, and Buddy and our previous rabbits Mr. Bunny and Little Rabbit.

It is all evidence that I have and will continue to keep on loving. I would never want to miss out on the opportunity to love others because I'm going to lose them one day. But I sure cried a bucketful of tears today.

I liked what my Yogi tea bag saying was tonight, "Empty yourself and let the universe fill you." Reminds me of another saying, which is apropos, "The more that sorrow carves out of your heart, the more joy it can hold."
I'm proud of my accomplishment today, and proud to be a woman who is willing to continue to grow through what life brings. :)