Hardrock 100 Ultra-Marathon

Two weeks ago I flew through Phoenix, AZ to Durango, CO on a Thursday afternoon. I’d never been to either airport before and I wasn’t even really sure where in the great state of Colorado I was landing. But when I stepped off the second plane, I was instantly surrounded by the gorgeous San Juan Mountains and I knew it was going to be an amazing weekend. My sister-in-law (Meggan), her father (Richard), and my two adorable nieces (Rachel and Ava) picked me up and drove us back to Silverton, CO. This would be our headquarters for the next four days.

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Maybe I should pause to explain why the five of us, my brother (Jason), our cousin (Glen), and family friends (Eric, Randy, and Lori) were all converging on this small town in the mountains of Colorado. My brother ran the The Bear 100 last year as his first attempt to complete 100 miles of running in a single event. He was successful and I was present to help Meggan “crew” for his race. As a result of that finish, he earned one ticket in a lottery for entry into the Hardrock 100 this year. In the ultra-running world, Hardrock is an elite event and one that many experienced runners shy away from due to the extreme course topography. You can read about the exact odds on Jason’s blog, but suffice it to say that his name should not have been pulled last December.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

But it was. Along with 151 other mildly insane runners who would toe the starting line with him in July 2015. And so, he started to train for the 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent that he would encounter along the course. Couple those drastic elevation changes with the fact that the LOWEST point on the course was at 7,680 ft above sea level while the peak was at 14,048 ft above sea level. Yes, you just read all of those statistics correctly. Yes, it helps that Brother’s family currently lives in Boulder, CO where he has fairly easy access to mountains. Yes, he ran A LOT in the months leading up to this race.

Cunningham Gulch aid station

Cunningham Gulch aid station

So where do I come into this whole equation? Well after crewing last year, I offered my organizational services again. Last year I was the second in command at aid stations, taking commands from Meggan and letting her do most of the communicating. This year, I was told that Meggan was going to primarily be wife/mom while I was going to be in charge of Jason. Oh goodness. I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous! I knew that Jason had much more experience and confidence going into this race than The Bear last year. I knew that I had more of a grasp on what was happening and what my role would be throughout the race. But I also knew that ultra-running, especially in the wild mountains of Colorado, is unpredictable and that I would be responsible for making sure Jason was safe and had everything he needed. Luckily, Jason spent the week leading up to the race in Silverton exploring the course and laying out his drop-bags for each of the aid stations his crew could access.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

Thursday night, I shared a quiet room with Jason while the rest of the family slept upstairs. We wanted to ensure that J got good sleep and would wake rested for his 40 hours (or so) of running. At 5:30am we walked the few blocks to the high school gymnasium where he checked in and we waited for the start. At 6am the runners were off and the crew headed back to the hotel to eat breakfast and gather our gear. Our first aid station was Cunningham Gulch, which was 8.2 miles into the race. We had fun playing with the girls while waiting to see J come down the mountain and cross the creek. He was here only a short time to refuel and then he was off heading back up the other side of the mountain. We wouldn’t see him again until mile 42.1 at Grouse Gulch, sometime around 7pm that night.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

While Brother was running up and over several mountains (no big deal), I went for a run of my own in town. My four-mile run felt short and difficult as I struggled to breathe at just over 7,000 ft above sea level. It rained off and on during the day and the adults all took turns entertaining the girls between meals and packing. In the early evening, I drove the girls and Richard up to Grouse Gulch to hook up with Eric, Meggan and Glen. They had gone up earlier to cheer on earlier runners and to make sure Eric was there and ready to go. He would be pacing J for miles 42-82, through the night and across the most technical terrain. They run together weekly in Boulder and Eric has completed Hardrock before, as well as a number of other 100-mile races.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

We had specific instructions to make sure Jason ate a lot at Grouse Gulch and were also in charge of replacing SPOT tracker batteries, filling water bottles, restocking his pack with gels, swamping out sunglasses and short-sleeves for rain jackets and long-pants, adding in warm hats and headlamps, etc. I felt a little overwhelmed at some of these aid stations because it was my job to keep J focused on changing his socks, eating his quesadilla, and telling me if he needed more or less layers. All while Glen was videotaping and getting hot foods, Meggan was saying hello and accessing the condition of Jason’s body, Eric was asking about the course, Rachel was trying to show J her good luck drawings, and Ava just wanted to hug her Daddy.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Writing it all out makes it sound more chaotic than it really was, but there was certainly a lot happening at these stops! Once Jason and Eric headed off into the night, we had about 1.5 hours worth of driving to get to Ouray where we had a second hotel room for the night. Glen, Meggan and I dropped off Richard and the girls to sleep while we waiting to see J through the Christmas-themed aid station. He left around 1:30am with Eric after a fairly long stop (20 minutes) to change clothes and eat some real food. We headed back to the hotel to rest for a few hours and awoke to find that J and E had had a great night. They were already over their next mountain and were working their way down to Telluride, our next aid station. The only slight issue with that was that they had five miles to run and we had an hour to drive. Whoops? So Glen and I quickly showered and jumped in our car to “race” the SPOT dots to Telluride while Richard and Meggan got the girls up and joined us when they could.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

This divide-and-conquer strategy paid off because Glen and I walked into the aid station to get set up a mere ten minutes before the boys arrived! At this point, they were 72.8 miles into the race but had made it through the night. Jason looked good, in spite of a slight complaint about his knees on the downhills. They had come through rain, snow, and a fairly chilly night but had not had any major mishaps, which was great news! Off they went while Glen and I drove to meet Meggan’s car for breakfast. The next section of driving was more off-road and exciting, and we had to park 0.25 miles from the aid station and walk in. The girls enjoyed the adventure and were fairly good with lunch at Chapman aid station. I took a turn entertaining Rachel here, so we explored the log bridge over the creek, used binoculars to scan the mountain-side for J, and played “sack-of-potato” countless times. It was fun to interact with my nieces throughout this race and they continue to amaze me with how quickly they grow up!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station... almost done!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station… almost done!

Chapman aid station was mile 82.2, and the last time we would see Jason before the finish that night. Eric finished his pacing duties and Randy picked up for the last sections of the trail. I continued to try to manage Jason’s needs but had to get a little creative here since we did not have all of his extra clothing and food options from the car. Fortunately, we did have Eric’s race bag so he lent Jason the rain pants he needed. Then the crew (and a tired Eric) hiked back out and drove just over two hours back around to Silverton. We opted not to take the 4WD-only option over the mountain pass, but instead retraced our steps through Telluride and Ouray. Back in town we unpacked, had dinner, and then went to the high school to wait Jason. He had been right in the middle of his timing goals up until Chapman, so we expected to see him between 8-10pm.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Their friend, Kari, who was also at The Bear 100 finished about an hour before Jason so we got to see her kiss the Hardrock. Then we spent the rest of the time playing with Rachel and Ava, who were quite tired at this point but excited to see their Daddy. We got the radio from Glen that Jason had crossed the river along the road and was heading in with only two miles to go! By this point it was dark again but J still had over an hour to accomplish his original goal of finishing in under 40 hours. We were all excited to see him finish, but cheered on several more runners while we waited. Finally, we made out the outline of three runners without headlamps (Eric, Jason, and Randy) and Rachel ran out to greet them. The whole family jogged the last hundred yards or so with Jason and then watched as he kissed the Hardrock at 9:22pm on Saturday night. This was 39 hours and 22 minutes after he started, which is almost exactly what he predicted! After resting for quite some time in the gym, we headed back to the hotel and put the girls to bed. Then J and I actually went back to the medical tent to confirm that his slight wheezing and coughs were “normal”. They assured us he would be fine after he got some sleep, so we did just that! Runner, pacers, and crew were all tired but happy and had no problem sleeping through the night. I even shared a room with the little girls and had no problem falling (or staying) asleep.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

Sunday morning we went to the race breakfast and award ceremony and heard some of the incredible stories from the race. Like the runner who choked on a piece of watermelon in the first half of the race, but was rescued by an aid station medic who performed the heimlich maneuver. Or the runner from Boulder who had a tough race, but managed to sprint to the finish at kiss the rock with literally one second to spare. His official time was 47:59:59! All of the finishers, 123 officially, earned their respective awards and everyone ate well in that gymnasium.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

Unfortunately, I had to hit the road back to Durango airport immediately after the award ceremony so I said my good-byes and hopped in the car with some other friends who were going my way. Shortly after checking in, my flight to Phoenix was canceled and after a lot of phone calls and waiting in line, I finally got rebooked to Denver much later Sunday night. Then I spent the night in whatever hotel US Airways put me up in, where I logged a nine mile run on the treadmill at 11pm before crashing into my king-sized bed. Monday morning I went back to the airport for my connection home, which left with no issues. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Jason’s race weekend and while I don’t think I was as helpful or prepared as I could’ve been, I do hope that I pulled my weight on the team. It was great to see Jason/Meggan and the rest of their family and friends, as well as explore a new part of Colorado!

Advertisements

My Crazy, Busy but Blessed Life

I got home from Mexico on June 3rd. That was 25 days ago. But it feels like months. Since that day, I have kept quite busy and thought that I would share snip-its of what I’ve been up to with a list and some pictures. So far in the month of June I have:

– attended birthday parties for two friends (both with amazingly delicious, home-cooked meat!)

IMG_2157– played in a pick-up kickball game and organized our team for this season

– driven through LA to Turlock, CA to spend time with my boyfriend’s family and explore the town where he grew up

IMG_2191

– gone on walks, seen movies, or grabbed meals with some of my favorite people

– taken care of a pair of adorable cats for a week

IMG_2218

– attended my first four Spanish classes (and take my first test!)

– gone on several incredibly fun local dates with Sean

IMG_2162

IMG_2168

– flown to VA/NC for my friend Paige’s bachelorette weekend

DSCN1209The list could go on and on, but I don’t want to bore y’all. I think you get the point by now that I have been loving life… even if it’s been a bit crazy 🙂 On top of all of this fun stuff, I have been working 25-30 hours a week at Halstrom Academy. For those of you that don’t remember, it’s the same company I taught and wrote curriculum for before I moved. I’m loving my group of students this semester and am really enjoying being back in the classroom.

Going forward, I will try to update some more but I will be honest with y’all… I am going to be all over the United States this summer with another trip to NC/VA, a long weekend in CO, a drive up to SF, and a flight to Iowa. All before Labor Day. But you know I love it and I wouldn’t change my wanderer lifestyle for the world, especially since all of those trips involved celebrating special people doing incredible and wonderful things (race and weddings)! For now, I’m going to stretch my legs before boarding a flight from RDU to ORD on my way home from an amazing weekend at Wrightsville Beach… more on that soon!

Familia y Fiestas

A few weeks ago, I hopped on a plane in LA heading to Mexico with my aunt and two of my first-cousins. A second-cousin left at the same time on a different flight and met up with my aunt’s fiancé and his son. We landed in Guadalajara just before another first-cousin and his girlfriend and were greeted at the airport by her immediate family… Are you confused yet? This was just the beginning of my amazing week exploring new regions of Mexico in a slightly chaotic way that always seemed to work.

IMG_2209

The group that arrived at various times on Friday night!

So why were we all there? To celebrate, of course! My cousin Brett, the one I visited in Chile in 2012, just graduated from UC Berkeley in May and his girlfriend, Sofia, is Mexican. So our family seized the opportunity to visit and meet her extended family for two and a half weeks this summer. I jumped on the trip for my week off between spring and summer sessions at school. All I knew going in was my flights and what main cities we would be traveling to. The rest of the details had been graciously worked out by my aunt and Sofia’s mom.

IMG_2208

Street performers in Guadalajara

After all landing sometime late Friday (or early Saturday), we stayed in Guadalajara for the night. Saturday we got up and explored the central part of the city. I’m not a huge fan of cities, but it was nice to get a taste of the history and culture while we walked through the older squares. There were some dramatic dancers performing, which was entertaining to watch. In the afternoon, we piled into the cars and headed about 1.5 hours southwest to the town of Sayula. This is where Sofia grew up and where her family owns several houses, two ice cream shops and an avocado farm (on the outskirts of town). We were greeted by many of the extended family at a fiesta that night, complete with tons of grilled meat and guacamole!

IMG_2210

Sofia’s mother, myself, and Skylar getting ice cream

IMG_2211

The Graduate!! Proud of you, Brett!!

Sunday we went to a family-style restaurant on a ranch that is incredible and only open on weekends. I tried so many new food that I can’t even begin to list them here. Suffice it to say that my definition of good Mexican food has expanded! After eating, we explored the grounds and checked out the peacocks and horses. Sunday afternoon we drove up into the hills surrounding Sayula, where the avocado farm is located. The family has over 6,000 trees of various ages and it was really interesting to hear Sofia’s parents describe their process of planting, tending, and harvesting the two species of trees they have. For a late dinner that night, we went to Tacos Panchos in town. Not only were the street-style tacos out-of-this-world, but the men making them were like food ninjas! I was mesmerized watching how quickly and efficiently they worked.

IMG_2212

View from the avocado farm

IMG_2213

Street taco ninjas

Monday morning we wandered around Sayula checking out the local attractions. My favorites were the mini-tour we had of the knife factory and the samples of cajeta (a creamy, wood-fired treat similar to dulce de leche). In the afternoon, we piled back into the cars for the three-hour trip west to the coast of Mexico and the city of Manzanillo. We couldn’t leave Sayula without one more scoop of delicious ice cream (pistachio for me!) and then we were off! The drive was actually quite beautiful until we got into the city of Manzanillo. We entered through the shipyard, which was the more industrial side of town and not so pretty. But just north of the city we turned into our condo complex and were thrilled to see how close we were to the beach!

IMG_2214

“Our” cove, infinity pool, and water slide in Manzanillo

IMG_2215

Iguana basking in the sun.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent soaking up the sun at the infinity pool with excursions down to swim in the cove of the Pacific Ocean. There were plenty of card games, lots of book reading, tons of sunshine and even some intense water-sliding! We even saw some fairly large iguanas both on the rocks by the beach and in the trees by the pool. Dinners were delicious each night and no one could say they went hungry. And to top all of that off, my family is hilarious so most night were spent laughing, dancing, singing, etc. Never a dull moment with the Oliver/Butler clan, lol.

IMG_2216

My extended family is pretty awesome!

Unfortunately, I had to head home Wednesday evening so I showered after the beach day and caught a ride to the Manzanillo airport. After a long(ish) layover at LAX, I landed back in San Diego late that night. This was an incredible trip with wonderful people and I am so grateful to have gotten to tag along on part of this adventure. It also got me excited to start my Spanish classes this week, but more on that later!

Hanna Flats Camping

Last weekend, thirteen of us went to a campground near Big Bear Lake. We came from various parts of southern California and stayed varying amounts of time. Some spent four days and three nights while others stayed just one day and one night. We had two campsites at Hanna Flats Campground, a place with around 100 plots but no showers. Most of our neighbors had off-road vehicles or mountain bikes, but some were in RVs as well. Of my friends, some of us hike and camp frequently while others were borrowing equipment to car camp for the first time at least in a while. We even had two dogs with us for part of the weekend!

DSCN0758

Last Labor Day, a similar group went to Laguna Campground in Cleveland National Forest. We had such a good time that I decided to organize another trip. We learned last time that being in the mountains makes things cooler and increases the chances of lakes having water. So I looked into the San Bernardino Forest this time around. Unfortunately, many campgrounds do not take reservations and we never want to mess with first-come, first-serve. Especially when people are coming at different times from different places. So I picked Hanna Flats because of its proximity to Big Bear Lake and its availability (I booked the last two adjoining sites back in February).

DSCN0655

I was part of the first group up, arriving around 5pm. We set up several tents, unpacked our gear, and went into Big Bear City for dinner. The place we chose, Thelma’s Family Restaurant and Bakery, had home-cooked comfort food. It was decent food, but the pastries and pies looked amazing! We resisted, knowing our weekend would be full of food and snacks. Our group had decided to divide up meals, making each person responsible for one and a pair of us coordinating dinners. This kept supplies simple and divided the responsibility of shopping for and preparing the food. It seemed to work well and I enjoyed not knowing what we were having each day. It also saved me the hassle of guessing portions and items for everyone for the whole trip!

DSCN0804

Twelve of us trickled into camp that night and quickly put on every layer of clothes we brought. Temperatures dropped into the mid-30s and the firewood we had wasn’t burning very hot. That night was cold and restless for many of us, as our sleeping bags and blankets failed to protect us from the temperatures. But the sun came out Saturday morning and spirits rose with the temperature. A delicious and warm breakfast of eggs and bacon helped too! Our plan was to hike Castle Rock trail, a short but steep two-mile trek near the lake that promised amazing views and a rock scramble. Everyone made it up without a problem and we enjoyed running around on the rocks for a while, talking to fellow hikers and enjoying the scenery.

DSCN0694

After wandering back down along several different routes, we went back to camp for an easy lunch of chicken salad croissant sandwiches with sides of chips and fruit. Most of Saturday afternoon was spent relaxing around camp in various forms. Several people napped, a group of us played card and dice games, we gathered firewood for that evening, a group played bocce around the sites, some read books, and we were all serenaded by a guitar. The beauty of a group that large was that there always seemed to be someone else interested in what you wanted to do, and you didn’t have to feel bad for breaking off from the herd. As the sun dropped and the cold rolled in, we cranked up the fire for dinner. In true camping fashion, an assortment of sausages, hot dogs, buns, and beans was on the menu and they hit the spot! We played games and told stories by the campfire until it was time for bed.

DSCN0719

Sunday morning started with another big breakfast of pancakes and bacon before a group of us headed into Fawnskin, the town on our side of the lake, to explore their park and quaint shops. Then we broke into several groups, some hanging at camp and some exploring different areas right around camp. I went up into the hills to check out a rock fortress, inhabited by a few rogue middle-school boys. The views were impressive and we had fun climbing and scrambling about. Lunch on Sunday was a gourmet PB&J bar, with more types of jelly, jam, and peanut butter than you can imagine. Bananas, banana chips, regular chips, and honey were also seen making their way onto a variety of breads.

DSCN0745

Around 2:30pm, most of us hit the trails again to hike Cougar Crest Trail. Another 750+ feet of elevation gain, but this time spread over a four-mile round-trip trek. The summit of this trail met up with the Pacific Crest Trail and we paused to enjoy the scenery while several of us ate our packed PB&Js. We made it back down without any issues, as all of the trails were well marked and populated. After our hike, there were more games and bocce around camp until it was time for dinner. This time we were treated to beef and chicken kebabs, grilled over the fire. It’s no surprise that we devoured these along with the rest of the leftover food. After night fell and most of the group went to their tents, three of us hiked up to a group of large, flat rocks to watch the stars. The moon was almost too bright, but we were able to enjoy the peace and quiet while searching for constellations.

DSCN0795

Our last morning at camp started off like the rest, with pancakes and eggs to warm our bellies. The temperatures had risen throughout the course of the weekend but the highs never got out of the 50s. Several groups headed out to get back to reality while a small group hiked around camp for a bit before leaving. Sean and I decided that we wanted to get out on the lake while we were there, so we drove into Fawnskin and rented a canoe. I love being out on the water and it was good exercise to paddle against the windy and choppy conditions. We didn’t see much wildlife, but we could look up the hills at where we’d been hiking and enjoy the views along the lake. There were a number of pontoon and powerboats out, but the lake wasn’t overly crowded.

DSCN0811

Heading back down the mountain, we were fortunate to miss most of the holiday weekend traffic. Overall, it was a wonderful weekend away from the world and I appreciated the time spent “unplugged” with my friends. We are still trying to find the perfect camping spot that isn’t too hot or too cold and has enough water but not too much population. For now, I can just be grateful to have friends that enjoy escaping to nature like I do! Thanks to everyone that came out and for those that feel like they missed out, let’s all plan another trip soon 🙂

Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2015

I should start by saying that this was my eighth half marathon since I started running long distances in 2011. I should also comment that I went to Disney World once, when I was five, and my favorite ride was It’s a Small World. I’ve lived 1.5 hours from Disneyland for almost three years now and have never been. I’m not anti-Disney, but I’m also not a fanatic. The average pace for my previous seven half marathons has been right at two hours, but I ran the La Jolla Half two weeks ago in 2:07. The past six months have been extremely busy for me so training has not been a priority. So knowing all of that, how did I find myself standing on the streets of Anaheim at 5:30am Sunday morning? It’s simple… my friends asked me to do it 😉

DSCN0504

Ready for my eighth half marathon!

I say that jokingly because back in August… July? September? Sometime in 2014. My friend from high school, Claire, mentioned that she was running the Disney Princess Half at Disney World in February. Not only that, but she was considering doing a “Coast-to-Coast Challenge” and her husband would feel better if she had someone to run or at least travel with her to Disneyland in May, 2015. I’m always down for having running/race buddies, so naturally I said yes! We convinced two other high school friends living in California to join us as well and the cast was complete. Fast forward through moving away from San Diego, through traveling to Argentina, through moving into North Carolina, and finally through moving BACK to San Diego and finally race weekend was upon us. Here’s the basics of our weekend… there was a lot going on, so try to keep up!

DSCN0442

Picking up my bib at the expo

Claire – She arrived from Philly on Wednesday night, ran the Neverland 5k Friday, then completed the Pixie Dust Challenge by completing both the Tink 10K on Saturday and the Tinkerbell Half Marathon on Sunday. She’s a mother of two adorable boys and only started running distance races six months ago. Tink was her third of four half marathons in a month. Crazy, right?! As previously mentioned, Claire was the one that got us all involved and her love for everything runDisney was very apparent as she cleaned out the merchandise tent;) But her enthusiasm was contagious all weekend!

Karen – I arrived from North County, San Diego on Thursday night, got up early and supported the others in their running of the Tink 10k on Saturday and then raced the Tinkerbell Half on Sunday. In spite of not being in conditioned shape, I really wanted to RACE and see what happened. I tend to get complacent during events and I knew stopping and starting (even for Disney character pictures) would kill my legs, which were still recovering from my last race. My “I’ll be happy” goal was to beat 2:07 and my “I’ll be ecstatic” goal  was to break two hours. I also agree to wings and tutus… but only if the other girls picked them out for me.

Kelly – She arrived on Friday night from San Diego, sported her fairy wings and tutu like a champ while completing the Pixie Dust Challenge as well. She also ran La Jolla two weeks ago and is in great shape from aerial yoga and TRX training. Sadly, this was our last race together for a while because at the end of the month she’s moving back to the East Coast where we all grew up. Kelly served as our massage therapist for the weekend and (thankfully) offered to compress, stretch, and de-knot our tired muscles.

Jenny – She arrived later Friday night from Santa Monica from a Flash Mob with her Dancing Classrooms students. She has been battling tendonitis and leg pain for almost two months, but completed all 19.3 miles of the Pixie Dust Challenge with a smile. With the possible exception of Claire, Jenny was the most excited about everything Disney and rocked her custom-made Mickey and Minnie TOMS in between races. She took running guru Jeff Galloway’s advice to alternate running and walking to get her through only her second half marathon ever!

DSCN0489

Jenny (in Minnie ears), Claire (in orange), and Kelly (in blue) finishing the Tink 10K!

Now that you know all about the girls, let’s talk about the actual race and how it went for me. I tried a new strategy this race, just to see what happened. I typically start conservatively and then pick up the pace the last few miles as I gain confidence in my ability to finish. I know I should be past that now, especially after finishing the SF Marathon last July, but it’s still hard for me to really think of myself as a runner. I also tend to “trust my training” but I didn’t really train so much for this race. Before La Jolla I only got up to 6.68 miles and then two weeks ago I had that race as a “training run” for Tinkerbell. So I wanted to go out with 9:00 miles to begin and try to hold those through the park, which we excited around mile six. Then I figured even if I slowed to my usual pace around 9:30/mile, I would still beat 2:07. La Jolla runs up and over Torrey Pines, which is a considerable hill, and I knew Anaheim would be a much flatter setting which should help my legs survive.

DSCN0495

I was happy to be a proud spectator on Saturday… congrats girls!

From the time Tinkerbell said “Go!”, I felt only okay. I thoroughly enjoyed running through the different neighborhoods of Disneyland, even if I didn’t stop for character photos. Once I break stride in a race, it’s all over. But I spent most of this first hour checking out the scenery, the rides, and the cast members along the course. I was so distracted by my surroundings that I surprised myself by coming through the 10k marker in 55:13, which was 8:54/mile pace! However, I knew that this was when the real race would begin for me. My muscles weren’t used to long distances, I didn’t have cool stuff to look at on the streets of Anaheim, and the people on the sidelines were going to thin out. I ate the first half of my Shot Blocks and reminded myself that I was almost halfway through and that if I needed to slow down, I could.

IMG_1855

Kelly, Jenny, Claire and I before the half marathon 🙂

Miles seven to nine felt SLOW to me. The sun came out, we went through the “quiet please” neighborhood, and my legs were starting to hurt. But each time I passed a mile marker and heard my MapMyRun update my pace, I was still maintaining fairly well! At the 15k (9.3 mile) point, my time was 1:23 which was 8:59 pace. This was when my mind switched gears. I did the math and felt confident for the first time during the race that I would actually beat my 2:07 goal. But now was the question of whether or not I could pull out a sub-2:00 performance. I was definitely not convinced. But I am also fiercely competitive with myself and knew I had to try. So I ate the second half of Shot Blocks around mile ten and kept on plugging. My right hip flexor and the top bones in my right foot were starting to hurt but I tried to focus on not altering my stride for fear of causing pain elsewhere. Luckily, I was trailing two very nice ladies who were in the same running group but didn’t really know each other, so I could eavesdrop on them while distracting myself. I also told myself that if they could hold this pace while talking normally, I could do it while staying silent.

DSCN0481

Daisy and Minnie cheering on the Tink 10k finishers!

Mile twelve saw the second time through an underpass, which served as the only real hill on the course. I love hills and really took advantage of the chance to alter my stride for a short time. My mile split that mile was 8:20… oops? Mile thirteen I was pretty spent. I did appreciate the bands, color guards, dance teams, and cheerleaders that lined the second half of this course and never as much as that last mile. I knew from the mile marker clocks that I had eleven minutes to run the last 1.1 miles and I knew I would do it… but I also knew that I would not be running a PR. This hadn’t even really crossed my mind until that point, as it’s a 1:57:09, and I was totally fine with that. I tried to really enjoy the last straight-away of the race and even remembered to cross over and hi-five Mickey Mouse just before the finish line. My official time was 1:58:55, my fourth fastest half marathon time to date, and I was super pleased. After the race I did get ice from the medical tent and made several trips to the port-o-john’s while waiting for my fellow fairies. Seems like my stomach needs the long training runs more than my legs do, lol.

IMG_1829

Map of the course, according to MapMyRun

I was able to track the other girls the rest of the way in and watched them finish, which was just as fun as crossing the line myself! Overall, I really enjoyed the weekend with these lovely ladies and I was happy with my performance, especially given my training. The race was very well supported from what I saw, with tons of course marshals, spectators, aid stations, and entertainment. While I’m not sure I would sign up for the whole Disney experience on my own, it was nice to have a race where I could start in the first corral and not even have elite runners in front of me. The medal we got with the spinning Tinkerbell was pretty great too! Of course it goes without saying that my favorite part was spending 3+ days hanging out with old friends while being active and achieving our goals. I’m so proud of them and the rest of the women (and few men) that raced this past weekend. Now it’s time for a few weeks of active rest for me before my summer race season kicks off!

IMG_1860

Claire, Kelly, myself and Jenny at the finish… WE DID IT!!

Lovely Ladies in my Life

I should start this post by saying that I grew up with TONS of guy friends. I have never been a “girly girl” or a “princess” or stayed up late braiding hair and painting nails… okay, maybe once or twice in college. In college, my friend circle shifted from 80% male to 50/50 male/female. Since college, I have found myself surrounded by amazing ladies and I love it! My core contacts from the east coast are women that I’ve known for 10+ years and I find myself constantly calling, texting and snapchatting them. They are the council members of my life and I couldn’t make it without them. That being said, I have been developing a growing network of girls here in California that I love SO much. Most of us are in a book club together and all of them are amazingly beautiful women, inside and out. Some I’ve actually known from back in Virginia while others became friends through church, kickball, or other friends.

IMG_1734

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with them! A while back, we bought a Groupon to go wine tasting at Miramonte Winery in Temecula. This is wine country for southern California and I’ve only been to one vineyard once, for a wedding last year. We were excited to taste some delicious wines, get a tour of the grounds, and learn a bit about wine identification. But really just tasting the delicious wines. Our tour director was pretty good, used his canned jokes while he explained the history of the place, and stuck to his automatic pourer for portions. Boo. Luckily most of us had preferences on which wines we liked so we shared the extras around our circle. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the scenery could not have been prettier! We also got to peek into the wine cellar where wine was being aged in $5,000 barrels. Insane!

IMG_1736

After our walking tour with the white wines, we moved inside the tasting room for a lesson on pairings and identification. It was interesting to learn about color circles and legs and clarity in red wines, even though they aren’t my favorite to drink. In theory, I can now tell you how old and from which part of the world they come from! In theory… But we also got hummus and chocolate and cheese plates to go with our wines. I’ll be totally honest though, I never tasted much difference in the wine when paired with the food. But I was glad for the snacks! I enjoyed this tour and mini-lesson, as well as the wines, but to be honest I didn’t think it was anything exceptional. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by wine tastings when I know the barista, but I’d rather just buy a bottle and relax on the patio while drinking it.

IMG_1742

After wine tasting we all went our separate ways for a few hours, before four of us reconvened down in Mission Valley at In Cahoots, a country line-dancing bar. We picked up a few friends and some of the boys along the way, but it still all about the girls and the fun we were having out on the dance floor. I enjoy organized dancing, but it’s so hard to pick up the moves in just one short song! I’ll have to keep practicing and see if I can get any better, lol. All in all though, it was just fun to hang out with some of the girls and catch up on our hectic lives. We all have tons of plans in May, luckily some of them are together, and one of us is moving back to the east coast soon, so I don’t know when the next time we will all be together. I definitely went to bed Saturday night feeling blessed to have such a great group of friends and thankful for the time we got this past weekend!

IMG_1748

P.S. Sunday afternoon saw three of us girls dressing up for Cinco de Mayo while playing in our last regular season kickball game with the guys. So I guess some things will never really change 😉

IMG_1754

La Jolla Half Marathon 2015

I will be the first to admit that I was not at all prepared for this race. I decided to run about a month ago since I had been training for my Tinkerbell Half Marathon anyway. This race is the second of the triple crown series of half marathons in San Diego, which I completed in 2013. Carlsbad in the January race, then La Jolla in April, and America’s Finest City in August. So I’ve run the course before and I knew what to expect… lots and lots of hills! The run starts in the Del Mar racetrack and follows the coast up and over the hills of Torrey Pines before ending in La Jolla Cove. It’s brutal. But it’s also beautiful!

IMG_1661

Sunday morning, Sean and I drove down to La Jolla to stash our car by the finish before hopping on the shuttle with Kelly. My goal here was to NOT rip my contact while getting off the bus (click the La Jolla link above to read that story). I was successful and we spent the hour or so before the start stretching, staying warm, and discussing our race strategies. Even though Sean and I had done many of our training runs together, we concluded that to avoid injury it would probably be best if we ran our own races and started in our own corrals. I was wave three and he was wave four. Kelly decided to jump up to wave four with Sean to get started earlier. Our friends Vanessa and Dahlia found us in the parking lot and were both in wave three with me (pre-race photo below).

IMG_1658

Starting off, my plan was to run comfortably and stay at whatever pace felt fairly easy. This ended up being about 9:30 pace, which was right at what I expected. I didn’t want to push too hard for the first five miles because of the big hill into Torrey Pines around mile six. It was perfect weather for the race and the sun came out just as we started, which made it a little warmer but also quite pleasant. The wind coming off the ocean wasn’t too strong, so I felt good turning up the hill (see first photo). Historically, I run hills well and I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be any different. I drove my arms and passed a TON of people of this section of the course. The photo below is a screenshot of an official photo so excuse the watermarks, but look past me at the rest of the runners and you’ll see what I mean. I got up without much problem and my legs were still feeling strong(ish).

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.30.07 PM

The next three miles are my least favorite because they are rolling hills through the top of Torrey Pines. It’s when I knew my legs would start to tire from lack of training and when I couldn’t see the finish line yet. I was expecting Sean to pass me at some point during this stretch so that gave me something to think about. He did end up passing me just before mile ten and our huge downhill. That gave me a bit of a boost because he said his shin and legs were feeling good as he passed me (he’s on the right in the photo below). I won’t lie, it was a bit humbling for me to be passed but I knew he was the more prepared runner between us. I was also really excited because I knew time-wise he was on pace to run a PR and possibly even break two hours!

IMG_1663

After the big downhill, the top of my right foot started to tighten up and my left knee was a bit wonky. Both of these were things I expected with the lack of hill and distance training I’d put in. I was enjoying the race though and got to take in the scenery around me while I ran. Nothing was too painful to continue so I kept on cruising. The part of the course that winds through La Jolla Village was kind of annoying due to construction and the sun was starting to feel hotter. But I knew there was just one more section of hills before the downhill turn to the finish line. I did a quick assessment and confirmed that I couldn’t go any faster, so I just enjoyed the run as much as I could. I tried to encourage the runners around me who were starting to really struggle and who were less familiar with the course. Ultimately, I made it to the finish line without too much difficulty!

IMG_1662

My official time was 2:07:03, which was about seven minutes slower than when I ran this course in 2013. But I felt VERY happy with those results given my preparation. Sean finished in an impressive 2:00:25, but was a bit frustrated at being so close to that two-hour barrier. He shaved about five minutes off his time from Carlsbad, which is a much easier course, so I was proud of him! Kelly, Vanessa, and Dahlia all finished within fifteen minutes of us, so we were able to meet up at the finish line. It was really fun seeing people I knew all day, either on the course or at the start and finish lines. I love the little group of runners I’ve come to know here and I think most of us are planning to run AFC in August as well. My goal for that race is to properly train and make a push to break the two-hour barrier again, if not PR. I’m quite confident that Sean will and you know I can’t be left behind!

IMG_1693

IMG_1677

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: