Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Long time no see...

Where have I been?!

I know it's been a while since my last post. 7 months to be exact. There have been a lot of changes in my life that contributed to this absence, plus a lot of soul searching that got a bit in the way of blogging. 

When I finished my last blog post in April, I had finished my first ultramarathon and was at a high point personally, but a low point professionally. I was super unhappy at the company I was working for, although I loved the industry and job position I was in. It took me a long time to think through what was making me unhappy, and decided to take the plunge and change jobs. Since then, I have moved to a much happier place with Fleet Feet Sports in Menlo Park, but the transition between jobs was tougher than I imagined it would be. 

I attempted to make this job transition while also training for back to back marathons, planning my honeymoon, transitioning my run group, trying to create (2!) new companies, and creating a new outlook on life for myself. It was just too much.

Needless to say, I ended up getting a little lost in all this, a little confused, and a lot busy. This lead to me performing poorly and peaking too early in my training, gaining too much weight, and culminated in a much to be desired performance at my marathon, Bizz Johnson, as well as a downgrade from marathon to half marathon in Nike. 

I'm smiling in this picture of myself at NWM 2012, but really inside I was super disappointed in myself for not being able to complete the full.

I felt a overwhelmed and disappointed in myself after these two races, and I let all the things I was attempting to change in my life spiral out of control. My goal of getting my race directing company off the ground in 2012 didn't happen. My performance I was hoping and had been working for at my marathons didn't happen. My hard work at my previous job was ending up having to be squandered. All these negative points in my life during the last part of 2012 are the biggest reasons I haven't been blogging. I honestly just felt like nothing I was doing in my life was going anywhere, and I was incredibly disappointed in myself and a little ashamed to show that disappointment to the world.

I realize now that was probably a mistake. I should have written about it and shared it with the world. Not every race is a victory, not every run feels good, not every job turns out the way you wanted it to, and sometimes things take a little longer than you thought. I think expressing my feelings through writing might have actually helped me figure out where I was mentally with everything, but I guess that is a mistake I have hopefully learned from now. 

Where I am now!

Anyways, after Nike, I decided to take some serious time off from racing. I needed a reset. I needed to realize where I was in my new job without letting the pressure of ongoing races get in the way. I got some needed rest with my honeymoon to Kauai and I got home feeling refreshed emotionally, but still not ready to seriously get into running. When I returned, I got better adjusted to Fleet Feet and really allowed myself to become a part of that incredible environment. I also took some more time off from seriously running and decided to recommit myself to my run group which had always centered me. 

Hawaii really helped me in remembering how to be in happy in life.

These decisions really helped me to remember why I loved running. 

Everyone I work with at Fleet Feet loves what they do and helping people find that love too. Period. That kind of passion is pretty infectious, and it helped me bounce back from my jaded, negative view of the running industry and infused in me a sense of purpose at the store and in my own running. I found a new family and a new set of friends with my coworkers. They make me so happy to go to work everyday, and I had forgotten how good that feels. The most important thing is that I feel so wanted there, and like I'm truly a part of something.

How can these people not make you happy to go to work everyday?!

I also realized what a wonderful family I had in my run group, and this reinvigorated me to get more serious about being an organizer for the group. I threw myself back into organizing, relearning my love for getting people together to engage in a happy and healthy activity. I also decided to do an end of the year gathering, and it made me realize all over again how much I love organizing these weekly runs with my good friend Mike. I've realized more than ever right now how much of a sense of purpose Go Far has given me. 

Some of my favorite people ever at Go Far's 2012 End of the Year Celebration.
Throughout all this hard internal and external work at my job and my run group, I still had no desire to train or race. Then a friend of mine at my new workplace started talking to me about this amazing race in Oregon, the Gorge Waterfalls 50K. For the first time in almost 5 months, I started feeling excited about running again. So now I have a brand new goal for a new year in 2013. 

Goals for 2013

I have lots of plans for 2013. I want to perform at my peak performance for Gorge. I don't want life changes to get in the way of my major goal. I'm the heaviest I've been, well, ever in my life, and it's time to get it under control. Losing weight will help me ultimately perform my best at Gorge. I want to continue to work hard at work, but also remember my own personal goals for race directing and try to focus more on that this year. I don't want to promise myself I'll get it off the ground this year and end up being disappointed in myself if it doesn't happen. I just want to do my best and see what happens. My final goal is going to be to run fewer races in 2013, but to run those races with a high quality and high intensity. In order to do this, I'm going to try to run 2013 miles in 2013. I'm going to run way fewer races in 2013 than I did in 2012 (I ran 14 races, all at least half marathons in 2012). 

So, expect to see many more blog posts from me this year than last year. I'm excited to show you my progress in my 4 major goals for 2013:

1. Lose 28 pounds
2. Perform at my peak ability at Gorge Waterfalls
3. Do work on getting my race directing company off the ground
4. Run 2013 miles in 2013

I hope you enjoy the journey and I can't wait to share it with you. That's all for now!

Remember, keep running!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peanut Butter and Pink Flamingos

It's official. I am now an ultra marathoner! I completed my first ever 50K last weekend at Inside Trail Run's Woodside Ramble.

The week leading up to the run, I was super super nervous, but oddly not as nervous as I was for my first marathon. I think mentally I was in a lot better place and I felt well rested overall except for some lingering issues with my hip. This was also going to be a much smaller race than Nike, so it felt a little more like another run through the woods and less like a huge milestone. The main thing I was worried about was the weather forecast. It was beautiful all week, except of course, for Saturday, the day of my race.

The morning of the race I woke up to hear the unfortunate sound of drizzle on the roof. I was pretty upset by this turn of events, and I triple checked the forecast to see what the weather would be doing for the rest of the day. Apparently it was supposed to stop raining at 9AM and be clear until around noon, which was great news for me and made me feel significantly happier about running 31 miles that day.

And then we got there. And the weather moved from a slow drizzle to a full rain. I was NOT happy. The weekend before I had done Badger Cove in the mud, and I swore to myself then that if it was raining I would drop out of the 50K. But, of course, I am stubborn and I decided to press on. I guess stubbornness is good when you are about to embark on an ultra marathon. Josh and Mike were partners in crime that day, with Josh running the half marathon and Mike also running his first ever 50K!

So after we parked and I went to the bathroom a bajillion times (really only twice, haha) I realized I had LOST my Ipod!! DISASTER! I started freaking out and asked Josh to run back to the bathrooms for me to look for it. He came running at the last second with it, apparently it was in my pants pocket the whole time. Thank god! Now the race could get started. And start it did! Here I am getting going: 

You can also see Mike in front of me in this picture, where he stayed for the duration of the race. He totally rocked it and had a great performance for his first ultra.

In my mind, I broke my run up into 5 legs. The run to the first aid station, the first to the second aid station, the loop around back to the second aid station, the run between the second and first aid station, and then the run back to the finish from the first aid station.

I started off really strongly. I was feeling pretty good and making reasonably decent time. There were two major climbs in the run, the first of which was in that first leg. We had to climb about 2000 feet in 5 miles. This was actually not that bad. I ran for a majority of the time, and I felt awesome. Usually I end up walking on hills, but the fact that the 2000 feet was over 5 miles really made it more of a gradual climb, which was awesome. I was feeling awesome, it was drizzling but not raining too hard, and I had some surprises in store for me. Like this one:

Danni was working the first aid station, and she put up a sign to cheer me on! It was AWESOME! I have never had a sign at a race, and it put a huge smile on my face. Having these guys on the side of the trail was also hilarious:

As I was passing them by they did the wave. Too funny. So I made it to the first aid station to see Danni's happy face, and it was awesome to have a friend out there to cheer me on. She was a huge trooper being out there for 8 hours working the aid station in the rain. Here I am, clearly not aware of how much pain I would be in when I returned to this point in 6 hours:

A little damp, but not too wet quite yet! Also in a rookie move, I didn't eat anything through my entire first leg besides Shot Bloks. I arrived at the first aid station, figured I was feeling fine, and did not partake in the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. BIG mistake.

So my first leg was done, and I entered into the second leg. This was a 6 mile long portion that was on the Skyline trail. And I hated every minute of it. One of the best things about running anything longer than a half marathon with CTR or ITR is that there are no mile markers. You can just kind of lose yourself in the run and when you get to a major landmark you are happy you made it that far. Skyline trail, however, has a mile marker at every mile for 5 miles. It made me realize how slow I was going, how long it was taking me, and overall put me in a BAD mental state. Not only that, but I was starting to feel a little tired and I was really regretting not taking a quarter sandwich at the first aid station.

I ended up leap frogging with another lady who was actually doing the 30K, so that helped pass the time a bit. It was also cool to see the first place half marathon and 36K runners zoom by me and then see them again on their return trip. These were all welcome distractions to a torturous 6 mile segment. 

I was just about to give up on myself when I saw PINK FLAMINGOS! This was amazing! Ken, the volunteer working the second aid station was bravely out in the rain in the middle of the woods all by himself. I have never had a more awesome aid station experience than Ken's. He knew exactly what I needed and took care of it and imparted some words of encouragement and advice. He made me a PB&J and sent me off to my third leg.

The third leg was the longest (har har to all you Ragnar-ians out there), coming in at a whopping 8.9 miles. The first half of the leg was awesome. It was all downhill and I was feeling great with the energy boost I got from the PB&J. I even saw a family of 10 or so deer who were chillin' next to the trail. There were a few actually on the trail and I ran next to them for about .2 seconds before they ran away from me. I really wanted to try and catch one and ride it back to the start line :-p

The second half of this leg was OK, but ended awfully. This section was the second major climb of the race with another 2000 feet of climbing over another 5 miles. This time I was a lot more tired than I was for the first climb, and I implemented my walk a minute, run a minute game plan. This worked for the majority of the run, but I ended up just completely exhausting myself. I walked for close to 15 minutes of the last mile. I finally got to the top, and ran back to my happy pink flamingo-d aid station.

Ken took one look at me and was like, have you been eating? Now, I had gone into this ultra with a similar game plan as my marathon. I'd eat two Bloks every 30 minutes and drink water as necessary. I was also going to add in eating a quarter peanut butter sandwich at each aid station.

However, I totally underestimated my state of mind 18 miles into the run. It had started raining a LOT more, the trails were really messy, and I was expending a lot more energy than usual in a race. This all lead to me completely losing track of when and what I had eaten. I forgot to eat a couple times, only figuring out I hadn't eaten when I felt completely spent on energy. Ken saw this pretty quickly when I slogged myself into his aid station, and gave me a half of a sandwich to take with me on the run.

This is probably one of the only things that got me through my fourth leg. This PB&J was one of the most heavenly things I had experienced during the entire race. And then I was back to the dreaded Skyline Trail. This time it was even worse, as I now KNEW there were mile markers, and I really started struggling.

It also didn't help that the trails had deteriorated at a rapid pace with the increasing amount of rain we were receiving. The trails were no longer actual trails and more like a combination slip and slide and stream. It was completely impossible to not run in these mini streams the rain and trail had created, and my feet promptly got soaked. It had been raining the entire time, and I found myself developing irrational hatred toward the rain and the trees. I got really sick of hearing the sound of raindrops on leaves. It was kind of like Chinese water torture. I just wanted the sound to end and just have silence.

But, silence was not in store for me. It kept raining, and raining, and raining. The mile markers came by more and more slowly. I started imagining I was seeing things on the trail. I'd think I saw a small animal run by or something moving off to the side of the trail. I'm pretty sure there was nothing actually there. I guess that's what running 24 miles through the rain while forgetting to eat will get you..

I finally finished this leg, and made it to the final aid station. Danni had moved her sign, and it was glorious to see it. The final aid station meant I had run 26 miles and that I only had 5 more ahead of me. If there was any way for me to feel any emotion at that point, I'm sure I would have been pretty happy. Here I am, making my grand arrival: 

Josh was awaiting me, having completed his half marathon, and Danni was cheering me in. 

At this point, I am completely soaked, undernourished, and mentally defeated. I also didn't realize it, but the temperature had dropped 10 degrees while I was out running. It was about 52 when I started, and by the time I made it to the final aid station it dropped to 41 degrees. Danni and Josh took one look at me and realized I was freezing. I had no idea, I couldn't really feel anything. During the run my fingers had started turning white and I had to rub them on my capris to get blood flow going again. 

Danni said they had extra arm sleeves at the aid station, and Josh said he had my gloves, but in my current mental state I was like, I don't need this! Then they were like, YES YOU DO. Josh and Danni made me at least put my gloves on, but that was a pretty big task for me at that moment. Here I am struggling to get them on while stuffing any calories I could into my face:

I was really not a happy camper at this point. But, I only had 5 miles to go, and so I carried on. Josh told me that Isaac had come to celebrate mine and Mike's 50K victory, so that gave me more push to carry on to the finish line.

And so I was off. This was probably the worst 5 miles I have ever run in my entire life. It was now pouring. I knew how cold I was, and the PB&J I had at the last aid station made me feel like throwing up. Plus I really had to go to the bathroom, but I knew I probably wouldn't be able to maneuver that kind of forest foray at that point in the race. So I just kept trudging on. 

I completely lost it mentally at this point. I started having incredibly complex thoughts as, wow, that moss covered tree looks like a dog. And, huh, it is really wet out here. And, Oh there's a tree on the side of the trail. I'm sure having a conversation with me at this point would have been enlightening. I also started singing to myself out loud, laughing for no apparent reason, and crying for no apparent reason. I was a complete mess.

About 50 minutes into the final leg, I started convincing myself that I should have finished by now. I started freaking out. I could see the yellow trail markers, but I convinced myself I was going in circles. I started panicking and I'm sure if you saw me you would have thought I'd been chased through the forest by some psychopath murderer. I had seen no one besides the aid station volunteers for pretty much the entire race. So essentially I was running for 7 hours at this point by myself through the middle of the woods. I was terrified. I also didn't drink any more water cause I had to go to the bathroom so bad, and I stopped eating because I thought I was close to the end. It was not a good situation. 

My new rule for ultras: Never Assume Anything. Always stick to your plan, no matter where you are in the race.

I kept looking at my map and trying to figure out where I was in accordance with the actual trail markers so I could gauge how much more I had to go. The only problem with this was that at each trail intersection there was a different end point described and I didn't have the mental facilities to orient myself. I finally saw a trail marker that pointed to the park we started in, and the marker said I only had .6 miles to go. I was thrilled.

FINALLY I saw the trail marker "FINISH" ahead. I started laughing hysterically for some reason, and ambled on ahead. Here I am making my blistering entrance to the finish area:

I DID IT! I FINISHED! I was so so so so happy. AND FREEZING. I have never been colder in my entire life. I started shivering uncontrollably and I didn't stop until almost an hour later after I got to the after race restaurant and got a cup of tea in myself. Here I am now that I could stop moving in a forward motion: 

Talk about Crazed Meghan face. Danni kind of looks a little scared of me haha!! But I was done, and happy that I had accomplished this huge goal I have had for myself for some time. I finished in 7:29, and I was ecstatic that I could stop running and eating Bloks. And wear a sweatshirt.

This was a really difficult accomplishment for me, but in retrospect it was actually easier than my marathon. Trail running is amazingly gentle on your body compared to road running, and I had none of the body complaints I did during Nike. My knees and ankles felt fine, my hip was ok (until later that evening) and I was in way better condition finishing 31 miles on trail than I was finishing 26 miles on pavement. I knew what I was going to have to deal with mentally from my marathon, but the ultra pushed me further than 
I thought I could go.

So there it is! My first (and definitely not last) ultra! It was a ton of fun looking back on it, and now I know the areas I need to work on for my next one. Figuring out food is going to be key, working in more frequent longer trail runs is going to be really important for me, and hopefully I won't have to deal with the weather for my next one. 

I'm really happy I did this, and I couldn't have done it without my partner in crime, Mike. He was up for long runs whenever I wanted during our training, and he was the rock I needed on longer runs to get me to believe in myself that I could do this 50K. He did amazingly in his first ever 50K, and I think it is safe to say we will both be back out there doing it again soon. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chillin' at Chabot

This past weekend I revisited a course I ran twice in a row for Brazen Racing's New Years Eve/New Years Day half marathons. I think since I had already run on these trails for 5 hours within a single weekend, I felt much more confident going into Inside Trail's Lake Chabot 30K than CTR's Steep Ravine (my first ever 30K).

Mike picked me up that morning at not nearly dark o'clock (the sun was actually up!) and we headed towards Lake Chabot for our 30K. The weather was PERFECT. The highs for the day were in the low 60s with slight wind and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. We got started right on time at 8:30AM with a fairly unceremonious 3, 2, 1 GO! start.

The best part of this course was namely that we didn't have to go up the Hill of Horror that we had to deal with during Brazen's race. There was still a LOT of of climbing in ITR's course, but I'm really happy I didn't have to deal with that monster that hit you at mile 3 in Brazen's race.

Here's the elevation map of our course we ran on Saturday for ITR:

The run started out awesomely. You begin on a paved section for the first 3 miles with gently rolling hills that help get your legs warmed up and ready to start putting in some elevation. Then you get to your first major hill at mile 3. I was super proud of myself on this climb, as I was able to do my run 1 minute walk 1 minute strategy. First and last time I was able to do that, haha!

This first 5 miles was so so so pretty. You get to run through some awesome single track areas that take you through the Lake Chabot Regional Park. I got to see two of my favorite things on my run as well. First, I saw a banana slug:

And Lake Chabot's beautiful eucalyptus trees:

I was so happy in my forest-y running habitat I had almost forgotten about one of the most unique aspects of any run through this part of Lake Chabot forest. The frightening, scary, make you run a PR sound of a gun going off! That's right, I had totally forgotten about the gun range that happily disrupts your illusions of running through an area untouched by human hands. After a series of deep BOOMs there were a number of louder shorter bursts which I believe were pistols. Screw bird watching, a great activity at this part of the course is the "guess the gun" game. I think we were even closer to the range on this run than Brazen's, and I definitely high tailed it out of that area.

After running for my life, I was rewarded with an aid station at mile 5! Here I am, happy in the knowledge that I had survived any gun shots and that I had made it over the first of 4 major climbs during the run.

Do you see how happy I am there? That is because I hadn't fallen yet (like I did within the first 5 miles of my first 30K), and it was still nice and cool out. I only drank a small sip from my water so far, which may have been a big mistake, but at the moment I was sweating nicely, feeling strong after my successful first hill, and ready to conquer the next 13 miles.

The next section of the course was completely new to me. This was the "orange" loop extension that adds an additional 5-6 miles onto your run for your full 30K distance. If you have run with me frequently, you know there are four major things I hate to deal with when running:

1. SUN

The orange section of the course had all of these things combined in a nice happy little package. You are essentially running through an entirely exposed meadow with the sun beating down on you and the trail winding, never ending-ly, ahead of you. When I saw that giant meadow I had to run through, the first thing I thought was oh no. MEADOW OF MISERY. When I can see a trail stretched in front of me for a few miles, I tend to enter a state of running depression. However, I was saved by one of the things that I thought would make this section even sadder. The wind! The wind was amazing! It wasn't a heavy wind, but it was really really cool and helped alleviate any of the pain the sun might have brought on.

So, with the wind cooling me off I was able to avoid running sadness. Instead, I started thinking about what this meadow section reminded me of. It was so familiar, and I spent the first 15 minutes wracking my brain trying to figure out why it felt so familiar. And then it hit me. SUPER MARIO KART.

If you ever played Mario Kart on Super Nintendo, you will fondly remember this course:

I had a TON of fun imagining I was Toad, driving my way through this big meadow with its multiple animal holes. I was waiting at any moment for a giant gopher to come out and run with me!

Haha, OK, clearly distance running does not encourage sane thinking while running. But hey, it got me through to the 13 mile mark :) At this point I had completely stopped sweating, so I blame dehydration for my visions.

After the 13 mile mark, we headed back into familiar territory. The third aid station was set up right where the one was set up for Brazen, so that made me feel a lot more comfortable about running the final 4.2 miles. Unfortunately, I was so caught up in my reminiscing about my Brazen race that I took a sharp turn into the forest which Brazen's course followed. I got a few steps in, looked up, and then was like OOPS! Totally turned when I shouldn't have! ITR decided not to take this forest section, so I backtracked a bit and got myself back on course.

The final few miles were a little tough. My legs were definitely starting to feel the 15 miles I had already put in, and I knew there were some more rolling hills in store for me. I walked a few of the last hills, but overall was able to push myself in my last mile and really giving a strong kick to finish strong. Here I am (close to) 3 and a half hours later:

Smile not quite as happy, legs not quite as fresh, and water bottles remarkably empty. This is the dam that you have to cross over before you enter the final couple miles of the race. I really hate this dam. A lot. But I made it over and made it to the finish line! Yippee!

30K number 2 = COMPLETE! This run was a bajillion times better than my last 30K. I didn't feel like I was going to die afterwards, I didn't fall, and I didn't get lost. All things that are equaling to a huge success for my second ever 30K. Not only that, but I scored a 35 minute PR by finishing in 3:35 and I placed 2nd in my age group!! Check out the age group medal:

So happy! This is my FIRST EVER age group medal. I've finally figured out how to place in races... out-last the fast runners in longer distances, haha! Also, there were remarkably few under 29 year olds out there running the 30K or 50K. Works for me!

Congratulations to everyone who ran on Saturday at Lake Chabot, I hope you had as much fun as I did! I also got to see a few friends out there, including Diane and Allen (although I was being incredibly timid and didn't go say hi). Mike also had an amazing run, and got to relax about 40 minutes before I ambled my way across the finish line. It was nice seeing familiar faces at a non-Brazen race. I'll definitely be doing an ITR event again in the future, most likely the Woodside Ramble 50K! They are very organized, the course was well marked, and the aid stations were well stocked.

All in all a great experience, a great morning, and a great run!

Monday, January 30, 2012

30K? What's that?

Coastal Trail Runs Steep Ravine 30K, complete! 

This was a difficult run. Like, super difficult. As difficult as it was, it was one of the most pretty runs ever. You run right along the coast for a good section of the course, and the other parts of the course you get to run through this awesome forest with streams and waterfalls.

Here are the course elevations for all the races that day:

And here's my course elevation map:

So essentially, you start out the course going straight uphill to one of the toughest hill climbs I've ever done, Cardiac. The forest is beautiful as you run through it, but it is really challenging. Lots of climbing, lots of slippery steps, and you can get distracted pretty easily by the gorgeous streams and waterfalls you are running by. The first few miles weren't too bad, mainly because I had a vague idea of what to expect. What I was NOT expecting was the Warrior Dash-esque ladder I had to climb up in order to continue along the trail. There were also lots and lots and lots of steps in the first 3 miles.

When you get to the top of Cardiac, you are awarded with an aid station. An aid station has never looked so glorious. (Well, maybe as glorious as that final aid station in Bear Creek last year...) I refilled my sprint bottles, and met up with a gal from my running group had driven up with me. We decided to continue on together. After you climb up and up and up through the forest area and reach the Cardiac aid station, you get to what you expect to be the "easier" portion of the trail. During this section, you get to leave the canopy forest and venture out into a more meadow type running trail area. This was awesome, because you got to see the entire coastline from on top of the mountain. Then you run along this for about 5 miles, enjoying the peaceful coast view the whole way.

Except for the rocks. And the mud. and the tricky terrain. This is one of the most technical trails I've seen! The trail in some portions was so ridden down by mountain bikers that it was a perfect V and you had to try and step through the grassy section next to the trail. Then there were tons of rocks you had to be super careful of not turning your ankle on. Plus, lots and lots of mud. I almost lost a shoe in the mud! Given all these factors, the "easier" part of the run was definitely not so easy. It took a lot of patience and attention to correctly place your feet and not get stuck in mud or turn your ankle. Too bad for me, I fell. Again. I shouldn't be so surprised by now. Totally wiped out right in front of my buddy who was running with me. She was super worried, but by now I'm used to falling down, scraping myself and getting all bloody, and carrying on. The sucky part about this fall, however, was that I still had 13 more miles and 1600 more feet of climbing to do. Oh well, time to carry on.

So after you manage to navigate through the rocks and mud (all while enjoying the view), you are rewarded once again with the second aid station. The run to this station was the toughest for me, because there was a long flat section that lead you through a meadow to a pasture with horses. It was a pretty boring part of the trail, and all I really wanted to do was get to the aid station at Muir Beach which signaled that I was more than halfway done with the race.

I finally got there, refilled again, and got back on the road. I ended up running with a small group of ladies who looked like pretty seasoned CTR runners. I got to talking with them, and it was a pretty cool experience. One of the interesting parts of this race is that you are running with lots of other runners, but they may not be running the same distance as you. One lady I ended up chatting with for a while was doing the 50K! I was totally blown away by this, I couldn't imagine doing that first climb to Cardiac all over again. She was a trooper!

So, after that second aid station you get to climb all the way back up Cardiac again. It was definitely painful the second time, but I had a better idea of what to expect and when it would end, so that made the climb a little more manageable. At the top of Cardiac when I got to the aid station for the second time there were all these hikers picnicking at the top, and they looked at us runners like we were crazy, which, we probably were.

I was so happy when I got to that final Cardiac aid station! There was only 2.9 miles left after that, and I was closing in on my goal of around 4 hours. I trooped on and got to the forest part again, which was actually pretty difficult to descend. All the steps that you didn't really take a huge notice of in the beginning were pretty hefty obstacles to deal with. The wood was a little slippery and it definitely took a toll on your knees. I ended up getting a rock in my shoe with about a mile and a half to go, but my knees and legs were so dead from all the climbing and stairs that I just left the rock in my shoe and ran with it the whole way back.

I ended up crossing the finish line at 4 hours and 10 minutes, and I was super happy with my time. For my first 30K, I'll take it! This was definitely a great first 30K, mainly because of how beautiful and diverse the run was. It was a tricky, tough, hill climbing run, but the views you got and the memories were worth the pain. 

Here is the course map of the run. The 30K runners followed the pink, orange, then pink routes:

Although I was pleased with my finishing time and proud of myself that I had completed the race, the whole second part of the course all I could really think about was how there was no way I was ready for a 50K. I could not imagine doing what those other ladies I was talking to were about to do. Finish the whole course, get to the finish line, and then turn right back around and do it all over again. No way. I expressed this thought to my running partner in crime at the end, and he said he had the same thought. I guess I'm really going to have to put in some heavy heavy training and give it a lot of thought as to whether or not I will be ready mentally and physically to run a 50K at the end of March. I guess only time and training will tell!

So, it was a great (and challenging) weekend! The run served as a great mental and physical fitness check, and although I don't think I passed the test, I know where I have to go if I really want to perform well in my 50K. Overall, it was a great course that was really clearly marked (even though I got a little turned around) and that had great support at the aid stations. I would definitely run a Coastal Trail Run again, it was a great experience! All photos in this blog are courtesy of Coastal Trail Runs at their website

Thanks for reading, and keep running!

What a great (and challenging) weekend! The run served as a great mental and physical fitness check, and although I don't think I passed the test, I know where I have to go if I really want to perform well in my 50K.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ramping Up

BEWARE! Long post!!

Today while I was out on a long run with a couple of friends, they asked me a question that really got me thinking.

How long have you been running for?

This is a pretty standard question you ask most other running friends during your training runs together. When I have asked others about it, most of the time my fellow runner can remember pretty close to exactly when they started running.

A year ago when I decided I needed to lose weight. 5 years ago after I got married. Last month when I wanted to change the way I was living my life.

Then the question always turns around, and I get asked, when did you start running? This is a really difficult question to answer. In one way or another, I have been running since high school. I ran indoor and outdoor track and field for a couple years after I made the decision that I needed to find friends (I was a pretty lonely, dorky kid in high school).

After high school, however, I was lost. There was no track at my college (we didn't even have a football field), and it was either cold and snowy or hot and humid. Running was something I knew I had to do to stay in shape and keep that freshman 15 off (that failed!), but it became really hard in college to run by myself after the past few years of high school where I was able to run not only for myself, but also to be a part of a team and feel close to my friends.

I ended up falling to a lot of things that were bad for me. Drinking, smoking, fighting with my boyfriend, (usually a combination of all three of these), laying in bed playing WoW for hours on end, eating horribly, and overall feeling pretty down on myself. This lasted for a couple years. Running was lost to me, and I had no desire to try and find it again.

Then things changed. My relationships became a lot more healthy (not only with my boyfriend, but also with my family), I quit smoking, I started eating better, and finally I made the decision to start running again. At first it was just in the school gym on the treadmill, but eventually I found my way outside again. I ran on and off for the last two years of college. I was not running a steady schedule, but hey I was getting myself out there.

Then grad school hit. For those of you who haven't attended grad school, grad school is like a train hitting you and throwing everything else that might have ever mattered to you off the tracks. Especially running. The first year of grad school I worked, and I worked, and I worked. I put off getting married. I worked on the nights and weekends when my fiancee was there, even though he took the time out of his life to drive 2 hours to come visit me. I was incredibly unhappy.

I think my mind was made up about grad school before I started my second year, but I wasn't ready to admit it. As I started my second year, I was ready to get back at work, but in a healthier work-life balance. That didn't work out as well as I hoped it to, but I had at least started running again. And as my miles increased, my desire to stay in grad school decreased. I loved how running made me feel, and it made me want even less to do the work I was doing in grad school.

Then I ran my first half marathon in May of 2010 with my fiancee. It was amazing. It was hard work, and the hard work I put into training paid off in the completion of my first half marathon. It was a reward I never experienced in grad school. At this point I had already decided not to continue in grad school, but the feeling I felt after completing my half validated my decision.

After a few unforeseen situations, I ended up in the Bay Area, working at a running store.

Running in the Bay Area has been a journey I have enjoyed more than anything else in my life. When I moved here, I made the decision to start running more seriously. I found a great group of folks already organized to run with, and also organized my own group of people I have grown to love like a family. My self esteem again has skyrocketed. I have found friends who are some of the best people I could have ever asked to share my running adventures with. I completed my first marathon with one of my running friends helping me along in my last 9 miles. I am running half marathons every week or at least every other week. I am training for my first 50K. My marriage is happy, I feel healthy. And after I realized that for me, having a "work-life balance" is completely impossible, I have at least found something I am happy to consider both my work and my life.

So when I get asked the question, how long have you been running? The easiest answer I can think of is 10 years. I started running track and field in the spring of 2002, and running has been with me ever since. But there have been so many times in my life where I gave up on running when I shouldn't have, I don't know if it is fair to consider myself a 10 year runner.

So, I guess the answer I should come up with is that I am a 10 and 2 year runner. Running has been a part of my life for the majority of the past 10 years of my life, but I have only started seriously training in the past 2 years. But now it has become so ingrained into who I am, I don't think I could ever not run.

This was a long and complicated answer to a seemingly simple question. It makes me wonder, what is really behind the short and sweet answers I get when I usually ask that question? I love that I will have miles and hours ahead to ponder this with the people I am lucky enough to be striding next to.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Battle Scars.

Happy New Year! This year, I have a ton of resolutions. I want to start my own business (race directing with a friend), start my own non profit (to provide gently used athletic gear to those in need), run a 50K, and to become more involved in the Bay Area running community. I'm ready to have a great 2012!

I started the year off right by doing double half marathons, one on New Years Eve, and one on New Years Day. It was tough, but I had a great group of friends to run it with. The courses were on Lake Chabot, and the race was put on by Brazen Racing. I can't say enough about Brazen. They are one of the best race directing companies I have come across. I have not met one runner who hasn't had positive things to say about them, and they deserve it. The courses were perfectly marked, aid stations were filled to the brim with anything you could ever dream of, and of course, ITS ITS at the end! Love it!

So, the races! Lake Chabot is awesome to run at. You get to experience all terrains of trail running. There is steep incline, steep decline, flat spots, single track, switch backs, forest running, meadow running, heat, and coldness. Day 1 was challenging, but rewarding. There is about 1800 feet of elevation gain in this run, and most of it comes at the mile 3-4 incline. I struggled up the behemoth hill, but the reward of the view was absolutely amazing at the top. A friend and I leap frogged the whole way, which was fun because I was able to commiserate with someone about the pain I was in!

This picture is of me right at the beginning of the race! Smiley, happy, not feeling the steep hills yet!

This is me, coming into the finish. I may be smiling here, but it is mainly because I was almost done and was about to go eat some delicious yumminess at brunch! After the race, myself and two of the run groups I am part of went to Elio's (delicious breakfast) and celebrated a friend's birthday and our collective awesomeness at finishing day 1 of our back to back half marathons.

Fast forward to day 2! I woke up feeling tired, cranky, and not at all like I wanted to run. Running 13.1 miles two days in a row was not something I was looking forward to. It was going to be warmer that day, so I decided to wear shorts (a mistake, the consequences of which I will discuss later). When I got to the race, I wasn't feeling any happier about being there. But, I put my game face on and decided that I would just take it easy, take pictures of the beautiful sights, and just enjoy it. There were definitely fewer people there on Day 2, which was fine with me because I got to use the "real" bathrooms and not the PortoPotty! 

Day 2's half marathon was run in the opposite direction we ran previously. That ended up being awesome, because you got to appreciate all the downhills that you struggled up as hills the day before, and gained respect for the hills you didn't even notice as downhills. Here are some of the pictures I took of the course:

This was right at the beginning of the race. Beautiful Lake Chabot with the early morning sun rolling in.

Part of the forest-y paths. These trees were awesome and I couldn't stop looking at them and feeling so lucky that I got to run through a piece of nature as beautiful as this. 

The top of one of the final climbs at mile 10. You could see the entire bay area from this viewpoint, and the picture doesn't even begin to do this scene justice.

It was all incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring. However, my legs felt like jello by the time I hit mile 8 or so. There were some killer downhills on this course that I didn't really take into account from the day beforehand. My knees were torn up and my hip was angry at me. Even with all my stopping to take pictures, my legs just felt absolutely exhausted. 

This leads up to mile 11. Meghan, meet ground. Ground, meet Meghan! You two have met before, right? I KNEW I was tempting fate by running the same trail 2 days in a row. Totally wiped out, tripping over a rock. Tore up my knee, destroyed my sprint bottle, and my camera was definitely worse for wear. If only I had worn capri's, I might have had a little protection! But NO! I had to wear shorts! OY!

The race was finally over a bit after that, and I had the honor of being run in by one of the best runners I know. He ran me in through the last .75 miles, and even though I was hurting and not wanting to run in at all, I had to do my best in front of him!! So, I sucked it up, and ran my best through that last piece of trail. He really gave me the pick me up I needed to finish that race strong! 

Running back to back half marathons was difficult, and my legs felt rubbery afterwards, but I think running a full marathon was still tougher than the back to back halves. I was cranky on Day 2, but the miles seemed to fly by during the half. Before I knew it, I was halfway done, and the miles just kept flying. During my full marathon, I was counting every minute, trying to brave through every mile, and feeling like I was about to fall apart mentally and physically from mile 18 on. My ankles hurt, my knees hurt, my mind hurt during the full. During the back to back halves, I experienced moments of "WHY am I DOING this?" But that was mainly on the most difficult hills and overall I thought it was a lot of fun! I would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking for a challenge to do back to back halves. It doesn't require nearly as much training and preparation, and you don't want to give up on life by the end of it :)

Anyways, now that day 2 was over, I earned the best medal of all, the BRAZEN RACING NEW YEARS EVE/NEW YEARS DAY MEGA MEDAL!!!

How cool is that thing? Definitely worth the the 2 day! In the end, I had a blast over the two days. I wouldn't have been able to do it without amazing friends to support me, a great RD company in Brazen, and my own stubbornness not to give up. I am going to have to get used to this though! If I want to get my training right for the 50K, I need to start doing back to back tough trail runs like these every weekend! I guess I'll just have to get used it :)

That's all for now! Thanks for reading, and keep running! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shoe Season is the Best Season!

Well, my training is really starting to ramp up now that I am dedicated to running a 50K in the spring. I was going to run the Brazen Racing Diablo 50K Adventure in April, but unfortunately that is now out. There is this coaching class through the RRCA that I have been waiting FOREVER for, and it finally is coming to SF. When is it? Of course, the same day as my 50K. So now I am in the market, looking for new 50Ks. I was going to do a PCTR one, as it was perfect timing and seemed like a beautiful course, but I have heard too many negative reviews of them lately to risk my first 50K on.

So, I am going to go for a destination race for my first! I hope I get in... I am planning on doing the Chuckanut on March 31st in Portland, Oregon. Only thing is, registration filled in 2 hours last year, so I have to be on my game to get in! The elevation doesn't seem too terrible, and I think as long as I continue training on Quicksilver/Sanborn, I will have some great training leading up to the race. Here's a map of the course:

Pretty excited about it. Speaking about trail running, I put in almost 30 hours last week on Quicksilver... by Tuesday I was seriously dragging out there on the hills. I think it was mental and physical... I guess I need to not put in 5 trail runs in 7 days. I'll try breaking it up more this week and giving myself some rest days.

In other news, let me tell you HOW EXCITED I am for all the new shoes that have come out lately! I wanted to do a quick review on some of them. Working at a RSD gives me some great opportunities to try out the newest and coolest from vendors. Each post I will focus on a different brand. Today, I am going to focus on Brooks. I am going to review Brooks' Pure line, the new Adrenaline. Coming up, I will review the new offerings from Asics, Nike, New Balance, and Mizuno.

Brooks Pure Project
Womens Brooks pureconnect Running ShoeWomens Brooks pureflow Running ShoeWomens Brooks purecadence Running Shoe
                PureConnect                             PureFlow                                   PureCadence

First, I'll review the road shoes in the line. My first thought when I put on all the shoes on was, wow. This fits like a glove! All of the shoes have a fantastic lacing technology that really holds your forefoot in. The PureConnect is the lightest in the line of the Pure Project, and has a separate toe flex line that allows your big toe to operate independently. Personally, I felt like the shoe was a bit stiff, but that will probably change as you break it in more. The heel is SUPER low, and I felt a little like my heel was going to come out of the shoe, but it didn't as I ran around a little. The Connect is also super narrow at the base, which left me feeling a little like I was balancing on the shoe. I also immediately noticed the high arch when I put the shoe on, so if you have higher arches or like more support in the arch this is the shoe for you. Keep in mind this is a minimal shoe, and you can definitely tell. There was not a lot of cushion in the shoe, which will be great for those training into more minimal shoes.

The PureFlow is another neutral offering from the Pure project, but this shoe does have a more noticeable amount of cushion. The "NavBand" on the shoe is awesome, and definitely keeps the foot secure. This shoe runs a little small as well, so I would recommend trying the shoe on before getting it. Overall, I thought the shoe was a better fit for my foot than the Connect. It felt more stable and had a much less noticeable arch. I can see myself running a longer distance training run in these, while the Connect would be kept for more short workouts. I also thought the Flow was more flexible than the Connect, which is weird since the Connect is supposed to be the more minimal of the shoes.

The PureCadence is the "stability" option in the Pure line. Instead of having a traditional wedge like most stability shoes do, the Cadence has an "internal PDRB" which is a soft density ramp placed in the midsole of the foot, supporting any pronation as you land. They also included a reinforced heel in this shoe which stabilizes the foot as well. The Cadence is my second favorite Pure shoe after the Flow. It again has a lower arch than the Connect and I felt like it had a slightly wider toe box than the other shoes. I also felt like my foot was completely locked in this shoe, with no heel slippage or midfoot sliding.

The final Pure shoe is the PureGrit:

I had to try this one out, as Scott Jurek helped to design the shoe and he is one of my running heroes! I was expecting a lot of this shoe, and I think it is a good shoe for a certain type of terrain. Overall, it felt pretty similar to the rest of the Pure line, which is to be expected. It felt most like the Cadence, which made me happy as that was one of my favorite shoes in the line. Again, it had the same low rise on the heel, which potentially could be good on downhill trails as I don't think it will cut too much into the back of your heel. It is also super lightweight, which might not be good for more technical trails where you will encounter rocks or other impediments. There really wasn't too much between my foot and the ground in this shoe, so if you want to feel the trail this is definitely the shoe for you. The grip wasn't super awesome on it, here is the bottom of the shoe:

I would probably use this mainly for harder packed trails like Rancho or softer trails that don't have any intense downhill or uphill climbs and that don't have much leaf cover or rocks.

The last Brooks shoe I am going to review is the Brooks Adrenaline 12. Full disclosure, the Adrenaline 12 is one of my favorite shoes of all time (coming in second only to the Cumulus), and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Adrenaline 11. I was super happy that Brooks did not change too much from the 11s to the 12s. Checking out their website, it seems they mainly just changed the upper by adding some more mesh. Brooks continues to use it's DNA cushioning technology and caterpillar crash pad on the outsole. As soon as I put the 12s on, I was like YES! I AM HOME! *cue happy shoe dance* OK, I really like the Adrenaline 12s!

The Adrenaline's have a much truer fit than the Pure line (it seems like the Pure line and the Cascadia's have the same sizing, where they tend to run a bit smaller than your true size). The 12s had a wider fit throughout, and there was an awesome balance between cushioning and stiffness, which is perfect for stability runners. There was definitely more cushion in the heel than the forefoot (as opposed to the Pure line which as pretty much 0 heel cushion, with most of the cushioning in the forefoot). If you are a forefoot runner, you may feel like your heel is a bit weighed down. For me, this has been a slight issue when I begin my runs, but by my 6 I don't notice it anymore, and by mile 13 I am very thankful for my cushy heel. There is also a great rise on the shoe, no annoyances in the heel or ankle area.

So, those are the new Brooks shoes I wanted to test out! If you are planning on moving into the Pure line, make sure you try the shoes out before you purchase them and make sure they are right for you. They have a hugely different feel than what you may traditionally expect from Brooks, but that could be a good thing! I would recommend trying out the Cadence or the Flow before moving into the Flow, and make sure you are familiar with the terrain of the trails you are running before you test out the Grit. The Adrenalines are a tried and true classic as always, and completely lived up to my expectations.

That's it for today, stay tuned for my reviews on other brands coming up! I hope all you readers have a wonderful holiday this weekend, and get in some runs to help burn off all those calories from cookies and cake :)

Happy running!