Monday, February 3, 2014

I am a machine

This is my new mantra.

On my run today, I was repeating this phrase to myself...and it seemed it be working. Also, I was thinking about how I'd like to become a machine. And what I mean by this is that I want to overall be a stronger athlete, not just a stronger runner. 

I realize that this is a lot considering I took 2 months off from everything. And I mean everything
I stopped running, eating well, exercising, everything. I slept in, I ate junk food, I curled up on the couch and read some good books. It was a good winter, but it sure didn't involve the one thing that makes me feel really good, and that's being healthy. 

I have been speculating as to why I took 2 months off. I was injured for a few weeks in October. And I jumped back on the horse. 2 days after that, I got sick with a cold. And I think that's where it hit a soft spot. I was training for the Old Pueblo 50 (which is in March) and it would be my first continuous ultra-marathon. I was so incredibly excited. But when my first few weeks were so rudely taken away from me, I think I did a mental flip and just said NO. 

Also, the transition from Fall to Winter sucks. Who else is with me on this one? I hate going from nice, warm weather to bitter cold. It just takes all of the energy out of me. 

So...I took 2 months off and now I want to be a MACHINE? Am I crazy.
Probably, but most runners are.  No, I just got my running enthusiasm back...again. 
Now...what's the plan? 

My plan is to cross train. 
I'm going to spice it up a bit. My go-to is always running (which is what I love) but I can't become a stronger athlete if my whole body is not on board. 

Cross Training Ideas:
  • Biking
    • I'm hoping to start biking to work since it will be getting warmer soon. February is a chilly, rainy season over here in the Southwest, so I will have some time to set up my bike. Also, the bike at the gym is where I will bike for now. I was going to look into some spinning classes as well. 

    • Swimming
      • I'd like to start swimming sometime in March when it gets warmer. The downtown gym has a full length pool so I could get in some laps there (it's also mostly indoors when is a plus).
    • Yoga
      • I love my yoga studio, Yoga Oasis. They have $5 classes which is super awesome for those of us who teach! I would like to do this once a week. Also, I've been meaning to try Bikram Yoga at a place called Yoga Vida. During Bikram, the temperature can reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit and has about 40% humidity.  Sounds tough, but challenging.
    • Hiking
      • Not as difficult of a workout, but it can still be challenging! There's a few trails in the Southern Arizona region that I'd like to hike. I'd love to go back to doing some hikes on the weekends with my boyfriend (if his grad school workload permits!).

    My Plan for this Week:
    Monday: Running
    Tuesday: Bike at the Gym, plus core
    Wednesday: Morning speed workout group
    Thursday: Yoga
    Friday: Running
    Saturday: Running (medium distance)
    Sunday: Running (long) + Gym

    Is there any essential cross training workout that I missed? How do you cross train?

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Ragnar Relay McDowell Mountain Trail Ultra Recap

    A long time ago (for the blogging world) in October, I ran the Ragnar Relay McDowell Mountain Trail Race (Ultra Style, of course). I was hoping to run a ultra team, because a challenge is always fun! ;)
    But I asked around and no one wanted to run it. They all said I was crazy. So, I bravely posted on the Facebook page for the event and got way more responses than I thought! Two guys were interested right away, Rick and Charles, and they seemed like pretty cool guys so I thought, "why not?". A few other people were interested, but they all seemed to come in two's and there was only one spot left. I then decided to post on my own page and see who would reply. Thankfully, my good Ragnar buddy Brett wanted to run it! We had a team!

    When I told people that I was running on a team with two strangers, I always got the strangest looks. But people don't realize that the people that run Ragnar are always the coolest. :)  And these two were Ragnar fanatics.

    I picked up Brett from the airport and then got Charles and Rick from a hotel in Phoenix. We drove to Target and picked up some much needed food supplies. Then, we drove to Fountain Hills for some breakfast before we headed over to Tent City to set up our space.

    One thing that we should have done was arrive much MUCH earlier. The good spaces were all gone and so we picked a spot too small (at first) for our 10-person tent and chairs. Also, we did not even think about bringing shade! It was too hot to sit outside and even hotter to sit in the tent.

    My Notes for Next Time For McDowell Mountain:
    -Bring Shade
    -Bring Bigger Speakers (got to pump up the music and the runners, but not when people are sleeping)
    -A smaller tent (a 10-person tent was too much work to set up and take down when only 3 of us were using it at a time).
    -Arrive earlier than everyone else and get the spot easy to see, easy to walk to, and semi-close to the bathrooms and exchange station.Other Ragnar trail runs are set up differently from what I heard. McDowell Mountain has the strangest set-up. Its long, rather than wide, so it's awful if you get stuck at the far end from everything.
    -Bring fun decorations (we brought a pumpkin and it rocked).
    -Have a kill count board (unless you are not into that kind of thing).
    -Try a regular team one day (then you can drink beer and actually get some sleep).

    Checking out the area at the beginning of the race.
    I want that car. 
    The big white tent is where we hand off the slap bracelets.
    The smaller tent on the right is where the updates
    come in for upcoming runners. A very cool system!
    I didn't think it would fill up so quickly, so we didn't get there until noon. It was already really hot and a ton of people looked as if they had been there for hours. I hate that feeling. Being the last one to show up.
    But we got situated as quickly as possible, and we headed over with Brett to the exchange tent to see him off on the first leg.
    Brett and Charles. Brett is the first runner up. 
    Rick was next, and then it was me. I love trail running so I was really happy to do this run. Although, it is the complete opposite of what I really love which is being alone in the wilderness on my trail runs. It is nice to share this experience with other people. 

    My first leg was the Red Loop. The whole course is spread out on three loops that all end at the same place. There's the green loop (4.2 miles), the yellow loop (4.5 miles) and the Red Loop (7 miles). The Yellow Loop by far was my least favorite. There were some extremely steep parts and lots of loose gravel. But the Red was not so bad. It was long, but relatively flat and easy to run.

    The beginning of the red loop. Ragnar puts up little, reflective signs
    on all of the trails. 

    This was a Do Not Enter sign. There were some false trails and steep
    cliffs on some parts of the trail. 
    These are the same trails they use for the Javalina Jundred in the fall. 

    There was some history along the trail. I definitely had to stop and
    check it out of course. :)

    There was a nice, long, flat section of the trail that was so perfectly
    run-able. The Red Loop was very easy. 

    After the Red Loop, the rest was kind of a blur. Overall, I had to run 6 loops. Since we were an ultra team, instead of deciding to combine 2 loops one after the other and ending up with only 3 long runs, we decided to go the other direction and do 6 loops. At first, I thought this would be torture. But it ended up being pretty nice. Instead of having 3 really long runs on trails (especially in the middle of the night) we had the same as everyone else, jut more of them. I liked being able to go to the tent after one loop and getting some sleep.

    Moonrise over Tent City. 
    My favorite trail at night was definitely the Green Loop. It had some many ups and downs that it was just too much fun to run! I felt like I was on a mini roller coaster. It was exciting because I knew I could have tripped at any moment and gone flying off into a cactus. I gained some much speed on those small hills. They were never too steep going up and they were absolutely perfect for running down. That Green Loop is awesome!

    Our makeshift camp. I scrounged up the weirdest assortment
    of chairs at the last moment. Hopefully next year we'll find better chairs. 
    Brett getting the perfect shot. 
      The sunset in the desert  is absolutely beautiful! It was an especially amazing experience to share with all of these crazy Ragnar trail runners. :)  As the sun went down, the nightlife of the Ragarians picked up. The fire was lit; the screens glowed blue; people blasted music from their campsites. It was a great place to be. 

    The blue glow of the informational screens. There were runners
    gathered around these all night. 

    We are trail Ragarians! 

    The fire came in handy when it started to get a little chilly.
    There was a neat charging station powered by bikes.
    I never tried it but it looked like a nice way to cool down after one of
    the loops. 
     However, once it got dark, other creatures began to come out. Some people were talking about the tarantulas they saw crossing the trails. I was "lucky" enough to meet the deadliest of the desert creatures.  On the end of the Green Loop, a rattlesnake was not having it with all of these runners trampling through her home. She was angry and LOUD. Thankfully, there was a Ragnar volunteer on the trail making sure others knew it was there. 

    As I said before, the Yellow Loop was my least favorite. It was gravely, and steep and dangerous. But there were also some creepy parts of this loop. "The Chunnel" was the worst. I thought I was going to get murdered when I ran through it. 

    The Chunnel

    I LOVED seeing these signs. 
     Finally, the sun started to rise. I was running my 2nd to last loop. It was so nice knowing we had run through the night and we finally made it to the morning. I always feel this way with Ragnar, but this was more so, because we were one spot the entire time. There was a different feeling attached to it. 

    The sunrise, finally!
    The one mile to go signs and a
    beautiful moon rise. 
    An early morning selfie in the tent.
    It was so coldin the morning!
     The sun rose and everyone was back to being busy, awake and ready to run! Some people were packing up a little bit. We still had quite a few loops left, so it didn't even cross my mind. 

    Ragnar tent city with bustling runners. 
     Finally, I was ready to run my last loop: the dreaded Yellow Loop. It was near the middle of the day and it was HOT. 

    Some of those hills were steep!
    I started to hallucinate during this last loop. It was SO incredibly hot.
    I worried for the other runners who are not used to this kind
    of heat while running. 
     I finally made it back in one piece! But no one was at the exchange station to meet me! I was so confused. We had one more loop and they were not here!? After all of that heat, I was a little testy.  And I was especially antsy because the rest of the teams were pretty much done. At this point, we were one of the last teams. We called for them over the loudspeakers and waited. I eventually went to go look for them.
    Charles was not doing so good. He hurt his ankle pretty badly earlier
    so he was taking it slow. He was also attempting to run the last loop
    with an American flag. What a champ.
    After Rick and Charles started the Red Loop, Brett and I went to the beer tent to have some beer. Since we were on an ultra team, it's not such a good idea to drink and run. Shorter distances, sure whatever. But if you are running 30+ miles, stick to water. I was so jealous of the other larger teams who had time and energy to have a cold one. It seemed more of a relaxing race for them.

    After a beer, we headed back to our site and began to tear down camp. We were really one of the last teams at this point. 

    Our sad tent almost alone in the desert. Just a few hours earlier we
    were surrounded. 

     After tearing down as much as we could, we headed to the finish line to run with Rick and Charles to the finish. We waited and waited, and a few teams came through. The Ragnar staff was about to close down the finish line when I ran to them and told them are were two more runners out there. Thankfully, they decided to wait for our team to finish. Thanks Ragnar! 

    Waiting for our team. 
    The sun was starting to set once again. 
    Finally, we saw them! Charles was limping and Rick was carrying the flag. Apparently, they started to walk a mile into the loop and that's what slowed them down. Charles is crazy for running on a twisted ankle, but definitely determined!

    The last team to cross the finish line. 

    We finished, beaten and bruised, but we did it. 
    We immediately went to the Aid Station for Charles and his foot.
    Look at that blood blister!
    I was so tired! But glad to have earned
    this medal. 
    Overall, I am a fan of this race! I usually like Ragnar, but traveling in the vans is hard to do and hard to plan logistically. Setting up camp and running trails is so much easier and it's nice to come back to the same spot after every run. Also, I love the decorations in each of the camps. Instead of the hard task of decorating a van, all you have to do is decorate your campsite. Easy! We added a pumpkin and glow sticks to ours. Since it was around Halloween, a lot of teams did the same. In 2014, it will be in November so you never know, maybe people will bring lots of food to share!  

    I can't wait to run this race again. I am already signed up with a team. This time however, I'm going with the easier option of an 8 person team. Should be nice.

    I'm glad I got to be a part of this race in it's first year. Let see how many years I can keep it up. :)

    Happy Running! 

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    Ragnar Relay Napa Valley Ultra Recap - Legs 2 and 3 + Some Fun in San Francisco

    Okay, now on to my last 2 legs! Since I was a terrible photographer at night (awful photos because of all the reflective gear we have to wear and we are all grumpy and tired; no one wants someone taking photos with bright flashes at 2AM), I will combine the two legs and hopefully it will not turn out to be a super long post. :)

    I forgot to post this photo on my last entry. I took it near the end of my 1st leg. It's a photo of a guy and a cat taking an evening stroll. As I ran up next to them, I had to ask him if it was his cat, because that would be super cute. He said he didn't know who's cat it was; they just meet on the path every evening and walk together. EVEN CUTER. 

    A guy and his cat friend. 

     Anyway, back to my running adventures in Napa Valley! 

    I remember getting in the car and driving to the next checkpoint to meet Brian. This is the only photo I got of my team passing off. No good. So I put them camera away for the night. 

    I can't even tell who's passing off to who...
    Oh, but there's this gem. I guess I took this while I was about to pass out, which is why I hardly remember taking it...

    So sleepy and the flash is so bright!
    After that however, there are no more photos from the night. Maybe that will be a goal for the next Ragnar: get better nighttime photos! It will mostly be sleeping runners and angry faces, but it should be good. ;)

    Now on to Leg #2!
    About to start my 2nd Leg
    of the race!
    My next leg was around 5AM. So, it's not an obscene time to be running. I know some people who run at that time. At least it wasn't around 2 or 3 AM. I was happy that I had (somewhat) "normal" hours for my legs this time. 

    I got to see the sunrise during my leg. It was beautiful! Especially since for most of my leg, I couldn't tell what I was running next to...then I realized I was running next to miles of vineyards the whole time! It was so beautiful out there! I wish I got photos, but I was mentally trying to stay awake and stay focused during this run. I'm not a morning person. 

    Finally, I ended my leg in the early morning, with a light drizzle coming down on me. It felt great after running 12 miles! The rest of my team wasn't so thrilled about the rain because they were up next. And the rain didn't stop. It actually got a lot worse. I remember sleeping in the car on the way to another checkpoint and it was just coming down like crazy! One of the school fields we stopped in basically turned into a swamp. We were pretty bummed. We didn't want the rain to ruin our wine tasting at the end. ;)

    At the end of my 2nd leg. Beautiful! 
     When I finished up with my second leg, I actually had a lot of energy. I was definitely tired, but I could have kept going with the rainy weather. At this checkpoint, there were some Cup O Noodle soups for sale so of course most of my team bought one! I feel like soup is one of the better foods to be eating during an ultra. I had some veggie soup earlier and it lasted me for quite some time. The one thing that I was craving after this run was soda, oddly. I haven't had soda for months, yet I wanted one so badly! I later gave in at a gas station and chugged it down happily. :) Sometimes, cravings are your body telling you that it needs something and I'm guessing it wanted sugar. So, sometimes, you need to give into cravings. 

    We went to checkpoint to checkpoint. I rested (a LOT) by sleeping on the floor of the van. I squeezed in between two seats and had a nice comfy place to sleep. Also, this gave the other three runners the full seat to themselves. One runner navigating with the driver, one runner running and 4 runners sleeping comfortably and getting much need shut-eye! It was perfect! Everybody wins! :)

    After we all began waking up, we decided to stop at a vineyard while Andrea was running. Brett knew this really great place with great wines (and we were driving right past it). It's called Luna Vineyards and Winery.

    Luna Vineyards

    Luna Vineyards

    Don't we look strange! A bunch of runners in a nice place like this. 
    Since I was the last to run, I was not able to partake in their wine tasting, sadly. :(
    I definitely smelled them though! :)

    The tasting room inside was so classy. Other people who were visiting the area were dressed up so nicely...and then there was us. 

    After Luna,  we stopped at the checkpoint just before mine to make sure Andrea was doing okay. She had the most mileage. 

    At this stop, I got my first, up-close view of wine grapes!

    Beautiful! I really wanted to pick one, but wasn't sure if I could even
    eat one. And I didn't want to waste a grape. So, I let them be. 
    We were at this stop for a little longer than we wanted to be because we were waiting for Dan (Andrea's husband). Then he suddenly texted us saying that he was running the last leg with Andrea because she was not doing well mentally. We became worried because that's against the rules (pacing someone), and this leg is a no-support zone. We wouldn't be able to pick him up either! We decided to just get going and meet them at the next checkpoint. He decided to hang back and let her finish at the checkpoint alone. 

    Exchange 34 - About to start my final leg!
    We visited Emily's aunt (who was literally right down the road...small world!) and then headed over to the Exchange. I was starting to get a little nervous because during this leg I would be running farther than I ever have run! I felt extremely antsy and I just wanted to run! 

    Andrea came running into the checkpoint and I was off to complete my first Napa Valley Relay! I tried to zone out as much as I could for the last 10 miles. It wasn't that hard. The views were incredible! 

    It was absolutely perfect weather too! I remember reading so many recaps that said to be prepared for the heat, but I got lucky. The rain had just let up and I was running in the most beautiful weather! 

    Unfortunately, since this was the farthest I had ever run, my knee started to act up. 
    For the first time EVER. 
    I was so clueless as to what was going on. I never get injuries. I'm pretty good with increasing my mileage so that I don't get hurt. 
    I really had to push myself the last 3 miles. I was really nervous about it. I kept thinking I was going to have to have surgery. So I would walk. But then I would freak out because my team was waiting for me at the finish line! So, I would start running again. Can you see the vicious cycle? 

    I ran through Calistoga (what a pretty town!) and I was so pumped to finally finish! When I finally saw that 1 Mile To Go sign, I jumped into the air and ran as fast as I could. I was starting to get nervous because I knew this was a big event at the end, yet I didn't see any people or any cars in the quaint neighborhood I was running through. I finally rounded a corner and I saw the masses. I was so happy! 
    I MADE IT!!!!
    I sprinted to the finish (almost getting hit by a car in the process) and almost left my team members behind as I crossed the finish line. I was so focused on me finishing this thing alive, I completely forgot we should cross the finish line together, as a team. Oops. :)

    We finished!! Now time for some wine. :)

    The photographer that took our
    finishing photo. Not sure where to
    find this photo...anyone know?
     After our photos and lots of cheers for finishing, we split up to find some merchandise, food and of course, wine. I had it in my head the entire race that I would get this amazing wine at the finish line. Not so. It was pricey and gross. I read in other recaps that runners got free wine. And multiple servings of it Where is that?? I thought that maybe I was just too sick from running 37 miles and I should stay away from the alcohol for awhile. Or it was just really gross wine. Either way. It was disappointing. 

    One of the main reasons I ran this relay.
    At least I got to keep the glass. :)

    Enjoying our Napa Valley wine. 
     After the wine, we decided to find food elsewhere. 
    On my last leg throughout the town of Calistoga, I ran by a Mexican restaurant (it smelled so good!) and that was all I could think of. I convinced my other teammates to give it a try. It could have bad consequences, but it will taste oh so good.

    My post race dinner. Delicious!
    It doesn't look good, but it was. Oh, it was so good. So cheesy and probably not the best thing to be eating after a long run. But definitely worth it. 

    After dinner, we piled into the car and headed back to San Francisco. I did a quick change maneuver in the backseat to get out of my sweat-drenched clothes. I'm so skilled at that now. I think we all passed out at some point along the way. It was nice to sleep and without having to run again. :)

    Eventually, they dropped me off at the hotel we first stayed at and my cousin Mark picked me up and we went to his apartment in downtown San Francisco.
    Initially, I was going to stay with my team and explore San Fran with them Sunday morning. But why do that when you have family in the city!? 

    It was great hanging out with Mark! He showed me around the city (the best spots in San Fran) and even took me on a crazy fun GO-CART (that's right, I said go-cart) tour of the city. 

    About to head out along the San Francisco
    coast on a Go-Cart Tour.

    Stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge. 

    A view of the bridge. I finally got to see it!
    It was hidden all weekend!
    I had a BLAST with the Ragnar Relay and my time in San Francisco!
    I realize that I enjoy running on the 6 person ultra teams more than the regular 12 person regular teams.
     But overall, I have been leaning towards more difficult and longer races with higher mileage.
    Not sure why this is. I guess I love the challenge, mentally and physically.
    I feel races with less mileage do not challenge me enough anymore.
    Or I'm looking for the races that will give me the most bang for my buck!

    And I loved Northern Cali. I would love to return someday and go on a real wine tasting tour. :)

    Anyway, I highly recommend the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley race, but definitely as an ultra. I'm sure it's great as a regular team too. But I loved knowing the whole team and getting to hang out with them the whole time. In a 12-person team, you rarely get to see the other van. And no one ever hangs out together at the finish line. Everyone wants to go home and take a shower.

    So, I highly recommend joining an ultra team. Give it a try. Don't be scared.
    30-something miles is not as bad as you think.You get fairly long rest periods between each leg.
    My next recap is the Ragnar Trail Relay, ultra style as well. ;)

    Happy Running!!!


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