Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Running the Grand Canyon Part 1: Rim to River to Rim

This past April, I finally made the decision to run the Grand Canyon...well, at least some of it. :) 

My amazing running friend Kathryn (and by amazing I mean she is a BEAST on the trail!) was going to run R2R2R (that's South Rim to North Rim to South Rim, for those unsure of our South of the Canyon lingo) again and she asked me to come along. I originally planned to run the entire 40 mile-something out and back, but decided in the end to try my hand first at a trip to the bottom and back. I would see how I fared and try again in the fall, hopefully. 

We planned on meeting at the South Rim on Friday night. I decided to take the day off from work and get there super early (like 2 pm) so I could walk around and be a little touristy. I got there, found our hotel room at the Maswik Lodge, and took off on foot exploring what the Grand Canyon Village had to offer. I did some shopping, got a "bite" to eat (as in, I ate prime rib at one of the nicer restaurants with a view!), explored the museums and watched the film in the visitors center. But I really wanted to see the sunset (I have never seen it here before!), so I stayed out until dark to catch a glimpse of it.  

Sunset on the South Rim.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Flood that was The Old Pueblo 50 Miler - Volunteer Report

Let me start things off by saying that a lot has changed since my last post. It's the reason why I haven't been around for a while. It's funny how one of my favorite things to do always gets pushed farther and farther on to the back-burner while other things get made the priority. The things that need more attention, like family and work, always seem to be put first. But it isn't necessarily terrible; it's just how life works out sometimes. 

Most recently, it has been my job that has been getting in the way. In my second year of teaching, I had issues with a coworker for quite sometime (from way back in October) and I really feel as if she should have been fired for the things that she did. She never was, and she continued to create tension and a negative atmosphere within the middle school building. It was horrible. There were many days when I dreaded coming to work because of the way she treated me, my coworkers, and my students.

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.

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.

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 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!!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley Ultra Recap - Leg 1

This past weekend, I was rewarded with an amazing runcation (running vacation) adventure in Northern California. I got to run on an ultra team in the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley! It was such as amazing experience!!!
This was the first time that I really traveled for a running event. Traveling to Phoenix for races doesn't count, it's too close and in no way a vacation. So, I was especially excited to get on a plane and travel to a part of the world I have never been to before. :) I packed my bags and I packed light!! I was so impressed with myself. I should write a section on How to Pack for A Ragnar. Definitely on my to-do list.

I actually packed light!
I took the day off on Thursday and Friday so I could fly in early to San Francisco. And also, my planes always get delayed so I try to get on early flights so it won't affect me. This flight was only delayed by 30 minutes (so short!) so it definitely wasn't a problem.

Flying into San Francisco.
I arrived in San Fran and hopped on the BART (a train like transportation system) headed for Oakland. I was meeting up with one of my teammates to get the van and hotel situated.  I got a mini tour of Berkeley, Telegraph Ave. and the University area. It is so beautiful in that area! We stopped for lunch at a place called Fat Slice in Berkeley. Yum!

Fat Slice. Delicious!

After lunch, we took a trip up to the hills in Berkeley. The view of the bay was amazing and so was the university area! After that, we went to the dollar store to decorate our van. We had a hard time finding wine related items, so we stuck with the traditional window markers. I picked out a mini balloon for the antennae, but I knew it wouldn't last for long. Decorating a van is tough!

View of the bay from Berkeley.

Finally, we made it to the hotel and went out for dinner shortly after. We went to a place called CHOP Bar. It was delicious! A little pricey, but the food was fantastic. A great place for a pre-race dinner. I went with the carrot soup, pasta and of course, beer. :)

View from the hotel in Oakland.

After dinner, we hit up whole foods and then we hit the hay! The guys were in a room across from mine. Two of our teammates had not yet shown up (Andrea and Dan) and I was sharing a room with them. Their plane was delayed due to a storm in Minnesota and they didn't get in until about 11pm! I had gone to sleep before that and woke up when they came in. I had never met them before, so it was a semi-awkward meeting. I was sleeping on the couch and then suddenly woke up and had a conversation with these strangers I was sharing a room with. But since we are all seasoned "Ragarians", it wasn't as weird as it could have been. We are used to meeting new people and sharing a van with them for 30 hours. Not. Weird. At. All.

I was definitely excited for this race. I had a little trouble sleeping. It was like I was going to Disneyland the next year. But this was about a hundred times better. I knew I would get to sleep in the car since I was the 6th runner so I wasn't too worried.

The morning of the race was very overcast. Now this was how I pictured San Francisco!

Another view from the hotel, the morning of the race!

We ate breakfast at the hotel and then crammed us all into the van. We were off to the start line!


It was a beautiful park to start in. I was ready to run! Brian was our first runner however, and I wouldn't be running until about 3pm. Long day of waiting, let me tell you!

We got our packets, shirt, did a safety briefing, and lined up at the start with Brian. This was Brian's first ragnar, and his first ultra! We were pretty impressed that he was willing to try a Ragnar, ultra style, for the first time. After our team started, we hopped in the car and drove to the first checkpoint to meet Brian. He was the 1st and 2nd runner, so he got to run across the Golden Gate Bridge. I think we were all a little jealous. ;)

Golden Gate State Park. It was extremely foggy, but so

Brian finishing his first leg and on his way to the
Golden Gate Bridge!

This was all the bridge was going to let us see today.
It practically disappeared. 

Brian just passed off to Emily. Greeting him after his run. 
Brian finished up his first leg and we glad to see he loved his run. It was a fantastic temperature for running! What a great morning for a Ragnar! We headed back to the car to do some decorating and to meet Emily at the next checkpoint.

Making a quick stop is Sausalito for some Starbucks. :)

Emily coming in strong to finish up
her 1st leg. 

Passing off to Richard. 

Drinking water in
Napa fashion....from a
wine glass
We picked up Emily at a community center near Sausalito. SUCH a pretty area! I am definitely making plans to come back and visit again.
We hopped in the van again and went to go meet up with Richard.

Andrea brandishing the bright orange crossing flags. 

Here he comes!
 I really liked this group because we made a point to be at all of the exchanges for each of the runners.
Even late at the night, someone got out to give the runner water or cheer them on. I feel that's a must for very good Ragnar team, but the Half Case Discount runners (and driver Dan!) made it seem like they were more than happy to do it. :)

The next exchange was Exchange 6. I was particularly excited about this exchange because I wanted to buy some Ragnar gear (mostly sweatpants and other random things). This was a big exchange so a lot more was going on here. After we saw Richard run in and hand off to Brett, Emily and I got extremely distracted with the gear and booths that we late in getting back to the van. Oops. We were especially excited for the free Krave Jerky samples at the Krave booth. Yum oh YUM. That stuff was good. We ended up buying a few different flavors and sharing with the van. Oh what I will do for jerky. :)


Richard handing off to Brett. 
Man, this place is beautiful!! I would like to run some trails here! 
We got in the van and drove to meet up with Brett. We accidentally missed him at his first exchange (oops. Emily and I take blame for that) so we headed to the next one. Andrea was up next so she was getting mentally prepared.

Andrea, Dan and Emily waiting for Brett to come in.
Andrea is an Ironman athlete so she was READY.
 I am so impressed by this. 
Our "rival" team. We were keeping tabs on them
throughout the race since they always seemed to
be around at the exchanges.
She's ready to go!

Brett passing off to Andrea.
After Andrea took off, we drove to meet up with her at her next exchange. I was strting to get nervous because I WAS NEXT!

Comming into the next exchange. Her husband Dan is following her
to make sure she is doing okay. How sweet!!

Again, the area was absolutely beautiful!
I was starting to get PUMPED. I was ready to run this morning at 9 AM and it was around 3pm.
Too long of a wait!! I was going crazy!
I had 15 miles ahead of me on this leg....and it was only Leg #1.

I was ready to RUN!
I started to mentally prepare for my run. I sort of checked out from my group and walked around. I went to go use the restroom at this cheese stop and became annoyed with another team that wanted to change in the stalls. They were taking forever! Learn how to change in the car!! I think I was getting a little nervous, mainly because my stomach was beginning to feel funny. It's not like I ate anything weird, but perhaps the excitement was different for me.
My exchange was at some cheese place. 

Exchange 10.

And I was off! On my first stretch of road before the HILL. 

On my way to Petaluma. 

Some beautiful semi-secluded track.

Running next to a small airfield. 
The first part of my run was fantastic! It was mostly downhill and I was able to pass some people.
But after that, it became a little harder. I knew I had to go 15 miles, but that extra 12 and then 10 kept popping into my head. I didn't want to run too fast. I want to save my legs, I kept telling myself.

The run itself was beautiful! A large hill in the beginning but then the few miles of downhill made up for it.
After that, I had to run through some neighborhoods with some killer hills. There was also nice alley track (that's what I'm calling it). There seems to be a lot of running paths in alleys in California. We don't have paths like these in Tucson so I was a little freaked out. Anything is an alley is dangerous and these look like alleys. I never felt unsafe, but you should always be careful.

Those one mile to go signs were my FAVORITE thing to see.
I was SO happy when I saw one. I pushed harder but that last mile always felt longer than it should have.

I began my leg with my night gear (lamp, butt light and reflective vest) because when I came running into the next exchange, it was already dark. I picked up my speed when I saw the exchange. I was so happy to be done with Leg #1!

More to Come:
Leg #2 and possibly Leg #3 together since I slacked on taking photos at night.
We all did. There's no point. The reflective gear we have to wear makes it impossible to see who anyone is.
Also, I spent the day after with my cousin Mark in San Francisco. So, I'll have to recap that too!


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