Saturday, June 21, 2008

Different Race, Same Place

In college the 10K was my race - it was the longest distance offered. The highlight of my track career was probably a fifth place finish at the NCAA Division I New England Regional Meet (I went to a Div. 3 school). I still drink coffee in the mug I won. My best college time was still about 50 seconds too slow to qualify for Nationals.

Since graduating, I have tended to favor races longer than the 10K. Somewhere in my mind I have just decided I am too slow for that distance and so I don't usually do it. But this week my good friend and colleague, Debbie, came in on Monday and asked if I wanted to do the Willamette Valley Road Runners Club Summer Solstice 10K with her Friday night. She did have one reservation:"Wait, you aren't in my age group are you?" Debbie's got a competitive nature, too! After she was assured that I was not in her age group, she again encouraged me to run with her. The race was in Minto-Brown Park, which is probably the best running opportunity in Salem and I was anxious to learn more about the trails there. And the price was right: $8 ($10 day of race), which included an ice cream sundae at the finish. Plus, I figured a 10K would count as a good tempo run.

To solidify my intentions to use this race as a workout I still did my usual "ass-kick Wednesday" workout: up at 4:30 (AM!) for a set of mile repeats and some heavy lifting! Not to mention, I like to have an excuse to fall back on if the race doesn't go well!

I met Debbie at the race and we milled around a bit before the air-horn signaled the start of the race. We took off and I could immediately make out three girls ahead of me. I know, I know, this was just a workout, but it never hurts to check out the competition, right?

The race started down the bike path before turning on to a bark chip (and not barf chip!) path. I passed one girl on a small uphill before mile one. My 6:44 split was faster than I wanted - I guess I am still having problems with going out too fast. I slowed it down, because I knew I couldn't keep that pace, especially because I could feel a bit tiredness in my legs, surely left over from Wednesday (or at least that's my excuse!).

ribbon.jpgThe next girl up slowed a bit too and I fell in behind her. At the two mile mark, I pulled past her, too. I could see the last girl up ahead, but I never seemed to get any closer, even though I did a pretty good job of keeping a consistent pace after mile one (7:11, 7:14, 7:14, 7:12, 7:18). At mile four, I could hear somebody behind me and I was sure one of the girls had made a comeback, but it turned out to be a guy with long basketball-types shorts, riding way too low on his hips, particularly for a runner! He passed me but I managed to get him back with about a mile to go, probably because I got sick of looking at the four inches of gray underwear sticking out above his shorts! I didn't catch the girl ahead of me and so took my usual second place (44:41) (11th overall). She got a nice medal for the win and I had to just settle for an age group award : a first place laminated paper ribbon! (sorry first LOSER!) My friend Debbie also took home the blue ribbon in her age category.

OK, sure, I'd like to be writing about how I won the race and got all the applause when they announced the winner, but it was still a good race for me and I had a great time. Minto-Brown proved to have a lot more trails than I was giving it credit for. After the first mile, I think I did a great job at running a constant pace, especially since the variation corresponds very nicely with the little hills on the course (mostly it was flat). And my time was nearly 11 minutes faster than the I did this year five months ago- just goes to show the power of training! And who wouldn't be proud to hang a paper ribbon on the wall?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Friday night after dinner, Mac's Mom decided to make a Cold Stone run for the family. Mac went along to help lug all seven orders. When they got back, Mac gave me a piece of news with my HUGE ice cream shake: The Mount Wilson Trail Race was tomorrow.

"No, it's not!" I argued back. I knew this race took place on Memorial Day weekend. We were now two weeks past that in June.

"Yeah, it is. They are having the pre-race dinner tonight." Mac answered back. I tried to explain to him about the calendar and Memorial Day not being in June, but he cut me off. "They had to postpone the race because the trail washed out after the fires." I didn't fully believe him until I checked the web, but it was true. Didn't matter though, because the race was already full. But I decided I'd go down to the start anyway; it seemed there would be at least a few cancellations with he date change. Of course, that didn't stop me from consuming all nine-million milk fat calories in my shake - call it carbo loading, hahaha!

Turns out I was right about the cancellations; the race director let me in a half hour before the race started. And so, less than a week later, I was back running on the Mt. Wilson trail. The race is 4.3 miles up to Orchard Camp with a 2100 ft elevation gain and then right back down again. And let me tell you, the trail doesn't get any easier just because you are racing! I am sure I walked about half of the way up - maybe more, but I was in good company! The downhill isn't much easier, because I had to pass nearly two-hundred runners behind me that were still on their way up and manage to not fall off the 2-3 ft wide trail while doing it!

I finished 8th woman (of 72), 42nd overall (of 230), pushing it in to break 90 minutes (1:29:38). That breaks down to 10:26 pace, which before now would have sounded incredibly slow to me. But I respect the power of the hills a lot better now! Plus, I can always blame Cold Stone! I am not sure if I didn't push myself enough or if my legs had finally gotten use to the hill pounding, but I wasn't really sore at all the next day, which was good since we were crammed on plane, flying back to Oregon!

I ran at the gym today and was nearly sick just looking at the treadmill. Looks like I am going to be making some field trips to Silver Falls this summer, which is about the only trails within an hour of here. :(

Monday, June 9, 2008

Today's Weather: Sunny and Gray

This past week we took a business trip to California. We visited the in-laws while we were there, and oh, yeah we left the kids with them for three days to go to Santa Barbara for a GI pathology conference (and lots of good, quality sleep). It was the first time we both spent the night away from both our kids. Don't worry, Mac and I handled it just fine!

When we stepped off the plane, we were struck by the grayness of California: roads and buildings everywhere you look, and a smoggy gray sky. Even the plants are a drought resistant gray-green: eucalyptus and laurel and buckwheat and live oaks. What little color there is seems to be washed out in the overly bright sun. Heck, even the former governor was Grey (haha!).

The one redemption in Southern California, to me, is the mountains. Yes, the beaches get all the talk, but they are overbuilt and overpopulated and really no more beautiful than the beaches anywhere else (I would say less so even). But California is mountainous in a way entirely different from Oregon.

Only recently have people thought to build in the mountains, with their houses balanced precariously on metal stilts. And so much of the mountain land remained unspoiled and much of it even got preserved. Despite the beauty and low population density around Salem there are essentially no true local trails, no where where you could be lost in the wilderness for a ten mile stretch. As I am currently craving some trail to run on, the proximity of all the California mountain trails seemed glorious.

Sunday, I thought about nearby places to run: Chantry flats, Bailey canyon, the JPL trails - all just a short drive from Mac's parents house. But instead Mac's family informed me I could reach a trail just a couple of miles away and so I set off from his house, without needing to drive at all. I ran to the top of his street and then made a jog onto Mountain Trail Road - it certainly sounded promising. Mac's mom told me there was a park at the top of the road with access to the trails, but when I got there, the whole place was torn up and surrounded in chain link fence, with no trail access to be found (I later learned they were redoing the reservoir), but a few steps farther on I saw a tiny little street: Mount Wilson Trail Road and a couple hundred yards later I was on the Mount Wilson Trail.

I don't know why I was so surprised to find this here; we hiked this trail quite a bit when I was growing up, precisely because it was so close, but still we had always driven to the trail head and so I never realized it was just over two miles from Mac's house (plus it was more like five miles from my childhood home). Starting the trail was so familiar even though I hadn't been there in a decade or so. In high school my best friend Anne and I pooped out at First Water, shocked that we had only gone a mile and a half. Mac and I backpacked up to the top and spent the night. I don't think many people have done this as the 14.2 mile round trip is doable in a day and for those who really want to camp at the top, you can drive up the backside, so no need to haul all your gear up the steep and dusty trail. My mom, Sister, Mac and I all hiked up to orchard camp one time to have lunch. And sometime in the 90's I actually ran the Mt. Wilson Trail Race on Memorial Day weekend.

No sooner had I stepped on to the trail, then I spotted a deer. I can't recall ever seeing a deer in Southern California.

The Mt. Wilson trail isn't exactly a kind a gentle trail; it doesn't ease you in with a nice slow warm-up. No -from the get go, it is UP UP UP! It is amazing how fast that uphill will knock you out - after five minutes I was ready for my first walking break! More uphill and more walking breaks (aka power hiking!). At the next big bend I could hear the water down below and I tried to recall if there was a downhill section to get to First Water, but a quick glance at the trail assured me there would be no rest for the weary, for going up the mountain was a series of five switch backs. Then more up, and finally, a tiny little down to First Water, but not enough to rest before it was UP, UP, UP again. At this point I was past all the fire zone so there were actually plants around, and after First Water there are quite a bit of trees and shade. It is actually a very pleasant stretch of trail, if you aren't trying to run up it!

I was surprised how many people were on the trail in these early hours, I easily saw at least 30 people on the trail and most of them were on their way down -all before 9 am. A not so fit looking jogger and his dogs, a group of power walking women, a couple out for a stroll, a trio of middle-aged Asian ladies, two very serious looking women trail runners followed closely by a not as serious looking trail runner, a family with two pre-teen kids, a couple more Asian groups, a man flying down the hill, two back-packers (I guess other people do back pack the Mt. W trail!). Right as I was starting to think about turning around a solo woman runner passed me coming down.

I wanted to make it to Orchard Camp, but I knew I couldn't do it and get back in under two hours, so at 1:16, I finally turned around. As I made the turn, a little part of me was thinking, "that last runner is only five minutes ahead." (ok, a big part of me).

Off down the trail, passing several more groups on their way up...The downhill is funny, because your breathing is no longer labored, but then the muscles in your legs quiver and let you know that this is still quite taxing. At every bend I looked ahead for my lead rabbit but I never saw her. When I reached the five minute rest point from the way up, I had all but given up, but then as I looked across the last C-bend of the trail I saw her at the other side. I made a mad dash down the hill, past the deer site, and onto the road. I hit made it to the stop sign just as she was crossing the street to her car. I didn't actually pass her (she got in and zoomed off), but I was happy nonetheless. I plodded the rest of the road's back to the Smiths and got to their door in 2:06 for the 11 or so miles. (How sad was I that my new Garmin with GPS was sitting in a Salem post-office just waiting for me!).

Monday I paid for my downhill pursuit. Man were my quads sore! but it gave me something to do when I got bored during the lectures - I sat there and flexed and poked them all day long to feel the pain!

Mac and I spent Sunday night to Wednesday afternoon alone in Santa Barbara. We dined on great food (on the company tab!), visited with Mac's high school best friend (and best man) and his wife, and strolled by the sea. And I didn't run a step! Wednesday afternoon, Mac took the train back to Pasadena to relieve his Mom of childcare duties. that afternoon, I went for another hilly run up to the Mission, through mission park, along the ridge and back down again (1:16). This time I wasn't quite as sore the next day.

Friday morning, I packed it up and headed back to Motherhood once again, joining Mac and the kiddos to spend the rest of the weekend at his parents.