Peachtree. Again. 

Posted in photos, races, road, running, shoes, travel with tags , , , , , , on July 9, 2015 by afuntanilla

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We gathered on the 4th day of July.  the day so historically significant, marking the United States independence. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. I think of the many people who live in places where they are not so free….

We lined up. Some for the 37th time. Some for the 1st time. Or like myself, the 8th time. My 8th go at The Peachtree Road Race. The crowd so full, lively, ridiculously energetic on this early morning holiday. The famed start there at the corner of Peachtree and Lenox Ave…on your mark….

I felt happily light as I had no water bottle, no earphones, nothing with me or in my hands. The sky above was gray & a typical Atlanta thunderstorm was threatening. Bring on the rain, I said. If you know me, than you know I love running in the rain…especially a southern rain. Nothing. Like. It.

My goal was to run solid, have fun, soak it all in and push! All week my legs had been feeling heavy, but this morning, all was good. I had a feeling I would have a good day. Sometimes, I can just feel it as soon as I wake up whether I will run well or not….and this morning as I readied myself in the hotel room, I had a good feeling.

Off we went and the miles were passing by. I was keeping 9 minute mile pace, conscious to not go to fast as I didn’t want to lose steam later in the race as I have done so many times in the past. This course, this damn course…often times, it just gets me miles 4-5.5! I was determined not to let that happen. Well. The 3rd mile was even faster at 8:43. I didn’t want to go that fast, but that’s what happened…

As we started the initial climb up the major hill (Cardiac Hill), I was feeling strong and kept my pace strong throughout…up and over…and onto a flat stretch to mile 4 which starts the long, gradual ascent til about 5.8 miles. It doesn’t ever look difficult but often times in the past I have just really slowed down during this stretch….

Not today;  legs in great stride, pushing, feeling my breathing, my heartbeat beating….so happy to be alive and running as a harder rain fell on us all. Ahhhh….that was the moment, my moment…LOVE IT!

I turned the corner at Peachtree and 10th and headed fast on the last downhill stretch into the finish next to Piedmont Park.

Done, done, done. Another Peachtree in the books. One of the best races I’ve had here and happy with my finish of 56:08.

 

The shoes in the picture where new…bought just the day before and had no problems whatsoever. I was able to walk around in them a bit day before race, so all was good. They are NEW BALANCE 1400v3, a racing shoe. Good stability and enough cushioning for this day. Super light and fun to run in. Got ’em at The Big Peach Running (of course!) store in Decatur. Best running store ever! (multiple locations…i love the decatur store best)

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Happy to be healthy and out enjoying life on the roads….

What’s Next??

January ( a little late) 

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2015 by afuntanilla

With January 2015 about to go in the history books, I thought I would update with my own slices of what has been happening….

January – feels like this has been a long month! I started the year off with some lingering issues from the North Face 50k race. I focused on taking it easy post race and just walked, stretched, used a stretch band thing to try to stretch my tight-ass hamstring. Just took everything pretty slow and easy and tried to recover. Slowly, I beckoned myself out the front door and onto the roads and felt my legs find their stride. And I do mean, literally, “find their stride”. My legs felt so out of whack for a few weeks post race that my stride felt quite awkward and off balance. I was trying to pay attention to the whole, “don’t overcompensate in one area because some other part isn’t working”. Still, my stride felt really off. I got a couple of massages and it helped. Slowly. Massage, stretch, rest. Repeat. Luckily, I wasn’t in any hurry and I felt fine with taking my time. I was just glad for any day I could be outside, even if I was walking.
I also started doing a bunch of exercises at home; core work, push-ups (which I have been doing diligently every other day for over a year!) tri-dips, etc…I’ve gotten a nice little cool routine going and I love it. I’ve been doing it every day or every other day. Many days, I look forward to it! It’s great to come home and just start the routine and leave a work day behind (sitting, being indoors) and be totally focused on something healthy!

As January rolled along, I found I was simply running short distances 3-5 miles and I decided to start working on my speed again. So, I’m gradually doing that…adding in sprints or hill repeats at the end of a run. Training on the hills for the past 6 months really took a toll on any sort of speed I had…but that’s the trade off….endurance for speed. So, I’m fine with being back on the road for a bit. I’ll probably mix in a trail run 1x a week, but probably not more than that right now.

I am targeting my 5k pace first and then I will probably move on to 10k pace.
I’m just kinda loosely following some training advice online. Nothing too serious. Unless I want to really be more serious. We’ll see. I’ve never been very fast, but if I can get back to 8 minute miles for 10k distance, I’d be happy with that pace!

I ran my first 5k today in years! Man, that sure goes by a lot faster than 50k. It was flat & fast. I finished 26:15 @ 8:21 pace per mile. Good place to start. A good barometer as I move forward.

What’s next?

post-race musings

Posted in motivation, photos, running, shoes, trail with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2014 by afuntanilla

Time to write about what worked, what didn’t, at the North Face 50k, and more importantly, why.

Training; part of this went well and part didn’t.

The positives: 90% of my training was on the exact course. This was a huge help in getting my body and mind prepared. There were no surprises (except the mud)
I got in some long days and long back-to-back days.

What could have been better:
I believe I would have benefited from running more with others on the course. This would have pushed me to increase my pace & probably increase my distance. (Not to mention the companionship on the trail)
Overall, I prefer to run alone, but 1x a week or something like that would have been beneficial.

Signing up for race EARLY! – as mentioned in earlier posts, I went to sign up for the race late and it was already sold out. So, I was all out of sorts for 2 weeks trying to see if I could get in. Then, I got in. Then, 3 weeks before race day, I decided to transfer from 50m to 50k. Although that ended up being a very good decision, the whole mess around not entering early, being undecided on distance…all of that was mentally challenging and stuff I could have done without.

Race day itself: I don’t think I could have done anything differently that would have resulted in a better finish (time wise). I felt pretty darn good for the first 15 miles and then I didn’t feel so good, incrementally. Maybe a salt tab would have helped with what I perceived as legs cramps, but I have never taken one before and I didn’t want to experiment right then and there. (Wouldn’t it be great if we could stick something in our mouth, like a thermometer, to tell us exactly what is wrong; like a red color means need salt, a yellow color means need protein, etc…I mean we have other instantaneous tests for pregnancy and for fevers, why can’t there be something like this? Hmmmm….)

I believe my injury to my left leg caused me limitations as the race progressed and then a different issue emerged on my right leg that I am still trying to figure out what it is…

But, all in all, my result is in line with how I trained. Perhaps could have been about 30 minutes faster if the mysterious new right leg issue didn’t occur.

GEAR; wore my Salomon pack. In hindsight, I could have done without this. Could have gotten by with a hand held and another something around my waist to carry some gels. There were plenty of aid stations to refill water, etc.

Shorts; north face, black. Love these shorts. Should buy more pairs.
Shoes; HOKA Stinson- good shoes for this muddy, wet, day. Heavier than the Huaka’s, but these have better traction.
Shirt; North Face Mountain technical shirt.

Nutrition: 2 hammer gels every hour, 1 package of tailwind, chips, orange slices at a few aid stations, water.

I carried water in my Salomon pack and then also a handheld in the pocket. I used the bottle for Tailwind (later miles)

Last but not least, what worked was COMRADERIE!

As mentioned in previous post, I have never done a race before where I experienced this level of COMRADERIE. It started pre-race. I randomly met someone who I follow and who follows me on Twitter. she recognized me from pictures and we had a fun brief exchange!
Next, while on the 1st climb up Bobcat, I look to my left and say “hey, I know you, I follow you on Twitter.” How freaking random is this??
More fun exchanges.
On the climb up Coastal, chatted with a fella from SoCal who would later see me at the finish & thank me for our chat and how much it helped him push through. Very cool especially cause I have no idea what I might have said that could have helped!
In line waiting for shuttle and then on shuttle, chatted with a local fella & totally swapped race stories and other life chatter. FUN!

What also worked? I had fun & smiled!!

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The Race: North Face 50k Endurance Challenge

Posted in motivation, photos, quotes, races, running, trail with tags , , , , on December 11, 2014 by afuntanilla

“We write to live twice” – Anais Nin

 

My day began at the pre-light hour of 4 am. I started the coffee grinder, put on water to boil for oatmeal; waking up to the day and the challenge before me. FINALLY. I felt like I was waiting for this day to arrive for soooo long. It was finally here. No more waiting.

I packed my Salomon pack with Hammer Gels, Tailwind, & water. I put my “after” clothes and flip flops in my gear check bag, dressed & headed to Larkspur. An empty, quiet drive south on Hwy 101 to the Larkspur Ferry parking lot. The shuttle took a yellow school bus full of 50k runners to the start line in the Marin Headlands. The bus was fairly quiet, everyone pretty much sitting alone with their gear next to them on their seat. Everyone in their own mental space…mulling around pre-race thoughts…(I wonder what that mental playlist would sound like if we could have a listen…)
As we wind our way over near the start, I look to my right and see a most amazing & beautiful sight; I see the big, glowing moon shining above, high above any low lying fog…and I also see an awe-inspiring row of lights in the darkness over yonder. What was it…it was the 50 Mile Runners making their way down the long descent on Rodeo Valley trail at approx mile 4-5. Them, in the hills, headlamps paving their way, against the backdrop of the moon and the blissfully quiet morning in west marin. It was really breathtaking. I wish I had a photo of that moment. Well, I guess I do, in my head! I’m glad to have it. Wow.

Arrived at the start location and handled logistics; gear bag check, bathroom break, etc…there was about 45 minutes til our start time. Glad it wasn’t cold or rainy!!

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Coming into this day, it was hard to gauge how I would perform. I had done very little running in 3 weeks prior, and yet, I felt like my body, especially my legs, were still NOT fresh. This brought about some anxiety and concern. To be honest, the last few times I ran, in Tahoe and then the Thanksgiving day race, at certain points along those runs, I remember just feeling tired of running. Not tired from the particular task at hand, but a more general tired in the bigger sense. I knew I needed a break so that’s why I did so little in the last 3 weeks. The question was how would it effect me? How was my mental state? Would I physically crash at mile 20? Would I just simply not want to run anymore at mile 10? How would the day unfold? Nevertheless, standing there at the start line, I was excited!

The countdown was over and we were off. We began in waves and I was in the last one. Mile 0-2 is flat, downhill, flat-slight uphill. Mile 2-4 is gradually long uphill (Bobcat Trail) & 4-6 (Rodeo Valley) is all downhill, then flat. As you can tell; up, down, up, down…this first part was the same loop the 50 milers did to begin their race and was not part of our original course. The course was modified in the last day due to heavy rains all week. After passing the 2nd aid station, we started the long climb up Miwok. I and basically everyone around me were power hiking this part, same as I did in training. Pretty steep section. Wide fire road trail. Mud not an issue(it would be later)
No one passed me on this climb which is always something I’m happy to see!

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Photo: Climbing Miwok
At the top of the climb, we turned left onto Old Springs and a nice lengthy, fun descent into Tennessee Valley and the next aid station. I did a super quick bathroom break and kept going…I was mindful the entire day of not wasting time anywhere if I could help it. This was about mile 8 and I was feeling good. Legs still kinds tight but overall feeling good. After a quick flattish section, we are back onto another big climb up Coastal Trail. Again, we are all power hiking. No one is running up this climb!

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I’m trying to power hike as fast as a can. I’ve gotten better at this, but still room for improvement. This was something I intentionally worked on in training; using my arms more, taking smaller steps, moving swiftly. On this section, I talked to a fella from SoCal and it was fun to talk with him and share experiences.
After the top of Coastal, we made the steep, short, technical descent into Pirates Cove. Here’s where the mud started to come into play. This trail is narrow, rocky and the mud was very slick and everyone was using caution going down. I’m pretty good at navigating my way down and so I was moving a little bit better than some and it felt good to pass a few people. I knew as soon as I made that descent that my injury would flare up and it did! Every time in this part of the course, that area of my knee gets totally wacked. Pretty painful for a few minutes and then in subsides. We are now on a short flat section, but no one is running, there is simply to much damn mud and it’s super slippery. Crazy!! Made the next short zig zag climb up to Coyote Ridge and down into Muir Beach/Aid Station. This is where we started to see the 1st of the 50 Miler elite men coming the opposite direction. They were flying! Man, their strides were awesome! So many faces I recognized .. Sage Canady (eventual winner), Dakota Jones, Dylan Bowan & my 2 buddies from San Francisco Running Company, Jorge Maravilla & Brett Rivers. Everyone looked good and were moving well. Seeing these  gave me a mental boost for sure. I gave them all a word of cheer!
Quickly we were onto Heather Cut-Off, the super narrow section with a ton of ascending switchbacks. This is where it was muddiest and even dangerous at times. Dangerous because the 50 milers and now the front pack of the 50k group were coming down as we were going up…again, on a super narrow, muddy, slippery trail. It was very crowded and pretty mentally demanding. As people were coming down, I was anxious people were gonna fall and create a domino effect crash of bodies. Thankfully, that did not happen. The boost I got earlier was fading as we climbed this part…it was just not very fun. It was a slog fest. Finally, got to the top and made the still somewhat uphill jaunt over to the top of Cardiac. I could feel myself losing steam. I wasn’t sure what the issue was. I was taking a gel very 30 minutes, water and  tailwind too. Legs were very crampy, tight, heavy at this point. Mile18. Grabbed a few orange slices, handful of potato chips and I departed Cardiac Aid station. We basically turned around and went back the same way we came…down Heather Cut-off and over to Muir Beach. Once I made the turn around at 18, I really started a slow decline in performance that would last the rest of the way. I got slower and slower the last 13 miles. People passed me who I had passed earlier and I wasn’t happy about it, but what could I do…my body was not wanting to go any faster. However, the really cool part about this whole section of about 8 miles is there was an overwhelming amount of camaraderie. Whether you were a 50k or 50 mile runner, going up or going down…someone was always giving you a cheer. It was really awesome. I’ve never participated in a race where I felt so much togetherness. That kept me going. Good vibes.

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Grabbed a few more snacks at Muir beach aid station and headed up the ultra challenging Coyote Ridge. I believe is is the longest ascent in the race. I did it many times in training; it never got easier. And it certainly didn’t disappoint today. Still, quite difficult after 24 miles under my legs! It was a slow climb, although I actually did pass about 2-3 people. I was psyched to get to the top, if only for a minute because as we started the steep descent onto Fox trail, I was in some serious discomfort. In training, this was an area I went down pretty fast. Not the story today; it was a slow, gingerly walk down and it was so frustrating. Something was going on with my right leg that made the steepness of the descent very painful. I had no choice. A few guys were struggling as well. Some of them were walking backwards down the hill.

Let me pause here to say that the course was so beautiful….like all my training pictures showed. The weather at this time was cool, some sun, but mostly gray. It doesn’t really matter what the weather is out there…it’s always visually stunning.

Ok. One more bathroom pit stop at the Tennessee Valley at station, orange wedges and chips and moving ahead to the Marincello Ascent and onto Alta trail. We are almost home now. About 3 miles left. My toes were screaming at this point and I badly needed to stop and empty out the rocks that had accumulated in my shoes, but I could just not do it. I didn’t want to stop moving. All I was focused on was keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.
Moving slower, but still moving.

We are finally onto the final descent, more pain, ouch, ouch, ouch….
Back to flat and a short uphill towards the finish line. I can hear the announcer, I can hear the roars….and finally, I can see the finish shoot…lots of people cheering…very loud. I’m inching towards the finish line. I’m smiling big and bigger and my eyes get weary. I’m done. I did it.
Man, I am so happy! And Muddy!  :)

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8:01:56 – what a day. what an adventure!

Part II: How I Dedicated My Race to a Stranger

Posted in motivation, photos, running, trail with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2014 by afuntanilla

With intention, I carried him on my back. At 4:30am, I wrote his name down. Aware of significance and of sorrow; aware of my anger and my ambition, just hours away. This stranger who was broken, bleeding, left dead in the great city by the Bay. How does this happen? Why does this happen? I will never understand the motivation of others to intentionally hurt, damage, kill another human being. I will never understand the motivation to willingly take a life.

I set out on a journey of 50 kilometers through challenging, breathtaking terrain of west Marin county. It was an official race, but the greater race was within. Having battled my own doubts, demons and minor injuries of late, I began with a will to finish, a will made doubly stronger by the presence of Mr. Lam’s spirit. I did not want to let him, nor myself, down. I wanted to fight…fight for both of us. I wanted to fight for him, he who could not possibly lift his body as three men ambushed and attacked him on the golden streets of San Francisco.

Ascending was hard. And visually stunning. I spoke out loud to Mr. Lam;

“hey, Mr. Lam, have you ever been here before? Have you ever seen this place? Well, you have now! Amazing, right? Ok…we gotta keep pushing. “
And then again later when it became more difficult;

“Hey, Mr. Lam, how ya doing? I’m doing ok. I’m fightin’ for ya buddy. I got your back.”

And then again, even later, when my legs were cramped and my movement slowed and slowed;

hey, mr. lam how ya doing! I’m struggling but I’m fightin’. I’m fightin’ for ya. I’m fighting for those bastards who attacked you to be caught. I’m fighting for you! I got your back. Let’s do this!”

After 8 hours and 1 minute, I crossed the finish line. My face smiling, on the verge of tears.

You are not forgotten, sir. You are not forgotten.
May your spirit be resting in a better place.

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Why I dedicated my 50k race to Mr. Tai Lam: Part I

Posted in motivation, photos, races, random, running with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2014 by afuntanilla

I try not to pay attention to the world news too much except the economic, financial news (because I need to for my job) When I do happen to read the paper, I read the sports section and sometimes the comics and do the crossword. I never watch news on TV and I don’t listen to news radio stations. I get a sense of what is happening via my Twitter feed. That’s one of the best things about Twitter…YOU customize it. You decide what you want to see. Awesome.

Anyway, last Wednesday, I actually read some of the regular news in the SF Chronicle. The first story that caught my eye was a heartwarming story of a family in need of assistance that got it thru the papers’ “season of giving” program. Of course, I like reading these kind of stories.

The next story I read stopped me dead in my tracks and really hit me in my core. A homeless, crippled man who was trying to sleep in the downtown financial district in San Francisco, was beaten to death. I read on and then found a subsequent follow up story online. Age 67, about 100 pounds in weight. Asian. Crippled. Homeless. Sleeping in a little cove he found and not bothering a soul. Apparently, 3 males, wandered by, saw him, and kicked him to death. Repeated kicking and kicking. There is video footage. They would stop when a car drove by. Then, kick again.

The police have said it was one of the worst attacks they have ever seen.
This happened in San Francisco’s financial district. A place where there is a staggering amount of wealth, in a city that has a ridiculous amount of wealth.

What did this man, the victim, Tai Lam, do? Nothing. Well…wait, he was HOMELESS! He was part of a homeless community that the greater community, for the most part, would like to forget….and they do, except when someone perhaps asks for money. Then they cringe and walk away. Or stare blankly ahead. I am not immune. I have ignored “them” too….sometimes it can feel like a scam or maybe we just gave $20 bucks to someone last week….I get it.

But, there is a bigger issue here and part of what stirred me up. In the wake of people protesting in many cities across the nation on police brutality & use of excessive force, who is rallying for this little old man? Who is coming to his aid to DEMAND the criminals be brought to justice? Who is speaking and rallying on his behalf? Who would rise to give significance to this horrific death and his now absence?

No one. There are no rallies in SF for Tai Lam. Because he, like so many of the downtrodden are truly forgotten by us! Our community. ALL OF US. It’s disturbing that people are overbidding on real estate property by hundreds of thousands of dollars, in cash, and we have people like Mr. Lam, living on the street and subject to this kind of aberration. It’s disturbing that a city with an enormous amount of resources somehow can’t or won’t give more to those who are most in need. And yet, money is just part of the issue. It’s the attitude that many take toward the needy, the homeless, those who are without….the simple lack of caring. Maybe if we cared more about these folks, if we demanded more action from our governments, if WE took more individual action. Giving money is wonderful & needed, but more involvement is necessary.

Every single homeless person has a story. Most of them probably have some kind of mental illness or drug problem. Mr. Lam was in neither category. Even if he was, so what?

We turn our backs to the homeless because we don’t want to see….we don’t want to see the potential ugly side of life and what our life could be….but you know what, that is exactly the point. The homeless guy…it is you. The homeless woman, it is you. We are all 1 or 2 or 3 steps away from our lives changing drastically in a heartbeat. Who is going to be there for you? Count your blessings if you already thought of someone who would take you in, love you, care for you.

And don’t ever forget there are thousands out there who are just not as damn lucky as we all are, in this moment.

The story of Mr. Lam’s beating shook me up and moved me to take the one immediate action I could think of: to dedicate my 50k North Face Endurance Race to this man.

And so I did. 920x920

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November Closing

Posted in motivation, photos, races, road, running, trail with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2014 by afuntanilla

The long month of November comes to a close. Most of the heavy mileage was Nov 1-15, as since then it has been taper mode. Race day is next Saturday. Even though this has been taper time, I’ve been doing very little running since 11/15 for a few reasons…a) my nagging left hamstring, upper calf issue/injury b) just giving my body more of a rest as I sensed it has really needed it. c) mental break needed
It’s also been a time these past 2 weeks to try to get myself mentally in the right frame of mind to tackle 50k instead of 50 miles. I have to say, this has been challenging. Coming to the conclusion that this distance was the better choice, at this time, burst my excited-running bubble!! Some people might be relieved, but I….am disappointed. And, quite honestly, I just have to let it go now. Let go of being disappointed. I need to let go and embrace what I feel my body is capable of at this time. I have to let go and focus on what I believe is achievable rather than be bummed about what is out of reach right now.

I did get in some good mileage + elevation in my final weeks of pushing hard Nov 1-15.

All of these miles were on the race course. And about 90% of all my training runs have been on the course, which is exactly what I wanted. So, there will be no course surprises come Saturday.

A couple of people have asked me recently if I am excited for the race. Quite honestly, I am not that excited at the moment. But, as I wrote above…I know why and I need to let go. I fully believe that as the week progresses, I will be. I will pick up my race stuff at The North Face, I will go & listen to a talk with Rory Bosio & be around fellow participants….I believe my excitement level will be high by end of week!

November Total Miles: 107.5

Total TRAIL miles: 100 (7.5 road miles)

Total Elevation: 35,648

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