The Quadruple Dipsea: Part B

Posted in motivation, photos, running, shoes, trail with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2016 by afuntanilla

So, as I mentioned in the last post, I was dejected after not finishing the Quad. It was the right decision for my body on that day, but i still felt really disappointed.

During the week that followed, as I would relay to others what happened, I followed my comments up by saying, “i’m going to go out again…i will do this and finish.” I wasn’t sure if it was going to be 1 week later or 1 month later. But, I knew I was going to go back.

5 days after not finishing the race, I had decided my body was good to go for it again the following weekend. I let myself rest during the week, stretched, ate well and felt good. I had the added benefit of further inspiration as that Saturday (Dec 3) was The North Face Endurance Challenge here on some of the same trails. I didn’t go watch in person, but followed via social media and was super pysched to follow some of my favorite runners do their thing, especially Zach Miller, who was the 50 mile winner.

So as Saturday went along and then into the evening, I noticed that mentally I was where I wanted to be and where I should have been on pre-race weekend. It was a noticeable difference. So, i felt both physically and mentally ready and now i just needed sleep and to get up and go.

I had my nutrition figured out and took extra shoes in case i wanted to change half way. I packed a PBJ Sandwich cut in 1/4’s, orange slices, Hammer Nutrition gels and Tailwind. I was ready to go.

I began at 8:30am and believed it would take roughly 8 hours. Anything more was gonna push me into post sundown. That would not be good.

I was up the Dipsea steps and onto the course and on my way. I knew early on that I was ok and felt much better than last week. Many parts of the trail were still a bit muddy from recent rain so my Nike Kiger Trail shoes were perfect for the gripping nature needed. They don’t have much cushion but they do grip well and are light! I was just basically humming along and enjoying myself and knowing I had many hours ahead of me so i just tried to settle in, but still stay cognizant of time. I made it to the Stinson turn around and headed back to Mill Valley. Once I got to Mill Valley, i knew I had 2 things to do; 1) grab some food from car, change shoes 2) turn around and get back up the stairs. I didn’t allow for any thoughts to enter my mind around how hard it was gonna be or anything like that…i just kept saying to myself, “get up the stairs, get up the stairs..” And I did. Once I was on the stairs, I felt like THAT was a WIN. I smiled. And kept moving.

A woman actually stopped me prior to me heading up stairs and asked if i was doing a double. I said “No, a Quad.” Her eyes widened and she said; “well, good for you. i know you will do it.”  I so appreciated those kind words.

I figured the 3rd leg, which i was now on, would be the hardest and it was tough. By approximately miles 19-20, I was really starting to feel it..my back started to hurt a bit and i was getting some ache in my legs. But, I just had to keep moving. I made it to Stinson for the 2nd time and as soon as I turned around to head back for the final leg, I smiled and texted my friend, Tim, to let him know where I was…that i was going to finish. I mean, really, at that point, my options were limited anyways…what am i going to do? Walk the rest of the way back. Hitch a ride back to Mill Valley? I better get moving as fast as I can cause the sun in starting to go down.

Let me tell you now. The 3rd leg is NOT the hardest. The 4th leg is. Even though this was the “homestretch”, there was No adrenaline rush. I was moving slow. Very slow. Different body parts were starting to really hurt, as I had anticipated, but it IS still always tough when the hurt sets in and you have to begin the battle. However, what most non-runners don’t understand is, THIS IS THE PART that makes it all so worthwhile..the HARD PART. Experiencing myself as I work through and navigate the rough patches. This is the part where I truly have to show up, stand up, rise up and above and get it done. I’m one of those people who gets absorbed in moments like these BECAUSE they are such great teaching moments…the moment that fully consumes me and I am engrossed in the nature of this particular battle…with the course, the elements, my body and my own will. I’m fascinated by how I respond. And not just how I respond; this is one of the things I’ve truly been captivated by in sports for my entire life…watching athletes of various levels and different sports compete in the most challenging moments. Deeply engrossing!

As I slogged up Dipsea near the Coastal view, I passed some fellas hiking for the 3rd time.  By now, they were wondering what I was doing and after learning, offered me words of encouragement. Thankful for that!!

My right shin of all things started to give me some real trouble. Weird, i thought. I guess from all the stairs. It was super tight and hurting. Going up the final Dipsea stairs after crossing the bridge @ Steep Revine intersection was insane. My labored breathing, my slow movement of lifting one leg and then other to step up again and again. I stopped, looked around the forest…no one in sight..beautifully quiet…and I simply said THANK YOU, out loud to this place…this place that has become my 2nd home. And then, I kept moving.

Finally, atop, and on my way to pass Cardiac for the last time. Next 3 miles all downhill and no, not easy. Just a few hours ago, i was flying down this section and now I was slowed to gingerly running down. As I crossed over the roots and rocks, i was so glad i had changed my Nike Kigers for the additional cushioning of my Hoka Challengers. Again, still no adrenaline rush. Still had one little climb after I labored DOWN Dynamite and into the Muir Woods parking lot. Ok…here I go…lumbering up and knowing now that this is it and trying to push faster in any way i could as I was less than 2 miles from the finish. Finally , I get up to Panoramic and take a quick glance at the gorgeous scenery and i smile big…this is it…1 mile downhill to the finish. I went as fast as I could on the Dipsea Stairs down into the finish at old Mill Park, where I began, 8 hours and 5 minutes earlier.

I was done with my Quad Dipsea.

I’m good and me and the Dipsea are good.

Thankful for this Body, this Life

 

The Quad (part A)

Posted in photos, races, running, trail with tags , , , , on December 15, 2016 by afuntanilla

The Quadruple Dipsea

The Quad Dipsea (http://quad-dipsea.com/index.html) is the Double X 2. (28.6 miles) The route is Mill Valley to Stinson beach and back. and REPEAT.

Why am I even telling you this since I wrote in my last post that doing the Quad was not something I wanted to do? Well. Things changed.

Even after running the Double, I continued to run on the trails in Muir Woods. Time passed and we got into September. I was having so much fun out here that I thought well, I’ll just see if i can still sign up. NOPE. The race was already sold out. I think they only allow 350 runners. I got on the wait list and continued to run and train on the exact trails. Specificity is everything! How lucky i am to live in such an amazing place as NorCal and run on these fantastic and wonderful trails. The beauty is simply awe-some and tremendous.

I was #34 on the wait list. Then I was #32. #29. #15. #12. #4. And then, I was IN. YES!

I had been training a lot but I was also feeling pressed on the time and miles I felt I needed to feel strong about going into the race. I did all the training i felt i could do, in a smart way, and I just had to let the chips fall where they may. The training was equally challenging and rewarding. It’s never easy on those trails. As many times as I run up the stairs or the hills, it’s never easier. I get better, faster, but it does not necessarily feel easier. I will tell you this…IT IS FUN. I was having so much fun out there…loving it even more so if we got any kind of rain or showers or mist or fog. I feel so free out there. I was encapsulated by nature and I was in heaven.

My longest training run was a double (14 miles) and this was during a week I had already run 10 miles and then 12. So a good week out there with almost 36 miles and over 11k of elevation change. Even though I felt good, there was this lingering feeling like maybe IT WASN’T ENOUGH. Maybe the longest i should have gone was 20/21. But, I had already made my decision that i could not smartly fit that in…so…

2 weeks later on Nov 26th was race day. I woke up and I was not very excited to race and I was shocked at that feeling. it was very wet and rainy out but that didn’t bother me at all…it was something else and i had a hard time shaking it. Even the night prior, I simply was not in get-race-ready-mode mentality. Anyways…i went thru my usual morning routine and headed to the race start. I became a lil more excited as I arrived and got ready to hit the trails.

In a light drizzle, we headed off and up the stairs. Super packed to begin and hard to move well. This continued on for about the first 2 miles. By mile 4, I knew something was not right with me and my body, specifically my legs. They were tight, tired and felt like I had little to no lift. NOT the way I wanted to feel especially today. My feelings ranged from surprise to anger to confusion to disappointment. Then for the next 8 miles or so, I went back and forth in my head: should i even finish this thing today? maybe i should just do half. No, you can’t do half! You can finish. You already did a half. If you don’t finish think of how disappointed you will be. Can you deal with that. No, No…i can finish. Ugh. Thinking like this ruined me mentally.

I was not having fun, i was in my freaking head!! All my work and fun on the trails was slipping from me and i was pissed off. And, my legs just had absolutely abandoned me. I had so little in them and that little bit was falling away with each mile. As I came down the stairs and into Old Mill Park at the turn around site, I saw my pal,Tim, cheerfully waiting for me.

After a few words with him, I decided I would not continue…that it simply made no sense to try. ..that today was just not my day. I told the time keepers of my decision. Tim went on with his plans for his day and i changed my clothes, got some food and went home. I was pretty damn dejected.

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At the turn around point which would be my finish line today.

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The Dipsea; 3 single & a double

Posted in motivation, photos, races, running, trail with tags , , on December 14, 2016 by afuntanilla

THE DIPSEA (for anyone who doesn’t know anything about this Dipsea Trail race, go to http://www.dipsea.org) I ran my first Dipsea in June 1999. The same year I graduated college. The same year I would leave my home state of California and move clear across the country to Atlanta, GA. I have no recollection of how i even first heard of Dipsea. May have been a running magazine or thru people at work who lived in the area and may have hiked or run on the trail. The race entrance is via lottery system and while thousands try to get in, only 1500 are allowed. I have no memory of my state of mind beforehand, however I do have this from my journal entry on the morning of the race:

good morning! here i am at 6:45am. more awake than i thought i’d be and more excited than i thought i’d be. I am running in the Dipsea race in a couple of hours. how about that. it will challenge me like no other race. i will do my best today. keeping in mind the training hasn’t been the same, and i’m coming off of an 11 hour work day. not excuses, just reminders for me to realize the state my body is in. i’m excited. i’m excited for the challenge, for par taking in something so popular. for doing something new. for taking on the challenge. i will do my best today and expect no more/less. i will venture out and see who else i am – what more can i /can’t i do? what are my limits? i will also have fun. yippee – here i go!

My only strong memory from this race 17 years ago was the climb after the Muir Woods parking lot..the section termed, “Dynamite”. The morning was very cool and fog was still lingering and slicing in thru the trees. It was so quiet as us runners were in a single file hike mode up Dynamite. Everyone was breathing heavy and those sounds in that forest are a still a treasured memory

Finish time: 1 hour, 34 minutes, 27 seconds.

My 2nd go at the Dipsea race was 2 years later in 2001. I had been living in Atlanta at the time and was delighted to fly back and run the race. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much else and I didn’t write about it in my journal, which totally perplexes me.

Finish time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My 3rd Dipsea came another 2 years later 2003. Here’s what I wrote pre-race:

I can’t quite say what being here means to me…here at the Dipsea. I’m at Peets looking out onto the start area and just a few people are milling about. it is foggy up above and cool – perfect race start weather – although the race is sill 1 hour, 4 minutes from starting time. I will begin my journey even later (1/2 hour later due to race handicap). Enough time for my coffee and Clif Bar to settle. What a privilege, eh? Yes – a true privilege. I’m glad I got in this year. Very happy to have another race day. It seems so long ago that I ran the Napa Marathon, when in actuality. it was only 3 months, 6 days ago. Seems…much longer. This morning – driving here from Bernal Heights – the city streets customarily quiet as it is Sunday – a peaceful and swift jaunt over the bridge and across. I caught a few glimpses of the water….so pretty and peaceful seeming with it’s ripples. quiet. driving in mill valley – again, quiet, the big activity of the day slowly emerging into operation as the volunteers and crew begin assembling near the start. Looking out from this window, as I drink my Costa Rica coffee, the towering, still, green trees are there – this comforting constant. And you know what, Right Now, Being Here means everything. This is it right now. This is life right now. this is the challenge. this is the test. this is the moment that begs to be acknowledged and asks me to be present for it. Well, I am here. And I am ready. In truth, nothing will matter once the starting gun goes off. it will just be me racing against me, me racing against the stairs, the hills, the competition and the clock. i can already smell the Eucalyptus; i can already hear the heavy breathing of myself and the nameless others in front of, in back of and beside me- so – let the game begin. Today, I will give my best.

Finish time: 1 hour, 25 minutes, 34 seconds

As I read back on these journal entries, I smiled. Smiled because I remembered the moments and smiled because if i didn’t know the date…it sure seemed like something i could have just written. Such neat satisfaction knowing my mindset is still very similar!

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The Double Dipsea

I ran the Double Dipsea race in June of this year and finished in 3 hours, 39 minutes. (Approx 14 miles +/-) and 4,100 ft elevation change. I’ve written about the trail in earlier posts so don’t want to spend too much more time on that piece… In contrast to the single Dipsea which begins in Mill Valley & ends at Stinson Beach, the double starts in Stinson to Mill Valley and back! Whew. It.is.a.lot. Nothing flat…all up, down, up, down. It was hard and i really did not expect it to be so tough at the turn around in Mill Valley. That turn means making it back up the 683 steps, right after you’ve come flying down them. It is not easy, let me assure you. The race was in the summer which left some areas very exposed to sun and such. Because of the severe drought we’ve been having in California, these exposed parts are filled with very dry, hard-on-the-feet trails and these are my least favorite sections. I remember specifically thinking at that time; “i cannot believe people do this again…i cannot believe people do the Quad…that they want to do the Quad…i would not want to run these dry/exposed/uncomfortable sections 4 times!!” ok. back to present double race…i’m writing this so long after the fact that I’m not sure what else to say about the race itself. I was psyched to run it and psyched to be done. What made it special was my sister and her family came and that was the 1st time any family had seen me finish a race. So, pretty cool.

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Marathon 1; Chicago 2000

Posted in motivation, travel with tags , , , , on August 20, 2016 by afuntanilla

In 2000, I had a couple of half-marathons under my belt. 1 in San Francisco and 1 in Tybee Island, GA which is just outside of Savannah. And so, naturally, once i was done with those races, i started thinking “what’s next?”

Well, the natural progression was to think of the marathon. But, I was nervous, scared. I didn’t know if I could do it. Could I do it? How could I do it? How could I possibly run 26.2 miles? Man, that is far!

Well, I was sitting in my Atlanta apartment one day that Spring and I came across and AD for the Chicago Marathon in Runners World Magazine. And the AD said, “ there will be days you don’t know if you can run a marathon. there will be a lifetime knowing you can.” Well, I fell right there; hook, line and sinker. I signed up with the goal being that months later in October, I would arrive in Chicago fit and prepared to explore the city, 26.2 miles of it. But first, there was work to do.

I began following a novice marathon training plan. A 16 week plan that told me a lot of things like how many days to run and how many miles, but there’s a lot which is omitted from the plan; namely, what it actually takes to complete the training; which is discipline, dedication, committment. heart and guts. there’s nothing in the plan about how to overcome the fatigue of all these training days and the self-doubt that will invariably creep in. No, those things are yours and yours alone to figure out. And THAT, is part of what the marathon teaches you..it’s an exploration into the limits of the self. During the days and weeks of training, the questions that emerge beg and demand of you honest answers; how will i fit in this 14 mile run? how will i keep a 9 min pace for 26 miles? how can i possibly run another day when i am so freaking exhausted? How am i going to fit in 4-5 days of training while working 50 hour weeks? And thru this particular vehicle of the training program, you realize you cannot lie or cheat or skirt around something. The truth will always be staring at your…whether you were great today or whether you fell short. Whether you exceeded expectations or missed {the training is a gateway to truth }

I trained thru the heat and humidity of summertime in Atlanta; conditions were daunting and unrelenting. it didn’t matter what time of day I went out; whether it was 11pm or 5am, the stifling conditions still persisted. I had to find a way to get thru it. That’s the dedication, that’s the committment. Race day arrived and there i was on the shores of Lake Michigan along with about 20k other runners. We listened to the Star-Spangled Banner and then we were off, each to pursue our own personal journey. Those first few miles took us through downtown Chicago amid the booming buildings and stunning architecture. The spectators were 3 and 4 people deep, all cheering us on. Miles further and we explored the Gay neighborhood, the Italian area and the Russian hood…each with it’s own blend of music, aromas, colors and cheers. Mile 20 comes and now I am entering unknown territory as I never went past 20 miles in the training. My feet are aching, feel like they are burning and all I can think is “I have 6 more miles to go” I had to keep moving. Sometimes a shuffle, sometimes a walk…but movement. I pass mile 23 and I’m starting to move slightly quicker. 1/2 mile to go and I can see the finish line area… people in the stands on the left and right. i am now picking up my pace and in full stride, I am screaming, yelling, so beside myself as I cross under the finish line banner of my 1st marathon. An incredible race & atmosphere for my 1st marathon.

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The Ad…

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1/2 way…

Muir Woods

Posted in motivation, photos, running, travel with tags , , , , , , , on June 10, 2016 by afuntanilla

Where I can just be, where I can dream. Where I notice and I relish.

Where I find challenge.

Where I embrace delight, joy, play.

Where the familiar astonishes…every. single.time.

Where I go to lose myself and then do a 360 to once again, find myself; more whole. Holy. On hallowed ground.

Where my senses are resuscitated and my spirit rejuvenated.

Where the aromas intoxicate and my heart reverberates.

Where I am mesmerized, and laser-focused.

Where my lungs gasp for air and my quads reach and reach over the creek and through the woods dashing and dancing over rocks and roots that beg mightily for my crisp attention.

My haven. My Heaven. My gentle, constant companion.

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Dirt & Water

Posted in photos, running, trail with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2016 by afuntanilla

There are sections of The Dipsea I don’t love. Not because they might be challenging but because there are sections that are fully exposed to sun, no trees and the trail is basically hard-ass packed dirt/rock. Because of the severe drought we’ve had for quite some time, certain sections are this way and simply not fun to run on….and then there are all the many sections I truly love…the hidden sections with soft ground…soft from the fallen pine needles, dirt, daily moisture from the ocean. Hidden from the world by the towering Coastal Redwoods and Douglas Firs…they are a haven and a respite from an often challenging & confusing world.

There are many, many ways to enter the trail, but I have been preferring to start at Stinson and head East, since that will be direction on race day. As I accumulate the miles, my hope is I’m getting stronger and creating muscle memory…and it’s nice to see from my Strava data that I am actually improving. YAY! I love this app. If you are a competitive person, especially with your own self, this is pretty awesome. The challenge is always against myself…how much can i improve, how much better can i be…this day and this day and this day…I relish and am thankful for the opportunity.

As I have been starting on the Stinson side and then ending there, I usually take a walk over to the beach afterwards and soak in the moment. On my after-work days, I’m catching the scene 1-2 hours before sunset. It’s usually quiet and very peaceful. The other day, i just had an urge to go dip in the water. At the end of my run, i quickly grabbed a few items from the car: beach blanket, towel, recovery energy drink and headed to the ocean. I went full in and loved it. Wasn’t even that cold. I just felt like i needed it….one of those days…just wanted to feel the shock of cold and the force of water on my being.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed. May you live as you want and may you be at peace. IMG_0192

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Muir Woods

Posted in running, trail with tags , , , , , , on May 9, 2016 by afuntanilla

My slice of heaven. Not belonging to me but a place I am fortunate to visit as often as I wish. Thankful for the logistical proximity of this stunning place with its ridiculous amount of microclimates, luxurious forest, refreshing aromas, and climbs that will stall you in your shoes.

The run today began on the Stinson side and up Dipsea. An unusual late start, nearing noon, I expected to encounter many hikers, especially also being Mom’s day. Legs feeling anything but fresh, but away i went as I simply could not stay away from this enchanting area that lures me in. Mile 1 – the familiar, wide, mostly crushed & loose rock section that opens up with ocean view about half way in….a mixture of white & gray clouds and just a tad of sunshine at the start. Mile 2 begins with a brief descent and then the steep ascent on the main heart of the Dipsea. This section is no joke. 2nd time in about 3 weeks I have “run” it..er…panted my way up the steep ass trail/steps…yowza. 14% incline over .9 mile. As I huffed and puffed & willed my way forward, I had this internal dialogue with myself…”i want to keep doing this section…especially this section until it gets easy…not easier, EASY”  Hence, I trust I will be going out there for a long time. The stunning beauty of the canopy of trees, the faint sounds of trickling water in the nearby creek and the feeling of being cradled in goodness makes the difficulty so much more manageable.

I wonder if mindfulness attracts trail runners or trail runners become more mindful. There is no way to be on these trails and NOT be mindful. My mind is full of nothing of my life…my awareness is completely wrapped up in the next step…over the roots, over the fallen redwood truck, up the stairs, up more stairs, descending over huge roots of trees whose age I cannot even imagine. The history. The stability. The consistency & durability of this beauty…unfathomable. I’m cognizant of the my steps and how I must be careful of these slippery descents as we did get just a bit of rain past 2 days…coming into Mile 4, I am finally done ascending and onto Matt Davis Trail where I know i can really run a bit. Narrow, twisty trail that will allow me to feel like I have a stride once again. Here is where I noticed a lingering fog that added a chill. My hands got cold and I loved the coolness on my cheek. A surge came over me at one point and its that kind of surge where I just want to scream because I am so happy and fulfilled in that moment…I want to scream it out to the world. Instead, I smile and feel it all in my chest and let it keep fueling me. Somewhere around Mile 5 or just after is the long descent back to Stinson Beach. Utter fun. Some danger due to the wetness that left some areas very slippery but all in all, a time to let loose, to let go and fly down…I could not hold back, could not go slower, I kept pushing, sometimes effortlessly, down this narrow trail. I had another internal dialogue happening; “why should i not try my best, why should i not go as fast as i can…why save the legs? what if this is the last time i get to do this?” Because we don’t know, do we…we never know…and so it was…today, in Muir Woods.