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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Turkey Trotting

Posted in motivation, photos, races, running, trail with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2014 by afuntanilla

Opted to run the local “Turkey Trot” run in town on Thanksgiving. I ran this for the 1st time 2 years ago. It’s totally informal; no registration fees, no t-shirts…just a bunch of people gathering at a local park and going for either a 4 or 6 mile walk or run. In lieu of fees, we were to bring food items for donation to a local food bank. It was great to see more people out versus 2 years ago and to see lots of food donated!!

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In addition to the holiday spirit, I wanted to do this run because it’s basically a loop I have been doing sporadically through my training. 1 mile of gradual uphill pavement into Helen Putnam Park, continue with 1 more mile of gradual-steep uphill thru the park, next 2 miles are varied up/down on wide then narrow trails; mile 4-5 is narrow flat, curvy trail and 6 is all downhill to the finish. I started with the first group (staggered start) and am happy to report there were probably only a few people in the 6 mile group that passed me. It was nice to see this as it reflects on my progress and its validating. I didn’t push hard as its too close to my race, so that’s also comforting to know. About 1500 ft total elevation.

Today, 2 days post-thanksgiving, I ran that same 6 mile loop. Slower, more deliberate, easy…it was a light drizzle at the start, not cold at all. As I my feet went further and further, the rain came down a little bit harder, but nothing dramatic. Lots of puddles along the trail and some splashes on my shoes. The early morning fog still lingered off in the distance. I wished I didn’t wear glasses on runs like this…would love to just feel the water all over my face….I love it all; the wetness, the cool Refreshing air, the eerily beautiful quiet. Ahhh….all the things I would miss if i couldn’t be OUTSIDE. Quite Thankful, indeed! So many things…my health, being able to be outside, to have all my senses working….may we not take anything for granted!

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Altitude & Attitude

Posted in photos, running, trail, travel with tags , , , , on November 29, 2014 by afuntanilla

Man, it’s not easy to run at altitude, but it sure is pretty looking and pretty damn awesome!

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I was up in South Lake Tahoe last weekend and went for a short 5 miler on Saturday. I was in heaven.

The steady light rain and cool air felt so needed & refreshing on my face. I could sense my innards smiling. The gray skies followed me along the High Meadow Trail and through the woods. Not another human was around. Just me & the mighty, lengthy pines, rocks of various shapes & sizes, and the occasional rushing sound of water flowing in the nearby Cold Creek. I heard nothing and everything. I was on high alert, but then also in a kind of trance. Nature does that to us, doesn’t it? Feeling so singularly focused & present in the moment, but also kinda in lala land….because we are…there is no judgement, no expectations, no deadlines, nothing but the pure and simple ecstatic beauty of just what is…

The trail I was on was going to connect with Tahoe Rim Trail, which I had wanted to see, but I didn’t quite get there….That will definitely be for another day. Today was the first time I have ever run on Tahoe Trails and I can say this; I will be back! Stunning! And I only saw 5 miles today.
The next day, I went for just a 2 mile hike on a completely different trail. It, too, was stunning. After about 1/4 mile of easy walking, trail gets difficult as you are climbing, climbing, and then that you don’t even know where it is because there are huge rocks, boulders everywhere….where is the path?? As you look up and to the east, you are gifted with amazing views of Emerald Bay and then Lake Tahoe a bit further. To the north & west are gorgeous views of the Sierras, some had a bit of snow, but not much just yet. (Phone battery died so no pics of this trail)

As I looked around, I was just in awe and again, so Thankful for my body, my health, and for living where I can see such beauty. I wanna keep finding more places. I wanna keep going….

GET OUTSIDE!

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