Archive for December, 2013

Post race musings

Posted in photos, quotes, races, running, shoes, trail, travel with tags , , , , , , , on December 12, 2013 by afuntanilla

The race was 5 days ago and as I’ve been recovering and traveling along, I’ve had some post race thoughts I wanted to put down and share.
To not finish: it SUCKS! No other word for it. Period.
Having to tell people, even strangers, who ask how you did: SUCKS!

The morning after the race, there was a post-race breakfast that I attended and met a few people and swapped stories of our experience. I knew I would say, “I didn’t finish”, and I knew that I would have to have a strong stomach as I did so….
I’m sure no one cares, but I care, and it just isn’t the most pleasant thing to report to people. But, it definitely comes with the “territory” of running and doing these kinds of things. It is part of the running experience. Every race can’t be smooth, easy, predictable. Gosh, how boring would that be!! I understand, it’s the opposite side. The opposite of setting a personal best at a time or a distance. It’s the opposite of finishing and finishing strong, which I have had many such experiences.
2 days after the race, as I made the drive from Te ‘Anu back to Queenstown, I was stuck with the thought that ‘I should have finished’. During the 2 hour drive, I really let it bother me. 5 days later, I am more at peace. I did all I could on that particular day.

In evaluating what could have helped me or what I could have done differently, I have some thoughts;
Nutrition; I really need to get a better handle on this. By nutrition, I mean race day nutrition. If I plan on doing events that take me over 5/6 hours, I cannot rely on energy gels alone. I need more solid food and I need to train with different things and see what works best.
Training; I’ve already mentioned some of this in earlier posts, but for this particular race, I needed to run longer with more elevation. I needed to have incorporated more tough back to back days on weekends. Plain and simple.
Why didn’t I train more? Honestly, I just wasn’t motivated enough. And my body was tired. Some people who know me on a daily basis know I’ve been talking about fatigue for awhile now and how I need to give my body a good break from running. I was tired going into the marathon in October and I was tired going into Kepler.

I don’t regret either experience, just being honest with how I was feeling. That is why even though it sucked to not finish Kepler, I was not surprised.

Sometimes my enthusiasm to participate in events really takes over and I cannot contain myself. I see something or hear about a race and I wanna do it. And then I see another one and I want to do that too. I realize I can’t do everything AND have the kind of experience I want. My body can only take so much.

I am looking for answers to questions that are important for me to have answered; how can I recover better? What are the best things for me to do? Is it nutrition related? Is it training related? Is it rest/recovery related?

I believe it is a combo of all those things and it means something different for me than it does for the next person. And the next person. We all have different bodies with unique requirements and capabilities. My goal is what it always is, to get the most I can from myself.
And to know what’s possible, my body needs resting time. I made an agreement with myself that after Kepler I would not run for 30 days. And more, if I feel like it. Just take a break. Heal. Rest. Repeat.

I have not run, but I’ve been walking a lot and sometimes with elevation. Soon, that will change. My vacation will come to an end and I will be back home and in a work routine. I plan to NOT run, but I do plan to stay active by getting in some cycling, swimming and just plain old workouts at the gym. I can very much feel how I need both the mental and physical rest.

There are running related goals I very much want to achieve. And I’m coming to understand more and more how it’s about smart planning just as much as dedication and commitment.

I will continue to strive to be the best me…to keep pulling out the best me that I can find!

Onward and upward!

RACE GEAR

Shoes: Brooks Cascadia trail shoes. This is my 1st pair of brooks trail shoes and they worked out fine. They are not too heavy, with a good bit of cushioning. They feel a bit wide and roomy, so they actually feel a bit loose on me. I compare this feel to some old ASICS trail shoes I have and still wear. They feel much more narrow. I also had quite a bit of small pebbles in my shoes during the race and I don’t ow if it’s because they do fit a bit loose on me or what…but, overall, no complaints.

Socks: Injinji toe socks. I love these socks. Been wearing them now for all my long runs and have had no blisters.

Pack: Salomon Skin S-Lab race pack. I love this pack! The only other pack I have had is an older Nathan pack with water bladder and just a few pockets. This Solomon pack has MANY pockets, both zipped and some unzipped. It has 2 clasps in the front so you can tie across your chest which gives a very compact/form fitting feel. It doesn’t restrict or interfere with arm movements either. One of the best parts might be that the bite valve from the water bladder can fit snuggle across your chest and really all you need to do for a sip of water is barley move the tube to your mouth. Very seamless and convenient. They thought of everything!

Shorts: black North Face running shorts. I love these too, they fit well and are simple. 1 small pocket in the rear if you need it for gel, or key. I didn’t need it for this race since I had my pack but I use the pocket at other times.

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The Kepler Mountain Challenge

Posted in motivation, photos, races, running, trail with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2013 by afuntanilla

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Race morning began with my iPhone alarm buzzing at 4am. Splashing cold water on my face, waking up, and smiling….the day is finally here! I made some instant hotel coffee that is not half bad and eat my customary chocolate chip ClifBar and banana. I sat in bed, eating, drinking, quietly waking up to the day and feeling positive. I dress in shorts and my long sleeved “RUNATL” shirt. I put all my “required gear in my Salomon race pack; 1 long sleeved shirt, beanie, gloves, rain jacket, long wool pants, & rain jacket. These are all “compulsory gear” and we would have to undergo a gear check along the route to ensure compliance. The gear is required due to the nature of the changing conditions of the course, especially as we get to the top of the mountain. With the water in my pack, the clothing and all my GU Energy gels and Hammer Nutrition gels, my pack was beyond full.
I drove to the start of the race, about 3 miles from hotel. The streets were quiet and dark and the day was clear. No rain, but some last night and more expected later today.
Arriving at the start, I make one last bathroom stop and head to start line. As with other trail races, the number of runners are much less and the start line a lot more relaxed and low key. After a 10 second countdown, me and 449 others were off on our adventure of the Kepler Challenge; some with goals of winning, some with goals of beating a previous time, some running for their 10th time, some running the 1st time, some just wanting to finish.
That was me; I just want to finish. Have fun and finish. Enjoy the journey.

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The first 3 miles are the soft trail, surrounded by green on both sides, more trees than I can even say. Off to my right past the trees, I could heart the edge of lake Te’Anu softly bumping up against the shore. Those first few miles were very crowded, but still able to have a nice easy stride. The soft steps of all us runners in close proximity to one another is such a nice sound.
We approached out first aide station and shortly after, the long, long ascent began. I think we climbed for about 10 miles and it was unbelievable. It was difficult and with an alarming amount of jaw dropping beauty all around. The first climbing miles were still in the thick green “forest”, switchbacks, stairs, bridges, etc…as we approached higher elevation, green gave way to open expanse. No one around me was running, everyone walking, climbing, etc. I would like to know if the front runners were running this part of the course….
Soon, we arrive at what I think may be the top of the climbing…the views are just ridiculously beautiful. I don’t have the words to describe it. Mountains, and mountain, and some lakes in between….all around. It was like out of a movie….
We arrive at checkpoint/aide station #2 and this is where we have a gear check. The volunteers make sure you have what’s required and we are off again. I grab 1/2 banana, refill my water and am off. I had met and chatted with a nice woman from Australia and we were changing places here and there. She was mostly ahead of me, but at times we were together and chatting. I noticed how fast she was climbing and was like, “how???”
We continue on….climbing…we turn a corner and I think, oh, there’s the top….um….no, wrong again. Keep climbing. At some point through all this, it is getting cold. We area up at 4500-5000 feet and it is also a bit windy. I put on my jacket, gloves and cap. I’m eating my gels, but i am not keeping track of how often and that was not a smart idea. I should have been keeping track. I knew I had a lot, but didn’t know exactly how many, so I didn’t know if I was eating too many of too few for the length of the race. Why didn’t I plan this better??
My mood is good, I am thoroughly enjoying the views and the experience and I am climbing more and more. Finally, we arrive at the top and their is a photographer there who takes our picture and says, “welcome to the top”. I smile, happy! I’m also thinking how did this guy get up here? He was literally stationed on a super small area, all bundled up, taking our photos. Maybe the helicopter dropped him off.

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Reached the top, now for the descent….
Oh my….ouch, ouch on the quads….wow. A bit more technical at first, with lots of small rocks to navigate. My shoes were continuously filled with small pebbles, an annoyance, and had to stop a few times to empty them when a bigger rock got inside.
I had a few bathroom pee breaks on the trail. 1 at a checkpoint, and 2 in the woods. I didn’t want to stop but…
The descent was very long and more painful than the ascending. The ascending is just plain difficult; this amount of descending all in succession was difficult AND painful. The trails in Marin that I had been running on were good training ground, I just didn’t do them enough for longer periods of time per training session.
More descending and at a point where it was switchbacks on steroids. For those who might not know, switchbacks on trails are like a zig zag over and over again. And again. Some amazing trees along the way. I was literally in a forest. Took this photo which didn’t quite show it, but the trees were almost like a Spanish moss. Lots of ferns and beech trees and who knows what else! I was about 6 hours in and I was feeling it. I was tired. Hungry. I felt like I needed some salt. Whatever electrolyte levels were in my Energy gels wasn’t cutting it. I was finally on flat ground and running. Walking. Repeat. They had a few other things to eat at aide stations but I didn’t want to eat anything I had not been familiar with and potential suffer stomach issues. I continued on for more spectacular miles. Looking right, left, and above and just seeing beauty like never before. True paradise! Wow! I actually fell a couple of times; once while turning on a switchback. I just slipped and scrapped the left side of my lower leg. No problems, just scrapping and a little blood. It was actually kinda fun. Later, I slipped on a some wet rocks. Slid completely onto my backside and

Mmy right palm was all that got a small pang. I was lucky. There were many tricky and dangerous places on the track….slippery areas and lots of rocks and rooted areas where you could easily slip and fall. I had to constantly look down to avoid a fall. It was a long day of meditative running. I had my earbuds with me in case I wanted to listen to music, but I never did. I just wanted to be be out there and soak it all in. The last 5 miles before I got to the next checkpoint, Montara Hut, were painfully slow. Walking a lot and running, um…shuffling a little. Ugh. It sucked. But, I just was running out of strength and energy. After 7 hours, my Suunto Ambit2 watch had lost all of its battery life and from that point on, I didn’t know how far I was. I had my phone so I knew the time, but not mileage. I was thinking what should I do when I get to Montara Hut? Should I pull myself or keep going? Well, I didn’t take too long to decide. By the time I arrived at the station, I checked in and then said to the 2 ladies there, “I don’t think I can go on, I think this is it for me.” They looked at with such care and sweetly said, “well, that’s ok. You’ve come so far already. But, if you want, just sit, eat and think about what you want to do.”
I sat down, had some water and one of the ladies came over and brought me some food to choose from, saying, “can I get you anything else?” She was so nice!!
One of the women volunteers who was keeping track of the runners at this stage came over and asked if this was the end for me and I said yes. That was it. My Kepler Race was over. I went to the bathroom, put my long rain pants on and then sat and waited for the boat to take me and another fella across to the start line. I sat in the sun and felt ok with my decision. If I continued on, I would have had to walk the remaining 9 miles and there was ZERO desire in me to do that in the condition I was already in.
As I write this, I feel a bit teary, but I knew not finishing was a possibility due to my level if training and fitness and the proximity this race had been to my October marathon. I knew it was a push. I knew it was a gamble. So, I am without surprise, and yet still with disappointment of not crossing the finish line. I wanted that for me. No fanfare, no one here traveling with me, I don’t even think you get a medal….but I wanted to cross, just as I do every race. But, on this day, I didn’t want to walk those last 9 miles and finish that way. I did not strain over my decision as I feel I also made a smart decision for my body.
Today, of course, I am sore; legs, especially my quads, feet and back are all feeling it. I earned every bit of soreness and remain proud of my efforts. I looked at it as an adventure, and it was. With all it’s astounding, made for gasping beauty, it really was quite and adventure.

Total time: note sure as my watched had stopped, but approx 8 hours, so min
Distance: 27.6 miles
Ascent: 5,252 feet **most ever so far
Descent: 4,377 feet **most ever so far

This was the most challenging and difficult race I have attempted. It surpasses the 40 miler, the 50k trail run Tennessee and the 34.4 miles I ran as part of the JFK 50.

I want to give a MASSIVE shout out to all the Kepler volunteers. They were amazing and so giving!!
Thank you to my friends and loved ones who have cheered me on!! I felt you with me in spirit!!

If you are a runner, put this race on your bucket list. If you are alive and breathing, put this place on your list to walk, hike, etc…

More pics some from the top and then thru forest.

A footnote on that last pic of me at my finish: I was trying to give a sad face for not finishing and it doesn’t look like I just ran what I did, doesn’t look as though I ran 26 hard ass miles. I assure you I did! 🙂
I could also not be to bummed in the moment as the ladies who helped me were so amazing and sweet!

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The “why New Zealand”…

Posted in races, running, trail, travel with tags , , , , , , , on December 3, 2013 by afuntanilla

(Written earlier on the plane from SFO to NZ. Currently at destination and IN heaven!)

New Zealand had never been on my radar, my bucket list or anything of the sort. Back in the early 1990’s, a friend a mine went by herself, to explore and vacation and I remember thinking, “wow, that is so awesome…here she is going all that way by herself.” I admired her for taking it upon herself to just go. She returned and told me of her adventures and the beauty of the country and that was the last I had heard of the country for a long while. Over the years, I have only met a few people who had been there and they, too, had good things to say.

So, I have this book titled, ‘Extreme Running’. I bought it a few years ago after I became interested in participating in ultramarathons. The book is basically filled with pictures, information, and inspiration to go run in some amazing places…all distances over the marathon. Back in the early part of this year, I was thinking I wanted to give a go again at the 50 mile distance. My one attempt back in 2007 at the JFK 50 miler ended in somewhat disappointing fashion as I had to exit the course at mile 34.4 because I had missed a time cut off. It was bittersweet as that (34.4 miles) was the farthest I had ever run, but definitely disappointed I was not able to finish the race due to the race rules regarding time.

As my desire reared its head to again try that distance, I was flipping through the book, and came across the Kepler Challenge 60k in New Zealand. After reading the incredible description of the race, surrounded by amazing beauty, and looking at my calendar, I decided I would attempt to get into the race and hope for the best. 60k is obviously not 50 miles, (60k is 37.2 miles) but I thought, “well….it IS New Zealand and it would be a chance to travel someplace super cool and you have been wanting to take a big trip for a while, so why not…..?” Also, I could not find a 50 miler that was enticing enough in a) location b) enough time to train, etc…

So, all I had to do next was wait for the online entry to open in July.

July came and oddly enough, I was waiting for something else at that time; to find out if I got chosen in the lottery system for the Nike Women’s Marathon in SF in October. So, as I am waiting for that result, I am online at the appropriate time to register for Kepler. Aware that the chance of me getting a slot is not great because the number of runners allowed is small, around 450, and the race is very popular. So, it was a total chance. In my mind I’m thinking I could get into BOTH these races; the marathon in October and then a 60k trail race about 7 weeks later. YIKES. But then again, I might not get into either! DAMN…..

After hitting the submit button for Kepler, I got an email saying that all entries had been filled and I would be put on the wait list. Damn. Ok…..
A day later, I received another email saying I was allowed in because I would be coming as an international runner! YAY…..YIPPEEE….I WAS GOING TO NEW ZEALAND. I was going on an adventure!!!

And with that, I proceeded to look into the necessary planning. It had been about 20 years since I last traveled outside the United States, (except for Montreal, Canada in 2004).

Within a week, I received notification I had gotten into the Nike marathon. Oh shit. I got into BOTH. I mean, yippee, right?!!!??!!!
(Me thinking to myself….angie, what are you getting yourself into???)

How do I prepare for a road marathon and then a longer trail race with over 4000ft of elevation gain, while traveling clear across the world? How do I do that?
Well, my plan was to train for the marathon as I have in the past and mix in a weekly trail run. Then, after the marathon, get some serious trail runs done, and hopefully the mix and the timing will all work out.

About half way through the marathon training, I questioned my plans…doing 2 big races so closely together on the calendar. Was it smart? Was it a bad idea? Was it too much? Was I over zealous? What were my options; don’t do the marathon. Just focus on Kepler. Ok. Maybe…..no, I want to do both, I want to try to do both. Well, over zealous or not, I stuck with it. The marathon didn’t go as I would have liked… and that is due to a variety of things. I rested for 2 weeks and then started getting some trail runs under my feet on the weekends. Running almost exclusively in Marin on the Dipsea Trail and the Tennessee Valley Trails, I worked hard, had fun, and thoroughly enjoyed all the amazing views, colors, smells, etc….I literally huffed and puffed up the many steep climbs and felt like a free little kid as I flew down the descents! That feeling right there, of going so fast on the downhill sections, that sensation of wild abandonment, that sense of play, that sense of joy…..that is my WHY. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to get off the pavement.

I really needed a least 2 more weeks of running on trails, getting in 1-2 more long runs in on the terrain. But, the calendar moves along and we have to move with, right!

I have no idea what will happen on race day, Dec 7th. I have no idea how the travel will affect me. I will have 3.5 days after I land to adjust to the time, etc…
I would have liked at least 2 more weeks of trail training, I would have liked to feel physically stronger and less fatigue in my legs, etc….but I am where I am and all I can say is, I will show up and do my best and give everything I have. I don’t so much look at this as a race, but as an adventure. For those who don’t know, trail running/racing is a completely different experience than road racing. I mean, there were 30,000 women running the half and full marathon in SF! There will be 450 for KEPLER! It’s more laid back, less fanfare, and more communal. I hope to meet some cool peeps and enjoy the ride. I expect to be out there for a long time.

My goal: to have fun and to finish.

Oh, and then…..I will travel around and have myself a vacation!!!

Cheers!