Archive for ultramarathon

The Kepler Mountain Challenge

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

20131208-164323.jpg

20131208-164041.jpg

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.

20131208-174533.jpg

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.

20131208-180700.jpg

20131208-165740.jpg

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!

20131208-172912.jpg

20131208-172922.jpg

20131208-172930.jpg

20131208-172935.jpg

20131208-172942.jpg

20131208-172949.jpg

<a href="http://

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!

Running around…

Posted in motivation, quotes, races, road, running, trail, travel with tags , , , , , , on November 28, 2013 by afuntanilla

My feet, my legs, my entire body has run in many places. I’ve gone running just for fun or training in many cities across America and have also raced in numerous locations.
My feet have touched the ground in Seattle, Washington and toured their downtown areas, found a local Peets and ran by the beautiful campus of University of Washington. My legs have propelled me along the shores of Lake Michigan and through the amazing, diverse streets of Chicago as I caught the marathon fever and ran my first and second marathon in that there city. I can still remember now, very clearly, those last 6 miles of my 1st marathon in 2000. My feet ached like hell, my body overly spent and somehow I found the strength to continue. There were literally thousands of runners all around me. We ran past the Chicago White Sox ballpark and I gathered as much energy as I could as we ran parallel to the Lake. I have never forgotten the scene of that last mile as the streets, and then stands, were jam packed of spectators/cheerleaders; those crazy, supportive people who come out in droves to cheers us runners on to the finish line. It was thunderous, colorful; a scene and a feeling I hope I never forget.
As I traversed the United States by car several times, I have had the pleasure of running in the 7000 feet elevation city of Flagstaff, Arizona (one of my favorite small cities), the absolute and utterly flat lands of Lubbock, Texas, through an old, quaint mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, along the fringes of the beaches in both Myrtle and Virginia Beach (South Carolina/Virginia); I’ve run though the downtown areas of Cleveland, OH before heading to the wild and booming Browns stadium filled with thousands of my best friends for four hours. I’ve run a few marathons in my birthplace of San Francisco, California and did an epic 40 mile run on my 40th birthday in the city where I was raised, San Leandro, California.
And HEAT, yes, I’ve been in the heat. For about 13 years, I trained and raced in and around Atlanta, Georgia. I ran mile after training mile on the gorgeous, peaceful, paved Silver Comet Trail, the hilly, windy trails of Sweetwater Park, circles of paths in and around Stone Mountain Park, and through more neighborhoods than I can list. The stifling heat and humidity of the south will always remain a heavy KNOWN in my body, a sixth sense perhaps, but I will also never forget running through the snow storm that blanketed and shut down Atlanta for a few days a few years ago. THAT was fun.
Birmingham, Alabama grabbed me more than once as it puts on a terrific half marathon every February. The sleepy, slow city with nothing else to do comes alive in the dead of winter and has an awesome race in typically chilly temperatures.
And I have done what perhaps many of you have as your number 1 bucket list item; I have run the “Rocky Steps” in Philadelphia. As I finished a short run though the city, I ended it by going up those few steps and of course, raised my arms in victory as I got to the top. Myself and many others were all so proud of ourselves. I think every person should do this at least once in their life. I’m not sure you have TRULY lived until you have run the “Rocky Steps.”
More heat and humidity dragged me down in the cities of Orlando and Panama City Beach, Florida. Not much else to say there.
I sucked some wind in Denver, Colorado but luckily found a Peets Coffee along the way. I’ve gotten my fill of education as I ran through the campuses of University of Texas (Austin, TX), Clemson (Clemson, SC) Harvard (Boston, MA), University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE), Vanderbilt (Nashville, TN) and the mighty orange of The University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN) I’ve suffered through boring routes comprised of office parks in New Jersey and Connecticut and come alive on tortuous runs and races in Marin County, California. I paid tribute to history as I ran past the many memorials in DC and then gasped at the beauty of the George Washington River. I have raced on The Las Vegas strip and took refuge in its farther removed Red Rock Trails. I’ve found breathtaking beauty on the Appalachian Trails of Maryland before being pulled from the JFK 50 mile race because of a time cut-off.
And many more roads and trails in between and all over.

My legs, my feet, my body have given me more than I could ever ask for and I am enormously thankful I am able to do my thing. I do my best to treat it well; to feed it properly and adequately, to allow it to rest, to play and dance and move in non-running ways. I try to do my best to appreciate what my body CAN do instead of focusing on what it cannot yet do or may never do…but I often fail in my efforts of appreciation. I can be demanding. I can be greedy. I want more. From me. And so, I try to be mindful of appreciation, of realistic expectations, of balance….

I am now “on vacation” until Dec 16th. This is absolutely foreign to me as I have never taken this much time off of work. I have never taken any sort of trip anywhere that didn’t involve a race or some fun running. And I have ZERO regrets about this. I don’t think I am suited to go lay on a beach, beautiful as they may be. I am meant to roam, to explore, to go sniffing around while I’ve got my kicks on….

And now, I am taking myself on another adventure to do what I have long dreamed of; running an ultramarathon outside of the United States. I will travel to New Zealand to take part in the Kepler Challenge on DEC 7th. The race is 60k (37.2 miles) all on trails in the southern area of the South Island of NZ! I’m beyond thrilled to be going on this adventure.

More later on the why New Zealand and my hopes and expectations for the race and the trip itself.

20131127-201808.jpg

twenty-eleven

Posted in random, road, trail, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by afuntanilla

I’ve been thinking about what races, what adventures I will undergo in 2011. At this point, I have no firm decisions yet. What I AM super clear about is that I want to have more adventures! I want to go to experience new places, new terrain. It’s pretty fun just thinking about the endless possibilities. I’m also considering running 2 races i have previously run; the Mercedes Benz Half-Marathon in Feb. Why? This has got to be one of my favorite races. I love the cool/cold weather. I love the varied route and it’s not too many people. They also give out cool long-sleeve t-shirts and nice medals. The other race I am considering again is the LA Marathon in March. Why? To put it simply, because my one and only race there in 2010 SUCKED. I was not feeling good going into the race and I did not have fun at all. So, i kinda want to erase that memory. Or…I might just let it go and move on…we’ll see. I love going to LA and Santa Monica.

I’d also like to get out and do more races on trails…just craving more nature.

I’m considering a big race in June. I’ll keep you posted. Not sure on this yet. Just brainstorming. I want to run in states i’ve never been too before like Utah, Montana, etc…longing to see more open and beautiful space. I feel like there is so much I haven’t seen. The clock is ticking…

My next race will be the Las Vegas Half Marathon on Dec 5th. How’s that for some nature?? LOL

If you know me, you know I go to Vegas at least once a year and I have not been in about 2 years. I dig it. Love to gamble. Love the bigness and craziness of it. Looking forward to running on some flat land and hanging with friends.

Stay tuned for the rest. CHEERS!

numbers, et al.

Posted in photos, road with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by afuntanilla

I first heard about the Western States 100 UltraMarathon back on the eve of my first ever HALF-MARATHON in 1999. A friend was explaining the race to me and as i was about to embark on 13.1 miles the next day, hearing about this 100 MILE race was incomprehensible. I could barely wrap my head around 13.1 miles…100 miles…whew!!

It’s years later now and while I know 100 miles is a lot, it is no longer incomprehensible to me. I mention this because this classic, bad-ass annual race took place this past Saturday. The route starts in Squaw Valley, CA & ends in Auburn, CA covering some ridiculous elevation along with snow in the beginning and 90 degrees+ later in the day. I was following along via the web & twitter to get updates on some of the ultrarunners that inspire me. It is truly amazing what the top runners are able to do…what their bodies are able to do. AMAZING.

No, I’m not planning on running a 100 mile race…at least not anytime soon. 🙂 I just mention this because, there I was, saturday morning, all inspired and amped up!! Damn 100 miles. That’s a long way!!

Here are some tidbits from some recent runs:

Wednesday; 5.25 miles, treadmill
Thursday; 4 miles, 95 degrees
Saturday; 5.16 miles, 85 degrees, 68% humidity
Sunday; a.m. 10 miles, 74 degrees, 85% humidity; p.m. 3o min walk/run/hill repeats. 90 degrees

Diet: all vegetarian.

here are some pics of some of the training ground:

Heading west on Silver Comet Trail (below)

Trying to cool off afterwards in the creek!

It was pretty damn peaceful sitting there after 10 good miles!

At least a couple of days a week, usually after running on treadmill, I will run up these steps. They are the beginning of the 6 flights up to my place. I love running these!!

I know I talk about the heat a lot, but damn…y’all…we’ve had some RIDICULOUS weather here lately. I cannot remember the last time it WAS NOT 95+ degrees outside. Everyday the heat and high humidity. This is not too customary for June in Atlanta. July and August but not June. I don’t even think we had a Spring. Walking across the street in the afternoons to grab coffee just about knocks me out. I feel like my face is on fire. Seriously. Well….what are you gonna do, right?

Like they say, ‘that which doesn’t kills us, makes us stronger’.

Go to it. Get Strong. Get Stronger.

…on my way to 40….that’s almost HALF of a 100… just sayin’