Clearly there is something about this race that keeps me coming back year after year. Last year I “raced it” meaning I set out to try and get a specific time. Boy did THAT hurt (I PR’d but didn’t reach my race goal).
This year, I just set my sights on pacing my boss to the finish-line of his first ever marathon.
Last year when I came into work after having run CIM, my boss said, “I want to run CIM next year. I want to run a marathon before I turn 50. Do you think I could do it?” I told him he could absolutely do it so long as he trained.
So, he trained. Every so often, Boss, SS (another running coworker) and I would run mid-week on our lunch hour. SS and I would give him some pointers or tips. Tell him stories of our first marathon etc. Boss would listen, take our advice and continue training.
Finally race morning arrived and I could feel his excitement. Sometimes you forget your first marathon and just how excited, nervous, anxious, freaked-out you are.
We made our way to the start line. I vowed to stick with him the whole race as I had no goals or objectives. I was out there to see him finish.
SS left us to go find a spot higher up in a faster group. We situated ourselves with the 4:00 hour pace group. I knew deep down Boss would love a four hour (even a sub four hour) finish time. I was okay with that, albeit a bit nervous having not run much on pavement these last few months.
The gun went off and we took off at a respectable pace. We stayed right where we were supposed to be for a 4 hour finish. Then, we started speeding up.
Miles 3 through 8 were faster than I thought we should be doing but Boss kept saying he felt good. We were slightly ahead of the 4 hour pace group.
Miles 9 and 10 we were right back down where we should have been.
Mile 11 included a pit-stop at the porta-potties. We didn’t take too long but it was long enough to have the 4:00 hour and 4:08 hour pace groups pass.
I could sense a little disappointment from Boss. He even asked if I was going to try and “catch” them. I told him if he wanted to we could try or we could just run and see what happens. The latter is exactly what we did.
Miles 12 through 14 we were back to our usual pace.
Around mile 14.5 I asked him if he took that gel he grabbed a while back and he said that he had taken 2/3rds of it. Uh-oh. I could feel his energy depleting. He had stopped talking and joking with me too.
I handed him some jelly beans. At first he refused but then he ate them. He seemed to gain some energy after that, enough to be more talkative.
Miles 15 – 18 he slowed significantly. He would no longer run along side of me, he’d run behind me. We would often walk a bit. I gave him a gluten free peanut butter and jelly bar to have as well, hoping that he wasn’t too far in the hole to bounce back.
Prior to this he had been urging me to go on without him but I refused. To appease him, I told him that I’d get him to mile 20 and then we’d reassess and if he still wanted me to leave him, I would.
Mile 18.6 he pulled to the side and told me to go. He said he really wanted me to go on without him. He promised he wouldn’t quit. I handed him all the fuel I had left on me and I made him swear that he would eat all of it.
I left him. I felt badly doing so but sometimes I can understand wanting to be alone, in your own misery to get yourself out of it.
I surged on. I knew my family was at mile 20.
My pace quickened, Mile 20 was 8:19 (super excited to see my family!). I hugged my girls and Vans and kept moving.
Mile 21- 8:45/mi
Mile 22 – 8:51/mi
Mile 23 – 8:41/mi
Mile 24 – 9:00/mi (the sharp turns from J Street to Alhambra then again to L Street)
Mile 25 – 8:56/mi
Mile 26 – 8:53/mi
I was doing my best to push and try to catch the 4 hour group but my body was not having it. It would give me a few good strides and then would feel as if I was running in quicksand. I had no fuel left and I ran out of water between miles 24 and 25 but refused to stop.
I was super happy to see the finish. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 6 minutes. I just could never quite catch that 4 hour pace group. 🙂
Once I finished I found my family and went in search of SS. We then heard from Boss that he was at mile 25 and walking in. Finally we saw him!
He seemed happy to see us because he started running so we joined him.
We made the sharp left turn towards the finish shoots and SS and I peeled off screaming Boss’s name the whole way! He had done it! He finished! His time was 4 hours and 50 minutes.
I am super proud of him. He followed through in his goal. He said he has a whole new appreciation for running and the distance. He doesn’t think he’ll sign up for another anytime soon but he’s super excited to have completed his very first marathon!
And I feel honored to have been there to witness it. Like I have been telling my coworkers all day, he put in all the work, I just tried to keep his mind off all the pain. 🙂
What started out as a joke on Facebook before our road trip a few weeks ago (you can read about that adventure here), got me thinking about the people I run with and who honestly, I spend most of my happy time with (besides my own family).
I feel very lucky to have the set of friends that I do. Friends who do crazy things and who enjoy Mother Nature and getting muddy just as much as me.
If you read my posts, you know who these usual suspects are in my life. Pigeon, Stonegate and Burning Girl are the most frequent. Occasionally we are lucky enough to run with Miss P and Pearls.
I also run with a dear friend, TiggerT. She doesn’t run ultras but when we do run, we usually laugh, a lot. She is my California International Marathon buddy and my “road-running” friend.
But more importantly, she and Stonegate, Burning Girl and Pigeon are my friends. My wolf-pack. They are the ones I know will support me in a race and in life.
Truth be told, before I ran trails, I ran alone. A lot. I used to read Kristin Armstrong’s blog Mile Markers on Runner’s World and would be so envious of the stories she’d write about – meeting her friends for a morning workout or a long training run – laughing and sharing their life’s problems with each other. I wanted that.
Well now, I have it but 100 times better.
My wolf-pack doesn’t run together every day or every weekend, but we are connected. The trails may have brought us together but it isn’t what keeps us strong.
My wolf-pack keeps me sane. They keep me on my toes. They are resources for things I know nothing about. They build you up and remind you, that you are worth it and that you deserve the best. They are shoulders to cry on when life gets hard and they remind you when you may be making the same mistake twice.
They give you hugs when you need them and they make you laugh.
I adore my wolf-pack and while it seems stereotypical to “give thanks” this time of year, that is exactly what I want to do.
Thank you ladies for all that you do. Thank you for being a little bit crazy and a lot-a-bit fun. Thank you for being adventure seekers and thank you for supporting my often crazy ideas. Thank you for the hugs, the laughter and the tears. Thank you for listening. Thank you, for being you … my wolf-pack, our wolf-pack.
“They are going to kill me! But this is way too funny not to post!”
(warning – this is a super long post but a fun one)
The Thursday before I left for Oregon, my coworker and I were discussing the fact that I was going on a road-trip with two friends (also moms) and how we were headed to do a trail marathon put on by race director and all around ultra-running legend, Hal Koerner. One thing led to another and within minutes the above photo was created and shared on Facebook.
Hal was tagged and my friends laughed. He seems like he has a good easy going personality, so I hoped he didn’t mind. 🙂
First, let’s step back just a bit shall we? How did this all come about? Well, quite a few months ago I decided that in my final year of being 39, I wanted to do races that I have never done and go places and have fun! So I registered for the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon which takes place in Ashland, Oregon and I booked a hotel.
Vans and I have been to Ashland before and we loved it. He told me that he’d go with the kids but that I should really take my friends. So, I did.
Vans tagged us as “the wolfpack” on Facebook and the name has stuck. My girls and I hit the road ready to explore, live and just laugh our bums off!
The drive up was easy. We stopped along the way for photos and rest-stops but we made really good time and were in Ashland with lots of time to explore.
Then we walked a block or two over to Lithia Park to find the race start and finish area. This park is mind blowing and GORGEOUS!
We wandered the park, taking photos and then came across a little park with THE coolest climbing structure ever.
Stonegate and I couldn’t resist. We had to climb to the top. My kids would love this!
Since we were racing, we made it an early night and grabbed whatever food we all needed and headed back to the hotel to settle in and get ready for the race.
We felt kind of lame going back to our hotel when it was so early but we wanted to be rested for the race.
The race started at 8:00 am which for us, is extremely late. We were sort of thrown by the late start time but realized the next morning that it doesn’t get light out until about 7:45 am. Aaah, now I get it. 🙂
The best part is that we could leave our hotel and walk to the starting area. I love being able to do that.
As usual, we arrived a bit too early and watched as the race directors and volunteers helped put up the starting arch.
We knew this was not a huge race but we also knew that it was filled with mostly Oregon locals. Locals who looked like they could crush this course.
Promptly at 8 am, Hal counted us down and the race started. The first 10 miles are on a partly paved and partly dirt fire road. TEN MILES … UP HILL.
We all started out together and then quickly realized, that NO ONE walks. No one. Everyone was running. Mile 1, mile 2, mile 3 … no one stopped despite the fact that we were climbing some serious hill.
Burning Girl said, “I’ll catch ya later! Good luck!” as she stopped to walk. I must add, that Burning Girl’s farthest run to date had been 12 miles, once. This girl’s life has been hectic to say the least and yet she traveled to Ashland and made a game day decision. She started the race and would see how the day would unfold. Stonegate and I had our fingers crossed for her but to be honest, the odds were against her.
Stonegate and I ran a little further and then she stopped. I kept going but eventually stopped too. Stonegate caught me and we did a run walk combo up that hill. Everyone was looking at us as they ran past but we knew we wanted to be a bit conservative as we still had a lot of climbing to do!
The weather was perfect. All week they had predicted that it would be down pouring rain – first it was for the entire day, then it moved to the second half of the race and then, it wasn’t supposed to rain until late that evening! It was beautiful out. Not too cold. Not too hot.
The fire road was getting a little tedious. It wasn’t ugly but it had this gravel that was just very hard for me to get footing on. I would slide back an inch every so often. The tread on my shoes are also pretty worn so that didn’t help.
Finally we made a sharp right turn onto a single track. I don’t think Stonegate and I could be any happier. The funny thing is, all the people who had ran the fire road, walked the single track. That just made me laugh. I was ready to run at this point!
The trail was well marked and it smelled like pine! It was awesome.
I am not quite sure when it was, I think it was mile 8 or 9, Stonegate told me to go ahead that she needed to walk. So I ran thinking she would catch me eventually. I never saw her again.
I just kept running. I was starting to feel good. My legs were no longer tired from the climb and my lungs felt okay. We had reached the top of the hill and I knew that the rest was just a super flat-ish section until about mile 19 or 20.
There were six aid-stations throughout the course and I just took them one by one. I didn’t really need much as my pack was pretty stocked but the volunteers manning the aid-stations were SUPER nice!
The only downfall with this race is that there is no where, and I mean no where, to pull off to the side of the trail when nature calls. You have a cliff on one side and a wall or mountain of dirt more or less on the other.
This kind of stunk as I had to go twice during the race. Both instances I had to literally climb over a cliff and down an embankment one time and then climb over some downed trees another. That took a lot of time.
Finally I came to the last aid-station at about mile 19.5. I just said hello and was ready to keep running. I almost went the wrong way until they pointed me towards some single track trails. Yes!
It was a short single track that then dumped you onto a short fire road that then led you to Caterpillar Trail. As I understand it from the locals, this trail was newly built and this was the first year the course was running on it.
I hit this trail and it was like a fire had been lit inside me!
I just ran and ran and ran! I felt no pain. I was in heaven. I was smiling ear to ear cheering on runners as I passed them. I think I passed about 10 people on this section of the trail. I had passed about 8 on the fire road the last few miles as well. My energy was strong.
Up, down, up, down the trail was full of little rollers that weaved in and out of trees. There were downward switch backs and tight corners. To your left was a cliff. The trail itself was only a foot or two wide and to your right was a dirt wall. I prayed no mountain bikers were out there (as it turns out, mountain bikers have their own section of caterpillar to ride on that is just for them, how cool!?).
Runners cheered me on as I passed them. Finally at mile 24 I came to this …
I had to laugh and take a photo. Always throwing in stairs for good fun.
Finally the trail dumps you out onto a paved road. After a turn, you realize that you’re on the same road you started the race on and that we only had a mile to go.
I ran hard. I knew the race had a 6 hour cutoff and I had no concept of time. I never once looked at my watch for time. I’d occasionally look at it for mileage when it beeped to see if the mile markers were accurate (they were) but never once did I glance at the time or the pace I was running.
I passed about 4 more runners on this road (they looked like they were hurting). Locals were sitting on their curbs cheering us on! It was so cute.
Then I see the finish arch ahead. I was so happy but then something to my left caught my eye. There was a HUGE buck just standing at the curb, not five feet from me. Four feet from it, was a woman just sitting and cheering.
I looked from the buck to the woman and from the woman to the buck thinking, “Does she not SEE that? Am I imagining this? He is RIGHT there!” I wanted to stop and pull out my camera but I was literally just 30 yards from the finish.
As it turns out, when I did finish, there had been a family of deer to my right as well! Crazy!
I finished in 5 hours even. I apparently snuck past everyone as they had to chase me down to give me my medal and race swag.
I then waited for Stonegate and Burning Girl to finish. I hadn’t heard from either of them throughout the race. The cell coverage was spotty most of the day so that was understandable.
Stonegate finished and was smiling ear to ear. Her time was about 5 hours and 30 minutes and she was feeling good.
We quickly walked down the street to Pioneer Hall where the post-race food was located. Here they gave us growlers!
My very own growler! I was so excited. Stonegate grabbed a burrito. I took a photo of all the local beer being served to send to Vans back home.
Then we went back to the finish area to wait for Burning Girl. Neither one of us had heard from her. I talked to the guy manning the finish area and he said no one had dropped at any of the aid-stations that he was aware of.
Then, we saw Hal, the race director. I wanted a photo so I grabbed Stonegate and we wandered over. We asked if we could have a photo with him.
At first he laughed, then said, “Yea, I think I saw a photo or something Facebook already … that took a lot of work.” 🙂
I assured him that it really didn’t take much! hahaha It was so funny. He truly was a super nice guy and a good sport about it. He shared with us some places where we could go and hang out tonight post race.
All of a sudden, Stonegate gets a text from Burning Girl that she had HIT THE PAVEMENT! She was on her way into the finish! There were 5 runners out there and she was one of them.
Down the hill she came! She looked amazing! She did it! She freaking ran that hard-a$$ marathon with little to no training. Mind over matter she did it! I am so damn proud of that woman. She is one helluva strong runner! Sadly, we did NOT get a post race photo of all of us! Grrr!
But we did stop on our walk back to the hotel at Standing Stone Brewing Company again to fill up our new growlers!
Then it was back to the hotel for a mini celebration and showers. Despite being a little sore and tired, we were anxious to get out and really experience downtown Ashland.
We had drinks, followed by a nice dinner in a great place with locals cheering on the Oregon football team. We told stories of what we all experienced during the run and how we felt at certain points. It was pure bliss.
Alas, we are moms and we were tired so we called it quits pretty early and headed back to the hotel (in the pouring rain). We had our growlers and were eager to get foam rolling! haha
The next morning was day light savings. The time change didn’t really help us, our internal mom clocks had us up the normal time. We grabbed coffee and breakfast from the hotel and went back to pack up and hit the road.
The drive back was good. Again we made it a point to stop at scenic over looks for photos.
We stopped in Redding to visit Burning Girl’s mother-inlaw. She is the sweetest woman. We also stopped in Weed, California to have a little fun – gotta have fun in Weed!
All in all, it was one of the best weekends that I have had in a really long time. I feel truly blessed to have a supportive spouse who encouraged me to go have a weekend with friends and I feel truly lucky to know these two ladies who love to travel, love to run and love to adventure just as much as I do! So thank you Vans and thank you Stonegate and Burning Girl for being the two best adventure pals ever. I love that you are always willing to go on my crazy adventures and destination races.
So the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon was my last trail race in my current age bracket. I have one more race of the season left in December and then I cross the proverbial line into a new age bracket, a new era. So far I have to say that I am not afraid. I am not sad about it. My thirties have been fabulous. I have been so very blessed and so very lucky thus far to have the family, friends and adventures that I have had. This year in particular has been one helluva year for me running wise.
I have met and talked with some outstanding runners and athletes this year and it is all because I love to explore. If my mom’s death taught me one thing (it actually taught me a lot) but most importantly I have learned to live life! There is no telling what tomorrow may bring. So grab life by the horns, and cherish it. Then, let it go and find the next big thing. Make memories (heck make waves if you can). Just do it. And don’t forget to smile.
The October love is still flowing strong. This past weekend was no exception. We squeezed in a lot!
The weekend started off with the school’s Harvest Festival on Friday night. I am giving the PTA props because they made some changes to the festival and it was well done. Vans helped with some set up too.
Saturday we found ourselves at the Loving Lane event down in Sacramento. Sally Edwards, aka the Head Heart is a dear friend of ours. Her nephew Lane Edwards was in a terrible accident about two years ago and was left with a C4 spinal fracture which has left him unable to walk.
Lane is defying all odds with the help of a huge team of trainers who are supporting his efforts to be able to walk again, on his own two feet.
We attended his event to help support LovingLane.org which is enabling Lane to continue with his therapy. Check out his website www.lovinglane.org and see how you can help.
Also attending Lane’s event was Pinkhouse, our 97 (soon to be 98 in December) year old friend who contributed by doing an indoor cycling ride for Lane! How is that for inspiration!?
Sunday morning came bright and early for us after the great day we had at Loving Lane.
Coach Nikon invited Vans and myself to come out to his race AND he told us to bring our girls. He said that he and his daughter the Cheetah, would watch them while Vans and I ran. How absolutely perfect (and nice) is that?!
I ran the half marathon and Vans ran the 10k. My race started first. After a few announcements from Coach Nikon, I was off and running.
The 10k runners followed yellow and black checkered ribbons while the half marathon runners followed pink and black striped. The course was well marked with ribbons and with flour on the ground. If you got lost, you clearly were not paying any attention.
I should note that Vans does not run much if at all. He’s probably run once this entire month. Needless to say, he was pretty stoked to find out that he was the winner of the 10k.
He was also pretty tired and really did not enjoy the uphill finish! ha!
He had a blast though and loved the challenging course. Hmm, maybe I’ll sign him up for the half next year?? 😉
My race was fun. I ran hard and had a great first half. Second half, after climbing the old dam hill, I slowly started running out of steam.
There was a young(er) girl who passed me at one point and who I stayed behind the entire second half of the race. She was running super strong.
She stopped at the last aid-station, about 1.7 from the finish and I grabbed her arm and said, “Nope. Come on! This is your race. You’ve got this, let’s go!” She followed and took the lead.
She asked if I wanted to pass and I told her no, this race was hers as she had been a super strong steady runner the whole day.
We turned a corner and saw the final stretch to the finish. It was completely up hill!!! I had been running steady for the last 3 or 4 miles with no walking … seeing that hill just knocked the wind out of me!
Vans snapped that photo as I was cresting the hill. I was giving Coach Nikon the evil eye with a bit of Jersey-attitude for throwing that darn hill in at the finish. FYI – You had to run the hill because EVERYONE was watching and cheering at the top. 🙂
It was a FANTASTIC race. Such a gorgeous day and a very well run event with amazing volunteers!
We chilled at the finish line laughing and chatting with friends. We didn’t really want to leave ….
but alas, we had promised the girls a trip to Apple Hill to get pumpkins since next week is Halloween. Where is time going?!
We stopped quickly at an orchard to get pumpkins, apples and look at the all the vendor booths. Squeaker found her happy place at a booth that sold tutus and fairy wings.
Next stop, was at our dear friends winery. Our peaceful happy place. The girls just love it here and so do we.
The girls run around playing while Vans and I chat with the owners and our friends, Ann and Paul (in between masses of people visiting the winery of course).
October is always an insane month for them. It is the busiest time of year actually. Vans and I are low maintenance and happy to sit and enjoy the views. We also love to help them out when they need it, carrying boxes, empty glasses or whatever they need. It makes us happy to help.
Needless to say, I am bummed this is the last week of October. It has been one amazing month and I have been so blessed and over-joyed with all that we have been a part of this month.
Next weekend is my plant-based cooking class and I am super excited about that. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, November isn’t looking too shabby at the moment. My trail-girls, Stonegate and Burning Girl and I have a little road trip adventure coming up which should be fun!
It was my first ever trail-relay and I was running a section of Folsom Lake that I have never run before.
The run was tough. My section was 25 miles, a lot of pavement and quite a few climbs.
Unfortunately, our team did not finish. Stonegate started her leg at 3 pm in the afternoon, when it was already quite hot outside. She mis-judged her fueling routine with the later start time and ended up not being able to finish her leg. She was pretty ill and I know for her, it was a very tough decision to make. As her relay team, we didn’t care one bit, we just wanted her healthy.
After that, I took a “me-day” from work and ventured to Santa Rosa!
It was really interesting to see how someone else demonstrates certain cooking techniques to others.
After the cooking demo, I visited the Savory Spice Shop and was in total spice heaven!
I bought some fresh herbs and spices to try at home.
My time spent in Santa Rosa was brief but lovely. I had never really been there before (that I can recall anyway) and I can’t wait to go back.
THEN, I had a friend who I met at Plant-Stock in 2015, text that she was headed my way and was wondering if she could crash and visit for a few days with us. I was beyond excited to see her!
Tara is a bundle of absolute positive energy. She is a joy to be around and my girls had a blast with her. Hopefully they didn’t scare her from having children in the future! 🙂 My kids were pretty wired when she was here and in rare form. Squeaker was on fire and quite hilarious.
Unfortunately, Tara picked the worst weekend to be here because we had our first ever major storm. A weekend full of rain and wind which doesn’t make for great hosting and sightseeing.
While she does run trails, Tara didn’t have storm weather appropriate running shoes with her so she wasn’t able to join Stonegate, Pigeon, Miss P, Pearls and I on our Sunday morning run in Auburn.
We were the only ones on the trail and we had one helluva time!
It was MUDDY and slippery but oh.so.much.fun!!!! We ran, we laughed and we all were in total complete heaven.
How often do you find a group of women like us who live to get muddy and soaking wet at the butt-crack of dawn on a Sunday? 🙂
So, as you can see, I haven’t been hiding under a rock. I’ve been out enjoying nature and all that October has brought with it thus far.
Like I said earlier, I hope to be able to share some of the projects that I have been working on lately with you or at least the status updates of those.
I am hosting another plant-based cooking demo later in the month for a small group of people who are interested in learning how to cook plant-based. I am excited to open my kitchen to them and to answer any questions they may have about the way that I cook.
Hopefully, down the road, maybe I can do more of these or even better, be invited to other people’s homes to show them how to use what they have to cook and eat plant-based.
Until then, I am enjoying some family time and some adventures.