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.
California has been in a drought since last winter. We haven’t seen much rain in a very long time. Yesterday however, we had a “storm” according to the local news. A big “storm” was on its way. I didn’t see much action during the day in terms of rain but last night, the wind was howling outside our windows. I thought for sure a tree would be crashing down at any moment (no rain means thirsty and weak trees everywhere). I could hear the massive rain drops pelting or roof and windows. I woke up once because Squeaker was up. Poor kid had a run in with her face and the pavement while riding her bike Friday afternoon and the pavement won big time. 🙁
Luckily she did not knock out any teeth but she did crack her root and shredded her upper lip and the inside of her gum (yes, ouch). One emergency trip to the dentist on Friday night and then we were good to go.
After I got her comfortable in bed again, I just laid there listening to the rain.
I kept thinking how our Saturday run, if it was in this same monsoon, would be brutal. We have been spoiled running wise by some glorious weather during the winter months. Yes we need rain, but we also like staying dry when it comes to running super long distances. I haven’t had to run in serious rain since 2010! You can read how those runs go by reading this throw back post here.
When I woke up this morning however, I didn’t hear any rain drops. I had my gear packed so I just grabbed my usual clothes and headed to the kitchen to pack my hydration pack and wait for Pigeon to get to my house.
We picked up Stonegate and headed to Salmon Falls. The sky looked gorgeous. No real rain in sight. We had high mileage planned for the day and had changed our plans last-minute as to where we would start which in hind sight was a great idea.
When we arrived at the parking lot it was as if a party was going on. Cars upon cars started to arrive after us. We wanted to beat the crowd so we jumped out of the car, threw on our packs and hit the trails.
You essentially start off running uphill on a very rocky switch back trail. It really gets the blood pumping and lungs pounding. For me, this section never seems to get any easier.
As usual, we had lots to talk about. I had a few things to share and rant about (that’s what running is all about right?) and I appreciate the sounding board and advice that Stonegate and Pigeon had to give. That’s what friends are for in the grand scheme of things.
We ran all the way to Cronin Ranch which is where the Salmon Falls 50k will start come race morning (psst! there is still time to register!).
We turned around and figured out where the race will probably have us go (knowing Coach Nikon) and followed those trails back to the movie set lot. Our mileage didn’t quite add up so we ran a couple of loops by the river past 5 million porta-pottys (man there are a lot out there).
The ground was incredibly muddy but there was no rain. We saw some crazy animal tracks out there. Most of which we were assuming were deer based on the marks.
After our loops we still did not have a enough miles but decided to head back anyway and maybe head across the road for the additional miles that we needed.
The way back was pretty interesting. We ran into the group that had been gathering in the parking lot. They were only going 17 miles so they were on their way back to their cars. They were running in various packs. The trails on some sections are single track and not quite wide enough to pass.
So the three of us collectively agreed to surge ahead at various points even it if it meant running up a big hill just to position ourselves ahead of the group. Then it became very much of a game to try to stay ahead of this group.
Overall I was feeling well again. I did not have my magic cookies that I have been carrying lately because I didn’t have time to make them the night before and I wanted to give myself a break. Instead, I packed some potatoes and salt and that really hit the spot a few times in addition to the other snacks I brought along.
My legs had energy. My lungs not as much at times but that was probably due to my excessive talking on our way out. I had a lot to say and it really was quite draining to get it all out not to mention the internal toll it took on me.
On the way back though, I just felt good. At one point, Pigeon offered me one of her skittles and I didn’t really hear her as we were approaching a hill and I just felt like motoring up it. Then I heard “Fine! No skittles for you.” 🙂
Stonegate grabbed onto my surge and followed me up the hill. We were motoring our way back to the car.
When we got to the car, we decided that was good enough. None of us felt like continuing on. I felt that I could have run more but I was also content to stop right there. As soon as we put on our flip-flops and changed out of our wet clothes, the other runners were starting to trickle in. The lead guy (I guess their coach?) had them running laps in the parking lot to make up the mileage. We kind of chuckled at this. We would have had to run a lot of laps!
We were kind of smiling about this when all of a sudden the skies opened up and the rain came pelting down in giant drops! It was almost instant! We all hopped into the car and laughed that we had ended the run at the most perfect time. Whew!
We drove home in a complete monsoon. It was so that bad I could barely see the road at times. Wow, we really lucked out on our run!
Next week the group is breaking up a bit due the holiday weekend Stonegate is off on her own and Pigeon and I will be running together. I am looking forward to it actually.
I rounded the weekend out by taking the Peanut to a roller skating party on Sunday. I roller-skated with TiggerT for 3 hours straight! My legs felt great! I have been very impressed with my recovery of late. Sure other runners go out for a shake out run after a long mileage day. Me? Nah, I go roller skating! The Peanut has improved tremendously and was skating solo which meant that I had more time to skate with TiggerT and have some good old fashion flashback to the 80s fun! 🙂
That was truly the best ending to what previously was a pretty horrible week for me. Squeaker is healing well. The swelling is down considerably and she is able to eat without too much pain. She’s a trooper too and was back on her bike the very next day! Gotta love that kid!
I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend too. The rain is here to stay for a few more days.
ALL trail photos are compliments of Stonegate! Thanks Girl!
PS: This has not been proof read or edited so sorry for all the typos.
It was my first ever marathon. It was the first marathon that I ever truly bonked and completely injured myself during the course of running it. When I was pregnant with the Peanut and couldn’t run the marathon, I ran the relay. It was also my first major run after my ankle surgery last year. It holds my marathon PR to this day and I just love that it is in my own back yard. Since my first year in 2004, I have only missed running it a handful of times.
With that said, last year somewhere between miles 40 and 50 on the American River 50 course, TiggerT said to me, “You need to run CIM with me again this year if I am pacing you during an ultra!” That seemed fair right? She paced me 10 miles and I was to pace her 26.2, ya, math is truly not my strongest asset.
Still, I adore TiggerT and I ran with her last year during CIM just 3 months after my surgery. Not the smartest move at the time, but it worked out for both of us. I got to see how I would hold up running that far and she had someone by her side.
Fast forward to just a few months ago when TiggerT tells me she hasn’t been running very much. She has this bum hip that has been screaming at her for quite a while and it seemed the closer that CIM came, the more it barked. She had not run longer than 8 miles in the months leading up to the race.
Lucky (or unlucky?) for her, she has quite a few friends that said, “Nah! You can do it! Heck, we’ll do it with you and we haven’t trained either!” Ya have to love runners.
I told her I was keeping my promise. I would be by her side helping her get to that finish line and LAUGHING most of the way too. She tried to push me away and tell me that I could go run it with all my heart and see what I could do time-wise. Besides the fact that I had no intention of dropping her, I have not run on pavement in over a YEAR. My tender little tootsies have been running on dirt trails for the better part of a year. Switching to pavement is a whole separate beast. Sure miles are miles to some, but for me (and my back and my feet and my knees) there is a significant difference between the two.
When CIM expo week arrived I started to get excited. CIM traverses through Folsom, Orangevale, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, Carmichael and Sacramento. It was founded in 1983 and was celebrating its 31st race this year. I was excited!
I missed the expo last year but made a point to go and get my bib this year and for fun, I brought Vans along with me. He loves a good expo (aka free snacks and goodies). We saw TiggerT while we were there and I saw quite a few ultra-buddies too. It is such an electric environment! I love it.
With my bib in hand, I felt ready. I knew I could cover the distance, I just wanted TiggerT to be able to do it too and I could see and sense the fear in her every time we’d talk. That uncertainty can really play with your head. Yet, she’s strong and she said that NOT starting, was NOT an option (yet she had no qualms about bowing out mid-race).
Sunday morning couldn’t come quick enough. The weather was predicted to be absolutely gorgeous albeit even a little warm for this time of year. Last year’s CIM was a massive ice festival with a max of like 30 degrees for the day! That’s cold for around here.
5:40 right on the button, TiggerT arrived in my driveway ready to take me to the start. She has run this race so many times (way more than I) that she has the starting ritual down to a science. We get dropped off at a gas station, we use their inside (warm) bathroom and then we hop on a bus that takes us to the start and drops us off in the thick of things. This year, the bus took a different route which did cause a mild case of “What the?!” from TiggerT and myself. Glad to see that we were both paying attention!
Another quick jump into the super long porta-potty lines and then TiggerT dropped her bag of warm clothes off in the truck. This year I didn’t bring anything. I wore a long sleeve t-shirt that I was willing to toss and it was warm enough for shorts (or a running skirt). I didn’t need gloves or anything like years past, it was great! I had one water bottle with me and I threw some fuel in the pocket of my skirt. Inside the bottle pouch I had some salt tabs. Something just nagged at me that morning to grab a couple salt tabs just in case it got too warm too fast.
We found TiggerT’s crew and we made our way up towards the start line. It was just a sea of runners. The excitement was overflowing. We listened to the most beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and then they started the wheelchair division first.
When they blew the horn we made our way shuffling with thousands of others past the starting arches. We were on our way. TiggerT started off at such a good pace I wasn’t sure what to do. She seemed okay. Maybe she was trying to warm up? I just went with it. She ran ahead of her friends and we soon lost them in the crowd behind us.
We had goals in mind. We knew that TiggerT’s wife would be a mile 5.5 and we knew quite a few of the people running that aid-station as well. Our goal, was get to mile 5.5! TiggerT seemed okay. Me, on the other hand, was starting to think about a pit stop. When we reached the 5.5 aid-station I told TiggerT that I needed to jump into the port-potty line. She joined me. I hate having to stop during a race like this. On the trails, I don’t seem to mind, in a road race, I get annoyed but it is what it is. In line I got to talk to Stonegate who was helping at the aid-station. She laughed when she saw me in line for the bathroom, “Shocker!” she said. It was here that I shed the long sleeve shirt I had in my hands.
With business out of the way we were off again. Prior to our stop we were running right next to the 4:35 pace group which was a bit surprising to me. Yet, TiggerT seemed okay at that pace. Of course when you stop you tend to stiffen up a bit. When we started on our way again, I noticed that TiggerT was a bit slower than before. Maybe she had noticed our pace finally! 🙂
At some point she reconnected with her friends but it was pretty brief. We lost them again as our pace just naturally seemed to be a bit faster. Our next goal was mile 8 ish where we’d see Pigeon, Missouri and the rest of the Fleet Feet crew.
We talked as we ran. We passed a man holding onto a leash. Of course I just thought it was a dog but then TiggerT turned to me and said, “That was a goat!!” I looked at her and I looked back but I couldn’t see anything, “Are you hallucinating?” I asked her. “No! I swear that was a goat!” We had a good laugh about that one for a few miles which was a nice distraction.
One of my favorite things during a marathon is to read the signs people hold up. Yes, I DO read them so all you spectators out there, KEEP THEM COMING! I love it. One of my mental goals during the marathon is to try and remember the funniest signs that I have seen along the way.
This year, my favorite sign appeared very early in the race yet this woman was a superhero and somehow magically positioned herself all.over.the.course! She was EVERYWHERE! I wish I had a photo of her sign, it wasnâ€™t artistic at all, but the message had me cracking up every time I saw it. The sign read: Chuck Norris has never run a marathon! How funny is that!? There were countless others that made me smile like, Smile if you are not wearing underwear! and Run Now. Wine Later. I love it and appreciate it.
We were trucking along still moving when all of a sudden I see a boy holding a goat. I look at TiggerT, “That’s a goat!” I turn to the kid and said, “Hey man, nice goat.” He smiled and the woman next to him said “Goat-get em!” Which caused the cheesy side of TiggerT and I to crack up with laughter.
When we ran through Old Fair Oaks I saw chickens! I said, “Look chickens!” but TiggerT assured me they were behind the fence (thank goodness).
Somewhere past the half-way point I think, I started to feel the pavement in my feet and the tingling in my calves. They felt like they were on the verge of cramping. I took a salt tab hoping that would help.
The middle miles of this race are usually quite boring. They go through a section of the course that is more business than residential and usually that means a lot fewer spectators out there. Not this year! I have to say I didn’t have the middle mile dread! There were bands and people cheering and it was exciting! Such a difference and I hope it is one that sticks!
At some point in the race, we got to the point where TiggerT needed to walk every so often. At one point, she stopped to use the porta-potty and while she did I tried my hardest to stretch my calves out (they were still screaming at me).
I also ran into an ultra-friend who was running alongside a man dressed as Flash. Head to toe Flash complete with spray painted shoes, water bottle and fanny pack. It was awesome. Everyone would cheer him on as he passed. We ran with them for a bit while I was chatting with my friend who was running the marathon only to head into surgery on Wednesday. Amazing.
Closer and closer to the finish we ran. I was amazed at how quickly the miles were just flying by. It helps when you are running to SEE something, whether it is a friend or an aid-station where you know friends might be, having something there, really makes those miles fly by.
Oddly enough, running against the sea of runners was this guy in a speedo. It was pretty funny and he was quite boisterous cheering us on. He had sneakers and a speedo. The cop at the intersection cracked me up because he had this smirk on his face as if he was trying to decide if he should laugh at this guy or arrest him.
Down Fair Oaks Blvd., we ran and when we looked to our left we saw a man, holding two llamas. Yup. Llamas. TiggerT and I just looked at each other to make sure we were both seeing this. We were like, “Look! Llamas!” and the runner behind us said, “Oh thank god you see them too.”
We were quickly approaching Loehmans Plaza. This is roughly just past mile 20 in the race also my old neighborhood. Vans and the girls are generally here cheering us on (as well as hundreds of others). We jogged through the intersection and I couldn’t find Vans. I saw a line of cars and I thought to myself that they must have changed the way they routed traffic and he couldn’t get in (or was running late, or both). It was harder for him to gauge my time this year since we were unsure as to how TiggerT would feel during the race.
We did find TiggerTâ€™s wife and we stopped to say hello. I think TiggerT even sat down for a minute! This would be the last we’d see of her as she was heading home and I was praying Vans would make it to the finish to pick us up.
Miles 20 to 26.2 are always interesting. They are heavily populated with spectators so it isn’t boring but it can be quite deceiving. It is here that you enter the number streets that lead you to the state Capitol. So if you are focusing on the numbers, you are mentally counting down in your head as you run however, the closer you get to downtown, the longer the blocks become so it really starts to mess with your head. I don’t think I looked at one street sign the entire time. I have learned my lesson.
It was on this section that TiggerT ran into quite a few friends and I finally met Jody who commented on my last blog post having run Mt. Tam too. Such a small world! The music on this section is always good too. They have DJs every few blocks. My only complaint is the instrumental band in front of the convention center… I get it, it is artistic but it is NOT motivating to listen to classical music at mile 25 of a marathon.
We were getting closer and closer. I could smell it. I kept wanting to pick up the pace but I was trying to be conscious of TigerT. I am a finish line girl. I know you are supposed to leave it all on the course when you race, but for some reason, I always find a reserve when I get near the finish line. It is in my nature to try and run fast the last mile no matter what.
I kept myself in check and instead focused on seeing my favorite guy at mile 25. Every single year I have run this race, there is this guy dressed like Jesus (wearing a robe and a wig and of course bright blue running shoes) standing ON the course holding a sign that says: THE END IS NEAR! I know he is there but it still to this day, makes me crack up. I love it!
We rounded the corner heading toward the finish line. I saw the number on the clock. It was my slowest marathon to date but I had smiled the whole day so I didn’t care. My goal was to get TiggerT to finish and I did. We crossed in under 5 hours and best of all, she felt (and feels) great! I was worried that this would push her hip over the edge pausing her running career for too long but she tells me days later, that she truly feels great. That makes me so happy.
I feel great as well. My calves were really starting to burn around mile 21. I recall taking another salt and I took an Aleve. I don’t like to take meds during a race but I was seriously on the verge or cramping up something terrible and I figured, why not, we’ll see what happens. As it turns out, the calf pain went away! Days later I feel great, no pain. I do need to foam roll my calves and quads still (I know I know).
As it turns out, a lot of people suffered from cramping on Sunday. We saw people lining the sides of the course trying to stretch their calves or hamstrings. I think the warm temperature really threw everyone for a loop. Vans and the girls made it to the finish area too which was really nice.
Overall, it was a good race. I look forward to a little recovery this week (not much) and then back at it for another trail race in late February and possibly another in April. After that, I may be taking a break from doing any races. There is a summer one on my radar if things work out but if not, no biggie.
Next year however, I want to train and run CIM for time. I think I finally have that PR bug again.
Well, California asked for rain … and we got it. I know we need quite a bit more to make a dent in Folsom Lake, but today’s monsoon made for a great wet muddy run which always leads to some adventure.
Pigeon was working today so I reached out to TiggerT to see if she would be interested in doing 16 miles with me somewhere around El Dorado Hills. She agreed and told me that her friend Dirty David would be joining us. I’ve run with DD before, a few times actually. Along with TiggerT, he’s part of the Java Jogger groupÂ and is also known as TiggerT’s running husband.
After some random texting with TiggerT this morning on what we should wear, I decided on shorts thinking any additional clothing would be silly as it would only get wet and therefore make me cold on the run.
TiggerT showed up at my house and together we ran the half mile to meet Dirty David who was parked at the CSD.
TiggerT and I had decided in advance, what trails we were going to run to try and get our 16 miles. We started off down New York Creek which runs right near CSD and then headed up the climb to The Ridge Loop of Death.
I ran the whole hill. I was feeling great, my legs were feeling strong and I just was happy to be running! You can see TiggerT and Dirty David down the hill. The wind was pretty gusty on the hill. It was so windy that we had to stop and make a decision, do we run our normal counter-clockwise loop or do we go clockwise for some additional shelter from the crazy wind?
We opted for clockwise which was kind of fun since I have never run the loop in this direction before. However, when we made it to the streets of Serrano we were hit with major gusts of wind. I was almost sent chasing my hat and so we decided to turn around and run the direction we had just came back towards New York Creek.
Back down the Ridge, across the street and to New York Creek we ran just chatting and laughing away. Soon we came to a new obstacle …
New York Creek was completely blocked so we had to go around the tree.
When we came to end of New York Creek, TiggerT took us on Wild Oaks Trail. I knew about this trail but I had never been on it before because it is usually infested with turkeys and everyone knows how I feel about birds. I also wasn’t entirely sure which way to go. Now I know and I cannot wait to take Pigeon on these trails!
These trails are mostly downhill which is even more fun. We saw a huge deer dart off the trail too. Lots of rocks, which were slippery, I cannot wait to get back out there!
I kept stopping to take photos. Luckily TiggerT and Dirty David didn’t mind. TiggerT has done these trails many times. Vans actually mountain bikes through here at night sometimes.
Eventually these trails spit you out near Browns Marina where I have run many times before. We stopped to use the porta potty and tried to take shelter while each of us took a turn. It was definitely very windy out there.
However, we were not alone alone on the trails. We saw quite a few other runners and a mountain biker. Looks like the rain didn’t scare away too many people.
Up and down we ran, just chatting away some times and running in silence in others. It was somewhere along this trail that I noticed what felt like a tiny little pebble in my shoe. I even took off my shoe and tried to get it out. I thought I saw it fall but when I put my shoe back on, I still felt it. I assumed that it was stuck in my sock. I just kept going hoping that it would go away.
The trails were pretty slick and muddy out at Browns Ravine. Our original plan was to make it to the levee area and then run the levee to Folsom Point to add more mileage. However, when we stopped at the end of the trail I once again almost lost my hat!
TiggerT suggested that we just turn around and go back the way we came. That was fine with me as I have always wanted to do that to see what the mileage was and also, I really detest running the pavement hills back to my house.
Dirty David was leading the way. When we came to the down hill (that incidentally we all slipped on when climbing UP earlier) he made the decision that he was going run down it, not walk. I quickly stopped and grabbed my camera. I just knew this would turn out interesting.
You can see how Dirty David has since earned his nickname on my blog. The whole rest of the run we were trying to come up different names for him … Skidmark was one of my favorites but he vetoed that one.
Definitely a muddy day for sure but so much fun!!!! We were all pretty caked in mud but somehow my legs ended up being the cleanest of us all when all was said and done.
Once again, I stopped to take off my shoe and this time I even took off my sock! I couldn’t find that darn pebble so I just put everything back on and continued running back up Wild Oaks Trail.
We finally reached EDH Blvd. and collectively decided to take New York Creek again back towards the CSD to keep adding to our mileage.
When we came to the obstacle tree we’d passed earlier, TiggerT insisted that there was a “hole” in the tree for us to get through … Dirty David and I opted to go around but not before I grabbed my camera!
I think Dirty David and I made the wise decision here to go around otherwise I might still be stuck out there. I had quite a problem with being stuck today. Apparently the braid in my hair attached itself to a clip on my Jenny Vesta pack and I couldn’t lift my head … TiggerT had to come to my rescue but not without laughing hysterically at me first. Ahh, running with friends is so much fun!
I totally thought Dirty David would biff it into that stream. He was getting all fancy on us trying to figure out the best way to get around it … he made it across without any more falls though.
Soon we were back at Dirty David’s car where we thanked him for the run and the laughs. TiggerT and I continued running the half mile road to my house. The rain was really starting to come down hard at this point. I mentioned to TiggerT that the drops were getting larger by the minute. We.were.drenched!
When all was said and done, my Garmin read 15 miles. I am okay with that as I was soaked to the core and I really wanted to see what was going on with my foot. As it turns out, I now have the start of a huge blister on the ball of my foot. This is odd to me as I have never in my life had feet or blister problems before and now I seem ridden with them. Maybe it is time for new socks? Maybe it was just the really wet conditions (although I have run in worse). Who knows but I am glad it happened on a 15 mile training run and not next week’s Western States Training Run which is 21 miles (and I am SO stoked about it).
While I was out getting soaked, Vans and the girls were snuggled nice and warm in the house getting spoiled by watching Clifford and eating breakfast at the same time.