Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Countdown to TNF San Francisco

My final race of the season is The North Face San Francisco Endurance Challenge on Saturday. I'm excited to return to this race with more experience and better fitness than when I ran it last year as only my second 50-miler ever.

Check out for excellent pre-race (and race day) coverage.

Men's preview
Women's preview

In 2011, we were fortunate to have perfect weather for race day. Not so this year. Rain and wind warnings for the Bay Area are in effect so I've packed waterproof gear for what promises to be a wet and blustery weekend. Not my favourite conditions to run in, but at least I've had some practice this year (Chuckanut and the Mountain Running Nationals come to mind).

And what a year it's been. With my running season ending, it's a good time for reflection. I'm so grateful for all the ways that running has enriched my life. The people I've met, the places I've seen, the goals I've accomplished and the failures I've learned from. There's been breakthroughs and breakdowns. PRs and DNFs. I've smiled, cried and laughed lots (often on the same run!). My trail running has improved; sadly, my trail singing has not.

Regardless of my result on Saturday, I'm thrilled with how this year has played out and have eagerly started planning my race schedule for 2013. There's much to look forward to: my first stage race (TransRockies), my first 100-miler (fingers crossed I get into Western States), a fast road marathon attempt and possibly another World Championships.

Next week, I will post my TNF SF race report and I also have an exciting announcement. Well, I think it's exciting anyway. If you're bored and curious, check back in a few days.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bellingham Trail Marathon Race Report

I often dream about running and racing, probably because I'm boring and don't have a lot of other interests. One of my recurring race dreams is getting caught in the porta potty with my shorts down when the race starts. Well, that's pretty much what happened to me at the Bellingham Trail Marathon.

It was a cool morning so even after my warm-up run, I kept jogging around to stay warm. My final parking lot lap took me right past the washrooms and, because there was no line up, I decided to pop in for one last reassurance pee. I was exiting my stall when I heard Candice, the race director, counting down the race start. I broke into a sprint to cover the few hundred metres between me and the starting line, giving Dave a sheepish grin on my way by as I recalled his earlier warning not to dawdle as I have cut it close for my last couple of races causing us both undue stress.

I then had to find my way from the back of the pack up closer to the front because I wanted to be in a good position when we hit the narrow trail very early in the race. I'm sure I was on the receiving end of some dirty looks as I not so gracefully maneuvered around the other runners to move up. My apologies to anyone I may have jostled along the way! The resulting adrenaline rush did, however, give me a fantastic boost for the first couple of kilometres.

As Dave and I had pre-run the course the day before (I did the first and last few kilometres and he did the rest), I knew what to expect on the Lake Padden trails and was excited to be back on them. These trails are fun! If I lived in the area, I'm sure I would run them a lot. They were rolling and not super technical but not boring either. After some gradual climbing, there was a sweet downhill section. I was cruising along nicely until one misstep caused me to roll my right ankle with a loud snap or pop - no crackle - and I stumbled, followed by some hopping and cursing.

I figured my day was probably over. Then, I heard someone coming down the trail behind me and the competitor in me took over and forced to take a few steps on me on my injured foot (yep, the same one that I had dropped a desk on not so long ago). Surprisingly, it didn't hurt too much. It didn't feel right, but it felt good enough to continue so I put it out of my mind and carried on.

Once we left the Lake Padden trails, there was a short road section that connected the Interurban trail with Chuckanut Mountain. I had run parts of most of these trails for the Chuckanut 50km in March and knew them to be beautiful yet challenging. Aside from a few guys I leap-frogged with, I mainly ran this section alone. There were some long climbs and some steep climbs and a few long AND steep climbs. I ran what I could and worked on my power hike when I needed to conserve energy.

At the top of the infamous Chinscraper climb, I was greeted with a few light snowflakes. Fortunately, it was nothing like the blizzard that assaulted us at the higher elevations for the Chuckanut 50km. I had struggled on the technical ridge section then but was able to take it on with more confidence this go 'round most likely due to better conditions and more trail running experience.

After the ridge, it was a loooong descent down to the Interurban trail and then back up the hill to Lake Padden and the finish. I thought that I might be the top woman but I didn't know for certain until about 8km from the finish and even then I didn't know how much of a lead I had so I didn't let up even though my legs were screaming at me to stop. I reached the finish line in 3:59 which was good enough for 7th overall and top woman. Full results are available here.

Ankle update: Although my ankle was sore after the race, I could still walk on it. I didn't actually get around to taking a good look at it until we got home a day and a half later. I was then alarmed to see that it was extremely swollen and bruised. Four days later, almost all the swelling is gone and most of the bruising too. Whew! Back to TNF San Fran preparations.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The North Face Dirty Feet Tunnel Run

After a two-month hiatus from racing (thanks to my DNF at Flagline), I was itching to pin on a race number and find a starting line somewhere. Fortunately, I didn't have to look far as there happened to be a race taking place just a few miles down the road from my house. The North Face Dirty Feet Tunnel Run proved to be the perfect fix for my race withdrawal.

A straightforward out-and-back 20km course along the stunningly beautiful Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail that rises above Okanagan Lake, offering spectacular views of the valley. With a gentle 2-3% grade and a hard-packed mixed gravel surface, it's really more road than trail but who really cares.

Having participated in a Dirty Feet race in Kelowna last year, I knew it was going to be fun and well organized (two things I look for in an event) and I wasn't disappointed. The course was ridiculously well marked (and re-marked the morning of after 3kms of flagging went "missing" overnight!?), there were happy, smiling runners and volunteers everywhere and the post-race refreshments included a vat of hot veggie soup. And there were tons of draw prizes. What more could you want?

The race was split between solo racers and relay teams (two runners x 10km) and there were about 120 participants. It was a mass start but because the trail is wide and there weren't hordes of runners, elbow room wasn't an issue. I ran near the front for most of the race and tried to keep the top two men in sight. I lost a bit of time on them at the halfway point but was able to maintain my third place position and finish in 1:27 as the top woman. Full results are available here.

It was a good day to be hanging out with some new and long lost runner friends. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with more runner friends at the Bellingham Trail Marathon next weekend (which I'm doing strictly as a training run as I don't want to jeopardize my build up for TNF San Francisco...or piss off my coach - ha, ha!).

So for this race, I wore:

  • Brooks Pure Grits (my new fav "go to" race shoe for shorter distances)
  • old New Balance split shorts
  • new SmartWool tee
  • mid-weight Injinji toesocks
I also carried an Ultimate Direction handheld bottle with water to wash down a couple of gels during the race.