Saturday, December 22, 2012

Running in the dark

Ok, so I think we can now conclude that the world did not end yesterday. I wonder if the Mayans knew how much some people would freak out merely because they got bored of making a calendar.

Anyway, cautious as I am, I decided to get one last amazing run in the night prior to the 21st. If for nothing else, to fine-tune my running-away-from-zombies skills. To be honest, with all the fun I had on the bike that morning, I wasn't even planning on running...but an invitation to an evening run on my favorite trail was simply too good to pass up.

I love to run in the dark and yet I don't tend to do it much. Being a girl and all, apparently it's not wise to hit the trails (or Venice beach for that matter) after hours. Makes sense...yet I want to rebel.

Nevertheless, I need to do more night trail running. Not just because it is a good idea to practice safe stepping when you otherwise can't see much and because that's where my 100k race experience became less happy, but because it's simply magical. And then someone asked me why... so here it is.

-> It's you (plus the people you're with), the trail and the light of a headlamp. That's it. Turning off the headlamp elevates it to a whole new experience but if you lack coordination like I do, it may not be wise. But it gives you an incredible sense of peace and lets you pretend and really feel like nothing else exists. Views of the night sky and lights of the city can be incredibly picturesque but they only add to the sense of peace and appreciation of the moment.

-> Hills? What hills? Exactly. Running uphill is so much easier in the dark. Since you can't see that far ahead, your mind can't meddle with your sense of effort. If you don't see the climb, your mind doesn't register it. If your mind is at ease, your body will be too.  Plain and simple and yet really amazing. It's the incline deception.

Cheers to more night trail it dark yet?!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tucson Marathon Recap

I have no excuses for my lack of blogging lately. But now I'm back, 2.0 and all, so let's do this.

12/9/12 -> Tucson Marathon. In a nutshell, this was a relatively small, well-organized race on a very pretty course. I had thought this would be a PR race. And then it became an easy/steady training run for my upcoming 24-race on 12/31. But more on that in a later post...

I'm not running,
 just modeling arm sleeves

The expo was held at a Hilton resort, which was also the host hotel. Staying here made everything super convenient and it was beautiful in general. The expo was efficient and although there were very few exhibitors, there was a good amount of running porn. I mean gear 'n stuff. I realized I had forgotten my arm sleeves and this was a great excuse to buy some new, hot pink ones. 


Brr. Yes, Tucson is in the desert. And yes, I almost froze my little toes off before the start.
Given the 7am race start, buses left the hotel starting 5am. Our bus (naturally) got lost, so we got some extra sightseeing and extra time-in-warmth. I heard the half marathon start had heaters - apparently marathoners are tough and don't need them. Or something. Anyway, there were thankfully a few buses that stuck around so I jumped on one of those to defrost.
The start was at an elevation of about 4800ft, which probably contributed to the (relative) arctic conditions. Ok, maybe I'm just spoiled by SoCal weather... to be fair, it was still in the mid 40's. Overall, the start area was pretty uneventful. And then the sun started coming up over the desert mountains and we had quite the privileged view. 

I also got to declare my love to Pam Reed (race director) herself. She looked a little confused and I was a little starstruck. Yes, ultrarunners are my kind of celebrities. (my review of her book is here for your entertainment)
courtesy of Copper Area News

I didn't feel the need to listen to music until about mile 17...and even then it was more habit than necessity. That's saying a lot about the scenery... which provided ample entertainment and made it feel like a trail run, except with paved roads. 

We started with a screaming downhill - very conducive to going out too fast. The 3:50 pacer was flying down the hill almost beating the 3:40 pacer. There was some comedy as confused runners wondered why a 3:50 pacer is holding a 7:30min/mi average pace. But then things got real and rolling hills shaped the course for 1-2 miles until about mile 4. Amid the complaining around me (this time about the "steep hills") I looked around and wondered what it would be like to run some trails up the surrounding mountains. They just seemed so magical and inviting.
So pretty.

Oh, look, a mountain lion! (Ok, I took this at the desert museum. but it was cool to see them up close)
Until about mile 11, the course was pretty much down/flat. Very uneventful. I hung around groups of people with interesting conversations like a stalker. It was entertaining. There were ultra runners, first timers, those aiming for a PR and those simply hoping to finish. A pretty relaxed vibe in general. I kept thinking about my lovely friend Kim, who was all geared up to BQ (and she got an amazing PR out of the race, yay Kim!).

I, on the other hand, committed myself to not being concerned with my time. I left the Garmin at home. On second thought, it would have been great to have it in the beginning because those first few miles at 10k pace were not a brilliant idea. My quads were a little unhappy for a little while.

Miles 11-13ish brought back the rollers, which I appreciated. Oh, random tip: do not stand in like for the 2 lone port-a-potties at mile 11.5 because there will be a row of empty ones half a mile down the road. Live and learn! 

the medal
The rest of the course was downhill/flat and very pretty. Typical desert highway. The road wasn't fully closed to cars, but we got 2 lanes sectioned off, which was plenty of space. This second half made it easy to zone out and get in a good rhythm, enjoying the run. The last mile and a half I spent talking to a guy about his story - he was about to shave 2 hours off his tim from last year. Very inspiring stuff. HE proceeded to drop and do 10 pushups by the clock at the finish - a tradition he does at every race he told me.

I ended up cruising into the finish with a time of 4:18, all smiles. I found Kim, Erin (who rocked the half) and Lori and then there were even more smiles. I also found my two fellow San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors, Bruce and Keith, and we posed for some pictures. Yes, we're all superstars.
Lori-myself-Kim-Erin (I love you ladies)
Keith-myself-Bruce. SFM Ambassadors rock!
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