run 4 life

run 4 ultra (run 4 life) deux

The single track led us down to our first river crossing and my feet were suddenly cool and wet, but my socks and shoes vented the water perfectly, turns out I would have no trouble with the half dozen river crossings throughout the course. I looked forward to the cool waters. Next we rose up and traveled along a hillside which afforded beautiful views of the forest and the river now far below. There would be a lot of mud in the first 8 mile loop, before coming around to the starting gate and our little ultra village and family. I ran with a nice lady for a while who told me all about her horses on a ranch in Livermore where she lives. There was a man behind me who took a heavy tumble, and we stopped to see if he was okay and he gave a spirited yell, ‘it’s not a race unless i fall!’

K before 50k

I was in great spirits by the time I saw Tosh (mile 8) who ran a quarter mile alongside me to the first aid station, where I stopped for a tasty chocolate peanut butter bar, and said goodbye to my brother who wished me well. He even put my nieces on the phone for me to say hello before we parted ways; he had to go back home to the Bay Area. I was so happy he showed up for me today.

I got back on the trail feeling good. We made our way down and around and down a few miles to the fire road, crossed and headed down the long quarry road in the canyon which ran alongside the roaring green river for another 5 miles or more. I did well on the downhills, running 9 minute miles. I thought I was in good shape with my belt full of roctane and water bottle full of gatorade, and my potassium salt S-caps. But I realized on Quarry Road that my legs were starting to feel heavy, and I began to worry about my failure to train on hills all winter long. I could be in big trouble! The only elevation I trained on was a 5 mile run up and down the Blue Ridge Trail, overlooking Lake Berryessa in Winters. The problem was I got poison oak on that trail and so I never went back to the hills.

K finishes 50k

No amount of energy I consumed was gonna help me up the side of that canyon, which switched back and forth from about mile 15 to mile 20… it became a truly brutal and endless hike for me. My head got light, legs heavy, and my asthma kicked up, and my hopes of having a strong and level journey like I had running the CIM just 3 months earlier, were dashed. I had to slow and step off the trail to let dozens of runners hike up past me, and several were kind enough to ask me was I okay and offer help. I finally agreed I needed help around mile 19, when one of the ‘Safety Sweeps’ named Davin saw I was in trouble. He began refilling my empty bottle with electrolyte water, while telling me about his quest to run the coveted Western States 100 mile race before he’s 50 years old. He has 3 years experience running ultras, and he’s 47 now. Parts of this particular race, the Way Too Cool, overlap with the Western States Trail. Listening to Davin’s story helped me take my mind off of the wall…

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running

the weather broke @ a record fifteen miles -iii

The sunlight was cheering me up and the kind exchanges I had with passerbys along the way. I was softening at a point in the run where I figured I woulda been going into ‘warrior’ mode. I passed a woman who looked awfully sad and wished I coulda cheered her up. A young man cruised past me on the uphill, doing sprints. There was a lady getting coached on the Guy West bridge, and I thought about my boyfriend who was gonna follow me on his bike today but had to cancel. I think it’s just as well – I like to run alone.

I always see many homeless encampments and the homeless folks either are keeping to themselves or, in my experience, are just as kind as anyone if you give them a shout and a smile. There are pits and labs off leash sometimes by the river, but I found so long as I don’t scare easy and just keep running toward them, everything will be okay. Only once (last week) did I change course because a dog was running toward me bellowing. He turned out to be more bark than bite.

The last four miles would prove to be the hardest, tracing the river west on the levee, but by this time I was just a slow train to sacramento and I was able to remove myself from the effort so that I honestly felt my body was its own charge and recharging system (paired with a couple more packs of gummies i stashed in my flipbelt), so all I had to do was envision finishing and get out of the way.

The idea of feeling pain crossed my mind but never really caught hold! Again, training in the heat had acclimated me to a higher threshold of pain. It gets so heavy some days when I finish these levee runs close to noon, I find myself dipping off the trail around sutter’s landing (2 miles from home) and splashing the cool clean waters over me to cool off. Today I still had cool breezes coming over me, which made all the difference in the world.

I made it home in 2 hours 45 minutes – exactly 11 minute miles x15 miles = 165 minutes. I made it! My boyfriend is really nice and he took me out for a large Peach Perfection at Jamba Juice to celebrate the victory.

running

the weather broke @ a record fifteen miles -ii

The first mile to the american river had me feeling strong and not as tight as previous days, I sure was psychologically prepared, and as I summited the levee to the railway the 7am amtrak leaving downtown sacramento chugged east, blocking my path. I fell into the rhythm of the train and got a good visualization for myself as I stood there waiting and running in place. Be like a train, be like a train. Several miles later it occured to me that birds are like mantra bodies because they often sing the same song over and over all their lives! This reminded me how useful my own mantras have become, and reassured me it’s not a needless to practice these repetitions: nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I had been singing it in the shower before sunrise.

Once I snuggled up next to the river, I picked up my pace a bit to the cool delta breeze carrying across the levee. The visor of my hat kept the red rising sun out of my eyes, as I ran due east for another mile before following the river bend south at paradise beach. It must have been 60F and I am acclimated to running later in the day, towards 75F, so my weekday training gave me an edge for the early morning long runs.

There is a boat launch with a water fountain at mile six, so I was able to stop and hydrate for a minute and take a pack of energy gums with electrolytes there. Quickly I got back on the trail, and I was feeling fantastic. My breathing has gotten easier and easier the more I run, which is what happens to long distance runners. Your body is amazing and learns to make the most of the oxygen. I always hit my inhaler before any run, because otherwise my asthma makes me wheeze, but two blasts is all I ever need before any run no matter the distance.

I discovered that mile 7 is about where I begin to loosen up and hit my stride. The trail took me under a couple of highways and now the sun had climbed and lotsa people were out walking their dogs and cycling and running, too. Some of the early morning fishermen had packed in their river waders and were heading home, climbing the levee right before my eyes. The american river is full of salmon and snowmelt off the Sierras. I did my U-turn and headed back on a slight incline then stopped again at the same water fountain at mile 9, as it was the only water I would get on my run…

running

the weather broke @ a record fifteen miles -i

Before you let yourself start believing change cannot be kind, remember how summer breaks into fall and the most welcome change of all. I confess I hit the café for the pumpkin latté this morning to celebrate. The sweetness of the drink did of course mask her flavour, so I did what any good lover of coffee might well do and went home to top her off with a fresh pot. Since then I have been shining commensurate with the rising sun. Reading all the headlines may we not be pinioned by tragedy, no, may we only resonate with the triumphs in the world. Wanna try?

Yesterday I ran a new personal best in distance, down the river and back, more than 15 miles. I run a slow pace, slow and steady and I don’t care, eleven minute miles. The idea is to run and enjoy running long distances (my mom is funny, she’s calling me forrest gump). I tallied 41 miles across a five day stretch last week: 6-9-6-5-15. Each day more painful than the next, but I prayed to god saturday night I would wake up feeling ready and able to do the morning long run… and sure enough when I got up @ 3am sunday i felt okay and took it slow, ate a bowl of noodles and drank a thermos of black london tea no.1, did some light stretching to the gems of piano sonatas strung out by the gentleman on public radio, wrote a little, read a Russian fairytale, laced up my gray wolf Nike Pegasus runners, took a B complex vitamin and a caffeine pill, drank some organic juices and water, buttered my skin with Banana Boat, charted my course on g.maps, shook it out and hit the trail at marathon standard time, 7am…