I ran my third marathon this weekend - the California International Marathon. The notable thing about this race was the weather. At the start of the race the temperature was 27 degrees Fahrenheit. It did not break 32 until after 11:00 am. The cold was painful. My time was not great - 5:40:00. However, I ran it untrained. October was derailed by three weeks off due to the flu. November was also derailed due to family issues.
On September 27, 28, and 29, 2013, my running partner Andrea and I ran the Tahoe Trifecta, part of the 18th annual Tahoe Marathon Weekend. Here is a quick blow by blow of the races we participated in, and extra info on the events:
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
The Lake Tahoe Marathon Week is an annual South Lake Tahoe celebration of all things marathon. This includes over 30 different races that athletes can mix and match. For example, I had dinner at the Thursday night pasta feed with two other athletes who participated in the following events: Jennifer form Chicago ran one marathon Friday, one marathon Saturday, and three marathons Sunday. This combination of events is dubbed the "Lake Tahoe Super Triple - 26.2 M + 26.2 M + 72.2 M". Her last route circled the entire lake. Her running partner Janet participated in an Ironman, where she swam 2.5 on Friday (in the freezing cold lake), cycled 72.2 miles on Saturday, and ran 26.2 on Sunday. My partner and I participated in what is called the "Tahoe Trifecta", in which you run 13.1 M + 13.1 M + 13.1. My brother Carl did a cycle event, 72.2 cycle ride around the lake. There are many other events, such as stand up paddleboard (SUP), a 5K fun run, and then non-race events, such as pasta feeds, lectures, a gear expo, and plenty of chances to make friends.
This was my second time at this marathon, and I will definitely be back next year. I think next year I will up my miles by another 13.1, and attempt 13.1 M + 13.1 M + 26.2. Eventually (unless my age and bad reconstructed hip says otherwise) I will eventually go for the "Tahoe Triple", which is three marathons in three days (26.2 M + 26.2 M + 26.2 M).
As stated above, the Trifecta is three half marathons in three days. Friday the race route begins at Inspiration Point, on the west, California side of the lake, and heads south into South Lake Tahoe, and ends at the beach near Stateline (the Nevada/ California borders, near the casinos). This half is primarily downhill. The first part is on the lake and is gorgeous. The second part is in South Lake Tahoe and is urban, cars, traffic etc... It is also starts at 7:00 am, so at the start of the race the temperature was 30 degrees Fahrenheit, -1C. This was my least favorite of the three races. But it was my best time at 2:30:00.
The second race begins at Spooner Lake, NV, and heads north on Nevada highway 28, ending at Incline Village. This half is more scenic, and all but the last three miles of the lake has panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. Again, this weekend the weather began at -1c, and only warmed up to 12c.
The third and final race was my favorite. The last race begins on the west side of the lake on highway 89 near Rubicon Bay, and heads south, ending at Pope Beach. This run can only be described as EPIC. This race has the best scenery, including Emerald Bay, as shown int he above photograph. In addition, the route has the most elevation gain/loss, which makes it more fun on the runner, and better on the body. Around mile three there is a hill that ends at 6800 feet. What goes up, must run down, giving the runner a roller coaster run. My favorite! (Since I am running Big Sur marathon next year, I am loving the hills. Good for the quads!)
AWARDS AND SWAG
The Lake Tahoe Marathon week is run by one guy, Les Wright, and his crew of volunteers. It is a very "mom and pop" event, even though it is so big in scope. This is not one of those "Rock and Roll", "Disney" etc... events. With all the gossip in the racing community about the for-profit race director companies, it is refreshing to run a race that is still about community building and sports, instead of about making a ton of money and gouging the runners with high entry fees.
Les personally e-mails all the runners every week before the event, answering questions. His heart is in promoting running and the Tahoe community. He also gives all the runners cool free swag. The free swag I collected included a racing singlet (so you can wear it all 3 days and not destroy your shirt with pins), a long sleeve tech shirt, designed by a local Tahoe water color artist, a sports duffel bag (they only gave those out to the runners doing difficult multi-day events), 4 medals (representing the three races and a big one commemorating the fact you did a trifecta or a triple), a free past feed the Thursday before the race, and free hot dogs and $1 beers at the finish line.
The downside to a small operation is that it can be a bit disorganized. His website is a bit cluttered and low tech, making it hard to navigate (too much information, and lots of TL;DR due to the clutter on the pages). The Expo itself is a small affair, not very many vendors. But most of us runners are sick of vendor expos anyway. The basics are covered, so if you forgot your compression socks, there is a vendor there that has you covered. The volunteers can be a bit confused - they have over 30 events, so the volunteers may or may not know about your event. But they are happy to hunt down Les, and he will gladly straighten out the issue. He loves what he does and that makes up for any chaos.
Both last year and this year I met runners from around the world and many USA states. I met folds form England, Germany, Japan and Brazil. I also met runners from CA, NV, TX, MA, MI, OH, FLA, IL, MN, and I am sure there were folks from many other places. What I do find odd is that I met people from all over the country, but hardly met anybody from the Bay Area (San Francisco/Oakland). You would think that tons of bay Area runners would flock to this event, since it is so close to the Bay Area, and is not too corporate, and has EPIC scenery. But, no, I did not meet hardly anyone who drove three hours to this amazing weekend of running. Bizarre.
Both last year and this year, we rented a whole house for cheaper than staying at one of the hotels. This way we got to eat our own home cooked food, drink beers, watch cable TV, and just kick back. Since this is a ski destination, there are hundreds of empty house and condo rentals and off season prices. Why stay and a hotel when you can have a whole house! This year we found a 3 bedroom on airbnb.com that was 20 minutes from the Expo and race headquarters. And since we drove up, transportation was not an issue. The casinos have tons of free parking.
The great thing about running three half marathons back to back to back is that the lactic acid gets released ASAP. I woke up Monday after the races and felt great. No stiffness, no pain, pretty loose. However.... I did loose my toenail. The toenail was already black before the race, due to trailrunning all summer. But three days of road running just popped the thing off. Tomorrow I plan on going to the nail salon and getting a gel placed over the nail bed. I know it sounds weird, but it works great. First, it makes your foot look better, and second, the gel fake nails act very well as a real nail does and protects the nail bed from trauma. (my salon will do it for free, since they know me well.)
I love the Lake Tahoe Marathon. I will be back next year, and will do it all again, if not adding some more miles!!!
Only 4 days until the Tahoe Marathon Weekend! Over 30 racing events! I will be running the Half Marathon Trifecta - 3 half marathons in three days - 39.3 miles! Our family is spending the weekend and running/biking a mix and match of events.
This year I get to be one of the Ambassadors for the First Berkeley Half Marathon! I have to give them my favorite running quote. There are so many to choose from, but I think I may use "Baby Steps" from "What About Bob", since it is relevant to all runners, at any time in their training. And it's Bill Murray, a personal hero. Kill gophers. Damn gophers.
The first time I ran the Red Loop was at 10:00 pm. I knew that a waning moon was going to rise at 10:48 pm, but it was dark, pitch black, blacker than a Vin Diesel movie. I was prepared - I had a head lamp and two mini mag lites. I was ready to go... except I was told there would be coffee.... I was already bouncing off the walls of the transition tent. This was going to be the best leg, in my mind, working on my strengths, long, slow downhills.
The trail begins with a ride up a ski lift to appx 9000 ft, the top of the ridge. I loved the ride - it was like flying over a sea of blackness. I imagined bears frolicking in the dark beneath me, hiding behind the boulders.
At the top, I saw a handful of other runners, bobbing up and down in their headlamps, but they all passed me until I was alone in the dark. The trail markers were relatively easy to spot, however, where the path twists and turns you could not see any marker, with no clear path or fire road. I would pause, get my bearings, and then shuffle onward. Shuffling was my safety speed.
About two miles into the run, a girl started using me as a pacer, borrowing my illumination to push forward. I didn't want to break my rhythm, so for awhile we ran in silence. But after another half mile we started small talk. Her name was Michelle, and she was from Texas, unfamiliar with Tahoe trail runs, much less in the dark. We hit the downhill fire road and picked up a little speed; I set an 11:30 pace, so that we would not trip, or burn out our quads. This lasted for about three miles straight down.
At the five mile point, the trail narrowed into rocky single track, and I was suspicious that the deadly creek was around the corner. Squish. I stepped right in the middle, but fortunately did not slip or hit and rocks. Then the trail veered up and up, and down fast on the single track. And then back to the start.
Back at camp, I enjoyed a Rolling Rock and another piece of pizza, under the (almost) full moon. The night was mine, all mine. This is why I run.
Ragnar Running Report - The Red Loop Pt 3 - hit repeat
I got a solid five hours of sleep, and woke up ready to run. Sadly, J got altitude sickness, so our team was down a second runner. Our legs were down to 6 pairs. All of us would have to volunteer to pick up a leg. I quickly volunteered to do the Red Loop a second time. I wanted to see the view I missed at midnight, and wanted to see the bears spawning ground from the chair lift. The catch was I would have to do the Red Loop back to back with my already assigned Yellow Loop. The work on the street was that the Yellow Loops was the toughest of all three loops. And I would have to run both, essentially a half marathon. Since J did it the day before, there was no reason not to man-up and do it. Especially since the reward is the views. I was stoked.
The Yellow Loop
I liked the yellow loop. It was not as bad as everyone said. It started off with rolling hills on the same trail as the green. After about a mile, it sharply turned into the mountain and took you straight up a winding fire trail up the mountain. The reward for that effort was miles of single track through a pine forest and sandy boulder fields. At mile five, my endorphins kicked in hard, and my head started buzzing with runners high happiness. Which was good, since I was not even halfway done.
In the transition tent, I teamed up with the Red Rolling Rocks, our mini team! Ragnar had underestimated how long the race would take. This was not a surprise since they asked teams their road times rather than trail times. To solve the problem, teams were allowed to double and triple their runners up. And our team needed to pound out three red runs! This was going to be even more fun that I thought!
On the way up to the top of the Red Loop - sub team The Red Rolling Rocks
After I finished our team's first leg, The Green Loop, our Wisconsin native, runner C, was up for the first trip on the Red Loop. This is where our Team came together as a unit, a well oiled, sweaty machine.
C started out the run looking good. Since she was our second runner, we, the team did not know what the route would entail and could only guess as to what her time might be. But we were all at the finish line two hours into her run, waiting to cheer her over the finish line. But we waited, and waited. No C.
Finally the news was in.
C had broken her foot/toe on the second stream crossing, and had finished the course walking, and went directly to medical. I was shocked. I have broken my left foot/toe a couple of times, and know that this is no fun, and the last thing you can do is run two more legs. One casualty on the Red Loop.
My brain was shutting down from lack of sleep and knew the best thing I could do to help the team was be ready to run a few extra miles. I took a nap. Our team leader R went into overdrive, and with the help of J, started to rework our running schedules and times. J picked up a double loop, a Yellow and a Red back to back (average 13 miles). She would be on the trail all afternoon, and the rest of us needed to be ready to run the night shifts.
After my nap, I decided to get a lucky pizza. It can't hurt.
I was up for the deadly Red Loop at 10:00 pm, attacking that stream in the dark. I was full of pizza and ready to run.
After a fitful night's sleep, (but no visit from bears) our team was up and fueling with bagels and bananas. Ragnar had promised coffee, however, apparently this coffee was to be served at 10:00 pm at night. Thankfully, I had brought Nescafe. Registration and bib pick up was to start at 9:00 am, and runners were to begin their relay in small waves of about 15 runners at a time at 11:30 am. I thought that was a little late to start a race, especially one up in Tahoe, above 7000 feet, in July.
The Lake Tahoe Basin was formed (according to Wikipedia) 2 million years ago, by a series of different geological events, including faulting, the scouring of the land by glaciers, and an eruption by Mt. Pluto. This unique landscape contains the second deepest lake in the USA, and peaks higher than 10,000 feet, such as Mt. Rose. As to climate in July, the Basin at lake level traps heat, and can average in the 80-90 Fahrenheit during the day. At higher elevations, the thin air allows some of the heat to escape, and is a little cooler. However, the thin air allows the sun's radiation to bake human flesh to a nice crisp. At night, the thin atmosphere allows all that heat to dissipate, and night temps drop down to the 50-40's.
Our team was to start at 12:30 pm, and I volunteered to be the first runner. My logic was to burn off some adrenaline and get my legs moving, and to finish my least favorite route first, so that I could kick back and enjoy the rest of the runs.
THE GREEN LOOP:
According to the Ragnar website, the race was to consist of three different routes, and each of the eight team members was to run all three routes once. The routes were designated by color: a three mile green route, a six-seven mile yellow route, and a seven-eight mile red route. The team leader was to assign each team member a position, and then the team would cycle through that order three times. Which order you ran the routes would vary per team member, so if you sat down and figured what your favorite/least favorite route would be, you could approximate what position you wanted. I wanted to get my weakest leg done first - the fast green three miles.
I also was the only Ragnar virgin on the Team. Running first would give me a chance to make up time later if I needed to pick up the pace. My mental plan was to go slow and scout out how the relay was set up, what type of trails were being used, and how accurate the website portrayed the routes. I felt that even with the disadvantage of being a virgin, it was offset by my past experience running in Tahoe. Two weekends prior to the relay, me and members of my trail running club had run 20 miles up at Mt. Rose, to test acclimation and trail conditions. This year there had been almost no snow, and the trails were very dry and clear - perfect for running. In other years, there had been snow cover at the peaks, and rivulets cutting down the mountains. But not this year.
My team cheered me on as I lined up in the starting corral with fifteen other runners. The start was a simple countdown and "Go". I did not sprint out of the gate - I shuffled my way to the back of the pack, and started my GPS. The first half mile was a simple rolling hill single track, dusted with pine wood chips, soft and easy, flanked by California pines. The single track emptied out into a fire road next to a ski lift, and for the next half mile the route went up a grassy meadow, that in wintertime would be a bunny hill ski run. I began catching up with the sprinters who walked up the bunny hill.
After the bunny hill, the route veered right, cutting back toward the parking lot. This was a deviation from what was published online. I was expecting a mile of hard running straight up the mountain. But that was not to be. The route twisted down a short, sandy hill, and leveled off on an actual road, not a fire trail, for the next mile. Half mile out from the finish line, the course turned right again, and lead back into a single track up, and back to the start line. Total mileage = 2.7 miles. My time was a slow 37:55.
Our Team Shirt - a shout out to Back to the Future
Race Report: Part Two
I always believe it is better to be early than on time, to be on time and never late, and better late than never. Which translates into "Eleanore is always way to early".
I got to Tahoe around 2:30 pm the day before the race, and the first of our team to arrive at the campsites. Other runners had beat me to the site, however I still had first choice spots, to ensure we did not get a spot anywhere near the trash, main walkways, or port-o-pottys. Ragnar had reserved a parking lot to use as a campsite, and the edges of the lot had pine trees and scrub, so if your team was lucky, you could get a thin slice of nature on one side of the site. I pitched a tent (lolz) and made friends with our neighbors, Team Hot Pink RILF. They shared their beers and we played cards, hiding from a rain squall that quickly rolled in and rolled out. I also made one enemy, some bald guy and his woman, who interrogated me for reserving the spot. He got on his mobile phone and attempted to call some Ragnar person. I nicely told him if her were smart, he would do what I was doing, and pop a squat before his team arrived. I never saw him again.
Our team began arriving around 5:00 pm, from various parts of the country. Two members, S and J, had flown in from Florida. Another two members (C and H) had arrived from Wisconsin, via the California Zephyr (one of the most famous Amtrak train that I had the pleasure of taking across country in 2001). The last four (R, L, C, & S2) were all from Nevada, arriving separately by plane and car, flying in from Las Vegas and driving in from Reno.
The small rain squall had everyone anxious to set up camp and get dinner cooked without delay. R, our team leader, had done four months of careful planning, which included a hot, home-cooked chicken, veggie and rice meal for our first get-to-know-you dinner. Being a relay run, this would be the only time the whole team would be able to eat together, and, as runners, all of our diets and colons functioned delicately and differently. Any runner can tell you that eating too close to a run can cause cramps, or certain foods can cause a very different type of "runs". In addition, some runners (like myself) have lucky foods. (My lucky foods include Coke, Almond Snickers, and pizza. No one ever said lucky foods were health foods.) Over the passing of the sriracha, we all discussed how we loved the team tee-shirt, and our worries about possible bears roaming around the camp at night, and how registration started at 9:00 am in the morning.
We also had to decorate the campsite. Our team name was Team Uter Zorker, named after the fat German kid on The Simpsons who famously stated "Do not make me run - I am full of chocolate!" L, who teaches elementary school kids, had a knack for crafts, and created a whole display that included German and USA flags, a solar powered spinning flag pole, 3 hours of non-stop polka music, and free chocolate in a "Please take one" bucket.
I have not run with a race team since high school, and I was never very good at it, due to my slowness and my love of just casual running. You know the casual runner, the runners who cut the trail, who stop to look at the scenery, those who take stretch breaks, those who step aside and tell everyone to pass them on the left. I have no need for speed - I want to prolong my afternoon in the sun.
However, when I got e-mail spam from Ragnar, advertising their new trail running series in my own backyard, I was curious - Can I run with a relay team 25 years after my failed running career in high school? It was tempting, since I love a good trail run, and signing up with an organization that will monitor your routes at 3 am on the mountain would give me a run I would never do on my own, due to my fear of breaking an ankle in the dark and no one finding my body for five years.
Also, this run would give me a small taste into what my ultra runner friends do. You know, your friends who run those 100 mile races in the Sierra Nevada (yeah, some of my running buddies have done Western States, damn them), up and down mountains, all day, all night. I envy them, and dream of running their races. But I will never join their ranks - I am just too lazy. I love to run and run (almost) every day. But I don't enjoy pain as much as they do. My current limit is 6 hours of slowness. I have topped out at 26.2 miles. After that I am ready for some tri-tip and a Coke. But this Ragnar would give me a chance to taste their world without actually doing it. I would still have to put in some tough training, on trail, in altitude. But nothing over my magic miles of 26.2.
I asked some of my running buddies if they wanted to put together a team. Nope, no one wanted to pay money to run on Tahoe trails, since you can do it for free any day of the week. Why would you pay? I argued that you pay so that you can get eaten by a bear at 3 am on the backside of the mountain, and a rescue crew would be on stand-by to come get your bones within 24 hours. You are paying for safety. But it looked like if I was going to do this, I would have to find a pick-up team. I would be running as a team with total strangers who have no idea, except what I tell them, as to what kind of runner I am. And vice versus. I would have to get out of my solo mentality, and care about helping seven other runners. The dynamics of an unknown team can make or break an experience like this; it is not just about the trails and the weather, but the attitudes and spirits of eight people. It could be a ship of fools, or a car of idiots, or a trail of runners!
I found my team through Ragnar's Facebook. I think we were well vetted. This team was made up of middle aged, laid back professionals, who did not care about times or pace. Half the team had run together before, and the other half were other pick-up runners. Ages (appeared) to be between 50 and 30. I ended up being the second oldest runner in the mix, but in the same physical shape as our average runner. I was concerned about this more than I should have been, however, since my hip surgery in 2005, I know that I cannot run fast, ever. I have endurance and stamina (insert perverse joke here), but speed makes my rebuild hip scream in pain, and I end up unable to walk, much less run, for weeks afterward. And I like walking, much less running. Not that I was ever fast anyway.
My toenail is about to fall off. I would take a picture and show you, however, I painted my toenails orange and don't feel like finding a camera.
Those of you who run trails and mountains know the hassle of the black toenail. This one, the left big toe, is due to The Double Dipsea.
The Double Dipsea is a 15 mile ordeal, set in Marin County, CA. This trail race starts at Stinson Beach, famous for being part of the Red Triangle, a breeding ground the The Great White Shark. And a great boogie board beach here in NorCal.
The race takes you from sea level through a series of rolling hills, with the top elevation being Cardiac Hill, elevation 1360. Doesn't sound that hard, right? Wrong. The challenge of this race is that it is a roller coaster on Mt. Tamelpias. You run up 600 feet, then down 100 feet, then back up another 500, then down to sea level, then back up 760 feet, then down again, and repeat, for four hours. Black toe is guaranteed.
Along the trail route, you will encounter rattle snakes, slick wooden stairs, dodgy tourists unaware that this is a race route, small cliff faces, heat, and more stairs. You will also have amazing vistas of the Pacific Ocean, Meir Woods, plum trees, and tons of single track, technical goodness.
I am ready to hit the trail!
Mile 2 and mile 14, since the Double Dipsea is an out and back route.
Here in Northern California, we have snakes. As a trail runner, you will definately encounter snakes. This last weekend, I saw 4 snakes, and almost stepped on the last one. On a previous run, I had to remove from the trail a 4 foot snake that was drunk on sunshine (with a large stick). (Why did I manually remove the snake? Well, it was laying across the path and refused to move, even when poked with a stick. Mountain bikes would have wiped out and squished it if someone didn't remove it. Or another runner would have stepped on it. It was very drunk on sunshine, and very large. This was not a single track, but a fire trail, and the snake spanned the whole thing.) (Snakes love to look like sticks and get drunk on sunshine on our running trails.) (Then we step on them.)
Common California snakes include the following:
Gophersnake - I see these the most. Little cuties that slither away. Brown and spotty. Coachwhip - I don't think I have seen these, yet. Sharp-tailed snake - These are apparently common in NorCal, but in junk and wood piles. Not the common trail snake. Never seen one. King snake - I have seen these out in Point Reyes trails. And porbably misidentified them on other trails. Racer snake - Statistically, some of the snakes I call gartersnakes were probably racer snakes. Striped Racer/whipsnake - this is the snake I almost stepped on. I screamed like a baby and studder jumped over it, since I saw that I would step on it while in mid-air. Ring necked snakes - I have never seen one of these Western Rattlesnakes - Yes, these poisonous guys are everywhere. I have seen one on Matt Davis. My best friend's dog got bitten by one on the nose. My old boss used to kill them hiding under his car at home in the hills. (Use a shovel). There are lots of them in NorCal. They like to hide under cars, picnic tables, rocks, and like to sun themselves in the middle of the day on trails. Do not step on them. Gartersnakes - I have seen tons of these little guys. Cute and snakey. They are usually brown or reddish with a yellow stripe on the side. Harmless. Unless you are on a mountian bike. Then think of them as crunchy slugs.
Here is a snake on the trail I am running tomorrow:
This year's Bay to Breakers is now complete and was one of the best I have experienced. Not so much because of the SFO race organization (there have been better years when there still was a Footstock afterparty at the polo fields), but because my running club, the RATS - Run Around Town Sundays, participated in full!
Me and my running partner Richard founded the club in January of this year. We spend time and care putting the club together, and with our literal sweat and tears, we are now 80+ members strong, with a core group of 25 that show up regularly. Our club is unique in that we focus on both beginners and advanced runners, with the emphasis on fun, not speed. With fun being the biggest priority, we can accomodate all ages, abilities, and those with injuries. I, myself, had major hip surgery and will never run faster than 11 minute miles, and often will run slower. When founding the club, one of our stated goals was to get a group to run the B2B - Success!!!
If you are not familiar with B2B, it is a San Francisco tradition, 102 years old, a 12K foot race run from the Bay (under the Bay bridge) to the Breakers (Ocean Beach). There are real runners (winners from Ethiopia this year) who execute this race in 35 minutes, there are joggers (like myself) who run this in 1:30:00, and there are walkers in crazy costumes (taking up to 4.5 hours).
As you can see, our club was 17 runners strong (not all are in the photos), in our adorable club tee shirt, some with ears and tails and tutus. After the race we all had beers at the Beach Chalet. Six of us then "Salmoned" the race route back to the beginning, making this a 15 mile run. With the beer break, I would call this a Ragnar Race training day, two back-to-back 7.5 mile runs in the same day! As the last photo demonstrates, we look pretty fresh after 15 miles!
So I needed new trail shoes for the summer season. I wanted to get fancy, try something high tech. I ordered the new Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 on Zappos, in size 10. When they arrived it was obvious they were way too long, to big. So I returned/exchanged them for a half size smaller, 9.5. I test drove those puppies on a 12 mile trail run on Grizzly Peak. Bad news. They suck.
The shoes are too heavy and too narrow. The tread is fine, but the soles are way thick. I cannot feel the trail. They Are being promoted as minimal, but IMHO these are not minimal. I never blister on this trail, and my feet were very blistered with these shoes.
I returned/exchanged them for another pair of New Balance MT110. No blisters! Wide enough for my Hobbit sized feet!
This Sunday April 7, 2013, I will be running the Grizzly Peak Half Marathon.
The Grizzly Peak race is composed of five different races to choose from: 10K, Half Marathon, 30K, Full Marathon and a 50K. The race course for all five races overlap each other in loops around Tilden Park, the East Bay park above the Berkeley Hills. As demonstrated in the picture, there are panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. This is a beautiful route, and one of my regular training run areas.
The highest elevation, the peak itself is only 1,400 feet. Of coarse, with this race, there will be rolling hills, many, many rolling hills. The Half Marathon will have 3,850 in elevation gain, 63% single track, 35% dirt road, 2% asphalt - a proper trail run/race.
The race offers aid stations every 6 miles, and a race day tee shirt! The race will probably sell out!
My brother and sister-in-law will be joining me in this race. After the race we are having rabbit stew! Noms!
I love races. I am not competitive, never have been. But I enjoy group activities, and public races are not necessarily about who comes in first (you know it's the Kenyan guy who flew in two days ago.) This year I plan on running at least four races, including the Grizzly Peak Half Marathon in April, the Bay to Breakers in May, the Lake Tahoe Trifecta (3 half marathons in a weekend) in September, the CIM - the California International marathon (the Sacramento marathon), and to top it all off, I joined a Ragnar team! Like many runners on the roads and trails, I had been noticing these orange butterfly symbols on tee shirts, and knew it was a running series. With a Google search, it appeared Ragnar was very trendy and had a cult like following. I had seen one run live in Marin a few years back, on my way to running Mt. Tam alone. But I had never looked into joining a team.... until now. Ragnar is now doing a trail running series, and they have chosen South Lake Tahoe as one of their locations. Run up and down ski runs in the summer? Yes, please! As the new Adult Sports Director for the City of Albany, I have been learning how to put together an athletic team from scratch. It is definitely an art. Part of it is "If you build it they will come," but it's much more complicated than that. A sports team is also about chemistry - do these athletes work well together, about position - you can't have 10 pitchers and no outfielders, and about the purpose of the team - do they want to have fun or do they want to win?
I thought about putting together my own team. But since this is my first Ragnar, it made more sense to join an existing team, a team that had experience under its belt. But the team had to match my abilities and goals, which is to say, non-competitive and into a good time above all things. And Team Uter Zorker answered my call! They run for chocolate! Named after the fat German kid from the Simpsons, this Vegas based running club appears to be a perfect match for me. So this July you will see me running at Sierra-at-Tahoe for two days, with a bag of M&Ms in my Nathan's backpack.
It was a sunny Sunday in the Marin Headlands, a bit cool, but so crisp and clear I could see the Farallon Islands.
I started out at the Visitors Center, off Bunker Road, and went counter clockwise on Miwok Trail. For the first 2 miles you run a low grade climb on fire trails. Wolf trail is closed for the season, to help restore the environment.
Around the 2 mile mark, I turned left onto Old Springs Trail. This was a beautiful mid-ridge level trail, with broad views of the Pacific Ocean. The trail then heads down into the Tennessee Valley, the big tourist area. The trail takes you to a horse staging area, keep heading left until you hit the Tennessee Valley parking area, then head toward the beach, west. Take this for about another mile, and watch the left closely for a single track trail - the Coastal Trail. There should be a warning that this trail is steep. And a sign saying Hill 88.
The Coastal Trail toward Rodeo Beach is the highlight of the run. Yes, it is very, very steep. I had to hike this whole trail - no running. I was drenched in sweat. It is not scary steep - no cliff faces - very safe. The views from the top are worth every droplet of sweat.
At this point I hit the 6 mile mark. The last 2 miles are all downhill and very easy. You do have to dodge the tourists. You run by the old Nike missile sites, and the Farallons are still in full view.
This is an 8 mile loop. I finished in 1 hour and 49 minutes.
My old grey trail shoes are 2 years old, and the tread is so worn down that if they were tires, the steel would be poking out. So I went on Amazon.com and ordered a new pair. My favorite brand is New Balance. I am very confident in their sizing, which is more accurate than some other brands. In a NB shoe I am a 41, or a 9.5 Women's. I ordered the NB Women's Minimus Alpha Trail Runner, in Red/Blue/Yellow, a limited addition skittle colour! And (probably because skittles are no popular) they only cost $67.98! Who ever heard to a shoe costing under $100? And look sooo good! They match every outfit I own!
Here in Northern California we are having an unusual cold snap. Our Eastern European friends would laugh at what we consider "cold", as would our friends in Detroit. We have been dipping down to the low 30s Fahrenheit (-0.5 c) and reaching the mid-50s during the day. On my Saturday long run, through the Berkeley hills, I cracked ice when stepping in the mud puddles, and the leaves of the poison oak were covered in white frost.
Since I need something warm in my belly to fight off the chill, I made one of my favorite home cooked soups. I don't use a recipe; my soups are always improvised. However, there are some techniques I always use, and would call them "signature" secrets. And some of these secrets I don't see on-line when I Google soup recipes. So here is how I make borscht, taught to me in Kiev.
Red Beet Borscht - American Style via Kiev
Wash raw red beets. If you have large ones, 3 is a fair amount. If small, use more than 3. (Saute the greens later for a side dish, as you would spinach. Beet greens are better than spinach, and way, way better than kale.)
Pre-heat the oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the beets in foil. Bake the beets until they are tender, maybe an hour, depending on their size.
Baking the beets will preserve their colour in your soup. If you boil the beets, they drain their colour. In addition, baking the beets gives them a sweeter, roasted flavor. (this is the big secret!) You can prepare the beets days ahead of time if you want, and just refrigerate your beets until you want to make soup.
Take pork fat, from bacon, or pork belly, and render. Chop up onion (red, white, whatever) and saute in the pork fat. If you are using bacon, leave the chunks of meat in the mix - yum. Add garlic if you like. I think garlic will give the broth richer flavor. (I love LOTS of onion. So you can add 2 whole onions if your a fan.)
Add water, or chicken broth, or beef broth to the pot of onions, garlic and bacon. At first maybe add 4 - 6 cups. You may add more later, depending on how chunky you want your soup. Add a spoonful of tomato paste and blend in. Bring to a simmer. (Tomato paste is optional. Often I leave it out. But it adds a little bit of richness. You can substitute a little tomato sauce, or a fresh chopped tomato. If using a fresh tomato, add it to the sauted onions and cook it a bit.)
Shred your beets on a grater. Many recipies chop their beets. But in Kiev I was taught to shred them on a large cheese grater. Personally the texture of shredded beets is my preference to chopped chunks. Add the beets to the soup.
Add spices. The spices I add include black pepper, salt (if the bacon or pork belly is not salty enough, so be carefull with the salt), a pinch of dill (not too much - be carefull with the dill), a pinch of caraway seeds (again - be careful with the caraway - you don't want your soup to taste like rye bread), and a bayleaf.
Simmer the soup for about 15-20 minutes. If the soup looks too chunky, add more broth.
Serve with rye bread, sour cream, a side of halusky галушка, some chopped hard boiled egg, or cucumber. The soup will taste even better the next day, when the flavors mingle a bit more.
In Kiev me and my brother ate borscht everyday. It is totally addictive!
It is now 2013, and I am looking ahead to what goals I should set. I have already signed up for The Grizzly Peak half-marathon, a 13.1 trail run in the Berkeley Hills. This will be my first trail race, and it is a good one for me to tackle since I know those trails well. The next race I am looking into is the Big Basin 50K. This would be my first 50K, set in the Santa Cruz, CA mountains. I know the Sky to Sea trail - I have hiked it - it is beau-ti-ful!! You start at the top of the hills and take the trail 30 miles down to the beach. But I don't want to do it alone and am trying to get Andrea to sign up.
And as to travel, we are looking at Christmas 2013 in Slovakia, with a side trip to Vienna. Hugh has always wanted to go to Vienna at Christmas time, and we have not been back to Slovakia for a few years. It is time!