Sunday, February 24, 2008

Training Run up at Chuckanut

A few weeks ago, after signing up for Chuckanut, I saw my friend Chris Allan's name on the entrants list. I was excited because he has spent the last two or so years trying to come back from a tough hip injury - a tear in the labral muscle of the hip. Chris is an awesome runner and it was tough to see him sidelined with such an injury. So naturally I contacted him to talk about Chuckanut. He was up for a training run in the coming weeks and we decided on Feb 24 for a 20 miler. I picked the mountain part of the course since that would be the trickiest part. Tracy joined us and at dark o'thirty this morning I picked them up for a road trip north.

We saw lots of cool nature stuff along the way, including an eagle (or hawk - it was so fast) swoop in front of my car to pick up a mouse. He/she got breakfast and was outta there! We got to the Clayton Beach parking area about 8:00, where there were other like-minded folks getting ready to hit the trails. Weather was great - a little cool, but not bad at all. After doctoring up my feet (moleskin over a pesky sore toe - damn Morton's toe!) we headed off on the trail.

Wrong turns abound

Using the cue sheet from the Chuckanut Race, starting at AS#1, we headed up Fragrance Lake trail. It says to keep right at a junction at 0.8 miles, so naturally we turned right at what looked like a junction. We climbed and climbed and a sign that said "Chuckanut Mtn 1000ft". Hmmm...that doesn't seem right. So back down the road/trail we went and back onto the Fragrance Lake trail. We soon came to the right turnoff and headed down to Fragrance Lake. All went well and we went part way around the lake, and headed towards a switch back.

As we started up, we heard some people below us and I recognized Devon's blond pony tail poking out of her Nuun visor. As they approached, I yelled "I know you!" She was running with a guy named Dan, who fortunately had run this route before. We chatted a second, and made introductions all around and headed on. The cue sheet said "switchback at left" so we took the left one. Dan said this wasn't right so we turned around and took the other one. Looking back at the cue sheet, that made more sense - thank goodness we saw them - we really would have been lost! They took off (in fact, I'm sure Devon was back in Seattle eating a homemade meal by the time we finished!) and we proceeded forthwith. We got to Cleator Road and climbed that for a while. At the turnoff onto the "scary" trail, we saw a stash of two water bottles and lots of gels behind a post. We hit the scary trail which turned out not to be so scary and full of amazing views. It was quite technical with lots of roots and some big potentially slippery rocks. I did manage to roll the ankle a couple of times but not too bad. We were getting impatient for the turnaround and my stomach was starting to not feel so good. About a quarter mile before the junction at Dan's Traverse, a guy named Rick came up behind us. We stopped to talk to him and ask about the trail. He was quite a talkative guy and the longer we stood there, the colder I got. I just wanted to keep moving and in retrospect, I should have asked if we could walk and talk at the same time. We were all headed the same way so why not? Anyway, he was really helpful and gave us an option to bypass Chinscraper and head back to the car. Eventually he took off and we headed on where we saw our long awaited turn around to head back south.

Mud, streams, hills

The Lost Lake trail was described as having a stream running down the middle of it and to be prepared to get your feet wet. Indeed there was a stream, but it wasn't as bad as I anticipated. Could have been because the weather was so nice, but we went through it with minimal wetting of feet. When we hit the mud, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think that's because of Capitol Peak mega fat ass - even though I only did 8 miles. Since then, any muddy trail has paled by comparison! We got to the junction where we had the option to short cut to the car. Chris said he really wanted to try chinscraper and thought it wouldn't be that much further. I agreed and off we went up a trail towards Fragrance Lake.

Soon, after some awesome downhills (thought I'd never say that with my bad ankle!), we came to the inobvious trail and started up Chinscraper. We had been told by Rick to watch out for mountain bikers but none appeared - just a couple with chainsaws doing some trail work. I called it the Bellingham Chainsaw Massacre. Chinscraper was a grunt and met all my expectations. We came out at Cyrus Gates overlook (more awesome views!) where there was lots of snow and bathrooms. After a quick pit stop, we headed down Cleator Rd. Unfortunately, we didn't take the Fragrance Lake trail (sharp left after the gate); instead we pounded down this road for far too long, eventually connecting with the interurban trail. We had to go a couple more miles to get to the car, but they were runnable and flat. A guy coming towards us stopped me and asked if I had seen some water bottles. The ones we saw earlier were his and some scum butt bastard had stolen them. He was out of water and gels. I gave him a gel - that totally sucks! Hope he's okay.

The Fat Lady Sings - It's Over

We finally arrived at the car and while Tracy changed clothes in the bathroom, I laid in the parking lot and elevated my tired feet on my car bumper. I proudly left a huge wet spot of sweat on the pavement! We were going to try and find beach access to soak our legs, but it had gotten so late, we decided to just go home.

I was so glad we did this, despite getting lost. Also, I did it on semi-tired legs, since I did a ten mile run yesterday morning (at dawn) and helped out all morning at a ChiWalking workshop. Good to know that I can do this course and if I taper, I might even enjoy it more!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Trail Running Camp, aka Orcas Island Fat Ass

Do you remember going to camp as a kid and the hardest part was when it ended and you had to go home again? That's what it was like after this weekend at Orcas Island Fat Ass. Too much fun and plenty o' sun!

For me it started with rushing around trying to pack and make two vegan gluten-free birthday cakes for Linda Bear Barton, aka Carrot (and not because she's vegan). She specified a white or carrot cake since most vegan cakes seem to be chocolate. Devon came through with a link to a great recipe for a vegan gluten-free carrot cake, and to be all-inclusive, I made one with walnuts and one without. Cakes got made Friday and Donn and I went out for Valentine's dinner (we wait til the day after - easier to get a table). I wasn't feeling too great and was concerned I was catching the cold that was all around me. I felt like what Kendra described - a little bowling pin with my arms raised! I hit the Zicam regularly; my flu shot I had apparently was for the wrong strain, according to a CDC report my boss had read, so I was going on luck! I decided I'd go anyway and see how it went.

Road trip...
Come Saturday, I headed to Everett to pick up Linda and Chandler - a newbie to ultrarunning, but ya wouldn't know it! The boy rocks! We made it in time to sit in line for the 1:15 ferry, so they headed to the beach, while I ate my lunch. Later I ran into Dan, who had been in a serious auto accident on his way to Bend a couple weeks ago. I had read about someone on Krissy's blog and prayed it wasn't him, but alas it was. He is lucky to have survived and we are very lucky he is still with us! He was on his way up to Orcas to volunteer and support Christel in her 50K.

The ferry ride was unremarkable except for all the familiar faces from the ultrarunning community - I love that! Linda kept exchanging phone calls with Rich who was already on the island and he assured he got us all in the same bunkhouse. So nice not to have to worry about getting there in time to take care of that. Apparently James (RD) had assigned bunks since there were so many, but Rich got it rearranged. Just like going to camp and rooming with your buddies! We got to camp and checked in. James had opted for the alternate snow route, meaning no Mt. Constitution. So Chandler, Linda, Jamie, Shannon and I drove up to check out the view and snow. There was indeed lots of snow up there, but I think as much as last year. Hard to tell what it was like in the woods though. We climbed the tower and did all the photo ops (here) and headed back to town for dinner.

An odd dining experience....

Rich got us reservations at Lulu's, an Italian restaurant on Prune Alley Dr in Eastsound. There were eight of us, and they seated us soon as we arrived. The food was good and I shared a bottle of wine with Casey, Rich, and Georgia (another bunkmate). When it came time to pay the bill, things turned sour. Jamie wanted to pay her portion with a credit card, and the owner got upset. He told us we needed to bring cash if there was going to be this many and didn't like taking the CC. Jamie offered to pay the whole bill (and have us reimburse her) so he took her card. Linda told him he didn't need to lecture us about how to pay the bill, at which point he said "Fine. This is my restaurant. So leave." We got up to leave and Rich stayed behind to ask for a copy of the bill so we would know how much to pay Jamie. The guy would not let Rich see the bill, and after some arguing, Rich (nicely) said "Dude, don't be such a cocksucker." The owner told Rich to leave or he would call the cops. Rich stood his ground so the guy picked up the phone. He left, but not without telling the rest of the patrons what an ass the owner was. I support Rich - it was way weird! Fortunately , Jamie at least had the foresight not to tip him. I feel bad for the waitstaff - what a jerk to work for!

Back at the lodge we made race preparations and I socialized a bit with some friends and finally got off to bed. My bunkmate was a guy named Matt and his buddies had put little graffiti notes on the bunk (along with the other graffiti) about what a hot dude he was. Pretty funny. Most of the other group consisted of first time trail runners except for their organizer, Nathan, whom I had met on Tiger Mtn FA. I was quite impressed they came out to do this - he must have magical powers of persuasion!

Race Day, finally....

Race day dawned bright and beautiful, in stark contrast to last year's conditions (snow, rain, ice). I almost opted for shorts (and later wished I had). I started out in a short sleeve shirt with arm warmers, my Patagonia jacket, 3/4 tights, a buff, and gloves. Oh, and new shoes - Innov-8 Roclites (320). So much more roomier in the toe box!! And comfy! James gave the prerace instructions and we were off across the lawn. After a nice trail along the lake, which I remembered running last year in reverse, we came out on the "bit of cross country" section. We started climbing a hill that resembled Lord Hill - oh what a hill!!! Oh man! At one point, we had to use hands too. It kept going up and I heard "good job, Laura" and looked up to see Glenn perched there with his camera. He's an amazing photographer and has some of the best race photos I've ever seen! He really knows how to capture the moment! We briefly crossed a semi- level portion, and then went running down a really steep hill - so steep I had to hold back to keep from tumbling down it. I babied my ankle all the way - focusing on eversion so I didn't get another inversion sprain. My brace helped keep it steady. The trail led us back into forest and along Cascade Lake again. As we headed along towards Mountain Lake, several people out for hikes had to step aside. I wonder what they thought as they watched all these people wearing numbers run by. Maybe they wanted to join? Maybe they just thought we were crazy? Whatever, they were all nice and smiling - not one grumpy gus amongst them. Lulu's owner must have slept in.

At the aid station, I had stripped off the arm warmers and jacket; it was really getting warm. I put my arm warmers in Robin's (my companion at Lord Hill) drop bag and we were off. More climbing ensued, and I felt like I was getting stronger on hills as I warmed to them. But of course what goes up must go down. Because I rolled my ankle for the umpteenth time last week, and it was a tad swollen, I really protected it on the down hills. I had gotten stretched by Laura on Friday and she noticed the calcaneus and talus were "stuck" so she worked them loose and gave me some great eversion exercises to do. I used the uphills to evert and stretch out that area; it really helped!

We worked our way around Mountain Lake and came to the Secret Loop. Another steep climb up this led to a mossy area. We had heard somebody whoop and when we got to the "view" we saw why. It was incredible!! Unbelievable! Mt Baker was right there with the Sound and shoreline and oh man! I wish I had my camera! As we descended, I looked and saw another awesome scene of farmland below. We had to stop again to take that in! If I had had the strength, I would have made the double loop just for that view.

Back down into the woods we ran along the boundary trail. As we climbed hills, I would almost catch up to Robin, only to watch her disappear on the downhills. I was so envious at how easy she made that look...Come on ankle - heal, dammit! We passed a shack where someone lived, just down off the trail, along a creek. How he got food in there was beyond me; he was definitely off the grid. No electricity or running! We climbed some more and finally down towards Cascade Falls. Glenn was waiting at the falls to photograph people as they ran across the bridge, with the falls in the background. I can't wait to see those photos!! We climbed some stairs (where were the escalators???) and soon headed back to the lodge to the finish and food.

Post race
Inside there was amazing vegan soup (two kinds), a keg of organic beer, and a live bluegrass band. That, combined with seeing friends - both new and old - made for a great post race party. Alison was giving 10 minute massages and I signed up for one to loosen the legs. So great!! I grabbed a beer and headed to the shower - another post race tradition - beer IN the shower (there was a shelf...). The weather just got more awesome and people were hanging out playing frisbee, knitting, or just soaking up rays, waiting for loved ones to come in from their race. I flitted between in and outside and occasionally watched runners come in. As Linda, Jamie and Christel came in, I tried to light candles on the birthday cake, but the wind kept blowing them out. I thought it would be real funny to test Linda's VO2 Max in trying to blow out a load of candles after racing in, but evil plans failed. So we just went in, got them some food, and proceeded to eat cake.

Sunday night was spent hanging out in the lodge or cabin, drinking beer and watching running videos. The Badwater video was playing, and when they got to the part where the British unsupported runner was popping her blisters, the guys kept yelling to hit replay so they could watch the stream of serum squirt into the air. By their yells, you would have thought they were watching a bad fumble in the Super Bowl. Pretty funny stuff! I finally hit the hay about 10:30 - end of a fun filled day!

Camp is over....

But not before a massage. I arranged with Alison for an early morning full massage! I got up early, got coffee and oatmeal, cleaned up, and headed next door to my massage. It was so great! I wish she were closer and I could see her more regularly. When I was done, and paid, I picked up my bags from my cabin, hopped in the car, and headed towards the ferry, pondering how awesome life was at that moment. Linda and Chandler were walking to Eastsound for coffee, but didn't make it before I came along. We were able to easily make the 9:50 ferry, and had time for one last round of socializing before heading back into the mundane reality of everyday life...with no cold!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Day Hooker

I've become a hooker. No, not the kind you see on Aurora, but the crocheting kind. I have been knitting a couple of years now and tried to learn crocheting a little while ago. I remember someone trying to teach me at work in the break kitchen, and remember one of my colleagues slowly backing out of the kitchen as I cussed at the yarn and hook in my hands. It's quite different from knitting and most knitters I know dare not venture, though I do know a few who can do both. So I got The Happy Hooker by Deb Stoller (of Stitch and Bitch fame) a little over a week ago and have become hooked, so to speak. I made the requisite swatches and decided to tackle a hat. I mentioned to Donn what I really wanted to crochet was a bag (for some weird reason). He, who has way too many tuba mouthpieces, mentioned he'd like a bag or two to carry his mouthpieces in. So I found a pattern here yesterday and stopped at my new favorite and convenient yarn shop, Bad Woman Yarn, on the way home, and made him a bag last night while he was out at band rehearsal. I sneaked downstairs and put it and a card on the table while he was getting ready for bed. It was a little large for one mouthpiece so I started another at lunch today and finished it tonight. Here they are:

I'll crochet another small bag, and he can tie them together and hang them off the lead pipe of his tuba, and call them Tuba Testicles! It could be a whole new line of products!

Just an aside - I realized yesterday I am becoming a yarn addict. I have been partaking in too much SEX (Stash Enriching Expeditions) and when I rode up yesterday, there was a bag of yarn on my doorstep. I couldn't remember for a minute why I had ordered it, then remembered it was for making a cool sweater I saw. Anyway, I need to get organized better - I'm running out of room!

It was Donn's turn to cook dinner tonight, so he baked a pizza. He made it special for Valentine's Day, as you can see here:

The heart is made of San Marzino tomatoes - they were very yummy!

Off to go pack for Orcas and organize a meal plan!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

start studded day

Stars on the trail

I got in a three hour trail run with two lovely ladies - Tracy and Laura S - today at Cougar Mtn. Tracy and I hit Discovery Pk yesterday for a two hour run so this was #2 of a back-to-back for me. There were lots of people on Cougar today, since Tony from Always Running had a group out there for training. We were running the opposite direction and at one point felt like salmon swimming upstream.

The conversation we had going covered various topics as usual and Tracy recounted a spill she had taken going down a switch back one time. There was a guy behind her and above, higher up, and she kept looking to make sure she wasn't in his way. When she fell, she looked up and didn't see him. Turned out he fell at the same time, and later told her when he saw her he always fell. Was that a pickup line?

Later we were running down Wilderness Cliffs and a dog followed by a group of guys came bounding UP the trail. We stepped aside and I recognized the dog as Piper, who belongs to Justin Angle. I played with her and she nearly bowled me over in her joy. That dog loves to run! Behind her came Justin and I confirmed it was Piper and introduced myself. Behind him came Scott Jurek, who said hello to me, and immediately slipped (it was a really steep muddy part) stretching his entire length down the hill in an uphill fall. I told Tracy to add him to her list of men whom she makes fall. Matt Hart came up behind him, followed by someone I didn't recognize (I felt bad too as I had been calling out names like a race announcer). Funny - earlier, as we were starting to descend down the switchbacks, I had told my friends that Scott had suggested running UP this trail for uphill tempo runs. When I saw him, I reminded him he had told me to run here (he probably tells most his local clients to do that) and said (jokingly) "well screw you!" He said "excuse me?" to which I yelled I was just kidding! Oh the trail does bring it out in me - have to watch myself!

As usual I rolled the weak ankle several times, but the last little loop we did (Klondike to Cougar Pass) I really wrenched it. I walked quite a bit while they ran ahead. Part of the issue (I think) is my right eye tears up with cold air (going downhill) and it doesn't drain well, and it distracts my whole body and mind, and then I land wrong. I've had the duct clean out before; think I'll call my optometrist and look into this (so to speak).

Stars in politics

We got back in time for me to shower and change while Donn made me lunch. After taping the ankle and putting on a brace, we were off to our neighborhood democratic caucus. We found our room and we walked right in to stand next to our awesome neighbors. The only thing missing to keep it from feeling like a block party was a keg of beer! Donn was decided but I went in undecided. So I was fortunate to be on the listening end of both sides (Clinton versus Barack). Eventually, through the listening and deciding, I went over to the Barack side and ended up as an alternate to the next meeting on April 5. We had three precincts in our room (a gym) and David Horsey, a neighbor, was walking around taking notes for fodder for his next column or cartoon. It was really interesting to be such a non-anonymous part of the process and listen to the passionate arguments about people's choices. This is an exciting time to be alive and I have felt more involved in the process now than I ever have. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Monday, February 4, 2008

We're all getting older and climbing the Lord's Hill

My cat Abby is getting up in years and starting to show signs. She went for her yearly checkup last week and her thyroid gland has started getting overactive, something not uncommon in older cats. She also is on something (Lactulose) to help her bowels (at least she didn't have to have a colonoscopy to figure that one out). In some ways, our lives are following parallel paths - her thyroid and my blood pressure (and now cholesterol); her lactulose and my psylium; and just getting older in general. I have one advantage over her though - my telomeres should be flapping in the wind! A recent study showed that active older people have longer telomeres (the "arm" part of your chromosomes) than their sedentary counterparts. As we age, we lose nucleotides that make up the chromosome and the outward effects are those of aging. That loss is slowed down through an active lifestyle. So all you active old farts pat yourself on the back! Now if I could just do something about my genetics - at least my doc says my HDL is so high (thanks to an active lifestyle) that it negates the slightly high LDL (the High Density Lipoprotein is the good cholesterol and keeps the arteries clean, where as the Low Density Lipoprotein clogs up the works).

As for an active lifestyle, last Sunday was the return of Lord Hill run. Several of us, Laura S., Lauren, Ali and Ida all met and carpooled to the run in Laura's cool Prius, feeling like VERY GOOD citizens! We got there in good time and were smart to make a pit stop on the way, as there was one porta potty and a long line at the start. It was pretty dang cold - 32F - while we were waiting around, but I guess I'm getting used to it cuz it didn't bug me that much. At least there was no rain! We saw lots of other folks from other runs including my friend from Capitol Peak Ultra, Linda B., and Erik Barnes, who has a nice report and photos here. After getting prerace directions from Tim, we took off. Ali, Laura and Lauren were all ahead of me from the start and I settled into my nice semi-slow pace. I like to start slow and taper off from there (apologies to whomever I stole that phrase from). I enjoyed listening to other people talking and cheering on the speedier ones on the out and back section in the first part. After the first turn around, I ended up running with a couple, Jeff and Robin Loen. Jeff was doing the 50K and had done it before, whereas Robin was doing one loop, like me. He eventually went on ahead (and ended up running with Linda B - small world, this ultra community). Robin and I hung together the rest of the run and enjoyed keeping each other company. Usually I am running alone, and she said the same went for her. Anyway, there were parts of the race where the scenery reminded me of the woods I grew up playing in, in southeast Texas! I think it was the deciduous trees that triggered that memory - certainly not the hills! And oh what a hill the Lord provided - there was a notoriously steep one in the middle where I felt we were just shy of using our hands to get up it. Don't know what that would have been like had it been raining and muddy - fun, I'm sure. Further, the 2 and 3 loop folks had to face it again - what studs! There was the usual mud, though not much compared to Capitol Peak, and other smaller hills. We finally came in at 2:16 (10.5 miles, according to Tim), where all but Ida from the carpool were cooling down. Tim had the soup going from the back of his truck and there were lots of awesome goodies that people had brought. Soon as Ida came in (about 12 minutes later - her first trail run, I think), we pretty much packed up to head home. It hadn't gotten much warmer (39F) and we all had obligations back at the ranch. I got one obligatory photo before we piled into the green-mobile to head home.

It was a good run and I really enjoyed hanging with Robin. I felt great all day - maybe next year I'll have to do three loops so I don't feel so damn good at the end! Next up is Orcas Island Fat Ass 25K and Linda's birthday weekend! Yay!!