Trail Run: Marin Headlands

I think it is safe to say that my husband and I are officially hooked on trail running. This past weekend we went for another trail run, or as I like to say, a ‘rike’ (run + hike…some of the ascents/descents were too steep/technical to run, so there was a fair amount of hiking as opposed to running).

This time we traveled a fair distance to the Marin Headlands. It might seem silly to drive almost two hours for a run, but we rarely get to this area and it is SO gorgeous. It’s certainly not something I would do on a regular basis, but we wanted to say that we ran in the Headlands at least once.

We started our run at Stinson Beach…a super tiny beach town about 35 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, we took the Dipsea Trail, which goes all the way from the ocean to Mill Valley if you so desire (it’s about 7 miles each way). At first the trail starts out on an exposed hill, but you quickly move into the shady redwoods. Be prepared to climb stairs. A LOT of stairs.

Rather than follow the Dipsea the entire way, we veered off on to the Ben Johnson Trail which takes you down to the Muir Woods National Monument. Pretty close to Muir Woods is Alice Eastwood Camp, just hop on to the Eastwood Trail and follow it for a mile or so. This place is pretty quiet (especially compared to Muir Woods) and there are washrooms and a nice picnic area as well as pottable water. Alice Eastwood camp is starting to climb up again from Muir Woods, and it’s neat to see how the vegetation changes so suddenly.

There are a number of trails that meet at Eastwood Camp, so you have your pick of where to go next. We took the Sierra Trail and eventually made our way to Pantoll Camp. Like Eastwood Camp, Pantoll has washrooms and pottable water, but it is pretty busy as it is right on the highway.

My husband wanted to check out the Mountain Theater – it’s a large amphitheater that was built in the 1930s. What makes it so neat is that it is built entirely out of rock. Once we climbed up top to the mountain the theater itself actually wasn’t all THAT impressive, but we were rewarded with some spectacular  panoramic views, including the ocean as well as Sausalito and San Francisco. These views are definitely worth the climb alone.

We decided to take the Matt Davis Trail back to Stinson Beach for a change of scenery from the Dipsea. As you can see in the previous photos, we were quite high up – which means there was a heck of a descent in store for us. We were pretty exhausted at this point, but luckily there was still some gorgeous scenery.

After what seemed like forever, we finally were back where we started – Stinson Beach.

In total, we went 11.91 miles. As a treat we stopped off at a Papallote in San Francisco (most amazing burritos ever), but I was so hungry and busy stuffing my face that I forgot my camera in the car. Oh well.


Month in Review: May Highlights

Note: Thanks to everyone for your suggestions on my marathon training ‘burnout’ on my last post. I decided that this week I’m taking a rest week and hopefully I’ll bounce back more eager than ever next week!

Wow, it’s June already?? May was a pretty exciting month running-wise. Some highlights from this month:

1. Highest mileage month ever!
As I get closer and closer to the SF Marathon in July, my mileage continued to climb. This month I ran a total of 137.78 miles – wow! I realize for some folks out there that isn’t that impressive, but for me it certainly is.

2. Ran >40 miles in one week.
I also hit my highest mileage week ever in May, coming in at 40.18 miles.

3. Gave trail running a try.
I finally tried out trail running – and I’m hooked! My first adventure was out to St. Joseph’s Open Space Preserve, and then two weeks later I was running up even taller hills at Joseph D. Grant County Park.

4. Hit a massive half marathon PR!
I broke my old half marathon PR by nearly 14 minutes at the Capitola Half Marathon! I didn’t have a time goal for this race, I was simply running it to get a sense for pacing the SF Marathon in July. I never thought in a million years that I would break the 2 hour mark, but I did! I finished in 1:58:55.

Here’s to an even better June!

What was your May like? Any PR’s? Races? Milestones?

When Bad Runs Happen to Good People

Last week I had a great week running-wise. I was coming off of a great performance (to me) at the Capitola Half. Last week I ran 40.18 miles, which is my highest mileage week ever. The week culminated with a terrific trail run with beautiful views of the Santa Clara valley.

But this week things haven’t been going so great. For the last three days I’ve just felt “off.” I’ve had zero motivation to exercise at all, running or otherwise.This morning I set out for an 8 mile run. After 3 miles I was hot, nauseous, and tired. Rather than push through, I called it a day.

I’m reaching the point in my marathon training plan where I am becoming physically and mentally drained. I still have 7.5 weeks until the marathon and I really think I need the rest of this week to give myself a mental/physical rest.

Since this is my first marathon, I am in new territory here. I’d love to hear from others! Do you ever get ‘drained’ during your training? How do you  cope?

Another Trail Run: Joseph D. Grant County Park

Today I went on another trail run with the husband.This time we journeyed to Joseph D. Grant County Park, a large regional park just east of San Jose in the foothills. To get there, you have to drive for 8 miles on a really windy mountain road that is popular with cyclists.

I was pretty shocked at how _abandoned_ the park was. I guess it’s a bit of a pain to get to, but there are some absolutely fantastic trails with amazing views! It was our first time going, but we are carless and there isn’t a public transportation option to the park (we are currently dog/car sitting for a friend), otherwise we would definitely be up there more often.

There are a few different trail options, so we asked a park ranger which trail was her favorite. She recommended we check out the Dutch Flat trail. The highest point of the trail is at 2457 feet, which affords some spectacular views of Santa Clara Valley.

We saw a few deer, a mama turkey with her babies, and this rude snake that wouldn’t get off of the trail. I’m not going to lie, he freaked me out:

It was my first time using my spiffy new Camelbak. I’m really happy I settled on the discontinued 70 oz Charge model – it’s the perfect size and has just the right amount of pockets for me (I had my cell, some pretzels, and a Clif bar, as well as room for a few other small things if needed). Check out what a nerdy running couple we are now with our matching packs:

Anyhoo, by the time we were done we had gone a total of 9.18 miles. I think if you just did the Dutch Flat trail you would be finished after 7.5 miles or so, but we did a couple of extra loops on other trails toward the end.

This was only my second trail run, but I think I’m hooked! Do you go on trail runs very often? Or do you prefer ‘regular’ running?

Race Report: Capitola Half Marathon and a huge PR!

I’m back from our weekend in Santa Cruz – what an amazing time! On Saturday we headed to Capitola Village to pick up my race packet and swag bag. It was my first time in Capitola, what a pretty place!

We hung out at the beach for a bit and then I carb-loaded with the most AMAZING falafel EVER at a place called Mr. Kebab & Falafel. Seriously. I’ve eaten my fair share of falafel, and this stuff was no joke.

We managed to score a super cheap motel room near the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, so after lunch we headed back in that direction. We kept it low key…mostly just hung out at the boardwalk.

The race had a 7:00 AM start and so I wandered over from the hotel around 6:30 AM or so. I was able to watch the sun rise over the ocean, it was so pretty!

The race started right on time. The first couple of miles were pretty crowded and I ended up doing more weaving than I would have liked. It wasn’t a big deal though, by mile 3 I seemed to have settled in to a nice groove.

The scenery was absolutely fantastic! A lot of the course was right on the coast and so we were treated to spectacular views. I managed to take the following picture while running, so I’m not sure how it turned out so great. I’m also not sure why it’s in black and white, I guess I must have hit a button on my camera somewhere. Taking a picture while running is NOT easy!

I went into this race without any real time goals. I was pretty sure I would beat my old half PR (2:11:48). I figured I would come in at 2:05 or thereabouts. At mile 11 I looked down at my watch and it said 1:41 – I couldn’t believe it! It dawned on me that I could break two hours and so I decided to go for it and kicked it in to high gear.

I ended up finishing with a time of 1:58:55! Never in a million years did I think I was going to break a two hour half marathon in this race! I was dumbfounded. All of the miles I’ve been putting in lately seem to be paying off. Must mean I’m doing something right!

I couldn’t be happier with how this race went. Other than my delicious falafel wrap, the day before the race I mostly ate bagels and bananas. I woke up two hours before the race start, had a cup of coffee, along with yet another bagel and banana. I sipped some Gatorade while walking to the race. I definitely have no complaints about carb-loading, I felt great during the race and I didn’t feel hungry at all. I lived off of the race course, mostly drinking water and a tiny bit of Gatorade at two of the aid stations.

Anyhoo, this was the inaugural year of the Surfer’s Path Marathon & Capitola Half Marathon and I have to say the race committee did a great job! Everything seemed really well organized, the swag bag was great, and at the finish line they handed all of the runners a giant sack of carby goodies (bagel, banana, orange, trail mix, granola, coconut water, and some pb). The shirt is pretty sweet, too – I needed a long-sleeved technical tee!

I’d like to thank Elise once again for holding the giveaway for a free race entry on her blog. Since I was laid off from my job a couple of months ago, race entries are obviously one of the first thing I am going to cut out of my budget. Coming back from foot surgery in 2011, I am SO thankful to have the chance to race and see what my foot can do. It was great to meet you and ya’ll put on an awesome race!

Post-race pancakes at Saturn Cafe that put me into a sugar coma….a delicious sugar coma.

And now I’m off to pack – I’m leaving on a very short business trip tomorrow morning (it’s a job interview, so cross your fingers for me!). Sitting in a plane should be…fun? Any tips for flying the day after a race? I don’t have compression socks, so that’s out, but if you have any other tricks up your sleeve I’d love to hear them!

Off to Santa Cruz!

Tomorrow I leave for Santa Cruz for the Capitola Half Marathon! We’re heading down Saturday, staying overnight, I’m racing Sunday morning, then we’ll head back home (and then I leave Monday morning for a business trip – so much travel!).

Aside from packing the regular (e.g., running shorts, shirt, shoes, etc.) we’re also taking quite a bit of food with us to save money:

Pictured are a bag of blueberry bagels, bananas, Clif bars, and some Gatorade powder that I can mix up in a water bottle. This way we only have to eat out for one of our meals and our hotel room will be stocked with carb-loading goodies.

Can we talk about my Garmin tan-line for a minute? Yikes this thing is getting pretty bad!

Sheesh, my hand isn’t very photogenic. I swear it doesn’t actually look like that in real life. I guess this is why I’m not a hand model.

Do you take your own food when you travel for races? Have any weird fitness-related tan-lines at the moment?

My new Camelbak!

After my first trail run a couple of weeks ago, I realized I was going to need a way to carry more water than my Fuel Belt will hold. When I am running on streets I typically plan my longer run routes to include a water fountain or two so I can refill. Not so easy with trail running.

My husband happened to find a 2011 Camelbak on sale awhile back. It was the 70oz. version of the Camelbak Charge 240. I really liked that it had lots of pockets to store things in, such as keys, money, some food, etc. but it wasn’t TOO big.This is the version he ended up buying:

I figured if I was going to be doing more trial running, I would need a Camelbak, too. And so we ventured to a nearby store to try some out. I really, really loved the colors that the women Camelbaks are made in, but alas, I am too tall (I’m 5’11”). I tried on a few different styles of women Camelbaks and they would gap in weird places even after I adjusted everything that could be adjusted. They are just made for a someone with a shorter torso. I didn’t like any of the male Camelbaks they had in stock – all of the ones that were the size I needed were in ugly boy colors.

When we got home, I tried on my husband’s Charge and realized that once I adjusted the straps, it fit me pretty darn well. That particular model/size has been discontinued, but  I managed to find a few online. I’m not a huge fan of the color red, so I went with a lime green color. I ended up ordering from Jenson USA, as they had the best price PLUS free shipping – woo! I had no issues with my order and it even arrived within two days, can’t really beat that.

I will say that you can definitely tell the male Camelbaks are cut differently in the chest area (duh). I had to adjust the arm straps almost as small as they would go and then widen the chest strap considerably to get a good fit. I’m not sure a male version would work on a female much shorter than me.

As much as I would like a Camelbak in one of the pretty girl colors, it was just not meant to be. I can’t wait to take this baby out for a trail run! And now my husband and I will look like the ultimate nerdy running couple with our matching Camelbaks.

What’s your hydration system of choice? Do you use a Camelbak? If you are a tall woman, did you have any fit issues?


An Overdue Weekly Recap

Yikes, I fell behind in posting this. Nothing too exciting to report. Pretty great week running-wise. My one complaint is that I’m not doing enough strength training. As my weekly mileage ramps up in my marathon plan, I’m finding it more and more difficult to fit in other activities.

Ended up taking a rest day.

Ran 6 miles in 55:13. The first mile felt awful and I wasn’t sure I’d make it the whole 6, but things eventually fell into place. Afterward I kicked it oldschool with ZWOW #1 and killed my old time by more than two minutes.

Ran 5K with the husband (30:41) then ran by myself until I hit 6 miles (57:11 total)

Long run! This week was 16 miles in 2:31:34. I kept the pace pretty easy and things went great. I felt fine the entire time and I wasn’t even that sore afterward. Awesome.

Cross-training: 60 min. elliptical

A hot 10 miler with the husband. The heat hit him pretty bad, but he finished. It was his longest run to date! 2:08:51.

Cross-training: 40 min. elliptical. I was going to do a strength workout but I just didn’t have the energy. This was a high mileage week for me and my body was tired and sore.

Total Miles Ran: 37

This week I’m keeping mileage low and tapering for the Capitola Half Marathon on Sunday!

Weekly Wrap-up

I was a bit short on mileage this week (I had planned 36 miles, but only ran 31.5), and I didn’t get in as many strength training sessions as I would have liked. But I did my first ever ‘real’ trail run, with an elevation gain of over 1200 feet!

Four mile hill workout (39:07) on the treadmill, followed by strength training.

Cross-training: 60 min. on elliptical followed by ZWOW #5.

5K with husband, than ran by myself until I hit 5 miles (48:01).

Long run – 14 miles (2:16:02).

Cross-training: 60 minutes elliptical.

Trail run! In total we ran 8.5 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,258 feet. Pretty sure this is the most fun I have ever had on a run.

I had planned to run 4.5 miles, but my legs were telling me I needed a REST. It was a pretty intense week for me cardio-wise, and my body just wanted to chill out and recover.

Total Miles: 31.5

How did your week go??

St. Joseph’s Hill: Lessons from my first trail run

I’ll preface this post by saying I’m sorry I ever complained about not having enough hills to train on for the San Francisco Marathon.

I went on my first “real” trail run today – the husband and I checked out St. Joseph’s Hill Open Space Preserve south of Los Gatos. For anyone local, it’s really easy to get there without a car, which is the primary reason we chose to go there. Both the #48 and #49 bus will drop you off really close to the Los Gatos Creek Trail  entrance on Main St. Just follow the trail for a couple of miles and boom, you’re at the hill. Easy peasy. Word of caution: fill up your water bottles at the fountain in Los Gatos – there is NO water at St. Joseph’s.

After following Los Gatos Creek Trail for 2 miles, you will hit Lexington Resevoir. There’s a parking lot with a few port-a-potties…these are the only bathrooms at St. Joseph’s so plan accordingly. From the parking lot you will see Jones Trail…with a very, very steep grade to welcome you to the Open Space Preserve.

“Let’s do this!”

What followed was probably the most enjoyable run I have ever had. The Open Space Preserve has about 4 miles of trails that go up and down all over St. Joseph’s Hill. There is a 1,285 foot elevation gain on the way to the summit. Some of the trails are quite wide and well maintained, others are little goat trails with rocks and sticks poking out all over the place, but that’s the fun of trail running!

Sure it doesn’t look steep here, but the picture is deceiving!

Here are some take-away lessons I learned during my first trail run yesterday:

1. Stop and appreciate the scenery.

I’m pretty Garmin-obsessed. At first I was constantly looking at my GPS, monitoring my pace, time, etc. But pretty early on I started looking around and noticed beautiful scenes like the one below. All concerns about maintaining a steady pace fell by the wayside. Sure, when running on a boring paved street it makes sense to be looking at all of my Garmin data. But up here on a gorgeous hill? You better believe I’m going to stop and enjoy the sights.

Great view of Silicon Valley

We even took a little ‘lunch’ break at top for refueling and to appreciate the view:

2. Bring more water/liquid than you think you will need.

Just to reiterate, there is NO water at the Open Space Preserve. On a hot sunny day like yesterday, you will absolutely go through a ton of water running up and down the trails. My husband has a spiffy new CamelBak but I just had my FuelBelt. I have the four-bottle FuelBelt which means I only had 32 oz of water with me. Not enough. On long runs in the city I just plan my route around a water fountain so I can refill. Not so easy on the trails. I think it might be time to start looking for CamelBak sales. Added bonus of the CamelBak: pouches and pockets to put snacks and things in! My little FuelBelt pouch was packed to the brim and all  had was a ClifBar and my tiny little camera.

FuelBelt was NOT enough liquid when there are no water fountains to be found

3. Bring a map!

The Open Space Preserve isn’t that big, but there are a lot of loopy trails and the signage isn’tthatgreat. We weren’t sure if we would get cell reception out there, so we took a screen capture of the trails from Google Maps and put it right on a phone so we could look at it even if we didn’t have reception. Of course, this also means that you should be able to read a map. More than once we had an “oops” moment where we got turned around and couldn’t find where we were on the map.

4. Chipotle is an awesome way to re-fuel.

I don’t think this needs further explanation.