Saying Good-Bye

In less than a week, I’ll be saying good-bye.

I’ve had long hair for 25 years, and I’ve always said that I would only cut it if I was going to donate it.  Well, now’s the time.  So, in less than a week, I will be saying good-bye to at least 10 inches of hair.  But, that hair symbolizes more than just hair.  I’ll be saying good-bye to part of my youth, a piece of my identity, a security blanket.

BUT, to that, I say:
  • to my youth: I’m only as old as I feel and I may be 40, but I feel young!
  • to my identity: As each day goes by, I am more sure of who I am and the way I see myself is not directly related to the length of my hair.  I am a life partner to the best man I know.  I am a fierce and loyal friend to people who enrich my life beyond my expectations.  I am a community connector.  I am a runner.  I am forever grateful for what I have, and will strive to be more.
  • to my security blanket: Along the journey to the place where I currently plant my feet, I stopped needing you.  So it’s time for YOU to be free of me.

NOW, since I’m #DiggingInto40, I’m turning the tables on an action that once scared me.  I am filled with anticipation and excitement.  And, to extend my passion for giving back, I am raising funds for charity.  The charity I have chosen is Wigs for Kids BC, a 100% volunteer-run program out of BC Children’s Hospital that provides wigs to children with cancer and other serious illnesses at no charge, as well as essential drugs and feeding supplies not covered by MSP.

I WILL raise at least $3000 – the cost to create a wig. The labour alone costs $800. I WILL be a zero cost to this charity to improve the quality of life for 1 child.

I’m matching the first $1,000 so if you can spare a few dollars, I’d really appreciate it. It’s for the kids (truly!).

Yours in gratitude,
Linda

The Hills Are Alive!

Pirate's Cove Photo Credit Glenn Tachiyama
Pirate’s Cove
Photo Credit Glenn Tachiyama

Did it really happen?  Some days I forget that I even did the 100k.  But if I think about the events of the day, I question how I could forget the way everything came together so perfectly.  Maybe it’s because it felt like it was too perfect…


The alarm offensively rang at 2:30am and, one by one, we got up to get ready for a long day – myself, Tav, and Greg.  By 4:15am, we were ready to roll out the door with everything in check.  After an extremely windy drive, which eventually gave Greg motion sickness, we arrived at the Stinson Beach Community Centre – the hub for this year’s Miwok 100k.  Race bib acquired and pinned.  Now, to find my partner in crime / training partner, Linda, to make up the Power of Linda^2.  With 15 minutes to race start, I spotted her and I was calmed.  For over a week, I was a huge bag of nerves..

Am i ready?  Did I train enough?  What if my sciatic rears its ugly head?  What if I can’t do it?  Am I in over my head?
The pep talks I got all week helped: Hoz offered good advice about the course, Tav was amazing in keeping me focused on the execution of the day, and Linda, who was there for so many of my long runs, gave me the confidence in my fitness that the finish line was more than attainable.  But even still, it was difficult not to let my mind race about all the negative potential possibilities.
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Linda^2 Power at the Start

So there we were, at the start, headlamps lit and ready to take on the next 100km.  I don’t remember if there was a gun, but a quick send off from the boys, and Linda and I were on our way.  The race started at 5am so the sun hadn’t risen yet, which meant it would just be a hike/trot until the single track line of over 400 runners started to spread out.  It was, in fact, a blessing in disguise.  There was no ‘going out too hard’.   The opposite, actually, and it gave Linda and I a chance to spend about an hour chatting, almost forgetting that there were runners around us.  I’m sure they were all entertained by our banter – at least that’s what we told ourselves.  I don’t know how to describe that first hour or so, but it really was something else.  Tav had described the scenery to me before that it was very ‘Sound of Music’esque’ — The Hills Are Alive!

Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama
Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

There was a calming melodical tone to everyone’s footsteps and relaxed demeanour.  The time went by quick and the gap between Linda and I started growing.  I could feel my old road runner instincts wanting to kick in and dart forward to pass, but I had many voices in my head to hold back.  I did pull ahead, but bit by bit.  I was crossing a small road section as one trail ended to another trailhead, when I caught sight of the sunrise.  I took my camera out and snapped a quick photo.  The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was beautiful and so worth it.

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Running at Sunrise
Unfortunately, the ‘Sound of Music’ hills didn’t last forever, and I went right through Aid Station 1 (Bolinas Ridge – 6.3miles).  I knew I wouldn’t see my crew until Aid Station 2 (Randall Trail – 12.9miles) so I set my sights on that.  The trails between AS1 and AS2 were rolling and I found myself able to run more than I needed to walk.  My strategy for the day was to be conservative on the hills.  They weren’t my strength so I was better off hiking the uphills and using the downhills to my advantage, as that was where I excelled.  What I didn’t account for was the long downhill into AS2, but it was glorious.  I flew right into AS2 to meet Tav and Greg at almost a 14 hour finish time pace.  They grabbed my pack to fill it up as I went into the portapotty line up for a quick tinkle.  Little did I know that the line up would be longer than anticipated – almost 10 minutes.  As I was waiting in line, I hear.. “Honey…”.  I look over and Tav has pulled a near full bladder out of my pack.  Ooops… I guess I wasn’t that thirsty.
As I got ready to leave AS2, the boys told me that it would be close to 4 hours before I would see them – this was key information for me.  We did a quick check for fuel and I was on my way back to AS1 (doubled as AS3).  What goes down must go up, so that glorious downhill into AS2 became a grunt of hike.  About 5 minutes of climbing, I see Linda flying down and we hollered our hello’s.  For those that don’t know Linda, well, you should.  She has a smile and an energy about her that perks anyone up.
Again, I go right through AS3 (19.5miles) and on to AS4 (Cardiac – 26.5miles).  I tried to stay on top of my fluids and my fueling to avoid getting the evil eye again when I was renewed with my crew at AS5 (Muir Beach – 31.5miles).  During this time, my crew would grow by 1 as the boys met up with Soroush, a good friend who lived in the Bay area.  From Cardiac to Muir Beach, it was mostly downhill and it was fabulous.  There was also a small road section so I was able to maintain a fairly good pace.  In fact, with the downhill and road section, I surprised the boys by meeting them en route – them in the car, and me on foot.  They sped ahead to the aid station to get there before I reached it.  Apparently, it was close.  Mentally, I was still feeling good.
Stretching it Out
Stretching it Out

Physically, my legs were a little fatigued but my back and hamstrings were starting to act up – a symptom of my sciatic issue.  I kept this in the back of my mind to ensure I didn’t do anything to aggravate it anymore.  You might, however, say that running ANOTHER 50km would be aggravating it.. you might.

The boys filled up my pack, loaded me up on my fuel and I was on my way.  I was still in good spirits and I was still having fun.  From here, it would be about an hour before I would see them again at the next Aid Station (Tennessee Valley – 36.5miles).  I can’t recall much about the trail, but I did spend some time hiking a big hill and chatting with someone from DC – an investment banker actually.  Unfortunately, he misread the instructions and thought his drop bag was being moved forward from each drop area and he didn’t have any of his gear until he reached the next AS, where he was planning on pulling out.  As soon as the trail started to go downhill, “we” decided to try running.  “We”, however, soon turned into just me.  I was feeling strong on the downhills and seemed to fly by a handful of runners, with some commenting that I seem to always pass them on the downhill.
I came into Tennessee Valley (AS6) a little more fatigued, a little more sore, but in ok spirits.  I had a little niggling pain in my soleus area and Greg checked it out.  There was really nothing to do except a little bit of extra compression with his magic hands.  I asked the boys how long til I saw them again as I knew they weren’t allowed at the next aid station (Bridge View/Rodeo Valley – 41.5 miles), but I was coming right back to Tennessee Valley (doubling as AS8 – 48.9miles).  Now, doing simple math, you would be able to deduce that the difference would be 12.3miles, but the day was long and charts can be confusing.  I heard 7.8miles and I would be back.  There was a sign at the aid station saying that it was 5 miles to AS7 so in my head, it would be a short 2.8miles back to my boys.  Then I would have a pacer to the end.
Spectacular Views
Spectacular Views

The trail from AS6 to AS7 was tough.  It was a climb.  A big climb.  And it was DAMN windy.  So windy that I was blown sideways into the railing.  But the view.  Amazing.  Clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I came into AS7 feeling a bit battered, tired, and was looking forward to a mere 2.8 miles til I saw my boys again.  And then I saw the sign.  7.3 miles to the next aid station.  My heart dropped.  This can’t be right.  But it was.  I took a minute to absorb what I was reading and struggled to think of what I needed to do, as it would be closer to 1.5 hours until I saw them again.  I took my pack off and refilled it.  I wasn’t thinking clearly, but I remember telling the volunteer that I should eat.  She agreed, but nothing on the table was appealing.  I may have grabbed something but I can’t remember.  I just wanted to go.. but I also wanted to stop.  I left the aid station and it was a good downhill to the bottom of the mountain, but that only meant one thing.  We had to climb back up to the top and then over to get back to the boys.  I started hiking and I was joined by a few of the guys that I had apparently been passing on the downhills.  We chatted a bit – they were all so nice.  Slowly, they pulled away from me, except for a guy (whose name I later found out to be Sascha) from Florida.  We climbed to the top together and then it was downhill to the boys at Tennessee Valley.

Choking back tears coming into Tennessee Valley
Choking back tears coming into Tennessee Valley

Greg met me along the downhill and tried to gauge how I felt.  “Garbage” was my response and I started to choke back tears.  I came into the aid station, gave them my pack, and went to the loo.  I came out and as soon as I saw Tav, the tears starting rolling.  All I could say was, “I don’t feel good.”  And I couldn’t stop crying.  Tav pulled me back together, somewhat, and tried to send me on my way.  Before I would leave, I swapped watches as mine died and I went to the aid station to grab something to eat.  The volunteer was so lovely and told me that my outfit was her favourite of the day.  I thanked her as more tears rolled down my face.

Tav wiped my face and looked me in the eyes.  All I had to do was do 5 miles with Soroush and then he would take me to the finish.  Just 5 miles.  I can do 5 miles.  So the 3 of them started to walk me out of the aid station.  After about half a km, Greg and Tav left and it was Soroush and I.  We started to climb and it was like someone flipped a switch.   Everything was fine.  I felt really bad for Soroush – he was so great to come out and he was excited to pace me, and here I was, a tearful mess.  But, everything was fine now.  I had my crew.
Soroush and I on our way
Soroush and I on our way

So Soroush and I went through the rolling 5 miles which had more downhill than uphill.  At one point, we bumped into Glenn Tachiyama – my favourite photographer with the most uplifting smile.  He had situated himself at Pirate’s Cove (~51miles?) and we continued on our way.  We flew down the hill into Muir Beach (AS9 – 53.7miles) and I was greeted by Tav and Greg.  I swapped pacers – Soroush for Tav, or as Soroush was saying, Stud Muffin 2 for Stud Muffin 1 – and we were on our way.  And everything was good – it felt like home.

Of course, I whined a little more and Tav had to invoke the “tough love” strategy to get me to the next aid station – a 1300 ft climb to Cardiac (58.7miles). As I said, uphill is not my strength so the poor guy had to listen to me hyperventilate and stroll uphill as best I could.  He knew, though, that all he needed to do was get me to the top and I would be golden for the 3mile downhill to the finish.  We got into Cardiac, I did a quick pit stop to the portapotty, and we were on our way.
Coming into the finish
Coming into the finish

I was tired and sore and had been on my feet longer than I had ever been before, but I’m pretty sure I was flying on those downhills. We passed a number of people and all I could hear was Tav telling me that I was doing SO good, that he was SO proud of me, and to NOT look at my watch. He pushed me to keep going and as we came down the last set of stairs, we were joined by Greg and Soroush.  We turned right onto the road and there was the fire hall – the community centre where the finish was next to it.

Finish!
Finish!
As I started to make the last turn, Tav was yelling at me to get under 14:05 as I could see the clock reading 14:04 and 30 something seconds.  I dug deep and managed to actually pick it up until I crossed the finish line.
Tia, the Race Director, congratulated me and put the medal around my neck.  I turned and saw Greg and Tav.  Greg gave me a hug.  Soroush was behind him filming (see the video at the bottom of this post).  And then I turned to Tav and fell into him.  I was so overwhelmed .. physically and emotionally.  I did it.  I really did it.  I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, I managed to cross that finish line.
And then I couldn’t move.  After sitting for a bit, I slowly made my way to the washrooms to change.  I must have been in there for 30 minutes as I was moving at the rate of snail snot.  I was also choking back tears.  Finally, I came out and was looking for Linda.  I soon found her and we had our big teary hug.
BEST Crew Ever.
BEST Crew Ever.

It’s been almost 2 weeks and I’m still absorbing the whole experience.  I get glimpses and flashes of pieces of the day, but I’m having a hard time stringing it together into one full day – into the fact that I did a full 100km ultra.  What keeps going through my head is that I had a pretty damn perfect day, with the absolute best crew, best training partner, best support from back home and my community.  I am truly a lucky girl – I don’t know how I got to be this way but I am ever so thankful.  It’s probably why thinking of the full experience still makes me cry.  damnit.


And, if all the support wasn’t enough, here’s a fantastic video that Soroush made of my day.

Two People Who Rock My World

Today was pretty darn good day, even though it’s not quite over. First day of the Chinese New Year and I spent the first couple of hours running on the North Shore with my puppy and a couple of friends and then spent the afternoon with my parents. Truth be told, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the afternoon. My parents had been fighting so I thought it was going to be a Father-Daughter afternoon date, but it was a happy family trio for the last few hours.

I think back about the goals I wrote out for myself this year and it really focused on 3 themes: diversity, community, family.

After the last couple of years focusing on work and running, I started to think that my mind wasn’t as strong. I’ve always had ambition, determination, and perseverance in work and running and these were waning. I needed balance. I needed diversity. So, aside from those two things, I’ve focused on adding diversity in my life, from reintroducing yoga and reading a book a month, to trying different activities like skiing, skate-skiing  and swimming. I’ll also be throwing in a few more fun, not-so-serious events this year, like the Bagel Chase and the Ragnar Relay NW Passage.

Late last year, I took another turn in my career and entered the non-profit/charitable world (for those legal sticklers out there, there is a difference in the two). I spent the last 4 years working full-time in events and, although I loved it, there was a piece missing that I needed – giving back to the community. Perhaps it was a lack of giving back to the community to which I felt most connected, but regardless, there was a void that needed to be filled. And, for those who have worked in events, it’s not the most balanced lifestyle, so I needed a shift.

Image..which leads me to family, and the inspiration on this blog post. It’s amazing what one afternoon can do. I am the first to admit that I get pretty wrapped up in my immediate world and can function in tunnel-vision mode for quite some time. Everything else has to fit in those rare, empty spaces. I take my parents for granted and how they are always there. The pace at which they move is immensely slower than mine so I just think they’ll be there when I get one of those rare, empty spaces. And they always are. Today, however, I slowed down to their pace and it’s actually quite lovely. Almost necessary – for my sanity and for me to remember to reconnect with my family. They are, by and large, the most important thing in my life.

It’s funny – in my goal for diversity, I’m reintroducing yoga to my life after roughly an 18 month break. Each class I go to, I’m to focus on my breath. But today, after the afternoon with two wickedly awesome loving people who rock my world, it reminded me to take a breath, step back, and enjoy. I got all that, and I didn’t have to spend an hour in a super hot room trying to bend my 2×4 body into ungodly positions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂

And a Patridge in a Pear Tree

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I love setting goals and it seems I’m a bit late in getting this post out. Really, goals can be set anytime, but the romance of declaring goals and resolutions at the start of a year is irresistible to many. The sentiment of my declaration being late, admittedly, was only directly related to the fact that I had chosen my blog title 2 weeks ago. 🙂

Ultramarathons entered my life in 2011 after road running injuries put me on the sidelines for nearly 3 years and it gave me affirmation on something that I felt was true down to my core – I am a runner. Ten years ago, I would have had neither the confidence nor the conviction to make that statement. Today, and every day going forward, it’s a part of my life and who I am. Road or trail? That still remains to be seen but I think somewhere in the middle.

I’ve noticed that there are a few recurring themes in my life and after writing my goals down, it’s very evident: Running/Fitness, Personal Development, and Community.

Major goals (in no particular order):

  • Run Way Too Cool 50k Ultramarathon in March
  • Run the Terry Fox Tribute Run on April 12 (marathon distance)
  • Run a 50mi (2nd one!) or 100km (1st one!) ultramarathon by October 31
  • Reintroduce yoga into my program by practicing at least twice a month
  • Read a book a month
  • Meet my fundraising goal for the Union Gospel Mission of Dinner for More than 2000 by December 31
  • See my Dad at least twice a month

Minor goals:

  • Run 100km cumulatively during the Bagel Chase from February 2-8
  • Run the Ragnar Relay NW Passage in July
  • Be a Pace Beaver for the SeaWheeze in August
  • Run a marathon by December 31
  • Reintroduce snowshoeing into my program by going at least once a month until March 31
  • Try each of these sports at least once in 2013: skiing, skateskiing, cross country skiing, swimming
  • Find an ultramarathon to do in China/Hong Kong by 2015

So there they are. Two ultras, two marathons, yoga, books, community.. and a partridge in a pear tree. 🙂

A World with No What-If’s

there’s something strangely exciting and scary when you’re 5 days out from reaching your big goal.  I know it’s something that everyone has experienced before in their lives – when you toe the line of your first race, when you decide to quit your job and change careers, when you decide to not go to university and travel instead.  it can be something big or small but it’s the same symptoms – butterflies in your stomach, motivation overcomes fear and bubbles into excitement.  And then .. when you’ve finally bitten the bullet – good or bad, you’re always glad you did it.  Imagine a world with no what-if’s.

Another day, another mile, and one step closer

Today was the 20th running of the Chuckanut 50k trail race – the same race where I completed my first ultramarathon last year.  This year, instead of running Chuckanut, I signed up for a different 50k race – I swapped out conquering Chinscraper at Chuckanut for the Gorge Waterfalls 50k.  But this year, everything is a bit different.  Chuckanut received permits to increase their capacity to 1,000 people, which has received mixed reviews.  (Results here).  And for Gorge, because some trail construction wasn’t completed, it’s not an out-and-back course.

So, instead of being in Bellingham, I set out for my last long run on the North Shore with my friend Ron and my ultra pooch!   I had heard that conditions at Chuckanut were wet and cool so I was pleasantly surprised that it was dry and mild here.  We did get a mixed bag though.  For the first half hour or so, the trails were to be expected – technical and a bit muddy, and plenty of uphill.  I love running trails with Ron – he’s actually the one who got me into ultramarathons.  He invited me out to that fateful first long – and i mean L-O-N-G – trail run up in Manning Park.  What I thought was going to be a 3ish hour run ended up being 5 1/2 hours.  And surprisingly, I was hooked.  So we had a great time catching up and running.  After about 45 minutes, we started getting into higher terrain and we started seeing hints of snow on the trail – until it was all we could see.  The interesting part was that the snow wasn’t the typical snow you see – it was more like corn kernels.  Very cool.

My pooch, though, had a hoot on the trails, as she always does.  From day one, she’s been there with me for those long North Shore trail runs and still had energy at the end to play in water.   The darn dog was fitter than I am!  But, if you’ve followed me on Twitter or on Facebook, I have many pictures of her pooped after our runs.  So, technically, I win!

Today’s run was only 90 minutes – we started at the top of Riverside Drive and went up the Seymour Grind (ugh!), across the Baden Powell, down Ned’s, down Bottle Top, and back to Riverside.  Ned’s is fairly technical and rocky and a pretty good downhill.  I LOVE downhill but because of the snow, and some turned ankles from previous runs, I’ve turned into a bit of a pansy on Ned’s.  Bottle Top, however, was less technical, not as rocky, and was bliss.  Ron scooted over and let me pass him because he said this was my element.  I never thought of it that way but I guess it is .. a bit rooty, a little rocky, and on a trail where you can just open up your stride and .. let yourself go.  I’ve been told that when I get in my “element”, I’m like a kid in a candy store.  I guess I am .. it’s just so .. FUN.

Anyway, 90 minutes came and went and it was great.  We bumped into Hozumi and Jeremy on the way – my travel buddies for Gorge – so it was a pleasant surprise.  It seemed short today but I also have to keep my eye on the prize – which is to get to my first race of the year.  My 2nd ultramarathon.  The first part of my Year of the 50/50.

So, I’m in a final countdown until race day.  Friday night, we’ll cross the border and drive somewhere between Seattle and Portland and hunker down overnight.  Saturday, drive to package pick up and overnight it in Portland.  Sunday morning, run that 50k in the Gorge (see some of Glenn Tachiyama’s pictures here – he’s phenomenal and the pictures thrill and freak the crap out of me).  Secretly, I’m SO excited to run THROUGH Ponytail Falls.  Well, not so secret anymore.

Another day has now come to an end, another mile has been run, and I’m one step closer to reaching that first goal for 2012.  Bring.  It.  On.

Year of the 50/50 .. and then some

I guess it’s about that time now .. time to declare my goals for 2012.  2011 left me a bit spent so I used the last two weeks to rejuvenate myself and not shudder at the sight of my running shoes – plus a week in Hawaii doesn’t hurt!

Actually, it will hurt but, rather, HURT.  My good friend, Hozumi Nakai, is undertaking his 3rd 100 mile ultramarathon at the HURT100 in Honolulu and a half dozen of us have tagged along to be his support crew and pace bunnies.  But, let me clarify – pace bunnies.  Hozumi can basically drop us all in a heartbeat, leaving us to eat his dust on all terrains and at all elevations.  Ultramarathons, however, only allow pacers, should the runner choose, to jump in about 60% of the way.  So, when we finally get called upon for our pacing duty, Hozumi will have already run about 60 miles .. that’s about 100kms, my friend.  I might have a chance.  *might*

So… this, of course, makes it quite obvious how I got into ultramarathons – or, at least exposed to them.  Many think that ultras are quite the feat, and they are, but it’s all relative to the company you keep.  Now you know why I make light of some of my accomplishments.  Let me give you an example.  Last year, I did my first ultramarathon – 50km in trails.  I was really proud of my accomplishment and I still am.  Then I went to crew and pace for Hozumi at his second 100 mile ultramarathon (he came in 7th, by the way).  Standing amongst those crazy, amazing folks that were about to embark on a journey that could take them from 15 hours to 36 hours is humbling.  It felt like going to a marathon and having only completed 1 5km race in your life.  It’s all relative.

2012 will be the year of the 50/50 for me.

What does that mean?  My goal for 2012 will be to complete a 50km ultramarathon by March 2012 as well as a 50mile ultramarathon by December 2012.  50/50.  At the same time, I will run the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May 2012 and the New York Marathon in November 2012.  That’s a lot of miles but when have I really shied away from running a lot?   It’s all relative, remember?