Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Inspiration - Link

I'm a geek and I devour blog posts and race reports for inspiration.  I've decided to link to some of these posts so that I can easily find them in the future (kinda like the quotes, but more in depth).  And if you stumble upon my little blog looking for inspiration you will find them too ...

Sometimes I come across a race report, paragraph or just a sentence that strikes me;

Dakota Jones, speaking about Interval training from this article on;
What’s it like? Nose running, spit flying, my vision almost eclipsing, I can feel my heartbeat in my throat. I pump my legs as hard as possible. They feel heavy, thick, swollen. Only the balls of my feet touch the road and as the incline steepens my steps seem to make no progress at all. I can feel the parts of my body that aren’t getting enough blood, like my hands growing colder, and I can feel the invigoration of oxygen in each breath. Everything in my body depending upon everything else, and I’m dying, man. This is it, I cannot keep this up but I have two more minutes and how can I go on?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Afterthoughts; The GHM

It's been almost two weeks since the race, in looking back here are a few thoughts;
  • The more time goes by the more positive I feel about my performance. 
  • I feel that after the wheels came off that I lost my confidence and then went into my 'survival' mode and rationed out energy.  I remember always being aware of how FAR I still had to go, rather than segmenting to each aid station.  So, it was more of a mental issue than physical.
  • Physically, my calves did flirt with cramps, but they were not as bad as last year.  I was able to run through them.  However, I am adding calf raises and stretches to my strength routine now as I believe it is a fatigue issue.  Also, need to address (ie strengthen and stretch) the achilles and foot (PF).
    • Good articles on cramps;
  • The fact that I felt SO GOOD right after the race and in the following week tells me that I did not push myself enough during the race.  But (the good news) is that it means I was better prepared physically.  

Moving forward;  Very important to continue strength training!!!    With fitness and weight loss will come faster running.  Although 'fast' is not a goal, it would be nice to move from the back of the pack to the back of the mid-pack ;)  Not sure what I can do about the mental game except continue to train and build confidence.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Golden Hills Marathon 2013 - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good
  • I felt really positive with my training and my strength training leading up to the race.  
  • I lost 10 pounds since last year (we're talking body fat here, the less to 'carry' the better).
  • Felt confident on Das Beast, and actually did conquer it in the race!  By first aid station I was well on my target pace.  That felt great!
  • Pace was slightly faster on entire course compared to last year.
  • Despite some issues, I was surprised by how good I felt for the most part.
  • Didn't want to get caught behind any slow 'trains' this year so I passed on the downhills and ran at my own pace.  And actually ended up with a couple of runners that stuck with me for about 16 miles!  I kept asking if they wanted to pass.  Love the silent bonding of miles on the trail.
  • No tight hamstrings!!  Every race I've ever done the back of my legs were on fire.  Not this time!  And I attribute that to the strength training.  
  • I did beat last year's time.  Even if by only a few minutes.
  • I got to high five three of the five people I knew running the 50 mile race (all of whom I met while volunteering at the WS100 Duncan Canyon Aid Station).  It really made me feel like I'm starting to become part of the trail racing community.
  • Even though my running buddy Torie was in Japan, I summoned her spirit plenty... especially on that first ascent.  Running with her has helped break a barrier in my mind about my running and I am deeply grateful for that. 
  • I had a hard time deciding if it was comforting or insulting that in the last 4 miles of the race I was being passed by 50 milers.  Just whizzing by, I felt like I was doing 55 on the highway.  I decided it gets put in The Good because they are Beasts and totally inspiring
  • My phone didn't die until I went to turn it off at the end!  This means I have all the split information recorded in RunKeeper.  Now I can obsess on that... 
  • No port-o-potty stops!  (Or side of the trail behind a bush) ...
  • (added two days later)  Best recovery after any race!  I woke up the next morning and wanted to move, so I went for an easy hike with the dogs.  Last year it took two weeks before I had the desire to get out again... there is some specific soreness, but I don't have the usual "hit by a truck" feeling.  I attribute this to all the running specific strength training that I did.  This is a huge positive!

The Bad
  • The wheels came off at mile 6.  Can't figure out why.  Did not push the first five too hard, had taken in calories.  Felt strong up until I had nothing.  About 10 people that I had passed earlier passed me.  Started to feel better around mile 8.5.  But this was a blow.
  • Zero uphill gears, other than doing really well on the beast.  This was really confusing because I had trained well on hills, knowing that this was a weakness I needed to improve.   In fact I had granny geared every single ascent on the route at some point in training.  I went in with confidence on the hills.  This may be the most baffling and disappointing part of the day.
  • Calf cramps between mile 15-17.  Third time in a race, never in training (but only trail races... hmmm... downhill!). Not fun.  Came on later than last year (mile 11-15), and not nearly as bad, kept running, took salt tab, they faded.  A sneaking suspicion that the plantar fasciitis, the tight achilles and calf cramps are related...
  • Felt bloated in second half.  Drank to thirst.  Had a bite of potato with salt at most aid stations (hoping to avoid calf cramps).  Related to salt?  Liquid? Food?  Didn't feel like I over ate/drank at any point.
  • Side and diaphram stitches.
  • Sharp stomach cramps - shortly after only gel used on the trail (mile 17.7), have used gels in training with no issue.  I've had success with Perpetuem (liquid food), a few gu chomps and gels are last resort pick-me-up backup.
  • I hiked instead of granny gearing most of the hills that I had planned on tackling, but I just didn't have "go" in me...
  • Even though I thought I felt good and strong, I just couldn't get myself to push the last 6 miles as much as I planned. Kept saying 'after x, I won't walk any more' and that kept getting pushed back, until about mile 24. 
  • Negative Mind Monster - I ended up very close to last year's finish time and it was curious to note that last year I was ecstatic to finish in a faster time than expected.  This year, finishing around that same time was quite a disappointment and I felt my mind turn quite negative after mile 20.  At the start line, I felt confident of my ability to shave off at least 20-30 minutes, so 7 minutes felt quite disappointing considering the training effort I had put in and how much I felt I had improved my fitness (and dropped weight!)...

The Ugly
Nothing ugly about this day!  It was typical Bay Area beautiful Fall weather, awesome trails, stellar race organization, amazing volunteers.  Fun to run with the two runners that joined me.  It was great to have the support of my family and friends at the finish line.  Looking back, I did my best in that race on that day...  and that's all anyone can do.

Generally it was a fantastic experience.  And I am hooked.  I will look at the information from this experience, where I had issues, and figure out how to solve them.  I don't need to be a fast runner, but I do want to extend my race distances and remain injury free.  I'm am already looking forward and hoping to get into the 2014 Way Too Cook 50k (it's a lottery entry) and trying to figure out a good beginners 50 mile race in the next year, so I can get focused on training.

Also, Congratulations to my friend and running buddy Holly on completing her first full marathon!!  She's one tough cookie and kept going despite a knee issue.  She is the one responsible for getting me to run my first Half Marathon three years ago!  We continue to inspire one another, but who knew we'd one day run a full trail marathon together. 

Thanks to NorCal Ultras and all the amazing volunteers!!  Thanks for a great day on the trail!

Happy Trails!

Elevation Profile

Me and Holly, photo bombed at the Start

6 hours and 44 minutes later...

One of the things I love about this video is how happy I look! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting.

Doris Brown Heritage

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Taper-Mind-Monster

It is upon us.

Tapering is a time before a race that you ease up in training so that your body can recover from the push... Fitness has been gained by the last several weeks of ridiculously long runs, now is the time to recover and rest. 

You would think runners would look forward to the taper.  And maybe even enjoy it.

The problem is that your mind freaks out.  About all kinds of silly things.  It convinces you that you will lose all your fitness (even though tapering is part of the plan!).  Any little thing becomes inflated to seemingly pose a threat.

For instance, three nights ago I awoke knowing that a head cold was descending upon me.  Even though I had almost two weeks for this cold to cycle through and be gone, I panicked that I might not be able to run the race.  I had to summon another calmer part of myself to realize that I did have time for the cold to cycle... and that the two SHORT runs I had to miss will NOT erase all of my fitness.  I think I'm convinced.

My friend Holly, who is doing her first full marathon, threw her back out a few days ago.  Her text informed me that she did not know if she'd be able to do the race.  Again, chances are that her back will recover in time.

In both of our cases, better this week than next.  However, it is a reality that there are many things out of our control that could happen.  I was unable to run the Way Too Cool 50k due to the memorial of a family member.  But the reality of things out of our control is totally different than the Taper-Mind-Monster that scares us into believing that the change of wind direction will stop us from attaining our goal that we have worked so hard for...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Golden Hills Marathon - Take Two

As I enter the tapering zone for my second full trail marathon I am feeling both nerves and excitement.  I have trained well and even added a steady program of (running specific) strength workouts. 

My challenge goal is to break 6 hours, which would be a 50 minute increase in pace over last year.  It does not seem very realistic but who wants an easy goal anyway!?  I will admit to checking out Torie's splits for her GHM last year (it was each our first marathon) and it seems quite daunting.

My more realistic goal is to beat last years time by 30 minutes (which is an increase of just one minute per mile).  This seems quite doable.  My fitness is better and I have run (vs walk/hike) more of the long runs.  Plus I've noticed that the pain is different this year.  I think this is in large part due to the strength training. 

Either way, I plan to push myself to the edge of what I am capable of.  I think I know the course and my efforts on it, extremely well.  I know where to push, where to conserve energy.  I know that the excitement of the race brings out the best of all of us (do remember; don't go out too fast).

I have confidence in my training.  There are unknown factors like the weather (heat will slow me down, but so will mud as some of the hills are so steep that they would be impossible to keep a fast pace)... 

So, I am nervous and I am excited.  I have worked really hard on this and I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

I also feel like I am becoming more a part of the running community.  There are a few people that I met while volunteering at the Western States 100 that will be running the sister race, Dick Collins' Firetrail 50 miler.

Plus, my friend Holly is making her first attempt at a full marathon.  This comes the same year she announced that she was going to stick with half marathons... dare I say that endurance races are a bit like tattoos ;-)  I'm so excited for her and it has been really great to do our last few long runs together!

Besides, it's all about the party!  And we have spent a fair amount of trail time discussing what kinds of food we'll be having afterwards... LOL!

Happy Trails ~ T

Friday, August 2, 2013

Recovery or Playing Hooky?

I dunno.

I had a training plan in mind for the GHM.  I would start early and do double distance weeks (10,10,12,12,14,14,etc).  In my mind this would give my body time to adjust to the longer mileage.  That it would actually be easier on the body.

At the same time, I've been running with someone who is a bit faster than me.  It's great as I push myself into paces that I don't normally run.  It also makes for a lot of huffing and puffing, but I have felt ready for it and welcome this opportunity.

When people hear that I run distance I often hear the comment "I can't run  because ______ "  Usually mentioning one ache or pain.  The more I learn about running, endurance and the body the more I understand that everything is linked and that a sore knee might be a hip out of whack.  Keeping the supportive muscles in shape is as important as the main muscles.  

Before I ever ran farther than 3.5 miles I was trying to get into shape by running a trail loop in a park "every day in June".  I ended up with two sore knees.  When I started training for my first half marathon I thought it could never work because I would get the sore knees again... but what I learned by following a training plan was that rest and recovery are crucial.  To my amazement, I never had any aches and pains!

So here I am.  A sore knee (usually only the day or two after a long run).  And the dreaded plantar fasciitis.  A real nightmare for runners.  It has threatened me a few time prior when training for a few races... but this time it has gotten pretty severe. 

Uncle.  Maybe.

I decided to take a week off (rest and recovery) but might just be playing hooky (feeling depressed about the injuries while trying to train for my second full trail marathon).  I don't really think that a week off is enough for much recover of the PF (it's plenty for the muscles and knee though).  I have done a bit of research and will do my best to deal with the PF with stretching and massage and whatever else I can sneak into my schedule. 

I have enough time before the race to jump back into training and this time I will just follow the 'plan' and hopefully I will still be able to attain my goal of running a faster race than last year.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hi, My name is Tonya and I'm a dweeb...

It's true.  I'm a dweeb.


A boring, studious, or socially inept person.

But I'm okay with it.  You see, on my long run this morning I ran into one of my personal inspirations, Sarah Lavender-Smith.  She's a runner, a blogger and facebooker.  Generally, I love her adventures and her writing. Specifically, she plays a role in my running history.  I think it was pivotal.  When I discovered the Golden Hills Marathon I was very excited, but a little worried about the hills and elevation change of the course.  Some running friends even cautioned me NOT to enter this race because it would be too hard for me, more than I could handle.  But somehow it called to me and I wanted to do it.  So I set out on my first official training run on the course.  I had decided to train on all segments of the race, why not start at the beginning.  So I did.  But the beginning is basically a four mile hill.  Somewhere around mile three I decided that I had, in fact, gotten in over my head and was delusional if I thought I could continue on for another 22 miles after trudging up this monster.

Deflated, I returned home and decided to find some race reports.  Let's see what others thought of this race.  The very first blog post I read began with these words: "I have never been in such a morose mood during a race as I was around Mile 26 in my first 50-miler".  Written by Sarah Lavender Smith... Nevermind that she was running a 50 mile race and had already run 26 miles, she was talking about the very same hill that had nearly smashed my timid hopes of entering my first marathon.  It meant that I wasn't the only one that struggled on that hill.  This was huge.  It gave me permission to move forward.  So I'd do what I could on the hill (which meant powerhike) and I would bravely attempt my first marathon!

I have since been grateful for that shot of inspiration.  And in the year+ since finding her blog, I have continued to find inspiration in her writing.  I can relate to so much of what she writes about.  I admit to being a bit obsessed with reading running blogs and race reports but what I really appreciate about SLS is that even though she has won races (including the Golden Hills!) she strikes me as an everyday, down to earth person.

I am entered into the GHM again this year with the hopes of bettering my time.  So my focus has been the hill...  I will run it at least once a week (weaved into a variety of different loops and distances).  So today when I had just struggled up that hill and decided to take a pit stop at the only bathroom on the route, you can imagine my surprise to find SLS standing there!  She was clearly taking a break and I decided to take the opportunity not only to introduce myself but also to tell her how she had played a pivotal role in my running history.  This is where the dweeb part comes into play.  I think I probably came across as some creepy stalker fan.  But I decided that I didn't care.  I think it's okay to be a dweeb when your intent is to give compliments to someone.  She had admitted to being in the middle of a horrible run (ha, me too) and I hope that hearing how she had inspired a complete stranger would somehow give her a little boost.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Normal

When slow change happens it morphs into the new normal.

I discovered endurance running three years ago.  At the time I didn't think I could do it.  For real.  Now a 10 mile run is, well let's say, pretty normal.

My new normal is reading race reports and blogs of ultra runners (yes, that's correct, I did not even now that term three years ago).  And volunteering at 50 and 100 mile races to... well... yes, it's true, to check them out.  I always say "I'm here for inspiration".  I've never actually spoken the words "I want to run a 100 mile race" out loud.  I'm not even sure that specific thought has manifested so clearly in my brain.

What I do know now, is that I do not know what my limits are in running.  I didn't think I could do a half marathon.  Or a full marathon.  I am struck by the idea of this new normal because I was just looking back at some of my very first blog entries.  So excited to discover that there were trail races, with several organizations.  It opened up a new world out on the trails, actual adventures.  I was downright giddy.  I forgot about all of that excitement... because it all seems so normal to me now.

I suppose we spend more time looking forward than back.  I now ask myself "How far can I run?" "What are my limits?"

That's pretty exciting. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run - Volunteer

Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.  It was an all around incredible experience.  Both humbling and inspiring.

Through the woman I met working at Lake Sonoma 50 miler, Cathy, I signed up at Duncan Canyon Aid Station.  Most of the crew camps the night before and then wakes with the sun to prep the aid station.  The aid station is hosted by the Quicksilver Running Group out of San Jose.  And the captain is Kristina Irvin, a 10 time finisher of the WSER. She asked me to be the AS photographer.  How perfect was that!?

I could ramble on and on (and on!) about the experience... but for now, I'm going to link to the photos and let them tell the story;

Duncan Canyon Aid Station Photos:

Duncan Canyon Aid Station Videos:

Foresthill Photos:

Finish Line Photos:

Finish Line Video:
Pam Smith, women's winner

Being around this race made me realize the levels of fitness that are between me and a feat so monumental.  After watching runners cross the finish line I realized you can't really pick who will do well or not, based on how they look... but they are all very fit.  It made me wonder, how is this possible, running 100 miles... in tough mountainous terrain.  How is it possible?  A part of me, humbled, was in awe of these people who took on the challenge.  Another part of me was inspired, and wondered if I could ever feel confident to take on the challenge.  There's a whole lot of fitness to develop, but what became clear is that is possible to change.  So much of the task comes down to the mental game, the heart, the will to keep moving despite the challenges... so I leave the experience with an open ended question...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chasing Torie

I have been enjoying running with a running buddy.  Torie is faster than me by just enough to keep me out of breath, but not so fast that it's boring for her.  It seems to be a good match.  I've come to realize that there will not be an easy run with Torie.  Not even today, when she had a head cold and said she felt like curling up into a ball at the top of each incline.  I was still behind her by 5-10 feet.  The gap, depending on grade, is usually more like 10'... 20'... 100'.... even when she is at 60% capacity, I'm chasing Torie.

This has it's benefits.  My speed is increasing.  It's never easy, and like I mentioned, I've come to accept that there will not be a run with her that doesn't challenge me and keep me out of breath.  But I'm okay with that.  She doesn't run as often as I do so I take my easy runs when I am solo.  Or with Lola (who can't go T's fast pace nor our long distances, so she hasn't been getting as much running in).

This week, running with Torie, I had my fastest ever time - by quite a bit - on a loop that I have been doing for 10+ years.  That sure felt awesome.  I was giddy all day.

It even got me to thinking of what else might be possible...

Chasing Torie is a good thing.

Catch her if you can...

Thursday, May 23, 2013


This year is not turning out to be anything like I had hoped.  I had big plans.  But reality set in and I had to adjust.  I'm not as disappointed as I expected to be... and I think that is because I really am committed to running, for the long haul.  So it is slowly sinking in;  I'm not signed up for races but I can keep running.  Long runs.  Big goals.  Granted, races make great goals.  And that can really make a difference when the alarm goes off in the early morning, or in the latter miles of a super long run in the hills.  The thought of the race really pulls you through those tough times. 

Change has also brought about a running partner.  Torie and I met last year through Holly, another friend and running buddy.  Torie's first marathon was also the GHM.  We never trained together even though we have a couple races in common.  Torie is faster than I am.  But I'm more consistent in training.  So that is our win-win.  I get her out the door and she inspires me to go faster.  I've enjoyed the company and am very happy about running together.

My runs have not been as frequent or as long as I'd like ... but I continue to get out there... and with Torie's help, I'm knocking out some faster times.  I'm feeling good about this. 

I do hope to return to the Golden Hills Marathon to see if I can beat my time.  And I will get back on track with my 50k goal next year...

Friday, April 19, 2013


“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look at fear in the face.  You must do the thing in which you think you cannot do.” 
 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.


Uh oh.  Time flies.

After struggling through the holiday season I got on track in training for the Way Too Cool 50k.  I pulled it together.  I rallied.  I was very consistent with my training and, surprisingly, felt ready.  But it was not to be.  A relative passed away and the memorial landed on the day of the race.  When I first saw the date I burst into tears.  I had worked hard.  The energy and focus is not easy to come by when attempting a new challenge.  I was SO excited.  My friend who had been on the waiting list got in, we reserved the hotel... we were pretty psyched.  Selfishness aside it was clear that I had to be with family.  So I did.  And was glad I did.

At first I thought I would just parlay the training into another 50k.  But a week later I went out for a training run that may have been hormonally influenced... but it sucked.  And I decided not to run the Diablo 50k. This sent me into some sort of spiral for about 4 weeks.  No running.  Eating horribly.  It was like a punishment.  Luckily, I came out of it... and I realized that I need to move forward.  I love trail running.

So I re-evaluated my 2013 goals.  I decided to focus on fewer races.  The Coastal Trail Runs Big Basin Marathon/50k is next.   I am very curious to explore that landscape.  It is beautiful.  There is a 50k option but I've decided to stick with the marathon distance.  Probably for the year.  At first this felt disappointing, like quitting.  But I realize that I really, really, want the WTC to be my first 50k.  So I'll enter the lottery again... and cross my fingers.  I will spend this year enjoying running, doing a couple of marathons (another attempt at the NorCalUltra Golden Hills Marthon... can I do it faster this year?!)...

I realize that the more I run long distance the more my body adapts.  This means that if I focus the year on the marathon distance then I will build a better base for the year of the 50k.  Because I have long term, crazy goals.  I want to keep pushing the distance.  I want to see how far I can go.

"You must do the thing you think you can not"... yup.