Mystery Weekend 2009 - Part 1 
Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 11:38 AM
Posted by Administrator
Paul had been leaving hints for a week and I was pretty sure that we were on our way to Texas for a tandem rally. So, I was quite surprised when I got to the airport gate and discovered that the mystery destination was actually San Francisco. I was thrilled! I had never been to that area and was excited to check it out. Also, I love surprises and would have been a little disappointed if I had guessed correctly. Here I am, on cloud 9, looking up fun things to do in San Fran on Paul's IPhone.

Just before midnight, we arrived at our hotel, the Red Victorian Inn, in the Haight-Ashbury district. On the website, it looked like a fun, unique, hippie kind of place with bright, cheery rooms. In reality, it was a neat old building in desperate need of a make-over. We spent two nights in the "Redwood Forest Room." Everything seemed musty, the threadbare towels had holes, and the lace doilies and fake flowers looked like they had been there since the "Summer of Love." But, hey - we were in San Francisco! We fell fast asleep after laughing quite a bit about the hotel...and checking the sheets for bed bugs.

We were up early on Thursday and just started walking. Golden Gate Park was just minutes away and is phenomenal. We grabbed a nice breakfast at the Herbivore before taking a walk through the Castro. As it was still early, not many shops were open, but it was cool to be there, especially after recently seeing the movie Milk. Next we returned to the Red Vic to don our cycling gear and then took a cable car (how could we pass up this San Fran tradition?) to Fisherman's Wharf.

Paul had planned to rent a tandem from Blazing Saddles which turned out to be a large business with multiple outlets and thousands of bikes. Their typical customer rents a bike for a few hours to experience cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge. Upon arriving with cycling clothes, saddlebags and our own helmets, it became evident very quickly that they didn't often see our kind. Hmmm...not a good sign.

A very pleasant woman first offered us a beach cruiser type of tandem with big, cushy seats and mountain bike handles and tires. Oh no. Luckily, the manager caught sight of us and immediately brought us over to a very nice Co-Motion road tandem. We left for lunch to give them time to put on our pedals and my bike seat.

We wanted seafood, but the choices were overwhelming. Although we had discussed getting crabs from the street vendors, I was too chilled and needed to get out of the cold. (Apparently not all of California is sunshine and warmth.) We asked for a recommendation at a visitor center booth and were directed to the Franciscan Restaurant right on the water. We were not disappointed - it was absolutely delicious!

Full, but still a little chilled, we headed back to the bike shop and discovered that they had not been able to fit my "Thud Buster" seat tube on the bike. We took it anyway, planning to swap out saddles before our ride the next day, and cruised around Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. My favorite part - the Sea Lions!

But, we were not having the smoothest of rides. A few times, the bike suddenly jerked to a halt, almost dumping us off. I began to think that Paul was losing his touch as a tandem captain. He began to think that this tandem came with secret rear brake handles that I was using. Paul finally figured out that one of the brake cables was too tight, causing the rear brake to engage every time we took a right turn. Great.

We returned to the bike shop where they decided to just swap it out for a new bike and then we made one more stop before heading back to the hotel - Ghiradelli Square. By this point, I was absolutely frozen from standing around in the open-air bike shop and so we just bought a bar of chocolate (dark, of course) and hopped back on the bike. We rode through Golden Gate Park, but got lost when we exited and found that we were not where we expected to be. By this point, it was dark and we had no lights - not a great situation. But, thanks to Paul's handy-dandy IPhone and it's mapping application, we finally figured out where we were and, eventually, got back to our hippie hotel.

At the suggestion of a Red Vic employee, we dined at the New Ganges that evening. We were looking for fabulous ethnic food and he promised that this Indian restaurant would be "an experience." And that it was! We ordered an eggplant dish that was quite good, as well as saag paneer that was, hands down, the best I have ever eaten. But it was the owner that made the meal so memorable. He is obviously very proud of his food and told us, many times, "You don't like, you don't pay." After delivering food to the table, he would hover and wait for our approval. I saw him actually take a fork from a woman at a neighboring table, feed her the first bite from her plate and demand her reaction. As we prepared to leave, he gave us business cards and made us promise to write reviews on Yelp and CitySearch. It was a dining experience we won't soon forget!

Although the Red Vic offers breakfast, we never got to try it as they didn't start serving until 9am - apparently hippies like to sleep in. We grabbed a quick bite at the Pork Store Cafe (yes, quite a switch from yesterday's vegetarian breakfast choice) and were loaded up and pedaling by 9am.

It didn't take long for a rattling sound to start driving Paul crazy. He stopped to investigate and discovered that a screw was missing from the saddlebag rack, causing the rack to shift around and constantly bang against the bike. We detoured to the bike shop, with me trying to calm Paul down, so that he didn't actually kill someone when we got there. About 15 minutes and a new screw later, we were finally on our way and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, we had lost an hour on this detour and were a little nervous about getting to our destination before dark. But we had lights this time and were prepared.

We cruised across the bridge (very cool!), through Sausalito and up and down some hills before stopping for lunch at the Half Day Cafe in Kentfield. We shared delicious fish tacos and a yummy salad, although, in hindsight, we should have eaten more. Little did we know that we'd be on the bike until 6:30 that evening.

Not long after our lunch stop, I asked Paul to stop, so that I could put on my knee brace. That was disappointing. I have struggled with IT band issues off-and-on for years, but haven't worn that brace in at least 18 months. I think all of the climbing aggravated it and was beginning to cause some inflammation. The brace helped and I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. I loved biking through the small towns and the gorgeous Samuel Taylor State Park - so green!

At this point, I was really feeling those hills and looking forward to reaching the Pacific Coast Highway because, just a few days prior, I had heard Paul tell a friend that the PCH is fairly flat - after all, it's along the coast at sea level, right? Paul rode the PCH about 20 years ago but, apparently, since that time, the state of California decided to add in some hills - because we quickly discovered that it was HILLY! I admit, I had some low moments and this realization was one of them. We still had 35 hilly miles to go and my ass was killing me because we forgot to swap out the saddles. But, then we'd pass an amazing field of yellow flowers or a rare flat section and I'd perk up again.

We stopped in the tiny town of Tomales for snacks and Ibuprofen, and I asked the shop owner how far it was to Bodega Bay, our final destination. I think he could see that I was on the edge of a breakdown and he was very kind. He took some time walking me through the remaining 17 miles on his map, pointing out the four remaining climbs and wishing us luck.

When we hit that very first climb, I was so tired and I know I wasn't pulling anywhere near my fair share of the weight. When the bike speed dropped below 6 mph, the bike became very unsteady. Paul decided that, for the sake of safety, we should swallow our pride, get off, and walk the bike. Honestly, it felt so good to get my sore butt off of the saddle and stretch out my legs that I didn't care what passersby thought. We did a little more walking over the next 90 minutes, but, the closer we got to our destination, the more giddy I became. Light at the end of the tunnel does amazing things for your psyche.

We checked in at the Bodega Harbor Inn and were pleased with our little cottage right on the bay, complete with a hot tub. After quick showers, we walked right next door to the Tides Restaurant whose claim to fame is that part of The Birds was filmed there. All we cared about was that we didn't have to get on our bike to get there.

We ate seafood chowder. We ate crab cioppino. We ate a lot. Usually, I refuse the bread basket as Paul cannot eat it due to his allergy and I hate to see so many pieces go to waste. That night, I devoured almost the entire loaf of sourdough by myself. Note to selves - eat a heartier lunch tomorrow.

After relaxing in the hot tub, we turned in for the night and slept like the dead. Having biked about 85 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing, this was my longest and most challenging day of biking - ever. There were points when I silently cursed my husband for planning this death ride, but, after a hot shower and a warm meal, all was forgotten and I reveled in the feeling of accomplishment for surviving the day!

To be continued...
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And the Mystery Destination Was... 
Monday, March 2, 2009, 10:32 AM
Posted by Administrator

Just a quick note to say that Paul and I had an adventurous weekend cycling, sightseeing and eating in San Fran. We got home at midnight last night and I have a busy week ahead, which means that I probably will not have a chance to write up a full report until the weekend.

Stay tuned!
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Recovering Well 
Monday, February 23, 2009, 09:31 PM
Posted by Administrator
All week long, I was amazed at how good I felt. My legs were a little sluggish when running, but there was no pain or soreness. What a difference it makes to run on trails as opposed to the road!

We joined the usual Saturday morning crew this weekend for a 50-mile ride on the tandem. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning and we gradually stripped off layers as the temperature climbed into the 70's. On the way home, we stopped to check out a new Bosnian restaurant, Chef Alisah's. I had no idea what Bosnian food actually was, but am always up for a culinary adventure…and luckily Paul is too!

We shared a vegetable and cheese plate that was delicious, although a bit on the salty side, followed by chicken kabobs that were wonderful. I don't know if they'll survive this economy as it was pretty slow for a Saturday lunch, but we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and plan to go back.

On Sunday, we had a leisurely morning before driving up to Catalina State Park for a 10-mile trail run. It didn't take long to realize that my legs were still recovering from last weekend's race and so I just took it easy. We took the Bridal Path to the 50 Year Trail to the Sutherland Trail. I had forgotten just how rocky this course is. There is an especially long, rocky climb on the Sutherland Trail that I was not happy about.

Once again, we had beautiful weather. When we got closer to the trail head, it was great to see lots of hikers (and dogs) out enjoying the park. I was pleased to complete the run in 2:26, which was just a few minutes faster than the last time I ran this loop back in December. I felt good - tired, but healthy. Paul is training for the Old Pueblo 50 Mile race on March 7, and so, when I got in the car to drive home, he continued on foot, adding another 10 miles to his run.

Now, my focus will abruptly turn to cycling as I'll be riding over 150 miles this coming weekend. For the second year, Paul and I decided to forgo Christmas presents and, instead, each plan a mystery weekend sometime during the year. Paul's planned trip begins this Wednesday evening. I've been told to be home from work at 5pm, so that we can drive to the airport and fly...somewhere.

Stayed tuned for the Mystery Weekend Report!
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Pemberton 50K Race Report 
Sunday, February 15, 2009, 09:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
Paul and I each took half days at work and were on the road by mid-afternoon. We took our time getting to Fountain Hills, stopping in Phoenix for an early dinner at Picazzo's and some trail shoe shopping at REI.

When looking for lodging for this race, I discovered that there just aren't many options in Fountain Hills other than the Holiday Inn and Comfort Inn - and they were charging $150 per night. In Fountain Hills?!? Not one to give in to the chain hotels easily, I did some extensive internet searching and found a vacation rental studio in an apartment complex - more comfortable than a hotel room and only $100 per night.

We arrived here in the early evening, dropped our bags and headed back out to meet up with Chris and Chase, who would also run the 50K, and Denise and Trish, who would run the relay version of the race. Although we were in bed by 9:00pm, I slept horribly. It's been a while since I lived in an apartment and I had forgotten about those thin walls. Between the noise and my nerves, I was up much of the night. This was despite the fabulous handmade mattress. Check out the sign on the nightstand:

The Big Day

We awoke to the 4:30am alarm and mid-30 degree temperatures. Pretty chilly! But it was not raining, and so I was happy. In fact, it turned out to be ideal running weather for much of the race, as it quickly warmed up to the mid-50's. I ate a banana and half a bagel while getting dressed and we were at the race site around 6:15am, where we sat in the car for warmth.

As it got closer to the 7:00am start time, we wandered out into the cold for final potty breaks and to greet friends. There was a nice contingent from Tucson and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces, including Renee. At that point, I really wasn't too nervous - just ready to start running and get warm.

When the gun went off, I did my best to get in the back of the pack. Apparently there were a lot of people still waiting in the porta-potty line, because a ton of runners ended up jumping in behind me. It was pretty congested for the first mile or two with lots of passing on the narrow trail, but then we spread out pretty quickly.

This race is two loops of the 15.5-mile Pemberton Trail with aid stations spaced about 5 miles apart. I like the set-up as I didn't have to think about running 31 miles, rather I just concentrated on getting to the next aid station. What's another 5 miles, right? As far as trail races go, this is a fairly easy one in that you're not running up a mountain. It's rolling hills with a gradual uphill on the first half of the loop, followed, you guessed it, by a gradual descent.

I was on my own, but chatted a bit with others as we leap-frogged the first few miles until everyone found their pace. At the first aid station (mile 5.5), I skipped the food, but stopped just long enough to strip off my ear warmers, long-sleeved top and gloves, leaving me with a short-sleeved top and arm warmers.

Shortly afterward, there was a man running right on my tail. I moved to the side of the trail, but he didn't pass. When I walked, he walked. When I ran, he ran...just inches behind me. I could see our shadows overlapping on the ground, but I couldn't talk to him because of his blaring IPod. Finally, he turned down the volume and asked if I had done this race before. I told him I had not and he informed me that he planned to stick with me because he liked my pace...and then turned his music back on. Great.

While I was somewhat flattered with his confidence in me, I was also irritated. If you're going to latch onto someone during a race, at least do your part and offer some interesting conversation. Otherwise, hang back a few feet and give them room to breathe!

It's just not in my nature to tell off a perfect stranger, and so, instead, I had a conversation with him in my head. It went something like, "Turn down your freakin' IPod, get off my ass and pick up your damn feet! Are you going to shuffle like that for all 31 miles?!?" Strangely, this was somewhat satisfying...and it killed some time.

I felt a little pressure with him on my tail and I picked up the pace a bit. This turned out to be serendipitous as we soon caught up with another small group of runners being led by Paul - not my Paul (he was much farther ahead!), but a 61-year old Indian gentleman who races every weekend...twice a weekend, when possible...and ultras whenever he can. He had amassed a small group of ultra virgins who were following his lead.

It was great to have people to talk to and I really wanted to stick with them, but I was a little concerned that we hadn't taken walk breaks in a while and was afraid they would lose me. So, when they all stopped at the next aid station (mile 11), I kept going, knowing they would catch up with me over time while I snuck in some walk breaks.

First, I was passed by IPod-man and was pleased when he ran on by. Next, I was caught by Paul and Peggy, a very upbeat woman who was a pleasure to run with. They also passed me, but then started taking walk breaks again when they hit some hills and I managed to catch up and match their pace. Here's Peggy and Paul in front of me:

When I ran this loop for practice in January, it took me 3:15 and I felt terrible at the end. Based on this history, I had estimated that my first lap would take me between 3:15 and 3:30, and so I was amazed (and somewhat concerned) when we completed our first lap in just 3:05. I felt good, but worried that I was going too fast and would hit the wall. I took just a few minutes to hit the porta-potty and grab some real food (fig newtons, potato and M&M's), as I had begun feeling hungry.

I was pleased to find Paul and Peggy heading back onto the course at the same time I was and we gladly banded together once again to start our second lap. We talked quite a bit - politics, what we ate for dinner the previous evening, race experiences, whatever. Both Paul and Peggy had done the Antarctica Marathon and Peggy will soon be doing her 7th continent marathon during a trip to Australia. Paul would be doing a marathon the following day and was signed up for a 100K race next Saturday. He was still searching for a race for next Sunday. Wow - they are impressive runners and, both being over 60, give me lots of hope for a lifetime of being active and adventurous!

My contribution to the threesome was statistics. Paul doesn't wear a running watch and Peggy had left hers at home in Minnesota, and so I gave occasional updates of distance and time.

At the next aid station (mile 21), I grabbed a few M&M's and kept walking until they caught up with me. I didn't want to stand too long and get stiff. Paul had plans to catch up with a friend that we could see in the distance and I had my eye on IPod-man who was losing steam ahead of us. We caught them in the next few miles and stuck together for a bit. My spirits were high - my legs hurt a little, but I was feeling really good, had left IPod-man in my dust, and knew I was going to finish in well under 7 hours. Yeah!

With about 10K left to go, I noticed that Paul was doing a lot more walking. Peggy started to pull away and I had to make a decision. I owed Paul a great deal of gratitude for pulling us along this far and had qualms about ditching him. On the other hand, he does these races all the time and was probably saving a little something for the next day's marathon. This was my first ultra and a BIG deal for me, so I followed Peggy's lead and pulled ahead on my own.

At the final aid station, I downed a small cup of water, which turned out to be a bad move. It sloshed around in my stomach and gave me a bit of cramping. But, I was 4.5 miles away and nothing was going to stop me! I could see Peggy in the distance, but never managed to catch her and so I was on my own for the final miles. It definitely got hard. But, at that point, I had run farther than I had ever run in my life and realized I was feeling much better than I had when I finished the San Antonio Marathon in November. I was taking more frequent walk breaks, but pushed myself to run as much as possible.

Although I had my GPS, I was elated to get to the sign announcing 0.9 mile to the trailhead. And, about one-half mile later, I saw Paul walking down the trail with his camera. I shouted out to him and saw that he was clearly shocked to see me so soon. He wasn't expecting me for another 20 to 30 minutes! The fact that I was running so well shocked him even more, as he too remembered my dead man's shuffle at the end of my latest marathon. Just a few minutes later, the finish line was in sight and I managed to run across the line with a smile on my face and an official time of 6:35:27. I was glad it was over, but thrilled that it had been such a great experience. I finished in 120th place out of 147 people.

I traded hugs and congratulations with Chris, Denise, Chase and Trish who had all had done fantastic, especially Chase who came in second overall and Paul and Chris who took 10th and 11th - very impressive! Then I made a beeline for the food. I opened a cooler looking for a drink and was overjoyed to see Popsicles - not something I usually eat, but absolutely the best post-race treat! Over the next hour, I had three of them, along with tortilla chips and a roast beef sandwich. After so many hours of XOOD and gel, it felt good to have real food in my stomach.

I was also happy to find Peggy again and congratulate her on her impressive second wind!

I was in pain from my hips to my knees, but was walking pretty well. Paul talked me into picking up some ice on the way back to the condo, so that I could have an ice bath, as this had helped my recovery considerably after my last few long runs. But, when I put my feet in the tub, the pain was just too much. I spent about five minutes pulling my feet in and out of the freezing water as excruciating pain shot all the way up my legs. It was the closest I had come to crying all day and I finally told Paul I couldn't take it and popped a few Ibuprofen instead.

Post Race
To celebrate our race and Valentine's Day, we had a delicious dinner at the Waters Edge Restaurant before settling into bed at 9:00pm. Amazingly, I had another terrible night of sleep. You'd think I would have passed out from exhaustion, but no such luck.

On Sunday, we spent some time in Phoenix where I enjoyed my first visit to IKEA and then lunch and browsing at the Heard Museum. All day, I marveled at how good I felt! Yes, I am sore, but it's nothing compared to the pain I endured after my road marathons. I even walked down stairs without having to walk backwards!

Overall, this race was a fantastic experience. I really enjoy the low-key atmosphere of ultras and the beauty of the trails. It was gorgeous out there! I also discovered that sticking with a group makes running more enjoyable for me. Had I run the entire race by myself, I know that I would have hit some low points and gotten discouraged. Running with others makes the miles go by faster and takes my mind off the pain. A HUGE thank you to Peggy and Paul!

What's next? Well, for a while, I'd like to enjoy not having a major goal hanging over my head. I'll be doing some shorter races, including Dave's Run for ALS and probably a spring half marathon, and Paul and I have some biking weekends coming up. Will I do another ultra? Absolutely! I'm not sure when or which one, but I look forward to another great experience.

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Ready or Not! 
Friday, February 13, 2009, 03:17 PM
Posted by Administrator
Our bags are packed and we're about to hop in the car for the 2.5-hour drive up to Fountain Hills...with a stop along the way at Picazzo's, of course, for some gluten-free pizza.

Over one week ago, the forecast was calling for rain all weekend and I've been checking the forecast multiple times a day since then. As luck would have it, just two days ago, it switched to "few showers" and now says "partly sunny." I'll take it! With a high of 60 degrees, it should be ideal running weather.

I had a massage on Wednesday evening and have been stretching twice a day. I did a light 25-minute run this morning and felt a little sluggish. Hopefully that feeling will be gone tomorrow.

I'll be sure to post a report in the next few days. In the meantime, please send good thoughts my way for clear skies, no wind, gentle trails and strong legs. Thank you!
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