2012 was coming to a close. I had had a great first half of the year, packed with races and challenges and working to better myself as a runner. I lost my fall season to an injury but was enjoying a December full of 100+ mile weeks and getting back into the form I lost with my injury. My 2013 schedule was taking shape.
But as the end of the year approached, I knew there was one last thing I wanted to do before the year ended. A few years ago, Suzanna Bon mentioned that you could run 50 miles from Point Reyes to the Golden Gate. Immediately I knew that HAD to try that someday. Early in December, I decided that New Years Eve would be that day.
I pulled out my trusty Tom Harrison maps and started plotting a route that would take me to the bridge. I also enlisted the company of Larissa to join me on the adventure. Adventures are much more fun when shared with great friends. I came up with a route that included some of the best parts of Point Reyes, Mt. Tam and down to the bridge. I wanted to avoid having to do zig zags in the Headlands, so instead I had us run up and over Pine Mountain to the lakes and up to East Peak on Mt. Tam. The route was challenging, beautiful and almost perfectly 50 miles.
Nathan was nice enough to drive Larissa and I out to Bear Valley in Point Reyes for a 7 am start. It was 29 degrees when we hopped out of the car, but was looking to be a perfect day. And it was. The day unfolded into an incredible bluebird day.
I wish there was more to say about the run itself other than I just felt present. I felt great the whole time and was shocked that my body felt so strong considering the run doubled my longest run since June. It was a perfect day and I am so glad I got to share the experience with Larissa. The year felt complete when we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. An adventure, a journey to round of the year, inspiration of more fun runs to come. Happy New Year everyone. May the new year be full of adventure!
Bestest Everest and I at SD100 (photo: Brett Rivers)
Life is like a trail race.
When I ran Vermont 100 in 2008, the course was marked quite well. Every "respectable" interval there was a flag or, better yet, a "confidence marker" which was a large yellow pie plate with a giant C on it. Flags and marking in a trail race are our life line to success. Yes, knowing the course helps, but in the end we rely on these tiny little markers to get us where we want to go.
I followed the markers quite successfully for the majority of the race. However, at one important and not obvious intersection we (I was with pacer JB by this point) missed a marker due to some distraction (racers on horseback asking for directions) and blazed right past a crucial turn. We realized our error in less than a mile and retraced our steps back to where we had gotten off course. I lost a few minutes, but in the end, the mis-direction just provided me with a necessary shot of adrenaline to change up the pace of the later miles of a 100 miler and more importantly, made me be more cognizant of my surroundings and keeping myself present.
In life, we go along our path, living our lives, make our way and look for little markers along the way to know we are going the right direction. A reassuring word from a friend, a pat on the back, a reassurance, a feeling; our "confidence markers" can come in all shapes and forms.
In life, just like trail racing, we sometimes go off track. We take a wrong turn or go down a path that isn't the way we truly want to go. We lose the markers and go into uncharted territory.
When you make a wrong turn, correct it then don't look back.
UROC 100k (photo: Running Times)
But just like in trail racing, we have a choice to stop, look at a map, turn around and go back to where we got off track. Sure, it means took a little extra time getting there, but we make it there, maybe a little worse for the wear or a little wiser, but we make it there.
Other times, we choose to keep moving forward, even when we haven't seen a marker in a long time. We keep pressing forward in faith that we know the way and are self-reliant for reassurance. I've climbed mountains this way, literally (hello Hardrock) and metaphorically. It is hugely empowering to proceed into uncertainty like this and finally be rewarded with a marker, a weigh station, a sign you are going the right way.
We can be not so lucky when we move forward in faith. Sometimes we end up cutting the course, ending up at a dead end or other such disasters. It is then that we can choose to either change our goals or find our way back. No matter what path we choose, there is always a way to find a way back, to be true to ourselves and our journey.
I realize that this year has been a lesson in finding and losing, changing and rediscovering, my own path as a runner. At the end of last year, I decided that I wanted to focus all of my attention on being the best runner I could be and make a go at qualifying for the Olympic Trials. I was all in. I made my qualifier in my second attempt in a horrible weather day at the LA Marathon. This was a huge confidence marker along the way. My goal was not just to qualify but to be prepared to be my best come the Trials in January 2012. But somewhere along the way, I took a wrong turn. I started doubting myself, I started to question my goals, I let other's expectations permeate into my brain. I went down a path, ignoring the signs that I was getting away from where I wanted to go and plunged headlong down the mountain.
I just realized I was off course. I was going the wrong way. Sure the path I was heading down was a suitable path, totally acceptable and safe. But it was not where I wanted to head. No, I set my sights on being the best I could be and I don't want to relinquish that. I don't want to settle, I want to make my once in a lifetime experience (because making the Olympic Trials could be once in a lifetime!), magical. That is where I want my path to go for now. I lost that dream, that goal for a while. I pushed it aside because I was scared. I let it move to the back burner because I wasn't respecting myself as a multifaceted runner.
But that is where I want to go. I finally stopped going the wrong way, I realized I was off course and I corrected my path. The Trials are in just over two months and I plan on doing everything in my power to be as prepared as I can be on that day. I finally see the signs that that is the right way for me to go right now, that that path is the one that is true for me in the immediate future. From there, I am sure I will dream other dreams, pursue other paths and be lost and found all over again. But for now, I see the signs and I know I am going the right way. And I can't wait to see where this path will take me.
We saw 5 such encouraging signs in 2 miles in Yosemite.
The picture above sums it up. I am almost there. Almost to race day. And I feel as ready as I can be as I start a gradual taper before heading off to race the WC100k in the Netherlands. The beginning of last week was pretty fantastic and had two great indicator workouts that I am as ready as I can be at this point. Now, it is just a matter of cutting back mileage, maintaining/increasing intensity and getting some good rest. It is time to change gears.
I planned my hard long run for last Wednesday because Nathan and I had planned a backcountry weekend for Friday-Sunday and were heading up to Yosemite for some running, camping and good fun. After hitting my mark in the earlier weeks workouts, I was just looking forward to logging some miles with a focus on adventure instead of speed, distance or pace. I wanted to finish out my week with high miles, but was stoked to be able to hit the trails to do so. Over 3 days, we logged nearly 65 miles, hitchhiked, didn't shower, save for the occasional dip in a lake, slept in a tent and generally just refreshed our souls with miles and miles of beautiful backcountry. It was a nice change of pace and even as the miles rolled on, I never felt tired or sore or worked over. I just felt alive and excited. The high country rejuvenated me and made me excited not only for my race in 3 weeks but for things to come in the near future. There is something in nature that moves me and sets me free. I am happy that I had the opportunity to immerse myself this weekend, reset, recharge and change gears. I feel prepared to take on taper now and the race ahead. I cannot wait to see how it all plays out.
GoPro views of Half Dome from North Dome
Taking a little dip mid run in mountain top Evelyn Lake.
Check out all my pictures from the weekend here (click on picture to go to picasa album):
A few years ago, right after I met Krissy when I moved to Seattle, she celebrated her 30th birthday. For her birthday, she decided to get together a bunch of her friends and do 30 miles to celebrate the day. It was a blast- we had a roving aid station and I think Krissy and I cemented our life long friendship when I agreed to run around the parking lot after we came off the mountain until her watch said exactly 30. After the run, we celebrated over delicious food made by her awesome Ma!
Since that run, the birthday run has been my top priority when conceptualizing how I want to spend my birthday. Two years ago (2009), my birthday fell immediately after the WC100k, so I was unable to run 27 on my 27th. Instead, having just moved back to San Francisco, I invited some new friends out for a nice 15 mile loop: Brett, Larissa, Nathan, Will and Caitlin.
I carried a watermelon.
27th birthday run. Present from Nathan.
I was completely fried on that run from the 100k and insisted that the others go on ahead of me (brett and larissa had to turn back early to get to work, leaving just Nathan, Caitlin and Will) and just wait for me at the top. In a sign of things to come, Nathan, whom I had just met in person for the first time the day before at Tartine, came back for me while running up Marincello. And if I wasn't swooning enough, he presented me with a watermelon after the run as my birthday present. It was cute and thoughtful and also hilarious since I then had to run home carrying a watermelon like a football under my arm. I can easily say, I've loved the Baker since I met him.
This year, I was bound and determined to spend as much time with friends and family, celebrate for days on end and gosh darn it, I was getting in a 29 mile run for my 29th birthday. It is not even my birthday yet (as I write this) and I can easily say, I've had the best birthday in a long time.
Bestest everest Jonathan and I at SD 100. Photo by Brett.
Two weekends ago, Nathan and I headed down to San Diego for pacing duties and to join a huge gaggle of our friends from all over while they participated in SD100 in various capacities. It was such a blast to be a part of. Nathan was pacing for Topher and I was returning to pace Jonathan once more in San Diego. Several ninjas and seattle friends were racing and my sister and Steven were down to help crew for Jonathan. Simply put, it was an event that struck serious FOMO (fear of missing out) into the hearts of those unable to attend.
We cheered, we laughed, we paced. I saw friends cross the finish line and friends make tough decisions. Jonathan had to pull out of the race due to a medical issue, so he handed me off to Larissa who I paced for a good few hours in the night. I am so proud of Larissa's finish and all of my friends who rocked it-Krissy, Topher, Rod, Yassine, Walter, Roch and everyone else I am forgetting since it felt like I knew half the field. It was like one big pre-birthday party!
Dinner at Local 360 with Krissy, Steven, Jason, Sarah and JB!
No sooner had I unpacked my bags on Monday, I was repacking them for a trip up to Seattle to visit my family and hang out with Jonathan (who was also up visiting), Krissy and Jason. On Friday night, the whole gang joined me for dinner at Local 360 which totally knocked my socks off. I loved everything I tasted and really enjoyed the thoughtful, hyper-local, organic fare.
Clearly, I REALLY enjoyed the Peanut Butter Bon Bons.
I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with family, having another fantastic birthday dinner at 50 North and running a bunch. On Sunday my sister and I headed up to Tiger Mountain to attempt the 12 summits run which is about 34-ish miles with a ton of climbing. The June gloom was doing nothing for our motivation, healing my cold or making my sister's hurt leg feel any better, so we changed our route, got lost and ended up with a nice 22 mile run.
Sarah is freezing in June, not awesome.
I went out and ran 9 more miles that evening en route to my mom's house where I enjoyed homemade pot roast, mashed potatoes and salad with my mom, sister, steven, cousin Erika, Ananda and Maya. It was great to be able to get so much good time in with my family. My life is pretty hectic and it can be hard to always feel as in touch as I would really like. I love my family intensely and am happy that I decided to come up for a visit and see them. I returned home on Monday morning, tired and with a cold but bound and determined to have a fantastic birthday week.
I had decided that since I had Wednesday off from work that I would run 29 miles for my 29th birthday. I figured that no one would be available on a Wednesday to run with me, but with Western States this weekend, I knew I would not have another opportunity. Western States is to my adult life, what the end of the school year was to my young life- totally getting in the way of my birthday!
Nonetheless, this morning, I headed out to Mountain Home Inn with Nathan and we did one of my favorite loops around the North side of Tam. It was beautiful and sunny and warm. We ran above the fog that pretty much hugged every elevation below us. It was a swift 12 miles and felt good. Originally, I had planned to grab my pack out of the car and just run all the way home through the Headlands, across the bridge. My calculations had that at a 33-34 mile run which I was fine with, but upon arriving back at the car, the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than on our picturesque loop and the fog and wind were blowing sideways. I felt like I would be descending into a cold miserable slog instead of continuing the fun we'd been having together. So I decided, "it's my party and I'll do what I want to" and went home with Nathan, ate some food and took a nap. It was a fantastic decision and it made it easy for me to rally in the afternoon and run an additional 17 miles to get in a full 29 miles. Tomorrow, my actual birthday, I will get to run with my ninjas and continue the celebration the best way I know how: running (and then eating good food, of course)!
Today, as I ran those final 17 miles on the road, I felt completely connected to why I run. I was not running 29 miles to log miles or burn calories. It didn't fit into my training schedule or have a specific purpose, instead it was just about the act itself. I ran fast, despite the headwind, and felt free, unencumbered. That is ultimately what I love about a birthday run- it is purely about the act itself. To me, celebrating birthdays are not about gifts or attention or parties, it is about celebrating life and the journey we are lucky enough to be on.