First Trail Race, I (heart) Brazen Racing!

Finally, I participated in a Brazen Racing event. I’ve heard many good things about this local trail racing company and yesterday I finished the Bad Bass 10K at Lake Chabot Regional Park. I had originally signed up for a 10K race closer to home in June but had to drop it due to bronchitis. I was very much looking forward to the Bad Bass 10K, though with slight trepidation. 

For one, yesterday was my first trail racing. Although the race started with paved road, it had plenty of trail and hills throughout the course. I saw the course map before registering and was wondering about 650ft+ elevation gain. I was actually hesitant but my brother-in-law who had done the course encouraged me to try it. He did tell me that it would be a “giant hill”. 

Indeed, it was a giant hill. At the bottom of the climb, I had to stop and wondered if I wanted to run it or walk it. Well, it didn’t take long before the hills decided for me. I ran one small hill and walked the rest of the one-mile incline. My heart could not handle the aerobic activity from climbing over one mile on series of hills. 

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The saving grace was the view as I climbed higher and higher (and wonder when this was topping out). It was a gorgeous summer day, although on the warmer side. At the start of the race, at 8.30am, it was already 70F. Ideally, cooler would make it easier to run. In any event, the view made it worth while! 

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The uphill was work, but the real challenge came with the down hill. The 10K turn around at the top of the hill. I had to take a break and mentally prepared myself for the downhill. I knew I wanted to run it to see how I’d feel. I mentally went over the form (short strides, slight lean, minimize heel strike) and set forward the downhill course. I did well for the first half mile, but my right knee started bonking out half way. I had to really focus to make it through the entire downhill section. The fun part was it felt really fast (compared to the uphill!). 

The last 2.5 miles was flat with small rolling up/down’s. It felt so good to run that flat portion!! Trail elevation made me appreciate flat running like no other! By then I was pretty exhausted and I didn’t stop to take any photos around the lake. It was a gorgeous route. I wanted to focus on getting to the finish line because I was tempted few times to stop and walk it. My knee wasn’t feeling great but no significant pain. 

I actually made it to the finish line without stopping! But I believed the uphill and especially downhill took a toll on the legs. Right before I turned left towards the finish line, I had a misstep and slightly sprain my right ankle. I was not thrilled but with the finish line so close, I said “the heck with it!” I sprinted! It felt good to finish! 

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I hopped over to the first aid after catching my breathe. It wasn’t a bad sprain (phew!) so the medical staff helped me to wrap it for tight compression. The overjoy of finishing a trail 10K probably propped me up as a mood-elevator (no advil needed!) Other than the sprain, it was a very enjoyable race. Brazen racing has a new fan now! 

By the way, for my all Bay Area runners, if you haven’t done a Brazen, you have to sign up for one. It was so pleasant to run with them:

1) The medal was amazing, specifically and customized for each event. I loved that! 

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2) The race was well organized and intimate. I could tell there were runners who became friends through Brazen. It was a tight little community. The race was about 260 people for half marathon, 10K, and 5K. Very manageable. Unlike the RnR I ran, parking was easy and there was not delay at the start line! 

 

 

 

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3) Granted, there was no “cheerleaders” (spectators). The runners were just amazing to cheer you up. And let me tell you, there was fruits, bars, M&Ms, and ice pops at the aid station! Totally different and fun! 

4) Did I mention the trail running part? Away from the road, buildings, and crowds? 

I highly recommend Brazen Racing events. And yeah for me, first trail race done! I’m honestly considering a trail half marathon as my next project after November’s Morgan Hill Half Marathon 🙂 

 

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Why I Enjoy Running

Enjoying running is a new adventure for me. Up until high school, I did not enjoy running and totally detest the 1-mile fitness test every school year. I was the slowest person in the class for that test. Wait, correction, I was the second slowest person since the class clown would be tailing me and making funny movements for laughters. That certainly did not make me feel better. I actually had to try to NOT be the slowest person.

It wasn’t even like I was “unfit”. I was in the volleyball team as well as basketball and soccer. I even went to gym AFTER those practices! I just did not like running for the sake of running. Give me a soccer ball and I could run an entire 90-minutes game. Tell me to get on the track and run one-mile, I felt out-of-breathe after 30 seconds.

Believe me, I can’t even fathom how I change to a “runner” recently. But here I am, plotting when and where I would run during our vacation last week. Running was going to happen, somehow, especially running shoes/gears were packed. We went away to Tahoe with some good friends, renting a cabin with alpine views. Really beautiful. Really serene.

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We were at Truckee, northern Tahoe, at an elevation of 5800ft. Normally, this was never an issue BR (before running). Now that I was determined to get a run in, all of sudden 5800ft was a cardiovascular challenge. I knew I had to adjust to the altitude so I started with a mild hike with my friend and her two puppies second day. I even attempted with a jog and I felt out of breath very quickly!

I did not know if a run was even realistic mid-way through our stay in Tahoe, especially, after a very fun, but taxing day on a boat on Lake Tahoe. The sun was amazing, the view was beautiful, and the tubing was tiring!

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The tubing fun left me sore on my neck and arms (and some sunburnt). I decided that I would forego the “must-run” idea. I would see how I feel the next day. I did not want to risk the chance of injury. Training for a half marathon has taught me to be flexible and listen to my body.

I was glad I did because the next day while everyone was recovering and staying in bed. I woke up feeling pretty good at 7.30am. I knew I could run. I grabbed my belt, my iPhone, headphone and put on my shoes and left the cabin. I still wanted to take it easy (the elevation would be the challenge already) so I went to Donner Memorial State Park and just jogged on the trail along Donner Lake. It was mostly flat but absolutely gorgeous!

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I ran a total of 2.5 miles. I felt breathless from both the insurmountable beauty as well as the elevation. I definitely had to stop both for pictures and for breathe. It was perfect, which brings me to the final point: why I enjoy running.

Simply, running has pushed me to do things I otherwise would not have thought of. Because I’m in training, even during vacation, I look for ways to be active. Because of this, I discovered Donner Park via running the trails. I was the only (crazy?) person to take a step further to explore another place out of our group. I was also super curious to see I would do at the almost 6000ft elevation. Not bad, 2.5 miles was a proud accomplishment! Again, running pushes me to challenge myself. This is why I love running, even on the days I just can’t find an ounce of energy to do it!

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(This pair of shoes has ran at 5800ft)

I miss running

I signed up for a 10K race for last Saturday (Brazen Racing’s Trail Quake) It was supposed to be one of my first trail races and it was supposed to challenging. And then … I had to take a DNS (do not start) Sigh… whenever I read other more elite runners’ blog and see DNS’s or DNF’s (do not finish), I thought that it sounded so “professional” Wow, these guys take it so serious, using fancy acronyms! Of course, there were always laments, disappointments that go along with either situation.

Well, my tonsillitis last week took me out most of the week. To make it worst, it evolved into a bronchitis by mid week. Some part of me felt like MAYBE walking Saturday’s race was still a possibility. By day two of a nasty bronchitis, I knew I had to forego the race. It would be unwise and foolish thinking I could fake my way through.

The disappointment was there but more than anything, I just miss running. Actually, scratch that, I just miss doing something physical. I’d even take walking on a trail at this point. Being confined to the bed and not having much energy for anything else (thanks to the incessant coughing), I felt trapped. The bronchitis really put running in perspective for me, as I secretly thought “okay, next time when I am complaining about not being able to breathe during training, think about the bronchitis-moments, those are really “hard to breathe!”!

It looks like I will be taking time off for rest of the week. I will have to start building my base, again. But I know I will be a little happy runner once I’m back on the trail. I’ll be grateful JUST RUNNING, any time, any distance, and any where. Meanwhile, I’m grateful that the World Cup is on. It provides certain amount of distraction to sail through this illness.

Convert to Trail Running – Views & Hills Worth My Mile!

I have been quiet lately, thankfully, the running has not turned silent. In fact, I added trail running to my training last Saturday for the first time. My brother-in-law, who’s training for half Iron men, has been running all his miles almost exclusively on trail races. I’ve heard him raving about it for few weeks.

Conclusion: it’s very liberating running downhills. This is probably the closest I feel to a “Kenyan” as I race downhill with wind brushing up my face! It is also very challenging going uphills. I tried to maintain a “jogging” pace, but found it difficult. I ended up fast walking up the hill. Even then, it was more engaging than a flat road run. There were switchbacks, deers, views, and trees to accompany me!

On my very first try, I went to a local park that I often hiked, but never ventured “deep” into the hills. Armed with a sticky note of miles, turns, and trail names, I set out for the run. The beginning was a flat run, the middle was the incline, followed by the decent, and ended with the same flat run. That was total of 5.4 miles with 640 ft of elevation gain with max elevation at 902 ft. The hardest part was the incline, but once on top, it was worth every mile!

ImageAnd on the way up, there was a family of deers that kept me company.

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And the down hill was exhilarating through lines of trees!

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RECOVERY: I knew the run was taxing on my body as I finished it. I knew I might be in for some adjustment pain. I had to take a power nap that afternoon (which has not happened for a while). I was glad I listened to my body for the nap. I was sore the next day but not as bad as I had anticipated. It was mostly on my hip flexor, surprisingly, not much on my legs. It was probably due to the climb and the decent.

SECOND TIME is a CHARM: two days later, I dragged my sore body out for a short and sweet 2 mile recovery run because I was already thinking doing trail run AGAIN! I wanted to test the limit. So, yesterday, I set out again for another trail run. This time up to the Lexington Reservoir, which I had done in January. I had miscalculated the sunset time and ended up with a shorter run instead, still satisfactory at 5 miles, 575 ft elevation gain, and max elevation at 835 ft. It was still work but I woke up this morning feeling less sore.

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LESSON: the more I run/practice, the faster the body will adapt. The amazing human body just keeps adapting! I’m looking to more mix of trail run on my longer runs, as driving to parks and getting situated take longer than just a easy track run near my home. But, the views, hills, and scenery are worth my mile!

Accidental Hill Training “What goes up must come down”

After seeing the SF RnR Half Marathon course, I have been thinking about adding hill training. My short running career has always about “flat” course. Hill is like Goliath in my mind. However, there will be few miles of incline in the SF course, in the beginning climbing onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was talking with my broker and sharing my need to add hills to the training. He then encouraged me to practice on the local trail called Los Gatos Creek Trail, which I regularly ran. He told me to go on this specific stretch, leading up to the Lexington Reservoir. In his words, these were “rolling hills”. Nothing crazy.

My broker is a Vietnam vet who pouches bags for cardio work out and rides up 1200 ft mountains for fun. I forgot “easy” for folks like him might not be so “not crazy” after all.

Today was also my LSD 5 miles run. I had planned to enjoy the “rolling hills” on a beautiful 72F day. Well, about half mile into the run, I realized that the starting point was well below the Lexington Reservoir. Then I thought, well, it probably was going to be increasing elevation slowly. Nope, that was not the case. The first “rolling hill” came to sight around mile 1.5, it was STEEP. As I came upon it, I thought “serious? people RUN on those?”

I thought back to my Chi Running workshop on the technique on running on hills. It was about turning the body side ways at 45 degree angle and “leaning” into the hill. The idea was to use the side leg muscle (and gravity) and not to stress the Achilles and calves. Well, I had to admit; it looked and felt unnatural. HOWEVER, as soon as I switched back to “normal” running, it felt even more work! I stuck with the side way crisscrossing. First hill was over and I survived!

I felt really proud. Then the gain on elevation was more gradual. I felt relieved, until I saw people coming down from the Reservoir. I was thinking “really? are those people or just my imagination?” When I came upon it, I swear, even when I was NOT good at geometry, that looked more than 30 degree! And the Goliath part of this was it was A LONG stretch. Here we go, crisscrossing all the way! I stopped 100 yards short of the top because I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I glanced down at my HR watch – it read 174! My aerobic threshold on LSD run was supposed to be 150+/-

I haven’t seen the Reservoir AFTER such a climb. When I put in the effort to run up to it (literally), it looked more beautiful than ever.

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I had to fulfill the distance requirement, so I continued up along the reservoir, which turned out to be another significant elevation. Not as bad but at that point, but I felt every step. My saving grace was thinking “okay, what goes up MUST COME DOWN” It would be a nicer run back. The maximum elevation was about 722 ft.

ImageIndeed, the returning trip felt more manageable. I knew what to expected. Now I know why runners train on hills. It’s definitely more “bang for the buck” Hills made flat look so easy!

Surprisingly, the thought of “okay, I’m just going to turn around” never showed up. I attributed this to few things. One, with the Chi Running techniques, it felt easier to run in general. Two, with Chi Running’s hill technique, it felt different and some ways more interesting. And finally, I focused a lot on breathing today. It almost felt like I was “running and meditating” on certain part of the course.

I will return to conquer this “rolling hills” course since it simulated well of the actual half marathon’s course. Next week – 6 miles – the longest distance I ever run. I’m excited about it!

Imagep.s. I saw this on my cool down walk. Spring is almost here! I can’t wait for Daylight Saving to begin soon!!