that girl needs a shave

when gumbyhead announced that her next race was going to be the santa barbara marathon, i immediately offered to head up for the weekend and join her for the race.  i started working some longer road runs into my training and planned a weekend with our good friends, kevin & lesley.  since i ran my first race in support of someone [warren], i have found that i REALLY enjoy running the marathon distance as a pacer or as company for someone who could use the support.  so, the plans were set and i’d be at gh’s side trying to pace her for the sub four hour bq that she sought.  nothing special, nothing crazy, just encouraging words and a consistent pace.

and then we got to santa barbara.

kevin & lesley [and their kids, loganzilla and madisonasaurus] are THE. BEST. CREW. FAMILY. EVER.  they’ve supported me at several half marathons, triathlons and other distance races.  they never fail to be all over the course in expected and unexpected places with the support and encouragement that makes for highly memorable races.  in addition, the second kevin and i reconnect, we begin a downward spiral of humor. 

the climax for this weekend was on saturday night.  

kevin had pulled out the christmas boxes from the attic and we had uncovered a tub full of santa hats.  somehow, they had ended up with almost a dozen of santa hats with white braids.  odd, yes, but functional.  my head was cold, so i jokingly donned one to keep my noggin warm.  through dinner, we started joking about running the race with it on.  i lamented only having a day glow green running shirt and tights to accompany the hat and that’s when lesley disappeared from the dining table.

only to return with a red skirt from her high school days in drill team.

kevin then disappeared and returned with a plain white technical shirt for me to use.  and, before i knew it, i had signed up to run as ms. claus the following morning.  i debated stuffing a sports bra, but thought better of it, seeing as how it might cause significant chaffing.  i called gumbyhead after dinner and let her know i had something up my sleeve for the following day.  she seemed apprehensive, but willing.

at the race the next morning, i carried the skirt with me until just before the start [i had fleece pants on to keep warm].  as i put the skirt on, the looks began.  the double takes.  the triple takes.  the laughs.  the eye-rolls.  both mark and gumbyhead were laughing at the reactions they were seeing.

we toed the line shortly thereafter and headed on our way.

DSC_0052 this wasn’t really my race, so i had the simple task of running a consistent pace, playing sherpa for gumbyhead by grabbing stuff from the aid stations and giving words of encouragement.  that gave me much freedom and energy to ham it up for the crowds.  as i ran along in my cute red skirt and white braids, the reaction from the crowd was one of two things;  either they would notice the skirt from a ways off an shout something comical or they would see the hat, yell for ‘santa’ and then amend their statement as they noticed the skirt once i passed.  the reactions were a constant source of humor for me and i made a point of waving to everyone that interacted with me.  this gave me an endless fount of energy and kept a smile on my face for the entire run.

gumbyhead and i were fortunate to have drew show up around mile 3 or 4 and hang out with us for a bit.  he took a pit stop at one point, but we again bumped into him for several miles around his house and then again at the finish.  it was a real pleasure to meet up with him and to have him participate in our goofiness.

DSC_0033the race went really well for the most part, with us nailing a pace right around 9min/mile.  i was confident that gumbyhead would have her sub 4 bq.  but i failed her in one respect.  i didn’t bring a watch.  i REALLY should have had one and not relied on her garmin.  i would have known better when we started dropping time and how much we needed to pick back up.  as we approached the later miles of the race, gumbyhead had to make a pit-stop and waiting at the honey buckets for one to free up ate into our already tenuous time.  once we got going again we were playing catch up, but i was still confident that we’d be able to make up the time.  what i didn’t know, though, was just how bad the two final hills would take their toll on gh.  don’t get me wrong, she pushed hard and dug deeper than i’ve seen many people attempt in the marathon.  she gutted it out even when she doubted she was going to get her bq.

in the end, though, the bq slipped out of our reach, but gh STILL turned in a blistering fast last two miles to cross the line in 4:06.  the great thing about this race, aside from the camaraderie, scenery and weather [duh] was that gh had the opportunity to really dig and see what she’s capable of when things get really hard and bleak.  i’m confident that with a good training cycle where all the long runs are completed and a decent amount of speedwork is accomplished, she’ll see her goal.  i’m crossing my fingers that with the new job under her belt, that training cycle will finally materialize.

oh, and one last groovy thing was smsmh and tc were at the finish cheering for us as we came down the finishing chute.  it is always great to see them come out and support my craziness.  this time, though, smsmh had plopped one of those silly white-braid santa hats on tc’s head so we matched.  as i spotted them in the crowd, i circled back around, picked up tc and trotted across the finish line with him in my arms.  i got a great reaction out of the crowd and from the announcer who said something along the lines of “oh!  what’s this!  it’s two santas!  or, wait!  it’s ms claus and her helper!”  i was laughing, tc was laughing and the crowd was having a blast with it.

i can’t think of anything that would have made this race more enjoyable.  well, maybe a shave and wax.

soundtrack for this post
Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus? lick:
hipsters:
wax:
Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus? (Non-Album Track)
Guster
Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus?

#ctya

thursday night was the last race in the vasque peters canyon summer trail series.  johnathon, the rd, and renegade racing always put on a great race and this series is a ton of fun each year.  it’s a collection of three five mile races through peters canyon in tustin, ca held on the first thursday of june, july and august.  the race benefits the olive crest group homes and finishes off each race with a great bbq and generous raffle.  it’s a blast for participants and spectators alike.  depending on the month, the race will either run clockwise up the canyon and then down the main, hilly ridge or counter clockwise up the hilly ridge and down the canyon.  thursday’s race was the former of the two, which tends to produce a slower time.

for each of these races [and this is the seventh time i’ve done the race over the past three years], as i line up at the start i tell myself, “self, we’re going to take it easy today and just have fun out there”.  and then the gun goes off and everything changes.  i’ve written in the past about how certain participants have inspired my competitive side and for every time i’ve told myself i’d take it easy, i end up turning in a blazing fast time and ending up at the top end of the field.

this month, though, i meant it.  i was determined to run within myself, enjoy the race and not hurt myself like i did last month.  in july, i’d turned in a 34:19 for an 11th place finish and for several days afterward my quads were just dead meat.  going downstairs hurt worse than when i’d finished my bq race at the oc marathon.  and this was only five miles.  so, i’d resolved to take it easy.

i lined up near the front, but not so close that i would be caught up in the initial sprint for positioning.  the gun went off and i found that i was running with a group that was actually right about the pace that i wanted to maintain, comfortably hard.  we headed up the 2.5 mile gradual climb up the canyon and i settled into a solid pace, but with relaxed breathing and a steady stride.  i was feeling good and in a really good groove.  i picked off a couple people on the way to the ridge but not because i’d targeted them for passing.  after about a mile of running, i noticed heavy footfalls that had been trailing right behind me.  someone was pacing off of me.  next, i noticed his heavy breathing.  he was sucking wind and breathing about twice as fast as i was.

i resolved to stick to my pace, keep my breathing steady and calm and not let him influence my pace.  i had the urge to surge and get him off my shoulder, but i resisted and kept my stride comfortable and my breathing relaxed.  i actually cracked up a bit as i counted his breaths compared to mine.  he sounded like he was really struggling, but he was keeping pace right on my shoulder.  with his rabid rapid breathing, i was beginning to wonder how he would fare when we hit the ridge.

before too much longer, i hit the turn and the breather came along with me as we started up onto the ridge.  the turn takes you onto a steeper, but still gradual, climb for about 200y before the course hits the first steep wall.  breather stuck with me until the wall.  i turned on the billy-goat legs and comfortably went up the climb.  no sooner did we hit the wall and i heard the breather pop.  he let out a huge gasp and he threw out the anchor.  i looked back and he was walking.  i turned around, focused on my climbing and returned to my comfortable push.

i won’t lie and say that the hills were easy.  my quads burned and i did push up the climbs, but i didn’t feel like i was tearing myself inside out like i had last month.  i recovered on the back side of each climb and billy-goat’ed each of the successive hills.  eventually, i crested the next to last climb and could see the final hill up ahead.  at the top of that climb was silhouetted a figure that looked familiar.  i heard him cheering for one of the runners ahead and was assured by his style and voice that it was indeed repete.

i barreled down the hill and started up the last climb and repete spotted me.  i started waving wildly and running like phoebe up the climb.  repete pulled out his bike air horn and started honking and yelling.  i quickly composed myself and said to repete as i ran past, “calmer than you are!”.  because i was.

the rest of the race was a easy gradual descent back to the start and i just focused on stride, turn over and my breathing.  the whole time i felt like i was really running within myself and was happy to have not pushed too hard.  as i neared the finish line, i remembered that i didn’t have a watch on and was curious what my finishing time would be.  i glanced up as i came across the finish line and was shocked to see 34:20.  one second slower than last month.

my “taking it easy” had netted me a comparable time to last month on what is supposed to be a slower course.  go figure.  i guess i really was #ctya or at least calmer than last month.

soundtrack for this post
No Hassle lick:
hipsters:
wax:
Rosa
Tosca
No Hassle

saddleback trail marathon

on a whim last friday, i signed up for a trail marathon.  the unconventional thing was that the marathon was the following weekend.  rather than train specifically for it or even taper, i spent this past week performing my normal training schedule.  with three challenging 10mi runs on my legs for the week already, i toed the line this morning ready to take on what was billed as california’s hardest trail marathon.

the race director, baz, an ausie ex-pat, set the most amazing vibe at the start by personally greeting everyone and giving a fantastic pre-race briefing that included jabs at runners and much colorful language.  the guy is a nut and the vibe was set for a fun day.

we headed off and immediately began our climb up to the trabuco trail.  the first 1,000′ climb was uneventful and i just slowly worked my way up the fire road.  at the aid station at the top of trabuco, i hooked up with my buddy, marisa, and we ran the downhill to the next aid station together.  as always, the first question i get asked is, "how’s your little guy?" and i get to spend the next hour just gushing over what a groovy little kid i have.  we rolled into the holy jim aid station at the nine mile mark, fueled up and then i took off up the holy jim climb. 

this climb is a steep, 4+ mile section of switchbacks that climbs about 2,500′ up to the main divide road just below the santiago peak.  i ran this section alone and just dropped into a comfortably mellow pace and just focused on form and managing the climb without stopping.  about half way up, i remembered that a member of my trail club, kirk, was managing the aid station at the top.

kirk and i have a long history.  we’ve never met.

kirk, who is known for his wonderfully sarcastic remarks, is constantly taking shots at me on our club forum.  the problem with this zingers is that i rarely end up seeing the posts until it’s been months after the fact, and by then, it’s too late to respond.  all of this lead to the thought that, "maybe kirk thinks i’m mad at him for all the comments".  kirk, i should mention, is one of the most well respected members of the club for his sincerity, sensitivity and selflessness.

as i ran up holy jim, i got the GREAT idea to really give him a scare when i saw him.  my buddy, donald, had just posted an entry about a great alternative pre-race warm up.  a maori haka.  the night before, i had joked with smsmh about doing one at the start of the race to solidify in people’s minds just what a nut i am.  i spent a couple minutes describing and practicing one and was even joined by thunderclap in my insanity.

anyway, in my fatigue induced state, i thought it would be a GREAT idea to try out my haka on kirk, and make him think that i was going to take out all of my fury on him.  for the next few miles until i hit bear springs, i was giggling to myself.

so, i topped out at bear springs and was immediately greeted by kirk.  he asked how i was doing.  i responded, "i have been running for just over 14 miles with one singular thought in my mind; this moment."  kirk responded, "oh?  really?"  at that point, i started into my haka, breathing deep, grunting and getting into a squat stance.  i threw my hand held water bottle to the ground and started shouting a resounding guttural growl.  i continued my yell/growl and began stomping, slapping thighs and arms and made motions of tearing flesh from bone and finished off with a throat slitting motion.  i stood up, reached forward and shook kirks hand while breaking into a laugh.

the look on his face was PRICELESS.  the great thing was that there were about 10 other people at the aid station that had no idea what the heck was going on.  i had to quickly explain so that no body thought that i was rabid, losing my mind or in need of medical attention.  kirk and i had a good laugh and as i left the aid station i shouted back at kirk, "that was for all the things you said about my mom!"  kirk responded, "i never said anything about your mom….to your face!"  touche, kirk!

off i went again.  the next section of trail was mostly rolling but before hitting the next aid station, it climbed to the pass next to trabuco peak, the highest point on the course.  this was another 500′+ climb over the course of a mile or so and was steep enough to scrape your nose as you worked your way up.  i was still feeling pretty solid on this portion of the run, but i could feel the effort of running the whole holy jim section combined with my miles from the previous week.  at the 18mi aid station, i topped off fluids, chatted briefly with the crew and then headed off for the ‘easy’ portion of the route.

no sooner had i left the aid station and i went through my "wall" section.  i turned on some music and nick cave started singing.

"well the road is long, and the road is hard, and many fall by the side"

i had planned on showing up to the race this morning both sore and tired from the week with the hopes of really suffering through some difficult sections.  well, i wasn’t disappointed as my quads, hips and calves began their incessant screaming.  but i listened to nick…

"i went on down the road, he went on down the road"

this "easy" section of the route was really taking it’s toll on me.  the rolling climbs and drops were beating up my quads and flaming my calves.  the loose and uneven fire road was wearing on my feet.  and my joints, oh, my joints.  but i kept running, because as nick said, i was the captain of my pain.

"i am the captain of my pain, tis the bit, the bridle, the trashing cane, the stirrup, the harness, the whipping mane, the pickled eye, the shrinking brain, o brother, buy me one more drink, i’ll explain the nature of my pain, yes, let me tell you once again, i am the captain of my pain"

before too much longer, the perseverance paid off and i rounded a corner on a climb and could see up above me, about a quarter mile off, the trabuco aid station.  john resnick was there, checking off runners and he gave me the great news that i was the 22nd runner.  i topped off and headed back out.  knowing that i was a mere 3 miles from the finish spurred me on.  i felt rejuvenated and began to push my pace.  i moved quickly on the downhill back to the finish and
the pains from a handful of miles previously were forgotten.  before i knew it, i was rounding a corner on the falcon creek trail and spotted the cars parked at the finish.  i picked it up and finished strong.  i waved my arms in the air as baz congratulated me, stopped my watch and was pleased to see a 4:24 finish time.

after a tough course with 5,100′ of climbing i was happy with my time, happy to be done with the "racing on fatigued leg experiment" and happy to have really messed with kirk’s head and solidified the perception that i am a nut case.

soundtrack for this post
Laugh? I Nearly Bought One! lick:
hipsters:
wax:
Wardance
Killing Joke
Laugh? I Nearly Bought One!

zipper quigley

the thing that stood out most about the drive up to santa barbara this year vs. last year was the weather.  a marine layer dominated the sky and was just beginning to burn off when we arrived at around 1pm.  "if that could hold through the weekend", i thought, "it’d be great weather for the race."

saturday dawned cool and overcast and as the sky began to lighten, i was already at the transition area with my gear completely set up and ready to rock.  lesley, who was racing the following day in her first sprint, waited with me while my start time grew closer.  we joked around about how hard it is to cheer for people with normal names at large races.  yelling "john!" or "eric!" might not get the same response as someone named "zipper".  if your name was zipper, you’d know if someone was trying to get your attention.  i also mentioned that in the family reunion areas at large races i always tell my crew to meet me at the letter "q".  the "s" area is always jammed.  so, i guess the ideal race day name would be something like "zipper quigley".

DSC_0894 my wave was scheduled to start the swim at 7:09 and i was suited up and ready to swim with plenty of time to spare.  as my wave prepared to swim, i positioned myself in my customary location;  outside left, toward the back.  the swim is my weakest discipline and the chaos of the pack always un-nerves me.

the horn sounded and we were off.  i ran down the beach, waded into the surf, waited for a wave to crash and then dove in.  i quickly had my face in the water and began focusing on my stroke.  i also quickly realized that i was in the middle of my wave, not to the outside, and definitely not at the back.  as we rounded the first buoy, i took stock and noticed that i was, surprisingly, comfortable.  my heart rate was fine, i was swimming with a really powerful stroke and i was right in the main mix of my wave and not bothered by the kicks and bumps. 

i found a guy that slowly swam past me and tucked right in behind him.  i was able to draft off of him for the whole swim.  i took a couple kicks to the face, but nothing that messed with my goggles.  the great thing, though, was just how comfortable i felt in the middle of all that chaos. 

before i knew it, we were back in the surf and i was running up the beach.  goggles on head, unzip the suit, strip to the waist and head into t1.  the transition was seamless.  the suit came off without a hitch, helmet on, shoes on, grab the sunglasses and bike and i was off.

DSC_0937 the bike course is tough.  there are some challenging climbs that are single digit speed steep and the resulting downhill sections are technical with sharp, steep turns and incredibly poor road conditions.  i pushed hard on the bike, making sure i didn’t fall asleep at any point and always at the height of effort.  i was able to pass a significant number of people on this leg, and the thing i noticed this year vs. last year was that most of the cyclists were in my age group.  in races past, i usually end up coming out of the water a wave or two behind mine.  not this time.  i was still right in the mix.  on one of the main climbs, a car [the course was open] came up on my left and i heard the ringing of cowbells and shouts of "zipper quigley!"

DSC_0940 it was kevin and the kids.  lesley had relayed my race day name joke and now the kids were using it to cheer for me.  what a great boost of energy and motivation.  our host family is the BEST at race day crewing. 

at one point, a guy in a kain jersey passed me up [with a 35 on his calf], cut right in front of me, turned around and gave me the "lance" look.  excuse me?  i wasn’t sure what that was for, but i backed off, got out of his draft zone and picked it back up and passed him on the next climb.  this went on for a while, with the two of us yo-yo’ing back and forth.  eventually, i passed him and didn’t see him again on the bike leg.

DSC_0972 the bike leg went by pretty quick and before i knew it, i had hit 30 miles and was on the home stretch.  i rolled into t2, ditched the shoes, slipped on my running shoes [now with yankz!], grabbed my visor and was off!  i ran down my rack, headed toward the run exit when a yell of "helmet! helmet!" caught my attention and i realized i still had my helmet on.  duh.  i turned around, ditched it and waved a thanks to the folks who had clued me in.

feeling like a dolt, i headed out onto the run.  within seconds, i found myself running up on "lance".  i settled into a strong, but comfortable pace, blew past him and didn’t even give him the courtesy of a glance.  that loss of 20-30 seconds with the helmet must have let him get ahead of me, but i wasn’t going to let him pass me again.

DSC_0976 my legs felt quite good on the run and i didn’t have the stomach problems that had plagued me last year.  gotta hand it to racing with proven fluids and fuel.  i ran a comfortably fast pace, handled the climb up onto the bluff without any difficulty and before i knew it, we were at the five mile turn around.  as i climbed back up to the bluff, i saw "lance" again, a couple minutes behind me and looking like he was really struggling.  i put on a happy face and ran past him moving fluidly and confident.

i picked up the pace a bit on the way down off the bluff and pushed a bit on the run into the finish.  my run pace wasn’t flying compared to what i’ve done in just running races, but i was happy to be keeping about a 7:20 average for 10 miles  after 35 miles of other disciplines.  i came across the finish line smiling with a pr-busting 3:29:17, a full 16 minutes off of last year’s time.

DSC_0986 i was over the moon with my time, and i felt fantastic.  like i said previously, i may have been in better tri-shape last year, but i FELT better this year, and that made all the difference.  when i looked at the splits for the race, i was surprised to see that i had dropped five minutes on each of the disciplines and the last minute was attributed to faster t1 & t2 times. 

i’ll have to say that this year’s santa barbara tri was my best tri performance to date.  i can’t wait to challenge my pr next year!

soundtrack for this post
Dumbing Up lick:
hipsters:
wax:
Santa Barbara
World Party
Dumbing Up

summer trail series – race report

well, i made it out to the third and final race of the summer trail series in peters canyon. again, it was a great day; sunny, a little warm and comfortably breezy. smsmh and tc came out to watch and we were all able to hang out for a while before the race started up. jessica showed up shortly before the race started, too, and she was finally able to meet tc and see in person just how chubbily awesome he is.
i hopped into the starting chute a couple minutes before the start and spotted several people that i knew. i chatted with a few people, and while i was talking to rick from snails pace [now fleet feet], i spotted the guy. yup. he was there again, doing his same, macho bouncing, head shaking and arm waving. yup. the growler was back. this time, though, he was actually complaining about how many people showed up. what? dood. more people means that the race organizers will probably continue the series. yeah…i know it means you’ll finish further back and your high ranking from the first race when there were only 75 people there will be blown. but dood. you’re not elite. and it’s not ‘your race’. so, quit yer growling.
this time, the course ran up the canyon clockwise and then looped back onto the ridge just after the two mile mark. i caught the growler within the first mile, and yes, he was growling when i passed him. i was feeling pretty good and was slowly trying to work my way up through the ranks. there were a ton of high school xc kids this time around, which made for some fun racing. when we hit the hills, the kids would slow down on the climbs, but come flying past me on the downhills.
i ended up yo-yo’ing with a couple hs guys. on one of the climbs i touched one of the kids on the back as i went past him and said, “tag, you’re it!”. he laughed and laughed again when he flew past me on the backside of the hill. those kids were fearless on some really steep stuff. man…to be young again and not care about my knees! haha
after we cruised out of the hills, we hit the long downhill and i passed up the guy that i’d tagged earlier. i told him “good job” and then looked back and added, “don’t let me beat you!” once he’d recovered from the hills, he started his kick and there was no way i could keep up with him. i did pass a few other guys on the final stretch into the finish, but i’d been tagged and my quarry was going to stay away.
the funny thing is that i thought this course felt harder and that i was going a little bit slower, but turns out i finished almost a minute faster than last month. final time was a 34:55, just a hair under a 7 minute pace for the course. i was really happy, and once i’d cooled down, ready to eat some grub at the bbq that the organizers put on. what a great finish to the series and something i’ll definitely do again next summer.