Sunday, April 25, 2010

Xterra Crystal Cove Trail Race Volunteer Report

In my two year running career I have run quite a few races.  I have always been appreciative of all the volunteers, but never really thought much about what it takes to put on a race.

Last month I read a blog post from Danica about volunteering and realized that I have been selfish with my races.  When I have the time to go to a race, I want to run it.  But shouldn’t I take the time to “give back to the running community” (to quote Danica) for everything it has given me?  I decided to find a race to volunteer for.  I looked into volunteering at the LA Marathon, but they had all the help they needed.  Then, while looking at possible trail races to run, I saw Crystal Cove.  Honestly, I was hoping to run it, but it was sold out.  I e-mailed them and offered to help.

The pre-race volunteer info was pretty thorough.  They sent a sixteen page document that describes, in detail, all the volunteer positions.  A couple of days before the race, I was e-mailed a list containing all the volunteer assignments.  I knew that I was going to do registration and food.  Knowing that really helped during the chaotic pre-dawn setup.  I didn’t feel like I had to track someone down to ask what I was doing.  I just went to the registration/food area and started working.

This morning my alarm went off SO early.  I had to be at Crystal Cove State Park at 5:30!  It is a 30-35 minute drive.  It was very hard to drag myself out of bed that early to volunteer.  I didn’t know what to expect and I was actually a little nervous.  When I arrived, it was still very dark.  The only hitch of the entire day was the parking.  I had no idea where to go.  I had thought that I had read that we should park at the school at the bottom of the hill.  That lot was empty.  I saw a guy get out of a truck to put up a sign and asked him where I park and he directed me up the road.  What he failed to do was tell me that he had our parking passes.  So after finding the right people in the park, I had to drive back down to the entrance to get my pass from him. Not a good start.   Luckily, the day got better from there.

We started out by setting up the t-shirts, goodie bags* and the registration area. The volunteer coordinator was super busy and was in and out of the area quite a bit.  All the volunteers worked really well together.  Nobody just stood around; we all were pitching in right away.  She gave some general directions about the food prep and headed off to do her thing.  We started taking care of business.  We cut up oranges, bananas, melons, muffins and croissants.**  By the time she had returned, we had a good portion of the food prep done.

Then I moved to start helping with registration for the 17K race***.  Time flew by as I handed out bibs, shirts and bags.  The runners were in a good mood and the weather was perfect for running (around 50 degrees and overcast).  This race was originally scheduled for December. It has been rescheduled three times due to rain since the park closes the trails in heavy rain.  I think everyone was glad to finally run this scenic course.

After helping cook scrambled eggs and then doing the registration for the 5K race, I was asked to help with the timing of the 5K.  This was my favorite task of the day.  I had a clipboard and pen and had to write the bib numbers and finish time of the runners as they came in.  This was no easy task!  Thankfully, they told me that it was ok if I missed a few, since the clipboard was just a way to double check.  There were no chips in the race, so they used the old fashion chute system with the bottom of the bibs on a ring.  After the first finishers came in, very close to a course record, I relaxed a bit and had fun.  I cheered for the runners as they crossed the finish line.  I really enjoyed cheering for the later runners.  They seemed to appreciate it more. 

I was out there for almost eight hours.  Phew… I am tired.  I feel like I actually ran today.  Often I wished that I was out there on the trails.  However, I think it was better that I didn’t run today.  I ran four days in a row and twenty five miles, which normally wouldn’t be that big of a week.  Running 17K would have brought my mileage over 35.  Since my last week running over 30 miles was well over a month ago, I would be pushing it a bit.  I really like to follow the 10% rule**** when I can to avoid doing too much, too soon and getting injured.

It was a good day.  I have a new found appreciation for everything that goes into putting on a race (and this was a pretty small one!).  I am glad that I was able to do several different things.  Next time, I might want to try out course marking and aid stations.  I met some great people (and even saw some familiar faces) and am sure I will see many of them again.  Xterra and Generic Events does a great job and I can't wait to run or work another one soon!  Fun times.

Happy Running.

*The t-shirts are pretty nice. They are cotton, but they are a nice maroon color.  The bags are cloth reusable shopping totes; so much better than plastic bags!
**There was quite a spread.  In fact, I am not sure I have been to many races that had that much food afterward.  In addition to the fruit and baked goods, we made fresh scrambled eggs for the runners after the race.  It was awesome.  After the race, runners were raving about the fantastic food.
***There was a 17K and a 5K race.  In order to minimize the impact on the trails, the races were run separately.  The 17K started at 8 a.m. and the 5K at noon.
****I try to increase weekly mileage no more than 10% a week.  If I do more than that, I try to take it easy the next week in order to let my body get used to the additional miles.

Monday, April 19, 2010

OC Chili Winter Trail Run Series #3 Race Report

 The first race in this series was my very first trail race; I suppose it was the gateway drug, so to speak.  The second was equally as fun.  Saturday was the last race of the series and it didn’t disappoint.

The weather was warmer this week than it was the previous two races.  Maybe because the other two were actually in the winter.  The series should have been called “Two Winter, One Spring Trail Run Series.”  I had on a long sleeve tech shirt because it was a bit chilly in the morning.  At the last minute, I through on a tank top underneath.  I ended up just going with the tank top.  Spring it here!
Heidi and I arrived a bit later than the last two races, so we didn’t hang out before as long.  By the time we used the bathroom and picked up our bibs, it was time for things to start.  With very little fanfare (just a recording of the Star Spangled Banner), we were off.
I immediately knew that my fitness level was lower than it was a month ago.  Spring break and general lack of motivation has taken its toll on my endurance.  This week I ran twenty-three miles, which is the most I have run in over a month.  I have not run more than seventeen miles since the week of March 14.  But I think that this week marks a turning point.  I am ready to start training again.

The course was reversed from the last two times because they couldn’t get the same start/finish area.  It was an interesting twist.  We began the race with a long stretch of pavement and then a gradual incline of single track.  The steeper fire roads were now in the second half of the race.
OC Trail Run single track
OC Trail Run hill
I liked being able to go a bit faster on the downhills in the second half.  However, there was no shade during the second half and it did start to get a bit warm.
OC Trail Run self portrait
Oneill Park OC Trail Run
I started to feel in the groove toward the last part of the race.  It helped that it was mostly downhill.  However, once we got on to the pavement for the final stretch, I was able to kick it up into another gear—one that I thought had disappeared.  I ran my final mile at just under an 8:00 pace!

Just when I was feeling good about being able to kick it up a notch at the end, one runner blew me away.  I was totally impressed.  There was a little girl running with her dad (or coach).  She looked like she was about nine, but looking at the results, I found out she is eleven.  I was going back and forth with her and her dad during the uphill sections of the course.  He was definitely coaching her on how to climb and descend.  When we hit the blacktop for the last section of the race, he told her “this is the home stretch.”  She started picking it up.  A LOT.  As I glanced at my Garmin and saw that I was averaging 8:10, she was pulling away.  Several other runners and I commented on how fast she was.  As she turned into the final straight-away, she was in a full on sprint.  She ended up finishing 45 seconds ahead of me and she was behind me with about a mile to go.  Wow!  

Question:  when can I start my kids running??  How young is too young?   But that might be a question for another post.

I finished 4.85 miles in 47:39 (9:50 average pace).  Even though I didn’t feel as strong as last month, I averaged three seconds faster than the March race!  I think that I am getting better at running downhill and was able to pick up my slack on the downhill sections of the race.

After I finished, I waited for Heidi and cheered for her as she came in.  She did pretty well considering that she hasn’t run much lately either.  She ran pretty comparable to the first run of the series, but not quite as good as last month’s.
OC Chili Winter Trail Run Series
We hung out for a bit, socializing with other runners and eating.  They had chili (which tasted surprisingly good after a hot run), raw food bars, bananas and licorice.  They then gave away the raffle prizes.  For three races with numerous small prizes and only a handful of runners, neither Heidi nor I won a single thing!!  That definitely beat the odds.   I really am due for winning something at a race.
OC Trail Run Chili feast
I really enjoyed this race series.  It was small, but well-organized.  The runners and the race staff were all very friendly.  The t-shirt, which was optional, was actually pretty cool (pictured above). I will definitely be back again next year.

Good luck Boston runners!!

I'm thinking about all the people anxiously waiting for the start of the marathon this morning.  I know that there are plenty of bloggers out there running, but right now I can only remember Lindsay, TeaMarcia, and  Scott.  I'll shout out to them and anyone else running this morning.  I hope it is a great race!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


birthday cake

Today I am 43.  Yikes… seeing it in writing makes me feel OLD.

I ran my first race at age 40 (the Iron Girl 10K in San Diego).  I ran my first marathon at age 41 (as well as my first and second half marathons).  I ran my second and third marathons when I was 42 years old (along with various other fun races).

So what does this next year hold? 

This year I hope to run my first ultra marathon, a 50k.  I also hope to qualify for Boston.  Those are some pretty big goals.   Wish me luck!

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's all relative

It is so funny how your perspective changes as you become a runner.  When I first started this journey two years ago, a long run was five miles.  I remember clearly how amazing it was to me to finally say, “I only ran five miles this morning” or “today was an easy six.”  I was so nervous before my first double digit run.  Each week during that first marathon training, I ran a little farther than I had ever run before.  My frame of reference for distance has changed so much since then. 

In that first year of running, no matter what I did, I ran ten-minute-miles.  It didn’t matter if it was two miles or seven, I ran between 9:40 and 10:20 every time.  Somehow, over the miles, I found myself going a little bit faster.  As my endurance got better, so did my speed.  After I was done with that first marathon, I found that I could focus a bit on my speed.  Two months ago, I ran a marathon averaging just over nine minutes per mile.  What a change!

But no matter how far you go or how much faster you get there, someone is going faster or farther.  When I ran my first 25K a few weeks ago, I ran it in just over three hours (a 12:15 average pace).  The winner of the 50K, the Alaskan Assassin, ran his race in just over four hours (a 8:29 average pace)!  Heck, that is right around my pace for my half marathon PR (and that is on a relatively flat road).  As amazing as that was, I read recently that one of his teammates ran a 100 mile race in 13:23 (an unbelievable 8 minute pace!!!!!) 

As fast and strong as these guys are, they still struggle with the same issues that the rest of us do.  Evan, the awesome dude who broke the Malibu Creek course record, wrote on his blog how he will never be an “elite.”  He knows how strong he is, how much training he puts in and how his genetics play a part.  As unbelievable as this may sound to the rest of us, even running studs sometimes struggle with self-doubt.  Many of my “middle of the pack” friends write very similar posts (even though this guy is lapping us on these runs).  It all has to do with individual frame of reference.

The other day I had a nice slow run out on the trails.  I felt really good about the run, where I averaged a pace just shy of 11:00.  On the other hand, when I was running on the river path averaging just over 10:00, I felt super slow.  For some reason, when I am running off road, it is fine to go nice and easy, averaging much slower.  I felt great about my 25K where my pace was slower than any of my training runs.  How I feel about my pace is definitely relative to where I am running.

What this long and winding post is saying is that I have learned that nothing is absolute in running (or in life, for that matter).  Perspective changes.  It changes over time.  It changes due to those around you.


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