Friday, May 29, 2009

Bay to Breakers Part 1 - We Arrive

I always enjoy San Francisco. I have mostly visited on business trips. But this time it was all pleasure! The Bay to Breakers run was on Sunday. So Kris and I drove up leisurely on Saturday. It was nice to roll out of bed slowly, have coffee then get on the road without a sense of urgency.

The drive up was surprisingly easy. It only took us four hours and the traffic wasn’t bad the whole way. I’ll admit, I’m afraid to drive in San Francisco. It’s stupid. I have driven in metro areas before. But there’s something about driving in San Francisco that freaks me out. Maybe it’s the one way streets, crazy hills, pedestrians that ignore crossing signals, congestion of autos, trolly cars, huge buses and cable cars all zooming around on top of each other. Yeah, that’s probably it.

So the hotel we had reservations at advertised “self or valet parking”. My previous experience with San Francisco hotels has been that the parking is on site (usually under) the hotel. Well we found the hotel but no parking garage. Odd. Kris had never been to San Francisco before. So I was the ‘expert’ in the group. God help us!

“Try driving around the block again. We must have missed the sign for the hotel parking.” I suggested.

But we couldn’t just drive around the block because of the one way streets. We had to drive up TWO blocks. Then drive up this impossibly steep hill. Of course the light was red when we reached the corner. So we had to stop at the top. This hill was so steep that our car was almost pointed straight up. I felt like an astronaut strapped into a rocket set on a launch pad. Scary. I prayed the car behind us would leave us enough room to accommodate the back slide the car would have to do when Kris took his foot of the brake before it would have enough momentum to pull itself up and onto the cross street.

Then when we made our way around the next corner we had to drive DOWN the hill that matched the hill we drove UP two blocks ago. That’s not so bad except the light turned red, again. And when Kris hit the brakes, the car had to fight a lot more gravity than usual to stop. And there was a car in front of us. And our car kept sliding down the hill. I shut my eyes. The car stopped. Phew! You know, it was then I realized I’m tense! I really needed a vacation!

We found out during check in that the parking lot was two blocks away. In fact, we had passed it while we were circling the block. It was a public lot that the hotel contracts with. I learn something new every time I visit San Francisco.

Our first order of business after check in was to get to the Bay to Breakers expo to pick up our race packets and check out the vendors. It was a couple miles away. But I like to walk in San Francisco. So off we went.

We were signed up to run with a team called Organic Athletes. (They are a group of vegans and vegetarian athletes). The organizer was going to pick up everyone’s race packets at the expo and bring them to the meeting spot the next day. I don’t like not knowing for sure that I have my race packet. So I e-mailed the organizer a week before to let him know Kris and I would pick up our own packets.

I am my father’s daughter. I don’t like to leave things to chance. How do I know for sure the organizer will get our packets? What if they get lost? What if there is a mistake in my registration info? The organizer wouldn’t know or even be able to fix it. Besides, I wanted to put the chip on my shoe and my numbers on my jersey the night before so I wouldn’t have to fuss with anything at the start line.

So I was a bit disappointed when we hiked two miles to the expo and found out our packets had already been picked up. Ugh! I was afraid I would toss and turn all night worrying about my packet getting to me the next morning. Logically I know it’s stupid. The organizer is perfectly capable of picking up packets and getting them to the meeting point. I really should be able to let it go. Yet I still felt uneasy as I walked away from the pick up table.

I asked myself what is the worse that could happen? The answer was that my packet gets lost and I don’t have numbers or a chip. Oh well. I’m not fast enough to care about being “chipped”. (I know I’m going to be in the lower half of the racers). Besides, I wear two different tracking devices that both record my time/distance/pace which is what the chip does. I have my registration confirmation e-mail which should get me into the post race festival. The worse that would happen is that I wouldn’t have chipped time and I’d have to take my e-mail confirmation to the race with me. Big deal!

I stopped worrying and Kris and I went to check out the vendors.

I had been to Bay to Breakers in 2000 as a spectator and I remember the expo being HUGE!!! Row after row after row of booths and lots of stuff to look at and sample. This year, it was a fraction of the size. The major players like Nike, Rebook and Polar were there. But other than that, there were only about 20 or so other smaller vendors. I managed to find a decent running hat which I needed. So at least I didn’t leave empty handed. J

We made it back to the hotel and it was time for dinner. There was a 50s diner on the corner by the hotel. So we decided to try that for a quick dinner before getting ready for the race the next day and then bedtime.

I thought it’d be easy to find veggie options in San Francisco since it’s large and liberal. It was more than easy! There were several veggie options on the menu and I mean without having to make substitutions or special requests. And when we ordered veggie items, the server asked about cheese as if they are conscientious about vegans. So cool!!! And the food was delicious!!!!! It was so nice to go out to eat and have so many choices without having to stand on our heads. And our food experience on our trip was only going to get better!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bull Canyon Run P. 3 - The People I Saw

Kris and I are standing at the start waiting to go and I am impressed by the diversity of the crowd. People of every age, size, shape, nationality and several four footed runners as well.

There were several people that were running with strollers making it a family affair. It just goes to show you anyone can run.

The race started and off we all trotted in unity. As usual, my spirits soared with the joy of group running. I thought to myself, I want to do this the rest of my life!!! A few seconds later a noticed a young girl pass me on my right. Wait, that is not a young girl! It’s a lady who was several inches shorter than me because she (obviously) had osteoporosis. I think I mistook her at first for a young girl because I saw her long silver braid resting on her curved back and mistook it for blonde hair.

She really struck me because she was short like me, thick like me and she was wearing pink like me!

My heart swelled with hope (or maybe I just went out too fast from the start line) at the prospect of still running even when I am a bent old lady. As I watched her leave me behind in the crowd, I thought “I’ll never see that speedy senior again.” (I did.)

I ‘ran’ on as person after person after person passed me. I didn’t care. I was out there running after three weeks away on business. I finally had time to go on a significant run and better yet, share it with my husband who I had sorely missed.

I was struck by the seniors who were running and the children! I saw kids as young as eight running. I was especially touched by seeing young girls running with their Moms. What a great way to bond and share. I was so proud of the moms sharing activities with their daughters that would teach them healthy habits, hard work, self esteem and confidence. I saw a young girl running with her dad. Again, what a great message to send your daughter and build a special connection. It was so uplifting it made the run easy.

Then I hit the first hill. I cleared it effortlessly. The spirit of the people and the uplifting atmosphere I’m sure made it that way. I am definitely going to do this for the rest of my life.

The organizers had marked the route every 1k. So the signs ticked off as I went and I was continuing to be passed by others. I even was amazed at how soon I saw the first runners coming back from the turn around point (it was an out and back). I started to think about how slow I run and that I might as well be walking. But I don’t like walking as much. It doesn’t feel as good for some reason.

So I tried to just remind myself, it doesn’t matter how fast I go as long as I still love it. So I kept ‘shuffling’ along and soon I saw a figure in pink to my left. It was someone on the way back from the turn around. I saw out of the corner of my eye that the person may be looking my way. So I turned toward them and saw the lady with the silver ponytail. She wasn’t looking my way, she was looking right at me; into my eyes. As soon as our eyes met she gave me a beautiful smile.

Call it “Hoo hoo” but I have had many times in my life when I felt people’s energy and knew they felt mine. I am certain that lady sensed my eagerness somehow. Her gaze said clearly to me, “Don’t worry. You will be like me.” And it made me feel so good!

When I am an old lady, I will grow my silver hair out long and wear in a braid down my back ……when I go out for my runs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bull Canyon Run 2009 – Part 2 - What I Wore

Let’s start out with the most important information. What did I wear to my first running event in almost 10 years?

I had to wear my cute pink running skirt.

I love running skirts! They are so girly and cute! And especially since it took a LOOONNG time for women’s running to be accepted, I like to think I make a statement in it. “Yeah, I’m a girl and Yeah, I’m running!”

But to be honest I think most of the people running today are too young to remember those times when women weren’t allowed (yes I said “allowed”) to run because (I’m not joking here) popular belief was that not only were women too delicate to run but their uteruses would jiggle out and there goes their ability to bear children. OMG!!!

So instead of making a significant political statement, I usually just end up confusing the men. “Is she running in a skirt?” “She’s wearing shorts under there right?” “What is she wearing under there?”

Seriously, once in awhile I can see guys take a double take and then get a funny look on their face while they try to sort out my wardrobe choice. It’s pretty entertaining.

I wear a skirt when I go mountain biking every year at Mammoth Lakes Mountain Bike Park. It’s even more fun there because the guys who use too much attention trying to find out if they really saw a girl riding in a skirt usually go off trail and crash. Then I giggle. (I know, I’m a little bit evil).

I know you’re curious; of course I wear shorts under the skirt! Are you kidding me?? I could just see me tripping and going ass over tea kettle, as they say, and my big white butt reflecting the sunlight so intensely the nearby runners are blinded. There’s a lawsuit waiting to happen I’m sure.

So I wore a plain white tank top as the skirt has pretty, white hibiscus flowers on it giving it a very Hawaiian feel. The Cou de gras was that I had a pair of biking socks that matched the skirt perfectly! The same pink and same flowers. My biking and running socks are both made from the same technical fabric so I can wear them for either sport.
Another cross over garment was my bolero. A couple years back I found a great alternative to the run of the mill arm warmers bikers use. The typical arm warmers are just tubes of lycra with elastic at each end. You put the arm warmers on your arms like socks with the feet cut off. The problem with these are that the elastic either cuts off the circulation in my upper arms when they are new and they slide down annoyingly when they get old. Additionally, since there are two of them it is easy to lose one.

A bolero is like a jacket that has been cut off just under the arm pits. So you slip it on like a jacket but you are only covering your arms and shoulders. So you get warmth only on your arms with no circulation problems, no stretching over time and no chance of dropping half of it behind you when you pull them off mid-ride.

My bolero is a light lime green that seemed to complement my pink shorts nicely. I knew I wouldn’t need it for long. But it was a little cold on the way out. So I decided to bring it with me.

I was the slowest runner out there. But I was the best dressed and as far as I could see, the only one in a skirt! 

Bull Canyon Run 2009 – Part 1 (To Ride or To Run. That is The Question)

I had been working in Northern California for the last three weeks. I had taken my bike up with me so I could keep up with my biking schedule. I had the Conejo ride scheduled for the weekend of May 9th. It’s my favorite ride of the year. And since my biking season started early this year, I decided to go for the 68 miler instead of the usual 35 miler that typically opens the season for the bank’s employee bike team.

I knew I couldn’t be off my bike for three weeks and do a 68 miler with hills. So I took my bike on my business trip with great enthusiasm and expectations. What a great way to unplug after work after all. Sure beats sitting in a hotel room every evening.

3 weeks; 0 bike rides.

Yeah it would be nice to sit in the hotel room in the evening. I basically was only in the room to crash at night. The work ended up being early days and late evenings. Also, I was not in a bike friendly town! No bike lanes. Actually, the roads didn’t even have shoulders. I was in a very rural area. The roads were mostly narrow farm roads that ran between moderately sized clusters of buildings that made up the little towns. All the residents of these towns would drive these tiny roads, very fast, bouncing between their homes and workplaces. I did not feel safe at all. If I was riding with even one more person, I would have felt better. I would have felt like we were more likely to be seen. But here, alone, hhhmmm; I don’t think so.

Anoter clue that this was not a bike friendly town was that I didn’t see another single biker! Not one. I was afraid the drivers wouldn’t even know what I was if they did see me on the road.

No the biking was not happening.

So between not biking for three weeks (except for the odd short one when I was home on the weekend) and the fact that to make it to the Conejo ride, I would have to get up at 5:00am and drive for two hours to get to Conejo. And that is after getting in late the night before from a four hour drive home. Hhhm, serious fatigue + no biking + 68 miles + tough hills = dead Jill. No. For the first time since the bank’s bike team formed, I would not be riding Conejo.

But I wanted to do something. I had been able to sneak in a few runs while traveling. And the Bull Canyon run was right in Santa Maria. I could literally roll out of bed and go run. Which is what I did.