Cinnamon Bun Run

Today was a 5k fundraiser for the Ladysmith food bank, but really what better reason to run than to get a cinnamon bun at the end?

I really wanted to run well to make up for last week's brutal 10k. My runs have been really off and on lately, some great and some terrible, so I knew there was an ok run in there somewhere, and I was hoping today would be the day. The format of this race was a bit different - you registered with your predicted time, and the person whose finish was closest to their prediction would be the winner. No watches, GPS's, heart rate monitors etc allowed.

I started fast, hoping I could just hang on since it was only 5k. I knew it was too fast though since I could barely breathe and it wasn't long before I had a side stitch. But I tried to ignore it and keep going. I was surrounded by people, so I knew things were better than last week were I got dropped by pretty much the whole field in about the first 30 seconds.

The town of Ladysmith is carved into the side of a hill (which affords all the locals an ocean view), but the organizers did a good job of not making us run too many ugly hills. There was a tough one at about the halfway mark, and I'm pretty sure my heart rate at that point was doing it's best hummingbird imitation. But it also meant there'd be a downhill, and it was much more gradual so I got a chance to recover and then I tried to kick it up a notch again.

I had about 4k at that pace in me, then I collided with that figurative brick wall. I heard Norm and Wendy (pushing Tycho and Tessa in their baby joggers) yelling "Alison we're coming for you!" and then they pretty much blew by me as I started going backwards. I found the silver lining though: I was ahead of Wendy Simms - yes THAT Wendy Simms, former National Cyclocross Champion and all around superstar - for about 4k. Um yeah, ignore the fact that she just had a baby and was pushing a baby jogger that I slipped a 50-pound weight in at the start. (OK, maybe not but it's a good idea for next time). I tried to keep them in sight to the finish and I came in on fumes big time. Oh well, 4k of good running and 1k of death shuffle was still better than practically crawling like I did last week.

Of course the highlight was the cinnamon bun... gooey yummy goodness.

Norm & Wendy inhaled their cinnamon buns but I
savored mine. Tycho looks like he wants to steal it though.

Toeing the Line Again

I'm in for 2012, my second Ironman Arizona and my third Ironman total. Woohoo! Who's with me?

Double Day

Sometimes I get these crazy ideas, and I depend on the sane people around me to talk me out of it. My most recent crazy idea was to do two races in the same day, and no one shook their head or made my think it was anything but brilliant.

Earlier this week I found out that the two races I was going to do this weekend, a Cross on The Rock cyclocross race and the Gunner Shaw cross-country classic, were actually on the same day and not consecutive days. The cross race was Saturday morning, the run was Saturday afternoon, and as luck would have it - the two venues were about a 10-minute drive apart. Perfect, I could fit both in!

Yesterday it was literally freezing out. I emphasize that, because here in the PNW we are not used to ice and cold and are therefore weather pansies. Not as pansy-ish as Floridians or SoCalians (did I just make that word up?), but we are the northern equivalent. (FYI I'm not insulting FL or CA dwellers, I'm just jealous of their weather and that's how I deal with those emotions). So the fact that the ground was frozen when I arrived for my warmup at the cross race sucked. One woman found this out the hard way when she chose to ride over a frozen puddle just out of the start line and crashed and slid down the road a ways. Most of the course was over a motocross track, and it alternated between frozen bumpy bounce-you-around ruts, or soupy, thick, stop-you-in-your-tracks mud. I was definitely glad to have some mountain bike skills, as the downhills I just held on and let my bike go where it wanted. Luckily it never wanted me to hit the ground, thanks bike!

Cross start line.

Yep, the motocross track was muddy!

After the cross race, I cleaned up as best as I could, changed, and headed to the run race with about 30 minutes to spare until the start. Well, the parking lot was full, the overflow was full, so I had to head down the road to park about a 10-minute walk away. That meant I had to leave all my warmup clothes in the car and head to the start, which also meant I only had about 20 minutes to wait until the race began. Pretty good because at this point it was only a few degrees above freezing, so the less standing around waiting the better.

The race started and it didn't take long for me to feel the fatigue from ripping around the cross race at a high intensity. I knew by the first hill that this wasn't going to be a PR day, or even an "I ran well day". But I was in it and figured I'd just enjoy it. If anyone enjoys the Gunner Shaw that is - tough steep climbs, descents, rooty, rocky, muddy... and did I mention the swamps? Twice we ran through knee-deep disgusting swamp water that you could smell before you could see. Ah, cross-country running! The swamp was ice-cold and I couldn't feel my feet when I emerged - they were basically blocks of ice. The first swamp came out on a ridge that was frozen and icy, and I had to walk because with frozen feet, I couldn't feel if I actually had any traction and didn't want to fall. It took several minutes before I had any feeling, but of course there was a steep uphill that helped warm them up.

I am not a good trail runner (I don't pick my feet up very high, so navigating rocks, roots, etc takes concentration when I run the trails), but I love being out in the woods. I made my way through the course the best I could for the day, knowing my choice of racing on the bike earlier that day wasn't the best idea for a solid run, but it was the best idea for solid fun! The last kilometer of the 10k race includes three hills (like there weren't enough hills in the rest of the race) that are named: Little Gunner, Big Gunner and Big Bugger. I was happy to running down the other side of Big Bugger and to the finish, but then when you get to the finish line... well, you finish running knee-deep into a lake. Have I mentioned yet how cold it was yesterday?

Legs all cleaned up - did I mention the run
finish was in a icy cold lake?

I stuck around at the finish to get some hot chocolate, chat with superstar Melanie McQuaid (who won the women's race of course), and see if I got any draw prizes (I didn't). Standing around in the cold, in my running clothes (remember, my car was not actually in the parking lot) was a dumb idea because I was frozen solid. I headed back to the cross venue just in time for their draw prizes (didn't get any of those either). Come on - two races in one day and no draw prizes! At least they had a bonfire going, but it still didn't quite warm me up inside. Thankfully my car has heated seats, so I blasted the heat and finally warmed up for the drive home.

Guess I should have ridden my bike through the lake to clean it up too...

Thanks everyone who didn't talk me out of this crazy idea - my legs are pretty sore today but I sure did have fun!

Swimming with Sea Lions

OK, not swimming. Paddling. Friday dawned with beautiful weather, and Jason and I decided to paddle out to see "the boys" - they are back. Every winter we get male Steller sea lions coming down from Alaska, and male California sea lions coming up from Oregon & California. They come in late fall for the salmon, and stick around until the herring spawn in the spring.

A bunch have taken up residence on the docks in Cowichan Bay, so we paddled out to have a look. Didn't get too close, but felt pretty up-close and personal being the only people pretty much literally in the water with them. We'll have to do it again on the next nice day.

Some Californias hanging out at the end of the dock.

Wetsuits essential this time of year in case we fall in!

Didn't get too close to this end of the dock - that's where the
Stellers were hanging out. Their 2500 lbs tends to be a
bit more intimidating, over twice the size of
their California cousins.

A couple of Californias checking Jason out on his board.

Pillow Surgery

I am on the quest for the perfect pillow. I may just have found it. People who know me, know I have sleeping issues, to put it mildly I guess. I think "princess and the pea" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do like things just right if I'm going to get a good night's sleep.

My quest for pillows has been long-standing. I don't like super thick pillows, I'm not crazy about down (I really don't know why birds have to be tortured or die for me to lie my head on... incidentally, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a decent duvet that isn't down? But that's another blog post). I had been hearing good things lately about foam latex pillows and decided to give one a try. They are not cheap, so I bought a standard size one to try out, thinking that if I liked it, I'd possibly upgrade to king size in the future.

I tried the pillow one night, and while there were some redeeming features, there was one overall negative - it was way too thick. So I pawned it off on Jason for a night, but then the next day decided it was too expensive to give up on. I figured I could perform surgery and turn it into what I was looking for.

The surgical tools consisted of a serrated bread knife and a silicone oven mitt. The mitt was to protect my hand when I was gnawing away with the knife. The surgery made a huge mess of foam bits everywhere, but the pillow's prognosis was excellent once in recovery.

It looks like I'm icing a giant cake.

Foam bits everywhere!

After several sleeps now, I can confirm that my (now thinner) pillow is fabulous. It cradles my head like it's floating, keeps my c-spine neutral, and doesn't loose any loft. It also has a bunch of micro-channels so air can flow through, and stays nice and cool - no flipping to the cool side necessary. Check one out!

Ready to go.

Fall Running

This is such a nice time of year to run. The grass is green again after the brown of summer, leaves are turning, it's like the world is a kaleidoscope of colour. Running has been dominating my workouts of late, so here's a few pictures of my run the other day on a gorgeous autumn afternoon.

Best running partner ever!