Tag Archives: trail running

Trail running groups, New York City

NYC running friends and visitors,

Tired of running on pavement? Here are two groups  I tried, while visiting away from my beloved home trail team and northern CA trails.

1)  Blockhouse run club

at the New York Running Company

They run on Bridle trails and in off the beaten paths in the north woods, (and sometimes do a fun scramble up rock faces), in Central Park. I ran with them last Sat. for the first time. The organizers are nice, funny, knowledgable, experienced runners. After the run, in the NYRC store, runners have access to the foam rollers in the store to stretch out and we also shared some nice cone-drip coffee. (Bonus: The Time Warner Center, where NYRC is located, happened to have great specials that day like a free back and neck massages, and a free yoga class and food from Equinox-Whole Foods.)

All abilities are welcome. Anyone can drop in. The Jeff Galloway run-walk group is also super nice, welcomes all abilities, and organizes a Sat. morning run. (When I was looking for the BRC group, they invited me to run with them if I could not find the group. (I was 1.5 hours early by mistake.)

Meets at New York Running Co. store, Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle, NYC. Saturdays 9AM and Tuesdays 7AM. Free. More info: Check out the Blockhouse run club, web page.

Watch video: Taste of Central Park trails

 

2)  Raw Trail group

Want to leave NYC and hit the trails?

Raw Trail organizes “hiking and trail running groups from NYC,” often with ride shares. The leader Denis is an experienced, knowledgable trail runner with top trail race finishes. (The group welcomes hikers and trail runners, which is perfect for slower folks like me coming back to running from injury.)

Summary:  I have met some nice people in these groups. Unlike the enormous road running groups in NYC (and in other places like CA), one can still get to know other trail runners of various abilities because the trail running community (compared to the road) is smaller, and it is still considered a fringe sport. These organizers are providing a true, healthy community service.  I’m always grateful on my travels to discover others who share one’s love of nature, camaraderie, trails, and physical challenges.

Happy trails!

Blockhouse_run_group

Photo credit: Via Block House Run Group 

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Gyms

Are they worth it?

I generally prefer to be in the great outdoors in northern CA and don’t like working out in gyms. However, I found myself trying out gyms in NYC because I visit often for work. I wanted to keep up my training in the dark winter months and rehab from an injury, with good, qualified trainers at the gym. I also wanted work on upper body and core strength training, to balance out my running and hiking, and join group fitness classes.

Many said gym membership is expensive, but I found myself spending more on a la carte group fitness classes (like yoga) per month vs monthly gym membership (unlimited classes + facilities). Plus, at the time of my sign up there was a special, offering to refund initiation fee. The key is to ask the club for any sign up specials, and your company/professional organization if they offer any gym discounts.

Here are the top three I tried that were close to where I stayed/my activities:
Equinox, NYHRC, The Clay

I did end up joining EQ (single club membership at PH) due to my personal preferences for:  a good range of HQ fitness classes, nice design (warm lighting, very clean, spacious, low key but energetic music, low key members, plants, quiet yoga space during shavasana, etc.), well-maintained facilities, professional staff , trainers and class instructors, no wait time for machines, eucalyptus steam room to clear my breathing passages, discount offer, and proximity to Hudson River park greenway, where I run-walk, etc. If you are on a budget and plan to use only one club, single club (vs all-access) membership is the way to go.

Less expensive options

If I didn’t need the facilities and equipment and only wanted to sign up for group fitness classes with a great number of choices, good for any of my US and worldwide travels (incl. Canada, Australia, etc), I would have signed up with Classpass. (Again email them inquiring about special offers before signing up at full price — they offered me a special right away just for inquiring.) If I just wanted no-frills gym equipment and no group fitness classes, I would sign up with Blink.

Month-to-month membership

This is not advertised, but check with the membership advisor of the gym if this is possible. Sometimes, especially if one is nice and professional about it, the staff will work with you on this. In my case, I visit NYC regularly for work and explained this to them. Due to my special case, I will be able to cancel my year “single club” membership contract without penalty, due to “relocation.” Of course, I will have to show proof of relocation and fulfill all the requirements to do so. Before signing any contract, be absolutely clear about the terms and conditions, especially cancellation and hold policies and fees. Ask questions, if you are unclear.  (Had I signed up with the Clay or NYHRC, the respective staff at these clubs were willing to offer me the same cancellation process.)

Contacts

To try any Equinox in the US, click on this referral link to get an invitation (free pass).

 

For questions on Equinox NYC, click on the referral link above or contact a membership advisor at (212) 243-7600, to try the gyms for free and sign up for membership. (Please tell the staff that RC Brillantes referred you. Disclosure: I do not work for the club, but I would receive a new member reward for a referral.)  Advisors based at the Printing House location can help you sign up for any location. The Highline location is described on the website as “green location designed by esteemed architecture firm Clodagh references the nearby art galleries and Meatpacking District. Environmentally sound details like power-saving lights, recycled glass and weathered steel breathe life into this historic corner of NYC.” Photos

I like that the philosophy is not only to train to be healthy, but also have a healthy environment to work out. It makes perfect sense as a regular feature of every gym. For me, if I don’t feel great working out in my gym, what’s the point?

For NYHRC (NY only), contact super nice, fellow runner-advisor Lenora at lhendley [at] nyhrc.com, visit website or call 212-220-0640 to get a free pass and sign up. NYHRC  has great saltwater pools (the only ones I found accessible in NYC) and recently remodeled most of their facilities. Recommended for swimmers.

Summary

In my experience, trying out four major chains in NYC, you get what you pay for. I did a fair amount of research in the past month (on the gym websites, Time Out, gym costs comparison, asking friends about personal experiences, etc.) because I do workout 4-6x/week, a significant time investment. I also take my health seriously, enjoy-train for amateur trail races in my free time, am recovering from injury, and thus want to work with qualified trainers who can guide me on safely on: building strength, flexibility, endurance, and injury prevention.

 

 

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The Unlikely pacer

I was taking a leisurely stroll through the woods minding my own business, when a shirtless man with a white beard wearing a bib that said “pacer,” popped out of nowhere. He looked like the legendary man I had only read about in books. He introduced himself and indeed, it was the father of modern-day ultra-running. How did I get here?

 

TRT endurance runs 50k and 50 mile start

TRT endurance runs 50k and 50 mile start

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After cheering on team mates John and Henri at the start of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) Endurance Run at 6 AM, I started a solo hike through quiet woods with a plan for a nap and a date with my sandwich among the singing aspen trees and shimmering Marlette Lake. The TRT race is one of the hardest (if not the hardest) area trail race — an ultramarathon mountain race at altitudes of 7000 to 9214 feet, with rocky terrain and lots of climbs.  I had just flown into CA days before, and haven’t had anytime to really chill out since taking care of my dying Mom. No friends were available that weekend, so I started on my last-minute trek to the lake alone. After all the crowds and fanfare, I thought this would be a good place to clear my head.

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The crazy period started last fall, when I begged my tough elderly mother to retire from her late night shifts at her urban, private medical practice, and at a mental hospital, respectively. One night she got mugged. Another night her car was stolen from outside of her office. On yet another night she called me while driving home to say that she was being followed. I urged her to drive to the police dept.  Then, the crazy year of 2014 started with a call on New Year’s Eve that she was in the hospital. She was in a car accident — she had hit a police car while having a stroke.

My life has been turned upside down since: her illnesses lead to the discovery of her advanced stage of cancer, taking leave from my work, having a long-distance relationship, my unsuccessful fight to move Mom to a hospice among the trees, the literal loss of my voice, her death soon after diagnosis, and now the great solo task of closing down her business and her home on the opposite coast. The stress has become a part of my daily life. I had stopped running  for over a month (any free time was for a bit of sleep), and just haven’t been running much since starting this insane flying between coasts to take care of my Mom and her business in Feb.

Perhaps the endurance running prepared me for the long, overnight shifts taking care of Mom, who could not rest from her intense pain and awoke every 5-10 mins. though she was on morphine. I took shift turns with my pregnant sister (who flew in with her son from their home in Hawaii). When Mom and I did not sleep the night, I looked forward to her going for her radiation treatments so I could take a nap and she could let go of my hand. The problem was that she never wanted to let go of my hand.

I was in my reverie in the forest for about five minutes, then a shirtless guy wearing a bib that said “pacer,” popped out of nowhere. He looked like the Legend I had only read about in books. He introduced himself and indeed, it was Him. I had no choice but to get off my lazy b___.  The Living Legend insisted on running behind me for a while, so I sucked hard on thin air and nervously complied. Later, I attempted to chase him when he sped up. He stopped occasionally to point out such things as a mountain or a grouse, which allowed me to catch my breath. He regaled me with stories (about counseling addicts,  alcoholism, being a chiropractor, Cowman, horse riding, power to weight ratios, dopamine, his last WS race, etc.) as we ran. His stories reminded me that I was out there battling my family’s addiction. I thought of how that addiction lead to the destruction of my poor mother, formerly a smart and successful person.

My mother was born in the countryside, surrounded by the Cordillera mountains. Her parents, who were part of the Philippine resistance, were on the run from the Japanese military during WWII. She moved to the lowlands as an adult. She generally lead a sedentary lifestyle until her death, despite all her travels, medical missions, and raising her children near the South Mountain Reservation. (However, I imagine an alternate reality in which she became an ultra runner, perhaps trekking the Cordillera Great Traverse.) I tried in her final years to make amends, encourage her to hike, do yoga, eat healthy foods, plan an intervention for her addiction with her friends, but I was too late in her lifetime. Slowly, with time, I will erase the illness from my memory with every footfall and every ascent. Today, I took pictures  on the trail, with my Mom’s camera-phone (which I have been carrying to inform people of her death). The pictures are of some of the places I wanted to take her had she actually lived to retire in CA, and been on the road to recovery.

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Marlette Lake

 

The Legend inspired me to run past Marlette Lake — and beyond. We parted ways on the ascent to Marlette peak (where I walked with an injured runner-racer for a while to make sure she was alright). Before he left, I asked him, what is the lesson to your story? He said simply (something like):

“Keep going.”

Two of the most unlikely trail partners to meet on this earth.

Two of the most unlikely trail partners to meet on this earth.

 

 

My plan to hike an easy flat-ish ten miles was foiled. It turned into a ~19 mile trek: from Spooner Lake — Marlette Lake — Marlette campground — Snow Valley Peak* — last aid station (to cheer on John) — Spooner finish to meet and support John, and friends Remi, and Nu.
* This is the peak where I usually suffer from lightheadedness from thin air and altitude sickness.

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Marlette Lake with Lake Tahoe in background

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On the way to Snow Valley Peak

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*******

Epilogue

Thanks

I couldn’t have dreamed of a more amazing day with great friends and volunteers, awe-inspiring natural beauty, and the Ultimate trail partner. I am so blessed to have my health and the angels around me through my life’s continuing, strange, beautiful and awesome journey. Hope you had a good rest of your run, Doc and thank you for the pep talk!

PS Runners, ask me if you want to know what kind of shoes the Legend was wearing and about the mysterious red drink in his hand bottles.  🙂

 

Congratulations

to my life partner John (55k), friends Henri (50mi), Remi (100mi)! Crew and ultra pacer Nu! You all rock, bravely meeting and surpassing your goals on a tough course, through heat, higher altitude, lightning, and nightfall. John beat his goal in spite of a sprained ankle from the previous weekend. Our friend Henri was one of the runners, who was stuck at Snow Valley peak huddled with a bunch of other’s in a volunteer’s car, waiting out the loud lightning storm. I’m happy you made it down safely and so very proud of you all. Blessed to know these fine runners and see their training progress over the years. Cheers.

 

Links

The Legend of Dr. Gordon Ainsleigh and how he started the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run:

(It all started 40 years ago…)

 

Nuggets of wisdom for ultra runners from Dr. Ainsleigh and WSER veterans panel, 2013:

 

About Dr. Gordon Ainsleigh

Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance trail runs

 

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A taste of States

by a beginner LD trail runner run-hiker

Weeks ago, a runner friend Loree from our Trail running group asked me if I would like to join her on one of her Western States (WS) training runs to prepare prospective and registered runners for the actual WS 100-mile race in late June. The runs took place this past Memorial day weekend “to acquaint runners with the last 70 miles of the trail.” Over three days, there were runs of 32, 20, and 20 miles over mountainous terrain, respectively. As a show of support for her upcoming race, my spouse John and I signed up for one of the shorter and “easier” training runs. We also thought it would be nice to give Loree a break from driving and run with her for part of the way. As training for this race, Loree had originally planned to commute to each day’s run and run all of them.

To give you an idea of how hard it was for Loree to gain entry into the actual 100 mile WS race: one must complete one of the listed qualifying runs under a stated finishing time of ultra distance. An example of one of the minimum requirements: “50 miles in under 11 hours.” If a runner qualifies, then there is a lottery for new runners to enter, according to the WS website and “odds work out to about one chance in ten (10%) for those with one name in the Hat.” Anyone who gained entry, as people have commented, received the golden ticket.

The day one training run was not only long, but also had the two highest climbs and started at ~9,000 feet.  The day two run, which according to the elevation chart, was a net downhill full of ascents and descents with three miles of climbing at the end. It started at a much lower elevation than the day one run. I believed we could do the day two run it because we’ve been training on hills in our local Redwood and Miller parks. Our longest local training runs in the past couple months were ~20 miles with climbs of up to 1500′ at a time, and we had run hilly trail marathon distances prior to that during the past year.

The WS training run seemed like a good peak run, prior to our upcoming 20-26 mile run in Tahoe three weeks after. They both take place in the Sierra mountains. After we signed up, I read that it was the hottest part of the course because of the reflection of the sun off the canyon wall. Then I looked at the weather forecasts and saw that it would be close to 80 degrees F. Uh oh. We had some heat training in the past month, but mostly run in the morning in the bay area when the temperature is often in the mid-50s F. It looked like John and I unwittingly signed up for the hottest run.

Prep

Despite all that, I was secretly excited. Though we would “only” run 1/5 of the WS course (as our fellow running club member Colin pointed out smilingly) and it was on a lower elevation, I was looking forward to seeing part of one of the premiere ultra courses in the world, as I had experienced it in my mind through the narrative in the best-selling book Born to Run by Chris McDougall. I had read it when I started trail running a few years ago and it kept me from quitting numerous times. The visions of the senior Tarahumara people in their 60s running ultras I think will keep the bar high for me until I pass into the next life. Deep down I knew that signing up for this run was equal to signing up for the pain cave for a relative beginner like me. Recalling the book’s nail-biting narrative of a past WS race somehow shifted the focus from my fear of the upcoming training run.

I also focused in on the minutia of prep, which is always a good thing for me to help stop worrying about upcoming run challenges. I trained with a weighted hydration pack, which was new to me, but essential for mountain running. The day before the training run, as per Jane, a runner friend and former competitive cyclist, I filled my hydration bag 3/4 full and froze the water in the freezer to help keep me cool for the upcoming run. I packed our sun hats with attached skirts (friend Nick calls them our foreign legion hats), bandanna to act as an ice collar if needed, sunscreen, food, Clif shots, Vega sport bars, salt sticks, post run food and chocolate milk. We laid out our trail running clothes and shoes. I taped the aid station cut-off times to my watch. (If a runner doesn’t make the cut off time, she is out and must catch a ride back to the start with the volunteers.)

Run day

We left the home in the darkness at 5:00 am to pick up Loree, who was amazingly energetic and regaled us with stories of her previous day’s 32 mile run in rain, snow and hail, with black bears warnings, on the 2.5 hour ride to the edge of Tahoe National Forest to a town called Foresthill. I marvelled at her capacity to stay awake the day after an ultra distance run.

When we arrived, I did the ritual: put on the gear (sun protection, pack, hat, shoes). We signed in and received our paper bracelets with our numbers on them, which the volunteers checked at each aid station. As I looked around, I observed a group of the most fit runners of all ages (~20s to 80s) I have ever seen up close in my life, with their compact, stream-lined hydration packs. It was like this episode of Star Trek: Next Generation where the Enterprise lands on a planet of fit people and everyone dresses like Greek gods and runs/jogs from place to place. The run started with a guy saying “Go” and a cow bell. The super group ran down the road to the trail head, which I was surprised to find was the entrance into a mountainous region (taller than the expected “foothills”).

There was miles and miles of descent, to the degree I had never experienced before as someone unaccustomed to mountain running. It was foggy when we approached the town, so I did not notice until we were running the soaring peaks of the pine-covered mountains until we were running. (According to the WS guide, this part of the course is considered “fairly gentle terrain.”) I did my best to keep Loree in site and had already told her a few times to drop me if needed, because I was new to the heat. (Plus, of course, she is faster and stronger than I.)  My quads were stunned and I tried, as advised to maintain light, quick foot falls, and not pound down and stress out my legs. Surprisingly, I forgot about the load on my back, which I was still fairly new to carrying and enjoyed the cool green pine forest and it’s smells, but the rocky descents lasted long for me with scant time for my legs to have a break and recover.

First aid station

I was relieved to have made it to the first aid station 8+ miles into the day’s course, 40 mins ahead of the cut-off time. There were bananas, pretzels, sports drink, and all the usual fare neatly arranged on a table with the most professional and fit volunteer staff I have ever seen at a trail event. My petite self walked up to a very tall, super fit man with a mustache, wearing a shirt and track pants. He was holding a pitcher of water. I spoke to him at chest level asking for some water please. Loree commented that the man who gave me water was five-time WS champion Tim Twietmeyer, who was volunteering at the aid station. Far out!

After the beautiful forest and pines, we ran by a canyon wall, which as expected, reflected the heat from the sun onto the runners. I slowed down, warned myself not to get too over-confident, and braced myself for the rising temperatures. I saw a group ahead and we all steadily ascended the hills as we headed to the second aid station with a roaring river with rafters down below, which I just wanted to swim in. A few groups of good runners ran by us from the opposite direction, ascending at a steady, strong pace. I wondered if they were doing today’s course twice for practice.  Loree dipped her bandanna into a stream and the rest of us followed suit, wrapping the ice-cold cloth around our necks was refreshing. After running parallel to the river among wildflowers, we hit a dirt fire road and it was amazing to be able to open up, stretch the legs, and run at a steady pace with Loree, which lasted until the next aid station.

Second aid station

Another amazing professional crew of people were ready with sports drink, aid station fuel, and ice to dump into our hydration bags which felt so absolutely amazing. This was the point at which, in the actual race, Loree and the other runners would have to branch off and cross the ice-cold river, some during the day and some at night. Instead of heading toward the river, which many checked out in preparation, we headed up the road of “White Oak Flat” for three up mountain miles to the end. I felt strangely cavalier after I read the name, then could not for the life of me understand why someone named this Flat. It was an ascent that felt like the longest three miles of my running life. Soon I asked Loree to please meet me at the top so I did not hold her back. It was one of the places for me to learn humility and grace as an 80+ year-old man encouraged me and said only 1.5 miles of the climb left as he motored by. This was after I was informed that he had started running at age 47, had surgery at some point and also ran the arduous Leadville 100.

I felt myself pushing my upper limits and approaching the crying point for my legs. I stopped and stood under the shade of a tree until my heart rate dropped a bit. I sucked air out of the hydration tube and realized I was out of water. Resigned to the heat, I shrugged and moved on. I let go of thinking that based on x number of minutes on my watch that the end was around the corner. It took me an hour to climb out of that “Flat.” Loree was at the top, looking absolutely great and relaxed. I was relieved to see her and dragged my legs up to run with her to the end, where they would clip our bracelets and check off on their lists that we made it back alive. John was already there as expected, waiting for us at the final aid station. I ran to the shade of the aid tent, drank a bunch of water, grabbed grapes and followed Loree and John to the bus stop. Runners in fine shape milled around, grazing as we all waited for the bus ride home.

Lessons learned

It was the hardest continuous 20 miles that I’ve ever run because of the continuous mountain ascents and descents, my legs did not get the breaks for which they were accustomed from “local” hill training. As soon as we arrived back at the car and changed, I forced myself to stretch gently and do my leg swings before sitting for the 2.5 hour ride home. I drank my usual recovery chocolate soy milk. It was windy outside, so we sat in the car and ate PBJ sandwiches and sweet potato chips. The temperature display said 80 F.  As we rode off, I realized that my quads were crying. It was a long time since  (at least since I just started running just over a year ago) I’ve had that sensation. I mixed some Vega Sport Accelerator with water (vegan version of Accelerade) and forced myself to drink it. I almost immediately felt better and am now convinced that recovery potions like this work.

Loree directed us toward our food stop for tasty healthy food at the Co-op in Davis. On the way back to the bay area she recommended 50 mile races — though we have not even run a 50k yet! (At present, I think I am too vain to run more than 50k. I already have toe nails that seem to be falling off.) All in all it was a good learning experience in mountain running for me. I will read the WS guide again before our next mountain training run in Tahoe next month. It was nice to have any remaining traces of romantic ideas about the WS adventure beaten out of me in only 1/5 of the course. The amazing athletes and volunteers were super, super nice and this is what makes trail running special. Great run Loree and John. She really looked steady and great out there after running an ultra in a storm the day before. Thanks Loree for being an inspiration and John for getting us to the food stop and home safely!

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Mission: Fat ass

“See you next weekend. Good luck and, As always, should you or any of your Ultrarunning Acquaintances be hurt or killed, I will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

That was the message I received from our contact before we departed this past Saturday, Feb. 11. John (my spouse), Christian, Yoko and I carpooled to a secret location in the pine tree-covered Santa Cruz mountains. We met our enthusiastic fellow running club member Colin, who made me laugh. He said he had been telling “everyone at work that I’m running in a secret race — bought me some serious street cred.”

I pointed Christian toward last year’s fastest guy Jean and jokingly told him to follow that guy. (Later, I saw Christian sprinting and he caught up with the guy.) I had read the run report from last year’s top finisher Jean–he had been “stunned” that the first ten-mile loop, the easiest, took him two hours to complete. I knew it would be easy to get lost.

The forecast was for sun all day for the Second Saratoga Fat Ass non-event, but it was 43 degrees and raining when we arrived. The rain and low temperatures would last all day. (A rain cloud hovered over this part of the mountains, but it was sunny on the rest of the peninsula.) We put on our rain jackets, packed our maps and fuel, water belts, and we started running.


What is a Fat Ass?

A FA is basically a flash mob for trail runners. This course consisted of three loops of ten miles each. Runners were invited to do as much as they wish. I’m just a beginner runner (at long distances). I have only ran one other FA so far, but I have grown fond of them. The FA rules:

“No fees, no awards, no whining.”

My plan was to run as much as I could within six hours. I tried to keep my partner Yoko in sight, but lost her within 15 minutes in the dense forest. I ran the rest alone, but with help from other runners who pointed me in the right direction. Luckily, other runners had made arrows out of branches, which they placed on some trail intersections. Loop one was my favorite. At one point I edged around a boulder with a steep ravine below using cables to guide and hold onto. Thankfully, the valley was obscured by dense clouds or I would have been nervous about the drop below. as I crawled across slippery boulders.


Santa Cruz Mountains

Thick green moss covered the trees and signs read, “Do not eat the mushrooms.” Some boulders resembled large faces.

The First rule

“of Fight Club [Fat Ass] is you do not talk about…” When I yet again got off-course, I met David  who ran with his son, had marked courses for races and helped me get on the right track. While most wore rain gear with hats and carried water bottles and fuel, the strong, white-haired man wore minimal attire:  thin Fivefingers shoes, a t-shirt and light shorts. I tried to make small talk and asked him if he ran with a running group named BARF. He paused, pointed to a woman and said, “No I’m with her.” His eyes darted back and forth, cautiously.

“It’s a Fat Ass NOT a Fast Ass”

— John

I returned after the first loop to the parking lot, frustrated, because I was so far behind partner Yoko and friends. Judith, who I knew through a running group called BARF, was there. (BARF was started by two friends when they were in their 40s and who are now in their 60s. The youngest 20-something member was known by the founders from birth. One of the oldest is a 65 year-old woman ultra runner.)  Judith asked me if I was looking for two guys in blue vests (Colin and John). I said, “yes.” She laughed and told me that those two repeatedly went off-course. They sometimes appeared ahead, and other times behind her group. John and Colin had left on the second loop about 45 mins ago.

It was not the coordinator’s fault that navigation was difficult. His directions were fine, but some sign posts were uprooted and lying on the ground. I could not see the position of the sun because of the rain cloud that hung over the mountain. Many, including my lost buddy, did extra loops by accident. A guy who ran this course for his fourth time got lost.

I started the second loop, mistakenly thinking I could get through it faster than the first. I struggled up an endless ascent on two miles of Travertine trail. My six-hour cut off time passed. I was soaked, muddy and upset, but rallied my hazy, tired mind to focus on the way home. I had one energy gel left, and opportunities for potable water refill stops were ample. “Relentless forward motion.” I recalled Coach Will’s words.

Finishing

The best part about this Fat Ass is meeting trail runners from all over the area, — and that the happening was free. There were runners in about their 20s. I was helped by ultra runners in their 60s. There was true Friendship through trail running.  Back at the parking lot, John said friends and a couple of top guys from the Quicksilver running club (who got locked out of their car) waited in the cold rain after they finished. He invited them and our friends into our car to warm up and share food.

I finished after about ~25 mi., running only two of three loops, doing a slow samba more than a run. It was my first time running that distance in my weeks-old New Balance 110 trail shoes. The lugs worked well on slippery rock and the protective plate in the sole, which I don’t have in my other shoes (the lighter, more flexible minimalists: VFF Bikila and NB Minimus trail), protected my feet well in the rocky areas.

Runner-strangers greeted me, asking me if I was ok. I had no idea why they were so nice. Then, Christian greeted me and told me the John-Yoko-san search party just left looking for me, along with the car, dry clothes, & food. A smiling Adventure Anna had offered to run the course backward to help find me. Christian took a photo of me finishing. He said I looked fresh.  I was smiling. (Strange what running does to you because I recalled being miserable and starving at that moment.)

When we regrouped, we shared onigiri rice cakes that Yoko had kindly made for us, Christian’s high calorie cookies & PB, chocolate soy milk, and electrolytes.  Then we all piled into the car and drove away from the mountain top. The weather was bright and sunny. When we looked back, we could see that the rain cloud remained over the forest. We headed over to Lyfe Kitchen for serious eating and sharing stories of our adventure.

What I like about trail running

The FA had elements of everything I like about trail running:  the physical challenge of running long distances on various terrains and elevations, forest, new adventures, discovering new flora and fauna, meeting new people, feeling humbled by the beauty and power of nature, learning from elder runners, navigating through strange places, meditation. Through trail running, I’ve met the most inspiring, gracious, and strong ordinary people running extraordinary  distances.

********

Post script

Tips

For runners considering becoming Fat Asses next year:

“Fat Ass runs are not running races as such, and they are not public events. It’s more like a fun day out. Some people may record times but this is not the prime objective. If you are looking for a running race then there are heaps of real ones to choose from elsewhere.” — Cool Running

Don’t get too fixated on finish times –yours or others. Some runners didn’t register or record their times on the FA website this year. Furthermore, times cannot be compared equally because many people reported getting lost. (Everyone from our group went off-course –though we carried maps, turn sheets, and text descriptions.)  Most seemed to be running easy as if training for upcoming major ultra events. Overall, it was a nice way to train, hang out with friends, and learn about the area trails.

Would I do this again?

He__ yeah!  Well, maybe I will run only the first scenic loop –plus chill-ax and prepare a mini-aid station, sustenance, and space blankets for my fellow runners next year.

Thanks: team BRC (Yoko-san, John, Colin, Christian), Yoko-san-John search party, Adventure Anna who offered to help find and rescue me, Christian (1st BRC’er to finish) who cheered me at the finish, our contact “The Secretary” for coordinating, David and Kat for helping me find my way. Shout out to BARFie Judith. Thanks for the fellowship and positive energy. See you Fat Asses in 2013!

Happy trails.


Links

History of the Fat Ass 

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