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Posts tagged ‘running with friends’

Cheetahs in the dark and other night running perils

I make no apologies for running at night. It’s often the only time I can carve out a chunk of time to go on a run. It’s soothing in many ways, with the hum of wind coming over the Altamont hills near my home. It’s cooler than during the day.

But I’ll be the first to admit, it’s kind of scary.

Especially when you see a cheetah.

Well. Not really. That cheetah comes from Wikimedia Commons. Not Mountain House.

A couple months ago someone reported seeing a Mountain Lion where I run. Turned out to be a house cat. Yes, a house cat.

But the problem with running at night is that the mind can play tricks on your eyes. Even with a headlamp.

That happened to me and my running buddy Jennie recently. We’re already hyper focused on our surroundings. We literally turn around when we think we hear something behind us. We speed up in areas we’ve seen dogs jumping up to eye level at six-foot brick fences (seriously, a huge jumping dog).

We run through areas of darkness quickly, just to get to a brighter area.

And sometimes, we see things.

Once, on an early morning 20-mile run Jennie and I saw a fox. It was before there were houses in a specific area out in Mountain House. Instead, there were just frames. We hid, temporarily, in the world’s worst smelling portable toilets. That’s saying a lot about the smell too. I’ve experienced some pretty bad ones in my time as a runner.

The fox passed.

On the recent cheetah encounter run, we had joked about seeing wolves now that it’s darker when we run. On the backside of the community, there’s a farm where we often hear wildlife noises. So a wolf? Possible.

More possible? Seeing a feral cat.

So on that specific run, we were already psyching ourselves out a little when I turned a corner and saw bright eyes.


What the hell is that?

Jennie, about 50-feet behind me, is coming closer.

“Cheetah!” I yell out, half kidding.

The look on her face was priceless. She was petrified.

She laughed it off after I told her it was just a cat. A cat that ran and hid behind a bush as soon as we came around a corner. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t try to save it. I have dogs. And ducks. I’m not a big fan of cats in general. I would completely ignore all cats if I could.)

A cat like the one above can turn into a monster on a night run. I’m not even kidding. That specific cat above belongs to my student Haley. Haley recently had her world turned upside down with more than her share of loses, including her faithful companion Peaches, a cat that was like a sister to her.

I’m glad Haley got a new cat today. I’m more glad that, I believe, she adopted a stray. She was really excited about it. And it made me realized I needed to write this blog post. (Rest in peace, Peaches.)

So a cat as innocent looking as Haley’s becomes a crazy beast ready to chase us. Except it isn’t.

Once you see something like that, you let your guard down a little bit. Whew. That passed. Right.

Jennie and I laughed it off and rounded a corner heading into our last mile. About 20-feet after the little store we sometimes stop at we again saw eyes. Bigger eyes. On a bigger animal.

And we freaked out. In an unexpected way.

Because it was dark.

Kind of like that.

Jennie and I did a quick back peddle and ran back toward the store. Jennie ran faster than I’d ever seen her run on any training run. We looked back when we got to a safe place, in front of the store, and realized the dog, large as it was, actually  was with a person. On a leash.

But for 10 seconds, that dog was scary to us. And neither or us saw the owner, even with two headlamps.

I know not to run from dogs. I have Chow Chows, often considered violent animals (I call my dog Cuddles sometimes even though his name is Beau, that should say something). I was raised around dogs.

That doesn’t make it any less scary when you see an animal, staring you down on a sidewalk in the dark. A dog can become a monster. And a cat that’s likely more afraid of you, becomes a cheetah.

Or maybe I’m the only one this happens to in the dark.


iPhone saves a night run

When I decided to finally get rid of my amazing BlackBerry Curve a couple years ago, I switched to an Android X phone. I loved it, specifically because it shot high definition video. I loved that phone until a software upgrade basically rendered me unable to make phone calls.

Then it became slow. I took it in for a look at the Verizon store. An associate reversed the software update.

Two months later, the stupid phone stopped taking a charge. Everything I did to make it charge wouldn’t work. I was bummed for several reasons. The first was that I spent a ridiculous amount of money on the phone. The second was that it didn’t last as long as I needed it to.

So I went to the “dark side.” I bought an iPhone 4S earlier this year.

I kind of had a tough transition to the phone. I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I wasn’t sure how to make it work.(Doesn’t that always happen when you get a new phone?) I basically was a fish out of water. It helped that I had an iPad 2 as well.

But I adjusted and eventually started to love it.You can see one of my screens to the right. Ignore the fact I haven’t updated any of my apps for awhile. And ignore my AP mobile alert. I’ve been trying to avoid news as much as possible lately.

In any case, if you’ve read this blog long enough, you also know that I run with a Garmin 405CX and I have an awesome headlamp.

On a recent run, I didn’t have both.

My Garmin is somewhere between my home in Tracy and Kansas. For the second time in two years, the battery life went wonky. It was out of warranty, but Garmin offered to fix it because it was the same problem as last time. (Model problem, maybe?) Fixing it for Garmin basically means replacing it. That’s lame. And it takes forever.

I’m talking about two to three weeks to send it and then get one back.

So I’ve been doing my outdoor runs without it. A couple weeks ago, when the battery died in the middle of a 15-mile run, I finished off my run with my Nike+ app on my iPhone.

I’ve been using that since.

It’s surprisingly accurate and doesn’t drain my battery life like I thought it would.

Yes, I’m slow sometimes when I run at night. Blame fatigue.

In any case, I was thankful my iPhone saved that run. I was more thankful when a couple weeks ago, I realized as I made my way to Mountain House to run that my headlamp had dead batteries.

It was dark. Really, incredibly dark.

So I pulled out my iPhone and started doing some searching. I remember that I had a flashlight app on the phone. Since I already run with it in my hand to see the Nike+ app, I kept alternating between turning on the flashlight and checking how far we were in our run.

The light was really nice when we hit parts of the sidewalk that are considerably more dark than others.

So, overall, my iPhone essentially has two running tools in it that I didn’t really appreciate until that run. Had we not have had the Nike+ app, we probably wouldn’t have finished that epic 15-miler.

Had we not had a flashlight, we wouldn’t be able to see the sidewalk. I was very grateful for both.

The Flashlight app was free. A nice price. It uses the flash light on the iPhone 4S, which does eat some battery life, but for a shorter run, isn’t too bad. Plus, I charge my phone in my car when I drive usually, so I don’t really have a problem with battery life.

The Nike+ app is also free now (I remember paying for it, but maybe I’m mistaken). It uses the phone’s GPS to track the run with distance and pace.

It seems to come up incrementally short of my Garmin, but we usually overrun our six-mile run anyway.

I’m not converting to the Nike+ app. And I’m not considering running with my iPhone flashlight on every run either.

But these apps give me options when I in a pinch. And both saved our run the other night, which, when it’s dark outside, is really important.

I ran to be empowered

Words can’t describe how it felt to get to a rather warm San Francisco morning with two of my closest friends for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on Sunday. I was excited. I was nervous. I was elated. I had a moment or two where it just really felt unreal.

It should of.

Six weeks ago I wasn’t running this race. I hadn’t made it into the lottery in April. Neither had my two running buddies. There was little to no chance of us running this well-known, women-centered, ridiculously huge race.

Then I gained entry thanks to Somersault Snack Co. in Sausalito. Jennie and Sam were happy for me, but I was saddened by the fact that they weren’t running with me.

Then someone posted a Nike+ code on our running group’s Facebook page. I called Sam. She called Jennie. Within 10 minutes they were both signed up to run with me. It was meant to be. I’d gone the entire year thinking there was NO WAY I’d run this race.

We didn’t train for hills. Instead, we ran flat surfaces more than anything. We didn’t even have enough time to train for the massive hills in San Francisco. But we knew we wanted to run this.

And so we did.

My husband dropped us off near Union Square. There were a ton of people. And spectators everywhere. It was a madhouse in every respect.

There were people everywhere. I was to meet the Team Somersaults runners on the corner of Geary and Powell at 6:15 a.m. for a photo opportunity. I got lost in a sea of people. The Safeway team had the same shirts we did. I kept seeing people wearing our colors and trying to follow them. I should have known better, as Team Somersaults also had cool yellow sweat bands and sunflower clips for our hair.

That’s my swag, post race and washed. Those sweat bands come in really handy during a run, let me tell you.

So we gathered on the corner for a quick snapshot. I was able to meet a couple more of the team members. It was crazy hectic. People were walking in front and behind us. But we got a couple snapshots for the Somersaults Facebook page.

Sam also snapped one, despite holding two water bottles for me.

These are a group of awesome ladies who represent such a great company. It was wonderful to get to know them. Shout out especially to Jamie, I found first this morning and who I ran with two weeks ago. She has an awesome blog too. She’ll be running a race I’m also running in the near future, so I hope I get to see more of Jamie.

Sam also snapped a slightly blurry and unflattering photo of me while I walked back to her. We started walking to the bathrooms and literally turned around and lost all the Team Somersaults members. That’s how crowded it was.

I put my phone away shortly after this. We waited in a bathroom line until the start. And then, when we didn’t move for 15 minutes, we ended up all taking over an empty stall near our corral. There were too many people in the bathroom line for anyone to see three or four of the portable toliets were open.

Then we started running and, for only the second time ever and the first time during a race, my Garmin malfunctioned. It refused to pick up the satellite. Lame. I waited nearly 10 minutes as we were corralled to the start. Nothing.

I’m assuming it was because there were likely 5,000 other devices also trying to pick up signals.

I started with my 405CX just keeping time. It finally picked up and kept a signal a mile in. But, by then, the damage had been done. My “first lap” was 26 minutes according to Garmin. The mileage was way off. I took this as a signal from someone or something out there to not take this one as seriously as I have been recently.

Have a good run, I thought. Don’t think about it.

Miles 1-3 were relatively flat.

Miles 5-9 were hilly. But we hung together.

Miles 10-13 were recovery, with one very need bathroom stop.

And we all stayed together until mile 11 when Jennie (who is faster than she thinks) decided to move ahead. She finished 3 minutes ahead of Sam and I.

Jennie was waiting for Sam and I to cross and hug us. We then walked to the shoots to get the coveted Tiffany finishers necklace. I can’t tell you how beautiful it is. You have to see it to understand. It’s just amazing. Everybody was stopping to take photos of the fireman handing them out.

Including me.

On a silver platter, nonetheless. Love. After making my way up massive hills and pounding my way down them, these men were a sight to behold. That said, I was more interested in picking up my finisher’s shirt and getting something to eat than checking out my necklace. I didn’t open the box until about 20 minutes later AFTER Sam had showed me her necklace.

And it was as awesome as I imagined.

I own one other Tiffany & Co. item. It’s a scarf. This will be a treasured item for years to come, believe me.

The finishers shirt was an awesome yellow one too. I’m considering wearing it for the half I am running next weekend. Why? Well, if I’m slow it will show people that I’m crazy enough to do two half marathons in two weekends. Plus, let’s face it, it’s pretty awesome too.

Once we settled down and caught our breaths, I had time to reflect on how awesome the experience was. My husband (who lost me, or I lost him, I don’t know, but we miscommunicated) brought me my bag and a change of clothes. Thank goodness too. It was a warm day in San Francisco. I smelled. I was sweaty. I changed into a new shirt I bought at Niketown on Thursday. And we celebrated with a photo.

The photo above is really what his race was about. Friends. Love. Happiness.

I walked away from the Nike Women’s Half with my slowest half marathon time to date. My time was 2:53:30. But it was my best race ever.

I ran with my friends. I ran representing an awesome company that gave me a gracious free entry. I ran to be empowered. I was empowered by the 20,000 women (and men) who ran with me. Even as I was weaving in and out of people and waiting in ridiculously long bathroom lines, I enjoyed nearly every moment of it.

I’m on a runner’s high. I can’t describe it other than that. My high is as tall as the Golden Gate Bridge, no kidding. We, by the way, ventured that way to head back to the East Bay and home to the valley. We even stopped by In-and-Out Burger in Sausalito for a post race meal.

It was an amazing day filled with amazing happenings. I can’t say much more about how awesome it was. I consider myself a very lucky girl to have such great opportunities (again, thank you Somersault Snack Co.!!) and good people around me. Because that’s what it is about really. I have friends who help me navigate the marathon that is life and also help push me through a 13.1 road race.

That’s love. And it’s a nice metaphor for life in general.

That said, it’s also a little about this:

I also picked that shirt up at Niketown on last Thursday. There’s fun involved too.

We all have our reasons to run. I ran my first half to be stronger. I do my training runs to be powerful.

I run, sometimes, to be sexy and fit into my slim jeans. (I don’t call them “skinny” because I’ve never actually been “skinny.”)

Sunday, though, was proof that bad runs can be good runs. And good friends and good company are the reason why.

Meet me Monday: Fitness plans

I’m training for a marathon.

That’s my biggest priority right now. I’m upping my mileage. I’m adding in resistance training. I’m pushing to make sure I have rest days.

I’m trying to be aggressive in my training for this 26.2 and hoping I can make it the whole way.

Part of that is my new foray into swimming, which began this week.

Part of it it also the purchase of some new wheels, and not the car kind.

On Saturday, I ventured to Performance Bike in Dublin (about 25 minutes from my home in Tracy), just to “take a look.” The problem with me is that once I see something I like, I tend to buy. This is especially true since I took my part-time teaching job. I paid off my car last year, put more money in our savings account and, every now and then, have some extra money to spend.

Two months ago I bought an iPad. I use it for all my long treadmill runs, like my 15-miler on Sunday.

I bought my bicycle, a rather hefty expense, this weekend. Outside of the fact that I literally haven’t rode a bike in 10-plus years, it seems to be a good fit for me. I have to say, I’m a little scared of it, though. It’s a nice bike. Nice as in there’s no kick stand.

Maybe too nice for me. I couldn’t remember how to shift. I still need to buy some shoes for it. It will be a learning process, definitely.

But I have a goal in mind here. My running buddy Sam ran her first half marathon last weekend. Now she is eager to tackle a triathlon.

I’m apparently doing it with her. (That’s fine, I think she partially volunteered me and I partially volunteered myself.)

We’re aiming for one in Napa at some point in April. So my goal after the marathon is to train for this triathlon. I only have the Oakland Running Festival booked for March so far, though I may look into some Rock ‘n’ Roll running events as well (again, prompted by Sam). But after the marathon, I’m going to take on triathlon training aggressively.

I picked the bike based on it’s fit for me, which is good. I also picked it because it’s lightweight. It’s very agile. And it’s a road bike, which is what everyone suggested I get. It’s a far cry from the Magna bicycle I had throughout high school (the last time I road was sometime when we were vacationing at the beach in 2002, my husband confirms that he road it at some point and it was uncomfortable). And it’s beautifully light.

I can pick it up, as proved by this photo my husband took after we got home and he took it for it’s maiden voyage. He has a tendency to want to test all my new fancy toys. I remember him taking the keys to my then brand new 2002 Camaro so many years ago to “break it in.” He didn’t realize I’d already done that.

So my fitness plans for the coming seasons are just that: run the marathon and then do a sprint triathlon.

I have the running down for the triathlon (it’s only three miles). I doing the swimming lessons. Now I have the bike.

Let’s go.

The morning 10

My long runs are on Sunday. Right now “long” means 10 miles. Soon it will mean more as I ramp up for marathon training and a Dec. 4 date with 26.2 miles. I run with friends who still haven’t kicked me to the curb, despite the fact that I am slightly faster and often get ahead of myself and them.

We haven’t done these 10 mile runs forever, though.

We started training in January to run Bay to Breakers in San Francisco on May 15. We ramped up our mileage together (I was already running 10 miles on weekends). We had some runs that were painful 3 miles in. Then we moved up to four. Then five.

Now our weekly “short run” together is usually six miles. I say usually because we have some weeks where we can’t make it that far. Sometimes it’s just better to stop at four and call it a night.

And then we have nights like the one last Wednesday when it was blazing hot (hotter than it has been on our recent runs) and we just kept pushing through despite it. We got to six, but it wasn’t our best time ever.

I made that comment and my friend Jennie, who I think tends to the more pragmatic among the three of us who run together, pointed out that we always break some sort of record when we run together. We add mileage, she said. More mileage than last year. More hours run.

My friend Sam always says she doesn’t care about the distance, just the time and the quality of the run.

It’s funny though. We’ve been running together nine months and the quality of the running has increased. So have the conversations. And the distance.

It’s kind of redefined what a “good run” means to me.

It used to be a good time.

I had that today (see photo above from end of the run on my Garmin 405CX) but I never have a bad run with my friends. Even if we are dogging rain and running against horrible wind, it’s a “good run” because I did it with them.