Malibu Creek Challenge 22k

12 05 2009

Last weekend, Luke and I ran the Malibu Creek 22k. This was my 2nd trail race ever, my 1st race of this length (half marathon plus a little extra), and my substitute birthday challenge, since my fitness was nowhere near what it needed to be to climb 21 routes in a day at Indian Creek.

The course took us along the “Crags Road” in Malibu Creek State Park to the base of Bulldog Mtn., which we proceeded to run up for a grueling 3 miles and almost 2000ft of elevation. After an initial descent, there were some rolling hills for another 3 miles, then a long, fairly steep descent and a final hill before the finish. The elevation profile is below:

I had gone a week and a half before to run/walk the whole course to check it out. It was rough since I didn’t end up having time to do much training, but I didn’t want to give up, so I just readied myself mentally to do it again and prepared with a couple extra GU’s. I was able to run more sections than I had the first time, which made the distance seem to go by faster. Also, having the aid stations was great because I was able to keep myself a lot more hydrated. I still had an issue with my calves getting really cramped up and my IT bands feeling tight, but I managed to finish, shaving about 30 minutes off the time I took on my preview run.


I was 123rd out of 178 women and finished 9th out of 10 in my age group. However, I think those 8 other women probably trained a lot more than I did, which was almost not at all. I was happy to be able to push myself harder the second time on the course and am already thinking about which race to do next and how to fit more running into my insanely busy schedule. To be honest, I am not one of those people who just naturally loves running, but I do appreciate being able to push myself more and be in better shape, along with the feeling of accomplishment of finishing a race like this.

Luke did awesome, finishing 3rd in his age group and 18th out of 252 men. And that’s pretty darn good considering some of those 17 other guys probably have coaches and lack full time jobs.

We were both tired, so we relaxed the rest of the weekend, grabbing some dinner with Julie and Josh and watching the new Star Trek movie on Sunday.

This coming weekend, we will be celebrating our 3rd anniversary with our first trip to Charleston for 2009 with a side trip to Vegas to see Phantom of the Opera. Have a great week!


Cause for Celebration

15 04 2009

Things have seemed so busy recently… I think I may not have written anything on the blog since just after Indian Creek, which is probably a month ago at this point. I will hopefully have time to catch up on my backlog of activities, but here are the highlights:

I went to Hawaii with other graduating seniors and grad students during my official spring break. It was sweet to learn a bit about igneous rocks in the field – my classes tend to be heavy on theory and light on hands-on experience. Sadly, it rained almost the entire time we were there. I had been looking forward to some nice Hawaiian sun.


sunrise on the coast


a tongue of fresh (less than a day old – still warm!) lava


pretty orange flower in the botanical garden

The day after we came back, I went to JTree with Luke, Julie and Josh. I caught up on my suntanning that I’d missed out on in Hawaii while everyone climbed at Hemingway, then put my saved energy to good use on Gunsmoke in the afternoon. I made my furthest link yet and pumped out in the corner because I hadn’t gone over my complicated beta beforehand. Then I was just too tired and flash pumped to recover. Maybe next time. But it felt great! The “real” crux is way easier than my short person crux!

Then, I visited Stanford. I had a great time, loved the group that I would be working with and the research I would be doing, and was excited about the Palo Alto weather, which I think I would like better than Pasadena. After stressing out for 5 days, I got the good news that I was accepted to the PhD program in the Geology Department! I’ve officially accepted the offer now, so Luke and I will be headed up to Palo Alto for the fall! We’re really excited!

And last weekend, we went to Bishop. I had my best day of bouldering ever on Saturday, sending two V3s (my 2nd and 3rd ever) and flashing a V2. One of the V3s was steep and juggy, definitely not my style, so it was cool to have sent it anyways. The other one was a problem I’d tried and loved before – Sad Parrot. I’d figured out the crux beta before and this time I had the strength to pull the move. So I guess I’m somehow bouldering stronger than I ever have before, which bodes well for our upcoming Joe’s Valley trip. But I’m also hoping I can combine this newly found power with more endurance for the ultimate goal – Smith and Squamish in June/July.


I was stoked to be strong enough to pull off this micro pocket this time 🙂

I’m also attempting to train for a 22k trail race in Malibu on May 9th. I decided this could be a good substitute birthday challenge (1k for each year plus one bonus) and I’m hoping just to actually finish, run a good amount of uphill sections, and feel better than I did on the Montana de Oro 8k.

So now I’m busy finishing up my LAST TERM EVER at Caltech. Its crunch time now for writing my thesis, so I’m spending a lot of time working on my research (and loving it, which seems like a good sign for grad school).

Montana de Oro: Trail Running 101

25 02 2009

Am I a runner? Could I ever be a runner?  What makes you a runner?

I took part in high school cross country and stayed fit playing ultimate frisbee in college but never thought to run just for the sake of running. Running fast or running far takes a lot of effort and putting in that time would detract from my climbing.  In college many of my friends were runners and I often ran because  I saw the health benefits of staying light. During a very focused study abroad in Australia I would often go for 8k to 15K runs around the city before class. These six months in 2005 were most likely my highpoint as far as frequency and duration. In my final years at college I ran at most four times a month and stopped completely after I graduated in 2007.


In September of 2008 I decided that I needed to step up my fitness and start running again. I had stayed fit by climbing and biking to work but knew that I would benefit from more frequent cardiovascular exercise. At first it was just a casual 5k,  my favorite distance,  every week or so. Then, with some gained fitness,  I started doing slower longer runs with some of my co-workers.  I had not run more than five or six miles since Australia and it was a new challenge as we went for eight to ten mile runs. The more I ran the more I wanted to put my effort towards accomplishing a goal. Many of my friends have run a marathon, some more than once, so why couldn’t I?


I started upping my mileage in the thought of doing a half-marathon, a good first step towards doing a marathon in 2010. After doing a couple of ten mile runs I was confident that I could go the distance, 13.1 miles.  My friend Julie, from Bucknell, helped me find a race organized by Pacific Coast Trail Runs that would meet my distance requirement with the added benefit of beautiful scenery. While in my mind running is usually just a means to an end, I was excited to travel to a new part of the California coast and for a chance to push myself. In the month or so before the race I slowly upped my weekly mileage and enjoyed cruising the trails and streets around where I live in San Diego.  The week before the race I rested, tapering to allow my body to recover, and worked out what I would eat and drink during the race.


Logistically I ran my 25k on two GU’s, a Clif Shot, and ~20 oz of water. I had practiced carrying a water bottle and my support crew, Julie, Josh and Lizzy, gave my bottle at the half way point in the race. Julie and Lizzy had already finished the 8k and were waiting with Josh for my resupply. I was able to meet up with them because the 25k was separated into two loops, Valencia and Hazard Peaks with an aid station in the middle at the Start/Finish point. A short version of the first loop, called Valencia Bluffs, was used by those in the 8k, which bypassed the steep run to the Valencia peak. The second loop  was of equal elevation gain ~1600 feet but over a much more moderate grade. The running was scenic and I had a good time despite running out of energy in the last couple of miles. I am sure if i had done base work over 10 miles I would have had more energy. By the end of the race I drank all of my water and wished that I had stopped for a bit more food.


Elevation Profile Courtesy of PC Trail Runs

I had a blast and am interested in running some races in the future of similar distances 18k – 30k. If I run a race with a similar elevation profile (3200 feet over 25k) I will have to do more hill training. Not only was I slow running up the hills but my core was unable to sustain as fast of a pace down the hill as I would have liked. I had to hold back on the extended downhills due to unexpected fatigued.  We will see if I have the time and energy in the future to devote to training for another long race. Hopefully I can keep up with my weekly running routine and start upping my mileage again.



Photos thanks to Julie and Josh!

We Survived!

16 02 2009

Julie, Josh, Luke, and I all survived the Montana de Oro trail race on Sunday!

Julie and I both ran the 8k, which had about 800 feet of elevation gain (that means big hills, not little ones…). Julie was awesome and won the 8k and I finished 21st out of 70, which I guess is not bad considering I’ve only been able to run again for about 2 weeks and didn’t train on any hills. Zero.

Luke ran the 25k and finished 7th out of 77 runners, so really awesome for (1) his first trail race (not counting XC in high school) and (2) his first race for this long of a distance. Luke not only went to the top of Valencia Peak (with the 12k runners), but also to the top of Hazard Peak (course for 25k and 50k) for about 3200-ft of total elevation gain.

And Josh was our awesome support crew. He got me my jacket after my race and gave Luke his waterbottle at his halfway point.

We had been really worried about getting poured on by this next storm (which is currently dumping rain outside my window in Pasadena), but ended up with a nice, though windy day and not a drop of rain. The full results are available here and divided by age/gender group here. You can also check out the course map and the elevation profiles of the different distances.

The whole race had a really fun and laid-back atmosphere. Although there were obviously some very good and competitive runners, there were also plenty of people out there just to enjoy the trails and scenery (including a 4-yr old girl who ran the 8k and a 10-yr boy old who passed me on the hill and was running the 12k – I was not that awesome when I was 4… or 10…). This was really nice because I tend to get really nervous and stressed out when it comes to competitions, especially when I don’t feel well prepared. I definitely suffered on the hills (but I think the vast majority of other people did too) and was grinning the whole time I was sprinting down the long downhill, leaping down 3-ft steps, jumping over rocks, passing people who are not so comfortable on rough trails, and feeling happy that I am still 20 years old (at least for another month) and have knees and ankles that still function (except when I play ultimate frisbee). And it made me want to run more so I can suck less. But maybe not today, since it’s raining.

Luke will probably have something to write about his experience, too.

Happy President’s Day