Friday, October 30, 2009

Back to School, Ring the Bell

If you read my post about the end of the school year last spring, you’ll know how much I loved teaching middle school English, and what an awesome group of eighth-graders I had. You might be surprised then, to learn that I am teaching fifth and sixth grades at an entirely new school this year.

The last day of school, May '09

I didn’t want to interview at other schools back in May, but it was basically a financial necessity. I loved my job and my school, but because of the complicated structure of this particular charter school, I was only earning part-time wages. We just couldn’t afford that luxury any longer. So it was without any real desire for the job, that I went to my first interview at my new school.

When I arrived, I had to admit, it seemed like a nice little school. It is a K-8 campus, which has a much different feel than the 6-12 schools where I’d spent my entire teaching career to date. When I saw my classroom for the first time, I noticed that the six student computers had names instead of numbers—names like Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and George Weasley. I began to think that perhaps I was in the right place, after all. (I was a little disappointed that the computer at my desk was not, in fact, named Albus Dumbledore, but I’m still hoping to rectify that situation.)

At teacher orientation, I learned that I was to lead a week-long field trip in Yosemite Valley with my kids. We’ll be at the Yosemite Institute doing field studies in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I couldn’t possibly have picked anything I’d rather do with my students. It seemed more and more that I was going to fit right in at this school.

After two full months with my 13 students, I know I’m in the right place. It’s a younger set, to be sure, and there are some things I miss about working with the older kids. I’ve had to shelve my tendencies toward teasing, and adjust some of my academic expectations. On the other hand, I can act like a total goofball and instead of being met with a room full of looks that say Ms.-Brugman-you-are-so-weird, I get an eruption of giggles. (Of course, it can also be challenging to reign them back in from giggles to academics, so I have to watch that one, too.)

And then there is the running. All the middle school teachers get to teach one elective on Friday afternoons, and the kids in grades 5-8 choose what they want to do. Guess what I’m teaching?

So every Friday at noon, I head out the back gate with 7 kids and we run to the park. As far as I can tell, this is running in its purest form. There’s no set workout, no competition. Our afternoon is summed up nicely by the suggestion of one student, as we entered the park on our first run.

“Let’s just explore!” she declared. And we did.

At first we explored the trails through the park. Now when we get there, we generally just run through the woods, across park benches, over picnic tables, past the horse stables, across the grass and then pause for a break at the playground equipment. Why can’t swinging and sliding be a part of running, right?

Our time essentially becomes just a giant game of follow-the-leader. You never know where the leader will take you, but it usually involves running along the top of a low retaining wall or something. It definitely, always, absolutely requires the group to divert its path to scuffle through every windswept pile of crunchy fall leaves.

We also move with a surprisingly natural cadence. The fastest runner is a 10-year-old girl. (At this age, gender is no dictator of speed.) She bounds along like Bambi, talking as fast as she runs. But she also has a natural instinct for when the group needs to slow down, and never minds walking so everyone can rest. We run. We walk. But always, it seems, there is something to explore.

It may not be much of an athletic workout for me, but it certainly feeds the soul. It reminds me that I run because I love it, and sometimes the best way to run is just to explore and play and not worry about where you’re going. To run without expectations. And these are the times that I wonder who is really the teacher and who is the student.

September '09 at the Project Discovery ropes courses

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall is Here, Hear the Yell

This past Saturday I made a last minute decision to add one more little race to my schedule, and drove down the hill for the Jenkinsen Lake Fall Trail Run. This was to be the last race in’s race series, and I was aware that I would probably need to pick up a few more points if I wanted to hang on to my second place standing. I let Peter do the math that convinced me, (Remember when you said I’d thank you later Peter? Well, thanks!) and signed up on race day for the shortest distance that would still score points, 16 miles.

It was a small group that gathered on the shores of Jenkinson Lake near Pollock Pines. It was primarily the usual suspects (i.e. the top contenders in the series standings) and we did a quick countdown before heading off on an 8-mile trail around the lake.

On my first lap I shared a few early miles with Jeff Barbier as we trotted along in the early morning chill. He had just acquired a new border collie puppy, so I talked his ear off about my own border collie and what a great running partner he is. We parted ways when I headed off toward the outhouse at the first aid station.

The trail was mostly wooded, and I appreciated the differences of autumn in the foothills versus the high country of Tahoe. Aspen, maple and oak leaves carpeted the trail in a warm palette of yellows and browns, while the surrounding dogwoods were just beginning to turn a soft shade of pink. I ran easy, utterly relaxed in the surrounding beauty.

Kim, whom I had met just prior to the start, caught up to me and shortly thereafter we found Lainie. She was completely distraught, having just spent a fair amount of time in the past few miles running around in circles. It wasn’t until we came upon her that she finally got back on track, and the three of us ran into the start/finish aid station together while Lainie tried to recover from the stress of being lost and get her mind back in the race.

Lainie and I left the aid station together and it was fun to have someone to run with for a while. We chatted up a storm for several miles until I eventually ran ahead. (I only had a few miles left until the end of my 16 mile race, but Lainie would run two more laps for a total of 32 miles.)

I felt good and relaxed all morning, and I was glad I had decided to run. All month I had been sick and running poorly. My overbuilt expectations for my upcoming 50 miler were quickly plummeting. So, I ran two decent speed workouts on Thursday and Friday, followed by this mellow 16. It was a good final tune-up before the last stretch of what has been a forced, extended taper. I’m not in the same shape I was in at the end of September, but I feel far better than I did three weeks ago.

I finished out the series in second place overall and second in my age group, which garnered me some nice prizes, including a couple pairs of Innov-8s and a fat gift certificate to the Fleet Feet in Fair Oaks. In the final standings, Lainie Callahan-Matoon won the women’s division, followed by me, then Jenny Dicus. In the men’s division, Peter Lubbers held off Jethro Smith (second) and Matt Thau (third) for the win.

Thanks to Robert, Linda and the crew for putting on all these races. I wasn’t really planning on competing in the series, but after finding myself in second place after Lake of the Sky, it seemed silly not to. The best part about the series, I think, is getting to see some of the same faces at every race and getting to know them. Have I mentioned before that I love runners?

Jenny Dicus rehydrates at the 16 mile mark.

Jeff Barbier relaxes after the 16 mile run.

Peter Lubbers checks the clock after 24 miles.

Lainie Callahan-Mattoon pauses to be "Mom" at the 24-mile mark.

The drive home was another reason I had gotten out of bed in the morning. I knew it would be beautiful. Autumn is the golden season in Lake Tahoe. The trails and temperatures are perfect for running, the crowds have dwindled, and the scenery is mercilessly breathtaking. Driving these days is a serious hazard because I can’t stop looking around, mouth agape. The colors are my favorite shades of yellows, oranges, reds and browns. Earthy—just the way I like things.

I indulged myself in pulling over to watch the Kokanee salmon swim up Taylor Creek, and take a few pictures of the fall foliage. The drive was almost as good as the run.

Crowds gather at the bridge over Taylor Creek to watch the salmon run.The Tahoe Marathon course goes over this bridge, and that fleeting glimpse as I run by is usually all I ever see of these guys. I thought it was time for a closer look.

Kokanee Salmon

Ward Creek

I followed it all up Sunday by joining Amber for a run through Donner State Park and Coldstream Canyon. I was definitely feeling tired, but as usual, running with great company through beautiful trails takes the pain away. Or at least, it makes it more than worth it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guest Blog: Brad Aagaard's Twin Cities Marathon Report

Today's post marks a minor landmark of sorts here at Daily Adventures: my first Guest Blogger. I figured it was a good way to get some content without actually doing any work of my own.

Okay, actually my friend Brad ran an awesome race this year at Twin Cities and sent out a detailed report to a few of his fellow runners. I thought it would make a great addition to my blog.

Brad and I ran Track and Cross Country together in college. Brad, like me, specialized in the 1500 and ran the 800 as a secondary event (along with various other distances - that's the nature of running for a small, D-III school). I had to hunt down his 1500 PR online because he refused to remind me what it was (3:51.93). Anyway, he was fast. I mean, he is fastAnd of course, he still is. After college, he spent approximately a decade with a foot injury that prevented him from any serious running. When he got healthy a couple of years ago, he certainly didn't waste time with running slow.

I especially enjoyed this report because, in addition to having lived in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, Twin Cities was my (and my friend Charlie's) first marathon.

Brad said he forgot to take pictures, so I'm providing a few of my own. (Sorry Brad. Next time maybe you'll remember to pull that camera out!)

Here's a shot of Charlie, me and Brad, circa 1995, after a 30K in McCall, ID:

This is how I remember Brad in college: running (or, in this case, about to run). This shot has Brad (#454) along with fellow teammates, about to start the regional championship race in XC.

So, without further ado, here is Brad's take on Twin Cities '09:

Twin Cities Marathon, Oct 4, 2009


Time: 2:40:53 (1:20:45/1:20:08)
Place: 73rd overall, 8th in my age group (35-39)
Weather: 46-52 degrees and partly sunny with 85% humidity



I opted to use the same 12 week training program that I used for
CIM last fall. Nothing fancy, just 6 2-week blocks (one week of
long intervals and a long tempo and one week of shorter
intervals, hill repeats and an easy long run) with with 1 day off
every other week. I peaked at a little over 80 miles per week.

Racing/Traveling Partners

Solomon - One of my regular training partners. A 1:51 800m runner
in college, now a consistent 2:45 to 2:55 marathoner. Solomon
started running well the last couple of weeks leading up to the
marathon (the ole-Sol who had been missing for about 12 months
finally returned).

Mammen - A mainstay of the Palo Alto Run Club (everyone knows
Mammen) and experienced sub 3-hr marathoner.

The Day Before

The day before the race was a leisurely day in St. Paul that
involved picking up our race numbers, running some errands for
food and cheap gloves and hats that we could toss on race day.
When Solomon picked up his number, he was mistaken for an elite
athlete. No such mistaken identify for Mammen and I.

Early Race Day

Up at 4:50am to eat and drink a bit. Didn't sleep much but that is
normal. I am ready to go. It is 5:35am and we slowly jog the 1/2
mile jog down the street to another hotel to catch a bus to the
start. It is dark but not too cold with no rain in sight. No line
for the buses (this definitely isn't Boston!). We get on a nearly
full bus and are quickly on our way to the Metrodome. It's 6:15am
and we are at the Metrodome. Uh oh, the driver doesn't know where
to let us off. He stops to ask a policeman blocking a street but
he doesn't know either. The policeman does tell the driver which
street he can turn on. We are at the 10 mile start. People up
front convince the driver to let us off here (their start is less
than an hour away). Off the bus and now a slow, short jog to the
Metrodome. The hallway around the perimeter is somewhat crowded
with runners sitting, standing, and stretching along the
sides. There is some space ahead which we take. My stocking cap
provides some cushion against the hard concrete floor.

We decide to do our short <10 min warm up at 7:20 so that we can
try to be in the coral 15 min before the start. Time to sit around
and relax for a bit. Mammen lays down and takes a cat nap. Lots of
10 mile runners around. I head to the bathroom (only 2 people
ahead of me; this definitely isn't Boston!). ... The ten mile
runners are headed to the start line leaving just us
marathoners. 7:20am and time to jog some more (a little faster jog
now but still slower than running). It is light now and the sky is
almost clear! A little wind but it will be a tailwind for most of
the race, so the weather is perfect. Headed out towards the 10
mile course. Lots of marathoners are just arriving. A short
out-and-back jog and we stop by the port-a-johns near the 10 mile
start. A much shorter line than the one inside or immediately
outside the Metrodome. Solomon is headed into the Metrodome to
fetch his sweat bag and get Mammen. 25 mins until the
start. ... 20 mins until the start and no sign of Solomon and
Mammen. More and more people are headed to the start. At 7:45am I
am not waiting any longer. 7:44 still no Solomon or Mammen. Ah,
there is Mammen and Sol. Time to get rid of our sweats and get to
the start, and eat gel #1. The other four are tucked in my
shorts (one every 6 miles). Very crowded at the sweat drop. Gotta
get to the start line now. Whew! They have pace signs which people
are actually following. Plenty of room up near the front. The
elite runners are jogging back and forth out on the course. Just a
few minutes before the start!

The Race

Mile 1 - 6:18
Mile 2 - 6:15 (12:33)

There is the gun and we are off. Well, sort of. I am slowly moving
towards the start line and soon running. I am stuck behind a few
slow, older runners. There goes Mammen past me on the right. Finally, a
gap opens up and I am around the slower runners. Okay, time to
settle in. This pace is comfortable, heart rate is fine. I don't
think it is too fast. Is it too slow? We will find out at the mile
marker. 6:18. How much time did I lose at the start behind the
slower runners? Was it 10 seconds? Downhill and then uphill. Mile
2, 6:15. Still a little slow. Starting to pass some people.

Mile 3 - 6:23 (18:56), 151st at 5km
Mile 4 - 6:02 (24:58)
Mile 5 - 6:15 (31:13)
Mile 6 - 6:16 (37:29), 139th at 10km

The first significant uphill. Slowing down a little to keep things
comfortable. 6:23 for mile 3. It is flat now. No need for gloves
any more and off they go. Much more comfortable now without
gloves. I'll keep the hat for a while longer. Not feeling great,
but still comfortable. Passing a few more people and settling in.
Looks like there are a bunch of masters women just ahead. Winding our
way around one of the lakes now. 5:52 for mile 4. Did I really
speed up that much? It doesn't feel that fast. The mile marker
could be off so let's keep this pace and see where we are at the
next mile. 6:36 and if I remember correctly, this is exactly where
mile 6 is supposed to be. So that previous mile wasn't 5:52, which
means I am still running about 2:44 pace. I want to run faster
than that but maybe the legs just aren't going to cooperate today.
Still 20 miles and 2 hrs of running to go. Time for gel #2. Still
plenty of energy but a long way to go. My left arch feels a little
tight. I hope it doesn't get worse.

Mile 7 - 6:08 (43:37)
Mile 8 - 6:09 (49:46)
Mile 9 - 6:13 (55:58)

Let's try increasing the pace a little and see what
happens. Does my heart rate increase? No. Passing the big group of
masters women and moving up to the next group for a while.
Downhill! Letting the legs run. Still feeling good. Headed along
the shore of another lake. Feeling more comfortable now. Ready to
slowly move past this group. Turning away from the lake now. Rolling
hills for the next couple of miles. Not much uphill. A slight downhill.
Starting to get into a faster rhythm now. The tightness in my arch is
gone. No more need for the stocking cap. Off it goes! Whew, that feels
good. Time to slowly close the gap on the big group ahead over the
next mile or so.

Mile 10 - 6:08 (1:02:07)
Mile 11 - 6:00 (1:08:07)
Mile 12 - 6:07 (1:14:14)

The big group ahead is starting to break up. Definitely feeling
better and getting into a nice rhythm. Megan (two-time
Olympic Trials marathon qualifier and fellow Menlo Park runner) is
in the pack. 90 degree right turn and up a slight rise, I pass
Megan and start working my way to catch up to the front of the
pack. Time to maintain pace for a while. The next turn just after
mile 12 will take us into the wind for a couple miles.

Mile 13 - 6:08 (1:20:22)
Halfway - 1:20:45, 114th place

Here is the left turn and we are into the wind. I am at the front
of the pack and pulling slighty ahead. It's decision time. There
is a group of four men about 20m ahead and a big gap ahead of them.
Time to close the gap and catch on to the pack. Here we go! My heart
rate is definitely a little higher now and I am breathing harder.
Okay, we are making progress... made it. Time to sit and draft and
eat gel #3. Two of the others are dropping back but there are still
two leading the way. Someone flies past on the right. There is no way
I am going to try to go with him. The others aren't either. Good.
Coming up on halfway. 1:20 high. If I even split, I can PR! My legs
feel good and my heart rate is still fine. If I keep feeling this
good and maintain this pace, I may be able to go faster the second
half by getting rid of some of those 6:15 miles.

Mile 14 - 6:06 (1:26:28)
Mile 15 - 6:05 (1:32:34)

Right turn and no more headwind for a couple of miles. Up this
slight rise and then flat. No groups ahead but more people are
coming back to me, one by one. Cruising along now at just over
6:00 pace. Definitely in the groove now and hoping it lasts. This
is fun!

Mile 16 - 6:03 (1:38:37)
Mile 17 - 6:02 (1:44:40)
Mile 18 - 6:07 (1:50:47)
Mile 19 - 6:01 (1:56:48)

Along the Mississippi river on the bluff above the river
now. Slight headwind. Everybody is strung out. Slooooooowly
passing one person after another. 10 miles to go. Another hour of
running. Just like 10 miles hard after 10 miles easy. I know how
this should feel. Uh oh, that guy is not doing so well. Looks like
someone is assessing if he is okay. Some slight ups and downs but
my pace is still steady and I am feeling smooth and relaxed. Time for
gel #4. Energy level is still good. The headwind isn't too bad. Up the
hill and onto the bridge. 6:01 with the hill. Things are looking good!
7 miles to go.

Mile 20 - 5:59 (2:02:46), 97th place

Ride the tailwind now. Right turn and back down along the river on
the other side. Flat for now but gotta be ready for the uphill
just after 21. 5:59! Fastest mile so far! Steady rhythm now. Keep
rolling. Uh oh, took a little too much air at that last water
stop. A little side stitch. Breathe.... keep rolling. 10km to
go. Need to run just about 6:00 pace to break 2:40. How fast can I
go that last mile? Can I run 5:50? Wait until the top of the hill
at mile 23 to push it.

Mile 21 - 6:01 (2:08:47)

Hiting some rolling hills before the climb. Starting to feel some
signs of getting tired. My heart rate jumps up on the uphills and
I am breathing harder. The change in rhythm seems to help my side
stitch though. No worse for the wear.

Mile 22 - 6:26 (2:15:14)
Mile 23 - 6:10 (2:21:23)

What an idiot! The guy just ahead of me tried to grab water and
spilled 4-5 cups in a row. Thank goodness there were still a few
left and I could grab one. See ya later! Time to head uphill. Oh,
this is shorter than I expected! Back onto some flat road for 100m
and now the mile climb. This isn't too bad. 6:26. Expected
that. Probably can't break 2:40 now, but I can try to make it
close. Very gradual climb now with some short, slightly steeper
sections ahead. Still picking people off one-by-one. Not passing
many women now, a number of masters men though. There is the
guy who flew past me about 10 miles ago! 6:10. Better. 5km to go!
Getting tired but still feeling relatively strong. Some slight ups
and downs now and pretty straight. Time for that last gel. This
may take a while to get down.

Mile 24 - 6:06 (2:27:29)

Still rolling along. No more gel for me. Less than 2 miles to go!
Let's throw the rest away and focus on running hard. Still
passing people... a little more crowded now. Still no one passing
me. I wonder if that will last?

Mile 25 - 6:11 (2:33:41)
Mile 26 - 5:57 (2:39:39)
Finish - 1:13 (2:40:52), 73rd place out of 8432

I am glad Solomon and I ran the last mile yesterday. I am looking
forward to that last 1/2 mile with a significant downhill! Once I
get to 3/4 of a mile to go I can use the downhill. Arggh, I
remember this slight uphill near mile 25 too! 6:11, still rolling.
Catch those people ahead. Downhill! Argggh, a little rise. There
is the cathedral... it's all downhill from here. There is the
finish! Time for a little kick! Can I catch that guy.... no. Under
2:41! Sooo close to 2:39 something, yet so far.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kokanee Salmon Trail Run

Last weekend I dragged my tired self out of bed on Sunday morning to join friends in a romp through the snow at the Kokanee Salmon Trail Run in South Lake Tahoe. It was my third weekend in a row racing in this part of Tahoe, and the weather, among other things, held this day in stark contrast to the previous two weekends.

Sarah was in from out of town acclimatizing before the B
iz Johnson Marathon, and Turi and Amber arrived at my house early Sunday morning to pick us up. It turned out to be a good thing we left so early, as we drove toward the race into an ever-increasing blizzard. Turi was our brave captain, creeping around the hairpin turns near Emerald Bay in near white-out conditions. I think he gets the "clutch performance of the day" award for his awesome driving skills!

By the time we arrived at check-in, about four or five inches of snow coated the ground, but it had mercifully stopped falling from the sky. We joined fellow runners Chris and Dave (rounding out the full compliment of Reno's "Team Library Dork") and Abby (Carson branch of TLD) in pinning on numbers and jumping around trying to stay warm.

Sarah signed up for the 10K since she would be racing at Biz in a week's time, and Dave was returning from injury, so he opted for the 5K. The rest of us gathered for the half-marathon distance. I wasn't feeling incredibly spry, and I was kind of glad for the snow. (It made things a bit adventurous, and distracted me from the fact that I still felt like crap. My previous day's trail run, a planned 18-miler, had turned into 13 very slow and painful miles. I was still sick and apparently unrecovered from the Tahoe Marathon.)

Runner Check-in

Amber, Abby and me

L to R - Me, Dave, Turi, Amber, Chris, Abby and Sarah, with Chris's daughter Hannah in front

I had time to socialize and say hi to good friends Jamie and Shana from Kings Beach before the half marathon runners gathered at the starting line.

Jamie, Shana, Alden and little-baby-soon-to-be at the start

Dave Cotter gives the race instructions.

Chris prepares to take it out for the win.

Amber and me

Amber and Turi

The first two miles were on paved road, but with the snow and ice I was still glad I was wearing trail shoes.

We headed out a paved road for what turned out to be an incredibly beautiful day on a fairly mellow course. Sarah joined us for the beginning of the half-marathon as a warm-up for her 10K.

As planned, I kept the pace easy and took plenty of time for photos. The course soon headed off the pavement and onto some snowy singletrack. The technical aspects of staying upright on a snow-slick trail were pretty fun, especially since I wasn't trying to go super fast. I can imagine that would have led to disaster.

The trail meandered around Fallen Leaf Lake, and the scenery with the fresh snowfall was unbelievable! In spite of my easy pace, I felt pretty tired, but I was so glad I was out running through this stunning beauty.

I had to pause what seemed like every 100 yards to blow the excess of snot from my nose. I'm so sorry to anyone who was running near me! It must have been gross. It certainly was annoying from my perspective. I pretty much left a slick of mucus down the entire course. Sorry folks!

We ran through the burn area from 2007's Angora Fire. The forest of blackened trunks was actually quite beautiful under a snowy coat.

I crossed the line with more of a sense of relief than accomplishment. I was totally glad I had done the race, because I knew I would never have run that far on my own, and I needed the miles. It was also a much-needed injection of enthusiasm from friends and from the season's first snow.

We cheered the finishers and waited around for the awards ceremony, exchanging stories of the day's race. Sarah had been stalked by a man who reeked of tequila during the 10K. He had apparently been having a grand time the day before at Oktoberfest, which was taking place across the street at Camp Richardson. His primary goal for the 10K, it seemed, was to get Sarah to join him at that afternoon's continuation of Oktoberfest. Sometimes the presence of these kind of men in a race are good motivation for running faster. (Especially when they reek of tequila.)

Dave takes third in his age-group in the 5K

Prizes turned out to be a bottle of wine and a Kokanee Salmon ornament. I thought this was brilliant, and lamented that it simply wasn't a day on which I was going to win one.

I'm pretty sure paper Gatorade cups are the preferred glass for Charles Shaw.

However, we had to wait around in the cold for a while to get the final results, so the brilliant race directors busted out a few bottles of Two-Buck Chuck and started passing them around with some Gatorade cups. That definitely kept us happy, and even a bit warmer.

Finally the results were in. Sarah took third in her age group in the 10K, Dave took third in his age group in the 5K, and Chris won the overall in the Half-Marathon. Nice job, everyone!

We decided to end the day with beers and lunch at The Brewery in South Lake. The skies opened up, and once again we were driving through a blizzard. People were everywhere, celebrating at the outdoor Oktoberfest. I was quite impressed with their refusal to give up the party. They were drinking, dancing, eating ice cream and riding bikes, all while completely covered in snow. I suggested they had the right idea, but Sarah forbid us to join them for fear of running into Tequila Guy. As it was, The Brewery was warmer and had real food.

Thanks to the Reno kids for inviting me on this awesome day! You guys rock! Also, thanks to Dave Cotter for putting on the best races in Tahoe - rain, snow or shine (and for knowing when to pass out the wine).

Complete results available here.

More race reports: