In the Bay Area for 48 Hours

Things I always have to do when back in Marin for the weekend:

  • Play with Tupac the Cat (who I made a website for in one of my coding classes, but it never got put on a server, so you are, unfortunately, going to miss out on that)
  • Ride in West Marin
  • Eat a burrito at Sonoma Taco Shop
  • Play with Tupac
  • Run on the trails
  • Oh man, the trails!
  • Chocolate-covered Oreos from Scotty’s Market
  • Bother Tupac some more
  • Have dinner at Bel Campo (possibly my favorite restaurant, but they just opened one in downtown LA, which I’m going to have to check out too!)

The Many Attitudes About Cycling

This morning I rode down PCH (Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1 if you’re not an Angeleno) with a friend. She recently moved down here from Marin too and she was raving about how much nicer people are in LA. She had just been back up in Marin a couple weeks ago and got sworn at, honked at, and yelled at while riding her bike. Her argument was that people in Marin are entitled and people in LA are much more laid back.

My argument would be that people in LA haven’t seen enough cyclists yet to hate them.

Yes, I have had some terrible, shitty, faith-in-people-crushing experiences while on my bike, and Steve has had more than me. And largely all that hatred and anger from those people isn’t because of me. It’s because of them and their issues. But it’s also because they’re doing the same kind of mass stereotyping thing that people who make racist or sexist judgments do. ‘I’ve met some asshole Asian people, therefore Asian people are assholes.’ Or: ‘I see a lot of cyclists and they clog up our roads and that one got in my way that time and I saw another one blow a stop sign and they’re annoying, therefore all cyclists don’t deserve to be on the road.’

It’s a hatred that comes from familiarity. Ideally, eventually, that familiarity will breed resigned acceptance. But, right now, I know that there are bike lanes and bike sharing and good bike routes and places you can get in a long ride in the Bay Area, but I also know that means there are people on those routes who don’t want to see one more fucking cyclist.

In LA, I don’t know that there are bike lanes and bike sharing and good bike routes and places for a long ride on the weekend. However, where you do ride, the people are still more befuddled and amused by you than annoyed. It may be how the first person who ran the Grand Canyon was treated. Now, there’s too many damn runners.

Yes, there are cycling group rides here. Safety in numbers! But, there isn’t the sheer quantity of weekend warriors and casual riders and commute bikers that you see in the Bay Area. That has meant that the main problem for me has been the problem you have with tourist drivers up in Marin: they just have no idea what to do with bikers on the road. While it’s not really their fault, it can actually be more dangerous for you sitting out there in the open on your bike with just some plastic on your head for protection. Biking around LA, which has mostly been commute biking for me and a little bit of training now, I’ve come across so many people who just aren’t sure why I’m in the road or what I’m doing or how they should react. Mostly, that’s fine and we can work it out. Tons of drivers have been weirdly thankful when I’ve moved over so they can make a right turn on a red light. But, every time someone gets mad because I need to get over to make a left turn or I have to come into the right lane so I don’t get doored by a parked car or they can’t get by for 30 seconds on the narrow street, every time I worry that this is just building up the resentment. And I don’t know how to avoid that.

What bothers me, though, isn’t the difficulty of finding places to ride or of getting around by bike. I’m not even really that bothered on a personal level by the angry hatred or the casual confusion. Those are problems, but they’re problems that will resolve themselves in the long arc of history. Hopefully.

No, what really bothers me so far about LA is the general attitude of dismissiveness in which that arc of history will never be able to plant roots and take hold. So many people keep raving to me about how great the culture is here and there’s so much to do and so many places to go and there’s something happening every week. True. Great. Fantastic. Then, the conversation usually has me next saying that yeah, but do they know any good places to ride, because so far it seems like biking is sort of rough here. You have to deal with a lot of cars — which isn’t just an annoyance thing, but a danger thing — and if you want to get away from the traffic and congestion then you have to drive really far to start a ride somewhere — which is fine for the weekend, but not a good use of time for weekday training. And, bike commuting can be really hit or miss — as in hope they miss and don’t hit you. And, every. single. time. I say this or ask about biking or mention open space or want to know how to get around, the local says ‘oh, yeah, well that’s just LA’ or ‘LA isn’t really a cycling place’ or ‘it’s a car culture, get used to it.’

That’s what really pisses me off. As if these are not even legitimate concerns worth having. As if they don’t even warrant a counter-argument. That’s an attitude towards cycling I’m not sure even allows a place for cycling to exist within it.

Awesome Marin Run Route: The One Hour Run

Phoenix Lake is MY running spot. From Protrails.
Phoenix Lake is MY running spot. From Protrails.


Yesterday, since I’m home from LA for five days, I did my favorite one hour run. A warning: it’s only like 6-7 miles (depending on your route), but has about 1,000 feet of elevation. So it’s not the easiest one hour run ever. But, it is the best.

I started out tired and hurting — because I decided to get back into things again by strength training and box jumping the other day, which totally makes sense — and it’s so easy once you’re not working out every day to just keep not working out. And, anyway I’m slow and out of shape and this guy who did not look like he should be faster than me just kept speeding up to stay right ahead of me on the trail and it’s probably because I suck (or because I’m judgmental). I was not feeling the run.

But, it’s hard to not feel it once you’re up on the single track on the ridge all by yourself. So. That’s probably why it’s one of my ‘re-motivate yourself’ runs. Try it:

  • I always start at Phoenix Lake. Phoenix is my bang. (Which is something I have weirdly started saying, even though the phrase is actually “my bag.” But I’m sticking with my version.)
  • If you park at Ross Commons and run in on the road/path, then it’s a bit over a mile longer and just under an hour. If you park at the Lagunitas Country Club and run the same speed as me, then it’s more like a 50′ run.
  • From the trailhead, go up the fire road and stay to the right/straight around the edge of the lake until you get to the base of a hill. Go straight up Shaver Road at that intersection, which is actually a large trail. It’s about a 1.5 mile climb, but it’s not too steep or rough.
  • At the top, at Five Corners, where there’s a number of trail options and a bunch of signs that warn you to watch for mountain lions, take the insanely steep trail to your immediate right.
  • The steepness only lasts about 100m, then you’re on a single-track ridge trail that winds in and out on the side of the hill.
  • Eventually it dumps you at another trail intersection, Six Points (or maybe this one is Five Corners and the other one is Six Points, I can never remember). Don’t take the trail to the immediate right, because it’ll drop you back down into the valley. Take the trail to the right that says “Yolanda Trail – to Phoenix Lake.” Like this:


  • (If you are an avid reader of Sunny Running, you may notice that this is the same start of the route I usually take to get up Mt. Baldy, but in that case you would go left towards Worn Springs here.)
  • The single track continues up and down along the ridge. This is the best part of the run, because it looks like this:
Not my photo. Someone on Yelp's photo. But pretty accurate.
Not my photo. Someone on Yelp’s photo. But pretty accurate.
  • The trail rolls and some of the short little uphill sections can feel like a bitch, but on the whole you’re headed slightly more downhill than up. As you go, it gets noticeably more down because you’re dropping back down to the lake. Duh.
  • You will want to look at the awesome views of Mt. Tam and the hills and the drop into the valley. But, it is a rocky single-track trail, so you may also want to look at where you’re setting your feet. Don’t step on the newts! (Or rattlesnakes, obviously.)
  • You’ll hit one more kind of Y-intersection. Stay to the right to get back down to Phoenix Lake. That last section is very downhill and can be narrow and overgrown, depending on the weather and the district’s budget for maintenance. Don’t think too hard about what might be in the bushes and brush yourself off for ticks at the bottom.
  • At the bottom, it’ll dump you out back on the fire road around Phoenix that you started on. Turn left to head back to the trailhead and your car, or loop around the lake for an extra 2-2.5 miles. I sometimes like to loop the lake first just to get some running in before heading uphill. Plus the singletrack on the backside of the lake is fun.
  • Last step: Feel better about yourself and running.

What’s your favorite go-to run? (Can you tell me one in the LA area?)


Dipsea Race 2014: Race Report

Oh, hey, I'm going to finish. From Andy J.
Oh, hey, I’m going to finish. From Andy J.


Before the start, when everyone’s wandering around downtown Mill Valley, people kept telling me I was going to kill it. And, I was like ‘I guess, if aiming for top 100 is killing it.‘ People are misled by the fact that I look sort of fit and don’t realize it’s different than running fast. One guy gave me a high-five and said, ‘Here’s one of the favorites!’

I told Steve this and he said, ‘Favorite for what??’

Another guy saw me active stretching and doing some strides and he started going on about how I was so fit that the race probably wouldn’t even hurt. I probably wouldn’t even feel it. No, no, that’s not actually how that works at all.

This girl who’s a 33-minute 10K runner was in my start group (19-39-year-old women and some 60-year-old guys I think). A number of people in our group didn’t know what they were getting into, so they tried to go with her at the start. It was a bad idea for them. And, pretty quickly I was near the back of the group. That’s when I decided my race strategy: make the hard parts easy and the easy parts hard. It was a strategy dictated by necessity. The heat was dripping and pushing the climbs too hard would have resulted in me being the girl who passed out while running and fell into a poison oak bush. (Fortunately for me, that was not me. Unfortunately for some other girl, it did happen to her.)

This plan, however, dictated that I smash the downhills. So, after sweating up the 670 stairs and then the rest of the first climb, we started the descent to Muir Woods. And, I had to crush it. The key to running fast downhill is to 1. stop caring about the possibility of falling and 2. don’t ever let it be easy, keep pushing it. I did the flinging yourself over steps and weaving through people and destroying my quads thing and passed dozens and dozens of people down to Muir. It’s a testament of how hard I ran the downhills that the only times I wanted to throw up were when I was running downhill.

The climb up out of Muir is a blur. A hot blur of sweat in my eyes. I power-hiked when it was steeped, jogged when it wasn’t too steep, and ran when it was flat enough. I had no idea if I was making it too easy and was going to come out in 500th place (ugh) or if I was still going too hard and was going to blow up. It wasn’t until halfway to the top that I suspected I was having a really, really good race based on who I was catching from the groups that started before me and who was catching me from the groups of fast guys that started after me. Near the top of the climb I saw a fast friend, who had started in my group, up ahead. I gained on her as we crested and was running behind her as we hit the singletrack flat section before you begin the long descent.

Someone on the side said I was in 127th place. Yes! I passed another 5-10 people and was ready to run up next to my friend and say ‘let’s go, we can get this, top 100!’ I had it. That was the only time I looked at my watch. There was only 10-15 minutes left. All I had to do was smash the descent.

Ah, don't fall again! From Andy J.
Ah, don’t fall again! From Andy J.


And, then I wiped out. I had landed hard on my right foot at some point earlier and felt it roll slightly — but didn’t care. When I hit something (no idea what) while running hard downhill this time and smashed into the side of the trail, I didn’t care either. I jumped back up, ready to chase down the guy who had passed me when I fell. I made it a few steps and the ankle rolled and I fell to the other side of the trail. This time I stood up and couldn’t put weight on the right ankle. Shit.

I stood to the side of the trail — as best as possible on a singletrack — and tried to shake the ankle out, test it. A large group went by me and I almost immediately went into shut-down mode. No top 100. Don’t hurt yourself worse. Get to the finish. I hobbled down the trail after the group, but kept stumbling on the stupid fucked up ankle. Someone fell as they tried to pass me; someone else crashed into us; the whole thing caused a pile-up. One of the women in the group I was stumbling after was worried I was dizzy and going to be a Dipsea casualty.

Slowly, the ankle went a bit numb. The stumbling turned into a jog. Eventually, I was able to kind of run the parts on the road or the smooth trails, where I didn’t need my ankle to be too stable. But, there were a lot of parts down stairs and down rutted singletrack and straight through brush. I couldn’t get out of people’s way fast enough as they passed me. I tried to not care. I wasn’t going to be top 100. This wasn’t going to be my best Dipsea ever. So, why did I care if I was 130th or 150th or 170th. But, not caring is hard when you’ve been working so hard to care. When we came out on the final quarter-mile stretch on the road to the finish, I ran as hard as I could and I still couldn’t catch the old people in front of me.

I ended up 153rd — which is more or less what I was last year — after running a 1:10:30 (subtract from that my 8 minute head start for being a woman). The heat was brutal and everyone was slow. Last year, I was 150-something and ran 1:08. Yesterday, 99th place was almost exactly 3 minutes faster than me. Was I on pace to run 3 minutes faster before wiping out? Maybe. I’ll think about that as I continue to ice my ankle — which is mostly walkable today. I’ll probably think about it especially as I plot eventually training seriously and exclusively for this race. Someday!!

After the Technu shower with a water bottle. From Brian.
After the Technu shower with a water bottle. From Brian.


Running the Dipsea

Yesterday was my birthday. People keep asking what I’m doing. Running the Dipsea on Sunday!

This is an actual video of what it’s like to run if you want to see the whole course. Funny story: like 4 years ago I wanted to wear a GoPro and do this, but was discouraged from it because it’d ‘be dangerous.’

Marin Memorial Day 10K: A Race Report

Short version: I ran a 10K and it was not even close to the slowest I have ever run a 10K. Win.

Long version: The Marin Memorial Day Races are awesome. The women’s course record in the 10K is 33:03. The men’s is 28:45. That’s some fast shit. (Not that the course is actually fast. It’s fine, whatever. But, the people are fast. Stupid fast.) And, it’s 15′ away from my house. So, I’ve basically done it every year we lived here, except last year when I was coming off the stupid bone spur injury and a 10K sounded awful and running shitty and slow and getting my ass kicked sounded really awful.

This year, I wanted to do it because 1. why not and 2. it’s time to get my ass kicked into remembering how to run fast before Alcatraz this weekend. I wasn’t optimistic about it not sucking, though, since the grand total number of miles I’ve run at 10K pace or faster in the last three months is: one. And, also, Ironman training, etc. But, Thursday I ran some 1000s at 10K pace and I actually finished them all, so clearly that training would totally take effect in three days and I would be awesome. No worries.

I didn’t wear a watch for the race because, really, I didn’t need to know. Knowing wasn’t going to change anything. Anyway, usually, they have clocks or people yelling times at the mile markers, but this year they didn’t. So, it was totally blind running. Blind, except Steve was running with me, so he kept up a commentary about how fast I was going v. should be going. For the first mile he and I ran with Ilyce and I knew she was probably running in the low 6:20s. It is hard to describe how much that first mile felt like a full-on, all-out death sprint. 1200m into the race I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Near the end of the second mile, I fell a few seconds off her and was lost in contemplation of pain. So much pain.

After that, it actually sort of settled. Steve ran with me, which was good. I don’t know if I’d have finished or, at least, finished well without him running with me. And, slowing down just 10 seconds/mile made it go from feeling like a wheezing blind foray through a field of knives to just a normal sustainable level of hurt. By the time we hit the halfway point, I actually knew I was going to be ok. I was still rolling up on people and not getting passed by the girls who usually pass me — which meant either I wasn’t doing that badly or everyone else was doing worse. The fourth and fifth miles were long. I would guess I was running high 6:30s/low 6:40s and it felt really hard, definitely not Ironman pace (or at least if I could run that in an Ironman, I would win), but it also felt like I vaguely remember being able to run this speed all the time. Every time I tried to pick it up, though, it wasn’t happening. The last mile, people started passing me and I tried to push. Knowing the area definitely does not help, since the last mile is one long shot and all I could think is ‘this is so far until we get back.’

When we came around the track in the last 100m, I finally saw a clock and it said 39:52 (plus the fact that I started 10″ back) and I kicked to get under 40′. I was ecstatic. Fastest 10K I’ve ever run. Ironman training for the win. Then, I was like, ‘Everyone get out of my way’ and I rushed over to a trashcan to throw up for a bit. Good times.

Of course, it turns out that the clock was a minute off and I really ran a 40:58, not a 39:58. Ah well. Ironman training for the ok, more-or-less what was expected 42nd place?

Oh, look, here’s a picture of me running with terrible form with Steve and a high school kid from Nate’s class:

From Pam Wendell
From Pam Wendell

Biking in the Wind

That’s not a metaphor. Yesterday, I actually biked 4:40 in really, really strong wind with Steve. Lots of people biked yesterday because it was a weekend in May. And, all these people were talking about the wind on the social medias and in person today. The wind was epic-ly bad.

But, I needed to ride 5 hours hard and I needed to ride long on my TT bike, so we did it anyway.

Biking in really, really strong wind is an interesting experience. If you have a power meter, then you could just go the effort you want to go. It doesn’t have to be harder; just go as hard as you were planning. There’s no reason biking in the wind has to be worse. But it is. It is miserable. You spend so much energy just staying upright and focusing on not crashing and remembering to eat and drink, even though that means you have to let go of your bike with one hand to grab the water bottle and you might get blown over when you do. A lot of work is spent worrying about getting blown over.

I couldn’t even hear Steve as we went through Chileno Valley. The wind was ripping. I rode in the middle of the road — since there were no cars out there — and got blown back and forth. My bike would suddenly jump two feet to the left and then come back. I’d bike at a slant against the wind, and then it’d suddenly change for a second. And, when we crested one of the big hill coming back into the wind, I swear my whole bike came to a stop.

But, we kept going.

And, 4 hours in, Steve decided to take my Garmin computer so he could see how I was doing. And, he decided I should ride “hard’ for 15′ because of the aerobic adaption, etc. It was rough. But, we kept going. Eventually, you get home. Eventually. And, then, I laid down on the couch and didn’t get up.

Biking in the wind.

Crazy Things I Thought On My 4+ Hour Ride

Lately, I’ve been doing my hard long rides with Steve. It’s been good because it’s HARD and because Steve and I talk about stuff — mostly about Tupac the Cat. And when I’m not talking I’m mostly thinking: ‘This is way too hard. I’m not going to make it.’ Over and over. Doing my hard long ride by myself today left me a lot of time for thinking. This is pretty much what I thought:

1. I am so good at riding my bike.
2. Oh no. Does my knee hurt? My knee hurts.
3. Stupid fast guys passing me. I hate people.
4. Oh, hey, I know them. Hey! I don’t hate you.
5. I am so good at riding my bike.
6. What if I crash?! I’m totally going to crash. That car pulling out doesn’t see me. And I’m going to flip over my bike and break my temporary teeth. Maybe I can get my hand up in time.
7. Did I just actually put my hand up to practice? I did.
8. Why is that guy staring at me?
9. Oh, I know him. Hey! I don’t hate you.
10. Yeah, he definitely hates me now.
11. Shit, this did not seem that steep the last time I went down it. Maybe it’s steeper when you’re going up. Maybe I went the wrong way? Could I have gotten lost on a route I’ve done dozens of times? Probably.
12. Shit, I was supposed to email that guy who hates me now and tell him if I was going to do the race this weekend. Hmm. I guess he figured out I wasn’t racing. And, he definitely hates me.
13. This is really far up.
14. So far up.
15. Shit, when was the last time I biked up this far? 2011?
16. No cars. Noooo cars. Nocar. NOkaaaar. Nokarnokarnokar.
17. That’s a lot of bikes coming this way though. A lot of bikes. What if they’re fleeing something? Like a giant mountain lion or a murderer? Oh, shit, shit. Didn’t that girl disappear somewhere around here. There’s probably a mountain lion on the loose. Or the Mt. Tam killer. Fuck fuck fuck.
18. Oh, it’s probably just a group ride.
19. Hey, I made it to the top!
20. It’s kind of cold descending. So cold. I’m freezing. Why didn’t I bring a jacket? I hope I can hold onto my brakes all the way down. My fingers shouldn’t hurt in April. Stupid mountain. Stupid microclimates. Stupid tourists.
21. Man, I hate tourists.
22. I wonder if there’d be a way to ban anyone not from Marin from coming to Marin on weekends. But, then, it’d totally disproportionately affect people who couldn’t afford to take off days during the week. It does offer a nice cheapish way to go somewhere for people in the Bay Area. Maybe we could just ban rich San Franciscans on second dates.
23. I am soooo good at riding my bike.
24. I’m totally feeling those sea lions sunning. If I did that right now, though, it might be weird. And also I wouldn’t get faster.
25. I need to get faster. Ahhhhhh. Freak out!
26. Climbing. Climbing. I am climbing. Climb climb climb.
27. No one is ever on this narrow road. They never expect bikes. What if I get hit by a car that’s too far over the line as they come around a turn. I’m totally going to get hit by a car. Fuck. That would not be good.
28. I think that pickup driver looked at me funny.
29. What if he came back and tries to kill me. Because he hates bikes or women or, really, himself.
30. I could totally get away though by going downhill. I’d just descend so fast and weave so he probably would miss when he tries to shoot me.
31. But, what if he turns his truck sideways to block the road, so I can’t go down. It is a really narrow road. And then he’d probably be able to grab me when I tried to get around the truck. Shit.
32. Oh fuck, fuck. Is that the truck coming back to kill me?? It totally is. I’m going to die. I hope someone comes along and I’ll yell.
33. Nope, just a tourist. Stupid tourists.
34. Go go go. Just push the last mile to the top. So fast! I am the fastest.
35. Shit, that pickup truck really did almost hit me.
36. Ride ride ride. I am so good at riding my bike.
37. Only 1:15 to go. I’m basically done.
38. Ooooh, I think the secret bakery that’s only open Fridays and Saturdays when it doesn’t rain might be open now. Let’s just coast over there and get some end-of-ride nutrition….

A Few Things

1. Tuesday, I talked to this guy who is starting a Recovery Lounge in Marin, with ice baths and massage people and NormaTec boots and stuff. He had all these market research questions, including ‘Why do you workout? For exercise and health or something else?’ Which we all know is one of the most annoying questions. I think I said: ‘If I did it just for my health that would be pretty stupid, since the optimal level of exercise for health is way way lower.’ He also asked ‘How important is improvement to you?’ And I was like man, shit, you better hope improvement is important to lots of people because that’s who will pay to come to your recovery center. Hopefully, they figure things out, because that kind of place would be cool.

2. It rained yesterday, despite this whole drought thing. I had to commute around on my bike and got so wet that I actually took my boots off when I got where I was going, turned them upside down and water poured out.

3. When I finally got home last night after all that and was trying to pack, I went to get the bike box out of the garage. Tupac the Cat wanted to come too, so I was holding him in one arm and the box in the other. The only problem is the bike box is kind of big and bangs on the steps, which scared him and then he tried to jump. But, instead, he got a claw stuck in my face. Actually stuck. It was caught under the skin on the inside of my eye. So, we’re standing there on the steps and he’s trying to pull his claw out of my face and I’m trying to pull it out and hold onto him and the bike box and yelling. I think this might be why the neighbors hate me. That is also why I will be showing up in Arizona with a swollen and possibly bruised eye.

4. I am on my way to Arizona.