Monday, March 24, 2014

Catalina Island Marathon Trip

This winter was a rough winter to train  for a spring marathon in CA - that's for sure. It has been the coldest winter I can remember - and we have had more snow than all but 7 winters since the weather in Illinois started being recorded (rumor has it anyway...). I made the race schedule thinking that the weather would be like previous years & had no idea what was in store for us.

Lots of COLD runs!!!
We ran through -20 degree days for this race... Through a lot of snow, and a lot of wind for this race...Our water froze, our legs were numb & red and I got cold induced hives after finishing most of the training runs for this race.... My feet were numb for miles for this race, I sacrificed sleeping in many Saturdays and Sundays for this race... Came home early from social events for this race... I also had a great time with friends running those training miles through the cold.... saw Eagles flying high in the sky, beautiful snow clinging to the trees, had good conversations as we ran mile after mile....and really.. what else would I have done all winter? ...I though of all those things as I sat on the airplane only one hour after take off, boiling hot, sweating, and sick to my stomach I had already passed out twice (I had never passed out before in my life), and thrown up my breakfast. Every time I opened my eyes it looked as if I was seeing through a frosty windshield and when people talked they sounded far away - I could barley comprehend what they were saying. All that work and there I sat, wondering how I could possibly run the race with something so horribly wrong with me.
Before I got sick

Before things really went down hill on the plain we had already had a rough start. We had to book a hotel by the air port because a snow storm was predicted to come  in that. The hotel's electricity had gone off during the night, so we woke up cold, with no lights and no hot breakfast (I had really been looking forward to the breakfast because the internet reviews said it was really good - Cinnamon rolls! I wanted cinnamon rolls!)  I was also really looking forward to coffee that morning, and till we were on our way out the door to hop on the trolly they only had decaf and I was more interested in the assistance waking up, than a hot beverage. Of course, as we were leaving we passed a hotel employee who was bringing coffee from the dunki'n doughnuts near by - I wanted some so bad - but or course they were just one minute too late.

At the air port we had gotten through security really easily -we were chosen for  a random special line that didn't make you do as much stuff as the other lines - I did however get my hands swiped randomly of course for what ever it is they check for... Then as my bag went through the machine they saw that I had a knife and a quark screw... I did not recall having any of those items in my bag, but sure enough - they were their. My favorite pocked knife at that... it must have fallen in before I left - or perhaps my furry friend Matilda (trusty dog) had planted it there in hopes they would not allow me to travel that day....Ether way they dug through and emptied my carefully packed bag to find them... I was escorted back and power walked all the way underground to a Hilton hotel that had a UPS to mail my forbidden items back to myself - then back I went about as fast as I could walk, thinking we had limited  time. When I got to the line I was of course not randomly chosen for the easy line again - then when I finally got up to the medal detector of course that line closed and the ex ray line opened. I HATE the Ex Ray machine. And of course they found some imaginary weapon on my shoulder - so I was prodded till they found nothing - then finally reunited with my mother and sister who had repacked my bag as best they could and gotten me coffee (finally coffee!!!) We found our gate and I found a place to charge my phone that had not charted the night before because of the power outage. Of course all my rushing was for nothing because of course our flight was delayed an hour...could have been worse though!

I felt just fine as we sailed off into the sky - read my book for a while, then suddenly felt a little of what I though was motion sickness - then I was very very sleepy, and the next time I opened my eyes everyone was staring at me and some guy was saying he was a Doctor. I of course was confused, and didn't know why I was seeing frosty snow flakes all over and said "whats wrong? I just fell asleep..." my mom said, "no! you passed out! your were drooling!" Apparently my mother has not seen me sleep too recently because I am not a beautiful sleeper - my husband may not have had any idea that I had passed out if he were sitting beside me.... But my mom had, and my sister had told a flight attendant that I had passed out, the doctor had heard and then I was shaken awake....or into consciousness... or what ever that is called. The Dr said I should drink water and maybe try to take a nap when I finally started feeling better. So I drank a little water and fell asleep under the watchful eye of my sister and mother & the last thing I heard was my sister saying "just make sure she's still breathing".
I woke up an hour later feeling ok - I talked to my mom a little.... then I was sick again, passed out, and again everyone was watching me when I regained consciousness - major deja vu - the worst one ever . The Doctor came over and sat with me, Out came the blueberry muffin that in all honesty had way too many calories in it anyway.... It had originally been in a nice clear bag with flashy graphics on the packaging - now it was all mush and smelly in the paper bag that had been tucked in the seat pouch in front of me. I never though I would use one of those bags - but was happy I got it out in time. The Dr. took my blood pressure - it was 30/something. VERY low.... He said I needed water. I drank as much as I could with out feeling sick again - the total amount in about 2 hours was 2 liters and I still didn't need to use the bathroom... How I could have been so dehydrated I still do not know. Towards the end of the flight after all that water I started feeling pretty ok - The Dr. took my blood pressure again and it was back to 70/something - pretty normal he said. He said they should call the paramedics to meet us when we landed - and they came in, walked me out of the plane to a waiting wheel chair . I was wheeled away for the first time since I broke my collar bone at age 18.... They checked everything again, blood pressure, blood sugar, attached those sticky things to my chest and legs to check stuff... They though I was fine now, but recommended going to a clinic or they would take me to a hospitable. I didn't want to do that endless I REALLY needed to - so after being cautioned not to drive or do anything strenuous that day we were off to get the rental car as I continued to drink water.

I was very thankful to have my mom and sister with me, and for the Doctor, helpful flight crew & passengers. I hope I never feel that way again & I hope that it was just a combination of dehydration, altitude & my RLS medicine which has a long list of side effects that I had never experanced.

We got into a  shuttle to get the car - A silver Hyundai - with very good breaks that took some getting use to. I had planned on driving and had more experience then my mom and sister with busy traffic, so we decided that since I felt ok I we would go ahead with the plan. I stayed in the right lane for a while - just in case I started feeling sick, but I did not, not yet anyway. We had lunch and headed to our Beverly hills hotel. It was  a Ramada hotel  in west holly wood & was nice enough - no free breakfast, but for a decent price on Hot Wire - and I got $25 off because I down loaded the app. We did have to pay $30 for parking but the convenience of having the car right there with us was worth it, rather than walk a half mile for a $13 parking place.

After we settled in we headed to the hollywood sign walk. It was supposed to be a easy hike.We parked in a gated lot that closed at sunset thinking we had plenty of time for a easy 3 mile

Hiking to Hollywood sign
hike. It of course turned into a very hilly rather tough 5-6 miles hike that we somehow took a wrong turn on the way back and because it was getting late ended in me running down the "mountain" to save the car from getting locked in....
Of course as I came sweating and puffing down the hill to the lot a CA Policeman was there writing us a ticket. My please of "wait! I'm right here" as I ran up were ignored and the ticket continued to be written even after I explained that I ran all the way down, we got lost, were from out of town... etc... etc.. He said since he started writing the ticket there was nothing he could do. Lucky for the guy with the scooter parked next to me that I had held up the officer with my pleas so that he had time to get his scooter out ticket free...But of course my good deed went unrecognized as the scooter guy sped away.

Day one and we had already gotten a ticket - thankfully it was a 68 dollar ticket and not a 200 dollar ticket like the last one my sister and I had gotten in CA 2 years ago.... By the time I squeezed back through the locked gate to look for my sister and mom it was very dark and the coyotes were howling. I was worried because they had called me and had not said anything I could understand, I had heard foot steps and talking in the distance, my imagination got away with me a little as I headed back down the trail, thinking someone had taken them and they had just been able to press call before the phone was knocked down out of their hands... That was not the case though - they were just a little ways down the trail and their only fear had been a coyote that had followed them. 

Our dinner
After that we headed back through the traffic to the hotel - then to trader joe's for some food & drinks... We had no utensils however so we made do with what we had - our hands and pita chips -  tore the bread apart and spread hummus on it with the pita chips. Desperate times... So that was day one. It was a little rough I must say.

Day 2 - Beverly Hills run, Angeles  National Forest hike & Long Beach.
Jackie and I on the hike
We got up around 7am I think and my sister and I headed out for a 4 mile run. It was nice to wear shorts!!! I liked getting used to the weather a little before the race - the bad thing was that I was sore from my hill decent the day before.... So much for resting before the race...
After that we had some more of the sandwich stuff for breakfast, went to a CVS for some stuff & headed to see my old room mate Jackie. After a tour of her house, seeing her cute dog Blueberry,
Beautiful view
 her Boyfriend who writes music, the Avocado tree in the back yard, and her home business JackMac, we headed out- up the foot hills to the mountains in Angeles National forest - about a 45 minute drive from her town -  At Water. We hiked across the creek a bunch of times, then up a big climb to some really pretty views, then
Mom & Debs hiking
back down to a water fall and more creek crossings. A very pretty hike. We headed back up the mountain and it was my moms turn to be sick. She did not look well at all, and I started to think about what we would do if she was not able to walk out of those hills... It would not have been good, however she was able to -
The Tinniest Pinecone
with a few more walk breaks and some water. Once we got to the shade and down hill she was just fine again. We had a nice lunch at a little sandwich place in At Water - they had AWESOME fries... YUM -  and said our good byes to Jackie. We fought the traffic on "the 10" so they call it. Of course our exit to Long beach was closed and we had to go past it through bumper to bumper traffic only to turn around to get the exit on the other side.... took about 45 minutes to get 5 miles - "could have ran faster" my sister and I were thinking the whole time.

The Queen Mary Boat
We got to the Holiday inn down town Long beach - it was nice
 - we got free parking because of this IHG reward card I had used, and 2 breakfast coupons. The free trolley that goes anywhere within three miles from the hotel took us to some shops and we had dinner at a Mexican place and walked along the pier. When we called for the trolley the woman who was driving that night was covering for someones lunch break, so we ended up having to wait out there for 45 minutes.... We were pretty tired when we got back and of course the pool was closed....

 Day 3 - Long Beach to Avalon. Friday. We got up and had a nice breakfast - I had an omelet with Avocados under it! potatoes, toast and coffee. We got packed up and headed out - I mentioned - while checking out of the hotel - about our long wait the 
Sunset Beach
Seal Beach

night before - and got us 3  free coffees... Of course they were all out of coffee and had to make us some fresh coffee - so we had to wait... but it was nice to get more coffee.... We headed off to find Highway One - and then to Sunset beach & seal beach. Then back to Long beach to the Catalina Express! I dropped my mom and sister off at the entrance - and headed to drop the car off. Of course google gave me the wrong address and as I drove around a busy block a couple times, I found the number for the Avis car place in Long beach, and they gave me directions to their actual address. Thankfully it was not far, but was on the top of a parking garage. I drove into the garage and started going around and around - making my way to the top all the time noticing that the clock was ticking faster than I had though it would and if I didn't get a ride back to the ferry FAST I was going to miss my boat! I got to the top and someone met me to look at the car - all was well and I told him my predicament - he replied with "well jump in then!" and off we went. He did inform me on the way to the boat that normally they didn't do drop offs - but since I was a "cute Chicago girl" he would help me out... Good thing I happened to put some make up on that morning and some short shorts! otherwise.. maybe I would have missed the boat, but I doubt it.... Running there was my plan B...

Seal Beach - ready to leave
I walked up right as the end of the line was filing onto the boat, my sister and mother were very relieved as I ran up to the dock. Since we got on so late we did not get window seats - we just left our stuff in the boat though, and headed outside to the front.  It was fun to float by the  Queen Mary boat, and head out to sea. We met a guy named Chris that was running the marathon - it was his 5th time and his favorite marathon to run. We got to see dolphins and whales on the ride to Avalon! it was really cool. I got in trouble for drinking one of my beers that I had stashed in my bag - but it was all good because I had already finished it by the time they noticed :). The 22 mile trip took about one hour and five minutes. When we arrived to Avalon someone from our hotel, Seaside Inn, was waiting in a van for us. We headed to the room - it was small but I knew it would be because when I booked it we had not though of inviting my mom - after we did and she said she would go it was too late to cancel - I suppose I could have changed the room.. but what can I say? I'm cheap. so one bed and an air mattress it was.

The "Casino"

After we settled in we headed off to find the race expo - it was a little tricky to find, but we did eventually find it.... That night we ate at Antonio's Pizzeria.  it was about a half mile from our room and right on the water. We sat outside in one of the booths that were arranged in a single line on the narrow patio next to the water. I got some sort of Fettichini Alfredo with chicken and shrimp, it was really good and came with garlic bread. It was rather pricey - but hey... it' was  vacation! Debi got a white pizza - when it arrived she found the "white"  really just meant that it did not have sauce on it - she actually happens to really like sauce on her pizza and ended up using most of my mom's sauce that she got for her calzone... They were happy with their food, but liked mine better - finally something was going good for me... I got the best food.... We helped each other finish everything and nothing was leftover. After that we walked around a little bit and headed to the room for a glass of wine and to rest up for the race.

Start of the race!
That morning we got up around 4am - I wore my Brooks trail shoes that actually have WAY too many miles on them - but I did not get a chance to break in my new shoes because of my groin injury I got 3 weeks before the race. I spend most of my time biking and water running those last three weeks... SO old brooks 
running up
with 500+ miles on them it was... I figured that it was all nice soft dirt out there to run on so they would not be bad, plus they were proven marathon running shoes since I had already run 2-3 marathon with them. I got a couple bananas and granola bars that were left out for the runners in the kitchen/eating area, gulped down some coffee and we headed down to the boat for our voyage to Two Harbors. My mom saw us off and in a hour or so we made it to the start of the race. 3 buffalo were eating in a pasture by the start - we were wondering if we would see any of the 300 heard during the race, and these 3 were all we saw. 
Someone on the boat had said the year before he had had to jump over a HUGE snake - so we were kinda hoping to see a huge 
snake.... I was feeling just fine so far - not super tired, certainly not ready to faint... All was good and at 7am we got to start. 4 miles... pretty much all up. Debi and I were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.... It was beautiful at least though... most people were walking up the biggest steepest of the hills so we followed suit - not sure how our Illinois legs would handle all the hills and not sure how our winter body's would handle all the heat, so we decided to be safe and conserve energy as much as possible. the terrain we ran on  was all on nice dirt winding trails 
- up up up - down down down.... a lot of that, from one side of the island to the other. at about mile 13 they started having food available at the aid stations - gummy bares, pretzels, m&m's.... Later a few 
stations had cookies - that was a major pick me up. I drank mostly gator aid at the stations, and kept drinking water from my pack. We had a major case of lead legs right at 
the same time for a while, the heat was beating down on us, and we were wondering if we would even finish in the 8 hour cut of the way we were feeling. We got some Advil at one aid station, and some sun screen at another, and even better - a cookie at another and were feeling MUCH better. after mile 22 I knew we had it and even though I was hurting a bit, I knew how to run the hills better and the hills were more down than up, I also knew that the 
last 3 were all down. We passed a lot of people in the last 4 miles... it was pretty cool. We had a 9 min mile, then a 8:30 mile, then a 8:00 - 
our last mile from 25-26 was a 7:28 mile... our finish time of 5:10 
was certinally not my fastest time, but my last mile was by far my fastest LAST mile of a race - so i'll take it! It was really cool finishing so strong and crossing the line together.... Our "medals" were really cool too - clay  and designed by a local on the island... Very unique. We saw more of her work in shops for sale around the island. After the race we cleaned up had a glass of wine and headed down to find my mom who had just finished a bus tour of the island. She was sad she didn't get to see us finish - but we had no idea we would finish so soon... Our last CA 50k race was 8:01 (for me anyway) but that was a really bad race... 

   We had pizza that night at the Antonios pizza (same owners as the one on the water I think, but smaller and more of a carry out place)- it was delicious. After that we went to shops, and later to Coyote Joe's for some Mexican food. I also had a Guinness - it was St. Patrick's day weekend afterall. My sister and I went out after that for a long island hoping to find some other race finishers - but really didn't have any luck, so we headed back to the hotel.

The next morning we got up to see the sun rise then had a good breakfast at the hotel - oranges, potatoes, eggs & salsa on top (not on the oranges though...) Kayaking was next, and it took a while to persuaded my mom to go - she had never kayaked before, but was glad she decided to go. Ended up being really good, however I would have had more fun if I had not started to feel sick again. I drank 2 16oz waters and felt better, but was still not 100% I was afraid I would faint again or something - and a

kayak would be a bad place for that. We did go pretty far though - we were out for 2 hours and saw lots of fish, dolphins jumping in the distance, a couple of seals pretty close up & leopard sharks swimming around in shallow water near a beach. I also managed to get my mom a free hour for her kayak because it was her birthday in a couple days - and I'm not ashamed to ask for discounts.... I like discounts...

For lunch we had coffee and ice cream at Dessert Island - they had coffee for 50 cents - and it was good coffee too - the ice cream was reasonable too - it was less than $10 for the three of us to all have coffee and a good sized ice cream cone...

Later we went on a submarine boat ride - it was expensive, but cool. They had fish torpedoes you could buy, when you pressed the button the food came out and the fish swarmed around to eat it. Pretty expensive fish food, but not as expensive as my dinner that night.

After that we went into the ocean, and by we, I mean I went into the ocean. My mom sat on a bench and Debi went in about knee high and looked for rocks and shells... It was awfully cold, but I was determined to go in, and after counting to 10 about 10 times I finally told Debi to count to three and down I sunk to my shoulders. It was actually very refreshing.... Glad I went in. I found some shells and rocks too after that and we got out to show them to our mom, realizing we probably had not done that since we were 7 or 8 years old...

For dinner we went to The Lobster Trap - I really wanted some fish! Of course it was pricey as I expected.. but a great experience. My sister got chicken, and my mom got a steak... I got mahi mahi - it was wonderful. It was pan breaded with some sort of really good breading - and topped with a mango salsa. You pick what fish you want then pick how you want it prepared - I asked the server what his favorite was, and was not disappointed. Some of the other preparations were blackened, grilled and several more... I got extra crispy french fries and steamed veggies with it and my sister and I split a bottle of wine. It was a small bottle however... and after dinner we headed to the store for a bigger bottle because our box was sadly gone. We went to Von's Express - I heard that it was really expensive there - but it was not - I just asked what I needed to do for a member's card and the guy at the register said: "well, you could fill our an application, or I could just give you one... " So we got one... a double bottle of wine for $8.99 - at home it's $10.99... so get that... Works for me though. My mom got ice cream bars (she does not like wine YET) and after grabbing our laundry we had drying at the laundry mat, we headed to the hotel again to hang out in the little court yard and drink wine, eat ice cream and talk. It was a beautiful night.

The next day was our last. We saw the sun rise again because that's what my mom likes to do on vacation. Walking down the hill from the hotel was still very painful ... marathon legs :(. We had breakfast, the same as the day before minus the oranges then  we checked out of our room and left our luggage in the office.  We headed down for about a 2 mile walk to pebbly beach. It was not much for a beach, but pretty and we met a guy that had run the first Catalina marathon. He had a cute dog.

After that we toured the Casino - the wriggles had built it when they had purchased the island - it was a really cool old building with a lot of history. I wish we had watched a movie in the theater and if I ever return to Avalon, I will. It was not a gambling casino - it was a social gathering place - that's what casino used to mean before gambling took them over.
After the tour It was about time to get on the boat, so we got our stuff, got a ride to the boat back to Long beach. Our plan was to get a cab from there to the hotel, but we ended up running into a guy that had a shuttle van, and took us for a better price (yay, more discounts!) We got to the hotel, and were so happy to have 2 beds and so much more space! We all showered and cleaned up then Debi and I headed down to the bar for a couple glasses of wine in the hotels bar (it was happy hour and Illinois does not have happy hours). After that we all headed to subway for dinner - it was fast and easy.... The next morning we headed to the air port and had no trouble except my mom got in trouble for trying to take our left over jar of peanut butter in her bag... That's a no - no.. We flew United, and I got to watch the new movie Frozen which was not even for sale at Walmart till the next day - that was fun. Before I knew it we were back - and I didn't even pass out.