7 Days

February 23, 2019

One week to go!

7.  Jakob Herrmann

I got to know Jakob through the Ultra ListServ around  2007.  He had posted a ultrarunning biography and I noted that we were the same age and we also had both spent some time in Switzerland (I was an exchange student there and he grew up there.).  Also, we both lived in Southern California.

We made plans to meet up at the Mt. Disappointment 50M in August 2008.  I felt like a fool looking for European-types and saying, “Jay-kob?  Ya-kob?” and no one answering.  Later, in an e-mail, it turned out that he thought the race was on Sunday instead of Saturday and forgot to go.

We kept e-mail corresponding and missing each other, until a few years later.  Our close connection ended up coming through Robert Gilcrest, the Santa Barbara trail race guy.  He and Jakob developed a several year partnership to co-RD the Santa Barbara races together.

That adventure began in 2012, at the canceled/relocated Santa Barbara race.  This would be one of the few times we ran together, probably because the conditions were so horrible.  (Later that year, Jakob enabled me to run Bishop by giving me a free entry.)  In 2013, he finished the Santa Barbara race, and in 2014, we started meeting at the Start/Finish line to have the race run smoothly.

In most cases, when I run with people, I may hear stories about loved ones, but in Jakob’s case, I have also gotten to know his family VERY well.  (It helps if you spend 24 hours in a row with them.)  Linda and I have a funny rapport and I spent a many a race weekend having funny conversations with his three daughters (yes, I know there are four, but the youngest and I haven’t had any formal conversations).

Most recently, I ran into Jakob at the 2019 Orange Curtain Ultras, where he was running and I was volunteering.  We confused everyone by speaking in Swiss-German with each other.  He is still doing a lot of races, volunteering, putting on his own ultra in Switzerland, and staying busy with four daughters.  (Does Vietnamese Coffee help?)  Ausgezeichnet!

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8 Days

February 22, 2019

8.  Rafael Covarrubias

I met Rafael in 2008 through AREC Trail Running.  I ended up carpooling with him in his mini Cooper, and we had some conversations about ultras.

Later that year, we carpooled together to the Mt. Disappointment 50M race (we both finished), and I started noticing that we were both doing a lot of the same races (and he was doing a lot more ultras than I was).

In 2009, when I ran my first 100K at Miwok, we carpooled, sort of.  (He drove to Northern CA and I flew and met up at my folks’ place).  That year, the weather forecast was for torrential rains, and Rafael (jokingly?) said he didn’t know if he would go if it were raining (Uh, we’re going!).  But due to the weather, there were close to 100 no shows.  The weather was BAD.  I can remember Rafael putting down newspaper in his car so that I could scrape off the mud that layered my legs from my ankles to my shorts.

We continued with the bad weather theme with the Santa Barbara 100M race in 2012 (no carpool this race) where it rained torrentially and lightning was striking around us.  There was a “great” moment captured on video when Rafael is saying the mud isn’t so bad and then goes careening down the hill, slipping on mud.  (Unfortunately, the race got “relocated” due to the extreme weather.)

A couple of months later, after DNF’ing at Miwok, I drove up with Rafael (and Martin Santos #21) to do the Bishop 100K.  This was the first and last time I went camping before and after doing an ultra (though I have slept in my car).  We repeated our Bishop adventure (but stayed in a motel) the following year.

Our final carpooling adventure was for the 2015 Shadow of the Giants 50K up by Yosemite.  I met Rafael near where he taught at an elementary school in Florence (near downtown LA) and drove up together.  The race was somewhat near where he grew up in Tulare, and we had an extra adventure when he got pulled over for expired plates.  This was another pseudo-camping trip, as we stayed in bunk beds in cabins by the start line.

About a year later, Rafael got a bit burned out on ultra running and went from monthly races to periodic races, and then he moved back to his hometown and now teaches there.

I see Rafael periodically in races (last year at Bishop and Cool) and I think back fondly on our road trips together.  There are lots of people that I run into at this race or that race, but few that I carpooled/traveled with to multiple races over nearly a ten year period.  I hope to see him at some more events in 2019 and beyond.

9 Days

February 21, 2019

9.  Aaron Sorensen

I met Aaron in 2013 at the Santa Barbara 100M race (or DRTE 100 as it was called at the time).  This was a previous iteration of what is now a pretty challenging 100 mile race, except I think the year that we did it, it was that much tougher.  The race was on a hot June weekend and started at 6pm on a Friday, so that all runners would get to suffer in the dark.  I had all sorts of misfortunes, including my watch dying, getting lost, and getting ticks.  I eventually quit after 29.8 miles (13 hours) and got a ride back to the start and hung out with some of the other DNFs.

To my surprise, a number of people dropped out even earlier than I did.  Aaron had stomach issues and dropped at Mile 12.  We hung out together at the finish line, watching people struggle in, and it came out that both of us lived in Long Beach.

After the Santa Barbara Race, I started seeing Aaron at AREC runs, both street and trail runs.  I found to be kinda quirky, in an introverted-extrovert way (as in, if you got to know him, you could get great conversations, but most people didn’t get to know him well, because he sorta kept to himself), so of course, we got along famously.

I also got to know his wife, Christina, a Marathon Maniac (I know she did 10 marathons in 10 days once.).  She went out to the Santa Barbara 100 in 2014 and was able to finish (Aaron was there to support her and I was volunteering.)

In 2015, I mentioned off-hand that I was doing the Twin Peaks 50M and might be interested in having a pacer.  With few details, Aaron said he was in.

In all previous ultras, I had never utilized a pacer.  There were always plenty of other racers to slog in with, but, I thought, it would be nice to have someone get me through the last few sections of Twin Peaks 50M (a race I had never finished).

I didn’t give him many details (like how to get to the aid station) but made an estimate of 3pm of when I thought I might be at Mile 38, which I had told him was the West Horsethief Aid Station.

So, this is the event when I started 3-1/2 hours before the early start, where I had suffered a Grade 2 Sprained Ankle 3 months prior to starting, and had never progressed beyond Mile 26 in the course (but had covered all the terrain in training).

I worked my way through the course, and got to the aid station at the top of the West Horsethief Trail about 1:30pm.  Oh, no, too early.  Then, I realized two things also.  One, how the heck is Aaron supposed to get here? (10 miles from the start/finish parking lot, no shuttles)  And two, this isn’t Mile 38, it’s Mile 34.  I doubt that I will even see him.

So I trudge on to Mile 38 and I arrive, surprisingly, at 3:01pm.  But no sign of Aaron and the aid station says no one had shown up for me.  As I refill my water bottles, a truck summits the Indian Truck Trail and two figures emerge… Aaron and his dog, Lacey!  Good timing.

It turns out that he was running up the Indian Truck Trail (knowing probably he would not connect with me, but might catch up) and this truck came by and had space to give him a ride to the top.  So, I had my pacer (s).

So, some brief words on Lacey.  If you know me well, I’m not a dog person (or a pet person), partially due to animal dander allergies and partially due to a dog’s lack of control (licking me, jumping up on me, occasional response to oral commands).  Lacey, on the other hand, is a perfect co-pacer.  When she is off-leash, she stays away from my unsteady legs.  When other runners come on the scene, she quickly returns to the leash upon first command.  It is also helpful that Lacey is an experienced ultra-runner herself having completed at least one 100K.

Aaron is probably the perfect pacer (my only pacer), in that I don’t have to initiate the conversation.  He tells me stories about doing 2 laps at Barkley, and how he is creating his own West Coast Barkley that he will call Ridgecrest (he ended up calling it Baldy Marathons because Ridgecrest is something else).  I somewhat forget how tired I am and end up moving at a better pace up Santiago than earlier.

When it gets dark, my headlamp is a bit drained (used it for 5 hours earlier that day), but Aaron has a spare hand-held flashlight, which is easier than carrying spare batteries and changing them out in the dark.  He ends up getting me to the finish line with 90 minutes to spare.

Aaron moved (closer to Baldy) a few years back so I mostly only interact with him through Facebook.  He is running a combination of timed races and 100Ks (and so is Lacey), and he has a cult following for Baldy Marathons and whatever crazy steep mountain courses he develops.  Don’t think I will ever be able to do those events, though.

After being paced, I felt I should pay it forward and pace someone in an ultra.  So, in October of last year, I “paced” my friend Alan for the final 17 miles of his first 100K.  The only problem was that he felt too good, so I paced him for 7 miles, and I fell off his pace… and ended up helping a stranger get through the final 3 miles.  Hope to get my “redemption” pacing job at San Diego 100M in June.

Aaron remains the ideal for an ultra pacer and I hope to live up to his standards.  I thank him for making my Twin Peaks 50M finish a very pleasant one.

10 Days

February 20, 2019

10.  Jessica DeLine

I semi-met Jessica when I first ran the Harding Hustle 50K back in 2012; she was the race director.  I got to know her a bit better that October when I attempted her Twin Peaks 50M race.  I had trouble getting to this race (freeway fatality) and was stuck on the freeway at a complete stop for over an hour at 3am, getting to the race 45 minutes AFTER the early start.  She let me start as soon as I wanted to get going and let me know that I could have an extra 45 minutes at the end if I needed it (but I ended up dropping to the 50K).

Over a period of several years, I got to know Jessica decently well, mostly because she would allow me (and an assortment of friends) an early start at her events.  Usually I would repay this favor with a small loaf of homemade bread and a bottle of an interesting beer (because she is a beer fan).

For the past few years, I have volunteered at Harding Hustle at most of the aid stations as well as the finish line, and not just because Jessica offers me a discount on a future race (though that helps).

In 2016, I had made plans to volunteer also at her Twin Peaks race, but since I DNF’ed at the North Face Park City race, I told her that intended on running the Twin Peaks event… but, I would also volunteer.

So, I showed up at 4:30am (plus an hour-long drive and some prep at home before that), set up tables and tents, loaded supplies for aid stations into vehicles, checked runners in, then set off myself at 7am, ran 10+ hours, finished, helped other finishers, packed up supplies, tents, and tables, and drove home, getting back around midnight.

Since 2012, I have done 5 Twin Peaks races and 2 Harding Hustles, and probably volunteered at 5 races as well.  For some people, consistency in doing a certain race is often for a specific medal or because all your friends are there, but for these events, it’s because they are challenging, reasonably-priced (discount or no), and well-organized.

Jessica, in particular, is my kind of race director.  She knows what runners want, puts on a good event, and can make reasonable accommodations as needed (in my case, an early start or two; or letting me finish a little over the time limit).

We have never run together (I think she is far too busy for ultras anymore), but I am always interested in running in her events or helping her out.

11 Days

February 19, 2019

11.  Lauren Miertschin

I first met Lauren in 2012 on the tough stretch between the Upper Holy Jim “parking lot” and Santiago Peak.  I didn’t know her and we didn’t really talk but she filmed me for her running blog.  We ended up finishing relatively close to one another and became fast friends while waiting for our drop bags (which were delayed due to a runner being airlifted out).

Less than a year later, Lauren convinced me to sign up for the Old Goats 50M (which was full and had a waitlist), and we ended up getting in.  Lauren told me that the opening section of the race (called the Candy Store Loop) is super-difficult.  Runners have 6 hours to complete this 21 mile section (or 6-1/2 hours if you start an hour early).  In her previous training, she had never been able to do the loop under either time limit.

There was a special deal with this race that if you carpooled, both the driver and the passenger would get a refund, so we made plans to do so.  Because the race was so early, I drove down to Dana Point, had dinner with her husband and three boys, and then slept on her couch (better than showing up at 3am).  At the actual race, both of us made the cutoff (6:15 for me and 6:25 for Lauren, I think), but failed to finish the entire race.  I got pulled at Mile 45!

Lauren and I also trained and ran at Harding Hustle and Twin Peaks in 2014, taking early starts on both of them (and both dropping down to the 50K at Twin Peaks).

In 2015, she steered me into finally finishing Twin Peaks 50M race by convincing me to sign up again and also by saying that we would just start super-early to give ourselves that much extra time out of the hot sun of midday.  Through time and volunteering, we both had a good enough rapport with the race director for this to work out without too much trouble.  I ended up getting a finish (19 hours), and Lauren eventually opted for a DNS, maybe because of injury.

I really enjoy running with Lauren because she is (sort of) a female me – tall, talkative, and persistent.  I haven’t seen her around much and her Ultrasignup shows she is mostly only doing Nanny Goat events the past few years, but that may be because she is “Mentally Sensitive.”

12 Days

February 18, 2019

12.  Beth Epstein

I have known Beth for close to 20 years mostly through the Hash.  As mentioned in a previous post (#19), I traveled with her and Kim to my first Ridgecrest 50K in 2002.

Beth is also an accomplished artist and designed an animated figure that went on our 10 year anniversary Blue Dress Run cups in 2006.

In terms of ultras, Beth is a little closer to my speed than Kim, and so, on occasion, I get to run a little bit with her, and she always gives me encouragement.

A special highlight involving Beth was in 2015 at the Angeles Crest 100M race.  We had talked a little bit prior about her training and her plans for her first 100 miler.  Beth had plenty of experience accompanying Kim on several of these, but had never run one herself.  I was on course that year because I helped staff an aid station with Laura Sohaskey.

We were there hours before any runners came through, but saw the leaders, and then the mid-packers.  I retired for a few hours until daybreak and waited for the stragglers (my pace).  Beth came through mid-morning, looking good, but with not a lot of time to spare.  She had some travails with scheduling pacers (Kim had come through hours earlier, maybe pacing David Binder), but ended up finishing with my good friend, Linda Dewees in just over 32 hours.

Beth is one of my favorite people to see in ultras (or anywhere), because she is so friendly, loves nature, and persistent (and almost always places in her age group).

13 Days

February 17, 2019

13. Darcie Olk

I met Darcie probably 20 years ago, either through AREC, the Hash, or both.  We would often participate in local races together like Torrance Turkey Trot or the now-defunct Fiesta 5000.

In 2004, she ran her first ultra at Ridgecrest (the preferred ultra of the Hash), the same year I ran my 50K PR, but our first special ultra encounter occurred in 2008 at the Sunmart 50 miler in Texas.  Yeah, in Texas, believe it or not.

In 2007, I had run this race as part of a “dumb ass” double, running a 50 mile race and a marathon on consecutive days.  I had enjoyed the 50M trail race, so I decided to come back the following year and ONLY run the 50M.  Since it was Texas, I didn’t expect to know anyone at the event (but made several good friends – posts #28 and #27).

About 37 miles in, I hear someone cheer for me, and it doesn’t sound anything like the two guys I just met… it’s Darcie, who was running the 50K.  A really fun surprise to see a long-time friend a couple of thousand miles from home… in an ultramarathon.

Darcie no longer lives in Southern California, but we still spot each other on occasion – when she is in town for special Hash events, running the Avalon 50, or in Utah, when I traveled there for the ill-fated and poorly-run North Face Park City race.

I think fondly of Darcie because, like me, she was a recreational runner, who graduated to longer and longer distances until she did 50K and 50M.  It is an accomplishment that few share and to continue doing them over 10+ years is very impressive.