Monthly Archives: February 2013

Miwok 100K – 2009

May 2, 2009

Flashback to November 2009.  My friend Tiffany Forster asked if I would join her in the Miwok 100K lottery.  I did not intend to do any races longer than 50 milers, though in the back of my mind, I thought MAYBE one day, I might consider it… but probably not.

The trick with the Miwok lottery was that if you signed up with another person and one of you got in, then both of you would get in.  I guess, in a sense, you increased your odds somewhat.  And we DID get in (otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this.)

I didn’t train really any different for Miwok than I would for any other 50 mile, 50K race.  I thought that my best bet was to get a bunch of time on my feet, and since I already knew that I could handle 14+ hours (Santa Barbara Nine Trails 2003), this had a time limit that was ONLY 2-1/2 hours longer.

Tiffany’s training wasn’t with me, but I would get periodic updates about how it was going.  For the most part, the updates were that she had a cold or she wasn’t running because she was getting over the sickness.  About a week before the race, I was told that she wasn’t doing the race at all.

I had made plans to stay with my folks (though they would not be there), fly up, and also use their car (nice parents!).  I wasn’t wild about doing the race alone (or at least having no one to commiserate with at the end (either sore or DNFing)), so I checked to see if I knew anyone local to carpool with.  I noted that Rafael Covarrubias (from AREC) was also signed up, so I checked with him to see what his plans were.

He was going to drive up on Friday and had made no definitive plans.  I suggested that he stay with me in Oakland (also pick me up from the BART station so that I didn’t have to walk the 2 miles (up a very steep hill) to my folks’ place), and I go with him to the race.  Saving on a hotel room appealed to him, so our “party” of two was set.

For the week leading up to the race, the weather was not great.  We were told that the race would go on, regardless of the weather.  It positively poured while I was riding on BART and it poured on the short drive up to their condo.  Rafael said that he didn’t think he would go if it was still pouring when we got up to leave at 3am the next morning.  I said, “You better.”

Around 10pm, it stopped raining, but the forecast was for the rain to start up again around 9am the next morning.  Good enough for me!  (Good enough for Rafael.)

I didn’t sleep much, and I didn’t sleep much the week leading up to the race.  (I got to work on that.)  We left plenty early and arrived at the start about 5:15am for a 5:45am start.

The start is in a fantastic area called Rodeo Beach.  To get there, you drive over the Golden Gate Bridge out of San Francisco and take the first exit.  Depending on what is open (since I have driven a number of different ways to get to this start), you either drive over a ridge or through a long one-way tunnel.  You follow a road along the coastline that simply ends.  The cars were probably 100 feet from the ocean.

It was very cold and damp at the start and there didn’t seem like there were 350 folks (many didn’t show up due to the weather), and I got myself prepped (fill water bottles, drop off dropbag, etc.).  It wasn’t raining (yet), but it was plenty foggy.

The actual start of the race was not where we checked in or parked our cars, but a half mile up the beach on the sand.  Yuck.  I like nothing less than running on sand (hopefully, this isn’t the finish, too).

We started promptly at 5:45am in the dark.  I have my headlamp on, but it doesn’t do much in the fog.  I basically walk on the sand, because I feel that nothing is served by running and tiring myself out from the get-go.  I fall back from the bulk of the pack (but there are others walking, too).

After about a half-mile, we get onto firm land, but it is very narrow – a bottleneck – and there is a line to go up it.  I am concerned that I will lose valuable time by just standing still, so I edge past people (not in a rude way) when I can step over plants or to the side on slightly wider sections.

At the top of the hill is a bathroom building and some other governmental buildings, and we wind our way up on a paved road to do a loop by old military batteries.  It is completely foggy up here.

Foggy batteries

Foggy batteries

Then we circle down and come back near by the start on a grassy fire road, but start to climb again… into the thick fog.  This is a pleasant double-track trail along the coast (can’t see anything, though), and then we work our way down on switchbacks to Tennessee Valley aid station at Mile 7.2.  I am there in about 80 minutes and feel pretty good.

From Tennessee Valley we take a paved road out towards the ocean for a few miles and then hook in on the Pacific Coast Trail (steep), which has a mileage sign for how far it is to the Oregon border (!).  This is a set of rolling hills along the coast and then a descent on wet wooden stairs down almost to the water.  It is slippery!  Don’t let me kill myself on a ill-timed fall!

Eventually, we make our way to a fire road that heads downhill into Muir Beach and the second aid station at water’s edge (Mile 12.5) – 2 hours, 24 minutes have elapsed.  It still hasn’t started to rain.  With all this fog, I am hoping it doesn’t start.

From Muir Beach, we head out to the road (Highway 1) and stay along the edge of the road.  There are a few cars, but not a lot, and there is a volunteer that keeps us safe.  We turn onto a trail that parallels a side street and is taking us towards the big hill.  At this point, I recognized one of the runners around me (who I had seen, but not met, at American River 50), and called out her name, because it was slightly unusual – Eldrith Gosney.  She is 68 years old and has done this race a dozen times (she lives in the area, too).

She gave me some advice about the course.  She said that the first 20 miles are the hardest (we are at about 14 miles now) and the last 4 are also difficult.  So… just maintain once I get to Mile 20 or so?  Yes.  We are going through a dense plant area and across a couple of wooden bridges with signs that say that horses cannot go over these bridges (I guess they go through the water).  We emerge into a field of cat-tails and then cross the road to start heading up the hill.

Cat-Tails

Cat-Tails

I look at my watch and it says 8:55.  I am thinking… it’s supposed to start raining soon… if it starts raining.  A couple of minutes later, it starts raining… HARD!  Just in time to start climbing the hill.

I turn to Eldrith and say, “It’s been nice running with you.  See you later,” because I do so well walking up hills.  She jogs right by me!  Dang.

This is a long and fairly steep hill.  Not more than 4 or 5% grade, but that is enough to make it difficult when it goes on for 4 or 5 miles.  At the top, it starts to smooth out and there are some buildings to our right.  The difficulty is exacerbated by being on paved road briefly before getting to the Pantoll Aid Station (Mile 21.7) in 4 hours, 36 minutes.

At this point, the wind starts to pick up, too.  Now we are heading out on the single-track on the hillside.  Because of the fog, you can’t see more than a few feet in front of yourself, but because of the wind, I can’t really look up, either.  It just goes on and on and on, broken up occasionally by small thickets.  These are nice because it is like being in a rain forest, rather than in a rainstorm.  I mean, I am still getting wet, but more dripped on than sprayed on.

There are a few landmarks (though if it were not foggy, we could see the Golden Gate Bridge), such as a rusted out old truck just below the trail.  The trail is also angled a bit, so it is not flat, but angles towards the hillside.  There is no danger of slipping off, but the going is awkward.  Eventually, we work our way up towards the road (and see occasional cars driving by) and then up through another thicket (with lots of uphill) to a wide redwood-infested fire road and the Bolinas Ridge Trail aid station (Mile 28) in 6 hours, 20 minutes.

Now I have 1 hour, 35 minutes to cover the next 7-1/2 miles and make the cutoff.  We continue along the ridge road, which heads uphill.  The surface is a lot of redwood and pine needles on top of mud and water.  Pretty much every step is wet or in muck.  A lot of folks are not traversing the center of the road, but walking on the edge.  By the time I get there, much of that resembles the middle of the road, so it hardly matters where you run.  This trail undulates gently, so I run what I can on the downhills and walk the rest.

I am getting concerned that I might not make the cutoff, so I even speedwalk or run some of the flats as well, but soon I get to the left-hand turn that leads about 2 miles down to the next aid station.  It is pretty considerable downhill and VERY muddy.  The good news here is that I have done a few Way Too Cools where I am on mud the whole way, so it is not foreign to me.

I ski and skid and slide much of the way down (on my feet, not my ass) and reach the turnaround aid station (Mile 35.6 – over halfway!) in 7:40, 15 minutes ahead of the cutoff.

The ascent is not great.  It is still as muddy as before, so it is like one step forward and 5 steps back.  What works best here is to put your feet in a “V” pattern (like you would if you were trying to go uphill on skis) and just trudge uphill best you can.  I also offer encouragement to those heading downhill, trying to give them an idea of how far it is and whether they will make the cutoff or not.  I see my friend Hwa-Ja, and I don’t think she will make the cutoff (she does, but is unable to reach the 2nd cutoff in time)

On this uphill section, I strike up a conversation with another runner, Tracy Hixon.  She is meeting her pacer (probably her boyfriend) at the Bolinas Ridge aid station, but we pace each other (sorta) until we get to that point.  I’m wondering how much time we will lose on this section, because of the uphill mud climb.  We reach Bolinas Ridge aid station (Mile 42.8) in 9 hours, 20 minutes.  So, it took 1:20 in the “downhill” direction, and 1:40 in the “uphill” direction.  I’ll take it.

I stay with Tracy and her pacer for a bit, but they are much faster than me and it is all but useless to have any kind of conversation in the dense fog.  The good news is that it has stopped raining.  The bad news is that it is even windier than before.  We are basically retracing our steps from earlier and going by the rusted-out truck on the single-track.  The combination of mud and wind means that in certain sections I had to grab onto tree branches in order to climb up even minor (10′) inclines.  I am pretty pooped when I get back to Pantoll aid station (Mile 49.5) in 11 hours flat.  But I keep trudging on, as I have a half marathon left, and I don’t want to get a DNF at this point (but I may).

I do what I can to jog back down the hill (skied a little), back down to the Cat-Tails and the No-Horse Bridges.  Here is the section where it diverges from the original course and starts winding up onto the Miwok Trail and crosses the Panoramic Highway up in the hills.  We wind around on a foggy fire road and then work our way back down to Muir Beach aid station (Mile 54.7) in 13 hours.  (2 hours to go 5 miles!)

Now a difficult ascent out of Muir Beach and heading back (not really along the coast – more elevated fire road adventuring) to Tennessee Valley.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the last time cutoff.  There is a time limit for the course of 16 hours and 30 minutes, but I have been told that if you leave the last aid station in time, they will give you a finisher’s time even if you are a little over the total time limit.  I HAVE to be through Tennessee Valley by 14-1/2 hours, so I can have 2 hours to complete the last 4-odd miles (see before about this being the most difficult section).

My feet hurt quite a bit at this point and I am not certain that I can do 3 miles in 90 minutes.  I know that seems wild, but, there it is.  I have now exceeded the longest distances I have ever done in one day and I have to keep going.  Before I get to the aid station, I exceed the longest time I have ever run for (14:06 at Nine Trails).

I am starting to give up hope when I start to see the stables, and I know that I am close.  I get into Tennessee Valley in 14:20 (Mile 58.4) and I am “home-free.”  I put on my headlamp and start heading up the switchbacks into the darkness and fog.

Probably about 1 mile up, the fog is so thick I cannot see anything and the headlamp is not helpful.  Additionally, my glasses fog over, so not only can I not see anything light-wise, I can also not see at all.  I end up setting my glasses on top of my head (fastened with my Croakies) and then grasp my headlamp in my hand (also holding two water bottles) to try and focus at a lower level.

I have 20/400 vision without glasses, so I cannot see or focus on anything.  I am stumbling like crazy, because I have no sense of depth perception.  I am breathing heavily, because there is a lot of steep uphill.  I am walking into bushes, because I don’t know where the trail goes.  I have probably a full hour where I can hear voices of people ahead and behind me, but I don’t actually see or interact with these people.  It would have helped if we could go through this together.

There are glow sticks out there, but unfortunately, I cannot focus well enough to see if I am following the path (and I can hear the ocean and do not want to walk off a cliff) or if it is in the distance and I am just seeing the faint glow from a different angle.

Finally, I get to a landmark that I recognize from the description, which is a stone staircase.  It has a “bannister” made of PVC pipe strung along metal pipes in the ground.  It is not really strong enough to support grasping.  On the other hand, the stone is slick and a stumble is going to make me cramp.  It is around here that I encounter my first person on this section and we help each other (mostly he helps me) get down the stairs.

This last section is on a paved path.  I’d even go so far as to say “a bike path,” because there is a yellow stripe down the middle.  I just zig and zag all the way to the bottom.  It is extra encouraging, because I can hear voices and the ringing of a cowbell every time someone finishes.  I am pretty close to the cutoff, but I am not worried about at this point, because I will be ever grateful to get out of this danged fog.

Finally, I make the final turn and soon after cross the finish line in 16:13:57 (made it by 15 minutes, I guess).  I get some food and my finisher’s prizes (a medal, a cloth shopping bag with backpack straps, a beer glass and a 20 oz. bottle of commemorative Lagunitas Pale Ale (with a Miwok 100K label on the bottle)).

Rafael is waiting in his car (because it is very cold out) having finished a couple of hours ahead of me (but not upset, because it gave him a chance to rest before the drive back).  I am a bit of a mess.  I have dirt caked on my legs up to my knees (basically where my shorts start).  I spent much of the car drive back to my folks pulling dirt off my legs onto a newspaper (so I don’t make too much of a mess in his car).  I also have horrible foot blisters and everything is really sore.  I don’t think that either of us slept really well on Saturday night after the race.

In the end, I am really happy with my result and think that I would be up for trying a 100K race again.  My favorite line about his race is that when you ask me ‘how did it go?’ I can answer, “Miwok.  Miwok a lot.  But I finished.”

So far in 2009, I have done a 50K and a 100K.  I have some quality time on my feet.  I think I have to find another race this summer to keep this good streak going!

Boeing 5K (3) – 2009

April 13, 2009

I have been doing a lot of running, mostly to get ready for the 5-run Hashtravaganza coming up.  (Also for another race, but I will put all those details in the upcoming post.)

This is was one of those windy Boeing runs.  Generally, that means that on the way out, it is gusting into my face… and on the way back (when I have no energy left), it is slightly warm, with a tailwind (that you don’t really feel).

My time of 23:02 is OK.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2009

March 14, 2009

My training has been somewhat limited (cruise, jury duty, etc.).  I am having a few soreness issues, especially my lower back, plantar fasciitis in my left foot and some unknown pain in my right arm.

I tried to take all of it fairly easy… my goal being to finish and not to injure myself.

In the first section (the loop around Cool down to Highway 49) took me 72 minutes (about 13 minute miles).  The muddy parts slow me down, but it makes the surface easier on my feet.

The next section, which always seems endless (almost all of it is single-track and there is a 8-mile gap between aid stations (and the “gap” before the aid station is ankle to thigh deep water crossing)), I finished in 1:53, which is closer to 15 minute miles (aka “walking”).

The next section is my favorite, even though it is pretty dang difficult.  There is a mile-long ascent out of the aid station, followed by a steep descent back to the river, another water crossing, 3/4 mile of flat, and then Ball Bearing hill (0.7, 700′ climb).  The entire section took me 1:15, including just 15 minutes for Ball Bearing.  Except for the Top 25 finishers, I think that is a good time for that section.

Then back across the big water crossing and a similar traverse on the single-track, but a slightly different way back up Goat Hill… nearly another 2 hours.  My total time to this point was 6:05 and right around a marathon.  Guess I’m not going to improve on my 2002 time (6:24)… unless I can do the last 5 miles in 19 minutes!

From Goat Hill back to Highway 14 (about 3 miles) takes me 53 minutes.  Getting tired now.

The last section is a little under 2 miles and I do it in 20 minutes to finish in 7:18 (or about 14 minutes/mile).

Every year I seem to get slower, but I always enjoy the adventure.

Boeing 5K (2) – 2009

March 9, 2009

A BIG gap in between races, but a lot of stuff happened to me in between.

In early February, I served on Jury Duty.  I had never served on a case and the one time I came close, they let me go because I said my dad was an attorney.  On this particular case, they excused 6 people in a row in the same seat until I sat there, and then they finalized the jury.

The first day we listened to testimony that was translated.  Everything was very sketchy, as in the evidence was questionable.  On the next day, we all sat out in the hall for over an hour, until the judge called us in to say that they got a plea agreement.  I think it was because they didn’t really have a case.

About two weeks later, I headed to Dallas for a special family trip.  On January 11th, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, and on January 18th, my dad turned 75.  So… the whole family (plus my brother-in-law and 2 nephews (aged 3 and 1)) are taking a week-long cruise out of Galveston and going to Cozumel, Riviera Maya and Roatan (a small island, part of Honduras) to celebrate.  Marisa, Riva and I have planned a special gift giveaway for each day of the cruise which will celebrate each 5 years of their marriage.

After getting back, I spent some time working on my next big event, the 2nd Hashtravaganza.  This year we are running in Palos Verdes.  My particular trail has an easy and hard option.  The easy option is 2 miles long and has 1200′ of elevation gain.  The hard trail is 5 miles long and has 1200′ of elevation gain.  In either case, you have to go up the hill, so 2 miles is easier!

Finally, two days ago it was my birthday.  Disneyland was offering a special deal that you could go to Disneyland for free on your birthday.  I thought, I’ll go with the 4 people I know who have the same birthday, and it won’t be a huge imposition because, well, it’s on a Saturday.  But no one wanted to go.  Marisa e-mailed and said that she would come out and go with me. Yay.  I hoped to get her a discounted ticket.

A friend from AREC, Margo, works for Disneyland, and I picked her brain about what kind of discount I could get Marisa.  She said there really aren’t a lot of options, but that she lived nearby and would be willing to meet us at the gate at 9am, and just let Marisa in for free!

Meanwhile, my cousin Daniel (who lives in Santa Barbara, but I rarely see him) said that he might be in the area, and could he bring HIS two nephews along.  I said, if you come early, I might be able to get you in free (knowing that the timing rarely works out), but yeah, the more’s the merrier.

At just a little before 9, Margo met us at the front gate, and Daniel was there with his two young nephews, and Margo was able to get in 3 people for free (basically, she gets in and can bring 3 guests), so we paid for the youngest kid.  The park also gave me a button that said “Happy Birthday, Emmett,” and every ride employee wished me a happy birthday all day!

It was a blast riding the rides with the kids, because even though they had been there before, it is still a fantastic adventure!  And then, after they left, Marisa and I stayed and rode rides until the park closed.  The best part was deciding that we would opt for Single Rider on the Indiana Jones ride, where they expedite you to the front to fill partially filled cars.  When we got to the front, they had two spaces… and we rode together!

The next day, I got to visit with my Uncle Rolfe and his wife Norma in Northridge (a good excuse to visit them when Marisa is visiting)… and capped off by the Boeing 5K.

I felt decent during the run (albeit a year older) and did a negative split from my first to second miles, and then blew up on the third (7:30, 7:00, 7:44 (1.1)).

LASAA Homicide 5K Mug Run – 2009

January 24, 2009

Ed, Kurt and I carpooled out to City of Commerce to run the LA Sheriff’s Homicide race.  Kurt decided to do the 10K and Ed and I opted for the 5K.

Though I had done this race before, the course seemed different.  It was raining, and I could hardly see through my glasses, so I wasn’t really questioning the course… until I came in with a time of 17:59, because I didn’t really feel like I ran a 2 minute PR.  They sent someone out to remeasure it, and came up with 2.6 miles.

Ed and I each got a medal in our race, and Kurt (plus Chris Rosario) ended up in a very competitive race (not short, by the way).

Boeing 5K (1) – 2009

January 12, 2009

The first Boeing 5K of the year (and my first run in what I hope to be a new LONG streak).  It was really windy and the temperature was on the hot side.

I did OK on the way out, but I became a bit short of breath on the way back and so I walked for a bit until I recovered.

I think I was the fastest “submaster,” or the ONLY submaster, finishing in 25:18.

LASAA Men’s Central Jail 5K Mug Run – 2009

January 10, 2009

Ed Villalobos, Kurt, Warren and I decided to go out and do the LA Sheriff’s Men’s Central Jail 5K.  Actually, Ed did the 10K, and the rest of us did the 5K… it’s usually the other way ’round.

I am the defending champion, but I am just trying to stay ahead of my friends, though I did manage to come in third overall and first in my division (beat you again, Warren) in 23:18.

On the drive home, I realized too late that I was in the wrong lane to go the way on the freeway that I needed to go.  The car in front of me had the same thought, but instead of just getting on the freeway and then figuring it out at the next exit, she decided that she would back up and move to another lane… without checking that there was a car behind her.  The spare tire on the back of her Jeep smashed into the hood of my car.

I don’t think that I’d ever had someone get into a fender bender with me (other than going to the hospital and not having a chance to deal with it), and I wasn’t sure what information to get.  Fortunately, I had an attorney in the back seat and he helped me get SOME of the information (because I copied down her husband’s information).  I felt bad because I know that it increases your premium cost, but I didn’t want to have to pay for repairs to the car… but at least we were able to drive it back home – it was really only cosmetic damage.