Monthly Archives: August 2013

Skyline 50K – 2011

August 7, 2011

Doing Skyline 50K marks my 2nd ultra in 2 consecutive months.  While that doesn’t seem excessive, time was that I considered 2 marathons in a YEAR to be excessive!

This weekend, I have pulled a couple of other people into my evil machinations… namely Mark Vishnevsky and Nick Kincaid.  Mark had already done a couple of 50Ks and 50Ms and I have known OF him for several years, but we became closer friends in the last year or so.  He is ten years younger than me, and about 10 minutes per mile faster than me (not really, but he has done a marathon in under 2:50… so faster than my sister).

Nick Kincaid and I ran “together” in the Father’s Day Marathon, where I came in 3rd and he won.  Nick is 10 years OLDER than me… but has recently improved to be faster than me… or at least, he is comparable to how fast I used to be.  Nick and I had talked about good 50Ks as “starter” races, and I convinced him to do Skyline.

Nick, I think, decided semi-last minute and drove or flew up on his own, whereas Mark drove up with me on Friday and is hanging out with my family.  The drive took the usual 6 hours and change and both of us were pretty exhausted.  Mark got the privilege of staying in the guest room… or as we call it, The Catacombs!  It was basically a storage area that my parents converted into a guest room… there are no windows, so once you turn out the light, it is pitch black inside.  Mark took a little post-drive nap, and was out for 5 hours!

In the evening, we went to my favorite restaurant, “BFT.”  (Bay Fung Tong.)  This is a Chinese restaurant in Oakland with good, inexpensive fare… where all the Chinese people hang out.  It is rare to see other “White people” in there… probably why it is so good.

Since Skyline is on Sunday, I don’t just want to sit around all day Saturday.  And I know Mark would be OK with that, but it would be a bit boring… so Mom offers a couple of ferry tickets and we plan to ferry from Jack London Square in Oakland to San Francisco… and then walk around… a little.

The “a little” walking around turns into more than I wanted to, basically going around to the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Terminal, up to Pier 39, and elsewhere.  The highlight was the Mechanical Arts Museum, with a bunch of old games and “pinball”-like machines mostly from a long time ago.  When we got back to Oakland, my feet were on the sore side… not a good sign for the race.

The race started at 7am on Sunday and I felt OK, despite hiking around too much yesterday.  I know that Mark will have to wait around quite a bit, but at least he can talk to all the folks who finish in between us.  Ideally, I would like to finish in 6 hours, but hope to finish in under 7.

The first four-odd miles of the trail are mostly paved and go around Lake Chabot.  I walk the hills and run the rest and average just under 11 minute miles.

The next couple of miles are mostly flat, single-track trail through a pastural area.  I have seen some cows in the past, but not today.  I slow a bit to 13 minute miles.

The next 5K is probably the most technical of the entire course (and we will see it on the way back, too).  It is basically a mile climb up, and then 1.5 miles down, and a half mile of single-track to the aid station next to Fish Ranch Road.  Because of the downhill section, I am able to skip/gallop at a 11 minute pace once again.

Now there is about 5 miles to Skyline Gate.  The first 1.5 miles is a lot of minor up-and-down on single-track paralleling the main road.  There is a tiny part of this where we will come back, but it is the last 1/4 mile just before the aid station.  About a mile in, I encounter another runner (with a Skyline number) coming back on me on the single-track.  What?  Was the course changed?  Hmm.

Once we clear the single-track, then it is a very steep fire road for about 3/4 mile, followed by 2-1/2 miles of (mostly upward) fire road seesawing to the top.  I reach Skyline Gate in 3 hours, 1 minute (about 29 minutes ahead of the cutoff), and at a 15 minute pace.

From Skyline Gate, we are heading back to the last aid station, but in a different way (not back the way we came).  There is quite a bit of downhill through redwoods, but there is also quite a bit of uphill section, too.  This is one of two sections that seemingly go on forever.  Truthfully, it is the longest section – 5.9 miles – so it is appropriate that it feels like the longest section.

As I am making my way through the single-track part just before getting to the aid station, I am thinking, where was this guy running earlier?  Because… I didn’t run on the same course he did… and I don’t think I made any wrong turns.  I get into the aid station maintaining 14-1/2 minute miles… and still about 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff.

From here, we retrace our steps 5K back flat, UP, and down.  I do not skip/gallop back up the hill… and on the downhill, my feet are starting to hurt a bit, because it is more rocky than dirt-y.  Despite the more uphill in this section, I manage 14:17/mile (slower than earlier, but faster than the last section).

Now I come to the last longest-feeling section (the 2nd longest section by distance, unironically (5.3M)), where we retrace our steps a bit, but then roam around a lot of single-track trail with glimpses of Lake Chabot fooling us into thinking that we are “almost” there.  I continue to maintain a decent pace by jogging the flats, running the downhills and walking the uphills.  I reach the last aid station in 6:16 (so… obviously, I am not going to finish in 6 hours, with 3 miles to go), improving my pace to 12:43.

The last section is around 3 miles, with quite a bit of steep downhill, and then a meandering (mostly flat, mostly paved) path around the opposite side of the lake.  With about a mile and half to go is my favorite part… the suspension bridge… about 100 yards long and lightly bouncing.  All I really want to do on this last section is finish under 7 hours.  That means I need to do the last 5K in under 43 minutes.  While that seems like walking, I am pretty tired at this point, and the weather has warmed up quite a bit.

When I see the dock (which signifies that I am less than a minute from the end), my watch says 38 minutes and change… so I know I will break 7 hours.  (Yay.)  And I finish in 6:57:00.  Nick finished about 30 minutes ahead of me, and Mark 2-1/2 hours ahead of me.

There is an interesting result on the board and that it a finisher with a time of around 3;29, which would be a HUGE course record!  That person is the same person that I saw on the course coming back at me… on what I totally thought was NOT the course.  Apparently, when he got to Skyline Gate, instead of continuing straight on the fire road, he decided to turn around and go in the opposite direction, cutting off about 0.8 miles… and thus being disqualified.  I’m just curious… how do you ignore the course markings and the volunteers when you are the leader?

We drop Nick back at his hotel and then we drive back to my folks for a quick bite before driving back to Long Beach that same night.

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OCTC Pancake Breakfast 5K – 2011

July 31, 2011

Decided to do the OC Track Club Pancake Breakfast Run in Newport Beach.  I have had a bad few weeks in coming back from the Headlands 50M (or whatever the real distance was…).  For the most part, my breathing is sketchy… but that may have to do with getting back to normal after recovering for a week (and getting food poisoning).

This isn’t your typical 5K… it’s partially cross country, and there are a lot of hills.  My strategy today goes against my usual strategy which is to go comfortably on the flat, fast on the downhills and walk the uphills (well, I mean, against 5K strategy).  It’s hard to get passed on the uphill (because it is a 5K and I should be running!), but I am running against myself so I have to do what is best for me.

When I look at the results, I find that I was fast enough to earn a medal!  23:30 isn’t a bad time, but usually not an award-winning time.

Headlands 50M – 2011

July 16, 2011

A few months ago when Marisa came down to visit, she and I made a trip to several stores to try and get new deck chair coverings (my deck chairs have been eaten by squirrels).  At our last stop, when we came back out to the car, a man confronted Marisa.  At first she tried to ignore him, and then she realized that he was confessing that he backed into my car and left a huge dent in the side and was giving us his insurance information.  Phew!

I finally got around to getting this taken care of last week and had a rental car while I was getting this done (all paid for by his insurance).  Finally, they told me that the car would be ready on Monday morning… which was after I needed my car for a race in the Bay Area this weekend… so I would drive the rental up to Northern California and back.

This was a PC Trails course I had heard good stuff about, plus I had met the RDs before at the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Creek runs in the past.  There were two events going on here – a marathon and a 50 miler.  I am continuing my streak and doing the 50 miler.

Mom and Dad are out of town this weekend, so I will be staying at their condo alone.  When I got to the Bay Area on Friday, I went down to Berkeley Bowl (a grocery store) to fill up some supplies for dinner.  I ended up buying two burritos – one for dinner tonight and one to eat when I get back from the race, plus some fruit (apples and oranges).

On Saturday morning early, I drove out to Marin County (through the city and across the Golden Gate).  Attendance was fairly sparse for both races – less than 100 in the 50 miler and probably the same for the marathon.

Before starting on the course, we were told that we would run a 1.2 mile loop to make up the distance difference for the marathon (because the course was supposedly 25 miles long).  To me, for the 50-miler, that defied reason, since we should be running 2 – 25 mile loops, not 2 – 25 mile loops AND a 1.2 mile loop, but the RD said, “Well, everyone has always done the extra loop.”  O…K…. whatever.

I knew at least one person on the course – and that was Kimberly Manfred.  She had been my compatriot earlier in the year at the Rocky Road 100M 11pm to 7am aid station.  She had planned already to come up this weekend and watch friends compete in the Vineman Half Ironman on Sunday… so I convinced her that she should do this as her first 50 miler and that we would run together.  I also thought I recognized the 100-mile runner from the Santa Barbara race that finished behind me – Ken Michal, I think.

After running the first 1.2 miles, we headed out on the course proper.  This race would be another in the long line of “washing machine” loops, meaning we would go out in one direction and then run the course in reverse on the way back.  This initial 4 miles were essentially the Miwok 100K course in reverse… up stone stairs, along a paved bike path… though it varied a little with a trip through a bunker (pitch black).  It was extremely foggy and I couldn’t see very far and my glasses kept fogging over.  Additionally, my inserts were moving around inside my shoes.

When I finally stopped to readjust, Kimberly took off.  I vowed to catch up with her, but that never happened.

This first loop took us to Tennessee Valley (an aid location I have been to probably at every race in this area).  I finished the first 5.2 in 57:57.

From Tennessee Valley, we followed the Miwok 100K course down to the Coastal Trail and stayed on that trail until we got to Muir Beach (another 4-odd miles).  This section (a bit hillier) took me 61:53 (walking pace).

From Muir Beach, we took the Coyote Ridge and Miwok Trails back to Tennessee Valley (another 4-odd miles), which took 67:57 (a slow walking pace).

The next section was one of two 7-mile sections.  We went up towards the 101 freeway.  Supposedly, the view was such that you could see the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was very foggy and the winds were gusting as well.  You could HEAR the freeway, just before the “dangerous descent” on a paved road down to the level of the bridge, and then down to the water underneath the bridge.

The part that sucked about this section was that you realized that you would have to climb back up this entire steep road to the height of the bridge and then back up another steep road to the trail.  The good part was that you could see the people who were close to you in front or behind.

I saw a few people ahead of me on this section, and there were 2 guys behind me.  Yay!  I’m not in last place!  I did this 7 mile section in 86:48 (12:24/mile)… better than walking!

As I mentioned before, we had to backtrack all the way up this road and beyond, and then headed down the Bobcat and Miwok Trails back to the Start/Finish.  This was another 7 mile section and went on and on and on.

The plus was that most of the trail was soft and grassy and I got to see all of the 50-mile runners heading back out.  The minus was that my feet were killing me and Ken Michal passed me (and now I was in second to last place).  I got back to the Start/Finish in 1:45:07 (back to about 15 minutes/mile).

Now I would head back in the opposite direction.  The good news was that I would get those 2 – 7 mile sections out of the way and finish with 3 – 4 mile sections.  I took a little time to readjust my shoes… hopefully there would not be as much movement with the inserts!

In heading back out on the endless grassy trail towards the Golden Gate, I espied the last-place runner.  I shouted words of encouragement, because I wanted him to continue running as well (so I wouldn’t come in last place).  My return trip to the base of the Golden Gate took 1:52:51 (a net loss of 7 minutes), and I only saw 2 runners ahead of me (WELL ahead) as I went down the sucky hill.

It was still overcast and windy and the best you could see of the bridge was the supports.  On the way back up the hill, I saw last place and he did not look happy.  I said, “This is the worst of it, and then we have less than 20 miles to the end.”  I hoped that was enough.  He was probably 15 minutes behind me.

Now I had another 4 miles back to Tennessee Valley.  When I arrived, I saw a few of the people who were now heading to finish the race (meaning they were 8 miles ahead of me at this point).  We encouraged one another.  This 7-mile section took me 1:45:41 (19 minutes slower than outbound).

Now I was heading back on the inland route to Muir Beach (a scant 4 miles).  It was not getting dark yet (since it was July, we had another 3-4 hours before it would get really black out).  I got back to Muir Beach in 82:15 (15 minutes slower).  All of this slowdown is to be expected.  Most folks don’t accelerate at the end of their ultramarathons!

Now I headed back to Tennessee Valley along the Coastal Route.  I liked this because it is pretty (when not foggy).  This took me 89:56 (loss of 28 minutes!!!).  Now I just had 4 more miles to the finish.  It was a little before 7pm, and I had 2 hours to do this last 4 miles and finish under the 15-hour time limit.

The fog began rolling in and it was pretty dark out because of that.  My glasses continued to get foggy and I made very slow progress.

When I got to the top of the hill, I couldn’t see at all.  The ribbons were not placed in obvious spots and I couldn’t spot any glow sticks.  I followed what I thought was the path, but after a few minutes, I thought I was probably scrambling down a hillside because nothing resembled a trail.  The last thing I wanted was to fall INTO one of these bunkers through a cruddy roof (and we had seen stuff like that in the morning).  I did my best to follow whatever I could find, but I never did find that original bunker we went through in the morning.

At a certain point, I hadn’t seen markings for quite some time, but I did get to a point where I recognized (vaguely) where I was – the paved bike path.  I figured that my best bet was to stay on this path to wherever it ended and then I could retrace my steps back to the Finish.

The path popped out in a set of buildings somewhat down the road (around a mile or so) from the Finish, and so I followed the road back to the Finish.  Obviously, I didn’t come in at the right spot, but I know that I covered the entire distance… and then some.

The RD didn’t seem all that surprised where I came from… and I crossed in 14:43:43, about 15 minutes under the cutoff… in last place.  Yeah, that guy quit.  The last 4 miles (plus or minus) took me 1 hour and 53 minutes… but who knows what my real pace.

My biggest complaint at the finish was that they had promised glow sticks on trail, but he said, “Well, there was only one guy out there.”  Yeah, well, THAT guy needed glow sticks!

My other complaint was that there was no food at the end (something about raccoons or squirrels eating the supplies), so I ended up getting 8 sodas to get me re-energized for my drive back to Oakland.  At least I had my burrito when I got back.

On Sunday, I woke up feeling awful (like woke up at 3am and puked) and I was on and off the toilet all day.  I had planned to drive back on Sunday afternoon, but I felt really really awful.  I KNEW I would have to drive back on Monday, to pick up my car, so I needed to recover by then.

Monday, I felt measurably better, but not really better enough to drive back… but… I drove back, with the goal of arriving in Long Beach before 5pm to pick up my car.  Guess what?  It wasn’t ready until Wednesday!

I corresponded with a few people after the race (even several weeks after the race) and probably 10 people got sick – we think it was probably food poisoning from someone handling the food improperly or some of the food being bad.

It’s hard enough to complete these races without someone getting you sick from the very food you need to fuel your body to complete the race.

Regardless of getting sick, I enjoyed the challenge of the Headlands 50M (or whatever the distance ended up being – maybe a double marathon) and love doing just about any race in the Marin Headlands.

Boeing 5K (7) – 2011

July 11, 2011

My first month in several where I am not rushing to and from work… but also I am not working. =(

Today the weather is windy AND warm… a bad one, two combination.  My knees and recurring plantar fasciitis prevent me from running as fast I have been in previous months, but I am still good with 23:12, which is still sub-8:00/mile.

La Palma 10K – 2011

July 4, 2011

My job at SCAN ended last week!  I think moving forward their project will go better, but it was no picnic, and my boss didn’t want to hear any advice about how things could have gone better.  I won’t keep my mouth shut when it comes to helping out with unorganized projects.

For the 4th of July run, Dona McBride and I carpooled to do La Palma one more time.  The course hasn’t changed, but it is still fun to do a race where you know a lot of the people.  I didn’t have my best race – Nick Kincaid beat me again – but a sub-8:00/mile pace for 6.2 miles of pavement is satisfactory to me.  I don’t have expectations (now that I am 40) that I will pick up a lot of hardware in good sized races, if I am running 47:27 for a 10K.

Runnin’ with Dad Marathon – 2011

June 19, 2011

Decided to do another Charlie Alewine loop race on Father’s Day to Honor my father.  I fashioned a laminated photo of him to pin to my back.  Of course, people asked me when my father had died… but I tried to point out “In HONOR,” meant that he was still alive.  (In Memory is dead.)

In Honor of Richard Rahl

In Honor of Richard Rahl

The course is similar to the half marathon I did a year ago January, with a loop around the Colorado Lagoon and then out-and-back down Appian Way to the cul de sac (by the Naples Yacht Club).  A loop is 4.37 miles and we will do 6 of them.  I am joined by AREC members Laura Sohaskey and Nick Kincaid.

I am hoping to continue my good feeling from last week’s Boeing run (and shut away my bad feeling from work – things should be wrapping up but my boss is in the weeds).

My first loop takes me 35:50, or about 8:11/mile.  It feels fast-ish, but we will see how things transpire.  I would like to win this race… or at least finish in the top 3 (because the top 3 get a trophy!).

Loop 2 takes 37:11 – a drop down to 8:30/mile.  I am still in the lead, but do not have a huge lead on Nick and another runner.  I also spot Ed Ettinghausen (“Run Jester Run”) but he may be doing his own thing.

Loop 3 takes 37:52 (minimal drop), but I am going to be caught and I am not going to accelerate back into the lead.

Loop 4 takes 42:09 – a drop of another minute per mile – though my overall pace is still under 9:00/mile pace.

Loop 5 takes 45:02 – now I am over 10 minutes per mile for the loop (but still slightly under 9:00/mile).  I get passed and I drop into 3rd place.

Loop 6 is the slowest of the 6, with a 48:43, catapulting me over 9:00/mile pace for the entire race, but I finish in a time of 4:06:50, which is my fastest marathon in 8 years.  I also finish in 3rd place and get that coveted trophy.

My trophy

My trophy

One other milestone of note is that today my lifetime miles topped 20,000 miles!

Boeing 5K (6) – 2011

June 13, 2011

I am still working at SCAN, but I do not have any orientation to rush to and from… but I still have to rush to and from work.

I have had a pretty good week in that I am running faster and feel nearly normal.  At the hash last week, several people said, “You’re looking fast.”  I like to hear that, especially only a week or so after a marathon.

I finished in 21:54 (around 7:00/mile), and I am very happy with that.  I wonder if it will last.