Monthly Archives: January 2014

David Hancock Triathlon – 2012

August 5, 2012

Last time I did a triathlon was, well, last year.  My bike is still unridable, due to a squirrel eating the bicycle seat.  It also doesn’t help that I rarely ride the bike.  Little interest.

I worked it out that I would get a teammate and he would do the bicycle section (and if he wanted to swim, we could both swim, but he said that he didn’t like swimming or running… perfect).

The swim is 1 kilometer, and I managed my usual 32:03 (good enough for last place, easy).

Then I walked over to the bike/run transition location, which is about a mile away and waited for my teammate to come in.

When it was my turn to run, I had a bit of a surreal experience.  Tim Hickok, who can kick my butt any day of the week, has a heart arrhythmia and is struggling (I’m not sure how he got through the swim!).  He left just a bit ahead of me on the run, and I passed him up.  In fact, I did the 6.5 mile run (which is NOT flat) in 54:21, or about 8:21/mile.

Too bad I was unable to overtake the 3rd place team in the relay… but it was nice for once not to be at the very end of the pack.

Sunset 10K – 2012

July 15, 2012

Despite having just done a 50K ultramarathon about a week ago, I walked down to Belmont Shore to participate in Rocket Racing’s Sunset 10K (an evening run).

The pavement did not feel especially good and I got a bit of a twinge in my back and knees.  This was also the first time I went running post-race, so of course, I don’t feel really great.

The 5K out took me 28 minutes, and the 5K back took me 26 minutes.  Whoo hoo, for negative splits.

Boeing 5K (7) – 2012

July 9, 2012

Took the 5K extremely easy and walked a 42:45.

Laura, who did the same event as I, managed 24-and change.  I don’t know how she does it.  I suppose I could run 24 minutes for a 5K, but I need more recovery than that.

Harding Hustle 50K – 2012

July 7, 2012

There is this “fabulous” trail in Orange County known as the Harding Truck Trail… or more beautifully known as “Modjeska Canyon.”  Modjeska Canyon sounds nicer.  Truck Trail sounds like a lot of uphill that only a truck can handle.

I’ve done probably 3 trail runs (training, not racing) on this path, but have never actually gone all the way to the top.  In fact, last year, Laura and I needed a tough training run to prepare for the Santa Barbara Endurance Race, so we went over midweek to do a training run.  It rained at the bottom, hailed in the middle, and snowed on top.  We stopped when we hit a snow-covered course, because we were not dressed for arctic conditions.

The best part about a training run on this trail is that it takes a lot less time to get back to the start than it does to get up to the top.  I have had 10 mile runs on this trail where the first 5 miles took me 2-1/2 hours and the second 5 miles took me 1-1/2 hours!

With this “fun” in mind, Laura had previously run the Harding Hustle 30K and convinced me that this was a good option for my July ultramarathon.  The one major downside of the race is the severely limited parking lot (maybe room for 15 cars), but Laura had researched a doable alternative – she had had a conversation with a local with room for 8 cars in her yard and paid her $10 to park for the day (and it was about a 5-minute walk from the start).  This meant that we didn’t have to fight for parking spaces, nor take a shuttle from 5 miles away.  (Or get up super-early.)

The first bit of the slog – 4.5 miles – is 85% uphill.  This is where I do a lot of walking (and fall WAY behind most of the folks in the race).  There is a small section about 3/4 mile in where there is a nice little descent.  It was all I could do to not go sprinting down this section, because I knew I had to have something left to climb up the next hill.  The first aid station was about halfway up the first main hill and I covered it in about 82 minutes (or 18 minutes per mile).  I was definitely one of the 5 slowest people at this point.

The next section is about 4.6 miles and is ALL uphill.  There isn’t a lot to see here; I try to visualize certain landmarks on the way up, so that I have reasonable confidence on the descent that I am “getting close.”  The last landmark will be the annoying uphill section about 3/4 mile from the end (see last paragraph).  The spot before that is some oddly-shaped branches and a burned out area probably 6 miles from the end.  Other than that, I am just seeing lots of dusty fire-road and switchback sections where I can look down and see that no runners are behind me.  The second aid station is the de facto “top of the hill,” though there is still more ascent to come.  I am able to move a mite faster (not much, though) and cover this slightly longer section in 78 minutes (about 12 seconds per mile faster – WHOO!).

They are supplying HEED for recovery drink and the volunteer really wants to pour out what I have in my bottle (Clif Shot powder and water) instead of mix it.  Knowing that water is often short on these courses (even if they don’t intend that to happen, but it is, after all, July), I say not to worry about it mixing.  I think the issue is that mine contains some sugar and HEED does not.  Whatever.

The next section is a bit flatter and I have a better idea of where I am going, whereas before, I was doing a little section, a switchback, or a turn around the edge of a hill to a different section.  The distance to the next aid station isn’t particularly far – about 1.6 miles – but I do remember from the map that I have to climb to the top of Modjeska Peak, which sounds troublesome, so I don’t push the pace too hard.  Since 1.6 miles takes me 30 minutes, I feel like I am really going to be pressed later on, but try to assuage myself that I can pick up some time on the downhills.

Out of this aid station, I am doing an out-and-back to Modjeska Peak.  For part of the distance, I am joined by the course sweep, Jim Tello.  This is because I am in last place formally.  On the one hand, it is a bit depressing that I am in last place, but on the other hand, I appreciate the company.  This section is a mile of uphill, mostly single-track.  At the start of the single-track, the technical aspect (i.e. rocks) isn’t too bad, but it worsens the further up I go.  It is slow going, and will be slow-going on the downhill section because I don’t run really well on loose rocks.  However, I am able to cover the two miles in 35 minutes (I did run a bit on the rocky downhill.) and kept my overall pace under 18 minute miles.  [To make the 15.8 mile cutoff, I need to maintain 19:25/mile, and I need 17:25 for the whole race… so I am a bit behind the net pace, but ahead of where I MUST be at.]

Once I clear Modjeska Peak, the fire-road is rolling hills and I am able to run consistently for the first time in the race.  It is hard after walking for nearly 4 hours.  It is essentially a 5K (still uphill mostly though, despite rolling hills) to the Santiago Peak turn-around.  Jim is with me much of the way until we catch someone who is struggling more than I am on the steady uphill climb to the Santiago Peak aerials.  I manage 53:20 (improved my pace once again).

Although I made it well ahead of the cutoff, they are packing up to leave, since after me, there is but one more runner trailing.  I fill up my water bottles and eat a bunch of watermelon.  They warn me that the temperature is heading northward, and I am starting to feel it.  Gosh, I don’t do particularly well in heat, but I am hoping that gravity will pull me down the hills.

The 5K back to “base camp” for Modjeska Peak is more uphill than downhill (since it is essentially the reverse of what I just did), and I cover it in 43:18 (about 10 minutes faster than the uphill direction).

Alas, though, I need to do the mile out and mile back Modjeska Peak route AGAIN… and it is pretty miserably hot on this section.  I would love to say that I accelerated on this section again, but the reality is that I am 19 miles in, the temperature is hotter and it is still a sucky hill!  Instead of a mere 35 minutes, it is 40 minutes this time… but at least my net pace is now at 17:15, 10 seconds per mile (10 x 20) ahead of the cutoff.

Now I head back down to the top of the hill aid station.  Naturally, they are pretty short on water, due to the heat.  I am able to get some water by breaking down some of the ice in the cooler.  At least they do not need to take care of a lot more runners, just a couple.  I cover the 1.6 miles in 26:41 (about 3 minutes faster than up).

Now I have the more substantial downhill section coming up of 4.6 miles, through lots of switchbacks and the burnt out section through unusual plants (maybe just burned out trees?).  I would like to press the pace, because it is significantly downhill, but the heat is just rising up from the road and it is like running through a hair dryer.  It’s pretty miserable.  Nonetheless, I am able to cover the section in 63:27 (15 minutes faster!).    At least now I feel confident that I will finish substantially under the time.

I have only the last section left, which is now 85% downhill, with only the miserable last gasp uphill part to make me suffer.  The other part I can focus on is a house near the bottom.  With about 3 miles to go, it is easy to spot and focus on – “That’s where I’m going.”

I am still struggling in the heat and then I get to the last uphill section.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I can’t run this section; in fact, all I can do to keep moving forward is lean forward, and very nearly lift my legs with my hands and arms.  I keep telling myself that when I get to the top of the hill, I can just lean forward and gravity will take me in to the finish.

The last section is very steep downhill and I go by the start (the gate blocking trucks from driving on the Truck Trail) and run about 100 yards on a paved road to the finish.  I finish the whole race in 8 hours and 32 minutes.  Laura, who I barely saw all day (maybe on the first Modjeska Peak climb), finishes 12 minutes ahead of me.  The heat did her in, too.

At the finish, I am somewhat disappointed, because they have raviolis and sauce.  HOT raviolis.  I would like to stick my mouth in an ice box, but instead I am heating it up with a hot meal.

Despite a tough race, I now have 7 ultras in 7 months for 2012 (and around 3 years of running at least a marathon distance race every month).  I have made it over “the hump” and hope I can struggle through another 5 ultras and reach my ultimate year-end goal.

AREC Prediction Run (5M) – 2012

June 13, 2012

Today is the AREC Prediction Run, a sort-of race where it doesn’t matter what time it takes you to cover 5M (or 3M, as some did), but rather how accurate you are in figuring out the time you think it will take and then running that time.

I decided I would still do the full 5M and try to race walk it, figuring I would do around 60 minutes (plus some additional for the bridge hills), given that I did the 5K on Monday at a similar pace (a tad bit faster, because 36:10 is for 3.1, and not 3 miles).

However, I walked a lot faster than I have previously for a 5 mile course, and finished in 57:48… probably my best for a 5M walk but not my best.

Boeing 5K (6) – 2012

June 11, 2012

One day post 33 miler, so of course, I am not running, but I do like to continue my streak at the Boeing run (I am getting close to 50 consecutive months of running the event – that is probably in the top 10 of such recorded streaks.).

I race-walked as best I could, but my feet did not feel particularly good.  Still, I am very satisfied with 36:10 (and I beat 8 people!).

Holcomb Valley Trail Race 33M – 2012

June 10, 2012

I had heard some information about the Holcomb Valley Trail Race, and I had clarified whether it was on the same side of the lake as the Endure the Bear 50K I had done a few years earlier.  It did not.

My friend, Chris (aka Undercover, from the Hash), had mentioned he was interested in doing the 15M race (recently, he ran his first marathon, at age 69, and was really enjoying trail races).  Since the drive to Big Bear is sort of long, he proposed that we go up together and split a room.  We always have had nice conversation at the Hash, and I may have convinced him he could do a marathon, I thought it might be a fun adventure, and a good (different distance) ultra to continue my streak.

We drove up on Saturday morning and decided to take a look at the course beforehand.  I think we intended just to hike up to where the trail became dirt.  However, we ended up hiking up to the start of the Pacific Crest Trail, which was about 2.5 miles away, at elevation, without water, and in my non-running shoes (tennis shoes, but I don’t use them on trail).  We ended up exhausting ourselves somewhat.

When we picked up our bibs, they told us all about the staggered start.  To me, it makes little or no sense.  We start in two-minute increments, based upon race, gender and age group.  While that makes sense for race leaders, this is a small race and also, it separates me from people that I might actually run with (i.e. women who run a similar pace… but will start 18-20 minutes behind me).  I wonder if they thought that a staggered start would be better for the trail?  (The answer is they are bike racers and that’s something they do in those events, but it doesn’t translate well to running.)  We also got our shirts, which are Dri-Fit, gray, and say “HOLOCOMB Valley Trail Race” on them (no year, either).  How much effort did you put into this?

Afterwards, we had an early dinner at an Italian restaurant somewhere along the lake.  Chris’s phone indicated a number of interesting restaurants, but most of them were closed or non-existent.  The Italian place was good, food-wise, if not service-wise.

In the morning, we headed over to the race.  I think Chris started a good 40 minutes behind me (because he was in a shorter race), so I hoped that the timing would work out that he wouldn’t have to wait extraordinarily long for me to finish.  (We are both slow.)

The first few miles were the same miles we covered in our long practice hike yesterday.  The paved part is a lot longer, because we start all the way at the bottom of the road (and will finish that way, as well).  It is kind of nice to have an idea of the trail, but it still sucks, because it’s a lot of uphill, at elevation.

Near the Pacific Crest Trail

Near the Pacific Crest Trail

Since it is mostly uphill, I manage a little better than a 15-minute pace, and therefore am running near no one, because the other 4 people in my division are shorter, younger and faster!

After 3.8 miles up to the Pacific Crest Trail, I head downhill (mostly) on a nice wide fire road, without too much gravel or rocks along the way.  This is very comfortable to run and walk down, because it is not technical in the least.  The trail is not particularly scenic, but there are a lot of nice trees around.  By the next aid station, I have covered 8.6 miles in just under 2 hours.

Now I head uphill for a few miles.  It is pretty exhausting, but I have heard that I will encounter some people I know either at the aid station or en route.  About a mile out of the aid station, I come across my friend Richard (aka Hozer) from the Hash.  He is hiking backwards from the aid station.  I know he always wants to do the entire trail, but he has had some health issues (aka “getting older”) and has reasonably cut back.

The aid station is nicely set up and has a bunch of American flags.  I am offered and kindly accept a cup of champagne (!).  At this point, I am just working on finishing and obviously not going to win anything (as stated previously, those in my division are LONG gone), so why not enjoy it?  I managed a reasonable pace to this station, still managing about 13 minutes per mile.  An AREC friend, Paul Epperson, reaches the AS at about the same time (but he is in the 15 miler).

From here, I leave the fire road and am on a parallel single-track above the fire-road.  I like this quite a bit, because it is more interesting.  At this point, I am essentially heading back to where I started on the Pacific Crest Trail (and the 15-milers are heading back to the finish).  When I reach that point, I have another mile or so to the next aid station.

From this point, however, the make-up of the trail changes from light-packed dirt to a really rocky path.  While it was not difficult up and down, I had to step very carefully, and that markedly restricted my speed.   A little bit of downhill kept me under 16 minute pace, however.  At the aid station, they had limited water (and gosh, we were coming through here again – makes me nervous), and mostly only orange slices.  It was getting pretty hot and I was already struggling with the elevation.

A couple of girls caught up with me and we stayed together for a bit.  Unfortunately, they were (obviously, if they caught up) much faster with me, so we didn’t stay together for long.

This next section was rolling hills at the start, but ended up being a 6.5 mile slow descent to approximately the same level as where we started the race.  The trail was single-track and cut long stretches across the hillside – maybe 3 to 4 tenths of a mile each time.  The biggest challenge (though I enjoyed it, strangely) was this gigantic rock field.  If I thought that the previous trail section was rocky, well, this section was pure rocks.  The only way you could tell that there was a trail was that there was a bit of flattening through it, but walking on the rocks, well, it sounded like walking on broken glass, and it was disorientating to have that loss of balance.  This is hard to describe.  The rocks were all the size of a slice of bread (maybe a bit thicker) and it covered all of the hill in that section and was probably a tenth of a mile long.

So… I would work my way across the rock field, continue another 2 tenths, hairpin turn down, 2 tenths of a mile, tiptoe across the rock field, another tenth, another hairpin, and so on.  The rock field didn’t extend throughout the entire descent, but I crossed it at least 4 times.  I should have been accelerating down the hill, but this thwarted most of my forward progress.


At the bottom, there was still about a mile of flat, wide road to the aid station.  While this was welcome after the rock fields, there was no shelter from the sun.  It was probably close to 80 degrees at this point.  The aid station was situated at the end of a road… or rather, at the end of where we were ALLOWED to go.  There was a guard gate of sorts.  We were at the far edge of the park.  Going was slow, nearly 20 minutes per mile… and it was downhill!

I didn’t waste much time (other than refilling my water bottles) and headed up the hill.  At least it was not too technical… but it was hot!

Usually, I sing to myself, but I was too tired and too out of breath to keep myself occupied that way.  I started thinking of puns.  First, I came up with the runners’ favorite rock group – The I.T. Band.  Then I began fixating on something offered at a previous aid station – Iced Heed (Heed is like Gatorade, but fairly yucky tasting and sugar-free.).  And so, I came up with the following story:

Haley Joel Osment (of Sixth Sense fame) is running an ultra.  He gets to an aid station that is run by co-captains.  He needs electrolytes, now!  So, he says, “Iced Heed, Head People.”  (Bad, I know, but I did get a bit delirious in the heat.)

Strangely enough, despite an unsheltered and hot uphill trail, I maintained the same (slow) pace (according to my calculations, 1 second faster per mile) on this uphill slog.

From this location, I knew I would be heading back to the understocked aid station and be that much closer to the end.  I figured it would be mostly downhill, because of the HUGE hill I had just climbed.  It ended up being mostly rolling hills, but untechnical, so I could walk relatively fast and covered the 3.3 miles in about 55 minutes.  When I got to the aid station, they had no more soda, no more Heed, pretzels and a little water, but only enough to fill one water bottle.  Luckily, I usually don’t drink ALL of my water… one bottle is ‘just in case.’

This last section was really hard to bear.  My feet hurt quite a bit, and I had to traverse that same rocky single-track (but uphill this time) back to the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail and then down the hill to the paved path and the end.  I wasted quite a bit of my time getting through the rocky section, but was able to gallop and speed walk down most of the hill.  The couple of times that I ran, I stumbled on roots… and if I fall, that’s probably IT.  Finito.  Game over.

Once I got to the road (despite not liking to run on the road), I was able to open up and get done in a reasonable time (8:56:00).  I was particularly pleased (technically a PR, since I have never run 33 miles before) because my time was 5 minutes faster than the Endure the Bear 50K, and this race was nearly 2 miles further.

As I crossed the finish line, they handed me a water bottle (?).  A water bottle is really great at the finish line especially when your hands are already full holding… water bottles.  The one plus was that they made some delicious strawberry smoothies.  It was refreshing and hit the spot, but there wasn’t much food of any kind… or if there was, the 8- and 15-mile finishers had taken it all.

I was happy to see my friend, Yolanda Holder, at the finish.  She came in around 9:11.  We could have run together, but she finished about 30 minutes after I did because of the staggered start.  I am including this photo of us (although she cut me out, you can still see me to the left, and Yolanda is no shrimp).

Yolanda (and me hiding)

Yolanda (and me hiding)

Afterwards, I heard about Chris’s adventure.  There was some confusion on the course.  The volunteers sent him the wrong way (to the 8-mile finish).  He got about a mile down, and then turned around and came back to the course and actually do the 15-miler… so he didn’t have to wait as long.

I don’t know about him, but I would NEVER do this race again… unless some major changes occurred, because it was a bit of a disaster.