Monthly Archives: February 2014

Twin Peaks 50M/50K – 2012

October 13, 2012

Decided I would do the Twin Peaks 50 miler.  Part of my decision was that it was another race by Dirty Feet Productions and that my friend (and sweep pacer) Jim Tello had promised he would keep me company on the second half of the course.

Other features of this event that were appealing were an option for an earlier start (90 minutes before the rest of the group) and a drop-down option – if i wasn’t “feeling it,” I could still do a 50K (around 32-33 miles) and still get an official credit.  This would be a better option than in some previous events this year where it is THE distance or nothing.  I created my usual pace sheet, which shows 3 sets of times:

1.  Where I would be ecstatic to be
2.  Where I should be
3.  Where I MUST be

Theoretically, I should be pretty close to the middle set of times, but needed to be ahead of the slowest set of times.  I had also included on my pace sheet a “drop-down” time.  I wasn’t intending on dropping down, but needed to give myself a time where I wouldn’t convince myself that I might still make it (even if I probably couldn’t).  I set that time at 9 hours – 9 hours for around 26 miles.  I joked to myself when I typed it that there was NO WAY I would be that slow.

In picking the early start time, I needed to figure out how to get adequate sleep, have the time I needed in the morning to get ready, and drive the one hour (minimum) to the race start (between Corona and Lake Elsinore) at 4:30AM!!  To do so, I ended up going to bed around 7pm (“going to bed” meant turning out the lights in my living room and semi-sleeping in my La-Z-boy chair).  I didn’t eat before I went to bed, figuring I would eat when I woke up.

I woke up at 12:30am and had a small dinner.  I figured I should leave by 2:45am, so I would arrive 30-45 minutes early and not be stressed (also, the directions were a little confusing, and I wanted to allow a little extra time).  There was minimal traffic on the road at that hour, so I thought I would have no trouble getting there with plenty of time.

However, about 10 miles out of Corona, I noted on the freeway sign that the “Freeway was closed at Main Street.”  Since my directions had me staying on the 91 Freeway to the 15 Freeway (and the intersection was in the middle of Corona), I was hoping beyond hope that the exit might be beyond the 15, while at the same time I was working my way over towards the exit lane, just in case it wasn’t.

But before I could get off the freeway (probably 0.5 mile from an exit), traffic came to a dead halt… not a slow-moving slog, but totally stopped.  Good thing I allowed extra time!  I pulled out the only map I had in the car, which was the Thomas Guide map of California, which only has limited local exits.  I was able to determine that once I made my way to the exit, I would be able to use city streets and cut over to the 15.

However, we were not moving… at… all.  Very frustrating.  I basically turned off the engine and waited until there was any sign of moving, which was close to an hour later.  (Learned later that someone had died on the freeway (jumped off a bridge or something) and they were doing the investigation and shut down the freeway (but didn’t do a great job of getting people off the freeway).)

At least, fortunately, I had been in the far right lane, so I was able to get off the freeway faster than some other people (but of course, every one was trying to get into my lane).  By the time I got off the freeway, it was after 4am, and I was just making my way over to the 15 freeway.  Obviously, I had little chance of getting to the start in time, especially with all of the local street traffic.

Even after getting to the 15 Freeway, it was still 10 miles down the road to the exit and then a few confusing turns on local streets to get to the trail-head.  It was a little after 5am when I finally got to the location, and I still had to get my stuff together, check-in, etc.

I rushed to get my stuff together and while I picked up my race number, a nice volunteer filled my water bottles.  The race director, Jessica DeLine, told me that if I needed an additional 45 minutes at the end of the race, that she wouldn’t stop me on the course.  What a nice offer!

I immediately got going on the course, because I wanted as much time as possible in the cold and dark before it got light and warm (or hot).  It was probably the loneliest start of a race ever because I was totally by myself.  On the plus side, there was nowhere to get lost because it was a fire-road heading STRAIGHT uphill for 6-1/2 miles.

After about 90 minutes, I started hearing voices (ACTUAL voices; I wasn’t delirious) and wondered when the race leaders would overtake me on the hill.  I hoped that I was relatively near to the top and not SUPER-slow.  Probably a dozen folks passed me before the first aid station at 6-1/2 miles, which I reached in just over 2 hours.

According to my pace sheet, it was 4 miles to the next aid station and had a ‘minor’ elevation gain of 100 feet. This was quite exciting, as the initial climb had been around 2000 feet; I could use a break.  The trail flattened out for about a mile, and then just around the next corner, it steepened up pretty severely, and the trail got somewhat technical.  It was like climbing up obsidian chunks, slippery and steep.  What about the 100′ gain???  I was already gassed from the first 6 miles.

At the top of this hill, the trail flattened out once again and then there was a longish downhill, followed by some more uphill to the aid station.  In other words, LOTS of up and down, but a NET gain of 100 feet. I covered this section in just under an hour, so was able to pick up my pace a bit.  I did see 5 or 6 folks on the course (who passed me, naturally).

This aid station was entitled West Horsethief, and if all went well, I would be back here again in several hours.  The course is essentially a horseshoe, so I climbed up the Indian Truck Trail to this here road, and then I will go down Horsethief to Holy Jim, up Holy Jim to Santiago Peak, back down Holy Jim, back up Horsethief, back to the Indian Truck Trail (ITT), back up to the top of Santiago (somewhat completing the circle) and then back and back down the ITT.

This next section is going to lose almost the entire elevation gained to this point, and mostly on single-track trail.  It IS runnable, but I am not the most steady on my feet, so I do a modified gallop.  There are a number of turns on this section, and a couple of times I overrun a turn or two (not by much).  The trail goes on and on and on – it always seems like I should be accelerating down the hill, but once the steepness of the downhill dissipates, the relative flatness (especially in the heat) seems to be nearly as bad as running uphill.

Probably about a mile out from the aid station, the trail widens back to fire-road and then there are a number of cabins on the right side.  Civilization!  Despite this section being downhill, it takes me about 70 minutes (slower than the 100′ elevation gain section of the same distance).  It may be the heat.

The next section will prove to be very difficult.  It’s 6 miles long and there is over 3000 feet of elevation gain in that distance (there is an interim water-only aid station about 4 miles up).  The trail continues much like the previous downhill section, with cabins on the right.  Once I pass the cabins, then there are a few creek crossings (nothing to get wet on, though), and then the single-track switchbacks begin in earnest.  They are unrelenting, all uphill (not horribly steep, but tough nonetheless), and in looking up, the top never seems to get any closer.

At the top elevation on this section, I am about 200′ ABOVE the connecting road, so of course, the trail goes back downhill and then an uphill climb to the road.  I briefly refill my water bottles and head left up the fire-road to the aid station.  This section took me just under 3 hours – I am at 20.5 miles and around 7 hours.  That 9 hours for 26 miles isn’t seeming so outrageous at this point.  I guess I will have to make a decision soon, depending on the heat and my pace.

From here, it’s a “mere” 1.5 miles to Santiago Peak, the high point on the course (the high point I will have to seek again if I decide to continue).  It’s pretty lonely (and steep) and I don’t really see anyone, except for people coming down.  I have a brief conversation with a gal I had seen at another race (who recognized me) while she is heading down and I am heading up.  The mile-and-a-half takes me 58 minutes!  The likelihood of continuing is dissipating by the minute!

Now I head back down to the aid station (1.5 miles) in 25 minutes (easier because it’s downhill), and then turn onto the fire-road in the opposite direction 2.5 miles to the turn-off.  I am trying to high-tail it, but I am struggling with the heat and sore feet.  When I get to the aid station, Jim is there waiting for me, but I have decided not to continue – I really think this is the best decision for me today.  I’m disappointed, but knowing how the day has been going, it’s for the best.  AND, I got to 26 miles in 9:24, WELL over my 9 hour personal cutoff.

From this aid station, it’s just a few more miles to the top of Indian Truck Trail and then 6.5 miles downhill to the finish.  I am able to jog a bit down the hill (galloping, really) and engage in conversation with a few of the medium-pace 50-mile finishers.  I cross the line in 11:14, one of my slower 50Ks… but it is STILL a finish.

I finished about 30 minutes behind Lauren (though she started on time at 4:30, so I am a tad ahead of her) and we have some nice conversation at the finish while we are waiting for our drop bags.  The wait ends up being several hours, because a runner collapsed on the Main Divide and had to be airlifted out.  This blocked all traffic on the road (drop bag truck) until they could get him out.  The irony of the situation was that everyone trying to finish behind this guy were held up by the helicopter and did not finish the race.  Had I tried to continue, I would have gotten a DNF.

In the end, I got what I wanted – a finishing time – and completed my 10th ultra marathon in 10 months.  It was lonely during the race and I got the social part in at the end of the race, while we all commiserated about how long it took to get our bags.

Boeing 5K (10) – 2012

October 8, 2012

Yesterday, I served beer at the Long Beach Marathon… and today is the Boeing 5K.  I have had a little time off from racing the past few weeks, but still have been doing speed workouts.

My right knee feels a little wonky (it may be all of those long-distance races) and I can feel some Plantar Fasciitis pain in my left foot.

However, I am feeling pretty good and do a 7:44, 7:59 and 8:26 mile (the last is for 1.1 miles) to finish in 24:11… and I didn’t have to walk (though if I did walk, 24 minutes would be pretty impressive!).

Golden West Classic 5K – 2012

September 21, 2012

Not even a full week has passed and I am attempting another cross-country race, albeit a 5K.

The Golden West Classic is in Huntington Beach Central Park and put on by Golden West College.  Most of the participants are junior college teams, but there is an open race for coaches and people who don’t have jobs (or can take a random break in the middle of the day).

I had a decent first mile (8:20), but then started to struggle in the ensuing heat, so opted to run/walk the last 2.1 miles in 21 minutes.  Not bad for the first run post-50K.

Diablo 50K – 2012

September 15, 2012

In continuing my Ultra-a-month streak, I decided to go back up to the Bay Area and do an ultra up there.  The timing was a bit weird, because Mom and Dad were heading back to Dallas the day I would arrive, leaving at about 10am or so.  I left Long Beach around 4am and arrived a little before 10am… so I was able to hang with the folks for about 10 minutes before they got their ride to the airport.

The other “plans” I made for the weekend were to meet up with my old roommate Valerie Brons AFTER my race.  I figured at the worst, I would be done in about 8 hours, finishing at 4pm, and then I would either meet her around 7pm at her place in San Jose… or I would meet some friends (if I finished earlier) in the City.

On the day of the race, I drove up to Clayton (which was probably 20 minutes from my folks – a short jaunt through the Tunnel).  Since the parking was pretty sparse, runners were supposed to park in the community and then get a couple mile shuttle ride to the start.

Like Pacific Coast Trails, the Coastal Trails run was on the small side (like I like ’em), with most of the participants in the shorter distance races (4 miles, 10 miles, 13.1 miles and marathon).  The information about the course was the usual – which ribbons to follow and a basic description of the course.  The weather was moderate (i.e. warm-ish), so I hoped that it would not get too hot, being September and all.

The first four miles of the course were basically all uphill, not horribly steep, but about 100 feet per mile elevation.  I opted to walk, to preserve energy.  The last mile before the aid station flattened out a bit, but by that point, I was essentially at the very back of the pack. I found some company with Ramona Vogt, who was also doing the 50K and had some familiarity with the course (which is always nice).  We reached the first aid station (which we were to hit several times on the course) in 91 minutes (or about 18 minutes per mile).

The next section was a loop to the top of Mt. Diablo and back.  The first bit of it was trail, followed by a paved section, and then a woodsy single-track that paralleled the street up to the parking lot at the top next to the observatory.  I guess, to make it extra exciting, we were required to climb the stairs to the vista point, though stairs were the least needed part for me at this point.  When we got to the vista spot, there was a bag of rubber-bands.  I grabbed one, put it around my wrist – this was PROOF that I had actually climbed the stairs (or proof that someone had climbed the stairs and gotten me a rubber-band, but we both DID climb the frickin’ stairs).

Then we went back part of the way we came (but with an additional single-track loop) to the same aid station.  The 4-mile round trip took 84 minutes (now I’ve slowed to 20 minute miles).

Now we head out on a similar distance trek (though a larger overall loop) on a mostly flat fire-road surface.  Ramona is telling me about how this probably will go on a very steep downhill section (on which she has butt-slid one year when it was muddy).  I tell her that I struggle with very steep downhill, but like ‘how bad could it be?”  BAD.  It was probably a half-mile long and 1000’ of elevation decrease.  The trail had a lot of loose dirt, so I headed for the bushes, which unfortunately were the slick dead straw (not sure what kind of plant, but not much more helpful than the gravel).

My best bet was to zigzag down the hill, to lessen the steepness.  Of course, this takes MUCH longer than just straight running down the hill, but “straight running down the hill” blows out my quads, and I’m not even halfway through the course!  So, zigging and zagging is my best bet.

When we finally get to the aid station (basically at the bottom of the hill), the downhill has increased our speed to 17 minute miles, but now the temperature is in the mid-80s.  I refill my water bottle and we head off on the next section.

After about 15 minutes, I note that we haven’t seen any marks for awhile… which always concerns me.  Ramona isn’t certain we are on the right course, so we backtrack for about 5 minutes and don’t see anything.  While I don’t usually do this, I decide that we need to go ALL the way back to the aid station (uphill, too), and a worried captain tells us that she’s sorry that she directed us the wrong way (basically at least a mile extra, maybe 2… though knowing our speed at this point….).  So frustrating, especially in this heat!

The next section, which is 4-1/2 miles of single-track, with a bunch of uphill, really starts to get to me and I have to stop and sit down and try to cool off.  For a bit, I am ahead of Ramona, but then when I sit, she passes me, and I encourage her to keep going and I will “catch” her, even though I don’t have any confidence that I actually will.

The next aid station is Rocky City (18.1 miles) and there is an intermediate cutoff of 6 hours… and with the going-off-course-fiasco, there is NO way I am going to make it, and I am OK with missing the cutoff, because the conditions are so miserable (though I am not sure what I am going to find that will replace this race in the next couple of weeks).  So, when I arrive, the aid station captain tells me that ordinarily they would have to pull me… however, there is one person behind me and last year, he missed the cutoff and didn’t finish.  The Race Director wants him to have the chance to finish, so the cutoff is now wherever that runner is (behind me, though).  All I have to do is stay ahead of him and I can still finish!  (Despite the fact that 18.1 miles has taken me 6 hours and 45 minutes!)

Now I have a scant 2.9 miles back up to the original aid station… but of course, it is all uphill and there is no shade (temperature now in the mid-90s).  I have to stop a few times to sit down and cool off as best I can.  It takes me 91 minutes!  (30 minutes/mile)

Ramona is at the aid station and she has decided to drop back to the marathon (which means she is heading down the hill to the end at this point) and I am by myself with the mystery runner behind me.

Now I “get” to climb back to the summit (plus vista point) of Mt. Diablo once again.  At least I know what awaits me, trudge up, and get my rubber-band. When I get back down to the parking lot, I need to re-adjust my shoes, because my inserts have turned around backwards in my shoes and it’s uncomfortable.  I have a brief (since I am in a hurry) conversation with some tourists (who are impressed that I can speak Swiss-German).

As I head down the extra single-track loop (en route to the ‘same’ aid station), I encounter the sweep.  She tells me that the guy behind me (who they held the course open for) quit… so now I am in last place for sure.  She is heading up to the top to pull ribbons and will follow behind me.  (Pressure!)

Even though the single-track course is somewhat familiar from earlier in the day, I am a little gun-shy after getting off course earlier.  Because I am moving slower, I don’t see as many ribbons and more than once, I turn around and back-track because I am not certain that I am on course.  My biggest worry at this point is that the sweep will remove ribbons on the course when I get off and then I will really get lost.

However, this course does connect with the larger loop and once I see that connection, I KNOW where I am and that I am fairly close to the aid station once again.  This section takes me 103 minutes this time (about 20 minutes slower than when I was fresher and the weather was 15 degrees cooler).

When I get back to the aid station, I just need a few minutes to refill my water bottles and sit for a bit to gird myself for the last few miles (almost all downhill). Maybe I am there a bit too long, because the captain comes over with his phone and says that he just got a text from the race director and that he has to pull me.  I leap up and say, “Text him back that I left 5 minutes ago!” and start running briskly down the hill.

It is starting to get a bit dark at this point, but at this point, I want my finish… especially after the travails I have suffered.  When the ranger passes me down the hill, I make certain that I am running at a fairly quick pace when he goes by, so that there is no question that I don’t need to be pulled.  He doesn’t even really give me a look.

So, when I enter into the campground, basically everything has been removed.  The race was chip-timed, and the finish clock and chip-reader are packed away.  I am a little alarmed, and one of the volunteers tells me that I will not get an official time.  What!!??!

But then the race director says, “Don’t worry, I got your time… it’s just not going to be accurate to the exact second.”  Like I really care about that.

However, the greatest worry is that the shuttle isn’t running any more (the shuttle is also the supply truck for the race and is full.  One of the volunteers (coincidentally the nice guy who let me continue at 18 miles) offers to drive me to my car in his car.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

When I get back to my car, it’s already 7:30pm, and I am exhausted.  I call Val to tell her that I think I am just going to drive back to my folks, take a shower and go to bed… and not come visit at all.  She is annoyed and a little disappointed.  Thing is, though, it wasn’t like it took me 8 hours and I have energy to spare.  It took me 10 hours and 58 minutes!  In HEAT!!

For me, though, I have 9 ultras in 9 months in the bag and I “only” have 3 to go.

Boeing 5K (9) – 2012

September 10, 2012

Had a nice break from racing – about 3 weeks post-50K, so I should be good to go on the Boeing 5K.

I had a good first mile (much like the Sunrise in the Park race), running about 7:35, but then my heart rate skyrocketed, and I had to do a lot of walking.  Each time I tried to start running again, I would accelerate too much and end up having to walk again, so I ended with 2 – 10 minute miles – even Jack Novak passed me at the end, much to his joy.

Sunrise in the Park 3M – 2012

August 18, 2012

My third race this week!  Track people probably brag that fact all the time, but a 3M, 5K and 50K are probably not all that common.  I like running in HB Central Park, even though this race isn’t as good as Finishline events ever were.

I feel pretty good on my first mile, running an astonishing (given my 50K less than a week ago) 7:20… but then my 2nd and 3rd miles fade to 10 minutes/mile each.

Skyline 50K – 2012

August 12, 2012

I returned to the Bay Area once again for the Skyline 50K.  I feel like this is a must-do, both for the relative ease of the course, the beauty, and the chance to either visit with my folks or with friends when I visit.

On this particular iteration of Skyline, I felt like my fitness was at the best it had been for a while, or at least I felt that I wasn’t going to really struggle into the end, but rather be able to finish in under 7 hours (possibly a tall order seeing as my best 50K of the year was 8:08 at Malibu Creek in March).  The plan is to be consistent, try and run some of the hills and finish in a satisfying matter.  Ideally, that means to finish close to my time from last year (which was 6:57).

The first 4.3 miles are mostly paved, running around the left side of Lake Chabot (left of the dock by the boathouse), and it is rolling hills.  I would prefer to walk all the hills, but I am trying to be more practical from the get-go because most of these hills are not horrible.  Once we leave the “friendly environs” of paved-ness, there is a bunch of uphill, leading to the first aid station, consisting of a water cooler.  It takes me 44:06 (10 minute pace!!) and I don’t really stop at the aid station.  [I am about 3 minutes ahead of last year’s pace.]

Now there is about 3 miles to the next aid station and the first stretch is considerable downhill.  I run conservatively – there is a tendency to overdo it, and then tire out the quads for several ensuing climbs.  Most of this section is a double-rutted fire road through a flat valley (some rolling hills), through a couple of gates (mostly open this year), then up a paved road to a parking lot aid station.  I keep maintaining a consistent pace, and have covered the first 6.3 miles in 66 minutes… still maintaining the 10-11 minute miles [and pick up a few more minutes on my last year’s pace].

Out of this aid station, there is a gentle uphill for about a mile and a half.  While it is not steep, it goes on and on and on and on… better to walk… but with authority.  At the top of the hill, it flattens out for a few hundred yards and then begins to descend precipitously.  Again, I try to run conservatively, since the 5 miles after this are 75% uphill.  For the third straight section, I manage under 11 minute miles (11 minute miles x 31 = 5:41 – that’s under 7 hours!).

Now I have a little over 5 miles to Skyline Gate.  The weather is almost ideal – chilly and a little foggy.  Certainly, I do not want heat on this uphill.  I am not just walking up the hill; I am doing modified racewalking (modified, in that my knees are bending a bit, but I am still moving well).  Not all of the 5 miles is uphill.  The first section is single-track switchbacks up and down on the other side of what is probably Fish Ranch Road, followed by a mile of paved road on the level.  Then the uphill is BA-A-A-D for at least a mile before it becomes a series of slopes and flat sections all the way to the top.  I slowed considerably on this section, covering it in 66 minutes (about 13:00/mile).  [I am now 16 minutes ahead of last year’s pace – about a minute per mile.]

Even though I am not quite halfway (14.5 miles), Skyline Gate is the de facto halfway point of the race.  Last year, the DQ’ed winner turned around and headed back the same way and came up a few miles short on the total distance.  The course on the way back heads out the opposite direction from the aid station, but goes back to the same aid station we originated from.  Instead of 5.1 miles, however, it is 5.9 miles.  Also conversely, it is not all downhill.  There is an awful section about 2 miles from the aid station, where I am climbing on a steep single-track out of the redwood forest.  This eventually deposits me above the road.  It is extremely frustrating to hear cars driving on the road, and have the trail seem to go on forever and not reach the aid station.

Once I start hearing cars, see, I think I am close… so I start calculating just how great I am doing… but then I realize, no, I am not doing that great… and soon I am thinking, I wonder if I will make the cutoff.  This 6-mile section takes me 87 minutes… and now I have slowed to a 15 minute per mile pace, despite it being mostly downhill, and lost a few minutes of my banked time I had been gaining from last year’s race.

Now I get to backtrack on the section with 1.5 miles STEEP uphill and 1.5 miles gentle downhill.  The fog has cleared and the temperature is skyrocketing.  The heat is rising from the road a bit and this hill doesn’t feel great.  Just keeping moving forward, I keep saying to myself.  I cover the section in 40 minutes, and have about 8 miles to go.  If I can maintain 15 minute miles, I will finish under 7 hours.

From this location, there is a small bit of backtracking, but mostly on the opposite side of the (fairly flat) valley.  I have found that this particular section is demoralizing, because it is 5 miles without much of a viewpoint toward where I am headed.   There is just a lot of up and down through a wooded area.  I know that when I crest the hilltop (which is not particularly high above me) that the aid station is right around the next bend… but even with a bunch of uphill, the progress towards the treeline is pretty slow.  The 5-mile section takes me a little over an hour, and my total time to a little over 6 hours (no 5:41 this time).  [And a loss of 3 more minutes on my banked time.]

To the end of the course is now less than a 5K… and I can see where I am going.  The first few tenths is a unshaded steep downhill to the level of Lake Chabot.  You can just about see the dock at the finish.  The road along the lake is flat and unpaved (maybe a little bit rocky).  I would like to finish strong, so I am convincing myself to do fartleks because it is motivating.  Fartleks in this particular case are not brilliant bursts of running, but more alternating running and walking spells.  (More walking than running, but at least speedwalking.)

At the far end of the path, I turn on to my favorite section – the suspension bridge – which always feels good… just the right bit of jouncing and bouncing and gives me a little bit of extra joy towards finishing.  At the far end of the bridge, there are about 10 steps up to the paved path, which has some really substantial ebbs and falls in its movement.  Here, I am certainly running the downhills and flats, and walking the uphills.

I push the last bit of distance (across a small wooden bridge) to the finish, and come in just under 6:40 (6:39:32).  I am really pleased, especially because I have some discomfort on my heel (which will prove to be a blister).

100% (short of major injury) I will be back again next year.  Not sure if I can match my result, but love the course, the volunteers and the camaraderie.