Monthly Archives: April 2014

Boeing 5K (5) – 2013

May 13, 2013

Another month where my last race was the Boeing 5K.

Today the weather was SUPER hot, between 90 and 100 degrees, and not that conducive for a fast time.  I don’t run well in heat, and it also seems to be making me breathe extra hard.   Whenever I feel overexerted, I dial back on the pace, even if that means walking.

And I walked at least a full mile of the course, and finished just under 30 minutes.  Disappointing, but I wanted to stay safe.

Boeing 5K (4) – 2013

April 8, 2013

After a tough weekend (5 hashes in one day, and I was the planner), the setting for Boeing 5K is windy, VERY windy!  Everyone there had fairly extreme negative splits (I did 13:02 outbound and 11:31 back), and even my last 1.1 miles was 8:01 (about 7:15 mile).

Old Goats 50M – 2013

March 23, 2013

Since the Twin Peaks 50K (drop down from 50M) last year, I had maintained a FB correspondence with Lauren Miertschin, my partner-in-crime (from her including me in her race video to hanging out at the finish waiting for our bags) – us slow folk got to stick together!  She had noted in February that some spots on the Old Goats 50M waiting list were opening up and suggested (rather, ASKED on HER birthday) that we see if we could get in.  I got on the waiting list, and 10 minutes later, was in the race.

Additionally, I would note that I really wanted to run Way Too Cool, but had been on the waiting list as #160… but by the week before the race ended at #2… and did not get in.

Lauren gave me some advice about the course (which I had mostly never done, though parts of it were parts of Twin Peaks), especially the “Candy Store loop,” which was the first 21.0 miles of the course and had the first cutoff of 6 hours (or 6-1/2 hours if started early).  She lives somewhat near to the course and said that she had never gone faster than 6-1/2 hours in any of her training runs, so was somewhat concerned that she would not be able to continue.

My further correspondence with Lauren was the possibility of carpooling together to the race.  She lives in Dana Point (close to the start as I said), so I said that I might drive down on Friday night, camp out in my car near her house and then we could drive up together in the morning (there was some instruction from the RD that if you carpooled, the driver would get a $10 refund and the passenger $5… to cut down on cars parked in the park).  She said that I could sleep on her sofa.

So, I drove down Friday and timed it so I would arrive close to the time she would be home (rather than freaking out neighbors by “stalking her”).  It’s a nice neighbor a bit right off the main drag, so I did drive around the block a few times trying to find the place.

I got to meet her family – 3 sons and a husband – and ate a spaghetti dinner with them… plus she made them be quiet early.  I felt bad, but at the same time, we probably needed sufficient rest for a tough next day.

The early start on the race is an hour before everyone else, but you only have an additional 30 minutes for the first 21 miles.  This was foreshadowing on the confusion that I encountered during the race.

As I have been doing the last couple of events, to give myself a better idea of where I am at in the general scheme of things, I created a pace sheet, mostly for where I wanted to be, and where I had to be… especially to make it through the first 21 miles in under 6-1/2 hours.  Usually, the cutoffs on these races correspond pretty closely with the time needed to complete the race.  In a few instances, you will see a tougher-than-needed cutoff to account for darkness.  Rarely do you see a more generous cut-off, only because runners do not tend to accelerate in the latter stages of the race.

I noted that I needed to be at the Bear Springs aid station (a couple of miles after climbing up the Holy Jim Trail) by 3:00pm in order to maintain pace and finish by 8:00pm.  The website, however, indicated that if you made it through by 5:00pm, you would not get pulled.  While generous, this would mean that I would need to do the last 16 miles (not all downhill) in 3 hours, or about 12 minutes per mile, even though the pace to get to this aid station by 5:00pm was approximately TWENTY minutes per mile!!  I hoped that I would come through in the 3:00pm range.

There were not a ton of early starters, and that also meant that the volunteers at the start were not necessarily ready for us yet.  Jean Ho was still trying to get all of the race bibs together.  But everything came together and we started on time.

The first part of the course was an ascent out of the start/finish area.  I immediately slowed to a walk to get myself going at an easy pace.  Once we cleared the hills, the course went into a single-track heading out of the campground area.  It was EXTREMELY technical (rocky) and it was not easy going in the dark.  If I had run this trail a few times, I might be more familiar with it, but I stopped several times to let more familiar folks pass by, because I was not willing to fall down early on just to go a bit faster.

The elevation on this section was not significant.  I would say ‘rolling hills,’ if I ever got myself completely oriented.  There was a bit of descent, but for the most part, it was traversing a hillside with little view of the rest of the trail (large bushes/shrubs on either side of the single-track).  Once the sun came up, it was really quite pleasant and cool.  The first aid station was in the middle of this part (6.7M) and I came through in about 15 minutes per mile – I need to maintain a little over 18 minute miles to complete the 21 mile section in under 6-1/2 hours.

If you have run a marathon slowly, 6-1/2 hours for TWENTY-SIX miles seems excessive, and for 21 miles, over the top, but understand, this is a tough trail course.  It’s slow, but not ludicrous, in terms of time.

Soon after the aid station, we left the shrubby ridge trail and headed down into more marshy, riverside climes.  There was a point where I saw arrows coming from another direction, and figured that this is where the inbound trail would loop back towards the start.  It was also around this point that the on-time starters started passing me, a few at a time.  I was expecting Dave Binder to be among the front-runners, but he did not pass me until about 3 miles short of mile 21 – he had arrived late and so was behind early.

A little later, I reached the halfway point on this trail… and the Candy Store Aid station at Mile 11.  I had lost a little of my pace, but was still under 17 minute miles and thereby, on pace.  I had not seen Lauren.  She had passed me on the uphill section and I caught her a few miles later.  I hoped that she was slightly behind me, because I really wanted both of us to make the cutoff.

From this point, the trail continued straight, paralleling the Ortega Highway (not reversing direction).  There was a cool section where we were going down a rock stairway of sorts.  I maintained a jogging pace, knowing that when I got back into the shrub single-track section, I would need to push it slightly and there was quite a bit of uphill.

About 15 minutes before I got back to the point where I had seen arrows on the outbound part of the course, I came upon a runner coming towards me on the trail.  He asked me where he might have missed the turn-off.  I felt bad, because I knew that it might be quite a ways (tried to describe about ‘crossing a creek’ and something).  I suggested maybe he might continue and then run the rest of the section backwards, but he followed me back to the intersection.  I assume he was not an early starter, so might still have enough time to make the cutoff.

I got back to the Chiquita Falls aid station (the first, and now third), and had dropped another 30 seconds per mile aggregate.  I now had 1 hour, 57 minutes to complete 5.2 miles.  I felt pretty good… but then again, it could be close depending on how I tackled the terrain.

Towards the end of the single-track, I became a bit despondent, because I thought maybe I won’t make it after all (and because it all looked somewhat the same and every time I thought I was getting close, I would turn another corner and it looked the same, AGAIN), but soon after, I reached the campground road, and knew I could do the mile or so in under 30 minutes, and I even pushed the pace a bit, knowing that I would probably need every bit of time to finish the entire race.

When I arrived at the Mile 21 aid station, I was at 6 hours and 8 minutes.  Laura and Chuck were helping man the station, and I also saw Dave Binder (still) there.  He had decided to call it a day.  Sometimes, I guess, it just isn’t your day, though I think he would have had no problem finishing.  He offered me a beer, and I took him up on the offer, even though I did really need to get going.

Dave giving me a well-deserved beer.

Dave giving me a well-deserved beer.

I “wasted” about 10 minutes before continuing.  I hadn’t seen Lauren, but held out hope that she was just behind me.

The trail continued further into the campground, but eventually came out and got into some of the back-country fire roads (some partially paved).  Once I was on this road, it began a fairly steep upgrade that continued for well over a mile to the next aid station, resulting in a slow pace of 21 minutes per mile.  I haven’t even completed a marathon distance and I’m already over 7 hours!

The next section is a 3.2 mile descent down West Horsethief to the base of Holy Jim.  I know that once I get near to the bottom, the course will seem “slightly” familiar (because I have done this section as part of the Twin Peaks race last year).  The downhill leading to that point, however, is somewhat steep and rocky (read: slippery) – somewhat treacherous – and made more treacherous by the fact that I have done 20 miles of trails in 7 hours and am pretty tired to boot.

Familiarity with a section, however, does not make that section any easier.  The trail through the “familiar” section is flat and mostly downhill, but I am both hot… and worried about how bad Holy Jim could be.  I SHOULD be at the top by 3pm, but it’s already 12:30pm, and it’s 6 miles of substantial uphill.

I spend little time at the Holy Jim aid station, knowing I need to get a move on.

The beginning part of Holy Jim is not that bad – a minor ascent out from the aid station, and then a flat, slightly uphill section through some houses/cabins.  About a mile in, you reach the trail, and another half mile from here, you start hitting the steep switchbacks.  The approximately elevation gain is 4,000 feet in 4 miles!   It is TOUGH.  I am just walking, and not even walking with any pace.  It is about surviving and hoping that I am close to that 3:00pm time.

Once I get to the top of the switchbacks and on to the Main Divide, it is still another mile-plus to the aid station.  When I get there, I look down at my watch – 4:07pm – nearly an hour slower than where I need to be, BUT the aid station captain tells me, “Good news.  We have extended the cutoff at this aid station by 30 minutes, due to the heat.”  I ask about whether the overall time cutoff has been extended, because, well, I already made this cutoff, but I could use another 30 minutes (or 2 hours) to get to the finish.

I again waste little time and begin heading up more hills.

The trail here is less steep than on Holy Jim, but no less exhausting.  There are longer stretches but basically it is still switchbacks.  There is a unmanned water drop at Upper Holy Jim, and this is probably the worst section, because it is steep, rocky, and unshaded.  At least I am on a fire road, but it is tough.

About 3/4 of the way up, I do finally get into the shade.   It cools me off a bit.  It is also nice seeing folks, since I have had some sections where I have not seen anyone (especially going up Holy Jim for 40 minutes or longer – this includes physically seeing ANYONE off in the distance).  It is nice to have conversation consisting of “Hi.”

The top of the hill is the highest point on the course, Santiago Peak.  In pushing the pace, I have done 23 minute miles, but I am increasingly concerned about the overall time cutoff.  The people at the aid station seem to think that I will be OK.

As I head back down the hill, I see Lauren (she DID make the cutoff by about 8 minutes – must have just missed her) and she is not in last.  Cris Francisco, the sweep, and I have a brief conversation.  He tells me that “they’ll let me finish” because I easily made the Bear Springs time cutoff.  That makes me happy, but I still try to push the pace as much as I can downhill, and manage 16 minute miles (not the 12 I think I need to finish by 8pm).

Now I am about 10 miles from the finish, and there is no more tough climbing, but my feet hurt quite a bit from the hard surface of the roads and trails, so I am reduced to jog/walking along the Main Divide, at around an 18:00/mile pace.  I stop briefly at the next aid station (Mile 42.0), just to refill my water bottle and then keep on going.

I run a bit of the next section with Kristen Trujillo, and her friend, who apparently hosts the Nanny Goat 24 hour race (1 mile loops, boring!) later this year.  It is nice to have someone with you on the trail.  As I come into the West Horsethief Aid station, the captain tells me that I am done.  What?!?!  They told me I could continue.

We argue about it for a bit, and someone suggests that they ask the Race Director for clarification.  I would rather have been pulled at Bear Springs for being an hour too slow (I KNEW I was too slow) than 5 miles from the finish after being told I could finish!

There is some trouble in getting ahold of the RD (bad reception).  I suggest that I continue and if they drive by me and say I am done, I will abide by it, but no, I have to stand there for 15 minutes while they confirm that I cannot continue.

Although it is not yet 8pm (it’s like 7:30), there was some confusion because they apparently told the ham radio operators that the race ended at 7pm, so when they wanted to extend the time limit by 30 minutes, it was 90 minutes for those folks, and they balked.  I mean, I understand about keeping everyone safe, but I know I could have finished by 9pm.

Lauren got swept up just behind me, but she was not as perturbed.  I am more upset about how it transpired (giving me false hope) than not finishing.  I mean, I did almost 45 miles of an extremely tough course!

This is one of those situations where one would normally say, “I will be back and I will finish,” but I say that with a caveat, “I MIGHT be back (if I could get some clarity on the cutoffs) and (then) I WILL finish.”

And thus ends my streak of 20 consecutive months finishing an ultramarathon, and I will soon end my streak of 37 consecutive months of completing at least a marathon distance in race (which includes a few DNFs), because, honestly, my body needs a break.


Boeing 5K (3) – 2013

March 11, 2013

Celebrated my 42nd birthday with my folks in the Bay Area, and I ended up with some right knee pain, mostly due to an extra long drive on Highway 101 because the Grapevine Route was closed due to snow.  The pain was significant in that I was unable to make the entire drive in one go, as I normally do, AND I was needing some recovery time after the drive (basically stretching out as much as possible).

For most people, Cruise Control is the saving grace on a long drive.  For me, it doesn’t do much except alleviate the position of my right foot only slightly.  I can’t move my right knee anywhere (though if I lean the seat WAAAAAY back, and slip my right foot UNDER the brake pedal, I can rest my knee at a different angle for a bit – but it’s dangerous, because it’s hard to get my foot back quickly in the event of needing to brake).

With all that in mind, it was time for another Boeing 5K.  Today, a prediction run.  I figured with the difficulty of my knee due to driving, I would not do as well as the last time I was able to run.  (Also, I have a bit of congestion or a cold, perhaps.)  I said around 28 minutes should be realistic, but astoundingly, I ran 25:07 (a little over 8:00/mile).

Rohring Around the Clock 12H – 2013

February 23, 2013

My friend, Jim Tello, is putting on a 12-hour event in Bonita (a few miles north of the US/Mexico border).  This is the guy who sweeps a bunch of races I have been in, therefore meaning that I run with him quite a bit.  Laura is going, too.

The official start of the race was at 6am, but we were OK with not starting right on time, because the drive was almost 2 hours, and neither of us were going to win any prizes.  However, we had some trouble getting out of Long Beach because of freeway construction – apparently, the 405/22/605 interchange is completely closed, so after a few tries, we drove 5 miles down Westminster and then got on the freeway (but it took us 30 minutes to get the 5 miles down the freeway!).  We left pretty early but only found the start by about 6:45am and started when we were ready to go.

As with most 12 hour courses, this was a 5K loop, which would be run in one direction for 3 hours, and then the opposite direction, and so on.  The course parallels a golf course for a bit, then curves around to parallel the road, and then is the shoulder on the road.  All of this is unpaved.  Then it turns onto a paved path through a grassy area, next to the steam train tracks, and then back onto a dirt trail going around a lake area, paralleling another street, and finally through the parking lot and back onto a dirt path by the library (where the “aid station” was located).

I was having side stitches from the get-go, and started out at a fairly slow pace.  The first two loops I did in 36:00 and 36:50, and the next two in 41:00 and 41:30. This led me to believe that I would be walking probably the rest of it, so when I finished my 4th loop, I decided to walk a loop and read my book, New York by Edward Rutherfurd, a historical fiction novel about New York City.

While this seems crazy, reading and walking had been my training to get ready for my 100 mile race last year, and I can read and walk at a decent pace.  By doing so, I could cover the miles and not be bored to tears.  I finished my next 3 loops in 55 minutes (some delay getting my book out), 51:30, and 61 minutes.  This put me at 35 Kilometers AND I was enjoying my book.

However, the hardness of the course was getting to my feet and so I did have to take a number of sitting breaks to relieve the pain.

Taking a load off my feet

Taking a load off my feet

This 8th loop took me an hour and 15 minutes.

In reading and walking the loops, it wasn’t 100% me being engrossed in my book.  When various runners passed by me, occasionally they would walk with me and we would have a short conversation.  I didn’t see a whole lot of Laura, but I did get to walk with “Badwater Brian,” Nickademus Hollon (who later became the 13th and youngest (at 22) to complete the Barkley “Marathon”), and John Wog (who I met at mile 40 of Blue Canyon Trail Race 50M).

I did a couple more loops in 55 and 72 minutes, and ultimately decided that I would continue to go until I finished my book (about 300 pages total reading).

I did my 11th loop in 60 minutes and finished my book midway through my 12th loop.

On the last direction change, I saw Laura and she said that as soon as I was finished, that she was finished, too.  (On the direction changes, you only changed direction when you got back to the aid station.  This creates the effect of runners passing each other in opposite directions, and having a chance to wave or say, “Hi.”)

Having stopped on my 12th loop, I was waiting for Laura to finish whichever loop she was on (she certainly had lapped me a few times).  When she came in, I said, “I’m finished!” to which she replied, “I only need a few more tenths to get 50 miles.”  So I waited for her to get in that last bit of distance.

My distance was 37.2 miles (or 60K) which tied my best (and only other) 12 hour race. Yay.  PR!

Meanwhile, a second 12-hour run was beginning, as well as some of the participants continuing in a 24-hour quest OR 100-mile try.  Mark Vishnevsky came down to attempt a 100-miler (but ended up running a 6-hour run with Michelle).  I think loops are not for him.

Our “finisher’s medal” was a wall clock saying “Rohring Around the Clock” with a Roaring Lion in the center.

We had a quiet uneventful drive back to Long Beach.

With Laura and Steve after finishing.

With Laura and Steve after finishing.

Boeing 5K (2) – 2013

February 11, 2014

An unusual gap between races where my last race was the Boeing 5K.  It was a little windy today, but I tried to push the pace (for once) and managed a 24:29, which is slightly sub-8:00/mile pace.  I haven’t done that in a while.

Boeing 5K (1) – 2013

January 14, 2013

I am in recovery mode, so I am continuing my streak of Boeing runs, but I am also taking it really easy, and basically just walking the course… especially because I have heel and foot blisters.  I finish in an acceptable (for walking) 42:44.