Monthly Archives: May 2014

Skyline 50K – 2013

August 11, 2013

In the 24 years since I have graduated high school, I have lost one classmate to electrocution (Tim C.) and one to cancer (Carrie Y.).  Additionally, two more of my classmates have had and survived cancer.  I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, as time passes, people suffer freak accidents, die of cancer, etc., and this will only increase as time goes on.

It seems more significant to me because of the close connection I had with many of my classmates in our years of school together.  The size of my hometown, Piedmont, is only about 10,000, so there were 5 schools – 3 elementary, 1 middle and 1 high school.  A majority of my graduating class went through school with me from 6th grade through 12th grade.  Another third of them I have known 10-12 years, because we all attended the same elementary school.  Additionally, some who I only went through 7 years with, I knew through a youth church group or children’s choir.

There were only 163 of us to begin with, so losing someone is a major blow, even when, as adults, we do not see each other as much as we did as kids.

Earlier this year in March, at the Piedmont Choirs Gala (a fundraiser for the choir my mom founded in 1982 that my entire family attends), I learned that one of my classmates who had previously beaten cancer, Brian Kelly, had cancer once again.  He had had a persistent headache and a cold that would not go away (I think you would have to be a hypochondriac to go to the doctor with that condition!) and it turned out to be a brain tumor and lung cancer!

I was super-concerned because usually with people who have cancer, it gets worse the second (or third) time around.  Brian was cautiously optimistic, having been through treatment before.  Of course, there were some issues with how to treat the lung cancer while also dealing with the brain tumor.  The chemotherapy (as always) was extremely debilitating, but Brian at least had Facebook as a virtual visit from all of his friends.

On August 1st, Brian’s wife posted on CaringBridge that Brian had been accepted into a study where he would receive a new medication that had had good results with certain kinds of patients (read: it might work really well… or not).  He received his first dose and would find out within a few weeks if there was any progress.

However, only a few days later, she posted that the treatment had not had a chance to work and that his doctors had decided that the best course was for him to enter hospice (so many ups and downs within a few days!), and that he might only have weeks of life left.

A dozen years ago when classmate Tim Cutler was electrocuted the day before his wedding, I scanned his senior picture and pinned it to my back in a race, so I could run in his memory.

Now, this week, I thought, I shouldn’t wait until Brian is dead to run for him.  Even though I didn’t know the extent of his decline (obviously, going to hospice is pretty dire), I felt that maybe from his home bed, if he read about that I was running for him, he might fight that little bit more. I thought a lot about the wording and thought my run would be an allegory for his struggle (ups and downs, slowing down at the end, but NEVER stopping).

I created my pace sheet for the race, and on the back was a picture of Brian and his wife (in better days).  I would be thinking about him during the race, and I would have him with me to inspire me.

I left to drive up to Oakland at 4:45am, and I figured I would post to Facebook just as soon as I arrived.

But when I got to my folks’ place at 9:00am, my mom relayed a message from Brian’s sister, that he had passed away an hour or so before.  I had not yet posted my message and he would never get to see it.

Once I knew that the news was “official” (we found out before a lot of other people so I didn’t want to be the first person posting R.I.P.),I  posted that I had planned to run in his HONOR, but would be running in his MEMORY.  I would enjoy my sojourn with nature and just think about the good and bad times we had.

At the start, I ran into a few old friends that I see at all of these races, but for the most part, I told people that I was running for my friend and showed them the picture.  I used a pen to write in the dates of birth and death (he was 2 weeks shy of his 43rd birthday) and tucked my laminated pace sheet between my water bottle and the hand-grip.

As per my usual, I managed my expectations for the day by walking all the hills and running when I could.  The first section, which circumscribes Lake Chabot is mostly flat, and the rush of the crowd pulls you along at a faster pace than you want to go.  I did 11 minute miles (FAST!).  For pace comparison, if I averaged TWELVE minute miles, I would do 6:18 (my PR on this course from 10 years ago is 6:05).

However, I figured that if the morning fog lifted halfway along the course, I would need some banked time to make up for the time lost to heat-induced high heart rate.  Cardiology had wanted me to come in this past Friday to get fitted for my Holter monitor, but I am glad that I did not have to deal with it in this ultra.

I stayed under a 12 minute per mile pace through 9.5 miles, but then got to the long hill up to Skyline Gate and the turnaround at 14.2 miles (longer on the way back).  The fog continued and kept the temperature cool.

Despite walking much of the hill, I kept my pace under 15 minute per mile.  I was kinda hoping to see Shauna Revelli (friend of my sister Marisa and now me), but she didn’t come to cheer me on.

Once I passed the “halfway” point, it was mostly downhill, though the clouds were parting and it started to get warmer, evidenced by the fact that I averaged 16 minutes mile going downhill!

The sun truly was out and hot on the hardest section of the trail, which is a mile-long ascent with limited shade, followed by a gentle downhill but on a hard rock surface.  At this point, I was essentially by myself and had some more time to think about how Brian impacted my life.

I don’t remember precisely when I met Brian, whether it was in church or in Piedmont Choirs.  Brian was a bit of a troublemaker, and we were never “besties,” but we toured together to Canada for the Kathaumixw music festival (where I won the Under 16 Solo Competition).  On this section of trail, I was singing some of our favorite choir songs to myself.

Once I cleared the hilly section (surprisingly at a faster pace than the downhill section – must have been the singing), there is the second-longest section – 5.3 miles – that in my estimation, goes on and on and on and on.  It is hard for me to tell how close I am getting to the aid station because everything looks the same.

On this next section, I reminisced about high school.  Brian and I sang in A Capella (the choir class) which did a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta each year and 3 big concerts a year (including the Messiah sophomore year).  Our senior year, we acted together in The Music Man, and were both part of the Barbershop Quartet.  Mark McDonald was the bass, Brian was the baritone, Phil Kim was the first tenor and I was the lead (because my voice still hadn’t changed).  It was different because we had to blend with each other (not just blast out as the chorus) and we worked separately.  Also, it was special for Brian because his dad sang in a barbershop quartet.

During this long section, I sang through the various Music Man songs we did – Rock Island (the train song – “Cash for the Merchandise, Cash for the Hogshead… Whaddya talk Whaddya talk Whaddaya talk!”), Lida Rose, and How Can There Be Any Sin in Sincere?

That last song was especially poignant because of the words:  How can there be any sin in sincere?  Where is the good in goodbye?  I got a little emotional on this section because the words rang true.  This was my goodbye to Brian.  I would never see him again and never sing with him again.

When I got to the aid station, my time was already slower than my time from 2012, but I didn’t really care.  I just wanted to get to the end, battle to the finish, and do it for Brian.

It was super hot at this point and most of the last 3 miles are exposed to the sun.  The beginning of the section is a steep downhill on dirt.  When I got to the bottom, a familiar runner came blasting by me – Kat – and took a tumble.  I stopped and helped her up.  She thanked me and continued on.

I was reduced to a walk at this point.  Each time I tried to take a running step, the heat and my heart rate forced me to walk again.  After the suspension bridge about 1.5 miles from the end, I got onto the paved and was able to shuffle to the end.

Although I was 50 minutes slower than last year, in a way, this year was equally as satisfying, though sadder.

I needed to get on the road to drive back to Long Beach by 6pm, so I could continue my Boeing 5K streak the next day, but I returned to my folks for an early dinner, to post my finishing time of 7:32:53, and to snap a photo commemorating my memorial run.  Rest in Peace, Brian.

Post Skyline 50K with Brian in my hand.

Post Skyline 50K with Brian in my hand.

Summer Nights 5K (2) – 2013

August 6, 2013

Back for another Summer Nights 5K… this time with my special arrangement to compile the results.  I am concerned about having the same issues as I did last time (heat, elevated heart rate).

My time ended up being slightly slower than last time, but i felt better about it (8:10, 10:21, 9:34 (0:48)) because I ran more consistently, and didn’t walk as much.

Two weeks ago, I went to see my doctor to see if he had any advice about what I should do or if I was having an issue at all.  They performed an EEG and it did not show that I had any arrhythmias nor that I even had an elevated heart rate (of course, I was inside and calm).  I got a referral to Cardiology and they will have me wear a Holter monitor for a month to monitor my heart 24/7.  Tim Hickok was having a similar problem a few years ago and takes medication to deal with episodes.  I hope that is not the case with me.

After the race (and tacos), I took the results home and had them sent back to Legacy by 11pm.  I may not be fast today, but I am fast with posting the results!

David Hancock Quarter Ironman (modified) – 2013

August 4, 2013

The David Hancock Tri is one of my favorite events, even though I am a slow swimmer and a horrible biker.  I think my bike issue is similar to my issue with a kayak – nothing fits me… and I am not about to buy a custom made bike just to compete in triathlons.

I was in conversation with Dave Hancock for a week or so about the possibility of borrowing a bicycle… or finding someone to relay with me (as I did last year).  As the date got closer, it seemed unlikely that I would have a bike OR a teammate, but he said, “Show up anyway, and we’ll figure something out.”  MY idea of a solution was to forgo the bike portion entirely and just do the run course twice.  I figured that the speed at which I swim combined with feeling pretty tired on two runs, I should finish relatively close to the other competitors, rather than an hour after like I usually would.

When I got down to the start, Dave seemed flummoxed that I had not come up with a usable bike within a few days, but agreed to my modified version of a triathlon, where I ran twice.  (Someone might be tempted to call this a duathlon, though they typically eliminate the swim to do the run twice (and not do the run twice in a row).

My one-kilometer swim took me 37 minutes (including the transition), and most of the rest of the competitors were long gone.  David’s dad offered me a ride to the bike-run transition area (aka their house), because it was about a mile-and-a-half from the swim area, but I said I would walk myself.  I did a modified race walk, both because there were a lot of street crossings and also because swimming often tired me out and takes a significant time to right myself (usually I would gut it out on the bike or wait while my teammate biked the 28 miles).

Once I got to the Hancock homestead, I started out on the 6.5 mile run course (Woo Hoo, I am in the lead!).  I tried not to overdo my pace as I have another ultra next weekend.

Around the time I was returning from the cul-de-sac at the end of Appian Way (around mile 5.1), I saw the lead cyclists descending down the off-ramp of the 2nd Street Bridge.  Bye bye, lead.  I finished my first loop of the 6.5 mile course in 69:40, around 10 minutes per mile.

I didn’t run nearly as well on my second loop, took the hill easier, walked most of it and I was passed by much of the crowd.  On the positive side (as I mentioned above), I was running around or with the other runners in the race.  My second loop took 75:00, closer to a 12:00 pace.

You know, it’s funny to get upset about a particular pace.  In an ultra, I would be ecstatic with 12 minute miles.  In a shorter race, there has to be something wrong with me!

My total running mileage for the day was nearly 19 miles, due to the fact that I walked to and from the race from my house, did 13 miles IN the race, plus 1.5 miles walking from the swim to the run transition.

After the race was the usual socialization period, with the Hancocks, the volunteers, me and Wolf.  The beer ran out early because the Tribe folks drank it all (also, I am working on drinking less, even though I never drank much to begin with).

Even if I end up not running the event in 2014, if I am in town, I want to volunteer or hang out afterwards.  That is my extra motivation in doing a race – the social aspect.

Browne-Rice Kayak (1M) Run (5K) Relay – 2013

July 13, 2013

This was a previously held event called “ThomBob,” but it died out somewhat when Thom Lacie was no longer affiliated with the Runners High stores.  Or maybe because it was thought that there wasn’t a lot of interest. Well, even though I am a crap kayaker, I still enjoy doing this event.

Back in the day, the teams were required to be more evenly matched, but after a few years, I started to notice that Bob’s kids seemed to be ringers and then the handicap measure went out the window.  Though… if you really think about it, unless a team has two professional kayakers, the odds that a team will automatically win are more based on how they do on the run.

With this in mind, I decided to ask my buddy Mark, if he wasn’t putting on any races that day, because I felt like we might have half a chance to place if my running partner was a ringer.

As usual, on the kayak leg, I was the worst person in my section (the order is: person 1 kayak, person 2 run, person 1 run, person 2 kayak), but Mark ran us back into the top 3.

On my run, I was able to do a sight better than at Boeing, with 25 and change. This dropped us out of the top 10.

Finally, Mark wielded his skills on the kayak.  I thought he might have an advantage seeing as he can get leverage with average length legs.  It made me feel better that this running superhero was just average in the kayak (but he did pick up enough places to get us into 10th).

I hope this event continues, even though the name representatives are getting up there in age.

Summer Nights 5K (1) – 2013

July 16, 2013

The new (ish) running store in Northern Long Beach, Legacy Running, has decided to put on a summer series of cross country 5Ks in Heartwell Park.  For $20, the run includes a couple of tacos (made on-site) and the run.

It is hot out again (in the 80s), and I am revisiting the same issues I did with Boeing last week.  The fact that it is on uneven grass is not helping.

First mile 7:30, second 10:40, and third 9:30.  At least I was a minute faster.

Afterwards, I noticed it was taking quite a while with the results.  Since I am pretty good with hand-done results, I offered my skills.  Basically, for the next couple of runs, I will run for free and then type up the results to post on the internet.

Boeing 5K (7) – 2013

July 8, 2013

I felt OK this morning, but it looked like it might be a hot afternoon.

It was the typical Boeing 5K where the wind is in my face for the first half and behind me for the second half.  The problem with this is that, if it is hot out, it feels like the heat is oppressive on the way back, because there is no breeze to decrease its effect.

My first mile was 7:30 and I felt great… but as soon as I turned around, I just couldn’t get anything going in the heat.  In fact, I couldn’t really breathe.  When I have trouble breathing (and this doesn’t mean ‘gasping for breath,’ just not breathing efficiently), I will cut down on my pace and/or walk.

So… my second mile, with the walking, ends up being 11:30 (which is not bad, considering I walked half of it).

On my third (and change) mile, I kept trying to accelerate back to my original speed, but even after a little bit of running, I was forced (by my difficulty in breathing) to walk again.  Very frustrating.  I pulled out another 11:36 final mile and finish in a shade under 30 minutes.

What the heck?!!

For the rest of the day, I felt a little off.  This is frustrating.  I hope it is only a manifestation of the heat.

La Palma 4th of July 10K – 2013

July 4, 2013

Today should prove to be a hot day.  I picked up Kate Rupley and Dona McBride and carpooled to La Palma.  As usual, we got our parking spot right next to the start in the medical complex parking lot.

I don’t have high expectations today, both because it hasn’t been a lot of days since my 100 mile attempt, and because I just drove back from Northern California on Sunday and the drive doesn’t do wonders for my right knee.

Typically, those of us in the 10K hate the start, because we are about 0.15 miles back from the start and can’t hear anything.  (Star Spangled Banner, announcements, “Go,”)  Then, when we catch up with the 5K group, we have to wade through the walker crowd.  At least I get through reasonably fast.

Despite getting going with a good start, I have not “sprinted” for a while, and that caused me to go out too fast, and thus have to walk in the second half not once, but twice.

Nonetheless, I finished in 52:53, which is faster than 9:00/mile pace.  While I didn’t place in my age group (but my carpool buddies did), I did have an impressive sprint to the finish, and placed in the top 10 in my division.

Flying to the finish.

Flying to the finish.

DRTE 100M (DNF) – 2013

June 14-15, 2013

Despite a not great couple of weeks, I am still going to attempt the DRTE 100 mile race.  Since I have been given a free entry, I have nothing to lose (but my sanity).  Also, there is a 42 hour time limit, so I can afford to go at a fairly pedestrian pace and still finish.

Most of the course will be super familiar, because they had to move the start back to Rancho Oso due to a HUGE fire in the area last week.  The first 25 miles are just about identical to the Blue Canyon Trail Race 50M I ran in 2009.  (Man, come to think of it, this is going to be tough.)

Robert (the RD), in his wisdom, has decided that everyone needs to suffer, and therefore, the race is starting at 6PM on Friday night.  This way, the elite runners get to run through the night as well.

It is about 80 degrees out in the afternoon, so I am having trouble taking a nap in my car for a few hours before the start of the race.  I am decked out in my usual finery, plus my Sunmart Tyvek jacket, with gloves and cough drops in the pockets (for my cough and for when it gets cold at night).

It is difficult to get actual sleep, for several reasons, such as, the heat, the proximity of the parking lot to the pool area, the fact that it is afternoon (I put a pillow over my head to block out the light), and I can’t really stretch out anywhere in the car.  However, it’s best to get whatever rest I can.

The race does not start promptly at 6pm (close), which is fine, because we will still get 36 hours to finish, and the shorter the period that I am in the heat, the better.  On the other hand, how will I fare when it gets dark?

If you have read my 2009, 2010, and 2011 posts about Blue Canyon Trail Race, you know a few details about the course, running through the Rancho Oso Campground, continuing uphill on a narrowing fire trail that gets steeper and steeper, and eventually pops back out on another fire road (which keeps going uphill).

The entire group of people starts out running, but I don’t, so immediately find myself towards the back.  As long as the course is well-marked, that isn’t a problem for me.  I will either catch up to people, or I won’t.  I will run my own race, such as that is.

In the middle of the steep hill up to the fire road, I am passed a second time by a guy with red hair… I guess he either missed a turn or made an early pit stop.  Weird.

Once I get up to the main fire road, the going is a little easier (Not as steep), but I am still walking.  When I get up to the paved road section (Camino Cielo, I think), I run into a gal who is heading down to the next aid station to volunteer, Nichol des Jardins Clark.  Having been out of contact with everyone for over an hour, it is really nice to have a short conversation.  It is about a mile hike (down) to the first aid station, which I reach a little after 8pm.  Yes, it took me 2 hours and 12 minutes to cover 6 miles!

From this first aid station is my “favorite” section of trail.  I have good-slash-bad memories of this section.  I know how difficult it will be, but am thankful that it is getting dusky and hopefully, cooler.  On the other hand, I am concerned how difficult it will be to proceed in the dark.

The first part of this trail is “rolling hills.” Normally, that would mean that the fire trail road is undulating gently.  In this case, it means I am descending down some steep hills and then climbing back out on the other side.  While the trail is not technical (read: rocky), it is awkward, the darker it gets.  I hope that I might meet up with someone as two heads usually prevail when ‘out of it.’

The second part of this trail is “THE climb.”  This is 4 miles of mostly unrelenting uphill, and the average grade is 18%!!!  I have done this trail both in 110 degree heat (up or down hill, that is pretty horrible) and in moderate weather but when the trail was not maintained (machete would be helpful). This is mostly new territory, as the brush is not too dense and it is pretty dark out.

The hardest part in the dark is the fact that I have to be super vigilant for the reflective ribbons in the dark.  Once I spot a mark, it isn’t so bad, well, except for the fact that I can see the mark, but not necessarily the path that leads to that mark.  It is slow going, but about a mile from the top, I do encounter another person.  It’s Ralph Keith (52), from the Sacramento area.  He is really struggling.  We stay together briefly, but his knee is really bugging him, and despite my pedestrian pace, it is a little too slow for me.  I tell him we will probably connect at the top, which shouldn’t be too far away (a tough measurement in the dark, though).

The end of the trail connects with a fire road and the aid station.

Unlike many other ultras, I have not consumed a lot of my water, nor do I need very much energy to continue (just top off my water bottles and keep going).  I let them know that Ralph is behind me (but it may be a while).  There is another runner at the aid station with me  – Ashly Miller, one of the few gals in this race.  (Also, she ran as a legacy runner (the RD’s word for Charity.)

Before I can leave the aid station, I have to weigh-in.  I didn’t mention this earlier, but at the check-in, we had to weigh in, and along the way, we have to make sure that we don’t drop too much weight.  At this particular juncture, because the scale is sitting on the ground (and not level, because we are on a hill), it shows I have GAINED 12 pounds.  Yes, that’s right.  I have gained 12 pounds in the past 4 hours by drinking 32 ounces of water!  Fortunately, they let me continue since I seem sane.

I limit my time at this aid station and leave  BEFORE the gal who got there before me.

I am mostly familiar with the next section of trail, especially with the surface, but of course, I have never run it at night.  The good news here is that it is downhill, and NOT rocky.  I am doing my best to run down the hill, but it is mostly a gallop, in order to prevent tripping in the sections where there is a slight upslope.

When I have run this trail (both up and down) in the light, I am able to tell where I am and how far I have left to go, but in the dark, I can only focus a few dozen feet in front of my face.  My only indication of where I am on the particular section is when I am not running downhill anymore.

Once I am at the bottom, then the trail turns to the right and becomes more rocky and has a slight uphill section.  Even in the light, I have a hard time remembering how long this section continues.  In the dark, it is worse.  There are no landmarks or relativism.  I do remember a long, steep, rocky downhill section, but feel that when the downhill ends, I should be at the aid station.  Either I have remembered that incorrectly, or I missed a turn.

I should probably also mention that since there are not a lot of options for side trails, the trail is very sparsely marked here.  Instead of ribbons every 25 yards, there are ribbons probably every quarter mile.  In the dark, the lack of course markers is alarming.  For those that have never been on this course, they don’t know that there is a left-hand turn to some other trail that runs by some houses.  I am worried I have missed a turn, and therefore, screwed.

I convince myself to keep going, but out loud I am murmuring to myself whether I should backtrack (uphill) to my last mark… or try and wait for the gal behind me.  I decide to continue down the hill to what I think is the back porch light of the houses in here.  I can ask them how far it is to get back to the correct route.

When I am about 100 yards away, I realize it is the aid station, and that I was never off course.  I am so relieved to see the people.  I do another weigh-in, and I am back to my original weight.  (Theoretically, this means, I lost 12 pounds in the last hour.  Not really.)

Again, out of this aid station, I am familiar with the trail, though it has been over 4 years since I covered this section.  The fire road continues, but narrows more and more until it is somewhat of a single-track trail (though I feel like I am just wandering through the bushes).  As long as I don’t wander into the reservoir to my left, I am good.  Just watch your step!

The highlight of this section was seeing a bunch of markings… well, because I had to climb through the branches of a tree that were blocking my forward progress on the trail.

Further along, I came upon a section of trail which I struggled with in 2009.  Three closely connected sections where the trail stopped and opened up onto an angled “field” of loose sand.  This is hard to describe, but if you can imagine what it would be like to climb up a large sand dune where the sand is not clumped together.  Now imagine that you are traversing the sand dune in the middle of the hill… in the dark… after run/walking for 6 hours… and you are not exactly sure the height at which the trail on the other side picks up.

There were three 50 yards+ sections within the space of a mile-and-a-half and not all of them continued at an elevation equal to where I came into the ‘sand pit.’

Once I cleared that section, I knew the next part would be an easy descent to a creek, with an awkward ascent out the other side. Awkward in the sense that I would be stepping on solid parts of rock within the creek and rising up a hill.  Extra awkward in the sense that it was dark and I could not tell what was actually solid and what gave way… until I stepped on it.  So a couple of times I did submerge my foot into the creek.

To make things worse, I was looking at my watch and realizing despite having a generous time limit, I was rapidly falling off the minimum pace needed to finish the race, and maybe even approaching some of the time cutoffs (which had not been intimated to us as mandatory or suggested).

It was probably around 3am and it had not gotten cold.  I still had my jacket around my waist, and my cough drops and gloves in the pocket were swinging around and banging against my legs.  Annoying.

When I got to the top of the hill, I knew I had a harrowing descent (technical) down to the “valley floor.”  But, once I got to the bottom, I knew I was near to the next aid station.  However, the location was at a different part than originally stated (or remembered), but the guy from the aid station was looking out for us and even hiked out a bit to find me.  I mentioned that I was up against the time, but he was encouraging and sent me on my way.

Looking at my watch, I had about 2-1/2 hours for the next section.  By my estimation, I needed to reach mile 29.8 by 6:45am (a little over 12 hours for a little less than 50K, albeit in the dark).  From the aid station, I descended to a single-track that had a slight descent.  I vaguely remembered this trail from 4 years ago, because where I was headed was the turnaround on the 50 miler.  Of course, once I reached this point, then everything would be brand new… then again, all this running in the dark made EVERYTHING brand-new.

After about an hour, my watch alarm (from the day before) went off at 5:20am.  I shone my headlamp to see the time I was at (should be around 11.5 hours) and all I saw was “00:00:00.”  Crap.

I had been noticing for weeks that my watch did not light up that well at night.  Now I realize that the battery was running low… and now it had reset.  So I didn’t know what time it was or how long I had been out there (other than relatively from when the alarm went off).

I tried to reset my timer, but the best I could do was look at the time and calculate time from the new “midnight” hour.

Not long after this happened, dawn was all but upon me.  The trail opened out into a great grassy field and I was headed for a copse (the 50-miler turnaround).  In the copse was Hector Aleman, and a little frustrated and addled because he could not find the outbound trail.  Seeing as that I had never gone beyond this point, I had little answer for him, but said we could work together to figure out what to do.

There were essentially three paths leading out of here… one was not really a path, though we did hike along a creek bed for a few hundred yards before deciding it was not realistic for it to be a trail.

Next, I decided that since we were headed to Romero Camuesa aid station, that we should follow the arrow that was pointing toward Romero Camuesa ROAD.  We followed this trail for 15 minutes, but after failing to see as much one ribbon, I decided we should backtrack and try to take a closer look where we came in, to see where we might have missed a turn.

I began backtracking on the trail I had come in on, and then reversed my course, heading for the copse. Just before I got to the entrance, I saw on the ground a little plastic reflective flag.  It should have been sticking out of the grass, but it looked like its plastic stake affixing it to the ground had somewhat melted in the heat of the sun, so it was lying in/under the grass.  In the dark, I would have probably seen it, but in the light of day, it was a challenge.  The trail did not go into the copse at all, but circumvented it and continued in the direction we had not tackled yet.

Hector seemed skeptical that I had picked the correct direction.  He tried to tell me that that was the direction we came in from, but it was not, and I said, “Do what you want, but I am certain now that this is correct.”

He eventually followed me, but we did not run together after that (meaning he never caught up).

It was starting to get warmer and I knew that I had a bit of a hill to climb before arriving at the next aid station.  Since I had no idea of my time, I knew I needed to stay consistent and get up there as soon as possible (not running, though).

It was extremely frustrating (other than not knowing how far or what time) because every time that I thought I had reached the fire road at the top, I would crest another INTERMEDIATE hill.  Even when I did get to the top, it was still a LONG 1/2 mile to the aid station.

I told myself that if I am not within 20 minutes of 6:45am, that it would be best to stop.  The volunteer told me it was 8am!!  So, I quit.

Once I stopped, the volunteers told me to scour my body for ticks.  I found and removed 4 or 5.  Since this aid station was a double-whammy (meaning runners came through here again after an 18-mile loop), I informed runners as they came through to look for ticks.  No one believed me, but nearly everyone found some.  Yuck.

Hector came in about 30 minutes after I did and quit as well.  The volunteers kept trying to encourage us to continue, but I know how little I accelerate mid-race and it just didn’t seem worth it to suffer through another 18-20 miles of hell (I had pretty severe foot blisters, too.) just to quit 7 or 8 hours later.

The girl, Ashly, who I passed preceding the downhill section really struggled and she parked herself about a half-mile out (the top of the hill) trying to secure enough energy to get to the aid station and quit.

Both Hector and I napped in the back of a U-Haul on cots (because it was cooler and dark in there) while waiting for a ride back to the start.

Eventually, the RD’s wife showed up with some supplies and we got a ride back to the start.  Probably the funniest moment on that ride back was picking up a runner who was off course (I think he had decided to quit, but didn’t want to slog through the trails and moved off to the paved road, which is where we found him.).

Once I got back to the start, I found a few folks I had run with (half the field ended up dropping).  Ralph had gotten to the aid station at mile 12 and dropped.  Another runner, Aaron Sorensen (apparently of Long Beach, too), had a stomach issue and had stopped at the same location.

I watched some of the shorter distance race finishes – 30K and 50K – and then waited for the top 2 finishers, who came in 22:55 and 23:30. Just as comparison for how tough this race was (besides the listed 52,000 feet of climbing and descent), the winner at Rocky Raccoon 100M did 12:47, 10 hours faster!  I later learned that my friend, Jakob Hermann, had nearly quit, but stuck it out to finish in 38 hours or so.

I drove back to Santa Barbara and spent the rest of the weekend with my cousin Daniel and his partner Henri.

If there’s something I take away from these DNFs, it’s not discouragement.  I take each race separately and I realize that conditions and my health dictate whether I have a chance to finish or not.  When I finish, it’s about the adventure.  I usually don’t finish in first and have finished at the back.  If I don’t finish, I strive to do better next time… or realize that I have limitations – I’m not a 20-something average height kid who has endless energy and can bounce back quickly; I’m 6’6″ and in my 40s, but I still love a good challenge.

Boeing 5K (6) – 2013

June 10, 2013

I am continuing my Boeing streak (something like 47 months and counting), but I do not feel particularly great today.  Still having trouble breathing normally.

My split at 2 miles was 16:11, and I finished in 25:05, so a little over 8 minutes per mile.  I felt like I did badly, only because the other folks from AREC ALL beat me.  No matter.

Naples Fun Run 2.2M – 2013

June 1, 2013

I have been struggling ever since finishing the Bishop High Sierra 50M a few weeks ago.  I don’t really understand it, but apparently, the dry thin air affects me and despite returning to the better sea level air, it will take me some time to recover.

Regardless, I love doing the Naples Fun Run, a race I have won… but not this year.  I did about 17 minutes (which is probably 7:45/mile pace, depending on which distance it is this year (the location of the turn-around varies).

The top two finishers were Gregg and Madson Buchbinder, made only more impressive by the fact that they are both in their 50s (but dang fast).

Hey, I came in 7th place and 1st in my age division (41-50).