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.