Monthly Archives: December 2014

Twin Peaks 50K – 2014

October 18, 2014

The plan for today’s run is to make this my 20th 50 mile finish.  (In another month or so, I plan to run my 40th 50K race, so it is important NOT to drop down to the shorter distance here.)  I know this will be a tall order.  In fact, I joked to Race Director Jessica DeLine that Lauren and I would like to start at midnight to give ourselves every advantage to finish (knowing my body and the course).  She laughed, but probably didn’t realize that I was being serious.

I didn’t sleep very well on Friday night (no surprise, I never do) and then I left EXTRA early.  (See post from 2012 where there was a fatality on the freeway and I was 45 minutes late to the start.)  I used the Garmin GPS tool Marisa gave me… just in case there were any issues (also, they had posted a change in directions, which turned out to be a lot easier than the original winding through the neighborhood).

It was nice and cold at the start.  I hoped that the coldness would last as long as possible, knowing that when the temperature warmed up, I would struggle in the heat.  I greeted a few of my friends who were also starting early, including Lauren (who I made a special pace sheet for with her kids on the back) and Cherry Cheng (who I met here last year when they did a Fat Ass).

I also have a pace sheet (with Mom and Dad on the back for inspiration), but I know that even with an hour early start, it may be unrealistic for me to finish the race under the posted time limit (especially a month after my fall (though my scars are finally gone)), but I will do my best.

About 20 of us toe the line for the early start and off we go… up the hill.  It’s slow going, like the past 2 years, but at least it’s nice to have some company part of the way (or at least hear voices).  At the top, there may or may not be an aid station set up.  Fortunately, because this entire section is mostly in the dark, I haven’t needed to drink a lot of liquid and will not be out of drink until at least mile 11.

The people are there, but they are not set up yet.  I reach the top in 2:06, a little slower than in the past (just a few minutes).  This is almost 20 minutes per mile, but there was over 3000 feet of elevation gain in these 6.5 miles.

The next section moves along a fire-road on the Main Divide.  The net elevation gain is 100 feet, but I already know from experience that it is more like 1500 up and 1400 down, so I am not surprised by the hills.  I just keep on keepin’ on and reach Mile 10.5 in 57 minutes (under 15 minute miles… to finish I have to maintain about a 17:30 pace, which my net pace is now slightly under).  I say my greetings to Steve Harvey, but do not hang out long (other than refilling my water bottle) to stay on pace as long as possible.

This next section is West Horsethief and covers nearly all of the ascent I have so far covered… but mostly in the form of single-track (some of it Grape-Nut consistency)… and I believe I will have the (regular start) course leaders overtaking me on this section.

I am finding on some of the steeper downhill, that my sore foot feels even sorer, so I favor it a bit.

Fortunately, the race leader doesn’t overtake me until I get out of the hardest section and move to the double-track section, where there is more room for them to pass me. I note that a bunch of them are running shirtless (I would not run shirtless unless it was so hot that my shirt burned off!).  The terrain is not such that people could run freely without hooking skin on trees (and there is poison oak, too).

This double-track section is going on forever.  I am just waiting for the road by all the cabins; I know that the Holy Jim Aid Station is less than a mile away at that point.  Finally, I see it.  Yay!

When I get to the aid station, I assess where I am at:  The past 4 miles took me 1:17 (and downhill, argh) and I am a few minutes slower than I was each of the past 2 years. Unless I can have a real good run (pun) at the Holy Jim Trail (3000′ climbing in 4 miles), I am headed for a DNF or 50K finish.  Gisele gets here at about the same time and she looks really good.  She is the 50K women’s leader and running with her is the 50M women’s leader.  Maybe I will see them again on the next out-and-back section.

Now it’s time to head up the hill.  The first part of the Holy Jim Trail is a very gentle uphill by some cabins… leading to the endless switchbacks and single-track trail.  I am fortunate that the sun has not peeked through the clouds yet and it is relatively cool out.  I am just trying to maintain an even keel.

I can remember from last year, when I averaged 45 minutes PER mile on this section.  While I don’t have GPS, there are some 1/2 mile and mile markers on the course, so I can get a relative measurement on how I am doing on certain sections.  (Any mile under 25 minutes seems pretty good at this point… earlier this year, I did Holy Jim Trail with AREC in about 2:07, about 28-30 minutes per mile.)  I am getting passed periodically by regular start folks, but not at blazing speed; this hill is difficult for everyone.

After 1:44, I get to the unmanned aid station at the top of the hill.  I am so-o happy with the time.  What I thought at the bottom of the hill is coming to fruition.  I think I can totally finish the 50 miler… but now I have to get to the top of Santiago Peak.  There are two sections ahead that are super steep, both 1.5 miles and 800′ of elevation gain!

As soon as I emerge into the unshaded section, the sun DOES come out and my energy is instantly sapped and I am shuffling up the hill and drinking a lot of water to keep hydrated.  When I get to Upper Holy Jim (listed as another unmanned aid station), there is no water to be found.  At least I still have half a water bottle left… but if I continue to struggle, I will have to really ration water to make it to the top… I continue to struggle even having to stop a couple of times in the shaded sections and sit.  On the way up, I see Ben Gaetos heading down. We stop and take some pictures.  I also see Gisele.  She feels pretty bad; she doesn’t think she will finish.

When I get to the top of Santiago Peak, I have just done 3 miles in 98 minutes, negating all of my good work.  My average is over 20-1/2 minute miles.  I am not confident that I will be able to accelerate, especially given the increase in heat.  I decide that I will take the turn to do the 50K instead of the 50M; I have to be realistic.

I drink a lot of liquid at the top to rehydrate myself.  I feel a lot better than I did before and can jog a bit down the hill.  I make it back to the non aid station much faster than on the way up, but from here we take the Upper Holy Jim Trail back to the Main Divide rather than on the fire-road we came up.  I am just behind a 50-miler who is dropping to the 50K as well.  He brought his whole family out, but in the morning the car broke down and he is concerned that it may not have been fixed or that his family would have much of a fun day until it was fixed.  I think he would have struggled in trying to do the 50M in enough time (since we are at the same point in the day, though he technically reached it an hour faster).  We end up staying together on the trail until about 4 miles from the bottom (where he has either heard all of my stories or is bored of going so slow).

I finally reach the bottom in 10:24:30, which is 50 minutes faster than last time (last year I didn’t finish).  I also get to the end before the winning 50M runner (but not by much).  It is exciting to see the finishers.  Turns out that Gisele did finish and was the fastest female finisher.  I think she may have had the second fastest female time in the history of the course, too.

I got to see Lauren finish (always great to see a friend) and I also thought I saw the first female 50M finisher, but it turned out that she did not go all the way to the top of Santiago Peak (saving herself about 6 difficult miles).

I went over the day in my head and was maybe regretting my decision to drop down to the 50K (my 40th by the way), but then I looked at some of the splits.  Had I continued on, I would have covered the same sections but in reverse (down Holy Jim, up West Horsethief, etc.).  Even the best of the best averaged over 20 minutes a mile on that section.  Now I know that I would have DNFed.  I’ll find a different 50M (a flatter one, perhaps) for my 20th.

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Boeing 5K (10) – 2014

October 13, 2014

Today is the 350th running of the Boeing 5K.  (The first run was when I was in my teens and didn’t live in Southern California).  There is a huge crowd today (over 80 people, when the norm is 30-40).

Despite having a good run in Texas two weeks ago, my foot still hurts and also, I have a pinched nerve in my neck.  This latter problem makes me stop and walk for a few minutes during the run and gave me splits of 12:00 and 12:51.

Mary Kay 5K – 2014

October 4, 2014

Following my cross country race mishap, I took it pretty easy.  I had a big ultra coming up in a few weeks, and my trip to visit my family in Dallas would be the perfect opportunity to give my sore body a break.

However, the whole family had signed up to run the Mary Kay 5K, and I opted in for it.  I figured I could see where my body was at.

Before the 5K, there was the Kids’ 1M (or whatever the distance actually was).  Reagan ran with Riva and did pretty well.  His time was super fast (hence my comment above).

Now we were all ready to start.  Riva lined up near the front and I lined up somewhat near the front… with Mom, Dad and Reagan at the back (Marisa was with Evan at his soccer game.).

The race was immediately downhill (many big buildings in Dallas have roads running underneath them, so THIS is the downhill… because Dallas is pretty pretty flat), so it was a mess, especially with speed bumps underneath the building.  I moved carefully and thoughtfully around everyone and got into a good pace.

Once through the building undercrossing, it was up the other side, a U-turn, and then back down under the building and back up on the parallel road.  Ugh.  A short time later was the 1-mile marker – 7:46.

Next was a half-mile out-and-back section which was slightly downhill and slightly uphill on the way back.  It looks like Riva is the 4th woman overall… so far.

Now another half-mile out-and-back (but flat).  Riva still looks good, but is still in 4th.  Not sure if she can make up the stagger.  I get my 2nd mile in 7:40.

The last 1.1 mile stretch is… another repeat of the under-the-building section… meaning down-and-up twice, with an uphill finish.  I manage another 7:40 mile (plus the extra tenth) to finish in 23:50.

Since relatively few people have finished, I get in the pancake breakfast line and get a few pancakes and some bacon for Reagan, in case he wants some when he finishes (since there is no one to watch him, he is doing the 5K with Mom until Riva can finish and go back and run in with him.

Once I have my pancakes, then I head back out on the course to cheer Mom and Dad (and Reagan) in.  Dad is the first one I see and he is walking briskly.  He is competing in the 75+ age group (so hopefully he won’t be beaten by a bunch of 75-year olds).  Next comes Riva and Reagan.  He has gotten a second wind, running with his mom.  And Mom is not all that far behind.  I walk in with her.  She was having to encourage Reagan (tired, for sure, after his fast mile), but now she can really stride in to the finish.

Reagan doesn’t want the pancakes so I eat them… and then we go see if anyone has gotten a medal, so we can high-tail it to Reagan‘s soccer game.

Looks like Riva won the F40-44 (but not first Master like last year), Mom got 3rd in the F70-74 and Dad got 3rd in the M75+.  I am in 4th.  We convince them to give up the medals prior to the award ceremony.

Later, when we look up the awards at home, because the top Master finisher for the men was in my age group, I have been bumped up to 3rd in my division.  I don’t get a medal, but I’m not worried about it.  I am just happy that I have been able to run a decent time only a week after banging myself up.

Golden West Invitational 5K – 2014

September 26, 2014

The coach of Golden West College had mentioned that there would be an “adult” race at their yearly Cross Country event at Huntington Beach Central Park.  I have run this before; this race is usually ‘unofficial’ junior college runners and coaches.  I was running a little late and was actually turned away at the registration table, but then he saw my AREC tank top and said it was OK. (This was weird especially because it wasn’t chip-timed and the race didn’t start for another 10 minutes.)

I eyed the others toeing the.line – there were 13 of us total – there was only one other guy who was over 20 years old (an AREC/GWC coach that I knew to be 32 years old).  I resigned myself to probably be the last or second-to-last finisher.

When the gun went off, everyone bolted across the lawn and I just went off at my usual ambling pace… after all, there are a few hills and no need to waste my energy from the get-go.

The first mile (with relatively few hills) was a 7:22 and I was probably 50 yards back of the 32 year-old.

Next came the hilly section, of which I walked all the uphills.  I ran for a bit with a coach from another school (probably in his 50s) who was out on the course encouraging his runners.  I was able to overtake the other ‘old’ guy and put a little distance on him.  I finished the second mile in 8:01.

With about a half-mile to go, I was entering the last iffy section (a bunch of roots on the trail encircling the small lake).  I hadn’t even gotten to the roots… just the transition from the paved path to the dirt, when I went down HARD.  I was able to at least get my hands out (so I didn’t hit my head), but didn’t have enough appendages to cushion the fall completely.

Everything really hurt and I had the wind knocked out of me.

Mindful of the runner behind me, I got up and walked towards the finish.  I didn’t think I had broken anything, so I was going to finish this 5K.  For some reason, the spectators seemed unaware that I was bleeding and covered in dirt, and shouted encouragement like, “C’mon, you can run to the finish.”  I rolled my eyes.

I was ‘limping’ to the finish.  With about 1/4 mile to go, I was passed by the guy behind me and decided that I could try to run in to the finish, but I didn’t have quite enough left to not finish in last… my last mile was still only 10:26… but everything really hurt!

I had two bloody abrasions – one on my right elbow and one on my right knee – and ended up with huge bruises on my right side.  I did go to the doctor later to find out whether I had broken my right toe, but he said that the pain indicated that I had probably sprained the tendon.

Boeing 5K (9) – 2014

September 7, 2014

Another 2nd Monday, another Boeing 5K.  Woke up this morning with stomach issues and an achy right knee.  As always, will walk if I have to.

As always, it seems like I feel better as soon as the event starts.  The weather is a bit unusual.  It is very muggy out and ZERO wind.  Usually, it is pretty windy on the way out and a tailwind on the return.  No wind feels uncomfortable.

I have pretty even splits – 12:02 out and 11:58 back… and I am happy with another sub-24:00.

Conquer the Bridge 5.3M – 2014

September 1, 2014

The last few times I have done this race, I have carpooled with Inger and/or Zack, but I think they have lost interest in doing this race.  Instead, I have been talking with Stephanie Harris and Kristen Womersley about the 3 of us carpooling together (live relatively close to each other). THAT is the plan.  Late on Sunday, though, Stephanie e-mails that she will most probably NOT be going at all because she had a golf cart incident (don’t think Stephanie won).

I drove over to Kristen’s and it was just the two of us but we found a good parking spot (and basically every carpool group from AREC was there).  I was able to pick up my bib there (despite the website saying ‘no raceday pickup’), but I also had Stephanie’s number (which she said I could use in the event that I couldn’t get my own number).  I pinned them both on my AREC jersey.

I utilized my usual ‘big hill’ strategy, which is to walk most of the hills and then run hard on the downhills and fairly fast on the flats.

The first mile takes you to the base of the bridge (which includes an on-ramp UP to this point).  I ran the entire section in 7:38. The second mile is basically the entire bridge.  I walked almost all of this uphill and then soared down the other side… in 8:56.

Mile three takes you the last downhill bit connecting the road to the bridge, a (deceptive uphill but seemingly) flat stretch to the turnaround, and back up to the same parallel spot on the road – 9:12.

Mile four is the bridge again. I walked this entire section. 78 people passed me, including Ara.  I count, because I like to see how many people I can overtake heading to the finish line.  10 minute mile.  (I catch Ara before I get off the bridge.)

The last mile is the off-ramp and the straightaway all the way to the finish.  (I caught 60 people.)  Finished strong with 8:02 for this last 1.3 miles (about 6:15).  Since the age groups are 10 years, few from our group get medals.  The strangest thing that happens is that Stephanie ‘finishes’ 5 seconds before I do, even though both bibs were pinned to my shirt.

Afterwards, about 10 of us went to this great Omelet place in San Pedro and had breakfast together.

Bun Run 5K – 2014

August 30, 2014

A nice inexpensive cross country 5K in Long Beach ($5) benefiting LB Poly HS.  Another $5 gets me either a raffle ticket or pancake breakfast.

The weather is a little on the muggy side, but I hunker down and run the entire way, recording splits of 7:43, 7:37, and 7:49 (1.1M)  Nowadays any race at a sub-8:00 pace is excellent.

Boeing 5K (8) – 2014

August 11, 2014

Even though I have had a week off since Skyline 50K, I am not completely back to normal. This morning, for example, I woke up with some minor back tics; however, I have a 6-year streak (every month), and I will crawl (hopefully not necessary) to keep it up.

For the first mile, I feel OK and manage 7:15…but the heat gets to me and I run/walk the rest of the way, finishing in 26:15.

Skyline 50K – 2014

August 2, 2014

Last year at this same race, I made a pace sheet and put a picture of my friend Brian Kelly on the back.  I was hoping to inspire him to fight through (and beat) his terminal cancer diagnosis.  Unfortunately, before I was able to arrive, he passed away… and I ran the race in his memory.

Since then, I have been putting a picture of someone who inspires me on the back of my pace sheet.  It gives me extra focus and it also is a really nice gesture.

A few months ago, another friend of mine passed away.  Hwa-Ja Andrade.  She hadn’t been a long time sick, but she went in to get surgery and didn’t survive the surgery.  At her memorial service, her son mentioned that she had completed 68 ultramarathons (to which most folks gave an audible gasp).  Myself, at that time, was fairly close to this number, so I wrote in her Memories book that I would dedicate my 68th ultramarathon to Hwa-Ja.

While I wasn’t concerned about being able to finish; I feel I have endurance and sufficient drive to get to the end (but of course, there are cut-off times); I felt like an hour early start would be helpful.  Also, Harding Hustle 50K had only been 2 weeks prior and I had only had a week of recovery and a week of “build-up.”

I had my typical lead-up to the race… drive up from SoCal on Friday, having a nice dinner at Bay Fung Tong with my parents (plus Shauna), a relaxing day on Saturday (though I had to work on the AREC newsletter).

Sunday morning, bright and early, I found myself toeing the line with probably 4 dozen other early starters.  I was very happy to see my buddy, Sabine Gillert (who I had met at Way Too Cool a few years ago, and more recently, at Bishop).  She was not doing great (hence the early start).

About 2 miles in, I struck up a conversation with a female runner, Megan Cheng.  She was a faster runner, but had carpooled with an early starter, so rather than hang out for an hour, she decided to start.  I ran with her for a few miles (faster than I wanted to go) and it was a nice way to pass the time since relatively few runners were on the course.

I got to the first aid station in 48 minutes (11 minute pace).  I didn’t stop and pressed on, since I had banked some quality time and it was a mere 2 miles to the next aid station.  Since it was still early on, gates were not propped open and a few seconds were wasted working the complicated mechanism.  However, this section is mostly double-track and flat, so I was able to maintain a similar pace to the first 4.3 miles (12:46 pace).

This next section is a love-hate section.  There is about a mile-and-a-half uphill section (HATE) followed by a mile-and-a-half of steady downhill (LOVE).  Also, you get to run this same part in reverse later in the race (really HATE).  The last part of this section is a short single-track section in between berry bushes and across a few minor streams before popping out at an aid station along the road.

I should mention, at this point, that although I have been mentioning my splits at the various aid stations, I have not actually reached ANY aid stations (due to my early start).  At the first station, a car had just pulled up the same time I pulled up.  At the second aid station, there were a few other cars in the lot, but no table or anything really set up… so, by the time I reached this third checkpoint, well, they are still not really set up.  However, I was TOTALLY out of fluids and prefer not to go 5 miles on fumes.  A nice volunteer (working on setting up the aid station) refilled one of my water bottles using a personal bottle of water out of his own car.  Nice.

Anyway, at this point, despite the up-and-down bit, I do another section in under 12 minute pace.  This is boding quite well.  With the early start, I have 9-1/2 hours to finish, but I am on pace for a time well under that (though I will probably slow down a bit on the second half).

On this next section, there are two parts.  The first is a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs on single-track trail.  The second is a steady 3+ miles of uphill on fire-road to Skyline Gate (the “turnaround” (14.5 miles, not quite halfway)).

On this first half, I am in my element – not necessarily fast, but I enjoy the variety.  As I am nearing the paved road that connects the first half to the second half, I come across a fallen runner.  There is another runner and the mobile radio operator (read: guy on a bike with a walkie-talkie) are tending to her.  In carefully stepping around her, I see that the other runner is my friend David Binder (who I had tried to reach to no avail for a week or so prior).  He is out on his own training run, but nicely stays with me for a few miles (especially because I’m sure he doesn’t want to walk up ALL the hills).

It is really nice to have the company, though (this is what it must be like to have a pacer) and it helps some of the time on this long uphill.  I tell Dave I will text him when I get home and maybe we can get together afterwards.

I reach Skyline Gate maintaining an average pace of a little over 15 minutes per mile.  There is a fully operational aid station here!!  I get some snacks and refill both of my water bottles with Gatorade before heading back towards the starting line.

This section has a net downhill (but is not all downhill) and heads back to the same aid station we just came from.  A few years ago, though, the race leader didn’t go in this direction but retraced his steps (and saved about a mile of distance) and was disqualified.

The road out of the aid station is still the fire-road and is mostly flat.  I use the opportunity to eat some of the food I garnered at the aid station and gird myself for the uphill section a little further down the road.  Soon enough I turn off and head down a steep-ish single-track trail through the redwoods.  I know that before I reach the bottom, there will be that mentioned ascension, which will eventually reconnect to the single-track, then across the road to the aid station.

While I am able to run at a moderate pace on the downhill parts, I negate much of this with my uphill section pace, reaching the aid station (now open!) in a 15:23 pace (similar to my all uphill pace).

Now I return to the LOVE-HATE hill.  What I am loving this time around is that the sun has not yet peeked through the clouds and it is still cool.  This section can be difficult with the sun beaming down.  I get up and down in under 15:00/mile pace and am now on the homestretch.

From here on in, the trail is heading towards the opposite side of Lake Chabot.  I think I may mentioned before the LOVE-HATE HATE-LOVE sections, but this section is mostly all hate.  This has less to do with uphills and downhills and is more about the endless quality of this section (one of the sections that are over 5 miles) and how every turn seems familiar, but the aid station never seems to appear.  Despite feeling like I am not moving that well, my pace is a skosh faster than my overall average pace.  Looks like I will have an hour for the last 3 miles – and that will get me under my time of 7:33 from last year (when I had accelerated heart rate in hot situations).

The sun IS out at this point and I am struggling a bit in the heat.  Most of this last section is fire-road and about half of it is paved.  I figure I can speed-walk the uphill and flats and run the downhills.  I am just biding my time and looking forward to the suspension bridge at Mile 29 or so (for the free foot massage effect).

I am able to run hard the last 200 yards and finish strong, though I ran almost exactly my overall pace (13:40 for the section; 13:38 for the race).  My time of 7:13 is 20 minutes faster than last year (the early start probably contributed by letting me stay cool further into the race).

In the food area, I strike up a few conversations.  I see Megan Cheng, who finished under 6 hours (someone who totally didn’t need the early start) and her friends.  I talk with an older lady who “didn’t need another shirt.”  (The women’s shirt was pink so I gave it to Mom.)  The food is good; I have grilled salmon on a bun and some salad.

I am debating what else or how long I would stay and hang out, when up rolls Dave and Sandy Binder, their two boys (and a friend).  They came to see me finish, but I was a little faster than they expected. Dave has a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada IPA. I can only manage one but we make the people hanging out with us happy (because they each get a beer).

I am happy with my result, both because I managed to complete two 50Ks in a span of 15 days and also because I did myself proud in a race where I was honoring my late friend Hwa-Ja.