Monthly Archives: January 2019

31 Days

January 30, 2019

31.  Ken Michal

I first became acquainted with Ken at the 2011 Santa Barbara 100 (K for me, M for him).  We had no conversation except for two brief glances (meeting on an out-and-back; passing him less than 10 miles from the finish).  We have never actually run together but I feel a kindred spirit in Ken in a few different ways.

  1.  We are 4 months apart in age and have similar body types (though I am probably a little taller and heavier).  As each of us progress through our ultra careers, we never come close to becoming the average (or even typical) ultra runner.  The irony is that we used to be on the young end, but as more folks have embraced ultras, we are now above the average age.
  2. We both have enthusiasm for ultras.  I think I have encouraged dozens of people to take part, and, due to #1, people can look to us and think, “If those non-typical ultramarathoners can do it, I can do it.”
  3. We both like to regale others our amazing tales of our ultras (mine through my blog and FB) and Ken mostly through his podcast, Running Stupid.  (Also, like me, his posts sometimes get spread out due to daily life distractions.)

32 Days

January 29, 2019

32.  Angela Holder

I got to know Angela a bit towards the end of 2014.  She was part of a trio of ladies who decided to attempt their first 50K at Ridgecrest (the previously mentioned Stephanie Harris and Dulce Barton).  All three ladies finished within the time limit of 9:00.  Since then, Angela has finished the Avalon 50M and the Born to Run 100M, but what I really want to talk about is our adventure at the Twin Peaks 50M in 2015.

This was a race I had attempted before, but had dropped to the 50K, but as the years went by, I got to know the race director and so developed a plan to have an extra early start with my friend Lauren Miertschin and finally finish the race.  In the planning of this, I convinced Angela that this would be her first 50 mile race.  Yes, this insanely difficult race.  We trained like gangbusters, with several trips out to get to know the course as well as possible.

In August, we planned a 4:00am test run that was a total failure.  When Angela’s shoes started to fall apart, she turned around and I continued alone, with the plan to meet up on the opposite hill after she duct taped her shoes back together.  Before I got to that hill, I severely twisted my ankle, and had to hop 4 miles downhill on one foot (on a treacherous trail).  Oh, and Angela couldn’t find the start of the hill (overshot it).  Despite my Grade-2 ankle sprain, we planned another 23 mile training run (with a brace and KT tape) to make sure we knew every inch of the course intimately (that went better).

Finally, the race neared.  Lauren dropped out, but Angela and I were still in.  On Friday night, when we picked up our bibs, the race director asked us how early we were going to start, “4?” (actual start is at 6; early start at 5)  I told her, “We’ll tell you when we get to the finish,” because our plan was to start at 2am.

We drove over and parked in the Vons lot nearby and tried to catch a short nap, but didn’t sleep much.  Finally, at 1am, we decided to drive over and start getting ready, which took us to 1:20am.  By that point, we thought it was a bad idea to try and sleep another 40 minutes and just get on going.

We headed up the hill past the Korean church and then we started hearing strange howling noises and oddly colored lights.  We decided that it was a bunch of space squirrels planning a early morning takeover of Corona, and snuck past without disturbing their otherworldly nut gathering.

The rest of the climb went without incident, save a little stumbling in the dark, and we came through the makings of aid stations (boxes of water and unassembled tables) where we could at least refill any of the little water we had consumed.

Angela was extremely helpful through the Main Divide section (where I had mangled my ankle months before), turning around and helping me see my way through this section without incident.  From here, Angela gets ahead of me on the downhills and I eventually re-catch and pass her on the Holy Jim uphills.

We stay separated until I just after I reach the summit of Santiago Peak (where the aid station is just being assembled).  Her knee is bugging her and she cuts her losses and will drop to the 50K (probably a good decision on this tough race).  She asks that I give her my car keys, OR have on my conscience that she will probably freeze to death at the bottom waiting HOURS for me to finish. (Don’t lose my keys!)  Proud to say that we both got a finish that day.

We have had a few adventures since then, but it is the rare ultra when the bulk of your experience is shared by just two, during the 3-1/2 hours that we had the course to ourselves (and the alien squirrels).

33 Days

January 28, 2019

33.  John Hampton

I have known John for at least 10 years, ultra-wise.  He started out by doing a couple of local 50Ks, but in the past few years, he has tackled the 100Ks and 100M, finishing Western States in 2018.  We generally don’t get to run together,  but we often have a brief chat on an out-and-back or a come-from-behind pass (if I started early).  Probably our most memorable run was at the Malibu Creek 50K in 2013, where the water crossing went from 1″ deep to 6″ in under 4 hours.  When I saw him, he was drenched (from the rain), but persevered to finish when a lot of people quit after the first 25K.  This is probably the best trait of a good ultrarunner, that you can push through whatever and get to the finish.  Hope to see John around at some AREC Trail runs soon.

34 Days

January 27, 2019

34.  Janette Maas

I met Janette at my first (and so far only) 100M finish, at Rocky Raccoon.  We paired up in the latter stages of the 4th loop (somewhat between 76 and 80 miles).  We basically tried to motivate one another to make the 80 mile cutoff (24 hours) and the 100 mile cutoff (30 hours).  I ended making both with a little time to spare (23:15 and 29:42), but she ended up dropping at 80.  A little over a year later, we ended up meeting again at Miwok where we both DNF’ed.  (Hmm… maybe I am bad for her results…)  Even though she is way out in Georgia, I hope we will meet up at an ultra again some time soon.

35 Days

January 26, 2019

35.  Yen Darcy

Like many of my long-term ultra running friends, I don’t know the exact moment when I first became aware of Yen.  She was one of those runners that I always finished around the same time as, primarily at Avalon, Harding Hustle, and Ridgecrest.  A fun recent memory was this past year at Chino Hills 50K, for which Yen is the race director.  I volunteered in exchange for a discount and so I spent the entire evening getting everything set for the next day (when I would do check-in before setting out on the course).  At the end of the night, we headed over to Yen’s house (to save the drive in the morning) and I got to meet her husband and her daughter.  It was invigorating to meet the bedrock behind this amazing woman.

36 Days

January 25, 2019

36.  Bob Spears

Not sure how long I have known Bob, but we probably met through the Foothill Hash over 10 years ago.  He seems to run Avalon and Ridgecrest just about every year and always starts early.  For me, a special moment in each of these races is when I (eventually) catch up, we run and talk together a bit, and then I see him at the finish line.  Also, of note is seeing his wife, Sue, at the Wacko Café aid station at Avalon (I mean, I love the mimosas and horseshoe throwing, but it’s great to see someone you know mid-race.).  The best part is that my interactions with the Spears isn’t limited to just ultrarunning.

37 Days

January 24, 2019

37.  Cherry Cheng

I met Cherry in 2013, when I attempted my first Fat Ass 50K.  (A Fat Ass in ultra lingo is any free, mostly unsupported event.)  Strangely enough, it came at the Twin Peaks 50M/50K, which had been cancelled earlier in the week due to a government shutdown, but when the government reopened, the RD had sent away all her volunteers and thus put on a 50K only with limited volunteers.  Leading up to the event, I had done little exercise, having gone on an African safari with my parents and sister.  I was debating whether or not to shell the money and go, and when it became a Fat Ass, I was 100% in, even if I didn’t exactly have the fitness.  Going up the initial hill, I encountered Cherry (in my original notes, “a Chinese girl playing classical music from her pack”).  As we climbed, she said she was surprised by the difficulty of the hill.  I was not (having previously run this event), but surprised how out of shape I was.  At the top where there is usually a water station, there was nothing, so thought I would stop, but Cherry convinced me to continue for a bit (even though she would be turning around soon because she had other things scheduled and didn’t think she had time to finish).  I always seem to run into her at Twin Peaks and at Chino Hills.  This year, she provided beautiful buffs for all the competitors.  I think about our slogs together, listening to beautiful classical music, whenever I wear mine.

38 Days

January 22, 2019

38.  Sandy Draper

I am uncertain exactly when I met Sandy, but I have certainly known her for over 10 years.  I am also certain that I learned about the Shadow of the Giants 50K (a beautiful course up by Yosemite) for Sandy when she ran it in 2007 and 2008 (and wrote about it for the AREC newsletter).  My most pertinent memory is from 2007, when I was training to run the Sunmart 50M trail race and Dallas White Rock Marathon on consecutive days.  One of my training runs was to do the Palos Verdes Marathon on Saturday and then run my own marathon course on Sunday (which included El Dorado Park, Signal Hill, and Joe Jost’s).  As much as I didn’t want to run/train a marathon distance the day after a marathon, it helped with my training (for more, see my blog post on Palos Verdes Marathon 2007).  That being said, I lined up people to join me, to help with encouragement.  Dave Kuntz and Sandy ran with me from Mile 7 to Mile 14, marking their inaugural run through El Dorado Park.  They “forced” me to run with them (because I wanted to walk so badly).   Since that time, I have gotten to know Sandy well, especially on trail running and cherish the times I can keep up with her.

39 Days

January 20, 2019

39.  Sabine Gillert

I met Sabine at Way Too Cool 50K in 2011.  I was running my 10th Cool and she was doing her first.  She was, in a way, my perfect running companion – tall, close to my pace, and German-speaking.  (You just don’t run into that many tall female German-speaking ultrarunners these days, but I do have South African- and South American-based German speaking ultra friends!)  Except for a brief visit at the 2014 Bishop Ultras, I haven’t seen Sabine around all that much, so I hope to see her at a race soon.

40 Days

January 19, 2019

40.  Mark Gilligan

I met Mark at the Blue Canyon Trail Race in 2009, and then ran into him again at the Piedmont Turkey Trot (as he lived in Piedmont for a few years).  Mark is a much better ultrarunner than I am, but I attribute some wider success to finding out about other ultras because of his Ultrasignup website, my go-to for most things ultra.  But running-wise, we share the adventure that was Blue Canyon (later Santa Barbara) with its challenging sagebrush, bushwhacking, and heat.