Category Archives: 100K

Bishop High Sierra 100K (50M) – 2012

May 19, 2012

Having failed at Miwok, I felt like I had lost my goal for 2012, which was to run 12 ultras in 12 months (and I suppose, continue my streak of marathon distance races run in consecutive months).  Other than getting my friend Mark to put on a special race just for me, there were not a lot of options for the second half of May.

Then Rafael Covarrubias mentioned that he and his friend, Martin Santos, were going up to Bishop (a place I’d never been) to run the Bishop High Sierra 100K.  Wasn’t sure if I could float another $100-something cost for a race… but I got an intriguing offer from Jakob Hermann (who I had experienced the crazy rainy (at least first 7 miles) Santa Barbara race in April with).  He had received a free entry for the 50K from the race director.  He asked if he could transfer to me… and thereby lessen the cost (or I could just sign up for the 50K).

I felt like since I was destined to run 100K for Miwok, that I should also do the 100K here.  When I went to register, I didn’t get a discount on the price… I got the entire race for free.

I threw my lot in with Rafael and Martin, even though they would be camping, which I wasn’t sure if that would be the best plan for me the night before a race (not sure if it matters unless I pull a muscle).  At least the cost wouldn’t be too bad, but I don’t really have a lot of camping gear, so I would most probably be lying on the ground (much like Avalon 50 earlier in the year).

The drive to Bishop was about 5 hours.  Basically, it’s Central California, only Central-East California.  You drive towards Ridgecrest and then for another 2 hours.  It’s a few miles past Lone Pine (and the entrance to Death Valley) and a little short of Mammoth (which I always thought was a few hours away… not 5).  Not much to say about the scenic-ness of the drive… most of it was pretty blah, though we had some excitement, because when Martin drove, he was texting to a girlfriend in Mammoth and not entirely paying attention (not really that bad, though).

When we got to town, we picked up our bibs and shirts at Sage to Summit (which is a running store.  In the drawing for free stuff (random amongst entrants), I won a Camelbak water system.  Now I felt really bad that I had gotten a free entry.  The shirts were something quite incredible… pink… and unisex.  And by unisex, I mean form-fitting.  It HAS made a great swim shirt, though.bishop12shirtNext, we headed over to the campground.  The one real advantage here is that it is a mere 1/4 mile away from where the race starts and, in fact, we will run through the campground to and from the trails.  But… it’s just a patch of grass, next to running water, and presumably people who are not running the race.  I do spot, however, Mark Drake, from GVH in Davis, who has driven down (probably about 5 hours south) for this event, a couple of spots down.

Around 5pm, we head back to town for the orientation and dinner.  It’s at a restaurant called Whiskey Creek, and dinner is included with the race. (What a nice event.)  This includes lasagna, vegetarian sauce pasta, Caesar salad, carrot cake, garlic bread, and beer.  In terms of what was said at the orientation, I don’t really remember, but I believe it is the usual – don’t litter, thank your volunteers, follow the ribbons and don’t get lost.

After the dinner, we head back to the campground to settle in and get some sleep before an early start in the morning.  Of course, the campers around us are talking and I cannot really get to sleep until they stop and also, it takes me a while to get settled, because it is really quite uncomfortable.

The race starts early – 6am – which means we are out before first light to walk on down to the race start (along with a few others in our campground).  I am tempted to talk loudly as we pass the tent of our neighbors, but I don’t really waste my energy.  I spot some folks I know and then pretty soon after we get there, the race starts, basically backtracking along the same road we followed to get to the start, through the campground and then out the back gate and onto the trails.

The trails are fairly soft and not a lot of rocks embedded in them.  It’s not quite sand, but it can get a bit dusty.  I know not to push the pace too much (after all, I have quite a ways to go), especially because the base elevation of the race is 4,000 feet and we have about 20 miles of a steady uphill climb ahead.  Most of these first few miles, however, are flat and rolling hills, so I take advantage of any downhill section to try and stay ahead of the game.

The first aid station was at Mile 5.7, after a bit of an uphill increase.  They just have water.  I’m told by the volunteers that this spot is really close to the 100K turnaround point (around Mile 55 – more on that later).  My split is 76 minutes (about 13:20/mile) and I am doing well and ahead of pace… which may be good OR bad.

For the next section, it continues uphill and gets rockier, to the point where I am essentially walking in the ruts formed by vehicles, and even then, it isn’t great.  We stay on the road going mostly straight for a few miles, and then turn onto a different trail.  It’s exciting for a bit because it goes through some dense plants – a welcome change from the vast desolate mountain road we have been on for some time.  I strike up a conversation with Linda, who lives in Ridgecrest.  I think she is recovering from an injury and probably shouldn’t be this far back in the race.  We reach the next aid station at 9.7 miles, Junction.

This section takes me 75 minutes (though a mile and half shorter in distance).   At the aid station, they offer my chocolate covered strawberries (POISON!!), but I do get some nice strawberries… and they are also making blueberry pancakes on a hot grill, but I am not at the point yet to eat anything substantial.

From Junction, I am heading a mere 1.5 miles up to Buttermilk.  While the trail has been a sucky push up rocky roads, suddenly, it tapers off quite a bit and becomes a slightly marshy (wet, but not muddy) traipse through a wooded area… and shaded in spots.  It is starting to get warmer.

Next is McGee Creek, which is the turnaround for the 20 miles (I believe) and I am starting to see a number of runners coming back towards me (and have been for several miles).  I manage this section in 44 minutes (around the same pace as before) and head off towards Edison.

Looking ahead on the trail, it looks like a 5 foot deep water crossing (which I’d heard about), but there is a detour, which has us crossing the water on a 2×4.  It’s not bad, but I wonder how it will be several tired miles from now.

Once across the “moat,” there is more uphill, followed by a screaming downhill and then more rolling hills.  I am enjoying the scenery even if I am having more trouble breathing, as I am above 8000′ at this point.  I see Aimee Fillipow (who I thought was in the 50 miler, but dropped back to the 50K) heading back to the finish.

At Edison, I have now covered 15 miles in 4:17… and inching towards 18 minutes per mile (where I think I need to be to finish under the time cutoffs).  I have a drop bag at Edison, but as I am coming back here twice more, I save diving into my bag until after at least one more outing.

From Edison, I am heading up to Overlook, the highest point on the course, at 9385 feet.  It is a steeper climb and I cannot push it at all.  Darcie Olk told me several years ago that when she got to Overlook, the ground was covered in snow, and that on the way down, she slid on her butt… but no chance of that happening today.  It’s in the 70s or 80s.  Blech.

As I am climbing up this hill, I am passing a number of people.  Later, I find out that it was the same couple that I ran with for a bit at Rocky Raccoon.  As I have said in previous posts, you tend to see a lot of the same people in the races because you probably run at similar paces.

I am a bit concerned with my pace as I do not want to be rushed and want to finish (especially after DNFing at Miwok 2 weeks ago).  I walk with some authority and do get up to the top.  I am told that they are waiting for about 10 people behind me.  At least I am not in last place.  My total time is 6:10 for 20.4 miles, and still right at the 18 minute mile mark.

Now to head back down the hill.  I give encouragement to the people behind me (I would want the encouragement myself), and work my way back down.  It’s not an out-and-back section, though there is about a mile of overlap on the trek to the top and back.  Then I make a turn and traverse along a hillside.

The best part here is that I occasionally look down at my watch, so I can hydrate myself approximately once every 10 minutes:  On the uphills, time is shooting by; on the downhills, I can’t believe how slowly the time is going.  This is because on downhills, I am covering more ground, hopefully making up time.

When I get back to Edison, I have covered the 3 miles at 17:00/mile pace (pulled back a little time, to an under 18:00/mile average).  I decide to get some Advil from my bag and apply some more Vaseline to my sensitive areas.  Well, due to (perhaps) someone rooting around in the bag, the Advil pills are all over the bottom of the bag… and due to the heat, the Vaseline is all but melted.  I do what I can, but need to continue moving along.

The next section is heading over to Intake #2 Aid Station (though there is no Intake #1 station).  The first part of this is a sketchy trail that goes to a metal pipe heading up a steep hill.  There is no choice but to “climb” up the pipe, which is difficult (due to mileage and due to sun-heat on the pipe) because the pipe is rounded and not really a “trail.”  At the top, I connect into a fire-road, which heads downhill, through a dead tree area and then up a very steep switchback section to cross over the ridge towards a campground area.

Although I cannot really determine the direction I will be going, I can see a number of runners on various switchback trails below me.  My trail moves downhill pretty gently and then eventually pops out onto a paved road and then drops down again to a reservoir road and the aid station at Mile 26.  The 2.5 miles take 49 minutes (average back over 18 minutes/mile).

Now I traverse the edge of the reservoir.  It’s the first time I have seen groups of people in hours, and most of these are not runners, but families fishing or hanging out.  When I get to the end of the reservoir, the trail turns to the left and heads down more of the switchbacks I had seen from the top of the ridge.  The trail here is pretty rocky (basically a double-track filled with gravel) and I am passing a number of 50 milers and 100K people on their way back.  When I am nearly at the bottom, I pass by Rafael (heading back).

At the bottom of the hill, I run through a campground on a paved road.  At the far end, I cross a wooden bridge over a raging stream and then the paved road turns into a rougher road, eventually becoming a dirt road.  I see more and more people coming back on this section, including Martin, probably 10-15 minutes behind Rafael (which is fine, since this is Martin’s first 100K and not Rafael’s).

At the end of this section, I cross the road and am on a single track paralleling a stream for about a half mile.  When this trail ends, I am on the actual road, and heading toward the Bishop Creek Lodge.  It is pretty lonely here; I don’t see a lot of people, but occasional speeding cars as well as intriguing purplish dirt.

When I get to the aid station at Mile 29 (and push my overall pace back under 18:00/mile), I tell the volunteers I am probably in last place at this point, but they reassure me (NOT!) that there are loads of people behind me.  I thank them for the assurance, sing part of the Star-Spangled Banner as thanks and then speed off back for Intake #2 (which is sure to have a lot of uphill ahead).

Now I retrace my steps… down the road, along the single track, back to the crappy paved, bridge and paved road… and I don’t encounter a single soul.  Not one person… not even a day camper.  Not last, my ass.

I slog back up the switchbacks to the Reservoir Road, mindful that cutoff times are looming.  I need to get back to Intake #2 by 10:15.  I have given myself 90 minutes to do what took me 50 minutes on the way out… and I did it in 47 minutes.  Plenty of time.  (OK, not really, but a little misplaced confidence at this point is what I need to keep going.)

They also tell me I am not in last place, but I am continuing not to believe them and also not worry about it.  Right now I have to worry about climbing up to the top of the ridge and then whatever the path back is (not back down the hot pipe trail).

As I passed by where the hot pipe trail popped out, there is clearly signage that indicates to pass right by it and continue on the fire-road trail (sort of the long way back)… and about a half mile out, there is some blue-and-yellow ribbons with a sign saying “Alternate Wrong Way turnaround.”  Apparently, some folks ignore the signage, come back down the hot pipe route, and then have to do some extra distance to make up for their error (better than a DQ at Mile 35).

When I get back to Edison for the 3rd and final time, I spend a little time readjusting my shoes (the inserts often move around), re-oil my groin and enjoy a little hand-cranked vanilla ice cream (made at the aid station).  Even though I have dairy issues, it really hits the spot (and I figure that I might be able to use the jet-propellant a little later on).

There is another runner at this aid station (also in the 100K) who was pondering dropping out.  When I come by, he decides that he is going to continue in the race.  I feel like this is serendipity, because another runner (and hence, company) is very motivating… though I don’t mind coming in last place.

We head through the marshy rolling hills back to McGee Creek.  When we get there, they are in the process of pulling up stakes.  Apparently, there is an interim cutoff (not published).  I don’t think we would have been pulled, but there would have been no aid station.  As I had said before, I did struggle a bit with the creek crossing.

Next is Buttermilk and Mile 41.2.  It is mostly downhill for us, and we have a very interesting conversation, though I find him very annoying how he is touting how great the Canadian health system is, but is really only finishing up Medical School.  (Also, this is his first ultra – 100K?  Really?  Not too bright, apparently.)  I change the subject because I can’t waste energy on his annoying opinions.  Buttermilk has something like a 13 hour cutoff, and we come in at 12:14, still about 45 minutes ahead (the same gap at Intake #2).  With the downhill, I have increased my pace, but slowed a bit due to being tired (16:45/mile).

Now just a mile and a half to Junction, which we do in 23 minutes (downhill).  My net pace (well, technically, OUR net pace) is now 17:43.  Still feeling pretty good about finishing.

This next 3.5 miles is a different path than we’ve been on previously.  We turn off the main road and work ourselves onto a WIDE unpaved road that goes on for MILES.  The surface is nice, but it is fairly flat, so I am walking more than running, even though it isn’t difficult.  In the distance (though it is getting dusky), I can see a Winnebago.  This is the Highway 168 aid station.  They have pizza and popsicles for us.  The Popsicle really hits the spot, even though it is getting towards evening and not as hot out.

From here, it is about 2.1 miles to the next aid station and the next time cutoff on the 100K course.  I need to be at the aid station in under 15 hours.  For the most part, the trail is easy going… more of the same dusty dirt path, but just before the aid station is an ankle deep water crossing… and no way around it.  Ah well… just go for it.  When we get to the aid station, we have a decision to make… because we got here in 14:19, 40 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  Essentially, there is 13.5 miles left and about 5 hours to finish (I don’t know how much leeway we will be given if we are over, but I would like to give it a go.).  I convince my compatriot to continue, since we are almost an hour ahead of the cutoff.

It is uphill to the max, but at least it is not rocky; it is the same dusty trail.  However, after about a half mile, the sun goes down completely and it gets really dark.  I have my light, but it is still just pitch black out.  Also, my feet really hurt.  I have to stop on several occasions to readjust my inserts, which means stopping, and sitting down somewhere and taking care of them.  We keep seeing a light ahead, but it is never the aid station.

What is left on the course is 3.6 miles to the aid station, 2.5 miles down to the turnaround (mentioned previously) (and 2.5 miles back up), 3.6 miles back down the hill, and 1.5 miles to the finish.

When we are about 20 minutes out of the aid station (but we don’t know that yet), my companion states that he is going to drop at the next aid station.  This discourages me completely, because I had some confidence to finish with someone with me, and practically none to trudge another 10 miles in the dark on my own.  I decide to ask if I could have credit for a 50 mile finish, if I drop at this aid station (Mile 52.1) and get to the finish.

So… when I arrive, I have the volunteers radio down and ask for a special dispensation.  The race director agrees to give me a 50-mile finisher award and time WHEN I come in.  However, we cannot leave the aid station (unless we walk back ourselves) until the people on the out-and-back return… so it is another 60 minutes (though 60 minutes off my feet) before they pack up and head down the hill.

Midway down the hill, my “buddy” gets out and gets a ride with his family.  I never see him again (but assume he made it home safe).  They drop me off just outside the park and I walk into the finish to get my award and turn in my timing chip.  Despite reaching Mile 52.1 in 15 hours, 53 minutes, I am given an official time of 17:24… which is when I crossed the line with my chip.  Ironically, I didn’t come in last.  There was another runner out there the entire time, who finished about 30 minutes behind me.

After refueling a bit, I walked back to our tent.  Martin had gone off to Mammoth to hang with his female friend, so I did get his air mattress.  I tried to decompress with Rafael about the race, but the loudmouths from the night before didn’t appreciate me blabbing at 1:30am.

In the weeks following the race, I still felt bad that I had gotten a free entry (and free Camelbak), so I spent some time consolidating 19 years worth of results into an Access database and then producing consistent-looking result pages for each year along with statistics about frequent runners, PRs by distance and age group and the PR progression over time.  I think it was well received.

And I will 100% (barring injury) be back next year to run the 50-miler!

Miwok 100K – 2012

May 5, 2012

Attempting my 5th ultra in 5 months, and it’s a tough one, but one that I have finished twice.  However, the course has been changed a bit from the past… something to do with complaints about people crossing the road (I don’t know who complains, since I never saw any cars while running down the road)… and the RD says that it’s a better course because the parking is more plentiful.

Maybe the parking was more plentiful but it was a hairy drive in the morning on a very twisty road in the fog.  It feels like the race started earlier in the morning as well.

So… on the old course, you start out along the coast on the sand, do a loop by the barracks and then work your way over to Tennessee Valley, then Muir Beach, then up to Pantoll, across to Bolinas Ridge Trail, down to Highway 1, back up, back down from Pantoll, up the Miwok Trail, and then work your way back from Muir Beach and Tennessee Valley.

Today, we start from Stinson Beach and head straight uphill to the start of the Bolinas Ridge Trail.  It is extremely slow going and I am thinking that I can hopefully make up some of this lost time when I go back down the hill.  The first 6.3 miles take me 1 hour and 48 minutes, for an average of 17:08/mile.  I need to average 16:20 to finish under the time limit.

From the top, we follow Bolinas Ridge across and then down to Highway 1 (like before, except that the turnaround is Mile 10 here and Mile 29 on the old course.  I know that I have to run this section harder because of all of the time lost on the initial climb.  This 6.4 mile section takes me 1:23 (or 13:00/mile), and then I turn right around and do the 6.4 miles back in 1:55 (or 17:58) – yow!  I am losing time!

Now, it’s time for the downhill and “making up time.”  Unfortunately, it’s the Matt Davis Trail, which takes a bit longer to get down the hill (7.1 miles instead of 6.3) and it is full of root staircases, stones and low lying branches.  For the most part, unrunnable.  I meet up with a gal who is having similar difficulty to me, Donna Braswell.  I guess we will get there when we get there!  By the time I get to the aid station by the Fire Station, I have covered the downhill miles in 18:00/mile.  Downhill miles!  The aid station is low on water and completely out of soda (which I am craving now)… this is because the temperature is unseasonably warm and they didn’t count on that.  Quite a few people have dropped here because of the weather and the fact that they will probably be unable to make any of the cutoffs.  I think I can still make it, but I cannot lollygag at any of the aid stations.

From Stinson Beach, I head up the Miwok Trail (steps galore… steps galore that you cannot really run up because they are steep and also spread out).  It is rolling hills and it is getting to be on the HOT side.  I am really struggling, but I catch back up to Donna just as we reach the Muir Beach aid station.  We covered another 7 miles at 23:00/mile pace.  It dawns on us that we have ZERO chance at finishing this race under the cutoff… but we would still like to get to 50 miles, just to say we did it.  The captain of the aid station says that we have to move straight through right now if we want to continue.  We tell her that we will continue, but we realize how slowly we are proceeding and that we know we will probably (definitely) not finish.

It’s just 4.3 miles to Tennessee Valley, but of course, it is steep uphill out of the Beach and then rolling hills down to the farm.  If we can cover it in an hour, we could still be ahead of the cutoff – that’s a laugh, given that I only was under 15:00 pace on the mostly downhill section.  About halfway up the hill, I have to stop completely, sit down and try to regain my breath.  I know it’s all over at this point.  It’s going to be a DNF (did not finish).

I do manage to get to Tennessee Valley Aid Station (38 miles).  The 4.3 miles from Muir Beach takes me almost 2 hours (26:30 per mile!).  Now the trick is that we need to get back to the start where our cars are.  The volunteers look around for someone who is cheering on their loved ones that can drive us back sooner than when the aid station closes up.  We find a lady cheering on her husband, but she says she is going to stop by Muir Beach on the way back.  Fine with us.

So, we drive to Muir Beach and wait in the car while she awaits her husband.  After about 15 minutes, she comes back to the car and asks if I can drive the car back to the start, because she is going to pace her husband in to the finish (7.1 miles from that point, Tennessee Valley was not quite the turnaround).  She tells me to leave her keys at the finish line and hopefully she’ll get them back.  Uh… OK.

So I drive back the car.  Donna is in the back seat and pretty miserable.  The car is small, so my legs are cramping quite a bit.  I am steering on narrow roads with my left hand and pushing on the cramps with my right… but we do make it back and then drop the keys off.

I see a bunch of friends (mostly drops – like Jan Maas, the Georgian gal who dropped at Rocky Raccoon just behind me when she missed the 80 mile cutoff) and get a report on the racers.  The winner is a repeat winner, but his time is 1 hour and 40 minutes slower than the year before.  When I ran this race (twice), both times I finished less than 30 minutes under the time limit, so if the winner is 100 minutes slower, there’s NO WAY I would have finished.

Later, when I reviewed all of the finishers, I saw that they let anyone who made the final course cutoff finish the race (even if they were over the 16.5 hour time limit).  Several of the finishers were close to 2 hours over the total time limit – that is, EVERYONE struggled.

Although I was not disappointed with how I did, given a hot day and a difficult course, I was now in the unenviable position of not being able to complete my goal of 12 ultras in 12 months.  I suppose I could double-up, but it’s tough enough having only 2-3 weeks in between long races as it was.  On the other hand, it was STILL early May… maybe I could find a race at the end of the month…

Javelina Jundred 100K – 2011

November 12-13, 2011

So… once I had gotten into my head that I was going to run 2 each of every standard medium and ultra distance, I needed to find a 100-miler to complete that collection.  Regardless of setting that additional goal, I wasn’t exactly confident that having finished ONE 100-miler, that I would be able to finish a second one.

What helped in picking Javelina (pronounced “Have-a-LEEN-a”) was that two of my buddies from Team Runners High were also doing it.  Another deciding factor was that there was a wimp-out option of 100K if you had a bad day.  Mitsuye “Mitzi” Morrissey was 100% going for the 100K, figuring it was her best option to finish a 100K, with an especially generous time limit.

The other runner was the (in)famous Hwa-Ja Andrade, who had finished many ultramarathons AND 100-milers.  Both of these gals were part of the group that convinced me to try my first ultramarathon… and I thanked (cursed) them every day for it.

We worked out our best bet was to drive out to Phoenix a few days ahead of time (split the driving) and give Hwa-Ja adequate time for preparation.  (I am usually prepared from the point when I leave to go to the race.)

Earlier in the week, I was looking for a book on tape to listen to and got Born to Run for $10…. and glory be, neither had listened to it yet.  I also brought a mixtape (though if you know me, you know that that means classical music and opera) just so the drive wouldn’t be too bad.

We left on Thursday mid-morning.  I couldn’t believe all of the stuff they were bringing.  Didn’t they know there were aid stations, and that we were running a 15-mile loop and could get back to our bags every few hours?  I had a bunch of Hwa-Ja’s snacks in the car, including seaweed rolls and rice, presumably all homemade.

We listened to part of the book on the way out, but when they talk over the tape, it’s hard to follow the “plot.”  Also, there was some issue with the playback in Mitzi’s car, where it skipped sections.  We changed over to music when the talking got to be too much.

We arrived decently early and checked into the hotel in Fountain Hills, a little outside Phoenix, somewhat near Scottsdale.

For dinner, we drove around a bit trying to find just the right place.  I don’t know WHAT I wanted, but didn’t want to spend a lot or eat something that would be churning around in my stomach.  We finally opted on a Mexican restaurant (busy!) and saw a number of other runners there as well.

Back at the hotel, I had one bed and the two of them shared the other (but would have been just as happy with the floor).  Found out that they keep extremely early hours, so at 7:30pm, I went down to the TV room in the hotel and hung out there until 10:30… because I couldn’t go to bed at 7:30!

On Friday, we went and picked up the packets and staked out a space.  Actually, we somewhat shared the space with Jean Ho, a runner I had met previously at AREC and on the trails.  Then we went back to the hotel to drop off Hwa-Ja, who had preparation to do.  Mitzi said “Leave her to it, or she will stress out.”  Of course, that meant we needed to do something to give her a chance to finish everything.

We headed over to the Cineplex and saw J. Edgar (the movie), and then got a bite to eat from Burger King.  It wasn’t the best, but it was on sale and hit the spot.  When we got back 4 hours later, Hwa-Ja was just about done!  (Still?)

Finisher's buckle

Mitzi and the cactus

We headed back to the check-in location for the mandatory pre-run briefing.  We also got a little dinner, but I didn’t overdo it, as this is what I will have to deal with in my stomach tomorrow.

Once back at the room, it was the same deal… the ladies going to bed early and me just trying to relax and watch some TV downstairs.  Obviously I would be up early tomorrow, but I don’t do great squirming around in the dark for hours.

On Saturday morning, we drove over to the park where the race was held.  There was a bit of a line to get in, which was frustrating since we wanted to get to the start and get going.  We couldn’t even park at the start, so I believe I dropped them off at the start, drove to the remote parking lot, caught the shuttle back and then walked the half mile from the drop-off to the start line.

Pretty soon it was start time.  I glanced down at Hwa-Ja’s pile of stuff near the start/finish line.  I’ve never seen so much stuff!!!

The course is 6 – 15 mile loops plus 1 – 10 mile loop (basically the same 15-mile loop, but with a shortcut – when you finish 6 loops, they give you a necklace which allows you to take the shortcut).  You don’t run the loops in the same direction each time, but rather switch directions after you finish each one.

They pick the date of the race to be close to Halloween, so many were in costume, and then they also want the moon to be full, so that it will be bright at night (“You won’t need a flashlight,” it states.  Yeah, right.).

6:00am.  The Start.  The first aid station, Tonto, is at 2 miles and has only water.  I try to run conservatively, as I don’t want to gas out immediately.  I do 27:37 (about 13:40/mile).

The next section is a bit of uphill on a sort of gravelly surface and double-track wide trails.  It’s rockier than I thought, but not technical rocky… just sore feet rocky.  It’s 6.4 miles to the next aid station, Jackass Junction (“Yackass Yunction?”) and it takes me about 90 minutes, so I am maintaining that 13:40 pace.

From here, I have 4 miles to Rattlesnake Ranch, which is mostly on a fire-road, and a net downhill.  I take the opportunity to run the downhills and speed up to 11 minutes per mile on the section (and 13:00 overall).

The last section takes me back to Javelina Jeadquarters [sic] and is about 3 miles, some fire-road, some sandy swale swatches.  This is particularly nice, because I am starting to see runners (the lead ones) coming towards me.  It gives me an idea of how slowly I am running in comparison to everyone else.  Since it is relatively flat (and some downhill), my pace is about 12 minutes per mile, and I finish my first loop in 3 hours, 19 minutes.

I grab some Clif Shot, grease my unmentionables some more, get some grub from the aid station, and now head in the opposite direction towards Rattlesnake.

Now it is 3 miles of flat and some uphill, so I am about 90 seconds/mile slower than before.

Out of Rattlesnake, towards Jackass, it is a steady uphill climb, on fire-road (yuck).  The temperature is starting to increase, but it is not as bad as I feared (Arizona in November!), because of the cloud cover, effectively keeping the sun from beating down on us.  I reach Jackass going at a 16:00/mile pace.

From Jackass back to Tonto, it is now the downhill double-track on gravel.  I pull some more time off, averaging 13:30/mile… but on the last 2 miles back to the Jeadquarters, I am starting to get chafed and have to walk like a cowboy… and average 23 minutes (!) per mile.

I try to do what I can with the Vaseline.  I am not sure why I am getting chafed so badly.  I have basically done a 50K, and it is just about the worst I have ever felt in that arena.  My 50K split (+ or – a few tenths of distance) is 7:17, so not too bad.  I avail myself of a Subway sandwich (arriving at the aid station at 11am (it’s now around 1pm)).  Now I will head back in the original direction.

I get about 20 minutes out before I see Mitzi, and Hwa-Ja is about 30 minutes behind me.  I, myself, am concerned about cutoffs (in the long run), so I feel like Hwa-Ja should be a little further along.  I am less worried about Mitzi, since she is “only” doing the 100K.

The Vaseline seems to be working its magic, as I “speed up” to 18 minute miles en route to Tonto, and even a little better (16:47/mile) to Jackass Junction.

Between Jackass and Rattlesnake, I encounter a gal with headphones on who is grooving quite a bit.  I somewhat run with her, but we don’t really talk at all.  At Rattlesnake, where they are playing Frank Sinatra tunes, I sing along, and that ends up sparking a bit of a trail friendship.  Maria Walton and I run together for a bit, but she takes off again anytime that I slow to a walk.  (I later learn that she was the paramour of Caballo Blanco, the protagonist of Born to Run.)  I have maintained sub-13:00s to Rattlesnake, but slow down on the 3 miles back to the Jeadquarters – a combination of sore feet and chafing.  I have now finished 46.4 miles in 11:29.

It’s almost 5;30pm, so I have some pizza (I think they had cheeseless for the vegans and that works for me, dairy-wise).  By the time I return, they will be on to burgers and hot dogs.

One thing that I have enjoyed on this race is how they utilize the chip-timing.  It’s not affixed to your shoe, but rather part of your number.  It’s the sort of foam-padded attachment that you see occasionally.  When you pass through the readers (side and above sensors), it beeps, and then your name and time appear on a large monitor (like a flatscreen TV), as well as distance.  It is somewhat disconcerting to see that some of the runners ahead of me are already 15 or 30 miles ahead!

Now I trudge back up the hill to Rattlesnake at a respectable 17:06 pace.  It is starting to get a bit dusky and that will continue until it gets dark.  I am somewhat concerned about the cloud cover.  I mean, I ALWAYS have a flashlight, but it could be really dark OR it could rain.

Just past Rattlesnake I am now over halfway.  Given that I am a little over 12 hours, and the time limit is 30 hours, I am feeling pretty good.  I have had some slow-ish stages in the middle here, but I am still maintaining a faster-than-needed pace to just finish… and that’s really my only goal.

I do slow down even more en route to Jackass (where I do have an additional drop bag, with some Blox and a jacket), maintaining 19 minutes a mile, and stay at that pace all the way to Tonto.

Once I get to Tonto, I am semi-bad shape.  My feet are killing me – BLISTERS!!! – and because of all of the rocks and gravel, I am beside myself with pain.  I hobble extremely slowly into the Jeadquarters, at a 37:00/mile pace.  (Note:  My pace takes into account my stoppage at the aid station.  If I finish 2 miles in 20 minutes, but stay at the aid station for 10 minutes, then my average pace is 15:00/mile.  On this particular section, I did not ACTUALLY do 37:00/mile, but I did go to the First Aid and seek treatment for my blisters.  This took around 30 minutes… so I probably did 22 minute miles… PLUS a long NECESSARY stop at the aid station).

I have now completed 61.6 miles in 16:19.  According to the RD, “100K.”  (Technically, that’s 62.2 miles, but the 0.6 miles is less than 1% of that total, so whatever.)  My time is comparable to my two Miwok races (16:14 and 16:05), though I think Miwok is harder, elevation-wise.

I set off back towards Tonto.  In the back of my mind is the time cutoff.  The first (of two – the second is the 30 hours overall) is 23:30 for 76 miles.  This means I have almost 7 hours to do 15 miles (around 30:00/mile).  My worst previous split for 15 miles was 5:23, so I should be OK… except that if I am right up against that time, I will have just 6.5 hours for the final 24 miles… that could be problematic.  I just need to keep going.  Gosh.  I wonder where Hwa-Ja is?

I get to Tonto in about 40 minutes.  It is pretty dark out and the clouds are menacing.  It is a few minutes after midnight.  A few minutes after I depart the aid station, I spot Hwa-Ja.  Let’s see… she has another 30-40 minutes to the Jeadquarters.  Her window of opportunity is even smaller than mine.

Just then, it starts to rain.  First, somewhat annoyingly, and then it increases to unbearably.  Luckily, I do have my Buff, so I pull it up over my hat to give me a little extra protection, but there is no doubt that I am going to get extremely wet.  Wish I had my jacket (6.4 miles away)!

In another hour, I encounter Mitzi.  I’m not sure where I am on the course, but she is on her homestretch, headed for HER finish, somewhere around 18 hours.

The biggest difficulty on the course is it is really hard to see where to go.  There are some glowsticks out there, but what was abundantly clear by day is NOT at all by night… and most of the course is ankle-deep puddles.  The blisters are still bugging me, but more than anything, it is just being so wet and the slow-going.

When I finally reach the appropriately-named Jackass Junction, it has taken me 3 hours (!) to do 6 miles.  I fetch my jacket from my drop bag and shiver uncontrollably by the Coleman heater (and consume lots of hot food).

I am at a crossroads here.  Do I continue?  I had some leeway, but it just took me 3 hours for 6 miles!  I have less than 3 hours for the next 6… and then I will be on the path I fretted on before.  It is STILL raining really hard.  I think I should just cut my losses now.  I decide to drop from the race at mile 70, and take my 100K finish.  Disappointing, but the right decision.

There is a truck available to drive several of us back to the start (lots of drops here).  They don’t have room in the cab, so we are in the bed, covered with a blanket.  Well, legs are covered.  We are still getting pelted in the race by raindrops!  And it’s COLD!

It’s a really rough ride.  I think, gosh, I would have hated to run on this (well, I mean, I did run on this, but it would have been a rough run, in the dark, in the rain).  I make a few friends on the 6 mile (probably hour drive) back to the finish.

When I get there, I am horribly cold.  I go to the first aid tent and sit by a blast heater and try to get warm (ironic now, being in Arizona).  I am so wet, that it doesn’t work that well.  I can’t even really lie down because my feet stick out the end of the blanket and that is probably the coldest part.

As soon as I get as dry as I can, I try and seek out Mitzi, who should have finished by now.  I am told that she went back to get her car and park it at the finish (because there is space now) and she is napping in the car.  I join her in the car nap and await whatever finish Hwa-Ja will have.

A few hours later, Hwa-Ja finishes… well, not the finish she was hoping for.  She is not fast enough for the final 24 mile loop-and-a-half.  Her 100K time was 18:24, but unfortunately for us (and for her as well), she didn’t finish the 76 miles until a little past the 23:30.   Later, she said that she wished she’d known that I dropped and she would have stopped sooner… especially because she had an awful (not helpful) pacer.

On the plus side, we get an earlier start back because we can leave at 8am, rather than noon or later, with an up-against-the-time-limit finish.  It was a pretty quiet drive back.  Hwa-Ja slept most of the way.  I drove most of the second half and was able to listen to the rest of “Born to Run.”

In the end, all of us got an 100K finish.  Hwa-Ja missed her goal of finishing an 100M and qualifying for Western States.  I missed my late-added goal of finishing 2 each of major long and ultra distance races (to clarify – 5K, 10K, Half, Full, 50K, 50M, 100K, 100M)… and Mitzi got her long-awaited 100K finish.

There can often be disappointment when you don’t reach your ultimate goal, but at the same time, deep satisfaction in finishing any race, no matter what the distance.

Post-race blister

Post-race blister

Finisher's buckle - the 100K variety

Finisher’s buckle – the 100K variety

 

Rio del Lago 100K – 2011

September 10-11, 2011

I had known Mark Vishnevsky for some time through both AREC and Team Runner High, but we had never been particularly close… but in the past year or so, we had the ultramarathoning in common.  He had gone up to the Bay Area and run the Headlands 50M in under 9 hours (I ran it a year later in 13 hours.).  We kept having conversations about him running his first 100 mile race, and narrowing down what would and wouldn’t work for him.  50K seemed like a good distance for him, and we had a pretty good time doing the Skyline 50K one month prior, but… I wasn’t sure about what would be best, 100-mile-wise.

I think there is a certain mentality (could be read as “insanity) in doing 100-milers.  You have to gird yourself up to being out WAAAY longer than you are used to being out there.  I don’t think it changes for a faster or slower runner.  Whether you average 15 minute miles on a 50K or 9 minutes a mile, 100 miles will still be a long, tough slog.

I think I went about it in the right away, going so far as to pick a race that was considered to be “easy,” but also finding a race where I would not get bored (mine had loops, albeit 20-mile loops – familiar, but not too repetitive).  The surface was also not too technical, meaning that I would not have to over-concentrate at night.

Mark mentioned to me that he had an interest in running the Rio del Lago 100K.  I felt like that would be a good jumping off point, vis-a-vis getting acclimatized to running 100 miles sometime in the future.  I was interested in doing the 100K as well, both because it had a generous time limit (18 hours), but because it was some of the same trails I had done at American River 50 miler.

Normally, when I do a race in the Sacramento area, I will stay with friends in Davis… but because the race started and ended in Folsom (about 40 miles away), I would be with Mark (and not on my own) and that I would definitely finish at some ridiculous hour; it would not be practical to stay with a friend and inconvenience them so much.

We decided that we would stay at the host hotel (about 5 miles from the race start).  At the same time, I got an offer from my friend, Doug, who had previously offered me his hotel points to utilize a room at one of my races.  He offered a free room at a nice hotel in Sacramento (but unfortunately 25 miles from the start).  It was a dilemma… until Doug offered to cover the costs of the room at the host hotel (which had really reasonable prices – we could afford it, sure, but I could not pass up this incredibly generous offer).

A week or so before the race, Mark decided to upgrade to run the 100 miler…. I wasn’t sure if he should do this, but if it seems right, then you should do it.  The plus of this situation is that our finishing times would probably be closer to one another, rather than Mark waiting for me 6 hours plus after he finished.

On Friday, September 9th, Mark, his girlfriend Michelle, and I drove up to Sacramento.  Mark and I took turns driving (since Michelle would probably have the lion’s share of driving on the way back).  We left a little later than we wanted, as Michelle was doing a personal training session that ran a little long… but we still arrived in time for the mandatory directions and packet pick-up.

I recognized a few folks there, including Donn Ozaki (I had been holding his drop bag from the Santa Barbara Blue Canyon Trail Race several months prior.), and Gordy Ainsleigh (who famously did the first Western States, when he raced horses (he was on foot against the horses)).  The instructions were not particularly helpful… just a lot of lecturing about following the course, and not cutting it short, etc.

We had some dinner, and then made sure we made an early night of it (early start and a long day).

On Saturday, we got to the start around 5:00am and began getting our stuff together.  I have a couple of drop bags… though for the most part, I usually don’t use much of the stuff, since races usually have everything I need.  The one thing I had in my bags was “Hornet Juice,” a product that Mark said was similar to Vespa (something some ultra folks take which allows them to maintain an even keel without inputting a lot of sugar).  Even though I don’t try new products for the first time at a race, I am doing that here.  If it doesn’t do what it should do, I can still ingress the usual crap.

There are 3 races today and all start at different times.  The 100-miler starts at 5:15am, the 100K (inaugural) starts at 5:30am, and the 50K starts at 7:00am.  I will get to see Mark set out and then set out myself.  There is a small out-and-back at the beginning, but not enough that we will see each other on the course.  We have some tentative plans to maybe meet up on the course (either on his way back or for Michelle and me to meet up when Mark is in between spots where she can give him support), but essentially, I will call Michelle when I finish, and we will either go assist Mark together or she will drop me back at the hotel (or something).

rdl

It is pitch black when I set off and the out-and-back is down a hill and I pretty quickly lose touch with the other runners in the 100K.  There are a dozen runners in the 100K, 50 in the 100 miler, and 30 in the 50K.

Once I get through the out-and-back, the course becomes familiar to me, because it is mostly the same course from Mile 26 to 31 on American River.  Most of this, however, is in the dark, whereas at American River, I am hitting this section around noon… not dawn.  I joke to myself that I just need to remember the course in reverse… because going forward, it is a little confusing… and it will probably be dark when I finish.

The first aid station is Granite Bay, and it takes me a little over an hour, so I made pretty good time (about 11:15/mile).  I am hoping to get a little further before the heat of the day hits, because I generally don’t do that well in extreme heat.

Next, I am heading to Horseshoe Bar.  Most of this section is shaded and has a lot of “stairs.”  All of these stairs are comprised of stones, tightly wound roots, and layer of roots (in other words, some are like actual stairs, and some are ascending or descending sections of short drop-offs).  This section is quite difficult because of the uneven paths and I slow to a more ‘walk’ pace (14:45/mile).

Next stop is Rattlesnake Bar (14.6 miles) which is at about the same pace as the last section, and more of the same.  My half marathon split is around 4-1/2 hours!  (Tough trails, though.)

The next section is some of my favorite parts.  It’s less technical, more fire road-like, and takes me by Power Plant (hydroelectric), Avery Pond (a pond area ABOVE the river – my FAVORITE section), and to the base of Cardiac Hill.  This is just before where the course diverges from the AR course.  The hill to the end of AR50 is steep but not as steep as Cardiac Hill.  I am maintaining a similar pace to the last few sections (15:48/mile).

Now… up Cardiac Hill.  It’s slippery in sections, and SUPER STEEP!  I am really hoping that I am not having to traverse this downhill in the dark (especially if I want to make the time cutoffs).  I am, for the most part, still totally by myself.

When I get to the top of the hill, I spot something very cool.  A flume.  (Wish I had a photograph.)  When I say a flume, I hope that you picture an amusement park log ride.  Basically, it’s a cement stream with downhill flowing water.  The trail path travels alongside it.  It’s about 2 feet lower than the path and about 3 feet wide.  So… it’s not as big as an amusement park log ride, but you get the general idea.  It gives me something to concentrate on, because it isn’t just staring at a river you’re following; it twists and turns (some hairpins).  It’s almost completely flat, as well, so it makes for a good recovery from Cardiac Hill.

When the flume disappears under a paved road (or the actual circumstance, APPEARS from under the road (because I am following the flume uphill at this point)), there is an unmanned aid station.  I covered this 1.5 mile section (to Mile 22.2) at a 26:00/mile pace.

Now I have 1-1/2 miles to the Auburn Dam Overlook (near the AR50 race end).  Some of it parallels more of the flume, and some is roads, and some is trails.  I do about 17 minute miles… but the temperature at this point is in the 90s, seeing as it is nearly noon.

The next section is totally unfamiliar to me, because it is past the end of the AR50 course.  For the most part, I am on a wide fire-road, and it is paralleling the American River, though I can mostly NOT see the river.  I saw some skinny dippers in the river, but too far away for me to gawk too much.  In the far distance, I can see my ultimate goal – No Hands Bridge.

I am actually somewhat familiar with this location, only because you can spot it from Highway 49 en route to the Way Too Cool course.  It looks like an “Aqueduct” Bridge and has railings.  (I guess I should learn the origin of the name – probably interesting.)  At the far end of the bridge is the aid station (Mile 28.2).  My marathon split is around 6:44.  I take a bit of a longer rest here as I am hot, and there is another big hill looming.

This next section is referred to as “K2.”  I am told that there are 7 false tops on this hill and that it climbs over 1000 feet in 0.9 miles.  It doesn’t help that there is not much shade and now the temperature is over 100 degrees.

I try and take this section slowly, but I am not doing very well.  I make it through probably 4 or 5 of the false tops, but struggle in the last section.  Some runners who are (yes) actually behind me, give me a better idea of when the false tops end.  I fade behind them, but it is actually pretty alarming how much trouble I have with this hill.  I will climb to some shaded section and then I will sit and try to cool myself down.  The 0.9 mile section took me approximately 37 minutes.  The other 3 miles took me 20 minutes each.  The next aid station (and the turnaround at 31.4 miles) is at the Cool Fire Station (the start of the Way Too Cool 50K, my first ultra).  My 50K split is 8:33… one of my worst times.  I am still on track to finish under the 18 hour time limit, but pushing it.

The course isn’t a true turnaround, because I am not going back down K2 (that might take as long!), but I am following some of the same course as the Way Too Cool course.  The one plus at this point is that at Cool is where the 100M runners do an additional 9 mile loop around the area (called the Olmstead loop).  I encounter a number of runners who are 9 miles ahead of me, but our pace is pretty similar.  The 100 mile course gets within about 5 miles of the end, and then they do 2 loops back to Cardiac Hill on the roots and stone staircase section… but for now, it is nice to see some other people.

One gal that I run with for some time is Cheryl Yanek, who tells me she is the RD for the Burning Man 50K (sort of a joke, but they do do a 50K AT Burning Man).  She is really struggling, and says repeatedly that she is going to drop at Cardiac because she knows she cannot finish.  I am assuaging her fears, and at least I get her to agree to continue on, so I will have a little company.  (She is cute, but a little too Progressive and set in her ways for me – especially at 32.)

This 3.4 mile section connects back to No Hands Bridge.  I accelerate to 15:44/mile pace!  My feet hurt quite a bit, and I KNOW I am getting blisters. =(

Now we follow the fire road back to the Auburn Dam Overlook.  When I get there, I ask about Mark’s whereabouts (to get an idea where I might encounter him).  He is 3 hours ahead of me.  I feel pretty good, but am concerned how bad it will feel going down Cardiac Hill and also how long I will have before Cherie gives up (or accelerates past me).

Just out of Auburn Dam Overlook, Cherie says that she wants to get to Cardiac soon, so she can drop and takes off.  I yell after her that when I get there, we should rediscuss the situation.  I don’t know that she hears me.

When I get to Maidu, the unmanned station (which is out of water), I have done the last 5.5 miles in about 18:00/mile pace… but now I am to the flume section.  Even though I enjoy the flume section, I really want to jump in and let the water take me to the summit of Cardiac Hill.  It would be refreshing and also get me there more rapidly.

Going DOWN Cardiac Hill is a struggle.  The steepness of the downhill is really hard on my knees, and I can only walk a certain way on my feet to prevent the blisters from getting worse.  At the bottom, I covered this section at 23:00/mile pace.  Yuck.  Cherie’s at the aid station, trying to decide.  I told her, unequivocally, that she should continue, because she is doing OK, and she would regret not following through if she had the opportunity.  She acquieses.  (She ends up being the last 100 mile finisher!)

Between the base of Cardiac and Rattlesnake Bar, I really have to go the bathrooom.  I know this will sound unusual, but I try and avoid urinating during an ultra.  I try to keep my balance of fluids and electrolytes just at the perfect point.  Part of the reason I don’t like to urinate is that I will lose my protection from chafing because I will be slightly wet afterwards and it will spread slightly… and then the chafing begins.   So, just past Power Plant, I accede to my needs… and then begin to chafe slightly.

I get to Horseshoe Bar (2.5 miles past Rattlesnake, 9 miles past Cardiac) around 8pm… and it is starting to get dark out.  I have my flashlight, but it is not the brightest.  That usually works pretty well for me, but on the root staircases, it is quite treacherous.  As I am making my way through this section, another runner comes through and suggests that I avail myself of her extra flashlight.  While I didn’t really want to carry a light in addition to my water bottles, the extra light helps out quite a bit.  I am grateful for the use of the light, especially in this section.

I get to Granite Bay in 17 hours, 27 minutes (26:00/mile in the last section, net 18:20/mile).  There is ZERO chance I can finish the last 4.9 miles in 33 minutes (even if I was ONLY running 4.9 miles).  No one gives me any grief, but I am ready to point out that the aid stations don’t need to close because the 100 milers will still be out there for an additional 13 hours.  I am pretty surprised at this point that I have not seen Mark (because I have encountered nearly all the continuing 100 milers in the dark, rooty section).  At Granite Bay, they tell me that he dropped down to the 100K and is done with the race.  (See, you should have picked an “easier” race!)

From Granite Bay back to the Start/Finish, it is the section that I had said at the beginning that I needed to remember backwards.  Too bad that was 3/4 of a day ago and everything looks different from the opposite direction.  Also, too bad that locals decided that they should take it upon themselves to remove the markers.  Look, if you want us out of your area, removing the markers isn’t going to hasten the process!  I do a lot of backtracking, because I do know that I have to find my way to the Folsom Lake Dam area, and if I can find the Dam road, I will know I am at the right location.  It is very frustrating, because I am tired, chafed in the ‘groinal’ area, it’s still hot (over 100 degrees despite being dark out), and my feet are blistered and hurt.  I did eventually find the Dam Road.

Once I get to this road, you can see where the finish line is.  I am walking like John Wayne after getting off a horse.  I am also stopping anywhere I can legimately sit to take the pressure off my feet and thighs.  About 3 miles out, I get passed by a 100 mile runner, Jimmy Dean Freeman (2nd overall).  It’s nice to see someone, though.

I finally finish a little before 1:00am, with a time of 19:23:09, in 11th place (plus the 24 people who dropped to the 100K distance).  I was almost 2 hours over the time limit, but I still got my finisher’s belt buckle.

Mark and Emmett at RDL start

Mark and Emmett at RDL start

What I am really craving at this point, is real food.  Attached to my race number the entire time was my coupon for a post-race meal.  Unbeknownst to me, this coupon was only good for the snack bar, which had closed at 9pm.  They could, however, offer me a PB&J sandwich (yuck, that’s what I’ve been eating ALL day along with rotten fruit, pretzels and peanuts).  So, I didn’t get anything to eat after the race.

The next bit was that I needed to get back to the hotel.  I called Michelle, and they had JUST gone to bed (so were asleep but not totally asleep) and she rallied long enough to drive out and pick me up.  I totally crashed out when I got back.

In the morning, Mark and I both needed to utilize the elevator to get down to the car for the drive back… neither of us could walk very well.  Michelle did the majority of the drive back, since both of us were useless.

The post-race annoyance for this event was that the results were not posted for over a month… a CHIP-TIMED race.  The excuse was that the webmaster was out of town running his own race – like we care – we paid for the race, so post our results in a timely manner.  This inefficiency, coupled with the high cost of the race and the relatively low value for the entry fee, convinced Mark and Michelle to start their own timing company and put on low-cost races, where the results would be posted immediately and accurately.  (The timing company that did this race, Desert Sky Adventures, is no longer affiliated with this event, and they only do a 100M event now.)

Despite having a tough time and a cruddy experience, I LOVE the belt buckle and wear it on top of my belt 95% of the time.  I would go back and run in this area again, but maybe not this race (certainly not the 100 miler).

Santa Barbara Endurance Race 100K – 2011

April 30, 2011

Part 3 in the quest to finish all 4 ultra distances in this series.  Part 1 and Part 2 were called “Blue Canyon Trail Race.”  This was supposed to be called the DRTE (Dirt Road Trail Enthusiast) but Santa Barbara didn’t like being called “dirty.”

I have established some rapport with the RD, Robert Gilcrest.  We have e-mailed back and forth a bit following the first race (pretty much organized badly and a horrifically difficult trail with no maintenance) and talked a bit more after the second.  I definitely wanted to be back here doing the 100K, but earlier in the year, I noted that the costs had gone WAY up… and no, I wasn’t expecting to run a 100K for $25 like in the first year.

I also noted that the website was a mess and hard to get through (grammatically, for example).  He agreed and offered to give me a free race (or two) in exchange for assisting him with the website and other writing.  Sounds good to me!  The “or two” allowed me to get Laura a free entry as well.

From looking at the course, Laura (running the 50 miler) and I would be on the same trail for about 10 miles, then I would head up to Divide Peak… and she would head down to Gibraltar Dam.  I would be on that same trail, albeit later in the race, later in the day… so we would not really see each other except for the first couple hours (and if she waited for me at the end).

There was also the inaugural 100 miler this weekend, but they were starting Friday morning at 6am.  Presumably some of them would finish BEFORE we started, and some we would see finishing while we were running the course.  They had a time cutoff of 48 hours, so it was possible that both of us could finish before the last place person came in as well.

When we arrived at the start, there was some news:  First, the overall 100 miler finisher had finished.  Second, the wind on top of the hill was super intense.  Several volunteers had had to abandon their aid station posts because the EZ Ups blew off the mountain and they were exposed.

Later, I heard a story of a runner who was freezing in the wind, and when he got to the aid station to get his jacket, there was no one there (his jacket locked up in someone’s car, I guess).  He spent 6-8 hours “camping out” in a Port-a-Potty.  No joke.

So… because of these high winds, the decision had been made to modify the 100K course.  Instead of going up towards Divide Peak, we would also head down to Gibraltar Dam, and back up… and back down… and back up again.  The good part about this was that Laura and I would be on the same course for about 37 miles… so we could run together if we wanted.  We wanted.

The first 6 miles of the course were somewhat familiar to me, though it was modified somewhat to head up to the top paved road from the get-go (rather than staying just below it).  This was due to heavy rains earlier in the month that washed away the evil, steep trail.  (So sad.  Just kidding.)

On the way up, we saw a few Marathon Maniac friends of Laura’s – Troy Lesovsky among others – who were coming in to finish a little over 24 hours.  About 2 miles up the trail, we were passed from below by a runner who showed up late.  I think he was running the 50K or 50M – Sean.  He was taking video footage and seemed to be having a blast (also, like 25 years old).  Later, we found him on Facebook – Sean “Run Bum” Cienfuegos Blanton (a mouthful).

Laura and I continued to trudge uphill and reached the first aid station in 98 minutes (yes, we were slower than 15:00/mile – it was uphill, after all).

About a quarter mile from the aid station, we found ourselves on a paved road with gentle undulations (aka rolling hills).  I wasn’t too excited to be on paved, only because it is a little harder on the feet.  We basically had 4.3 miles on this paved surface to the top of the road heading down to Gibraltar Dam.  We were able to run on this a bit… it was pretty windy up here, but I guess, had calmed down quite a bit from the night before.  We reached the aid station in just over an hour (yay?  we’re getting faster?).

Now we were back on the dirt fire road.  Much better.  It wound way around the hill, passing by where we should have popped out on the evil steep single-track.  There was an aid station here and also a staging area for reaching some of the other aid stations.  We reached this aid station in 68 minutes, covering 4.8 miles (about 13:00/mile).

From here, the trail continued downhill, quite a bit steeper to the bottom, and then a brief uphill and steep downhill to the aid station. This particular aid station was familiar to me, as it was the turnaround for the 50K two years ago.  It was also special because it was where a pen pal I had found through one of Robert’s volunteers would be working.  We talked briefly and, well, we did not hit it off at all.  We never corresponded (I’m talkin’ e-mail here) ever again.  Oh well.  I don’t think she understood my mentality especially once she saw me out there.  Laura and I managed about 8 minute miles for this section.  It felt good to be able to just stride out down the hill and maybe bank some time for later.  At this point, we also began to see people in our own race who were returning from the turnaround.

The next section was wholly unknown to me, because in the 50-miler two years prior, we turned right and ran around the lake.  Today, we went left and zigged and zagged around the properties and storage areas. The crappiest part of this trail was you would get to the aid station, and then I had to do a half-mile out-and-back section which was basically downhill on gravel and then back up… supposedly to make the course long enough.  We covered this 5-mile section in 1:18 (back to around 14:00/mile).  This is the turnaround and we can begin to head back.

The temperature began to get a bit hotter on this next section, slowing me down.  I still have to climb back up a long hill and come back down here.  =(   On the return trip, I encountered the last-place runner in the 100 miler.  I made note of my time, because I wanted to calculate how far I was behind him (he was doing his one-and-only trip down, so when I reached the top, I would know if I could catch him before he reached the end!).  It turned out he was about 80 minutes ahead of me at this point.  Our return trip to Gibraltar Dam was quite a bit slower, and then we headed up the dreaded hill.  Progress was interminable.  I knew there was no way I would catch up to that 100-miler (and I already knew I was FAR back in the 100K… and no one in the 50-miler was going to do 13 miles fewer AND finish behind me (unless Laura waited)).

The trek back to the ‘halfway up the hill point’ was super-slow, taking about 26 minutes per mile… and then the last chunk of change to the paved road averaged another 16:00/mile.

And thus I took my leave of Laura, and she headed back up over the hill to finish (well, several hours later).  I headed BACK down the hill.  My second time down, well, I just wasn’t as motivated, and averaged about 12:00/mile (rather than 8:00).  It was pretty lonely, because I only saw the 4 or 5 100K runners who were still on the course.  I was excited to see my friend Juliet Morgan (who ran the inaugural 100K two years prior, and got lost a lot), and she informed me that the course was a bit long, so I should remind the people at the aid station that I didn’t need to run the gravel course and I didn’t have to do the out-and-back where the paved met the in-trail.  Good news, thanks!

I did waste a little bit of time at the “gravel” aid station getting confirmation that I did not need to do this extra distance.  Trust me, it was plenty far!

I also spotted the last place 100-miler again and this time calculated, I was about 35 minutes back… maybe I CAN catch him!

I felt a little bit better up the hilly fire road the second time around – the temperature had cooled off a little bit, too – and managed around 24:00/mile.  Smokin’!

By the time I got back to the paved road, the wind had all but died down completely.  I had finished just over 50 miles in 13 hours and 44 minutes… but still had a half marathon to go.

It was starting to get dark and I tried to hasten my pace a bit so that I would not be on the toughest part of trail at the darkest part of the day.  My feet were really killing me because I had on trail shoes and they were not well suited for the paved road.

Up ahead, I could see a bouncing light.  I wondered if it was the last-place 100-miler.  It was.  He was really struggling, but the good news was that he had about 7 miles to go, and around 11 hours to do it.  (If he couldn’t finish, that would be sad – in the sense of pitiful AND lacrimosal.)  I wished him luck and headed for the final aid station.  I was still managing 15 minute miles on the paved section, but now I was bound for more difficult trail… and IN THE DARK.

For the most part, I was on a wide firetrail.  The problem, however, was that I had no depth perception and stumbled quite a bit.

About halfway down the hill, a vehicle with the drop bags was passing me.  This provided me with blinding light for part of the time and then sporadic light help the rest of the time… and then once it passed me… no light.

Towards the bottom of the hill, the trail has some stream crossings and more confusing twists and turns that don’t work out really well when there are no glow sticks and only periodic reflective tape trail markings.  Finishing at a 23:00/mile clip was not that bad, considering.

I finished in 16 hours and 53 minutes.  I really felt like I didn’t even do that well… because my two times at Miwok were both over 16 hours (but faster), and this course had 33,000 feet of climbing and descent (which is a lot – like climbing Everest and going back down a bit).

When I got to the end, I had to get the attention of someone, since no one was manning the finish line.  I was the 7th of 7th finishers, and I finished around 3 hours behind 6th place (Laura finished in just over 12 hours.).

I was not able to get my medal right away because it was in the radio guys’ truck and they were asleep.

Postscript:  The last-place 100-miler finished a little after midnight.  He finished in around 42 hours.  That’s a freakin’ tough course!  Next year, I want to attempt (and complete the 100 mile course and complete my collection.

Miwok 100K – 2010

May 1, 2010

I entered the drawing once again for the Miwok 100K.  They did the lottery a little different this time… well, UltraSignUp did the lottery, and there was no “sign up with a teammate and you both get in system.”  Basically, they drew names and then had a waiting list.  I was something like 4th on the waiting list, which is tantamount to an automatic spot in the race (because at least 50 people ALWAYS drop out).

Since I had already done the race last year, I had a better idea of what to expect, and figured to improve upon my time even if it was pouring again… because I would know where the tough sections were and I would have my advantage of being able to maintain a fast walking pace up the hills.

Fortunately, the day of the race, the weather was much more moderate (and not hot), so I had the confidence of performing much much better than last year… and for the first five miles, I was running (and walking) better than the first year.

Just before I got to the first aid station at about the 10K point, I heard a unusual, but familiar sound… it was Amy Dodson from last month’s American River 50.  The plonk-plonk of her carbon-steel prosthesis sounded the same on pavement as on trails.  She looked really good and ran right by me.  I didn’t keep her in sight at all and maintained a 13:00/mile pace through the beautiful coastal section leading down to Tennessee Valley aid station.

Once I got down there, her boyfriend/husband was assisting her with a different prosthesis (some difficulty with it staying in place).  I soldiered on; the next section was downhill paved to dirt to the Pacific Coast Trail (and a bunch of uphill).  I did a comfortable pace down the hill (so as to not put a strain on my lungs prior to the uphill) and then began pressing the pace walking uphill.

After about 5 minutes, however, I hit the proverbial wall.  I couldn’t press the pace walking and slowed to a hands-on-hips bent over slog up the hill.  From behind, I was passed once again by Amy, who commented that she would see me at the end, if she made it that far.  I grunted an assent, because I felt really really cruddy.  When I got to Muir Beach, I had slowed to a 16:40 pace (including a downhill section!).

Uphill struggles

Uphill struggles

From Muir Beach to the next aid at Pantoll, there is a one-mile fairly flat section (after crossing Highway 1) and then 4 miles of relentless uphill (great!  Now that I can’t do uphill today…).  At the base of the hill, I caught up with Amy.  She was starting to struggle, too.  I told her about last year when I did the previous mile (or so) with Eldrith Gosney, and she imparted to me about how the first 20 miles and the last 4 are the worst.  Both of us were definitely at our worst, but we encouraged one another up the hill, hoping that we would feel better once we passed mile 20.  It worked, at least, to get ourselves up the hill (at about a 17:00/mile pace – not bad for 80% of the section being uphill).

Once we reached Pantoll at about Mile 22, we decided to stay together for a bit and encourage one another.  This section was particularly hard for Amy because it was single-track and it wasn’t completely level.  It messed with her balance and also rocks or branches would get hooked on it and nearly trip her up on several occasions.

The benefit of being together for about 6 miles was most advantageous to me, personally.  The leaders had started to come back from the Mile 35 turnaround, and being slower runners (I don’t necessarily agree with this rule, because we will struggle more in getting to the end and making cutoffs.), we had to move to the side and let these runners pass.

However, in passing, every single one of these runners commented, “You guys are SO-O inspirational!”  I responded, “Thank you, but I know you are mostly talking to Amy.”  Still, this kind of reinforcement helped.  I make it a point to say something nice to each person I encounter (mostly to people returning on out-and-backs and mostly ahead of me), and for the most part, they NEVER say anything in return (too engrossed with headphones or just conceited).  We picked up the pace by almost a minute per mile and were invigorated at the Bolinas Ridge Aid Station.

However, once there, I began to notice the looming cutoff time.  I had 1 hour, 42 minutes to cover 7 miles (or about 13:18/mile).  While this seems totally reasonable, it was rolling hills (but at least not 6″ deep water this time)… and my pace on the flat single-track was 3 minutes/mile slower!

I left Amy behind (she encouraged me and didn’t think she would make the cutoff) and I went off by myself to try and make the cutoff.  When I got another runner just ahead of me that we needed to turn on the pace to make it, she seemed willing, but 5 minutes later, when I turned back to say something, she was not staying with me.  Her mind was willing, but her body was not.

My body was not particularly happy with me, either, but I kept telling it that I was going to make it and it could rest if I didn’t.  I passed about 12 runners in this section, encouraging each to pick up the pace slightly to try and make the cutoff.

With about 2 miles to go to the aid station, the trail turns left and heads significantly downhill.  This is where I have to really turn it on to make it.  I ask each runner coming uphill about how long ago they left the aid station to give myself a better idea on how much time I have left.  At the top of the hill, I have about 42 minutes to make the cutoff, but I would prefer to have some leeway, rather than just make it and then be struggling for the next cutoff.  In other words, I don’t want to get to mile 58 and miss it by 2 minutes because I eased up at Mile 35.

I ended up making the cutoff by 19 minutes and my pace in this section was 11:30/mile!  That’s a pretty good pace after doing a marathon!  As compared to last year (in the rain), I was almost 45 minutes SLOWER! ?!?!

I spent little time at the aid station, knowing that I needed to turn around and go right back up that tough hill to make the next cutoff at Mile 50 and then the next at Mile 58.  On the way up, I saw Amy, who was about 10 minutes behind me (she made the cutoff, too, but now had 10 fewer minutes on the return trip).

I went at a more relaxed pace back up the hill (wanting to make the cutoff, but not wanting to exhaust myself from finishing the race.  Having made the cutoff, I just needed to maintain no slower than 16:40/mile to finish (including finishing in the dark… so maybe a little faster than that).  I returned to Bolinas Aid Station at a 16:07 pace.

From Bolinas, you head back along the uneven single-track to Pantoll.  Maybe I was invigorated by having made the cutoff, because I did this section in 15:20/mile, nearly a minute per mile faster than with Amy.

From Pantoll, you head down the steep uphill back to Muir Beach (about 55 miles).  I made that interim cutoff by about 25 minutes (but still slower than in 2009).  From Muir, you head back up onto the Pacific Coast Trail, but come into Tennessee Valley Station from a slightly different direction.  This is the last cutoff, and again, I made it by about 20 minutes (but still slower than last year).

The plus, once you get to Tennessee Valley and make the cutoff, is that you are pretty much guaranteed to finish… even if you are going a bit over the overall time limit (they give you the benefit of the doubt).  It was already starting to get dark, so I was going to finish in the dark (despite a Muir Beach volunteer telling me that I could still finish before dark – though I had calculated to do so, I would need to accelerate to 9:00/mile!).

At Tennessee Valley, I saw a familiar face – Martin Sengo from GVH – he gave me some aid and some encouragement before I sped through the aid station and headed up the horse switchbacks to the last bit of trail – uh oh – the last 4 miles.  No rain or fog this year, though.

After about a half mile of the switchbacks, the battery died on my headlamp.  There was a little power left, so I was able to turn on the red light.  You can see a little bit better than with no light, but not much.  This was almost as bad as the fog and slowed my pace considerably.

Without the fog, however, I could actually see where I was going.  On part of the uphill stretch, there were these cloth bags filled with sawdust placed just before a dip in the trail.  Whenever I spotted one, I knew that I should treat it like a hole, just so I would not stumble as much.  Other than that, I utilized my vision of runners ahead of me to see the trail (or when a few people passed me).  One runner shown his light behind me when we traversed the uneven stone staircase down towards Rodeo Beach and the finish line.

Once at the bottom of the stairs, we were mostly on a paved path with a yellow line (couldn’t really make out a color, but that’s what I assumed) down the middle.  I just fixated on the line and the cowbell noises emanating from the finish.

Just before the end, the trail turns to the left twice to turn into the finish.  Volunteers would spot incoming runners by their bobbing headlamps… so I surprised the heck out of everyone when I suddenly appeared (since they probably did not see a bobbing RED headlamp).

I finished in 16:02:11, about 12 minutes faster than last year.  Wait, what?  I was FASTER?  But I hit every aid station slower… except for the last 4 miles, when I did 19:00/mile, instead of 23:00/mile.  Awesome!

Postscript:  I found out that Amy had missed the cutoff at Mile 50.  I felt like she was good to go, but she told me later that she was happy with her result, despite not finishing.

Another item of note was that UltraSignUp ranked runners by how they thought they would finish.  I was ranked 10th to last.  Of those who finished (because there were people ranked ahead of me who did not), I finished… 10th to last.  How weird is that?

Miwok 100K – 2009

May 2, 2009

Flashback to November 2009.  My friend Tiffany Forster asked if I would join her in the Miwok 100K lottery.  I did not intend to do any races longer than 50 milers, though in the back of my mind, I thought MAYBE one day, I might consider it… but probably not.

The trick with the Miwok lottery was that if you signed up with another person and one of you got in, then both of you would get in.  I guess, in a sense, you increased your odds somewhat.  And we DID get in (otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this.)

I didn’t train really any different for Miwok than I would for any other 50 mile, 50K race.  I thought that my best bet was to get a bunch of time on my feet, and since I already knew that I could handle 14+ hours (Santa Barbara Nine Trails 2003), this had a time limit that was ONLY 2-1/2 hours longer.

Tiffany’s training wasn’t with me, but I would get periodic updates about how it was going.  For the most part, the updates were that she had a cold or she wasn’t running because she was getting over the sickness.  About a week before the race, I was told that she wasn’t doing the race at all.

I had made plans to stay with my folks (though they would not be there), fly up, and also use their car (nice parents!).  I wasn’t wild about doing the race alone (or at least having no one to commiserate with at the end (either sore or DNFing)), so I checked to see if I knew anyone local to carpool with.  I noted that Rafael Covarrubias (from AREC) was also signed up, so I checked with him to see what his plans were.

He was going to drive up on Friday and had made no definitive plans.  I suggested that he stay with me in Oakland (also pick me up from the BART station so that I didn’t have to walk the 2 miles (up a very steep hill) to my folks’ place), and I go with him to the race.  Saving on a hotel room appealed to him, so our “party” of two was set.

For the week leading up to the race, the weather was not great.  We were told that the race would go on, regardless of the weather.  It positively poured while I was riding on BART and it poured on the short drive up to their condo.  Rafael said that he didn’t think he would go if it was still pouring when we got up to leave at 3am the next morning.  I said, “You better.”

Around 10pm, it stopped raining, but the forecast was for the rain to start up again around 9am the next morning.  Good enough for me!  (Good enough for Rafael.)

I didn’t sleep much, and I didn’t sleep much the week leading up to the race.  (I got to work on that.)  We left plenty early and arrived at the start about 5:15am for a 5:45am start.

The start is in a fantastic area called Rodeo Beach.  To get there, you drive over the Golden Gate Bridge out of San Francisco and take the first exit.  Depending on what is open (since I have driven a number of different ways to get to this start), you either drive over a ridge or through a long one-way tunnel.  You follow a road along the coastline that simply ends.  The cars were probably 100 feet from the ocean.

It was very cold and damp at the start and there didn’t seem like there were 350 folks (many didn’t show up due to the weather), and I got myself prepped (fill water bottles, drop off dropbag, etc.).  It wasn’t raining (yet), but it was plenty foggy.

The actual start of the race was not where we checked in or parked our cars, but a half mile up the beach on the sand.  Yuck.  I like nothing less than running on sand (hopefully, this isn’t the finish, too).

We started promptly at 5:45am in the dark.  I have my headlamp on, but it doesn’t do much in the fog.  I basically walk on the sand, because I feel that nothing is served by running and tiring myself out from the get-go.  I fall back from the bulk of the pack (but there are others walking, too).

After about a half-mile, we get onto firm land, but it is very narrow – a bottleneck – and there is a line to go up it.  I am concerned that I will lose valuable time by just standing still, so I edge past people (not in a rude way) when I can step over plants or to the side on slightly wider sections.

At the top of the hill is a bathroom building and some other governmental buildings, and we wind our way up on a paved road to do a loop by old military batteries.  It is completely foggy up here.

Foggy batteries

Foggy batteries

Then we circle down and come back near by the start on a grassy fire road, but start to climb again… into the thick fog.  This is a pleasant double-track trail along the coast (can’t see anything, though), and then we work our way down on switchbacks to Tennessee Valley aid station at Mile 7.2.  I am there in about 80 minutes and feel pretty good.

From Tennessee Valley we take a paved road out towards the ocean for a few miles and then hook in on the Pacific Coast Trail (steep), which has a mileage sign for how far it is to the Oregon border (!).  This is a set of rolling hills along the coast and then a descent on wet wooden stairs down almost to the water.  It is slippery!  Don’t let me kill myself on a ill-timed fall!

Eventually, we make our way to a fire road that heads downhill into Muir Beach and the second aid station at water’s edge (Mile 12.5) – 2 hours, 24 minutes have elapsed.  It still hasn’t started to rain.  With all this fog, I am hoping it doesn’t start.

From Muir Beach, we head out to the road (Highway 1) and stay along the edge of the road.  There are a few cars, but not a lot, and there is a volunteer that keeps us safe.  We turn onto a trail that parallels a side street and is taking us towards the big hill.  At this point, I recognized one of the runners around me (who I had seen, but not met, at American River 50), and called out her name, because it was slightly unusual – Eldrith Gosney.  She is 68 years old and has done this race a dozen times (she lives in the area, too).

She gave me some advice about the course.  She said that the first 20 miles are the hardest (we are at about 14 miles now) and the last 4 are also difficult.  So… just maintain once I get to Mile 20 or so?  Yes.  We are going through a dense plant area and across a couple of wooden bridges with signs that say that horses cannot go over these bridges (I guess they go through the water).  We emerge into a field of cat-tails and then cross the road to start heading up the hill.

Cat-Tails

Cat-Tails

I look at my watch and it says 8:55.  I am thinking… it’s supposed to start raining soon… if it starts raining.  A couple of minutes later, it starts raining… HARD!  Just in time to start climbing the hill.

I turn to Eldrith and say, “It’s been nice running with you.  See you later,” because I do so well walking up hills.  She jogs right by me!  Dang.

This is a long and fairly steep hill.  Not more than 4 or 5% grade, but that is enough to make it difficult when it goes on for 4 or 5 miles.  At the top, it starts to smooth out and there are some buildings to our right.  The difficulty is exacerbated by being on paved road briefly before getting to the Pantoll Aid Station (Mile 21.7) in 4 hours, 36 minutes.

At this point, the wind starts to pick up, too.  Now we are heading out on the single-track on the hillside.  Because of the fog, you can’t see more than a few feet in front of yourself, but because of the wind, I can’t really look up, either.  It just goes on and on and on, broken up occasionally by small thickets.  These are nice because it is like being in a rain forest, rather than in a rainstorm.  I mean, I am still getting wet, but more dripped on than sprayed on.

There are a few landmarks (though if it were not foggy, we could see the Golden Gate Bridge), such as a rusted out old truck just below the trail.  The trail is also angled a bit, so it is not flat, but angles towards the hillside.  There is no danger of slipping off, but the going is awkward.  Eventually, we work our way up towards the road (and see occasional cars driving by) and then up through another thicket (with lots of uphill) to a wide redwood-infested fire road and the Bolinas Ridge Trail aid station (Mile 28) in 6 hours, 20 minutes.

Now I have 1 hour, 35 minutes to cover the next 7-1/2 miles and make the cutoff.  We continue along the ridge road, which heads uphill.  The surface is a lot of redwood and pine needles on top of mud and water.  Pretty much every step is wet or in muck.  A lot of folks are not traversing the center of the road, but walking on the edge.  By the time I get there, much of that resembles the middle of the road, so it hardly matters where you run.  This trail undulates gently, so I run what I can on the downhills and walk the rest.

I am getting concerned that I might not make the cutoff, so I even speedwalk or run some of the flats as well, but soon I get to the left-hand turn that leads about 2 miles down to the next aid station.  It is pretty considerable downhill and VERY muddy.  The good news here is that I have done a few Way Too Cools where I am on mud the whole way, so it is not foreign to me.

I ski and skid and slide much of the way down (on my feet, not my ass) and reach the turnaround aid station (Mile 35.6 – over halfway!) in 7:40, 15 minutes ahead of the cutoff.

The ascent is not great.  It is still as muddy as before, so it is like one step forward and 5 steps back.  What works best here is to put your feet in a “V” pattern (like you would if you were trying to go uphill on skis) and just trudge uphill best you can.  I also offer encouragement to those heading downhill, trying to give them an idea of how far it is and whether they will make the cutoff or not.  I see my friend Hwa-Ja, and I don’t think she will make the cutoff (she does, but is unable to reach the 2nd cutoff in time)

On this uphill section, I strike up a conversation with another runner, Tracy Hixon.  She is meeting her pacer (probably her boyfriend) at the Bolinas Ridge aid station, but we pace each other (sorta) until we get to that point.  I’m wondering how much time we will lose on this section, because of the uphill mud climb.  We reach Bolinas Ridge aid station (Mile 42.8) in 9 hours, 20 minutes.  So, it took 1:20 in the “downhill” direction, and 1:40 in the “uphill” direction.  I’ll take it.

I stay with Tracy and her pacer for a bit, but they are much faster than me and it is all but useless to have any kind of conversation in the dense fog.  The good news is that it has stopped raining.  The bad news is that it is even windier than before.  We are basically retracing our steps from earlier and going by the rusted-out truck on the single-track.  The combination of mud and wind means that in certain sections I had to grab onto tree branches in order to climb up even minor (10′) inclines.  I am pretty pooped when I get back to Pantoll aid station (Mile 49.5) in 11 hours flat.  But I keep trudging on, as I have a half marathon left, and I don’t want to get a DNF at this point (but I may).

I do what I can to jog back down the hill (skied a little), back down to the Cat-Tails and the No-Horse Bridges.  Here is the section where it diverges from the original course and starts winding up onto the Miwok Trail and crosses the Panoramic Highway up in the hills.  We wind around on a foggy fire road and then work our way back down to Muir Beach aid station (Mile 54.7) in 13 hours.  (2 hours to go 5 miles!)

Now a difficult ascent out of Muir Beach and heading back (not really along the coast – more elevated fire road adventuring) to Tennessee Valley.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the last time cutoff.  There is a time limit for the course of 16 hours and 30 minutes, but I have been told that if you leave the last aid station in time, they will give you a finisher’s time even if you are a little over the total time limit.  I HAVE to be through Tennessee Valley by 14-1/2 hours, so I can have 2 hours to complete the last 4-odd miles (see before about this being the most difficult section).

My feet hurt quite a bit at this point and I am not certain that I can do 3 miles in 90 minutes.  I know that seems wild, but, there it is.  I have now exceeded the longest distances I have ever done in one day and I have to keep going.  Before I get to the aid station, I exceed the longest time I have ever run for (14:06 at Nine Trails).

I am starting to give up hope when I start to see the stables, and I know that I am close.  I get into Tennessee Valley in 14:20 (Mile 58.4) and I am “home-free.”  I put on my headlamp and start heading up the switchbacks into the darkness and fog.

Probably about 1 mile up, the fog is so thick I cannot see anything and the headlamp is not helpful.  Additionally, my glasses fog over, so not only can I not see anything light-wise, I can also not see at all.  I end up setting my glasses on top of my head (fastened with my Croakies) and then grasp my headlamp in my hand (also holding two water bottles) to try and focus at a lower level.

I have 20/400 vision without glasses, so I cannot see or focus on anything.  I am stumbling like crazy, because I have no sense of depth perception.  I am breathing heavily, because there is a lot of steep uphill.  I am walking into bushes, because I don’t know where the trail goes.  I have probably a full hour where I can hear voices of people ahead and behind me, but I don’t actually see or interact with these people.  It would have helped if we could go through this together.

There are glow sticks out there, but unfortunately, I cannot focus well enough to see if I am following the path (and I can hear the ocean and do not want to walk off a cliff) or if it is in the distance and I am just seeing the faint glow from a different angle.

Finally, I get to a landmark that I recognize from the description, which is a stone staircase.  It has a “bannister” made of PVC pipe strung along metal pipes in the ground.  It is not really strong enough to support grasping.  On the other hand, the stone is slick and a stumble is going to make me cramp.  It is around here that I encounter my first person on this section and we help each other (mostly he helps me) get down the stairs.

This last section is on a paved path.  I’d even go so far as to say “a bike path,” because there is a yellow stripe down the middle.  I just zig and zag all the way to the bottom.  It is extra encouraging, because I can hear voices and the ringing of a cowbell every time someone finishes.  I am pretty close to the cutoff, but I am not worried about at this point, because I will be ever grateful to get out of this danged fog.

Finally, I make the final turn and soon after cross the finish line in 16:13:57 (made it by 15 minutes, I guess).  I get some food and my finisher’s prizes (a medal, a cloth shopping bag with backpack straps, a beer glass and a 20 oz. bottle of commemorative Lagunitas Pale Ale (with a Miwok 100K label on the bottle)).

Rafael is waiting in his car (because it is very cold out) having finished a couple of hours ahead of me (but not upset, because it gave him a chance to rest before the drive back).  I am a bit of a mess.  I have dirt caked on my legs up to my knees (basically where my shorts start).  I spent much of the car drive back to my folks pulling dirt off my legs onto a newspaper (so I don’t make too much of a mess in his car).  I also have horrible foot blisters and everything is really sore.  I don’t think that either of us slept really well on Saturday night after the race.

In the end, I am really happy with my result and think that I would be up for trying a 100K race again.  My favorite line about his race is that when you ask me ‘how did it go?’ I can answer, “Miwok.  Miwok a lot.  But I finished.”

So far in 2009, I have done a 50K and a 100K.  I have some quality time on my feet.  I think I have to find another race this summer to keep this good streak going!