Category Archives: 12K

Twin Peaks 50K (33M) – 2017

October 14, 2017

Back again for another Twin Peaks 50K.  I got a deep discount because I volunteered all day for the Harding Hustle this summer, but I also like to help out as much as I can for this event as well, which means showing up early to help with the set-up, checking in, and all that fun stuff, before I myself go out and strive for a good result.

Laura and Angela show up fairly early, too.  There are a number of starts for this event:  early 50 milers go out at 5:00am, regular 50 milers off at 6:00am, 50 kilometers off at 7:00am, and 30 kilometers, probably off at 8:00am (I’m not sure, because I am always long gone by now.).


There were probably 8 early starters on the 50 miler, and Laura and Angela get special consent to leave with the regular 50 miler crowd.  (Good idea, because it’s supposed to be hot today.)

While I am hanging out, I go to adjust my glasses and pull my hat off, forgetting that my headlamp is still on there.  When it falls to the ground, the plastic casing breaks and the light won’t come on any more.  (Thank goodness I’m not in the 50 miler, because I would really need the light.)  (Afterwards, at home, I try to fix it, but it hit so hard that I can’t remove the batteries and once I am finally able to do so, I have to completely break it.  Time for a new headlamp.)

Tsehay and I leave with the regular group and keep hoping beyond hope that the shadows continue to stay over the course (because once they lift, the heat will increase).

If you read previous posts of this event, you will note that I usually walk the entire first 6.5 miles of this section, because there is just so much climbing.  My goal is usually to do sub 2:05.  This is just a time I came up with that’s mildly faster than 20 minutes per mile, and usually around the range that I usually run.

I strike up a conversation with another guy towards the back.  I think this is his first ultramarathon (why’d ya pick such a hard one?) and he says that he does not like uphills… but he will definitely catch me on the downhills… a downhill specialist, he says.  I will keep an eye out for him passing me.

I would like to break 2 hours, but that has yet to happen.  2:03 makes me pretty happy, and when I get to the top, Tsehay is there.  She runs some of the uphill, but she loses a bunch of time at the aid stations, so that’s where I can catch her.

Now over to West Horsethief, which is indicated as fairly flat, but is really about a thousand feet up and down, the up section being very technical (loose gravel or tephra surface).  Four miles, one hour, and I don’t sprain my ankle!

Down West Horsethief is the section I do not like, very technical, makes me nervous.  I set out ahead of Tsehay (gabbing at the aid station) and get through the “easy” part of the trail, though some of it has washed out, making for a precipitous downhill section early on.  (Some runners slide on their butt.)

I just try and maintain a smooth descent and not trip and not bang my head (do both of those several times but moderately).  A number of folks pass me by as downhill isn’t my thing.

By the time Horsethief connects with the trail at the bottom, the sun has really come out and upped the heat, and even when I have a whole fire-trail to myself, I am just modified race walking, moving forward.  4.2 miles, 1:24… an even slower pace than that last extreme uphill/downhill section.

Now onto the dreaded Holy Jim (or Holy! expletive!).  This sucks.

My one advantage this year is that I am so familiar with this trail that I know how many turns, I recognize “checkpoints,” and so I can manage my pace more comfortably.

I may have talked about the dual water bottle situation in the past, where I always carry two, but rarely use both.  One is usually totally full the whole time… but not always.  I have been able to milk one water bottle for an eight-mile section (I guess that means two bottles will get me through 16?), but today?  Too hot for that.

I do end up going through both water bottles in this 4.5 mile section.  I am hoping that the “unmanned” water station will still be here.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t, but I could certainly use a refill before the 3 miles to the top.

When I get up to the road, it is water station-mageddon.  There are/were cases and cases of gallon jugs (you know, the boxes with 6 one-gallon jugs inside?).  I have a spare Nuun tablet in one of my water bottle pouches and I drop this into one of the unopened gallon jugs.  I use it to refill both of my water bottles.

Then, I grab one of the bottles that is probably 1/4 full and down the whole thing.  Then I find a completely full box and sit down on it (ahhh) and find another partially filled bottle and drink that.  I was probably there 20 minutes and drank AT LEAST one gallon of water. I must’ve been pretty pretty dehydrated. 2 hours and 16 minutes to this point.  I am excited about doing 20 minute miles on this section (especially when my personal worst one year was 45 minutes per mile).

Tsehay catches up to me here and we set off on the long slog (3 miles, 1600′ climbing) to the summit of Santiago Peak.  It is steep at the beginning, but when it levels off, we are into the sun and out of the shade.  Just keep moving forward is what’s important.  We stay together for a bit but I am a little faster on the uphills.

The first 1.5 miles takes 46 minutes and then onto the steeper section (and more technical) for another 51 minutes.  When I get to the top, a couple of the leaders in the 50 miler are coming up for their second summit (somewhat sad realizing that I am going to run 20 fewer miles and slower than these guys).

I open up my drop bag (in which I have stored spare Nuun, duct tape, and a ice-cold beer).  I have been looking forward to this cold beer for miles now, but don’t hold out a lot of hope that it will still be cold 8 hours later.  Sure enough, it’s warm to the touch.  I have a bottle opener in my water bottle pocket (just useful to have and doesn’t take up much space).

It’s pretty foamy when I open it (maybe the elevation?) and the beer is extremely hot – not room temperature hot, but hot soup hot!  Nevertheless, I am going to drink this well-earned beer.  Neither Angela nor Tsehay are particularly interested.

Time to head down.  I have about 10.5 miles to go, and pretty confident that I am not going to cover the distance in under an hour, so not going to break my PR on this course.  It’s 90% downhill from here, though a lot of it is technical, so it won’t be fast going.  I am also mindful of the “downhill specialist” overtaking me, so I am not going to pussyfoot it.

I take the initial 1.5 miles (to the “parking lot”) easily.  The “downhill specialist” is still on his way up, so I can use this opportunity to stay ahead.  It takes me about half the time (but this does include my beer stop) in 27 minutes.

Now to head down Upper Holy Jim.  This section has its pluses and minuses.  What I like about the trail is that it’s mostly single track and not terribly technical.  What I don’t like is the sections where I have to bend in half to get through, the couple of gravely downhill hairpins, and the “quarter-track” sections where I have to walk single-file, because I cannot fit both feet on the path (my balance isn’t THAT great).  But what I also like is that this covers essentially the same distance as the uphill from (regular) Holy Jim to the “parking lot” and this is WA-A-A-Y easier – 25 minutes versus 46 minutes.

Once I reach the Main Divide (and the radio folks, there’s a little over a mile to get to the top of Indian Truck Trail and the 6.5 miles downhill to the finish.  It’s rolling hills.  I struggle on the ups and shuffle on the downs (’cause my feet hurt now) and it takes me about 20 minutes.  Tsehay is there and chatting and just about to take off for the last stretch.  (She’s the “real” downhill specialist and my only chance to beat her is to leave her chatting there.)

The last stretch isn’t purely downhill (a half-mile uphill stretch about a mile out) but it is pretty endless.  I run when I feel OK and I walk briskly the rest of the time.

The whole way down I spot these carved out hearts in the middle of the road (with a stick, presumably).  I want to preserve for whoever these were carved for, but most encompass the entire fire-road and I’m not going to run off a cliff for something so fleeting (more on this later).

I manage to cross the finish line in 11:16:39, less than 10 minutes behind Tsehay and about 3 hours behind Laura (started early AND beat me by an hour).  Angela’s not far behind us, though she did have that hour head-start.  And the “downhill specialist?”  He finished about 15 minutes behind me, but he said that all he thought about was catching me.  Well, this “uphill specialist” beat ya!


After I get myself rehydrated and fed, I continue to help out with finishers and with packing stuff up.

As it gets dark, there is some concern about the final straggler in the 50 miler.  His wife has been pacing back and forth at the finish line (she ran the 30K and carved out all those road messages) wondering why he hasn’t finished yet.  It’s the usual, “But he left the last aid station 2 hours ago.”  I can tell you that when I did the 50 miler, it was a haul when you are so tired and even harder in the dark.

When the time limit came and went, we packed up most of everything just to be prepared, but left the finish line up (and the timing’s just on computers).  Suddenly, we spot a headlamp bobbing down the trail – the final finisher.  (Unlike some races, here if the RD lets you continue, you get a finish and a time, even if you are over the limit.)

His wife was beside herself, but couldn’t help asking him if he saw all her little love messages.  His answer, “Nope.  It was pitch black out there and it was all I could do to stay on the road.”

2017 marks 5 total Twin Peaks finishes for me (4 50Ks, 1 50M) and I can still say that this race, this trail, this wilderness is still a total challenge for me.  I would recommend any trail enthusiast to try it but not expect to run your best.


Bay to Breakers – 1998

May 17, 1998

I drove Riva and some members of her centipede to the start.  They had to get there early, because they were seeded, and had to get into a certain area by 7:00am (with an 8:00am race start).  That ended up putting me VERY close to the front, and I didn’t have to wait as long to cross the starting line.

My first mile was 10 minutes (trying to get out of the pack), but I was able to accelerate nearly every mile (except 9:00 on the Hayes Street Hill).  My goal was to finish in the top 10,000 (to get my name in the paper, and maybe PR or at least, to break an hour).  I finished in 59:43 (no PR, but not bad considering the crowds) and I placed 1460 out of 75,000 (top 2%).

Riva and her centipede (13 athletes attached together) finished in the top 50 or so runners.  A little history about the seeded centipedes.  If you look at the results, you will note that the Reebok Aggies ALWAYS win the seeded centipedes – men and women.  But in 1998, the women’s team failed to register.  My sister’s team was some of her East Bay Striders teammates and they were sponsored by a little-known energy bar company called Clif (at least, at that time, relatively unknown).  Riva’s team was beaten by the Reebok Aggie women, who then tried to register for the race (at the finish line).  That didn’t work, and my sister’s team was declared the winner.

As winners, they got access to the VIP tent (my sister was tossing gourmet snacks and fruit drinks over the fence to me), won a silver platter, and got VIP shuttle service back to the start.  Riva was selected to pick up the award and was sitting next to the female award winners (all African-born), and one said, “Are you 4th place?”  Ha ha.

I’m not sure how we were getting back to the start, but by virtue of the win, they would get a shuttle ride back.  Since it was my car, I also got to ride back with the VIPs.  A cool experience.

Bay to Breakers is fun, but after an hour being crammed in at the start, I decided that I would not run it again, unless I ran a sub-seeded time (something like a 42-minute 10K) in order to get out ot the rabble rousers at the start.  My idea of fun is not shuffling in a huge crowd.

Houlihans to Houlihans 12K – 1998

March 22, 1998

I returned to the scene of my best 12K to try and run the course again.   This year, I had a fast enough time to qualify for the earlier starting time.  It’s particularly exciting after running just over a year to be considered ‘fast enough’ to be in the fast group.

As with last year, we start out from Houlihan’s in Sausalito, head downhill to the ocean, and then head up a steep path to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, then down through Golden Gate Park to the SF Houlihan’s.

Leading up to this race, I increased the number of days per week that I was running.  For the most part, the increase was due to helping Jennifer prepare for her Boston Marathon.  On Tuesdays, a Tempo workout.  On Thursdays, a 7-mile run, and on Saturdays, a 10-mile run.  (In the evenings on Monday and Wednesday, I have my Early Music Ensemble rehearsals… and work during the day.)

I liked to record the times and splits on all of my workouts.  For you modern day runners, this is before the advent of 100-split watches.  Of course, I had the most basic watch – a watch I received for my 9th birthday, which had ONE lap, so in order to record multiple splits, I have to memorize my times (fortunately, I am really good with numbers).

The first half of the race (including the hill), I average about 8:25 per mile, and in the second half (when I am tired, but there is more downhill), I average 7:30 per mile.  I run a few second PR of 59:16.


Chevys to Chevys – 1997

September 20, 1997

At my first Chevys to Chevys (my first REAL 5K), I did the 5K, but the REAL Chevys to Chevys ran between TWO Chevys (rather than in a circle).  It was point to point, and they offered a shuttle between the end and the start, plus the run was along park paths (instead of streets) and would be more interesting.

Plus, with the course being relatively flat, I could maybe improve upon my Houlihan’s to Houlihan’s 12K time (no steep run up to the Golden Gate Bridge here).

As with any race in my first year-and-a-half of running, I ran conservatively at the start and worked my way up.  Ideally, I wanted to break one hour.  I remember the park path being covered almost completely by trees and having a few bumps in the path.

At one of the bumps, I lost my balance and almost knocked over the female runner next to me.  I quickly apologized, and strangely enough, I kept seeing her in many of the races that I ran, because we had a similar pace (and no, we didn’t date – she was in her 60s – Myra Rhodes).

I managed to get to the finish in 58:09, a new PR!

Afterwards, we had a small Chevys snack and got the ride back to the start, which was a scary start.  The shuttle buses were yellow school buses and the road was not wide enough to accommodate the entire bus.  In order for it to turn around, it would pull minutely off the road, turn the wheel hard, and make a 30-point turn.  Because it was a school bus, in order to shift from Forward to Reverse, the engine was turned off and then on again.  I wondered if we would ever make it back to the start (or if it would be quicker to run back).

After these races, I would unpin my race number and then tack it onto my wall, along with a note about what happened (as in, if I PR’ed).  I also logged all of my runs, races or not, into a journal.  I have continued the practice of logging all of my runs, but not pinning all of my numbers on to the wall.  I still have ALL of my numbers, but I keep them in albums or in numerical order (trying to collect one of every number).

Bay to Breakers – 1997

May 18, 1997

I decided to make a return to Bay to Breakers and participate as a runner (rather than a non-paying bandit).  My roommate, Valerie, was also interested in participating.  We stayed with my folks in Piedmont, and then caught BART to the start.

In 1996, we started about an hour after everyone had left, but this time, we were at the start prior to the actual start of the race, and there were a lot of people there!  Basically, you could look down 6 blocks of streets (or at least, I could, because I could see over everyone’s heads) and see nothing but a sea of humanity… and beach balls, tortillas, and more.  People were throwing all sorts of (soft) items, and guess what?  I got several of them bouncing off my noggin.

Since we arrived relatively early, we were fairly close to the front of the race, but it still took us about 15 minutes to get across the starting line after the gun went off, and even so, there were lots of bandits jumping in from all directions.  It was crowded, crazy and chaotic.

Val and I made it a point to decide on a meeting point before the race started, because I KNEW we would get separated.  Impossible, unless you are part of a Centipede (which we were not).  Even before the Hayes Street hill, we got separated.

I enjoyed the run much more than in the previous year (also because the people around me weren’t “dying”), and I averted my eyes more than once when several male naked runners flopped by.

I got to the finish in 1:16:07, which was good enough for placing in the top 10,000 (which is how many they listed in the newspaper).  Val and I met up at Footstock, and eventually got back to my folks’ in the East Bay.  My parents excitedly said, “We taped Val on TV for a few minutes.”  Apparently, when Val got to the Panhandle, some TV reporter convinced her to stop for a bit, put on a rainbow fright wig and dance or juggle or something.  Crazy.

Houlihan’s to Houlihan’s – 1997

March 23, 1997

I ventured back to San Francisco a couple of weeks later to do the Houlihan’s to Houlihan’s run.  This would be my second 12K (7.5 miles) and I hoped to improve on my 90 minute time from September, especially since I had run 2 half marathons at about a 10 minute pace, but this shorter race at a 12-minute pace.

There were two Houlihan’s restaurants in the area – one in Sausalito, and the other, near Ghirardelli Square, in San Francisco.  This was one of the most challenging (and beautiful) races I had done.  The start was NEAR the Houlihan’s (I’m guessing the logistics would be have nightmarish to start 2000 people AT the restaurant), and immediately headed downhill, basically down to the waterfront, looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge a half mile away. Then, you headed up a steep switchback up to the Bridge, ran over, through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, and finished at the other Houlihan’s.

Because of the sheer size of the entrants, there were 3 start times:  Group 1 was those finishing under 1 hour, Group 2 was those finishing over 1 hour, and Group 3 was Race Day Registrants.  Each start group was separated by 10 minutes.  I was in Group 2, by virtue of my ‘over an hour’ previous finishing time.  I remember that a high school classmate, Drew Mickel, was in Group 3.  I wondered when the fastest of that group would overtake our group…

I started out fairly slowly, with most of my group going at breakneck speed down the first hill… and continuing fast until they saw the switchbacks.  I continued at a careful pace and then did a combination run/walk up the hill, passing many of the people in my group who forgot that the race was not 1 mile long and going over the bridge.

When I got to the other side and into the Presidio area, I saw Drew and some of the other Group 3 people pass us – they must have been going pretty dang fast!

My favorite part of the race was realizing that I was going to smash my PR, but I almost smashed into the street, trying to avoid someone who was taking pictures, but not watching where she was stepping!  I finished in 62:05 (a 8:19 mile pace), improving my time by over 28 minutes!

Bridge to Bridge 12K

October 14, 1996

Two weeks after my first (official) 5K, I came back to the Bay Area to run in the Bridge to Bridge 12K, nevermind that this would be more than twice as far as the 5K.  I remember being very nervous about the distance (even though I had done Bay to Breakers 6 months prior, but was hoping to run this race).

The Bridges referenced in the race are the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, basically starting at the Bay and ending at the Golden.  As I recall, the course was mostly flat, though it had a sick loop where you passed by the finish line (but there was an 7K that turned at that point).

At the starting line, I struck up a conversation with a women in her 50s who, like me, was hanging out near the back.  She said that she had a sore ankle and wanted to take it easy, but run as much of it as possible.  I suggested we hang out together, and she consented.

We started out VERY slowly, and finished the first mile in 18 minutes (slow!).  We talked and ran easily, but tried to pick it up every mile, if possible.  I don’t remember her name but she told me that she was Barbara Eden’s stand-in or body double for I Dream of Jeannie, and other projects.  She did kinda look like her.  After 3 miles, we had accelerated to about 13 minutes per mile (negative splitting every mile so far).  At this point, she took the 7K route, and I continued on.

Seeing as I was about halfway through, and feeling OK (and already having completed more than 5K), I tried to keep picking up the pace.  I ran my last mile in about a 9 minute mile, and was able to run each mile faster than the last (it doesn’t always work out this way).  My time was 90:30, a PR.  I thought I could probably go faster for a 12K, but thought it better to finish.

Kevin ran also, but much faster, and my dad came to watch and to take pictures (which I may eventually scan and post).  It’s funny to look at how I ran and my body type at that time.