Category Archives: 50K

Wild Wild West 50K – 2019

May 4, 2019

After finishing the 50 miler last year in Lone Pine (including an hour early start with Alan and Darrell), I decided to take advantage of the early entry fee and see if I couldn’t get in another completion on this beautiful and challenging course.

Alan isn’t in this year.  He has the PCT 50 miler next weekend and I don’t think his wife would look kindly on being away all day two weekends in a row.  Darrell is running also but I was unable to make arrangements vis-a-vis a formal place to stay.  I’ll probably nap in my car until the first bus drives up (last year, we drove up to the campground and started on our own).  While the race starts at 5am, there is a bus to the start at 3:45am, and the website does say you can keep your own time.  That’s our plan.

I arrive in Lone Pine super early on Friday.  Bib pickup is at 5pm, so I have 2-3 hours to kill.  I read the newspaper in the car and try to take some catnaps.  At five, I wander inside and talk with my many ultra-friends who are here, like Kim and Beth, Linda, and even Tam P. and Angela are up for the marathon.

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Tam, me, and Angela at the info meeting on Friday.

At the bib pick-up, it’s the usual confusing pre-race briefing.  I guess it gives the race some characters, but it confuses the hell out of first-timers.  They make a big deal about the fact that they are doing a different start this year so there won’t be any issues with the Tuttle Creek campground.  (Though, I guess if you are staying at the campground, you have to figure out how to get to the new start.)

After the meeting, I drive over to the parking lot across the street from the finish line, and try to get comfortable in my car for a short sleep.  It’s a little cold outside but I have my sleeping bag and I sleep diagonally across in the driver’s rear seat to the passenger front seat.  Not sure if I am actually sleeping.  I am having vivid dreams about the course.  Even though I have run this course before, I am sure that the dreams are just a generalized course (and I don’t need to wake up exhausted from previewing it).

I wake up well before 3:45am (!) and I made special sure yesterday to avoid eating much the night before because I will not have the opportunity to utilize a toilet (unless I want to squat on course).

The bus pulls into my lot around 3:35 and I grab a good seat.  The bus isn’t particularly full (maybe 1/2 to 3/4) and it is mostly first-timers who are nervous about finishing the race (though I don’t think there are many starting early).   I chat with a few people who are first-time marathoners (and one or two 50Kers).  Scary that they pick a race like this for their first.  It’s so hard.

As opposed to 2 years ago (because last year we drove ourselves to the start), the drive is a lot shorter, because we are not starting at the campground, but off the road.  It’s dark, windy, and a little cold.  This isn’t the best starting spot, because there is little space for us to congregate.  Darrell is there; I think he camped or stayed nearby and just drove to the start.  We start almost immediately.  No way we’re waiting for the 5am start.  I’ll definitely need all the time I can get, especially because I am still wearing the knee brace.

57451100_2252201981698891_9127245720967970816_nDarrell, Emmett, and John Radich at the start

So, we head off on a trail that goes off at a slight angle from the road, maybe double-track, and pitch black (dark even with headlamps).  After about 45 minutes on this trail, it pops out in the Tuttle Creek Campground (?!?).  I hope they’re cutting off a portion of the trail because they just added 5K to the course!

As usual, the path isn’t marked that well within the campground, so we wander for a little bit trying to remember which side of the campgrounds leads to the trails.  Nothing like getting lost at Mile 3 of 53.  Our misfortunes from last year helped a little bit here, including taking the left-ward path once we figured out where the trail continued.  I wish they would be clearer on the markings in this section.

Even though it’s dark, the trail seems a little more familiar, that is to say, we wander through the bushes and work our way over to the main trail and get to the first aid station.  According to the map, this is Mile 4, and look, it took me over 4 hours!  (Probably really 7.1 miles.)

We’re starting to get caught up by other runners.  This is a good opportunity for Darrell to push the pace a bit and I let a couple of runners surge by me on the water crossing section because it is slippery, hair-pin turns, and my leg is bound up a bit.  Once on the other side, a little bit of uphill, but then a long downhill fire-road run.  This second aid station is run by the Badwater race folks.  I saw the sign for 20 minutes and kept trying to guess what it said (Bad Mother?  Mar weather?).  It’s a little mosquito-y around here, as we are by a short water crossing.  I fared much better in this section, around 10-11 minutes per mile (so ACTUALLY 4 miles this time).

A change to the course this year for the marathoners (50K and 50M course still the same) is that everyone climbs up to Whitney Portal.  (The marathon course avoided that in the past.)

So now begins the long uphill slog.  This section has always been trouble for me in the past and nothing really changes this year.  It begins with a steep fire-road, leading to single-track switchbacks (gentle rises), and then a single-track hugging the hillside (with drop offs on the right).

About 5 minutes into this section, I come upon a large tree blocking the path.  I wish I had a picture to show how troubling this was (maybe three feet in diameter).  It wasn’t the case that I could throw my legs over it or climb under it.  You couldn’t edge to the right because of the drop-off.  The only choice is to use the tree to climb up the left part of the hillside, climb around the top part of the tree, and then carefully descend back down to the single-track.  This is even more difficult with the brace and my two hand-helds.  I carefully balance myself up, over the tree, throw my water bottles carefully down, and edge back onto the trail, mindful that I will have to do this again on my way back down in a few hours.

Also, I am now very out of breath and not able to move very fast up the trail.  (I mean, I am climbing up to 8400 feet.)  It’s slow going, especially on the sections where I am sorta climbing up stairs because my knees hurt.  Some people passing me, luckily not that crowded.  On this section, I see Kim Gimenez coming down.  We exchange some niceties.  Always great to see her.

When I get up to the beginning of the campground area, there is the appearance of some permafrost or snow, luckily not across the trail… yet.  Even though I am struggling with the thin air, I like this section of the trail because it is nicely built evenly spaced wooden stairs.

Now we get into the heart of the snow.  First, there is a narrow section curving around a rock and all tromping through deep snow.  Then there is a flat section that is nothing but snow.  It’s not too slippery (it’s kinda cool, though) but I do need to concentrate on where I place my feet so I don’t get cold AND wet feet.

A few minutes before I get to the aid station, the top, and the turn-around, I see Darrell.  I joke I will catch up with him soon.  This 3 mile section took me over 2 hours. Hope I do better on the way down.

On the way down, I see Linda Dewees.  She WILL catch up to me soon.  I spot a few other people who are struggling up the hill.  I started about an hour early and I see people who started on time two miles behind me and having just as much trouble summitting.

I do what I can to manage a faster speed heading down the hill, knowing that it’s going to take me a while to climb back over that tree on the way down.  It seems to be worse coming down the hill, and I am just as out of breath, even though I am heading downhill, but I do clear it and continue to the easier part of the trail (switchbacks, steep downhill), and the turn off to the back half of the trail and another mile to the aid station.

A nice comparison coming down to going up, with 1:26 for 4 miles downhill versus 2:05 for 3 miles uphill.

From here, it’s rolling hills through the Alabama Hills section.  I use my long legs to “power up” the hills as much as I can.  It’s usually pretty windy through this section.  I see few runners here and manage a sluggish 23 minutes per mile through Mile 18.

From here, it’s 4 miles to the next aid station and where I will make a decision on whether to continue on to run the 50 miler or drop to the 50K if I am not fast enough to finish under 16 hours.  Given that I am at 7 and a half hours now, it doesn’t look like a good option to continue (and I am okay with that).

I try to hustle a bit to give myself every opportunity to continue, but I reach Mile 22 in 9 hours.  There’s just no chance to run 28 MORE miles in 7 hours.  I did the math, 15 minute miles, but a lot of that would be in the dark.

So I take the turn off for the 50K, maybe a little forlorn, but I know it’s the right decision.

The trail is better marked than last year (or people didn’t mess with it) so I have fewer problems and don’t wander around in a circle coming back to the aid station and not finding the inbound trail.  I mean, now I have 7 hours left to do 9 miles.  I can get lost a little bit.

It’s fairly lonely here, because I am towards the back of the 50K runners and mostly ahead of the 50M runners.  Also, this section is a narrow single-track (here called a sheep trail) that drops down low and climbs steeply out on-and-on.  A nice lady catches up to me on this section, named Andrea Lehr.  She is feeling the same way I am on this section – it’s endless, it’s difficult, and it sucks!

As I reach each rise, it’s kinda like “Are we there yet?” and the answer continues to be, “Not yet.”  But it’s nice to have someone to get through the end of this race with.

As soon as we spot the giant American flag, I know we are getting towards the home stretch, because the flag marks the location of the final aid station.  This year, there are people here (because it’s not the tail end of the 50M) and we can chat with them a little bit.

From here, 3 miles to the end of the course, mostly downhill.  In fact, steep downhill, a little gravelly.  My feet are slipping heavily in the shoes, so my toes hurt quite a bit slamming into the front of the toe box after 9+ hours.

Now we veer over to the Whitney Portal Road and run down the road for half a mile, and then turn back onto the trail and into the back of the finishing park.  I’ve gotten a little ahead of Andrea.  I’m modified speed walking to get in as soon as possible and finish in 10 hours and 59 minutes (one of my worst 50K times, but my best 55K!).  Andrea comes in a few minutes later, but she started on time (so maybe 10:06).

The finish line is a little better than last year.  A Grocery Outlet opened up in town (which I had visited during the time between arriving and packet pick-up) and she brought some give-aways – weird flavors of Gatorade and prunes, some crackers – the usual G.O. stuff.

I hang out for a little while, but I cannot wait until the 8pm end time to see when Darrell comes across the finish line (15:09) because I am driving home afterwards and don’t want to get home too late.

Not sure if I will do this race again.  I need to find out if they are doing that extra 3 mile start, if they will mark it better, or maybe when the long-time RDs of the Chamber of Commerce retire, get new management and do things a little differently.  No slight to CoC, but after 40 years, maybe try something different.

This is my 101st ultra and I hope my slow time isn’t indicative of not being able to do ultras any more.   I’m thinking about doing Bishop in a few weeks.  I think I could do the extra 16 miles (to reach 50) in under 8 hours, so hope to give it a try.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2019

March 2, 2019

Finally I have come to the running of my 100th ultramarathon.  It seems quite crazy that I have done 100.  If the races were all marathons, that would be 2,620 miles of runs (but some have been 50, 62, and 100 miles).

When the lottery opened up, I appealed to friends that might be interested in running “with” me.  (I certainly don’t expect anyone to slog with me, but enjoy them being there.)  I had two takers – Eddie Hahn, my hasher friend who had never done a non-loop ultra; and Alan Sheppard (special thanks to his wife for letting him come).  Anthony Fagundes is also here but not because of me.

Also leading up to today, I had done 100 shout-outs to people who I met or helped me during my ultra running career (essentially one a day, but got started a little late, so not 100 separate posts).  It’s nice to think back and reflect on all the wonderful people who have supported me over the past 17 years.

Alan drove up with me Friday to Oakland.  We tried to get Ed to come with us, but he has one of his kids with him and it’s just not practical to come with us.  We have a nice dinner at my sister’s house – a nice homemade lasagna.52945522_10218046064203920_1515880094051074048_o
Mini E and cake topper

Alan and I left really early Saturday morning (before 5am) to get up to Cool with plenty of time (and not a horrible parking spot – doesn’t matter in the morning, but sucks to limp a mile back to the car afterwards).  The weather looks like it’s going to dump lots of rain on us and it’s already rained a lot, so I expect the trails to be super muddy.

We made pretty good time and got an okay parking spot (about a 1/4 mile away).  We go to pick up our bibs.  I’m expecting to get my usual number in the low 600s (alphabetically assigned), but to my surprise, they gave number 100!  (I had sent an e-mail to the RD telling them that I was excited that Cool would be my 100th ultra, but didn’t ask for any special treatment.)

Once we had our numbers, commemorative black WTC buffs and soft green shirts, we head back to the car to drop off our loot and figure out a way for Alan to access his stuff should he finish before me.  We then head back to hang by the start line, get some pictures, and prepare to run.  Ed has made it and is super chatty about our differences in number of marathons (he has 200) and number of ultras (he has one), and other stuff.

51729458_2440185632658340_3345374143095767040_n (1)Alan, Ed, me, and Alan (mostly) bundled up.

For the first section of the race, it’s a 8 mile loop away and back to Cool, starting with 1.5 miles of downhill on a paved road (by the car).  Alan and Ed stay with me initially and then Alan takes off, leaving me with the talkative Ed.  There is a funny moment when he is rambling on about some race story and I slowed up a bit, leaving him to talk to nobody, I thought, but then the gal next to him engaged in the conversation.  (With all the single-track coming up, I do need to concentrate a little bit.

As soon as we get off the road, it’s a steep downhill path to the first big water crossing.  It’s not really raining hard, but there is a bit of a line to get across because the water is fairly deep.  I’m expecting the standard 100+ water crossings and probably 20-25 in the first eight miles.  The weather is clearing up a little bit, but the cloud cover is convincing me that I don’t want to spend any time pulling off my windbreaker only to have to put it back on if and when it starts raining.

It’s pretty muddy out here but I am keeping under the necessary pace of 16:00/mile, and I usually do my best in the first section regardless of the water levels.  Just as we get back to the Cool Fire Station (probably in the last mile), the rain starts coming down harder (glad I kept my windbreaker on).

Now we head out of Cool, down long muddy switchbacks, heading towards the first Highway 49 crossing.  In this second, I am passed by loads of people, because downhill mud running with lots of roots and rocks, and running water, is not my forte.  My goal is to finish AND remain upright.  Falling is not a good option for me.

After a couple of years of this new course, I finally am not expecting an aid station right after the highway crossing.  It’s about 20 minutes further down the road.  In this section, I am doing a combination of walking and running.  This is less about being tired and more about preparing to summit some of the upcoming hills (and keeping my heart rate lower).

I keep going back and forth with a few people.  One person that stands out to me is another tall runner, and Quintin and I spend a few miles walk/jogging and talking with each other.  He’s a decade older than I am (and only a few inches shorter).  It’s nice to do the distance with someone who has similar stride and a similar ultra running history.  (He seems a little crazier than I am.)  We do get to a point where he wants to run a little faster (or get away from my rambling) and he ends up finishing 10 minutes ahead of me.

I lose quite a bit of time in the section leading up to A.L.T.  Probably the toughest part is one of the water crossings where I try to follow someone crossing (at probably the deepest point) and only later notice flags marking the best way across (focused too deeply on the ground and not tripping, I guess).

The downhill leading to the aid station is EXTREMELY muddy and slippery.  I have to take it slowly, but the person right behind me just comes down the hill at full speed, slips, and has to grab onto a small pine tree to keep from overshooting the aid station.  Hey, buddy, we still have 10+ miles to go.  Don’t hurt yourself!

I am still slightly ahead of pace to finish the race, but don’t want to miss that overall cutoff and get a DNF, so I grab a few food snacks and head out immediately.  From my memory banks, this is the section that seems to go on forever and culminates with the Goat Hill climb (which is tough).

First, the big water crossing and then the zigzag of single-track back and forth, up and down, out of the tree cover, and finally across the bridge.  At this point, I have counted nearly 100 water crossings and my feet have been wet since Mile 2.

Once you cross the wooden bridge, it’s a short muddy slog uphill to the fire road.  I am gratified that they’ve done the repairs to this road so that we don’t climb up to Goat Hill twice like we did one year.  Nonetheless, it’s still a tough climb at this stage in the race.  At least it’s not muddy; the red dirt seems to absorb more of the rain than the other surfaces.

Unfortunately, the solid surface ends just after the Goat Hill aid station and the endless mud continues on the (mostly) downhill trail on the way back to the second Highway 49 crossing.  I want to make up some time on this section but need to take it easy.  My sort-of favorite section is here where the trail travels in between blackberry bushes and the trail is always under water.  While this seems like a strange favorite, hey, my feet are already wet, and it’s always more interesting for something non-standard (even though this is my 16th time through here).

Now I’m getting close.  Certain landmarks stick out to me, like hearing a few cars on the Highway, seeing the quarry, and spotting the aid station tent across the road from a distance.  Once I know I’m on the homestretch, I feel much more assured that I can finish under the time limit.  I hit Mile 30 in 7:49, which means I have 41 minutes to finish the last 1.4 miles.  Pretty sure I have that in me.

I never stop at the last aid station, but do offer my thanks to the volunteers that are there.  Now it’s a long slog up a gentle waterfall through mud back into Cool.

As I get to the final two straightaways, it is a muddy mess.  It hearkens back to a few years ago where my friend lost her shoe in the last 100 yards of this race.  While today it isn’t shoe-sucking, it is extremely slippery and treacherous.

I end up finishing about 16 minutes under the time limit in 8:13:49.  Anthony could have run the course twice (and then some) in the time it took me.  Alan finished a skosh under 6 hours and Ed finished in 7:02.  We have a brief celebration at the finish line, but it’s best to hurry back to Oakland to enjoy a rib dinner and early (birthday) cake with Alan and Marisa’s German chorus homestays.

Alan and I finish off the weekend with a trip to Oakland Chinatown and take out dim sum at Tao Yuen.

Moving forward, ultra-wise, I don’t have milestones to hit, but my plan is not to stop at 100 or cut back in any manner.  I have already signed up for Wild Wild West 50M in a couple months and hope to run Skyline 50K again in August and do my 10th High Desert (aka Ridgecrest) 50K in December.

I think I read somewhere that most ultra athletes only do races for about 2 years before getting burned out.   I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I am cognizant that I am hitting a bit of a slowdown in terms of pace, and I also realize that to avoid long-lasting injury, I need to embrace this slower pace.

I look forward to getting caught up and doing run posts in real-time (and not a year in the past), and thus be able to tell stories about both the trails and the people I meet during this sport that I have enjoyed for 100 completed races.

Golden Gate 50K – 2019

February 9, 2019

As I mentioned on the Chino Hills 50K post, I had to make some substitutions on my ultras in order to hit #100 at Way Too Cool next month.  I took the opportunity to get a discounted entry to the Coastal Trail Runs Golden Gate 50K on Black Friday (I think 20% off and opted out of the shirt to save $5).  Normally I would be running the Avalon 50M in January, but it hit on my parents’ 50th anniversary weekend (not feasible to run 50 miles in SoCal and still make the anniversary party on the same day).

Even though I am doing an alternative, I am pretty familiar with these trails, which have been part of the Headlands 50M, NorthFace 50M, and the Miwok 100K.

The weather forecast isn’t great and it rained quite a bit last night, so I gave myself a little extra time to get to the start and I am one of the first ones to arrive,even before the bib distribution people.  The area where they’ve set up the bib pick-up is somewhat flooded and since the race doesn’t start for another 45 minutes, I jump in and help them get everything set up.  This includes hanging signage (I think I have an advantage) and helping them get pins and bibs in order by race (they have 5M, half, 30K, full, and 50K).

The 30K and 50K courses start together at 8am, and then the half and full at 8:15, and the 5M at 8:30.  The 50K course is the 30K course (which is the half marathon course plus an extra loop), followed by the half marathon loop again.  (It makes sense to start the 30K and 50K together so that both groups get directed down the extra loop and the full and half do not.)

I start towards the back because the initial course is mostly uphill and I am planning on walking the hills and don’t want people to be annoyed by passes on single track.  There are a number of paved switchbacks until we get on the single-track, and the weather is overcast, but not too cold, though I do have my blue windbreaker on in the event it starts raining.

Trail meanders for a while around until the switchbacks into Tennessee Valley aid station at mile 4.1.  This is probably my favorite part of the course because it’s graded for horses (not too steep or rocky) and the stable is a visible landmark.  I’m doing well on overall pace (under 14/mile), and know I will lose some time on the extra loop (aka Pirates Cove).

I don’t spend a lot of time at the aid station and head down the road towards the water.  At a certain point, you get within about 100 yards of the Cove, where the water is calm.  Later, when the trail is higher up, you can see the bigger breakers in the Pacific.

The course today is the reverse of the way I’ve run Pirates Cove before, so it begins with winding around, heading down on single-track, and then climbing back out on the uneven wooden stairs.  I’m just grateful that it’s not raining because the wood and the mud can get quite slick.  It’s already bad enough from yesterday’s rain.

The end of this section pops back down by the serene cove I mentioned before and I head back up the paved road to Tennessee Valley aid station (Part Deux) and will head off now towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the third aid station.  This section is similar to part of the Headlands 50M course, especially the windy section with stairs and rope handrails.  When I get to this third aid station (Conzelman), I will have a better idea of how much time I have to get back to the start to make the 5 hour, ~19 mile cutoff.

The trail continues down to the road, crosses over, and continues on a trail that parallels the road, and goes up, up, up.  By now, it’s started to rain lightly and I keep trying to push the pace so that I have enough time, but getting to the point where I am questioning my pace.  I thought I was at least going the pace through Pirates Cove (about 17 minutes/mile), so for 4.5 miles, I should be there around 75 miles and 90 minutes have passed.  Also, I don’t remember from the map that the trail paralleled the road or went as close as we did to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Finally!  I get to the aid station, but now I have 59 minutes for 4.5 miles.  Granted, there is a lot of downhill, but I’d have to go at the fastest pace I’ve managed all day (around 13:15/mile).  I’m definitely gonna give it my best shot.

So the trail is now a wide fire-trail and heading downhill and is a bit muddy with water streaming down the side.  I just keep shuffle-jogging down the hill hoping that it will be enough.  But, to make matters worse, just when I think I’m getting to the final stretch, the course turns and heads up a small switch-back.  On any other day, this would not be a problem, but the small descent hill is super muddy, and the last thing I want is falling and then having to run another 13 miles!

So I try and take easy and start to slip and dig my feet into the side of the hill causing ankle and foot cramps.  Yack!!  But I do safely make it to the bottom.  But the cramping doesn’t help my attempt to make the cutoff.

Now the home stretch, which is mostly straight and flat.  I know it’s going to be close and I am already rehearsing my sob story in case I don’t make it.  You know, ‘four hours, 13 miles, I can do that, easy,’ but will also understand if I am not allowed to continue.  Dang it.

Despite my hustling, I come in at 5:01:47, and still ask if I continue.  To my surprise, the RD says yes, and then explains that they marked the course incorrectly.  At the spot with the ropes and the wind, the course should have gone straight over the hill and not down and then up the road.  In fact, it added a mile to the course, so I have made the cutoff after all (in a sense).

There are 3 or 4 people behind me that make it through the cutoff as well, and so, we all begin heading up the hill once more.  I am struggling quite a bit because of the cramps from the muddy hill and also because I really pushed the pace to come close to this cutoff (13:20) and I don’t have a lot left.

So, once again up the hill, around the coast, and down to Tennessee Valley Aid station.  My pace was almost 20 minutes per mile, and I am sorta back on pace (Pirates Cove loop took me 93 minutes, minus the hour less I have, minus the 26 minutes I lost on the last section, equals 7 spare minutes).

Now back through the same section, though when I get to the ropes section, the trail turns left and crosses over the hill and I get to the aid station so much more quickly.  Rain is starting to come down again.  I have 72 minutes to get to the end this time (which sounds like a lot of time, but not at the end of 30+ miles).

So, in this last section, I was totally by myself, but when I get to the aid station, there is another guy there. Can’t believe I caught up to anyone.  I mean, this whole race I have been talking or singing to myself because there is no one to talk to.

But he is really hurting and apparently has been at the aid station for 20 minutes or so, talking about quitting.  Quitting?  After 27 miles?  I talk to him for a few minutes while I am refilling my water bottle, sheltering from the rain, and grabbing some potato chips… and convince him to continue.

I set off down the hill and I can see him ambling 100 yards behind me.  Good, but I gotta concentrate on myself and getting to the end.

After a few miles, I turn back and he is much further back, but seems to be moving a lot faster.  Guess he will catch up to me soon.

When he does catch up, it isn’t the same guy at all, it’s the sweeper-slash-ribbon remover.  Finally, a bit of company.  We talk and jog down the hill to the road.  He spins off and heads towards the finish while I take my second gander at the uphill and down on the slick mud.  I feel like I do a little bit better the second time around, kind of skiing down in an effort to avoid cramping and also because I need to get going.

Finally, I make it back onto the road and hustle as much as I can to make it under that 9 hour final cutoff.  Honestly, I am not really running, but my version of speed-walking.  I am certain I can do it… but I end up coming in at 9 hours and 47 seconds.

As I come in, the race director congratulates me by name and the other volunteers say thank you for helping out (10 hours ago!).  Kind of a crazy race with the rain, the mud, the extra mile, and still finishing, slightly over the (normal distance) cutoffs.  And thus, ultra #99 is in the books.  On to Way Too Cool in three weeks and number 100.

OTHTC 50K – 2018

December 2, 2018

As long as this race doesn’t happen on Thanksgiving Weekend, I would like to continue to run it.  This is a quality event put on by a quality volunteer running club organization.  They know what runners want and they deliver, and it’s reasonably priced.  Four of my ten best 50Ks (in terms of time) have been run here, and the race is centrally located to where many of my ultra-running friends live.  It’s a great introductory event and friends like Angela Holder, Stephanie Harris, and Dulce Barton ran their first ultras here, not to mention many hasher friends.

For the past several years, I have been fortunate to stay with Darrell Price and Megan Stone in their home so close to the race start/finish.  Angela has joined me as well as Alan a couple of times.  This year, we convinced speedy Peter Yeh to join us for his first ultra (no need for an early start with this one).  Also staying at the house is John Radich, an ultra runner whose name I have seen dozens of times, but had yet to put a name to a face.

After registering and enjoying a simple pasta dinner at St. Ann’s, we retire to Megan and  Darrell’s for minimal talking before an early bed.

I created pace sheets for all my friends that are running today, which also include Rumiko (aka Yoko) running her first ultra, Aamir (aka Dr. Strange Glove), possibly also his first, and Laura and Stephanie Harris (not her first).

I see many of my favorite people and jog with some in the first few miles but generally fade off as they push along at a good pace and I do a slog.  Alan and Peter are well ahead of me, and Laura took off early.

After the first aid station, we are dusted by a truck driving along the trail for a bit (and then pulling off to provide beer support to their runners (for Rumiko and Michelle in the 30K).

There is a really nice moment about 22 miles in when Aamir and I are going at about the same pace.  A sort of extra fun moment with this is that in the past week or so, I have been trying to write alternative lyrics to Christmas songs, so I test myself by singing them to Aamir (and writing a couple more on the fly).

When we get to Wagon Wheel at Mile 25, I avail myself of a beer (because I’m not running a PR here) and at this point, Aamir pushes his pace with the intent of breaking 7 hours.

At the last aid station, of course, I enjoy another beer proffered by Chris Rios and Ruth Carter (former RD and hash friend), but don’t waste too much time so that I can finish in around 7:10.

All of us have good times, ranging from 4:45 and change for Peter up to 8:30 for Laura and Stephanie.  We enjoy some pizza, soda, and beer before hopping in the car and driving back to Southern Cal.

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John, Alan, Peter, me, and Darrell at the finish line.

I look forward to 2019 when I can finish my 10th OTHTC and get my 10 time finisher’s jacket.

Chino Hills 50K – 2018

November 10, 2018

After my DNF in Hong Kong, I needed to get in a replacement ultra.  I had made certain plans as I headed toward completing my 100th ultramarathon.  The plan was to make the 2019 Way Too Cool 50K number 100, Avalon 50M number 99, OTHTC (Ridgecrest) 50K number 98, and Hong Kong number 97.  I already know at this point that the Avalon race day will interfere with my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party and will have to find something between the first week of December and early March.

Anyway…, an acceptable alternative to Hong Kong is Chino Hills 50K (even though I have said that I do not want to run this race again because it’s sucky).  I had gotten requests for a time that the race director needed volunteers and I had said that I would volunteer, but I reached out to see if I could volunteer Friday night and Saturday morning, run the race, and then help out in cleaning up (knowing that I’d be towards the back).  Yen said that that would be okay.

In the late afternoon, I drove over to Chino Hills State Park and we set out getting everything ready for the morning (sorting shirts, numbers, giveaways, etc.).  A considerable amount of time was trying to figure out how to turn on the lights (had to use lanterns instead).  Around 10pm, we headed over to Yen’s house to spend the night (myself and another volunteer).  I finally got to meet Yen’s husband and daughter (though I guess I have seen them before but didn’t make the connection).  Chino Hills isn’t that far away but I needed to get to the start super early.

In the morning, I helped with packet pick-up until about 20 minutes before the start of the race and then grabbed my stuff, threw what I didn’t need into the car and toed the starting line.

The first section of the course is where everyone always runs, up Telegraph for a few miles (wide fire road) and then up a number of steep rolling hills to the first aid station at 4.5 miles.  I have my time from last year to compare to and I am about 7 minutes slower.  Mostly I care about finishing under the time limit.

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The second section is some more rolling hills on a fire-road leading to the single track where the shorter distance racers always surpass me.  It wends its way around back to a fire-road and down some switchbacks to Four Corners.  I am still netting under 15 minutes a mile (not by much) and grab some Coca-Cola to wake myself up.

From Four Corners, the trail works its way out to the far reaches of the park dumping out on a paved road (which eventually leads to the opposite exit of the park) and leading to the aid station that we hit three times.  Knowing the course better, I know that the parking lot at the top of the (paved) hill is NOT the aid station.  Most of the people at the aid station recognize me (and I know some of them as well).

This next section is the longest in between aid stations – 10K.  Although I do not care for this section, the good part about it is that I am able to see several runners either returning from the area or glimpse them on the return from the top of the trail.  And, if I wasn’t so far behind everyone else, I would probably glimpse people atop the trail behind me.  I don’t see a whole lot of people in this section but I pass a few on the upward section and a few pass me when I am walking (which is all the time now).

When I get back to the aid station, I am just over the halfway point at 16.5 miles in a little over 4 hours, and now I get to head out onto my least favorite part of the course (so far).  It’s a lot of single track but with a lot of extremes, very steep uphills (and some downhills) and totally exposed to the elements.  This section took me almost as long as the previous section but is only 4.5 miles, but at least now I am on the (supposed) home stretch.

First, there is a easy 3 miles back to Four Corners.  Most of the folks that were there before have given way to a different shift.  Now I have about seven miles to go but it isn’t simply retracing my steps the way I came initially.  The trail follows Telegraph back to the start, but then turns up a steep trail up to the East Ridge.

This section seems endless and what isn’t helpful is that the course markers seem to fade with regularity – and they more they fade, the less sure that I am on the correct path.  I just have to be confident that I am going the right way.  I see someone on the trail ahead and a truck.  Maybe I can ask him if I made a wrong turn.

Turns out that I am on the correct path and he hands me a white/fluorescent plastic bracelet which will prove that I came through the extra ridge section.  I follow the trail back down to Telegraph and then follow it back through the park entrance and around the curves through the parking lot to the finish in a time of 8:28:25 (about 40 minutes slower than last year).

Afterwards, I hang out, get something to eat, and help to pack up while the last few stragglers finish a little over nine and a half hours.  One runner, who I had seen early on, is finishing his first 50K (why Chino Hills?!?) and his mom is there to see him.  I thought he was in his early 20s, but he is just short of 40.  (Lucky young-looking Asians!)

I am pretty satisfied with my time given I am still recovering from my broken wrist and still getting over jet lag from our trip to Asia.

Hong Kong Trail 50K (DNF) – 2018

October 20, 2018

I was very excited to enter into this race once Marisa and I had planned a trip to Hong Kong, a special chance to run an ultra outside of the U.S.  In between signing up and going, I broke my wrist and impaired my chances of finishing, but I still wanted to give it a go.

There were a number of logistical issues in getting to this event.  The first was dealing with jet lag (but I did have a few days).  Next was picking up my bib from the random location off of Queen’s Road East (and then climbing a narrow staircase).  The final difficulty was getting to the race start, which was at the top of the Peak Tram.  Because of the early hour, we couldn’t just ride the ferry across and walk up (waste of energy anyway), because no public transportation before 6am and the start was at 7.

So, we got up super early and caught a cab over.  We had some difficulty finding where to catch the cab and then to actually find a cab at that early hour.  It was a quick and interesting drive, since we ALWAYS walk to the top.

It was extremely cold and windy at the top (so much so they had trouble putting the inflatable start line up).  Marisa came with me with the intent that she would go have breakfast afterwards and then go off hiking on her own.  Marisa and I have already gone hiking (we kept it under 16 miles (!) yesterday) and we saw part of the course (maybe the first 2 miles), so she will backtrack a little bit and take some photos.

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I ran into a couple of HK hashers that I know, but they are only doing the 25K, but maybe I will see them on the course.

The race starts a little late and it is a good sized group, a lot larger than I expected.  This is somewhat alarming as I know we are going on the Morning Trail which is not super wide and know there is some upcoming single track.  From the get-go, we go from 20 people wide to about 6 wide in 10 yards, a bit dangerous.  I am towards the back anyway.

Morning Trail follows the edge of the Peak around on the Hong Kong Harbour side.  Fortunately, I took a good look at the view yesterday, because today I will have to concentrate on the ground.

At the spot where the Morning Trail levels out (from the uphill side), Marisa is there, snapping my photo.  The trail continues along the Hong Kong Trail, which is more single-track and begins a lot of uneven and narrow stairs.  I am towards the back so there are not too many people harassing me to hie down the stairs.  I do feel uncomfortable moving so slowly, because there are some time cutoffs.  (I didn’t count the stairs but I have heard there were over 1500!)

The views are amazing (now on the Aberdeen side), but I mostly cannot look up, but it is interesting to be on a remote trail and then be able to view a busy highway/city over the edge of a cliff.

Once I get to the bottom of the hill, we roam around over to the first aid station which has oranges and water.  I refill my bottles because I really need to get going.  (I am confused because I can’t believe I am moving so slowly; I think I will struggle to make the cutoff.)

After all of the downhill and stairs, now there is a bunch of steep uphills (paved) and the humidity has increased markedly, and I am struggling.  I also have on my wrist brace, so the humidity is not helping keep that area dry.  The few people around me are motivating (usually my role) and I am semi-receptive to it (as evidenced by the fact that I sit for awhile and ignore cajoling to continue).

At the point when I get to leaving the trail and heading out on the street towards the mid-point and second aid station, I can see on my watch that I am very close to the cutoff.  (Wish I knew how far I had to go in how much time!)  I can push it a little more because I am on paved downhill and not stairs.

When I get to the park, I ask if I can continue and they say, Yes, but when I start to head out, they pull me back and say that I missed the cutoff.  I am semi-bummed, only because I am so tired due to the humidity.

There isn’t really anything to eat here (because I am not a finisher) but I do chat very briefly with the winner (yes, the 50K guy is ALREADY done) and this is his first 50K and he is cramping pretty badly (but they give him liquid potassium).

I pull out my phone and try to phone Marisa to see where she is at; she is en route to Stanley and surprised I am contacting her.  I tell her about my failure and make plans to meet her in Stanley, because I can catch a bus from here that goes directly to Stanley (in fact, I end up on the bus just behind her bus).

As you know from some of my prior posts, I have DNF’ed a number of events.  I do not like failing to finish, but sometimes you are not ready and sometimes things happen that make finishing extra difficult, and I assume as I get older and slower, I will either DNF more regularly or not enter in those events that I know I cannot finish.

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Postscript:  About a year later, Marisa and I attempted to hike Parts one and two of the Hong Kong Trail.  Although the humidity was better, it is still difficult, and Marisa was like, WTF? and we ended up stopping after Part one with the idea of maybe revisiting it in the future (we still have seven parts to go).

Skyline 50K – 2018

August 5, 2018

Leading up to Skyline 50K, I have been having trouble sleeping, sore back, sore knees, and feel that I am not ready for the race. (A note in my running log says that a previous occurrence of this set of feelings lasted a good four to six weeks before resolving itself (through more rest or what?).)

My goals for the weeks leading into the race were “less intensity runs on my knees,” “get more sleep,” and “try to make it through Skyline in one piece!”

I drove up Friday morning so that my sister and I could attend the opening night performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Woodminster.  It was a better show than last year (average singing of South Pacific) and it was all we could do to not sing along because we used to listen to the Broadway recording tape in the car over and over and over again.

On Saturday, I took a nap, ate my favorite (Tao Yuen) dim sum, and saw Christopher Robin (wondering when MoviePass is going out of business so taking advantage).

My plan is to get up earlier Sunday so that I can avail myself of the early start, and have that extra hour to make it through the event.

There are a dozen or so of us making the early start.  I think if you are a first-time ultra runner and tend on the slower side, you should definitely take advantage of any early start you can get.  The extra benefit is that while people will be passing you, it isn’t like you get passed by everyone from the get-go and then are by yourself for the majority of the race… you never quite work your way that far back (unless you don’t finish).

The course is just about the same as last year, up by the suspension bridge (but not over, boo!), up Marciel Road, down by the golf course, and then working over to the Stream Trail and up to Skyline Gate.

This “new” course has the turnaround closer to halfway (usually Skyline Gate is about 14 miles in with a longer (17) return), so while I’m used to having up to 4 hours to get here, the new standard is 4.5 hours for 16.1 miles (with a shorter return).  I make it here in 3:43, so plenty of time.

I am also gratified to see that Myrrh is here to join me for part of the run (or walk as I am eating and talking).  Myrrh consistently does some of this trail for a nice hike (I have done it with her, too.) so she knows where to step and not stumble.  It’s nice to have a “pacer” for a mile or so, before I turn off onto the French Trail.

From French Trail to all but the last 3 miles or so, is the section where I always seem to lose a lot of time and get bogged down, where I stumble and stub my toes, where I see few people (except those itching to get past me because I started an hour before them).  The one good thing about this is my language is quite colorful, at its tamest asking for certain rocks to be smote by lightning!

At just about the last aid station, I ended up getting into a conversation with someone moving at a similar pace to me.  Her name is Amanda Ferguson, 40, and she attended Miramonte High School (which is or was in my school’s athletic division), so we have a nice talk through to almost the end of the race.  (If you look at the results, she did beat me by 1 hour, 4 minutes, cuz she started at the regular time.)

If you follow my results, you’ll notice that my time got slower from last year, but given how my knees and back have felt the past month or so, I am happy with 7:48.

The extra cool thing about this race was that some of us had chatted with the RD several months back when he had proposed maybe getting a medal for finishers (even though Skyline has never given out a medal) and many of us suggested something for multiple finishers.

So, they are still working on the higher quantities, but anyone with 5 finishes got a nice stacked “wood-le” (a medal but made of wood) with a promise to get whatever higher amount at the Christmas award ceremony (or next year, when I come back).  Today was my 11th Skyline 50K, and I also met Joe Swenson who was finishing his 19th Skyline today.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2018

March 3, 2018

I’m back once again in Northern California for Way Too Cool.  In case you haven’t read all my posts, my first ultramarathon was Cool (slightly different course) in 2002, just after my 31st birthday.  Today marks my 15th Cool.  (I missed a couple due to there being a lottery that I didn’t win.)

Since the beginning of the year, I have started to feel some back and knee issues, so I have had to moderate my training and also moderate the way I run (more stiffly is a way I’d describe it).

I drove up on Thursday to stay with my folks in Oakland.  Not only was the drive super rainy, but there was a HUGE accident on 580 between Livermore and Oakland (like it took 90 minutes to drive 3 miles) and that caused even more distress to my legs (being trapped in the car that whole time).

I did get a better start on Saturday (in driving up to Cool).  Last year, I can recall being one of the last people let in to park and being at least a mile down the road from the start.  This year, I was more like 40 cars down from the start, so I didn’t feel bad about walking my shirt and stuff back after picking it up and feeling like I would be wasting energy.

I saw some familiar faces at the start, including Rafael Covarrubias (returning after being a bit burnt out on Ultrarunning), Linda McFadden (from Modesto who I see at a lot of these), and “Tahoe Bob” Gilbert.  Bob is from my original GVH running club and always did a lot of the ultras and over the years got to be a lot better than I did.  He has just returned to ultrarunning after battling lymph node cancer.  Wow, these ultrarunners are strong!

Once again, I am in the second wave, though the waves seem to be a little smaller.  (I think everyone got in through the lottery that wanted to run, so there are maybe 1000 competitors this year rather than 1200.)

Last year, I fairly went all out on the paved portion, but this year I moderate my pace but try and maintain an even pace both uphill and downhill.  The result is that when I get to the trail portion, I am roughly in between the really fast folks and the really slow ones.  This is for the best as I don’t want people tripping me up down the rocky downhills and also want to avoid getting stuck in long lines through the water crossings.

It hasn’t started to rain yet, but I do have my AREC windbreaker on, because rain is definitely threatening.  The course is certainly on the muddy side (but not treacherously muddy) and the usual water crossings are shin to knee deep, but not rushing water.

I do pretty well on the single track portion, somewhat in the front of a long line (better so that I don’t trip) and continue in the front until it widens out somewhat and I can easily pull to the side and keep walking uphill.  There are a few muddy sections here and even moving off the trail to get better traction, I am still slipping on the grass.

Just as we get to the section where we are paralleling the road back to the firehouse at the start, it starts to rain.  I am pretty happy that I kept my windbreaker on (lots of people pulled their outer coats off because they got hot – I figured I could wait for a bit).  It rains pretty substantially, but it didn’t really make the course wetter or muddier than it already was.

As I am coming through the chute at Mile 8, I am cheered on by Anthony Fagundes.  (Cool was HIS first ultramarathon last year, but he is not able to run right now.  Some young fast person’s ailment probably.)  It is nice to hear your name in a sea of runners (where most all are friendly, but no one knows your name).

I come through in 1:40, or about 12:30 per mile.  Already I am feeling some discomfort in my knee, but I can push on in the flat sections and modify my stride to make it work in the uphill and downhill sections.

Next is the section I am somewhat dreading, because it is lots of muddy, rocky, technical downhill.  Downhill is not my strength and also doesn’t feel great on a sore knee.  Lots of the folks who were behind me and struggling on the earlier section are busting by me on this section.  The rain has let up and I can see some rays of sunlight peeking through the clouds, but I don’t think I’ll take off my jacket, yet.

This is a short section (3.1 miles is what my pace sheet says) but after crossing the Highway, there is really only a Port-A-Potty here.  I think they removed one of the aid stations!

So, there is another 4.4 miles on a mostly flat, lightly graveled path along the river.  I am doing some running and some brisk walking.  There is also a bit of sunshine and a bit of hail.  (Yes, hail in the sunshine.)

When the steep uphill section does come, I do my zigzag approach to lessen the strain on my knee.  I think it helps and probably also annoys the people around me, but I am not crashing into them on a definitive path, but moderating to hit the edges when they are not there (I am faster so it’s easier to avoid them.).

According to my watch, I went 7.4 miles in 70 minutes.  Hmm… I don’t think so, so either the map was off or I am secretly running at a 5K pace and I just don’t feel it.  I mean, I am amazing, but not THAT amazing.

Now, there is a lot of single track, hills, and other fun stuff.  My knee is really bugging me, and my feet, too.  Just really sore and I am feeling every rock that seems to puncture my shoe (but I must be descended from the title character in The Princess and the Pea… I think I even stepped on a pea and it was excruciating!).

When I get to the aid station at 21 miles, now my watch says I did 5.5 miles in 2 hours (Hmm… that’s not right either, but I am thinking that I did 13 miles in 3 hours.  That COULD make sense.)

Just as I am descending the hill into the aid station here, an older guy comes tearing down the hill (not a hill to be tearing down unless you are leading the race, and none of us are).  He flies through the air, tries to grab onto a tree for balance, flips off the trail, and rolls down the hill and lands somewhat at my feet.  (Ow.)    By the way, I came down the hill fairly gingerly so as not to do that.

But, I stopped in my tracks, leaned over and helped him to his feet.  Courtesy wins every time here.

From this aid station, it’s now back onto what used to be the old course, with the deep water crossing, lots of winding single track, maybe 20 water crossings (most less than 3 feet across), with the final one being the wooden bridge.

I am dreading this next section as last year, the road was washed out, and we essentially had to climb Goat Hill twice (once to bypass the road and once to climb the actual trail).  Fortunately, it looks like the road is still there, so only one climb of the dreaded Goat Hill.  Sadly, no Helen or Norm Klein at the top, but there are the usual “Burma Shave” signs to annoy me as I get closer and my knee bugs me more and more.

16 years ago, I got here in 5:30 or so, lamenting my worst marathon ever.  And today, I am at 6:30:41, which is certainly not my worst marathon split, but an hour slower a decade-and-a-half later (worst marathon split is around 10 hours, if you’re wondering (in a 35 miler not long after the 5:30 marathon split)).

From the top of Goat Hill, it is some single-track and some double-track, but mostly downhill on treacherous terrain and some of it muddy and some of it running water muddy… and some of it through treacherous running muddy water.  While this is hard on my knees, I really love this section.

When I get to the road, I’ve covered it in 58 minutes (3.6 miles) or a little over 16 minutes a mile.  Now I have a little over an hour to complete the last mile and a half and finish under the 8:30 time limit (ha ha).

I almost never stop at this final aid station because it’s so close to the end (also, they are almost always cleaning up by the time I get there).

I pass a few people on the uphill despite not feeling my best, tromp through all the puddles, talk with a few people doing their first ultramarathon (good choice).

I run into the wind through the mud and finish in 7:50:12, probably my worst finish here, but you know what, a finish is a finish.

No Sufferfest Beer this year, but I did have a glass of SLO beer with a mango taste to it.  Also got my requisite Frog cupcake and minestrone soup and a couple of Subway sandwiches, including a few to eat later in Oakland.

The next day, Sunday, Myrrh and I prepared some of the dishes that we learned in Asia last month while we watched the Oscar telecast with the family.

And then I drove back to Southern California on Monday.

You know, since I have now finished 93 ultramarathons, I wonder if I could time it so that I run my 100th at Way Too Cool next year.  Maybe I’ll make that my plan.

Ridgecrest High Desert 50K – 2017

December 3, 2017

If it’s the first weekend in December, then it’s Ridgecrest time!  Today is my 8th Ridgecrest 50K.  I had some of my best results here – actual 50K PR in 2004, and last year I did a personal best age grade time.  Besides the Over the Hill Track Club putting on a great event, it’s also a race with temperate hills and temperate weather.

For the past few years, I have been fortunate to be able to stay with my friends Darrell and Megan (who live less than a mile from the start).  I met Darrell and we ran together a few years ago at this race and forged a friendship.  (He also spends a fair amount in Long Beach, but we always seem to miss each other – and no, I’m not hanging out in Ridgecrest at those times.)

Angela was supposed to come up and stay as well, but she is working a race in Laughlin on Saturday and is not sure that she will make it.  I hope that she does not miss out just because she’s a little tired.

So, there’s an extra space for someone and that would be Alan.  We drove up together early afternoon on Saturday and arrived at the church in Ridgecrest where we check in pretty close to when they opened up packet pick-up.  Many of the usual suspects are there including a number of Foothill and Long Beach H3 folks.

One of my good ultra running buddies (we seem to travel in the same circles), Linda Dewees, is helping with check-in, and Karin Usko is selling her Happy Gaiters.  There is the usual nice tech shirt and a lot of available past year shirts and hats to clothe Alan and his family for years to come.

We decided to partake in the pasta feed at the church (the pizza place we always used to go to has had spotty service (new ownership?) the past couple years) to support the church or the high school or something.  It’s a chance to catch up with friends and wait for Darrell and/or Megan to come pick up their bibs, so we can head over to their house.

I have a nice extended talk with the former race director (who took over from Chris Rios) Terry Mitchell.  It was of the ilk that younger people need to step in to keep the races/clubs/running activities going.  I think it helps to have a good system in place, too.

By the time they arrive, Angela has said definitively that she is not coming, but we pretend that we never got that message and send her messages that we will see her in the morning.  I have my usual spot in my sleeping bag on the long couch and am awakened once or twice by the dog and/or cat sitting on me.  (Oh, well.)

In the morning, I feel OK, but I am fairly certain that I cannot duplicate my 6:05 from last year.  My knees and back feel one more year creakier (and not in a good way).  I am just hoping that Alan won’t finish 3 hours ahead of me (and not be able to call his wife because I have the car keys)!

We set off into the cold and as soon as we hit the hills, I don’t do my usual walking, just because it’s a shorter section and it’s probably better to get away from the crowds… so then a mile later, when the downhill starts, I can just relax, though I do a little walking when I get to the road, just because I can walk a little more briskly uphill on paved than on trails.  I get to the first aid in 50 minutes, so about 11 minutes a mile.

I don’t really stop, but make the turn and run as much as I can, kinda alternating between walking and running (isn’t every race that way?) but also using various people that pass me as pacers.

To a certain extent, it works.  The way I can tell that I am doing better is that people who I expect will pass me do not pass me until much later than usual.  I almost got through two aid stations before Yak (aka Ethan) passes me, so either I am doing better, or he is suffering from “aging,” too.

I even impress myself at the Highway Crossing because I was able to run a goodly portion of the washboard section (which is murder on the knees, by the way).

Once the Highway is crossed, the trail veers sort of off the beaten path.   You can see other runners going up a steep hill but it’s away from where you are (I think this adds on needed distance or something.).  It’s at this point that the wind really picks up.  It’s not like a few years ago where dust was swirling but it’s a preventative wind, so therefore, annoying.

Once I get to Gracie’s Mansion (Mile 25.7), it’s abundantly clear that I am not going to be very close to 6 hours this year since I am not at all confident that I can do 5.5 miles in 27 minutes.

What is more pleasing to me, however, is that I see some beers at the aid station.  What could be more pleasing (and full of needed carbohydrates) than beer.  I should tell you that technically, this is my second beer, because I did have a cupful at the previous aid station (maybe what prevented me from doing 6 hours – ha ha).

In this last section, I am joined by Linda Dewees.  The best part about running with her is that she’s endlessly upbeat (in the most delightful way).  We stayed together almost all the way to the final aid station at 29.4 miles.  (She was just leaving as I pulled in.)

The aforementioned past past race director Chris Rios is here (as usual) with his cooler of ice-cold beer.  Since I am not trying to break any records (and feel reasonably assured that Mrs. Sheppard will not get too P.O.’ed) I opt for an entire beer and just enjoy myself.

I enjoy the last mile and a half and even that dreaded trip around the parking lot and finish in 6:50, which is my best 50K time for the year (even including Shadow of the Giants which is at least a mile shorter).

Alan’s been done for less than an hour and Darrell comes in only about 10 minutes later.  We drink some beer, share some beer, and leave the rest of the beer with Darrell (since he has the shortest drive home).

That’s it on the ultras this year – 9 was an awful lot – but I really enjoy the trekking, the trails, and the camaraderie.  A week or so ago, I signed up for 3 ultras for next year (to save $) and all of them are 50 miles or longer, so I have my work cut out for me.

Chino Hills 50K – 2017

November 11, 2017

A few weeks earlier, at the AREC Pre-Marathon Awards party, I put all my raffle tickets in for the Chino Hills 50K (you get a certain number of tickets and you put in for one or more drawings for prizes – I only put in for ones I know I might attend).  Surprisingly, I won (or not surprisingly, maybe no one else really likes trail running as much as I do).

Just as a precursor, I should mention that Chino Hills is not one of the places where I like to run.  There isn’t a ton of shade, the ground surface is hard, and there are a lot of hills.  Probably the last time I ran here was a memorial run for my late friend, Hwa-Ja Andrade.  Even for a memorial run, I wasn’t terribly jazzed about running there, but, free is free.

The race is put on another good friend (and similar pace runner) Yen Darcy, so at least I knew that she would have our best interests at heart (despite making us run in this unforgiving landscape).

Alan was running, too, and we made a plan to carpool (but I also suspected he would kick my ass) and also new-ish AREC runner, Janadel Harris, who said that she would just be “jogging” it. (Note:  Maybe not her precise words, but she was nonchalant, almost self-deprecating, when she said it.).

We arrived extra early and got a decent parking spot (not too far a walk from the start/finish).  Check-in was a little chaotic and besides the numbers, there were items on the table you could take (or not).  I ended up just taking the pair of fancy white gloves, a Chino Hills plastic bag, and the included long-sleeved turquoise tech shirt.

There is really only one ingress/egress into Chino Hills Park, so of course, this was the start of the event, across the gravel parking lot, around to the right and up the paved/dirt trail that hugs the edge of the park.  After it began to ascend more than I was comfortable running on, I began to walk and everyone passed me.  I watched Alan and Jan soar off ahead.

I tried to make sure that periodically (if it flattened out), that I would run a little bit to make sure I would stay ahead of the cutoffs (generous, by the way).  The first aid station was 4.5 miles in and I got there in 53:12 (a decent, if a bit “fast” pace).

Then, we turned to the right (a direction I had not run within the park) and it went endlessly uphill.  I set my goals as trying to catch people WAY ahead of me (walking briskly, of course) and I ended up catching a skimpily dressed woman with a cast on one arm (who looked a bit familiar).  Turns out, I had made her acquaintance at some A Better World Running Events.  She was doing this event as a precursor to the Revel Marathon tomorrow!  Thank goodness I was able to pass her!

When we finished climbing the hills (more like rolling hills with an uphill tendency), there was a quick descent on an awkward single track down to Four Corners (a section familiar to me).  Even though I was towards the back, lots of people passed me on this section – the 30K runners who started a bit later.  Bad timing.  I covered this 3 mile section in 47 minutes or about 15:00/mile.

Now for the bulk of the course – the double loop section.  First, a short 2.7 mile section, mostly downhill to the aid station we would hit three times.  I accelerated to a 12:30 mile for this section, knowing I would probably lose the majority of that going forward.

The first loop was the worst, though the good part was being able to see other runners (in our own race) at various stages.  When they were above me, I could see the horrible trail ahead, and when they were below me, I realized that there were still some folks behind me (yay!).  This was definitely the longest gap between aid stations at 6.2 miles (an eternity in any race, but especially on trails) and harder yet as the temperature climbs along with the grade.  Nearly 90 minutes passed (still around 15:00/mile) on this section alone.

The second loop I enjoyed more, but it also had its pros and cons.  There was a brief section on paved road where I was around a number of other people (most in the 30K who turned around just before this aid station).  I was a bit confused and almost turned around with them until I saw the station a little further down the road.

I saw some people coming from a dirt trail to the left (and discovered that would be the inbound trail and I was still heading outbound).

For the opening part of this section, I began on a mesa of sorts by some farm equipment, a bathroom (!), and then worked over to a single-track which gently undulated for a small section, but then it swooped up extremely steeply, to the point where I walked up it sideways (too narrow to zigzag).  When I got to the top (pretty exhausted now, more than 10 miles to go), I looked back to see someone far behind me just spotting the horrible hill.

From the top, a bit of a turnaround and then somewhat paralleling the outbound trail but more downhill and very overgrown with weeds and plants.  I did get passed by one guy on this section, but it was a relief to see another human being after 40 minutes of run/walking by myself.

Also came across some people looking for the Rolling M Ranch.  I had seen signs for it throughout my run, but didn’t want to direct them in the wrong direction.

After all this descent, I felt like I was just about to the road and the aid station, but alas, another turn, another annoying uphill single-track (not as steep) and back up to the aforementioned mesa with a slightly different return path, down a dirt trail and back to the aid station.  4.5 miserable miles in 80 minutes, but at least now I am on the way back to the end.

Now I head back on the paved road, back down to the dirt road, by a whole bunch of people on horseback, and then finally make the right turn to head back to Four Corners.  Only 3 miles this time, but another 50 minutes (slow-going).

Now a “fun” route over the top of the hill (a section I am familiar with; we went up here for Hwa-Ja’s memorial).  I just keep on soldiering on and cover the 3 miles in 63 minutes, but finally I am back onto the outer road and just have 4 miles (mostly) down to the finish.

It’s pretty excruciating.  Not that I don’t enjoy a good downhill, but my feet are really sore and the ground is just rock hard (and lately, my knees have really been bugging me, so downhill feels horrible).  I do some galloping and skipping to ease the difficulty of the downhill (I am a great galloper!).

A lot of the path looks familiar, but then I turn another corner and I don’t feel much closer.  Then I see the turn for the first uphill section, then I see the paved sections.  Less than a mile now, then the left-hand turn into the parking lot and cross the finish line in 7:50:00.

At the finish, my good friends Linda and Jakob Herrmann are there (volunteering, of course).  I did manage to get the last of the food (pulled pork sandwich) and some soda.

“Just Joggin’ Jan” finished in under 5-1/2 hours, and was the second female.  Alan finished in 6:21 and just left with his family (wife and sons drove out a few miles to see him finish).

I wouldn’t recommend this as a great first 50K but it is a tough local course that makes for a good challenge.  Looking forward to Ridgecrest in a month or so for an easier time.