Category Archives: Uncategorized

LA Cancer Challenge 15K – 2017

October 29, 2017

The Cancer Challenge returned to the UCLA campus for the second year in a row.  One year it was randomly in Woodland Hills after the L.A. VA told them they would not hold it after at least 8 years at that location, and I ran at UCLA the first LACC I ran.

Last year, I carpooled and we paid beaucoup bucks for parking.  Since I am driving by myself, I don’t want to pay $15 for parking and I’m going to figure out a cheaper option – I don’t mind walking in a bit.

The other change for this year is that they offered a 15K option.  I have done a 15K option (of sorts) the past few years, because I’ll run the 10K and then the 5K, but this is an actual 15K race (aka 3 loops).

I mapped out where to park and gave myself a lot of extra time to navigate around that area and also to walk in to the race start.  Where I thought I would park was too close to dorms and there was pretty impacted parking and a number of permit signs to prevent parking.

Another 3 blocks away, I found lots of parking in the neighborhood (and no signs!).  It was probably about a 15 minute walk (as compared to the 10 minute walk from the paid parking lot).

The weather is quite a bit better this year (last year, ran in a torrential downpour), but it is a bit chilly.  There is a decent crowd from AREC doing the 15K – Laura, Chuck, john Ellis, Stephanie, and Jessica Centeno (in matching outfits).

My thought is that I want to run a decent first 5K, a slower next 5K, and a horrifically slow third 5K (or just run decently).  It’s certainly not a flat course, with one long uphill in the first mile, and a steep uphill at about 2.5 miles.

First loop – 24:56 (decent first 5K!)

Second loop – 25:56 (slower, but decent)

On my third loop, I stumbled on the speed bump when I got distracted by a driver wanting to drive on the course (but stopped by course monitors).  This caused my inserts to turn completely around (and wrenched my back).  So then I stopped completely to readjust the inserts and Laura passed me.

Third loop – 32:12 (horrifically slow 3rd 5K – but I did trip AND stop to fix my shoes).

Total time was 1:23:27 (way off my best) but good enough for 4th in my division and 46th overall (any time you overall your age, it’s a good day).

On the walk back to my car, I ended up meeting a UCLA alum who placed in his division in the 5K – under 18:00 for the race.  He was either a PT or in training to be so we talked about rehabbing injuries and running, etc.  Helped to pass the time on the walk back to the car.


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.

Boeing 5K (8) – 2017

October 9, 2017

My last race was Boeing last month, so I have had a little time to recover from my 50 miler.

It is an interesting day, because there is a major fire about 25 miles away, and there is resultant ash and something weird going on with the tide.

For the first half, it is extremely windy and flakes of paper and ash are floating down, but it is pretty intermittent, not enough to have to cover my face with a Buff.

Then, when I get to the section under PCH, there is a considerable amount of water on the path… not flooded, but enough to splash when I go through.  You can sort of edge around it, but not worth it to veer onto the rocks to avoid splashing.  12:30 to the turnaround.

On the way back, less wind (so probably at my rear).  On the return trip, there is even more water and not a simple splash but enough to spill into my shoes and have wet feet the rest of the way.  Some of the outbound folks are trying to go around it, but as I said before, not worth it.

I finished in 24:34 but Kevin McKee came sprinting right by me at the end.  Partially, it was lack of motivation and partially, Kevin is a really good runner.  The non-Boeing boys finished 3, 4, and 5, so a pretty small crowd.

Afterwards, I ventured back down the course to find and usher Nelson in.  He had not “run” in several months due to age and an injury, so is taking it extra careful.  Usually, I meet up with him around the bridge after we get back onto 2nd Street, but he was well into the bike path and a bit banged up and wet.

He, like many others, made the ill-advised climb onto the (cement) rocks under the bridge to avoid the water, but Nelson took it a step further and lost his balance and fell into the water, landing rather hard on his side. (His car key was in his pocket and got so bent it wouldn’t fit into the ignition, but a Boeing engineer happened by with pliers and bent it back to an acceptable shape.)  Glad to have gotten you back safely.

Boeing 5K (7) – 2017

September 11, 2017

Ironically, 16 years ago today, I was working at Boeing in I.P. on a temp job and had no idea what transpired in NYC until I got to work.  I certainly wasn’t the Boeing 5K “Ironman” I am today.

Since I have just completed a 50 mile race this weekend, I am not in any particular shape to be competitive in a 5K… just to finish another one and keep my streak alive.

I brought a book with me, figuring there wouldn’t be anyone moving at my particular pace.  I managed 26:20 out and 24:00 back (tailwind).

Headlands 50M – 2017

September 9, 2017

For the past several months, Alan has been talking to me about running his first 50 mile race.  The plan HAD been to do Avalon 50M in January, as this was the event where we got to know each other better (seemingly, it’s the event where I actually remember the people I meet).  However, he tells me that it’s not a good idea if he does Avalon because his wife’s due date is within 10 days of that event, and while he could probably manage being away on a run during that time, being an hour boat ride away is probably not the best idea.

I went through the options of events I have done that occur in the summer, fall, and winter time (semi-local), and other than Twin Peaks (not a great first timer event), there are not a lot of options… but I do remember having run the Headlands 50M in 2011.  (Go ahead, look up the post – I finished, but didn’t have the best time doing so.)

I take a look at their information; I know they are under different management than when I ran the event.  In fact, the lame race director actually died and the company was sold.  One of the great disadvantages of this race (for me, at least) was that as I finished in the dark, the ribbon was hard to see (in the fog) and I was totally by myself.  A possible advantage to running the race now is that there are two longer distances available (75 and 100 miles) which means there will be others still running the course when I struggle in.

I suggest to Alan this might be a good first 50 miler – not the easiest, but scenic and logistically easy to run… and if he decides to run it, I will run it “with” him.

On Friday, his wife drops him off at my place at some ungodly hour so that we can drive up to the Bay Area and miss most of the traffic at both ends.  When we hit some traffic coming into Livermore, we use the Express Lanes (not realizing that you need a transponder to avoid a ticket – and later I get a transponder to avoid that fine).  Unlike our last ultra in the Bay Area (last month), my folks are in town so he can spend some QT with my entire family (except Riva who is not visiting).  It’s the usual of resting before a hellacious day.

Saturday morning we take the exciting drive up to the Headlands.  The fastest way to go is via the Golden Gate Bridge, which means you go across the (new) Bay Bridge, through San Francisco (the 101 is on city streets there) and a bunch of turns.  I always hate this drive by myself, but it’s slightly better with a navigator.  Once you get to the other side of the Golden Gate (not particularly scenic at 4AM), you queue up for the one-way tunnel drive which pops us out into the short foggy coastal drive down to Rodeo Beach.

The area where I had parked in the past for Miwok and this event in 2011 is blocked off for volunteers and race staging, but they direct us to park along the side of the road and we are about a half mile down from the start.

Fortunately, because we are so early, we have the time to walk over, pick up our bibs (and applicable giveaways – I opted out of everything, but I still get a cool drop bag with compartments), and drop it all back in the car.  It’s a little on the chilly side but manageable.


I spot a number of people I know that are running various distances – Megan Cheng, Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen, Dean Karnazes, running the 100 miler; Martin Sengo doing the 75 miler, and Ken Michal in the 50 with us.

As the race gets underway, I try and keep Alan in my sights, but honestly, I have to run my own race.   My semi-goal is to be at or close to my 14:43 time of 2011 (or if I apply the “age-grade” formula here, I need to beat 15:20 or so to do an equivalent).  I know that Alan should be considerably faster than that; hence why we would not run together.

The way the course is run is that we do 25 mile loops.  When the first loop is completed, then we run the loop in reverse.  (Note:  It’s not a true loop, but the direction you run on a certain stretch of trail is determined by the loop direction.)  This certainly means that we will encounter a number of runners coming towards us and passing us at any given moment.

This first section is 4.1 miles long and will also be the last 4.1 miles of the race (and was also the last few miles of Miwok in 2009 and 2010).  For the most part, it’s a long uphill slog, including a whole bunch of uneven stairs (a bit wet) which are a total dream in the dark, let me tell you.  At the top, it’s a traverse along the coast and then eventually down a (horse) switchback that ends at Tennessee Valley.

We will hit the Tennessee Valley aid station 4 times, so that is where my drop bag is located.  I generally do not need anything in my drop bag, but I have my small TRH duffel with a spare tube of Nuun, spare batteries for my headlamp, and a tube of glow sticks (from Dollar Tree) that I intend on breaking open in my final stretch to entertain myself in the dark.

I come through in 57:45, which is a tad faster than briskly walking.  Hooray!

The next stretch goes from Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach.  There is a length lightly downhill paved section towards the coast again, and then a number of annoying climbs to a double-track trail and a number of short wooden bridges.  I know this leads to the section that I fear most, which is hundreds of uneven downhill stairs that are apt to be slippery.

Fortunately, I am mostly by myself (meaning, I don’t have people bounding by me and making me lose my concentration), though once I get to the bottom and begin the gentle climb out, a lady passes me and mentions that she’s seen me at some other ultras.  The joke is always, “Gosh you remember me?” since I know it is because I am so tall.

She says, “Well, you are the Usain Bolt of Ultrarunning.”  A strange (but apt) sobriquet.

Once I get around a number of the curves hugging the shoreline, there is a bit of a descent on a wide fire road heading down into Muir Beach.  This is a double-up section, so I do get some encouragement from Meg near her turn-off at the top and from Alan somewhere nearer the bottom.

They have done some construction since the last time I was here.  Now there is a nice (but a bit slippery) metal bridge traversing the marshy area.  In my last Miwok, we had to detour around this quite a bit.



I have been cautious on this section, especially because the stairs and the severe downhills have been tough on my knees, but I carry on through in just over an hour (at 15:52 pace).

Now I turn around, recross the bridge, and head back up the hills.  Not as much cross traffic (as I am towards the back) but the people around me are somewhat surprised at my technique of climbing the hills which is diagonal climbing.  It takes pressure off my knees and is mildly entertaining to me (I don’t listen to music so I have weird ways of keeping my mind occupied.).  There is also a trick to timing it just right so you can get around upcoming people.

This next section is another 4 miles back to Tennessee Valley but in a slightly different manner, along Coyote Ridge and not along the coast.  I kinda hate this section because it’s hard to visualize where you are heading, but once you complete the ridiculous climbing away from the coast, there is quite a bit of downhill to get back to the Valley (which is not to say I am maintaining a faster pace).

From Tennessee Valley, the course now heads out in a third different direction (first one inbound from the start, second one inbound from Muir Beach, third one outbound to the Golden Gate).  This is the second longest stretch of the course (been doing about 4 mile stretches for the first 3) at 5.9 miles and definitely has the most up-and-down of the sections.

It’s a long, long climb out of Tennessee Valley, but at the top, the view is pretty rewarding.  It’s not too foggy this year to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is still foggy and breezy.  The course is slightly confusing here, but I am good at following ribbons.  Because of the fog, it is more humid here and the trail is muddier.



However, to me, muddier means softer.

When I emerge from the foggy wooded section, it’s back to single-track and gusty winds.  In a couple of sections, I hold my hat in my hand so that it doesn’t blow off.  I am almost walking on this downhill section and there are now runners sprinting by me on the uphills (to be expected).  I look for the familiar faces (feel like I should have seen Meg Cheng by now – she was running so well).

Probably midway down, I encounter Alan coming back up.  He tells me he hates this section because it is so rocky and he has to continually tilt his Luna sandals to keep the pebbles out (don’t suppose gaiters would work?).

When I get to the bottom, it’s now the paved road down, down, down to the water UNDER the Golden Gate Bridge.  I hate this section because you give up the hill  entirely, and then you have to climb back out (and we will be back here again soon – yuck).

I thought the aid station would be at the bottom of the hill, but we have to turn and run alongside the water for a quarter mile or so.  The aroma of marijuana smoke is pretty strong here – gag.  I pick up a couple of orange slices and make the turnaround.  Because of the downhill, I dropped my pace from 17:30 to 16:15 per mile, but know I will probably lose all that in a quick minute here.

Now for the longest stretch, 7.1 miles (feels like an eternity).  It starts with the reverse road climb, then the switchbacks on rocky dirt in the wind, back through the muddy wood, and then a turn onto the road heading back down to Rodeo Beach.

Once I am back on the fire-road, it’s a spot-fast-folks section, as they have finished their first loop and are heading in the reverse direction now.  First, I spot Dean Karnazes.  We talked for a quick second at the start and he vaguely remembers me from Santa Barbara 100 (I worked, he ran).  This is a MUCH easier course (the 100, I mean) by the way.

Next, I see Ed Ettinghausen.  I’ve known him for at least a decade so when he passes me, he gives me the ol’ toot on the railroad whistle (I’m struggling carrying two water bottles – I wouldn’t be carrying a large wooden whistle with me – I can cheer people on just as well with my voicebox.).  Great to see him.

Still looking for Meg.  Feel like at this point, maybe she dropped out. (Later, I find she was throwing up and had a touch of the flu, so maybe it was for the best… but I tend to run better when I am a little sick because I manage my expectations better.)

Quite a bit later, I spot Alan coming up the road.  I’ll time it, but I’m probably a good hour behind him at this point.  If he maintains a good pace, I’ll probably finish 2-3 hours behind him (hope he’s easily entertained!).

The fire road pops out on Conzelman (the road we drove in on) and crosses it to a small trail paralleling the cars for about a mile.  My feet really hurt at this point.  I am almost considering quitting, BUT I know that I could slowly slog on for another 7 hours (Yes, that sounds crazy, but I have 33 hours to finish (or, 26 and change at this point), and while I am hoping not to take 33 hours, my need to finish is strong enough to keep on.).

I come through the start/finish line, grab some vittles and head back out.  There are still some people behind me coming in (some to finish the marathon (who ran an additional 1.2 mile loop at the start)).  I overhear one guy say that he is going to stop and not do another loop.  I halfheartedly yell at him to continue since we still have so much time.

When I get back to the trail section, I spot Eldrith Gosney.  We “ran” together at Miwok 2009 (and she creamed me).  She is in her 70s and an ultra legend.  We chat really briefly (neither of us need to stop for too long).  I suggest that we are the weird “E”s (Eldrith and Emmett) and I flash her the “E” sign with my fingers.

So now up the dreaded hill.  Since I am now doing every section in reverse, I can compare times (probably a bad idea).  The sections aren’t identical (since down is up and vice versa) and I am now between 5 and 25 miles more tired than when I did the section earlier.

I continue my zigzag up the hill and try to maintain an even pace.  Still shooting for 14:43 or at least sub-15:00 but my feet are really hurting.

At the top, back into the muddy forest, a little less foggy at this hour, and then back into the wind and technical trail.


Alan is almost off this section by the time we connect, meaning he is closer to 90 minutes ahead of me now.  Guess I won’t be catching up.  I don’t spot folks like Ed or Dean at this point because they have already turned off on the trail to Tennessee Valley.

When I get down to the paved section, that feels the absolute worst on my feet.  The best bet to get down the hill quickly is skipping or galloping.  Think about it, you cover a longer distance and it’s slightly less pounding.

When I get to the aid station, I have to sidle around a fire truck.  Someone had some issues and they called the paramedics.  By some miracle, I got through this section in 2:03:53 (only 4 minutes slower).  Now, although I still have the climb out, the distance between aid stations is only going to get shorter.  I got the two 7.1 mile stretches done.

The climb out is horrible and I am only gratified by the fact that there are still folks behind me (not many) and I am mostly around the same people I have seen all day (a gal here, and a couple there), though I am worried about the probability of some of them finishing… because they are entered in the 75 or 100 miler and while we are still on pace for a finish, the reality is that once it gets dark, the speed will drop considerably, the body will get even more tired, and the chances will fall precipitously.

Just after I turn out of the forested area and back onto the fire road that will take me back to Tennessee Valley, I spot someone not in a number, a volunteer that I think I saw at the last aid station.  She is looking for a particular runner – I think it is the wife of one of the couples I have been trading leads with all day.  The hard part is I don’t think we exchanged names, but I do remember some of the numbers.

Anyway, the second weirdest moment on an ultra for me (first was probably discussing hemorrhoids with Gordy Ainsleigh at Way Too Cool 50K) was the volunteer saying that she wanted to find the runner to give her medication for her UTI.  Seriously, too much information, there.

More zigzagging down the steep hill into Tennessee Valley.  No 4-5 minute slower on this section, no-sir-ee Bob.  13 minutes slower (basically 2 minutes PER mile slower).  I, too, am facing the dark dilemma.

At Tennessee Valley, I spot a few of my friends.  Martin Sengo is here, but heading out to finish his second loop and presumably start his third and final loop.  Good to see another tall-ish guy.  I also see my friend Errol “Rocket” Jones.  We never seem to meet when both of us are running – it’s always one or the other.  One of these days, I want to do his Quad Dipsea race, but I have to know my Thanksgiving plans several months in advance.

Less than a half marathon to go, but another dreaded climb out of Tennessee Valley and off to Muir Beach.  Because this section is so even (meaning an equal measure of up and down, I actually ran it only 30 seconds slower than the first time out (I wonder if that means that there was actually more downhill than up!).  Another two traverses of the full metal bridge.

Now the fun climb out, back along the ridge, downhill, and up the slippery wood stairs, back along the coast.  I am pretty much by myself most of the way here, with occasional reverse direction passes from 75 or 100 milers.

It is starting to get dusky and I am hoping to get back into Tennessee Valley before it gets dark, especially because I left my headlamp in my drop bag for a number of loops so I didn’t have to carry it with me.  It is almost dark when I slog into the aid station at a 24 minute per mile pace (lost 34 minutes off my first time through).

Before I take off, the one thing I am wondering is when the drop bags will be returned to the start.  Wondering if they will do the deal with some coming back earlier and the rest tomorrow afternoon, but they say that all of them are not coming back until tomorrow.

I make the decision that I will carry my bag back with me (so we don’t have to wait or come back tomorrow).  It’s a small duffel so I am able to strap it across my back in a way that isn’t uncomfortable (and as I mentioned earlier, there is some glow sticks, some Nuun, and some batteries inside – it probably weighs less than my car keys).

When I begin heading out on trail, they are only just putting out glow sticks and I am not even sure what direction to go (and I know this area) but someone orienteers me in the direction of the barn.  Think they dropped the ball and forgot to put markers out BEFORE dark, as they are putting them up now.

I know there’s a turn to head up the horse switchbacks, but I can’t see yellow ribbon in the dark unless I see the ribbon in the exact reflection point.  This results in me missing the turn and wandering back and forth until some 75/100 milers come in from the correct direction so I can head back out that way.

I’m feeling the nightmare from 6 years ago when I couldn’t find the blue ribbon (and no glow sticks), but am gratified at least that some people will be coming at me and it won’t be me by myself for the last 90 minutes to 2 hours.

For the most part, there aren’t any options for turns.  Just slow going in the dark (even with a headlamp, which only illuminates the 20 yards ahead of you).  Every so often, a runner or a large group of runners (probably from the Night Sweats Marathon which started a little while ago.  Mostly ladies who cheer me on. Nice!

There is a certain point when I have a vague idea where I am, even in the dark and you start to hear the voices of the finish line but you can’t just bound down the hill, you have to follow the course in correct manner (unless like 6 years ago, you can’t find any course and just guess your way down the hill).  Every turn is a hunt for the yellow ribbon and glow stick.  If it is a turn, it’s always hidden.  Probably they marked it in the daylight, not thinking of how it appears at night so it was a little hairy at times.

I did eventually get to the stone stairs (slippery and tough in the dark) and then a wooden railing from which I could see the lights of the finish line, and then finally through the gate back onto Conzelman Road for a short period before turning up through the parking lot and across the finishline in 15:10:14 (not under 15 hours or 14:43, but age-grade faster).

Alan finished under 12:00, which in the old days was a Western States Qualifier (11:53), so he has been making new friends for the past 3 hours (and freaking out his wife because the cell phone is in my car).

I get some food and unstrap my drop bag (throw my water bottles in there).  I pull out my glow sticks (which I never got around to) and hand them out to anyone hanging at the finish that is interested – which is a lot of people.  At this point I could probably hand out large pieces of coal and the people there would get excited (because we are off our feet).

A few of the people who finished near me, but are in the 75 or 100 are weighing their options.  A 75er can still finish, but does she want to go struggle around in the dark all night?  And someone in the 100 probably isn’t going to finish unless the sun suddenly rose in the next hour.  I think we convinced a few people to call it a day at 50 miles (which is a pretty pretty good accomplishment).

For me, it’s my 23rd completed 50 miler (can’t believe I’m coming upon 25 finishes) and for Alan, a very respectable first 50 miler on not the easiest of courses (I have three faster times and they were a lot flatter and less technical).

If I can figure out the feet thing (better padded shoes?  better feet?), I would be interested in returning and trying the 75 miler.  Don’t think I could do the 100.  I guess we will see what 2018 holds (and if Mrs. Sheppard can handle 3 kids while Alan runs 100 miles or if Alan can push 3 kids 100 trail miles in a stroller).


LB Poly Bun Run 5K – 2017

August 26, 2017

Not a lot of particular training, though I did go do part of the Candy Store loop with Alan Sheppard and other AREC folk a few weeks ago and my knees were acting up and I got overheated.  Nothing like a short cross country 5K to liven things up.

This is three races in one, well, three separate races at least.  I believe we started with the Community Run, which is people not on cross country high school teams and “old folk.”  Several TRH folks were there along Ed Villalobos and myself.

The first section is screaming down the street, then a turn onto dirt and woodchips.  My watch recorded 7:59.99 for the first mile.

Next, we get off the dirt and back onto a paved road with some gentle undulations.  I walked a little bit of the uphill and slowed to 8:23, and the last 1.1 miles is back to the dirt road and a little uphill and flat paved road to finish.  8:56 is close to right around 8:00/mile pace, with a net time of 25:21 (a tad over 8:00).

Afterwards, I “hiked” back along the route to find Ed and run him in.  He finished ahead of at least 10 people, but not quite before the one of the other two races started out.

Skyline 50K – 2017

August 6, 2017

Today I am doing my 10th Skyline 50K.  Who knew that when I started doing LONG distance racing that I would have two 50Ks that I would reach double digits on?

As per my usual, I drive up early on Friday morning, even though Skyline is on Sunday.  This, at least, allows me to have a day of recovery from the drive before I do the race.  Mom and Dad are out of town, but I still have Marisa to hang with.

We spend part of Friday hiking the French and Stream trails (not last-minute training, I swear) and the evening watching South Pacific at Woodminster.  (36 years ago, I appeared in South Pacific as Jerome with Piedmont Light Opera Theatre.  Apparently, this production couldn’t get a male youth who could sing so they just had two girls (who can’t really sing anyway).)

On Saturday, I mostly just hung out, did some laundry, etc.

My new (ish) ultra buddy, Alan Sheppard, is going to run the race as well.  We had talked about driving up together, but he ended up doing a road trip with his family and are staying with his wife’s relatives in Alameda.  However, since we have an early start tomorrow, we have co.ordinated for Alan to be dropped off here.  He will spend the night (slumber party!) and then we will drive together to the race in the morning.  His family will probably meet him at the finish line (after they are awake).  I have no illusions that we will run together, since he seems to be much faster without heavy shoes weighing him down.

As with last year, a slightly different course than in the past.  I was a little disappointed last year when we took the suspension bridge route and bypassed it… twice.  It does look like (from the course map) that we are going to go through there again, and I hope that we go across the actual bridge at least once.

A nice drive in the morning and we get a pretty good parking space on the street and walk down and check in.  I see a lot of the usual suspects, like Meg Cheng (neither of us starting early) and just a number of random folks that I see here every year (or random people that recognize me from somewhere).

At the start, I am kinda hoping that they will acknowledge my 10th running, but at least when I was running my 100th marathon or ultra a few years back, they did give me Bib #100.

The opening section is around 2 miles of undulating paved road and I try to maintain a decent pace throughout this section (as I know I will slow off-road).  There is a line when I get to the suspension bridge (which means we’re going over it), a little bit of a bottleneck.  I don’t mind waiting because I get to run over the bouncy bridge.

On the other side, we begin the uphills (the new course from last year that I didn’t really like that much), and I just continue to maintain until the aid station at the top.  Happy with my 12:05 pace, but know that I can’t hope to maintain that pace.

The trail continues to follow the same route as last year, with single track traverses and crossing the road a few times.  I have a few jostling stumbles here (kicking my foot into a few big rocks in the trail) but I do not fall.

Having climbed the big hill, we don’t have the same downhill that used to go by Golf Links Road, nor the ascent on the other side, but sort of top accessing route to Bort Meadow, with some rough-ish single track, through a couple of cattle gates, and up a paved hill to the aid station.  Still maintaining a sub-15:00 pace (aka walking) with a good-sized hill to come.

This section has never changed in the course, basically 1.5 miles of steady uphill, about a mile of steep downhill, and a half mile of medium-flat single track through berry bushes over a minor stream to the road crossing and aid station at Big Bear.  I always take a look at my watch here to see how much time I lose on the way back, when the now-mile uphill is in the sun and I’m a dozen miles more tired.  I’ll see if the 40:29 holds up. (I did have one minor stop just before the aid station to re-adjust the inserts in my shoes, which always seem to slip in my shoes when there is significant downhill.)

Now for the run single-track section.  Lots of up-and-downs, watching my step (and a few stumbles on roots), and working our way up to another paved (in park) section.  Like last year, the course continues until the road ends at the Stream Trail and then follow the dirt trail up, up, up to Skyline Gate.  (I miss the old Ridge Trail route through the fog.)

It is here that I have a big drop off in pace (largely due to the uphill) to about 16:30 per mile… but to a certain extent, we are now on the downhill swing towards the finish.  But note that hills aren’t over and Skyline Gate isn’t the halfway point (but I am psychologically halfway).

We are doing a different route from this point, too.  We used to go about a half mile and then down the French Trail, but we go past this to Tres Sendas, which is a treacherous downhill.  There are a ton of roots and it is STEEP.  I end up not running down the hill, and I slow down even more when the guy just in front of me careens out of control and skids on his knees.  I do stop to help him up.  (I am a human redwood and can easily help people up, though I wonder if he could have just grabbed onto a redwood here.)  He is bloodied but not injured too badly (but if I fall, that may just be it).

We do work our way back to French Trail, which has a lot of climbing and descending.  I am in a long section by myself, wending my way around the hillside, at each moment thinking I am just about on the section that connects to the wider fire-road, but each bend seems to get to another uphill section.

Eventually, I do get to the fire-road, which, as I remember only goes for a half mile or so before veering off onto the single track that will take me back to the Big Bear aid station.  I figure that I won’t see another soul, but a few runners overtake me at a decent rate of speed (each overshot the turn-off – my God, it was so obvious!).  This is another section where you can hear the road but never seem to get any closer.  Despite being mostly downhill, my pace is a sluggish 18:42 per mile.  At least I have some pace to spare to make the 8:30 time limit (and I am now over halfway – 20.2 miles).

Now time to do the big hill in reverse (in the sun) with the hope that I will not lose too much time from the 40 minutes on the way out.  En route to the hill, a number of people pass me, but I pass a few of them back with a steady walking pace up the hill.  I spot a fairly tall lady up ahead of me, but she is doing the same thing I am – using her long legs to quickly walk/run up the hill.  I get back to Bort Meadow in 45:43 (so only a small loss of time).

Now to the revised route back… a bit similar the route I ran in 2002 and 2003, mostly fire roads and lots of long climbs and short descents.  Don’t know if I miss the Honker Bay route, though.  That was always endless (much like the last section I was on).

Midway through this section, I catch up to the tall lady.  She hasn’t really got running clothes on and she isn’t carrying a water bottle… but she does have a Dixie cup that she is sipping from.  She is pretty desperate for water, and I pour her a few cupfuls to tide her over to the next aid station.  (I don’t like to part with my own water, but I always carry two water bottles, and one is a buffer against really struggling, so I rarely dig into the second bottle… I can spare the water.

We chat for a little bit.  This is her first ultra and didn’t really know what to expect (and at the next aid station, one of the volunteers loans her a water bottle to get her through the last section).  She IS going to make it, after all.

Another struggle section for me, with around 18:00/mile, but it really is downhill to the finish and one more span of the suspension bridge.  From this top aid station, there is a significant downhill (almost too steep to run) working down to the bridge… and of course, once I am over the bridge, it is less than 2 miles to the finish.

My knee is bugging me and if I run, I cramp.  Yuck.  So I am basically speed walking on the flats and downhills and regular walking on the uphills.  The good news is that I have over an hour to finish the race, and the bad news is that I am already slower than my time from last year (with 3.6 miles to go).


I do have a nice shuffle finish and am greeted by Alan and family.  7:53:13, about 45 minutes slower than last year (but I am also a year older).  I will probably be back again for #11.