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.

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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).

Boeing 5K (9) – 2018

October 8, 2018

I got my wrist cast off a couple of weeks ago, but I am still nervous and not quite back to normal.  A few days ago, I “paced” Alan at his 100K.  Pacing consisted of walk/running with him until it got dark and then slogging by myself the remaining 13 miles (because I was less sure in shoes than Alan was in sandals).

Woke up today feeling poorly, so I started out slowly and then picked it up the second half (where I had a couple of ~90 second quarter miles) to finish in 24:55.

Boeing 5K (8) – 2018

September 10, 2018

Today is Boeing consecutively run 5K #121 and the record!

Last month, I casually joked that only hospitalization would stop me from doing the run.  Famously, as you may know, I once came directly from being released from the hospital to continue my streak.

Well, three weeks ago, I stumbled on a sprinkler head and fell face-first into the sidewalk, ripping my lip, banging my teeth (no structural damage there) and fracturing my wrist.  Not hospitalization, per se, but pretty major.

I have been having trouble running regularly because the cast is heavy and I did bang up my sides in the fall as well, and running just makes it sort of worse.

The whole idea is to finish so I conservatively did 15 minutes out (about 2/3 speed) and 14:39 back (just under 30 minutes), and you know what?  I felt okay.

Hopefully, I am getting the cast off next week.

Boeing 5K (7) – 2018

August 13, 2018

After Skyline 50K, my sore knee (and hip, a bit) are still persistently sore.  (Hope this goes away soon.)  I managed 25:55 (11:45 out and 14:10 back – walked 5 separate times).

The more interesting thing about today is that it is my 120th Boeing 5K in a row (if there weren’t cancellations due to rain, this would be 10 consecutive years, every month), which ties the record held by Peter Lew (who encouraged me to go for it when I reached 100 over 2 years ago).  Next month, barring hospitalization, I will break the record!

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.

Boeing 5K (6) – 2018

July 16, 2018

Today’s Boeing is on the third Monday this month.  Sometimes this happens due to road resurfacing, raining, or in today’s case, the rec center facility which times us was closed last week and forced us to push it up one week to today.

My knee doesn’t feel great today and my shoulders are still achy from the intense-ish paddling at the Browne Rice Kayak Relay a few days ago.

I started out slowly and today was a day where the wind was in my face first and warm on the way back.

Historically, the Kayak 5K is about 5 days AFTER Boeing, so it’s probably not fair to compare times, which are usually slightly faster for Boeing (no sand).  Despite the date change, my time ends up being about a minute faster, with a nice 24 second negative split on the return and a sub 8:00/mile average.

Browne-Rice Kayak-Run Relay – 2018

July 14, 2018

Alan and I are teammates once again this year for the Kayak-Run Relay.  I know it’s fun for him (even though I am basically his kayak-run relay ball-and-chain).

As per my usual, I jogged down (and eventually back) from the start/finish line along the Peninsula.  Also, as per my usual, did not bring a shoulder cover (cuz I usually wear a tank top) and got a significant sunburn.

Nothing significant to report about the race this year, only that my times are getting slower (on both kayak and run alike), but I can still be easily satisfied running 25 and change for the 5K, given that several tenths of it are on not the hardest packed sand.