Bagel 10K – 2017

May 14, 2017

It’s Mother’s Day in Dallas, so of course, we are doing a Mother’s Day Race.  Think Riva ran this before, and it could be on the small side in terms of competitors.

I am just over a week past completing Wild Wild West 50K, so I don’t have any great expectations, but feel Dad has a great chance to place in the 5K and Riva will most certainly get a top 3 finish in F40 or Masters.

The course is a teensy bit hilly and it is muggy and hot out.  10K is going to be two loops, so I expect to do OK in the first half and not as good in the second half (probably walk a bit).  I have on my AREC shirt which doesn’t seem to fit very well.

We start out immediately downhill (and this is also the section of the race where you avoid kids going out too fast), so my first mile is 7:30, and then it’s a gentle flat and climb through a neighborhood, mostly shaded and I slow to 8:26.  The last 1.1 is a descent along a bike path, a small climb to the street we started on, and then an out-and-back section to make up the discrepancy between the 5K and 10K and back through the start.  8:28 on this section (25:10 for the first 5K+).

On the second half, I do run the downhill part, and jog/walk the uphill – 8:47.  The neighborhood and uphill slows me to 10:25, and then I try and press the last section.

I pass Myrrh and Dad in the middle of this section, along with a number of walkers in the 5K.  Mom and Riv are waiting for me at the finish line when I come though in 53:13 (not too bad in this heat).  They don’t have my time, though, and it gets busted up to 53:56 somehow.  I missed out of placing in my division (F40-49) by about a minute (but it would have been closer if they had my real time).  (When I see the chintzy awards, well, it’s not a big deal to miss out).

Riva runs 46:53 (below average for her, but she may be injured) and that it is good enough for 5th overall and the female winner of the race.

Myrrh and Dad come in around 57 minutes.  Dad would have been first place in the M80, but they decided to lump them in with the M70-79, too and he is only 5th.  (70+ is sometimes OK, but not when you have a separate race for 90 year olds!)

Afterwards, we get a nice bagel and cream cheese, and a truckload of Kind bars (two Kinds of Kind bars).

When I take off my AREC shirt, I realize I have been wearing a Women’s XL. No wonder it fit so badly.

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Boeing 5K (4) – 2017

May 8, 2017

So normally, I would not be running today, because I just did an ultra-marathon two days ago.  But I am going to try and run for two reasons… just want to see what I can manage with sore legs, and also to see if I broke my foot yesterday.

At the Wings for Life Run, we were dismantling kilometer signs and I dropped at least 4 bases on my feet.  I definitely cut my ankle and my knee with the edges of the base pieces and my foot hurt quite a bit (don’t think it’s broken, though).

I won’t be running much in the next week as I will be visiting my family in Texas for an extended Mother’s Day visit.

It’s pretty windy out so I just do what I can.

The first half is into the wind so I only manage 13:38 (a little under 9:00/mile), but the back is with the wind at my back, so it’s WAAAY faster – 11:03 – which pushes me into a net sub-8:00/mile pace.  Not too bad.

Wild Wild West 50K – 2017

May 6, 2017

About a week before the race, I got an offer for some (paid) race work.  Somewhat disappointed to turn it down, but excited to run the Wild Wild West race, finally, after having to skip it after breaking my elbow a month prior to this race last year.

I got a clarification on the race work and it turned out that it was going to be the following day, in Santa Clarita, which is somewhat on the way home from WWW.  It was going to be a long weekend.

It worked out for the best, then, that I hadn’t convinced anyone to carpool with me, since I don’t think they would be too keen on sleeping in my car before the race and in a Santa Clarita Mall parking lot.

This race has been going on for some time (this year is the 39th running) and yet, it still felt very fly-by-night to me.  There is little posted on their website about locations of aid stations, intermediate cutoffs, though there is a map.  They also cut off registration 4 days before the race.  I could understand wanting to order the right amount of shirts, but on the other hand, you could tell late registrations that there’s no guarantee of a medal or a t-shirt if you register after a certain date.

I called the Chamber of Commerce (who puts on the race) to try and get more details about the race before I came up.  They weren’t very helpful at all and seemed almost mad that I wanted more details.  The most I got was that a couple of the stream crossings would probably be 4-5 FEET deep because of snowmelt.  I assured them that a 5 foot water crossing would hardly concern me (though other might drown).

I tried to time my drive up on Friday so that I would arrive around the time that bibs were available (and also not hit excessive LA traffic), so I did get in around 4pm (an hour early) and it was pretty hot in Lone Pine, and I kept periodically opening the car door to let some cool air in as I napped for about an hour.

At 5pm, I went inside and picked up my bib and shirt.  Shirt was nothing to write home about, white (maybe technical, not sure).  Maybe you do an event for nearly 40 years, you don’t mess with what works for you.

I opted for their pasta feed, which involved some middle schoolers serving us some spaghetti and salad.  I chatted with various people that I may have met previously, including Karin Usko (from Ridgecrest, maker of Happy Gaiters), the Central American-slash-German gal.

I also saw that David Binder was there along with one of his kids.  We chatted briefly.  He had decided to come up last minute and try to run the race, but registration was already closed and they wouldn’t budge on that, so he was going to volunteer and then maybe spend an extra day doing some recreational stuff with his son.

When I said that I was probably going to drive to the finish and just sleep in my car, he offered to let me share his motel room.  I figured the floor was a better option than the car (having done that a few times before), but I ended up with my own bed and David and his son shared the other bed.

Even though they didn’t have to get up as early as I did, they did go to bed fairly early.  The bus to the start leaves at 4:10am! (for a 5:00am start)

I woke up at 3am, took care of my duties and then drove myself to the bus pick-up, which is a city parking lot on the right-side of Hwy. 395 (the finish will be on the left-side, pretty much across the street).  It is pitch-black and no bus here, but there are other folks here, including Chris Spenker, who is doing either the marathon or the 10M race but opting to get up to the start early (or to just start early).

We sit together on the bus and the conversation is mostly about what to expect.  I have not done this race before but I have done 1 or 2 ultras so have some advice for a guy sitting near me that is running the race with his little brother and fiancee (first ultra for all of them).

The ride is pretty much a straight uphill drive, and then a short drive on a dirt and pothole-filled road – kind of slow-going.  We arrive fairly quickly and are given the option to stay on the bus or head outside.  We stay on the bus for a bit, but can’t wait too long, as we do have about a half-mile walk to the start and don’t want a “running” start.

As I start, my general goal is to finish around 7:30 (which would be 15 minute pace), which is not too bad at elevation, either.

The beginning of the course is on a fire road and uphill, so I am not doing a lot of running, but within a few miles, we are on a single-track in sandy gravel, somewhat precipitous downhill, heading for the first water crossing.  I don’t see any ribbon marking the course around here, but there is a wooden board in the water, so this is probably where we cross.

When you step on the board, it goes under the water, but only a few inches (not waist-deep as promised), but I do have wet shoes.  The path up the other side is not clearly marked, so I do wander a bit off course before I notice people who were behind me on a marked course.

At the first aid station (4.2M), I have managed 14:14 per mile, so I am currently under my goal pace.  Sort of meager pickin’s here – some pretzels, candy, potatoes – I end up having a red vine.

The 10 miler veers off from us and there is some more climbing, and more water crossings.  Some are “risky,” but none are deep, and at least one of them had a metal bridge going across, though part of the bridge was submerged (but only a few inches).  By the next aid station 3.7 miles along the course, we split off from the 50-mile course, which is heading up to Whitney Portal.  I slowed down a bit in this section to an 18:06 pace and just slightly behind the 15:00/mile average.

At this point, we get onto a wide fire-road which is heading downhill pretty significantly.  It’s not too technical, so I can actually run, gallop, and amble down.  It is a long, long downhill.

Now you may be asking why I would comment on how long the downhill was.  No doubt most people would be ecstatic about a long downhill, but so early on, it is a bit of a detriment to my running health in this race.  I don’t want to overextend myself, get my heart-rate too high, or blow out my quads.

Yes, dear reader, there are actually points on the downhill where I am stopping and walking downhill.  It helps me readjust my pace and not go down too fast.  I am back-and-forth with the brothers and fiancee on this section.  I am a pretty good downhill runner (long legs, you know), but just try to run as consistently as possible.

It’s mostly non-technical, though the ground is pretty wet in some sections, somewhat softer, somewhat muddy.

The next aid station is at the bottom of this hill, 4.5 more miles on, and I do an average of 10:47/mile.  (If you read enough of these, that’s fairly fast in an ultra.)  I am back to being under the 15:00/mile threshold.

From this aid station, we are now entering the Alabama Hills (where apparently a number of TV and movies have been filmed).  There is some climbing (not a ton) and then a descent , and then a turn onto a single-track.  A guy just ahead of me misses that turn and has to come back up the hill to turn.  This is the shortest section between aid stations, 2.2 miles and the combo of up and down enables me to do a 13:36 pace through here.

The wind has begun to pick up a bit and I do have to hold onto my hat at points.

Now back to the fire-road, but it is getting sandier by the minute (not that fond of sand), but I’ll take sand over really technical rocky stuff any day.  In the distance, I can see a trailer with radio antennae and an aid station and a number of signs.  I think this must be the split off from the marathon.  Sure enough, that’s the case.  A somewhat slower pace section here (3.2M in 53 minutes) but most of the upcoming trail looks flat, so maybe I’ll be able to jog it.

We head off towards some rock faces.  They look like cliffs, replete with people climbing them, except they are stand=alone, probably a great place for training to rock climb.

Then a left-hand turn away from that section.  It sort of seems like we are meandering around the area of the aid station, but when I see some folks that I haven’t seen since the start, I realize this is going to be a lo-ong loop.

The heat has increased, too, so I am not really running even though it is mostly flat, because I am getting hot.  The next aid station is a mere 2.3 miles off, so I am not going super slow (not uphill pace), but another 13:45/mile section.

Ooh, another left-hand turn… maybe we are heading back to the aid station, but no, back to the right and I can see the incoming trail back to the original aid station (and again, people I haven’t seen for some time).  We actually now go out to a paved road and follow that downhill for at least a half mile.  I can see where I am going for the next aid station, but it is close to enough to “touch,” but no way to jump off the road and into where it is located.

This section seems to go on forever, but I am rewarded by the sight of Dave Binder and his son. The son is doing what I want to be doing soon, which is lounging in a chair.  It is great to see a familiar face and we chat for a little bit, but I need to keep moving if I am to stay under the 15:00/mile pace.

Now it is a short jaunt back to the original aid station.  They seem to be packing up for the day, which is weird, because there are still 50-milers out there and there is another 9 hours left in the time limit.  OK, whatever.  They are still there for me, and I am headed on the homestretch, about 4 miles from here and just about an hour to make the 7:30 time.

It’s fire-road for part of the stretch, but then we move onto a horse-trail single-track that is really substantial “rolling” hills.  I will get something going on the downhill, and that is immediately negated by the ensuing uphill.  Also, the wind picked up markedly and I have to take off my hat or it will blow away (it almost blew off twice, but I have good reflexes).  This continues for about 2 sucky miles until the final aid station next to a giant American flag (waving like crazy).

I bust out into a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as I near and chat it up with the two “elderly” gentlemen manning the station (both are my age but gray-haired).  They have limited aid, but I can taste the finish line, just over 2.5 miles away.

Out of this aid station, steep downhill and out of the wind.  My pedantic pace in the wind and hills gives me just 18 minutes to do 2.5 miles (maybe possible if it was a road race and I was fresh).  Oh, well, at least I will be close to that goal.

I know we are finishing in the park across the street from the bus pick-up (where my car is parked) and I can see the Tuttle Creek Road to my right-hand side.  I thought I had heard in the past that you ran down the road to Hwy. 395, ran a little loop around the street area to make sure you got to 31.1 miles and then finished in the park, but I think they mentioned that we are going to finish through the park (maybe along the road and then into the park?).

There is a brief point when we do get onto the paved road, but I think this is so we can cross a bridge (easier than fording every stream), because immediately after, we go right back into the dirt and then get into a wooded area (by wooded, I mostly mean twigs all over the ground) which wends its way back and forth.

The highlight is an impassable water crossing.  The most direct route is straight through, but you can avoid it entirely and I do that, not wanting to finish in totally soaked shoes (I don’t think anyone went through the water.).

It’s very sudden, but you turn a couple of corners and then pop between a gap in a fence and I’m done.  7:45:45

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There are a few people hanging out here sitting on a small gazebo stage, two people at a timing/result table, and a small food table, which has peanuts, Red Vines, and cookies (basically the same food at the aid stations) – not exactly what I have a hankering for right now.  The medal is a ceramic piece with a hole for a rope or ribbon, but they don’t actually have a rope or ribbon (later, I loop fishing line through it so I can wear it).

My plan, because of the whole working at a race tomorrow, is to try and leave by 7pm and get into Santa Clarita by 10pm (to get a few hours of sleep but not have to hang out in my car for HOURS).  It’s around 1pm now, so why not hang out and watch people finish for a while?

There is one guy sitting in a camp chair (former Ridgecrest RD Chris Rios), so I go across the street and get my chair, and he gives me some of his beer and we hang out and watch people finish.

The first people I recognize are Rafael Covarrubias (formerly of LB, now back home in Tulare) and Thomas Kuerten (a German guy I have met on a few occasions).  They are in the 50 miler and have stories how they got to the Mile 45 aid station and no one was there and there was no signage, but that they knew the course decently enough to find their way to the finish (well, not directly, but close enough – maybe 2 extra miles).

A little later, another guy comes in from the wrong direction, running south on Hwy. 395.  He says he missed a turn, ran back by the Boy Scout aid station (probably Mile 10 on the 50K course) and then ended up on Hwy. 395 at some point.  His GPS says 62 miles, so Chris and I raise a toast to the first (ever) 100K finisher.

No one is really mad, per se, but it is frustrating that a major aid station disappeared with 8+ hours to go in the race. (And I almost feel like the CoC ladies would tell us, you should have run faster, to avoid that problem.)

As it starts to get dusky, I decide to leave for Santa Clarita.  I end up not eating anything (certainly not Red Vines) and have a nice drive back  (not too much traffic, don’t get too lost).  I pull into the Santa Clarita Mall around 10:30, right next to the staging area for the race.

I double-check with a security guard who tells me I am in the right location.  I tell him I will see him in a few hours and nap lightly in my car until my call time of 1:15am.

Turns out, I am working with Stacy Embretson, former AREC member, LA Marathon RD, and ultra-runner herself.  We set up signage in the first six miles, zip-tying vinyl signs to bike racks.  Once runners go through (race starts at 4am), we remove the signs and also remove the kilometer markers until we get passed by the other support vehicle (which turns out to be around 25 kilometers).  It is a very upper-body heavy workout after a very lower-body workout yesterday, but I earned some good money and got a nice hat (and shirt) to boot.

I get home by 10:30am on Sunday and don’t know whether to sleep or what.  (I just watch TV and try to relax.)

Will I run Wild Wild West again in 2018?  Thinking about it, thinking about maybe the 50 miler, especially as 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of this race, but if I had to choose between WWW and Bishop, I would opt for Bishop because it was better run, and a bit more scenic.

Boeing 5K (3) – 2017

April 10, 2017

Making some decisions this week on which ultramarathon to do next.  Wanted to run the Wild Wild West 50M last year (before I fractured my elbow), and thinking about doing the 50K this year.

Also getting ready to put on a hash on Thursday with Zack and Inger so I have had a little extra running this past week.

Definitely haven’t been sleeping well lately, mostly due to a sore stomach, some blockage, and some gained weight (don’t feel like I’m eating more, but have gained weight – think it might be reduced metabolism).

Had a decent first half in 12:24, but had to walk a bit on the way back (about 2 minutes) and finished in 26:16.

Boeing 5K (2) – 2017

March 13, 2017

Way Too Cool 50K was just over a week ago, so I haven’t run much in the interim.  My knees feel creaky today because yesterday at the hash I banged them trying to get out of a manhole cover.

Strangely though, I feel OK.  Ran 12:20 outbound (into the wind) and 11:59 coming back.  Pretty happy with that time (slightly faster than last month).

Way Too Cool 50K – 2017

March 4, 2017

Drove up to Oakland yesterday and hung with my parents and sister, including going out (sort of for my birthday) to Bay Fung Tong with them.  Maybe the noodle and rice dishes serve as carbo-loading.

This morning, I have an early drive up to Cool.  I have my new car (one year old on Tuesday) instead of the rental and the weather is a bit better (though it did rain the past couple of days and I have heard that there is damage to the course and there may be detours).

I get an earlier start than last year, when I was the 10th to last car to park and had to walk 3/4 of a mile to the start (and then back afterwards).  There is the usual chaos in the parking where people can’t listen to directions.  (They have you drive the entire length of the paved road, turn around at the end and then park facing the exit direction.  There is always someone who tries a three-point turn and holds up the whole situation, because they know better.)  But anyway, I am probably less than a quarter-mile from the start line, so that makes the day a little less stressful.

At the start, I am looking for people I might recognize.  I see a few GVH folks, including Martin Sengo.  I also see Tsehay Villeza from AREC.  Last year, she got pulled from the race even though she was moving well enough to finish under the time limit (so they got her in again).  Also from AREC (though local to the Sacramento area) is Anthony Fagundes.  He is attempting his first 50K, but he has had good success with shorter trail races (the overall winner of all Xterra races he’s run this season).  I hang out a bit with his parents who have driven up to watch him run.

Today my goal is just to finish (I am not really worried about the time limit, but my fitness is not the same as it was last year.).  The importance of finishing is to reach my goal of 14 Way Too Cool finishes, on this the 28th year of competitions (I will have run half of all races.)

The fast pack take off at 8:00am and then the slower field goes off at 8:10am.  I do put myself in the front of this group so that I can get away on the trail before the crowds behind me make me nervous.  (I can get over the roots and rocks better if someone isn’t breathing down my neck.)

I make better time on the road portion and force myself to run the little uphills, though once I get to the trail, I immediately feel the need to walk and get passed by about 20 people before I reach the steeper downhill part.

The trail seems more technical than last year.  I am guessing this is due to heavier rains which expose rocks and roots more readily.  The water crossings don’t seem any more heinous, though, but there is also more standing water on the trail than the past few years.

The last mile before completing the 8-mile loop is super-wet.  It is almost all puddles and super slippery (but I do not fall).  I am happy to finish this section in 95 minutes (11:52/mile pace).

From the Start/Finish at the Cool Firehouse, we now parallel Highway 49 for a bit (this will also be the same stretch for the finish) and then work our way over to the steep, muddy, wet downhill to the crossing before the aid station on the other side of Highway 49.  Lots of people pass me here because I am nervous about falling and do not have supreme confidence on technical downhill trails.

This section is only a 5K and I am not guzzling water, but I do remember an aid station a little past the highway crossing, but… hmm…, there doesn’t seem to be an aid station here.  A port-a-potty, yes, but that generally doesn’t offer the same treats as an aid station.  Hopefully, they have not eliminated too many aid stations because it’s tough to balance water consumption if you have no idea how far you are going.  I do click off a lap on my watch so I can compare with previous years or get an idea on my (mostly) downhill pace (13:07/mile).

After going through the non-aid station, the wide fire-road parallels the American River and is fairly flat and well-graded (with a rash of puddles, of course).  I am alternating between light jogging and brisk walking for most of this section.  It’s less about being tired and more about the upcoming hills that I want to be prepared for.

As we get to the end of the fire-road section and into the more single-track route along the river, it is clear that the trail is pretty much completely washed out.  I can envision what the trail WAS, but now there is no real trail here and we wander out into the riverbed a bit and just sort of stumble through uneven sand and boulders until a semblance of a trail reappears.

A few more tough rolling hills and the next aid station materializes.  The distance was almost as much as the 8 miles on the opening loop but it seems far worse as I am 8 miles less fresh.  I guess my pace based upon what the course map says, though a 10:27/mile pace seems to have been unrealistic at this point (and my GPS says something else).

According to my pace sheet, the next aid station is in 1.5 miles, but again, there is nothing there, so another split that is a bit useless (only for comparing to last year).  The location of the aid stations also don’t exactly match up with the web page, either…

Until I get to ALT (Auburn Lake Trail) at the river crossing.  Finally, what I have and what the website has, and what my GPS states all match up.  Here’s to hoping that the rest of the aid stations are not 6 or 7 miles apart!  These first 21 miles have taken me 4:43 (or 13:24/mile).  This would put me on pace for 6:40, which would be comparable to last year, but I don’t think I am going to maintain that pace on the last few sections, especially not Goat Hill.

The trail crosses the water and then winds around the hillside forever.  In previous years, I count the number of water crossings (anything that has running water and isn’t a puddle).  In a “dry” year, there are about 50 water crossings and today, there are over 80.  Most I can easily step over (though I am cautious so that I don’t slip, fall, and break my elbow).

The key to the end of this trail is a wooden bridge water crossing that takes us to the fire-road.  There is a bit of steep uphill here before turning onto the steeper single-track up to Goat Hill.

But that was BEFORE the trail got washed out.  I can see in the distance that there is a bunch of trees and branches blocking the trail and a turn-off earlier than usual heading up the hill.  This trail is very steep (much like the old Goat Hill trail) and I am really struggling to get up the hill and getting some calf cramps which are not helping.

Alas, absolute torture awaits.  Instead of traversing the hillside and continuing up to Goat Hill Aid Station, we basically are hooking around the obstruction in the most difficult manner possible, and then going back onto the fire-road, DOWN to the fire-road, and THEN going up the Goat Hill trail.  In essence, we are climbing the horrible hill TWICE!  My pace slows to a crawl, both because of cramping and being more out of shape.

The Burma-Shave style signs don’t help my mood.  It would have been nice to warn about this change or come up with something more reasonable.  I don’t think there was any reason to carve out a steep trail.  I would as soon climb over the obstruction than climb that hill twice.

The top of the hill takes me to 26 miles in 6:22 (which is slower than I ran WTC in 2002 and I still have 5 miles to go).  Unless I can cover the last 5 miles in 25 minutes (ha!), I will have a slower time than last year.

From Goat Hill, we now proceed to the (upper) Highway 49 crossing.  This is mostly rolling hills with a net downhill, but VERY wet and several sections that are completely puddles.  On the flatter sections, I am reduced to lots of walking and I seem to go back and forth with an older gentleman (70, I think he said) who is going for his 9th finish (and of course, there are folks going for their 28th finishes).  When I cannot run, he takes off on me and I figure I will not see him again until after I finish.

I get pretty excited once I get to the highway crossing because I know I can muddle through a mile-and-a-half to the finish in under 1 hour, 15 minutes (the 8:30 time limit).  After crossing the road, I don’t stop at the aid station because the end is so close and I would rather have the time to power up the muddy waterfalls that is the trail back up to the trail paralleling Highway 49.

I walk/run for a bit with a gal who finishing her first 50K (doing great, I might add) and then shuffle/jog past a number of slowing competitors and I catch back up to my 70 year-old friend on the last stretch.  We come across the finish together (though he may have started an hour early) and I proclaim that between us we have 23 Way Too Cool finishes!

Tsehay gets her finish (yay!) – knew she could do it.  Anthony beats me by almost 4 hours (he is also 20 years younger), coming in 7th overall, but not placing in his age group! My time is 7:38:26, almost an hour slower than last year.  I’ll attribute it to my lack of running this winter and the incessant rain preventing me from getting out on the trails.

I hope to be back out at Cool next year, and I really hope that they are able to repair some of my favorite trails and eliminate the run-arounds.  I hope they also continue to be sponsored by Sufferfest beer, so I can bring a can home and split with my dad (like I have the past two years).

Boeing 5K (1) – 2017

February 13, 2017

No, that is not a typo.  The first Boeing 5K of the year is in February (and no, my consecutive streak did not end… yet).  Last month, the run should have been the Monday after Avalon 50M, but because of the rain, the race was canceled (often postponed, rarely canceled).

I haven’t slept well for the past few nights because the back-up battery for my internet access is going dead and I am awaiting receipt of the new battery, so… it beeps every 15 minutes (even muted through a pillow).  I guess I could just pull it out, but feel like I need the back-up just in case (I probably should have disconnected it, though.).

My left knee also feels a bit tweaky at the start, so I didn’t go out too hard, so I don’t hurt myself.  Usually, I feel a bit off for a couple of weeks post-50M, but I have felt particularly extra off even a month-plus after the fact.

Despite my gripes, I get to the turn-around in 12:02 (which is slightly sub-8:00/mile pace).

On the way back, I walked, briefly, a couple of times, but still managed to come in at 24:48 (8:00/mile on the nose).