Tag Archives: Alan Sheppard

Ridgecrest High Desert 50K – 2017

December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chino Hills 50K – 2017

November 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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).

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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.

Browne-Rice Kayak-Run Relay – 2017

July 15, 2017

Browne-Rice is back… under new management.  Of course, Browne and Rice are still around, but TRH is going through the motions of taking some responsibilities from Paul and Bob in the event they are incapacitated (or not around).

Since January, I have become closer friends with Alan Sheppard (not the astronaut, but his head is definitely in the clouds).  I stayed with his family when I did Avalon 50M, he came to Hashtravaganza, and he is a good guy to talk with (has good ideas and also listens).  Since he always seems to want to try new things, I thought him the perfect partner for this event.  Who knows how he will do with kayaking?  (Will he wear shoes in the boat?)

In the morning, I walked down to the start (off of Ocean Blvd, the usual spot) and met up with the usual crowd.  This event always “sells out,” and it always has plenty of open spots for participants who missed out originally (because of no shows).

I always insist on kayaking first because I know I will be useless after running.  I did kayak second once and hated it.  Plus as the senior member of our team, I should get first choice.

I did my usual back-of-pack demonstration with the kayaking, but I did manage to beat a couple of old ladies and corpses.

Alan took off on the run, giving me just enough time to rinse off my feet and put my shoes on without getting too much sand into my shoes.  (and I cheered him on from the street)

I was definitely the slower half of our team, but I did manage 25:16 for the 5K (which is around the same exact time I ran for Boeing last week which doesn’t run on the sand or in sandy shoes).

We finished in the top ten (of 22) and had a good time doing it.

I hung around for quite some time afterwards (not just drinking the beers) as Alan’s whole family came to enjoy a day at the beach.  I had sort of met his wife and kids before at a distance, but got to know both his boys a lot better.  They are super-cute and kinda look like him (bald and quirky).  Looking forward to doing some more events with Alan.  Seems like we have similar mindsets.

Boeing 5K (6) – 2017

July 10, 2017

This is turning out to be a hot summer.

Spent part of my weekend volunteering at the Mt. Disappointment 50K.  Alan Sheppard was running it so I carpooled with him and had him drop me off at the base of Josephine.  I ended up caravan-ing up to the Josephine Aid Station and working there.  Met some really great people including the Aid Station captain, Deb Jorgensen (IT professional with the Dodgers) who really had a good set-up – ice, ice crushers, fake grass, lots of chairs, avocado, potato, pickle juice – really anything anyone could want.

When Alan came through, he looked like death warmed over (later, said he wanted to quit, but our good attitude got him through).  Not sure how hot it was at that point, but when Alan dropped me off at 5:30am, it was 85 degrees out!

After the last person went through, we just had to wait for word of the sweep getting into radio range to Red Box Aid Station.  We waited for a really long time and even the Search and Rescue people abandoned us.  Apparently the sweep got into difficulty and it took him over 3 hours to do 8 miles!

When I finally was dropped at Mt. Wilson around 3:45pm, I was certain Alan had finished, but couldn’t find him anywhere.  Thought he might have left (oh, no!) but then I noticed his truck was still there (maybe he got a ride with someone else… no, wait, that doesn’t make sense – heat was getting to me).

See, I had asked when I got in whether his number had come in, and they had said, “Yes,” but I said the wrong number.  Oops.  He hadn’t come in yet.  He was still struggling up the last stretch of Westfork Trail (2,500′ gain in 5 miles), so I did get to see him finish (and be really pissed about his time).  We watched some other finishes and then it was time to head down.

I was so tired on Sunday that I literally slept for 10 hours… so that was the situation going into the 5K today.

12:48 going out and 12:24 coming back (and I even walked a little bit).  Just a tad over 8:00/mile pace.