Tag Archives: Angela Holder

Avalon 50M – 2017

January 7, 2017

Excited to be heading to Catalina Island once more to run the Avalon 50M, my fifth time!

I’ve heard that if you complete the race 5 times, you get a special plaque, so I have made plans to stay an extra night for the banquet.  Most of my friends are not staying over, but an AREC guy that I have run with on a few occasions has said that I can stay at his mom and stepdad’s place on Saturday night.

Looking forward to seeing a bunch of my ultra friends, the beautiful island (hope the weather cooperates), and to be inspired by Legacy finisher Hal Winton (curious as to when he will be starting this year).  I also look forward to see who will be on my boat ride over.  Laura and Angela took an earlier boat over, but I don’t usually like to walk around a lot prior to running 50 miles.

I do my usual trick of riding the Long Beach bus from up the street all the way to Catalina Landing and packing super light (as in book to read, string backpack, lightweight jacket, and water bottles).  I think I definitely freak people out, especially when they have suitcases and I have not much.

Once at the terminal, I spot Kathryn Buchan-Varden, who I met last year, who is both a hasher and a 14-time Avalon finisher.  She is good friends with my friend, Darcie, who used to run with AREC and who I stayed with last year at her home in Utah when I attempted the disastrous North Face Challenge 50 miler.  She is hanging out in the restaurant with a couple of her Sacramento-area friends (she lives in Arizona now but did spend some time in Northern California).  Her friend Teresa will run the 50K tomorrow (a newly added distance to compel friends to run or old-timers to continue running) for her first 50K.  We are telling her all about the course (trying to set her mind at ease).

One thing that comes out in conversation is that Teresa did her Plastic Surgery residency at UC Davis in 1996.  I worked as an Administrative Assistant for Plastic Surgery Division at UC Davis Med School from October 1994 to December 1995. So… we weren’t there at the same time, but we do know a lot of the same people and she gave me some updates on doctors who were no longer there (left or died).  Small world!

Darcie, her sister, and son, Logan, showed up not longer afterwards.  Kathryn and Darcie’s family made arrangements to rent a house for the  weekend.  (Might be a good idea if I go again next year.)  I enjoy hanging with them, so we all ride the boat together.

When we get to Avalon,  I stick with them because I will be meeting up with Angela and Stephanie later, and we are just having some nice conversations.  Hanging with Kathryn and Darcie just means going and picking up the house key, getting stuff set up in the house, going to Vons to pick up some supplies (“Mini-Vons”), and just biding time until the site opens up for bib pick-up.

The usual suspects are handing out bibs and shirts and collecting money (pretty much all my old-timey hasher buddies) and I do notice, at this time, that my name is misspelled on the bib.  I hope that this doesn’t mean that they won’t have a plaque for me at the banquet!

I do hang around for a while just waiting for Stephanie and Angela to show up (after all, they are my roommates for tonight and I don’t want a repeat of last year’s sneaking into someone’s room because I couldn’t find someone).  I spot all sorts of friends in the queue, including Laura and Beth.  Lots of people recognize me… for some reason.

I do find the gals (phew) and Laura is with them as well.  Seems that her hotel fell through or closed, and so she is also staying with us.  Going to be a tight fit.  They have already eaten, and the restaurant that we like is currently closed, so I wander around a bit trying to find something to my liking that is reasonably priced.  Down the street from the bib pick-up at the Metropole Hotel is a new-ish Panini restaurant.  It’s deserted but the food inside looks good and the cook is juicing a zillion carrots so I get some dinner.

I hike up the street to the hotel and we have to go in staggered because really only 2 people are supposed to be in the room.  It’s a small room with a single twin bed inside.  I am 100% on the floor with Stephanie, and Laura and Angela are in the bed.

As we are settling in, Angela gets a call from Alan that he is on the last boat and will not make it in time for bib pick-up, so could I go down and pick it up for him?

Ugh.  So, I hike back down the hill, and explain that I am picking up a bib and shirt for another runner.  This turns out not to be a problem… except for the fact that I picked up a 50M shirt (and he’s doing the 50K) and I didn’t pick up his banquet ticket.  I cart his stuff back up the hill and leave it at the front desk for him to pick up when he arrives later.

Now finally we can settle in for a restive night’s sleep (Hope nobody has to go the bathroom as they will have to step over me to do so.).

I wake up before Angela and Laura’s alarm goes off at 1:30am (they are planning to start at 2) and they are a little sluggish to say the least, but do get out the door in time to meet Yen Darcy a little before 2am at the pier.

Since I am not starting until 4am and Stephanie until 5am (an early 50K start), we take the opportunity to utilize the bed for 2 hours.  Ah, blissful nap.

A little before 4am, I stumble down to the pier for the early start.  There is a good group of people here, including Kathryn.  I am surprised to see her, but like me, just likes to be on the safe side, in case there are any problems with the day, especially the expected rain.

As we start off down the street (or UP the street, since there is a slight incline), it does start to rain lightly, enough to blur my vision through my misty glasses.

We sidle around the locked turnstile into the Wrigley Gardens and then make sure that we go the correct direction at the crossroads (Dang!  Third year in a row where I went the wrong direction!)  14-time finisher Kathryn doesn’t go the right way, either.  We don’t waste a lot of time, but it’s just annoying.

Because it’s mostly uphill, slightly muddy, I am just walking and Kathryn takes off.  I don’t have any great expectation for the day, only to finish under 13 hours or close to it.  I would love to have another sub-12 hour finish, but I’ll just have to see how the day goes.

Once I get up by the radio towers, we turn and head downhill.  It’s late enough that the gate is open and I don’t have to climb through the awkward hole in the center.  The bad part is that the sun has not come up yet so it’s impossible to see that you are running through a mud puddle until you are in said puddle.  I do my best to look for brief reflections from the moon and my headlamp and avoid most of them.

When I get to Haypress, the aid station is pretty much set up.  I grab a couple orange slices and some water and continue moving.  The uphill section took me 98 minutes for 5.4 miles (18 minute pace) and if I want to finish under 12 hours, I need to be around 14:30 pace.

The course is pretty much back to normal this year; we are not doing an out-and-back course, but will run by the Airport again and by the houses with the vineyards that are just before Little Harbor.

I do a little better on the road up to the airport (even though there is still a lot of uphill and I am in the pre-dawn dusky light that is hard to run in without tripping), managing 11:13/mile (and a net pace of 14:27 – pretty close to the goal time).

From the airport, there is a lot of downhill (not in the dark this year).  It is runnable but pretty windy.  I do my best to keep running as much as possible.  At the bottom, you go through the small neighborhood.  This year, there is a bunch of construction, so the ground is harshly graded, and the little hill by the vineyards seems steeper than usual.

This is also one of the longer stretches of trail between aid stations (5.6 miles) and good or bad, you can see where you are headed, but it seems to take forever.  I pass by the 50K turnaround, which is just before you head down the hill into Little Harbor.  This is a bummer, because Little Harbor (and the Wacko Cafe) is one of the best aid stations you will ever reach.  (“It’s just over there, but I’m not going to do an extra mile downhill and back to go there.”)

From the point of the turn-around, you can start to spot Little Harbor Aid Station, but there is quite a bit of downhill on fire-roads that stretch out for quite a ways.  When you finally get to the Port-A-Potties, you are virtually there.

My Foothill Hasher friend, First to Go Down is doing the number check-in.  I am really excited to see her, because it’s always great to see a friend.  I am also excited because I am going to leave my string backpack here until I come back in several miles.  I am continuing on a good pace, maintaining 12:14/mile (netting 13:39, totally on pace for sub-12:00).

Leaving Little Harbor is a bit difficult because the entire trail is under water, meaning we have to off-road a bit to get around the super-puddle.  I’m hoping that the trail becomes more clay and that will be less muddy.  Otherwise, this upcoming uphill section is going to be awful.

Since the rain has been stopped for a few hours, some of the trail is drying out, but the footing is pretty limited because certain parts are more slippery.  Midway up the hill is a firefighter truck and the occupant is advising runners to walk or watch their steps because a mistake could end their races.  I concur.  The footing is treacherous, so I walk or lightly jog as flat-footed as possible.

Once I crest the top, it’s downhill into Two Harbors.  I am passed here by the lead female runner and 5 minutes later by Gisele Schaaf (in her first 50 miler).  Second overall would be pretty cool for Gisele in her debut.

This section is technically the longest section between aid stations, except that you do pass by the aid station on your first pass and then come back 2 miles later (so on the charts, it’s 7.4 miles between aid, but really it’s 5.4 and then 2.0).  My first year here I didn’t realize that and so thought was running really well, but actually, I clicked the split 3 miles too early!

I grab a cup of Coke, but don’t really stop outbound and then head to the out-and-back to the isthmus.  This is full of puddles as well, but also where I get to see almost everyone.  Laura, Angela, and Yen are headed back as I head out.  I spot Ben Gaetos (who I stayed with last year) and I stop for a picture.

I see Gisele again.  By my calculations, she is about 8 minutes behind the leader.  I tell her the time gap and she asks me, “How does she look?”  I want to say something encouraging like, “She’s falling apart!  You’ve got this!” but I am honest in saying that she looked really good and it will be quite a battle to catch up.

I finally get to the turn-around (I HATE this section – endless and slightly uphill.), and start heading back.  I see Beth (from the hash) and Linda Dewees (my buddy from Bishop and Ridgecrest).  I jog the best I can back to the aid station, but I am just feeling sluggish and not fast.  I get to Mile 26.0 in 6:30 (or a section pace of 18:14 and a net pace of 15:00 – darn!).

Now I start the climb back out of Two Harbors.  Even though the hill is steep, I prefer this kind of hill to the slow death inclines I just went through.  This is also the section where you don’t see a lot of people coming down the hill – these are the people that will struggle to make the cut-offs the rest of the way (and will possibly be leapfrogged forward by van).

I feel like I made good time going up the hill and passed a number of people who can’t walk as fast or have stubby little legs.  On the downhill, of course, I am being passed left and right by pretty much everyone.  Most folks have headphones on, so I can’t get in any decent conversations.

One gal just blows by me, though when she does, one of her gloves that is tucked into her Camelbak flies out.  I yell to her, but obviously, she can’t hear me; otherwise, we would have chatted.  I stop and pick up her glove and try to run it to her, but I cannot muster enough energy to run that fast.  I do get the next person to pass me to run it up to her.  (Hope she didn’t MEAN to do that.)

It’s quite windy on the downhill and I am not getting a lot of running in.  It’s quite annoying, because if I am just walking, that will definitely affect my ability to finish under 12 hours.  At least the ground is no longer slippery mud, but it is stiff adobe.  Each has their pros and cons.  Soft mud would feel good right about now, but I do have my Hokas for the extra padding at least.

I get back to Little Harbor in 1:43 (a 15:50 pace and now slowed back over 15 minutes per mile net pace).  Looks unlikely that I will break 12 hours now.

I edge around the puddle and go retrieve my string backpack so I will have it when I get back to the finish.  Since we are now into the latter half of the race (mileage here is 32.5), aid stations are offering various bonuses to the runners.

Here I get a nice mimosa (mostly orange juice per my request) and I decide that I would like to play one of their games this time.  The choices are cattle roping and horseshoes.  I don’t think I would be any good at (stationary plastic cow) roping, but I can throw stuff, so I do try the horseshoes.

I have to have them handed to me because I can’t bend all the way over, and the best I can muster is getting one within a horseshoe’s length of the post.  Still, it was fun to try.

Now I head out of Little Harbor, and it’s back on that aforementioned winding, endless fire-road (now uphill instead of downhill).  A bison has been spotted nearby the aid station – close enough to see, far away enough to not be dangerous.  Cool wilderness.

I spot Beth behind me but she hasn’t caught me yet.  She must be struggling a bit, too (though she did start an hour after me, so I can’t be too excited).  When I finally climb out of Little Harbor and get by the 50K turn-around Aid Station, we turn in a different direction and head downhill briefly, but pretty much immediately start heading uphill again.

When it finally flattens out (but it really is a slow uphill climb), that means that I am getting close to Eagle’s Nest Aid Station (and more fun?).  I pass Hal Winton just before I get into the aid station.  He looks pretty spry for an 85 year-old runner (but he did start about 12 hours before me) and he gives me a nice strong handshake.

I go back and forth between several people.  Someone runs past me, I walk past them when they fade.  I think it’s gratifying for me and annoying for them.  There are a few that I thought were far ahead of me that I essentially catch up to at Eagle’s Nest.

I managed a 14:06 average pace on this section, so I reward myself with half of a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and a chunk of buffalo burger.  Mmm.

Now I got some more uphill to the Pumphouse Hill Aid Station.  My feet are really hurting, most notably on the tops of my feet.  I stop to try and adjust my shoes.  When I loosen the laces, I realize that I had tied them so tight, the tongue was pinching my foot (the Hoka tongue is flat and can pinch unlike most other shoe tongues).  Once I loosened it, it felt bad for a while because I have a blood blister on the tops of my feet and it hurts!  But it started to feel better after a while. (This may be my last go-round with the Hokas because they have caused me all types of problems.)

I just keep walking and walking, walking and walking.  Right around the Bald Eagle Preserve, I walk for a while with a Chinese guy who is walking also.  We have a nice conversation and the good news is that I may see him at other races because he is local – Jeff Liu.  Soon enough, he becomes bored with the pedantic pace and starts jogging.  Bye.  (I may well still catch him up later, though.)

Despite the uphill and all walking, I do get to the Pumphouse AS in a 15:38 pace and am maintaining a close to 15:00/mile pace for the race.  I know there is the paved downhill section coming up in a few miles, but I don’t feel like I have the same gumption to break 12:00 as I did a few years ago (when I thought I would get a non-finish if I didn’t finish under 12:00).

This last bit of trail up to the top is quite steep and it is all I can do to just maintain a comfortable walking pace.  I can see Jeff, but cannot catch him.

Now it is a mostly downhill section on paved road back to Haypress Aid Station (but no puddles and not in the dark).  As it has been in the past, the aid station is abandoned but there is still some water containers available for refilling water bottles if necessary.  I don’t really stop so I can continue any forward downhill momentum I have.

My first year here, I got to Haypress in 11:03 and felt I wouldn’t break 12:00 unless I really pushed the pace downhill, but I did manage to do the last 4 miles in 39 minutes.  Today, I am here in 11:22.  I don’t feel like I have 39 minutes in me, and even then, I would not break 12 hours.  I think I should just do what I can do.  (That’s always the best anyway.)

The part leading up to the downhill is uphill anyway and I don’t have anything left for that.  And, once I get onto the downhill, I simply don’t feel like running at all.  The angle’s gonna have to be more sufficiently downhill for me to do that.

I catch up with another runner who started earlier than me and we walk and talk together for a bit.  He pushes his pace a little bit so we can continue talking.  I guess I’m not going too slow.

But when I start getting a little momentum going, I do end up starting to run and leaving him in the dust.  I start recognizing landmarks and all of it is on a significant downhill slope, especially that last downhill before I run along the promenade to the finish.

I’m definitely not breaking 12 hours, but if I push it a bit, I can break 12:20, and I do so in 12:19:41, triumphantly holding up my open palm, signifying my 5th Avalon 50 miler finish.

15940427_10212023345322096_8164409083998154137_n

I waited around for awhile and watched people finish, but eventually, I walked with Alan down to his folks’ place and had a nice shower before we headed out to the Banquet.

So, Alan’s stepdad drove us to the banquet which was located on the other side of the Casino.  I guess it would have been a nice scenic walk, but I didn’t feel like a nice scenic walk anymore.

The banquet food was excellent, lots of good choices, and plentiful fruit and water.  They played a slide show that had pictures from THIS year, and then the various speakers talked about the history of the race and people that inspired them, plus announced the top fundraisers (who get free entries and boat rides and more).

Now, they announced, the five-year, the ten-year, and the fifteen-year award winners.  They said they had a lot of plaques that had not ever been distributed, so they were going to read all those names.  I heard names of people who died some time ago (of whom I had no idea that they ran 5 Avalon 50s) and people who are no longer running, but I didn’t hear my name.

As for Kathryn, finishing her 15th, they announced that she would receive her 10th plaque (which I think she received 4 years ago).  So, a bit of a mess.  I was told that I would receive my plaque by mail sometime in the future (a few weeks later), so I assume that she got her jacket then, also.  Although I enjoyed the banquet, I went specifically to receive my plaque, but no one received their plaque for 2017, so I was a bit annoyed.

Alan tried to call his stepdad for a ride back but there was no cellphone coverage, so we walked until we got back into range.  And it was a nice scenic walk until the truck-let found us and I was ready to sit down again.

I ended up sleeping in the recliner, a throwback to when I first moved to Long Beach and spent most nights sleeping in my recliner.  I was quite comfortable, because I am used to that kind of night’s rest.

In the morning, we managed to get up in time for the Photo.  I had seen the photo, but figured they took the picture before I could manage to finish.  Truth is, they take the photo on the following morning, and only once was I actually there the next day (but slept in or didn’t know about it).15875624_1250049418374881_5425234147263662081_o

Kathryn and I have plans to keep running Avalon 50M until I receive my 15th finish jacket.  By then, I will be 60 years old!  Here’s to hoping that my body will still be able to handle ultras until then!

High Desert 50K – 2016

December 4, 2016

Angela and I drove up to Ridgecrest yesterday.  We made arrangements again with Darrell and Megan to stay at their place which is only about a mile from the start.  Laura, Dulce, and Stephanie are coming up, too, but I felt bad that we couldn’t offer them a place to stay (we just need to ask Darrell and Megan ahead of time or offer something nice).  They are in a different house than last year, but it is in the same housing tract.

We did all meet to eat together, though, which was nice.  It’s particularly cold here, so that seems to bode well that it should be colder for the race.

At the start, I have a special gift for my friend Ethan.  I cut out a laminated “5” for him to pin on, since today is his 5th Ridgecrest High Desert 50K and will get the special pullover when he finishes.

Also present Ethan’s wife, a few other hashers, and Sandy Binder (whose husband runs ultras, but I haven’t known her to do so).  I jokingly ask Sandy if she is running to win, and she enigmatically says, “Maybe.

My goals today are to try and push it harder on the flat and downhill sections and not walk as much on the uphill sections (but listen to my body).

I start by running a little bit more on the initial paved hill and up into the rolling hills section.  Once you get to this part, it tends downhill so there isn’t a reason to walk as much.  At the first aid station (soon after which the 30K and 50K part ways), I manage 50:44, a 9:12 pace.  (Extrapolating out, 9:12/mile for 31 miles would be an hour PR on the distance!)

Once the 30K diverges, there is a long section of a slight uphill.  I have had the tendency to walk all of this, so I force myself to run stretches of it.  (Note:  Forcing myself to run and running slowly are different.  Here, I am pushing the pace and not running uphill slower than I can walk.)

I go a little slower on this section, a 9:48/mile pace, but still maintain an overall sub 10:00/mile pace (5:10 still would be a big PR, but it’s way early.)

The next 2.5 miles go up a considerably longer hill, which is also more technical and it’s not practical to run much of this at all, but once I get to the top of the hill, I can start jogging/running again.  This aid station is the famous “We Love the 49ers and Christmas” aid station, except no one is wearing Niners garb.  I ask if it is because they are so bad this year, and a gal surreptitiously whispers, “Yes.”  My pace in this section is 14:00/mile (a brisk walk) and drops my overall pace to 10:27/mile (In order to PR, I would need to average 11 and change.)

Now a mostly downhill, but dense dirt section for two-and-a-half miles and I maintain the 10-and-change pace.  I have been going back and forth with a lot of the same people.  I haven’t seen Angela yet (she started early, but I am hoping not to catch her until the end, if at all) and Darrell is behind me.  I saw Laura at the beginning, but I assume she is still behind and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Ethan or Sandy (who is MAYBE in front).

The one gal that I strike up a nice conversation with is Karin Usko, who used to live in El Salvador, but she is also German, so we can speak in Spanish, English, AND German (my first three languages).  She is local to Ridgecrest and I later learn that she makes Happy Gaiters.  (I also ran really briefly with Shannon Farar-Griefer, who is the founder of the Moeben sleeves (named after her sons).)

On now to another 3-odd miles with a mostly uphill bent.  I’m not running as much on these sections.  Feeling like I will not run a PR, but I would like to at least run a comparable 50K (to Cool rather than Twin Peaks), something in the sub-6:30 range.  This is another 14:00/mile section, ballooning my average to 11:12/mile.

Leading into the penultimate aid station at Gracie’s Mansion, where I have my first half beer, the sections seem to swing between generally uphill section, or generally downhill section and I am either doing about 11-12 minutes per mile OR 15-16 minutes per mile, but at least I am keeping my overall average under 12 minutes (which equals 6:24).  I would be happy to finish with that average.

From Gracie’s to Last Gasp is 3.7 miles, with mostly downhill.  I start to press the pace again, because it IS downhill and I can run downhills (when I am not cramping… and I’m not cramping).  Former race director Christopher Rios is there and I get my second beer, though I cannot hang out there too long.  I have pulled my interim pace to 11:06 and brought my overall average down six seconds, ending an inexorable slide to worse and worse times.

If I can finish the last 1.7 miles in 15 minutes (doable, but tough at this point), I would break 6 hours for the first time in over 10 years.

Alas, it is not to be.  I finished in 6:05:14, which is my best time in 12 years, so that’s pretty awesome.  Someone mentions that I should utilize Age Grade to compare this time with my best here (5:47:06) back in 2004.  Age Grade is a comparison tool that figures out what your equivalent time is if compared to the ideal age (which I think is 25).

So, if you run a 5:47 50K at age 34, it is like running a 5:44 50K at 25 (since your ability probably doesn’t drop off that much from 25 to 34).  But, if you run a 6:05 at age 45, the Age Grade equivalent is 5:43.  So in essence, given that I have aged, my High Desert 50K is my best ever (just not my PR).  Pretty remarkable that I did so well in a year when I fractured my elbow.

Angela came in about an hour after I did (2 hours, technically), Ethan got his 5-run pullover, and Sandy did not win the race… she was the second female, though.

Twin Peaks 50K – 2016

October 15, 2016

Prior to committing to running the North Face Challenge Race in Utah, I committed to volunteering for the Twin Peaks race, as there is no race director I respect more than Jessica DeLine.  She always does her best to put on a great event, tries to get anyone who wants to get to the finish to the finish, and charges a reasonable amount for her events.

However, once I was unable to finish North Face, I still wanted to do an ultra for this time period.  I told Jessica I would like to run the 50K (and I had already volunteered earlier in the year for Harding Hustle and obtained a 50% discount), but that I would also like to volunteer before and after the event.

So, instead of just rolling up a little bit before my start at 7am, I arrived at the start at 4:30am.  I helped to set up EZ-Ups, tables, and then began checking everyone in.  I think I handed out almost every number for the 50M and 50K.

I also helped getting together supplies for the aid stations and loading them, and then I got myself ready to go.  Also joining me at the start line was Tsehay (who I helped convince drop down to the 50K), Jeffrey McKinney and Yen Darcy.  Angela Holder and Laura started earlier (for more time and to beat the heat).  I would prefer to start earlier, too, because I like to avoid the heat, too.

If we flash back to a few years ago, when the race was cancelled and then reinstated, I did a post-dawn start and only made 19 miles before I got severely overheated.

The very first hill is 6.5 miles and 2000’+ climbing.  I know I have to take it really easy.  In the beginning, I am with Yen and Tsehay, but they are actually running up the hill.  I know this course too well to be running up the hill.  If I can get to the top between 1:45 and 2:15, I will be very happy.  (1:54, awesome.)

The next section is the flattest section, with about 1000′ of climbing and 900′ of descent.  This is also the section last year where I severely twisted my ankle, so I just want to move at a respectable pace (anything under an hour for four miles).  (58 minutes, good).  I am still behind Tsehay and have not caught up to Angela (go, Angela!).

Now, the “fun” part.  This is the West Horsethief section.  I am super-familiar with this and can tell you each of the twists and turns.  Although it is significantly downhill, I know that much of it is not that run-able (more so for me because of low-hanging branches), but at least it is downhill.  My 1:16 on this section is considerably slower than the last hillier section but I make it through safely.

If you compare  my times on these first three sections to how I ran the first three sections last year, I have picked up a bit of time and am about one hour net gain at this point.

On the beginning part of Holy Jim, which is “relatively” flat, I do finally catch up with Tsehay.  She is so surprised about the difficulty of the downhill section of W. Horsethief.  She thought she would pick up all sorts of time running down the hill, but it was quite the opposite.

I told her she would have a very special celebration when she finishes the race (which is really 32.5 miles and not 31.0), because 2016 marks 32 years in the USA.  She really liked that idea.

So, now to the tough part of Holy Jim.  Three years ago, it took me 3:07 to do the 4.5 miles.  Stand alone, I have completed this section in under 2 hours.  Today, I do 1:53, but on the last scramble up to the road, I am pretty tired, and not at all ready for the next 3 miles.

I hear a familiar voice.  “C’mon, Emmett, I’m waiting for you.”  I don’t think Angela was very pleased with the expletives that ensued from my mouth, but I was in a bad mood and didn’t need encouragement.  I just wanted to get through it.  I sat down on the water bottles, drank a bunch of water, refilled my bottles and endured flies dive bombing me.  I was in the shade and they don’t venture as much into the sun, but I wasn’t about to sit in the sun.

Now, up the endless 3 miles to the summit of Santiago Peak, almost all in the sun, and almost all steep and steeper on difficult terrain.  One hour, 37 minutes.  A loss of about 10 minutes over my time last year.  (Net gain, though.)  We did get to see Laura briefly, but she is way ahead of us (because she is faster and started early).

Angela and I are still sticking together and encouraging one another.  She is going faster than I am down Upper Holy Jim, but the downhill single-track is not my greatest skill.  Still, I do better on the 3 mile section downhill than uphill (54 minutes versus 97).

On the last 6.5 miles, Angela and I mostly stay together.  I do wait with her while she takes a potty break (can’t believe they didn’t cart a port-a-potty right up to where she needed it mid-course), but after a while, her pace is a bit too slow for me, and I take off on my own.  (I do have a chance to improve upon my best course time from 4 years ago, if I press my pace a bit.)

My final time ends up being a bit slower than my up pace (surprisingly) – 1:59 – to finish in 10:34, only 10 minutes slower than my best.  (I know 10 minutes sounds like a lot, but it’s 20 seconds/mile.)

Once I am a bit more recovered, I head back a bit to meet Angela and “shepherd” her in.  I grab her hand and run in with her.  It’s a really nice moment.

For the next couple hours, I assist finishers with food and drinks, and I perform some gopher duties.  One of the most exciting moments was the finish of Randall Tolosa, who gets his first finish after 5 tries (and he didn’t start early).

Once the last finisher comes through and the drop bags come down, now I start helping with the packing up of everything – dismantling EZ-ups, tables, packing up food, etc.  As a treat, I get one of the In-N-Out Burgers they bought for the volunteers.  Even though it’s cold, it’s really good.

I get home at about midnight, so I had almost a 24-hour day.

Looking forward to next year’s event, whether I run it, volunteer at it, or both.

Boeing 5K (4) – 2016

April 11, 2016

A few events that led up to today made it this run particularly memorable.

First, on Thursday I went to the Long Beach Hash in San Pedro.  It was rainy and I had gastro problems.  I had to make a pit stop at a bathroom by the USS Iowa, and when I came out, most of the pack was gone.

I continued following the trail and when I got to the beer check, it looked like no one had been there.  I thought I might carry the beer to the end, because it probably wouldn’t be too heavy or really far, but it turned out to be over 3 miles and weigh over 20 pounds.  I was the last one in, but lauded for bringing in a nice surprise.

Saturday was the Seal Beach 5K/10K, which I had not planned to run.  Instead, I made plans with AREC Greg to run the Redbox to Kenyon Devore to Wilson and down to Redbox route, which he had not run before.

The first 4 miles went relatively well.  It was a bit wet and foggy out and even though we did not step in any puddles, the wetness of the bushes got us completely wet.

We tried to follow the West Fork trail instead of the Gabrielino Trail that Stephanie Harris and I ended up on last year, but somehow we made a wrong turn in a certain section and ended up backtracking DOWN Gabrielino to the cistern where you turn UP to head up Kenyon Devore.

This continued well under we reached the “waterfall crossing,” which is something I have crossed many times before.  It is a small waterfall crossing the trail… with a little water a few feet up and continuing down two to three feet below. So, not a major cataract.

Because I am usually not fleet of foot, I usually just jump across.  In all three iterations of Mt. Disappointment (50K, failed 50M, successful 50M), I have jumped across and gotten cramps when I reach the other side… so, this time, I thought, I’ll just walk across like a normal person.

I took one step on the slick rocks and my feet dropped out from under me.  No chance to swing my arms or try and regain my footing.  Just slipped straight down and hit pretty hard on my left elbow, right on the funny bone, right on another rock.

Since it was cold and wet out, I had Moeben sleeves on and they kept me from seeing if I was hurt badly or not.  A quick glance down the sleeve seemed to me that my skin was puffy and that I was bleeding a bit, but no need to alarm myself.

It took me a little bit to extricate myself from where I had fallen, because I was blocking the flow of water and I couldn’t push up on my left arm to get any leverage, and I certainly didn’t want to fall again.  I ended up sliding down the waterfall another foot or so (scraping up my leg through a branch on the ‘fall) so that I was at a spot where I could stand up without any leverage.

Once I was back on the trail, I needed to lie down for a bit because my adrenaline was pumping and I felt a bit faint.  A few runner-hikers passed through while I was lying there and offered up some Advil to deal with any pain.

Once I calmed down, Greg asked for the plan, because it was probably 6.5 miles down a technical trail back to the car, OR 3.5 miles up a meandering trail to the top and then 4 miles down a paved road to the car.  (Being stupid), I suggested we go to the top, because they might have first aid, plus it would be a smoother ride heading down on the road and better opportunities to sit down if I had issues (or to get a rescue).

At the top, they had a first aid kit, but no one who could administer anything in particular, so we headed down the road.  My arm hurt a little bit, but I generally felt fine.

When we got back to the car, Greg offered to drive.  This was probably for the best, because my arm was still bleeding and the roads were winding quite a bit.  While I can steer with one hand, it was probably for the best.

We wrapped my arm in the toilet paper we brought in case we had a bowel emergency and I also cupped my arm in a manila envelope, to keep the blood off of the upholstery.  We also had a couple of beach towels on each seat to keep them relatively dry.

Greg drove me the 90 minutes back to his house in Long Beach, and suggested that I might go to the hospital to see what the situation was.  I was reminded about my issue with my ankle in August last year where they told me to go to Urgent Care, but that it might be hours before I was seen.  It was a shade quicker in Harbor City, but I felt like I should go to the closest facility ASAP, which was in Downey, about 10 miles straight up Bellflower Blvd.

I got there and parked without too much difficulty and then went to go check in.  While waiting in line, one of the receptionists said I needed to see the nurse immediately because I “was dripping blood on the floor.”  She removed the envelope and TP and iced down my arm as best she could.

About 10 minutes later, I got in to see a doctor, priority one because my arm was still bleeding.  My pain level was not high but I did get a little woozy (probably out of concern, because I have little issue with blood or needles), so they put me in a wheelchair.

Then I was wheeled over to Radiology to be x-rayed.  It hurt a bit but I was not too concerned.  If it was broken, the pain should be so much more, right?

While I was waiting for my ride back to the Urgent Care waiting room, I sang Disney songs to the receptionist (Frozen was playing on the TV.).  One guy waiting with his girlfriend recognized me as volunteering at the Harding Hustle aid station on Santiago Peak.  Small world, and weird that he recognized me sitting down.

When the physician got back with me, he had a look of alarm on his face. He showed me the x-ray, which showed negative space at the end of my left elbow – two flakes of bone had chipped off the end, were floating around in my arm, and were not letting my blood clot.  I needed to be admitted for emergency surgery.  Bleh.

I wanted to get my arm wrapped up and go home and finish a project I had been working on for 6-8 hours on Friday. I had captioned the whole thing, but just needed to sync the last bit by 10am Sunday morning.  The chance was that I wouldn’t be able to do it, nor contact the company that I couldn’t get back to my computer (and all the work I put into it, well, I wouldn’t get paid for a partial project).

First, I was wheeled over to the E.R., which was super cold, and that was multiplied by the fact that I still had on a wet shirt, wet socks, wet shorts, and wet shoes.  Eventually, they got me some dry socks to put on.

I tried to call Greg or my parents or Laura, to let someone know I was OK.  Cell coverage non-existent.  Someone offered up a cell phone with a bar or two, and I left a message for my folks (but of course, they didn’t check the voicemail as it was some random SoCal number).

There was a possibility that they could do the surgery today, as I had not eaten or drank anything all day, even before midnight the day before, but when it got pushed forward to Sunday, they made me up a TV dinner (as the cafeteria was already closed) and finally got me admitted by around 9pm.

By then, I couldn’t dial out any calls on the room phone, but I was able to call Greg, my folks, and Laura on my rapidly dying phone, and let them all know I was OK, but having surgery tomorrow.

The bed was on the small side and to make matters worse, they had to put these leg “exercisers” on to keep my blood flowing.  They were hot and super noisy.  My feet weren’t comfortable and were on the bed control panel (which the night nurse did not like).  I had to keep my right arm at a certain angle, also, because that’s where the IVs were set.  They offered me some morphine, but the pain wasn’t that much and I would prefer not to take it as it will wreck some havoc with my GI system.

Didn’t really sleep all night.  Kept the TV on, and bugged the nurse a couple of times to go the bathroom and to reset the alarm when I moved my right arm too much.

Around 10am on Sunday morning, they finally came and told me to get ready for surgery. This involved finally taking off my running shorts and just having the hospital gown on.  I don’t really understand this, because you are not going anywhere near that area. Can’t I just leave them on?

They let me keep my glasses on, because I said that I would be nauseous with them off and it would make me feel better if I could pop them on when I came out of the anesthesia.

Besides, there was a bit of a wait (about an hour) between when I got to the O.R., and when the surgery took place.

I had a nice talk with both surgeons.  One is Dr. Maylene Glidewell, the Orthopaedic Surgeon, and she was bringing on the Trauma Surgeon, Dr. Huy “Wesley” Tran.  Dr. Glidewell is “old school” and had a way that she would do the surgery, and Dr. Tran is “new school” and has a braiding technique to bind the bone fragments in and have it look good.  I’m to have about 10 permanent pins in because the bones will not just grow back together where the fragments chipped out.

Dr. Tran and I talked a bit about running, as he recently completed his first Ironman triathlon.  He asked me what my next race was going to be.  I had hoped to do the Wild Wild West 50M, but that is only one month off, so I said I would like to run the Shadow of the Giants 50K in two months time. He said that I would probably be recovered by then.

I watched the Masters Golf tournament on a monitor until they were ready to do the surgery.  I didn’t fit really great on the operating table (no surprise), but much like my colonoscopy last year, all I remember is counting down and then waking up a few “minutes” later.

When I did come to, my arm was really sore, so they did give me a blocker to numb my entire arm.  Laura and Chuck came for an evening visit and said that they would get me home tomorrow as it is now too late to release me.  The hospital won’t let me drive myself home, someone has to come pick me up and take me, so because my car is here, two people have to drive me back.

I do get some dinner from the cafeteria and “sleep” as well as I did last night, with the leg exercisers and nurse helping me unplug so I can go the bathroom.

In the morning, after I get some breakfast, they say I can be released.  I call Chuck and of course, Laura has forgotten she is going to pick me up and gone off running or spinning or something.  Chuck doesn’t know where she went.  Oh, gosh, I want to go!

I call a few other people who might be home on a Monday morning who could connect with Chuck, and no one is really available (though Angela says she could come around noon, three hours from now).

Finally, I call Chuck and suggest that he make a big “show” of picking me up in front of the hospital, and drive me around to my car.  Since I have Bluetooth in the car, we will stay in contact the entire way back to my place, and we will totally stop if I am having any issues.  It’s literally 10 miles all on one street, so I am not really worried.

So, Chuck comes and picks me up… “I’ll drive the big man home.”  And then we drive over to my car, I put my stuff in the trunk and drive back to Long Beach without any problems.

When we get near the University, Chuck asks, “What do you want to do?”  See, it’s about 11:20 now.  I have two options:  1.  Go home and sit down for the rest of the day, or 2.  Keep driving down PCH and do the Boeing 5K and continue my streak.

Since I am going to be doing pretty much nothing for the next two weeks, I take the Boeing option.  Why end the streak when my feet are still working?

Nelson says I am probably the first person to come straight to the run from surgery.  Even though my legs and feet work just fine, it is still slow going, because I need to support my arm (also in a sling) because it hurts a bit.

On a couple of occasions, I worry that I will be able to finish, and finally, I decide to turn around… OK, it was at the 5K turnaround.

My time is 55 minutes, which is a tie for my personal worst 5K, set when I “ran” the 5K two days after running a 100-mile race.

12973420_1260152483995251_4809112708967226896_o

I may yet reach 100 consecutive Boeing 5Ks!

High Desert 50K – 2015

December 6, 2015

12390952_10153331795707055_828983793551908552_n

Last year, I ran part of the High Desert (Ridgecrest) 50K with Darrell Price, both from Ridgecrest and Long Beach.  We became Facebook friends (as commonly happens when I run any extended portion of an ultra with someone) and communicated throughout the year.  We meant to connect when he was in Long Beach, but it never really happened.

Last year, I also was able to motivate some other AREC runners to participate in their first ultras, but only Angela Holder was back for a second go-round (at Ridgecrest, at least).  We had made tentative plans to share a motel room again, when I got a nice invitation from Darrell and his fiancee, Megan, “Come stay with us at our house, about 1 mile from the start.”  That’s the kind of offer I definitely won’t pass up!

Angela and I drove up on Saturday afternoon, checked in, got our bibs, and “dinnered” at John’s Pizza.  Of course, neither of had pizza or pasta, but opted for sandwiches and salad.

Afterwards, we drove to Darrell and Megan’s, and found out that they live about a kilometer from the start, which is just about perfect, though Angela is still concerned about the time limit and wants to start an hour early (which means, as co-carpool/conspirator, I have to drive to the start with her).

I let Angela have the bed, both because I am a gentleman, and also because the couch is probably longer and more comfortable for me.  I slept OK, though the dog was not particularly happy with me in his space.  For free accommodations, though, I can deal with it.

Early morning came far too quickly and I was off, chauffeuring Angela to the start.  I utilized the extra hour to chat it up with people that I recognized (though most of the older folk also started early).  The weather was nice and cold, and not supposed to be windy like a few years ago.  I didn’t have any particular goal in mind, other than to finish, and have a good time.

My hope for Angela was for her to improve her time and in doing so, not get caught by me at Mile 10, like last year.

Race started promptly and immediately I started walking the initial uphill and then motored as best I could on the nice downhill sections.  I briefly caught up with Ethan “Yak” Dietrich, an H3 friend, who always does quite well here.  Our banter (which doesn’t seem to change year to year) involves him taking off when I start to walk and saying, “You’ll catch up to me,” but I never do.

A few miles in, I bid farewell to the 30K runners, who set off on their own loop, and we head over to the long (but not particularly steep) climb paralleling the telephone poles.  My first 5.5 miles I covered in 55 minutes (which is 4 minutes faster than last year).  No rush, just have fun.

As I turn along the “pole-run,” I start up a conversation with a nice gal named Diana Daves.  She is friends with Andy Noise, who I met a few years ago at the Santa Barbara Endurance Race (maybe the 100K?).  He is a coach in Bakersfield, particularly for Long Distance runners.

I always enjoy run-walking with someone in an ultra, because we can motivate one another.  There are times when she takes off, because she doesn’t like to walk the uphills, and there are times when I am walking that she has to run to keep up.  We don’t stay together the whole way constantly, but we keep maintaining contact and it makes the day pass quicker (or maybe we are running faster?).

I feel a lot better than last year, but that may have to do with not having hemorrhoids (which I tell you is very unpleasant).  My early pace is very comparable to last year, with each section either a few minutes faster or slower (or exactly the same).

The one thing I am looking forward to is a swig of beer at the last aid station (Last Gasp) as promised to me pre-run by former RD Chris Rios.

What I don’t expect is a couple of swigs of beer at the Mile22.5 aid station (Boddington’s Ale) and also at Mile 25.7 (Guinness!).

By the time I get to Last Gasp, Diana and I kinda want to get to the end, but I prod her along, knowing I can catch up quickly (and knowing that I certainly will not be drinking a full beer anyway), especially seeing as it’s Sierra Nevada Christmas Ale (and the Sierra beers always do a number on me).

I do catch up with Diana.  This is the last annoying section where you run ALL the way around Cerro Coso CC, and then do a big loop around the parking lot.  I am feeling good and not cramp-y at all, and finish strong in 6:35:21, my best time of the year, by over 30 minutes, and 12 minutes better than last year.

Diana achieves a 15 minute PR!

I barely have time to go out and bring Angela in.  With the hour early start, she is only 25 minutes behind me and runs an astounding 55 minute PR.  (My guess is that excessive selfies didn’t slow her down!)

What a good way to end the year, with Ultra #76, which I dedicated to my entire family (the meaning of “76” had to do with having Thanksgiving dinner at the Spring Deer Restaurant in Hong Kong, a place I had first eaten at in 1976).

Twin Peaks 50M – 2015

October 17, 2015

My history with Twin Peaks goes back a few years.  In my first attempt (2012), there was a fatality on the freeway, and I started 45 minutes late.  Even though the race director said that she would give me an extra 45 minutes to finish, it took me over 8 hours for the first 25 miles, and I was not confident that I could finish the second 25 (actually 27.5 miles) in 9 hours, especially with more tough hills.  Fortunately, the race has a “wimp-out” option and I finished the 50K in 10:50.

In 2013, the race was cancelled because of the government shutdown, but resurrected as a 50K “Fat Ass” a few days later.  I tried to do the 50K (regular 8am “hot” start) and fell apart really early on, like Mile 7, and when I got to the Holy Jim section, it was all I could do to get through the 4.5 miles in 3 hours, 7 minutes.  (No, that is not a typo.)  I had to get a ride back down because I was so tired.

In 2014, I tried again, and did a bit better, but still was not able to finish the full 50M (“only” the 50K), but my time was about an hour faster.  I joked with the race director, my buddy Jessica DeLine, that if I could start extra extra extra early, maybe I could finish.  She said she might be open to me starting earlier than the early start.

I don’t know if I intended on running Twin Peaks in 2015, but in early 2015, my friend Lauren Miertschin (who I met at the finish line of the 2012 Twin Peaks), was turning 50, and expressed a desire to finish the race for her 50th birthday year.  I said that I was in, if I could convince the RD to let us start at, say, midnight. (The official early start is at 5am.)

I also somehow convinced Angela Holder to enter the race as well.  I didn’t know if she was up for a super difficult 50 Mile course as her FIRST 50 mile course, but she was certainly game to give it a try, especially if she, Lauren, and I could start extra (to the third power) early.

One thing that we intended on doing to prepare ourselves for the race was to get super familiar with the course.  Over the years, in essence, I know the course pretty well, but the purpose was to get ourselves solidly familiar with every twist and turn and come up with a strategy to get through this race.

If you read my post about the Bun Run 3M in late August, I suffered a Grade 2 Ankle Sprain trying to familiarize myself with the course.  A few days earlier, I had maybe sprained my thumbs (I know it sounds weird, but I hyper-extended them on a fall.).

Three weeks ago, Angela and I did a 23-mile training run on part of the course, mostly to see if my ankle could handle the strain (wore my ankle brace) but was super nervous on some steep single-track trail on Upper Holy Jim (25 minute miles on the downhill!).

The upshot of all this training was that I was super familiar with the course, and could tell you every hairpin turn on each section of the trail.  One thing I find in many ultras is that parts of the trail all look alike, so knowing how many turns there are, helps you to know how close you are to the next aid station.  I guess it could also be demoralizing if you are not moving that fast, but I liked knowing where I was on a particularly tough section.

As the date of the race neared, I made sure that I negotiated the opportunity for an early start, and Angela was nervous that she would not be allowed to start with me.  By this time, Lauren had decided not to run the race after all, so it would just be the two of us.  Jessica had said, “Yes, you can start early,” but had not specified a time when we could start. (Give me an inch; I’ll take a mile.)

Angela and I talked it over, trying to figure out our best strategy.  More important than the starting time, was being able to finish by the finishing time.  On the front end, it is simply knowing the course, but on the back end, it’s not making volunteers stay beyond the end, and finishing before the course closes.  It’s easier to appeal to an early start rather than an extended finish.

On Friday afternoon, I wrapped my ankle with KT tape, but it was not sticking really well, so I also wore my Neoprene ankle brace over my sock, hoping it would hold it into place, but I decided to wear all these layers anyway, just to be on the safe side.  If anything, it will provide a little extra padding, because I won’t wear my Hokas (since I sprained my ankle on this exact trail wearing them).

At about 4pm, Angela met me at my condo and we headed out to Corona to pick up our race numbers.  Traffic was BAAAD (but no fatalities).  Had a little trouble finding the hotel, but we weren’t too late to pick up our numbers (that would have been bad, since we were starting way early).

They had some pizza at the check-in, so we each had a piece and chatted with Jessica and her check-in volunteer.  I reminded them we were starting early.  Jessica tried to pin us down on what time.  I kept saying, “Really early.  Really really really early.”  Jessica said, “Four?”  (Ha ha.)  “Um… probably 2am, but we considered starting at midnight.”

I was a little worried that she might balk, but she knew that I am familiar with the course (I even volunteered to carry a roll of ribbons with me in case the course had somehow been sabotaged) and that we would have enough supplies to get by until the aid stations got set up.

1607109_10207662346901244_8759880422374667634_n

Angela and Emmett a few hours before starting Twin Peaks 50M.

We took leave of them around 8:00pm, including almost a full large pizza (not a lot of people picked up their numbers early), and then drove over to try to decide where we would “hang out” until the start.  We opted for the parking lot behind Vons.  There were, of course, all of those warning signs that said, “Customers only,” and “No overnight parking.”  We decided to go into the store, and we certainly not parking “overnight.”

Angela bought a cupcake and something to drink; I think I bought a Powerade, and then we chatted in the car for a bit.  I “napped” for a bit, but I was just running over the course in my mind (which was exhausting).

I kept getting awakened by employees cleaning up or dumping trash.  I worried that a cop would come kick us out (we were steaming up the car a bit, probably because of nervous breathing).

Around 1am, we decided to head over to the start and begin prepping ourselves to go.  The drive from Vons to the start is less than a mile, and we got a good parking spot close to the start.  There were already a few cars there, presumably people camping out near the start.

It was pretty cold outside, so I had my jacket on, as well as gloves.  I also “overdid” it on the water side, with both water bottles AND my Camelbak.  I also put a piece of duct tape with my name and number on the Camelbak, so that I could leave it at the top of Santiago along with my jacket, headlamp, and anything else I didn’t want to carry with me all day.

We both made use of the port-a-potties, where I had a tough problem getting more than one square of toilet paper at a time.  By the time we had gotten all of our ducks in a row, we had made it all the way to 1:20am.  The question was, do we go back to the now cold car and sit for another 30 minutes, or say, to heck with it, and just get going?  (I’d definitely rather have the extra 30 minutes!)  So we started, even extra earlier than the extra (x3) early start.

profile

The first section of trail is 6.5 miles long and 3,800 feet of elevation gain.  This is the only section where I didn’t count turns, though honestly, this entire section was in the dark and I stumbled a lot… at least I had Angela’s brighter headlamp helping me in the dark.

We had an interesting episode not long after we passed by the Korean Church.  We heard all sort of screaming and howling.  It kind of felt like a scene from Deliverance.  It made us really nervous.  We decided that it either was loud Korean churchkids, and then sound was echoing, or it was some people camping up near the Main Divide and just making a lot of noise.  We never got close to or actually saw where this noise was coming from.  We saw a few lights, so maybe it was aliens.

Our goal to the top (and the theoretical aid stations) was 2 hours.  Our pacing was based upon a 17-hour finish (which is the real time limit if you start early (5am)) and then we have a margin of 3-1/2 extra hours.  If you divide that out, you can lose about 4 minutes per mile, but the goal is not to lose much time because it is harder to make up time at the end of the race, and also it is hard to translate a time change for each section of trail, because some are astoundingly harder than other sections.  We reached the top in 2:15 (2:00 + 4 x 6.5), so by an average accounting, within the margin of error and 7 minutes to tack onto the next section.

We could see (aided by headlamp) the skeleton of the aid station, basically a table or two and some boxes of water.  I took advantage of refilling my water bottles, even though I had not consumed a lot in the cold dark.

The next 4 miles has a net gain of 100 feet, but this is really misleading, because there is a long, technical climb out from the “top” of the hill, and then a scary descent.  Especially scary because this was where I sprained my ankle… during the day.  We were doing this in the dark.  It was just a bit before 4am, still an hour before the early start.

I needed quite a bit of assistance from Angela and her light.  Although we were on a wide fire road, it seemed more like being on a steep single-track.  Several times, she was nice enough to turn around and back light my way down.  I’m very grateful, because it made it a bit easier.

We reached the West Horsethief Aid Station in 1:18 (goal 1:20), and took advantage of refilling water bottles once more.

Now, we have 4.5 miles downhill with about 2,800 feet of elevation loss.  The first section is not that bad, pretty straightforward, not a lot of steep or slippery trail, but once we exit this section, there is a really rocky section, followed by 5 long switchbacks.  All of this is single-track trail, with lots of low branches (probably not as troubling for Angela), loose gravel, and sheer drop-offs to the side.  There isn’t a chance I will miss my footing, but it’s still slow going.

Once we get to the bottom of the steepest part, there’s a gentler descent through a number of creek beds.  Angela is doing better than I am on this section, so she surges ahead.  I figure I will catch up to her on the uphill, because I do a little better on that part.

When I get out to the fire-road section, I run into my friend Christopher Ferrier (who I met at the Santa Barbara races in July).  He’s taking pictures for the race, so he runs alongside and snaps some photos (which apparently don’t come out well in early morning light).  He gets my ultratall ultrarunning experience, because he is similarly ultratall.

I get down to the Holy Jim Aid Station location in 1:43 (goal 1:25).  I can hardly believe how slow a pace I managed in this section.  I obviously had to take it slowly because of my ankle, but 25 minutes per mile, downhill?  That’s so slow!

Now begins the “fun” trek up Holy Jim Trail – 4.5 miles, 2,800 feet of elevation gain.  This is a trail I know really well.  There are 17 switchbacks before the trail starts traversing the hillside in long swatches.  The trail is also marked with 0.5 mile signposts to keep you feeling like you are a slow-poke.

I catch Angela about a mile up and continue on past her, figuring we will meet up again at the top of Santiago Peak.  We trained together on these trails, so I have confidence that she will do well.  The good news for us is that it is still early, and if it gets hot, it will be later in the day.

I get to Bear Springs, the unmanned aid station in 1:55 (goal 1:25). Now maybe you can understand how you can’t make determinations on exact pace from section to section.  This part is obviously a much tougher section, and I expected to lose more time than on a downhill section.

Also, what is funny here is that I have now been out for 7 hours and 12 minutes, and it is now 8:45am.  But I don’t feel too tired… yet.

Now the climb gets more intense.  I know, I know.  If you’ve read this far, all of the hills seem tough, but in terms of elevation gain per mile, this WAS a difficult section.  There are two mile-and-a-half sections, each with 800 feet of elevation gain.  That’s 10% gain for 3 miles!

I just keep pushing forward and slogging up the hill.  I am passed by 3 guys who are running up the hill.  Running!  And the sad thing is that all of them started at 6am.  They’ve made up a 4-1/2 hour stagger in 3 hours (basically, they are twice as fast as I am).

When I get to the top of Santiago Peak, I am craving something that is not water.  I don’t necessarily need food, but I do need flavor (flavor in my water).  And guess what?  The aid station hasn’t arrived yet.  I guess I could deal with it, but the three leaders also wouldn’t get anything either.

The radio people are there, though, and give me a granola bar, and they point out the truck making progress towards the summit.  I wait the five or so minutes until the truck gets there, but I can’t get anything until the drop bags are all unpacked… so I helped with that, AND helped set up the table and pulled out all of the food, too.  I did get my Nuun tablet and the water tasted so-0 much better!  (By the way, my average pace up the hill was 28 minutes/mile!)

On the way down, I do finally encounter Angela.  She is cutting her losses.  Her knee feels off.  I try and convince her that she should just push through it, but not only doesn’t she want to push through it, she wants my car keys, because she’ll get to the finish before me (probably).  I don’t really want to give my keys up, but if I don’t, she will be stranded without a change of clothes until I finish or quit.

We discuss a few other things.  Both of us made plans to have pacers for the latter half of the race.  The earliest you can have a pacer is Mile 31.  Art Acebedo is planning on pacing Angela from that point, then back to the bottom of Upper Holy Jim at Mile 44.  This is the worst point to start pacing, as he cannot run with us to the end (well, he can, but then I would have to somehow drive him back to his car as the base of Holy Jim where his car would be parked and I don’t have four-wheel drive).  He’ll get in a good 18 mile “run,” but Angela would be on her own for the last 8 miles.

But Angela will not be running back down Holy Jim and we don’t know if she got a message to him in time not to show up.  He MAY be my pacer for 4-5 miles.

On the other hand, I made arrangements with Aaron Sorensen (who DNFed in the first third of Santa Barbara 100M like I did) to meet me at Mile 38.  I’ve given him a time range, since it is so difficult for me to figure out exactly when I get there.  His added difficulty is that Mile 38 is at the top of Indian Truck Trail (the initial 6.5 mile climb).  They are not really offering rides to pacers (well, they were, but we didn’t find out about that option until it was too late).  So, he will have to climb 6.5 miles to meet me, and then run an additional 14.5 miles with me, but at least he will be back at his car and not need a drive anywhere.  I hope that the timing will work out, but there are a lot of “ifs,” because it was already a big imposition for him to drive to Corona from Long Beach (about 50 miles) to pace me.

So, now I head back down the steep mile-and-a-half to Upper Holy Jim (or Upper Holy Jim Parking Lot, as I call it, because it kinda resembles a parking lot).  I am passed by a couple more of the top 10 folks, and I re-encounter my photographer buddy, Chris.  I do a little better on this section.  It is downhill, but it’s really rocky and ankle-turning, but I manage 19 minute miles down the hill, and now I am on the Upper Holy Jim Trail, which I have been dreading.

It’s another mile of downhill, but the recent rains have rutted the trail quite a bit.  At parts, the single-track is narrower than the width of my foot, so even in practice, I had to walk with both feet at different heights (one foot about 18 inches higher than the other).  There are other sections where there is scree and I have to climb down backwards, or I will fall… and I also don’t want to impede the forward progress of the fast runners behind me.  In practice, this mile-long section took me 25 minutes, so I am hoping to improve upon this.

It is a struggle, but I did go down at a 22:00/mile pace (which includes a half-mile of flat leading back to Bear Springs, which is the top of Holy Jim Trail).

So now I am basically “running” everything I did earlier, but in reverse.  I am going down the tough uphills and up the tough downhills, and then I will run past the initial downhill and climb up to the top of Santiago Peak again, before heading back down.  (I am not looking forward to that climb HOURS from now.)

When I get to Holy Jim, I start encountering a number of my friends who started early.  They are about 6 miles behind me, but have the horrible climb up Santiago Peak looming.  I see my friend, Cherry Cheng, who ran with me from mile 4 to 10 in the shortened year (when I did Holy Jim in 3 hours, and she turned around after 10 miles).

I also see my friend, Ben Gaetos.   The past couple years I always see him in the same spot.  I am about a mile from the top of Santiago and he is about a mile behind me (and then I don’t see him again because I dropped down to the shorter distance).  Because I started so freakin’ early, he is about 7 miles behind me (I don’t want to tell you how much better he is doing than me, but you can make the calculation… 7 miles, 4-1/2 hours.)

12141150_10207900279294590_7859670942856977017_o
Coming towards Ben Gaetos on Holy Jim Trail.

I feel pretty good on this section, because it is almost all downhill, and I know that once I do my last traverse along the hillside, I have 17 switchbacks, and then about a mile to the aid station.  I just bound down at a comfortable pace (13:00/mile).  I am pretty excited because I made up some of the major time that I’ve lost climbing up to Santiago, and maybe preserved some time that I will lose up West Horsethief Trail next.

My halfway split (midway down Holy Jim) is close to 10 hours, which would be well slower than the pace I would need to finish in under 17 hours (the normal early start time limit), but I have given myself 20.5 hours, so I am doing OK, but maybe cutting it close.  Art isn’t here, so he must have gotten Angela’s message.

Now I get to head up West Horsethief.  Remember, this was the section that I averaged 25 minutes per mile DOWNHILL.  I also will tell you that last year, the average pace on this section UPHILL for people who finished was 20 minutes per mile.  I hope I can do something acceptable to give myself every chance to finish.

The weather is still pretty overcast and moderate, so I am hoping that I can get through most of West Horsethief before the sun re-emerges.  I get through the fire-road section and through the creek bed section well enough, but I know I will have a difficult time on the switchbacks.  I just keep moving with authority and try to not let too many people pass me.

On the entire section, I do not hear or see another living soul.  It is weird, because I was passed a bunch of times on the downhill sections.  In fact, I make it all the way to the top of the trail without being passed.  This may be because the folks behind me were moving not much faster than I was.  Also, about 3 switchbacks from the top, the sun did come out (dang) and made it that much warmer.  I didn’t do any 20 minute miles, but (strangely enough) my average UPHILL pace was 15 seconds per mile FASTER than it was this morning.

Just after I filled my water bottle, the person behind me emerged.  It was the female race leader, Deysi Osegueda.  Maybe she couldn’t catch me up the hill, but she disappeared ahead pretty quickly once we got back onto the Main Divide Fire-Trail.

The volunteers are really cheery.  While I feel concerned about my pace, they let me know that I have 7 hours to complete the final 19 miles.  Twenty minute miles.  C’mon, you can WALK this!

In order to finish, I know that I have to just run whenever possible and walk with authority on the uphills.  I do slightly better on the section back to the top of Indian Truck Trail, averaging 17:15/mile.  (Everything faster than 20:00/mile will bank time towards finishing under the time limit.)

I get to Mile 38, and no sign of my pacer.  I ask if maybe he already showed up and went on ahead, but I guess not.  No worries, because I have never used a pacer before.  So, just as I am filling my water bottles, a truck drives up and out pops my pacer.

He tells me that I told him to arrive around 3pm.  It’s 3:01 now.  What a good (and fortunate) guesstimate.  He had gone partway up the hill and then got a ride the rest of the way.

I actually have two pacers, but only one is human. The other is one of those aliens we encountered on the way up earlier… no, actually, it’s Aaron’s training partner, Lacey, his dog.  I am not great with dogs, but Lacey is helpful and not annoying. When we are alone on trail, she runs at her pace, not too far ahead of us.  When there are other runners around, Aaron leashes her and he pretty much does not have to ask twice for her to accede to his commands.

Aaron ends up being a great pacer because he helps me forget how tired I am, and also I do not have to lead the conversation.  Aaron is telling me about how he did a few laps of Barkley (the hardest 100 miler ever) and his ideas for this crazy 20 mile loop near Mt. Baldy that he wanted to call Ridgecrest (there’s another race called Ridgecrest, though).

The weather has cooled off quite a bit, since we have passed the 3 o’clock hour, and so going up the Main Divide to the top of Santiago doesn’t seem as bad the second time around.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  (On the other hand, it might be that I haven’t been carting around my Camelbak for the past 6 hours, but will pick it up at the top.)  Anyway, instead of 28 minutes per mile, I have zoomed along at a super-speedy 24:45/mile!  Woot!

At the top, we refill our water bottles, get Lacey some water, pick up my Camelbak, which has my headlamp in it, and then start to head down.  My feet do hurt quite a bit now (especially with all of the technical trail poking into my thin-soled shoes (not padded like Hokas, but less apt to make my foot fold in half).

My jog-walk down the technical trail to the Upper Holy Jim Parking Lot is about 20 minutes a mile again (though back within the acceptable range), and another 20 minute mile down the treacherous Upper Holy Jim back to the final aid station at the top of Indian Truck Trail.  The excellent news at this point is that I have approximately 4 hours for the final 6.5 miles… almost all downhill.  It going to get dark out again, but I think I will be able to manage 45 minute miles and FINISH!

Once the dusk starts settling in, I turn on my headlamp.  It’s pretty insufficient.  The batteries may be a bit drained, but super-pacer to the rescue.  He has a second hand-held small flashlight for me to use.  It is a bit awkward with me also carrying my water bottles, but is small and powerful enough that it is WAY better than my headlamp.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know the ins and outs of this section.  I do remember from previous years (because you have to go down this hill to get to the 50K finish, too) that you head downhill forever, and there’s a zillion turns and you never seem to get any closer.

The one landmark I am looking for is the Korean church, because that is less than 2 miles from the finish.  When I get there, I am absolutely giddy because I know that after 3 failed attempts and a super-early start (which made me famous or infamous – “OMG!  You’re the guy who started at 1:30am!”), I WILL finish this race.

When I see the lights of the finisher’s tent, I am actually not clear on where the finish line is, so I almost run by it.  Stupid.  Many of the recent finishers are still there (not the winners, who finished 4-1/2 hours ago) and Angela.  Thank goodness I gave her my car keys because she would have spent 7+ plus waiting for me and freezing her ass off.

Besides my motivation to finally beat this difficult course (and the early start), I also had my inspirations from my pace sheet – Angela (who despite dropping down completed her 3rd ultramarathon, the beastiest 50K possible), Stephanie Harris (who had just donated a kidney to an ailing friend), and my buddy Gilbert Barragan, Jr., who had just completed his first marathon at Long Beach.  People that you find more inspirational than yourself give you that extra boost to achieve your own goals.

My 19 hours and 1 minute time was my 3rd longest race (by time), maybe my slowest pace, but with 30,000 feet of elevation change, probably appropriate.

Not sure that I will attempt this again (unless I do an early start to help a friend finish) or maybe volunteer-slash-pace someone through the race and pay it forward, but even though I am probably the slowest “official” finisher of this race ever, all that matters to me is that I finally finished this challenging event.

Bun Run 3M – 2015

August 29, 2015

A few disasters leading up to this race.

My training for Twin Peaks 50M continues and I have had some balance issues with the Hokas on technical trail runs.

Lauren Miertschin and I went out about 2 weeks prior about to do a loop up and down West Horsethief, a trail that has a steady climb for about 2 miles, then a 15% climb over the next 2 miles.

On my way down, my feet went out under me and I went down pretty hard.  I managed to hold on to my water bottles, but my thumbs and pinkies hyperextended.  I may have sprained them…

But the real problem was 4 days later, when Angela and I went for a really early (4:45am) planned 28 mile trail practice.

Everything seemed to be OK, and then about 3 miles in, the soles of Angela’s shoes began unraveling.  So, she stopped and turned around and we planned to meet on the opposite side of the course.  I continued on to the top of Santiago Peak.  It was wonderful… no one out there whatsoever.  No bikers and few hikers (it WAS a Monday morning).

I went over along the Main Divide and headed towards the top of West Horsethief when I heard a sickening crack.  I thought I might have broken my ankle.  It hurt really bad.  I sat down for about 20 minutes, freaking out, trying to staunch the flow of adrenaline and calm down.

Since I had not seen a soul for about 20 minutes, I figured I had to get back down on my own (about 6 miles to the car) and hopefully I would run into Angela and she could help me cover the final distance to the car.

I thought I might have to crawl, but ended up being able to put a little bit of weight on my foot.  I refilled my Camelbak from the secret supply zone at the top of the trail and limped really slowly down the hill.  No sign of Angela yet.

Finally, I got down the 12 steep switchbacks and back onto the Holy Jim Road.  I spotted a roll of duct tape (what Angela was going to tape her shoes up with), so I hoped that she hadn’t gotten lost.

About a half mile out from the car, we finally connected.  She couldn’t find the trail, so she wandered around for a while.

In the car, I propped my foot up on the cooler and we filled a bag with ice to keep the swelling down.  My ankle was the size of a softball.

When I got back home, I called the advice nurse at Kaiser, and then spent a good hour on the phone trying to figure out my best bet to get an appointment.  My options were either going to Rosemead at 5pm and then waiting 2-3 hours to get in, or go to Harbor City and get in as soon as they determined my level of need.

I opted for Harbor City, because I would be in at least 3 hours earlier, or so I hoped.  It was a bit of an awkward drive, because of course, it is my right, or driving foot.  I took it really easy.  After about a 3 hour wait, I got in to see the doctor.  She sent me for an x-ray, and fortunately, it was not broken.  But, it was what they called a Grade 2 Sprain.  I think that the side of my foot folded over.  Doctor said it might take 6-8 months to heal totally and that I should take it really easy.

Dulce loaned me some RocTape, but I ended up buying some KT Tape and also finding my old ankle brace.

For 4 days, I tried to stay off my foot entirely, ice it, and keep it elevated, but I was also pretty desperate to test my ankle out and see what I could handle.

So, Saturday is the Bun Run, and worst comes to worst, I have to bail in the middle of it.  I found a book to read and figured I would just walk it comfortably.

It seemed to be OK on the flats, but on the up- or down-hill sections, I could feel some tension.  In the latter stretches, I was able to pass a few people, too.  I didn’t come in last, but it was a good 44 minutes.

For the few days after the incident, I worried that I might have a long recovery.  Now I am more confident that I may still able to do Twin Peaks in 2-1/2 months.