Tag Archives: Anthony Fagundes

Way Too Cool 50K – 2019

March 2, 2019

Finally I have come to the running of my 100th ultramarathon.  It seems quite crazy that I have done 100.  If the races were all marathons, that would be 2,620 miles of runs (but some have been 50, 62, and 100 miles).

When the lottery opened up, I appealed to friends that might be interested in running “with” me.  (I certainly don’t expect anyone to slog with me, but enjoy them being there.)  I had two takers – Eddie Hahn, my hasher friend who had never done a non-loop ultra; and Alan Sheppard (special thanks to his wife for letting him come).  Anthony Fagundes is also here but not because of me.

Also leading up to today, I had done 100 shout-outs to people who I met or helped me during my ultra running career (essentially one a day, but got started a little late, so not 100 separate posts).  It’s nice to think back and reflect on all the wonderful people who have supported me over the past 17 years.

Alan drove up with me Friday to Oakland.  We tried to get Ed to come with us, but he has one of his kids with him and it’s just not practical to come with us.  We have a nice dinner at my sister’s house – a nice homemade lasagna.52945522_10218046064203920_1515880094051074048_o
Mini E and cake topper

Alan and I left really early Saturday morning (before 5am) to get up to Cool with plenty of time (and not a horrible parking spot – doesn’t matter in the morning, but sucks to limp a mile back to the car afterwards).  The weather looks like it’s going to dump lots of rain on us and it’s already rained a lot, so I expect the trails to be super muddy.

We made pretty good time and got an okay parking spot (about a 1/4 mile away).  We go to pick up our bibs.  I’m expecting to get my usual number in the low 600s (alphabetically assigned), but to my surprise, they gave number 100!  (I had sent an e-mail to the RD telling them that I was excited that Cool would be my 100th ultra, but didn’t ask for any special treatment.)

Once we had our numbers, commemorative black WTC buffs and soft green shirts, we head back to the car to drop off our loot and figure out a way for Alan to access his stuff should he finish before me.  We then head back to hang by the start line, get some pictures, and prepare to run.  Ed has made it and is super chatty about our differences in number of marathons (he has 200) and number of ultras (he has one), and other stuff.

51729458_2440185632658340_3345374143095767040_n (1)Alan, Ed, me, and Alan (mostly) bundled up.

For the first section of the race, it’s a 8 mile loop away and back to Cool, starting with 1.5 miles of downhill on a paved road (by the car).  Alan and Ed stay with me initially and then Alan takes off, leaving me with the talkative Ed.  There is a funny moment when he is rambling on about some race story and I slowed up a bit, leaving him to talk to nobody, I thought, but then the gal next to him engaged in the conversation.  (With all the single-track coming up, I do need to concentrate a little bit.

As soon as we get off the road, it’s a steep downhill path to the first big water crossing.  It’s not really raining hard, but there is a bit of a line to get across because the water is fairly deep.  I’m expecting the standard 100+ water crossings and probably 20-25 in the first eight miles.  The weather is clearing up a little bit, but the cloud cover is convincing me that I don’t want to spend any time pulling off my windbreaker only to have to put it back on if and when it starts raining.

It’s pretty muddy out here but I am keeping under the necessary pace of 16:00/mile, and I usually do my best in the first section regardless of the water levels.  Just as we get back to the Cool Fire Station (probably in the last mile), the rain starts coming down harder (glad I kept my windbreaker on).

Now we head out of Cool, down long muddy switchbacks, heading towards the first Highway 49 crossing.  In this second, I am passed by loads of people, because downhill mud running with lots of roots and rocks, and running water, is not my forte.  My goal is to finish AND remain upright.  Falling is not a good option for me.

After a couple of years of this new course, I finally am not expecting an aid station right after the highway crossing.  It’s about 20 minutes further down the road.  In this section, I am doing a combination of walking and running.  This is less about being tired and more about preparing to summit some of the upcoming hills (and keeping my heart rate lower).

I keep going back and forth with a few people.  One person that stands out to me is another tall runner, and Quintin and I spend a few miles walk/jogging and talking with each other.  He’s a decade older than I am (and only a few inches shorter).  It’s nice to do the distance with someone who has similar stride and a similar ultra running history.  (He seems a little crazier than I am.)  We do get to a point where he wants to run a little faster (or get away from my rambling) and he ends up finishing 10 minutes ahead of me.

I lose quite a bit of time in the section leading up to A.L.T.  Probably the toughest part is one of the water crossings where I try to follow someone crossing (at probably the deepest point) and only later notice flags marking the best way across (focused too deeply on the ground and not tripping, I guess).

The downhill leading to the aid station is EXTREMELY muddy and slippery.  I have to take it slowly, but the person right behind me just comes down the hill at full speed, slips, and has to grab onto a small pine tree to keep from overshooting the aid station.  Hey, buddy, we still have 10+ miles to go.  Don’t hurt yourself!

I am still slightly ahead of pace to finish the race, but don’t want to miss that overall cutoff and get a DNF, so I grab a few food snacks and head out immediately.  From my memory banks, this is the section that seems to go on forever and culminates with the Goat Hill climb (which is tough).

First, the big water crossing and then the zigzag of single-track back and forth, up and down, out of the tree cover, and finally across the bridge.  At this point, I have counted nearly 100 water crossings and my feet have been wet since Mile 2.

Once you cross the wooden bridge, it’s a short muddy slog uphill to the fire road.  I am gratified that they’ve done the repairs to this road so that we don’t climb up to Goat Hill twice like we did one year.  Nonetheless, it’s still a tough climb at this stage in the race.  At least it’s not muddy; the red dirt seems to absorb more of the rain than the other surfaces.

Unfortunately, the solid surface ends just after the Goat Hill aid station and the endless mud continues on the (mostly) downhill trail on the way back to the second Highway 49 crossing.  I want to make up some time on this section but need to take it easy.  My sort-of favorite section is here where the trail travels in between blackberry bushes and the trail is always under water.  While this seems like a strange favorite, hey, my feet are already wet, and it’s always more interesting for something non-standard (even though this is my 16th time through here).

Now I’m getting close.  Certain landmarks stick out to me, like hearing a few cars on the Highway, seeing the quarry, and spotting the aid station tent across the road from a distance.  Once I know I’m on the homestretch, I feel much more assured that I can finish under the time limit.  I hit Mile 30 in 7:49, which means I have 41 minutes to finish the last 1.4 miles.  Pretty sure I have that in me.

I never stop at the last aid station, but do offer my thanks to the volunteers that are there.  Now it’s a long slog up a gentle waterfall through mud back into Cool.

As I get to the final two straightaways, it is a muddy mess.  It hearkens back to a few years ago where my friend lost her shoe in the last 100 yards of this race.  While today it isn’t shoe-sucking, it is extremely slippery and treacherous.

I end up finishing about 16 minutes under the time limit in 8:13:49.  Anthony could have run the course twice (and then some) in the time it took me.  Alan finished a skosh under 6 hours and Ed finished in 7:02.  We have a brief celebration at the finish line, but it’s best to hurry back to Oakland to enjoy a rib dinner and early (birthday) cake with Alan and Marisa’s German chorus homestays.

Alan and I finish off the weekend with a trip to Oakland Chinatown and take out dim sum at Tao Yuen.

Moving forward, ultra-wise, I don’t have milestones to hit, but my plan is not to stop at 100 or cut back in any manner.  I have already signed up for Wild Wild West 50M in a couple months and hope to run Skyline 50K again in August and do my 10th High Desert (aka Ridgecrest) 50K in December.

I think I read somewhere that most ultra athletes only do races for about 2 years before getting burned out.   I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I am cognizant that I am hitting a bit of a slowdown in terms of pace, and I also realize that to avoid long-lasting injury, I need to embrace this slower pace.

I look forward to getting caught up and doing run posts in real-time (and not a year in the past), and thus be able to tell stories about both the trails and the people I meet during this sport that I have enjoyed for 100 completed races.

66 to Go

December 25, 2018

71.  Anthony Fagundes

I met this guy just prior to him running his first marathon (Surf City, which he won), and found out he’s just a normal low-key guy (albeit FAST).  In 2016, he tried out his first ultra at Way Too Cool (my first also in 2002) which is close to his hometown.  Prior to the race, I got to meet his parents who cheered me on also.  He finished a mere 4:10 (that’s hours) ahead of me.  In 2019, after a year of nursing an injury, he’ll be kicking my butt at Cool again.  Glad I’m friends with this down-to-earth speedster.

70.  Lynnor Matheney

In 2011, I ran and completed my first 100 mile race at Rocky Raccoon.  I had all sorts of issues with my feet.  I managed to hobble in just 18 minutes under the total cutoff, but immediately needed foot care.  Lynnor was volunteering at the finish line and MacGyver’ed my feet to something bearable (with contact lens solution and gauze).  She said something to the effect of “Holy Sh*t, look at his feet!” but got a ‘prizewinning’ photo that I could treasure always.

69.  Catra Corbett

Catra and I are pretty much opposites in terms of appearance.  I don’t have tattoos, piercings, I’m super-tall, and only wear ‘costumes’ running on special occasions (and I usually half-ass it).  At Javelina Jundred (close to “Jalloween”), lots of runners dress up.  I think Catra was dressed as some kind of Pixie Elf (then again, she may have just been wearing her usual colorful outfit).  The JJ course does loops one way and then the reverse, so as the day wears on, you have runners coming towards you (either ahead or behind) constantly.  When Catra (ahead) was coming towards me, I said, dryly, “Ohmigod, it’s Catra Corbett.”  And she replied, “Ohmigod, it’s Emmett Rahl.”  Wait, how does she know me?  Kind of cool to be part of this small community, where everybody knows your name.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2018

March 3, 2018

I’m back once again in Northern California for Way Too Cool.  In case you haven’t read all my posts, my first ultramarathon was Cool (slightly different course) in 2002, just after my 31st birthday.  Today marks my 15th Cool.  (I missed a couple due to there being a lottery that I didn’t win.)

Since the beginning of the year, I have started to feel some back and knee issues, so I have had to moderate my training and also moderate the way I run (more stiffly is a way I’d describe it).

I drove up on Thursday to stay with my folks in Oakland.  Not only was the drive super rainy, but there was a HUGE accident on 580 between Livermore and Oakland (like it took 90 minutes to drive 3 miles) and that caused even more distress to my legs (being trapped in the car that whole time).

I did get a better start on Saturday (in driving up to Cool).  Last year, I can recall being one of the last people let in to park and being at least a mile down the road from the start.  This year, I was more like 40 cars down from the start, so I didn’t feel bad about walking my shirt and stuff back after picking it up and feeling like I would be wasting energy.

I saw some familiar faces at the start, including Rafael Covarrubias (returning after being a bit burnt out on Ultrarunning), Linda McFadden (from Modesto who I see at a lot of these), and “Tahoe Bob” Gilbert.  Bob is from my original GVH running club and always did a lot of the ultras and over the years got to be a lot better than I did.  He has just returned to ultrarunning after battling lymph node cancer.  Wow, these ultrarunners are strong!

Once again, I am in the second wave, though the waves seem to be a little smaller.  (I think everyone got in through the lottery that wanted to run, so there are maybe 1000 competitors this year rather than 1200.)

Last year, I fairly went all out on the paved portion, but this year I moderate my pace but try and maintain an even pace both uphill and downhill.  The result is that when I get to the trail portion, I am roughly in between the really fast folks and the really slow ones.  This is for the best as I don’t want people tripping me up down the rocky downhills and also want to avoid getting stuck in long lines through the water crossings.

It hasn’t started to rain yet, but I do have my AREC windbreaker on, because rain is definitely threatening.  The course is certainly on the muddy side (but not treacherously muddy) and the usual water crossings are shin to knee deep, but not rushing water.

I do pretty well on the single track portion, somewhat in the front of a long line (better so that I don’t trip) and continue in the front until it widens out somewhat and I can easily pull to the side and keep walking uphill.  There are a few muddy sections here and even moving off the trail to get better traction, I am still slipping on the grass.

Just as we get to the section where we are paralleling the road back to the firehouse at the start, it starts to rain.  I am pretty happy that I kept my windbreaker on (lots of people pulled their outer coats off because they got hot – I figured I could wait for a bit).  It rains pretty substantially, but it didn’t really make the course wetter or muddier than it already was.

As I am coming through the chute at Mile 8, I am cheered on by Anthony Fagundes.  (Cool was HIS first ultramarathon last year, but he is not able to run right now.  Some young fast person’s ailment probably.)  It is nice to hear your name in a sea of runners (where most all are friendly, but no one knows your name).

I come through in 1:40, or about 12:30 per mile.  Already I am feeling some discomfort in my knee, but I can push on in the flat sections and modify my stride to make it work in the uphill and downhill sections.

Next is the section I am somewhat dreading, because it is lots of muddy, rocky, technical downhill.  Downhill is not my strength and also doesn’t feel great on a sore knee.  Lots of the folks who were behind me and struggling on the earlier section are busting by me on this section.  The rain has let up and I can see some rays of sunlight peeking through the clouds, but I don’t think I’ll take off my jacket, yet.

This is a short section (3.1 miles is what my pace sheet says) but after crossing the Highway, there is really only a Port-A-Potty here.  I think they removed one of the aid stations!

So, there is another 4.4 miles on a mostly flat, lightly graveled path along the river.  I am doing some running and some brisk walking.  There is also a bit of sunshine and a bit of hail.  (Yes, hail in the sunshine.)

When the steep uphill section does come, I do my zigzag approach to lessen the strain on my knee.  I think it helps and probably also annoys the people around me, but I am not crashing into them on a definitive path, but moderating to hit the edges when they are not there (I am faster so it’s easier to avoid them.).

According to my watch, I went 7.4 miles in 70 minutes.  Hmm… I don’t think so, so either the map was off or I am secretly running at a 5K pace and I just don’t feel it.  I mean, I am amazing, but not THAT amazing.

Now, there is a lot of single track, hills, and other fun stuff.  My knee is really bugging me, and my feet, too.  Just really sore and I am feeling every rock that seems to puncture my shoe (but I must be descended from the title character in The Princess and the Pea… I think I even stepped on a pea and it was excruciating!).

When I get to the aid station at 21 miles, now my watch says I did 5.5 miles in 2 hours (Hmm… that’s not right either, but I am thinking that I did 13 miles in 3 hours.  That COULD make sense.)

Just as I am descending the hill into the aid station here, an older guy comes tearing down the hill (not a hill to be tearing down unless you are leading the race, and none of us are).  He flies through the air, tries to grab onto a tree for balance, flips off the trail, and rolls down the hill and lands somewhat at my feet.  (Ow.)    By the way, I came down the hill fairly gingerly so as not to do that.

But, I stopped in my tracks, leaned over and helped him to his feet.  Courtesy wins every time here.

From this aid station, it’s now back onto what used to be the old course, with the deep water crossing, lots of winding single track, maybe 20 water crossings (most less than 3 feet across), with the final one being the wooden bridge.

I am dreading this next section as last year, the road was washed out, and we essentially had to climb Goat Hill twice (once to bypass the road and once to climb the actual trail).  Fortunately, it looks like the road is still there, so only one climb of the dreaded Goat Hill.  Sadly, no Helen or Norm Klein at the top, but there are the usual “Burma Shave” signs to annoy me as I get closer and my knee bugs me more and more.

16 years ago, I got here in 5:30 or so, lamenting my worst marathon ever.  And today, I am at 6:30:41, which is certainly not my worst marathon split, but an hour slower a decade-and-a-half later (worst marathon split is around 10 hours, if you’re wondering (in a 35 miler not long after the 5:30 marathon split)).

From the top of Goat Hill, it is some single-track and some double-track, but mostly downhill on treacherous terrain and some of it muddy and some of it running water muddy… and some of it through treacherous running muddy water.  While this is hard on my knees, I really love this section.

When I get to the road, I’ve covered it in 58 minutes (3.6 miles) or a little over 16 minutes a mile.  Now I have a little over an hour to complete the last mile and a half and finish under the 8:30 time limit (ha ha).

I almost never stop at this final aid station because it’s so close to the end (also, they are almost always cleaning up by the time I get there).

I pass a few people on the uphill despite not feeling my best, tromp through all the puddles, talk with a few people doing their first ultramarathon (good choice).

I run into the wind through the mud and finish in 7:50:12, probably my worst finish here, but you know what, a finish is a finish.

No Sufferfest Beer this year, but I did have a glass of SLO beer with a mango taste to it.  Also got my requisite Frog cupcake and minestrone soup and a couple of Subway sandwiches, including a few to eat later in Oakland.

The next day, Sunday, Myrrh and I prepared some of the dishes that we learned in Asia last month while we watched the Oscar telecast with the family.

And then I drove back to Southern California on Monday.

You know, since I have now finished 93 ultramarathons, I wonder if I could time it so that I run my 100th at Way Too Cool next year.  Maybe I’ll make that my plan.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2017

March 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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