Tag Archives: AREC

La Palma 10K – 2017

July 4, 2017

Usually carpool with Dona McBride for this race, but she had already committed to go with someone else (though later, I saw her there and she had gone stag).  But, I just drove myself and parked in the usual spot behind the medical center and right next to the Community Park where the run starts.

I had registered several months ago for something like $30 including shirt and pancake breakfast (better than in person and paying twice that).  This is at least my 10th time running this race.  Don’t love the course but it’s a good smallish local race.

My knee has been bugging me for a while and it didn’t help that a few weeks ago two large bull mastiffs crashed into my legs when I wasn’t paying attention.  I am still running fairly stiffly to ameliorate the issue.

It also doesn’t help that there is no marine layer today and it is starting out HOT!  I don’t like running when it’s particularly hot; I just don’t.

I have on my AREC tank top and I am soaked through fairly quickly.  I take it easy (for me) and do 25:30 (or so) for the first 5K.  (The “or so” is due to the fact that we start 0.15 miles behind the 5K and don’t know precisely where the 5K mark is for the 10Kers.)

I definitely slow down on the second loop, walk just a little to feel better, but I still manage 27:05.  I wanted to be under 8:00/mile pace, but given my circumstances, I am well satisfied with that result.  Even better, I placed in 2nd my division, so I have a nice medal to show for my efforts.

Talked for a bit with a new AREC guy, Ray Hernandez.  He ran the 5K and is training for the Long Beach Half Marathon.  Hope he has some success (getting over a divorce after a long marriage).


Ekiden 10M Relay – 2016

May 22, 2016

Once again, fun participation in the Snail’s Pace Ekiden Relay.

Refresher on how it works:  blind drawing for teams and for distances (i.e. if there are 5 teams, the first 5 names drawn run 1 mile, the next 5 run 2 miles, etc.).

I have never been drawn on one mile, and only once on two miles (though I asked to switch one year when I had to be somewhere).  I always seem to get 3 or 4 miles (which is fine), and your teammates expect you to “deliver.”

So, I ended up getting picked for 4 miles (of course).  My team had a FAST miler, and then a guy who professed to be “not that fast,” and was also my age (but I thought looked much older, who knows?), then my buddy Dulce Barton (fellow AREC runner) and myself.

The 2-mile guy seemed pretty gung ho about our chances, but I felt like we were really in it just to have fun (especially because Dulce is no speed demon and I gave myself low expectations given my arm issues (still only 6 weeks ago)).

Runners 1 and 2 put us into a good position, and then Dulce gave most of it up (this isn’t a criticism of Dulce’s running; this is reality that a 25 year-old man usually runs faster than a 6o year-old female), and then my team looks to me to regain our places.

Ha ha, right.  When I get to the section with the steep uphill on the street, I maneuver around the telephone pole, so I am somewhat hidden and can power-walk up the hill.  Runner 2 is shouting at me (sort of encouragingly, sort of in despair), but once I turn the corner, then I can go at whatever pace is comfortable.

To me, it is abundantly clear that I am not going to overtake any of the runners ahead of me, and probably, I will be passed by some teams that started pretty close to me (faster or younger runners).  We ended up being the 4th fastest team of 10 and I ran my four miles in 37:12, which is pretty good, considering.

Anyway, this was more about camaraderie and the giveaways, and I ended up with a Team-in-Training t-shirt, two women’s unmentionables-washing bags, and a DVD of an old movie.

Avalon 50M – 2016

January 9, 2016

After a one-year hiatus from this race (because I was told no early starts), I am back for my 4th attempt (3 finishes out of 3, to clarify).

As per my usual, I have vague plans about who I am going to stay with.  My tentative plan is to meet up with Greg W., who is new to AREC, and said that I could probably stay with him and his parents, once I meet up with him on the island.

My back-up plan is to hang around near the start until I am ready to go.  Like Year Two, I have a string backpack (with my water bottles, a small paperback, and headlamp), I am wearing all of my running clothes, plus my Tyvek jacket, hooded Nike running shirt, my Moeben sleeves, and my “racing” shirt.  I guess I can hang out in a bar until I leave.

This year, I am told, there is an official early start of 4am, but they don’t want anyone starting before that.  This has to do with liability and the fact that the Island Conservation doesn’t want people in the interior that they don’t know about.  I get it.  I am hoping to find Greg, but otherwise, I am going to sneak off with the midnight starters.

There is also some concern about the weather, because the forecast (for Long Beach, at least) is for torrential rains.  I am not sure how the island will be if it is raining torrentially, nor how awful the boat ride may be.  At least, when I leave at 2pm, it is not raining in Long Beach, so that bodes well for the ride out.

While I am waiting in line to get on the boat, I see some people I recognize, particularly Ben Gaetos, and his Filipino “gang:”  Deo, Rowell, and Del.  I know Deo tangentially (I mean, we have met before, but I usually hear more about his exploits than experience them with him… plus, we have the same birthday).  I have known Ben from the Hash for several years, and I always seem to see him in the local ultras (he’s usually several hours ahead of me and we pass on the out-and-backs).  They are all wearing “FURT” hats (Filipino Ultra Racing Team) and we all sit together on the boat ride.  I think Del and Rowell may be running their first Avalon.

I look for Greg on the boat, but maybe he told me that he is on a later boat; I don’t remember, but I am kind of hoping that I find him, because I may have to spend several hours in the cold if I do not.

I decide that once I get to Avalon, I am going straight to check-in, as that will be my best hope for finding Greg, as everyone needs to check-in first.

I am there before check-in starts, so I chat it up with my friends Mary Ann and Tom O’Hara (aka V8 and See More Buns) who are volunteering.  Also there is Gary Hilliard, the RD from Mt. Disappointment.  The race had been on hiatus a few years after Gary got into a motorcycle accident.  We had a nice chat about ultras and running in general while everything gets set up inside.

I get checked in and mention that I am going to take the 4am early start (but do not say anything about possibly starting earlier so as to not cause strife from the Avalon RD).  I am hoping to find my friend and not have any reason to start earlier.

Once I get my bib and pin it on, I plant myself in the drop bag drop off section with the hope that I find Greg.  This is a great spot as I get to chat it up with a number of folks who are worried about finishing.  I see some other ultratall humans (like a 6’6″ female and 6’9″ male) but they turn out to be the ultra-supportive grandkids of an older lady attempting the 50 miler.  I also chat with an Asian pair (of friends) who have really huge drop bags (like 10-gallon garbage bags full of stuff) – what they need is beyond me.  I think they are also taking the 4am start.

I think that I see Greg and walk up to him and say, “Hey, Greg. Greg!!” but I don’t get a response.  Maybe that wasn’t Greg, but I don’t spot anyone else that looks remotely like him.  Either it was Greg and he was oblivious (or going deaf), he is going to check in tomorrow morning, or he isn’t here after all.  Hmm.  What are my options (well, plan B, I guess)?

I wander around Avalon (boy, is it cold out!) hoping that I will find him at the restaurant that everyone always eats at, but it is closed for repairs.  I have also eaten nothing, so roam around looking for something that I might like.  When I peer in the window of the “fast food” version of the Italian place that is closed, I see Ben and gang.  I think that I might chat with them before I wander around to find my hangout for the night (or maybe eat there if the line goes down a bit).

They ask if I have seen my friend and I say, “No.”  They tell me that their place is super-small (two twin beds for four people) but they will sneak me in, if possible.  Such a nice offer.

As promised, it is a really small place, even for (relatively) small Filipino dudes.  There is a little space for me where I can lie on the floor between a dresser and the door.  The floor is hard and cold, but it is a fair bit warmer than being outside in 50-degree weather.  They even dig around in the dresser and find an extra pillow and bed cover, so I do have something a little softer to sleep on.  I just hope that I do not snore and keep them all awake (as I did with Mark, Michelle, and John 3 years ago).

I am not certain that I am sleeping at all.  I know that I have closed my eyes and it is dark in the room, and hopefully that will be enough.  Part of this is that I never sleep well before a race and the other part is that I think all four of them are snoring loudly.  At least that means that I am not keeping them awake (though it is possible that I wake them up with my 3:15 alarm, when I wake up to go the bathroom and sneak off for the starting line).

A few folks have started prior to the early start.  We had received notice that the Legacy runner (Hal Winton, age 87) and his “pacer,” Gary Hilliard started at 5pm on Friday.  The other Legacy runner, a fellow from Washington State is a no-show (something about his wife being very sick).  A few of my hash friends, including Chris Spenker and Bob Spears, took the midnight start.  Chris has told me that either he doesn’t display his race number or gets a permit so that there is no attached liability to the race.

There is a good-sized crowd for the 4am start.  I recognize a number of the people I talked with at the check-in, including the grandmother with the ultratall grandkids, the Asian friends (Blue Kusaka and Carly Wooster).

There is also a 50-something lady  from Foothill Ranch, named Wilma, who is concerned about finishing.  She has run both the Eco Marathon and Catalina Marathons, but the fastest of the two was 6-1/2 hours.  She fears that doesn’t translate to a sub-12:00 finish and thus is starting at 4am.

As we start out, even though I am not at the front of the people (because I am walking the uphills), people look to me because I have run the course before.  I am good until we get into the Wrigley Gardens and there is an unmarked fork in the road.  I guess that we go to the left, but when people start coming back from that direction saying that it ended in a fence, I decide that we probably should go the other way.

Wilma and I stay together for about 3 miles, but as the grade increases, I am struggling a bit with the climb.  Yes, I have long legs, and yes, I have more mass to carry up the hill.  I think she will do fine, as I am doing fine, and she is ahead of me.

I get up to Haypress in 1:48 (a 20 minute/mile pace) and the aid station is not set up yet, but they are working on it and I grab something and soldier on.

The next aid station should be the one by the airport, but there was some asbestos found on the road, so they have re-routed the course and it goes through Middle Ranch on the way out also.  So, where I would still be climbing, the course now drops down by the Pumphouse and into the unending monotony of Middle Ranch.  Of course, on the way out, I am fresher and there is a net downhill.  Also, the ground is softer than usual because it has soaked up rain (not wet, not muddy, just right).

The pace I need to maintain to finish under 12 hours (the REAL time limit) is 14:36, and the pace to finish under 13 hours is 15:48.  At the first aid station, I am a little concerned because, obviously, I just did 20 minute miles, but with this change in course (and also the total mileage dropped to 49.3 miles) and additional downhill and eliminated uphill section, I think I can pick up some time on this downhill section. I try to make sure I run when I can, even though at times, I still just want to walk, even on the downhill.

The Middle Ranch AS, at Mile 11.9, goes a bit better.  I cover that section at an 11:13 pace and bring my overall average down to 15:22, within the 13-hour pace.

Now there is a little climbing, as I leave Middle Ranch and curve around to Little Harbor.  The ground is a little wetter here, with actual puddles on the trail, but in most spots, it’s wide enough for everyone to run around them without having to get one’s shoes wet.

When I get to Little Harbor, I peel off my jacket, hooded shirt, and headlamp (and book), and leave them in my string backpack, which I have labeled with my number.  Now I have dropped a little weight and can pick this back up when I come by here again later.  I have another good paced section, getting to Mile 18.6 in 4:15, a 10:34 pace for the last section and my net pace is at 13:42, now under the 12:00 pace!

From Little Harbor to Two Harbors is one of the most difficult sections of the course.  While it is not technically difficult, it does involve a long climb out of Little Harbor (and an equally long descent), followed by a mile-and-a-half out-and-back section to the isthmus.  While I enjoy seeing just about everyone on this section (the people who have now passed me from the regular start, the people I ran with earlier (including Wilma), and the people behind me (heading OUT to the isthmus)), you do pass by the Two Harbors AS en route to the isthmus, giving you false hope that you are making good time, when in reality, you probably are not.  I try not to stop at the AS on the way out so I do not torture myself with this unreality.

I do end up losing some time on this section, with 18:22/mile and increasing my net pace to 15:02, but I am still doing well and now have reached the halfway point (well 26.0M) in 6:31.

Now I’ve got the long climb out of Two Harbors and the descent back to Little Harbor.  The good news is that this section seems shorter now that I’ve done that dumb out-and-back to the isthmus.  The bad news is that I’m pretty tired and don’t feel like running downhill.  I want to say that it means you’re in bad shape if you don’t want to run downhill, but I feel like I can at least stride at a decent pace.

I get back into Little Harbor at a 15:13/mile pace, basically leaving my overall pace the same (still on track to finish).  I pass on playing any of the games (horseshoe toss, for one), though one of these years I should give it a go if I am on track.  I do, however, take the proffered mimosa.  Maybe the alcohol will addle my mind just enough to have a great finish!

I pick up my string backpack (with shirt, jacket, book, and light (Feel like I need a Bell and Candle for a complete collection)) and begin the exciting journey back through Middle Ranch.  Even though it seems endless (as usual), I counted bridge crossings and landmarks on the way out to make the time pass more easily on the way back.

Probably about a mile out from the Eagle’s Nest AS, I encounter Gary and Hal.  They are not moving very fast (especially given that they started 11 hours before I did and I am not moving that fast, either), but I think Hal can get another finish, hopefully in time for Gary to catch the 7:30 ferry back to the mainland.

Eagle’s Nest is one of my favorite aid stations, as they usually have hot food and beer.  I have been looking forward to lobster, buffalo burger, and PBR for several hours now.  All the aid station folks are very friendly and have a gung-ho  attitude (and a lot of them are current or former ultra runners themselves).  I don’t stay too long (just enough to get my special treats) and also drink some Kern’s Peach Nectar (to wash down the beer) and continue on, since there is mostly uphills for the next 5 to 6 miles.

I did get through the Eagle’s Nest section at a 14:38 pace (at this point, it doesn’t drop my overall average pace that much).  I am still just over 15 minutes per mile.

Now I have another 5 or so miles continuing through the Middle Ranch section, passing by a few ranches, the Eagle Preserve, and even see a few cars and non-running people.  A small paved section, voices, and a small building signal that I am at Pumphouse AS, mile 43.3.  I enjoy some watermelon, garlic-roasted potatoes, and a half shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream (it’s supposed to be Irish Cream and Kahlua, but I think Kahlua has cocoa in it and that would really make me sick).  I drop back a little time here and take my average pace to 15:03, one second slower than at Eagle’s Nest.

From here, there is about a mile of uphill to the paved road and then a mile downhill back to Haypress AS.  As I begin going up the hill, it starts to mist a bit.  Not really full-fledged rain, but enough to have water droplets on my glasses.  It is also still sunny out, so there is part of a rainbow in the distance.

In the past, I have seen bison  around these parts, pretty close to the trail.  I actually do spot a couple of bison but maybe 500 yards off the trail.

When I get to the top of the trail and the road, I can see that it is raining quite a bit just offshore of Catalina Island and two beautiful complete rainbows.  Usually, when you spot a rainbow, you can see part of an arc, but here I can see both ends “touching down” completely in the Pacific Ocean.  What a rare and beautiful sight!

On the road, I pass a few people who were in my early start.  I am not accelerating, but I think I am not fading quite as much.  By Haypress AS, I have dropped 5 more net seconds per mile (15:07), and I do stop briefly to readjust my shoes.

I am wearing the Hoka Stinsons (which are OK on non-technical trails) and early on, I had tied the laces too tight and the tongue of the shoe had pinched the skin on the top of my foot.  I loosen that and also arrange the inserts back into the correct position.  My feet hurt quite a bit because of the too tight arrangement, so I basically am walking, even though this last section is a significant downhill.

During my first Avalon 50M, I was slightly over the pace needed to finish in under 12 hours, and finished in 11:43, because I was able to make up so much pace on the downhill, but I am not really feeling like running at this point.  I try to speedwalk as much as possible, hoping that I will feel like running soon.

I don’t encounter a lot of folks on the hill; I am neither catching people nor passing people.  Finally, about a mile-and-a-half in, I catch Chris.  He is in a mood.  Says he’s never doing this event again.  We’ll see.

A little bit later, I am passed by a cute gal.  I stay with her for a little bit, but I think she does not want to go at my pedestrian pace and takes off.  Today is her 14th Avalon, as compared to my 4th.

A couple of minutes later, finally, I feel like running!  The grade is enough that I don’t have to do much to really get going, and I start really bounding down the hill.  I catch up to the gal and pass her by.  I am surprised how good I feel, that my feet don’t hurt as much any more.  That NEVER happens!

Finally, I make the right-hand turn onto the main road that parallels the coast and know that I have 1/4 mile to the finish.  Fortunately, the finishing sign is now high above me (see my first Avalon where I cracked my head on a PFC pipe within the finishing banner) and I stride in with a 12:10:14 , exactly one hour slower than my buddy Ben.

The “cute gal” is Kathryn Buchan Varden, a hasher from Arizona who is friends with Darcie Olk.  She finishes about a minute behind me, followed by Beth Epstein a few minutes later.  (Dang!  We could’ve run together.)

Greg finished in 10:50 and Wilma 11:24 (so, really, no worries).

I hung around the finish line chatting with Mary Ann and Tom (plus some other hash/running friends who were helping at the finish line) while some more runners came in.  I had about 3 hours to kill before the boat ride home.

About 30 minutes after I finished, the gal with the ultra-tall grandkids finished.  She and her friends were pretty disappointed.  They were behind the cutoff, so they were shuttled up to the road, so that they could finish the race, albeit something a few miles less than 50 miles. I pointed out that A) they would be motivated to come back next year, and B) they still ran 40+ miles!

Blue and Carly came in about this same time (but without the shuttle forward) along with Chris.  His finish was interesting because he had in his hand… a milkshake.  That’s right.  Instead of going directly to the finish, he stopped in at the sweet shop and had them make him a quick milkshake (presumably so he didn’t have to walk back after finishing).

I made plans with Kathryn, who will get her 15-year finisher jacket next year (I would get a 5-year finish plaque) to possibly share accommodations for 2017… or I think I may have some other folks up to trying the new 50K course or the doable 50M course.

This was my 77th ultra overall, so I dedicated to TRH Coach Paul Browne (who is 77 years old).  This was also my 21st completed (since I have some DNFs) 50 miler.

I didn’t have any good pictures from the day, but I like to have a picture to include with the posting, so I’ll end this with a “fun” story:

Wilma Dibs, who I befriended at the 4am start (who kicked my butt), and I became Facebook friends.  (She’s probably another person who I could share accommodations with next year.)  She posted that she was having trouble getting all the oranges off the tree at her mother’s house in Fountain Valley.  I mentioned that I could probably reach more branches than anyone else she knew, and so on President’s Day, I went over and snipped branches for about an hour.  I took about half the oranges and it produced enough juice to fill 5 2-liter bottles.


On the way home, I was rear-ended into another car, causing a total loss of my 17-year old Toyota Camry.  The accident was at about 5mph, I was not hurt, and my car was still driveable, but old.

So, this strange result of a new friendship eventually resulted in getting a new car (with ultra-long space in the front), and hopefully ending my streak of going to ultras with no accommodation plans.


Summer Nights 5K (2) – 2015

July 14, 2015

My favorite!  Back-to-back 5Ks.  I should also mention that after yesterday’s Boeing 5K, I went to Chittick Field and ran a medium-intensity track workout in the evening.

There is a much larger crowd tonight – lots of kids!  This means that there will be a lot of dodging and weaving in the first mile or so… better once it gets spread out, and then I will also finish lower in the overall standings.

My goal tonight is to finish with a comparable time to yesterday and possibly faster than I ran at this race last month.  Yesterday’s time was 23:12, but that was on a flat, paved course.

My first mile tonight is 6:50 (5 seconds faster than last time), my second mile is 8:07 (EXACTLY the same time… weird), and my third “mile” (actually 1.1) is 8:35 (11 seconds faster).  My time of 23:32 is virtually the same as yesterday’s time.  I am really happy with that!

After the race, I am chatting with my friends from Team Runners High and AREC, and gutting out a few thousand photo sessions with Jesus, when a guy hanging out with Dr. Richard Graves says to me, “Didn’t you hear me cheering for Piedmont High School?”  I did remember hearing that, but dismissing it as an aberration.

Turns out, this white-bearded runner (about 4 minutes faster than me in the race!) is none other than Drew Sells, my PHS ’89 classmate.  I had remembered seeing him at the Seal Beach 5K/10K several years ago… so I knew that he lived in the area, but I had no idea if he was still running.  (A number of my classmates who ran in high school seem to no longer run, whereas those of us who started ‘late,’ seem to still be running.)

I enjoyed my plate of tacos, got a free massage from The Lumbar Yard, and then helped the nice masseuse and chiropractor to pack up their stuff, before heading home and taking more than a 30-hour break in between races.

La Palma 4th of July 10K – 2015

July 4, 2015

Back to La Palma for another 4th of July race.  Dona McBride and I carpooled.  It’s sort of like we know the drill – we switch off who drives and we always park at the Hospital parking lot that is adjacent to the local park (20 yard walk from the car).  No one else seems to know this trick.

If you register online, it’s the best deal (even with the credit card charge).  Registration included a technical t-shirt and $4.50 gets you a pancake breakfast ticket.  Plus, they always give out mugs or something cool to division leaders.

The negative side to this event – particularly the 10K – is that you start 0.15 miles behind everyone else… so you cannot hear the announcements (including the starting gun), you half-hear the National Anthem, and once you catch up with the 5K group, there are hordes of people impeding your forward motion (the walkers, the meanderers, and the minute-per-mile-slower-than-me people).

We see a few of the usual people that we always see at this race – Paul Browne, from TRH, that lives right around the corner; Gil Perez (AREC VP) sporting a Beach City Runners shirt, but an AREC hat (wanting bonus points for wearing the hat – wrong shirt, buddy!); and Nick Kincaid, another AREC guy, who has gotten faster over the years (I used to be able to beat him; now I can only ‘contain’ him.).

The 10K starters are listening for the distant gun so that they can air-horn us off, and immediately, I find myself trying to accelerate around the mopey folks in this field.  I have about 400 yards to formulate a strategy to get around the 5Kers.

One item in the negative column that I forgot about is that there are random Mile markers… some for the 10K on the first loop (but 5K markers) and one on the second loop.

That being said, I reach Mile 1.15 in 8:25, which is around a 7:39 pace.  Fast… for today.  It started out overcast, but I can’t see that continuing 25 minutes from now.

There are lots of people out here but after the first mile, I presume I have passed most of the slow types… but I may encounter some of them on the second loop.  I get to Mile 2 (yep, for the 10K) in 6:46… but as my last mile was actually 1.15, my pace here is 7:31.

There are a couple of water stations after Mile 2 – one close to Mile 2 and one about 500 yards from the end of the loop.  It is here that it begins to get crowded as some of faster 5Kers are gearing up for their finishing sprints.  As I pass by the start, I time through in 9:36 (back to 1.2, because this segment is 3.1+0.15 – 2 = 1.25) or 8:43/mile.

The positive point here is that the crowds have thinned out, but the negative is that I don’t really have anyone to run with because until I catch the walkers, I am caught out in ‘no-man’s-land.’

I do see people off in the distance (including Nick), and I try and use that as my motivation to go a bit faster (also I am not zigzagging around anyone).  I reach Mile 4.0 in 6:11 (7:58/mile), and then Mile 5.1 (the 10K 2M marker) in 8:49 (8:00/mile).

Now I begin to catch the walkers.  One of the people I spot is the former owner/coach of Team Runners High Jeff Tribole (now of Beach City Runners).  He is walking with a number of other people, very slowly.  I can be critical since my finishing time ends up about 6 minutes faster than my 80-year old dad walked last October… and I passed Jeff at Mile 2.5 (for him).

Jeff used to castigate me at track workouts that I should ‘run a little faster and talk a little less.’  I feel that you don’t really have the right to criticize me for this if you yourself are not ‘walking the walk.’  I have heard that Jeff used to be quite the runner, but in my 18+ years in Southern California, I have never seen him do more than a slow walk (yes, he had a heart attack 10 years ago, but even prior to that it was bark out the workout and then skulk off to watch the Lakers on TV).

It’s fun for me to give him a little jazz after all of the ‘helpful suggestions’ I endured over the years.  After I finished (in 48:32), I watched him ‘run across’ 10 minutes later, as if he and his group had been running the entire time.  I say we give him that, let him say that he was running 19 minutes per mile.

I was very happy with my time, considering that one week ago, I did a very special high mileage trail run in honor of my little sister’s 40th birthday.  I ran for 6 hours 27 minutes and 40 seconds at El Moro and Laguna Trails and covered 26.1 miles (my sister turned 40 on 6/27, hence the timing).

When it came to the awards ceremony, almost all of our group received an award… but I came in 6th… even though I was the 28th finisher overall.  Small race… too many 40-44 year olds!

Shadow of the Giants 50K (29.2M) – 2015

June 6, 2015

I had heard about the Shadow of the Giants event for several years from a number of people.  I had had an interest in participating, but because the race is basically outside Yosemite, I had not driven up by myself (though from past postings, you will note that I have driven to Bishop by myself with no specific overnight plans), and with the current price of gas, it was always best to drive up with someone else.

I determined that Rafael Covarrubias was planning on going, and perhaps another gal from AREC, Zelda Ramos, might be going and doing the “Fun Run.”  We negotiated for a bit about the carpooling possibilities – Zelda had to leave by 1:30pm, but I did not have the confidence that I would finish in 6-1/2 hours, since that would be close to my best 50K… and although this course is slightly short, the elevation would probably be a factor.  Zelda decided to drive up on her own, though I believed that I could start 2 hours early to make it work.

I met Rafael near his elementary school which is near Florence off the Blue Line (not a great area).  Had a decent drive up, including going through McFarland (impressive HS cross country town) and then up through a bunch of foothill towns en route to one of the Yosemite entrances.  Rafael and I had a multitude of conversations, including what one does when pulled over by the police (act polite, try not to appear nervous, don’t run)… when we were pulled over by the police.  Expired tags.  Oops!  He had moved recently and didn’t get that taken care of.  Rafael was polite and the officer was nice enough and wrote a fix-it ticket.

Zelda had arrived a little bit earlier and we met her at the race start location – an outdoor school in Fish Camp – so we could settle in and also pick up our race numbers.  I got number 66 (which of course, upside down is 99, same as the number of ultras and marathons I will have completed by the end of this race), but they had some confusion with Rafael’s, even though I think he registered before I did.

We laid claim to our beds – for $15/night, we get a padded mattress on a springy bunk bed in a coed cabin.  Fairly comfortable (in a sleeping bag) and 100 feet from the starting line.  You could literally roll out of bed and be at the starting line in under a minute.

The town of Fish Camp doesn’t have a lot of amenities.  Zelda and Rafael decided we should go over to the nearby Tenaya Lodge for dinner.  I have essentially already eaten; I brought bell pepper and cucumber “salad” with spicy peanut sauce, served over black rice.  But I go with them for the camaraderie and for a beer.

The lodge is really nice.  If I was well-off and had business in the area, I would definitely stay there.  While we waited for a table in the restaurant, there was a nice piano player in the lobby, playing 80s and 90s songs (and singing).  I had a nice local beer while they had their dinner.  I also ended up eating the rest of Zelda’s dinner – a black bean burger – the serving being more than she wanted to eat.

By the time we got back to the school, some of our cabin-mates were already out, so we tried to be as quiet as possible.  I read for a bit, using my headlamp, but being so dark and quiet, I knew I would fall asleep pretty quickly.

I woke two or three times, having to go to the bathroom.  Fortunately, my bunk is right by the door, and the men’s bathroom is 5 feet away.  Hopefully, the squeaky door is not noisy enough to wake everyone up.  It is mildly cold out, but not unpleasant.  Hope the weather (later) today will be about the same.

Around 6am, I heard an announcement about the early start, but since the driving issue was moot, I stayed in bed for another 15 minutes.  I got up and used the facilities since the opportunities on the trails would not be as good.

We wandered over to the dining hall to re-check in and to get coffee (well, not me, but everyone else probably).  Big Baz (the RD) kept making announcements about how everyone needed to check-in, even if they had checked in yesterday, and then 10 minutes before the race was to start, we all headed outside to line up.

When we got outside, they began calling out all of the number of people who hadn’t re-checked in – basically 75% of the field, delaying the start – can you believe it? Did only 10 of us listen?  One of the names I heard was Elizabeth Epstein, my good friend “Dutch” from the Hash.  It was cool to see her.  She was by herself, having been in the area; Kim was back in Long Beach.

When it was finally settled who was actually running the race and who wasn’t actually there, we got underway.  There was the usual silliness from the RD, with a bunch of “Shut the F up” to excited runners who were chatting with their friends during the announcements.

The first bit of the race is through the parking lot of the school, up the road towards the highway, and then a sharp turn to what becomes a rocky trail.  All along the road are cars, the cars of the competitors.  Some are not parked properly, and it bottlenecks the race, somewhat.  Somewhat, because there are under 100 runners in both the 50K and the 20K untimed fun run.  Also, I am towards the back, so I am not that affected.

At the top of this hill is the first split with the 20K runners.  We turn left and head down the hill to our first aid station.  I get a little bit of what I lost on the uphill running down the hill because it is not too technical.  Big Baz himself is at the first aid station, Mile 3.7 and I get in at about 45 minutes, or 12:00/mile.

Now we turn around and head back up the hill and head in the same direction as the 20Kers (who have long since left us behind).  For part of the uphill section, I chat with a 20-something (28?) guy running his first 50K.  It looks like he has wings tattooed on his shoulders, and he tells me that he has a huge tattoo of a dragon across his entire back (so I guess those are dragon wings).

Once we reconnect, we continue uphill to the highest point on the course (6286 feet) and Mile 6.7.  I talk with another first-timer (in my age group, though), Kristopher, and we stay together for awhile (either to where he is feeling faster than me… or bored with the conversation).  This 3 mile (thin-air) section takes me 69:42 (23 minutes per mile) dropping my overall pace to 17:00/mile.  I need to regain some of my speed soon, otherwise I will miss the cutoffs.

We have 2 miles on the next section, and it is mostly downhill!  Right before the aid station, is a water crossing.  I have heard that in the past, your only choice is to tromp through the water, but because of the drought, it is possible to get across without getting your feet wet.  I take this option, much to the chagrin of the photographer.  Although the water is not deep, it is rocky, and I do not want to risk hurting myself.  I get through this 2-mile section in 27 minutes, and thus reduce my pace per mile by about a minute (to 16:00).

Coming up is the first of 4 5-mile sections.  Most of this part is flat, or slightly uphill and there is a lot of stepping over fallen trees and twigs/branches.  There was some pre-race talk about 2 trees to go under, but in both cases, it is easier for me to go over because it is hard on my back to bend over that far.  I do help another runner step over or go around.  The trees ARE big enough that I cannot just step over.  With the biggest ones, it would take 3 to 5 of me to wrap arms all the way around.  These are HUGE sequoias!

After a long section of what passes for single-track, I emerge onto a wide dirt road and come through a campground.  Some people call out to me that it is not far now.  I catch up and walk a bit with a woman who was part of the early start.  This is HER first 50K as well.  Her friend died earlier this year and she and a few other gals are running it in her memory. I tell her about Brian Kelly and the tribute I did for him in 2013.  Because this is a mostly downhill section, I end up covering the 4.7 miles in 42:44, or about 9:05/mile.  Don’t know that I have run that fast in an ultra, except maybe at North Face Challenge, when I just missed the Mile 37 cutoff.  My overall pace is down to 13:42/mile… much better than the 17:00 7 miles ago.

The next five miles is a gradual uphill to Nelder Grove, the location of the Shadow of the Giants loop, for which this race is named.  I walk the majority of the trail, because at this elevation, I walk and breathe better than if I run, especially on the uphill.  I manage to keep my pace a little over 16:30, which some people would find acceptable on a road stroll.

At this aid station, I get the offer that I can leave my hand-helds for a while, because the loop is only a mile; I will be back momentarily.  I would rather hang on to my bottles because it is comfortable, and I would rather have the freedom to drink whenever I need it.

The Shadow of the Giants trail is a definite highlight, though it is the busiest of the entire race because there are beaucoup hikers on the trail.  Not crowded per se, but the extra people are oblivious.  It is educational to boot, though I do not really have time to read all of the signage and watch my step.  The trail is a half-mile of meandering uphill. and then a half-mile of rollercoaster downhill (a true loop, though).  My enjoyment of the trail probably led to my 18:10 pace, but I am glad to have gone through that section, because it was so fabulously pretty.

I refill my water bottles and grab some salty chips.  Coming up is 5.3 miles of gradual uphill, back to the earlier aid station at Mile 13.4.  I do not feel like running at all, so I am brisk walking (almost speed-walking).  The road isn’t terribly technical and I keep seeing signs for a Christian Camp. There are some cool zip-lines and elevated ropes course on either side of the road.  It keeps what is a pretty quiet (not many encounters with other people) section entertaining for me.  In the last 2 miles or so of the section, I walked past at least 3 runners (!) en route to the aid station.  Astoundingly, my walking pace is 12:56/mile. I am pretty pleased with that pace.

Now I have just 5.5 miles left to the end.  For the most part, it is downhill and I run when I can and walk fast when I am tired or it turns slightly uphill.  The trail is also not too technical so I am not stumbling (always a benefit when you are tall).

In the last mile or so, there is a slightly confusing section.  I say ‘slightly’ because I was able to figure it out but I did catch up to a runner who was standing around trying to figure it out.  I said, “I think that outline of rocks is the outline of the path, even though there are no arrows indicating as such.”  After being on a dirt road for 3.5 miles, a spongy pine-needle single-track was a welcome change (although there was a lot of low-branch ducking for me).

After a fashion, I could hear some loud talking and figured I must be close to the finish line. Two ladies passed me just before I crossed the bridge and got to the paved parking lot in the school just before the finish.  I got a nice loud cheer because everyone was gathered for the awards ceremony.  My time was 6:38:48 (a PR, since I’ve never done 29.2 miles in a race before; this was technically a 47K).  I was happy with this time, considering that I was trying to figure out how to do 6:30 so that Zelda could carpool with us.  (She had left a few hours before and was the unofficial female winner of the “Fun Run.”)

I went back to the awards ceremony and they were also starting up on the prize drawing-slash-trivia contest.  (I missed this at my last Baz race because I was too slow.)  The way this works is that they ask trivia questions and whoever blurts out the answer first wins.  I won a cotton t-shirt by shouting out the first question correctly.  (Yes, my mind still works after 29+ miles of trail running.)

Before taking a shower, I wanted to get a picture of me standing on my head to commemorate the 99th ultra/marathon (since, if you remember, my number was 66).  I found the two gals (who had passed me at the end) with an I-Phone and tried to stand on my head.  I mean, are you kidding?  Do you really think I would be able to stand on my head without a lot of special help?  They decided that I should pose against a tree with a pose like I am standing on my head, and then just flip the picture over; that at least is manageable.

I headed over to take a shower and made the mistake of utilizing the kids shower (I thought all showers were for kids, this being a outdoor school.), where the nozzle almost came up to my waist.  It wasn’t unpleasant, seeing as I was mostly trying to wash the dirt off of my extremities and was able to splash water on my face with my arms.  I saw the adult showers after I was pretty much done; I’ll know better for next time.

I think I could do better on this course with a little more uphill practice and I would like to convince some other ultra neophytes to give this beautiful course a try.  Of course, it is a bit of a drive from LA (5 hours or so), but so majestic and beautiful.

Run the Runway 1M – 2015

March 31, 2015

About two weeks ago, I received a cryptic e-mail about running on the Long Beach Airport Runway.  This does not sound like a good idea, since the traffic on the runways always exceed 100 miles per hour.  Even Usain Bolt is not that fast!

Well, apparently, the surface of the runway needs to be re-asphalted every 15-20 years due to wear and tear.  One of Long Beach Airport (LGB)’s runways just was completed and the city figured a good way to show it off and to celebrate would be to let people run on it.

To do so, you needed to register online with your information and include your shirt size (free shirt – just what I need).  The timing of the run would work OK for me because it was at 2pm on a Tuesday, but I would be very surprised if a lot of people showed up because it is in the middle of the day.

Since the runway is only a half-mile long (roundtrip 1 mile), I figured to get in a little extra exercise by walking to and from the airport (though tonight I also have my speed workout with TRH on the track).  I brought along a (used) book I had recently purchased (a short story by Solzhenitsyn) and timed it so I would arrive about 45 minutes before the event.

When I arrived, there was already a rather long line, but I spotted a few folks I know (some in front of me and some behind).  Once we got inside the gate (didn’t even have to show ID), the check-in was alphabetical by… FIRST Name.  This was a total zoo and a lot of folks didn’t even have their pre-registered information.  There were a LOT of people here (over 500).

There was a bit of a delay getting started and I lined up with Chuck and Laura.  The race was not going to be timed, but I still wanted to see what I could do a mile in (with meanderers around me, no less).  It was a weird surface to run on (macadam?), slightly better than concrete, obviously not as forgiving as packed dirt trail.  Both Chuck and I finished in the Top Ten, right around 7 minutes (7:02 for me, Chuck slightly slower).  They were interviewing and had minor prizes for the top 3 (wish they had said that… maybe I could have run a little faster).

After I finished, there were still lots of people who had not reached the far end yet, so I decided I would do another 1 mile loop, race-walking this time to see if I could catch up to the slow pokes.  Yes, 12:38

Chuck and Laura offered me a ride home, but in getting my free lemonade, muffins and cookies, I misplaced them and ended up having to walk home on my own (well, not all of the way; a friend passed me on the road and waved… and then offered me a ride the final mile).

My take-away was a free mile (or two) run, a flat orange water bottle, an orange commemorative shirt and 5 airplane pens.