Tag Archives: Dad

Piedmont Turkey Trot 5K – 2017

November 23, 2017

Once again back to Piedmont for the Turkey Trot.  Course used to be the same as the Feet Meet which probably technically was my first 5K as a (non-running) youth.

They’ve changed the course in the past few years to make it a true 5K and also to eliminate the Hampton hill (like 10% grade for a short distance).  It is still a hilly course, though.

Last year, Mom did not participate because she had hives and exercise just made it worse.  Last week, Mom, Myrrh, and Dad were walking the course and Mom stepped on a low-to-the-ground palm frond with one foot, hooked her other foot under it and did a face-plant on the sidewalk, so guess she is not participating again this year, but Myrrh and Dad are walking the course behind me.

As before, the course starts along Highland past our old house and then down Highland to Wildwood, which is a quarter-mile steady uphill (not steep, but annoying).  I force myself to run this entire section (lungs burning) and come through Mile 1 in 7:50.

Now we turn up Crocker and a little more uphill, then do the (new) loop around Florada and back around to the St. James section.  I do walk the few hills here and do Mile 2 in 10:58.

Now it’s the long, steady climb up Seaview by all the huge houses.  I powerwalk as best I can and then as soon as I get to the top, run down the hill.  I give myself a small walk up the Craig hill (Mile 3 in 7:30), and then run the rest of the way to the finish in 26:56.

Since they are doing 10 year age groups (with 3,000 racers), I come in 46th in my division, but 307th overall (I like the number 307 for some reason).

After I recover a bit, I hike back to find Myrrh and Dad and walk in with them.  Surprisingly, there are 8 competitors in the 80-89 age group and Dad comes in 7th (though 2nd through 7th are within 3 minutes of each other).  The shame was had he come in 8th, he would have received a big bag of chocolates (courtesy of some “8” Chocolate sponsor).

We saw a few classmates, some of Riva’s friends (though Riva was not here), got our share of yogurts and Clif Bars (in Riva’s honor, though she would have come home with a case) and then went back to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving with my family.

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Headlands 50M – 2017

September 9, 2017

For the past several months, Alan has been talking to me about running his first 50 mile race.  The plan HAD been to do Avalon 50M in January, as this was the event where we got to know each other better (seemingly, it’s the event where I actually remember the people I meet).  However, he tells me that it’s not a good idea if he does Avalon because his wife’s due date is within 10 days of that event, and while he could probably manage being away on a run during that time, being an hour boat ride away is probably not the best idea.

I went through the options of events I have done that occur in the summer, fall, and winter time (semi-local), and other than Twin Peaks (not a great first timer event), there are not a lot of options… but I do remember having run the Headlands 50M in 2011.  (Go ahead, look up the post – I finished, but didn’t have the best time doing so.)

I take a look at their information; I know they are under different management than when I ran the event.  In fact, the lame race director actually died and the company was sold.  One of the great disadvantages of this race (for me, at least) was that as I finished in the dark, the ribbon was hard to see (in the fog) and I was totally by myself.  A possible advantage to running the race now is that there are two longer distances available (75 and 100 miles) which means there will be others still running the course when I struggle in.

I suggest to Alan this might be a good first 50 miler – not the easiest, but scenic and logistically easy to run… and if he decides to run it, I will run it “with” him.

On Friday, his wife drops him off at my place at some ungodly hour so that we can drive up to the Bay Area and miss most of the traffic at both ends.  When we hit some traffic coming into Livermore, we use the Express Lanes (not realizing that you need a transponder to avoid a ticket – and later I get a transponder to avoid that fine).  Unlike our last ultra in the Bay Area (last month), my folks are in town so he can spend some QT with my entire family (except Riva who is not visiting).  It’s the usual of resting before a hellacious day.

Saturday morning we take the exciting drive up to the Headlands.  The fastest way to go is via the Golden Gate Bridge, which means you go across the (new) Bay Bridge, through San Francisco (the 101 is on city streets there) and a bunch of turns.  I always hate this drive by myself, but it’s slightly better with a navigator.  Once you get to the other side of the Golden Gate (not particularly scenic at 4AM), you queue up for the one-way tunnel drive which pops us out into the short foggy coastal drive down to Rodeo Beach.

The area where I had parked in the past for Miwok and this event in 2011 is blocked off for volunteers and race staging, but they direct us to park along the side of the road and we are about a half mile down from the start.

Fortunately, because we are so early, we have the time to walk over, pick up our bibs (and applicable giveaways – I opted out of everything, but I still get a cool drop bag with compartments), and drop it all back in the car.  It’s a little on the chilly side but manageable.

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I spot a number of people I know that are running various distances – Megan Cheng, Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen, Dean Karnazes, running the 100 miler; Martin Sengo doing the 75 miler, and Ken Michal in the 50 with us.

As the race gets underway, I try and keep Alan in my sights, but honestly, I have to run my own race.   My semi-goal is to be at or close to my 14:43 time of 2011 (or if I apply the “age-grade” formula here, I need to beat 15:20 or so to do an equivalent).  I know that Alan should be considerably faster than that; hence why we would not run together.

The way the course is run is that we do 25 mile loops.  When the first loop is completed, then we run the loop in reverse.  (Note:  It’s not a true loop, but the direction you run on a certain stretch of trail is determined by the loop direction.)  This certainly means that we will encounter a number of runners coming towards us and passing us at any given moment.

This first section is 4.1 miles long and will also be the last 4.1 miles of the race (and was also the last few miles of Miwok in 2009 and 2010).  For the most part, it’s a long uphill slog, including a whole bunch of uneven stairs (a bit wet) which are a total dream in the dark, let me tell you.  At the top, it’s a traverse along the coast and then eventually down a (horse) switchback that ends at Tennessee Valley.

We will hit the Tennessee Valley aid station 4 times, so that is where my drop bag is located.  I generally do not need anything in my drop bag, but I have my small TRH duffel with a spare tube of Nuun, spare batteries for my headlamp, and a tube of glow sticks (from Dollar Tree) that I intend on breaking open in my final stretch to entertain myself in the dark.

I come through in 57:45, which is a tad faster than briskly walking.  Hooray!

The next stretch goes from Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach.  There is a length lightly downhill paved section towards the coast again, and then a number of annoying climbs to a double-track trail and a number of short wooden bridges.  I know this leads to the section that I fear most, which is hundreds of uneven downhill stairs that are apt to be slippery.

Fortunately, I am mostly by myself (meaning, I don’t have people bounding by me and making me lose my concentration), though once I get to the bottom and begin the gentle climb out, a lady passes me and mentions that she’s seen me at some other ultras.  The joke is always, “Gosh you remember me?” since I know it is because I am so tall.

She says, “Well, you are the Usain Bolt of Ultrarunning.”  A strange (but apt) sobriquet.

Once I get around a number of the curves hugging the shoreline, there is a bit of a descent on a wide fire road heading down into Muir Beach.  This is a double-up section, so I do get some encouragement from Meg near her turn-off at the top and from Alan somewhere nearer the bottom.

They have done some construction since the last time I was here.  Now there is a nice (but a bit slippery) metal bridge traversing the marshy area.  In my last Miwok, we had to detour around this quite a bit.

 

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I have been cautious on this section, especially because the stairs and the severe downhills have been tough on my knees, but I carry on through in just over an hour (at 15:52 pace).

Now I turn around, recross the bridge, and head back up the hills.  Not as much cross traffic (as I am towards the back) but the people around me are somewhat surprised at my technique of climbing the hills which is diagonal climbing.  It takes pressure off my knees and is mildly entertaining to me (I don’t listen to music so I have weird ways of keeping my mind occupied.).  There is also a trick to timing it just right so you can get around upcoming people.

This next section is another 4 miles back to Tennessee Valley but in a slightly different manner, along Coyote Ridge and not along the coast.  I kinda hate this section because it’s hard to visualize where you are heading, but once you complete the ridiculous climbing away from the coast, there is quite a bit of downhill to get back to the Valley (which is not to say I am maintaining a faster pace).

From Tennessee Valley, the course now heads out in a third different direction (first one inbound from the start, second one inbound from Muir Beach, third one outbound to the Golden Gate).  This is the second longest stretch of the course (been doing about 4 mile stretches for the first 3) at 5.9 miles and definitely has the most up-and-down of the sections.

It’s a long, long climb out of Tennessee Valley, but at the top, the view is pretty rewarding.  It’s not too foggy this year to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is still foggy and breezy.  The course is slightly confusing here, but I am good at following ribbons.  Because of the fog, it is more humid here and the trail is muddier.

 

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However, to me, muddier means softer.

When I emerge from the foggy wooded section, it’s back to single-track and gusty winds.  In a couple of sections, I hold my hat in my hand so that it doesn’t blow off.  I am almost walking on this downhill section and there are now runners sprinting by me on the uphills (to be expected).  I look for the familiar faces (feel like I should have seen Meg Cheng by now – she was running so well).

Probably midway down, I encounter Alan coming back up.  He tells me he hates this section because it is so rocky and he has to continually tilt his Luna sandals to keep the pebbles out (don’t suppose gaiters would work?).

When I get to the bottom, it’s now the paved road down, down, down to the water UNDER the Golden Gate Bridge.  I hate this section because you give up the hill  entirely, and then you have to climb back out (and we will be back here again soon – yuck).

I thought the aid station would be at the bottom of the hill, but we have to turn and run alongside the water for a quarter mile or so.  The aroma of marijuana smoke is pretty strong here – gag.  I pick up a couple of orange slices and make the turnaround.  Because of the downhill, I dropped my pace from 17:30 to 16:15 per mile, but know I will probably lose all that in a quick minute here.

Now for the longest stretch, 7.1 miles (feels like an eternity).  It starts with the reverse road climb, then the switchbacks on rocky dirt in the wind, back through the muddy wood, and then a turn onto the road heading back down to Rodeo Beach.

Once I am back on the fire-road, it’s a spot-fast-folks section, as they have finished their first loop and are heading in the reverse direction now.  First, I spot Dean Karnazes.  We talked for a quick second at the start and he vaguely remembers me from Santa Barbara 100 (I worked, he ran).  This is a MUCH easier course (the 100, I mean) by the way.

Next, I see Ed Ettinghausen.  I’ve known him for at least a decade so when he passes me, he gives me the ol’ toot on the railroad whistle (I’m struggling carrying two water bottles – I wouldn’t be carrying a large wooden whistle with me – I can cheer people on just as well with my voicebox.).  Great to see him.

Still looking for Meg.  Feel like at this point, maybe she dropped out. (Later, I find she was throwing up and had a touch of the flu, so maybe it was for the best… but I tend to run better when I am a little sick because I manage my expectations better.)

Quite a bit later, I spot Alan coming up the road.  I’ll time it, but I’m probably a good hour behind him at this point.  If he maintains a good pace, I’ll probably finish 2-3 hours behind him (hope he’s easily entertained!).

The fire road pops out on Conzelman (the road we drove in on) and crosses it to a small trail paralleling the cars for about a mile.  My feet really hurt at this point.  I am almost considering quitting, BUT I know that I could slowly slog on for another 7 hours (Yes, that sounds crazy, but I have 33 hours to finish (or, 26 and change at this point), and while I am hoping not to take 33 hours, my need to finish is strong enough to keep on.).

I come through the start/finish line, grab some vittles and head back out.  There are still some people behind me coming in (some to finish the marathon (who ran an additional 1.2 mile loop at the start)).  I overhear one guy say that he is going to stop and not do another loop.  I halfheartedly yell at him to continue since we still have so much time.

When I get back to the trail section, I spot Eldrith Gosney.  We “ran” together at Miwok 2009 (and she creamed me).  She is in her 70s and an ultra legend.  We chat really briefly (neither of us need to stop for too long).  I suggest that we are the weird “E”s (Eldrith and Emmett) and I flash her the “E” sign with my fingers.

So now up the dreaded hill.  Since I am now doing every section in reverse, I can compare times (probably a bad idea).  The sections aren’t identical (since down is up and vice versa) and I am now between 5 and 25 miles more tired than when I did the section earlier.

I continue my zigzag up the hill and try to maintain an even pace.  Still shooting for 14:43 or at least sub-15:00 but my feet are really hurting.

At the top, back into the muddy forest, a little less foggy at this hour, and then back into the wind and technical trail.

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Alan is almost off this section by the time we connect, meaning he is closer to 90 minutes ahead of me now.  Guess I won’t be catching up.  I don’t spot folks like Ed or Dean at this point because they have already turned off on the trail to Tennessee Valley.

When I get down to the paved section, that feels the absolute worst on my feet.  The best bet to get down the hill quickly is skipping or galloping.  Think about it, you cover a longer distance and it’s slightly less pounding.

When I get to the aid station, I have to sidle around a fire truck.  Someone had some issues and they called the paramedics.  By some miracle, I got through this section in 2:03:53 (only 4 minutes slower).  Now, although I still have the climb out, the distance between aid stations is only going to get shorter.  I got the two 7.1 mile stretches done.

The climb out is horrible and I am only gratified by the fact that there are still folks behind me (not many) and I am mostly around the same people I have seen all day (a gal here, and a couple there), though I am worried about the probability of some of them finishing… because they are entered in the 75 or 100 miler and while we are still on pace for a finish, the reality is that once it gets dark, the speed will drop considerably, the body will get even more tired, and the chances will fall precipitously.

Just after I turn out of the forested area and back onto the fire road that will take me back to Tennessee Valley, I spot someone not in a number, a volunteer that I think I saw at the last aid station.  She is looking for a particular runner – I think it is the wife of one of the couples I have been trading leads with all day.  The hard part is I don’t think we exchanged names, but I do remember some of the numbers.

Anyway, the second weirdest moment on an ultra for me (first was probably discussing hemorrhoids with Gordy Ainsleigh at Way Too Cool 50K) was the volunteer saying that she wanted to find the runner to give her medication for her UTI.  Seriously, too much information, there.

More zigzagging down the steep hill into Tennessee Valley.  No 4-5 minute slower on this section, no-sir-ee Bob.  13 minutes slower (basically 2 minutes PER mile slower).  I, too, am facing the dark dilemma.

At Tennessee Valley, I spot a few of my friends.  Martin Sengo is here, but heading out to finish his second loop and presumably start his third and final loop.  Good to see another tall-ish guy.  I also see my friend Errol “Rocket” Jones.  We never seem to meet when both of us are running – it’s always one or the other.  One of these days, I want to do his Quad Dipsea race, but I have to know my Thanksgiving plans several months in advance.

Less than a half marathon to go, but another dreaded climb out of Tennessee Valley and off to Muir Beach.  Because this section is so even (meaning an equal measure of up and down, I actually ran it only 30 seconds slower than the first time out (I wonder if that means that there was actually more downhill than up!).  Another two traverses of the full metal bridge.

Now the fun climb out, back along the ridge, downhill, and up the slippery wood stairs, back along the coast.  I am pretty much by myself most of the way here, with occasional reverse direction passes from 75 or 100 milers.

It is starting to get dusky and I am hoping to get back into Tennessee Valley before it gets dark, especially because I left my headlamp in my drop bag for a number of loops so I didn’t have to carry it with me.  It is almost dark when I slog into the aid station at a 24 minute per mile pace (lost 34 minutes off my first time through).

Before I take off, the one thing I am wondering is when the drop bags will be returned to the start.  Wondering if they will do the deal with some coming back earlier and the rest tomorrow afternoon, but they say that all of them are not coming back until tomorrow.

I make the decision that I will carry my bag back with me (so we don’t have to wait or come back tomorrow).  It’s a small duffel so I am able to strap it across my back in a way that isn’t uncomfortable (and as I mentioned earlier, there is some glow sticks, some Nuun, and some batteries inside – it probably weighs less than my car keys).

When I begin heading out on trail, they are only just putting out glow sticks and I am not even sure what direction to go (and I know this area) but someone orienteers me in the direction of the barn.  Think they dropped the ball and forgot to put markers out BEFORE dark, as they are putting them up now.

I know there’s a turn to head up the horse switchbacks, but I can’t see yellow ribbon in the dark unless I see the ribbon in the exact reflection point.  This results in me missing the turn and wandering back and forth until some 75/100 milers come in from the correct direction so I can head back out that way.

I’m feeling the nightmare from 6 years ago when I couldn’t find the blue ribbon (and no glow sticks), but am gratified at least that some people will be coming at me and it won’t be me by myself for the last 90 minutes to 2 hours.

For the most part, there aren’t any options for turns.  Just slow going in the dark (even with a headlamp, which only illuminates the 20 yards ahead of you).  Every so often, a runner or a large group of runners (probably from the Night Sweats Marathon which started a little while ago.  Mostly ladies who cheer me on. Nice!

There is a certain point when I have a vague idea where I am, even in the dark and you start to hear the voices of the finish line but you can’t just bound down the hill, you have to follow the course in correct manner (unless like 6 years ago, you can’t find any course and just guess your way down the hill).  Every turn is a hunt for the yellow ribbon and glow stick.  If it is a turn, it’s always hidden.  Probably they marked it in the daylight, not thinking of how it appears at night so it was a little hairy at times.

I did eventually get to the stone stairs (slippery and tough in the dark) and then a wooden railing from which I could see the lights of the finish line, and then finally through the gate back onto Conzelman Road for a short period before turning up through the parking lot and across the finishline in 15:10:14 (not under 15 hours or 14:43, but age-grade faster).

Alan finished under 12:00, which in the old days was a Western States Qualifier (11:53), so he has been making new friends for the past 3 hours (and freaking out his wife because the cell phone is in my car).

I get some food and unstrap my drop bag (throw my water bottles in there).  I pull out my glow sticks (which I never got around to) and hand them out to anyone hanging at the finish that is interested – which is a lot of people.  At this point I could probably hand out large pieces of coal and the people there would get excited (because we are off our feet).

A few of the people who finished near me, but are in the 75 or 100 are weighing their options.  A 75er can still finish, but does she want to go struggle around in the dark all night?  And someone in the 100 probably isn’t going to finish unless the sun suddenly rose in the next hour.  I think we convinced a few people to call it a day at 50 miles (which is a pretty pretty good accomplishment).

For me, it’s my 23rd completed 50 miler (can’t believe I’m coming upon 25 finishes) and for Alan, a very respectable first 50 miler on not the easiest of courses (I have three faster times and they were a lot flatter and less technical).

If I can figure out the feet thing (better padded shoes?  better feet?), I would be interested in returning and trying the 75 miler.  Don’t think I could do the 100.  I guess we will see what 2018 holds (and if Mrs. Sheppard can handle 3 kids while Alan runs 100 miles or if Alan can push 3 kids 100 trail miles in a stroller).

 

Bagel 10K – 2017

May 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piedmont Turkey Trot 5K – 2016

November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, I’m back in my hometown of Piedmont.  (Last year we were in Hong Kong.)

I seem to remember from years past that we would park in the lot by the park, but we end up parking about 5 blocks away near the terminus of Highland Avenue.

Riva is hurting a little so she says that there is a possibility that I will finish ahead of her.  (Yeah, like that will happen.)

My goal at this race is to try not to walk the hills (though it is a big temptation because there are so many).

I did situate myself at the front so that I wouldn’t get caught up in the slow crowd, and maybe the surge will take me along to the downhill at the far end of Highland and give me the impetus to climb up Wildwood (where I always tend to walk).  Mile 1 – 7:36.  (I am running UP Wildwood.)

From Mile 1 to Mile 2, there are a number of hills and I couldn’t quite not walk all of them.  I gave myself permission to walk up St. James to Hampton, and to walk a portion of the Seaview incline, but I still managed 9:22 (which is really good for walking hills).

Mile 3 to the end is mostly downhill (with a little dipsy-doodle towards the end) so I pushed the best I could, managing a 7:22 final mile, with a 47 second last tenth (about 7:50/mile).

My 24:59 was almost a minute ahead of Riva’s time.  (She still did well considering that she wasn’t anywhere near 100%.)

Dad was 2nd in his age group (out of 5 80 year-olds) but the rest of us didn’t factor into the results at all.  I was 238th overall and 29th in my age group, but consider that there were over 2,600 runners, so I’m good with the top 10%.

Boeing 5K (1) – 2016

January 11, 2016

Today I am not really ready for a 5K, given that I did a 50-miler on Saturday (or 49.3M to be exact), but I am continuing my streak.  If nothing untowards happens in the next 8 months, I will reach my 100th CONSECUTIVE Boeing 5K in September.  That’s pretty much eight consecutive years of running every race (or at least participating in every race).

Today is special for my family as it is both my mother’s 73rd birthday and my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary.  Since I am walking today, I brought a book.  It is by Jill Churchill… who shares the same birthday with my mother (so today is also HER 73rd birthday!).

Today’s Boeing is also a prediction run, so I decide that I will pay special tribute and predict 47 minutes, and I finish in 46:57 (close enough).  Happy anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Skyline 50K – 2015

August 8, 2015

A special milestone event for me.

I started running in April 1996, and ran my first marathon about 8 months later.  It took me about 5 years to get to 10 marathons, but once I started doing ultramarathons, the amount of long races I did each year started to jump, including a streak of 30-something months where I ran at least 26 miles in a race EACH month (a few were DNFs, but I still covered at least 26 miles of the race).

I had known for a while that this milestone was upcoming, so of course, I used Skyline 50K as my goal event and was able to contact the Race Director, Adam Ray (an acquaintance of mine), and get the #100 bib to help commemorate my 100th marathon or longer distance race.

It turned out to be a very busy weekend.

Usually, Skyline is run on a Sunday and then I end up driving back to Southern California a few hours later.  This year, because of scheduling issues, the race is run on a Saturday, and additionally, pretty much my entire family is in town, including my two nephews who live in Dallas (though Evan is at choir camp and we will pick him up on Sunday).

So, this means that I do not have a bed.  Not a problem, because the upstairs couch is a bit longer and more comfortable.  It’s fine.

Last year, I started an hour early, mostly due to the fact that I had run Harding Hustle a couple of weeks before and was not entirely recovered.  This year, I wanted to have a regular “official” start.  I know that I will have little problem in finishing under the time limit, but in certain circumstances, it makes me feel more confident when I am not at the back at all times… but starting on time, you do get the excitement of  the crowds at the start.

I happened to spot the gal I ran with for about 5 miles last year, Meg Cheng (who definitely didn’t need to start early last year, but did so because she was AT the start early with some early-starting friends).  I ended up catching up to her around 2 miles in and staying with her for about 5 miles again.  It’s always nice to have some company of people that you know.

On the other hand, I create some conversation with other runners, as well as with volunteers when I show off my pace sheet (which since this race 2 years ago, I have dedicated the race to someone special – 2 years ago was supposed to be my high school friend, Brian Kelly, in his honor, but he died two days before the race, so it was in his memory).

Because this is my 100th, I wanted to do something special and honor 10 people who influenced or helped me in some way.IMG_0146

First, I give a lot of credit to my sister, Riva Rahl, who famously told me that if I put my mind to it, I could run a marathon.  I thought she was crazy at the time.

Second, my college buddy, Kevin Krajewski, with whom I “trained” with to run our first marathon.  We didn’t do a lot of runs together, but he always motivated me to do better (until I finally bested him).

Next, Habib Torfi, who I knew from my first full-time job.  He worked at the Epithelial Autograft Facility and he got me into running with running groups.

Fourth, my running club buddy, Jennifer Aguilar.  We DID train together a lot and she was always positive and helpful.

Fifth, another running club buddy, “Tahoe Bob” Gilbert, who was known as the ‘crazy ultramarathoner.’ We are similar… not really fast, but persistent.  I always felt if he could do it, I could do it, and we did a number of trail runs together.

Sixth and seventh, Chuck and Laura Sohaskey.  Laura was always my training partner and I got HER into ultramarathoning.  Chuck has done a few ultras as well, and brings a certain je sais ne quois to our adventures, humor-wise.

Eighth is my running club buddy, Mitsuye Morrissey, who convinced me to run my first ultramarathon at Way Too Cool, a distance that I would have never considered.  We also had a fun adventure at Javelina Jundred (Miler) where we both finished the 100K.

Ninth is my ultrarunning buddy, Rafael Covarrubias, who has motivated me to a number of ultra adventures, including Mt. Disappointment 50M, Miwok 100K, Bishop 50M, and Shadow of the Giants 50K.  He is a better runner than I, and I try to run better so that he doesn’t have to wait too long at the finishline.

And lastly, but not leastly, my family, who support me and motivate me in all of my adventures.  After 100 marathon-plus races, they KNOW I am probably insane!

The weather was on the foggy side and I want to take advantage because I know that once it clears, it could get quite warm, especially in the hilly sections.  This next section is pretty flat, so I try to maintain a decent running and walking pace to get through.  All of the cattle gates are open, so I don’t have to stop and unlatch them (coming to a complete stop).

At the end of this section, there is a sharp turn, a short (but steep) road to a dirt parking lot and the 2nd aid station.  I am greeted by my Cool buddy, Sabine Gillert, who is volunteering/cheering.  Always great to see someone you know cheering you on at the race.

One of the volunteers says she recognizes me.  Says I look great.  Way better than when I was so FAT!  What?  I don’t ever remember being fat.  In fact, I weigh more now than I did when I started running, so maybe you remember me from the future?

I will make my way back to this aid station in about 11 miles, but for now, it’s a mile-and-a-half uphill and the same downhill.  My hope is to finish this section in about the same time that I finish it, in reverse, on the way back (even though the downhill section (uphill on the return) seems so much harder on the return trip).

I get into the 3rd aid station after completing the 3.1 miles in 36 minutes.  Now I cross the road and get into the single-track section, which is some uphill and some downhill, winding around to the hardest uphill section (steep and about a mile long) and then a continuous uphill fire road section up to the Skyline Gate aid station (aka Halfway, but really 14.5 miles) and where I may see some members of my family, depending upon if they time it right and can find a parking spot.

I somewhat exceed my goals on this section.  Usually on an uphill, I maintain 16-18 minutes per mile, but I was brisker and managed 14:20s.

When I get to the top, I don’t see anybody, but just as I am getting ready to take off, Riva, Marisa, and nephew Reagan show up.  The gals take off to park the car, leaving almost-8 year-old Reagan with me.  Now I cannot leave until they come back.

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I considered, briefly, having him walk with me, and hope that my sisters would realize where I had gone, but it was probably only 6 or 7 minutes total waiting.  I ate some food and we chatted for a bit.  I also got to chat with Errol “Rocket” Jones, working the aid station, who I had met at the Santa Barbara 100K last month (he was volunteering).  He is the co-race director of the Quad Dipsea, which I would like to run someday.

Now I head off to the right, which is mostly flat until it gets to the French Trail downhill single-track, on which I make good time, but have to be watchful, as it is rock-y and root-y and I am loathe to trip.  The general path of the trail is downhill, downhill, downhill, with occasional rocks and roots.

When I get almost to the bottom, it turns and takes a steep uphill turn.  I almost wanted to have not run the last bit to the bottom, if only to arrest my heart rate a bit and help out with the climb back up, but I just have to persevere.

This is the absolutely longest section (5.9 miles) and it’s often hard to tell how close you are getting to the end of the section, because you hear the road, but keep winding around and then, suddenly, you are there.  My pace on this section is about the same as the long uphill.  In other words, I am doing better because it is downhill, but worse, because I am getting tired.

Now I am back to the 3.1 mile section, where I would like to do something similar to the 36 minutes I did outbound.  (I don’t really have that expectation, but would like to.)  This is the first ultra that I have done in my new Size 14 Hoka Stinson shoes.  I am feeling less of the rocks, but it isn’t necessarily the ‘running on a cloud’ feeling that everyone talks about.  Maybe ‘running on a rocky cloud?’

I struggle on the inbound uphill section, as the sun is coming out and my feet are starting to hurt quite a bit.  I end up losing about 8-1/2 minutes on this section and make it back to the aid station where they told me I used to be fat.

From here, there is one more aid station before I get to the end.  It is mostly flat, but once you cross the Stone Bridge, you get back into the single-track and another part where you don’t have a clue of how far you have before you get to the aid station.

Part of this section I run with Julie Nye, for which this is her 15th Skyline run (this is my 6th).  Most of the people I talk with today are doing their first ultramarathon (it IS a really good beginner race because it is not insanely difficult and there are enough runners that you won’t have many sections where you don’t see anyone (unless you are at the very very back).

I am hoping to get through this section at a faster than 14:00/mile pace because then I will have a chance to finish the race under 7 hours (which I don’t seem to do as often nowadays).  I think the delay at Skyline Gate may prevent me from doing so, but I am not going to worry about it.

When I do finally make it into the aid station, I have left myself with about 35 minutes for the last 3 miles.  While this seems doable in a regular road 5K, it will be close.

I do what I can.  The first 1.4 miles of this is mostly flat and dirt, so I do a combo of running and walking.  I get excited when I get to the suspension bridge (truly my favorite part, because it means that I am close to the finish and it is bouncy!), and then it is about 1.5 miles to the finish and it is paved.

I am passed here by my friend, Clement Choi.  He and I ran together in the last few miles of the 2010 Dick Collins Firetrails 50M (with the same start and finish, but coming in from the other direction).  Great guy.  Today seems like a flashback of a bunch of my ultras.  But it seems like that happens at every race.  That’s what I love about ultras.  It’s like running a beautiful adventure with friends you see every so often.  You don’t get that with a big city marathon.  You may even know a bunch of people at the race, but you may not see them at all, maybe not at the end, either.  Bummer.

I make the turn across the little wooden bridge and suddenly remember that I still have another 50 yards to the “new” finish line.  I come in at 7:06:27, which is 40 seconds faster than Cool (or, in other words, virtually the same pace as Cool)..

There is no roasted pig this year (I think the roaster is sick, so no one stepped up.).

I got my shirt, a couple of cans of this Yerba Mate Mint Tea.  They also have a bunch of leftover items from previous Skylines (probably tired of putting them into storage year after year).  They are giving them away for free, but if they don’t have the right sizes, then what would I do with them?

I end up with a pair of socks (besides the ones from this year), another tank top from 2010, and a woman’s shirt from a previous year (for Riva).  I also pick up my shirt and then head back to my folks’ house.  When I get back, I realize that they have given me a WOMEN’s Extra-Large shirt, with the V-neck and the tighter cut.

I contact the race director and he says they are all out of Extra-Large shirts.  Crap.  They gave all of the rest out to volunteers… but then later, he tells me that he has one for me next time I am in town.  I will be in the Bay Area next for 2 days at Christmastime and again in March.  Hope he still has a shirt for me then!

All in all, I am really happy with how my 100th marathon or longer race went.  It took me 19 years.  I wonder how many years it will take me to get to 100 ultramarathons (I am at 74 now) and how many years to get to 200 marathon-pluses?

 

Way Too Cool 50K – 2015

March 7, 2015

Way Too Cool has become a special tradition for me, starting with the 2002 presentation, which was my 1st ever ultra-marathon.  The race always hits right around my birthday, but had never actually hit ON my birthday (One year, my birthday was on a Saturday, but the race was a week later.).  This year, I would have the treat of running it on my ACTUAL birthday.

Three days following my last race (Big Baz 21K), I had a hospital procedure (colonoscopy).  I’m not sure I have addressed this previously in my posts, but I had been suffering from hemorrhoids and a fissure since mid-November last year and it was determined that I should have the procedure done to rule out any internal problems.  The procedure went off without a hitch (if you call the prep (36 hours of liquid diet and 6 hours of toilet blowouts the night before), due, I believe to a great anesthesiologist, Dr. Choi… who also happened to be a protege of my good friend, Kim Gimenez.  We had a nice talk about running as the propofol took its effect.

The unfortunate side effect of the procedure was that my hemorrhoid issue was just about resolved, but the prep for the procedure re-aggravated the issue and it will probably be another 2-3 months of dealing with it.  The good news (for me, at least) is that exercise improves it, and sitting a lot doesn’t help.  Most hospital procedures keep you AWAY from the exercise.  I was able to resume training runs only one day later without any additional issues, even mounting an ascent of Holy Jim Trail with AREC 4 days later.

Way Too Cool was 3 weeks after the procedure and my biggest concern was the drive up north, since sitting in the car for 6 hours hardly feels great.  (Though I have my “butt pillow” for a little relief.)  I did my usual bit where I leave before 6am (to avoid traffic on the So. Cal. side) with the goal of arriving around noonish.

I had made a different arrangement than last year, where I had stayed with Mark & Joann Helmus (the latter who ran Cool last year on HER birthday).  They had made an offer of a stay, even though they were in the process of moving AND were not running the race.  I did get a last-minute offer from a new-ish GVH guy, who took me up on my offer of a ride to-and-from the race, especially because he is MUCH faster than me and would utilize the time waiting for me to down a few beers.  After the race, however, the plan was to drive down to the Bay Area and spend the rest of my birthday with my family in Oakland.

The drive up was fairly uneventful, except a little traffic through Santa Clarita (even at 6-something a.m.).  When I got just outside of Sacramento, I called my friend Lori so that we could meet for lunch.  I have known Lori since our freshman (and sophomore) dorm days in the Fall of 1990 (25 years ago this year).

We met at Dos Coyotes, a somewhat former haunt of mine, a place that has definitely stood the test of time (as have the two places I lived (other than dorms) – still look pretty hovel-y).  I had a paella burrito.  Pretty freakin’ delicious!  It was really nice to catch up with Lori.  To me, it feels like little time has passed, partly because we are friends on Facebook and partly because I still feel like I am that college guy still trying to figure out his life.

After a nice long lunch, I still had a couple of hours to kill before I could meet up with Travis.  I went down and parked in the Whole Foods parking lot, sat and read for a bit and then walked around town a little bit, stopping in the used bookstore that is at the old Fleet Feet location (and buying a couple good finds) as well as at the Helmus’ Optometry business so I could wish Joann a happy birthday and also drop off a little bread treat I baked for her.  Mark, Joann and I chatted for a little bit.  She had just returned from Arkansas, having run the Little Rock Marathon last Sunday.

I drove over to Travis’ house a little after 4pm (a little before he was getting off work) and sat outside and read until he arrived.  He is in his early 30s and has done a handful of trail ultras, mostly in Colorado, where he lived before Davis… and he is much faster than I am, more like a 3 hour marathoner.  He lives in a house with a roommates, one of which is heading out for pizza, but we end up opting for Chipotle (I am getting my fill of burritos today for sure!)

Afterwards, we watch Unbreakable, a documentary about the 2010 Western States 100.  It is pretty incredible to see these crazy athletes and how fast they can run difficult trails, accelerate in the end stages, and succeed mentally.  (Hint:  None of them is 6’6″ or over 200 pounds.)

Afterwards, we watch some movies about Anton Krupicka.  Some pretty terrain, but a little too hippy-dippy for me.  I had my encounter with Krupicka at the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100M, where I think he volunteered at an aid station after finishing 2nd overall in the race (more than 16 hours before I did).

In the morning (my birthday!), Travis and I meet Annie Vogel-Ciernia (another GVH member running Cool) and then drive to Stephen Andrews’ house (his family will pick him up from the finish, but don’t want to drive up to Cool at 6am).  The drive is uneventful, but once we arrive in Cool, I realize that the increase in participation has caused an increase in parking as well (I’m guessing that most folks did not carpool.).  Last year, I drove up with someone not running the race, and in previous years, I never had to park more than a quarter mile from the start.  This year, however, we are parked at least 6/10 mile from the start. This means that I walk to pick up my bib, THEN take my stuff back to the car, THEN hike back up to the start.  I’m around 2 miles in before we actually get going.

My pace sheet has a picture of me on my 40th birthday, wearing a party hat.  I tell as many people as possible that today is my 44th birthday and I am running my 43rd 50K.  Also, on the back of my pace sheet is the weird fact I came up with, that along with this being my 43rd 50K, it is also my 72nd ultramarathon, so I included 4 of my friends who are 43 years old AND born in 1972.  Seeing as that it is only March, there are not a lot of candidates (a number of friends wondered why they hadn’t been included… “I’m born in ’72.”  “But you’re not 43 yet!”  “I will be!”  They’re missing my weird point.).  Anyway, my inspirations were Stephanie Harris, Kristen Womersley, Scott Casey, and Cynthia Mar (3 running friends and a college friend).  I think it is cool that I came up with this; it works ONLY for this race (for example, my 44th 50K, will be my 73rd ultra, and unless I wait until 2017, the numbers won’t work out); and the race IS Way Too Cool!

The “faster folks” are off at 8:00am and I am with the “slowpokes” at 8:10.  Even were I to run at the pace I ran my first Cool back in 2002, I would still be with the slower folks.  Anyway, I should have some folks to meet and to run with.

The longest stretch is the first loop, which leaves Cool, runs around 2 miles on the paved road (by my car) and eventually comes back through the start.  It includes 2 big water crossings – the kind that you can’t avoid getting wet on – and a few smaller ones… though for the most part, the course is drier than it has been in the past, due to the drought, but my feet do still get wet.

Early on in the course, I am having some difficulty with my posterior (still issues from the hemorrhoids and colonoscopy.  Runners can talk about anything, so I have been chatting with the person nearest me, but from the side, I get (as often happens) response from another runner who has been hearing the conversation.  It is further advice about colonoscopies as you get older.  I won’t repeat the conversation, but it is a bit surreal, because it is the Original Western States competitor, Gordy Ainsleigh.

I maintain a comfortable pace on this section; I will say largely due to the number of people on the single-track sections… once you are in a train of people, you cannot really stop and walk, you need to keep moving.  I manage around 11:15/mile, and then set off 3.1 miles to the Highway 49 crossing at the Quarry.

Lots of people are passing me in this section; it is mostly downhill and my footing is not particularly solid, plus downhill is not my thing.  The best part of this section is that it is 75% shaded, so the effects of the heat to come is muted a bit.  I cross the road and reach the 2nd aid station in about 38 minutes (or 12:25/mile).  It is decorated in a beachy, luau-y style and welcoming.  I make sure that I refill my water bottles at each stop so I can stay as dehydrated as possible.

This third leg runs mostly along the American River on a gravel fire-road.  It is rolling hills but not a lot of up for the first 2.5 miles.  On this section, I meet John and Jeff – one experienced ultramarathoner and his friend.  On the flats, we trade leading.  I mention that I would like to finish under 7 hours, so I have to maintain a certain pace.  They stay with me for quite some time… but then we reach a couple of extended hills (in the sun).  The motivating cry (fading into the distance) is “Stay with Emmett; he’ll get us to the pace we need to finish strong.”  I didn’t see them again after I ‘power-walked’ up the hill and beyond.

On part of this section, I also engaged with an older woman who was close to my pace.  Yes, I tend to end up with the older folks.  My pace is usually equivalent to the 55+ crowd (for women, maybe 70+ for men).  More importantly, most of these ‘older’ folks are not so preoccupied with music or other distractions and we can have a real conversation that is not tending back to “You’ll catch up with me,” which is said with the intent of stopping talking and getting back to the music.  Claudia and I trade leading throughout the race.  We reach the aid station around the same time, running 4.4 miles in around 52 minutes (12 minute/mile pace), but after this stretch, she disappears for quite a while.  I figure I won’t see her again until maybe the end.

This next section is about 5.6 miles of double-track.  It passes by my old nemesis/success Ball Bearing (0.7 miles; 700′ elevation gain) and continues fairly flat and then hooks into the old course return single track.   Some of this is runnable (even for me).  Sometimes I am in a train with a bunch of folks and sometimes I am by myself and antsy runners want to get by me. Though, invariably, not long after they pass, I recatch them tying shoelaces or slowing down (“Tag.  You’re it.”).  I do end up walking a lot of this trail, more due to a warm day than due to difficulty of trail, but still manage around 15 minutes/mile.  The wheels are starting to fall off, and I may not make my goal of sub-7:00.

This next section will take me up Goat Hill, continuing along the old course and up this dreaded steep hill at a particularly bad time.  Part of my “train” is an Asian gal.  I inquire about her ethnicity, so I can impress with my Chinese, Japanese, or Korean folk song… so of course, she is Indonesian.  Besides impressing her that I know two dozen words in Bahasa Indonesia, I sing for her on trail, saying basically that I can sing at whatever pace is necessary for her running speed (and I have a more eclectic selection of music than can be found on one’s I-Pod – Inspirational, Classical, and Oldies).  Unfortunately, Jenny is faster than I am, so eventually she pushes on a bit ahead of me and I lose contact before the bridge and uphill to Goat Hill.

The top of Goat Hill is really close to the marathon point.  I remember from my first Cool how flummoxed I was at my time… but really, it was about par with how it should be.  You cannot compare road marathon times to trail ultra times.  My nearly-marathon split is a shade under 6 hours.  Feel like I will be hard-pressed to get under 7 hours.  (And at a 16:00/mile pace, probably not.)

The next section is a lot of downhill, some wet (though, as previously noted, not as wet as in previous years), some slippery gravel, and a few short uphills.  I re-encounter Claudia in this section and pass her (she finishes about 5 minutes behind me).  I feel pretty good, and when I get to the road crossing JUST before the last aid station, I am at 6 hours 47 minutes, which means I have 13 minutes to do 1.4 miles.  Normally, not a tall order, but seeing as half of this is uphill and all of it is trails, odds are I will not break 7 hours, but I will be really close.

I don’t stop at all at the last station (it’s 1.4 miles to the finish, so hardly seems worth it unless I was all out of water on the last 3.4 mile section).  I go as fast as I can manage on the technical uphill, but it certainly isn’t sub-10:00s.  I do what I can and I will be really satisfied with my finishing time (at least it is well under the 8-1/2 hour time limit).

At the finish, the strangest thing happens (I swear I did not look at my watch and try to make it possible!) – my finishing time is 7:07:07 and there are 7 splits.  Seven is my lucky number and today is the 7th.  43-50Ks (4+3 = 7).  73rd ultra (3/7 is my birthday).  The “official” time comes out as 7:07:06 (stupid timing chips!).

Travis and Annie have been done for 2+ hours and are getting their drink on.  I do the finish line thing (get my frog cupcake, too hot soup, and pulled pork sandwich (and a couple of Cokes).  I am not particularly hungry, even though I probably only consumed half a banana, some potato chips and half of a Payday bar.  I carefully carry my cupcake and sandwich to the car (another 0.6 miles) and seal them inside a plastic container (formerly held Sprouts Gummi Coke Bottles) to eat on Sunday morning.

Annie and Travis drive back with me to Davis and then I continue on down to Oakland.  I am trying to work the timing out so that I have time for a shower before we go for dinner at Bay Fung Tong.  We are joined by Tom and Margaret (Tom’s birthday is Tuesday), Diane and John, Marisa, Mom and Dad, Bari, and Shauna (whose birthday was 6 days ago).  Marisa and Margaret are the odd women out as their birthdays are not in January or March.  We get our usual complement of dishes, including Black Bean and Jalapeno deep fried squid.  Yum.  I get some funny gifts from Diane and John (including yellow caution tape saying “Warning – Man in Kitchen” and a few other kitchen doo-hickeys).  A great way to spend my birthday!

On Sunday, after a trip to Chinatown for Dim Sum at Tao Yuen, I drive back to Long Beach, so I can continue my 80+ consecutive month Boeing 5K streak.