Tag Archives: Dave McC

Skyline 50K – 2016

August 7, 2016

The race is back to Sunday again.  I liked last year when the race was on Saturday.  On the one hand, I had to run the day after I drove up, but conversely, I had a day to recover and hang out with my family on the way back.

Then again, Mom and Dad aren’t around this weekend because of Dad’s HS reunion this weekend in Southern California.  I suspect that we are passing each other in Central California.  I did, however, get to have a nice BFT dinner with my sister Marisa and our friend Shauna and watched some of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (though not exactly conducive to getting a good night’s sleep before a long race).

The course this year is a bit different, having to do with some construction going on around the dam area (dam it), so we will start out in the same direction as at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50M and work our way over to Bort Meadow from a different direction.  On the map, you cannot really tell how different it will be or if it will be tougher, but if we are heading in the direction that the original Skyline Course used to end, there are some dramatic uphills that I don’t necessarily want to tackle.

For the past few years, starting with Skyline 50K 2013, I create a laminated pace sheet to carry with me and on the back side, I do some kind of dedication (starting with an inspiration to my HS friend, Brian Kelly, who unfortunately died at 42 the day before the race).  Last year, Skyline was my 100th marathon or ultra (27 mararathons, 73 ultras) so I dedicated it to the 10 people who most influenced me getting into running.

Today, I am at a different milestone – my 80th ultramarathon, so I have decided to dedicate it to eight people I met while running ultras that made a difference in my life.  (See attached PDF for the pictures.)skylinepace16

First is Ken Michal.  I met him as we passed in the dark during the Santa Barbara 100M/100K.  Later, I learned he had spent 8 hours in a port-a-pottie because the aid station blew off the mountain and it was the warmest spot available.  We have since met at many other events, and he is a pretty amazing (All Day!) athlete.

Next is Amy Dodson, who I first met at American River 50M in 2010.  She had a lung and leg removed as a teenager, so she is hard to miss.  I thought she was another one-legged athlete, Amy Palmeiro-Winters, who had run the North Face Challenge a year prior, and when I asked her if her name was Amy, who knew that there was more than one Amy with a prosthetic leg running an ultra?  We ran a few miles together, but our real great experience was at Miwok the following year when we ran together for several hours.  I received the “brunt” of good wishes as fellow competitors cheered us (her mostly) on.

Next, a pair together, Dave McCaghren and Jerry Hollingsworth, who I met perchance at the Sunmart 50M pre-race dinner.  Pretty much I sat down at a lonely table because I didn’t really know anyone from the Texas location of the race.  We ended up on the same race shuttle to, and from the race, had cocktails at the hotel post-race, and ended up breakfasting the next morning, too.  A few years later, I stayed with Jerry and a friend the night before my first (and so far, only) 100 miler, the Rocky Raccoon.

At the Santa Barbara 100M (attempt #2 where the race didn’t actually get cancelled), I got lost and then fell apart by Mile 29 (though more than 30 miles for me at that point).  When I got back to the finish (to then help out and cheer people in), I met a guy from Long Beach (that I never knew before) who had some ultra experience (including Barkley).  I haven’t (yet) given into some of his insanity, but he (and dog Lacey) were invaluable in pacing me at Twin Peaks 50M last year (my first and only pacer to date).

A few years ago at Skyline, I ran a few miles with another early starter.  She was no slow runner, just starting early because her friend was.  We are not really alike and follow different tracks in life, but I have always enjoying running and talking with her (and reading about her various trail and ultra adventures).  Meg Deverin Cheng and I met up again at the start (and finish) line today.

Two years ago, at the High Desert 50K in Ridgecrest, I ran cumulatively a few hours with Darrell Price, ten years my junior and local to Ridgecrest (and occasionally works in Long Beach, too).  Both of us are big guys (I’m taller, naturally.) so we had that to commiserate about.  Last year, I stayed with him at his house less than a mile from the Start Line, and hope to do so again this year.

Finally, Laurin Miertschin, who I met at Twin Peaks 50M my first year.  Both of us ended up doing the 50K drop down.  She has also ventured out on my hash events, and convinced me to run a number of tough local races.  I hope she gets back out there soon since she seems to be injured a lot these days.

Besides, my eight ultrabuddies motivating me to do well, I did a countdown of my 8th most favorite ultramarathons and the 8th hardest ones.  (If you are on FB, you can revisit my posts from July 29 to August 6th.)

Something different that I am doing today is wearing my GPS watch to both see where I am on the course and also, it shows me my best pace on each section.  I always have a vague idea of where I am on the course, but I also enjoy knowing EXACTLY where I am at.

The race starts out on time and they recognize the folks who have done 10+ Skylines.  This year is my 9th.  Hoping for some special giveaway next year.

As mentioned above, the course is different and we are heading towards the suspension bridge.  I wonder if it will be crowded when we get there as for Dick Collins I had to wait 2-3 minutes to cross, so I hung back a bit… but when I get there, we go, not over the bridge, but around it.  That’s kind of disappointing.  I hope to cross it en route to the finish, just because I feel like that makes the whole race for me.

After the bridge, we go to the right (in the final miles, we come from the left) and begin heading up a fairly steep road.  I have to walk this.  At the first aid station (a mere 5K from the start), I’ve done 38:37, so a pretty slow start.  GPS says that my fastest pace was 6:30 (probably a short downhill stretch).

The course continues paralleling a paved road, and crossing it a couple times.  After about 3 miles, the terrain becomes familiar and I know I am on the path to Bort Meadows.  I don’t like the trail leading there, because it is single-track and rutted, which is not great to run on.  At least it is still overcast.  Four miles more, 50-odd minutes, a much better average pace.  If I want to break 7 hours, I will need to get a better pace in soon.

From Bort to Big Bear (basically the Fish Ranch Road crossing) is around 3 miles, a mile-and-a-half of gentle uphill and a mile-and-a-half of decently steep downhill.  I am always reminded that we have to do this in reverse.  Another 38 minutes here (but that does include stopping just before the aid station to put my inserts facing forward again (they slip because my shoes don’t fit perfectly)).

Once I cross Fish Ranch Road, it’s a bunch of single-track, uphill, mostly familiar trail, but then we do take a slightly different route to get up to Skyline Gate, a more circuitous route.  It just makes the long uphill suck more.  Four more miles, 63 minutes.  It’s looking less likely that I can break 7 hours.  Yes, my total time is 3:11 and I am just about halfway there, but I know there are some sections ahead where I will definitely lose more time.

Marisa and Shauna meet me at Skyline Gate and I convince them to at least walk with me to the French Trail turn-off.  It’s nice having some familiar company.

French Trail is a steep downhill and there were a bunch of people hiking on it.  This is my best chance to make up a little bit of time, before I lose a bunch of time later (as my feet hurt more and more as the event goes on – last year, I wore the better cushioned Hokas, this year, the shoes aren’t as soft).

Unfortunately, it isn’t ALL downhill, and on the really steep uphill, I got a bit gassed out and then my feet started to hurt more than usual.  (Might be a recurrence of my plantar fasciitis.)  According to the GPS, 5.7 miles in 100 minutes (so not really picking up any time).

Now, I have the 3 mile segment, in reverse, with the steep uphill and the gentle downhill.  I am struggling more than usual on the uphill portion.  Typically, my times in either direction are comparable (within 5 minutes of each other), but I was 10 minutes off in the reverse direction.  Even on the downhill, I don’t feel like running.

From Bort Meadows, I now have over 5 miles to Honker Bay, and if I remember this section correctly, it seems like a whole lot more than 5 miles.  You essentially parallel some of the earlier trail and then there are a number of long switchbacks uphill and then a slight drop, and then more and more uphill.  I know that when I get to the treeline, well, I’m not getting any closer.  Feels closer, but never is exactly.

I am watching my GPS overall time, and at this point, I am just hoping to get to Honker Bay in under 7 hours… but officially, 7:00:09.

Now there is about 2.3 miles to the finish, and hopefully I get to have the soothing bounce of the suspension bridge to carry me through to the end.  Now I am in the sun of the day and my feet are really sore.  I am just trying to get through the last bit.  (I mean, I WILL, but it is a struggle.)

When I get to the bridge, it is disappointing that we are going around it again; I will talk to the race director.  We should be going across it at least once… that’s the best part that I look forward to.

Once across the bridge, it is paved to the finish.  I try and walk briskly on the uphills and flats and shuffle/soar on the downhill sections.  I am able to pass a few stragglers in this part, and get to the finish in 7:46:38.  Definitely one of my slowest times, though, given that it was a different course, it is a personal best on this particular course!

I can’t hang out very long at the finish line as I need to drive back to Southern California afterwards (stopping first to shower and pack up at my folks’).

Looking forward to at least 20 more ultras and to reach 100!






Sunmart 50M – 2008

December 6, 2008

Left on Friday to fly out to Houston for the Sunmart race.  Last time, I flew into Dallas and drove down to Houston, ran the race and then drove back to run the marathon.  Since I am not doing the marathon (and besides, it’s next weekend anyway), I didn’t get a rental car and just took a shuttle to the hotel (which is the Airport Sheraton).

Check in for the race was the same fun as last year, with all of the cool gear available – Polo shirt, long-sleeved Tech shirt, really nice duffel bag, sunglasses, poncho, disposal camera, etc.  For dinner, I ended up sitting at a table where only 2 guys were sitting.  Hardly anybody else came and sat down, so we had a really nice conversation.

They were two friends from North Texas, Dave and Jerry.  Neither had run this race before and neither had done 50 miles before.  It sounded like Dave was a faster runner than either me or Jerry, so we left it mostly as we will probably run into each other tomorrow and see what happens.

The guest speaker this year was Bob Kennedy, at the time, the only white American male to break 13 minutes in the 5K!  It was interesting to hear him speak, but I noted that his body didn’t seem to be all that in shape for running.  He admitted (during the talk) that he was all-but-retired from running and just living life.  I can understand retired from International Competition, but I don’t get retired from running, especially because the guy was just 6 months older than me… he had just turned 38!

I tried to get to sleep early, because the van ride ($20 RT) to the park was leaving at 5am CST and I usually need an hour to get ready.  It was all I could do to fall asleep by 10:30pm.  Dang.

In the morning, I woke at 4am (2am CA time) and got myself together.  I didn’t have to pack up my room at least, since I would be staying Saturday night there, too.  When I got downstairs, I found Jerry and Dave also waiting for the Van and we rode in the same vehicle.  That was really nice, just because it’s nice to do a race with someone you know (even if you just met them the night before).

The set-up in the park was essentially the same, with the inflatable Christmas displays, the extensive food tent, etc.  The major difference between this year and last year is definitely the temperature.  Last year, it was 65 degrees at the start.  This year, it’s closer to 30 degrees.  COLD!  There are heat lamps in the food tent area and everyone is huddled close together to try and stay warm.  I have some brief conversations with people who are running the 50K and still have to stay warm for another 45 minutes after I leave.

The only guy in a T-shirt and shorts and no gloves!

The only guy in a T-shirt and shorts and no gloves!

The other difference, gear-wise, is that I am wearing the brand-new gift given to me at the AREC Pasta Party – detachable neck protector (from the sun) and Gaiters (to keep rocks out of my shoes) (camouflage, see picture above).

Because it is so cold out, I am ready to go (and so is everyone else) WELL before the run start at 7am.

The course hasn’t changed from last year, with the same mile or so out-and-back section at the start (out from the start and back when you finish a loop), crossing the road to the single track section and leading to the first aid station on the fire road.

Since my watch only records one split, I try and remember how fast I can get to the first aid station and then my total time on the loop.  My goal is to be no slower than 2:45 per loop (which would put me at 8:15 after 3 loops (or 15 minutes under the cutoff)) and hopefully around 11 hours (or an hour under the cutoff).

On my first go-round, I hit the first aid station in 23 minutes.  ‘course, I am fresh.

We continue on the same fire road on an out-and-back section (this time, actually out-and-back in the same motion), single track to the edge of the lake, along the levee path, through a marshy section with wooden bridges over it, back along the edge of the lake, and then finishing on the out-and-back section to finish the loop.

This out-and-back section is the best part of the whole race, even though I have to do it 8 times today.  The treat of any ultramarathon is the people who are running it and the camaraderie in sharing this experience.

On the initial out, everyone has his or her head down and is concentrating on not tripping on roots and running a decent pace.  By the time you reach the first time back in, you are sharing the out-and-back with those ahead of you who have already finished their first loop, and when you head back out, you are sharing the course with those behind you who are about to finish their loop.  It’s kind of like a preview of the people you may pass on the next loop or the people who may pass you.  I’m keeping a lookout for Dave and Jerry.  Dave is a little bit behind me on the first loop, which I finish in 2:05 (WELL ahead of the 2:45 goal).  I also see some of the 50K folks, though we are not yet in sync with them because they started 45 minutes later (though their loop is shorter).

On the second loop, I slow down just a tad and reach the first aid station in 28 minutes, and go on to finish the 2nd loop in 2:35, which was my time for my initial loop in 2007.

On the out-and-back, I notice that Dave is about the same distance back and I have yet to see Jerry.  As I am almost through the out section on the beginning of my third lap, I hear someone call out, “Emmett!  Great to see you here!”  Don’t think it could be Jerry… no, it’s my friend Darcie (from AREC and the Hash) who is running in the 50K.  Very cool.  Didn’t expect to really see anyone I knew.

My pace slows even further on the 3rd loop, and I reach the first aid station in 30 minutes.  I am throwing in a lot more walking breaks than the last two loops and I am also getting a bit chafed in the groinal area.  I finish the 3rd loop in 3:03, and my total for the first three loops is 7:43, putting me more than 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff (which is WAY better than last year’s 7 minutes).

I wave one more time to Dave (what the heck happened to Jerry?) and Darcie and set off for my final lap.  I already feel a lot better than last year because I didn’t cramp heavily on my third loop.  I am slightly slower on the 4th loop again to the first aid station, but I am walking most of the section at this point and come in around 33 minutes this time.

When I get to the levee road, I am passed by Dave, so we have a brief time running together and I get the scoop on Jerry.  Apparently, he was a little behind Dave, enough so that I didn’t see him on the out-and-back, and on the second loop he did a header and was out of commission for a bit.  He kept soldiering on, but eventually it was apparent that he could not make the cutoff on the third loop (unless he sprinted?) and had to drop out entirely.

As it started to get a bit dark, I started stumbling more on the roots.  At least I had my own light to get me through the more difficult sections.  These small stumbles would give me leg cramps, but I was able to push through them… almost push them away entirely.  I finished my last loop in 3:08 and finished in 10:51:46, just about 1 HOUR faster than last year.

Looking an hour better at the finish line

Looking an hour better at the finish line

Once I was done, I picked up my medal and finisher’s jacket – nice material, zip up, with logo on the back and hood, and went to get some food.

Unlike last year when I had to drive myself back to Dallas and run a marathon the next day, I was heading back to the hotel in Houston and had a shared van ride to take.  Basically, the vans went back when they were full… and despite finishing an hour faster, I was in the last van.  Dave had finished 5 minutes ahead of me, so he was also in the van, and Jerry waited for his friend, despite not finishing.  We decided to wait IN the van for the other people riding back, because it was a whole lot warmer in the van than it was outside.

After about 45 minutes of waiting, basically for the entire race to end (after 12 hours), the final two occupants showed up – Meg (from Kentucky), who talked more than I did; and Miguel, from Virginia, who was the last 50K finisher (right up against the time limit… had a leg issue, but persevered).  The five of us had a nice conversation the entire way back (some of the other folk in the van may have been irritated by us, but WHATEVER).

When we got back to the hotel, all I wanted to do was to go to my room and get some sleep, but Jerry, Dave and Miguel said that they were going to put their stuff in their room and then have a beer at the bar (I think the room came with one drink voucher.).  I said that I might come downstairs if I could get my act together.

I went up to the room, took a quick shower, and changed my clothes.  I thought, what the heck, I might as well go down and see if they are still there (because I think I was up there for a while).  Sure enough, they were carrying on in the bar (not raucously, but famously)… and we had only JUST met Miguel in the van, but hey, we had all just had this neat experience together.  I was almost sad when we all decided to call it a night.

My flight was in the early afternoon the next morning, so I said if you have breakfast somewhat late, maybe I’ll see you in the morning.  Dave and Jerry were driving back to Abilene in the morning and wanted to get an early start, and I don’t know what Miguel’s plans were.

I got a good night’s sleep and wandered down to breakfast around 9-something… and who was mid-breakfast?  Jerry, Dave and Miguel.  “I thought you’d be long gone,” I said.

“Well, we weren’t quite ready for that early start,” they replied… and the adventure continued.  We exchanged e-mails and wondered if we would ever meet again at a race… and a few years later, we did.