Tag Archives: Ken Michal

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!






Headlands 50M – 2011

July 16, 2011

A few months ago when Marisa came down to visit, she and I made a trip to several stores to try and get new deck chair coverings (my deck chairs have been eaten by squirrels).  At our last stop, when we came back out to the car, a man confronted Marisa.  At first she tried to ignore him, and then she realized that he was confessing that he backed into my car and left a huge dent in the side and was giving us his insurance information.  Phew!

I finally got around to getting this taken care of last week and had a rental car while I was getting this done (all paid for by his insurance).  Finally, they told me that the car would be ready on Monday morning… which was after I needed my car for a race in the Bay Area this weekend… so I would drive the rental up to Northern California and back.

This was a PC Trails course I had heard good stuff about, plus I had met the RDs before at the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Creek runs in the past.  There were two events going on here – a marathon and a 50 miler.  I am continuing my streak and doing the 50 miler.

Mom and Dad are out of town this weekend, so I will be staying at their condo alone.  When I got to the Bay Area on Friday, I went down to Berkeley Bowl (a grocery store) to fill up some supplies for dinner.  I ended up buying two burritos – one for dinner tonight and one to eat when I get back from the race, plus some fruit (apples and oranges).

On Saturday morning early, I drove out to Marin County (through the city and across the Golden Gate).  Attendance was fairly sparse for both races – less than 100 in the 50 miler and probably the same for the marathon.

Before starting on the course, we were told that we would run a 1.2 mile loop to make up the distance difference for the marathon (because the course was supposedly 25 miles long).  To me, for the 50-miler, that defied reason, since we should be running 2 – 25 mile loops, not 2 – 25 mile loops AND a 1.2 mile loop, but the RD said, “Well, everyone has always done the extra loop.”  O…K…. whatever.

I knew at least one person on the course – and that was Kimberly Manfred.  She had been my compatriot earlier in the year at the Rocky Road 100M 11pm to 7am aid station.  She had planned already to come up this weekend and watch friends compete in the Vineman Half Ironman on Sunday… so I convinced her that she should do this as her first 50 miler and that we would run together.  I also thought I recognized the 100-mile runner from the Santa Barbara race that finished behind me – Ken Michal, I think.

After running the first 1.2 miles, we headed out on the course proper.  This race would be another in the long line of “washing machine” loops, meaning we would go out in one direction and then run the course in reverse on the way back.  This initial 4 miles were essentially the Miwok 100K course in reverse… up stone stairs, along a paved bike path… though it varied a little with a trip through a bunker (pitch black).  It was extremely foggy and I couldn’t see very far and my glasses kept fogging over.  Additionally, my inserts were moving around inside my shoes.

When I finally stopped to readjust, Kimberly took off.  I vowed to catch up with her, but that never happened.

This first loop took us to Tennessee Valley (an aid location I have been to probably at every race in this area).  I finished the first 5.2 in 57:57.

From Tennessee Valley, we followed the Miwok 100K course down to the Coastal Trail and stayed on that trail until we got to Muir Beach (another 4-odd miles).  This section (a bit hillier) took me 61:53 (walking pace).

From Muir Beach, we took the Coyote Ridge and Miwok Trails back to Tennessee Valley (another 4-odd miles), which took 67:57 (a slow walking pace).

The next section was one of two 7-mile sections.  We went up towards the 101 freeway.  Supposedly, the view was such that you could see the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was very foggy and the winds were gusting as well.  You could HEAR the freeway, just before the “dangerous descent” on a paved road down to the level of the bridge, and then down to the water underneath the bridge.

The part that sucked about this section was that you realized that you would have to climb back up this entire steep road to the height of the bridge and then back up another steep road to the trail.  The good part was that you could see the people who were close to you in front or behind.

I saw a few people ahead of me on this section, and there were 2 guys behind me.  Yay!  I’m not in last place!  I did this 7 mile section in 86:48 (12:24/mile)… better than walking!

As I mentioned before, we had to backtrack all the way up this road and beyond, and then headed down the Bobcat and Miwok Trails back to the Start/Finish.  This was another 7 mile section and went on and on and on.

The plus was that most of the trail was soft and grassy and I got to see all of the 50-mile runners heading back out.  The minus was that my feet were killing me and Ken Michal passed me (and now I was in second to last place).  I got back to the Start/Finish in 1:45:07 (back to about 15 minutes/mile).

Now I would head back in the opposite direction.  The good news was that I would get those 2 – 7 mile sections out of the way and finish with 3 – 4 mile sections.  I took a little time to readjust my shoes… hopefully there would not be as much movement with the inserts!

In heading back out on the endless grassy trail towards the Golden Gate, I espied the last-place runner.  I shouted words of encouragement, because I wanted him to continue running as well (so I wouldn’t come in last place).  My return trip to the base of the Golden Gate took 1:52:51 (a net loss of 7 minutes), and I only saw 2 runners ahead of me (WELL ahead) as I went down the sucky hill.

It was still overcast and windy and the best you could see of the bridge was the supports.  On the way back up the hill, I saw last place and he did not look happy.  I said, “This is the worst of it, and then we have less than 20 miles to the end.”  I hoped that was enough.  He was probably 15 minutes behind me.

Now I had another 4 miles back to Tennessee Valley.  When I arrived, I saw a few of the people who were now heading to finish the race (meaning they were 8 miles ahead of me at this point).  We encouraged one another.  This 7-mile section took me 1:45:41 (19 minutes slower than outbound).

Now I was heading back on the inland route to Muir Beach (a scant 4 miles).  It was not getting dark yet (since it was July, we had another 3-4 hours before it would get really black out).  I got back to Muir Beach in 82:15 (15 minutes slower).  All of this slowdown is to be expected.  Most folks don’t accelerate at the end of their ultramarathons!

Now I headed back to Tennessee Valley along the Coastal Route.  I liked this because it is pretty (when not foggy).  This took me 89:56 (loss of 28 minutes!!!).  Now I just had 4 more miles to the finish.  It was a little before 7pm, and I had 2 hours to do this last 4 miles and finish under the 15-hour time limit.

The fog began rolling in and it was pretty dark out because of that.  My glasses continued to get foggy and I made very slow progress.

When I got to the top of the hill, I couldn’t see at all.  The ribbons were not placed in obvious spots and I couldn’t spot any glow sticks.  I followed what I thought was the path, but after a few minutes, I thought I was probably scrambling down a hillside because nothing resembled a trail.  The last thing I wanted was to fall INTO one of these bunkers through a cruddy roof (and we had seen stuff like that in the morning).  I did my best to follow whatever I could find, but I never did find that original bunker we went through in the morning.

At a certain point, I hadn’t seen markings for quite some time, but I did get to a point where I recognized (vaguely) where I was – the paved bike path.  I figured that my best bet was to stay on this path to wherever it ended and then I could retrace my steps back to the Finish.

The path popped out in a set of buildings somewhat down the road (around a mile or so) from the Finish, and so I followed the road back to the Finish.  Obviously, I didn’t come in at the right spot, but I know that I covered the entire distance… and then some.

The RD didn’t seem all that surprised where I came from… and I crossed in 14:43:43, about 15 minutes under the cutoff… in last place.  Yeah, that guy quit.  The last 4 miles (plus or minus) took me 1 hour and 53 minutes… but who knows what my real pace.

My biggest complaint at the finish was that they had promised glow sticks on trail, but he said, “Well, there was only one guy out there.”  Yeah, well, THAT guy needed glow sticks!

My other complaint was that there was no food at the end (something about raccoons or squirrels eating the supplies), so I ended up getting 8 sodas to get me re-energized for my drive back to Oakland.  At least I had my burrito when I got back.

On Sunday, I woke up feeling awful (like woke up at 3am and puked) and I was on and off the toilet all day.  I had planned to drive back on Sunday afternoon, but I felt really really awful.  I KNEW I would have to drive back on Monday, to pick up my car, so I needed to recover by then.

Monday, I felt measurably better, but not really better enough to drive back… but… I drove back, with the goal of arriving in Long Beach before 5pm to pick up my car.  Guess what?  It wasn’t ready until Wednesday!

I corresponded with a few people after the race (even several weeks after the race) and probably 10 people got sick – we think it was probably food poisoning from someone handling the food improperly or some of the food being bad.

It’s hard enough to complete these races without someone getting you sick from the very food you need to fuel your body to complete the race.

Regardless of getting sick, I enjoyed the challenge of the Headlands 50M (or whatever the distance ended up being – maybe a double marathon) and love doing just about any race in the Marin Headlands.