Tag Archives: Kim Gimenez

Wild Wild West 50K – 2019

May 4, 2019

After finishing the 50 miler last year in Lone Pine (including an hour early start with Alan and Darrell), I decided to take advantage of the early entry fee and see if I couldn’t get in another completion on this beautiful and challenging course.

Alan isn’t in this year.  He has the PCT 50 miler next weekend and I don’t think his wife would look kindly on being away all day two weekends in a row.  Darrell is running also but I was unable to make arrangements vis-a-vis a formal place to stay.  I’ll probably nap in my car until the first bus drives up (last year, we drove up to the campground and started on our own).  While the race starts at 5am, there is a bus to the start at 3:45am, and the website does say you can keep your own time.  That’s our plan.

I arrive in Lone Pine super early on Friday.  Bib pickup is at 5pm, so I have 2-3 hours to kill.  I read the newspaper in the car and try to take some catnaps.  At five, I wander inside and talk with my many ultra-friends who are here, like Kim and Beth, Linda, and even Tam P. and Angela are up for the marathon.

59286122_10218855278197531_6642985720124276736_o
Tam, me, and Angela at the info meeting on Friday.

At the bib pick-up, it’s the usual confusing pre-race briefing.  I guess it gives the race some characters, but it confuses the hell out of first-timers.  They make a big deal about the fact that they are doing a different start this year so there won’t be any issues with the Tuttle Creek campground.  (Though, I guess if you are staying at the campground, you have to figure out how to get to the new start.)

After the meeting, I drive over to the parking lot across the street from the finish line, and try to get comfortable in my car for a short sleep.  It’s a little cold outside but I have my sleeping bag and I sleep diagonally across in the driver’s rear seat to the passenger front seat.  Not sure if I am actually sleeping.  I am having vivid dreams about the course.  Even though I have run this course before, I am sure that the dreams are just a generalized course (and I don’t need to wake up exhausted from previewing it).

I wake up well before 3:45am (!) and I made special sure yesterday to avoid eating much the night before because I will not have the opportunity to utilize a toilet (unless I want to squat on course).

The bus pulls into my lot around 3:35 and I grab a good seat.  The bus isn’t particularly full (maybe 1/2 to 3/4) and it is mostly first-timers who are nervous about finishing the race (though I don’t think there are many starting early).   I chat with a few people who are first-time marathoners (and one or two 50Kers).  Scary that they pick a race like this for their first.  It’s so hard.

As opposed to 2 years ago (because last year we drove ourselves to the start), the drive is a lot shorter, because we are not starting at the campground, but off the road.  It’s dark, windy, and a little cold.  This isn’t the best starting spot, because there is little space for us to congregate.  Darrell is there; I think he camped or stayed nearby and just drove to the start.  We start almost immediately.  No way we’re waiting for the 5am start.  I’ll definitely need all the time I can get, especially because I am still wearing the knee brace.

57451100_2252201981698891_9127245720967970816_nDarrell, Emmett, and John Radich at the start

So, we head off on a trail that goes off at a slight angle from the road, maybe double-track, and pitch black (dark even with headlamps).  After about 45 minutes on this trail, it pops out in the Tuttle Creek Campground (?!?).  I hope they’re cutting off a portion of the trail because they just added 5K to the course!

As usual, the path isn’t marked that well within the campground, so we wander for a little bit trying to remember which side of the campgrounds leads to the trails.  Nothing like getting lost at Mile 3 of 53.  Our misfortunes from last year helped a little bit here, including taking the left-ward path once we figured out where the trail continued.  I wish they would be clearer on the markings in this section.

Even though it’s dark, the trail seems a little more familiar, that is to say, we wander through the bushes and work our way over to the main trail and get to the first aid station.  According to the map, this is Mile 4, and look, it took me over 4 hours!  (Probably really 7.1 miles.)

We’re starting to get caught up by other runners.  This is a good opportunity for Darrell to push the pace a bit and I let a couple of runners surge by me on the water crossing section because it is slippery, hair-pin turns, and my leg is bound up a bit.  Once on the other side, a little bit of uphill, but then a long downhill fire-road run.  This second aid station is run by the Badwater race folks.  I saw the sign for 20 minutes and kept trying to guess what it said (Bad Mother?  Mar weather?).  It’s a little mosquito-y around here, as we are by a short water crossing.  I fared much better in this section, around 10-11 minutes per mile (so ACTUALLY 4 miles this time).

A change to the course this year for the marathoners (50K and 50M course still the same) is that everyone climbs up to Whitney Portal.  (The marathon course avoided that in the past.)

So now begins the long uphill slog.  This section has always been trouble for me in the past and nothing really changes this year.  It begins with a steep fire-road, leading to single-track switchbacks (gentle rises), and then a single-track hugging the hillside (with drop offs on the right).

About 5 minutes into this section, I come upon a large tree blocking the path.  I wish I had a picture to show how troubling this was (maybe three feet in diameter).  It wasn’t the case that I could throw my legs over it or climb under it.  You couldn’t edge to the right because of the drop-off.  The only choice is to use the tree to climb up the left part of the hillside, climb around the top part of the tree, and then carefully descend back down to the single-track.  This is even more difficult with the brace and my two hand-helds.  I carefully balance myself up, over the tree, throw my water bottles carefully down, and edge back onto the trail, mindful that I will have to do this again on my way back down in a few hours.

Also, I am now very out of breath and not able to move very fast up the trail.  (I mean, I am climbing up to 8400 feet.)  It’s slow going, especially on the sections where I am sorta climbing up stairs because my knees hurt.  Some people passing me, luckily not that crowded.  On this section, I see Kim Gimenez coming down.  We exchange some niceties.  Always great to see her.

When I get up to the beginning of the campground area, there is the appearance of some permafrost or snow, luckily not across the trail… yet.  Even though I am struggling with the thin air, I like this section of the trail because it is nicely built evenly spaced wooden stairs.

Now we get into the heart of the snow.  First, there is a narrow section curving around a rock and all tromping through deep snow.  Then there is a flat section that is nothing but snow.  It’s not too slippery (it’s kinda cool, though) but I do need to concentrate on where I place my feet so I don’t get cold AND wet feet.

A few minutes before I get to the aid station, the top, and the turn-around, I see Darrell.  I joke I will catch up with him soon.  This 3 mile section took me over 2 hours. Hope I do better on the way down.

On the way down, I see Linda Dewees.  She WILL catch up to me soon.  I spot a few other people who are struggling up the hill.  I started about an hour early and I see people who started on time two miles behind me and having just as much trouble summitting.

I do what I can to manage a faster speed heading down the hill, knowing that it’s going to take me a while to climb back over that tree on the way down.  It seems to be worse coming down the hill, and I am just as out of breath, even though I am heading downhill, but I do clear it and continue to the easier part of the trail (switchbacks, steep downhill), and the turn off to the back half of the trail and another mile to the aid station.

A nice comparison coming down to going up, with 1:26 for 4 miles downhill versus 2:05 for 3 miles uphill.

From here, it’s rolling hills through the Alabama Hills section.  I use my long legs to “power up” the hills as much as I can.  It’s usually pretty windy through this section.  I see few runners here and manage a sluggish 23 minutes per mile through Mile 18.

From here, it’s 4 miles to the next aid station and where I will make a decision on whether to continue on to run the 50 miler or drop to the 50K if I am not fast enough to finish under 16 hours.  Given that I am at 7 and a half hours now, it doesn’t look like a good option to continue (and I am okay with that).

I try to hustle a bit to give myself every opportunity to continue, but I reach Mile 22 in 9 hours.  There’s just no chance to run 28 MORE miles in 7 hours.  I did the math, 15 minute miles, but a lot of that would be in the dark.

So I take the turn off for the 50K, maybe a little forlorn, but I know it’s the right decision.

The trail is better marked than last year (or people didn’t mess with it) so I have fewer problems and don’t wander around in a circle coming back to the aid station and not finding the inbound trail.  I mean, now I have 7 hours left to do 9 miles.  I can get lost a little bit.

It’s fairly lonely here, because I am towards the back of the 50K runners and mostly ahead of the 50M runners.  Also, this section is a narrow single-track (here called a sheep trail) that drops down low and climbs steeply out on-and-on.  A nice lady catches up to me on this section, named Andrea Lehr.  She is feeling the same way I am on this section – it’s endless, it’s difficult, and it sucks!

As I reach each rise, it’s kinda like “Are we there yet?” and the answer continues to be, “Not yet.”  But it’s nice to have someone to get through the end of this race with.

As soon as we spot the giant American flag, I know we are getting towards the home stretch, because the flag marks the location of the final aid station.  This year, there are people here (because it’s not the tail end of the 50M) and we can chat with them a little bit.

From here, 3 miles to the end of the course, mostly downhill.  In fact, steep downhill, a little gravelly.  My feet are slipping heavily in the shoes, so my toes hurt quite a bit slamming into the front of the toe box after 9+ hours.

Now we veer over to the Whitney Portal Road and run down the road for half a mile, and then turn back onto the trail and into the back of the finishing park.  I’ve gotten a little ahead of Andrea.  I’m modified speed walking to get in as soon as possible and finish in 10 hours and 59 minutes (one of my worst 50K times, but my best 55K!).  Andrea comes in a few minutes later, but she started on time (so maybe 10:06).

The finish line is a little better than last year.  A Grocery Outlet opened up in town (which I had visited during the time between arriving and packet pick-up) and she brought some give-aways – weird flavors of Gatorade and prunes, some crackers – the usual G.O. stuff.

I hang out for a little while, but I cannot wait until the 8pm end time to see when Darrell comes across the finish line (15:09) because I am driving home afterwards and don’t want to get home too late.

Not sure if I will do this race again.  I need to find out if they are doing that extra 3 mile start, if they will mark it better, or maybe when the long-time RDs of the Chamber of Commerce retire, get new management and do things a little differently.  No slight to CoC, but after 40 years, maybe try something different.

This is my 101st ultra and I hope my slow time isn’t indicative of not being able to do ultras any more.   I’m thinking about doing Bishop in a few weeks.  I think I could do the extra 16 miles (to reach 50) in under 8 hours, so hope to give it a try.

12 Days

February 18, 2019

12.  Beth Epstein

I have known Beth for close to 20 years mostly through the Hash.  As mentioned in a previous post (#19), I traveled with her and Kim to my first Ridgecrest 50K in 2002.

Beth is also an accomplished artist and designed an animated figure that went on our 10 year anniversary Blue Dress Run cups in 2006.

In terms of ultras, Beth is a little closer to my speed than Kim, and so, on occasion, I get to run a little bit with her, and she always gives me encouragement.

A special highlight involving Beth was in 2015 at the Angeles Crest 100M race.  We had talked a little bit prior about her training and her plans for her first 100 miler.  Beth had plenty of experience accompanying Kim on several of these, but had never run one herself.  I was on course that year because I helped staff an aid station with Laura Sohaskey.

We were there hours before any runners came through, but saw the leaders, and then the mid-packers.  I retired for a few hours until daybreak and waited for the stragglers (my pace).  Beth came through mid-morning, looking good, but with not a lot of time to spare.  She had some travails with scheduling pacers (Kim had come through hours earlier, maybe pacing David Binder), but ended up finishing with my good friend, Linda Dewees in just over 32 hours.

Beth is one of my favorite people to see in ultras (or anywhere), because she is so friendly, loves nature, and persistent (and almost always places in her age group).

19 Days

February 11, 2019

19.  Kim Gimenez

I have known Kim probably close to 20 years, originally from the Long Beach Hash House Harriers.  Just within the hash, Kim has always been an awesome runner, up at the front (kicking ass and taking names).

In 2002, Kim, Beth, and I (aka Finger, Dutch, and Pillsbury) put on a Long Beach run together.  I can only theorize that we MAY have talked about the Ridgecrest 50K (now that I had 3 ultras under my belt).  As usual, my lame excuse for not definitely signing up was not wanting to get a motel and not wanting to drive by myself.

Eventually, I was convinced to go.  I could carpool with them and sleep in their closet.  As it turned out, Jasper Mueller (an AREC and hasher guy) joined us, and we shared a room.

I think also that, over time, Kim convinced me that I needed to run the Avalon 50M, though it was Laura’s prodding that got me to do so.

Probably the best story that I know from Kim was that she wanted to do a particular race, but was on call that day, so she gave Beth her pager and was ready, at a moment’s notice, to drop out and head to work.  (I think she was able to finish, though.)  But that’s one of the great things about ultrarunners.  You find the time when you can because you love the adventure.

Avalon 50M – 2018

January 20, 2018

Headed off to Catalina Island for the sixth time to (hopefully) complete the Avalon Island Benefit 50 miler.  Last year, I had a discussion with my Avalon buddy, Kathryn Buchan Varden, that if I do this race every year (if my knees hold up), I will be 55 years old when I get my 15 finishes jacket.  Let’s just worry about number six.

As usual, I see many of my good friends on the boat and end up walking around with many of them until the check-in opens up (and until I can meet up with Tiffany and Walter, who are letting me sleep on their floor).  My friend Chris is staying at a really nice boardwalk hotel and I sit inside with him while they eat complimentary wine and cheese (probably for the best that I am not staying here!).

Check-in goes fine, though it’s sad not to see Avalon 50 Ironman Hal Winton who passed away last year (though this year, he may have had to start at noon on Friday).

I guess the one bit of good news is that the Italian waterfront restaurant has reopened and I join a big table with Chris, Nancy, and a number of my hash friends (most of which are volunteering tomorrow).  I am able to connect with Walter and Tiffany and we make the mile-long hike up to the Holiday Inn (next door to some animated high schoolers on a fishing trip who are unaware that I have to get up in a few hours).

Slept okay and then snuck out around 3:30am to head down to the pier for the 4:00am early start.  Tom O’Hara is down there with his clipboard checking everyone in, including myself and Rob Cimorelli who I met a couple of weeks ago at an AREC trail run that Laura and Chuck put on up to Inspiration Point via Echo Mountain.  He is doing his first 50 miler and running with his good friend Chris.  They are distinguishable because Rob has a short red beard and Chris has a big beard.  Kathryn is also in this group.

It is windy and pretty cold out so I have a jacket on and I am also running with a small string backpack which has Vaseline and my reading book (I do pack light.).

Something different about this year, course-wise, is that they are removing the awful out-and-back section along the isthmus, so to make up for it, they are adding that same distance onto the beginning.  I am told that this is the “original” course.  (Also heard that the original course had an extra out-and-back at the end, too.)

So, instead of immediately heading up the hill towards the Wrigley Gardens and Haypress, we are first taking a 3.5 mile run along the coast, in fact, heading towards the ferry terminal (and more).

At first, I hang back, because I am not a great runner in the dark, but the surface is fairly stable and not too many potholes.  As we get to the far end, I am probably in 3rd or 4th place among the early starters.  My pacing here is similar to my strategy at the now-defunct Palos Verdes Marathon… if you can bank some  time, do it.  (Though to be honest, it was more like 10 minute miles rather than 6 minute miles.)

Once we re-pass the start, then it’s the usual course, heading up the hill past the golf course to the Wrigley Gardens (and I am relegated from first to mid-pack when I walk up the hill to conserve energy).  Kathryn surges to the lead at this point.  The gates are still as yet unlocked, but we do the usual slip-around-the-turnstile tango.

This year, I REALLY know the course and so know definitively that the trail goes to the right at the junction and through the gate (probably only the second time that I didn’t make the wrong turn).

The uphill is pretty relentless as usual and it is still windy and cold, so I am glad that I kept my jacket on (most people pulled theirs off on the flat).  I plan to leave it, my headlamp and “book bag” behind once I get to Little Harbor (and pick it up on the way back).

When I arrive at Haypress, the aid station is pretty well set up (because we ran a good 45 minutes more before arriving).  I am immediately passed by the front-runner from the regular start, running close to twice as fast as I am (about 15 minutes per mile because of the hill at this point).

In the next few miles, I am able to do a very creative ballet of removing my windbreaker and headlamp, and to stuff them in my string backpack, and hold onto my water bottles, without breaking my rapid walking pace.  (In all honesty, I don’t think I save any time by stopping.)

Assorted and sundry folks are surging by me on the hill up to the airport even though I am getting into a better rhythm.  It is nice to be already a half marathon done (1/4) when in the past, I would be only 9 miles in at this point.  Because the hill is less steep, I am able to subtract about a minute per mile off my pace.

Once I get past the airport, the fire-road begins its long downhill stretch.  In a sense, this is good, but in another sense, it is a bit hard on my knees, so I gallop or skip to help with that.  I am basically by myself (with the occasional passes, as I said) and so I sing to myself or come up with some kind of mantra.

Sometimes I make up jokes or talk things through, but for some reason I came up with a tongue-twister, which is “Blue Pole, Loophole.”  I don’t know what got that in my head (maybe I saw a loophole?).

When the downhill ends, then you run by a vineyard (uphill), and sort of rolling hills until the 50K/50M split off.  50K turns to go finish (like another 13 miles) and 50M heads down a series of slopes to get to the Little Harbor Aid Station.  No big puddles this year, but I am always excited to see Sue at the aid station, and to drop off my stuff for a few miles.  It is also here that my friend Selina Nordberg passes me.

Even though I have maintained my net 14:00/mile pace, I try to waste little time and get a move on, since there is a lot of uphill coming up.  It begins with some gentle rolling hills to warm you up and then it just seems relentless, so by the time you get to the top, the downhill into Two Harbors sucks just as much.  (And of course, not only are people passing me from behind, but lots of the front-runners in the race are returning from Two Harbors.)

The second female runner I see is former AREC member Diane Burgin running her first 50 miler (really good runner) and the fourth is my very good hash buddy, Kim Gimenez (who is probably just taking it easy).  Beth isn’t doing the 50 miler this year, which is a bummer.  Always love seeing her.

I also see Kathryn pretty much as I am on the downhill (meaning she is a good hour ahead of me now).  I skip, run, and gallop down the hill, as I am now over halfway (halfway always used to be on the isthmus AFTER the aid station).  On the fun uphill section, I lost that minute per mile, and now I get to turn right around and head right back up the hill.

This is an interesting position from which to see how folks are doing.  If they started early with me, I somewhat recognize them and they are not too far back (and I can see how far back they are based upon my time since leaving the aid station).  You can really tell those that started with the regular start that are struggling because they are REALLY far behind (some people are 90 minutes behind me (45 minutes down and 45 minutes up)) and you know they will struggle to make the cutoffs… and that is why I start early, to try and not stress about that.

The reason why I am focusing so much on the people coming downhill is because there are not a lot of people I am passing (or passing me) on the walk up.  I catch a couple of people (walking past walkers) and surprisingly, at the very top of the hill, I pass Deo Jaravata (a better runner than me) who is really struggling.  I know he will get out of his funk at some point, but just exciting to be “ahead” of him (even though I started early).

As usual, the downhill into Little Harbor feels awful and goes on forever.  I had, however, done a rough timing of the course outbound to give myself an idea of the timing inbound… that really helps to know if you are close or not.

The real good news is that the time differential between GOING to Two Harbors and RETURNING to Little Harbor is only 3 minutes (1:41 versus 1:44) so I can be pretty satisfied with that.

Since my timing seems to be okay (meaning that I am still 20-30 minutes ahead of the actual cutoff and more if you include being able to run on the paved portion of the course outside of the cutoff), I decide I will have time again to participate in a competition and have a mimosa (heavy on the O.J.).  Like last year, I go for the horseshoe throwing (though I wonder if there are fewer participants in the roping contest – better chance to win).  Like last year, I don’t do very well.  I think I got 1.5 points for 3 horseshoes being within a length of hitting the pole.

I regain my string backpack and head off up the hill back to the 50K/50M split point and then head down the hill towards the Middle Gulch section.  I get repassed by some of the uphill walkers when I head down the hill (of course) and have a few talks with some people that are moving approximately the same pace as I am when I can.  The uphill is tough but I know that I am on the homestretch.

This section through Middle Gulch is always hard to deal with because there are no real landmarks and every turn seems to turn you into the same looking landscape.  (I need to look and see on a satellite image how many little bridge crossings there are to give me some incentive.

I do have a nice walk and talk with a young guy named John who is doing his second 50 miler (second Avalon) but I know he gets bored with my pedantic pace.  It is also here that Rob and his bearded friend pass me.

Pretty soon, though, I can hear the twang of the Eagle’s Nest aid station, with its showers, buffalo burgers, (occasionally lobster), and PBR.  I don’t really need a shower, but partake of everything else.  John, Rob, and the Beard are still there, when I do some grab-and-go.

John catches back up to me somewhat amazed at the speed of my aid station stops.  I mean, you wanna stop long enough to refuel but not long enough to rethink being out there or slow up your pace too much.  We mostly stay together or near one another by the ranches, the bald eagle preserve, and up to the Pumphouse Hill Aid Station at Mile 44.  (I am basically walking at this point but maintaining 15 minute miles is excellent.)

Since I still have 6 miles to go, I am doubtful that I can run them in 45 minutes and break 12 hours, but certain that I can do them in under 1:45 and break 13, and the 5:00pm time limit.

We now have 3/4 mile up to the road, which eventually becomes paved, and then another 1-1/4 miles back to Haypress Aid Station (which is pretty much abandoned when we get there).  A tough climb slows my pace to 17:21 per mile, but keeps me right around the 15:20 range overall.

This last section is where I can make up some time if I feel okay.  My feet hurt a bit but I am going back and forth between John, as well as with an early starter guy, Les Martisko.  (Feel that I have to beat him being 73 years old.)  My knees are getting twingy and I don’t really feel like running downhill, so I let both of the guys go and just maintain a fast walk.

However, once I get to the guard gate exit and onto the real roads, I feel a second wind and start to pick it up, and by the time I get to the final big downhill onto the main drag, I am bounding really well and finish in 12:42:10, which is close to my average.

I finish about 30 seconds ahead of John (aka 59:30 BEHIND John) and a minute or so ahead of Les.  Rob and the Beard are another 10 minutes back, and I do hang at the finish line for some time watching the last stragglers come in.

I decide to try and catch the earlier boat ride back and pay the $5 change fee and it turns out that because of inclement weather, there is no fee to change the ticket.  Bonanza!  The ride is a little bit rough, but as in years past, they broadcast the NFL playoff game on the TV screens.

Even better, I have a short wait for the bus ride back and few people on the bus for a nice quiet jaunt back to my condo.

Afterword 1:  About a week prior to the race, I had packed my duffel for a two week trip to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, because I didn’t know how tired I would be post-race to deal with that.  I ended up getting an extra day because my flight was delayed 20 hours.  Despite being a bit tired, my sister and I estimated we walked 100 miles during the two week trip.

Afterword 2:  In late June, I was doing a hash run with Kim and Beth in Monrovia and Beth said she had something for me.  Turns out, I took third place in the Horseshoe contest.

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.

Big Baz 21K – 2015

February 14, 2015

Decided to try another Big Baz event, as I did one of his last year and they are a nice (not too expensive) trail event series in the Cleveland National Forest (between Lake Elsinore and San Clemente).

I didn’t want to drive on my own, so I hedged my bets and did not sign up for the race until I could get confirmation from others that we could carpool.  The plan was to meet Eric Villalobos and Tiffany Forster on 2nd Street (couldn’t you just pick me up from my house 2 miles away?).  Since I didn’t want to leave my car in the area (also, parking sucks), I decided to walk down in the morning.

When I arrived, I saw Eric’s car there (Tiffany had said she was driving).  He said that Tiffany had decided not to go and that he was still deciding whether he would actually run… but that he was going to go anyway and see how he felt (a long (60+ minute) drive for maybe not running!

We had to drive on a different route because the usual road to Blue Jay Campground was under construction.  It wasn’t much further, but it was narrower, rockier and more nerve-wracking two-way traffic.

We arrived super-early (like a full-hour before the race) and milled around for a while.  We were supposed to also see Art Acebedo and Kelly Motyka (but only Art showed up).

Right before the start, Baz gave his ‘usual’ talk about how the course was well-marked, but that you needed to pay attention, etc., ‘shut the “F” up, I’m explaining how you won’t get lost…’  They read some names of people who had registered but had yet to show up (including Kelly) and I heard the names of my friends Kim Gimenez and Beth Epstein.  Even more so than me, these two don’t run a lot of races and for a 21K, it could be considered “slumming” for a great ultrarunner like Kim.

I would have some familiarity with the course as it was a portion of the Old Goats 50M I had attempted a few years ago (around 1/4 of that course with some sucky hills).

Just as we were about to start, Kim and Beth did show up.  I ran a little bit with Kim (totally hanging back to walk/run with me) and it was nice to catch up.  She, however, took off as soon as Beth caught up with us when the paved road turned to dirt and the grade amped up.

There is only one aid station on this course and you hit it twice.  I grabbed some water and a pretzel and hurried on, having taken 48 minutes for the first 3 miles.

From here, I followed a rocky downhill (shaded!) course towards the base of West Horsethief, which I have only run down.  I went at a modest pace, because I didn’t want to fall, and probably a good dozen people passed me on the downhill (if I wasn’t in last before, I might be in last now).

Once I got to the bottom, I traversed some dry rocky riverbed and then began the process of working my way up the switchbacks to the top of W. Horsethief.  I tried to maintain a comfortable but brisk walking pace and began overtaking many of the same runners who were way ahead of me after passing me on the downhill.  (Definitely not in last now!)

At the top of the hill, I found myself on the Great Divide and curving around (mostly downhill) back toward the aid station (now Mile 10).  My total time was now 2:54 (or about 17 minutes/mile), so I didn’t really lose a lot of time… the downhill section (although slow, I made up a bit of time) and the steep uphill section cancelled each other out.

The last 3 miles were mostly a repeat of the same course we took outbound, except for the last half mile which was on a narrow, rocky single-track that popped up within 100 yards of the finish line.  I arrived in 3:28, just after they had completed the awards ceremony.

Eric wasn’t too bored (having not run the race after all) and apparently the women’s and men’s races had been exciting (winners coming in around 1:40 and 2:00-something).

I grabbed some soda and we drove back, this time on the Lake Elsinore side, thinking it would be faster.  Turns out the mileage is about the same, but nothing about driving on the 91 makes the drive any faster.

I would definitely be back for another Big Baz race… if it doesn’t conflict with one of my favorite races.