Tag Archives: Laura

Avalon 50M – 2017

January 7, 2017

Excited to be heading to Catalina Island once more to run the Avalon 50M, my fifth time!

I’ve heard that if you complete the race 5 times, you get a special plaque, so I have made plans to stay an extra night for the banquet.  Most of my friends are not staying over, but an AREC guy that I have run with on a few occasions has said that I can stay at his mom and stepdad’s place on Saturday night.

Looking forward to seeing a bunch of my ultra friends, the beautiful island (hope the weather cooperates), and to be inspired by Legacy finisher Hal Winton (curious as to when he will be starting this year).  I also look forward to see who will be on my boat ride over.  Laura and Angela took an earlier boat over, but I don’t usually like to walk around a lot prior to running 50 miles.

I do my usual trick of riding the Long Beach bus from up the street all the way to Catalina Landing and packing super light (as in book to read, string backpack, lightweight jacket, and water bottles).  I think I definitely freak people out, especially when they have suitcases and I have not much.

Once at the terminal, I spot Kathryn Buchan-Varden, who I met last year, who is both a hasher and a 14-time Avalon finisher.  She is good friends with my friend, Darcie, who used to run with AREC and who I stayed with last year at her home in Utah when I attempted the disastrous North Face Challenge 50 miler.  She is hanging out in the restaurant with a couple of her Sacramento-area friends (she lives in Arizona now but did spend some time in Northern California).  Her friend Teresa will run the 50K tomorrow (a newly added distance to compel friends to run or old-timers to continue running) for her first 50K.  We are telling her all about the course (trying to set her mind at ease).

One thing that comes out in conversation is that Teresa did her Plastic Surgery residency at UC Davis in 1996.  I worked as an Administrative Assistant for Plastic Surgery Division at UC Davis Med School from October 1994 to December 1995. So… we weren’t there at the same time, but we do know a lot of the same people and she gave me some updates on doctors who were no longer there (left or died).  Small world!

Darcie, her sister, and son, Logan, showed up not longer afterwards.  Kathryn and Darcie’s family made arrangements to rent a house for the  weekend.  (Might be a good idea if I go again next year.)  I enjoy hanging with them, so we all ride the boat together.

When we get to Avalon,  I stick with them because I will be meeting up with Angela and Stephanie later, and we are just having some nice conversations.  Hanging with Kathryn and Darcie just means going and picking up the house key, getting stuff set up in the house, going to Vons to pick up some supplies (“Mini-Vons”), and just biding time until the site opens up for bib pick-up.

The usual suspects are handing out bibs and shirts and collecting money (pretty much all my old-timey hasher buddies) and I do notice, at this time, that my name is misspelled on the bib.  I hope that this doesn’t mean that they won’t have a plaque for me at the banquet!

I do hang around for a while just waiting for Stephanie and Angela to show up (after all, they are my roommates for tonight and I don’t want a repeat of last year’s sneaking into someone’s room because I couldn’t find someone).  I spot all sorts of friends in the queue, including Laura and Beth.  Lots of people recognize me… for some reason.

I do find the gals (phew) and Laura is with them as well.  Seems that her hotel fell through or closed, and so she is also staying with us.  Going to be a tight fit.  They have already eaten, and the restaurant that we like is currently closed, so I wander around a bit trying to find something to my liking that is reasonably priced.  Down the street from the bib pick-up at the Metropole Hotel is a new-ish Panini restaurant.  It’s deserted but the food inside looks good and the cook is juicing a zillion carrots so I get some dinner.

I hike up the street to the hotel and we have to go in staggered because really only 2 people are supposed to be in the room.  It’s a small room with a single twin bed inside.  I am 100% on the floor with Stephanie, and Laura and Angela are in the bed.

As we are settling in, Angela gets a call from Alan that he is on the last boat and will not make it in time for bib pick-up, so could I go down and pick it up for him?

Ugh.  So, I hike back down the hill, and explain that I am picking up a bib and shirt for another runner.  This turns out not to be a problem… except for the fact that I picked up a 50M shirt (and he’s doing the 50K) and I didn’t pick up his banquet ticket.  I cart his stuff back up the hill and leave it at the front desk for him to pick up when he arrives later.

Now finally we can settle in for a restive night’s sleep (Hope nobody has to go the bathroom as they will have to step over me to do so.).

I wake up before Angela and Laura’s alarm goes off at 1:30am (they are planning to start at 2) and they are a little sluggish to say the least, but do get out the door in time to meet Yen Darcy a little before 2am at the pier.

Since I am not starting until 4am and Stephanie until 5am (an early 50K start), we take the opportunity to utilize the bed for 2 hours.  Ah, blissful nap.

A little before 4am, I stumble down to the pier for the early start.  There is a good group of people here, including Kathryn.  I am surprised to see her, but like me, just likes to be on the safe side, in case there are any problems with the day, especially the expected rain.

As we start off down the street (or UP the street, since there is a slight incline), it does start to rain lightly, enough to blur my vision through my misty glasses.

We sidle around the locked turnstile into the Wrigley Gardens and then make sure that we go the correct direction at the crossroads (Dang!  Third year in a row where I went the wrong direction!)  14-time finisher Kathryn doesn’t go the right way, either.  We don’t waste a lot of time, but it’s just annoying.

Because it’s mostly uphill, slightly muddy, I am just walking and Kathryn takes off.  I don’t have any great expectation for the day, only to finish under 13 hours or close to it.  I would love to have another sub-12 hour finish, but I’ll just have to see how the day goes.

Once I get up by the radio towers, we turn and head downhill.  It’s late enough that the gate is open and I don’t have to climb through the awkward hole in the center.  The bad part is that the sun has not come up yet so it’s impossible to see that you are running through a mud puddle until you are in said puddle.  I do my best to look for brief reflections from the moon and my headlamp and avoid most of them.

When I get to Haypress, the aid station is pretty much set up.  I grab a couple orange slices and some water and continue moving.  The uphill section took me 98 minutes for 5.4 miles (18 minute pace) and if I want to finish under 12 hours, I need to be around 14:30 pace.

The course is pretty much back to normal this year; we are not doing an out-and-back course, but will run by the Airport again and by the houses with the vineyards that are just before Little Harbor.

I do a little better on the road up to the airport (even though there is still a lot of uphill and I am in the pre-dawn dusky light that is hard to run in without tripping), managing 11:13/mile (and a net pace of 14:27 – pretty close to the goal time).

From the airport, there is a lot of downhill (not in the dark this year).  It is runnable but pretty windy.  I do my best to keep running as much as possible.  At the bottom, you go through the small neighborhood.  This year, there is a bunch of construction, so the ground is harshly graded, and the little hill by the vineyards seems steeper than usual.

This is also one of the longer stretches of trail between aid stations (5.6 miles) and good or bad, you can see where you are headed, but it seems to take forever.  I pass by the 50K turnaround, which is just before you head down the hill into Little Harbor.  This is a bummer, because Little Harbor (and the Wacko Cafe) is one of the best aid stations you will ever reach.  (“It’s just over there, but I’m not going to do an extra mile downhill and back to go there.”)

From the point of the turn-around, you can start to spot Little Harbor Aid Station, but there is quite a bit of downhill on fire-roads that stretch out for quite a ways.  When you finally get to the Port-A-Potties, you are virtually there.

My Foothill Hasher friend, First to Go Down is doing the number check-in.  I am really excited to see her, because it’s always great to see a friend.  I am also excited because I am going to leave my string backpack here until I come back in several miles.  I am continuing on a good pace, maintaining 12:14/mile (netting 13:39, totally on pace for sub-12:00).

Leaving Little Harbor is a bit difficult because the entire trail is under water, meaning we have to off-road a bit to get around the super-puddle.  I’m hoping that the trail becomes more clay and that will be less muddy.  Otherwise, this upcoming uphill section is going to be awful.

Since the rain has been stopped for a few hours, some of the trail is drying out, but the footing is pretty limited because certain parts are more slippery.  Midway up the hill is a firefighter truck and the occupant is advising runners to walk or watch their steps because a mistake could end their races.  I concur.  The footing is treacherous, so I walk or lightly jog as flat-footed as possible.

Once I crest the top, it’s downhill into Two Harbors.  I am passed here by the lead female runner and 5 minutes later by Gisele Schaaf (in her first 50 miler).  Second overall would be pretty cool for Gisele in her debut.

This section is technically the longest section between aid stations, except that you do pass by the aid station on your first pass and then come back 2 miles later (so on the charts, it’s 7.4 miles between aid, but really it’s 5.4 and then 2.0).  My first year here I didn’t realize that and so thought was running really well, but actually, I clicked the split 3 miles too early!

I grab a cup of Coke, but don’t really stop outbound and then head to the out-and-back to the isthmus.  This is full of puddles as well, but also where I get to see almost everyone.  Laura, Angela, and Yen are headed back as I head out.  I spot Ben Gaetos (who I stayed with last year) and I stop for a picture.

I see Gisele again.  By my calculations, she is about 8 minutes behind the leader.  I tell her the time gap and she asks me, “How does she look?”  I want to say something encouraging like, “She’s falling apart!  You’ve got this!” but I am honest in saying that she looked really good and it will be quite a battle to catch up.

I finally get to the turn-around (I HATE this section – endless and slightly uphill.), and start heading back.  I see Beth (from the hash) and Linda Dewees (my buddy from Bishop and Ridgecrest).  I jog the best I can back to the aid station, but I am just feeling sluggish and not fast.  I get to Mile 26.0 in 6:30 (or a section pace of 18:14 and a net pace of 15:00 – darn!).

Now I start the climb back out of Two Harbors.  Even though the hill is steep, I prefer this kind of hill to the slow death inclines I just went through.  This is also the section where you don’t see a lot of people coming down the hill – these are the people that will struggle to make the cut-offs the rest of the way (and will possibly be leapfrogged forward by van).

I feel like I made good time going up the hill and passed a number of people who can’t walk as fast or have stubby little legs.  On the downhill, of course, I am being passed left and right by pretty much everyone.  Most folks have headphones on, so I can’t get in any decent conversations.

One gal just blows by me, though when she does, one of her gloves that is tucked into her Camelbak flies out.  I yell to her, but obviously, she can’t hear me; otherwise, we would have chatted.  I stop and pick up her glove and try to run it to her, but I cannot muster enough energy to run that fast.  I do get the next person to pass me to run it up to her.  (Hope she didn’t MEAN to do that.)

It’s quite windy on the downhill and I am not getting a lot of running in.  It’s quite annoying, because if I am just walking, that will definitely affect my ability to finish under 12 hours.  At least the ground is no longer slippery mud, but it is stiff adobe.  Each has their pros and cons.  Soft mud would feel good right about now, but I do have my Hokas for the extra padding at least.

I get back to Little Harbor in 1:43 (a 15:50 pace and now slowed back over 15 minutes per mile net pace).  Looks unlikely that I will break 12 hours now.

I edge around the puddle and go retrieve my string backpack so I will have it when I get back to the finish.  Since we are now into the latter half of the race (mileage here is 32.5), aid stations are offering various bonuses to the runners.

Here I get a nice mimosa (mostly orange juice per my request) and I decide that I would like to play one of their games this time.  The choices are cattle roping and horseshoes.  I don’t think I would be any good at (stationary plastic cow) roping, but I can throw stuff, so I do try the horseshoes.

I have to have them handed to me because I can’t bend all the way over, and the best I can muster is getting one within a horseshoe’s length of the post.  Still, it was fun to try.

Now I head out of Little Harbor, and it’s back on that aforementioned winding, endless fire-road (now uphill instead of downhill).  A bison has been spotted nearby the aid station – close enough to see, far away enough to not be dangerous.  Cool wilderness.

I spot Beth behind me but she hasn’t caught me yet.  She must be struggling a bit, too (though she did start an hour after me, so I can’t be too excited).  When I finally climb out of Little Harbor and get by the 50K turn-around Aid Station, we turn in a different direction and head downhill briefly, but pretty much immediately start heading uphill again.

When it finally flattens out (but it really is a slow uphill climb), that means that I am getting close to Eagle’s Nest Aid Station (and more fun?).  I pass Hal Winton just before I get into the aid station.  He looks pretty spry for an 85 year-old runner (but he did start about 12 hours before me) and he gives me a nice strong handshake.

I go back and forth between several people.  Someone runs past me, I walk past them when they fade.  I think it’s gratifying for me and annoying for them.  There are a few that I thought were far ahead of me that I essentially catch up to at Eagle’s Nest.

I managed a 14:06 average pace on this section, so I reward myself with half of a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and a chunk of buffalo burger.  Mmm.

Now I got some more uphill to the Pumphouse Hill Aid Station.  My feet are really hurting, most notably on the tops of my feet.  I stop to try and adjust my shoes.  When I loosen the laces, I realize that I had tied them so tight, the tongue was pinching my foot (the Hoka tongue is flat and can pinch unlike most other shoe tongues).  Once I loosened it, it felt bad for a while because I have a blood blister on the tops of my feet and it hurts!  But it started to feel better after a while. (This may be my last go-round with the Hokas because they have caused me all types of problems.)

I just keep walking and walking, walking and walking.  Right around the Bald Eagle Preserve, I walk for a while with a Chinese guy who is walking also.  We have a nice conversation and the good news is that I may see him at other races because he is local – Jeff Liu.  Soon enough, he becomes bored with the pedantic pace and starts jogging.  Bye.  (I may well still catch him up later, though.)

Despite the uphill and all walking, I do get to the Pumphouse AS in a 15:38 pace and am maintaining a close to 15:00/mile pace for the race.  I know there is the paved downhill section coming up in a few miles, but I don’t feel like I have the same gumption to break 12:00 as I did a few years ago (when I thought I would get a non-finish if I didn’t finish under 12:00).

This last bit of trail up to the top is quite steep and it is all I can do to just maintain a comfortable walking pace.  I can see Jeff, but cannot catch him.

Now it is a mostly downhill section on paved road back to Haypress Aid Station (but no puddles and not in the dark).  As it has been in the past, the aid station is abandoned but there is still some water containers available for refilling water bottles if necessary.  I don’t really stop so I can continue any forward downhill momentum I have.

My first year here, I got to Haypress in 11:03 and felt I wouldn’t break 12:00 unless I really pushed the pace downhill, but I did manage to do the last 4 miles in 39 minutes.  Today, I am here in 11:22.  I don’t feel like I have 39 minutes in me, and even then, I would not break 12 hours.  I think I should just do what I can do.  (That’s always the best anyway.)

The part leading up to the downhill is uphill anyway and I don’t have anything left for that.  And, once I get onto the downhill, I simply don’t feel like running at all.  The angle’s gonna have to be more sufficiently downhill for me to do that.

I catch up with another runner who started earlier than me and we walk and talk together for a bit.  He pushes his pace a little bit so we can continue talking.  I guess I’m not going too slow.

But when I start getting a little momentum going, I do end up starting to run and leaving him in the dust.  I start recognizing landmarks and all of it is on a significant downhill slope, especially that last downhill before I run along the promenade to the finish.

I’m definitely not breaking 12 hours, but if I push it a bit, I can break 12:20, and I do so in 12:19:41, triumphantly holding up my open palm, signifying my 5th Avalon 50 miler finish.

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I waited around for awhile and watched people finish, but eventually, I walked with Alan down to his folks’ place and had a nice shower before we headed out to the Banquet.

So, Alan’s stepdad drove us to the banquet which was located on the other side of the Casino.  I guess it would have been a nice scenic walk, but I didn’t feel like a nice scenic walk anymore.

The banquet food was excellent, lots of good choices, and plentiful fruit and water.  They played a slide show that had pictures from THIS year, and then the various speakers talked about the history of the race and people that inspired them, plus announced the top fundraisers (who get free entries and boat rides and more).

Now, they announced, the five-year, the ten-year, and the fifteen-year award winners.  They said they had a lot of plaques that had not ever been distributed, so they were going to read all those names.  I heard names of people who died some time ago (of whom I had no idea that they ran 5 Avalon 50s) and people who are no longer running, but I didn’t hear my name.

As for Kathryn, finishing her 15th, they announced that she would receive her 10th plaque (which I think she received 4 years ago).  So, a bit of a mess.  I was told that I would receive my plaque by mail sometime in the future (a few weeks later), so I assume that she got her jacket then, also.  Although I enjoyed the banquet, I went specifically to receive my plaque, but no one received their plaque for 2017, so I was a bit annoyed.

Alan tried to call his stepdad for a ride back but there was no cellphone coverage, so we walked until we got back into range.  And it was a nice scenic walk until the truck-let found us and I was ready to sit down again.

I ended up sleeping in the recliner, a throwback to when I first moved to Long Beach and spent most nights sleeping in my recliner.  I was quite comfortable, because I am used to that kind of night’s rest.

In the morning, we managed to get up in time for the Photo.  I had seen the photo, but figured they took the picture before I could manage to finish.  Truth is, they take the photo on the following morning, and only once was I actually there the next day (but slept in or didn’t know about it).15875624_1250049418374881_5425234147263662081_o

Kathryn and I have plans to keep running Avalon 50M until I receive my 15th finish jacket.  By then, I will be 60 years old!  Here’s to hoping that my body will still be able to handle ultras until then!

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High Desert 50K – 2016

December 4, 2016

Angela and I drove up to Ridgecrest yesterday.  We made arrangements again with Darrell and Megan to stay at their place which is only about a mile from the start.  Laura, Dulce, and Stephanie are coming up, too, but I felt bad that we couldn’t offer them a place to stay (we just need to ask Darrell and Megan ahead of time or offer something nice).  They are in a different house than last year, but it is in the same housing tract.

We did all meet to eat together, though, which was nice.  It’s particularly cold here, so that seems to bode well that it should be colder for the race.

At the start, I have a special gift for my friend Ethan.  I cut out a laminated “5” for him to pin on, since today is his 5th Ridgecrest High Desert 50K and will get the special pullover when he finishes.

Also present Ethan’s wife, a few other hashers, and Sandy Binder (whose husband runs ultras, but I haven’t known her to do so).  I jokingly ask Sandy if she is running to win, and she enigmatically says, “Maybe.

My goals today are to try and push it harder on the flat and downhill sections and not walk as much on the uphill sections (but listen to my body).

I start by running a little bit more on the initial paved hill and up into the rolling hills section.  Once you get to this part, it tends downhill so there isn’t a reason to walk as much.  At the first aid station (soon after which the 30K and 50K part ways), I manage 50:44, a 9:12 pace.  (Extrapolating out, 9:12/mile for 31 miles would be an hour PR on the distance!)

Once the 30K diverges, there is a long section of a slight uphill.  I have had the tendency to walk all of this, so I force myself to run stretches of it.  (Note:  Forcing myself to run and running slowly are different.  Here, I am pushing the pace and not running uphill slower than I can walk.)

I go a little slower on this section, a 9:48/mile pace, but still maintain an overall sub 10:00/mile pace (5:10 still would be a big PR, but it’s way early.)

The next 2.5 miles go up a considerably longer hill, which is also more technical and it’s not practical to run much of this at all, but once I get to the top of the hill, I can start jogging/running again.  This aid station is the famous “We Love the 49ers and Christmas” aid station, except no one is wearing Niners garb.  I ask if it is because they are so bad this year, and a gal surreptitiously whispers, “Yes.”  My pace in this section is 14:00/mile (a brisk walk) and drops my overall pace to 10:27/mile (In order to PR, I would need to average 11 and change.)

Now a mostly downhill, but dense dirt section for two-and-a-half miles and I maintain the 10-and-change pace.  I have been going back and forth with a lot of the same people.  I haven’t seen Angela yet (she started early, but I am hoping not to catch her until the end, if at all) and Darrell is behind me.  I saw Laura at the beginning, but I assume she is still behind and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Ethan or Sandy (who is MAYBE in front).

The one gal that I strike up a nice conversation with is Karin Usko, who used to live in El Salvador, but she is also German, so we can speak in Spanish, English, AND German (my first three languages).  She is local to Ridgecrest and I later learn that she makes Happy Gaiters.  (I also ran really briefly with Shannon Farar-Griefer, who is the founder of the Moeben sleeves (named after her sons).)

On now to another 3-odd miles with a mostly uphill bent.  I’m not running as much on these sections.  Feeling like I will not run a PR, but I would like to at least run a comparable 50K (to Cool rather than Twin Peaks), something in the sub-6:30 range.  This is another 14:00/mile section, ballooning my average to 11:12/mile.

Leading into the penultimate aid station at Gracie’s Mansion, where I have my first half beer, the sections seem to swing between generally uphill section, or generally downhill section and I am either doing about 11-12 minutes per mile OR 15-16 minutes per mile, but at least I am keeping my overall average under 12 minutes (which equals 6:24).  I would be happy to finish with that average.

From Gracie’s to Last Gasp is 3.7 miles, with mostly downhill.  I start to press the pace again, because it IS downhill and I can run downhills (when I am not cramping… and I’m not cramping).  Former race director Christopher Rios is there and I get my second beer, though I cannot hang out there too long.  I have pulled my interim pace to 11:06 and brought my overall average down six seconds, ending an inexorable slide to worse and worse times.

If I can finish the last 1.7 miles in 15 minutes (doable, but tough at this point), I would break 6 hours for the first time in over 10 years.

Alas, it is not to be.  I finished in 6:05:14, which is my best time in 12 years, so that’s pretty awesome.  Someone mentions that I should utilize Age Grade to compare this time with my best here (5:47:06) back in 2004.  Age Grade is a comparison tool that figures out what your equivalent time is if compared to the ideal age (which I think is 25).

So, if you run a 5:47 50K at age 34, it is like running a 5:44 50K at 25 (since your ability probably doesn’t drop off that much from 25 to 34).  But, if you run a 6:05 at age 45, the Age Grade equivalent is 5:43.  So in essence, given that I have aged, my High Desert 50K is my best ever (just not my PR).  Pretty remarkable that I did so well in a year when I fractured my elbow.

Angela came in about an hour after I did (2 hours, technically), Ethan got his 5-run pullover, and Sandy did not win the race… she was the second female, though.

Hoka One One Postal 2M – 2016

November 10, 2016

A special event at Chittick Field was posted for tonight, so I met Laura at the field so we could participate in the rare 2 mile event.  It looks like most of the participants are high school students and they are breaking the race apart into heats based upon likely finishing time.

We aren’t put in the first race since that race is for students that are attending a dance and need to get going.  Our race is the second race and it is Laura, me, a 9 year-old girl, and three high school freshman (probably the “slow” ones).

Two miles is an odd distance and given that I have a hard time pacing in a 5K, I will now have one fewer mile to figure out pacing here.

On the first lap, the three boys went out fast through the first turn, and my immediate thought was that I need to stay with them, but by the end of the first lap, I had not only stayed with them, but pulled ahead and put some distance between us (too fast!).

My goal now was to hold on (not accelerate) for as long as I could.  Even if the boys caught up to me, I had still done well (as long as I didn’t have to stop and walk or fall over).

I came through my first mile in 6:55, but knew I could not maintain that pace for the final 4 laps.  I had also noticed that 2 of the 3 boys had made up some of the initial gap I established in the first two laps. Must… hold… on.

Laura was just a bit behind me (well, behind the boys, but in no danger of being lapped).  All of us had lapped the girl, but unless she was a star, it would be embarrassing if we didn’t lap her at least once.

My energy was flagging on that last lap.  The nearest of the boys was coming on strong and blew by me in the final 100 yards, but it was close, as I came in 14:12.  Laura was only 30 seconds back.  (The little girl came in under 18 minutes.)

The timer/LB Poly coach said to me that he couldn’t believe I had a sub-7 mile in me (my PR is 5:56 and all of my half marathon on down PRs are at sub-7 pace).  I smiled and hoped that he meant, “at age 45,” rather than he couldn’t believe I could break 7 minutes.

Laura got a trucker cap for her time or something about winning her age group (but honestly, we were the only Masters there).

We stayed and watched the other heats.  The best was the final one where they had a ringer (I think the only other one over 21.) who came through (by a bunch) under 10 minutes.  Fast!  (I wonder how he would do in a trail 50K…)

Twin Peaks 50K – 2016

October 15, 2016

Prior to committing to running the North Face Challenge Race in Utah, I committed to volunteering for the Twin Peaks race, as there is no race director I respect more than Jessica DeLine.  She always does her best to put on a great event, tries to get anyone who wants to get to the finish to the finish, and charges a reasonable amount for her events.

However, once I was unable to finish North Face, I still wanted to do an ultra for this time period.  I told Jessica I would like to run the 50K (and I had already volunteered earlier in the year for Harding Hustle and obtained a 50% discount), but that I would also like to volunteer before and after the event.

So, instead of just rolling up a little bit before my start at 7am, I arrived at the start at 4:30am.  I helped to set up EZ-Ups, tables, and then began checking everyone in.  I think I handed out almost every number for the 50M and 50K.

I also helped getting together supplies for the aid stations and loading them, and then I got myself ready to go.  Also joining me at the start line was Tsehay (who I helped convince drop down to the 50K), Jeffrey McKinney and Yen Darcy.  Angela Holder and Laura started earlier (for more time and to beat the heat).  I would prefer to start earlier, too, because I like to avoid the heat, too.

If we flash back to a few years ago, when the race was cancelled and then reinstated, I did a post-dawn start and only made 19 miles before I got severely overheated.

The very first hill is 6.5 miles and 2000’+ climbing.  I know I have to take it really easy.  In the beginning, I am with Yen and Tsehay, but they are actually running up the hill.  I know this course too well to be running up the hill.  If I can get to the top between 1:45 and 2:15, I will be very happy.  (1:54, awesome.)

The next section is the flattest section, with about 1000′ of climbing and 900′ of descent.  This is also the section last year where I severely twisted my ankle, so I just want to move at a respectable pace (anything under an hour for four miles).  (58 minutes, good).  I am still behind Tsehay and have not caught up to Angela (go, Angela!).

Now, the “fun” part.  This is the West Horsethief section.  I am super-familiar with this and can tell you each of the twists and turns.  Although it is significantly downhill, I know that much of it is not that run-able (more so for me because of low-hanging branches), but at least it is downhill.  My 1:16 on this section is considerably slower than the last hillier section but I make it through safely.

If you compare  my times on these first three sections to how I ran the first three sections last year, I have picked up a bit of time and am about one hour net gain at this point.

On the beginning part of Holy Jim, which is “relatively” flat, I do finally catch up with Tsehay.  She is so surprised about the difficulty of the downhill section of W. Horsethief.  She thought she would pick up all sorts of time running down the hill, but it was quite the opposite.

I told her she would have a very special celebration when she finishes the race (which is really 32.5 miles and not 31.0), because 2016 marks 32 years in the USA.  She really liked that idea.

So, now to the tough part of Holy Jim.  Three years ago, it took me 3:07 to do the 4.5 miles.  Stand alone, I have completed this section in under 2 hours.  Today, I do 1:53, but on the last scramble up to the road, I am pretty tired, and not at all ready for the next 3 miles.

I hear a familiar voice.  “C’mon, Emmett, I’m waiting for you.”  I don’t think Angela was very pleased with the expletives that ensued from my mouth, but I was in a bad mood and didn’t need encouragement.  I just wanted to get through it.  I sat down on the water bottles, drank a bunch of water, refilled my bottles and endured flies dive bombing me.  I was in the shade and they don’t venture as much into the sun, but I wasn’t about to sit in the sun.

Now, up the endless 3 miles to the summit of Santiago Peak, almost all in the sun, and almost all steep and steeper on difficult terrain.  One hour, 37 minutes.  A loss of about 10 minutes over my time last year.  (Net gain, though.)  We did get to see Laura briefly, but she is way ahead of us (because she is faster and started early).

Angela and I are still sticking together and encouraging one another.  She is going faster than I am down Upper Holy Jim, but the downhill single-track is not my greatest skill.  Still, I do better on the 3 mile section downhill than uphill (54 minutes versus 97).

On the last 6.5 miles, Angela and I mostly stay together.  I do wait with her while she takes a potty break (can’t believe they didn’t cart a port-a-potty right up to where she needed it mid-course), but after a while, her pace is a bit too slow for me, and I take off on my own.  (I do have a chance to improve upon my best course time from 4 years ago, if I press my pace a bit.)

My final time ends up being a bit slower than my up pace (surprisingly) – 1:59 – to finish in 10:34, only 10 minutes slower than my best.  (I know 10 minutes sounds like a lot, but it’s 20 seconds/mile.)

Once I am a bit more recovered, I head back a bit to meet Angela and “shepherd” her in.  I grab her hand and run in with her.  It’s a really nice moment.

For the next couple hours, I assist finishers with food and drinks, and I perform some gopher duties.  One of the most exciting moments was the finish of Randall Tolosa, who gets his first finish after 5 tries (and he didn’t start early).

Once the last finisher comes through and the drop bags come down, now I start helping with the packing up of everything – dismantling EZ-ups, tables, packing up food, etc.  As a treat, I get one of the In-N-Out Burgers they bought for the volunteers.  Even though it’s cold, it’s really good.

I get home at about midnight, so I had almost a 24-hour day.

Looking forward to next year’s event, whether I run it, volunteer at it, or both.

Boeing 5K (4) – 2016

April 11, 2016

A few events that led up to today made it this run particularly memorable.

First, on Thursday I went to the Long Beach Hash in San Pedro.  It was rainy and I had gastro problems.  I had to make a pit stop at a bathroom by the USS Iowa, and when I came out, most of the pack was gone.

I continued following the trail and when I got to the beer check, it looked like no one had been there.  I thought I might carry the beer to the end, because it probably wouldn’t be too heavy or really far, but it turned out to be over 3 miles and weigh over 20 pounds.  I was the last one in, but lauded for bringing in a nice surprise.

Saturday was the Seal Beach 5K/10K, which I had not planned to run.  Instead, I made plans with AREC Greg to run the Redbox to Kenyon Devore to Wilson and down to Redbox route, which he had not run before.

The first 4 miles went relatively well.  It was a bit wet and foggy out and even though we did not step in any puddles, the wetness of the bushes got us completely wet.

We tried to follow the West Fork trail instead of the Gabrielino Trail that Stephanie Harris and I ended up on last year, but somehow we made a wrong turn in a certain section and ended up backtracking DOWN Gabrielino to the cistern where you turn UP to head up Kenyon Devore.

This continued well under we reached the “waterfall crossing,” which is something I have crossed many times before.  It is a small waterfall crossing the trail… with a little water a few feet up and continuing down two to three feet below. So, not a major cataract.

Because I am usually not fleet of foot, I usually just jump across.  In all three iterations of Mt. Disappointment (50K, failed 50M, successful 50M), I have jumped across and gotten cramps when I reach the other side… so, this time, I thought, I’ll just walk across like a normal person.

I took one step on the slick rocks and my feet dropped out from under me.  No chance to swing my arms or try and regain my footing.  Just slipped straight down and hit pretty hard on my left elbow, right on the funny bone, right on another rock.

Since it was cold and wet out, I had Moeben sleeves on and they kept me from seeing if I was hurt badly or not.  A quick glance down the sleeve seemed to me that my skin was puffy and that I was bleeding a bit, but no need to alarm myself.

It took me a little bit to extricate myself from where I had fallen, because I was blocking the flow of water and I couldn’t push up on my left arm to get any leverage, and I certainly didn’t want to fall again.  I ended up sliding down the waterfall another foot or so (scraping up my leg through a branch on the ‘fall) so that I was at a spot where I could stand up without any leverage.

Once I was back on the trail, I needed to lie down for a bit because my adrenaline was pumping and I felt a bit faint.  A few runner-hikers passed through while I was lying there and offered up some Advil to deal with any pain.

Once I calmed down, Greg asked for the plan, because it was probably 6.5 miles down a technical trail back to the car, OR 3.5 miles up a meandering trail to the top and then 4 miles down a paved road to the car.  (Being stupid), I suggested we go to the top, because they might have first aid, plus it would be a smoother ride heading down on the road and better opportunities to sit down if I had issues (or to get a rescue).

At the top, they had a first aid kit, but no one who could administer anything in particular, so we headed down the road.  My arm hurt a little bit, but I generally felt fine.

When we got back to the car, Greg offered to drive.  This was probably for the best, because my arm was still bleeding and the roads were winding quite a bit.  While I can steer with one hand, it was probably for the best.

We wrapped my arm in the toilet paper we brought in case we had a bowel emergency and I also cupped my arm in a manila envelope, to keep the blood off of the upholstery.  We also had a couple of beach towels on each seat to keep them relatively dry.

Greg drove me the 90 minutes back to his house in Long Beach, and suggested that I might go to the hospital to see what the situation was.  I was reminded about my issue with my ankle in August last year where they told me to go to Urgent Care, but that it might be hours before I was seen.  It was a shade quicker in Harbor City, but I felt like I should go to the closest facility ASAP, which was in Downey, about 10 miles straight up Bellflower Blvd.

I got there and parked without too much difficulty and then went to go check in.  While waiting in line, one of the receptionists said I needed to see the nurse immediately because I “was dripping blood on the floor.”  She removed the envelope and TP and iced down my arm as best she could.

About 10 minutes later, I got in to see a doctor, priority one because my arm was still bleeding.  My pain level was not high but I did get a little woozy (probably out of concern, because I have little issue with blood or needles), so they put me in a wheelchair.

Then I was wheeled over to Radiology to be x-rayed.  It hurt a bit but I was not too concerned.  If it was broken, the pain should be so much more, right?

While I was waiting for my ride back to the Urgent Care waiting room, I sang Disney songs to the receptionist (Frozen was playing on the TV.).  One guy waiting with his girlfriend recognized me as volunteering at the Harding Hustle aid station on Santiago Peak.  Small world, and weird that he recognized me sitting down.

When the physician got back with me, he had a look of alarm on his face. He showed me the x-ray, which showed negative space at the end of my left elbow – two flakes of bone had chipped off the end, were floating around in my arm, and were not letting my blood clot.  I needed to be admitted for emergency surgery.  Bleh.

I wanted to get my arm wrapped up and go home and finish a project I had been working on for 6-8 hours on Friday. I had captioned the whole thing, but just needed to sync the last bit by 10am Sunday morning.  The chance was that I wouldn’t be able to do it, nor contact the company that I couldn’t get back to my computer (and all the work I put into it, well, I wouldn’t get paid for a partial project).

First, I was wheeled over to the E.R., which was super cold, and that was multiplied by the fact that I still had on a wet shirt, wet socks, wet shorts, and wet shoes.  Eventually, they got me some dry socks to put on.

I tried to call Greg or my parents or Laura, to let someone know I was OK.  Cell coverage non-existent.  Someone offered up a cell phone with a bar or two, and I left a message for my folks (but of course, they didn’t check the voicemail as it was some random SoCal number).

There was a possibility that they could do the surgery today, as I had not eaten or drank anything all day, even before midnight the day before, but when it got pushed forward to Sunday, they made me up a TV dinner (as the cafeteria was already closed) and finally got me admitted by around 9pm.

By then, I couldn’t dial out any calls on the room phone, but I was able to call Greg, my folks, and Laura on my rapidly dying phone, and let them all know I was OK, but having surgery tomorrow.

The bed was on the small side and to make matters worse, they had to put these leg “exercisers” on to keep my blood flowing.  They were hot and super noisy.  My feet weren’t comfortable and were on the bed control panel (which the night nurse did not like).  I had to keep my right arm at a certain angle, also, because that’s where the IVs were set.  They offered me some morphine, but the pain wasn’t that much and I would prefer not to take it as it will wreck some havoc with my GI system.

Didn’t really sleep all night.  Kept the TV on, and bugged the nurse a couple of times to go the bathroom and to reset the alarm when I moved my right arm too much.

Around 10am on Sunday morning, they finally came and told me to get ready for surgery. This involved finally taking off my running shorts and just having the hospital gown on.  I don’t really understand this, because you are not going anywhere near that area. Can’t I just leave them on?

They let me keep my glasses on, because I said that I would be nauseous with them off and it would make me feel better if I could pop them on when I came out of the anesthesia.

Besides, there was a bit of a wait (about an hour) between when I got to the O.R., and when the surgery took place.

I had a nice talk with both surgeons.  One is Dr. Maylene Glidewell, the Orthopaedic Surgeon, and she was bringing on the Trauma Surgeon, Dr. Huy “Wesley” Tran.  Dr. Glidewell is “old school” and had a way that she would do the surgery, and Dr. Tran is “new school” and has a braiding technique to bind the bone fragments in and have it look good.  I’m to have about 10 permanent pins in because the bones will not just grow back together where the fragments chipped out.

Dr. Tran and I talked a bit about running, as he recently completed his first Ironman triathlon.  He asked me what my next race was going to be.  I had hoped to do the Wild Wild West 50M, but that is only one month off, so I said I would like to run the Shadow of the Giants 50K in two months time. He said that I would probably be recovered by then.

I watched the Masters Golf tournament on a monitor until they were ready to do the surgery.  I didn’t fit really great on the operating table (no surprise), but much like my colonoscopy last year, all I remember is counting down and then waking up a few “minutes” later.

When I did come to, my arm was really sore, so they did give me a blocker to numb my entire arm.  Laura and Chuck came for an evening visit and said that they would get me home tomorrow as it is now too late to release me.  The hospital won’t let me drive myself home, someone has to come pick me up and take me, so because my car is here, two people have to drive me back.

I do get some dinner from the cafeteria and “sleep” as well as I did last night, with the leg exercisers and nurse helping me unplug so I can go the bathroom.

In the morning, after I get some breakfast, they say I can be released.  I call Chuck and of course, Laura has forgotten she is going to pick me up and gone off running or spinning or something.  Chuck doesn’t know where she went.  Oh, gosh, I want to go!

I call a few other people who might be home on a Monday morning who could connect with Chuck, and no one is really available (though Angela says she could come around noon, three hours from now).

Finally, I call Chuck and suggest that he make a big “show” of picking me up in front of the hospital, and drive me around to my car.  Since I have Bluetooth in the car, we will stay in contact the entire way back to my place, and we will totally stop if I am having any issues.  It’s literally 10 miles all on one street, so I am not really worried.

So, Chuck comes and picks me up… “I’ll drive the big man home.”  And then we drive over to my car, I put my stuff in the trunk and drive back to Long Beach without any problems.

When we get near the University, Chuck asks, “What do you want to do?”  See, it’s about 11:20 now.  I have two options:  1.  Go home and sit down for the rest of the day, or 2.  Keep driving down PCH and do the Boeing 5K and continue my streak.

Since I am going to be doing pretty much nothing for the next two weeks, I take the Boeing option.  Why end the streak when my feet are still working?

Nelson says I am probably the first person to come straight to the run from surgery.  Even though my legs and feet work just fine, it is still slow going, because I need to support my arm (also in a sling) because it hurts a bit.

On a couple of occasions, I worry that I will be able to finish, and finally, I decide to turn around… OK, it was at the 5K turnaround.

My time is 55 minutes, which is a tie for my personal worst 5K, set when I “ran” the 5K two days after running a 100-mile race.

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I may yet reach 100 consecutive Boeing 5Ks!

Rahl-Rose Quintennial 5K – 2016

March 7, 2016

Drove back to Long Beach on Sunday in order to make it back for my birthday race with Todd Rose and friends.

Today was also the day I had set aside to go car shopping, as I have to take the rental car back tomorrow.

I did my shopping on TrueCar and found the make and model of the car I wanted and printed out the offer sheet, then drove over to the dealer that had that car, which happened to be in Torrance.

I actually parked over at Trader Joe’s figuring that I would get a sandwich for lunch, because I had not eaten anything all day and would be hungry prior to the 5K.

I got to the dealership at 10am, test drove the car, and then worked on all the paperwork.  There were a few snafus, including them charging $50 more (despite saying that the TrueCar price was the actual price – they refunded me a month later when I asked), and wasted my time with detailing packages and dicking around with the warranties.

Since I still had the rental, the salesman drove my car – Hyundai Sonata Sport – back to Long Beach.  By the time everything was settled, it was 5:45pm… barely enough time to go and mark the turnaround on the course.  Fortunately, I had stopped and got a Cuban Pork sandwich at TJ’s.

By the time I got back to the BBC parking lot, a few people were already there.  Not as many people as I’d hoped, probably because it was so cold and windy, but we still got 20 brave souls.

I made special commemorative bibs for everyone, small bibs for “new” folks, and big bibs for Legacies (who ran in 2006 and 2011) and for Todd and myself.  Two Legacies did not make it – Tam and Zack.  Laura and Chuck did make it back for a third consecutive run (guess they’ll move up to Numbers 1 and 2 if we have another event).  Todd had Number 49, and I had Number 45.

Normally, I would not run any race post ultra, because my muscles and their microtears have not had a chance to repair themselves.  But this is a special deal.

This was reminiscent of 2006 where you couldn’t even talk because it was so windy, and everyone ran negative splits.

Immediately, four of us went out pretty fast, but I could not hold on with Tom, JT, and Brian Conboy, but they got me off to a fast start.

There was certainly wind swirling around and there were sections of the pedestrian path which were totally covered by sand (and one section with a paved path to tiptoe through).

The Bensons caught me around the turnaround.  I let Emily go.  Even if she doesn’t run a PR, I don’t need to go that fast.  I also let Ralph pass me.  Maybe I have a chance to comeback on him if I have anything left.

Just before the pier, Todd catches up to me. (This race is never close, but I always make a go of it, so to see Todd less than a mile from the end… well, this is a close race now.)  He says that he has nothing left.  I’ve been at “nothing left” for most of the run and I am positive that I cannot catch him.

Well, and especially because it’s a slight uphill to the pier, a couple of bends and then a downhill finish.  I think I might be able to catch Ralph, though, and do, just before the finish.

Because of the wind, I am 13 minutes out and 10 minutes back.  Todd beats me by just 12 seconds this time.  Five more years before I can try again.

Afterwards, we head inside the BBC for some post-race refreshments.  One Long Beach Crude and that’s it for me.

So happy birthday to me and Todd and welcome to the family, my beautiful cobalt blue Sonata!

Mt. Disappointment 50M (?) – 2007

August 11, 2007

Today is my big test for being able to do the 50 miler and marathon on back-to-back days.  Mt. Disappointment should prove to be WAY harder than the course I am doing in December (10-15 times the elevation change)… but I need to remember what it is to run 50 miles.

At the start, the conditions are not ideal… it’s already about 75 degrees out… and the race is not starting on time.  The RD says that he will give us some extra time at the end, but the problem is that we won’t get much in the way of cool temperatures to get ourselves going.

For the first section, which is the descent off Wilson, plus the crest over Mt. Disappointment itself, I take at a mild pace and feel OK.

On the second section, from Redbox to the bottom of Josephine, again, I am pacing conservatively and feel decent when I get to the base.  Of course, much of this section is shaded, so I am not yet feeling the “heat,” so to speak.

Once I start heading up Josephine, the temperature is in the mid-80s.  I remember how bad it had been 3 weeks earlier, so I decided that I would walk the entire hill and walk like it wasn’t important to get to the top – it was… but I was trying to keep cool and stay relaxed.  Unfortunately, I still felt overheated at the top of the hill and hurried into the shade for some protection.

The next part of this section is Strawberry Saddle.  It starts about 2 miles descent from the top of Josephine.  I felt OK on this transition section but really struggled up Strawberry.  It’s a red surface and it reflected a lot of heat back onto me.  I finally had to sit down, take off my hat and try to get myself back to a normal heart-rate and not feel like I was about to pass out.

A number of people I know passed by me and didn’t realize it was me.  Hwa-Ja said, “I have never seen the top of your head.”  A few people gave me Blox and Sharkees (?) and said they would let the Redbox aid station know that I was struggling and coming soon.  Once someone poured some water over my head, I felt a lot better and continued down to Redbox.

When I got there, they tagged me as “the guy who is going to drop out.”  I said, “What?  No.”  I just needed a break.  ‘Don’t feel bad about dropping,’ they said.  I said, “I don’t feel bad, because I am not dropping.  I am still pretty far ahead of the cutoff – 2 hours – and I am going to sit here and relax for a bit, drink a bunch of water and continue.”

They mentioned, as I left, that I could always opt for the 50K distance when I got to Westfork Station.  I said I would consider it, if I was falling behind the cutoff times… but when I got to Westfork, I was STILL 2 hours ahead of the cutoff, so I decided to forge ahead on the 50M course.

Just ahead of me was another 50 miler competitor.  I slowly caught up to her and we continued together for a bit.  Her name was Summer Wesson, and she had recently been in a car accident and was occasionally blacking out during her runs (I remembered some of the earlier single track and worried about her safety.).  Both of us vowed that we were going to finish this freaking race, ‘no matter what.’  (Basically they would have to drag our lifeless corpses from the course to stop us.  Dramatic, I know.)

The section out of Westfork is mostly shaded and a lot of uphill.  I just took it easy and reached the next aid station about 90 minutes ahead of cutoff.  There is a small out-and-back section here of about 1.5 miles (and you mark your bib with the pen at the turnaround to prove you were there).  On my way back, I suffered really severe cramps… and my shoe inserts had turned around inside my shoes.  Yow.

When I got back to the aid station, the cramps were gone, but I still needed my shoes adjusted.  I worried that if I sat down and tried to do it myself, I would cramp, so I asked the volunteer if he would assist me in sorting out my shoes… but the minute he touched my foot, I cramped up from the tips of my toes, to my waist.

I ended up spending around 45 minutes at the aid station, with a VERY nice volunteer cleaning, then massaging my feet (and I drank a lot of water and consumed a lot of salt to help with the cramping).  Then they said that I’d better get going because the cutoffs were going to be a whole lot closer.

The next section, to Shortcut, is 9 miles long.  Three miles downhill (with about 1000′ loss), and then six miles uphill (and 2000′ gain).  The downhill section is extremely technical, rocky as all get out.. and I worried about cramping if I stumbled too much… but I had to basically run down the hill to bank time for the uphill climb.

The uphill section was unbelievably difficult… not as technical, but there was no shade of any kind and by now, the temperature was close to 110 degrees.  I could not cool off at all.  And I was continuing to cramp.

Around this time, the sweeps caught up with me.  They were removing the ribbons and picking up any trash or planted water bottles.  They (Lonnie and Andrea (an Italian guy)) stayed with me and encouraged me to keep going.  I entertained them (when I could) by singing Italian folk songs that I knew.

The going was extremely slow and I feared I would not make the cutoff.  According to what I could remember, we had 11 hours and 30 minutes to get to Mile 41.  I estimated that I reached Mile 38 in 12-1/2 hours.  So… no good.

DNF (did not finish)-ing is one of the more devastating results in race.  I think there are people that are satisfied with making the attempt, and a DNF is an option always.  Then there are those of us who will finish at any cost (maybe even messing up one’s body by using a muscle, limb or body part that needs to recover) or find that umpteenth gear to push through and get there… but no amount of pleading was going to get me out of this one.

I had to accept it.   Summer had to accept it.  And the gal who collapsed on the trail (who Summer had stopped to help) unconsciously accepted it.  (I think that Summer would still have DNFed, even without helping the troubled runner.)

I got back to the start/finish and waited for my friend Ben Gaetos (to conserve parking spots, I had carpooled up with him from the 210 freeway) to finish, and also looked at the results of Laura, Chuck and Todd Fanady.

** Laura… well, her health was bad that day… and she didn’t start (so her result was equivalent to mine).

** Chuck finished 7:25.  That’s reasonable… but not great coming from a guy who had done a tough trail marathon in under 4 hours.

** Todd Fanady finished in 9:25.  My time in 2006 was 8:55 and Todd is a MUCH better runner than I am.

Ben came finished under the time limit.  Today… that was all that mattered.  However, he felt horrible – maybe worse than I felt because he had done the additional 12 miles.  He was fading in and out of consciousness… which was bad news for a hairpin turn-filled mountain drive… so I drove down, but my lanky legs kept hitting the nightlamps and plunging us into darkness… on the hairpin turns… as my legs were cramping.

There are lessons to be learned from this race.  I know that one is that I have to figure out how to deal with the cramping.  Eating a lot of Clif Shot or salt doesn’t totally do the trick, but I don’t know what does.

This leaves me more than a little concerned about my December adventure.  I am hoping that the weather is cooler and that I don’t cramp as much… but now I am less confident that I can even finish a 50-miler… much less a 50-miler AND a marathon in consecutive days.