Tag Archives: Marisa

Way Too Cool 50K – 2019

March 2, 2019

Finally I have come to the running of my 100th ultramarathon.  It seems quite crazy that I have done 100.  If the races were all marathons, that would be 2,620 miles of runs (but some have been 50, 62, and 100 miles).

When the lottery opened up, I appealed to friends that might be interested in running “with” me.  (I certainly don’t expect anyone to slog with me, but enjoy them being there.)  I had two takers – Eddie Hahn, my hasher friend who had never done a non-loop ultra; and Alan Sheppard (special thanks to his wife for letting him come).  Anthony Fagundes is also here but not because of me.

Also leading up to today, I had done 100 shout-outs to people who I met or helped me during my ultra running career (essentially one a day, but got started a little late, so not 100 separate posts).  It’s nice to think back and reflect on all the wonderful people who have supported me over the past 17 years.

Alan drove up with me Friday to Oakland.  We tried to get Ed to come with us, but he has one of his kids with him and it’s just not practical to come with us.  We have a nice dinner at my sister’s house – a nice homemade lasagna.52945522_10218046064203920_1515880094051074048_o
Mini E and cake topper

Alan and I left really early Saturday morning (before 5am) to get up to Cool with plenty of time (and not a horrible parking spot – doesn’t matter in the morning, but sucks to limp a mile back to the car afterwards).  The weather looks like it’s going to dump lots of rain on us and it’s already rained a lot, so I expect the trails to be super muddy.

We made pretty good time and got an okay parking spot (about a 1/4 mile away).  We go to pick up our bibs.  I’m expecting to get my usual number in the low 600s (alphabetically assigned), but to my surprise, they gave number 100!  (I had sent an e-mail to the RD telling them that I was excited that Cool would be my 100th ultra, but didn’t ask for any special treatment.)

Once we had our numbers, commemorative black WTC buffs and soft green shirts, we head back to the car to drop off our loot and figure out a way for Alan to access his stuff should he finish before me.  We then head back to hang by the start line, get some pictures, and prepare to run.  Ed has made it and is super chatty about our differences in number of marathons (he has 200) and number of ultras (he has one), and other stuff.

51729458_2440185632658340_3345374143095767040_n (1)Alan, Ed, me, and Alan (mostly) bundled up.

For the first section of the race, it’s a 8 mile loop away and back to Cool, starting with 1.5 miles of downhill on a paved road (by the car).  Alan and Ed stay with me initially and then Alan takes off, leaving me with the talkative Ed.  There is a funny moment when he is rambling on about some race story and I slowed up a bit, leaving him to talk to nobody, I thought, but then the gal next to him engaged in the conversation.  (With all the single-track coming up, I do need to concentrate a little bit.

As soon as we get off the road, it’s a steep downhill path to the first big water crossing.  It’s not really raining hard, but there is a bit of a line to get across because the water is fairly deep.  I’m expecting the standard 100+ water crossings and probably 20-25 in the first eight miles.  The weather is clearing up a little bit, but the cloud cover is convincing me that I don’t want to spend any time pulling off my windbreaker only to have to put it back on if and when it starts raining.

It’s pretty muddy out here but I am keeping under the necessary pace of 16:00/mile, and I usually do my best in the first section regardless of the water levels.  Just as we get back to the Cool Fire Station (probably in the last mile), the rain starts coming down harder (glad I kept my windbreaker on).

Now we head out of Cool, down long muddy switchbacks, heading towards the first Highway 49 crossing.  In this second, I am passed by loads of people, because downhill mud running with lots of roots and rocks, and running water, is not my forte.  My goal is to finish AND remain upright.  Falling is not a good option for me.

After a couple of years of this new course, I finally am not expecting an aid station right after the highway crossing.  It’s about 20 minutes further down the road.  In this section, I am doing a combination of walking and running.  This is less about being tired and more about preparing to summit some of the upcoming hills (and keeping my heart rate lower).

I keep going back and forth with a few people.  One person that stands out to me is another tall runner, and Quintin and I spend a few miles walk/jogging and talking with each other.  He’s a decade older than I am (and only a few inches shorter).  It’s nice to do the distance with someone who has similar stride and a similar ultra running history.  (He seems a little crazier than I am.)  We do get to a point where he wants to run a little faster (or get away from my rambling) and he ends up finishing 10 minutes ahead of me.

I lose quite a bit of time in the section leading up to A.L.T.  Probably the toughest part is one of the water crossings where I try to follow someone crossing (at probably the deepest point) and only later notice flags marking the best way across (focused too deeply on the ground and not tripping, I guess).

The downhill leading to the aid station is EXTREMELY muddy and slippery.  I have to take it slowly, but the person right behind me just comes down the hill at full speed, slips, and has to grab onto a small pine tree to keep from overshooting the aid station.  Hey, buddy, we still have 10+ miles to go.  Don’t hurt yourself!

I am still slightly ahead of pace to finish the race, but don’t want to miss that overall cutoff and get a DNF, so I grab a few food snacks and head out immediately.  From my memory banks, this is the section that seems to go on forever and culminates with the Goat Hill climb (which is tough).

First, the big water crossing and then the zigzag of single-track back and forth, up and down, out of the tree cover, and finally across the bridge.  At this point, I have counted nearly 100 water crossings and my feet have been wet since Mile 2.

Once you cross the wooden bridge, it’s a short muddy slog uphill to the fire road.  I am gratified that they’ve done the repairs to this road so that we don’t climb up to Goat Hill twice like we did one year.  Nonetheless, it’s still a tough climb at this stage in the race.  At least it’s not muddy; the red dirt seems to absorb more of the rain than the other surfaces.

Unfortunately, the solid surface ends just after the Goat Hill aid station and the endless mud continues on the (mostly) downhill trail on the way back to the second Highway 49 crossing.  I want to make up some time on this section but need to take it easy.  My sort-of favorite section is here where the trail travels in between blackberry bushes and the trail is always under water.  While this seems like a strange favorite, hey, my feet are already wet, and it’s always more interesting for something non-standard (even though this is my 16th time through here).

Now I’m getting close.  Certain landmarks stick out to me, like hearing a few cars on the Highway, seeing the quarry, and spotting the aid station tent across the road from a distance.  Once I know I’m on the homestretch, I feel much more assured that I can finish under the time limit.  I hit Mile 30 in 7:49, which means I have 41 minutes to finish the last 1.4 miles.  Pretty sure I have that in me.

I never stop at the last aid station, but do offer my thanks to the volunteers that are there.  Now it’s a long slog up a gentle waterfall through mud back into Cool.

As I get to the final two straightaways, it is a muddy mess.  It hearkens back to a few years ago where my friend lost her shoe in the last 100 yards of this race.  While today it isn’t shoe-sucking, it is extremely slippery and treacherous.

I end up finishing about 16 minutes under the time limit in 8:13:49.  Anthony could have run the course twice (and then some) in the time it took me.  Alan finished a skosh under 6 hours and Ed finished in 7:02.  We have a brief celebration at the finish line, but it’s best to hurry back to Oakland to enjoy a rib dinner and early (birthday) cake with Alan and Marisa’s German chorus homestays.

Alan and I finish off the weekend with a trip to Oakland Chinatown and take out dim sum at Tao Yuen.

Moving forward, ultra-wise, I don’t have milestones to hit, but my plan is not to stop at 100 or cut back in any manner.  I have already signed up for Wild Wild West 50M in a couple months and hope to run Skyline 50K again in August and do my 10th High Desert (aka Ridgecrest) 50K in December.

I think I read somewhere that most ultra athletes only do races for about 2 years before getting burned out.   I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I am cognizant that I am hitting a bit of a slowdown in terms of pace, and I also realize that to avoid long-lasting injury, I need to embrace this slower pace.

I look forward to getting caught up and doing run posts in real-time (and not a year in the past), and thus be able to tell stories about both the trails and the people I meet during this sport that I have enjoyed for 100 completed races.

Hong Kong Trail 50K (DNF) – 2018

October 20, 2018

I was very excited to enter into this race once Marisa and I had planned a trip to Hong Kong, a special chance to run an ultra outside of the U.S.  In between signing up and going, I broke my wrist and impaired my chances of finishing, but I still wanted to give it a go.

There were a number of logistical issues in getting to this event.  The first was dealing with jet lag (but I did have a few days).  Next was picking up my bib from the random location off of Queen’s Road East (and then climbing a narrow staircase).  The final difficulty was getting to the race start, which was at the top of the Peak Tram.  Because of the early hour, we couldn’t just ride the ferry across and walk up (waste of energy anyway), because no public transportation before 6am and the start was at 7.

So, we got up super early and caught a cab over.  We had some difficulty finding where to catch the cab and then to actually find a cab at that early hour.  It was a quick and interesting drive, since we ALWAYS walk to the top.

It was extremely cold and windy at the top (so much so they had trouble putting the inflatable start line up).  Marisa came with me with the intent that she would go have breakfast afterwards and then go off hiking on her own.  Marisa and I have already gone hiking (we kept it under 16 miles (!) yesterday) and we saw part of the course (maybe the first 2 miles), so she will backtrack a little bit and take some photos.

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I ran into a couple of HK hashers that I know, but they are only doing the 25K, but maybe I will see them on the course.

The race starts a little late and it is a good sized group, a lot larger than I expected.  This is somewhat alarming as I know we are going on the Morning Trail which is not super wide and know there is some upcoming single track.  From the get-go, we go from 20 people wide to about 6 wide in 10 yards, a bit dangerous.  I am towards the back anyway.

Morning Trail follows the edge of the Peak around on the Hong Kong Harbour side.  Fortunately, I took a good look at the view yesterday, because today I will have to concentrate on the ground.

At the spot where the Morning Trail levels out (from the uphill side), Marisa is there, snapping my photo.  The trail continues along the Hong Kong Trail, which is more single-track and begins a lot of uneven and narrow stairs.  I am towards the back so there are not too many people harassing me to hie down the stairs.  I do feel uncomfortable moving so slowly, because there are some time cutoffs.  (I didn’t count the stairs but I have heard there were over 1500!)

The views are amazing (now on the Aberdeen side), but I mostly cannot look up, but it is interesting to be on a remote trail and then be able to view a busy highway/city over the edge of a cliff.

Once I get to the bottom of the hill, we roam around over to the first aid station which has oranges and water.  I refill my bottles because I really need to get going.  (I am confused because I can’t believe I am moving so slowly; I think I will struggle to make the cutoff.)

After all of the downhill and stairs, now there is a bunch of steep uphills (paved) and the humidity has increased markedly, and I am struggling.  I also have on my wrist brace, so the humidity is not helping keep that area dry.  The few people around me are motivating (usually my role) and I am semi-receptive to it (as evidenced by the fact that I sit for awhile and ignore cajoling to continue).

At the point when I get to leaving the trail and heading out on the street towards the mid-point and second aid station, I can see on my watch that I am very close to the cutoff.  (Wish I knew how far I had to go in how much time!)  I can push it a little more because I am on paved downhill and not stairs.

When I get to the park, I ask if I can continue and they say, Yes, but when I start to head out, they pull me back and say that I missed the cutoff.  I am semi-bummed, only because I am so tired due to the humidity.

There isn’t really anything to eat here (because I am not a finisher) but I do chat very briefly with the winner (yes, the 50K guy is ALREADY done) and this is his first 50K and he is cramping pretty badly (but they give him liquid potassium).

I pull out my phone and try to phone Marisa to see where she is at; she is en route to Stanley and surprised I am contacting her.  I tell her about my failure and make plans to meet her in Stanley, because I can catch a bus from here that goes directly to Stanley (in fact, I end up on the bus just behind her bus).

As you know from some of my prior posts, I have DNF’ed a number of events.  I do not like failing to finish, but sometimes you are not ready and sometimes things happen that make finishing extra difficult, and I assume as I get older and slower, I will either DNF more regularly or not enter in those events that I know I cannot finish.

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Postscript:  About a year later, Marisa and I attempted to hike Parts one and two of the Hong Kong Trail.  Although the humidity was better, it is still difficult, and Marisa was like, WTF? and we ended up stopping after Part one with the idea of maybe revisiting it in the future (we still have seven parts to go).

Skyline 50K – 2018

August 5, 2018

Leading up to Skyline 50K, I have been having trouble sleeping, sore back, sore knees, and feel that I am not ready for the race. (A note in my running log says that a previous occurrence of this set of feelings lasted a good four to six weeks before resolving itself (through more rest or what?).)

My goals for the weeks leading into the race were “less intensity runs on my knees,” “get more sleep,” and “try to make it through Skyline in one piece!”

I drove up Friday morning so that my sister and I could attend the opening night performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Woodminster.  It was a better show than last year (average singing of South Pacific) and it was all we could do to not sing along because we used to listen to the Broadway recording tape in the car over and over and over again.

On Saturday, I took a nap, ate my favorite (Tao Yuen) dim sum, and saw Christopher Robin (wondering when MoviePass is going out of business so taking advantage).

My plan is to get up earlier Sunday so that I can avail myself of the early start, and have that extra hour to make it through the event.

There are a dozen or so of us making the early start.  I think if you are a first-time ultra runner and tend on the slower side, you should definitely take advantage of any early start you can get.  The extra benefit is that while people will be passing you, it isn’t like you get passed by everyone from the get-go and then are by yourself for the majority of the race… you never quite work your way that far back (unless you don’t finish).

The course is just about the same as last year, up by the suspension bridge (but not over, boo!), up Marciel Road, down by the golf course, and then working over to the Stream Trail and up to Skyline Gate.

This “new” course has the turnaround closer to halfway (usually Skyline Gate is about 14 miles in with a longer (17) return), so while I’m used to having up to 4 hours to get here, the new standard is 4.5 hours for 16.1 miles (with a shorter return).  I make it here in 3:43, so plenty of time.

I am also gratified to see that Myrrh is here to join me for part of the run (or walk as I am eating and talking).  Myrrh consistently does some of this trail for a nice hike (I have done it with her, too.) so she knows where to step and not stumble.  It’s nice to have a “pacer” for a mile or so, before I turn off onto the French Trail.

From French Trail to all but the last 3 miles or so, is the section where I always seem to lose a lot of time and get bogged down, where I stumble and stub my toes, where I see few people (except those itching to get past me because I started an hour before them).  The one good thing about this is my language is quite colorful, at its tamest asking for certain rocks to be smote by lightning!

At just about the last aid station, I ended up getting into a conversation with someone moving at a similar pace to me.  Her name is Amanda Ferguson, 40, and she attended Miramonte High School (which is or was in my school’s athletic division), so we have a nice talk through to almost the end of the race.  (If you look at the results, she did beat me by 1 hour, 4 minutes, cuz she started at the regular time.)

If you follow my results, you’ll notice that my time got slower from last year, but given how my knees and back have felt the past month or so, I am happy with 7:48.

The extra cool thing about this race was that some of us had chatted with the RD several months back when he had proposed maybe getting a medal for finishers (even though Skyline has never given out a medal) and many of us suggested something for multiple finishers.

So, they are still working on the higher quantities, but anyone with 5 finishes got a nice stacked “wood-le” (a medal but made of wood) with a promise to get whatever higher amount at the Christmas award ceremony (or next year, when I come back).  Today was my 11th Skyline 50K, and I also met Joe Swenson who was finishing his 19th Skyline today.

Race is Tomorrow

March 1, 2019

1.  My Family

So, as far as I know, I have not yet convinced any of my family (yet) to even attempt an ultramarathon, but without my family, I would not ever have had the courage to start.

For the most part, my family does not come to my runs, but I think this is more practicality than disinterest.  What are you to do for hours and hours?  Drive around the course to spot me for a minute?  Go to the finish and hope that the timing didn’t miss me by a few minutes or get stuck there for hours?  It’s almost better to be patient and then listen intently to the excited post-race blow-by-blow.

However, there are a few family stories regarding my ultra adventures that I would like to tell.

In 2003, I did the Santa Barbara 9 Trails 35M.  It was the Saturday of Thanksgiving Weekend which I spent with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Carpinteria.  I handed them a map the night before and said, “Here are some places where you could meet me,” knowing they wouldn’t meet me.  I struggled a lot in this race, and ended up finishing in 14:06:35.  (My pre-race projected finish was 8 hours.)  About 30 minutes after I finished, my cousins Daniel and Morgan drove up.  They had called because I hadn’t returned in 10 or 11 hours, and tried to time out my finish (“You have [timed it] poorly.”), but I was grateful that they got to celebrate my success with me.

In 2007, I did my “dumb-ass double” of Sunmart 50M and Dallas White Rock Marathon on consecutive days, but some extra coordination by my folks to make it happen.  First, I flew into Dallas, someone drove me to the marathon expo, then to pick up a rental car.  On Saturday, after running 50M and driving four hours back to Dallas, my folks prepared me an ice bath, so that I could somehow recover in one night, and then drove me to the race in the morning (despite my saying that, hmm, didn’t know if I really wanted to run a marathon after all), and then picked me up amidst terrible traffic post-marathon (the waiting around alluded to above).

In 2015, when I am ran my 100th marathon or ultra at Skyline 50K, my family surprised me by meeting me at Mile 14.  Their timing is really close, which means my nephew Reagan hangs with me until my sister can park her car, so I am just standing around (but with one of my top two favorite nephews).

For the past three years, also at Skyline, Marisa has met me at Mile 14 (Skyline Gate) and walked/shuffled with me until I turn off on the French Trail.  It’s a decently short drive from her house and something to really look forward to (plus the past couple years, we have hiked some of the trail the day before the race).

In October 2018, Marisa and I took a trip to Southeast Asia with an ultra included.  While she could have just made different plans for the day, she endured finding a taxi with me at 5:30am (the day after we arrived) and going up to the start with me and hanging out in the cold, and then hiking around to a vista point and cheering me on.  Afterwards, when I did not finish (DNF), I was able to communicate with her and connect, because she went hiking and shopping in the general vicinity.

Most recently, about 3 weeks ago, I was in the Bay Area for my 99th ultra in Marin County.  As usual, I stayed with my folks in Oakland.  We were briefly discussing the race at the dinner table and Mom said, “Are you a little nervous that it has 6,000 feet of climbing?”  I had to laugh, because after 98 ultras, she was checking out the details of my race.

My family has always been my greatest support, whether it is moral or the occasional joining me for a short walk mid-course.  Maybe if I can convince them that an ultra is just a long day hike, they will be in.  So thanks and love to Mom, Dad, Riva, Marisa, Evan, Reagan, Dan, Rae, Rolfe, Norma, Robert, Susan, Cheri, Daniel, Henry, Roz, Tom, Morgan, Tyler, Roy, Adam, Robin, Jeremy, Desiree, Pat, Tim, Frankie, Wade, Mack, Ruby, Will, and Clare.  Hope to see you in my future ultra endeavors.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2018

March 3, 2018

I’m back once again in Northern California for Way Too Cool.  In case you haven’t read all my posts, my first ultramarathon was Cool (slightly different course) in 2002, just after my 31st birthday.  Today marks my 15th Cool.  (I missed a couple due to there being a lottery that I didn’t win.)

Since the beginning of the year, I have started to feel some back and knee issues, so I have had to moderate my training and also moderate the way I run (more stiffly is a way I’d describe it).

I drove up on Thursday to stay with my folks in Oakland.  Not only was the drive super rainy, but there was a HUGE accident on 580 between Livermore and Oakland (like it took 90 minutes to drive 3 miles) and that caused even more distress to my legs (being trapped in the car that whole time).

I did get a better start on Saturday (in driving up to Cool).  Last year, I can recall being one of the last people let in to park and being at least a mile down the road from the start.  This year, I was more like 40 cars down from the start, so I didn’t feel bad about walking my shirt and stuff back after picking it up and feeling like I would be wasting energy.

I saw some familiar faces at the start, including Rafael Covarrubias (returning after being a bit burnt out on Ultrarunning), Linda McFadden (from Modesto who I see at a lot of these), and “Tahoe Bob” Gilbert.  Bob is from my original GVH running club and always did a lot of the ultras and over the years got to be a lot better than I did.  He has just returned to ultrarunning after battling lymph node cancer.  Wow, these ultrarunners are strong!

Once again, I am in the second wave, though the waves seem to be a little smaller.  (I think everyone got in through the lottery that wanted to run, so there are maybe 1000 competitors this year rather than 1200.)

Last year, I fairly went all out on the paved portion, but this year I moderate my pace but try and maintain an even pace both uphill and downhill.  The result is that when I get to the trail portion, I am roughly in between the really fast folks and the really slow ones.  This is for the best as I don’t want people tripping me up down the rocky downhills and also want to avoid getting stuck in long lines through the water crossings.

It hasn’t started to rain yet, but I do have my AREC windbreaker on, because rain is definitely threatening.  The course is certainly on the muddy side (but not treacherously muddy) and the usual water crossings are shin to knee deep, but not rushing water.

I do pretty well on the single track portion, somewhat in the front of a long line (better so that I don’t trip) and continue in the front until it widens out somewhat and I can easily pull to the side and keep walking uphill.  There are a few muddy sections here and even moving off the trail to get better traction, I am still slipping on the grass.

Just as we get to the section where we are paralleling the road back to the firehouse at the start, it starts to rain.  I am pretty happy that I kept my windbreaker on (lots of people pulled their outer coats off because they got hot – I figured I could wait for a bit).  It rains pretty substantially, but it didn’t really make the course wetter or muddier than it already was.

As I am coming through the chute at Mile 8, I am cheered on by Anthony Fagundes.  (Cool was HIS first ultramarathon last year, but he is not able to run right now.  Some young fast person’s ailment probably.)  It is nice to hear your name in a sea of runners (where most all are friendly, but no one knows your name).

I come through in 1:40, or about 12:30 per mile.  Already I am feeling some discomfort in my knee, but I can push on in the flat sections and modify my stride to make it work in the uphill and downhill sections.

Next is the section I am somewhat dreading, because it is lots of muddy, rocky, technical downhill.  Downhill is not my strength and also doesn’t feel great on a sore knee.  Lots of the folks who were behind me and struggling on the earlier section are busting by me on this section.  The rain has let up and I can see some rays of sunlight peeking through the clouds, but I don’t think I’ll take off my jacket, yet.

This is a short section (3.1 miles is what my pace sheet says) but after crossing the Highway, there is really only a Port-A-Potty here.  I think they removed one of the aid stations!

So, there is another 4.4 miles on a mostly flat, lightly graveled path along the river.  I am doing some running and some brisk walking.  There is also a bit of sunshine and a bit of hail.  (Yes, hail in the sunshine.)

When the steep uphill section does come, I do my zigzag approach to lessen the strain on my knee.  I think it helps and probably also annoys the people around me, but I am not crashing into them on a definitive path, but moderating to hit the edges when they are not there (I am faster so it’s easier to avoid them.).

According to my watch, I went 7.4 miles in 70 minutes.  Hmm… I don’t think so, so either the map was off or I am secretly running at a 5K pace and I just don’t feel it.  I mean, I am amazing, but not THAT amazing.

Now, there is a lot of single track, hills, and other fun stuff.  My knee is really bugging me, and my feet, too.  Just really sore and I am feeling every rock that seems to puncture my shoe (but I must be descended from the title character in The Princess and the Pea… I think I even stepped on a pea and it was excruciating!).

When I get to the aid station at 21 miles, now my watch says I did 5.5 miles in 2 hours (Hmm… that’s not right either, but I am thinking that I did 13 miles in 3 hours.  That COULD make sense.)

Just as I am descending the hill into the aid station here, an older guy comes tearing down the hill (not a hill to be tearing down unless you are leading the race, and none of us are).  He flies through the air, tries to grab onto a tree for balance, flips off the trail, and rolls down the hill and lands somewhat at my feet.  (Ow.)    By the way, I came down the hill fairly gingerly so as not to do that.

But, I stopped in my tracks, leaned over and helped him to his feet.  Courtesy wins every time here.

From this aid station, it’s now back onto what used to be the old course, with the deep water crossing, lots of winding single track, maybe 20 water crossings (most less than 3 feet across), with the final one being the wooden bridge.

I am dreading this next section as last year, the road was washed out, and we essentially had to climb Goat Hill twice (once to bypass the road and once to climb the actual trail).  Fortunately, it looks like the road is still there, so only one climb of the dreaded Goat Hill.  Sadly, no Helen or Norm Klein at the top, but there are the usual “Burma Shave” signs to annoy me as I get closer and my knee bugs me more and more.

16 years ago, I got here in 5:30 or so, lamenting my worst marathon ever.  And today, I am at 6:30:41, which is certainly not my worst marathon split, but an hour slower a decade-and-a-half later (worst marathon split is around 10 hours, if you’re wondering (in a 35 miler not long after the 5:30 marathon split)).

From the top of Goat Hill, it is some single-track and some double-track, but mostly downhill on treacherous terrain and some of it muddy and some of it running water muddy… and some of it through treacherous running muddy water.  While this is hard on my knees, I really love this section.

When I get to the road, I’ve covered it in 58 minutes (3.6 miles) or a little over 16 minutes a mile.  Now I have a little over an hour to complete the last mile and a half and finish under the 8:30 time limit (ha ha).

I almost never stop at this final aid station because it’s so close to the end (also, they are almost always cleaning up by the time I get there).

I pass a few people on the uphill despite not feeling my best, tromp through all the puddles, talk with a few people doing their first ultramarathon (good choice).

I run into the wind through the mud and finish in 7:50:12, probably my worst finish here, but you know what, a finish is a finish.

No Sufferfest Beer this year, but I did have a glass of SLO beer with a mango taste to it.  Also got my requisite Frog cupcake and minestrone soup and a couple of Subway sandwiches, including a few to eat later in Oakland.

The next day, Sunday, Myrrh and I prepared some of the dishes that we learned in Asia last month while we watched the Oscar telecast with the family.

And then I drove back to Southern California on Monday.

You know, since I have now finished 93 ultramarathons, I wonder if I could time it so that I run my 100th at Way Too Cool next year.  Maybe I’ll make that my plan.

Piedmont Turkey Trot 5K – 2017

November 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlands 50M – 2017

September 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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However, to me, muddier means softer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Skyline 50K – 2017

August 6, 2017

Today I am doing my 10th Skyline 50K.  Who knew that when I started doing LONG distance racing that I would have two 50Ks that I would reach double digits on?

As per my usual, I drive up early on Friday morning, even though Skyline is on Sunday.  This, at least, allows me to have a day of recovery from the drive before I do the race.  Mom and Dad are out of town, but I still have Marisa to hang with.

We spend part of Friday hiking the French and Stream trails (not last-minute training, I swear) and the evening watching South Pacific at Woodminster.  (36 years ago, I appeared in South Pacific as Jerome with Piedmont Light Opera Theatre.  Apparently, this production couldn’t get a male youth who could sing so they just had two girls (who can’t really sing anyway).)

On Saturday, I mostly just hung out, did some laundry, etc.

My new (ish) ultra buddy, Alan Sheppard, is going to run the race as well.  We had talked about driving up together, but he ended up doing a road trip with his family and are staying with his wife’s relatives in Alameda.  However, since we have an early start tomorrow, we have co.ordinated for Alan to be dropped off here.  He will spend the night (slumber party!) and then we will drive together to the race in the morning.  His family will probably meet him at the finish line (after they are awake).  I have no illusions that we will run together, since he seems to be much faster without heavy shoes weighing him down.

As with last year, a slightly different course than in the past.  I was a little disappointed last year when we took the suspension bridge route and bypassed it… twice.  It does look like (from the course map) that we are going to go through there again, and I hope that we go across the actual bridge at least once.

A nice drive in the morning and we get a pretty good parking space on the street and walk down and check in.  I see a lot of the usual suspects, like Meg Cheng (neither of us starting early) and just a number of random folks that I see here every year (or random people that recognize me from somewhere).

At the start, I am kinda hoping that they will acknowledge my 10th running, but at least when I was running my 100th marathon or ultra a few years back, they did give me Bib #100.

The opening section is around 2 miles of undulating paved road and I try to maintain a decent pace throughout this section (as I know I will slow off-road).  There is a line when I get to the suspension bridge (which means we’re going over it), a little bit of a bottleneck.  I don’t mind waiting because I get to run over the bouncy bridge.

On the other side, we begin the uphills (the new course from last year that I didn’t really like that much), and I just continue to maintain until the aid station at the top.  Happy with my 12:05 pace, but know that I can’t hope to maintain that pace.

The trail continues to follow the same route as last year, with single track traverses and crossing the road a few times.  I have a few jostling stumbles here (kicking my foot into a few big rocks in the trail) but I do not fall.

Having climbed the big hill, we don’t have the same downhill that used to go by Golf Links Road, nor the ascent on the other side, but sort of top accessing route to Bort Meadow, with some rough-ish single track, through a couple of cattle gates, and up a paved hill to the aid station.  Still maintaining a sub-15:00 pace (aka walking) with a good-sized hill to come.

This section has never changed in the course, basically 1.5 miles of steady uphill, about a mile of steep downhill, and a half mile of medium-flat single track through berry bushes over a minor stream to the road crossing and aid station at Big Bear.  I always take a look at my watch here to see how much time I lose on the way back, when the now-mile uphill is in the sun and I’m a dozen miles more tired.  I’ll see if the 40:29 holds up. (I did have one minor stop just before the aid station to re-adjust the inserts in my shoes, which always seem to slip in my shoes when there is significant downhill.)

Now for the run single-track section.  Lots of up-and-downs, watching my step (and a few stumbles on roots), and working our way up to another paved (in park) section.  Like last year, the course continues until the road ends at the Stream Trail and then follow the dirt trail up, up, up to Skyline Gate.  (I miss the old Ridge Trail route through the fog.)

It is here that I have a big drop off in pace (largely due to the uphill) to about 16:30 per mile… but to a certain extent, we are now on the downhill swing towards the finish.  But note that hills aren’t over and Skyline Gate isn’t the halfway point (but I am psychologically halfway).

We are doing a different route from this point, too.  We used to go about a half mile and then down the French Trail, but we go past this to Tres Sendas, which is a treacherous downhill.  There are a ton of roots and it is STEEP.  I end up not running down the hill, and I slow down even more when the guy just in front of me careens out of control and skids on his knees.  I do stop to help him up.  (I am a human redwood and can easily help people up, though I wonder if he could have just grabbed onto a redwood here.)  He is bloodied but not injured too badly (but if I fall, that may just be it).

We do work our way back to French Trail, which has a lot of climbing and descending.  I am in a long section by myself, wending my way around the hillside, at each moment thinking I am just about on the section that connects to the wider fire-road, but each bend seems to get to another uphill section.

Eventually, I do get to the fire-road, which, as I remember only goes for a half mile or so before veering off onto the single track that will take me back to the Big Bear aid station.  I figure that I won’t see another soul, but a few runners overtake me at a decent rate of speed (each overshot the turn-off – my God, it was so obvious!).  This is another section where you can hear the road but never seem to get any closer.  Despite being mostly downhill, my pace is a sluggish 18:42 per mile.  At least I have some pace to spare to make the 8:30 time limit (and I am now over halfway – 20.2 miles).

Now time to do the big hill in reverse (in the sun) with the hope that I will not lose too much time from the 40 minutes on the way out.  En route to the hill, a number of people pass me, but I pass a few of them back with a steady walking pace up the hill.  I spot a fairly tall lady up ahead of me, but she is doing the same thing I am – using her long legs to quickly walk/run up the hill.  I get back to Bort Meadow in 45:43 (so only a small loss of time).

Now to the revised route back… a bit similar the route I ran in 2002 and 2003, mostly fire roads and lots of long climbs and short descents.  Don’t know if I miss the Honker Bay route, though.  That was always endless (much like the last section I was on).

Midway through this section, I catch up to the tall lady.  She hasn’t really got running clothes on and she isn’t carrying a water bottle… but she does have a Dixie cup that she is sipping from.  She is pretty desperate for water, and I pour her a few cupfuls to tide her over to the next aid station.  (I don’t like to part with my own water, but I always carry two water bottles, and one is a buffer against really struggling, so I rarely dig into the second bottle… I can spare the water.

We chat for a little bit.  This is her first ultra and didn’t really know what to expect (and at the next aid station, one of the volunteers loans her a water bottle to get her through the last section).  She IS going to make it, after all.

Another struggle section for me, with around 18:00/mile, but it really is downhill to the finish and one more span of the suspension bridge.  From this top aid station, there is a significant downhill (almost too steep to run) working down to the bridge… and of course, once I am over the bridge, it is less than 2 miles to the finish.

My knee is bugging me and if I run, I cramp.  Yuck.  So I am basically speed walking on the flats and downhills and regular walking on the uphills.  The good news is that I have over an hour to finish the race, and the bad news is that I am already slower than my time from last year (with 3.6 miles to go).

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I do have a nice shuffle finish and am greeted by Alan and family.  7:53:13, about 45 minutes slower than last year (but I am also a year older).  I will probably be back again for #11.

Bagel 10K – 2017

May 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Way Too Cool 50K – 2017

March 4, 2017

Drove up to Oakland yesterday and hung with my parents and sister, including going out (sort of for my birthday) to Bay Fung Tong with them.  Maybe the noodle and rice dishes serve as carbo-loading.

This morning, I have an early drive up to Cool.  I have my new car (one year old on Tuesday) instead of the rental and the weather is a bit better (though it did rain the past couple of days and I have heard that there is damage to the course and there may be detours).

I get an earlier start than last year, when I was the 10th to last car to park and had to walk 3/4 of a mile to the start (and then back afterwards).  There is the usual chaos in the parking where people can’t listen to directions.  (They have you drive the entire length of the paved road, turn around at the end and then park facing the exit direction.  There is always someone who tries a three-point turn and holds up the whole situation, because they know better.)  But anyway, I am probably less than a quarter-mile from the start line, so that makes the day a little less stressful.

At the start, I am looking for people I might recognize.  I see a few GVH folks, including Martin Sengo.  I also see Tsehay Villeza from AREC.  Last year, she got pulled from the race even though she was moving well enough to finish under the time limit (so they got her in again).  Also from AREC (though local to the Sacramento area) is Anthony Fagundes.  He is attempting his first 50K, but he has had good success with shorter trail races (the overall winner of all Xterra races he’s run this season).  I hang out a bit with his parents who have driven up to watch him run.

Today my goal is just to finish (I am not really worried about the time limit, but my fitness is not the same as it was last year.).  The importance of finishing is to reach my goal of 14 Way Too Cool finishes, on this the 28th year of competitions (I will have run half of all races.)

The fast pack take off at 8:00am and then the slower field goes off at 8:10am.  I do put myself in the front of this group so that I can get away on the trail before the crowds behind me make me nervous.  (I can get over the roots and rocks better if someone isn’t breathing down my neck.)

I make better time on the road portion and force myself to run the little uphills, though once I get to the trail, I immediately feel the need to walk and get passed by about 20 people before I reach the steeper downhill part.

The trail seems more technical than last year.  I am guessing this is due to heavier rains which expose rocks and roots more readily.  The water crossings don’t seem any more heinous, though, but there is also more standing water on the trail than the past few years.

The last mile before completing the 8-mile loop is super-wet.  It is almost all puddles and super slippery (but I do not fall).  I am happy to finish this section in 95 minutes (11:52/mile pace).

From the Start/Finish at the Cool Firehouse, we now parallel Highway 49 for a bit (this will also be the same stretch for the finish) and then work our way over to the steep, muddy, wet downhill to the crossing before the aid station on the other side of Highway 49.  Lots of people pass me here because I am nervous about falling and do not have supreme confidence on technical downhill trails.

This section is only a 5K and I am not guzzling water, but I do remember an aid station a little past the highway crossing, but… hmm…, there doesn’t seem to be an aid station here.  A port-a-potty, yes, but that generally doesn’t offer the same treats as an aid station.  Hopefully, they have not eliminated too many aid stations because it’s tough to balance water consumption if you have no idea how far you are going.  I do click off a lap on my watch so I can compare with previous years or get an idea on my (mostly) downhill pace (13:07/mile).

After going through the non-aid station, the wide fire-road parallels the American River and is fairly flat and well-graded (with a rash of puddles, of course).  I am alternating between light jogging and brisk walking for most of this section.  It’s less about being tired and more about the upcoming hills that I want to be prepared for.

As we get to the end of the fire-road section and into the more single-track route along the river, it is clear that the trail is pretty much completely washed out.  I can envision what the trail WAS, but now there is no real trail here and we wander out into the riverbed a bit and just sort of stumble through uneven sand and boulders until a semblance of a trail reappears.

A few more tough rolling hills and the next aid station materializes.  The distance was almost as much as the 8 miles on the opening loop but it seems far worse as I am 8 miles less fresh.  I guess my pace based upon what the course map says, though a 10:27/mile pace seems to have been unrealistic at this point (and my GPS says something else).

According to my pace sheet, the next aid station is in 1.5 miles, but again, there is nothing there, so another split that is a bit useless (only for comparing to last year).  The location of the aid stations also don’t exactly match up with the web page, either…

Until I get to ALT (Auburn Lake Trail) at the river crossing.  Finally, what I have and what the website has, and what my GPS states all match up.  Here’s to hoping that the rest of the aid stations are not 6 or 7 miles apart!  These first 21 miles have taken me 4:43 (or 13:24/mile).  This would put me on pace for 6:40, which would be comparable to last year, but I don’t think I am going to maintain that pace on the last few sections, especially not Goat Hill.

The trail crosses the water and then winds around the hillside forever.  In previous years, I count the number of water crossings (anything that has running water and isn’t a puddle).  In a “dry” year, there are about 50 water crossings and today, there are over 80.  Most I can easily step over (though I am cautious so that I don’t slip, fall, and break my elbow).

The key to the end of this trail is a wooden bridge water crossing that takes us to the fire-road.  There is a bit of steep uphill here before turning onto the steeper single-track up to Goat Hill.

But that was BEFORE the trail got washed out.  I can see in the distance that there is a bunch of trees and branches blocking the trail and a turn-off earlier than usual heading up the hill.  This trail is very steep (much like the old Goat Hill trail) and I am really struggling to get up the hill and getting some calf cramps which are not helping.

Alas, absolute torture awaits.  Instead of traversing the hillside and continuing up to Goat Hill Aid Station, we basically are hooking around the obstruction in the most difficult manner possible, and then going back onto the fire-road, DOWN to the fire-road, and THEN going up the Goat Hill trail.  In essence, we are climbing the horrible hill TWICE!  My pace slows to a crawl, both because of cramping and being more out of shape.

The Burma-Shave style signs don’t help my mood.  It would have been nice to warn about this change or come up with something more reasonable.  I don’t think there was any reason to carve out a steep trail.  I would as soon climb over the obstruction than climb that hill twice.

The top of the hill takes me to 26 miles in 6:22 (which is slower than I ran WTC in 2002 and I still have 5 miles to go).  Unless I can cover the last 5 miles in 25 minutes (ha!), I will have a slower time than last year.

From Goat Hill, we now proceed to the (upper) Highway 49 crossing.  This is mostly rolling hills with a net downhill, but VERY wet and several sections that are completely puddles.  On the flatter sections, I am reduced to lots of walking and I seem to go back and forth with an older gentleman (70, I think he said) who is going for his 9th finish (and of course, there are folks going for their 28th finishes).  When I cannot run, he takes off on me and I figure I will not see him again until after I finish.

I get pretty excited once I get to the highway crossing because I know I can muddle through a mile-and-a-half to the finish in under 1 hour, 15 minutes (the 8:30 time limit).  After crossing the road, I don’t stop at the aid station because the end is so close and I would rather have the time to power up the muddy waterfalls that is the trail back up to the trail paralleling Highway 49.

I walk/run for a bit with a gal who finishing her first 50K (doing great, I might add) and then shuffle/jog past a number of slowing competitors and I catch back up to my 70 year-old friend on the last stretch.  We come across the finish together (though he may have started an hour early) and I proclaim that between us we have 23 Way Too Cool finishes!

Tsehay gets her finish (yay!) – knew she could do it.  Anthony beats me by almost 4 hours (he is also 20 years younger), coming in 7th overall, but not placing in his age group! My time is 7:38:26, almost an hour slower than last year.  I’ll attribute it to my lack of running this winter and the incessant rain preventing me from getting out on the trails.

I hope to be back out at Cool next year, and I really hope that they are able to repair some of my favorite trails and eliminate the run-arounds.  I hope they also continue to be sponsored by Sufferfest beer, so I can bring a can home and split with my dad (like I have the past two years).