Tag Archives: Marisa

Skyline 50K – 2016

August 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Fort Worth Resolution 5K – 2016

January 1, 2016

My stay in Dallas was an unusual one.  For the past few years (except in December 2011 when I went on a Christmas cruise), I have spent Christmas in Dallas and participated in runs with Carrollton Running Club, Plano Pacers, and done the New Year’s Day White Rock Lake run.

This year, after taking a special trip with my entire extended family to Hong Kong for Thanksgiving, we spent Christmas in the Bay Area.  However, I did end up going to Dallas after all, two days after Christmas to spend a week with my sister and (sort of) babysitting my nephews while my sister worked and they were out of school.

We were to have a late flight out of San Francisco on the 27th, so I would be able to run the Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders 15K in the morning (I even pre-registered for it – $5.).  Unfortunately, there was torrential rain and thunderstorms in Dallas and our flight out of SFO got cancelled.  Because my sister has traveled pretty extensively on AA, we were able to rebook onto another flight (that hadn’t yet been cancelled) earlier in the day, albeit out of San Jose Airport and at 10am, making it impossible for me to do my race.  (The other downside was that I was to be upgraded to business class, but now I was back in coach.  Alas.)

Marisa drove us down to the airport and just before we boarded the plane, they announced that the flight was  over-heavy and would anyone be amenable to giving up their seats.? Although Riva really needed to get back before 8am Monday morning, she negotiated that both of us would give up our seats (and take a slightly later flight), plus each of us would get a voucher for $600, because Riva was giving up a business class seat.

It was a moot point, because the weight issue resolved and we were able to get on the plane.  Also, had we ended up taking that later flight, well, it ended up getting cancelled as well.

As we got closer to Dallas, they announced that DFW and DAL (Love Field) were closed due to storms, and we were being re-routed to Houston-Hobby.  In all probability, it looked like we would have to rent a car and drive the 4 hours to Dallas to make it back in time, but after a couple of hours on the plane in a heavy rain storm, DFW opened for a small window and we were able to get into Dallas.

Because of the timing of the visit, I had missed the Plano and Carrollton runs (which are usually the fourth weekend of the month) – I arrived Sunday night, but I hoped to do the White Rock New Year’s Day Race, which strangely enough, I could not find any information about.  After several years of having this fun 10am New Year’s Day race (with mimosas, beer, and spiked egg nog post race, plus champagne flutes as prizes), it was defunct.

I looked around and found a Resolution Run in Fort Worth (about a 45-minute drive).  It was a 5K, it was timed, and had a 10am start, so I wouldn’t have to get up super early (kind of like leaving at 7am for an 8am race), and there wasn’t too much traffic at that hour on New Year’s Day.

The race was in Trinity Park, which was part of the Fort Worth Cowtown Marathon course, except that the year I ran it, the Trinity River overflowed and we were routed an extra half mile to get around the flooding, so it is kind of cool that I get to run in an area that I should have run in nearly 11 years ago.

The registration is pretty  easy-going and there are not a lot of people in line (maybe bodes well for placing in the race, though there is no Clydesdale category for me to dominate).  I also got a decent parking spot, since I arrived with 30-plus minutes to spare.

By the way, it is January in Texas, which should be read as COLD!!  I have two shirts on plus gloves, plus my Buff, and I am still cold.

The race is an out-and-back past the start, then further around the park, under a railway trestle and then back around part of the original course again.  I try to run in a controlled manner.

My first mile is in 7:26, and I get myself out of the crowd (especially because we are mostly on a pedestrian path and there are 200+ runners here).  I catch up and pass my Carrollton Runners friend Kim Andres.  I always see her and chat up briefly.  She and Riva have run with the same groups in the distant past, I think.

I slow down a little on the second mile, trying to get myself into a comfortable pace and stay ahead of whomever I think might be in my age group.  (I am a terrible gauge of this, because it seems to be the salt-and-pepper guys, but heck, if I can stay ahead of those who I think are in my age group (aka the young guns), then I may place in my own group.)  My second mile is 7:45, and I pass Frances McKissick, someone who I have seen in a few Dallas races in the past.

The last mile takes me under the railway trestle which is probably less than an inch taller than me.  I duck under the entire thing just to be safe.  There is also a bit of a hill leading up to the final 1/4 mile, and I am struggling trying to catch up to some kids and stay ahead of Frances.  I manage the final mile (and 0.1) in 7:44 (so probably around 7:00 even) and finish in 23:10.

Afterwards, I head over to the covered picnic area to get some post-run snacks and champagne.  They have fruit, and some crackers and Frito-Lay chip bags.  There is one lady over there pouring champagne (and sparkling cider, Cold Duck, and Rose).  She can hardly get glasses poured before people snatch them up, and I am in the first quarter of finishers, so can imagine how bad it will get as the crowds come in.

I park myself behind her and start opening bottles.  This involves scraping off the foil cover, pulling off the metal band, and then popping the cork.  It’s pretty much impossible to do with gloves on, but I continue so that she can just pour, and I go until all of the bottles are opened and poured (at least 25 bottles).

This volunteer turns out to also be one of the award presenters, so when I pick up my award for 2nd place in my age group (out of 15, it wasn’t that small), she also announces to the crowd that I pretty much opened all of the bottles for them after I ran my race.  Starting out the New Year on a pseudo-good deed (and running a good time).  I did also get a glass of champagne (and try out a sip of the other “flavors”).

In the afternoon, I went to the Pretty in Pink DFWH3 event – I wore yellow and had a fun run around Dallas with a bunch of hashers dressed in pink, so I got to start my year out with nearly 8 miles of runs.

I was sad to miss the White Rock run, especially because it is so much closer to my folks and sister’s houses, but this was a nice replacement.

Skyline 50K – 2015

August 8, 2015

A special milestone event for me.

I started running in April 1996, and ran my first marathon about 8 months later.  It took me about 5 years to get to 10 marathons, but once I started doing ultramarathons, the amount of long races I did each year started to jump, including a streak of 30-something months where I ran at least 26 miles in a race EACH month (a few were DNFs, but I still covered at least 26 miles of the race).

I had known for a while that this milestone was upcoming, so of course, I used Skyline 50K as my goal event and was able to contact the Race Director, Adam Ray (an acquaintance of mine), and get the #100 bib to help commemorate my 100th marathon or longer distance race.

It turned out to be a very busy weekend.

Usually, Skyline is run on a Sunday and then I end up driving back to Southern California a few hours later.  This year, because of scheduling issues, the race is run on a Saturday, and additionally, pretty much my entire family is in town, including my two nephews who live in Dallas (though Evan is at choir camp and we will pick him up on Sunday).

So, this means that I do not have a bed.  Not a problem, because the upstairs couch is a bit longer and more comfortable.  It’s fine.

Last year, I started an hour early, mostly due to the fact that I had run Harding Hustle a couple of weeks before and was not entirely recovered.  This year, I wanted to have a regular “official” start.  I know that I will have little problem in finishing under the time limit, but in certain circumstances, it makes me feel more confident when I am not at the back at all times… but starting on time, you do get the excitement of  the crowds at the start.

I happened to spot the gal I ran with for about 5 miles last year, Meg Cheng (who definitely didn’t need to start early last year, but did so because she was AT the start early with some early-starting friends).  I ended up catching up to her around 2 miles in and staying with her for about 5 miles again.  It’s always nice to have some company of people that you know.

On the other hand, I create some conversation with other runners, as well as with volunteers when I show off my pace sheet (which since this race 2 years ago, I have dedicated the race to someone special – 2 years ago was supposed to be my high school friend, Brian Kelly, in his honor, but he died two days before the race, so it was in his memory).

Because this is my 100th, I wanted to do something special and honor 10 people who influenced or helped me in some way.IMG_0146

First, I give a lot of credit to my sister, Riva Rahl, who famously told me that if I put my mind to it, I could run a marathon.  I thought she was crazy at the time.

Second, my college buddy, Kevin Krajewski, with whom I “trained” with to run our first marathon.  We didn’t do a lot of runs together, but he always motivated me to do better (until I finally bested him).

Next, Habib Torfi, who I knew from my first full-time job.  He worked at the Epithelial Autograft Facility and he got me into running with running groups.

Fourth, my running club buddy, Jennifer Aguilar.  We DID train together a lot and she was always positive and helpful.

Fifth, another running club buddy, “Tahoe Bob” Gilbert, who was known as the ‘crazy ultramarathoner.’ We are similar… not really fast, but persistent.  I always felt if he could do it, I could do it, and we did a number of trail runs together.

Sixth and seventh, Chuck and Laura Sohaskey.  Laura was always my training partner and I got HER into ultramarathoning.  Chuck has done a few ultras as well, and brings a certain je sais ne quois to our adventures, humor-wise.

Eighth is my running club buddy, Mitsuye Morrissey, who convinced me to run my first ultramarathon at Way Too Cool, a distance that I would have never considered.  We also had a fun adventure at Javelina Jundred (Miler) where we both finished the 100K.

Ninth is my ultrarunning buddy, Rafael Covarrubias, who has motivated me to a number of ultra adventures, including Mt. Disappointment 50M, Miwok 100K, Bishop 50M, and Shadow of the Giants 50K.  He is a better runner than I, and I try to run better so that he doesn’t have to wait too long at the finishline.

And lastly, but not leastly, my family, who support me and motivate me in all of my adventures.  After 100 marathon-plus races, they KNOW I am probably insane!

The weather was on the foggy side and I want to take advantage because I know that once it clears, it could get quite warm, especially in the hilly sections.  This next section is pretty flat, so I try to maintain a decent running and walking pace to get through.  All of the cattle gates are open, so I don’t have to stop and unlatch them (coming to a complete stop).

At the end of this section, there is a sharp turn, a short (but steep) road to a dirt parking lot and the 2nd aid station.  I am greeted by my Cool buddy, Sabine Gillert, who is volunteering/cheering.  Always great to see someone you know cheering you on at the race.

One of the volunteers says she recognizes me.  Says I look great.  Way better than when I was so FAT!  What?  I don’t ever remember being fat.  In fact, I weigh more now than I did when I started running, so maybe you remember me from the future?

I will make my way back to this aid station in about 11 miles, but for now, it’s a mile-and-a-half uphill and the same downhill.  My hope is to finish this section in about the same time that I finish it, in reverse, on the way back (even though the downhill section (uphill on the return) seems so much harder on the return trip).

I get into the 3rd aid station after completing the 3.1 miles in 36 minutes.  Now I cross the road and get into the single-track section, which is some uphill and some downhill, winding around to the hardest uphill section (steep and about a mile long) and then a continuous uphill fire road section up to the Skyline Gate aid station (aka Halfway, but really 14.5 miles) and where I may see some members of my family, depending upon if they time it right and can find a parking spot.

I somewhat exceed my goals on this section.  Usually on an uphill, I maintain 16-18 minutes per mile, but I was brisker and managed 14:20s.

When I get to the top, I don’t see anybody, but just as I am getting ready to take off, Riva, Marisa, and nephew Reagan show up.  The gals take off to park the car, leaving almost-8 year-old Reagan with me.  Now I cannot leave until they come back.

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I considered, briefly, having him walk with me, and hope that my sisters would realize where I had gone, but it was probably only 6 or 7 minutes total waiting.  I ate some food and we chatted for a bit.  I also got to chat with Errol “Rocket” Jones, working the aid station, who I had met at the Santa Barbara 100K last month (he was volunteering).  He is the co-race director of the Quad Dipsea, which I would like to run someday.

Now I head off to the right, which is mostly flat until it gets to the French Trail downhill single-track, on which I make good time, but have to be watchful, as it is rock-y and root-y and I am loathe to trip.  The general path of the trail is downhill, downhill, downhill, with occasional rocks and roots.

When I get almost to the bottom, it turns and takes a steep uphill turn.  I almost wanted to have not run the last bit to the bottom, if only to arrest my heart rate a bit and help out with the climb back up, but I just have to persevere.

This is the absolutely longest section (5.9 miles) and it’s often hard to tell how close you are getting to the end of the section, because you hear the road, but keep winding around and then, suddenly, you are there.  My pace on this section is about the same as the long uphill.  In other words, I am doing better because it is downhill, but worse, because I am getting tired.

Now I am back to the 3.1 mile section, where I would like to do something similar to the 36 minutes I did outbound.  (I don’t really have that expectation, but would like to.)  This is the first ultra that I have done in my new Size 14 Hoka Stinson shoes.  I am feeling less of the rocks, but it isn’t necessarily the ‘running on a cloud’ feeling that everyone talks about.  Maybe ‘running on a rocky cloud?’

I struggle on the inbound uphill section, as the sun is coming out and my feet are starting to hurt quite a bit.  I end up losing about 8-1/2 minutes on this section and make it back to the aid station where they told me I used to be fat.

From here, there is one more aid station before I get to the end.  It is mostly flat, but once you cross the Stone Bridge, you get back into the single-track and another part where you don’t have a clue of how far you have before you get to the aid station.

Part of this section I run with Julie Nye, for which this is her 15th Skyline run (this is my 6th).  Most of the people I talk with today are doing their first ultramarathon (it IS a really good beginner race because it is not insanely difficult and there are enough runners that you won’t have many sections where you don’t see anyone (unless you are at the very very back).

I am hoping to get through this section at a faster than 14:00/mile pace because then I will have a chance to finish the race under 7 hours (which I don’t seem to do as often nowadays).  I think the delay at Skyline Gate may prevent me from doing so, but I am not going to worry about it.

When I do finally make it into the aid station, I have left myself with about 35 minutes for the last 3 miles.  While this seems doable in a regular road 5K, it will be close.

I do what I can.  The first 1.4 miles of this is mostly flat and dirt, so I do a combo of running and walking.  I get excited when I get to the suspension bridge (truly my favorite part, because it means that I am close to the finish and it is bouncy!), and then it is about 1.5 miles to the finish and it is paved.

I am passed here by my friend, Clement Choi.  He and I ran together in the last few miles of the 2010 Dick Collins Firetrails 50M (with the same start and finish, but coming in from the other direction).  Great guy.  Today seems like a flashback of a bunch of my ultras.  But it seems like that happens at every race.  That’s what I love about ultras.  It’s like running a beautiful adventure with friends you see every so often.  You don’t get that with a big city marathon.  You may even know a bunch of people at the race, but you may not see them at all, maybe not at the end, either.  Bummer.

I make the turn across the little wooden bridge and suddenly remember that I still have another 50 yards to the “new” finish line.  I come in at 7:06:27, which is 40 seconds faster than Cool (or, in other words, virtually the same pace as Cool)..

There is no roasted pig this year (I think the roaster is sick, so no one stepped up.).

I got my shirt, a couple of cans of this Yerba Mate Mint Tea.  They also have a bunch of leftover items from previous Skylines (probably tired of putting them into storage year after year).  They are giving them away for free, but if they don’t have the right sizes, then what would I do with them?

I end up with a pair of socks (besides the ones from this year), another tank top from 2010, and a woman’s shirt from a previous year (for Riva).  I also pick up my shirt and then head back to my folks’ house.  When I get back, I realize that they have given me a WOMEN’s Extra-Large shirt, with the V-neck and the tighter cut.

I contact the race director and he says they are all out of Extra-Large shirts.  Crap.  They gave all of the rest out to volunteers… but then later, he tells me that he has one for me next time I am in town.  I will be in the Bay Area next for 2 days at Christmastime and again in March.  Hope he still has a shirt for me then!

All in all, I am really happy with how my 100th marathon or longer race went.  It took me 19 years.  I wonder how many years it will take me to get to 100 ultramarathons (I am at 74 now) and how many years to get to 200 marathon-pluses?

 

La Palma 4th of July 10K – 2015

July 4, 2015

Back to La Palma for another 4th of July race.  Dona McBride and I carpooled.  It’s sort of like we know the drill – we switch off who drives and we always park at the Hospital parking lot that is adjacent to the local park (20 yard walk from the car).  No one else seems to know this trick.

If you register online, it’s the best deal (even with the credit card charge).  Registration included a technical t-shirt and $4.50 gets you a pancake breakfast ticket.  Plus, they always give out mugs or something cool to division leaders.

The negative side to this event – particularly the 10K – is that you start 0.15 miles behind everyone else… so you cannot hear the announcements (including the starting gun), you half-hear the National Anthem, and once you catch up with the 5K group, there are hordes of people impeding your forward motion (the walkers, the meanderers, and the minute-per-mile-slower-than-me people).

We see a few of the usual people that we always see at this race – Paul Browne, from TRH, that lives right around the corner; Gil Perez (AREC VP) sporting a Beach City Runners shirt, but an AREC hat (wanting bonus points for wearing the hat – wrong shirt, buddy!); and Nick Kincaid, another AREC guy, who has gotten faster over the years (I used to be able to beat him; now I can only ‘contain’ him.).

The 10K starters are listening for the distant gun so that they can air-horn us off, and immediately, I find myself trying to accelerate around the mopey folks in this field.  I have about 400 yards to formulate a strategy to get around the 5Kers.

One item in the negative column that I forgot about is that there are random Mile markers… some for the 10K on the first loop (but 5K markers) and one on the second loop.

That being said, I reach Mile 1.15 in 8:25, which is around a 7:39 pace.  Fast… for today.  It started out overcast, but I can’t see that continuing 25 minutes from now.

There are lots of people out here but after the first mile, I presume I have passed most of the slow types… but I may encounter some of them on the second loop.  I get to Mile 2 (yep, for the 10K) in 6:46… but as my last mile was actually 1.15, my pace here is 7:31.

There are a couple of water stations after Mile 2 – one close to Mile 2 and one about 500 yards from the end of the loop.  It is here that it begins to get crowded as some of faster 5Kers are gearing up for their finishing sprints.  As I pass by the start, I time through in 9:36 (back to 1.2, because this segment is 3.1+0.15 – 2 = 1.25) or 8:43/mile.

The positive point here is that the crowds have thinned out, but the negative is that I don’t really have anyone to run with because until I catch the walkers, I am caught out in ‘no-man’s-land.’

I do see people off in the distance (including Nick), and I try and use that as my motivation to go a bit faster (also I am not zigzagging around anyone).  I reach Mile 4.0 in 6:11 (7:58/mile), and then Mile 5.1 (the 10K 2M marker) in 8:49 (8:00/mile).

Now I begin to catch the walkers.  One of the people I spot is the former owner/coach of Team Runners High Jeff Tribole (now of Beach City Runners).  He is walking with a number of other people, very slowly.  I can be critical since my finishing time ends up about 6 minutes faster than my 80-year old dad walked last October… and I passed Jeff at Mile 2.5 (for him).

Jeff used to castigate me at track workouts that I should ‘run a little faster and talk a little less.’  I feel that you don’t really have the right to criticize me for this if you yourself are not ‘walking the walk.’  I have heard that Jeff used to be quite the runner, but in my 18+ years in Southern California, I have never seen him do more than a slow walk (yes, he had a heart attack 10 years ago, but even prior to that it was bark out the workout and then skulk off to watch the Lakers on TV).

It’s fun for me to give him a little jazz after all of the ‘helpful suggestions’ I endured over the years.  After I finished (in 48:32), I watched him ‘run across’ 10 minutes later, as if he and his group had been running the entire time.  I say we give him that, let him say that he was running 19 minutes per mile.

I was very happy with my time, considering that one week ago, I did a very special high mileage trail run in honor of my little sister’s 40th birthday.  I ran for 6 hours 27 minutes and 40 seconds at El Moro and Laguna Trails and covered 26.1 miles (my sister turned 40 on 6/27, hence the timing).

When it came to the awards ceremony, almost all of our group received an award… but I came in 6th… even though I was the 28th finisher overall.  Small race… too many 40-44 year olds!

Tilden Tough Ten – 2015

May 17, 2015

I am “homeless” this week.  My entire condominium complex in Long Beach is being fumigated… for a week.  Because we are owners, it is up to us to figure out our accommodation for the 5 days (but the fumigation is being covered by the Association).

My best bet, in my estimation, is to drive up to Northern California and spend a week with my sister (who is currently living in one of the bedrooms in my parents’ condo).  At the very least, we will get to do some nice Bay Area hikes together.

After my drive up on Saturday, Marisa and I did a Lake Chabot loop.  Amazingly, she had never been out to this location, whereas, I had run portions of this loop at least 8 times during the Skyline 50Ks and Dick Collins Firetrails 50Ms.  The course is mostly the paved path around the lake, across the suspension bridge, and up through the forest, across the dam and back to the marina… about 10 miles.

Mentioning this is important because on Sunday, I was running the Tilden Tough Ten.  This is a race I had heard about for years but had never done (not even when I lived 75 minutes away) because I believe you used to not receive a time unless you ran under 70 minutes.  I have never run 10 miles (and certainly not a “tough ten”) in under 70 minutes.  My best is 70:46 in 1998.

The race is put on by Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders (LMJS), who also puts on the 4th Sunday runs, of which I have done a half dozen, so I figured the race to be relatively inexpensive and well-organized. Nowadays, $35 for a ten mile race is very reasonable ($25 if you are a LMJS member).

Everyone gets a time, but they have special finishers’ shirts depending on how fast you complete the course… Under 60, Under 70, Under 80, and Finisher.  My goal is to finish under 80 minutes, though I am not all that confident… and it probably doesn’t help that I hiked 10.2 miles yesterday.

I know that at Mile 4, the trail becomes dirt and VERY technical, with steep downhill for about 3/4 mile.  At 5 miles, it turns around, and heads back up the hill.  My strategy going into the race is to bank enough time that I won’t fall down the hill and can reasonably jog back up the hill.

The race starts and ends at Inspiration Point, in Berkeley, somewhat above the UC campus.  Since I am coming from my parents’ condo, it doesn’t make sense to follow their obtuse directions that get me onto some of the same roads by driving up the freeway and circling back.  However, the turns out of the community can be somewhat confusing… sometimes when you want to get to the left, you have to turn right and vice versa.

I initially missed the first turn, and since the streets are so narrow, I have to drive a 1/2 mile past to turn around and go the correct direction.  Later, when I get up to Grizzly Peak, it is VERY foggy.  I know that I have to turn on a major park road, but none of them are labeled/have visible signs.  I reasonably select an appropriate road and think I am heading down the hill into the park.  About a mile down, there is a HUGE turkey in the middle of the road that doesn’t budge when I get near it.  At least these are rarely traveled roads, so going to the other side isn’t really that dangerous.

A mile or so later, I finally see a street sign and realize I am on the wrong road.  (I make it a practice to look at a map in advance and learn some of the streets I will be going by, just in case, since I do not use GPS.)  I safely turn around, by pass my “Turkish” friend and drive to the next appropriate major park road.  Hmm… this seems more promising.  At least I allowed an hour to get here (shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes, though)!

According to my directions, at the first stop sign, I turn left… but at the stop sign, there are actual park signs indicating that Inspiration Point is to the right.  That doesn’t seem right, but I drive that way anyway.  (Later, the map I referenced had a different Inspiration Point in the area… which was to the left.  Phew. I went the right direction!)

About a half-mile from the start, I started seeing cars parked on the road.  I remembered from the e-mail information that there was limited parking at the start, so I’d better park and quick!  I do a turn-around on the road and find the closest spot where I can get safely off the road (also in the directions) and not off the side of the hill.

I walk over to the start and get my number.  It is pretty cold out and the fog does not help all that much.  I spot someone I know – Noe Castanon – who is not running, but taking pictures.  I also end up talking to a couple of ladies while sheltering behind a stone pillar and a English guy (who was hoping to finish in under 100 minutes).

As we prepared for the start, I lined up somewhat towards the front (but not too far to impede the “actual” competitors), knowing I needed to get off to a quick start and began banking time.

Unfortunately, the course was not exactly flat… well, flatter than the upcoming hill, but it was rather rolling hills and very windy.  My first three miles were decent – 7:46, 7:59, and 7:39.   But would it be enough time in the bank to break 80 minutes?

Mile 4 had a couple “unrunnable” (for me) hills and my pace slowed to 8:50, negating my entire advantage.

On the dirt portion of the hill, I ran as best I could, but it was extremely technical and the leaders (and others ahead of me) were coming back up the path so I needed to be in control and not run like a maniac.  This downhill trail mile was 8:43.  Normally, I would be very excited about running an 8:43 trail mile, but it was not helping me towards my goal of sub-80:00.

Mile 6 basically put my goal out of reach when I did 11:09!

At least I could enjoy the rest of the race and run comfortably and not worry about killing myself to get to a certain time.  My final four miles were 9:10, 9:31, 8:40 and 8:05, finishing in an almost-sub 80 time of 87:30.

I still liked the shirt (with cows on it, even though we didn’t see any cows in the fog) and watched a few of the runners come in, including the English guy who finished a bit under 1:40 (as predicted).

I really liked the course and given the option, I would much rather run this course than do the Bay to Breakers, which was taking place on the same day, somewhere else in the area, out beyond the fog.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2015

March 7, 2015

Way Too Cool has become a special tradition for me, starting with the 2002 presentation, which was my 1st ever ultra-marathon.  The race always hits right around my birthday, but had never actually hit ON my birthday (One year, my birthday was on a Saturday, but the race was a week later.).  This year, I would have the treat of running it on my ACTUAL birthday.

Three days following my last race (Big Baz 21K), I had a hospital procedure (colonoscopy).  I’m not sure I have addressed this previously in my posts, but I had been suffering from hemorrhoids and a fissure since mid-November last year and it was determined that I should have the procedure done to rule out any internal problems.  The procedure went off without a hitch (if you call the prep (36 hours of liquid diet and 6 hours of toilet blowouts the night before), due, I believe to a great anesthesiologist, Dr. Choi… who also happened to be a protege of my good friend, Kim Gimenez.  We had a nice talk about running as the propofol took its effect.

The unfortunate side effect of the procedure was that my hemorrhoid issue was just about resolved, but the prep for the procedure re-aggravated the issue and it will probably be another 2-3 months of dealing with it.  The good news (for me, at least) is that exercise improves it, and sitting a lot doesn’t help.  Most hospital procedures keep you AWAY from the exercise.  I was able to resume training runs only one day later without any additional issues, even mounting an ascent of Holy Jim Trail with AREC 4 days later.

Way Too Cool was 3 weeks after the procedure and my biggest concern was the drive up north, since sitting in the car for 6 hours hardly feels great.  (Though I have my “butt pillow” for a little relief.)  I did my usual bit where I leave before 6am (to avoid traffic on the So. Cal. side) with the goal of arriving around noonish.

I had made a different arrangement than last year, where I had stayed with Mark & Joann Helmus (the latter who ran Cool last year on HER birthday).  They had made an offer of a stay, even though they were in the process of moving AND were not running the race.  I did get a last-minute offer from a new-ish GVH guy, who took me up on my offer of a ride to-and-from the race, especially because he is MUCH faster than me and would utilize the time waiting for me to down a few beers.  After the race, however, the plan was to drive down to the Bay Area and spend the rest of my birthday with my family in Oakland.

The drive up was fairly uneventful, except a little traffic through Santa Clarita (even at 6-something a.m.).  When I got just outside of Sacramento, I called my friend Lori so that we could meet for lunch.  I have known Lori since our freshman (and sophomore) dorm days in the Fall of 1990 (25 years ago this year).

We met at Dos Coyotes, a somewhat former haunt of mine, a place that has definitely stood the test of time (as have the two places I lived (other than dorms) – still look pretty hovel-y).  I had a paella burrito.  Pretty freakin’ delicious!  It was really nice to catch up with Lori.  To me, it feels like little time has passed, partly because we are friends on Facebook and partly because I still feel like I am that college guy still trying to figure out his life.

After a nice long lunch, I still had a couple of hours to kill before I could meet up with Travis.  I went down and parked in the Whole Foods parking lot, sat and read for a bit and then walked around town a little bit, stopping in the used bookstore that is at the old Fleet Feet location (and buying a couple good finds) as well as at the Helmus’ Optometry business so I could wish Joann a happy birthday and also drop off a little bread treat I baked for her.  Mark, Joann and I chatted for a little bit.  She had just returned from Arkansas, having run the Little Rock Marathon last Sunday.

I drove over to Travis’ house a little after 4pm (a little before he was getting off work) and sat outside and read until he arrived.  He is in his early 30s and has done a handful of trail ultras, mostly in Colorado, where he lived before Davis… and he is much faster than I am, more like a 3 hour marathoner.  He lives in a house with a roommates, one of which is heading out for pizza, but we end up opting for Chipotle (I am getting my fill of burritos today for sure!)

Afterwards, we watch Unbreakable, a documentary about the 2010 Western States 100.  It is pretty incredible to see these crazy athletes and how fast they can run difficult trails, accelerate in the end stages, and succeed mentally.  (Hint:  None of them is 6’6″ or over 200 pounds.)

Afterwards, we watch some movies about Anton Krupicka.  Some pretty terrain, but a little too hippy-dippy for me.  I had my encounter with Krupicka at the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100M, where I think he volunteered at an aid station after finishing 2nd overall in the race (more than 16 hours before I did).

In the morning (my birthday!), Travis and I meet Annie Vogel-Ciernia (another GVH member running Cool) and then drive to Stephen Andrews’ house (his family will pick him up from the finish, but don’t want to drive up to Cool at 6am).  The drive is uneventful, but once we arrive in Cool, I realize that the increase in participation has caused an increase in parking as well (I’m guessing that most folks did not carpool.).  Last year, I drove up with someone not running the race, and in previous years, I never had to park more than a quarter mile from the start.  This year, however, we are parked at least 6/10 mile from the start. This means that I walk to pick up my bib, THEN take my stuff back to the car, THEN hike back up to the start.  I’m around 2 miles in before we actually get going.

My pace sheet has a picture of me on my 40th birthday, wearing a party hat.  I tell as many people as possible that today is my 44th birthday and I am running my 43rd 50K.  Also, on the back of my pace sheet is the weird fact I came up with, that along with this being my 43rd 50K, it is also my 72nd ultramarathon, so I included 4 of my friends who are 43 years old AND born in 1972.  Seeing as that it is only March, there are not a lot of candidates (a number of friends wondered why they hadn’t been included… “I’m born in ’72.”  “But you’re not 43 yet!”  “I will be!”  They’re missing my weird point.).  Anyway, my inspirations were Stephanie Harris, Kristen Womersley, Scott Casey, and Cynthia Mar (3 running friends and a college friend).  I think it is cool that I came up with this; it works ONLY for this race (for example, my 44th 50K, will be my 73rd ultra, and unless I wait until 2017, the numbers won’t work out); and the race IS Way Too Cool!

The “faster folks” are off at 8:00am and I am with the “slowpokes” at 8:10.  Even were I to run at the pace I ran my first Cool back in 2002, I would still be with the slower folks.  Anyway, I should have some folks to meet and to run with.

The longest stretch is the first loop, which leaves Cool, runs around 2 miles on the paved road (by my car) and eventually comes back through the start.  It includes 2 big water crossings – the kind that you can’t avoid getting wet on – and a few smaller ones… though for the most part, the course is drier than it has been in the past, due to the drought, but my feet do still get wet.

Early on in the course, I am having some difficulty with my posterior (still issues from the hemorrhoids and colonoscopy.  Runners can talk about anything, so I have been chatting with the person nearest me, but from the side, I get (as often happens) response from another runner who has been hearing the conversation.  It is further advice about colonoscopies as you get older.  I won’t repeat the conversation, but it is a bit surreal, because it is the Original Western States competitor, Gordy Ainsleigh.

I maintain a comfortable pace on this section; I will say largely due to the number of people on the single-track sections… once you are in a train of people, you cannot really stop and walk, you need to keep moving.  I manage around 11:15/mile, and then set off 3.1 miles to the Highway 49 crossing at the Quarry.

Lots of people are passing me in this section; it is mostly downhill and my footing is not particularly solid, plus downhill is not my thing.  The best part of this section is that it is 75% shaded, so the effects of the heat to come is muted a bit.  I cross the road and reach the 2nd aid station in about 38 minutes (or 12:25/mile).  It is decorated in a beachy, luau-y style and welcoming.  I make sure that I refill my water bottles at each stop so I can stay as dehydrated as possible.

This third leg runs mostly along the American River on a gravel fire-road.  It is rolling hills but not a lot of up for the first 2.5 miles.  On this section, I meet John and Jeff – one experienced ultramarathoner and his friend.  On the flats, we trade leading.  I mention that I would like to finish under 7 hours, so I have to maintain a certain pace.  They stay with me for quite some time… but then we reach a couple of extended hills (in the sun).  The motivating cry (fading into the distance) is “Stay with Emmett; he’ll get us to the pace we need to finish strong.”  I didn’t see them again after I ‘power-walked’ up the hill and beyond.

On part of this section, I also engaged with an older woman who was close to my pace.  Yes, I tend to end up with the older folks.  My pace is usually equivalent to the 55+ crowd (for women, maybe 70+ for men).  More importantly, most of these ‘older’ folks are not so preoccupied with music or other distractions and we can have a real conversation that is not tending back to “You’ll catch up with me,” which is said with the intent of stopping talking and getting back to the music.  Claudia and I trade leading throughout the race.  We reach the aid station around the same time, running 4.4 miles in around 52 minutes (12 minute/mile pace), but after this stretch, she disappears for quite a while.  I figure I won’t see her again until maybe the end.

This next section is about 5.6 miles of double-track.  It passes by my old nemesis/success Ball Bearing (0.7 miles; 700′ elevation gain) and continues fairly flat and then hooks into the old course return single track.   Some of this is runnable (even for me).  Sometimes I am in a train with a bunch of folks and sometimes I am by myself and antsy runners want to get by me. Though, invariably, not long after they pass, I recatch them tying shoelaces or slowing down (“Tag.  You’re it.”).  I do end up walking a lot of this trail, more due to a warm day than due to difficulty of trail, but still manage around 15 minutes/mile.  The wheels are starting to fall off, and I may not make my goal of sub-7:00.

This next section will take me up Goat Hill, continuing along the old course and up this dreaded steep hill at a particularly bad time.  Part of my “train” is an Asian gal.  I inquire about her ethnicity, so I can impress with my Chinese, Japanese, or Korean folk song… so of course, she is Indonesian.  Besides impressing her that I know two dozen words in Bahasa Indonesia, I sing for her on trail, saying basically that I can sing at whatever pace is necessary for her running speed (and I have a more eclectic selection of music than can be found on one’s I-Pod – Inspirational, Classical, and Oldies).  Unfortunately, Jenny is faster than I am, so eventually she pushes on a bit ahead of me and I lose contact before the bridge and uphill to Goat Hill.

The top of Goat Hill is really close to the marathon point.  I remember from my first Cool how flummoxed I was at my time… but really, it was about par with how it should be.  You cannot compare road marathon times to trail ultra times.  My nearly-marathon split is a shade under 6 hours.  Feel like I will be hard-pressed to get under 7 hours.  (And at a 16:00/mile pace, probably not.)

The next section is a lot of downhill, some wet (though, as previously noted, not as wet as in previous years), some slippery gravel, and a few short uphills.  I re-encounter Claudia in this section and pass her (she finishes about 5 minutes behind me).  I feel pretty good, and when I get to the road crossing JUST before the last aid station, I am at 6 hours 47 minutes, which means I have 13 minutes to do 1.4 miles.  Normally, not a tall order, but seeing as half of this is uphill and all of it is trails, odds are I will not break 7 hours, but I will be really close.

I don’t stop at all at the last station (it’s 1.4 miles to the finish, so hardly seems worth it unless I was all out of water on the last 3.4 mile section).  I go as fast as I can manage on the technical uphill, but it certainly isn’t sub-10:00s.  I do what I can and I will be really satisfied with my finishing time (at least it is well under the 8-1/2 hour time limit).

At the finish, the strangest thing happens (I swear I did not look at my watch and try to make it possible!) – my finishing time is 7:07:07 and there are 7 splits.  Seven is my lucky number and today is the 7th.  43-50Ks (4+3 = 7).  73rd ultra (3/7 is my birthday).  The “official” time comes out as 7:07:06 (stupid timing chips!).

Travis and Annie have been done for 2+ hours and are getting their drink on.  I do the finish line thing (get my frog cupcake, too hot soup, and pulled pork sandwich (and a couple of Cokes).  I am not particularly hungry, even though I probably only consumed half a banana, some potato chips and half of a Payday bar.  I carefully carry my cupcake and sandwich to the car (another 0.6 miles) and seal them inside a plastic container (formerly held Sprouts Gummi Coke Bottles) to eat on Sunday morning.

Annie and Travis drive back with me to Davis and then I continue on down to Oakland.  I am trying to work the timing out so that I have time for a shower before we go for dinner at Bay Fung Tong.  We are joined by Tom and Margaret (Tom’s birthday is Tuesday), Diane and John, Marisa, Mom and Dad, Bari, and Shauna (whose birthday was 6 days ago).  Marisa and Margaret are the odd women out as their birthdays are not in January or March.  We get our usual complement of dishes, including Black Bean and Jalapeno deep fried squid.  Yum.  I get some funny gifts from Diane and John (including yellow caution tape saying “Warning – Man in Kitchen” and a few other kitchen doo-hickeys).  A great way to spend my birthday!

On Sunday, after a trip to Chinatown for Dim Sum at Tao Yuen, I drive back to Long Beach, so I can continue my 80+ consecutive month Boeing 5K streak.

Mary Kay 5K – 2014

October 4, 2014

Following my cross country race mishap, I took it pretty easy.  I had a big ultra coming up in a few weeks, and my trip to visit my family in Dallas would be the perfect opportunity to give my sore body a break.

However, the whole family had signed up to run the Mary Kay 5K, and I opted in for it.  I figured I could see where my body was at.

Before the 5K, there was the Kids’ 1M (or whatever the distance actually was).  Reagan ran with Riva and did pretty well.  His time was super fast (hence my comment above).

Now we were all ready to start.  Riva lined up near the front and I lined up somewhat near the front… with Mom, Dad and Reagan at the back (Marisa was with Evan at his soccer game.).

The race was immediately downhill (many big buildings in Dallas have roads running underneath them, so THIS is the downhill… because Dallas is pretty pretty flat), so it was a mess, especially with speed bumps underneath the building.  I moved carefully and thoughtfully around everyone and got into a good pace.

Once through the building undercrossing, it was up the other side, a U-turn, and then back down under the building and back up on the parallel road.  Ugh.  A short time later was the 1-mile marker – 7:46.

Next was a half-mile out-and-back section which was slightly downhill and slightly uphill on the way back.  It looks like Riva is the 4th woman overall… so far.

Now another half-mile out-and-back (but flat).  Riva still looks good, but is still in 4th.  Not sure if she can make up the stagger.  I get my 2nd mile in 7:40.

The last 1.1 mile stretch is… another repeat of the under-the-building section… meaning down-and-up twice, with an uphill finish.  I manage another 7:40 mile (plus the extra tenth) to finish in 23:50.

Since relatively few people have finished, I get in the pancake breakfast line and get a few pancakes and some bacon for Reagan, in case he wants some when he finishes (since there is no one to watch him, he is doing the 5K with Mom until Riva can finish and go back and run in with him.

Once I have my pancakes, then I head back out on the course to cheer Mom and Dad (and Reagan) in.  Dad is the first one I see and he is walking briskly.  He is competing in the 75+ age group (so hopefully he won’t be beaten by a bunch of 75-year olds).  Next comes Riva and Reagan.  He has gotten a second wind, running with his mom.  And Mom is not all that far behind.  I walk in with her.  She was having to encourage Reagan (tired, for sure, after his fast mile), but now she can really stride in to the finish.

Reagan doesn’t want the pancakes so I eat them… and then we go see if anyone has gotten a medal, so we can high-tail it to Reagan‘s soccer game.

Looks like Riva won the F40-44 (but not first Master like last year), Mom got 3rd in the F70-74 and Dad got 3rd in the M75+.  I am in 4th.  We convince them to give up the medals prior to the award ceremony.

Later, when we look up the awards at home, because the top Master finisher for the men was in my age group, I have been bumped up to 3rd in my division.  I don’t get a medal, but I’m not worried about it.  I am just happy that I have been able to run a decent time only a week after banging myself up.