Tag Archives: Shauna

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!






LMJS 4th Sunday Run 15K – 2015

May 24, 2015

My visit with my sister is coming to an end.  I didn’t get in a lot of runs this week, but we did do a fair amount of hiking:

**Last Saturday (before my semi-competitive 15K on Sunday), we did the 10-mile loop around Lake Chabot.

**On Monday, we walked around the neighborhood. Normally (at least in MY neighborhood), this would be junk walking, but Hiller Highlands is lots of STEEP hills everywhere.  Even 2.7 miles gets your blood pumping!

**On Tuesday, we drove out to the Aid Station #1 location (where Golf Links Road ends) and did part of Big Bear and Golden Spike Trails.  Seemingly, I am showing Marisa most of the Skyline 50K (which I am planning on running as my 100th marathon or longer race).

**On Wednesday, we met some of Marisa’s Texan friends (who now live in Alaska) and did the Mission Peak route near Ohlone College.

**On Thursday, we did the Sibley Loop, which is 1.5 miles of steep technical wooded downhill trail, a mile of paved uphill, and another half-mile up downhill back to the car.  It was pleasantly overcast.

**On Saturday, Shauna joined us for a Marin County trip.  We drove out to Stinson Beach and did the Matt Davis Trail, part of the Coastal Trail (Matt Davis was tough for Shauna, so I did 25 minutes out-and-back so they could rest), down Steep Ravine (which includes the ‘infamous’ backwards log-ladder), and finally, the countless stairs on the Dipsea Trail.  Four-and-a-half hours!

So… for Sunday, I am doing the 15K, after around 35 miles of hiking over the past week!

The route is the same as always: 3 5K loops around Lake Merritt.  There are two other races – a 5K and 10K, so it is often difficult to tell if you are competitive… until you get to the final lap.  Years ago, I ran 67:36 (14 years ago), which works out to around 22:20 per lap.  I am hoping to be at around 24:48 per lap (translating to 8:00/mile), but I am not all that confident after all that hiking.

My first lap is semi-crowded (both because of the multiple races and also because there are a number of civilians on the course to avoid) and I go out a bit fast to get around some of the slower 5Kers.  I hit my goal pace for the first loop – 24:05, giving me about 43 seconds towards a slower lap, because I am not sure that I can maintain this pace today.

The second lap is less crowded (most people run the 5K) and I am within sight of a couple of people that I feel are in the 15K, but I am not sure that I can catch up.  There is a little extra running on this loop, because by the Kaiser Convention Center, they are dismantling a temporary stage right in the middle of the course; the best course is “cross country” on the small swath of grass alongside the paved path.  My time is 25:07 on this lap, and my margin of error for hitting 8:00 pace is down to 24 seconds.

I am trying to maintain my pace for my third loop, but I can feel I am losing some of my pace, especially on the minor uphills (course is essentially flat).  I am losing contact with the two guys who had been just ahead of me, and just past the 10K point, I get passed by an older gent.

Although I push on the downhills, I come up a bit short on my goal and finish my final loop in 25:23, just 11 seconds slower than my goal (So, I did 8:01/mile.)  I am the 5th finisher (of 6), the slowest male finisher, and last in my age group (the only one with more than 1 finisher), but am still happy with my time.  I ran the 15K back in 2010, and today’s time is a minute faster.

A few hours after the race, I drive back to Los Angeles and air out my fumigated condo.  It was a nice week, hiking and visiting with my little sister.

Skyline 50K – 2014

August 2, 2014

Last year at this same race, I made a pace sheet and put a picture of my friend Brian Kelly on the back.  I was hoping to inspire him to fight through (and beat) his terminal cancer diagnosis.  Unfortunately, before I was able to arrive, he passed away… and I ran the race in his memory.

Since then, I have been putting a picture of someone who inspires me on the back of my pace sheet.  It gives me extra focus and it also is a really nice gesture.

A few months ago, another friend of mine passed away.  Hwa-Ja Andrade.  She hadn’t been a long time sick, but she went in to get surgery and didn’t survive the surgery.  At her memorial service, her son mentioned that she had completed 68 ultramarathons (to which most folks gave an audible gasp).  Myself, at that time, was fairly close to this number, so I wrote in her Memories book that I would dedicate my 68th ultramarathon to Hwa-Ja.

While I wasn’t concerned about being able to finish; I feel I have endurance and sufficient drive to get to the end (but of course, there are cut-off times); I felt like an hour early start would be helpful.  Also, Harding Hustle 50K had only been 2 weeks prior and I had only had a week of recovery and a week of “build-up.”

I had my typical lead-up to the race… drive up from SoCal on Friday, having a nice dinner at Bay Fung Tong with my parents (plus Shauna), a relaxing day on Saturday (though I had to work on the AREC newsletter).

Sunday morning, bright and early, I found myself toeing the line with probably 4 dozen other early starters.  I was very happy to see my buddy, Sabine Gillert (who I had met at Way Too Cool a few years ago, and more recently, at Bishop).  She was not doing great (hence the early start).

About 2 miles in, I struck up a conversation with a female runner, Megan Cheng.  She was a faster runner, but had carpooled with an early starter, so rather than hang out for an hour, she decided to start.  I ran with her for a few miles (faster than I wanted to go) and it was a nice way to pass the time since relatively few runners were on the course.

I got to the first aid station in 48 minutes (11 minute pace).  I didn’t stop and pressed on, since I had banked some quality time and it was a mere 2 miles to the next aid station.  Since it was still early on, gates were not propped open and a few seconds were wasted working the complicated mechanism.  However, this section is mostly double-track and flat, so I was able to maintain a similar pace to the first 4.3 miles (12:46 pace).

This next section is a love-hate section.  There is about a mile-and-a-half uphill section (HATE) followed by a mile-and-a-half of steady downhill (LOVE).  Also, you get to run this same part in reverse later in the race (really HATE).  The last part of this section is a short single-track section in between berry bushes and across a few minor streams before popping out at an aid station along the road.

I should mention, at this point, that although I have been mentioning my splits at the various aid stations, I have not actually reached ANY aid stations (due to my early start).  At the first station, a car had just pulled up the same time I pulled up.  At the second aid station, there were a few other cars in the lot, but no table or anything really set up… so, by the time I reached this third checkpoint, well, they are still not really set up.  However, I was TOTALLY out of fluids and prefer not to go 5 miles on fumes.  A nice volunteer (working on setting up the aid station) refilled one of my water bottles using a personal bottle of water out of his own car.  Nice.

Anyway, at this point, despite the up-and-down bit, I do another section in under 12 minute pace.  This is boding quite well.  With the early start, I have 9-1/2 hours to finish, but I am on pace for a time well under that (though I will probably slow down a bit on the second half).

On this next section, there are two parts.  The first is a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs on single-track trail.  The second is a steady 3+ miles of uphill on fire-road to Skyline Gate (the “turnaround” (14.5 miles, not quite halfway)).

On this first half, I am in my element – not necessarily fast, but I enjoy the variety.  As I am nearing the paved road that connects the first half to the second half, I come across a fallen runner.  There is another runner and the mobile radio operator (read: guy on a bike with a walkie-talkie) are tending to her.  In carefully stepping around her, I see that the other runner is my friend David Binder (who I had tried to reach to no avail for a week or so prior).  He is out on his own training run, but nicely stays with me for a few miles (especially because I’m sure he doesn’t want to walk up ALL the hills).

It is really nice to have the company, though (this is what it must be like to have a pacer) and it helps some of the time on this long uphill.  I tell Dave I will text him when I get home and maybe we can get together afterwards.

I reach Skyline Gate maintaining an average pace of a little over 15 minutes per mile.  There is a fully operational aid station here!!  I get some snacks and refill both of my water bottles with Gatorade before heading back towards the starting line.

This section has a net downhill (but is not all downhill) and heads back to the same aid station we just came from.  A few years ago, though, the race leader didn’t go in this direction but retraced his steps (and saved about a mile of distance) and was disqualified.

The road out of the aid station is still the fire-road and is mostly flat.  I use the opportunity to eat some of the food I garnered at the aid station and gird myself for the uphill section a little further down the road.  Soon enough I turn off and head down a steep-ish single-track trail through the redwoods.  I know that before I reach the bottom, there will be that mentioned ascension, which will eventually reconnect to the single-track, then across the road to the aid station.

While I am able to run at a moderate pace on the downhill parts, I negate much of this with my uphill section pace, reaching the aid station (now open!) in a 15:23 pace (similar to my all uphill pace).

Now I return to the LOVE-HATE hill.  What I am loving this time around is that the sun has not yet peeked through the clouds and it is still cool.  This section can be difficult with the sun beaming down.  I get up and down in under 15:00/mile pace and am now on the homestretch.

From here on in, the trail is heading towards the opposite side of Lake Chabot.  I think I may mentioned before the LOVE-HATE HATE-LOVE sections, but this section is mostly all hate.  This has less to do with uphills and downhills and is more about the endless quality of this section (one of the sections that are over 5 miles) and how every turn seems familiar, but the aid station never seems to appear.  Despite feeling like I am not moving that well, my pace is a skosh faster than my overall average pace.  Looks like I will have an hour for the last 3 miles – and that will get me under my time of 7:33 from last year (when I had accelerated heart rate in hot situations).

The sun IS out at this point and I am struggling a bit in the heat.  Most of this last section is fire-road and about half of it is paved.  I figure I can speed-walk the uphill and flats and run the downhills.  I am just biding my time and looking forward to the suspension bridge at Mile 29 or so (for the free foot massage effect).

I am able to run hard the last 200 yards and finish strong, though I ran almost exactly my overall pace (13:40 for the section; 13:38 for the race).  My time of 7:13 is 20 minutes faster than last year (the early start probably contributed by letting me stay cool further into the race).

In the food area, I strike up a few conversations.  I see Megan Cheng, who finished under 6 hours (someone who totally didn’t need the early start) and her friends.  I talk with an older lady who “didn’t need another shirt.”  (The women’s shirt was pink so I gave it to Mom.)  The food is good; I have grilled salmon on a bun and some salad.

I am debating what else or how long I would stay and hang out, when up rolls Dave and Sandy Binder, their two boys (and a friend).  They came to see me finish, but I was a little faster than they expected. Dave has a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada IPA. I can only manage one but we make the people hanging out with us happy (because they each get a beer).

I am happy with my result, both because I managed to complete two 50Ks in a span of 15 days and also because I did myself proud in a race where I was honoring my late friend Hwa-Ja.