Monday, May 26, 2008

Calm Before the Storm

We're staying with some friends in Southern California (Corona del Mar) for a couple of days before hitting Disneyland with the kids tomorrow (Tuesday). I'm calling this the end of my non-functional recovery (i.e. maximum eating, minimum activity.) We'll be heading back home on Wednesday and then it's time to start running again.

We were down at the beach today (Little Corona) and there was a big, steep hill going down to the beach. I couldn't help but take a couple of runs up the hill and then come flying down. Oh man. This hill/trail stuff is a powerful drug. I think I found my new hobby.

Looking forward to training again!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Cranking up the Engine

I headed over to the gym yesterday for a light workout. No running.

Did two sets of pulls-ups and dips and then jumped in the pool for a 1000-yd workout. Mostly freestyle with a few laps mixing up the strokes. Also did some kick drills for a few laps to work out the junk in my legs. That alone woke up the soreness in my legs. I can definitely feel my body saying "Take your time ramping up the training." It was a nice easy workout but it felt great to get the blood pumping again. As for today, I might just take the dog out for a walk. Poor guy hasn't been able to get out lately due to the heat and my recovery from the race.

"I've got needs, you know?!"

Swimming in the pool brought back some of the triathlon desire again. I think I might keep myself in triathlon maintenance mode for the rest of the year and wait until next year to train for another one. I'm fairly certain I'm going to target the Vineman 70.3 next year as my first half-Ironman race (20th Anniversary of the race). My running and swimming should be in good shape. I just need to get some miles on the bike this summer and maintain until next year.

As for what's next this year? It's looking more and more like I'm going to give the Skyline 50k a try in August. (Have to run this by the rules committee (wife) first). Rick Gaston, from this new ultra world community I've become addicted to, mentioned the races from Pacific Coast Trail Runs as possible choices as well. I definitely see some great races I'd like to try there - especially Montana de Oro (close to my old Cal Poly stomping grounds). So many to choose from and just like with triathlons, I'm only limited by money (entry fees) and time (wife and kids - haven't figured out Mark Tanaka's secret powers yet). Probably saves me from destroying myself anyway.

There were also some smaller Tri's that I was thinking of training for this year, but I'm afraid I might burn out ramping up the training for those. I think I'll stick to the running since I've got my base training established now. Just need to proceed with caution and listen to my body.

Kids are going to grandma's tonight, so mommy and I get to do some drinkin' (I'm sorry, I meant talking and discussing things).

Have a great Friday everyone and enjoy the following 'Family Guy' video clip... it sums up my eating for the week...


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

3 Days Later...

It seems that with every new day that goes by, the high from the race (2008 Ohlone 50k) gets better and better. Some more observations...

- Blisters are just about completely healed up already and my two big toes (and nails) are now down to a dull pain. I can actually wear closed-toe shoes now without wincing. Feet are back to normal size.

- Leg muscles are doing great. I've been stretching them daily and the stairs are my friend again. No pain in the knees.

- I know it's too early, but I really have the urge to get out and start training again. That's the feeling I was hoping for after this. I'm already finding myself looking at the ultra schedule a couple months out. Skyline 50k, perhaps? Easy tiger. Need to remind myself that I took a big jump in distance this past weekend so I have to be careful about training after this. I think I'll start hitting the pool soon - for swimming. I really can't stand running in the pool - bores the heck out of me.

- As I was running down the long single track after the Schleiper Rock aid station on Sunday, I couldn't help but notice all of the poison oak that I was running by (into). Well, today it showed up on my left leg and right arm. Hopefully, that will be all. I need to add 'Poison oak control' to the list of things to do for next time. I used a product called Zanfel on it that washes away the oil and relieves the itching at the same time. Time to put the sheets in the laundry.

- I can't help but smile when I think of the people I met or had the pleasure to be around on Sunday. A lot of the runners that I read about and inspired me to do this were there (Mark Tanaka, Jean Pommier, Will Gotthardt, Chihping Fu, Kevin Sawchuk, Beth Vitalis, etc.). Two+ hours after he finished, Will G happens to bring over my water bottle I dropped at the finish line and tell me what a great job I did. Very cool. What a great group of people and of course, ridiculous athletes. Even though he wasn't running Ohlone this year, special thanks to Scott Dunlap for providing me with the initial inspiration for doing an ultra. I have enjoyed reading his blog way before jumping into this. Also thanks to Glorybelle Lillie (Silly Lillie, the Skirt on RW). Reading her running tales and watching her turn into a running machine has been very inspiring. It's been great reconnecting with her and her brother. Now she's a part of something in my life that I'll never forget. Thanks, GB. You and your family are awesome.

- I'm sure it's the same at other races, but the volunteers at this race were unbelievable. Just thinking of them inspires me to want to volunteer as well. Time to start giving back to the sport before I start taking too much from it.

- I've had a blast eating this week so far. I forgot that one of the main reasons I train and keep in shape is so I don't have to have much of a diet. Oh yeah...and drinking beer too. Mmm.

- Good to hear that injured runner, Steve Shultis is getting better. He was moved from the ICU to a transitional unit and his wife Susie says they expect a full recovery. Can't wait to see him running again in the near future.

- Of course, thanks to my beautiful wife for her support. Not only did she support me during training and the race, she has turned into super mom/wife this week while I return to normal. You rock!


Monday, May 19, 2008


Yesterday (5/18/08), I successfully completed my first ultra marathon, the 2008 Ohlone 50k. What an experience it was. For the race, it can be summarized like this: hills, heat and, oh yeah, more hills. I'll ramble off some random details about the race as I move towards the end where the real interesting stuff begins, including satan, my savior, heat, pain, suffering, and a horse trough.

Course profile. Where are the flat sections?

-Average speed of school bus from Livermore to Fremont (i.e. shuttle from the finish to the start) was about 22 MPH, including the freeways. I was sitting next to Caren Spore (last year's female winner and course record holder) on the ride to Fremont. Told her it was my first Ultra and she started laughing like I was crazy. I understand why now. Previous record holder and this year's eventual winner, Beth Vitalis, was sitting across the aisle. Female ultra royalty. Very cool eavesdropping on their stories.

-Already warm at the start. Took off few minutes after 8 AM. Headed off with friends, Glorybelle Lillie (Silly Lillie, from Get Out There and Run Already fame) and Danny Bringer. I'm not sure if they realize how great it was for me to run with them at the start of this race. (Thanks guys). Oops, forgot to double tie shoe laces - pull over, tie and catch up.

-Quickly learning we'll be walking lots of hills today. Find myself very happy to make it to Mission Peak in 1 hour.

-Had a blast flying down to Sunol aid station (mi: 9.11)– actually had a chance to run at a good pace on this section. Come to think of it, might have actually been the last chance to run for that long a period. Felt good heading from Mission Peak down to Sunol. Good pace so far.

-Got sponged (or soaked) at Sunol - very hot already - and filled up the bottles and grabbed a quick snack before leaving. Looking back, I think I might have left Sunol too quickly – probably needed a little more fuel here. This is also the last time Glorybelle was with us. She turned on her turbos at this point. Heading out of this station, I started to lose some power in my climbing legs already. Again, next time I think I need more fuel, earlier (Note: Doing more hill training would certainly help as well)

-After struggling along, I happily arrived at the Backpack Area aid station (mi: 12.48), where I was honored to receive aid from ultra-legends, Ann Trason and Carl Andersen. Even though I'm a newbie to this, I'm well aware of the feats that Ann and Carl are known for. Very cool to be in their company. Ann kept telling everyone to eat up because the next 2.5 miles are uphill big time. She's wasn't lying.

-After leaving the station, the trail goes straight up a brutal climb. As i started up the climb, my legs felt they couldn't do it. "How in the hell can I keep doing this? Can I really do this?" I actually started thinking of possibly not making it. I really felt like crying. I'm a very positive person and would never think of quitting, but this was bad. My only thoughts were to move forward with whatever I have until I can't and then rest. Repeat until done. After struggling to go very far each push and more brutal climbing, I suddenly started to realize something happening. (Cue turning point music) My strength was coming back! My energy (fuel) was finally kicking back in. "I can do this. Yes it sucks, but legs are working. Let's go!" (note: After this, my energy/hydration management was mostly fine until leaving Satan's pit towards the end of the race - more on that later. (credit to Catra (Dirt Diva) for the Satan's pit term)

-From here to the top of the world (Rose Peak), I'm running anything relatively flat or downhill and power-walking the hills ( an endless amount of them)

-I catch up to Danny a few miles before Rose Peak and he's looking beat up by the heat at this point. I know he's hurting because I start to pull away from him. I pass by him again on my way down from Rose Peak and won't see him again until after the finish.

-It was very helpful running different segments with people. Strange thing for me is that I actually started catching people and eventually leaving them behind. For a long stretch heading up to Rose Peak and then to the 26 mile aid station, nobody was passing me. I found myself running/walking long stretches with nobody around me. "Maybe I'm not doing so bad after all."

-After Rose Peak, I made a joyous stop at Maggie’s Half Acre aid station (mi: 19.7). I was so happy to be done with the climb to the peak (elevation: 3817 feet). I fueled up, got soaked again to cool off, felt "great" and started the charge down. The next 6 miles is basically a continuous combination of steep downhills (beating the quads) and steep uphills (beating everything else) with an occasional 30 yard stretch of "flat" thrown in. Again, repeat as necessary. "How are we going to get down to the bottom if we keep going up?" (Last 2 miles down at the end explains that one.)

fter basically taking a shower at the Stewart's Camp self-service water "aid station"(mi: 23.6), I headed up the next set of hills with another racer and then caught up with the Dirt Diva (Catra) and her boyfriend, Andy, towards the top of the big hill. Want to hear amazing? She was coming up to the end of 100 miles! (Fremont->Del Valle->Fremont->Del Valle + a bonus 7 miles) They looked exhausted. 100 miles in this heat is crazy. What a woman. I introduced myself and chatted for a couple minutes before powering on. (Note: Catra summarized what was remaining and told me that after the next aid station, at the bottom of the single track going down, to stop at the creek and cool off before heading up the hell hill out Satan's pit. (It's not that I didn't hear her, I was just too tired when I got there to remember to do anything) After leaving them and the other runner I was with, I was feeling about as good as I thought I could. Still walking the uphills, but found myself with unusual energy on the downs and flats. I Finally made it to the Schlieper Rock aid station (mi: 25.95) and fueled up as much as possible before charging down the crazy single-track. Ouch, more downhills. It actually wasn't too bad going down. I was sore but felt good running down. Seemed like I was completely alone out there until I caught a girl down at the bottom by the creek.

atan's pit. Here is where I should have stopped, dipped my head, rinsed off my legs,caught my breath, etc. before moving on. I didn't do any of those things. Didn't even think about it. Judgement gone. People had told me along the way that the last uphill was steep (and I believed them and could see that at this point), but I didn't realize it was steep and went up for a half mile! "What the f*ck! Are you f*cking kidding me! How can this be! This isn't fair!" Here we go...about 50 feet up the hill, I curse more. My body cannot handle this. It's not just a mental thing anymore. I'm starting to overheat, I'm breathing hard and my heart rate is going through the roof. This isn't good. It's hotter than hell on this hill with very little shade and I'm trying to think of how to fix this. My only strategy is to try and walk from any shade I could find to the next available shade (few) and then catch my breath and make sure I'm ok (i.e. cool enough/hydrated). After what seemed like 20 – 30 minutes of climbing this hill, I reach the top of the steep part. At this point the hill levels out a bit allowing myself to actually continue on. I'm not running at all anymore. I'm only thinking one thing right now…"How far is that last aid station?" I'm hot, my water is now empty and I have 2 bottles with maybe a ¼ left of warm electrolytes. I'm really hurting walking up towards the ridge wondering if I'm going to be ok. Other than earlier when I needed strength, I started praying for God to help me. It was right after this that I'll never forget. As soon as I asked for help, a nice breeze started kicking in across the ridge. It wasn't exactly cool, but it was enough to break the still heat. That breeze may have kept me cool enough and allowed me to get enough of a breath to keep moving. I was still out of energy and hot but I kept moving. And then, one of the weirdest, best and most unforgettable things happened in this race. As I was struggling along walking on the ridge, with my fuel tank (and senses) on empty and getting worse, I see this person coming towards me from about ¼ mile away. My first thought is bad.."What the hell? Do we have to loop around something and come back towards this way?" I keep watching and slowly my depleted brain thinks, "That guy doesn't have a shirt on...Wait, he doesn't have a number either. Wait a second. That's Oscar!" Oscar is my father-in-law, a former marathoner in the army and daily runner. Oh my God. What a sight to see! This crazy son-of-a-bitch had run up the final 2-mile hill and was coming across the ridge towards me. This was my savior. God was listening. (Side note: At my first triathlon last year, I was coming out of a hilly run - energy depleted and trying to finish strong and he met me with about 1/2 mile to go. He ended up running with me and helping me charge the finish line)

Post race with my father-in-law
At this point, with Oscar next to me, I knew I would be fine. He got me relaxed and gave me enough of a jump to get a shuffle going. I'm still hurting and way too hot and can only think "water. where is the water?" We made it across the ridge and finally hit the downhill while noticing the sign for the aid station saying ½ mile ahead. I can do it. I need to get to that aid station to cool down, hydrate and fuel up for the final two miles. And then finally,...The most beautiful sight I had ever seen (almost better than seeing the finish line). The last aid station, Stromer Spring (mi: 29). Let's just say that I almost took a bath in the horse trough there. I drank tons of water. I took Advil, salt, chips, candy,bananas. I drank a full can of coke. My body was toast and I still had to go downhill for 2 straight miles, but at the very least, my body temperature was back to normal and I felt hydrated again. Sore, but hydrated and cool we head down for the last brutal descent. Sorry toes. Oscar trying to encourage me all the way down. At various points, I have to stop for a few seconds. My left knee (or at least the outside) is really hurting going down these hills. We continue on until about ¾ miles left when we see a girl in obvious trouble. She was already being helped by another female runner trying to run down the hill, but things didn't look good for her. We tried to offer water, anything, but she was refusing (most likely unknowingly) to take anything. Just then, she breaks loose from the girl's grasp and tries to take off on her own down the hill but can only keep her feet for a few more steps. "oh shit!" It's there where she finally can't keep up with the steepness of the hill and has a terrible fall. The other racer, Oscar and myself run to help her and make sure she's ok. I tell Oscar to go down and get help and we'll stay and watch her. Of course, he won't let me stay there and says to go finish the race and get help. Feeling guilty, I charged down the rest of the way (about ½ mile) to the finish. (I can't remember feeling if this was hard or not - just thinking of the girl) For 1/2 mile, it still seemed like it would never end. Finally, I notice the parking lot is at my level and see the path to the finish. I hear people cheering and I see my family ahead cheering for me. Wow. Made it. It's over. After catching my breath, I tell RD Rob that there is a girl right up the trail that is in trouble and needs some attention. At this point, I'm very concerned about the girl, but my mind and body are so tired, I'm not even sure what I should be doing. I need to sit down with my family and figure out what I just did. (Oscar comes down a few minutes later saying other runners are helping and she should be ok. Thank God.)

Finishing the race, pulling myself together and then sending out help...

-Note: I didn't know it at the time, but another racer, Steve, had to be airlifted to the hospital and is still in ICU at time of this writing. My prayers and thoughts are with him.

-7 hours, 28 minutes and 46 seconds is the official time of the race for me. Good enough for Male Rookie of the Year (best time for first time Ultra runner). My friend Glorybelle (aka Silly Lillie), took home the Female Rookie of the Year award with an amazing 6 hours and 45 minute time (Top 5 women, 2nd in age group & 31st overall!). Dan came in a little bit later at 7:53, still happy despite the heat. (official results)

It's me. Male Rookie of the Year.

My original goal was 7 hours (other than the obvious goal of actually finishing), so I was happy to be within 30 minutes of that. With a little more respect and preparation for the climb out of Satan's pit, I would have come close to beating 7 hours. (yes, it was that much of a factor)

s I sat at the finish area pigging out on all the incredible food, I felt better and better about the race. It was tough. It was hot. It was hilly. It was brutal out there. I overcame heat and water trouble at the end. I overcame early doubts. I finished a distance that I had never even come close to running before (previous PR for distance was 20.43 miles) over a course that I was nowhere near trained for (blame it on the flat California central valley).

-So what's the damage (next day)? Surprisingly, my legs aren't too bad (yet). I think my quads are about to announce their pain to the world in the next 12-24 hours. My right butt muscle area (technical term) is where I am really sore. It takes me a few steps out of the chair to get it loose, and I still walk like I'm 90. The real damage is to my feet. Multiple blisters on both sides of my feet and around the toes. I'll also be kissing goodbye the toe nails of my big toes on both feet (maybe my left middle one too). They're looking bad. Overall, I'd say my condition is better than I thought I would be. No muscle injuries or scrapes from falling. (Come to think of it, I'm pretty excited and amazed that I was able to handle every downhill on this course. Technical is an understatement. Those Brooks Cascadia shoes were awesome.)

hat's next? At this point, I don't know. I have some ideas but I'm going to wait until my body heals and see where I'm at physically and mentally. I'm definitely interested in doing more trail runs in the future. I know I'll be back next year for this race with better training, better strategy and hopefully an even better overall experience.

any thanks to the race directors, sponsors, and volunteers (especially the volunteers) for making the race possible. Thank you to all the racers who talked with me, walked/ran with me, shared stories and strategies with me, pushed me and allowed me to have a great time. Thanks to Silly Lillie and Dan Bringer for letting me be apart of your running squad for the early parts of the race. I needed that. And thanks to my family for being there at the end, especially my wife. She's so supportive of me when I get these crazy ideas in my head. I can't thank her enough for letting me have my adventures. Always great to have family waiting for you at the finish. Looking forward to next time!

Me, Victoria, Catra (Dirt Diva), Glorybelle and Danny at the post race picnic (photo by GB)

Post race with my mom (dad was playing in a softball tournament but met us afterwards)

Kids playing in the lake after the race


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Weather is Looking Scary

If I wasn't running a hilly 50k this Sunday (Ohlone 50k), I would be very excited for the upcoming hot spell that we're about to run into. Probably be hitting the pool with the boys and just lounging around doing a whole lot of nothing.

However, since I am running the aforementioned hilly 50k, I'm getting a little scared of how much the heat is going to beat me silly. I've been running my tapering miles in the late afternoon this week just to get a little extra practice time in the heat (big difference between my 3 & 4 milers and a 31-miler). I guess I'll just need to pay extra attention to fluids on Sunday. Original plan was to carry 2 bottles with me..think I'll change that to carrying two hand-helds and keeping one in the waistpack. I'll probably fill two with electrolytes and one with water.

I bought some new trail shoes a couple of weeks ago and I'm loving them. They are the red Cascadia 3 model from Brooks. My wife took one look at them and said "You got red shoes!?" I love it. My normal running shoes are the Radius 7's from Brooks. I've been worried that they wouldn't work too well on the downhills with the loose gravel and other fun little technical difficulties. Normally, I like to break my shoes in for a longer period of time, but I did get a long run in with them and a couple weeks of other runs. They work great and are very comfortable. Can't wait to flash the reds on Sunday with grey socks. Goofier the better right?

What's left for training?
Yesterday I did a nice easy 3-4 miler through the fields and up to the levee. Coming back to the house, I almost broke my ankle. I was bounding over some grassy area and stepped my foot right into a hole. Luckily my ankles are made of rubber these days and I only had a little pain on the outside-top of my foot this morning.
Today - 2-3 mile EZ run at Noon today - little more heat practice. Tonight is softball night and we have a double-header so that will be some bonus running around.
Friday-All signs point to me doing nothing on Friday. Maybe a quick mile jog and that's it.
Saturday-Get off the legs
Sunday- Tear it up!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Last Week Before the Race

As of today (Tuesday), we're down to 5 days remaining until the big day. I've only done a few races in the past and each time I've tapered, I've always felt like a fat slob the last week before the race. This week is no exception. I do realize that my legs are getting some well-deserved (and needed) rest before the weekend. I better remind myself to ease up a little on the eating/drinking.

For this week, we're going very easy...
Yesterday: Did "Fran" workout from Crossfit (21-15-9 of 95-lb thrusters and pull-ups). I haven't been doing much crossfit over the last few months and my pull-ups are suffering. Managed to squeeze this one out in 9:10. Also hit the pool for 20 laps and then a dip in the whirlpool.
Today: Mini-Quality workout - (2 x 1600 @ 8:00 pace w/ 3:00 recovery)
Wed: EZ 3 miles
Thurs: EZ 2 miles
Fri: Off
Sat: Off
Sun: RACE DAY!!!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Almost There

I really enjoyed yesterday's quality run - 5 x 1000M @ 5k pace (~7 min/mi). My legs were starting to scream on the last one. That's probably going to be it for the fast stuff until race day.

Today will be a nice EZ 6-miler with Miles (dog). He's been off the runs for a week now because on my tempo run last week, we went extra hard for an extra couple miles and he paid the price. Poor fella ended up cracking one of his paws and could barely walk for a few days. Well, he's flying around again and was really peeved when I went out on Monday without him. I wanted to make sure he was ok before I took him out again.

Tomorrow (Friday) - Wanted to get a last tempo run in but it's probably more important to just get some miles in - probably another 6-miler.

Saturday - I'll get up for an early 10-miler before T-ball starts in the morning.

Sunday - rest day - Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Looks like I'll be sporting bib #144 for the 50k. I like it. 4 is my favorite number and hopefully having two of them means something. (Laughing at myself).

Yesterday's run -> 13 miles (8.30 pace) - I felt exhausted after this run for some reason. Not sure if it was the sun (little hot in the afternoon) or the 20-miler from last week still hanging around. Should be OK going forward with the lower mileage.

I decided to take it easy today and do nothing. Tomorrow I'll do my last quality workout.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Two Weeks To Go!

Yesterday marked two weeks out to the 50k. Am I getting nervous? Yes. Am I excited to run this thing? Yes. I had an interesting weekend running (i.e. not much of anything). I was supposed to get a 14-15 miler in on Saturday (which I missed), and then really start tapering for the two weeks. No worries. I'll go out at lunch today and do 12 miles and then go easy for the week. I'll do one last 10-miler next weekend and then coast for the final week with some EZ runs.

My Goals for the 50k? #1 is to finish. I really have no doubts I can finish, but I need to remember this is my first ultra (shoot, first any long race) and I can't take that for granted. #2 goal (stretch goal 1) finish in under 7 hours. Can I do this? I don't know. A lot of repeat runners don't even make this time so how am I supposed to do this? Confidence, stupidity and maybe an extra gear that I don't know about. Hey, you gotta have something to shoot for.

On the schedule...
Today - EZ 12-15 miles (depends on time)
Tuesday- Rest or Miles walk day
Wed - Last Quality day (5x1000 meters @ 5k pace w/ 2-minute)
Thurs - EZ 4 miles
Fri - EZ 6 miles
Sat - EZ 10 miles


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