Monday, September 29, 2008

Now What?

We're now 9 days removed from the Skyline the Sea 50k (Stts) and I'm suddenly trying to figure out what to do next. The runner's high from that race is still flowing big time. My original plan was to sign-up for Firetrails 50 if I came out of SttS injury free and feeling good (check to both of those). Oops. Forgot that we had a wedding for a family friend that weekend. Firetrails is out. These things happen and I don't have to remind myself that I'm fortunate to get to run at all. It's harder in this case because the fire (no pun intended) is burning bright and I really wanted to do this race. Ok. Moving on...

So what to do next? I know there are still a lot of races out there but there are some limitations as to what I can do. First of all, I don't want to have to travel too far (within the general SF Bay area). Next up is the type of race. After having so much fun on the Montana de Oro and SttS trails, it might be hard to run a race on a bike path or non-wooded trail (Helen Klein 50-miler, or PCTR SF One Day 12/24 hour) I'd rather be in the hills trying to figure out where the heck I am, than running down a bike path behind some businesses/homes (ooh sorry - I might have just stolen that line from Rick G). At the same time, I really want to take a shot at a 50-miler before the year ends. (We are playing with the house's money so let's have some fun).

Right now, I'm thinking of giving the HK 50-miler a shot - it's on a Saturday with no soccer game for my oldest boy and it's relatively close (within 45 minutes). If not HK, then I'll do the SF 12-hour race and stay overnight for the 49er game the next day. I love the PCTR races so I'll probably sign up for at least one more of those (Woodside) before recharging for the next year.

Speaking of next year, my goal is now about shooting for the 100-mile distance. I have the base miles under my belt and enough time to start building up to what I need. Plus, I've got some new friends that I can ask for (beg) advice from. I know it's only September, but I've already started thinking about races for next year (race sign-ups are coming up soon and family life demands early planning sometimes). Here's what I'm already thinking about...

  • Way to Cool 50k (3/14/09) or Rucky Chuck 50k (3/21/09)
  • American River 50 (4/4/09) or Diablo 50-miler 4/11/09)
  • Skyline to the Sea 50 (4/26/09) - Would love to run this again; a little too close to Miwok
  • Miwok 100k (5/2/09) - steppin' up to 62 miles
  • Ohlone 50k (5/17/09) - My first one! Looking forward to see how I've progressed
  • Diablo 50k (6/6/09) - Always wanted to do a Diablo event (will do this for sure if not the 50-miler)
  • (?) 100-miler in the fall (?)
  • Who cares after this (Montana de Oro would be great again)

Should have figured out my next race or two in the next post.

BTW, health is good. Did 3 recovery runs last week - 7 miles, 3 miles, & 6 miles. Legs were dead but after the 3rd run on Saturday, I finally felt like legs were ready for more action. Will probably run to the gym today and mix in a little weights (quick reps, low weight). Until next time...


Monday, September 22, 2008

A Stinging Good Time at Skyline to the Sea

Last Saturday (9/20), I finally got around to running my second 50k of the year, the Skyline to the Sea 50k, put on by Sarah and Wendell Doman of Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR). It had been 4+ months since my first 50k and I was more than ready to go out and tackle this race. "The password is BUZZ"

Stayed with my brother in San Jose the night before so I wouldn't have to drive all the way from Stockton early in the morning. Woke up at 6:00 AM to eat the standard bagel (w/ peanut butter this time) and a banana. Drank 20 oz. of water and started getting my stuff together. Uh oh. Forgot my sleeves for my water bottles. That won't be good if I can't find someone to borrow from. Except for that fact, everything else is good. Woke my brother up at 7:00 to get us going. We head out and get to the starting area at Saratoga Gap at 7:50. There are about 15 people at the start. Brother says good luck and heads back for home (and his bed). First person I recognize there is Scott Dunlap. Since his blog is what basically started my fascination with trail running (especially the long variety), I wanted to make sure I went and introduced myself. After saying hello, registering and making a nature call, it was time to relax (and figure out where to get some bottle sleeves). Once I found Sarah Doman, she put my mind at ease and said she had some to sell as soon as Wendell arrived on the shuttle. Nice. Time for people watching.

Set my stuff down and once again discovered why trail running events are the best - coolest people around are running them. I ended up talking with Jo Lynn and Christy (both attempting and completing their first 50k's - congratulations!). They mentioned their husbands were out golfing in Seascape. (Gee, if I wasn't running 31 miles, that really seemed like a great idea). As we were talking I spotted another speedster friend that I've come to know this year, Rick Gaston. Rick is definitely not an ultra rookie and I knew he would be flying over this course today. Later on, another of my newest trail running buddies, Victoria Folks arrived looking anxious but ready to rock the trails today (check her link or hold tight for what happened). Catra was also there but I didn't get a chance to say 'Hi' until later at the Gazos Creek Aid station.

After grabbing my new bottles (actually just the new sleeves with my old bottles), we headed down to the starting area to get lined up for the 9:00 AM start. Wendell had us line up according to our projected finish times. "4 hours. 5 hours. 6 hours." My goal at the start was to break 6 hours so I decided to hang out right with the 5 hour folks. Plus I wanted to see how quickly the front guys took off on this course. At 9:00 on the nose, we were off and heading downhill.

Right away, the pace is fast (everything from here on out is relative when speaking of fast - wait until you hear what the winning times were). Of course, the top 30 or so guys immediately blast out of there and I get into as smooth a rhythm as possible. The first 10k to the first aid station is mostly downhills with random little uphills around every corner. To me, I feel like I'm going too fast but I like the position I'm in and want to see what happens. I Get into the first aid station a little after 50 minutes or so (not a blazing 10k time but fast pace for me for 50k). I top off my water bottles, grab a Payday bar and banana piece and head out for the next leg.

Out of the aid station, I latch on to two runners that I'll end up running with for the next 10 miles, Mike Nutall and Elizabeth McCleneghan. They were exactly the runners that I needed to pull me along and keep a good pace for the race (at least the first 25 - 30k). Mike had the lead, Elizabeth behind him and me bringing up the rear. A couple miles before the 2nd aid station, a runner caught up and asked if we had been stung yet. Say what? The three of us say no and start to wonder. Elizabeth mentions that she's allergic to bee stings and conveniently didn't bring any medicine along. We head into the 2nd aid station and I fill up my water and get some banana, payday and coke (yum).

We head out of the aid station and sure enough, within a mile or two, we run smack dab into a swarm of bee/wasp/hornet things - all three of us plus a couple other runners immediately try and swat away whatever number of "things" had landed on us. Three nice stings for me - top of the head, lower back and left calf. Decent little pain that actually made me forget about running for about 15 minutes. (My 3 stings are actually way below average in this race. Fred Ecks had 20!) Weird, wild stuff. In the meantime, we continue cruising mostly downhill on this incredibly amazing trail. Rock formations. Wooden bridges. Trees. Creeks. Awesome! Heading into the Gazos Creek aid station, I hear someone yell out "Hey Rookie!" - it's Will Gotthardt saying hello (referring to my Ohlone 50k male rookie award this year). I yell back hello and within a couple minutes, we're cruising into the aid station ready for our trip around the loop.

Mike N. heads out first up the big hill out of the aid station, followed by myself and then Elizabeth bringing up the rear this time. As I'm walking up finishing up my "meal", Elizabeth gets stung for the 3rd and 4th time (maybe 5th too). Not again. I wait for her to catch up and this time the sting is in her ear and can tell this one hurt. We get off the road and head up the steep portion of the hill and Mike moves ahead a bit. I follow and Elizabeth drops back a bit. After making sure she's ok I catch up to Mike near the top of the peak as we get ready to charge down back to the Gazos aid station. I tell him to go at his pace and I'll run behind. As usual, he keeps a great pace. About 2 miles from the aid station, Mike starts pulling ahead as my pace starts to slow down a bit. (This is right after the 25k distance in the race - where all my training runs have been ending so this is not a surprise). In another mile, Elizabeth catches up to me - this time with her ear swelling, chest turning red and slightly slurring. "Uh. Are you alright?" She's gives the thumbs up. She's fired up at this point and charges ahead to get to the aid station. I pass by Will G again and finally hit the aid station for the 2nd time. At this point Mike and Elizabeth have taken off and it's time to begin the solo portion of the race.

This is where I made the only fueling mistake of the race for me. Instead of filling both bottles with water, I filled one up with GU (I didn't even need the salt since I was taking a tablet every hour). I grabbed some food and tums, took an advil and started walking down the trail to head up and out of the basin. The climb out of here wasn't too bad. There were some parts that required me to power-walk, but I kept moving. After hitting the top of the hill, it was downhill time and despite the lack of speed, this was a lot of fun running down. I ended up catching 3 people before finally hitting the fire trails and long stretch to the final aid station. At one point before leaving the wooded areas by the creek, I stopped to dip my hat in the water before moving on. My water was getting dangerously low. At about 2 miles out from the aid station, my water and electrolytes hit empty. Damn! However, my pace kept steady. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I hit the last aid station along with four other people. Looking at my watch, I see that it's only a few minutes after 5 hours. "I'm gonna blow past my 6 hour goal! Yes!" I downed a full coke, loaded up the waters and then headed out with less than 2 miles to go.

At this point, I just wanted to keep moving at the same pace and not let anyone pass me. Finally saw the ocean and made a left turn at the mystery house on the hill. With about a 1/2 mile left, we're over in the marsh land and I'm actually wondering if I made a wrong turn. I finally see a ribbon and then hear some cheers up ahead. Nice, it's close. Round another few turns and then I see the cones. And my wife! And my mom and dad! Woo hoo! Across the finish in 5 hours, 23 minutes and change (42nd place), I hear Rick G yelling out "Good job, Mike" (he's been there awhile).

At this point I'm curious to see how the leaders did on this very runnable course.

  • Winning time: 3:38:33 shared by two runners (Lon Freeman & Leor Pantilat)
  • Four runners under 4 hours!
  • Scott Dunlap help off Rick G by 23 seconds for 7th place (4:24:30 vs 4:24:53) - impressive!
  • Elizabeth came in at 5:16:10 to win 1st in her age group (F21-29) - 34th overall - nice recovery from the beasts!
  • Mike N. came in at 5:17:40 to win 1st in his age group (M50-59) - 38th overall - thanks for the tow!
Headed over with my wife and parents to enjoy the post-race atmosphere. The weather was perfect and the racers are always friendly. Cracked open a beer and chatted with my family. Introduced Rick to the family and shared a beer with him (yummy Black Butte Porter). Thanked Mike and Elizabeth for letting me run with them. Last thing to do was see how Victoria was doing. Finally, she comes in not looking so great - beat up with 13 stings and even worse, a fractured foot! She managed to run for 10 miles on a broken foot! Great job finishing. I also later found out the Jo Lynn and Christy successfully completed their first 50k's! Great job ladies!

Final notes in bullet form (getting tired):
  • Knee felt great during and after race - can't tell you how excited I am about this.
  • Average pace for me was 10:30/mi.
  • This was my longest run (by 13 miles) since May
  • Day after race, my calves were tight - no injuries or major pain (as of Tuesday, feeling good and ready to run)
  • As promised to myself, I'm seriously considering the Firetrails 50 miler now. I'll do 6-8 miles today (Tues) and then work on a 20-miler on Saturday. If that goes well, then it's on.
  • Post-race Meal on Sunday night? Del Taco. We ordered pizza that never showed up so we said screw it and went to Del Taco. Nothing says "Go F yourself, body" more than burrito and fries.
  • Thanks again to all the volunteers, Sarah and Wendell and friendly runners.
  • Thanks Scott D, Rick G, Catra and Victoria for letting me "borrow" your pictures.
  • Speaking of Rick. He's a graphic designer and is starting to come up with some sweet logos and headers for his blog and race reports. Check out the one he made for this race:

Can't wait to run again. Hope to see everyone at Firetrails!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Buzzin' in Big Basin

Had a great time racing yesterday at the PCTR Skyline to the Sea 50k. I'll work on the race report later tonight or tomorrow. The highlights were bees/yellowjackets, awesome trails, fast runners, perfect weather, great volunteers and friendly runners. Final numbers for the race for me:

Time: 5:23:18
Place: 42 (out of 210)
# of stings: 3 (head, back and leg)

Can't wait to do it again.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feeling Good, Louis!

Thanks to Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) from Trading Places for the easy title for this post. We're at the 9-day out mark for Skyline to the Sea and I'm feeling good. Had a nice 14-mile run on Tuesday and ran around with my son's soccer team yesterday (actually it was more like me chasing the kids around - not great listeners those 3 & 4 year olds). All joints, muscles, bones, etc feel like they're in good condition (knocking on a giant piece of wood).

I'm excited for this upcoming race, my 2nd ultra for the year (or ever for that matter). It's a sold-out race with 210 entries. Lot's of fast runners and folks that I've come to know and admire. It will be fun to see how quickly most of them disappear right away. I'll try to remind myself to not get caught up in the early excitement and start out slow.

Goals? Started thinking more about this and I've come up with a few. (1) Finish. Simple one but it's not to be taken for granted. (2) Finish in 6 hours or less. A bit more aggressive but if I can keep a good pace and stay healthy, this could be attainable. (3) Stay healthy. This probably should be my first goal since it will affect the other two. With my longer runs restricted in mileage, I'll be praying after 20 miles that my muscles hold up for the rest of the race. (Especially my left ITB). It was a good sign that my legs felt great at Montana de Oro with the climbing/ascending, even though it was only 25k instead of 50.

Oh and it looks like bib #s got assigned today - #817 for me.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good Times at Monta de Oro

This past Labor Day weekend, the family and I headed down to Avila Beach for a little vacation at the beach. Along with lounging around the beach and pool in Avila, I was scheduled to run the Montana de Oro 25k (PC Trail Run 8k, 12k, & 50k also). I had been looking forward to this vacation and especially this run for a long time. 3 1/2 months had passed since the last race (Ohlone 50k) way back in May. After spending Friday and Saturday on the beach with the boys and wife, it was time for some fun early Sunday morning.

Normally, I like to make sure I have plenty of time in the morning so I don't have to rush before the race and can be sure that everything is good to go come race time. It was an 8:30 race (check-in by 8:15), so I set my alarm for 5:00 AM so I could get up and eat a bagel w cream cheese and a banana. After that, I set my alarm for 6:30 and went back to sleep. However, this time I went auto-pilot and didn't wake up. Somehow, I woke up at 7:05, freaked out and then jumped out of my bed straight into the shower. Thanks to my wife, the whole clan was out of the door at 7:30 heading for Montana de Oro. In the end, I was able to easily make it there by 8:00 and could stop worrying. Got signed up and started getting my stuff ready.

My plan originally was to bring my camera for some sweet pictures - only problem was the fog was thick and you couldn't see anything from the trails. Camera stays back, Ipod goes with me. This was the first race I'd taken my Ipod and it worked out.

Weather at the start was perfect for running - overcast, foggy and a little cool, but not cold. With all the running I had been doing in the heat, I was super excited for this weather. Had two 20-oz bottles of water, my ipod & a couple of gels as we started out at 8:30. We ran cliffside along the ocean for a couple miles before heading left up Valencia Peak. I was running with a guy from Alaska who was mentioning that he had just run a 100-miler a few weeks back. Turns out, that was the eventual 50k winner, Evan Hone. Heading up the first peak, I wanted to see how much climbing I could do without going into a power walk. Surprisingly, I was able to get up a couple miles before I needed to shift down into a fast walk. Legs still felt good but I knew I needed to make it to the top before I went all out. Good thing because it got pretty steep towards the final half mile or so. Getting close to the top, we start seeing the front-runners coming back down the hill. I shout "good job" to everyone that goes by. I only recognize Adam Blum from his blog. Once I got to the top of the peak, I took a couple of breaths and then headed back down for the funnest part of the whole race. I was flying down the hill and caught about 4 people before running up behind Molly Friel, who ended up pacing us down to the last 1/4 mile before we cruised into the aid station (12k) together at 1:16. At this point, I was already happy about my time but wasn't sure what I would have left for the next 13k+. Filled up the bottles, had a quick drink of coke, and walked out with a Payday bar.

Started up the next trail and noticed that Molly and some other runner were headed backwards up the trail, so I signaled them over to the right trail (I'll correct them again in about 2 miles). We headed right to start our run to the Hazard Peak and I'm cursing the ground - it's basically sand. I feel like I'm wasting a lot of energy trying to run on this stuff. I do my best to find the firmest ground and start running as much of the hills as possible. At this point, I'm needing to take more frequent power-walking breaks. Molly and the other runner are up ahead and my goal is to keep them in range and run as much as possible (100% of the flats and downhills, and intervals on the up-hills). After finally making it to the peak, we start heading down. At this point, I'm feeling good. Legs are tired of going up, but I feel great running down. I end up passing Molly and the other guy and we hit the fire road with about 3 1/2 miles to go. After another mile on the rolling fire trail, Molly catches up and she is looking good. I ask her our distance and she says we're at mile 14, so about 1 1/2 miles to go (we ended up running 16.1 by her calculations so we really had 2+ miles to). She's ready to pick up a gear I don't have right now so I tell her to get movin'. My only goal at this point is to not let anyone catch me and keep moving at a decent pace. I notice one lady up ahead of me, about 1/4 mile away. It looks like I'm reeling her in but I just don't know if I have enough time and/or another gear to bring her in. Finally, I see the cars and trees near the beach and know I'm close. As I head into the parking lot, the lady in front of me reaches the finish line 11 seconds ahead (thanks for the pace). I finish in 2:48:48 (last 13k in 1:32), good for 14th overall (of 48) and 3rd in age group (of 8). Best of all, my knee felt great!

Ate some soup and drank a coke and a Gatorade and then headed back to Avila Beach with the family. Had a nice big Roast Beef sandwich and a giant Anchor Steam Porter to celebrate the good race and then headed back to the beach for more vacation time.

I'll take it pretty easy this week on the run paces, but I'm already looking forward to a couple more weeks of training before ramping down for the Skyline to the Sea 50k.

Good times.


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