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!


Victoria September 23, 2008 at 10:46 AM  

Nice race report! I so wish I was doing Firetrails-- I think you should go for it! I don't know if there's any way I can volunteer, but I'm going to try.

Jo Lynn September 23, 2008 at 1:48 PM  

Hi Mike,
How nice of you to do such a super race report. You did awesome on Saturday! Thanks for the congrats too. I can't get over how supportive everyone is about people completing their first ultra. I'll be doing the Golden Hills Marathon so if you do the Firetrails 50, maybe Christy and I will see you at the end. Stay well. :)

209Mike September 23, 2008 at 3:07 PM  

Victoria, you know I wish you were running that. Not sure if I can run an ultra without you.

Jo Lynn, You did awesome. I felt the exact same way back in May when I did my first 50. I can't believe how supportive people are. It's gonna be hard to stop doing these things.

Rick Gaston September 23, 2008 at 3:42 PM  

Way to go Mike. You came in a lot faster than you thought. I wonder what happened to Elizabeth, she got stung 4 times and she's allergic to the stings, was slurring and turning red!? You know some of us thought the same thing when we came through the marsh area. I thought I was lost a couple of times but I saw on the sand that there were trail shoe prints on the ground and just trusted that, hoping they were not from hikers. I didn't know I was in the right place until I heard the clapping from Scott Dunlap finishing. Scott's time is impressive in the fact that he fell 4 times and was looking for his camera for 7 minutes! The beer was good and your parents were asking great questions.

You are welcome with the picture and thanks for the plug. I'll do stuff like that sometimes when I'm inspired enough.

Sarah September 24, 2008 at 5:05 AM  

Congratulations on your fine run, Mike! It was great to see you cross the line so early and looking so strong!

Next time, please do introduce your wife and (adorable) sons - I'd love to meet them.

Congrats again, and hope to see you again before too long.

Sarah (PCTR)

Danny B September 24, 2008 at 9:56 AM  

Great job on the finish, awesome race report. I'm terrified of bees, yellow jackets and anything that stings so its good to hear it from you. What did happen to Elizabeth? Anyways if you run Firetrails and you want a pacer for the last 10, let me know I'm available.

Donald September 24, 2008 at 10:43 AM  

Congrats on your finish, and thanks for a great report! This whole race sounds fantastic - except for that yellow jacket thing. Yikes.

Firetrails is an awesome race - good luck if you decide to do it.

Scott Dunlap September 24, 2008 at 6:30 PM  

Great race, Mike! And good to meet you beforehand. I gotta hand it to you folks who had to brave the bees.

I think my days of beating Rick are numbered...he's getting super fast!

Enjoy your recovery, and I'll see ya at the next one...


Rick Gaston September 25, 2008 at 3:20 PM  

Mike, saw your reply on my blog, thought I'd put down a response here as well.

I've run twice since Saturday, both 4-milers and both times I was laughing cause my legs felt like crap. Sa'll good, just keep at it, it will loosen up. I hit the gym once, went super light and quick. Any twinges on that IT though don't twice about backing down. Better safe than go through that again.

F. Lee September 25, 2008 at 3:22 PM  

re: your comment on my blog...yeah but you also just ran 31 miles last weekend! Of course your legs will still feel dead. Holla!

Victoria September 28, 2008 at 10:10 AM  

Well, I can't come volunteer for Helen Klein because my parents are coming up for a Cal game that weekend, but I'm thinking about AR50 in April...

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